Author Archives: paul

Je rêve, J’ai fait un rêve, J’ai un rêve aujourd’hui


Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech poses a challenge when translating to other languages (video in original English). As with all powerful language, the act of translation causes us to interpret the words. Marie Walburg Plouviez interpreted and recorded this historic speech: “I have a dream” in French, and in doing so, shared with us some of the implications of a French interpretation.

In English, “I have a dream” in the present tense can only refer to a vision for the future (rather than the more common meaning of dream, “a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep”). This phrase is often translated into french “J’ai fait un rêve” using the verb “faire,” which translates literally as “I make a dream” or “I am doing the dream.” Another approach is to use the present tense with the verb “rêver” (“to dream”). “Je rêve” literally “I dream.” Marie uses three different translations to reinforce different connotations. The third creates the feeling of immediacy with the translation “J’ai un rêve aujourd’hui” using the verb “avoir” (“to have”).

We are enthralled by beautiful language. Even more so when the language is rich in meaning and purpose. Part of what makes this speech powerful is the repetition of the word “dream” in multiple contexts. Martin Luther King starts by evoking “the American dream.” Then he repeats the phrase “I have a dream” and “I have a dream today.” These two phrases transform the vision from the almost fantasy of Mississippi as “an oasis of freedom and justice” to a call to action that we make this vision happen within our lifetime. He conveys urgency with a vision that his four little children “will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Few speeches have captivated the mind and the heart so completely as Martin Luther King’s I have a Dream speech, from August 28th, 1963. Last year we provided a Spanish translation with English recording, and this year we continue the tradition with French recording and translation of phrases from an excerpt of the speech.

In our interview with Marie, she refers to Le Monde’s interpretation.  Along with their 2013 article, you can watch the full video with French subtitles.

Our mission at Mightyverse is to provide a place where all languages are equal, yet we celebrate their differences and richness of expression. As is so often the case, the translation can take the language into directions not anticipated and through the effort of poetic interpretation can make the language come alive anew.

Being Hyperglot

011513_Hyperglots_largePeople who speak more than 5  languages are often called “hyperglots” (and sometimes “Hyperpolyglots”). Hyperglot seems like one of those transitional words that’s ill defined and not very precise. Nevertheless, it’s useful to mark an emerging phenomenon that appears to be on the rise.

I’ve been interested in hyperglots for awhile, especially as they relate to accelerating language learning. Do hyperglots have some extra cognitive capacity to hold all of that language in their brains, a capacity that us regular mortals don’t? Are there techniques we can learn from them that can be broadly applied in our own efforts?

There are rockstar hyperglots on the web like Timothy Doner, Lindie Botes and Benny the Hyperglot. Their appeal is immediate when you see them speaking in videos on YouTube, promising that humans are capable of much more language diversity than we commonly encounter.

While doing user research at language meetups for Mightyverse, I met a woman named Diana Gruber speaking with another person in flawless Spanish. When we introduced each other, her English was flawless as well, and later in the conversation I learned that also speaks French, Italian and Portuguese at a near native level, as well as quite passable German. She also taught at a language school in Texas and has her own ideas on the best way to start to learn a language and then polish your skills over time. One of her key ideas is that it’s important to gain an effect with your new language as soon as you can, learning phrases that you can put to immediate use (“Un cerveza por favor!” and the like).

I invited Diana to our studio where she graciously consented to a video interview about being a hyperglot (an interview that I hope to link to in a future post). She also recorded a series of Spanish Medical Phrases for Mightyverse.

While we had the camera set up and were on a roll,  we recorded Diana speaking in six languages and it took off on YouTube the day she posted it. Hyperglot Diana Gruber speaks six languages

How to Create Videos on YouTube with Subtitles

One afternoon I was prototyping various mobile designs for Mightyverse user experiences and as a non-technical person, I needed some simple ways to embed videos with subtitles into the UX ideas I was working on. Oddly enough, it seems that Apple disables subtitles when playing back videos embedded in iOS browsers and I was trying to find a work around.

We recently recorded some basic conversation phrases with Becky Z and so using the video for “No, I cannot speak English” in Chinese Mandarin, I created 3 .srt files using the free subtitle creation app called Jubler. Jubler has a relatively simple interface for creating subtitle phrases in a perplexing variety of formats. I chose to make .srt files with UTF-8 encoding. I then took the video into Handbrake and tried muxing the Jubler created .srt files with the video in order to make an MP4 file with subtitle tracks to play on my iPhone. No luck after an hour of playing around.
Then I thought to try adding subtitles to the video in YouTube. Five minutes later I had a linkable, embeddable video with 3 subtitle tracks applied!

The basic steps are:
1. Open Jubler and Choose “New File”
2. Open Jubler and then click the “Closed Eye” icon on the top right of the toolbar.
3. Navigate to your video in the resulting dialogue and select it.
4. Select the part of the waveform to subtitle in the resulting display, then type the corresponding text at the bottom of the frame in the gray area.
5. Save as “SubRip (.srt)” and “UTF-8”.
6. Upload your video to YouTube
7. In the Video Manager, choose the Captions tab for your video (top right of the options)
8. Click the “Upload Caption File or Transcript” button to the right of the video player
9. Choose your .srt file, name it and your done!

The resulting YouTube video still doesn’t show the closed captioning in Safari on my iPhone 5 (with the latest iOS update). It does however play with subtitles in the native Google YouTube app. It’s interesting what Apple feels is superfluous to their users, I wonder that it’s not been more widely criticized, especially for people with hearing impairments. I’d love to hear from people who have figured out a workaround to Apple’s limiting of closed captions on videos played in Safari.

You can see the “No, I cannot speak English” in Chinese Mandarin video on YouTube here.
And the original video on Mightyverse here.

Mightyverse Participates in nReduce

When in doubt, ship.

This past week we decided to participate in a new initiative called nReduce. nReduce was started by a group of entrepreneurs who felt that there was a need for a virtual incubator for startups that would be open to everyone. Incubators like Y Combinator, Seedcamp, Techstars and the like have had interesting successes, but can only impact a small, somewhat arbitrary selection of entrepreneurs. The founders of nReduce felt that there should be a more inclusive, crowd sourced version of the incubator idea, that would be driven by performance and commitment. The simple idea of nReduce is that anyone can join, but you need to ship week after week to not get kicked out. The program is administered entirely through the web (supported by weekly meetups on Tuesday nights for people to connect in person). There is no cost to join, and they do not take any equity from the participants.

Each week by Wednesday 4pm PST, the participating companies are required to submit their “Before” video, showing what they plan to ship that week, and why. By the following Tuesday, 4pm PST, you make a video to show that you did ship and what you learned. The program lasts 3 months (12 weekly cycles) with a demo day like presentation at the end. Failure to ship 2 weeks in a row gets you booted out. Kind of like a virtual Survivors meets Y Combinator, meets Alcoholics Anonymous.

Our co-founder and CTO, Sarah Allen, has dubbed them a “12 Step Program for Startups”. Out of the 600 companies that signed up, only 300 met the first requirement which was a 60 second introductory video. Our introductory startup video is here.

We’ll post various “After” success videos along the way as the weeks progress.

When we spoke to Joe Mellin, one of the founders, at last weeks Tuesday dinner, he said that they were expecting another group to drop out after the first delivery cycle. After a few weeks, they plan to link up groups of 3-4 like minded companies together as support for each other to keep shipping, and give each other encouragement and advice. An interesting note is that nReduce themselves are one of the participants, last weeks tool for submitting your “Before” video was completed an hour or so before the deadline! We’ve already met one ship cycle (whahoo!) and are figuring out what we’ll do for the ship commitment for week #2.

So far we’ve found nReduce to be a powerful tool for sharpening our focus and connecting with interesting folks that we may not have otherwise. It’s a wonderful new development in the startup ecosystem. Will Mightyverse stay on the island? Stay tuned.

Mightyverse Named as One of 15 Top Startups Founded by Women

Sarah Allen, co-founder of Mightyverse and Railsbridge

Sarah Allen, co-founder of Mightyverse and Railsbridge

Our own Sarah Allen, Mightyverse CTO and co-founder, was recognized today in, listing Mightyverse as one of the top 15 startups founded by women. The 15 include some of our favorites: LoveWithFood, 23andme and TaskRabbit. Go check them all out, they are all standout companies, doing really cool stuff.
It’s a great group of people to be recognized with, and as always, we’re crazy proud to be working with Sarah Allen!!

Nice article in NYT today about the Record-a-thon

Behind the scenes at the Internet Archives PhraseFarm test recording session

A great article about our upcoming Record-a-thon event just came out in the New York Times this morning.
Here’s the link:
A Chance to Record Some of the 112 Local Languages

This is really wonderful press for a project we are quite excited about.

I’ve always been fascinated by other languages and yet have never been able to discipline myself to learn another language besides English with any fluency. Despite years of French, my most passable second language is Spanish (which I speak like a not very intelligent 2 year old). Regardless, little snippets of languages I’ve picked up over the years have been so important to me. Saying “itadakimas” before eating, or “hi!” when you want to emphatically agree with someone as they speak has become woven into my vernacular.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all share each other’s poignant, wise, deeply felt expressions and take them into our own communications as we move through life?

This has been a driving force behind Mightyverse.

Imagine being able to say, “Wow, that’s extraordinary, thank you!” or “I love cheese!” in all 7000+ languages spoken today.

With community based language recording efforts by the Rosetta Project, Internet Archives (and in our small contribution, Mightyverse) that has some chance of becoming possible.

We can’t think of better partners in the social mission side of Mightyverse than The Rosetta Project and The Internet Archives. The Record-a-thon tomorrow is going to be a really fun start to that collaboration.

Many thanks to the event sponsors, organizers and supporters, including Dr. Laura Welcher of The Rosetta Project, Brewster Kahle, founder of The Internet Archives, and Elizabeth Lindsey, keynote speaker.

Stay tuned to see the recordings post event!


無料「日本救援」iPhone、iPad アプ (日本語 – 英語)

「日本救援」iPhone • iPad アプ ローディングページ

「日本救援」アプ ローディングページ




– マイティーバース・チーム

マイティーバース・ジャパニーズ・リリーフ iPhone、iPad アプ (英語 – 日本語) は、こちらからご入手ください。

It has been a month since the Tohoku Pacific Ocean coast earthquake that occurred on March 11, 2011. Japan is still suffering with series of strong after shocks and radiation problems. However, support from inside of the country and foreign countries to Japan continues.

We were driven to do something for the people of Japan and this felt like a small effort that might help. The Japanese-English phrases we recorded are now available.

Please Pray for Japan and the safety of the people.

– Mightyverse team

Japanese Release Pack (Free) is also available.

Free Japanese Relief App for iPad and iPhone is available now!

Japanese Relief App loading page

Japanese Relief App loading page

Japanese Relief Phrasepack is developed for all of the victims of the Tohoku Pacific Ocean coast earthquake that occurred on March 11, 2011.
It’s free. We were driven to do something for the people of Japan and this felt like a small effort that might help. The Japanese-English version is now available here.

Please Pray for Japan and the safety of the people.

– Mightyverse team

ジャパニーズ・リリーフ・フレーズパック(無料)は、2011年3月11日に起きた東北地方太平洋沖地震で、被災された外国人と日本人の皆様のコミニケーションを少しでも手助けできればと思って開発させていただきました。 日本語から英語の翻訳版の「日本救援」アプももうすぐ、アップルのアプストアーで入手できるようになります。(日本語から英語版の「日本救済」アプできました。)





Why Na’vi?

Na'vi fandom is global and fueled by imagination

Na'vi fandom is global and fueled by imagination

We recently embarked on a project to record Na’vi phrases into Mightyverse. Na’vi is a constructed language created by James Cameron and Dr. Paul Frommer for the movie Avatar. Due to the popularity of the movie, it’s estimated that Na’vi is already the fourth most popular constructed language, after Esperanto, Klingon and Elvish (from the Lord of the Rings).

I’ve been fascinated by the community that’s sprung up around Na’vi and the people who are learning it. It has the potential to become a relatively popular language, with events where people communicate solely in Na’vi, teaching it to their children and translating texts like Shakespeare and the Bible. In the face of the decimation of indigenous languages worldwide, friends of mine who are following Mightyverse have questioned why we would spend anytime documenting Na’vi while so many worthy, incredibly vital languages need to be recorded.

That’s a fair and thoughtful question.

My own feelings about the movie are complicated. I thought it was ultimately a violent revenge fantasy cloaked in a peaceful message film. Kind of Dances with Wolves all over again, with a weird Pocahontas story woven in. I’m not a big fan of the film and felt kind of yucky after seeing it. But I like weird stuff and I’m clearly not the intended audience for the film anyway. I have to confess though that I was absolutely entranced by the craft of the film and the exquisite production that it represents. Cameron has no equal in the universal spectacle of Hollywood film. And his work has now spread across the globe to places more refined stories will never reach. It’s a true phenomena of human storytelling writ large.

So, here are the reasons why I felt Na’vi recordings could be important for the evolution of Mightyverse.

– Na’vi is international. I love the fact that people all over the world are learning Na’vi and in the process sharing a love of language across cultural borders.
– Na’vi learners are obsessed. It’s amazing how many incredible resources have been produced so quickly, and how they are evolving daily. They’ve escaped beyond the confines of the film and are now creating their own world far more interesting than the limits of Pandora.
– Na’vi excites children about language and other cultures. Children are the key to the future of language survival. If they learn about adpositions, topical, dative and genitive cases through Na’vi, well that can’t be too harmful.

Finally, if people learn about Mightyverse through a link somewhere to Na’vi phrases, well, that would be very nice as well.