Life is Meaningful

The Official Verbal Ink Blog

"There is more to life than increasing its speed."
Gandhi
Nov
27

Giving Back: Feeding America

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're giving back to Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity. Feeding America's mission is to feed America's hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage the country in the fight to end hunger.

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Nov
13

Giving Back: American Red Cross

by Verbal Ink

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This week, Verbal Ink is giving back to the American Red Cross as they respond to Typhoon Haiyan. The global Red Cross network is responding to emergency needs in the Philippines with food, water, and relief supplies, and the American Red Cross is lending people, expertise and equipment to this massive effort.

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Nov
11

The Rise of the Portmanbro

by Verbal Ink

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The OxfordWords blog presents a brodacious story about the rise of the portmanbro! What caused the abbreviated version of 'brother' to become a neologistic phenomenon? Why do brogrammers code while listening to Wolfgang Amadeus Brozart? 

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Nov
01

Google Translate No Match for Learning a Language

by Verbal Ink

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Here's a pretty funny article from The Guardian's Stuart Heritage, in which he suggests that it might be possible that Google Translate is to blame for the decline in specialized modern language courses at British universities. We doubt that this is actually the case, but that didn't keep us from heartily laughing at some of Heritage's reasons why Google Translate will never be a substitute for truly learning a second language. Here are some of our favorites:

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Oct
29

Is Dothraki a Real Language?

by Verbal Ink

John McWhorter presents a very interesting TED talk on fantasy constructed languages -- a/k/a conlangs -- such as Klingon, Elvish, Dothraki, and Na'vi. Even though these languages are "made up," they contain all of the complexities of actual languages. 

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Oct
16

Giving Back: American Cancer Society

by Verbal Ink

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This week, Verbal Ink is supporting the American Cancer Society - thanks to our friend Dave P. for the great suggestion! For nearly 100 years, the American Cancer Society has worked relentlessly to save lives and create a world with less cancer and more birthdays. Together with millions of its supporters worldwide, ACS is helping people stay well, helping people get well, finding cures, and fighting back against cancer.

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Oct
14

Are You a Language Bully?

by Verbal Ink

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A recent Slate article reports on the boorish behaviors of the language bully - that irritating person that uses their advanced language knowledge to embarrass others. It's a fascinating explanation of why some people are compelled to provide persnickety corrections of arcane grammar rules. 

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Oct
09

Giving Back: The Nature Conservancy

by Verbal Ink

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This week, thanks to a recommendation from our client Yael W., we're supporting The Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. Since its founding in 1951, the Conservancy has protected more than 119 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide.

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Oct
04

Confused by Legalese? Linguists Are Too!

by Verbal Ink

You know how most government forms and letters seem specifically engineered to drive you batty with jargon, contradictions, and nightmarishly bureaucratic legalese? Turns out that's not just an American problem -- and even language experts find these things very difficult to understand.

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Sep
30

34 Minutes

by Verbal Ink

34 minutes. That's how long it takes to earn enough to buy a single Big Mac when working at the U.S. minimum wage. Strategists at ConvergEx Group compared fifteen different countries using the Big Mac index -- which sounds like a joke, but was actually devised by The Economist in 1986 as a simple way to compare currencies. 

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Sep
27

The Fear of Not Learning

by Verbal Ink

Ta-Nehisi Coates has written a great essay for The Atlantic, "Or Perhaps You Are Too Stupid to Learn French." Much as we'd like to, we're not going to repost the entire thing here, but he raises a fantastic point: One of the greatest obstacles to learning a new language is our own fear.

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Sep
25

Giving Back: City Harvest

by Verbal Ink

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This week's charity is City Harvest - thanks to our friend Julie S. for the suggestion! Now serving New York City for 30 years, City Harvest is the world's first food rescue organization, dedicated to feeding the city's hungry men, women, and children.

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Sep
09

Popular Idioms Translated to Make Sense for Today

by Verbal Ink

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Gizmodo - by way of Doghouse Diaries, who originally compiled the list - brings us a list of old sayings that have been updated to reflect today's modern age. No longer will you have to explain why a straw might have broken a camel's back, or why somebody might have earned a cigar for being better-than-close. These creaky old idioms have been translated into high-tech Webspeak, and here are some of the results:

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Sep
05

Take Action and Be Accountable

by Verbal Ink

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We're continuing to explore Verbal Ink's core values, affectionately known as our "six pillars." We try to practice the pillars in our company culture as we seek to learn and grow, both as a team and on a personal level.

