The Weekly Roundup 08/01/20

Real life Dr Dolittle: We are on our way to talking to the animals and AI may make happen sooner than you think!

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could understand what our pets were trying to tell us? Having them be able to communicate if they like the food we give them, when they’re not feeling well and when they want to be pet, would take out so much of the guess work. (Although hearing dogs constantly asking to have a ball thrown might get a bit old after a while). Researchers are looking into decoding animal languages and we are here for it! We also have some extremely thought-provoking pieces for you to read involving translation issues at the US border and the love affair that is learning a new language. Enjoy our first weekly roundup of the new decade!

1. Artificial intelligence is helping us talk to animals (yes, really)

If we could talk to the animals - just imagine it
If we could talk to the animals - just imagine it

Dr Dolittle can do it, and many of us with pets really wish we could; so why not use AI to talk to the animals? In this thought provoking article, Mary Lou Jespen explains how projects like the Earth Species Project are working on developing AI systems that will decipher what large animals (think whales and elephants) are “saying”.

AI has already deciphered ancient languages that are no longer in use anymore, so the stretch to understand animals really isn’t as far as you might think.

“There is something deeply comforting to think that AI language tools could do something so beautiful, going beyond completing our emails and putting ads in front of us, to knitting together all thinking species. That, we perhaps can all agree, is a better – and perhaps nearer-term – ideal to reach than brain-computer communications. The beauty of communicating with them will then be joined to the market ideal of talking to our pet dogs. (Cats may remain beyond reach.)”

Read more here

2. Pocketalk Announces 2020 Model Of Two-Way Translation Device, Marking Official U.S. Launch

One of the leaders in translating devices, Pocketalk, has released it’s latest model with some big updates and changes. Pocketalk founder and CEO, Noriyuki explains, “Our goal with the newest Pocketalk was to take into account the many different ways people communicate. We don’t just use voice - we use visuals, we use currencies - all of these connect us closer together and with our newest model, we are providing the most dependable, thoughtful, all-encompassing device to form deeper connections without language as a barrier”

The new model is available for pre-order now and features new updates such as:

  • Camera: instantly recognises and translates text, the written word and signs, because language shouldn’t be limited to just verbal communication
  • Faster: increased software processing speed for more immediate translations
  • Conversion: computes exchanges for currency, length, width and temperature
  • One-button translation: for simple translations in fewer steps

Read more here

3. A Translation Crisis at the Border

Image credit: Ulysses Ortega for The New Yorker
Image credit: Ulysses Ortega for The New Yorker

A fantastic insight to the ongoing border crisis in the US. Written by Rachel Nolan, this piece delves into the lack of translation services provided for Indigenous Mayan-Guatemalans who speak indigenous languages - not Spanish and the tragedies that are taking place for people seeking asylum because they don’t have a representative who can translate for them.

Nolan speaks with interpreter Oswaldo Martín, a native Mam speaker, who is drastically helping the lives of refugess who would otherwise be deported simply because they can’t speak English or Spanish and thus can’t tell their reasoning for needing refugee status.

As Nolan states, “Guatemala has a population of fifteen million people, forty per cent of them indigenous, according to the most recent census. In the past year, two hundred and fifty thousand Guatemalan migrants have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border. At least half of them are Mayans, and many speak little or no Spanish. According to the Department of Justice, Mam was the ninth most common language used in immigration courts last year, more common than French. Three Guatemalan Mayan languages made the top twenty-five: Mam, K’iche’, and Q’anjob’al.”

The need for translators in less common spoken languages is still extremely necessary and this article really demonstrates why.

Read more here

4. Learning a new language is like an illicit love affair

Learning a new language can often be a love/hate relationship, we’re excited to get started, only to become frustrated when the language we long to speak is harder to master than we thought.

For those of us who are really determined, we stick to it and eventually it sticks! We are in no way near being fluent, but the language becomes easier to understand and the love affair truly begins.

This article describes the ups and downs of learning new languages and how it has helped many authors and writers in becoming the renowned wordsmiths we know them to be.

Read more here

5. Singular ’they’ voted word of the decade by US linguists

Pronouns they/them have shot up in use in the past decade
Pronouns they/them have shot up in use in the past decade

The Amercian Dialect Society has voted the singular ’they’ as word of the decade, deciding that it “stands the test of time and sums up the decade as a whole.”

Being used by non-binary and/or people who don’t associate with soley being male or female, the pronouns they/them have become increasingly used, ’they’ was also voted as word of the year in 2015.

“The most popular pick for word of the year was “(my) pronouns”, a reflection of “how the personal expression of gender identity has become an increasing part of our shared discourse”, the society said in a statement announcing the outcome.”

The rise of the third-person pronouns have been aided by the use of social media and the fast pace at which it helps to get ideas, messages and phrases out to the world.

Read more here


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