Tag Archives: Language News

Asking For Help In A System That Doesn’t Speak Your Language via BizzFeed

Asking For Help In A System That Doesn’t Speak Your Language


It isn’t just stigma keeping elderly Asian immigrants from getting mental health care — it’s also the lack of facilities that understand their languages and cultures.

So Ying Chan came to the United States with her husband in 1976 to raise her two grandchildren, Jeff and Jessica Man. The children’s parents worked several jobs and were rarely home. Although she didn’t speak English (and would never learn to), she became fast friends with all the neighborhood Chinese grandmothers. Chan entertained her grandchildren by taking them to all the cheap haunts near Washington, D.C. — the National Zoo, McDonald’s, and the neighborhood grocery store.

Then in 1992, Chan’s husband became ill and died. Without her one real companion in a country that was foreign to her, Chan fell into a deep depression. She told family members repeatedly that she wished she were dead. As the years passed, she developed Alzheimer’s and her behavior grew even more erratic. Her grandson remembers her ambling out to meet his friends whenever they drove up to the house and staring into their car window wordlessly.

The family grew increasingly worried for Chan’s safety. They would come home to find that Chan had left the stove on and forgot, or that she had wandered out into the city and got lost coming home — once, they had to call the police to bring her back. Finally, in order to have someone watch over her, they enrolled her in a nursing home in Gaithersburg, Maryland. That turned out to be a mistake.

To read more of this article courtesy of BuzzFeed —-> click here


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Speaking the Language of Health Care–via National Journal


Speaking the Language of Health Care–via National Journal

Translation apps and other technology seek to eliminate language barriers for patients uncomfortable with English.

There’s an app for relaying basic medical instructions in Fukienese, a group of dialects spoken in southeastern China. Need a way to help bedridden non-English-speaking patients instantly alert a nurse for assistance? Touch-screen software exists that allows patients to click a pained face—perhaps marked “pain” in Russian—to instantly alert a nurse. Both were created by New York City-based Transcendent Endeavors to improve communication between patients and health care professionals who speak different languages.

But while today’s digital tools can help communicate basic information across language barriers, there’s not yet a digital substitute for a trained medical interpreter or a fully bilingual practitioner. And some experts say that translation apps and other tools can even be dangerous if they lead to incomplete communication.

“The medical encounter is incredibly complex and nuanced,” says Dr. Glenn Flores, director of the general pediatrics division at the University of Texas Southwestern and Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. Patients and doctors need to communicate about the precise nature of symptoms, past medical history, prescriptions, and procedures. “If you just have a simple tablet that asks, do you have pain or not, that’s going to give people a false sense of security,” Flores says. “You’re going to end up putting people at risk.”

 About 21 percent of people living in the U.S. speak a language other than English at home, and some 9 percent of U.S. residents aren’t fluent in English, according to 2011 census estimates. Elderly people are most likely to say they don’t speak English very well, and speakers of some Asian languages—like Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese—are particularly likely to lack English fluency.

These language barriers can make it more difficult for patients to receive effective medical care. People who don’t speak English well are more likely to be hospitalized for prolonged periods or to experience serious medical events while they’re in the hospital, Flores says. Studies show that poor communication can hinder everything from colon-cancer screenings to care for asthmatic children.

Federal law requires all health care facilities that receive federal funding offer language services to patients who need them. Most hospitals accomplish this by relying on a mix on staff interpreters, bilingual staff, outside interpretation agencies, and phone-based services. Yet many facilities don’t do a good job connecting patients with language services. Less than half of patients who need an interpreter say they usually get such assistance, according to 2001 survey from the Commonwealth Fund.

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



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Volunteer interpreters scrambling to communicate while transcribing quotes for the Olympic News Service. Journalists fighting over which language athletes should speak when they answer questions. And the jargon of youth – how the heck do you say “stoked” in Korean?

American gold medalist snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg forced interpreters to translate that seven times on Monday, in seven languages besides English for those listening on headsets in tongues they could understand.

The 20-year-old from Coeur D’Alene, Idaho who trains in Park City, Utah also dropped a “sick” while approving Great Britain’s women’s slopestyle bronze. The word became “slick” in a transcript later distributed to journalists.

While interviewing a Russian speedskater in the mixed zone, the Russian interpreter assigned to help me struggled with double-duty, catching minor heat from her supervisor when she couldn’t write down the athlete’s quotes at the same time. Quite a lot to ask – listen, talk and write at the same time. I wanted to give her my recorder.

A day later, a presser with Canada’s freestyle skiing sensations Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe was delayed several times by language lobbying. By the last answer, Justine double-checked if she really had to repeat herself in English on an answer she’d already given in French. Her handler told her yes, but keep it short.

“OK,” Dufour-Lapointe said with a slight sigh.

Makes you want to tell folks, preferred language or not: Hey, just roll with it.

Here’s a glimpse of the Olympics translation machine in action: http://twitter.com/oskargarcia/status/432857818589192192

To read more of this article courtesy of KBOI2.com click the link below.



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Top 10 Most Popular Languages on Twitter –via Mashable


While English is the most popular language on Twitter, it may surprise you that the majority of published tweets are not in the mother tongue of the company’s founders.

Just over one-third (34%) of all tweets were in English in September. With 16%, Japanese is the second-most popular language on the microblogging network, while Spanish clocks in at third place.

Created by Statista, the chart, below, shows the 10 most popular languages on Twitter.


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


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How the Internet is killing the world’s languages–via the Washington Post #interpreters



Less than five percent of current world languages are in use online, according to a recent study by prominent linguist András Kornai — and the Internet may be helping the other 95 percent to their graves.

Those startling conclusions come from a paper published in the journal PLOSOne in October titled, appropriately, “Digital Language Death.” The study sought to answer a question that’s both inherently fascinating and little-discussed: How many languages exist online? (And, on the flip side, how many don’t?)

For reference, at least 7,776 languages are  in use in the greater offline world. To measure how many of those are also in use on the Internet, Kornai designed a program to crawl top-level Web domains and catalog the number of words in each language. He also analyzed Wikipedia pages, a key marker of a language’s digital vibrancy, as well as language options for things like operating systems and spell-checkers.

His finding: Less than five percent of languages in use now exist online.

Much of that gap can be attributed to the fact that the languages people use vary widely, in terms of scale and geography. More than 40 percent of world languages are already endangered, according to the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity. And even the ones that aren’t technically endangered may be spoken by only a few thousand people — often in places like sub-Saharan Africa, southeast Asia and South America, where Internet penetration can be lower.

Still, a language’s failure to migrate online doesn’t augur well for its long-term prospects. Linguists have a sort of road map for language death, which Kornai lays out in the paper: First, its speakers stop using it in practical areas like commerce; then younger speakers lose interest in speaking that language; and, finally, the younger generation forgets it all together. A language is technically still alive as long as one person speaks it. And there are typically many years between when a language starts to decline and when its last speaker passes on, during which time young people fail to adopt it in their daily activities, such as when using the Internet.

To read more about this article courtesy of the Washington Post click the link below.


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