Do you need an ‘Olá’ or an ‘Oi’? How to make sure you are really speaking to your target market.

Do you need an ‘Olá’ or an ‘Oi’? How to make sure you are really speaking to your target market.

Believe it or not, one of our most popular questions from clients is which languages they actually need to translate their materials into. This may seem obvious on the surface, but it can often bring up the least obvious of answers. Take a look at our top recommendations for getting your language choice right:

1. Check which languages are spoken in your target country.

Even if there is only one official language, there may be a number of co-official regional languages to consider, as in the case of Spain. You may be missing a trick if you are launching a marketing campaign in Spain and neglect to provide a translation in Catalan, for example, which is essential for capturing the imagination of a Catalan audience, particularly when considering that all important hub of Barcelona.

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How to sell the benefits of yourself as a human translator

Reports last week claimed that 40% of jobs would be replaced by machines by 2030, and that they will be able to ‘translate and interpret text quicker than humans’.

Many companies already use machine translation to provide quick and free translations of their websites and other materials, so it is down to us as language service providers along with our team of trusty translators to explain the added value of human translation.

But where do we start explaining to a company with their eye on the bottom line why they should invest in professional translation? Here are a few of our suggestions:

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Writing for translation

bookcountriesThe London-based author Kazuo Ishiguro writes with translation in mind. ‘I want my words to survive translation,’ he says. ‘I know when I write a book now I will have to go and spend three days being intensely interrogated by journalists in Denmark or wherever. That fact, I believe, informs the way I write – with those Danish journalists leaning over my shoulder.’

Ishiguro concedes that the process of globalisation, of appealing to and ensuring that one is understood by audiences around the world, may lead to a ‘greyness’ of language: ‘There are a lot of things I don’t write now. I stop myself writing certain things because I think, for instance, that it wouldn’t work once it’s translated out of English. You can think of a line that’s brilliant in English — with a pun or two, you know — but of course it becomes nonsense once translated into a different language, so I don’t use it.’

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Does a second language open the door to business success?

Following news that the popularity of language learning is declining year on year (The Telegraph), it’s clear that less young people are considering modern foreign languages to be an important consideration for their future careers. Yet ongoing research consistently suggests that this doesn’t match up to the needs and expectations of UK Business.

Back in 2013, the British Council published a report in which they pinpointed ten languages that would be crucial for the UK’s long-term prosperity, security and influence, using various indicators such as export trade, emerging markets and diplomatic concerns. The results were as follows (in order of importance):

1 Spanish
2 Arabic
3 French
4 Mandarin Chinese
5 German
6 Portuguese
7 Italian
8= Russian
8= Turkish
10 Japanese

The report found that 75% of the adults polled were unable to hold a conversation in any of the languages highlighted, and the British Academy declared the UK to be trapped in a ‘vicious cycle of monolingualism’ whereby Brits would become excluded from international negotiations and business opportunities. (more…)

How to Avoid a Branding Blunder

Following the decision of a Judge in France to prevent parents from naming their baby girl ‘Nutella’, this has sparked debate over words that should be deemed suitable, and indeed unsuitable, to be used as a name. In this case, the French courts deemed that the name would ‘lead to teasing or disparaging thoughts’ (BBC News) due to its association with the popular hazelnut spread.

This certainly isn’t the first case of its kind, but brings to mind an interesting point regarding our word associations and the power held within language. There are few instances where this becomes more apparent than in the translation world. (more…)

Académie Française elect controversial member

The Académie Française, the most prestigious institution for language and literature in France has elected Alain Finkielkraut as its most recent immortal.

 

The Académie was established in 1635 and consists of 40 members, known as les immortels (immortals). This elected body acts as the official authority on the French language and publishes the official dictionary. In recent years it appears these “language police” have been fighting to eliminate Anglicisms. They discourage borrowing words from other languages and as a result have condemned the use of terms such as score, email and ASAP. The immortals consider this to be 21st-century rubbish, and encourage the French to use the traditional words, marquer, courriel and dès que possible.  (more…)

“Bestie” and “E-ticket” are now in the Oxford English Dictionary

 

Since The Millenium the Oxford English Dictionary has added new words every 3 months in order to keep-up with modern times.  In this latest revision, a bumper crop of over 900 new entries including “beatboxer” and “Old Etonian” have been approved by the publication.

