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The Rosetta Project and the rescue of endangered languages

Endangered languages don’t seem as self-evidently valuable as say, endangered species are to the functioning of a healthy ecosystem. As the famous example goes, Eskimo have numerous words to describe what in English would simply be called “snow” and “ice.” This suggests that languages, besides translating universal ideas into different spellings, encode different concepts.

The Rosetta Project is The Long Now Foundation’s first exploration into very long-term archiving. It is a global collaboration of language specialists and native speakers working to develop a contemporary version of the historic Rosetta Stone to last from 2000 to 12,000 AD. Its goal is a meaningful survey and near permanent archive of 1,500 languages. The intention is to create a unique platform for comparative linguistic research and education, as well as a functional linguistic tool that might help in the recovery or revitalisation of lost languages in the future.

The first prototype of the Rosetta project is The Rosetta Disk – a three inch diameter nickel disk with nearly 14,000 pages of information microscopically etched onto its surface. Since each page is an image, it can be read by the human eye using powerful optical magnification. The disk rests in a sphere made of stainless steel and glass which allows it exposure to the atmosphere, but protects it from casual impact and abrasion.

What kind of information should go into such a long term archive? There are many possibilities: a collection of the world’s greatest literature, known cures for the diseases that plague humanity, blueprints for recreating major technology… the idea is to have a thorough understanding of a linguistic message, by recognising the importance of not only what is said, but also how it was said. Looking for high calibre linguistic services? Ask SanTranslate.

By | August 25th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

Preserving Romance Languages

The Romance languages descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome. Nowadays the four most widely spoken Romance languages are Spanish (c. 320 million native), Portuguese (c. 180 million native), French (c. 125 million native) and Italian (c. 60 million native). These languages have 800 million native speakers worldwide, mainly in Europe and America, as well as many smaller regions scattered throughout the world. So historic and culturally significant are these languages that there are institutions dedicated to each one; their aims are not only in preservation but also in enhancement: the Royal Spanish Academy (Real Academia Española, RAE), the Society for the Portuguese Language (Sociedade da Língua Portuguesa) the French Academy (Académie française) (link: http://www.academie-francaise.fr/) and the Academy of Bran (Accademia della Crusca).

The Royal Spanish Academy was founded in 1713. It is based in Madrid but it is affiliated with national language academies in twenty-one other Spanish-speaking nations through the Association of Spanish Language Academies. The RAE is a major publisher of dictionaries and has a formal procedure for admitting words to its publications. Its website includes an online dictionary and other resources, all in Spanish.

The Society for the Portuguese Language was founded on the 14th of November 1949 by Vasco Botelho de Amaral. Its aims are investigating, spreading and upholding the traditions of the Portuguese language.

The French Academy was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. It publishes the official dictionary for the French language, known as the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française. As French culture has come under increasing influence from the widespread use of English in media and technology, the Academy has tried to prevent the Anglicisation of the French language through various methods. For example, there was the suggestion that some loanwords from English (such as walkman, software and email) be avoided, in favour of words derived from French (baladeur, logiciel, and courriel respectively).

The Bran Academy was founded in Florence between 1582 and 1583 as an initiative between five Florentine men of letters. One of them was Lionardo Salviati, inventor of a complete cultural and language-coding programme. The name Accademia della Crusca was derived from their lively meetings, playfully called ‘cruscate’ (or ‘bran-meetings’), and came to signify the work of ‘cleaning up’ the language; just as when harvesting and cleaning up wheat, the bran from the wheat is discarded. The newly founded institution adopted as its motto a line from a poem by Francesco Petrarca: “il più bel fior ne coglie” (‘she picks the fairest flower’) and built up a rich symbology based on wheat and bread.

These institutions hold great importance because they are each centres of research that contribute a body of knowledge over these languages that is not only historical, but poignant and applicable to the present. The evolution in the framework of interlinguistic exchanges in the contemporary world is becoming more and more prominent as communities behave in a way that is increasingly globalist.

If you want to make sure that your translations into Spanish, Portuguese, French or Italian are true to the target language and read well, approach SanTranslate, your linguistic experts.

By | August 22nd, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

Smart Apps for Smart Travel!

Would you like to go abroad to improve your foreign language skills? Or would you rather have a relaxing holiday sunbathing on Thai beaches or doing a gastronomic trip around Italian countryside? Most of us would probably check out our friends’ profiles on Facebook and then decide: From our findings, today’s social network induced voyeurism is revolutionising the travel industry by influencing people’s destination choices.

According to Tripl, a new social network site, up to 52% of people say a friend’s photos they viewed online inspired them to book a holiday to the same destination, while 46% say they have been abroad after being invited on a trip via Facebook.

And where do most of us view these networking sites? On our smartphones, of course. “Smartphones are changing the face of travel at an incredible speed”, says Mark Mayne of T3 magazine. “We use them to track flight prices and then to book our flights and accommodation, to store boarding passes and travel documents, and to download city guides”, he says.

Here you can find a selection of 8 recommended apps and sites:

  1. Foursquare (chosen by Responsible Travel) Another one of the many apps that allow you to “check-in” to a place so that people know where you are. You can choose specific locations (a hotel, for example) or towns and cities.
  2. Word Lens (chosen by Wired.co.uk) One of many cool translation apps. You simply point your camera at a sign or menu and it will do the English translation in real time. Currently only available in Spanish to English.
  3. Wikitude (chosen by Responsible Travel)
    Simply hold your phone’s camera up and this app will display information about your surroundings on screen!
  4. Ji Wire (chosen by Wired.co.uk)
    This app that tells you where the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot is so you can avoid those hefty data charges when accessing emails.
  5. GroupOn (chosen by Responsible Travel) If you don’t like planning and prefer the thrill of “pack and go!”, you can find last-minute deals for trips you may not even have considered on the social network GroupOn.
  6. Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum (chosen by Responsible Travel)
    In this huge forum travellers can post questions such as: “I’m in Italy- how can I get from Pisa to Rimini?” The site also features trips, articles and suggestions on things to do.
  7. Iknowagreatplace.com (chosen by Responsible Travel) With this app, your travel questions are answered within 48 hours by locals, experts or people who have been to your destination.
  8. Bumped.in (chosen by The Future Laboratory) An online travel service that connects people on the same path by sharing your itinerary with fellow travellers.

For all your other linguistic needs, experts in communicative nuance are just a click away – approach SanTranslate.

By | August 19th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments
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