17 December 2015

Barry Jones on translators

As I said yesterday, I'm reading Barry Jones: A thinking reed and enjoying it. Reviews here and here.
I thought I would quote the occasions when Jones mentions translation and/or translators.

At first glance, this story appears to be rather critical of the Chinese translators involved. If we give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it just expresses the fact that they could not immediately take in what was to their mind radical input, even if it did come from the author himself. Perhaps professional translators might have responded faster and better compared to these academics who had taken on the task.
Sleepers Wake!, aka Sleepers Wake! Technology and the Future of Work: Wikipedia article, Review.

In Chengdu I met the Chinese translators of Sleepers Wake!, three academics from the University of Western China. ... The censors were troubled by what seemed to be a religious reference. This turned out to be a joke based on an ambiguity in the word 'work', set out at the start of Chapter 4:
Q. How many people work in the Vatican?
A. About half.
 I said, 'If the censors complain, just cut the material out'. My translators said, 'No. That would not be faithful to the intention of the author'. I said, 'But I am the author, and I say you can do it'. They did not see it my way.
The Executive Board (of UNESCO) had some distinguished members. I was closest to Talat Halman, formerly Turkey's Ambassador to the United Nations and Minister for Culture, rewarded with a British knighthood (GBE) for having translated Shakespeare's sonnets. I was told, not by Talat, that the Turkish versions were an improvement on the original.
Now that is saying something. First about Talât Sait Halman as a translator. Also a reminder that a translation can sometimes be "an improvement on the original", even when the original is itself considered to be a masterpiece.

[As A. J. Krailsheimer — aka AJK, a scholar at Christ Church, Oxford — Jones' preferred translator of Pascal's Pensées notes:] 'He is addressing a person well versed in the social graces, familiar with the world of the great and its pastimes ... informed about the discoveries of contemporary science, a critic of style and fashion, priding himself on being a hardheaded rationalist.' (Blaise Pascal, Pensées, pp xxii, x.)
Works and translations by A. J. Krailsheimer here.
Googled for A. J. Krailsheimer, but failed to find a biography or any biographical information.

Pensée No. 200 has long had a personal appeal to me: 'Man is but a reed, the feeblest in nature; but he is a thinking reed (un roseau pensant)'. I suspect that Pascal's 'thinking reed' is an adaptation of Bacon's 'I beseech your Lordships to be merciful to a broken reed'.

Barry Jones' autobiography: Note on title

I am reading Barry Jones: A thinking reed and enjoying it. (Reviews here and here.)

The title is taken the "man is a thinking reed" quote from philosopher Blaise Pascal's Pensées.

The original:
L'homme est un roseau, le plus faible de la nature, mais c'est un roseau pensant. Il ne faut pas que l'univers entier s'arme pour l'écraser : une vapeur, une goutte d'eau suffit pour le tuer. Mais quand l’univers l’écraserait, l’homme serait encore plus noble que ce qui le tue, puisqu’il sait qu’il meurt et l’avantage que l’univers a sur lui. L’univers n’en sait rien.
Transition 5 (Laf. 200, Sel. 231). H3.
Barry Jones' preferred English version:
“Man is but a reed, the feeblest in nature; but he is a thinking reed. There is no need for the whole universe to take up arms to crush him. A vapour or a drop of water is enough to kill him. But even if the universe were to crush him, man would still be nobler than his killer, for he knows that he is dying and that the universe has the advantage over him. The universe knows nothing of this.”
According to the Philosophy & Philosophers website the "man is a thinking reed" quote is the most famous of French philosopher Blaise Pascal's Pensées.

While there are plenty of online discussions on interpretations of what Pascal means, I must say that I don't see quite why Pascal chose the word 'roseau' which his translators have translated, naturally enough, as 'reed'.

16 December 2015

Bizspeak also knows nuance

In VW needs more therapy to change its flawed mindset — subtitled 'The carmaker’s directors should take a look at Bill Gates’s reading list for insight' — FT columnist Andrew Hill examines in passing the terms 'mindset' and 'corporate culture'.

The article refers to a VW press release dated December 10 entitled Volkswagen kommt bei Aufklärung, technischen Lösungen und der Neuausrichtung des Konzerns gut voran. The German version can be found here and the English translation — Volkswagen making good progress with its investigation, technical solutions, and Group realignment — here.

'Mindset' and 'corporate culture' may be bizspeak, but Hill reminds us that even corporate jargon demands thought and analysis if it is to achieve the desired impact.

Bizspeak is rightly criticised by many — one example is usage guru Bryan A. Garner in his book Garner's Modern American Usage — but the critics seldom spare a moment's thought for the corporate copywriters and journalists and, of course, their translators, who find themselves in the invidious position (not to mention the troubled and troubling inner dialogues) of understanding the issues and knowing full well how to write without using such crutches but employed by others who dare not stray from either the original or the familiar. The irony is that corporate copywriters, journalists and translators invest vast amounts of time in mastering the nuances of silly bizspeak.

Those who understand something of what I am trying to say here — perhaps not very successfully — will enjoy Andrew Hill's article.

When a competent team of translators signs off on something like this:
An internal review, being conducted by a task force of experts from various Group companies with a clearly defined mandate and a deadline, is focused on the mandate to Group Audit by the Supervisory Board and the Management Board to investigate relevant processes, reporting and monitoring systems, and the associated infrastructure.
while realising that it clearly means little more than "we're looking into it", you can be sure that many factors contributed to their frustration. These factors may have included:
  • legal considerations under a range of regimes, not least the need to avoid saying anything that might be interpreted by US courts as an admission of wrongdoing
  • the challenges of writing or translating for multiple audiences in many countries with different cultural norms and legal systems
  • the challenge of translating for German-mother-tongue clients (or bosses) who speak impeccable English, are hierachically distant and proabably insist on a more restrictive concept of faithfulness to the original than the more target-language-sensitive translators.
This last point may explain why the translation didn't read more like: 
"We have asked a task force drawn from Group companies to review the situation by a set date. Their mandate will be the same as that assigned by the supervisory and management boards for the Group Audit — namely to investigate processes, reporting and monitoring systems and the associated infrastructure."

