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Bilingualism among children: a long-term acquisition

The vast majority of bilingual children learn their languages naturally; they grow up in an environment where two or more languages are required. Bilingualism therefore develops without any real linguistic planning by their family or acquaintances. But what solutions are offered to monolingual parents to help their children become bilingual?

Childcare in foreign languages to promote cognitive flexibility

Frequent learning in a fun, bilingual environment with a familiar person is THE best way to be immersed in a foreign language. Parents get childcare for their children but also get the opportunity to introduce them to a new language. This concept gives children a certain immersion in foreign languages while staying within child’s normal surroundings.

As we say time and time again, the best way to learn a new language is to start young. Between the age of two and seven, children go through a critical learning phase for language development. Before the age of seven, children are very responsive and try to communicate.
The less the child realises they are learning a new language, the better! Thanks to the bilingual nanny, they are directly in contact with a native speaker who is able to teach them the language in an interactive and fun way; either with games or by simply by using everyday terms. It is through this interaction and attachment between child and nanny that a line of communication is opened up and that linguistic barriers are surpassed.

Moreover, learning a new language stimulates children’s’ cognitive growth, especially in terms of their general intellect and their ability to read, as underlined by the Journal of Neuroscience’s 2015 studies.

Educational tools to aid language learning

Educational activities in language learning are vital tools for engaging children: arts and crafts, games, singing and reading… All these methods help to introduce children to a language; at the same time are enjoyable and correspond to children’s abilities. Playing games helps children to associate ‘saying’ with ‘doing’ and thus makes them an active participant in their learning. This can also be done through storytelling, to familiarise children with pronunciation of words or even through arts and crafts to help them understand the meaning of new vocabulary. Bilingualism therefore develops in a rich and varied environment which must be affective and continued. It is clear that, in a society that is becoming more and more globalised, fluency in another language is not only a useful tool, but also an absolute necessity in order to help the younger generations to gain access to communication and careers worldwide.

By Jennifer Cleaver

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Man vs Artificial Intelligence : Human Translators Knock out the Competition

The abilities of human translators still surpass that of artificial intelligence. However, this is certain not to last. Despite some failures, artificial intelligence has been known to beat human champions at games such as the game of Go (a Chinese board game) or, more recently, poker. However, in the domain of translation, it still has a long way to go…
Under the organisation of Sejong University’s International Interpretation and Translation Association (South Korea), four human professional translators went up against three translation programmes: Google Translate; Systran and the Naver Papago Translate app.
The human translators had 50 minutes to translate four literary and non-literary texts from English into Korean and vice versa. Internet access was allowed, given that none of these texts had ever been translated. Also connected to the internet, the three programmes did the same but 5 times quicker. The quality of translation was evaluated in terms of the three following criteria, with a maximum of 5 points for each: accuracy, expression, coherence and organisation. Out of a perfect score of 60 for the four texts, the human translators scored 49 points. The best out of the four artificial intelligence systems scored only 28 points. The specific scores for each programme have not been disclosed.
The organisers of this competition explain that the problem with artificial intelligence lies in its partial NMT approach (Neural Machine Translation; different from that of Statistical Machine Translation) which, coupled with the use of an artificial network of neurones and deep learning techniques, does not allow for sufficient comprehension of context. (Quoted by the Korean Central News Agency Yonhap).
They add that for texts translated using the NMT approach, grammatical errors are very common. A representative of Systran admits the programme’s difficulties in translating nuances and emotions of certain phrases.

by Jennifer Cleaver

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Lost in Trumpslation: the Difficulties of Translating Donald Trump

Should we translate Trump’s words literally or do we iron out his confused ramblings and risk everyone believing he speaks normally? In mid-December, Bérengère Viennot, a French translator, brought to light the difficulties of translating Donald Trump into French; first the ‘shocking statements’ and ‘aggressive tweets’, then the speeches; and things have only got worse since his victory.
Trump’s speeches are ‘easy to understand’, but it is his very limited vocabulary which poses a challenge for the translator. During Spring last year, a study was carried out by Carnegie Mellon University and diffused around the USA, which revealed that Trump’s level of grammar was equal to that of a 6th grade student. Viennot uses a New York Times interview from late November to illustrate her point. She explains that as soon as he is put on the spot, without a written speech or at least notes, “he desperately latches on to words from the question asked without developing it with his own ideas.” For example, the editor in chief, Dean Bacquet, asked him if he tried to ‘energise’ the American extreme right during his campaign and how he will go about dealing with that. His response: ‘I don’t think so, Dean. First of all, I don’t want to energize the group. I’m not looking to energize them. I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group. They, again, I don’t know if it’s reporting or whatever. I don’t know where they were four years ago, and where they were for Romney and McCain and all of the other people that ran, so I just don’t know, I had nothing to compare it to.
But it’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized I want to look into it and find out why.” This example demonstrates that even Trump himself recognises the difficulties of improvising answers, and “merely repeats the same words over and over again.”

by Jennifer Cleaver

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Miss Universe: Wrongly Translated Answers Could Have Cost Iris Mittenaere the Competition

Although his blunder seems insignificant compared to that of last year’s presenter who announced the wrong pageant winner, if Iris Mittenaere had not won Miss Universe on Monday in Manila (Philippines), her translator would have much to answer to. In the final round of questions, the candidate had to talk about a past failure and explain how she has learned from it.

She replied to the question in French “I thought I had failed my first year of medical school because at first I wasn’t on the passing list.” This was then translated as “I thought I had not qualified for casting the first time round.”

Likewise, the “medical textbook” became a “modelling book.” She went on to explain “That very same day, I went out and bought a new medical textbook”. The translator, instead of correcting his mistake, continued to skew her words: “The very next day, I found that I was in a new book.”

And when Iris Mittenaere concluded that she did “end up passing [her] first year of medical school,” the interpreter really hammered it home, still completely missing the point: “For me [this is] my first great opportunity.”

by Jennifer Cleaver

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Italie : les droits de traduction littéraire en pente ascendante

L’AIE ou Associazione Italiana Editori (Association Italienne des Editeurs) sort son rapport annuel sur l’achat et la vente des droits en 2016. Cette étude, baptisée « Marchands d’histoires », comporte un volet consacré aux droits de traduction. Elle a pu voir le jour grâce à la collaboration de l’ICE-Agenzia, qui agit pour la promotion de la littérature italienne à l’étranger. Lire la suite