So why do we have so many new words?

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Which type of Chinese do you need?

In the localisation industry we frequently come across misconceptions about the Chinese language, where and how it is used, and other queries relating to Chinese culture. Being a Mandarin speaker and card-carrying Sinophile, I feel duty-bound to try to set the record straight and try to end the confusion if I can, so intend to do this through a series of blog posts and other articles that we’ll share with you over the next few months.

Feel free to comment and ask any questions you’d like answered or have always wondered about – I’ll do my best to answer!

Without further ado, here is my response to the most common question that arises: Which type of Chinese do I need? (more…)

Why some languages sound faster than others

It is a common misconception that languages are spoken at different speeds, Spanish certainly sounds like it is being spoken at 100mph but does that actually mean it is faster, or does its flowing nature lead you in to a false sense of security?

Understanding

If you don’t understand a language, it is bound to sound like it is being spoken quickly. If you don’t comprehend the dynamics of the language or how the noises you are hearing are separated in to words, how can you possibly ascertain the speed of what is being spoken? (more…)

Moghrey mie

Not quite sure how to pronounce that? Well, then you must not be one of the 1,823 people with some knowledge of Manx Gaelic. (Figure according to the 2011 census)

With only a few hundred competent speakers in the Isle of Man, the Manx Heritage Foundation, along with other groups, is trying to increase the number of Manx Gaelic speakers. As part of the plan to celebrate the island’s year of culture, residents are being encourage learn 1,000 Manx Gaelic words in 2014.

By learning 20 words every week for 12 months, people will have a vocabulary of over 1,000 words. Manx Language Officer, Adrian Cain, said “A thousand words is enough to have some basic conversational knowledge of the Manx Gaelic language.” This is true of other languages as well, so if Manx Gaelic isn’t your language of choice, pick another one and get learning!

Here are a few Manx Gaelic basics to get you started:
moghrey mie (good morning) fastyr mie (good afternoon) oie vie (good night)

Defining and measuring linguistic quality

Quality is a word which is thrown around loosely, in many different contexts. What one person considers to be quality, another may not.

This is especially true with something as subjective as translation. People interpret language differently, and translation quality is often judged on subjective criteria such as style and choice of terminology. Some aspects of translation are are objective, however. ‘Yes’ translated as ‘no’ is clearly wrong, for example.

The Project Management Institute’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (4th edition) defines quality as “the degree to which a product meets the specified requirements.” The International Organization for Standardization says quality is “determined by comparing a set of inherent characteristics with a set of requirements. If those inherent characteristics do not meet all requirements, a low or poor level of quality is achieved.” Both of these definitions include the concept of quality as a scale, with varying degrees, and also state that there must be a set of defined specifications to provide a point of reference on the scale.

Just because a translation accurately conveys the intended meaning of the original source text does not necessarily make it good quality – a quality translation is more than just maintaining meaning – it has to meet the defined specifications and be fit for purpose.

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Speak to the future – learn 1000 words in another language

A new campaign entitled “Speak to the future” aims to encourage language-phobic Brits to learn 1000 words of a foreign language. The campaign, backed by the British Council and European Commission, among many other organisations and businesses, aims to get more people learning a basic level of another language, with the hope that many will continue to higher levels of fluency once they gain confidence.

A vocabulary of 1000 words in a second language makes it possible to have a simple conversation, and creates the building blocks to further learning of a language. Many British people are unable to speak a second language, and sadly due to changes in educational policy over the last decade, fewer school pupils are learning a foreign language at GCSE level.

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Happy European Day of Languages!

