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Friday, April 30, 2010

World Cup Multilingual Campaigns

Optus to launch major brand campaign to promote World Cup

Optus will this Sunday launch a major brand campaign centred on its sponsorship of Football Federation Australia and its association as the mobile broadcaster of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The ads, created by M&C Saatchi, will feature Australian footballers, Lucas Neill and Tim Cahill.

Meanwhile, SBS will tonight launch an advertising campaign to promote its broadcast of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, featuring stories from fans around the world.

The multiplatform and multilingual campaign, developed by US Sydney, will focus on the global appeal of the event which kicks off on June 1.

Supreme Court Bi-lingual Issue in Canada

En francais, s'il vous plait -- and skip the translation

Here's a thought for those, like columnist Lorne Gunter, who are tremendously upset about Bill C-232, which would mandate that Supreme Court justices be fluently bilingual, so as to be able to hear cases in either of Canada's two official languages without simultaneous translation. Suppose that anglophones were the minority in this country, with French being Canada's most widely spoken official language. Suppose that French pundits across Canada were painting all kinds of doomsday scenarios because of a bill that would require Supreme Court justices to be fluently bilingual so they could hear cases in English without simultaneous translation. Now, suppose critics of the bill were arguing that the eligible candidates for a position on the Supreme Court would be coming overwhelmingly and unfairly from Alberta.
I can just picture the reverse outrage here in the West. Albertans would fume that they were being treated like second-class citizens -- and rightly so. But when circumstances conspire to make French-Canadians feel like second-class citizens, why is it perfectly acceptable?
Writing in the Herald on Tuesday, Gunter argued that Bill C-232, which has passed the House and gone to the Senate, would "restrict appointment to a very small number of bilingual legal scholars and lower-court judges." He claims this elite little cadre would be drawn mainly from "a narrow strip from Ottawa, through Montreal and Quebec City, and into Moncton." It would be difficult for Canadians outside that strip to "ever be appointed to the court that has the final say over how the charter will be interpreted and what rights we may have." Nonsense.
Gunter makes it sound as if the justice system west of the Manitoba-Ontario border is a vast unilingual prairie. I'm not sure how he can possibly know, or even guesstimate, the level of French fluency among all western Canadian judges. Is he personally acquainted with all of them? Has he ever heard of the illustrious Monnins of Winnipeg -- Michel of the Manitoba Court of Appeal, his father, Alfred, who also served on the appeal court, and his brother, Marc, chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba?
Sounds to me like Gunter's real worry is that more liberal-thinking folks from the East would be interpreting the charter in ways he, as someone who leans largely to the right, would not approve of.
I don't see why French-Canadians, whose taxes support the Supreme Court as much as do the taxes of anglophones, should be told that simultaneous translation is good enough for them, and they should shut up and live with it. Anyone who speaks more than one language knows that translation is never a word-for-word, black and white matter.
One need only pick up several versions of a classic foreign novel, such as Flaubert's Madame Bovary, or Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, rendered by different translators into English, to see how widely translations can vary, and how the subtleties of phrases in other languages can be interpreted. You really have to know French or Russian fluently yourself so that you can read the works in their original language to grasp intuitively the sometimes untranslatable shades of meaning.
Senator Claudette Tardif made that same point when she told CTV that court interpretation could be good, but it's never perfect and that litigators have a right to have their first language used.
Tardif, who is from Edmonton and is bilingual and served as dean of the University of Alberta's faculty of French, said: "The stakes are too high when you're at the highest level of the land, your last court of appeal. That is an injustice that some citizens have to put up with, that others don't."
And she said, "We have to remember the Supreme Court, as a federal institution, has the mandate to serve the citizens of the land and not those aspiring to sit on the Supreme Court bench."
Tardif also neatly shoots down Gunter's fears of a narrow slate of candidates when she says that if passed, the bill "would send an important signal to different universities and faculties of law and they would certainly prepare the students accordingly."
Exactly. Even if the field were as narrow as Gunter claims, which is doubtful, it would widen over the years as the requirement for bilingualism was incorporated into law school curricula.
Among the bilingual current justices is Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, who hails from Pincher Creek -- far from Gunter's mythical strip of francophonie far to the east. Morris Fish -- a non-francophone name, if ever there was one -- taught a course called Les crimes economiques, at the University of Ottawa; and also taught Droit penal, at the Universite de Montreal. Thomas Cromwell, formerly of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, is fluently bilingual. Manitoban Marshall Rothstein is the only non-bilingual Supreme Court justice.
Justice needs to be seen to be done. It also needs to be heard -- and at the highest court in the land, it should be heard in both official languages without resorting to simultaneous translation.
French deserves equal status with English -- and that means more than relegating it to the other side of the Cheerios box.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Language Experiments