*********All of this in an attempt to demonstrate that notwithstanding the justified criticism of bizspeak and other turgid forms, language service providers need to balance compliance with the imposed constraints against readability and elegance.

10 December 2015

Einstein's translator

Robert W. Lawson (a lecturer and member of the Physics Laboratory at the University of Sheffield in England in the 1920s) deserves credit in any history of science translation.
To find out why, read the Unprofessional Translation blog post entitled Einstein's translator.

07 December 2015

Anglocom on translators' additions

As part of its excellent ongoing of tweets on French to English translation, the team at

has raised a series of questions along the lines: Why did the translator add ... ?

The first tweet reads:
Some translators are in the bad habit of adding things that are not in the source text. If the FR says "gros," say "big," not "very big"!

This is followed by four examples:
(a) …ceux qui poursuivent son œuvre /…those who help carry on his work
(b) …les visiteurs viennent y découvrir… / …its many visitors discover…
(c) Surmonter les obstacles / Overcome substantial obstacles
(d) Elle a été davantage soulignée… / It received much more attention…

These tweets hit me with force for the simple reason — I have to come clean — that I am often guilty of precisely this. Such additions are common in my drafts and despite my efforts to delete them too many survive revision and rereading.

The only answer can suggest sounds very lame indeed. It's the nagging feeling that the English sounds either better or more familiar with the added word or notion.
And why might that be?
My first guess is that I, like my fellow offenders, are influenced by the English-language journalists we read. Is it poor style, fashion, or what? I have no idea. Certainly many articles by many journalists in both English and French can be improved by simply deleting unnecessary adjectives, adverbs, helper verbs and other excesses.

Two other contributing factors are time and talent.
Even talented writers need time to produce texts that are tight and crisp while others can't achieve 'tight and crisp' no matter how much time they have.
Does anyone out there know of any relevant academic research?

Comments very welcome indeed.

Matthew Cobb

A quote from Matthew Cobb on the History of Science, an interview on the Five Books blog in which scientist, historian and translator Matthew Cobb on his five best books on the history of science (my bold).

So, in the seventeenth century book* I couldn’t talk about ‘reproduction’ because it wasn’t a seventeenth century term — people talked about ‘generation.’ That is what we would call ‘reproduction’ and ‘development’ rolled together in one word. Similarly, you can’t talk about heredity before the 19th century. Heredity only takes on a biological meaning in the 1830s — people didn’t have a word to describe the relationship between parents and offspring. Then you realise that there’s a reason why people can’t see things — they don’t have the words, the ideas. The concepts aren’t there and therefore you can’t think them.

I was very fortunate and lived for 18 years in Paris. I went with absolutely awful French and ended up pretty much bilingual. One of the things I realised is that when you can speak another language, you can think things you can’t think in your mother tongue. Words and thoughts are interconnected. That’s one thing that I tried to bring over in my books, by trying to look at what people thought at different times and how the ideas and concepts either limited them or finally enabled them to understand things in a richer way.

The Egg and Sperm Race: The Seventeenth-Century Scientists Who Unravelled the Secrets of Sex, Life and Growth 

03 December 2015

Journalism and publishing terms. Jargon buster

The good people at journalism.co.uk have set up a journalism glossary wiki entitled Journalism and publishing terms - jargon buster. This is an excellent initiative. Like all Wikis, the quality and completeness of the content depends entirely on the the quality and completeness of the contributions submitted by users. That said, it sounds like I've issued a challenge not only to my readers, but also to myself. I'll keep you posted on developments.

The introductory paragraph begins:
This page is intended to be a glossary of old and new media terms of relevance to the practice of journalism. To edit or add glossary entries on this page, please click here or email your suggestions or questions to john at journalism.co.uk.
Email to John at journalism.co.uk:
canonical form: (see below) from Handbook of Terminology Management: Volume 1: Basic Aspects of Terminology Management, Language Arts & Disciplines, 1997.
The entries listed here are in canonical form. For terminologists, translators and many others, it would be wonderful to see canonical form guidelines adopted by all those who produce the types of glossaries curated by Glossarissimo! (monolingual & multilingual resources & terminology for translators & interpreters).
globalisation: see here ​
internationalisation: see here ​
localisation: see here ​
​​​technical journalism: definition from The Tech Writer's Survival Guide: A Comprehensive Handbook for Aspiring Technical Writers by Janet Van Wicklen, 2009:

​technical journalism: (my own definition for my blog Translating technical journalism) journalism for specific technical audiences where the main challenge is typically to write clearly and concisely in the everyday jargon of the specific target audience(s), which, in turn, implies a complete break with some of the basic guidelines for all forms of journalism for more lay publics.
technology journalism: Wikipedia article, including definition, here.​
terminology management: see (for instance) Impact of inconsistent terminology management or Google for "terminology management".
writing for translation, aka writing for a global audience: see here or Google for "writing for translation" or "writing for a global audience". 
The Wall Street Journal's Glossary of Journalism pdf can be downloaded here.

Other Glossarismo links on journalism in English and other languages here.

26 November 2015

Word to FrameMaker?

Under the heading Word to FrameMaker? It's a no-brainer now.Stefan Gentz* has posted some interesting comments on Adobe FrameMaker 2015 that will be of interest to technical writers and their translators working on major technical writing projects.
(This means, incidentally, that this topic is peripheral to my interest in technical journalism and translators thereof.)