Did you know that English pigs and German pigs speak the same language?  But not cows, as German cows say "muh"

Did you know that English pigs and German pigs speak the same language? But not cows; German cows say “muh”

Can you speak fluent Pig Latin? It’s not one of the 200+ European languages celebrated today as part of the European Union’s “European Day of Languages”, but it does work well as a secret language. This is especially true in Britain, where it doesn’t seem as popular as in America. So, if you don’t speak Icelandic or Esperanto, I’d recommend brushing up on your Ig-pay Atin-lay for top-secret conversations.

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Untranslatable words

untranslatable-words   Image credit: Ella Frances Sanders, Maptia

Localise for Brazil or Portugal; don't localise into Portuguese

brittonprocolIt is essential to tailor your translated websites to a particular market, taking into account the country as well as the language. If you want to sell your products in Brazil, for example, translating your site into Brazilian Portuguese, as opposed to European Portuguese, is vital. Any on-page and off-page Search Engine Optimisation should also target Brazil specifically. Popular search terms vary widely from one country to another, even when the same language is spoken, so keyword research should be carried out based exclusively on Brazilian search data.

When Britton Procol contacted Web-Translations about creating microsites in five languages, they were clear that they wanted to target Brazil. Keyword research was carried out by our in-house team in order to determine two good keywords for on-page optimisation, based on Brazilian search engine statistics. The website copy was also localised for the Brazilian dialect of Portuguese. We work with linguists from around the world with a wide range of specialisations, and Project Manager Dominic McGrath assigned the translation work to a Brazilian Portuguese technical translator who has worked with Web-Translations for nearly five years.

Britton Procol Valves offer a selection of quality valves, consisting of slide valves, iris valves, rotary valves, butterfly valves, blowing seals, gravity diverter valves and pneumatic conveying diverters which are available in a range of sizes, modes of operation and materials of construction. Microsites are now live for Germany, Poland, Japan, Brazil and Spain.

Can a cow be a box?

I don’t think a cow can be a box, but I recently spotted a child’s toy that did describe a cow as a box:

WP_000011

The toy is a shape-sorter in the form of a cow, and is described in French as a ‘boîte à formes’, which is translated as ‘sorting box’ in English on the packaging. In French, ‘boîte’ means a rigid container, among other things. (For a complete list, try WordReference.com). However in English, ‘box’ means a rigid rectangular container. A cow is definitely not rectangular, and I wouldn’t call a cow a ‘box’! Perhaps it could have been better described as ‘shape-sorter’.

I imagine that the French text for this packaging was included in a long list of product names and descriptions, and that the translator did not have access to images, and so chose the most logical translation of ‘boîte à formes’. Unfortunately it was not the best option, in my opinion. Perhaps if the translator had been provided with images, they would have translated it differently.

If Jeremy Clarkson says it, it must be true…

Jeremy Clarkson often comes across as arrogant and opinionated, so although I usually disagree with him and his attempts to turn cars into spacecraft and otherwise waste my TV license fee, I will have to admit that I agree with him about one thing…

“When I see a sign advertising CD’s and DVD’s, I become so angry that my teeth start to fall out”

– Jeremy Clarkson as quoted in Monday’s Metro

However, I’m not sure whether overuse of the apostrophe is actually worse than eliminating them altogether, which is what the Mid Devon District Council did earlier this month when it officially banned them from street names. Also, the current BBC drama Prisoners’ Wives is correctly listed as such on the iPlayer, but when you watch the opening credits, the apostrophe disappears! Tsk tsk.

As a Project Manager, I have often found that translators whose native language is not English are excellent grammarians and do a fabulous job of spotting errant apostrophes (and other mistakes) in English texts. Perhaps we can hire translators to teach English in our schools, to work for the BBC, and to work for our councils!




It’s all about the grammar…

If you haven’t seen the latest BBC drama Restless, then turn away now! Or better yet, catch it on iPlayer. Not only was it partly set in my hometown of Las Cruces, New Mexico, but it was full of period costumes from the 40s and 60s, with plenty of spies popping out from behind trees.

The turning point of episode two centred on a German map which the main character, a British spy, was supposed to pass on to an another spy while in Las Cruces. She was only supposed to obtain the map and pass it on. However, she decided to look over the map and noticed that the German text had grammatical and spelling errors. This set off a whole chain of events and she nearly ended up beng killed.

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Google Translate Used in Terror Investigation

Broken records be damned, because it apparently needs stating again; it’s not okay to use machines for important translation. Included in the very long list of things that count as “important” are things like medical records, immigration documents, and transcripts being presented in the course of a terrorism investigation by the police.

 

…yeah. In Denmark, police used Google Translate to present a suspect with a text message which it later transpired meant something entirely different. The Internet giant’s machine translation is widely accepted as a leader of its pack, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to rely on it. It might be a clever computer, but it’s still a computer.

 

Maybe this all needs to happen. If you knew nothing about the law, the chances are you wouldn’t sue somebody and represent yourself using a free PDF as your guide. If you knew nothing about medicine, you wouldn’t perform surgery on yourself after a quick Wikipedia search. So why do people think that linguistic solutions are one click away, courtesy of an algorithm?

 

“The police said no other documents had been translated using Google Translate,” but it’s hard not to be skeptical. That’s the thing about machine translation – it’s 90% accurate, but the other 10% is really, really going to hurt.

"Slave earrings" translation blunder causes great offence

Vogue Italia has been widely criticised for the feature it ran on its blog this Monday, a piece entitled “Slave Earrings” that has since been removed.

The post read: “Jewellery has always flirted with circular shapes, especially for use in making earrings. The most classic models are the slave and creole styles in gold hoops.”

It continued: “If the name brings to the mind the decorative traditions of the women of colour who were brought to the southern United States during the slave trade, the latest interpretation is pure freedom. Colored stones, symbolic pendants and multiple spheres. And the evolution goes on.” (more…)

In the mood for foreign films?

It’s a comment you may have heard expressed before by many native English speakers: despite possessing an interest in foreign films and a willingness to embrace their ‘quirkiness’, it sometimes feels as though you have to be “in the mood” to watch them. After watching a French film the other night and hearing my housemate make this exact comment, my thoughts consequently drifted to how world cinema seems to have rapidly gained popularity over the last ten years in the U.K. (more…)

A name of two halves? Not in Brazil…

It’s difficult to argue that football is not a truly international sport. The conventions used around the world to name players, however, vary widely, and serve as a useful reminder that you can’t directly translate one word into its foreign equivalent. Different cultures express things in different ways – in fact they often express subtly different things full stop. In trying to explain the differences we come across a number of the social, cultural and economic factors that influence language.

When I was at primary school there was a persistent belief in the playground that Brazilian footballers only had one name. I understand where it came from – some of the greats have been known by one word: Pelé, Zico, Ronaldinho (Ronaldinho Gaúcho in Brazil). (more…)

10 Invented Languages and Why People Use Them

Common languages had to begin somewhere and then evolved into what we understand and use today. So, are languages still being created? Invented? And why would someone prefer to use an invented language over a familiar language? This list of 10 invented languages will hopefully answer some of those questions.  (more…)

Domain names are going global

Until last year, domain names could only be created using Latin characters a-z and numbers 1-9. This excluded accented characters and scripts such as Arabic, Chinese and Korean. In 2010, the use of non-Latin scripts in domain names was enabled, limited at first to the use of the country’s name in the official language.