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Aug
29

Can Fear Be Cured?

by Verbal Ink

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As you know, this month we're looking at what it means to identify our fears and then be open to taking small steps to conquer those fears. With this in mind, we think Business Insider's article on the possibility of curing fear is fascinating -- even though such a cure might take the fun (or growth, or value) out of our own work here.

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Aug
28

Giving Back: Defenders of Wildlife

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're supporting Defenders of Wildlife - thanks to our friend Leigh B. for the great suggestion! Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife is a major national conservation organization focused solely on wildlife and habitat conservation and the safeguarding of biodiversity.

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Aug
26

25 Common Phrases That You're Saying Wrong

by Verbal Ink

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OK, let's nip this in the bud. There are all sorts of common phrases that often end up being said incorrectly. Dominique Jackson at Lifehack has compiled 25 great examples. We're not going to give you all of them -- we wouldn't want Mr. Jackson to exact revenge on us! -- but here are three of our favorites...

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Aug
22

NEA to Award $250,000 in Translation Grants

by Verbal Ink

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Publishers Weekly reports that the National Endowment for the Arts will provide $250,000 in grants to sixteen U.S.-based translators this year. The grants will cover translation projects involving poetry, novels, short stories, plays, and creative nonfiction. In total, thirteen different languages, including Arabic, German, French, and Turkish, will be translated into English. Here are a few of the lucky - and talented! - grant recipients:

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Aug
21

Giving Back: Illuminate India

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're supporting Illuminate India - thanks to our friend Jonah W. for the excellent suggestion! Illuminate India exists to advocate for and help impoverished children in India. By efficiently providing basic needs and therapeutic and supportive resources, Illuminate India helps improve existing circumstances for orphans, vulnerable children, and children with special needs.

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Aug
19

Vonnegut's 8 Rules for Writing Fiction

by Verbal Ink

Thanks to Gretchen Rubin at PsychCentral  for reminding us that it's been too long since we last read The Breakfast of Champions! Her post of Kurt Vonnegut's rules for creative writing highlight what an endearing and ultimately kind writer Vonnegut was. We're not going to post all of the rules, but here's a quick sample for you:

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Aug
15

The Verbal Ink Awesome Mustache Competition: Winners!

by Verbal Ink

So, remember last month's Verbal Ink Awesome Mustache Competition? We received a ton of fantastic entries from clients and transcriptionists alike! After a grueling deliberation period, the Verbal Ink judges have selected these two images as the winners of this year's contest:

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Aug
12

A New Language in Australia?

by Verbal Ink

The New York Times reports that a new language, Warlpiri rampaku, or Light Warlpiri, has been discovered in a remote village in northern Australia. The language, discovered by Carmel O'Shannessy, a linguist at the University of Michign, is spoken by about 350 people in the remote village of Lajamanu.

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Aug
07

Giving Back: Habitat for Humanity

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're supporting Habitat for Humanity - many thanks to our friend Trina G. for the great suggestion. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat for Humanity has helped to build or repair over 600,000 decent, affordable houses, serving more than three million people worldwide. 

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Aug
06

You Have the Right to Accurate Spanish Translation

by Verbal Ink

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Here's another case -- actually, a federal case -- where it's blindingly obvious that accurate Spanish translations are required: Miranda warnings. The Oregonian reports that the conviction of a Spanish-speaking defendant was overturned after finding that translated Miranda warning that he received "failed to reasonably convey his rights."

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Jul
29

10 Very Costly Typos

by Verbal Ink

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We're all about catching typos here at Verbal Ink - how else would our transcriptionists maintain a 98% or better accuracy level? Here's another reason why we always run spell check and check everything twice: typos can be very expensive. Mental Floss has compiled a list of ten very expensive typos. Here are some of our favorites:

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Jul
26

Singing a New Language

by Verbal Ink

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Learning a new language? You might consider trading in those Berlitz tapes for karaoke tapes. The Telegraph reports that singing may make it easier to learn a new language. Specifically, listening to words that are sung, and then singing them back, takes advantage of the deep links between music and memory.

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Jul
24

Giving Back: International Fund for Animal Welfare

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're supporting the International Fund for Animal Welfare - thanks to our friend Nicholas R. for the excellent suggestion! Founded in 1969, the International Fund for Animal Welfare saves individual animals, animal populations, and habitats all over the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW provides hands-on assistance to animals in need, whether it's dogs and cats, wildlife and livestock, or rescuing animals in the wake of disasters. IFAW also advocates saving populations from cruelty and depletion.

