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This week in the news, Bangladeshis celebrate their country’s independence with a translation campaign, an FBI linguist misses pop culture references in courtroom evidence and one translator’s decision changes the way a Chinese novel is perceived worldwide.

Bangladeshis to Add 400,000 New Words to Google Translate

As part of the country’s Independence Day celebration, Bangladesh Computer Council set up a country-wide initiative to add 400,000 new Bangla words to Google Translate in just one day. The campaign began Thursday morning with the hopes of reaching the 400K mark within 24 hours.  Although Bangla is the 7th most spoken language in the world, the State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak said the Internet translation services available for the language online was not sufficient. The campaign is a way for volunteers to celebrate the country’s rich culture by making the Bangla translation services more easily accessible. Google will announce the number of added words at the end of the 24 hours, and the top translators are to be awarded prizes. (bdnews24.com)

FBI Linguist Overlooks Pop Culture in Court Case

FBI linguist Olga LaFond testified on Wednesday about some Russian-language documents found regarding Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s connection to the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. This evidence includes tweets that  were meant to display the radicalization of the man and his brother prior to the bombing, but the defense attorney on the case pointed out nuances overlooked in LaFond’s original translation. One of Tsarnaev’s tweets was translated roughly as, “If your hardened heart only knew how a hooligan can love.” Defense Attorney William Fick, who has lived and worked in Russia, pointed out that the phrase is actually a popular poem memorized in school by most young children. Another of the bomber’s tweet pointed out as problematic by the linguist was later discovered to be a popular rap song. The discovery that these phrases were part of pop culture rather than original prose by the young man showed the evidence to be less radical than what was first portrayed. (The Washington Post)

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Nobel Prize Novelist Faces Translation Trouble

Chinese nobel prize winner Mo Yan’s newest novel “Frog” is facing translation difficulties. The story tackles the controversial issue of forced abortions in China in regard to the country’s single-child policy, but critics say that Mo Yan’s stylistic elements are unable to shine through in the English translation.

Yan uses the metaphor of a frog’s lifecycle – embryos, tadpoles, bullfrogs – to explain human development and connections between the love and life. The main character, Gugu is the Chinese villages’ obstetrician and is haunted by frogs throughout the story. The word frog in Chinese is 蛙 (wā), while the word for child is 娃 (wá), providing an intricate metaphor for the guilt Gugu feels for aborting thousands of lives.

The novel’s translator Howard Goldblatt has decided not to alter the content in a way that intrudes into the story. “What the reader has in her hands is a facsimile of the original work,” said Goldblatt. However, without understanding this linguistic connection, critics say the use of frogs throughout the novel seems strange and forced. (The Washington Post)

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