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Oxford Dictionary word of the year: 😂 Translate that!

Technical advancements and social trends impact on communication

Elena Arau | 10th November 2015

Every year a selection of new words or expressions are chosen to be added to the Oxford Dictionaries

The way we communicate changes and evolves year after year. This is a process dictated by the technological advancements and social trends. With revolutionary social apps being launched every year, the trends and tools of virtual communication channels reshape continuously to fit the different formats.

An explicit example is the 140 word-count feature on Twitter. The users adjusted their messages to this requirement by abbreviating words that subsequently became commonly accepted and widely used. Abbreviations like b/c (because), b4 (before), F2F (face to face) and IDK (I don’t know) are just a part of the Twitter lingo. Whether you’re speaking, texting, chatting, emailing, tweeting or Facebook-status updating, social media has its own slang.

Each social network has its own specific limit, that usually grants you plenty of space to speak your mind, but when everything else fails, TOTB (think outside the box).

Ever since emojis (or emoticons) where introduced by Shigetaka Kurita, the world of social networks took over a whole new meaning as a mode of communication and in some cases rendered words unnecessary in certain conversations. Even Hillary Clinton, United States Secretary of State, made headlines when in one of her publicly released e-mails she sent a message to aide Philippe Reines, asking: "Here's my question: on this new berry can I get smiley faces?"

In the fast-paced quotidian routine of the millennial generation, being able to express a feeling, a greeting or a mood with just one symbol is something to cheer for. You can easily convey the same message you would put in a sentence by just combining a string of emojis and symbols.

Emoticons became so popular, it isn't hard to believe that the word of the year elected by the Oxford Dictionary was in fact an emoji, the 'Tears of Joy', that made up 20% of all emojis used in the U.K. and 17% of those in the U.S. 'Tears of Joy' best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015, according to Oxford University Press and SwiftKey.

In this new era of communications, when digital images, icons and abbreviations make up for words and are being widely adopted into all communication formats, is the translations sector ready for an upgrade? Is there a technology on the market to track and trace these abbreviations and symbols and their meaning? Do we have the expertise to transcreate such symbols in order to resonate to any culture or language?

Some examples of apps working in this direction are: Android 4.4 and newer versions come with a feature that translates text Emoticons into Emojis through a keyboard. One of the challenges is that the way these images are interpreted varies from one culture to another. Two New Yorkers are trying to raise funds to build the world’s first translation engine. Fred Benson, one of the partners already created Emoji Dick, an emoji translation of Moby Dick in 2009.


Is this a kick-start to a whole new language? Do you think the emojis have what it takes to become a global language? Share your opinion with us.

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