Top Language Twitterers 2015

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 third year running I’ve had the pleasure of being nominated in the Language Twitter Account category for my Twitter account @Smart_Translate. Last year, I was delighted to arrive 4th in the Twitter category, and 5th overall.

My Twitter account

My @Smart_Translate Twitter account

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 right, until June 14th. Note that twitterers are listed alphabetically 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.


Ranking and results will take place June 15th-16th, and results will be published on June 17th.

P.S. You can follow and/or tweet about the competition (all categories) on Twitter using the hashtag #tll15.

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

Around the web – April 2015

April once again saw a multinational (Taco Bell) find out the hard way about the need for professional translation when it launched its Japanese website.  Why do I get a feeling of déjà vu? I hope that won’t be your case with my monthly round-up of articles about language, translation, interpreting and freelancing for the past month.

On Taco Bell's badly translated Japanese website 'Crunchwrap Supreme' became 'Supreme Court Beef'.

On Taco Bell’s badly translated Japanese website ‘Beef Crunchwrap Supreme’ became ‘Supreme Court Beef’.

Did you know Tristan da Cunha is the most world's most remote location of native English speakers?

Did you know Tristan da Cunha is the most world’s most remote location of native English speakers?

Humour & Fun:

  • I’m sure Scheherezade Surià had a lot of fun finding all these great pictures humorously illustrating ‘life as a translator’.
"When you go out you seem to find mistakes and mistranslations everywhere and you can’t avoid pointing them out to the people near you… like in the cinema while enjoying a dubbed or subtitled film".

“When you go out you seem to find mistakes and mistranslations everywhere and you can’t avoid pointing them out to the people near you… like in the cinema while enjoying a dubbed or subtitled film”.

Last but not least, I’ll leave you with this quote from Gunter Grass, who passed away on 13th April.

Gunter Grass quote

Related articles:

Convention sur les extraits plurilingues/Convention improving multilingual extracts

Dans le cadre d’une simplification des démarches la France a signé, en février 2015 à Berne, une convention améliorant les extraits plurilingues d’état-civil.

La France, partie à la commission internationale de l’état-civil avec 15 autres Etats, a signé le 12 février la convention internationale relative à la délivrance d’extraits et de certificats plurilingues et codés d’actes de l’état-civil.

Cette convention vise à tirer les conséquences de tendances de fond de nos sociétés, dont la mobilité accrue des personnes. Elle bénéficiera en particulier aux personnes qui doivent produire un acte d’état-civil d’un pays étranger où s’est déroulé un événement les concernant (naissance, mariage, etc.).

Elle permettra un traitement simplifié par les administrations étrangères ou les officiers publics qui en sont destinataires. Elle facilitera en outre la preuve d’événements personnels et familiaux, comme la reconnaissance d’un enfant ou le mariage. Alors que ces démarches peuvent occasionner des frais (traduction, légalisation ou apostille), le codage et la dispense de légalisation éviteront aux intéressés des coûts supplémentaires.

Cette convention donne enfin aux extraits établis à l’étranger la même force probante, au regard du droit interne de chaque État, que les extraits qu’ils établissent eux-mêmes. En cas de doute grave, les autorités destinataires d’un extrait pourront solliciter une vérification auprès des États émetteurs.

Exemple d'apostille indienne/Sample Indian apostille

Exemple d’apostille indienne/Sample Indian apostille

As part of a process of procedure simplification France signed, in February 2015 in Berne, a convention on improving multilingual extracts from civil status records.

France, which is a party to the International Commission on Civil Status together with 15 other states, signed the International Convention on the issuing of multilingual and coded extracts and certificates from civil status records on February 12.

This convention aims to address the consequences of our societies’ underlying trends, including the increased mobility of individuals. It will notably benefit individuals required to provide a civil status record from a foreign country where a civil status event relating to them has taken place (birth, marriage, etc.).

It will simplify procedures for foreign jurisdictions and for recipient public officials. It will also make it easier to provide evidence of a personal or family event, such as the recognition of a child or a marriage. While these procedures may incur charges (translation, legalization or apostille certification), the coding of entries and the exemption from legalization will help those concerned avoid additional costs.

This convention will finally give extracts issued abroad the same evidentiary value, pursuant to the domestic law of each state, as the extracts that they issue themselves. If there are any serious doubts, the authorities receiving the extract will be able to request verification from the issuing states.

