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.

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:

Around the web – December 2014

December 2014 is the month that saw me become an IQC-certified translator! IQC is certification based on essential requirements for the translation profession as well as ITT standard 11:2011 with reference to EN 15038. Anyway here’s my round-up of articles about translation and language for December.

( Illustration: Matt Blease for The Guardian)

( Illustration: Matt Blease for The Guardian)

from K. Hendzel's article on Why Translators are Promoting Premium Markets

from K. Hendzel’s article on Why Translators are Promoting Premium Markets


Related articles:

Around the web – November 2014

Most people know that November comes from the Latin word novem meaning nine, as it was the 9th month in the Roman calendar, but did you also know that the Anglo-Saxons called it the ‘wind monath‘, because it was the time when cold winds began to blow? They also called it ‘blot monath‘ because it was when cattle were slaughtered for winter food [*]. In my part of the world November is the start of summer … and cyclone season. Anyway here’s my monthly round-up of articles about language and translation:

Dublin: a scene of devastation during the 1916 Easter Rising

Dublin: a scene of devastation during the 1916 Easter Rising 


via Alessandra Vita

  • The translation industry’s major business news of the month was that Lionbridge is in the process of acquiring CLS Communication.
  • Here are 11 tips from colleague Nicole Adams for new freelance translators on the hunt for their first assignments.
  • This is what happens when no one proofreads an academic paper properly …
An overly honest citation slips into a peer-reviewed journal

An overly honest citation slips into a peer-reviewed journal

  • Can you tell if someone is British or North American just from the description in their Twitter profile? Apparently so, says Lynne Murphy.
  • Cultural differences: here are very different ways people give feedback and criticism in 12 different countries around the world.
Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 10.35.54

How do people criticise around the world?

  • This freelancer listed 10 things she doesn’t miss about being employed.
  • Finally, not news, but if you’d like to participate in an online survey about the sociological aspects of translation as part of a PhD thesis follow this link.

On a personal note, I was delighted that my travel blog reached 100 000 views!

Related articles:

Around the web – October 2014

Did you know October is International Creole Month? October 28th in particular is celebrated as International Creole Day, also known as Bannzil Kreyol Day. (For more about Creole see these blog posts I’ve written, or read this Global Voices article to learn more about International Creole Month). On a more personal note on October 8th I reached the milestone of 3000 followers on Twitter! Creole and Twitter aside, here’s my monthly round-up of articles about translation and language:


Client circles (source: Nikki Graham)

Wishing 'Happy New Year' for the whole of January is one custom that can confuse non-French.

Wishing ‘Happy New Year’ for the whole of January is one custom that can confuse non-French.

  • Here‘s a list of 15 words that are more interesting than they seem.
  • This Welsh translation error brings a smile, but it’s yet another example of companies who should know better not using a professional translator.
Free erections anyone?

Free erections anyone?


  • Non-Brits can test their knowledge of British English here, and there’s also a US quiz for English speakers outside of North America.

In French:

Les interpretes Pascale Baldauf,  Ewa Pawlikowska & Michel Zlotowski  (© Radio France - 2014 / Julie Bonnemoy)

Les interprètes Pascale Baldauf,
Ewa Pawlikowska &
Michel Zlotowski
(© Radio France – 2014 / Julie Bonnemoy)

  • La retraite du traducteur – êtes-vous trop jeune pour y penser ? Collègue Gaelle Gagné nous livre son point de vue.

Related articles:

Around the web – September 2014

September is of course the month of International Translation Day. Did you do anything special to celebrate, or (like me) were you too busy working? On another note did you know that in September 1752 the British Empire adopted the Gregorian calendar so that year September 2 was immediately followed by September 14?! Anyway here’s your September round-up of interesting articles about language and translation.

  • Conference interpreter and translation agency manager Sébastien Devogele had a rant about rates.
  • Another thorny issue: if you’re perusing this article then you’re a reader of blogs; you may even write your own. But what exactly are the dangers of blogging, asks colleague Emma Goldsmith?
  • Hindi is not one of the United Nation’s official languages. This didn’t stop Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi from making his recent UN speech in the world’s 4th most prevalent language – why?

Narenda Modi, India’s PM

  • What does a literary translator’s CV look like? Find out here.
  • BJ Epstein blogged about the useful 88-page book Translation in Practice which can be downloaded in PDF form here.
  • The EU’s Terminology Coordination unit has added 103 interpreter glossaries, compiled and shared by Róbert Gulyás, to its Glossary Links search tool.


  • After a coma, an Aussie recently woke up speaking fluent Mandarin – a language which he’d studied in high school but never mastered. Apparently he now hosts a Chinese game show in Shanghai.

Photo ©Benjamin McMahon/Facebook

  • Here are 14 of the funniest, most ridiculous English synonyms.
  • Did you know 19th September is International Talk Like A Pirate day?


In French:

  • Voici, sur le site de l’Écran Traduit, un glossaire de la traduction audiovisuelle.


Related articles:

Lost in paradise

[Warning: this is a rant] As a tropical island dweller, a major grumble of mine* is the propensity to slap the label of ‘paradise’ onto such islands. Yes tropical islands often have beaches (but so do other parts of the world!) and pleasant warm climates, but they also have tropical diseases, tropical storms and tropical (read ‘big’) insects. They can be more or less remote, difficult and/or expensive to get from and to, and this can be reflected in consumer prices, as well as indirectly in the level of (un)employment. The creation of a ‘tropical paradise’ for tourists (palm trees, hotels, electricity and running water, etc.) often comes at a high environmental price.

I was therefore interested to come across a recent BBC Radio 4 programme called ‘The Trouble with Paradise‘ in which historian and journalist Carrie Gibson argues that the west needs to re-think what it means by ‘paradise’. Taking the Caribbean as an example she explores its complicated history, and argues that we may need to re-evaluate our understanding of the meaning of paradise. She explores the biblical origins of the concept, and its gradual transformation into the modern-day idea. The belief that tropical islands are paradise is recent – for centuries they were a source of illness, death and fear for Europeans and the slaves who worked there until they dropped.

Hieronymus Bosch painting (source)

Detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights by  Hieronymus Bosch (source)

While we’re on the subject, etymologically the word ‘paradise’ entered English from the French paradis, inherited from the Latin paradisus, from Greek parádeisos (παράδεισος), and ultimately from an Old Iranian root, pairidaeza whose literal meaning is ‘walled enclosure or park’. In the 3rd–1st centuries BCE the Greek word parádeisos was used to translate both Hebrew pardes and gan, ‘garden’, hence the use of ‘paradise’ to refer to the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve’s original home. As well as the spiritual definition the OED also defines paradise as: “An ideal or idyllic place or state”, and the modern opinion is often that it can be purchased as a commodity via a travel brochure. But do you really need to travel to a tropical island to relax, switch off your smartphone and spend more time with your loved ones?

Google N-gram of 'paradise' 1800-2000

Google N-gram of ‘paradise’, 1800-2000 (note the dip in use during the period corresponding to WWI).

I’ll end with the article’s closing lines:

The idea that we can buy our way into a modern Eden prevents us from looking for a different kind of paradise in our own back gardens, rather than projecting it on to islands half a world away.

[Rant over].

* coming second only to the (over)use of the expression “Lost in Translation” ;-)

To find out more:

Around the web – August 2014

Did you know that until 8 BCE the old name for the month of August was Sextilus, Latin for “sixth month”? And that when we describe something as ‘august‘, we are saying it is majestic and inspires reverence or admiration? An auguste is also a type of clown with a white muzzle and eyes and a red nose. Anyway here’s your ‘August’ round-up of interesting articles about translation and language.


Typical aspects of an Auguste clown: red nose, white muzzle and eyes

  • Here’s a list of international linguistics-related conferences taking place between now and the end of the year.
  • With translators and interpreters in mind, at the beginning of the month Inbox Translate launched a resource of 3000+ glossaries.
  • How are the terms off-piste, off the beaten track/path, off base used differently in the USA and UK?
  • In the UK there are still hundreds of court cases requiring an interpreter that were disrupted in the first quarter as Capita continued to fall short of its required performance target. Read more.


  • How do you fare on this fiendishly difficult vocabulary quiz from The Guardian?
  • Are you a vocabulary expert? How many English words do you actually know? Test yourself.
  • Joke: what happens when a translator and Google translate walk into a bar? Find out.


Casse-pieds (pain in the butt): Your neighbour is getting on your nerves. What a “feet-breaker”.

Literal translations: if someone is getting on your nerves they’re a “feet-breaker” (casse-pieds) in French.

  • Le directeur d’un hôtel en Bretagne a appelé un directeur de hypermarché hispanophone pour servir d’interprète au coach argentin de l’OM durant une conférence de presse. Incroyable !
  • France Inter a diffusé une émission intitulé A la recherche des langues en danger. Vous avez jusqu’au 2 mai 2017 pour l’écouter …

Related articles: