Around the web – November 2018

Here’s a look at the most popular stories about translation, interpreting, and language for November.

Claire Cox: “As a professional translator, I don’t want to work for an outfit that regards me as an interchangeable cog in a large machine”.

Do you know the meaning of ‘Brino’, ‘ERG’ ‘remoaner’ or ‘Maybot’?

Eight tentacles, three plural forms, and only one right way to say it.

Eighteenth-century German linguist Hensel probably had to use second-hand and third-hand transcriptions for languages he was unfamiliar with.


Further reading:


Around the web – October 2018

Last Sunday was International Day of Creole. How much do you know about Creole languages? In the meantime, here’s a look at the most popular stories about language and translation for October.

Hermes was billed as “the first online subtitling and translation test and indexing system by a major content creator”

Do you need to see the whole flower or examine the nitty-gritty detail? asks colleague Patricia Lane

  • Acclaimed translator Anthea Bell passed away on 18th October. Read her obituary, and an article about her work here.

Anthea Bell changed the name of Obelix’s small, evil-tempered dog from Idéfix to Dogmatix and named the local druid Getafix. (Photograph: Courtesy of Jewish Museum London)

Part of the reason is that the language in question is not really a single language at all

French protestors accuse President Emmanuel Macron of spreading fake news. (AFP PHOTO / ALAIN JOCARD)

  • In a depressingly regular slot, the language fail of the month goes to Coca Cola in New Zealand who attempted to combine Maori and English. They clearly didn’t check with a native speaker of Maori, so their advertisement “Kia Ora, Mate” translates to “Hello, death”.

Coca-Cola made an embarrassing Māori faux-pas

  • Language use: should you avoid employing the adverb ‘presently’? Stan Carey takes a look.
  • Why does the letter Q almost always need to be followed by the letter U? And what’s the origin of the F-word? Find out here and here.

Q is the second most rarely used letter in the alphabet


Further reading:

Around the web – September 2018

Our look at the most popular stories about language and translation for September starts with an article referencing the most important day of the month (year?) for language professionals: International Translation Day!

Why your Latin teacher was wrong

  • While we’re on the subject, did you know that the berry family is a linguistic invention particular to Germanic languages like English? (Other languages like Spanish and French don’t combine the berry family into one group, but have different words).

Why do we call them ‘berries’?

How green is your freelance business?

  • Did you know how different quotation marks can be from one European language to the next? And what are the official languages of European countries?
  • The fact that southern France’s Occitan language is so intertwined with the culture is perhaps why it has never completely faded away.

Occitan: the language the French forbade


On a personal note this month has seen the following two items published:

In the podcast I explain what Creole is, its origins, and share how Creole is used on Reunion Island today.


Further reading:



Around the web – July & August 2018

Have you been away on holiday since the end of June? If you were in the northern hemisphere you might well have suffered from the prolonged heatwave. Let’s cool off with a look at the most popular stories about language and translation for July and August.

An emerging translator explores how translating The Lover helped her become “unstuck” at a time when she felt neither fully at home in English or in French.

These are the top ten most popular emojis on Twitter. But what are the least popular ones?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society with a potato peel pie

  • This map shows the (often hilarious) literal translations of Chinese names for U.S. States.
  • Humour: what it’s like to have an imperfect accent in France?

On a final note, nominations are now open for the 2018 community choice awards.You can nominate candidates in translation and interpreting categories here.

Further reading:

Lost Words

A research paper by Cambridge University conservationists found that children are better at identifying Pokémon characters than real animals and plants. In a 2008 National Trust survey, only a third of eight- to 11-year-olds could identify a magpie, though nine out of 10 could name a Dalek. A 2017 RSPB “Birdwatch” survey found that half of 2,000 adults couldn’t identify a house sparrow, a quarter didn’t know a blue tit or a starling, and a fifth thought a red kite wasn’t a bird. In a 2017 Wildlife Trusts survey a third of adults were unable to identify a barn owl, and three-quarters unable to identify an ash tree.

Why am I telling you this? Because yesterday I attended a beautiful exhibition called ‘The Lost Words’ that attempts to “conjure back the magic, beauty and strangeness of the nature that surrounds us”. Devised to take children and adults on a journey through 20 ‘lost words’ from ‘Acorn‘ to ‘Wren‘, each word becomes an acrostic spell written by Robert Macfarlane. Each of the twenty plants or creatures has been painted three times by artist Jackie Morris: first absent from its habitat (e.g. pawprints in the snow or a lone feather), then its return (generally painted on a gold background), and finally in its natural environment (see for example the Kingfisher). Below are some of the poems and paintings:

© Jackie Morris & Robert Macfarlane

© Jackie Morris & Robert Macfarlane

© Jackie Morris & Robert Macfarlane

© Jackie Morris & Robert Macfarlane

© Jackie Morris & Robert Macfarlane

© Jackie Morris & Robert Macfarlane

© Jackie Morris & Robert Macfarlane

© Jackie Morris & Robert Macfarlane

© Jackie Morris & Robert Macfarlane

© Jackie Morris & Robert Macfarlane

The other Lost Words not shown above are:  BluebellConkerDandelionHeronRavenWeaselWillowWren.

The book Lost Words: A Spell Book by Macfarlane and Morris was published in 2017 by Hamish Hamilton. The exhibition I saw is in Inverleith House at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh until 2nd September 2018.

Anyone with an interest in nature, words and images, and who wants to explore further some of the ideas and creatures conjured up by ‘The Lost Words’ can download a free explorer’s guide from the John Muir Trust here.

