Around the web – November 2016

November 2nd-5th saw ATA‘s 57th Annual Conference held in San Francisco, and colleagues Paula Arturo and Claire Cox have both blogged about it. The list of future ATA conference sites and dates is here. Anyway here’s your November round-up of popular articles about language and translation.

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Simon explains how to get clients to come to you

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“It looks, especially if you speak British English, as if Clinton was making a claim about the sanity level of Jeremy Corbyn”

The Norwegian Mr Bump.

The Norwegian Mr Bump.

  • Finally a quiz: Do you know these 25 Scottish words and phrases?

 

Further reading:

Around the web – October 2016

October 9th was world Hangeul Day. Do you know anything about Korea’s alphabet, which – because it was deliberately invented – is sometimes called the most scientific writing system in the world? Anyway, here’s your October round-up of popular articles about language and translation.

Donald Trump has been criticised for his lewd remarks about women

Donald Trump has been criticised for his lewd remarks about women

Der Oldtimer is a German word for a classic or vintage car (Credit: Alamy)

Der ‘Oldtimer’ is a German word for a classic or vintage car         (Credit: Alamy)

 Stradbroke Island in Queensland, Australia, faces a campaign to refer to it only by its Indigenous Australian name, Minjerribah. Photograph: naphakm/Getty Images

Stradbroke Island in Queensland, Australia, faces a campaign to refer to it only by its Indigenous Australian name, Minjerribah. Photograph: naphakm/Getty Images

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was made famous in the 1964 film Mary Poppins

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was made famous in the 1964 film Mary Poppins

  • Can you guess the language in this short quiz, using your knowledge of alphabets, language associations, and some educated guessing?

Further reading:

Around the web – September 2016

Here’s your round-up of popular articles about translation and language for the month of September.

Map of the EU - Overseas Countries and Territories and Outermost Regions. (source)

Map of the EU – Overseas Countries and Territories and Outermost Regions (source)

  • Errors can change a life when it comes to legal translation.
  • People have been told to use a new name for the country previously referred to as the Czech Republic: ‘Czechia’ in English, Tchequie in French and Tschechien in German. All are translations of Cesko in Czech.
Bridges span the River Vltava in Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Bridges span the River Vltava in Prague, the capital city of Czechia (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Being ill: office job vs freelancing

Being ill: office job vs freelancing

Fixed gear bikes are very popular with hipsters

Fixed gear bikes are very popular with hipsters

Poster for International Translation Day 2016

Poster for International Translation Day 2016

Further reading:

19 interesting facts about language and numbers

Like many translators I’m not really a numbers person. I did alright in Mathematics in school and have no problem doing my own accounts, but despite having a maths-teacher husband, and a father who started his career as a maths teacher, I’ve always preferred language to numbers. However I recently listened to a podcast episode about the language of numbers in which they mentioned a book by Alex Bellos called The Grapes Of Math (US)/Alex Through the Looking-Glass (UK) and my curiosity was piqued. I ended up reading not only that book, but the preceding volume Alex’s Adventures in Numberland (UK)/Here’s Looking at Euclid (US)!

Now I won’t pretend to have understood everything in the books  ;-) but I do recommend them especially if you’re more mathematically minded than I am. Although they’re primarily journeys through the world of numbers, I couldn’t help but be interested in some of the language-related facts they contain*:

In The Grapes of Math:

  • “The Sumerians did not look far when coming up with names. The word for one, ges, also meant man, or erect phallus”.
  • “English … is the only major European language to have unrelated words for odd and even. In French, German and Russian, for example, the words for even and odd are ‘even’ and ‘not-even’: pair/impair, gerade/ungerade,  chyotny/nyechyotny
  • Zipf’s law: in most languages the frequency of any word is inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table, i.e. there is a mathematical pattern governing word choices.
The rank vs. frequency rule of Zipf's law also works if you apply it to the sizes of cities.

The rank vs. frequency rule of Zipf’s law also works if you apply it to the sizes of cities.

  • “From the translation of the Latin [pars minuta prima and pars minuta secunda] we get the words ‘minute‘ and ‘second‘, our units of time, which are the most prominent modern relics of the ancient practice of counting in groups of sixty.”
  • “The Arabs transliterated [a Sanskrit word] as jiba, a meaningless term, but it sounds a bit like jaib, meaning bosom, or bay, which they came to use. Latin versions of Arab texts translated jaib as sinus, the word for the fold of a toga over a woman’s breasts. Sinus became sine.”
  • “Optical applications .. in fact, explain the origin of the word ‘focus‘: it is the Latin for ‘fireplace’. In German its etymology is clearer—’focus’ is Brennpunkt, or burning point.” (‘Focus’ meaning the burning point of reflected light beams).
  • “The earliest stargazers observed that planets do not move in straight lines—they meander across the skies, often temporarily looping backward. (The word “planet” comes from the Greek planetes, wanderer.)”
  • “A double negative in English, of course, is a positive. The linguist J. L. Austin once told a conference that there are no languages in which two positives make a negative. It is said that the philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser, sitting in the audience, replied: “Yeah, yeah.”
  • “Latin versions of [Arab mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi]’s surname were later used to describe the arithmetical techniques he publicized, and are the root of the word ‘algorithm‘.”
  • Non-linguistic but interesting fact: according to French mathematician Cédric Vilani, Paris has more professional mathematicians than any other city, about a thousand.
Flamboyant French mathematician Cédric Villani at his office at the Institut Henri Poincaré. © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 3.0