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Jul
23

The Linguistics of Teenage Annoyance

by Verbal Ink

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Parents of surly adolescents, rejoice! The Week has published a linguistic guide that deciphers common teenage grunts and groans. No more will you need to wonder whether that "duhhhhh" is using a diphthong or if that voiceless velar affricate is a sigh of sarcastic sass. Check it out:

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Jul
18

The Verbal Ink Awesome Mustache Competition

by Verbal Ink

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We're having fun this month, and we'd like to share that fun with you. And what's more fun than winning free transcription services? Nothing! So, without any further ado, here's the Verbal Ink Awesome Mustache Competition!

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Jul
15

10 Top Time-Saving Tech Tips

by Verbal Ink

As you know, we're exploring our third pillar, "Make everything easier and more fun," during the month of July. David Pogue's TED talk, 10 Top Time-Saving Tech Tips, is a perfect example of how to make the technology that surrounds us just a little bit simpler and more useful. Enjoy!

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Jul
03

Giving Back: Sojourner Place

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're supporting Seattle's Sojourner Place - thanks to our friend Chelsea W. for the excellent idea! Sojourner Place is a refuge for women who are committed to working on the causes of their homelessness. It offers respect, compassion, and support for these women as they transition into self-determined independence.

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Jul
02

Make Everything Easier and More Fun

by Verbal Ink

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We're continuing to explore Verbal Ink's core values, affectionately known as our "six pillars." We try to practice the pillars in our company culture as we seek to learn and grow, both as a team and on a personal level. For the month of July, we're having a great time with our third pillar: Make everything easier and more fun.

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Jun
26

Giving Back: Chicago Wilderness

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're supporting Chicago Wilderness - thanks to our friend Catherine G. for the excellent suggestion! Chicago Wilderness is a regional alliance that connects people and nature. More than 250 organizations work together to restore local nature and improve the overall quality of life, by protecting nearly 370,000 acres of lands and waters.

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Jun
21

Soda Vs. Pop

by Verbal Ink

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The age-old question: Is it a soda or a pop? The age-old answer: Depends on where you live. Now, with the help of some impressive statistical algorithms and computer programming, we can see exactly which parts of America use which term.

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Jun
13

An Amazing Work of Art

by Verbal Ink

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As part of a larger exploration of what it means to forgive ourselves and others, we’re looking at what it means to embrace our own imperfections. 

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Jun
12

Giving Back: PAWS Chicago

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're supporting PAWS Chicago - thanks to our friend Alan D. for the excellent suggestion! PAWS Chicago is the city's largest no-kill humane organization, focused on solutions to end the killing of homeless pets. Since its founding in 1997, the number of homeless dogs and cats killed annually has dropped by more than 50 percent.

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Jun
11

Challenge: Embrace Your Imperfections

by Verbal Ink

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This week's challenge - to accept ourselves as-is, without judgment - is part of a larger exploration of what it means to forgive ourselves and others. Here's one of the exercises that we've tried:

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Jun
07

Forgiving Ourselves and Others

by Verbal Ink

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During the next several months, we’re exploring Verbal Ink’s core values, affectionately known as our “six pillars.” We try to practice the pillars in our company culture as we seek to learn and grow, both personally and as a team. This month, we’re looking at the idea of what it means to forgive ourselves and others. While forgiveness isn’t typical water cooler conversation, it’s one of life’s fundamental tenets.

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Jun
04

Can We Think Without Language?

by Verbal Ink

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It doesn't seem as though it should be possible to think without language - in fact, thinking about thinking without language feels as though it's tying our brains into knots. However, a recent article in The Week suggests that sophisticated thinking is occurring, even before language has been learned.

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May
27

Challenge: Unplug

by Verbal Ink

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Our challenge for this week: Is it actually possible to unplug from our smartphones, our computers, and – dare we say it! – even Facebook and Twitter? This challenge is different from the others that we've featured this month, in that we won’t be attempting it at work. We tried, but we couldn't figure out a way to turn off our PCs and still take care of all of our wonderful customers.

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May
21

He, She, and Yo

by Verbal Ink

Here's an interesting evolution of the English language: Schoolchildren in Baltimore are substituting the gender-neutral "yo" for pronouns like "he" and "she." Code Switch, a group of NPR journalists that focuses on the frontiers of race, culture, and ethnicity, has the full story.

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May
20

Challenge: Ten Minute Walk

by Verbal Ink

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Our challenge for the week of May 20th: Can we find better focus through a ten minute walk? Leo Babauta’s excellent book Focus suggests the idea of a refocusing ritual - a small break in the everyday routine that can be used to shake away distractions and re-energize for the next project. One idea is a short walk to clear the head, enjoy the fresh air, and get the blood circulating.

