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.

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