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Inttranet: Linguists of the year 2005


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The Inttranet (www.inttra.net), the global network of professional interpreters and translators, has nominated its "Linguists of the Year" for 2005.
These honorary citations recognise the struggle - and sometimes the personal sacrifice - of linguists both alive and dead who were the focus for media attention during the past year, and have increased public awareness of the importance of linguists and languages as a result.
The Inttranet nominees as Linguists of the Year (in alphabetical order) for 2005 by alphabetical order were:

Alex Waibel
Andrew Wedel
Bright Simasiku
David S.C. Chu
David W. Lightfoot
Dr. Abdul-Rahman Abd Rabu
Hussein Hanoun Al-Saadi
In memoriam: interpreters killed in the line of duty
Jack Jones
Noam Chomsky
Sibel Edmonds
The LiTgloss project
UNESCO
Valerie Fast Horse

The leading three nominees were Noam Chomsky (17.43%), UNESCO (13.76%) and In Memoriam: interpreters killed in the line of duty (11.01%).

Backgrounder

Alex Waibel
Carnegie Mellon University researchers and German scientists demonstrated breakthrough technology in human speech translation by computers. The system pioneered by Alex Waibel, a faculty member at CMU and the University of Karlsruhe in Germany, could bring closer the day when communicating in a foreign language is as easy as speaking in a native tongue.
Another prototype, which hadn't been given a name, uses directional speakers to beam translations of a speech to specific listeners in a variety of languages.

Andrew Wedel
Assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona in Tucson
A new strand of linguistic research uses the principle of "self organization," a concept used in studying all kinds of complex systems, from thunderstorms to the human immune system, and not just language. Self-organization, in a nutshell, is when a system evolves a large structure from repeated small-scale interactions between its smaller elements, according to Andrew Wedel, an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Bright Simasiku
Co-ordinator of the Eluwa Sign Language Project
A team of teachers in Northern Namibia is developing an expanded vocabulary for Namibian sign language to allow deaf children to learn science. The Eluwa Sign Language Project was launched at the Eluwa Special School for deaf and hearing-impaired children at Ongwediva recently.

David S.C. Chu
US Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness
David S.C. Chu is the author of the Defense Language Transformation Roadmap. “In today’s world,” Chu said, “we need people with a higher level of linguistic competence. We need more people in the civilian and military ranks with a capacity in one or more of the ‘investment’ languages, such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic ( and ) Farsi.
Chu said proficiency must go beyond standard speaking and reading skills to include competence in the various dialects of a language, slang, and an ability to write. “(Military linguists) must be able to understand people speaking in nuanced terms or alluding to current or historical events in a culture.”

David W. Lightfoot
Director of Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation
At the current rate, as many as 2,500 native tongues will disappear forever by 2100. David W. Lightfoot is helping spearhead a government initiative to preserve some of the dying languages, believing each is a window into the human mind that can benefit the world at large.
“If we are going to lose half the world's languages that endangers our capacity to understand the genetic basis of language,”' said Lightfoot, who heads the directorate of Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Abdul-Rahman Abd Rabu
Professor of Translation at Sana’a University, Yemen
“Illiteracy is a problem in society whereby people are having difficulty accessing sources in their own native language. Because of this, they are going to experience insurmountable difficulties in accessing sources. Translation would alleviate many of these problems if the Arab world would devote adequate time and resources to developing professional translators.”

Hussein Hanoun Al-Saadi
Interpreter
French journalist Florence Aubenas and her Iraqi interpreter Hussein Hanoun Al-Saadi were kidnapped in Baghdad on Wednesday January 5 but were released unharmed on June 11.

In Memoriam: interpreters killed in the line of duty
It is difficult to know exactly how many interpreters were killed in 2005. According to the press freedom monitoring group Reporters Without Borders, 50 journalists and 22 journalists' assistants, such as interpreters and drivers, have been killed during the 30 months since the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Because they provide the real link between people, because they really do fix things, interpreters will always be on the front line, making them a strategic target in a war-torn world, and more necessary than ever, wherever they are.

Jack Jones
Jack Jones was once punished for speaking his native language. Transported by the government from his riverside home in Montezuma, Utah, at 7 years old, Jones learned English in a Colorado boarding school. There he was told his name was Jack; he was warned not to speak Navajo. But the language of his people later made him a war hero.
In the winter of 1941, the federal government recruited 29 Navajos to develop a battle code based on the Navajo language. Jones was among 180 finalists that were actually deployed overseas from among the 400 Navajos originally recruited for the program. Without the code talkers, some say the Pacific war may never have been won.

Noam Chomsky
Professor of Linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Noam Chomsky has written an interesting, thought-provoking article on universality in language and in human rights, in which his examples are given “so that we remember that we are not merely engaged in seminars on abstract principles, or discussing remote cultures that we do not comprehend. We are speaking of ourselves and the moral and intellectual values of the communities in which we live. And if we do not like what we see when we look into the mirror, we have ample opportunity to do something about it. “

Sibel Edmonds
The family of former FBI translator Sibel Edmond moved to Turkey when she was a girl, and she attended college in the United States. She became a U.S. citizen and, shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, went to work for the FBI, which was in dire need of Middle Eastern translators. But at the FBI, Sibel got a disillusioning look at the management failures, case backlogs, turf battles and bureaucratic gold-bricking that have since been confirmed by several high-level government investigations of the government's counter-terror operations.

The LiTgloss project
The idea behind the LiTgloss project is to use the Web to harness the labor of far-flung translators who are not necessarily scholars, but who volunteer their language skills to help others read works that they love. LiTgloss is a collection of texts of literary or cultural interest, written in languages other than English, and expertly annotated so as to facilitate comprehension by English-speaking readers. The project was undertaken with funding from the University at Buffalo, and is now supported by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Texts are available in many languages, and more texts are added every month.

UNESCO
The United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture celebrated its 60 th anniversary this year. Among its achievements during the year, the Organisation enacted a convention on protecting cultural diversity worldwide. The goal of the proposed convention, formally titled the Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions, is to protect a nation's cultural diversity and its culture from any negative effects of globalization. It also seeks to promote a country's ethnic traditions and minority languages.

Valerie Fast Horse
Valerie Fast Horse, IT Director for the Coeur d'Alene tribe in Idaho helped open the tribe’s new community technology center (CTC), which makes broadband access and 40 computers available to members of the tribe for free. It is the first phase of a multifaceted plan to bring broadband wireless to every corner of the reservation.
Among the uses Fast Horse foresees for tribal-wide Wi-Fi broadband are streaming video and other high-bandwidth applications, especially those which help to teach the ancient tribal language of the Coeur d'Alene.

About
The Inttranet (www.inttra.net) is a multilingual portal (currently available in 33 languages) designed by and for professional interpreters and translators, providing a complete range of dedicated features and services, all of which are interoperable in each language.
The portal is the first for professional interpreters and translators to be fully compliant with ISO 9001 quality assurance requirements, and to enable the automatic display of members’ CV in the visitor’s language, thereby enabling direct contact between customers and language service providers wherever either party may be.









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