Language in the news

We’re back with videos and radio programs by and about interpreters, books translated and sometimes not distributed, and opinions about how new communication technologies are reshaping our gray matter.

European Parliament videos

“Babel was a place where, as a form of divine punishment, people spoke in different languages and could not understand each other, whereas here people speak in different languages, and thanks to the interpreters, they can understand each other.” So begins “The EP speaks your language,” available on YouTube. Part 1 goes into the central place of languages in the European institutions, and the organisation of language services. Part II goes on to explain specificities such as relay, speed of delivery and the psychological aspects of the profession.

… and while you’re there

Check out this short video put together by our AIIC colleagues in the USA.

An unofficial view of why language matters

Jonny Dymond, Europe correspondent for the BBC, would seem to agree in his way with the EP language experts in this Observer column: “… those who long for a single European language to replace the armies of interpreters and translators in the EU are in for a long, long wait. Language still matters, dividing and unifying Europe at the same time.”

EU video

You can watch the 14th SCIC Interpretation-Universities Conference online also – in English, French or German. See Interpreting Today.

Spanish colleagues on Radio Nacional de España

Three AIIC members in Spain - Dolores Rodríguez, Lucía Sánchez del Villar and Guiomar Stampa – recently spoke about all things interpreting on 24 Horas: Punto de Encuentro. Listen to or download the podcast here.

Literary Translation: full access

Translated books account for only some 3% of the US book market, but a small press interprets this as a call to action and a market niche. “English-speaking readers don’t have full access to voices and viewpoints from around the world,” Chad. W. Post said in this NY Times article

Mr. Post is the director of Open Letter Books, which specialises in translations and whose recent publications include books written in Polish, Afrikaans and Catalan (click on the catalogue to get more information). The university-affiliated house also runs a literary website called Three Percent

Truth or consequences

A Korean Times article reports that The South Korean Truth and Reconciliation Commission banned distribution of an English-language version of a book covering the country’s recent history. The reason cited: a poor translation. One of the translators said, “Citing the translational errors is a mere stunt to gloss over the ideological war. However, that has hurt our dignity and pride as professional translators." Three of the six people involved in the project have since sued the Commission. You can hear from one of them in this column from the same newspaper. 

Andamanese language extinct

Boa Sr, the last speaker of the Bo language of the Andaman Islands, has died breaking a link with a 65,000-year old culture. Bo was one of the 10 Great Andamanese languages that date from pre-Neolithic times. Read more from


A visual approach to language is more apparent on the net these days.  Try out these sites:

Visuwords™ online graphical dictionary — Look up words to find their meanings and associations with other words and concepts. Produce diagrams reminiscent of a neural net. Learn how words associate.”

The Visual Thesaurus is an interactive dictionary and thesaurus which creates word maps that blossom with meanings and branch to related words. Its innovative display encourages exploration and learning. You'll understand language in a powerful new way.”

The disappearing joys of Chinglish…

Everywhere major events are preceded by clean-ups. In Shanghai that included cleaning up public displays of Chinglish before the hordes arrived for the Expo. As a result some connoisseurs fear that it is becoming an endangered language and that its disappearance will deprive humanity of yet another joy and source of spontaneous poetry. Learn more by reading this NY Times article

… and other problems…

The official journal of the Max Planck Institute was astounded to discover that a Chinese-language text they splashed across the cover of an issue with a focus on China was not a classical poem but an enticement to a Hong Kong or Macau entertainment center, says this Telegraph article.

But how did an email “error” end up on a road sign? “When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed.

Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated". See and read more from the BBC

… but some errors are by design

“Politicking or pranking Russian translators forced a Google Translate mistranslation of four segments — ‘USA is to blame,’ ‘Russia is to blame,’ ‘Obama is to blame’ and ‘Medvedev is to blame’ into English from Russian.” From Global Watchtower.

Effects of bilingualism on the brain

One obvious benefit of being bilingual is being able to participate in two disparate cultures. But there may be more, such as slowing the brain’s ageing process. Bangor University will recruit 700 people to take part in a research project on the matter according to this BBC report.

“Dave, my mind is going.”

Are you feeling that your mind has changed since 2001 or so? That your mental odysseys last 2-3 minutes rather than hours? Rest assured - you’re not lost in deep space all by your lonesome.

“Over the last few years, I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory,” writes Nicholas Carr in his new book “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.”

Get a feel for the work in this review from The Technology Liberation Front and read Carr’s 2008 Atlantic article Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Confirmation: rewiring happens

“The technology is rewiring our brains,” says Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the world’s leading brain scientists in Your Brain on Computers: Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price.

 “While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise. Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, scientists say, and they experience more stress.”

Clarification: multitasking doesn’t exist

“New forms of media have always caused moral panics: the printing press, newspapers, paperbacks and television were all once denounced as threats to their consumers’ brainpower and moral fiber.” Read Mind Over Mass Media by Steven Pinker.

Recommended citation format:
Luigi LUCCARELLI. "Language in the news". June 16, 2010. Accessed July 2, 2020. <>.