When Language Can Hold the Answer

Faced with pictures of odd clay creatures sporting prominent heads and pointy limbs, students at Carnegie Mellon were asked to identify which “aliens” were friendly and which were not.
The students were not told that the aliens fell naturally into two groups, although the differences were subtle and not easy to describe.
Some had somewhat lumpy, misshapen heads. Others had smoother domes. After students assigned each alien to a category, they were told whether they had guessed right or wrong, learning as they went that smooth heads were friendly and lumpy heads were not.
The experimenter, Dr. Gary Lupyan, who is now doing postdoctoral research at Cornell, added a little item of information to one test group. He told the group that previous subjects had found it helpful to label the aliens, calling the friendly ones “leebish” and the unfriendly ones “grecious,” or vice versa.
When the participants found out whether their choice was right or wrong, they were also shown the appropriate label. All the participants eventually learned the difference between the aliens, but the group using labels learned much faster. Naming, Dr. Lupyan concluded, helps to create mental categories.
The finding may not seem surprising, but it is fodder for one side in a traditional debate about language and perception, including the thinking that creates and names groups.
In stark form, the debate was: Does language shape what we perceive, a position associated with the late Benjamin Lee Whorf, or are our perceptions pure sensory impressions, immune to the arbitrary ways that language carves up the world?
The latest research changes the framework, perhaps the language of the debate, suggesting that language clearly affects some thinking as a special device added to an ancient mental skill set. Just as adding features to a cellphone or camera can backfire, language is not always helpful. For the most part, it enhances thinking. But it can trip us up, too.
The traditional subject of the tug of war over language and perception is color. Because languages divide the spectrum differently, researchers have asked whether language affected how people see color. English, for example, distinguishes blue from green. Most other languages do not make that distinction. Is it possible that only English speakers really see those colors as different?
Past investigations have had mixed results. Some experiments suggested that color terms influenced people in the moment of perception. Others suggested that the language effect kicked in only after some basic perception occurred.
The consensus was that different ways to label color probably did not affect the perception of color in any systematic way.
Last year, Lera Boroditsky and colleagues published a study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing that language could significantly affect how quickly perceptions of color are categorized. Russian and English speakers were asked look at three blocks of color and say which two were the same.
Russian speakers must distinguish between lighter blues, or goluboy, and darker blues, siniy, while English speakers do not have to, using only “blue” for any shade. If the Russians were shown three blue squares with two goluboy and one siniy, or the other way around, they picked the two matching colors faster than if all three squares were shades from one blue group. English makes no fundamental distinction between shades of blue, and English speakers fared the same no matter the mix of shades.
In two different tests, subjects were asked to perform a nonverbal task at the same time as the color-matching task. When the Russians simultaneously carried out a nonverbal task, they kept their color-matching advantage. But when they had to perform a verbal task at the same time as color-matching, their advantage began to disappear. The slowdown suggested that the speed of their reactions did not result just from a learned difference but that language was actively involved in identifying colors as the test was happening. Two other recent studies also demonstrated an effect of language on color perception and provided a clue as to why previous experimental results have been inconclusive. In The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Paul Kay of the International Computer Science Institute at Berkeley and colleagues hypothesized that if language is dominant on the left side of the brain, it should affect color perception in the right visual field. (The right visual field is connected to the left side of the brain, and vice versa.)

