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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.

 

May 2011

Bulgarian newspaper Standart reports that even its nation’s language is not immune to the linguistic incursions of the world’s most high-profile social network. ‘Facebooker’, referring to a user of Facebook, is the latest word to be added to the forthcoming updated edition of the Bulgarian dictionary, alongside other trailblazing terms such as ‘bultras’ (Bulgarian football fans) and ‘permarexy’ (an addiction to diet fads).


“The Bulgarians have invented a total of 4,300 new words in the last 20 years,” says Diana Blagoeva of the Bulgarian Language Institute. The majority of brand new words have some connection to IT and the Internet, and a quarter of them are Bulgarian versions of English words.

Did we mention that Tip-Top offers top-quality translation into Bulgarian, among many other languages?

 

April 2011

Psychologists from The University of Auckland have just published two major studies on the diversity of the world's languages in the journals Science and Nature.

The first study, published in Science by Dr Quentin Atkinson, provides strong evidence for Africa as the birthplace of human language.

An analysis of languages from around the world suggests that, like our genes, human speech originated – just once – in sub-Saharan Africa. Atkinson studied the phonemes, or the perceptually distinct units of sound that differentiate words, used in 504 human languages today and found that the number of phonemes is highest in Africa and decreases with increasing distance from Africa.

The second study, published in Nature by University of Auckland researchers Professor Russell Gray and Dr Simon Greenhill and their colleagues Michael Dunn and Stephen Levinson at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands challenges the idea that the human brain produces universal rules for language.

"The diversity of the world's language is amazing," says Professor Gray. “There are about 7,000 languages spoken today, some with just a dozen contrastive sounds, others with more than 100, some with complex patterns of word formation, others with simple words only, some with the verb at the beginning of the sentence, some in the middle, and some at the end.”

"Our work shows that the claims some linguists have made for a really strong role of the innate structure of the human mind in shaping linguistic variation have been hugely oversold," he says.

Tip-Top Translations, of course, is never knowingly undersold...

March 2011

Research suggests that speaking a second language could delay Alzheimer’s disease by five years, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Bilingualism exercises the mind and builds up a “reserve” of brain power which can help it carry on functioning after dementia takes hold. While the average monolingual person can suffer the first signs of memory loss and confusion in their mid-seventies, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s do not appear for those with a second language until their early eighties.

The effect is most apparent with people who regularly use their second language, but researchers believe that just having learnt one will help. Even learning another language in middle age helps challenge the brain and build up reserves against memory loss, the study said.

Dr Ellen Bialystok, who led the research at York University in Toronto, Canada, cautioned that knowing a second language would not stop Alzheimer’s, just delay its impact. Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington, she said: “It won’t stop you getting Alzheimer’s disease but you can cope with the disease for longer. Switching between languages is a stimulating activity — it is like carrying out brain exercises which builds up higher levels of what we call brain or cognitive reserve.”

She said that learning a language was a more powerful version of taking up crosswords or Sudoku to keep the brain active, and that that being bilingual boosted an area of the brain known as the ‘executive control system’ in the frontal lobe that governs memory, learning, language and reasoning.

She said that learning a language, especially as a child, made this area more powerful and flexible and therefore more resistant to damage. Dr Bialystok said that her researchers were carrying out studies to see if using two or more languages physically changed the brain and made some areas larger.

Tip-Top Translations' linguists are all masters of at least two languages, and can testify to the fact that it keeps the brain finely-tuned. We highly recommend you give it a try; it's never too late.

 

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