How to translate astrophysical phenomena into the Blackfoot language

Corey Gray is an astrophysicist, and the lead operator at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) at the California Institute of Technology in Washington State. He's also a member of the Blackfoot nation through his mother, Sharon Yellowfly. Yellowfly grew up in Alberta, Canada, where she lived through brutal state-run boarding schools designed to assimilate indigenous peoples and beat their native languages out of them.

As a result, Gray himself did not grow up speaking Siksika (the language of the Blackfoot people). But in 2015, when he realized that his field was on the verge of a breakthrough in proving the existence of the Einstein-theorized gravitational waves, he saw an opportunity. As NPR explained at the time:

People from around the world were involved in the discovery. So before it was publicly announced, colleagues started translating the press release into about 20 major languages, such as Russian, French and Spanish.

"I thought, 'Whoa, wouldn't it be just really cool if we could get this translated into an indigenous language?' " Gray recalls.

Gray recruited his mother to help in the translation — which you can see above — but it wasn't entirely easy:

She had to create new words for weighty scientific terms such as Einstein's general theory of relativity. That one she translated into a word, "bisaatsinsiimaan," that means Einstein's "beautiful plantings."

Gravitational waves became "they stick together waves," or "Abuduuxbiisii o?bigimskAAsts."

Other words, such as "black hole" could be directly translated using the Blackfoot, or Siksika, words for "black" and "hole," or "sigooxgiya."

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How Ken Liu went from engineer to lawyer to SF writer to the foremost translator of Chinese sf into English

Ken Liu went from university to a software engineering job at Microsoft, then to some startups, then to Harvard Law, where he got a JD and went into practice as a litigation consultant on tech cases -- all the while, writing and selling sf stories. Read the rest

Translator upset after unintended KKK reference removed from English version of Japanese game

Making English versions of foreign-language games is a complex process requiring cultural sensitivity and originality. In contrast to literary translation, it involves audio, visual arts, and careful technical edits as well as the words. When a localizer working on Japanese title Akiba Beat was displeased by one edit, he cried foul and demanded to be removed from the project's credits.

The "egregious change," as Tom Lipschultz called it...

...had to do with a parody of the Japanese light switch company NKK Switches. A sign in the original Japanese version of the game read “KKK witches,” a play on the phrase. He wrote on XSEED’s forum, “I personally felt ‘KKK witches’ was pretty funny for its shock value, but when I mentioned it to my coworkers, they... were not as amused.” ... he says his priority is retaining as much of Akiba’s Beat’s original meaning as possible.

When informed what "KKK" means to Americans, though, the Japanese creators were mortified and “immediately responded that they had no idea the sign could be taken that way in English,” and asked that it not be included in the English release. Lipschultz, however, doesn't think it's right to make the change.

Lipschultz knows that the removal of “KKK witches” from Akiba’s Beat is “insignificant,” and truly, one might wonder whether this is really the place to take such a stand. But, he says, his dramatic gesture was inspired by the well-trod Evelyn Beatrice Hall quote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

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Space Age Language Translator!

I never had an ear for foreign language, and after three years studying Spanish in junior high school, all I could say was “Esta lloviendo, aqui!” which means it’s raining or something like that. Pretty embarrassing.

The first time you travel to a foreign country where your native language is not spoken widely, it’s a surreal experience. Everyone sounds like the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon.

The day of enlightenment may be upon us.

For $129 The Pilot by Waverly Labs, which hits the stores in September, will provide real-time translation of French, Spanish, Italian, and English when you insert the devices into your ears.

They look a little bulky now, but of course further miniaturization is just around the corner.

c'est magnifique!

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Crowdfunding an English translation of the story of activists who kept the Internet on during the Arab Spring

Stephan Urbach is part of Telecomix (previously), activists who worked tirelessly to keep the Internet on during the Arab Spring, when endangered despots were killswitching net links in a bid to keep protest from spreading. Read the rest

Word Lens: Augmented reality language translation app for iPhone

Sweet fancy wookiees, y'all, this new iPhone app sure is making the blog and tweet rounds today. The idea behind Word Lens is this: point your iPhone's camera lens at text out there in the world (a restaurant menu, a street sign), and the app translates that text instantly. The promise is a form of augmented reality assistance that breaks down language barriers.

As with many Cool New Things, this initial launch is pretty useless in real-world, practical terms, but is wicked cool and a lot of fun. I would not rely on this app to accurately translate important signs on my next trip to a foreign nation—"Do not touch nuclear waste!," for instance.

The free demo version allows you to do stuff like flip viewed text backwards. English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English translation engines will set you back $5 each. And boy do they suck! Like everything important, I tested it out on LOLcats. The image in this post is Word Lens wrestling with "What is this I don't even." Indeed! Read the rest

Universal Subtitles: add subtitles to any video on the web

The nonprofit Participatory Culture Foundation has just launched an amazing new tool: Universal Subtitles. As the name implies, Universal Subtitles makes it ridiculously easy to add subtitles to practically any video on the web, including any HTML5 video, FLV, YouTube, Vimeo, Blip, Dailymotion (you can add subtitles to a video without having to host it yourself, and the same subtitle file can be associated with multiple copies of the video all over the net).

Why Universal Subtitles? Well, of course they're useful for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, but they're also a gateway to multilingual consumption of video (as a mostly monolingual anglo, I'm extremely keen to get a chance to follow along with all the fascinating videos made all over the world). Because Universal Subtitles hosts the subtitles separate from the video, it's easy to collaborate with others to produce translations, comic remixes (this is the world's easiest Downfall remix generator!) and closed captions.

For video creators, this is a dead simple way to increase the audience for your work -- especially since there's a full-text search coming shortly. For subtitlers, the upcoming workflow management and collaboration tools will make volunteer efforts even easier to run.

Both Mozilla and Wikipedia will be including the Universal Subtitles tool for their videos -- and the tool itself is free/open source software, which means that the community can be sure that it won't be orphaned and that the tool can always be improved.

If you're a popular YouTube video creator and want to get involved in the launch effort, please get in touch with Dean at the Participatory Culture Foundation. Read the rest crowdsourced volunteer translations to Eastern Euro languages is a service for groups of volunteers working to group-translate texts into their native language, intended primarily for use on magazine articles, blog posts, and other short works. Presently, the language options are English, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Lithuanian, though the creator, Ruslan Grokhovetskiy notes that he can switch on other languages "on request." Ruslan and friends have used the service to translate a bunch of my articles and stories into Eastern European languages, and they're on the lookout for others interested in playing along!

Translated by humans

(Thanks, Ruslan!)

Previously: Chinese restaurant called TRANSLATE SERVER ERROR - Boing Boing Crowdsourced translation of Moby-Dick into Emoji - Boing Boing Machine translation fun - Boing Boing Google adds Persian translation, Facebook adds Persian version ... TED launches open translation subtitles to its TED Talks - Boing Boing Little Brother German fan-translation - Boing Boing Library of Congress uses Flickr to crowdsource tagging and ... Navigation system uses crowdsourcing for route guidance - Boing Boing Read the rest