To read more, please visit

Interpreting Jobs

2 German/English Interpreters needed for medical conference in Los Angeles

Dates: May 22nd

MUST have medical interpreting experience. Interpreters without this experience will not be considered.

Please email your resume to: info [at] worldlanguagecommunications [dot] com and also make sure to register on our website or you will not be considered.

In the subject line write: GERMAN MEDICAL INTERPRETER

You can register on our careers page on:

World Languages

Listening to (and Saving) the World’s Languages

James Estrin/The New York Times
Valnea Smilovic, 59, left, with her mother, 92, in Queens. They still speak Vlashki, a language spoken by the Istrians.
The chances of overhearing a conversation in Vlashki, a variant of Istro-Romanian, are greater in Queens than in the remote mountain villages in Croatia that immigrants now living in New York left years ago.
James Estrin/The New York Times
Husni Husain, 67, says he doesn’t know of any other person in New York who speaks Mamuju, an Austronesian language.
At a Roman Catholic church in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, Mass is said once a month inGarifuna, an Arawakan language that originated with descendants of African slaves shipwrecked near St. Vincent in the Caribbean and later exiled to Central America. Today, Garifuna is virtually as common in the Bronx and in Brooklyn as in Honduras and Belize.
And Rego Park, Queens, is home to Husni Husain, who, as far as he knows, is the only person in New York who speaks Mamuju, the Austronesian language he learned growing up in the Indonesian province of West Sulawesi. Mr. Husain, 67, has nobody to talk to, not even his wife or children.
“My wife is from Java, and my children were born in Jakarta — they don’t associate with the Mamuju,” he said. “I don’t read books in Mamuju. They don’t publish any. I only speak Mamuju when I go back or when I talk to my brother on the telephone.”
These are not just some of the languages that make New York the most linguistically diverse city in the world. They are part of a remarkable trove of endangered tongues that have taken root in New York — languages born in every corner of the globe and now more commonly heard in various corners of New York than anywhere else.
While there is no precise count, some experts believe New York is home to as many as 800 languages — far more than the 176 spoken by students in the city’s public schools or the 138 that residents of Queens, New York’s most diverse borough, listed on their 2000 census forms.
“It is the capital of language density in the world,” said Daniel Kaufman, an adjunct professor of linguistics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. “We’re sitting in an endangerment hot spot where we are surrounded by languages that are not going to be around even in 20 or 30 years.”
In an effort to keep those voices alive, Professor Kaufman has helped start a project, the Endangered Language Alliance, to identify and record dying languages, many of which have no written alphabet, and encourage native speakers to teach them to compatriots.
“It’s hard to use a word like preserve with a language,” said Robert Holman, who teaches at Columbia and New York Universities and is working with Professor Kaufman on the alliance. “It’s not like putting jelly in a jar. A language is used. Language is consciousness. Everybody wants to speak English, but those lullabies that allow you to go to sleep at night and dream — that’s what we’re talking about.”
With national languages and English encroaching on the linguistic isolation of remote islands and villages, New York has become a Babel in reverse — a magnet for immigrants and their languages.
New York is such a rich laboratory for languages on the decline that the City University Graduate Center is organizing an endangered-languages program. “The quickening pace of language endangerment and extinction is viewed by many linguists as a direct consequence of globalization,” said Juliette Blevins, a linguist hired by City University to start the program.
In addition to dozens of Native American languages, vulnerable foreign languages that researchers say are spoken in New York include Aramaic, Chaldic and Mandaic from the Semitic family; Bukhari (a Bukharian Jewish language, which has more speakers in Queens than in Uzbekistan or Tajikistan); Chamorro (from the Mariana Islands); Irish Gaelic; Kashubian (from Poland); indigenous Mexican languages; Pennsylvania Dutch; Rhaeto-Romanic (spoken in Switzerland); Romany (from the Balkans); and Yiddish.
Researchers plan to canvass a tiny Afghan neighborhood in Flushing, Queens, for Ormuri, which is believed to be spoken by a small number of people in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Endangered Language Alliance will apply field techniques usually employed in exotic and remote foreign locales as it starts its research in the city’s vibrant ethnic enclaves.
“Nobody had gone from area to area looking for endangered languages in New York City spoken by immigrant populations,” Professor Kaufman said.
The United Nations keeps an atlas of languages facing extinction, and experts there as well as linguists generally agree that a language will probably disappear in a generation or two when the population of native speakers is both too small and in decline. Language attrition has also been hastened by war, ethnic cleansing and compulsory schooling in a national tongue.
for full story, visit

