Something similar would have been really handy while trying to learn Irish in school all those years ago. Kids in school here are taught Irish between the ages of 6-18. The trouble was, when I was in school, the way Irish was taught was really poor. It wasn’t taught as a natural, spoken language, instead we were made read poems and stories in Irish and they were usually pretty dull ones at that – I mean, trying to get a kid interested about some random old woman living on an island was probably not the best approach. In contrast, by the time I left school, I felt that I had a better grasp of French and Spanish than I did of Irish, which is a shame really. Does anyone know if it’s got any better ? (perhaps Hector and TG4 are making life easier for kids and teachers these days)
Welsh is different though – I believe it’s spoken quite a lot still, and there’s a good Welsh language television station, S4C, which we used to be able to get in my parents house in Wicklow (once upon a time, I could even count in Welsh). There are lots of open source projects that are translated into Welsh, and this has even spurred others to take action.
Straying back on-topic for an instant, the BBC welsh vocab tool is the sort of thing I’d like to see more of – something that can quickly scan through a web page, offering translations via tooltip of any terms it finds in a dictionary. Sure, it’s probably less sophisticated than most MT systems out there (this one appears to be a perl script) but for people learning the language, anything that helps their vocabulary can only be a good thing. I wonder could something similar be plugged into software and online help systems so that if a complete translation isn’t available for your langauge, the very least we could do is try to translate the odd word here or there.
Oh, while digging for links for this post, I came across this article on “Hiberno-Engish” which I thought was quite interesting.