First, a quote that neatly encapsulated some of Microsoft Word's enduring weaknesses (my bold):
One big topic that came up again and again was the handling of big and bigger documentations. Word has no book functionality and the master document concept is, well, a concept only. This is why most Word authors prefer to keep all content in one document – resulting in all the problems that come with this: Terrible performance, one big content silo, no re-use of chapters / topics, problems in the translation process, difficult handling, tons of self-written macros to fix tons of problems. Other pain points for many MS Word tech writers are unreliable styles and unpredictable formatting behavior. Styles change "magically" in the whole document. Paragraphs live their "own live" and get or keep unwanted overrides. Lists get corrupted, count wrong, get messed up easily.
Gentz goes on to describe if not hype some of FrameMaker's benefits, including:
FrameMaker, on the other hand, comes with a clever book concept that allows you to break down your documentation in smaller, easy to re-use chapters, topics or simple content chunks. Templates, styles, numberings and tables are stable and behave exactly as you have defined them. You can create stable cross-references between chapters, add automated lists like table of contents, index entries, figures, tables etc., can use regular expressions for complex find and replace and output the whole book to smart PDFs with bookmarks and active links and even embed U3D graphics and videos. You can publish to modern and great looking Responsive HTML5 online Help (of course also Retina enabled) with easy to customize layout and it's easy as 1-2-3. You can even publish to native iOS and Android Apps, Amazon kindle and ePub and with the latest release to the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite.
On translation issues, he writes:
And translation? It's a no-brainer, too. All professional CAT tools / Translation Management Systems like Across, SDL Trados Studio, Kilgray memoQ, STAR Transit, Wordfast, memsource and XTM provide robust and mature filters for FrameMaker documents. And Language Service Provider around the world love FrameMaker not only because of the excellent CAT tool support but also because post-translation DTP is much faster and more easy than for Word Documents. If you ever had to deal with big, messy Word Documents in a translation process you know what I'm talking about. And of course, FrameMaker 2015 comes with full support for all western languages, CJKV, Right-to-Left languages like Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew (including a one-click layout-flip!), support for Thai and many other languages.
On converting Word documents:
... FrameMaker 2015 comes with a totally revamped Microsoft Word import filter that makes the transition easier than ever before: Just create a template in the look and feel you want, and then just import the Word document. A new dialog helps you to map word styles to FrameMaker styles individually, keep or throw away manual formatting overrides.
Adobe has created a small 2-minute video that shows this process in detail: here.
* GALA Ambassador, tekom Conference Board member, Consultant, trainer & speaker with focus on TechComm & Globalization.

16 November 2015

New Translation of Quran

On 15 November Jamaal Abdul-Alim signed a piece in Diverse Issues in Higher Education entitled Islamic Scholars Produce New Translation of Quran.

Some excerpts (my bold):
In an effort to bring about a richer understanding of the Quran, a group of mostly American-born and university-based Islamic scholars have produced a new translation of the Islamic sacred text.
They say a key aim of the new translation and commentary—titled “The Study Quran” and published by HarperOne—is to show how the Quran’s verses have been understood historically in order to better understand their meaning and applicability today.
A byproduct of that work is that it could lead to a better understanding of some of the more controversial topics in Islam, such as when use of force is permitted, one scholar involved in the project said.
The new 2,000-page translation and commentary, which will be formally released later this month, is the culmination of a decade’s worth of research that began after editors at HarperOne approached Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, longtime University Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University. ... 
Nasr said he initially declined to take on the project but eventually agreed to do so out of religious conviction and on the condition that it be produced entirely by practicing Muslims. The Iran-born Nasr also said he wanted all of the scholars to be America-born and at least one to be a woman.
I note that the editors have chosen to write the name of the sacred book in English transliteration at 'Quran', not any of the other possible variants.

I note also that the first paragraph contains the expression "Islamic sacred text". While the expression does not lend itself to ready analysis according to OSASCOMP, some of the comments on Adjective order in English would suggest that "sacred Islamic text" might be more idiomatic. Feedback welcome.

13 November 2015

Corporate storytelling

Aside from the fact that too many corporations tell too many stories of the tall variety, corporate and business storytelling have been in the news of late.

So much so that 'business narrative' was recently added to the FT Lexicon. The definition and discussion read as follows:
The use of narrative in business helps us to understand how and why businesses succeed or fail. Storytelling by sharing of actions, views and opinions shapes a business' culture and can be both a power for good, and a power for division and subversion. Bad narrative may exist in the form of divisive gossip around the water cooler, or finger pointing about mistakes and punishments. These subvert our shared responsibility to build trust, inspire others and create a healthy workplace community. A positive narrative can help build success by celebrating and encouraging the right behaviours.
Narrative in this sense has a profound impact on the attitude, behaviour and outlook of each member of a business community and ultimately affects its cohesion and success. It is the responsibility of business leaders to set the right tone from the top. To ensure that storytelling avoids the egotistical narrative that breeds division and poor performance, instead celebrating the shared values and behaviours that engage customers, colleagues and communities in the sustainable success of the business.
Here are two interesting little exercises for budding French-to-English translators:
(a) propose an equivalent for 'business narrative'
(b) translate the definition and discussion above into French.
Linguee won't be of much assistance given that, for the moment at least, it offers nothing useful for any combination of 'corporate', 'business' or 'company' + 'storytelling' or 'narrative'.

Feel free to post here if you have any comments or suggestions.

04 November 2015

M&M publie article sur #NavTechGloss

La 10ème édition du Glossaire français-anglais de la défense navale est récemment paru. Cet outil, unique en son genre, est écrit par Steve Dyson, traducteur et rédacteur technique freelance auprès des entreprises françaises du secteur de la défense navale pendant plus de 15 ans.

Les professionnels français du domaine naval militaire le savent : les traductions du Français vers l'Anglais de textes techniques sont, parfois, loin d'être évidentes. D'où l'idée de Steve Dyson de développer cet outil spécifique. « Cet ouvrage s'adresse aux traducteurs avertis et aux spécialistes de la défense navale. Il est le fruit de la traduction/adaptation de français en anglais de milliers de pages de journalisme technique concernant la défense navale et des sujets connexes », explique l'auteur.

On notera qu'il s'agit du seul glossaire français-anglais de la défense navale en format eBook, donc interrogeable et indexable par moteur de recherche.

A French-English Glossary of Naval Technology
Format: eBook ePub. Prix: €7,90.
- Vous pouvez l'acheter à la boutique Lulu

29 October 2015

sdc logo

With the help of a 'free' online design service, I (how can I express this?) brought about the design and have now adopted the following logo:

Does it suggest communication, linked source and target (languages), etc.?

'sdc' initially stood for Steve Dyson language Consulting, now it's just a three-letter whatever.

Glossarismo, dtSearch, IntelliWebSearch and more

Glossarismo is one of many great sources of mono-, bi- and multilingual terminology now readily accessible to translators thanks to the internet. @Glossarissimo receive regular tweets ensuring prompt access to the latest sites, site updates and events.

But how can freelance translators make the best use of these resources? There's no one answer, so let me explain my approach, just in case some of it is of use to others.

I begin with the assumption that you already are or aim to become a subject specialist. Clearly, you begin by searching for relevant terms plus glossary, terminology, dictionary, lexicon, etc. This is best done using IntelliWebSearch (see my post entitled dtSearch + IntelliWebSearch). If, like me, you prefer local resources to online resources, you then download the most useful looking documents and index them using an indexing engine like dtSearch.
See Term mining pioneer and, again, dtSearch + IntelliWebSearch.

Here are the two main reasons that I prefer local resources to online resources:
  1. faster, more reliable access
  2. good resources are sometimes withdrawn and thus no longer available on line. 
But (and this is the main issue I aim to address today), what do you do when you find a good resource organised as separate webpages for each letter of the alphabet and no provision for single-file download?

Two options:
  • use a tool like HTTrack website copier to download the relevant pages or the entire site
    (HTTrack is a free (GPL), easy-to-use offline browser.)
  • download each page manually (placing the set in a suitably named folder for easy access).
When Glossarismo pointed me to
(EN) – Military Terms & Definitions | http://militaryterms.net/
(FR) – Lexique des termes techniques | CCFA : Comité des Constructeurs Français d’Automobiles
I was pleased to discover resources that were more comprehensive and more up to date that those in my archives. The only drawback was that both are organised as separate webpages for each letter of the alphabet with no provision for single-file download?
Having downloaded all the relevant pages, I can forward them as zip files to anyone who happens to be interested but doesn't feel up to following either of the download options explained above.

28 October 2015

Towards gender-neutral pronouns in English

The Terminology Coordination (TermCoord) website of the European Commission's DG Trad has posted an article entitled Video fix: Gender neutral pronouns are there, get used to them!complete with a video entitled Gender Neutral Pronouns: They're Here, Get Used to Them by Tom Scott, a British ‘geek’ comedian, linguist and programmer.

Good article and a very good video.

Scott proposes to spread the use of ‘they’ as a neutral singular pronoun in English, considering that ‘it’ is dehumanised. Facebook has started using it, but Shakespeare beat them to it!

If you find this topic interesting, visit our selection of glossaries on gender terminology here.

* Written by Ana Escaso Moreno, Communication Trainee at TermCoord, Journalist & Social Media manager

27 October 2015

Stop the haze

The Stop the haze (#stopthehaze) campaign is one of many initiatives protesting about the massive smoke pollution and associated haze and smog attributed to forest fires started by palm oil plantation operators in Indonesia.

Despite SickBubble's obvious commercial aims — SickBubble is the best way to find & discover healthy, sustainable business in your area  and notwithstanding the decidedly odd name, the
5 Powerful Things You Can Do in 5 Minutes
campaign makes some good points.

But I am intrigued by the term 'haze'.
Hence the following email just sent to SickBubble:
Your campaign is called "Stop the haze"
But why use the euphemism 'haze' when the topic is actually 'air pollution' or 'smog' or worse?
Why not find out and then tell us who started calling it 'haze', where, when and why?
(I suspect the work of a spin doctor working for one of the governments ...)
Surely the correct identification and naming of the problem is part of the challenge?
Hope you find these language questions useful.
Best regards from Lisbon, Portugal, where we are currently enjoying sea breezes and relatively pollution-free air.
Please share your insights.

And here's the reply I received from SickBubble campaigner Lee Maingot:
Thanks so much for writing in and asking some great questions.  I have to say I could go for some Portugese sea breezes right about now!
Haze immediately resonates with the local populations, but the connotations behind it are changing rapidly.  When we got here, "haze season" was just another bit of "weather" that happened around here according to the locals.
This year, however, has been much different; people have started to realise that this is a hell of a lot worse than any bad weather...and they're pissed about it.
Our #stopthehaze article's focus isn't on the education of what's happening per se, but more of a call to action that is simple to be a part of and using the language that the population is familiar with.
Education is incredibly important as well, and we are in the midst of our next piece which addresses more of the underlying issues. Check out our piece on one of the key underlying causes in another article.
These are what we've deemed as the most major ways to address the challenge, but I do like the point you've brought up about the origin of the potential "spin" to hide what the haze really is.  I'll have to do some research and see what I can find.
Thanks again for writing in, and always feel free to do so.

The Language of Food

On 26 October, under the occasional rubric The Art of Persuasion, FT columnist Sam Leith signed a piece entitled Restaurant menus can teach you how to project confidence. Sam is also the the author of You Talkin’ to Me?’ Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama.

As usual, Sam raises fascinating questions regarding language and word choices. And, while he writes in English about language and word choices in English, most translators will quickly see how relevant every point is to improved insights into why original-language documents are written the way they are and how to translate them more effectively into their target language.

Restaurant menus can teach you how to project confidence reviews Dan Jurafsky’s The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu.

Some quotes (my bold):
How was that sandwich? Handcrafted with unpasteurised aged cheddar from grass-fed heritage cows and accessorised with ripe heirloom tomatoes and fleur de sel butter from Normandy? Or was it a doorstop sarnie on thick-cut white bread with real mayonnaise and juicy, fresh sliced tomatoes just the way you like it? Or was it, y’know: essentially a cheese sandwich.
“Filler words” — such as tasty, mouthwatering, scrumptious, zesty, rich, golden-brown, crispy, crunchy, ripe and real — infallibly garnished the menus of mid-priced chains while absent from Michelin-starred gastro-joints. Why?
Restaurant language also bears on what rhetoric-heads call ethos, aka the way a speaker positions him or herself with an audience.
Menu-writing is a branch of persuasion like any other. Food is deeply involved with social status, which is deeply involved with ego. The appeal to the gut — a visceral form of persuasion — is a microcosm of the importance of word choice and, through it, positioning of the speaker, in a persuasive strategy.
 From the website on The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu:
Why do we eat toast for breakfast, and then toast to good health at dinner? What does the turkey we eat on Thanksgiving have to do with the country on the eastern Mediterranean? Can you figure out how much your dinner will cost by counting the words on the menu? In The Language of Food, Stanford University professor and MacArthur Fellow Dan Jurafsky peels away the mysteries from the foods we think we know. 

21 October 2015

El watan is watermelon

No. Not El Watan the Algerian French-language newspaper, but Homeland (el watan, or وطن, in Arabic) the US television series currently screening on Britain's Channel 4.
(The translation in Arabic script was copied from Google translate, with no guarantees.)

On 21 October, FT language columnist Michael Skapinker published How to avoid ‘Homeland’-style translation tricksters based on a longer piece with photographs and explanations entitled “ARABIAN STREET ARTISTS” BOMB HOMELAND: WHY WE HACKED AN AWARD-WINNING SERIES.
(Sorry about the all-caps. Their heading style, not mine!)

Skapinker begins by informing us that the FT has a standing procedure to check photographs the newspaper plans to run that involves (a) locating people who can reliably translate any written messages, and (b) answer the question: Do protesters’ banners or background graffiti include any obscene or embarrassing words?

He then points out that:
The makers of Homeland, the US television series, failed to take this precaution.
Some more quotes form Skapinker's article (my bold, italics and single quotation marks):
In a 2010 paper, Myanna Dellinger of the University of South Dakota law school told the story of a Danish construction company that had won the contract to build the Manhattan offices of an investment bank.
An instruction in Danish that the walls should be a graphite colour was translated as “graffiti-painted walls”.
Claude Piron, a veteran United Nations translator, once described the difficulty of working with English texts written by non-native speakers. He was asked to translate this sentence into French: “He could not agree with the amendments to the draft resolution proposed by the delegation of India.”
What had the Indian delegation proposed — the amendments or the draft resolution? Because one is plural and the other singular, it would have been clear in French, and he thought a native speaker would have written it to avoid the ambiguity in English.
Google Translate is improving, but it is still not good enough for business use.
Piron wrote: “You cannot translate 'Swiss government' by 'gouvernement suisse', because the French word gouvernement has a much narrower meaning than the English one . . . In French, you have to say le Conseil fédéral or la Confédération suisse according to the precise meaning.”

... companies should deal with experts — people who have something to lose if they get things wrong.
Homeland’s translators had nothing to lose. Indeed, their trickery has won them plenty of admirers.
Now a quote from the Herbaamin article:
The series has garnered the reputation of being the most bigoted show on television for its inaccurate, undifferentiated and highly biased depiction of Arabs, Pakistanis, and Afghans, as well as its gross misrepresentations of the cities of Beirut, Islamabad- and the so-called Muslim world in general. For four seasons, and entering its fifth, “Homeland” has maintained the dichotomy of the photogenic, mainly white, mostly American protector versus the evil and backwards Muslim threat. The Washington Post reacts to the racist horror of their season four promotional poster by describing it as “white Red Riding Hood lost in a forest of faceless Muslim wolves”. In this forest, Red Riding Hood is permitted to display many shades of grey – bribery, drone strikes, torture, and covert assassination- to achieve her targets. She points her weapon of choice at the monochrome bad guys, who do all the things that the good guys do, but with nefarious intent.
Photo and caption from the Herbaamin article:

Homeland is watermelon (al watan bateekh) ('watermelon' is often used to indicate that something is a sham or not to be taken seriously) (photos courtesy of the artists).

The more I think about it, the more I appreciate and support the taggers' initiative​.
And  having just read Outside the Whale by Salman Rushdie after it was brought to my attention in timely fashion by today's The Browser  I am more convinced than ever of what is now my last sentence but one for today.

12 October 2015

Test your 'tightening up' skills

It's often easier to talk about one's 'tightening up' skills than it is to practise what one preaches.

Here are two sites that not only practise what they preach, they allow you to test your own skills to see our they compare with those of industry leaders.

For French, take a look at Dominique Jonkers' Facebook page entitled Des pépites sur le bout de la langue. Here is what Dominique has to say about the omnipresence of « permettre de + infinitif » in French. To test your own skills stop reading after you've copied and pasted the challenge into, say, a Word document. Work on the challenge yourself, then compare you best effort to Dominique's.

In English, go to Writing.Rocks and try your hand at Marcia Riefer Johnston's latest Tighten This! [writing/editing game], currently at Challenge sentence #19.


Challenge sentence #18 was:
To the extent that MegaCorp operates under the auspices of these contracts, MegaCorp has an affirmative responsibility to meet its contractual, regulatory, and statutory requirements when acquiring goods and services to be used in the performance of its government contracts. 
My entry read:
All MegaCorp contracts to acquire goods and services for government contracts are subject to contractual, regulatory and statutory requirements.
The winning entry read:
When acquiring goods and services to execute government contracts, MegaCorp must obey applicable contracts, statutes, and regulations.

09 October 2015

Reviews of 101 Things

For reviews of of 101 Things a Translator Needs to Know see:
• Corinne McKay's (Thoughts on Translation) here.
• ATC's (Association of Translation Companies) here.
• Kevin Hendzel's (Word Prisms) here.
• JAL Translations's here.
• Marian Dougan's (Words to good effect) here.
• Judy and Dagmar Jenner's (Translation Times) here.
• Nikki Graham's here.
• Miriam Hurley's here.

NavDefGloss devient NavTechGloss

Je viens de publier:

Il s'agit d'une nouvelle édition du ebook que j'avais intitulé auparavant
A French English Glossary of Naval Defence -- Glossaire Français Anglais De La Défense Navale
avec ses horribles majuscules imposées par les règles de l'édition sous format ePub et par certaines plate-formes de distribution.