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New subtitle service kicks off

From JoonGangdaily April 29, 2010
If you’re a foreign national in Korea, it can be difficult to find a place to watch a first-run Korean film with English subtitles. There are a few organizations and a handful of movie theaters that do screen these films with subtitles. But the screening times can be limited and the locations not always convenient.

That’s about to change, as the number of theaters offering screenings with subtitles is soon set to increase.

To meet foreign residents’ growing demand for greater access to cultural life, the Seoul Metropolitan Government and CGV, a local theater chain, will screen 20 Korean films with English subtitles starting today, the city government said in a statement yesterday.

The expansion of the English subtitle service is aimed at promoting Korean film among foreign residents in the country.

The service was first introduced last year, when 10 Korean films were screened with English subtitles at two theaters in Seoul, drawing about 20,000 foreign visitors, the release said.

This year, four CGV theaters were added, with locations in Gangnam, Yongsan, Myeongdong and Guro.

“These four theaters are located in places where there is a large expat population,” said Kim Dae-hee, an official at CGV who is in charge of promoting the English subtitle service.

“We also hope this service will appeal to Korean students who want to learn English,” Kim added.

“Blades of Blood,” which opens at theaters nationwide today, will be the first film screened as part of the expanded service.

Blades of Blood, directed by Lee Joon-ik (“The King and The Clown”) is a period film set in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). “Maid” by Im Sang-soo, “Poetry” by Lee Chang-dong and “Dreams Come True” by Kye Yun-sik are also among the 20 films chosen.

The films will be screened more than three times a day, and foreign fans will be invited to special events designed to help increase their understanding of Korean film, officials said.

“The English subtitle program will help boost foreigners’ understanding of Korean culture and improve Seoul’s image as foreigner-friendly,” said Ma Chae-sook, a culture official at the Seoul government.

The city government is also planning to include subtitles in other foreign languages, including Chinese and Japanese, in the second half of this year, the official said.


Leading global airline KLM will be among the companies taking part in the International Search Summit in Berlin on 7th June.
Date Released: 04/28/2010
Press Release ImageIris Cremers, head of user experience, content and self-assist at KLM, will be explaining how KLM maintains a consistent brand image across all online channels for their 116 country websites. She will talk about how KLM tries to enhance customer experience by combining global and local content and share some best practices.
Other speakers at the conference, which is aimed at marketers involved in managing and implementing global online marketing activity, include Andy Atkins-Krüger of WebCertain, Dixon Jones from MajesticSEO, Thomas Bindl from RefinedLabs and Florian Stelzner, currently SEO Manager at Xing.
Sessions at the International Search Summit include International Link Building, Top 10 Essentials for International SEO Success, Global Content Management and International PPC – Optimising the Longtail.
The Summit will end with a Global Site Clinic, a session where delegates can ask a panel of experts questions related to their own websites and get specific advice on how to improve their websites or campaigns.
Andy Atkins-Krüger, whose multilingual search marketing agency WebCertain runs the Summit says, “More and more companies are using the web to target new business in new markets, but are unsure how to do it. By bringing together a group of speakers with extensive experience in working across many countries and languages, such as KLM, the Summit provides delegates with solutions to their global web marketing problems, as well as new ideas for improving their international online presence.”
The International Search Summit has been running in London since 2008, covering a range of SEO, PPC and Social Media topics, all from an international perspective. The event in Berlin is running alongside the Localization World conference.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Internet News and Translation

Gemma Birch
Specialist in online marketing, seo and ppc

Tweet In Local Language To Ensure Worldwide Twitter Success

Twitter, like Facebook before it, has become a global phenomenon. The company recently said on itsblog that over 60% of Twitter users are based outside the United States and it now provides its interface in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese – with more languages likely to follow.

Twitter said that introducing different language versions dramatically increased the number of users signing up from countries speaking those languages – and just as people search predominantly in their own language, they tweet in it too.

Therefore, global organisations need to implement a multilingual Twitter strategy if they intend to use the medium to promote their brands in non-English speaking markets. Leading hotels did just that, and SEO manager Oscar Carreras will be sharing their experiences at theInternational Search Summit on 13th May in London.

Here Oscar gives a brief insight into his experiences of international SEO and running multilingual Twitter campaigns.

If you could give just one tip to search marketers working on global campaigns, what would it be?

Work on proper website localisation with SEO in mind and leverage the power of the flagship site in order to pass value onto the foreign sites.

Why should global brands include Twitter as part of their marketing strategy?

Global brands should test Twitter as a brand awareness and cheap market research. Not all marktees are going to be receptive to the use of Twitter, which is why testing is crucial.

What was your biggest challenge when implementing an international Twitter campaign for

To coordinate marketing managers, external agencies, time zones and tools. It is crucial to test the procedures beforehand and analyse what tools are going to help and then train the different offices – ensuring that specific market nuances are taken into account.

Is it effective to just use Twitter in English, even when targeting non-English speaking markets?

No, we tested this and English tweets were usually responded only by English users.

Are there any Twitter applications/platforms that are particularly useful in international campaigns?

We don’t use any tools which are specifically tailor made for international campaigns. Tweedeck is a useful tool as several people can interact and create output into a single Twitter account. is useful tracking tool.

What value do you think the International Search Summit offers delegates?

The International Search Summit is a unique conference because it addresses a niche area of SEO that affects most big online brands. That level of expertise at that granular level is usually difficult to find at more general SEO conferences.

The International Search Summit in May is looking at innovations – recent developments in search and social media which are changing online marketing. In your opinion, what is the most significant innovation in recent years?

Unfortunately, the most significant innovation in terms of SEO, in my opinion, is the inclusion of behavioural data in Google’s algorithm. Brand engagement with the end user is going to become more essential in the future – making our job as internet marketers much harder as a result.

Language Training in US Military


April 25, 2010 @ 8:41 pm

Following up on earlier LL posts about language training in the U.S. military (e.g. "The interpreter shortage", 10/17/2005; "Linguistics in 1940", 3/11/2007) Jim Gordon sent a pointer to Roger Dingman's Deciphering the Rising Sun: Navy and Marine Corps Codebreakers, Translators and Interpreters in the Pacific War, Naval Institute Press, 2009. From a review by Ian Nish at the Japan Society:

Professor Dingman has based this enlightening study on extended interviews with former officers in the US Navy and Marine Corps who are now in their upper 80s. But he has also made much use of the unpublished memoirs to be found in the Navy Language School Collection in the Norlin Library, University of Colorado at Boulder where they were trained. It is a tribute to the US government – and the British for that matter – that they appreciated the importance of training linguists during the Asia-Pacific war and had the foresight to recruit and train personnel not of Japanese ancestry to study the Japanese language with a view to serving as language officers. Dingman concludes that it was a successful experiment and draws a painful parallel with the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq:

“In June 2002 America teetered on the cusp of a war in Iraq that has lasted longer than the titanic struggle which the World War II language officers fought… It led to swift military victory, but true peace has proven elusive in the disastrously mismanaged, occupation that followed… those in our armed forces charged with carrying out their orders lacked knowledge of Iraq’s history and culture and of the language of its people. (pp. 249-50)”

While there's no question that more interpreters would have been better, I wonder whether deficiencies in military language training bear any significant responsibility for the well-documented problems in managing the American occupation of Iraq. And I also wonder whether the good qualities of the Navy Language School in the 1940s were critical to the success of the American occupation of Japan.

