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- How many languages are spoken today around the world?
- Which two continents account for two-thirds of languages spoken?
- Which country has the highest number of languages spoken today?
By: Fonema Colectivo
Why Do We Speak 7000 Languages?
It’s a linguistic mystery. The world has roughly 7,000 languages. Yet some areas of the planet are linguistic hotspots with many languages, and some are relative linguistic deserts.
What causes language diversity?
The National K-12 Foreign Language Enrollment Survey
The report provides results from a survey on foreign language school enrollment data and provides state-by-state information.
The State of Languages in the U.S.
This report recently published by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, explores the language skills of Americans and how they acquired or learned those languages, the state of bilingualism in the U.S., language education in this country, and much more.
New Report on Limited English Proficient Borrowers
Linguistics Breakthrough Heralds Machine Translation for Thousands of Rare Languages
Online translation services work for fewer than 100 of the world’s 7,000 languages. A new machine translation technique could change that.
U.S. Average Compensation Rates for Interpreters and Translators
The stats are out:
- Median annual wage: $51,260
- Median hourly wage: $22.17 [whether salaried or freelance]
- Mean hourly wage: $24.64
Translators and interpreters with key specializations (such as conference interpreting or technical translation) can command far higher incomes than others (such as community interpreting and translation). This skews the data, somewhat.
You can filter occupations in the box at the top right side of the Table. Just enter "INTERPRETER". You can then click on "INTERPRETERS AND TRANSLATORS" and it will link you to state- and even some county-level data.
Hear Voices Around the World in This Interactive Map
Language Diversity and English Proficiency in the U.S.
While a record 64.7 million people ages 5 and older in the United States spoke a language other than English at home in 2015, a growing share of them are also fully proficient in English. Sixty percent of those speaking a foreign language at home were fully proficient in English in 2015, up from 56 percent in 1980—even as immigration levels rose significantly.
The Language That Took Over the World
Spanish, Hindi and English all have something in common. They all derived from a single language: Anatolian. About half the World's population, 3 billion people, now speak an Indo-European language.
Interpreting for Change
We hear sabiduría, or words of wisdom, from Antena (Antenna) Los Ángeles. They do interpretation and translation work, aimed at achieving justice through language.
This is a worthwhile report that aired on National Public Radio in May 2016, that puts a human face on interpretation quality. Phrases like 'Spanishes within Spanish' and 'Englishes within English' will have more meaning to the listener.
Could language barriers fall soon?
With increasing number of machine interpretation and translation tools like Google Translate that continue to improve, will it be long before language barriers disappear? It's unlikely and this ariticle explains why.
Languages in Idaho
A recent U.S. Census Bureau data release explores in detail the variety of languages spoken within homes in the United States. It reveals that 20 percent of the population 5 years of age and older are using one of at least 380 different languages other than English as their primary means of communication in the household. This data, reported as an average from 2009-2013, reveals a tapestry of at least 95 languages actively spoken in Idaho. A substantial portion of the population for both the nation and Idaho speak English at any age “less than very well,” according to the Census Bureau data.
Out of Idaho’s population of 1,465,600 older than 5 years of age, 153,000 residents speak a language other than English in their households; 114,600 Spanish speakers make up the bulk of this group, representing 74.9 percent of people speaking a language other than English and 10.4 of Idaho’s total population of speakers.
World's smallest language
There are more than a million words in the English language and we add about 1000 new ones annually. Toko Pono has only 123 words. Simply complicated would be how I might describe it. What do you think? Before you decide it's a good or bad idea...
France changes 2,000 spellings and drops some accents
Nothing provokes a Gallic row than changes to the language of Molière, but the storm took officials by surprise as the spelling revisions had been suggested by the Academie Francaise, watchdogs of the French language, and unanimously accepted by its members as long ago as 1990. The aim was to standardize and simplify certain quirks in the written language making it easier to learn.
Useful sources for translators
Nikki Graham, a professional translator, has assembled numerous resources that she uses and now shares with other translators. A great resource!
US Census Language Map App
The Language Map App is an interactive mapping tool that helps users find out the concentration of and languages spoken by LEP individuals in a community. Click on your state or county to identify the number or percentage of LEP persons, download language data, or visually display LEP maps for presentations.
Seven maps and charts illustrating facts about the world's languages
Fun and interesting facts about the languages of the world. You may be surprised!
Tips for working with interpreters
Making effective use of over-the-phone interpreters helps ensure that your organization is providing the best service possible to diverse communities. Pacific Interpreters (acquired by Language Line) shares a variety of tips for optimizing your use of telephonic language interpreters. Following these tips will improve your language access program.
InterpreTIPS #20--Indigenous language interpretation
In Mexico alone, there are 64 languages with 364 variants. As an interpreter, how do you handle this?
"It's Greek to me" in 30 other languages
English speakers say, “It’s all Greek to me,” when they find something hard to understand. Mark Liberman, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, started wondering what the equivalent was in different languages.
Machine translation versus human translation
This is what many of us have been looking for -- a side-by-side evaluation of Google Translate and a human translator! Also, some good recommendations when each is appropriate.