Snippets from ‘Reading The World’

Here are a few translation-related snippets from the book ‘Reading the World – Confessions of A Literary Explorer’ by Ann Morgan. The book was the logical next step for Ann after her 2012 blog in which she read her way around all the globe’s 196 independent countries plus one extra territory chosen by blog visitors, sampling one book from every nation.


Rather than a blow-by-blow description of each country’s book – material that is already in the blog – she covers the background to her quest (“I glanced up at my book shelves, the proud record of more than twenty years of reading, and found a host of British and North American greats staring down at me … I had barely touched a work by a foreign language author in years … The awful truth dawned. I was a literary xenophobe“) followed by themes: censorship, culture shock, representations of the west, etc, and a penultimate chapter on ‘Crossing the language barrier’, (although references to translation aren’t limited to that section):

page 77: “… according to English PEN, in British schools and universities there is no chance of gaining sufficient grapes of a foreign language to become a translator…”

page 77: “in the words of Josep Bargallo … ‘translation is the lifeblood which sustains and nurtures literatures’ …”

page 79: quoting Katherine Rucker “… books that are invisible to translators stay invisible to everyone else, too.”

page 248: “We are vulnerable when we read translations. We leave ourselves open to deception and betrayal.”

page 255: “… for all their linguistic skills, translators often struggle to articulate what they do and how others should go about it.”

Two-thirds of the books Ann read were translated, so translation played an important role in her project. She is probably one of the few people to have had a book translated especially for her after a group of linguists pitched in to translate a book from São Tomé and Principe. Closer to home it was shocking to learn that not a single Malagasy novel had been translated into English, despite the fact that Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, has a population of 23 million.

Ann's bookshelf in December 2012

Ann’s bookshelf in December 2012

Other difficulties Ann encountered included sourcing a book from South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, and realising partway through the year that the choice of 196 nations was itself somewhat arbitrary; maybe “the number of countries depends what world you come from”? (page 30).

The book is published in the US as 'The World Between Two Covers'

The book will be published in May 2015 in the US as ‘The World Between Two Covers’

For my reaction when I first discovered Ann’s blog, see the post: Books about Reunion and worldwide literature.

Reviews of Reading the World – Confessions of A Literary Explorer:

Around the web – March 2015

Do you have your own website? I created mine in 2011 when I first became a full-time freelancer, but recently decided it needed a more professional touch, so I contacted a company specialising in websites for translators and I’m delighted with the result, which went live this month. Anyway here’s my round-up of articles about translation and language for the past month.

The words 'Female' and 'Male' seem etymologically related, but aren't.

The words ‘Female’ and ‘Male’ seem etymologically related, but aren’t.

Some French have trouble pronouncing the two 'h's in hedgehog.

Some French speakers have trouble pronouncing the two ‘h’s in hedgehog.

  • In a similar vein, Matador have rounded up the 20 funniest expressions in French, translated them literally into English, and given advice on how to use them.
  • Last but not least and humour aside, do take a look at Christine Durban’s series of 8 blog posts about translation and ‘ruckus making’. I recently blogged about my reaction to one of the posts.

Making a ruckus about translation?

The well-known translator and translation advocate Chris Durban took part at the beginning of this month in a Ruckus Makers weekend organised by Seth Godin in upstate New York. Fellow participant Luis Vázquez, a developer and consultant, challenged the 80 ruckusmakers to blog for 8 days straight (hashtag: #RuckusmakersChallenge) and Chris’ posts can be found at Their content draws on Seth Godin’s workshop.

The Ruckusmakers 2015

The Ruckusmakers 2015

In her introduction she wrote:

I’ll be exploring how some of Seth’s insights apply to hot issues in translation and to my own personal challenge: raising awareness in the general public of how expert human translators work and how that expertise can be harnessed to make life better. And allow translators to secure the income and recognition they need to shape their working environment — and get even better at what they do.

While all the posts are interesting, the one that spoke most to me was No. 7: Out into the fray. In it she describes attending a networking event for entrepreneurs in Paris. March’s get-together celebrated some tech start-up heads just back from a successful trip to 2015 CES in Las Vegas and showed clips featuring their products. She says:

…each of the first three films was saddled with distractingly odd English subtitles. (“Where only the bests is about the most important show of the world […]”) … one thing was clear: I was the only one wincing … The explanation? Everyone else was a native French speaker. They all spoke English fluently enough for meetings, but just didn’t see the written mistakes.  That’s language for you—non-natives rarely have the same sensitivity to grammar and style glitches in writing their foreign language, which is one reason why professional translators work only into their mother tongue.