Just how important is it to have domain names in various languages? We have previously discussed the importance of translating a website (obviously something we believe in!) in order to reach a wider audience, and surely domain names are an extension of that. Do Arabic speakers trust sites with domain names ending in .com or .co.uk? According to recent reports by the BBC, whilst some argue that domain names are becoming less important, given the ever-increasing popularity of social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook, others believe a good domain name is a sign of the importance and standing of a website. If potential visitors are discouraged from visiting a site that is only available in another language, surely the same applies to domain names? (more…)

Sweden’s genderless pre-school bans ‘he’ and ‘she’

The question of gender and its importance in language and society has recently been raised following the banning of the terms ‘he’ and ‘she’ at a Swedish pre-school.  The school – named ‘Egalia’ – introduced the measure to allow children to develop regardless of their gender.  Teachers at the school in Stockholm refer to the children by their names, as ‘friends’ or by using the term ‘hen’, a unisex pronoun borrowed from the Finnish language, rather than using gender-specific pronouns.

This news has sparked debate worldwide regarding the importance of gender stereotypes, typical roles of men and women, and benefits and disadvantages of the policy in terms of child development.  From a language point of view, it also raises the topic of personal pronouns, gender, and whether the two are always necessary and how commonly they are used. (more…)

Counting the cost of bad spelling and grammar

Your about to by somthing from an online store. The product looks great, the price is good, but somthing is definately wrong…

Before you post a comment to correct my spelling, the mistakes above are intentional. But the BBC reports that Charles Duncombe, a successful British e-commerce entrepreneur, reckons errors like these this could be cutting business’s sales revenue in half.

Admittedly, this was not a large scale study with academically rigorous data but the results are emphatic. Duncombe measured revenue on his tightsplease.co.uk site and found that after a prominent spelling mistake was corrected, it doubled.

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The importance of a phrasebook on holiday…

Recent reports have explained how a Polish man recently spent 18 days in São Paolo’s airport.  Having arrived at the airport on a flight from London the 17th June, he finally left the airport on Tuesday 5th July.  In a story reminiscent of the Tom Hanks film “The Terminal” (though without the appearance of Catherine Zeta Jones, as far as I’m aware), Robert Wladyslaw Parzelski arrived at the airport, on a mission to go to Brazil and then return to England with two telephones.  Why he was undertaking this trip with this particular goal in mind is, as yet, unknown. (more…)

Crowdsourcing and machine translation: the start of a beautiful friendship

Machine-aided translation is one of those things people love to hate. Despite the best efforts of enthusiasts like myself, the majority of computer users still believe that machines are useless translators.

The whole area of machine translation has a terrible image problem. There are endless jokes and “true” stories about computer translation failures. Some of these are very funny (like the machine that apparently translated the English saying “out of sight, out of mind” into “invisible idiot” in Russian). However with a little crowdsourcing help, I suspect the machines may have the last laugh. (more…)

Britain under-represented in European Union Institutions

European Union institutions are currently under-represented by British natives, in part due to low-level language skills. Just 5% of positions in the European Parliament and Commission are filled by Britons, despite the United Kingdom comprising 12% of the total population of the European Union.

English is commonly used as a universal language in international situations and, as we commented in a previous post, the number of students of foreign languages in other European countries is high above the figure in the United Kingdom. What’s amazing to me is that some people still argue that there is no need for native English speakers to learn other languages, when in conducting international relationships with other EU countries, understanding another language, culture and country is paramount. As Michael Shackleton, Head of the London European Parliament Office, commented “The balance of the use of language has been in favour of English, but to understand what people are thinking about you also have to get a sense of them and how they see the world.” (more…)

How important are accents?

We often comment on actors’ accents when they play a character of a different nationality.  Some, such as Hugh Laurie as an American in ‘House’ do it very well, whilst others aren’t quite as successful.  Nicolas Cage in ‘Captain Correlli’s Mandolin’ and Kevin Costner in ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ are two actors that have been mocked for their fake accents. (more…)

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Nothing beats a good pun!

Eating penguin chocolate bars with a couple of Spanish friends the other day got me thinking about jokes, puns and play on words in general. The Spanish translation of the word “pun” is “juego de palabras”, meaning literally “word game”, which sums up just what a pun is. Having always been interested in language and humour, I am a big fan of word jokes, and feel particularly proud of myself when I make what I consider to be an amusing pun (though others might disagree…).