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May
16

Spell As You Pronounce

by Verbal Ink

The Telegraph reports that a new phonetic writing system has been developed by a trilingual investment banker. Jaber George Jabbour launched the Spell As You Pronounce Universal, or SaypYu, project last year, as an attempt to make the irregularities of the English language at least somewhat less bewildering for a new English speaker.

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May
15

Giving Back: Room to Read

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're supporting Room to Read - thanks to our friend Karen B. for the excellent suggestion! Room to Read envisions a world in which all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential, and contribute to their community and the world.

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May
09

Dead White Guy Prose

by Verbal Ink

Ha! We had to link to this Atlantic article for its hilarious title: "How to Tell Charles Dickens's Prose from Every Other Dead White Guy's." Seriously - that's a crash course in how to write a catchy, intriguing title. The body of the article is actually pretty interesting, too. 

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May
08

Giving Back: The Gentle Barn

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're supporting The Gentle Barn - thanks to our friend Benjamin G. for the wonderful suggestion! Founded in 1999, The Gentle Barn is a six acre ranch in Santa Clarita, California that heals and rehabilitates abused farm animals, then invites at-risk youth and vistiors with emotional and physical challenges to bond with them.

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May
02

Creating Safe Space

by Verbal Ink

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We’re officially kicking off our six pillar monthly themes! For May, we’re looking more closely at what it means to “Create Safe Space.”  Sound vague or a little woo-woo? Keep reading and maybe this will make a bit more sense.

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May
01

Giving Back: Autism Speaks

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're supporting Autism Speaks - thanks to our friend Felicia M. for the great suggestion! Founded in 2005, Autism Speaks has grown into the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments, and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.

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Apr
30

In Praise of Horsefeathers

by Verbal Ink

...and folderol, codswallop, and flapdoodle too! We loved Louie Castoria's recent article in the Half Moon Bay Review that suggests that "the poverty of modern English comes about through homogenization." In other words, we've settled too often for the lowest common denominator when being descriptive, instead of reaching for more unique terms or phrases.

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Apr
29

Growth

by Verbal Ink

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What is true growth? Growth is a process that ultimately results in us becoming that which we always knew we were, but doubted we might ever become. It feels both familiar, yet scary all at the same time. It is the process of releasing the old and being open to the new.  

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Apr
24

Giving Back: Ohio City Writers

by Verbal Ink

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This week, thanks to a great tip from our friend Chuck B., we're supporting Ohio City Writers (OCW). OCW is a Cleveland-based non-profit creative writing center that helps elementary and high school students hone their writing skills. Ohio City Writers builds alliances with members of the local writing, journalism, arts, and music communities so that students may benefit from the guidance of accomplished and passionate writers.

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Apr
23

Proofreading Hacks from WorkAwesome

by Verbal Ink

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WorkAwesome recently put together this list of six simple proofreading hacks and we thought it was worth sharing! We're not sure that we agree that proofreading is boring -- some of us here at Verbal Ink really enjoy it! -- but we definitely agree that it's an essential part of writing.

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Apr
19

The Words We Use to Bear Witness

by Verbal Ink

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Linguist Geoff Nunberg recently took a look at the words we use to describe tragic events. Two words - "horrific" and "surreal" - stood out. Why have these two words become the go-to terms for newscasters and eyewitnesses? Why do they carry more weight than similar words like "scary" or "horrible?"

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Apr
11

Word Aversion

by Verbal Ink

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MoistNougat. Cornucopia. It's not a pile of Milky Ways in the rain a la 'Macarthur Park.' Instead, these are just some of the words that can trigger the phenomenon known as word aversion. What's word aversion? Per Slate, it's a strong reaction triggered by the sound, sight, or thought of certain words.

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Apr
03

Giving Back: Meals on Wheels

by Verbal Ink

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This week, Verbal Ink is supporting Meals on Wheels - thanks to our good friend Peggy W. for the excellent suggestion! The Meals on Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) is the oldest and largest national organization composed of and representing local, community-based senior nutrition programs in all 50 states.

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Mar
29

Texting: The Linguistic Miracle

by Verbal Ink

John McWhorter, a linguist at Columbia University, makes the bold claim in this TED talk that texting shorthand is something new and special. In fact, he goes so far as to claim that it's a new form of speech, which is "actually a miraculous thing." ORLY?

