Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Many Languages & Technology at B&Bs

Translator software bridges the language gap
One of the fascinating aspects of the mix of guests is the various languages and dialects we find sitting around the breakfast table.  The conversation is often stimulating, and constantly taking unexpected turns as guests search for common points of contact.

 One of the most interesting situations we have faced was a call from the Airport on behalf of a lady from Chile looking for housing.  Our transportation service picked her up, and it soon became apparent she spoke absolutely no English.  In spite of there being 8 other guests on board, no one was fluent in Spanish.  Nada!  But one guest was computer savvy and suggested using Google Translator.  Sure enough, we soon found we could type a question onto the computer in English, and with a click of the button, out it came in Spanish.  As the result we sat at the computer and lined up some tours compatible with what she had in mind.  (However, a flight above the Arctic Circle was just not in the cards in the 4 days she was in Alaska)!

Since that experience, Google has now added the audio as well as the written translation.  Aren’t computers wonderful?!

As an anecdote, just this last week we had a couple and their 3 teen age sons from Luxembourg.  They were all fluent in English, German and French.  The father was from Canada originally and the mother from Germany.  When they raised their sons, the mother used only German, and the father used only English in talking to the boys.  When the oldest was about 3 years old, his father told him some item which was so interesting he felt sure his mother would want to know it.  He immediately turned to her and started retelling the item in German so she could understand it, never having a clue she fully understood English! 

Most of us in the U.S. are behind much of the world in our language skills.  In the Anchorage School District, 91 languages are spoken by students. Ninety-one!  What a perfect situation for students to develop friendships and fluency in multiple tongues. The multi-culturalism of Anchorage stands to be strengthened by such understanding - and the ability of this city to welcome visitors from around the world is similarly bolstered. 

How wonderful to have technology at our side, though. Try the online free translator offered by Bing, or translate and listen to the words in both languages in Google Translate. Yahoo has a service too, and you can enter the words, or even the address of a website that a guest may want to read in a language other than the one in which it was composed. Still not enough options?  Try one more for services that enhance understanding across languages and cultures!

Jim & Judy Powell, Innkeepers at Judy's A Touch of Class, are active in the Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association.  In Spanish, that's Judy es un toque de clase de la cama y desayuno; In Irish,  Judy Tá teagmháil de Aicme Leaba agus Bricfeasta; In Ukranian, Джуді Дотик Ліжко та сніданок класу.....



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