Même contenu, mêmes avantages (interrogeable et indexable), même prix (€7,90).

Achetez-le à la boutique Lulu.

08 October 2015

NavTechGloss: new title

I have just published

This is a new edition of what was previously entitled
A French English Glossary of Naval Defence -- Glossaire français-anglais de la défense navale.
The new title and absence of a subtitle overcome the limitations in this area imposed by some sales platforms.

Same content. Same price. Same features (searchable and indexable). Great value. Buy it form the Lulu store.

06 October 2015

FT feature article on translation

On 6 October, Andrew Jack published a feature article entitled Translators: Publishing’s unsung heroes at work under the FT's Emerging Voices report.

Here are some excerpts of special interest to translators:
A shift in the style of translation towards fluency and accessibility may also have helped. Specialists talk of a “domestication” of translations into an English that provides a smooth read rather than reproducing the quirks of the original. “There is a noticeable trend to try sounding like the living language as spoken,” says Cullen. (John Cullen translated into English from French the Algerian writer Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation , one of the African novels on the longlist of the FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices fiction award.)
Robin Moger, who translated Women of Karantina, by Egyptian writer Nael Eltoukhy, argues that there has been a particularly distinguishable shift in translations from Arabic, which was long dominated by a small group of university specialists.
“It was very academic, carried out by people on the mature side of middle age, who came from a place where literature is not read but consumed in academic circles as teaching aids,” he says. “I got a review from one who didn’t like the fact that the book reads fluently. But you are translating many other things apart from the work or the syntax. You are trying to relate enjoyment, tone and voice.”
“People don’t realise that apart from grappling with the grammar, you are stepping into a whole different culture. The reader shouldn’t feel it’s a translation, just that they are being taken somewhere else.” (says Melanie Mauthner who translated Scholastique Mukasonga, shortlisted for the Emerging Voices fiction award from French into English)
“Often it’s not the original language that makes translation difficult, but trying to work out what it will sound like in English,” she says. “It’s primarily about music — trying to make the music of English echo the music of the original.”

05 October 2015

So you think you know what "I understand the meaning" means do you?

Lucy Kellaway's Hands up if you can say what your company’s values are — subtitled Seventeen of Britain’s 100 best companies get along fine without listing corporate traits — is, IMHO, a brilliant example of what a brutally honest review of the odd custom of defining and promoting corporate values. Along the way — and probably of even greater interest to translators and other wordsmiths — is the way Lucy reveals that, at least where abstract words for corporate values and traits are concerned, it is very easy to feel that you understand what the words mean without actually understanding very much at all.

If you have the time and access to the FT, please read the whole article. If you don't, here a long excerpt of the main points of interest to wordsmiths (her links; my bold):
... all corporate values are much of a muchness. Maitland, the financial PR company, has just finished an audit of the values of the FTSE 100, and found that three words — integrity, respect and innovation — crop up over and over again.
What a splendid trio they sound. Alas, all are duds. Integrity is particularly feeble. It makes no sense to assert integrity as a value, as no one would ever dream of asserting the reverse. Respect sounds good, but is meaningless unless it is made clear (as it never is) who is meant to be respected. Some people deserve respect; others do not. And innovation makes its way on to the list more as a wish from frumpy companies to be seen as a little groovier.
Part of the trouble with values is that it isn’t clear what they are supposed to be doing. You could say they are there to tell the outside world how the company behaves (or would like to behave) and how that is different from other companies. This is a fine aim, but it doesn’t work for three reasons.
First, self-describing is always dodgy. If someone goes out of their way to tell me they are honest or creative, I immediately conclude the reverse. Second, far from being a point of difference, values make every company look the same, as there is only a finite list of desirable corporate traits. And third, public professions are a hostage to fortune. Volkswagen must be ruing the day it made “sustainability” a core value.
So how should the thinking translator respond when requested to translate a set of dud corporate values and their often pompous descriptions? Well, if you're on really good terms with someone high up in corporate communications you might try to open a conversation and refer your contact to Lucy's piece. This may even be mandatory if a value word used by the client is particularly difficult to translate or does not carry comparable connotations.

Otherwise, all you can do is translate the values and descriptions as best you can while bearing two points in mind. If translating into English, note first that the value words may gain weight if they are a degree or two less abstract and pompous; and second that the descriptions will definitely benefit from the same treatment.

03 October 2015

Orwell for interpreters and a ramble on translating technical journalism

Mary Fons I Fleming has posted an excellent piece entitled Orwell for Interpreters on the aiic website. Mary's selection of Orwellian quotes includes this gem for serious journalists and writers:
If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don’t have to hunt about for words; you also don’t have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences, since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be euphonious ... By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself ... [Ready-made phrases] will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself.

Orwell is followed by few TJs

The styles adopted by most technical journalists and in most of their work — and I stress the word 'most' in both instances — are less ambitious and less noble. Why? Because most TJs — apart from the odd flash of creativity reserved for headlines, subheadings and kickers — make frequent use to stale metaphors, similes and idioms while exploiting the rhythms and euphony of ready-made phrases. As Orwell says, these strategies save much mental effort. The price, as Orwell also points out, is ready-made thoughts that conceal a great deal from authors and readers alike.

Nor easily applicable to TJT

When the TJ's original is as just described, any TJ translator aiming higher than the straight-forward translation of the original's style and devices faces a challenge. By 'aiming higher' I mean striving for metaphors, similes and idioms in the target language that are less stale but not so innovative as to distract busy skim-readers. After many years' work in this area, I regretfully acknowledge that familiar devices and chunks have — despite the shortcomings pointed out by Orwell — save mental effort for all concerned (i.e. TJs, translators and their respective audiences) while offering rhythm and euphony.

With few TJs prepared, IMHO, to follow Orwell's demanding work ethic, it is hardly surprising that few TJ translators are able to produce target-language versions that scale these easily stated but nevertheless impressive heights.

As mentioned towards the end of Translation by emulation, take #1, acronyms and short-form terms, among other devices, also contribute to rhythm and euphony.