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Mar
28

Can Grammar Affect Your Income?

by Verbal Ink

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A recent article in Forbes discussed a study that Grammarly conducted on one hundred native English speakers' LinkedIn profiles. Each person in the study had worked for no more than three employers during the first decade of their career. Half had been promoted to director level or higher during that time period, and half had not. The results are quite interesting:

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Mar
25

Awesome Transcription, Volume One

by Verbal Ink

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Oh sure, everybody knows that you can use transcription to capture class lectures, make sense of market research, and earn great search results for podcasts and video presentations. Aspiring filmmaker,s take note: Transcription can also be a useful tool to capture all of the brainstorming and storytelling that takes place when creating a movie. See, for example, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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Mar
19

Why Every American Should Learn Spanish

by Verbal Ink

The Huffington Post recently compiled a great list of reasons why every American should learn Spanish. We're inclined to agree - after all, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the U.S. Plus, from a purely selfish perspective, it would make it easier for us to find more amazing Spanish language transcriptionists to add to our team.

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Mar
15

Rules Grammar Change

by Verbal Ink

This is one of our all-time favorite news items from America's finest news source, The Onion. Perhaps we should have waited to post this one until April 1st, but we did think it was pretty funny that some of what follows doesn't look too much different from some of the computer-based translation results that we've seen...

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Mar
14

Translating the Taste of Wine

by Verbal Ink

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Full disclosure: None of us at Verbal Ink are true oenophiles - sure, we can appreciate how a good glass of wine complements the flavors in a meal, but we'd be hard pressed to describe the overtones of musk, vanilla, and tobacco, or the hibiscus notes in an otherwise oaky cabernet. Trying to accurately describe wine is a difficult task in English, so we can empathize with the connoisseurs that are attempting to describe it to a Chinese populace that doesn't recognize many of the fruits used as adjectives.

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Mar
13

Giving Back: National Kidney Foundation

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're supporting the National Kidney Foundation - thanks to our friend Heather T. for the excellent idea! The National Kidney Foundation, a major voluntary nonprofit health organization, is dedicated to preventing kidney and urinary tract diseases, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by kidney disease, and increasing the availability of all organs for transplantation.

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Feb
27

Giving Back: World Wildlife Fund

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're supporting the World Wildlife Fund - thanks to our friend RuAnn K. for the great suggestion! The world's leading conservation organization, WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF's unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.

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Feb
22

50 Eskimo Words for Snow

by Verbal Ink

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We'd always assumed that the Eskimo language didn't actually have fifty words for snow - that it was a cutesy bit of folkloric hokum, long since debunked (specifically, by GK Pullum's The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax essay). Turns out that it may actually be true!

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Feb
14

How to Say "I Love You" in 100 Languages

by Verbal Ink

In honor of Valentine's Day, here's how to say "I love you" in one hundred different languages. Whether you're single, in a relationship, or "it's complicated," there's one thing we can agree on: the green conversation hearts are totally disgusting!

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Feb
13

Giving Back: TreePeople

by Verbal Ink

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This week, Verbal Ink is supporting TreePeople - thanks to Douglas F. for the excellent suggestion! TreePeople is an environmental nonprofit that unites the power of trees, people, and nature-based solutions to grow a sustainable future for Los Angeles. Simply put, their work is about helping nature heal our cities.

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Feb
12

Computers Can't Speak Slang

by Verbal Ink

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Short Circuit's Johnny 5 notwithstanding, computers can't yet use or understand slang terms. Fortune magazine recently spoke with Eric Brown, the research scientist that works as the "trainer" for the Watson supercomputer. As you may recall, Watson won a million dollars on Jeopardy back in 2011, handily beating his human competitors.

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Feb
08

Wheel of Transcription

by Verbal Ink

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Just a quick heads-up to our readers that Verbal Ink's Jenni will be one of the contestants on Wheel of Fortune this evening. Since the show was pre-taped, we already know how it turns out... and it's a mighty tough clue!

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Feb
06

Giving Back: UNCF

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're supporting UNCF (United Negro College Fund) - thanks to our friend Joan B. for the great suggestion! UNCF is the nation's largest and most effective minority education organization. They provide operating funds for 38 member historically black colleges and universities, scholarships and internships for students at about 900 institutions, and faculty and administrative professional training.

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Feb
05

Idiomantics

by Verbal Ink

OK, this book sounds right up our alley! Idiomantics: The Weird and Wonderful World of Popular Phrases, by Philip Gooden and Peter Lewis, is "a unique exploration of the world of idiomatic phrases."