Working with Interpreters
This is fantastic information about working with interpreters in general and with refugees that may have been subjected to trauma. A great resource!
The National Partnership of Community Training has produced an information guide, Working with Interpreters: Service Provision with Torture Survivors. Work with interpreters should be grounded in best practices, with creativity and flexibility to fit the context. Cross-cultural and trauma-informed skills are critical in interpreted services with traumatized refugees. The material help you anticipate, manage, and address challenges faced by refugees, interpreters and service providers
From salt to salary: Linguists take a page from science
Like biological species, languages change over time and sometimes "speciate" to give rise to several descendant languages. For example, French, Italian and Spanish are among languages that evolved from Latin. In other words, these modern languages share a common ancestor (about 2,000 years ago) — just as humans, chimps and gorillas share a common ancestor (some 10 million years ago). And like species, languages can go extinct, too.
The linguistic Tree
When linguists talk about the historical relationship between languages, they use a tree metaphor. An ancient source like Indo-European has various branches. Lessons on language families are often illustrated with a tree diagram.
In the hospital, a bad translation day can destroy a life
A study by the American College of Emergency Physicians in 2012 analyzed interpreter errors that had clinical consequences, and found that the error rate was significantly lower for professional interpreters than for ad hoc interpreters — 12 percent as opposed to 22 percent. And for professionals with more than 100 hours of training, errors dropped to 2 percent.
[Please note that in this NPR story, the reporter incorrectly refers to an interpreter as a translator. Interpretation is the verbal conversion of one language into another. Translation is the written counterpart.]
What do the words mutton, sheep and robot have in common? Translation!
At the link below, you'll find a great PRI story about the history of translation, a clip from the movie "The hitchhiker's guide to the universe" featuring the Babel Fish, and a translation joke. This is a tiny translation goldmine!
Video definitively introduces and explains medical interpreting
This 15-minute film comes from UCLA Health. It's a great introduction to how medical interpreting works in hospitals, with several story-vignettes. It also tells the story of the infamous $71 million lawsuit for one misinterpreted Spanish word intoxicado and the death of Willie Ramirez.
Ten tips for healthcare workers for working with interpreters
This handy 8 minute video guide was produced by the Duke University School of Nursing. In its humorous way, it explains some common pitfalls to avoid and how to provide good interpretation outcomes for both providers and patients.
Alaska must translate election material into two indigenous languages
Earlier this year, a judge ruled that Alaskan election officials were in violation of the Voting Rights Act because they did not provide election materials in two dying indigenous languages. The court's decision applies to everything from the buttons that poll workers wear that read "Can I Help?" to candidates' statements, to the ballots themselves. There are four regional election pamphlets that are more than 600 pages, and they must be translated into Yupik and Gwich'in.
Five of the ten worst things a speaker can do to an interpreter
1. When the speaker constantly switches between languages.
2. When the speaker insists on talking in a language he really does not speak.
3. When the speaker speaks away from the microphone.
4. When the speaker taps on the microphone or says “hello” directly into the mike.
5. When the speaker slows down to a crawl.
How Northwest emergency dispatchers get help to 9-1-1 callers who don't speak English
In an emergency, the last thing you want to hear is, "I can't understand you." The reality is emergency dispatchers in the Northwest generally speak one language, English. But in our increasingly polyglot society, some people in distress inevitably can't communicate in English.
Google asks language lovers to help refine Translate services
Google Translate helps billions of people communicate and learn new languages. To make Google's online translation services even better, Google has created an online Translate Community where volunteers can add their personal language expertise to improve accuracy.
List of languages by number of native speakers
Wikipedia is always a fascinating source of information. Did you know half of the world's population speak the 13 most populous languages, the other half of the world speak the rest? Here's a list of the languages of the world with the largest number of native speakers as estimated by the Swedish Nationalencyklopedin (2007, 2010).
Many languages, one America
Here's an infographic that provides interesting histories and facts about languages in the United States.
Nine translation mistakes that caused big problems
If you needed it, further evidence that translation is a special skill.
What language does your state speak?
These interesting language maps tell us:
- Most common spoken language other than English
- Most commonly spoken language other than English or Spanish
- Most commonly spoken language Native American language
- Most commonly spoken Scandinavian language
- Most commonly spoken Indo-Aryan language
- Most commonly spoken African language
The Global Guide to Hand Gestures
Hand gestures can mean different things in different cultures. Here's a guide to what means what and where.
Machine interpretation--challenges linger
In time, Siri and her ilk will increasingly get it right — not just what you said, but what you meant.
The Great Language Game
There are perhaps six or seven thousand languages in the world. Even so-called hyperpolyglots, people who learn to speak six or more fluently, barely scratch the surface. You and I will never be able to communicate in all these languages without machine aids, but learning to identify what's being spoken near us, that's within our reach.
The Great Language Game challenges you to distinguish between some eighty or so languages based on their sound alone.
Translators are a waste of space
Be sure to watch this short video all the way through. There is an interesting "plot twist" about midway!
Video--Understanding and Abiding by Title VI
Title VI was enacted as part of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.