Such is the lot of TJ translators and the methods explained in Translation by emulation, take #1 and take #2.

Note: I use the abbreviation 'TJ' to mean either 'technical journalist' or 'technical journalism' and 'TJT' to mean 'technical journalism translator'.

29 September 2015

Negative first-person questions

Having recently encountered "Amn't I" in Irish short stories and in conversation with an Irishman, I was about to blog on the topic of "negative first-person questions" in English, but after a quick Google search and some interesting finds, I now see that all I need do is share some links. So here they are two of the best:
  • Amn’t I glad we use “amn’t” in Ireland? from Sentence first, an Irishman's blog about the English language. Excellent. The responses are also fascinating, not least on posted on 5 March 2014 by Malie who wrote: I grew up in Devon with ‘to be’ as an almost regular verb in the present tense (I be, thee best, he/she/it be (or bes), we/yous/they be) and the negative contraction is just ‘ben’t’ (or ‘bain’t), with the first-person question form being ‘ben’t I?’ often without the ‘t’ pronounced. ‘aren’t I?’ is one of those things that always trips me up a little in Standard English, ‘amn’t I?’ isn’t something I’d say but feels much…easier.
  • Amn't by Michael Quinion of World Wide Words includes a brief description of the related history of 'ain't' and 'aren't'
Note that The Story of Ain't on the Language Log is a review of a book by David Skinner. The review does not, however, say anything about the story of the contraction 'ain't'.

I note in passing that the only form I was ever aware of hearing or using in Australia for negative first-person questions is 'Aren't I?' This, despite the fact that H W Fowler, writing in 1926, commented on these contractions in A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, indicating that, for him, 'an’t' wasn’t yet extinct while 'aren’t' I didn’t yet exist.

I also note in passing that this post and these links give very short shrift to the notion often expressed by those learning English as a second language that English conjugations are very simple.

21 September 2015

The quality angel

Whether drafting, revising or proofreading, translators often engage in extended thought dialogue with an imaginary reader who is not only wise, bilingual and language sensitive, but also a severe judge of translation quality, communication skills, cultural adaptation and much more besides. She is, in a word, the quality angel on the translator's shoulder. In talking to her, translators justify and defend their renderings of important or especially challenging passages.

Even translators who have extended discussions picking through multiple aspects of key jobs with clients with communication skills approaching the quality angel's know that the angel must never be given a full hearing for fear of drowning the client in unnecessary detail. When a client query matches one of her exchanges with the translator, she does provide raw material to justify and defend choices.

So where is this heading? Well, while I haven't found an internet-accessible example of a discussion between a quality angel and a client, my readers might be interested in the following.

Quand l'anglais rend les entreprises du CAC 40 audacieuses ... par Grégoire Pinson, dans le numéro de Challenge du 3 septembre, présente une étude sur la traduction du français en anglais des messages des présidents dans les rapports annuels par Michaël Vallée, professeur associé à l’EDC Paris Business School, qui vient de paraître dans la revue Gérer & Comprendre de l’Ecole des mines. Surprise : les propos varient selon la langue utilisée. Tentative d’explication.

While Pinson's article is just a click away, Michaël Vallée's paper is not. All Gérer & Comprendre offers is the following résumé in French and its translation.

Voici le résumé :
La traduction du français en anglais transforme-t-elle le sens du discours des présidents des sociétés du CAC 40 ?
Michaël VALLÉE,
Enseignant-chercheur, EDC Paris Business School
Ce travail se propose de montrer des différences dans les traductions du français en anglais des messages des présidents des sociétés du CAC 40. Alors que la traduction en anglais devrait être le plus fidèle que possible au texte originel en français, on observe des contextes dans lesquels certains choix de traduction marquent de grandes différences. La tendance générale consiste à présenter en français l’entreprise de manière factuelle et neutre, alors que la traduction en anglais en donne une vision beaucoup plus positive et valorisante.
And here is Gérer & Comprendre's English abstract:
Does the translation from French into English of communications from corporate chairmen alter their meaning?
Michaël Vallée,
Research professor, EDC Paris Business School
The aim of this study is to show how the messages from the Board chairmen of companies listed on the CAC 40 (in the annual reports) are translated into English. Even though the translations should be very similar to the French messages, some noticeable variations can be found in English. It has been observed that companies are depicted in a factual and neutral way in French whereas the English translations reveal a more positive and encouraging way of describing it.
Allow me to add that I have read Vallée's paper closely and will have plenty to say should it beome readily accessible to the general public.

19 September 2015

Four miracles of translation

On 18 September fellow Iberia-based translator Brian Harris posted an excellent piece entitled The Four Miracles of Translation. Recommended reading. Brian's blog is called Unprofessional Translation.

04 September 2015

anglocom, Canada: Best practice LSE

There are many language service enterprises, or LSEs, also know as 'translation agencies', but there is only one anglocom This Canadian company's exemplary website — with the faces of some of its translators and writers right there at the top of the homepage — features clear statements promoting an impressive added-value proposition.
Clever logo too!

Be sure to check out their excellent publications:

01 September 2015

Country qualifiers and the like

My colleagues at WLF Think Tank– producers of 101 things a translator needs to know – have been thinking about 'country qualifiers' and the like.

So far, we have simply compiled questions, comments and observations.

Some examples

Headlines from today's Financial Times (my bold):
Google under fire for India market abuse
India faith census spurs debate
US to hit Chinese hackers with sanctions
An example from The Guardian on 15 July 2014:
Germany team return to heroes' welcome before Brandenburg Gate
(compare the headline with the first words in the second paragraph).
In the case of sports teams, "England" and "Germany" players go by that name precisely because they play for England or Germany. The country is not so much a qualifier, as a descriptor that tells us that they play for the England or Germany team. In other words England or Germany stands for "the England team" and "the German team", respectively.
  • Victoria, Australia, has its "Victoria Police".
  • The European Patent Office uses expressions like "the United Kingdom delegate / contingent / view".
  • Americans say "California wines", not "Californian wines". Indeed, Americans, apparently, seldom use the adjective Californian ("California weather", "California beaches", etc.).
  • Adjective forms of country qualifiers are the only ones used when naming currencies, embassies, presidents, etc..
  • India vs. Indian are especially useful in North America and India.
  • Some country names have no adjectival form in English, so leave no option (e.g. US, UK and their long forms; also Luxembourg).