In the first place, I'm fairly certain that the Defense Language Institute graduated many more people from its Arabic programs during (say) 2001-2003 than the Navy Language School graduated from its Japanese program between July 1943 (when the first class finished) to August 1945 (when the U.S. occupation of Japan began). And on the second place, I believe that the U.S. occupation of Japan ended up being mainly managed by the Army rather than the Navy. Certainly Douglas MacArthur was Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces.

For a picture of what the American occupation was like from a linguistic point of view, I can recommend J. Marshall Ungar's Literacy and Script Reform in Occupation Japan: Reading Between the Lines, OUP 1966, and (if you can find it) Robert King Hall Jr.'sEducation for a New Japan, Yale University Press, 1949. In particular, it's interesting to follow their description of the argument over whether to force a switch away from kanji ("Chinese chararcters") to the exclusive use of kana (syllabary) or romanization. Although the intellectual and political arguments were complex ones, my impression is that overall, Americans in the military who were better trained in Japanese language and culture (like Hall, who was one of the Navy's Japanese experts) tended to be on the anti-kanji side of the debate. The (pro-kanji) winners of the argument were, I think, basically following MacArthur's general policy of leaving the Japanese governmental bureaucracy largely in place, and letting it decide most things not seen as central to American interests.

The most relevant criticism of the U.S. military's Arabic language training would not, I think, be the quantity or quality of Arabic-language students, but rather a decision made a long before the first Gulf War about what language to teach them. Rather than learning one of the various regional colloquial versions of Arabic, students were only taught Modern Standard Arabic. From a linguistic point of view, that's roughly like teaching people Latin and then sending them to duty stations in France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal.

I was once told by someone at DLI that they used to teach several different "colloquials", but found that the various military branches were not able to keep the differences straight, and would assign someone who had learned Moroccan Arabic to the gulf, or vice versa, so that DLI gave up and went with MSA alone, since that's the standard written form which students need to learn anyhow. According to the website of the DLI's Middle Eastern Schools, they now once again teach Levantine, Egyptian, and Iraqi "dialects", "in the third semester of instruction, after students have gained a solid foundation in MSA".

Anyhow, none of this detracts from the interest of Dingman's history, which I've ordered and look forward to reading.

[Update — there is some interesting and useful discussion at The Volokh Conspiracy.]

Census and Language Barriers

Vietnamese Elders Overcome Isolation,

Language Barriers to Be Counted in Census

From: New America Media, Jacob Simas and Vivian Po, Posted: Apr 25, 2010

Editor’s note: Since the end of March, the Census Bureau has been tracking mail-in response rates to the 2010 Census questionnaire, and posting daily updates on their Web site, Although the national response rate is now above 70 percent, certain pockets of the country –- primarily low-income and ethnic communities –- are participating at a far lower rate. One example is the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco, where as of April 23 only 50 percent of all households had returned a census form. New America Media went to the Tenderloin to interview some of the neighborhood’s “hardest to count” community members -– immigrant elders living in SRO hotels and subsidized apartments –- who managed to be counted in the decennial census, despite substantial obstacles.

Vietnamese Elders Overcome Isolation, Language Barriers to Complete Census from New America Media on Vimeo.

Related Articles:

Immigrants More Trusting of Census than U.S.-Born Latinos

Census to Count Arabs as White, Despite Write-In Campaign

Census Reaches Out to American Indians, But Gaps Remain

Air Force officials launch language program for Airmen

by 1st Lt. Gina Vaccaro McKeen
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

4/8/2010 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Officials at the Air Force Culture and Language Center here recently launched a program designed to identify Airmen with foreign language abilities and foster those skills throughout their careers.

The Language Enabled Airman Program is the first career-long program designed to offer language-sustainment training for Airmen in diverse career fields.

"We need Airmen across all our Air Force specialties with foreign language skills and cultural understanding so we will be able to interact with our coalition partners across the globe," said Lt. Col. Brian Smith, the deputy director of the AFCLC language department at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. "The unique aspect of this program is that Airmen will devote time to maintaining and enhancing their language abilities while pursuing their normal operational assignments."

The idea behind LEAP is to find Airmen who speak a foreign language and ensure they maintain their abilities through individual customized sustainment plans.

The selection process
Airmen will be selected based upon their demonstrated potential to achieve higher levels of foreign language proficiency as measured by their past performance in language courses, their Defense Language Proficiency Test and Defense Language Aptitude Battery scores, and their previous foreign language exposure.

The minimum score required on the DLAB, which measures an individual's propensity for learning a language, is 85. The DLPT measures one's reading, writing and speaking capability in a specific language.

While program officials prefer Airmen who speak a foreign language, they will allow exceptions. If an Airman has an exceptional DLAB score but has no specific language training, he or she may be accepted on a provisional basis. Provisional Airmen have time restrictions to meet the minimum eligibility requirements.

Applicants are considered by a board that includes representatives from the Air Force ROTC, U.S. Air Force Academy, Air Force Personnel Center, Air Force Language and Culture Program office, and AFCLC. A board will be held each spring and summer.

The date for the next board has not been set; however, a message will go out to total force Airmen at least 60 days before the board is scheduled to meet. Additionally, information on the program and application process is available at the AFCLC Web site, Interested Airmen may submit completed applications at any time.

All languages qualify; however, board members prioritize selections based on Air Force requirements.

Participating in LEAP
"Language is a perishable skill," Colonel Smith said. "We want to provide resources for Airmen who are interested in advanced foreign language development so they can maintain and enhance those skills throughout their careers."

The focus of this program is to find Airmen who are both willing and able to continue their language training, he said.

"When Air Force officials recognize skills you already have then encourage you and reward you for using them, it motivates you to continue," Colonel Smith said. "We want to develop a core group of Airmen across all Air Force specialties who can effectively communicate in at least one language other than English."

Participants in the program will be required to complete up to three hours per week of online language training and are expected to reach and maintain a proficiency level of 2/2 or better on the DLPT. The maximum score is 5/5.

LEAP participants will take part in a language intensive training event of some kind within their first year of the program, then every year or two thereafter depending on the language difficulty and the ability to schedule around other career requirements.

Potential opportunities include classroom training, study abroad and simulated immersion programs. The events could be offered anywhere in the world and require participants to communicate solely in the language of study.

"Language skills are critical in today's global environment," Colonel Smith said. "With LEAP, we are looking to utilize our Airmen's natural abilities and marry those natural gifts with Air Force requirements. LEAP invests in our people throughout their entire careers and potentially affects their professional development in a very positive way by increasing their effectiveness as expeditionary Airmen."

LEAP officials seek to locate qualified Airmen early in their careers because of the length of time required to become proficient in a foreign language, Colonel Smith said. Ideally, program officials would like Airmen with at least 10 years of active service remaining to ensure program participants can receive effective training in conjunction with their career progression.

The program is limited to officers, ROTC and academy cadets for now; however, the ultimate goal is to have 5 to 10 percent of the force active in the program at any time. Officials at the AFCLC emphasize that it will take a few years to get to this point and have said they are encouraged by the positive response across the total force.

Using LEAP Airmen
Personnel at the AFCLC have created a web-enabled tracking system for LEAP participants that contains in-depth information about an Airman's cultural and language skills, including education, training and experience.

With this new tracking system, officials can identify individuals with language skills in advance and forecast which positions, locations and languages will be needed or available in the future. This database provides Air Force leaders greater knowledge of the language resources they have available at any given time.

LEAP will allow officials to plan several years in advance for positions with language requirements and adjust incentive and recruiting programs accordingly, Colonel Smith said.