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Jan
31

Audio Transcription, Meet Genetic Transcription

by Verbal Ink

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OK, this is incredible. A team of genetic scientists has stored audio information in synthetic DNA, in hopes of finding a feasible solution to longterm data management. Along with a text file containing all 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets, a PDF of Watson and Crick's 1953 paper describing the structure of DNA, and a color JPEG, the researchers stored an MP3 containing a 26 second excerpt of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech as actual DNA.

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Jan
29

Au Revoir, Hashtag

by Verbal Ink

The Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologie strikes again! The French government office, which works to keep the French language from being watered down with - quelle horreur! - English terms, has banned Twitter's hashtag. Their replacement? A new term, "mot-dièse," which literally translates to "sharp word."

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Jan
28

Translation Fail: Neanderthal Baby Cloning

by Verbal Ink

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Here's an excellent translation fail - Harvard geneticist George M. Church was quoted in the UK's Daily Mail as looking for an "adventurous woman" to serve as a surrogate mother for a "cloned cave baby." That sounds mighty adventurous, indeed... but Church never actually said anything of the sort!

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Jan
24

Weak Grammar, Strong Passwords

by Verbal Ink

This may be the only time that Verbal Ink endorses the use of poor grammar - New Scientist reports that new research suggests that using incorrect grammar in one's passwords may actually make those passwords more difficult to guess. Per the article, a new password-cracking algorithm developed at Carnegie Mellon University was able to solve long passwords which, as a phrase, make grammatical sense.

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Jan
23

Giving Back: Oxfam America

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're supporting Oxfam America's efforts to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice - thanks to Rich L. for the excellent suggestion! An international relief and development organization that works with individuals and local groups in 94 countries, Oxfam saves lives, helps people overcome poverty, and fights for social justice.

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Jan
22

Fresh Prince of What?

by Verbal Ink

We'd be remiss if we didn't post CDZA's video, in which they translate the lyrics to the 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air' theme through 64 different languages via Google Translate.

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Jan
21

The Digital Sweatshop

by Verbal Ink

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The Utne Reader just published a fantastic article on crowdsourced microtasking (e.g., Amazon Mechanical Turk) and the many ways that this new type of outsourcing devalues workers. New to microtasking? Here's the quick explanation: Small, repeatable tasks are posted online and outsourced to anonymous workers. The workers complete the tasks at their home computers and are then paid a few pennies for each finished job.

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Jan
17

The Untranslatable Words Database

by Verbal Ink

Design student Pei-Ying Lin has created a fascinating projectThe Unspeakableness. The project, which investigates the essence of human emotions, aims to serve as "...a stepping stone to discover mysterious qualities of the unspeakableness between human emotions and communications." The part of the project that we're most interested in is The Untranslatable Words Database

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Jan
10

Are All Europeans Multilingual?

by Verbal Ink

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There are 23 officially recognized languages in Europe, more than sixty indigenous regional languages, and many more non-indigenous lanaguages that may be spoken by non-native communities. So it stands to reason that almost all Europeans must be able to speak more than one language, right? 

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Jan
03

How to Laugh in Different Languages

by Verbal Ink

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Or, more specifically, how different languages represent laughter in blog posts, emails, and instant messages. This article from The Atlantic highlights the words and numbers that various cultures use to express laughter on the Internet. To be clear, this isn't a look at of the formal translations of the word laughter (e.g., risotadasrire, or risata). Instead, we're learning about the informal equivalents of American LOLs, lulz, and hahahahas.

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Dec
19

Giving Back: UNICEF

by Verbal Ink

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This week, Verbal Ink is giving back to The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) - thanks to our friend Tamra A. for the suggestion! UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children's lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States.

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Dec
18

Two Small Dots a CIA Plot?

by Verbal Ink

Here's one of the stranger stories from the Wall Street Journal: The Cyrillic alphabet contains two letters, e  and ë. The dots over the letter - technically known as diacritics, or umlauts à la Mötley Crüe - have separate pronunciations (yo versus ye); they also have a fascinating backstory. See, the letter ë was invented in the late 1700s to reflect colloquial pronunciation - sort of the lesser, or vulgar, version of the letter e. 

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Dec
14

18th Century Audio Transcription

by Verbal Ink

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When we write about audio transcription, it's usually in the context of transcribing MP3s or cassettes into Word documents. For John Barstow, audio transcription was a little bit different - because none of those things existed. Barstow was a schoolboy who copied a patriotic tune between the pages of his math exercise book in 1777. The math book is stored at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American Histoy; the tune, titled "The Amaricans Challings" (i.e., "The Americans' Challenges"), is bloody and brash.

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Dec
13

Another Google Translate Gaffe

by Verbal Ink

We've known for a while now that Google's free translation service is... well, you get what you pay for, right? In a fairly serious example of this axiom having real-world consequences, the Copenhagen Post reports that Copenhagen police have admitted to wrongly confronting a Kurdish man accused of financing terrorism with a text message that had been improperly translated by Google Translate.

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Dec
06

Eliminating Dictionary Words

by Verbal Ink

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Have you ever thought that the dictionary would be better if it was missing a few words? Maybe wanted to trim out a couple of phrases that you really don't like? Apparently, you're not alone - the dictionary world has been rocked by linguist Sarah Ogilvie's claims that Robert Burchfield, the late editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, expunged words from the OED.

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Dec
05

Giving Back: South Park Inn

by Verbal Ink

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This week, we're supporting South Park Inn's work to help the homeless population of Hartford, CT - thanks to Amy L. for the great suggestion! South Park Inn provides temporary and long-term housing, supportive services, and solutions advocacy for the homeless, and helps nearly 1,500 people every year.

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Dec
04

Are 1,000 Year Old Jokes Still Funny?

by Verbal Ink

Happy Translation Tuesday! We're pleased to report that 1,000 year old jokes that have been translated from Arabic to English are still kind of funny.  Emily Selove, of the University of Manchester, recently translated an 11th century book written by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, a revered Muslim scholar. Somewhat surprisingly, the book turned out to be a satirical guide that explains how to crash parties.

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Nov
15

Goats Have Accents - No Kidding!

by Verbal Ink

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Our transcriptionists hear all sorts of accents during the course of a normal work week - everything from Californian dudespeak to Jamaican patois. Now, researchers from Queen Mary University of London have discovered that humans aren't the only mammals to have regional accents. 

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Nov
13

GIF Wins 2012 US Word of the Year

by Verbal Ink

When it came time for the team of lexicographers at Oxford University Press USA to pick the word of the year, the choice was obvious: It had to be GIF, the verb. Other contenders included "Higgs Boson," "superstorm," "Super PAC," and "YOLO." 

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Nov
12

Chicago Demotic Dictionary

by Verbal Ink

Researchers at the University of Chicago have completed a 37-year project to compile a Demotic Egyptian to English translation dictionary. What's Demotic Egyptian? The common language of Egyptians from about 500 B.C. to A.D. 500. Demotic was used in everyday Egyptian documents and letters, said Janet Johnson, a University of Chicago Egyptologist. The researchers compiled the words in the dictionary from Demotic on stone carvings, papyrus and broken fragments of pottery.

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Nov
09

Ultimate Typing Championship

by Verbal Ink

It doesn't look like this is still an active competition, but a few years ago, the Ultimate Typing Championship was held to "identify and award the fastest typers around." The winner, Sean Wrona, earned $2,000 and was crowned Ultimate Typing Champion. 

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Nov
07

Giving Back: Venice Family Clinic

by Verbal Ink

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This week, Verbal Ink is giving back to Venice Family Clinic - a tip of the hat to Daryn E. for this week's suggestion. Founded in 1970 by Phillip Rossman, MD, and co-founder Mayer B. Davidson, MD, it has grown from a small storefront operation into the largest free clinic in the country, with eight sites in Venice, Santa Monica, Mar Vista, and Culver City.

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Nov
06

Are Astronauts Able to Vote?

by Verbal Ink

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It's Election Day, so we're taking a brief reprieve from Translation Tuesdays to ponder this very important question: Do astronauts floating around in zero-gravity still get a say in the country's future? It turns out they do. For several years now, adventurers aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have been able to cast their votes via encrypted email.

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Oct
30

The Challenges of Translating Humor

by Verbal Ink

This month, the American Literary Translators Association held its annual meeting. The topic? "The Translation of Humor, or, the Humor of Translation." Jascha Hoffman covered the event for the New York Times in Me Translate Funny One Day as the translators mulled over comedic tone, laughed about deliberately skewed translations, and debated whether it's really possible to translate a joke.

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Oct
29

A Historical Transcript Treasure

by Verbal Ink

The New York Times reports that an economist for the US Treasury recently found a historical, and previously unknown, treasure: a transcript of the 1944 Bretton Woods conference that set the foundations of the modern international monetary system. Kurt Schuler, a Treasury Department economist, was browsing uncataloged material in the Treasury's library when he found the document, which has been described as "the economists' equivalent of a Bob Dylan fan finding unknown lyrics."

