Monthly Archives: May 2013

Harvard startup MyLingo wants to turn your smartphone into a movie translator –via


By Scott Kirsner, Globe Columnist

Growing up in a Connecticut household that mostly spoke Polish, Olenka Polak and her brother Adam had first-hand experience in how language can be a barrier to participating in the culture. And that led the siblings, years later, to start a company that would help make a key part of American culture — the movies — more welcoming to those who don’t speak English.

The Polaks are co-founders of myLINGO, a still-stealthy startup based at Harvard’s Innovation Lab. myLINGO is developing a mobile app that would make it easy to rent, for 99 cents, a movie’s audio track in a wide variety of languages. And it’d be useful not just for theatrical releases, but also for on-demand or DVD viewing at home. “You can imagine a scenario where the kids are fine watching a cartoon in English, but Abuela and Abuelo would want to listen to the audio in Spanish,” says Olenka Polak, right, who just wrapped up her sophomore year at Harvard. (Her brother is a 2012 graduate of Johns Hopkins.)

For a demo, Polak started playing the Spanish version of “Toy Story 2” on her laptop. The prototype app on her iPhone listened to the soundtrack for 20 seconds or so to figure out what part of the movie was playing, and when I put the earbuds in, I could hear Buzz Lightyear speaking in English, perfectly synchronized. The app checks in every few minutes with the soundtrack on the film or DVD, just to make sure it is still in the right spot. (Audio processing expert Dan Ellis of Columbia University is an advisor to myLINGO.)

To read more of this article courtesy of, click the link below.


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Britain ‘abandoning’ Afghan interpreters to the Taliban –via Metro

Prince Harry tour of duty in Afghanistan

Army interpreters say they face death threats and have become prisoners in their homes after Britain abandoned them to the mercy of the Taliban.

The translators, who worked for British forces in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, have accused David Cameron of betraying them.

They say they have been let down because the prime minister appeared to offer a safe haven in Britain for at least five years to a select few.

One interpreter, Mohammed, told Metro: ‘Even in the presence of British and US troops we don’t feel safe. Next year, when they’re gone, will be much worse. We and our families are all in danger.

‘David Cameron has talked about our safety but all the interpreters are really worried. We feel we’re being abandoned to the Taliban.’

At least 21 translators have died on duty in Afghanistan since 2001 and campaigners say at least five have been murdered while on leave.

But ministers have still not announced whether all interpreters or just those who have been working for Britain since the start of this year will be offered the chance to come to this country.

To read more of this article courtesy of Metro, click the link below.


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Afghan interpreters win right to new life in Britain — via Pakistan News Service


LONDON: Up to 600 Afghan interpreters who served with British forces in Afghanistan will be offered the chance of a new life in Britain after a government U-turn, it was revealed on Wednesday.

Prime Minister David Cameron had initially decided to discourage the interpreters from settling in Britain for fear of the message it would send out about the stability of Afghanistan as foreign forces pull out.

Many of the Afghans say their lives are in danger from the Taliban due to their work with British forces in the restive southern Helmand Province.

British forces are due to withdraw at the end of 2014 along with other troops in the NATO-led international coalition.

Although details of the new plan have yet to be released, interpreters who served on the frontline for at least one year will be allowed to move to Britain with close family members on a five-year visa.

They will reportedly be able to choose between cash payments if they stay in Afghanistan or settle in a country nearby, and the right to move to Britain.

Those who wish to remain in Afghanistan will be paid their salary for five years if they train or study, or be paid for 18 months if they do not.

“These proposals give them a choice: the opportunity to go on working in Afghanistan, learning new skills and to go on rebuilding their country or to come and make a new start in Britain,” a source in Cameron’s Downing Street office said.

The decision came after three interpreters launched a legal challenge to press for the same treatment afforded to interpreters who worked with British forces during the Iraq war.

One of the Afghan interpreters, who wished to be identified only as Mohammad, said London had made “the right decision”.

“Saving those people who have helped the British government is giving a message to the Taliban that the Afghan interpreters will not be left behind for them to be persecuted and hunted down by the terrorists,” he told AFP.

Mohammad was forced to leave his wife and three children behind in Afghanistan after receiving death threats from the Taliban for his five years’ work with British troops.

“I hope that with this decision now, I would be able to reunite with my family here in the UK and the other interpreters would be able to come here in the UK to live in peace with their family,” he said.

His lawyer Rosa Curling, who lodged the interpreters’ legal challenge at the High Court in London earlier this month, said she was “delighted” at the government’s offer.

To read more of this article courtesy of the Pakistan News Service, click the link below.


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Non-native English speaking students face language barrier challenges – Dedham, Massachusetts – via Wicked Local


“The day to day challenges, learning content in a second language, I think that’s the big challenge,” ELL teacher at Avery and Riverdale Elementary Schools Donna Jovin said.

When Leen Nestant, 11, immigrated to Dedham from Haiti, writing was her biggest academic challenge.

“Sometimes when they showed me a word and I wanted to write it a while after they showed me, I would forget how it looks like,” Leen said during homework club Tuesday afternoon. “It would be hard for the teachers to understand my writing.”

Leen joined the school district’s ELL program in kindergarten. She left the program by the end of third grade.

“It was a little hard for me in kindergarten but it got easier at the end of first grade,” the fifth-grader said shyly.

For Miguel, however, verbal communication was his biggest challenge when he moved to Dedham.

“I just heard the people and tried to say what they said,” said Miguel, who has been in the English learning program since first grade.

Some students in the Dedham Public Schools ELL program have a good command of the English language, whereas others struggle with basic vocabulary words.

“We also have many kids that come to the United States who may speak no English or may speak very limited English,” Jovin said. “So, that becomes more of a challenge to make sure that they acquire the content and the language at the same time.”

To help boost students’ vocabulary, ELL teachers focus on word citing and meanings.

To read more of this article courtesy of Wicked Local, click the link below.
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