Monday, July 07, 2008

Newspaper stand to the world - Kidon-Media

You're not going to see this on TV or in your local US paper. Rats are eating the mail in Francistown, Botswana.
"Instead of finding their mail neatly packed in the boxes, customers are met with chicken bones, used plastic forks and messed us papers" - Botswana Gazette
This is stuff I want to know! I don't care about the minutiae of some second rate starlet's life. This is what makes life interesting. This is the meat and potatoes of an true global infovore, not a rehash of the same old thing, with a thousand minor permutations. Creativity is often seen as the intersection of two previously unlinked ideas. Rats....mail.....chicken bones......plastic forks.....EUREKA!!!!!. Reading this type of thing is bound to spark a veritable lightning storm of creativity.
For years I've been going to the Dutch website Kidon-media link whenever I want a more in depth and local idea about things that are going on in the world. Unfortunately much of the world news in the US is really what are Americans doing in other countries. With the advent of passable machine translation it is possible to expand your reading far beyond your local language. I first used Altavista (now yahoo) Babelfish then switched to google's translation applications a few years ago. Teaming up Kidon and Google allows access to media in many major languages. Also many countries have at least one English language paper which can often be accessed online. Globally accessible media allows people to stay connected to their communities no matter where they live. I'm not sure if this is true but it seems that some languages like Chinese are much more amenable to machine translation. Perhaps there is less left to guessing or force fitting for the machine or there are less ambiguous idiomatic expressions. For a language like Arabic, MT is still useful, but the translations are often less satisfying.

Of course, learning the language makes for the best experience. I've liked using the Rosetta Stone products. Since I am a member of the military I have access to all the Rosetta Stone products through the Army web portal called AKO. The method of instruction and feedback is so intuitive that my children can easily master a module on counting in Hindi or learning the colors or Animals in Mandarin Chinese. The modules get progressively harder and sometimes it takes me a while to figure out what is trying to be communicated. I've focused primarily on Arabic and Spanish. I think its a great way to learn a lot of vocabulary, but I'm thinking that more advanced conversation requires a bit more.

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