The situation of being the sole native speaker at a networking or somesuch event and seemingly the only person bothered by such linguistic awkwardness is one in which I’ve found myself more times than I’d like to count, and while it can be a lonely feeling, it’s reassuring to know I’m not alone. Doubtless Chris’s persuasive powers are more developed than mine, as she discreetly spoke to those in charge and a language review is now planned for 2016’s conference as these people care about what they do. However several times I’ve tried the same approach and found the result to be less than satisfactory: “We don’t get many English speakers anyway” (vicious circle – you’re not going to get more with bad translations are you?), “But that’s the translation I got off the internet” (so if Google translates it like that it must be correct of course), “But the translation was done by my bilingual cousin/son/secretary”… What IS the solution when people don’t care? When DO you give up and stop trying to persuade/educate people?

15 Reunion Creole proverbs

Every culture has its own proverbs, and Reunion Creole is no exception – it’s a very colourful language that often makes use of imagery even in simple everyday conversation, so for example if you’re starving you might say Mon léstoma i bat kart (literally ‘my stomach is playing cards’). If something is difficult: La pa in rougay tomat! (‘it’s not a rougail tomate’, the latter being a spicy condiment that is quick and easy to make), and to nitpick is chercher carapate su la peau bèf  (literally ‘look for a tick on cattle skin’).

Here’s a list of fifteen Reunion Creole proverbs with their French and English translations and/or equivalents:

Couler la peau la pas couler lo ker
La couleur de la peau n’est pas la couleur du cœur
You shouldn’t judge people by the colour of their skin

Coq mon voisin grossèr mon marmite
Le coq de mon voisin est la taille de mon marmite/Ce que possède le voisin fait toujours envie
We always want what the neighbours have

Bataille coqs

Kan gro bëf i sharzh, sort dëvan!
Quand le gros bœuf charge, ne reste pas devant
When the boss isn’t happy, watch out.

Bon kari i fé dann vië karay
Le bon carri se fait dans une vieille marmite/C’est dans les vieux pots qu’on fait la bonne soupe
Old pipes give the sweetest smoke



Zorey koshon dann marmit poi
Les oreilles d’un cochon dans une marmite de pois/Faire la sourde oreille
Turn a deaf ear



Bëf dëvan i boir dëlo prop
Le boeuf de devant boit de l’eau propre/Premier arrivé, premier servi
First come, first served

Kass pa la tet la plï i farine, soley va arnir
Ne te casses pas la tête si la pluie bruine, le soleil va revenir/Après la pluie, le beau temps
Every cloud has a silver lining


Pakapab lé mor san esséyé
Pas-Capable est mort sans essayer/Qui ne tente rien n’a rien
He who tries nothing has nothing

Kalebass’ amèr’ y suiv’ la racin’
La calebasse amère suit la racine/Tel père tel fils
Like father like son


La chance lo shein lé pa la chance lo shat
A dog’s chance isn’t a cat’s chance/A chacun sa chance
Everybody gets a chance


Poul i ponde pas kanard
Une poule ne pond pas un canard/Les chiens ne font pas les chats
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree


Le chien y sent sa queue
Chacun voit midi à sa porte
To each his own

Gro poisson i bek su l’tar
Le plus grand poisson ne mord pas en premier/Une bonne affaire se fait parfois attendre
All good things come to he who waits


Ou va war kel koté brinzel i charge
Tu vas voir de quel côté l’aubergine est chargée/Tu vas voir de quel bois je me chauffe
See the true colours (of someone)

Goni vid i tienbo pa dëbout
Un sac de jute vide ne tient pas debout/Avoir le ventre vide rend faible
This last proverb is one of my favourites, but I haven’t been able to find an English equivalent. It literally means ‘an empty jute bag won’t stand upright’, the idea being that if you’re hungry you’re also tired and won’t be able to do anything properly without eating first (definitely my case!).

By the way did you know the study of proverbs is called paremiology?

The pictures are taken from the blog post in French Reunion’s best Creole proverbs, illustrated by Paul Clodel. As Reunion doesn’t have a set orthography you may notice some spelling differences between the quotes I’ve listed and what is shown in the pictures.

If you have anything to add, please let me know in the comments below.