I’ll end with this quote by Macfarlane:   “Language is written deeply and richly into our relationships with landscape and with nature: there as the place-hames on our maps, and the many names of species, common and rare, with which we share our lives “

See also:

Around the web – June 2018

What have you been up to this month? Aside from my usual translation work I was also in a recording studio doing voice-over work, which is something I always enjoy. Anyway without further ado here’s your June round-up of popular stories about language, interpreting, and translation.

  • Colleague Claire Cox has written about the inaugural ‘Translate Better’ event in Berlin, the German take on the ‘Translate In …’ series of French to English translation style workshops.
  • Quartz profiled the US State Department Korean interpreter who made it possible for Trump and Kim to understand one another in Singapore at this month’s DPRK/USA summit.

Lee Yun-hyang holds her own (EPA-EFE/Kevin Lim/The Straits Times)


The Vital Work and Challenging Conditions Faced by Japan’s Court Interpreters

  • Continuing her Greatest Women in Translation series, Caroline Alberoni interviewed German to English literary translator Jen Calleja.
  • How can you use your skills as a marketing translator to get more work in travel and tourism? Find out here.
  • If more proof was needed that words matter, this article discussed how the way job adverts are phrased can dictate whether or not people (especially minorities) apply.

Job ads that use the phrase “coding ninja” are not female friendly (Getty Images)


The case for renaming women’s body parts


Ever heard of ‘pleather’?

I’ll see you at the end of August for a dual July/August round-up!


Further reading:

Around the web – May 2018

This week I had the pleasure of participating in a ‘Responsible Women’ Forum held at a local secondary school to talk to 13-year old girls about careers, ambitions … and the responsibilities that go with them! I’m also responsible for your May round-up of popular stories about translations and language.

  • “A translator always makes choices.” says Dr Emily Wilson in a short video about her translation of The Odyssey into English.
  • The European Council of Literary Translators’ Associations (CEATL) recently published guidelines for fair contracts.
  • Why do more translators not use reviewers?
  • Localisation fail: car maker Hyundai didn’t check whether the name of its latest SUV, ‘Kona’, was going to be universally acceptable …
  • In Britain experts say ‘linguaphobia’ has deepened since the Brexit vote, reports The Guardian from the Hay literary festival. And on a similar subject, the BBC asked whether English can remain the ‘world’s favourite’ language?

English has changed since Chaucer’s day (Getty Images)

  • GDPR came into effect on May 25th. This article by Pieter Beens looks at (nearly) all translators might to need know and do about it. (See also this video by the Belgian Chamber of Translators and Interpreters).
  • Science has just settled the debate about whether it’s better to have one or two spaces after a full stop.
Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 11.59.08

One space between each sentence, they said.


The weasel voice in journalism


Israeli singer Netta Barzilai performing with the trophy after winning the Eurovision Song Contest on May 12, 2018. (Credit FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP)


Further reading:

Around the web – April 2018

Here is your April round-up of popular stories about language and translation.

to boldy go split infinitive economist

The Economist: boldly going where grammarians have feared to tread

A user’s guide to the new lexicon of the young from the FT.

Is this game board for ludo, chinese checkers, parcheesi, or sorry?

  • Another month, another AI interpreting/translating failure story: this time at the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan. Find out more at Language Log.
  • This Fijian Tourist Board translation – or rather proofreading – failure (a word that means ‘holy place’ was said to mean ‘toilet’) is, for once, being blamed on a graphic design error, and not the translator!

The offending Fijian ad that confused worship and WC


Further reading:

Around the web – March 2018

Here is your March round-up of popular stories about translation and language.

  • In this (controversial?) article, Translate meanings not words, Tim Gutteridge led an ‘accident investigation report’ on a ‘translation train crash’ he spotted in The Guardian.
  • Also in The Guardian, Daniel Hahn explained why we need the Translators Association first translation prize, which is an award he set up using his winnings from the International Dublin literary award.

Svetlana Alexievich, whose book Second-Hand Time has won the TA first translation prize for translator Bela Shayevich and editor Jacques Testard. (Photograph: Gordon Welters for the Guardian)

In many #Metoo stories, crucial signals, verbal and non-verbal cues are sent but not received. Why is that?

Some of the women writers and translators from around the world who are pressing for progress through their activism and literature.

Papillon/Quincaillerie/Flâneur are three of the ‘best’ French words, according to learners


Further reading:

Around the web – February 2018

This month I had the pleasure – and honour – of spending a morning at the Careers Fair of a local high school talking to final year pupils about my profession. Whether or not you’re also a professional translator I hope you’ll find something of interest in February’s round-up of popular stories about language and translation.

  • With February commonly being associated with love, not surprisingly the most popular article I shared listed a dozen pet names in other languages that don’t work quite so well when translated into English.

Sparrows, elephants, microbes, and potatoes … some pet names don’t work quite so well in English

  • February 21st was International Mother Language Day, and UNESCO reiterated its commitment to linguistic diversity as a reminder that linguistic diversity and multilingualism are essential for sustainable development.
  • This Economist article looked at the the painful origins of many creole languages, which have often – but not always – evolved from slavery.

“Those unfamiliar with creoles, thinking them mere patois, argot or vernacular, are missing a glorious display of the ingenuity of those speakers who turned old languages into something brilliantly new”

Elle France asked if “souping” was a new trend, but critics disagreed, and others queried the use of “ing” on French words

L’académicien Pierre Nora et la secrétaire perpétuelle de l’Académie française Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, en janvier 2016. © Jacques Demarthon / AFP


Further reading: