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Tip-top tales

Fancy a break from the rigours of the translation industry? Take a minute to peruse Tip-Top Tales, an ever-so-slightly tongue-in-cheek look at the loopy land of language.

October 2010


September 2010

The European Commission has come in for some criticism this month as it observed its annual language festival...mainly in English. The EU has 23 official languages and over 40 regional languages.

Originally an initiative of the Council of Europe, the 'European Day of Languages' has been celebrated on 26 September every year since 2001. According to the Council, "Being convinced that linguistic diversity is a tool for achieving greater intercultural understanding and a key element in the rich cultural heritage of our continent, we promote pluringualism in the whole of Europe."

However, Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Multilingualism, showed she had a taste for irony by initially announcing the details of the upcoming festivities to the European press in English only.

According to French newspaper Le Point, the German, French, Spanish and Italian media representatives present were further irked by the fact that the programme of events was only available in English.

If only Mrs Vassilou had dropped Tip-Top a friendly e-mail, as she would then have been able to hand out 22 more language versions of said programme...

August 2010

The Straits Times reports that South Korea's military is planning a new campaign - against the use of foul language by young soldiers.

A defence ministry spokesman confirmed on Thursday reports by Yonhap news agency of the campaign against cursing. Yonhap said Defence Minister Kim Tae-Young, at a strategy meeting on Monday, ordered his staff to increase education on the use of proper language.

'These soldiers aren't teenagers,' the agency quoted an unidentified senior ministry official as saying.

'When discharged (in their early 20s), they will go back to society where they cannot continue swearing their way through their entire life. That's why they have to clean up their language.' Another military official said the problem lies with the military culture that condones coarse language.

All able-bodied South Korean men must serve two years in the 655,000-strong military. North and South Korea have remained technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice without a subsequent peace treaty.

We’ll be keeping a low profile should we ever bump into the aforementioned Defence Minister, because Tip-Top is the best f'ing translation outfit in the world, after all.

July 2010

The Jenolan Caves near the Blue Mountains west of Sydney is about to become the first tourist attraction in the world to launch tours in the invented Star Trek language of Klingon.

The link between the planet’s oldest dated limestone cave system and the fictional Star Trek tongue is through a spaceship, the USS Jenolan, which featured in an episode of the Next Generation series.

Earlier this month two Klingon scholars from the United States flew to Australia to tour the caves and finalise the translation of a self-guided tour.

They have recorded it at a Sydney studio and the commentary will be available late next month on a digital audio device.

Jenolan Caves tours will also be available in 10 other, more commonly-spoken languages, such as the ones provided by Tip-Top all over the globe every day.

June 2010

Having a regular bedtime ensures development of language, reading and maths skills among four-year-old children, says a new American study.

The study also provides a wealth of information about typical sleep patterns in such children. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) prescribes a minimum of 11 hours of sleep every night for preschool children. Getting less than this recommended amount of sleep was associated with lower scores on phonological awareness, literacy and early math skills.

The data shows that many children are not getting the recommended amount of sleep, which may have negative consequences for their development and school achievement. "Getting parents to set bedtime routines can be an important way to make a significant impact on children's emergent literacy and language skills," said lead author Erika Gaylor, from SRI International, a non-profit research institute based in California.

Gaylor recommended that parents can help their children get sufficient sleep by setting an appropriate time for them to go to bed and interacting with them at bedtime using routines such as reading books or telling stories.

The study of approximately 8,000 children included information from parent phone interviews when their child was nine months old and again when their child was four-years-old, said an AASM release.

Tip-Top's language-loving staff can all confirm they were read regular bedtime stories when young...

May 2010

A ‘hidden’ language spoken by only about 1,000 people has been discovered in the remote northeast corner of India by researchers who at first thought they were documenting a dialect of the Aka culture, a tribal community that subsists on farming and hunting.

They found an entirely different vocabulary and linguistic structure. Even the speakers of the tongue, called Koro, did not realise they had a distinct language, explained linguist K. David Harrison, associate professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College.

Researchers found that Koro speakers used different words for body parts, numbers and other concepts, establishing it as a separate language from Aka, said Harrison added, speaking at a news conference organised by the National Geographic Society, which supported his work.

People of the Aka culture live in small villages – known as a hotspot of language diversity – near the borders of China, Tibet and Myanmar. They practice subsistence hunting, farming and gathering firewood in the forest and tend to wear ornate clothing of hand-woven cloth, favouring red garments. Their languages are not well known, though they were first noted in the 19th century.

The timing of the researchers’ discovery was important. "We were finding something that was making its exit, was on its way out. And if we had waited 10 years to make the trip, we might not have come across close to the number of speakers we found," said Gregory Anderson, director of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.

Counting Koro, there are 6,910 documented languages in the world, but that is really just a best estimate that can change regularly, Harrison added.

The researchers said they hope to figure out how the Koro language, a member of the Tibeto-Burman family, managed to survive within the Aka community. The research was started in 2008 to document two little known languages, Aka and Miji, and the third language, Koro, was discovered in that process.

According to the research team, Koro's inventory of sounds was completely different, and so was the way sounds combine to form words. Words also are built differently in Koro, as are sentences. The Aka word for ‘mountain’ is ‘phu,’ while the Koro word is ‘nggo.’ Aka speakers call a pig a ‘vo’ while to Koro speakers, a pig is a ‘lele.’

Here at Tip-Top, meanwhile, we have been frantically scrambling around, intent on becoming the first translation outfit to offer Koro. So far, we are pleased to be able to provide the Koro equivalent of ‘mountain pig’.  Which is a start.

April 2010

A Montreal sex toy store was fined $499 by a Quebec court for selling a product – the ‘Sleeve Super Stretch’ – with English only on its packaging, according to the Montreal Gazette.

The Quebec Board of French Language told the Quebec Court judge it had unsuccessfully attempted for six years to get Distribution Percour Inc., the owners of Boutique Seduction, to stick French language labels on boxes for the Sleeve Super Stretch, described as a sex toy accessory worn by men.

Judge Gilles Michaud rejected Distribution Percour's argument that the product was exempt from Quebec's law on the language of commerce and trade. He said the issue had to do with safety.

"We must protect those who benefit from warnings and need to understand them," Michaud wrote in his ruling. "What the defendant is really complaining about is the cost of producing packaging that conforms to the charter."

The store was given six months to pay the fine. Obviously, they could have saved themselves al that bother by asking Tip-Top Translations, a company bursting with cunning linguists, to provide the relevant French text.

March 2010