"Now we can determine, for example, the specific number of Airmen the Air Force expects to get in a certain Air Force specialty in a given year, which of those Airmen have language skills, and which jobs related to those language skills might be available throughout an Airman's career," he said. "The tracking system will allow us to predict where gaps in our capabilities will surface so we can focus recruiting, scholarships and opportunities to shape the force for future Air Force demands.

"We have always had Airmen with remarkable talents and skills," Colonel Smith said. "Language and cultural understanding are valuable resources that can benefit the Air Force mission every day."

To find out more about LEAP or to download an application, visit the AFCLC Web site.

EU Translations

Saving the EU from getting lost in translation


With scores of meetings every day across the EU's main institutions - the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of EU ministers - interpreters have to be on hand at all hours to ensure nothing is lost in translation. -- PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS - IT'S A high-pressure job that keeps the European Union functioning, but you seldom see the people doing it - you only ever hear them.

Interpreters are the link that allows 27 countries to talk to one another, conveying the complexities of EU affairs into 23 official languages and preventing the European Union enterprise descending into Tower-of-Babel-like confusion.

With scores of meetings every day across the EU's main institutions - the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of EU ministers - interpreters have to be on hand at all hours to ensure nothing is lost in translation.

The Commission's interpretation service alone has a full-time staff of 500, backed by up to 400 freelancers when the pressure gets overwhelming, with demands to translate Estonian into Danish or Greek, or Portuguese into Maltese and Slovene.

Seated two or three in dimly lit glass booths at the back of conference rooms or meeting halls, the interpreters - never called translators - are a tightly knit bunch who inhabit a multilingual world where a great deal rides on the nuance.

'A booth is a small place. It's an intense relationship, a close relationship with the people you're working with,' said Andres Barreiro, a Commission interpreter whose native language is Galician (spoken in northwestern Spain), but who also interprets among Finnish, English, Spanish and Portuguese.

'You always try to convey the message and try to think of the main ideas of the speech. You just don't repeat everything. I guess that's why we are called interpreters,' he said.

Barreiro started out working for the European Parliament's separate interpretation service ten years ago before moving to the Commission, the EU's executive arm, where he can be called on to interpret in up to 20 meetings a day.

The pressure can be intense, with interpreters (depending on their languages) having to capture the subtleties of what French President Nicolas Sarkozy might be saying about financial market regulation and translate that simultaneously into, say, Swedish.

All the while they have to ensure they have grasped the suggestion in Sarkozy's diction, understood the financial jargon, and conveyed it all immediately into Swedish without any risk of misunderstanding that could provoke a diplomatic incident or have an unintended impact on financial markets.

The cost amounts to around 250 million euros (S$467 million) a year, but as supporters of the interpretation services point out, that's only about 50 euro cents for every EU citizen.


THE key to good interpretation, says Barreiro, who studied for degrees in law and economics, is planning and hard work.

'For me, I feel really bad if I don't know what the story is about,' he said, explaining that discussions could be on anything from fishing quotas in the North Sea to trade restrictions on Vietnam or competition policy in Britain.

'It's extremely important to try to read the documents before. That way you see beforehand any possible problem that could appear in the meeting. That's always necessary - and of course for some meetings more necessary than others.'

Interpreters don't translate every word, they home in on the most important elements of what a speaker is saying, distilling the particular speech into its critical elements and conveying them concisely to those listening on headphones.

Some adopt the same tone as the speaker they are interpreting, others are more automatic in their delivery and still others inject their own enthusiasm and energy.

According to Barreiro, mistakes are seldom made, even if there are occasional quibbles over a misinterpreted word.

While high-pressure, the job comes with plenty of rewards, with interpreters in the very frontline as major decisions are being made. They are a verbal bridge between nationalities and cultures, and a critical link in the EU's democratic chain.

One of Barreiro's most vivid memories is interpreting during a meeting when the EU decided to assign forces to southern Lebanon after the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.

'That was a long-awaited decision because it was very difficult to get soldiers to do that job,' Barreiro said. 'That was what the whole world was waiting for.' -- REUTERS