Further reading:

Around the web – February 2015

Have you done any professional outreach recently? For the second year running this month I went to speak about the profession of translator and interpreter to six classes of 13-15 year olds at the Careers Morning at a local junior high school. (You can read here about my account of it last year). And February 25th was Smart Translate’s 21st birthday! Anyway here’s my round-up of articles about language and translation for the past month.

The Long Island home of Liz Elting (cofounder and co-CEO of TransPerfect)

The Long Island home of Liz Elting (cofounder and co-CEO of TransPerfect)

What’s funny in one language isn’t always funny in another.

What’s funny in one language isn’t always funny in another.


CNN goes to Hong Kong which In fact, appears to be the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo, which as of this writing is fortunately not under attack by giant killer hornets.

CNN goes to Hong Kong which In fact, appears to be the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo, which as of this writing is fortunately not under attack by giant killer hornets.

Related articles:

Around the web – January 2015

Here’s my round-up of articles about translation and language for the first month of the year.

  • One of the defining moments of the month was January 7th’s Charlie Hebdo shooting. In this article The Economist talks about the language of blasphemy and ‘dangerous’ words.
  • People in Africa die every day because of ‘silly’ mistakes due to misunderstanding. Translation can save lives there (as it can elsewhere).
Ebola is just the tip of the iceberg.

Ebola is just the tip of the iceberg.

  • A Shropshire court heard that an Italian man spent two nights in a cell for failing to give a breath test because there was no interpreter to explain what to do.
  • A former Welsh speaker writes about what it feels like to forget a language you were once fluent in.
 'The Welsh language has a unique character which reminds me of the country’s landscapes and history' - Elan valley, Powys in Wales. Photograph: Alamy

‘The Welsh language has a unique character which reminds me of the country’s landscapes and history’ – Elan valley, Powys in Wales. Photograph: Alamy

New York Times Crossword, May 29, 2014 Copyright ©2014 "The New York Times Company." Reprinted by Permission.

NY Times Crossword, May 29, 2014
Copyright ©2014 “The NY Times Company.” Reprinted by permission.


  • TedTalk volunteer translators shared some of their favorite idioms and how they would translate literally – the results are often very funny.
  • Here are 10 idioms only the French understand.
  • I spent a few days this month in Barcelona and was amused by the French translation of this sign at the entrance to our flat.
Barcelona Appt

Here the English (which is itself not very well translated from the Spanish) term ‘take care’ has been translated into French with the meaning of ‘be careful’ (méfiez-vous) instead of ‘take good care of’ …


Have I missed anything? Drop me a line in the comments below.

Related articles:

Most Popular Tweets of 2014

Here, in ascending order, are the 10 most popular* tweets about language and translation I shared during 2014 from my @Smart_Translate Twitter account:

10. In May colleague Kevin Hendzel blogged about inspiring the next generation of translators.

9. In July I shared’s call for nominations for the 2014 Community Choice awards. The winners were announced here on September 30th, International Translation Day.

8. Articles about the differences between US and UK English are always popular. This post on Separated by A Common Language blog explored the difference between ‘hire’ and ‘rent’.

7. Following on the same theme, here are Five Tiny U.S. Phrases With Opposite Meanings In The U.K.

A first floor elevator. (PhotoAlto via AP Images)

6. Articles about French culture are another popular theme: Ten French customs that confuse Anglos.

5. Can you name 15 differences between a normal friend and a French friend? (et en français : 15 différences entrée un ami normal et un ami français)

4. How many of France’s favourite idioms do you know? Find out here.

3. Back to the US/UK theme: Can you tell if someone is British or American just from the description in their Twitter profile?

2. More seriously, can an algorithm (that of Google Translate) be racist?

1. And the winner is … A dozen must-have programs for translators: how to move them to a new computer. This blog post written by colleague Emma Goldsmith in late February was the year’s most clicked-on tweet!

P.S. In June this year I was delighted to come 4th in Blabla‘s Language Lovers Twitter competition. This was only the second year in which I’d been nominated, and I also came 5th overall.

Do you have a favourite article published in 2014 you’d like to share? Don’t hesitate to leave it in the comments below.

By the way, here’s a cloud of my the words I use most in my Tweets, courtesy of TweetStats:

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 09.54.45

According to the same source the top five hashtags I use are: #language, #translation, #translators, #translator, #traduction, and my top five words are: #language, #translation, thanks, new, words.

* ‘most popular’ = most clicked on, according to Hootsuite.

Related articles: