24 February 2012

Akkadian cuneiform script

If you want to learn a little more about Akkadian, its cuneiform script, and the Cyrus Cylinder and its relevance after 2,600 years to  Middle Eastern history and politics, listen to Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum at TEDTalks.

Every act of communication is an act of translation

Gregory Rabassa, acclaimed Spanish-to-English translator of Gabriel García Márquez and other South American authors, is reported to have said, with considerable wisdom: "Every act of communication is, in some way, an act of translation".

TEDTalks has posted a talk by Chris Bliss entitled "Comedy is translation". The talk begins with a few words about Gregory Rabassa's insight before explaining how great comedy can translate deep truths for a mass audience."

Recommended viewing for translators and those who buy translation service alike.

18 February 2012

Global English

Columnist Christopher Caldwell makes some good points in an article in today's FT entitled The French are right to resist Global English (aka 'Globish').

On the impact that Globish, or a university-level dialect thereof, may be having on today's students, he says: "When universities ... teach classes in global English ... the net effect can be to turn these varied young people into extremely unvaried adults. Language shapes mentalities – how deeply is harder to say. But the spread of English may be limiting our ability to think in different ways."

For into-English translators and translation buyers, this also raises the question Translation into what sort of English?

If anyone in the blogosphere is aware of any reliable studies as to what sort of English is likely to have the greatest -- or the least -- impact on various categories of L2 readers (say, engineers in southeast Asia or naval officers in the Middle East), please let me know.

13 February 2012

Lucy prefers 'purposeful'

Today, FT columnist Lucy Kellaway praised Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Stephen Hester for plain language and avoiding hyperbole. Among other points, Lucy highlighted Hester's use of 'good' and 'purposeful' while pointing out the latter's strengths over the tired, worn and essentially dishonest 'passionate'.

Hear, hear! Lucy.

07 February 2012

Fired for ALL CAPS email

FT article on Netiquette includes a story about a New Zealander who was fired for email in ALL CAPS.

-iz- is not American

Contrary to widely held belief, the choice in English between -is- and -iz- spellings is not simply a choice between American and British (and Commonwealth) preferences.

For more, read what Jonathan Calder has to say on his Liberal England blog under the heading -ize and -ization do not come from America (date: Monday, February 06, 2012).

If a customer asks, I give them a choice between three spelling systems: "-iz- American", "Oxford" (with -iz- and -is- as per Oxford dictionaries) or "standard British" (with -is-). It is interesting to note that these options do not appear to have specific names in wide use, which is a minor problem in itself.

Despite the excellent points made by Calder and others, perceptions are also important. Given that the vast majority of people believe that -iz = US and -is = British, this is a real issue for anyone wishing to use spelling as a flag as to origin. I believe that this is the main reason why most British newspapers use -is- and it is also the main reason that I advise European companies producing English-language documents that they wish to flag as specifically European (i.e. not American) to do the same.

My own default option for European companies requesting into-English translations is thus -is-.

Another challenge is that most spell-checking dictionaries do not offer these choices. (I never been able to fathom why the publishers of Oxford dictionaries never failed to market a spell-checking dictionary offering their own preferred spellings. If you find one, do let me know.)

Update (27 May 2014)
I have just discovered an exhaustive site (and rant) on this topic called
The ‘-ize’ have it!
on the Metadyne website by Mike Horne.
It's an excellent read and I agree with every word, despite the special case I make above as a Europe-based into-English translator attempting, on my clients' behalf, to wave a tiny flag that those less well informed than Calder and Horne (which is to say the vast majority of readers), will identify, in the unlikely event that they reflect on the issue for even a moment, as either British or vaguely 'European', which is to say, of course, non-American. There! I've stated my case once again, for what it's worth. I also take this opportunity to point out once again the great irony, despite the implacable logic of writers like Calder and Horne, that there is, as far as I'm aware, no reliable spell-checker dictionary reflecting their preferred choices. (If there were, I think I'd change my mind as quick as wink.)

02 February 2012

Translator humour

The Translation Tribulations blog has a very amusing post on MT, or machine translation, under the heading A sermon from Ede. Highly recommended.

Another example of translation humour... and a lesson of caution for translation buyers. See article here.

Switching to Mac, take #2

I've now worked on my MacBook Pro for at least a couple of hours a day for over three months. I'm happy with the hardware and amazed...