The Hobbit and book translations

Sometimes when trying to get a concept or idea over to children it is a good idea to start from a story or illustration to get their interest. Below is a recent article discussing the Hobbit and its various translations and also the different illustrations depending on where it was published.

That in itself is quite remarkable but also is the fact that JR Tolkien was happy to allow different illustrations from my experience of the publishing industry once they have their mind-set on a  particular picture or illustration nothing changes their mind. That is why I am offering individuals the chance to create their own book using a template allowing them to have exactly what they want and not what someone else perceives they want. It doesn’t have to be bilingual or anything specifically to do with languages just one language is fine. Please get in touch if you wish to write in a language other than English so that we can discuss the correct font.

For more info go to: http://www.languagesupportuk.com/Create-Your-Own.php

Extracts from the story are highlighted below:

The Hobbit has been translated into many different languages, and these translations have often been accompanied by fresh and interesting illustrations.

Naturally a Latin edition (popular in Latin America?), Hobbitus ille aut illuc atque rursus retrorsum, published in 2012. There are two Persian translations, one published in 2002, and another, هابيت يا آنجا و بازگشت دوباره (hābit yā ānjā va bāzgašt dobāre), published in 2004.  It’s wonderful that hobbit is almost the same word in Persian: hābit, and it may well be that Persian children are reading hābit yā ānjā va bāzgašt dobāre right now.

There are at least five Russian translations, some of them are supported by splendid illustrations by the Soviet artist Mikhail Belomlinsky, done in 1976.  He also did new maps with place names in Russian.  You can check out the 1976 Russian Hobbit here (Note that Bilbo is shown having hairy legs and not just the top of his feet — this was due to a mistake in translation.)  Our country is fortunate to have Mr. Belomlinsky, who has done many other fine illustrations, living in New York since 1989.

Czech Hobbit

       Cover for Czech edition, by Jiri Salamoun.

And here is a webpage which collects some of the cover pages and a few illustrations from the many translations.  Some of my favorites were done in 1973 by Jiri Salamoun for the Czech edition.  His work is more primative, and is disrespective of tradition proportions, but seems to fit better the mood of adventure and fantasy conveyed by the book.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/11/17/1162611/-The-Hobbit-in-illustration-and-translation#

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Speech Translation Technology moves forward

Going back a few years John talked about being able to talk to people from all different languages like in Star Trek. At the time it seemed so far fetched that most thought it was not a possibility, and often their lack of foresight hindered his vision. He wanted to be able to speak in English yet the people to understand in their home language. As teachers this would be so invaluable when we have new arrivals to our classrooms.  We haven’t time to wait for an interpreter or translator to arrive, most schools do not have the finances to have a qualified teacher who is also a native speaker so cheaper and simple solutions are sought daily as people move around globally more now than ever.

It is really good to see that Microsoft are nearer to this goal than ever before.  The good stuff it at around 7.05 where he speaks in English and out comes Chinese

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Nu-nlQqFCKg

As Dr. Rashid’s post explains in detail, this demo is less of a breakthrough than an evolutionary step, representing a new version of a long-established combination of three gradually-improving technologies: Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), Machine Translation (MT), and speech synthesis (no appropriate standard acronym, though TTS for “text to speech” is close).

In 1986, when the money from the privatization of NTT was used to found the Advanced Telecommunication Research (ATR) Institute in Japan, the centerpiece of ATR’s prospectus was the Interpreting Telephony Laboratory. As explained in Tsuyoshi Morimoto, “Automatic Interpreting Telephone Research at ATR“, Proceedings of a Workshop on Machine Translation, 1990:

An automatic telephone interpretation system will transform a spoken dialogue from the speaker’s language  to the listener’s  automatically  and simultaneously. It will undoubtedly be used to overcome language barriers and facilitate communication among the people of the world.

ATR Interpreting Telephony Research project was started in 1986. The objective is to promote basic research for developing an automatic telephone interpreting system. The project period is seven-years.

As of 1986, all of the constituent technologies had been in development for 25 or 30 years. But none of them were really ready for general use in an unrestricted conversational setting, and so the premise of the ATR Interpreting Telephony Laboratory was basically a public-relations device for framing on-going speech technology research, not a plausible R&D project. And so it’s not surprising that the ATR Interpreting Telephony Laboratory completed its seven-year term without producing practical technology — though quite a bit of valuable and interesting speech technology research was accomplished, including important contributions to the type of speech synthesis algorithm used in the Microsoft demo.

In the 26 years since 1986, there have been two crucial changes: Moore’s Law has made computers bigger and faster but smaller and cheaper; and speech recognition, machine translation, and speech synthesis have all gotten gradually better.  In both the domain of devices and the domain of algorithms, the developments have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary — the reaction of a well-informed researcher from the late 1980s, transplanted to 2012, would be satisfaction and admiration at the clever ways that familiar devices and algorithms have been improved, not baffled amazement at completely unexpected inventions.

All of the constituent technologies — ASR, MT, speech synthesis — have improved to the point where we all encounter them in everyday life, and some people use them all the time. I’m not sure whether Interpreting Telephony’s time has finally come, but it’s clearly close.

In any case, the folks at Microsoft Research are at or near the leading edge in pushing forward all of the constituent technologies for speech-to-speech translation, and Rashid’s speech-to-speech demo is an excellent way to publicise that fact.

Given the lack of bilingual English graduates, is learning a language an alternative way to stand out?

Now that the stress of results are over here is one compelling story giving graduates the reason to look at choosing languages for their degrees or part of their degree portfolio. It is always hard choosing subjects to take and it never gets easier, but thinking ahead to the world of work and globalisation maybe languages should become a necessary option for most.

Settit Beyene discusses her case for Universities to support language learning more. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jul/19/optional-language-modules-degree

Given the lack of bilingual English graduates, is learning a language an alternative way to stand out?

Clara, a recent graduate who is now working in marketing, puts her job success down to her degree choice – French. “My language skills definitely made job hunting easier. Being able to speak French is a skill that I have over other graduates and being able to deal with international clients is a boost to my company.”

But what about students who are studying different subjects? Given that only 38% of Brits speak a foreign language (compared to 56% of Europeans), it’s unlikely there are many polyglots among us.

If you’ve got enough self-motivation, it is possible brush up your language skills in your spare time. There are plenty of free online resources available, and you could even travel in your holidays to practise conversation skills.

But let’s face it, when term gets busy, hobbies drop further down the priority list. Wouldn’t it make more sense for universities to allow undergraduates to study optional, foreign language modules as part of their main degree?

The University of Southampton is just one institution that is already doing so. It’s helping to facilitate language learning and boost employability by offering courses such as “French for marine scientists” and “German language for engineers”.

University is the perfect time to learn a language. Most students have fairly flexible schedules, and universities can offer plenty of support.

You don’t need to be fluent in a second-tongue to boost your chances in the job market. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) found that 74% of employers recruit applicants with conversational ability rather than those who are word perfect. They believe this can “help break the ice, deepen cultural understanding, and open business access to new markets.”

Deborah Till of the University of Nottingham careers service says language is becoming a top priority for companies. “Increasingly, multinational companies value language skills as an added extra when considering applications.” Law firm Eversheds is among those awarding bonus points to applicants with foreign language skills.

Of course, it’s not just the business world that values bilingual employees. So why is it that more universities aren’t offering flexible degrees?

When £9k fees are introduced, perhaps universities will be forced to look more closely at enhancing students’ employment prospects. Language skills are one way to get there.

Studying through the medium of Welsh will mean students will have mastered important transferable skills in both languages which are beneficial in an increasingly competitive employment market.

Businesses are increasingly beginning to see the benefit of bilingual education for their future employers, hence the importance of the ability to study bilingually at the University of Glamorgan.

http://www.caerphillyobserver.co.uk/news/681861/welsh-medium-provision-at-glamorgan-business-school/

Business students at the University of Glamorgan’s Business School will able to study bilingually for the first time this year.

From September, students will have the opportunity to study some modules through the medium of Welsh.

Glamorgan Business School has a dedicated Welsh-medium lecturer who is tasked with developing this provision in South East Wales.

The post, held by Heledd Bebb, is one of the first lecturing posts funded by the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol to raise demand and develop Welsh medium provision.

Further Welsh medium provision will be developed at Glamorgan over the next few years and by 2014, a third of the business course each year will be available through the medium of Welsh.

Students studying two modules a year in business through the medium of Welsh are eligible for the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol’s incentive scholarships – worth £1,500 over three years.

Ms Bebb said: “Studying business through the medium of Welsh brings a whole host of benefits to the student. In both the private and public sector in Wales, demand for Welsh-medium skills in areas such as marketing, human resources and management is increasing.

“The recent Welsh Language Measure, passed in 2012,  by the Welsh Government, will only increase the need for businesses to provide services through the medium of Welsh. Studying part of their course through the medium of Welsh will mean that students will have mastered important transferable skills in both languages which could prove beneficial in an increasingly competitive employment market.”