Questions, comments and observations


  • Is the term 'country qualifier' the best way to identify the issue? Given that it doesn't produce any hits with Google, it may not.
  • Have others observed a recent increase in the use of 'country qualifiers' in noun form rather than the traditional adjective forms?
  • The distinctions the different forms make clear are fairly obvious but have any academics or others written about the phenomenon?

  • Noun forms clearly appeal to headline editors.
  • Euphony is often, it would appear, an unconscious driver.
  • Political correctness is sometimes a factor. Consider India(n).
  • Some country names and adjectives pose special problems. Example: Argentina, Argentine, Argentinian.

31 August 2015

Tips for translators: stop multitasking

Here are some tips to help translators increase productivity and reduce stress. They are inspired by new findings in neuroscience and by It's time to pay attention which was broadcast by Australia's Radio National program Big Ideas. The program blurb reads in part:
For many of us modern life is lived at a frenetic pace and is full of countless distractions. It’s compounded by increasing demands of work and the 24/7 digital age.
Authors Martina Sheehan and Susan Pearse have taken this contemporary challenge head on and at the launch of their new book One Moment they offer some advice on how to slow down, be present and start paying attention to what is actually going around you.
The tips I draw from this program and other reading on neuroscience are:

  • Stop trying to multitask. It has been conclusively demonstrated that it reduces rather than improves overall productivity, particularly for intellectually demanding tasks like translation.
  • Strive for blocks of translation time with minimal distractions as the impact of switching your attention to other tasks or allowing your mind to wander has been shown to be far greater than most people realise.
  • Turn off all alerts, warnings, sounds and popups displayed on your screen(s) by non-critical applications, including email software, Skype, Twitter and Facebook.
  • If you're working on a job, avoid dealing with email first thing in the morning. It's too likely to give rise to stress and distraction. Leave it for later.
  • Deal with email and other communication tasks in specific blocks of time. One option is a block before a scheduled breaks for exercise.

More: Multi-tasking: how to survive in the 21st century

There is ample evidence in favour of the proposition that we should focus on one thing at a time.
Another study ... suggested that we are also poor judges of our ability to multitask.
... But don't settle for the quotes. This longish article goes into considerable detail and makes a number of useful distinctions, including four definitions. Recommended.

26 August 2015

'Strategic communication': FT definition

Today's addition to the FT Lexicon is of special interest to my target audience (my caps and highlighting):
Strategic communication: Communication is strategic when it is completely consistent with a corporation’s mission, vision, values and is able to enhance the strategic positioning and competitiveness of the organisation.
The most important concept to understand in relation to communication strategy is that communication should be seen from the audience’s perspective. One way to think about this is each time a person or organisation communicates, they should ask themselves the following question: “As a result of this communication, my audience will…”
Interviews with chief executive officers and other c-suite executives, such as the chief financial officer, show that strategic communication must be clear, true, repeated, consistent and delivered with passion.
For more, see strategic communication.

This definition is immediately relevant to my previous post New 'Description' box (see below) in that this blog is primarily for translators who are invited to (or hope one day to be invited to) express their opinion about a client's communication strategy in their target language. I am aware that this does not happen very often, but hope that it will become more common in future. In France, too many companies still base their communication strategy on a corporate perspective rather than their audience's perspective. The difference is both enormous and strategic.

New 'Description' box

Following my post on Particularités de la traduction du texte de presse and the clarifications discussed concerning my target audience, I have changed my the contents of my Description box from
A blog for translators, translation buyers and others interested in the special challenges of translating technical journalism between French and English (and to a certain extent between other western European languages). It is also a repository for occasional items on topics of interest to translators and linguists in general.
This blog focuses on a small niche in the language services market, namely for the adaptation between French and English (and to some extent other language pairs) of technical journalism for clients who seek to influence a clearly definied readership. Typical projects include website localisation, press releases and technical articles designed to shape opinions rather than simply inform. My blog is also a repository for occasional items of interest to translators and linguists in general.

25 August 2015

How the French think

Award-winning historian and fellow in politics at Balliol College, Oxford, Sudhir Hazareesingh has written and is actively promoting a book entitled How the French think: An affectionate portrait of an intellectual people and subtitled Why the life of the mind is so important in France.

Virtually every point made by Hazareesingh can have an impact on the way the French write a novel or draft technical journalism. Translators working from French need to understand why the French typically take a top-down or deductive approach, why they seek the highest possible level of synthèse, why they prefer generic terms to more precise ones and why even the chapô of an eminently technical article often seek to express both an overarching framework and a high-level synthèse in just one or two lofty sentences.

Each of these traits presents the translator — and more specifically the translator with a mandate to convince or influence on the client's behalf — with a range of challenges, the first being to maintain (and if so, in what form) or discard?

You can listen to Sudhir Hazareesingh discussing How the French think on Australia's Radio National program Big Ideas. The program blurb reads:
In an affectionate portrait of an intellectual people, Sudhir Hazareesingh explores the rich history of French thought from the enlightenment through to modern times. He also examines some of the social and cultural constructs that characterise it and offers his thoughts on how this perceived downturn might be reversed.
On 14 July 2015, the London-based RSA wrote:
A nation renowned for its central ideals of citizenship, progress and social justice, and with a history of confident and often brazen optimism, has now been seized by a mood of introspection and doubt.
Award-winning author and academic Sudhir Hazareesingh explores the reasons behind the recent loss of confidence in the creativity of French public thinkers, and asks how might this nation’s once globally influential intellectual heritage be revived?
The Economist's review, dated 13 June 2015, was entitled They think, therefore they are.
The FT's review can be found here.

French-English glossary of naval defence, v17

Below you will find a link to v17 of my  French-English Glossary of Naval Technology  dated October 2019. This glossary or lexicon is ...