Together with the help of engineer Michiel van Overbeek who himself is hard of hearing language researcher Niels Schiller of Leiden University developed a pair of glasses that provides live subtitles during one-on-one conversations. The glasses display the translated conversation on the inside of the glass with a delay of some hundred milliseconds per word and at a rate of 172 words a minute. Film subtitling, which is commonplace in the Netherlands, runs at 120 to 160 words a minute.
Schiller claims this could really change the daily lives of people who are deaf and hard of hearing, especially the elderly who are not eligible for a cochlear implant and who have issues learning sign language. After testing the glasses, their comprehension went from 25% of a conversation to between 70% and 85%.
However, just like other translation devices, the glasses still get it wrong quite a bit and the speech recognition microphone doesn’t always work the way it should. Schiller points out that like when using autocorrect on an app, the person with the glasses on has to correct some words within the context. In the future, the glasses could be used when visiting a foreign country where a person can’t speak the language, and place a light on the outside of them so the person talking knows when the translation has been completed.
I trust a lot of issues have to be addressed: what happens when the wearer already wears glasses? Durability? Price? Quality of speech recognition in busy and loud places? And there’s nothing wrong sign language although the Dutch have five sign language dialects.
A group of residents from Groningen are demanding that Minister Kamp of Economic Affairs translate all English-language reports about gas extraction, something that concerns many home owners, into Dutch. Besides the reports being in English — and who knows what the quality of those reports are — the scientific language in them is probably difficult to understand. Should the minister ignore their request, the group plans to take their complaint to court.
First of all, I wouldn’t trust the original report linguistically or otherwise, knowing that the goal is to make it look like it’s safe to extract gas when houses have been known to show cracks in their foundations up in Groningen. Second, the average Dutch person probably can’t truly and fully understand these reports in English and it is safe to assume they would not understand the Dutch version either, at least not 100%. Third, if the original were to be quickly translated into Dutch, the quality of the text will only deteriorate.
Out of principle the Dutch should have the right to read public documents in their own language, and the argument of ‘pfff, everybody understands English’ is not true at all, especially if they are older. It’s that kind of overconfident attitude, which often remains unchallenged, that keeps me and other natives in business in the first place.
In addition to a year chocked full of serious cultural activities that feature the Russian-Dutch connection, 24oranges proudly presents some articles you might have missed that have a bit of the Russian soul in them as well:
A Russian trucker in Dordrecht involved in a bar brawl was released because the summons he received was poorly translated from Dutch into Russian using Google translate. When the trucker was being questioned at the police station, he had a Russian interpreter and claimed to have understood what he had to do, although he never signed the summons.
The Russian interpreter showed up in court, but not the trucker. She was asked to then translate what was written in the summons. Instead of (here I am translating this from Dutch) ‘you are to appear in court on 3 August 2010’, it went more like ‘you have to avoid being in court on 3 August 2010’. In Dutch, ‘vóórkomen’, with the stress on the first syllable, means ‘to appear’, while ‘voorkómen’ means ‘to prevent’.
With Google translate, the Dutch infinitive verb ‘voorkomen’ (no way to indicate which of the two identically spelled verbs you want translated) still today produced the infinitive verb ‘to prevent’ ‘предотвращать’ (imperfective aspect) and not even a hint of the perfective aspect of the same verb, ‘предотвратить’. In any decent dictionary both aspects are given so people can use the right one.
In Russian, if you pronouce the perfective verb ‘to write’ ‘написать’ with the wrong stress, you’re pissing instead of writing, so yes, stress matters.
Does Dutch humour translate into English? Sure it does, provided it is done accurately (so no Dunglish) and by someone who ‘gets it’. And that’s exactly what Rotterdam comic strip artist Sandra de Haan has done, the result of which you can enjoy below.
A Dutch friend once told me that Dutch humour is roughly akin to Scandinavian humour: dry, straight-faced, a bit slow and sometimes very scatologic (see Sandra’s other English comic strips). I think it leaves you slightly perplex albeit with a smile.
Filed under: Literature by Branko Collin @ 9:46 am
A couple of years ago a Project Gutenberg volunteer called Jeroen Hellingman managed to buy 25 public domain versions of Dutch translations of Jules Verne’s 54 “Voyages extraordinaires.” These books are working their way slowly through the Distributed Proofreaders digitization process and have started to appear at the other end, at gutenberg.org. The most recent Dutch Verne adventures posted there are:
Wonderlijke avonturen van een Chinees, followed by Muiterij aan boord der ‘Bounty’
De wonderstraal, followed by Tien uren op jacht
De Reis naar de Maan in 28 dagen en 12 uren
The last two titles have excerpts in my latest (third) Nederlandse Project Gutenberg Reader, which also contains snippets from the Dutch translation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Couperus’ Reis-impressies en Jan en Florence, Cyriël Buysse’s De vrolijke tocht, Guido Gezelle’s Laatste Verzen and Johanna van Woude’s Een verlaten post.
If you want Verne in another language than Dutch, fret not. After all, the man is the third most translated author in the world (after Walt Disney and Agatha Christie), and Zvi Har’El’s Jules Verne Collection has a great number of public domain translations of his works.
Amsterdam’s rhythm & tunes band The Spinshots have just released a new video called “Désirs Mutuels”, a French version of their ballad “Mutual Desires”. I proudly attended the video release party not only to talk to some very cool musicians, but because they had asked me to translate and adapt the French lyrics, a labour of love that took me just three days. Oh and here’s a nice picture of the show they did to launch the video at the recently renovated Winston Kingdom in Amsterdam.
I also got to meet the woman who shot the video. She told me it was all done in one take and took a mere 1.5 hours to shoot. When budget is an issue, creativity is a must. That’s why I like this video. I also heard it was shot in a secret location. I can imagine that someone warning any authority about guys in turbans with equipment could be scary. Hats’ off to the Dutch singer who has a knack for languages and really does the French justice.
And the will to do something in French is part of an odd trend floating around the city whose main Dutch figure, good friend DJ Guuzbourg and his girl-ridden French compilations has something to do with. May this trend continue on in 2009.