Flamboyant French mathematician Cédric Villani at the Institut Henri Poincaré.
© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 3.0

  • “The term for a word that appears only once in a text is hapax legomenon, which sounds like a character from an Asterix story, or a Scandinavian death metal band, and in this text appears only once.”

It’s only when I got to the end of The Grapes of Math and read the acknowledgements that I realised Alex’s father is David Bellos, of Fish In My Ear fame! I then read Alex’s Adventures in Numberland, which is in fact the previous book:

  • “The word ‘grocer’ … is a relic of a retailer’s preference for 12 – it comes from ‘gross’, meaning a dozen dozen, or 144.”
  • “The procedure the Treasury used was … a system of ‘double tallies’. A piece of wood was split down the middle, giving two parts – the stock and the foil. A value was marked – tallied – on the stock and was also marked on the foil, which acted like a receipt. If I lent some money to the Bank of England, I would be given a stock with a notch indicating the amount – which explains the origin of the words stockholder and stockbroker – while the bank kept the foil, which had a matching notch.”
Medieval tally sticks SourceFlickr

Medieval tally sticks (Source Flickr)

  • “Imagine, as was common practice [in Pythagoras’ time], counting with pebbles. (Latin for pebble is calculus, which explains the origin of the word ‘calculate’.)”
  • “Greek mathematics was almost entirely geometry – derived from their words for ‘earth’ and ‘measurement’”
  • Ever heard of ‘piems’ ? They are poems that represent π (pi) in a way such that the length of each word (in letters) represents a digit (a 0 requires a ten-letter word). Based on the same principle, whole stories have been written in the pilish style. Quite a constraint!

A mnemonic for remembering the first 7 decimal digits of pi

  • gEOLOgIZE, ILLEgIBLE and EISEgESIS are the only three nine-letter words that can be made with an electronic calculator (using the letters O, I, Z, E, h, S, g, L and B, which are the LED digits 0 to 9 when turned upside-down).
  • Infinity symbol: did you know the endless loop ∞ is called a lemniscate? The word comes from the Latin lēmniscātus meaning “decorated with ribbons”.
  • Ambigram: a word (or set of words) written in such a way as to conceal other words, often the same word (or set of words) written upside-down.”
Animated ambigram of the word "ambigram".

Animated ambigram of the word “ambigram”.

* in chronological order, but without page numbers as I read digital versions of both books.

Others posts you might like:

Recommended links:

Around the web – July & August 2016

As many of us – myself included – have been taking some (well-earned) holiday at some point over the past two months, here’s your round-up of popular articles about language and translation during July AND August.

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Ever been ‘fired’ by an agency?

What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus!

What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus!

Translators-Secretly-Hate

Are any of your pet hates on this list?

  • If you’ve not been on holiday yet and are still looking for something to read, here’s a list of translated fiction. (One of my summer reads was The Vegetarian).
What were your holiday reads?

What were your holiday reads?

P.S. I also have a new podcast out – this time about how much of a walking cliché I am …

See also:

Around the web – June 2016

Unsurprisingly the run-up to and aftermath of the British referendum had a tendency to dominate news stories this month, including articles about translation and language.

  • Because this brings a smile let’s start with these possible names for EU exits for all members of the EU (my favourites are those for the Czech Republic and Hungary).
  • This article, written on May 9th, asks what Brexit could do to the UK’s translation industry.
  • Brexit also brought about linguistic queries from the USA concerning British use of the terms ‘surgery‘ and ‘hokey-cokey‘, as well as American attempts to try and use bollocks
When a US newspaper uses a front page full of Britishisms...

When a US newspaper uses a front page full of Britishisms…

'Time immemorial' is now used to mean “time beyond memory” or “time out of mind”, but it began life as a legal term in mediaeval England referring to anything that happened before the coronation of Richard I, on 6 July 1189.

‘Time immemorial’ is now used to mean “time beyond memory” or “time out of mind”, but it began life as a legal term in mediaeval England referring to anything that happened before the coronation of Richard I, on 6 July 1189.

Although I don’t teach English I recently recorded a short podcast for language learners, and chose as my subject what it’s like to be a translator in Reunion Island. You can listen to and/or watch the podcast (and 101 others!) for free at Anglais.re’s website.

My podcast is titled 'The Invisible Woman'.

My podcast about translation is entitled ‘The Invisible Woman’.

Related articles:

Around the web – May 2016

I had the pleasure this month of receiving a copy of a photography book that I’d translated – it’s always a pleasure to see one’s name in print, isn’t it? Anyway, here’s a round-up of the most popular articles about language and translation that appeared online in May.