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Oct
23

The Nuances of Subtitle Translation

by Verbal Ink

The Wall Street Journal recently posted a great article detailing the difficulties of creating translations of film dialogue for subtitles. The author, Anthony Paletta, captures a key point about all forms of translation: Even the simplest line requires finesse and understanding of the original language and of English. Another quote from the article that make it clear why machine translation isn't a good option for anything beyond very simple projects:

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Oct
22

The American Dialect Dilemma

by Verbal Ink

Here's an interesting video from CBS This Morning that looks at how regional accents - Midwestern, Brooklyn, etc. - are merging into a standardized American accent. Mo Rocca reports...

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Oct
18

Did the Dalai Lama Curse? Forget It.

by Verbal Ink

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The Washington Post reports that, even though the closed captioning said differently, the Dalai Lama didn't curse as part of his closing remarks. At a Brown University event, a comment by the Dalai Lama was mistaken for a profanity by the person transcribing his remarks. 

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Oct
09

Transforming Communication

by Verbal Ink

The Engineer Online reports that technology that translates sign language into text is being developed by scientists at Aberdeen University. The software application is claimed to be the first of its kind in the world, and will theoretically bridge the gap between sign language and other forms of communication. When completed, the Portable Sign Language Translator (PSLT) will work as an app on laptops and smartphones, harnessing those devices' cameras to convert visual cues into text. Very interesting!

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Sep
27

Star-Spangled Spanish Translation

by Verbal Ink

Musician and composer Clotilde Arias, an immigrant from Peru living in New York City, won a competition that was sponsored by the State Department and the Music Educators National Conference. The competition asked musicians to create an original Spanish translation of the national anthem that could be sent to U.S. embassies in Latin America and shared with Latin American embassies in Washington. For her efforts, Arias received a contract that paid her $150. The fascinating full story can be read here: Washington Post: Smithsonian Features Spanish Translation of National Anthem.

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Sep
20

The Ancient City of Ur

by Verbal Ink

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Another fascinating use for transcription - the Ur Digitization Project is attempting to transcribe thousands of documents related to the excavations of the ancient city of Ur. The excavations, which took place in the 1920s and '30s, were a joint expedition of the University of Pennsylvania Museum and the British Museum, under the auspices of the the Iraqi Department of Antiquities. Documents to be transcribed include field notes, letters, sketches, and reports. The project is funded by the Leon Levy Foundation and conducted by the original excavating museums in Philadelphia and London.

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Sep
18

McDonald's Hmong Language Misstep

by Verbal Ink

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In an attempt to woo the 64,000 Hmong-Americans in the Minneapolis-St.Paul area, McDonald's recently posted Hmong language billboards advertising their breakfast offerings. Unfortunately, the translation was missing a few spaces, turning the original statement into a confusing puzzle for both English and Hmong speakers. The billboards have since been corrected, with a better translation that more accurately reflects the intent of the original pitch. Thanks to TwinCities.com for the original article!

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Sep
10

Blame the Wind

by Verbal Ink

No, New Zealand isn't actually going to "welcome the opportunity to cooperate with the US in the next conflicts." But, that's what an incorrect transcript of a conversation between New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested. The actual phrase in question? "...[W]elcome the opportunity to cooperate further, in that context..." The US State Department has since corrected the error, which it blamed on heavy wind noise. Of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that Verbal Ink's team of awesome transcriptionists can tackle even the poorest audio recordings and heaviest accents! Read more about the Clinton press conference transcription errors in the New Zealand Herald online.

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Aug
21

Language Preservation Via Transcription

by Verbal Ink

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Here's another wonderful way that people are using transcription - preserving the Hawaiian language. Over 6,500 volunteers worked to transcribe 15,000 pages of Hawaiian language newspapers so that they could be searchable online. One of the biggest takeaways from the article is that "no computer software is precise enough to handle the Hawaiian language." Verbal Ink gently points out that no computer software is precise enough to transcribe the English language either... Click here to read the full article.

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Jun
22

Endangered Languages

by Verbal Ink

Nearly half of the world's 7,000 languages are endangered and at risk of vanishing within the next 100 years. The team behind the Endangered Languages Project hopes to keep this from happening, by serving as a hub for language research, linguistic documents, and - hopefully - revitalization possibilities. Verbal Ink currently offers translation services for fifteen different languages, and is eagerly looking forward to supporting the remaining 6,985!

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Jun
15

And the Winner Is...

by Verbal Ink

Verbal Ink is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2012 Verbal Ink Transcription Services Scholarship: Aida Villarreal-Licona from University High School in Tucson, Arizona. Aida's essay stood out for its wit, passion, and poise, and truly captured the many ways that language has added meaning to her life. With Aida's permssion, we're delighted to provide an excerpt of her scholarship essay here:

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