President John F. Kennedy said in 1963: "Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination."
This 23 minute video gives a short, yet good overview of Title VI.
Can't I just use Google Translate?
This article's author explains why the answer is "NO!" to this and the following questions:
- So basically you do the same as Google Translate?
- Why should I pay you anything when I can get Google Translate to do it for free?
- Do you use Google Translate for all your translation?
- Do you just have one big computer who does all the translation?
This issue of "Opening Hearts", Intermountain Fair Housing Council's newsletter, focuses on National Origin and Limited English Proficiency.
IFHC Newsletter_December 2013_National O[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [785.4 KB]
A new service from Cross Cultural Communication and InterpretAmerica is now at your fingertips. InterpreTIPs will answer your interpreting questions.
They post short videos and do a great job of supporting their answers. As an example, there are currently three videos responding to questions on the website that address: Refusing an Interpreter, How to Break In, and Helping with Forms.
Map: The world's major writing systems
The map is a reminder that the world's divisions and commonalities go much deeper than national borders.
Bilingual (English and Spanish) guides to personal safety for children and teens are now available from Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services (BRYCS). Created for unaccompanied children, these guides will assist young people in knowing their rights while they are in the United States, and will help keep them safe.
Handbook: Raising Children in a New Country
BRYCS and the Office of Head Start's National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness have partnered to create this new handbook for newcomer families parenting young children. It addresses: Family Well-being, Safety and Protection, Guidance and Discipline, Healthy Brain Development, Early Learning and School Readiness, Connecting to Early Care and Education.
Distribution of Hispanic or Latino Population by specific origin: 2010
These Census maps show the country of origin for the U.S. population of Hispanics and Latinos. The information may be useful in determining language and Spanish dialects in counties with over 1000 in a particular group.
Videos available in 30 languages
Refugee service videos covering Medical and Insurance, Medications and Home Remedies, Substance Abuse, Family Issues, Personal Hygiene, and Food Safety and Housekeeping are available in 30 languages (including English).
Medical Interpreter training: A clear voice for those in need
This short three-part video shows the importance of accurate medical interpretation. While this video is of a medical setting, it could just as well be another situation where access to critical services is dependent on accurate and culturally competent interpretation.
Parents Entitled to Translation and Interpretation Services
Federal law grants special legal rights to parents for whom English is not their first language. But the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP) and the Education Law Center are trying to ensure compliance with a 2010 settlement agreement that provides additional protections to LEP families in the School District of Philadelphia.
That case — Y.S. v. School District of Philadelphia — requires that parents in Philadelphia receive appropriate translation and interpretation services to participate effectively in important educational decisions and school events for their children.
What happens when interpretation by family and friends goes wrong? While this scenario is in a medical setting, it could just as easily be someone trying to access housing, law enforcement, or other important services. Countless people that have limited ability to read, write, speak and understand English may be denied services because they don't understand information critical to addressing their needs or rights.
Providers must use care when accepting family and friends as interpreters.
This short video, focuses on the importance of professional medical interpreters.
Language Access to National Hotline and Crisis Centers - 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
The 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and 150 associated crisis centers around the country support languages spoken by refugees and other vulnerable populations. The interpretation services are available in all States at no cost to the caller.
Intended to be particularly useful to planners, project evaluators, state/local policy makers, the 3rd edition of the Hispanic Profile Data Book examines Idaho Hispanics standing in the job market, housing, and education. It also compares their buying power with that of non-Hispanics and includes some information on limited English proficiency.
Domestic violence information in Asian languages
The API Institute has compiled a list of translated materials produced by domestic violence programs around the country. There are over 500 items that include brochures, forms, manuals, legal glossaries, and more in 32 Asian and Pacific Islander languages.
Domestic violence information in 106 languages
A valuable resource for those seeking help.
Video: Why Interpreters and Translators Truly Matter
Nataly Kelly, author of "Found in Translation", talks on the value of interpreters and translators at Google headquarters.
What can happen when children are used as interpreters
Limited English Proficiency in the U.S.
The number of U.S. residents who are deemed to be Limited English Proficient (LEP) has increased substantially in recent decades, consistent with the growth of the US foreign-born population. MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy has compiled the most up-to-date analysis on the number, share, growth, and linguistic diversity of LEP individuals in the United States from 1990 to 2010 at the national, state and metropolitan levels.
Add to your understanding of languages and users of them. This Rhode Island Teachers of English Language Learners website has information about more than 90 languages.
National Housing Law Project Fair Housing Toolkit
(see page 7 for LEP information)
National Housing Law Project LEP Resources
The 10 largest Hispanic origin groups
Nearly two-thirds (65%), or 33 million, self-identify as being of Mexican origin, according to tabulations of the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.
Federal Update: A Conversation on Language Access with the US Department of Justice
This MPI webinar features US Department of Justice officials discussing the department’s efforts to improve communications with Limited English Proficient communities in federal and federally-funded programs and activities. An update on the progress of language access compliance at the federal level and how the agency is continuing to provide oversight and technical assistance to states and localities as they too attempt to meet their language access responsibilities.