  • Alina Cincan of Inbox Translation undertook a mammoth task this month when she compiled a blog post with the favourite tools of 72 professional translators, including yours truly. CAT tools were excluded, and everything listed is either free or very affordable.
expert-professional-translators-reveal-tools

I love this photo mosaic!

  • How do you deal with translating references to songs? Should they remain the same in your translation?
  • Could understanding other cultures’ concepts of joy and well-being help us reshape our own?
The Positive Lexicography Project aims to catalogue foreign terms for happiness that have no direct English translation. ILLUSTRATION BY JULIANNA BRION

The Positive Lexicography Project aims to catalogue foreign terms for happiness that have no direct English translation. (Illustration by Julianna Brion)

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He, she, they: it’s as easy as one, two three (Credit: Alamy)

I’ll leave you with this quote that I came across recently.

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Related articles:

Top Language Twitterers 2016

Every year since 2009 Blabla language portal has held its Top 100 Language Lovers competition. There are five categories:

The nominations received have been narrowed down to 100 for each of the five categories. For the fourth year running I’ve had the pleasure of being nominated in the Language Twitterer category for my account @Smart_Translate. Last year I arrived 8th in the Twitter category (having previously been voted 4th in 2014).

TLL_arrows_NEW

50% of the final score will be based on user votes. You can participate in voting here, or by clicking on the button to the top right, until June 6th. Note that twitterers are listed by name (e.g. Cath Cellier-Smart), not by Twitter handle. There’s no need to be on Twitter yourself to vote, as the link takes you to a web page where you just click on a link. You can also vote in the other categories by clicking on the links above.

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Ranking and results will take place June 7th-8th, and results will be published on June 9th.

P.S. You can follow and/or tweet about the competition (all categories) on Twitter using the hashtag #tll16.

If you’d like to find about more about the competition see this article.

Around the web – April 2016

I spent a day this month participating in a training course for sworn translators. Have you done any CPD recently? Anyway, here’s your monthly round-up of the most popular articles about translation and language that appeared online in April.

The French greeting: Should it be 'tu' or 'vous'? (PHOTO: ISTOCK)

The French greeting: Should it be ‘tu’ or ‘vous’? (PHOTO: ISTOCK)

Map of the word 'tea' in European languages (source)

Map of the word ‘tea’ in European languages (source)

 

Related articles:

The Languages of Namibia

Namibia is a large country in south-west Africa that has been independent from its neighbour South Africa since 1990. Before that it was a German colony between 1884 and the First World War, and pre-colonially it was inhabited by Khoisan tribespeople, later joined by Bantu. With less than 2.5 million inhabitants in a country covering more than 800,000 km2, it’s also one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world.

Himba woman, Namibia

Himba woman, Namibia

Ethnologue lists 27 individual languages for Namibia, all of which are classed as living, and 22 of which are indigenous. Almost half the population speak the Bantu language Oshiwambo, or one of the eight dialects thereof. Other Bantu languages spoken include Kavango, (Otij)Herero and Caprivian (aka Lozi, whose spoken form places strong emphasis on social status),  TswanaGcirikuFweKuhaneMbukushu, and Yeyi. Khoisan dialects spoken include Nama (aka Khoekhoe and formerly known derogatorily as ‘Hottentot’),  NaroKung-Ekoka, and ǂKxʼauǁʼein.

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Map of language distribution in Namibia

Linguistically Namibia’s colonial heritage means that both German and especially Afrikaans are spoken and understood (especially by the white population), as they were the country’s official languages until 1990; Afrikaans is somewhat of a lingua franca. Portuguese is also spoken in the far north due to proximity with Angola. Although only 1% to 3% of the population speaks English as a mother tongue, at independence the ruling party decided to institute English as the sole official language in order to avoid tribal divisions and the colonial overtones which stigmatise German and Afrikaans. The idea was to harmonise the country and avoid “ethnolinguistic fragmentation”. English is widely used in the civil service, education and the broadcasting system and it helps with international relations, as English-language materials are the most easily available; it’s also the language of instruction in schools from secondary level onwards. However this monolingual policy has resulted in a high rate of school drop-outs and in individuals whose academic competence in any language is low.

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Driving across Namibia

The UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger lists Khwe (Kxoe) as a ‘definitely endangered’ language, with only 5,000 speakers in 2000, however Ethnologue considers it as ‘developing’ and lists Mashi, Mbalanhu and !Xóõ as threatened languages.

A pup at Cape Cross seal colony

A pup at Cape Cross seal colony

Incidentally Khoisan dialects feature clicking sounds (created by slapping the tongue against the teeth, palate or side of the mouth). In writing these are represented by ! ,/, //, or ‡. On my recent visit to Namibia I found it fascinating to listen to; here’s a short video of a San bushmen explaining how to capture a porcupine.

Further reading:

You might also enjoy:

My travel blog articles about Namibia can be found here.