We regularly groan at puns printed on the front pages of tabloid newspapers, and at the jokes printed on penguin wrappers and in Christmas crackers. Last year in fact, The Sun newspaper held a competition to see if its readers could “Out-pun the Sun”, inviting readers to give their best suggestions. Shakespeare used puns in Romeo and Juliet, and puns also appear in Harry Potter and James Bond books, which are internationally popular and have been successfully translated into many languages. Idioms and puns often have similar equivalents in languages with a common root, but there’s always a challenge for the translator to convey the original meaning, and this is why literary translation in particular is such a specialised and highly-prized skill. (more…)

Maltese language rarely used on the internet

A lot of websites on the internet are available in more than one language, and some in a number of different languages.  This is a topic that features every now and then on this blog, as we comment on which languages are most popular, how the languages in which a website are available affect the traffic to a website, and so on.

One language that doesn’t get much press or attention is Maltese.  Maltese is a very interesting language; about half of its vocabulary is borrowed from Italian and Sicilian, and English words make up as much as 20% of its vocabulary.  (more…)

Can we communicate solely through gestures?

To those who say communication is key in a successful relationship… Katie Price, aka English glamour model Jordan, has proved you wrong…

Just in case you are not up-to-date on Jordan’s latest romantic liaisons, she is currently dating an Argentinian named Leandro Penna.  As reported in The Guardian, in a recent interview she gave, it conspired that the couple do not talk as they do not share a common language, and that actions do apparently speak louder than words.  An example given by Leandro is that sometimes he will be sitting and moving his head, and Jordan will realise that he is looking for the remote control.  She also commented that “In the car, I’ll think, I bet he wants his glasses, just before he asks for his glasses.”  (This does raise the question: how does he ask for his glasses if he can’t speak English and she can’t speak Spanish?!  In addition, if he can ask for them, why does it matter that she thought that’s what he was going to ask before he did so?!) (more…)

Europe by Numbers

An interesting guide to Europe featured in the Guardian, entitled “Europe by Numbers: the complete interactive guide” shows the variation in statistics throughout countries within Europe. Did you know, for example, that the populations of Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom account for over half of the 501 million strong population of the European Union member countries? Or that Austria has the highest number of practising physicians per 100,000 inhabitants, with 459, whilst the UK lags behind with 257.7? (more…)

Do the British mean what they say?

A Spanish friend recently sent me the link to an article published online.  This “guide” explains to the rest of Europe what British people really mean when they say certain things, and what others understand by what has been said.

For example, according to this article, when a British person says “You must come to dinner”, the real meaning is “It’s not an invitation, I’m just being polite”, whilst the listener will think “I will get an invitation soon”.  Obviously, this is an extreme generalisation, but I have to admit, it does ring some bells.  If you accidentally bump into someone and they say “we must do lunch” or “we must get a coffee one day”, chances are you won’t set eyes on them again until you accidentally bump into them again… (more…)

Does the way you speak affect your compatibility with your partner?

Recent research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that couples who speak in a similar way are more suited to each other than those who don’t. (more…)

Is the Government right to consider removing a foreign language from the curriculum?

As schools contemplate the removal of a second language from the national curriculum, the fast approaching Olympic Games should actually be reminding us of the importance of languages.

The government’s decision to include French as a core language at the Games demonstrates the significance of languages and communication in today’s society.

With every word spoken at the games repeated in French, Great Britain will seem diverse, cultured, and prepared for the international visitors who have arrived on our doorstep to watch the games. Can we say the same about our school pupils, however? (more…)

Vote for our blog! 2011 "Language Lovers" voting opens

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We are honoured to be part of this list for the 3rd year running – if you like reading our blog, please vote using the button below, or use this link.

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Mr Prawo Jazdy

You would think that, with all the resources they have at their disposal, the police in Ireland would be able to translate text in the blink of an eye, to ensure no embarrassing mistakes are made. It would seem, however, that such mistakes are not always avoided…

Back in 2007, police in Ireland took note of over 50 people with the name “Prawo Jazdy”. A popular name in Ireland? A common name among Poles who have emigrated to Ireland? Or, alternatively, the Polish translation of “driving licence”?

It is, of course, the latter. “Prawo Jazdy” was originally believe to be the name of one person who had repeatedly committed offences, until it became clear that the same name had been used on numerous occasions in order to refer to a number of different people. As a result, the police system contained over 50 people with the name “Prawo Jazdy”. Finally, upon investigating this seemingly unlikely occurrence, police discovered that this is actually the Polish for “driving licence”.

Whilst this mishap may have occurred a few years ago, it is a story that we can all learn a valuable lesson from – translation is vital!

Proof that spelling does matter!

In response to a previous article, I think we can answer that yes, spelling does matter! A vast number of news sources have proclaimed the recent news that Osama Bin Laden has been killed, some with more success than others…

A headline on Fox News on May 1st read “Obama Bin Laden dead”. Whilst this may have been an honest typing mistake (despite the letters “s” and “b” appearing quite a distance from each other on a standard keyboard…), it has certainly raised questions among journalists, bloggers, tweeters, and the public throughout the world. As Shea Bennett commented on mediabistro.com, “it’s not as if they haven’t played around with the similarity (absurd as that connection is) between Osama Bin Laden and President Obama’s names before.”

Fox News were not alone in this error. Spanish newspaper El País claimed that “Obama Bin Laden ha muerto” and even the BBC stated “Obama dead” – an even more catastrophic error given that the rest of the name was not included in this headline!

So I think we can safely conclude that attention to detail, particularly in terms of spelling, is important. Whilst in some cases the context, image or rest of the sentence can reassure the reader that a mistake is a mistake, in other cases there are no such clues, and as a result, incorrect information is given. So take heed, and proofread!

Football proves popular with foreign tourists

According to research carried out last year by Visit Britain, “foreign tourists spend £2.3 billion a year watching and playing sport”.  Unsurprisingly, football is the main sporting attraction in Britain, with matches throughout the country attracting 1.2 million foreign visitors in 2008 (the most recent year with complete figures).  A percentage of these were from English-speaking countries: 267,000 were Irish, 95,000 were American and 55,000 Australian.  However, a large number of these spectators were from non-English speaking countries: 88,000 Germans, 86,000 Norwegians, 75,000 Spanish, 65,000 Italians, 52,000 Dutch, 46,000 French and 39,000 Swedes. (more…)

Endangered language at risk of extinction

A language that has been spoken for centuries in modern-day Mexico is at risk of extinction as only two elderly people can speak it fluently – and they’re not talking to each other! Ayapaneco is the official name of this language, but is known as Nuumte Oote (The True Voice) by the two remaining speakers.

In the 20th century, there were a number of decades during which the use of indigenous languages was prohibited, and Spanish became the language of education. Following urbanisation and migration in the second half of the century, the close-knit group that had used the language gradually dispersed, and as a result, fewer and fewer people spoke the language. (more…)

Live Translation – new file upload feature

Real-time online translation service Live Translation has a new improvement – you can also now upload files to get a free quote and buy your translation at any time of day or night.

The file upload feature can handle any common document file type: Word, PDF (with selectable text), txt file, Excel…

Your file will be returned to you in your chosen format, usually within just a few hours.

Register for a free account now and we’ll give you the first 50 words for free:

http://w-t.cm/LiveTrans

Here Comes the Bride…

The greatly anticipated event is almost upon us… with so much hype surrounding the big event, we couldn’t not comment on it! Very soon, Prince William and Kate Middleton will tie the knot in front of nearly 2,000 guests at Westminster Abbey, and what promises to be a vast number of people via television and internet. With so many people wanting to be involved, from all over the world, multilingual communication is in high demand. The monarchy has long been an extremely popular tourist attraction for foreign visitors, and there are a huge number of non-English speakers who want to be able to watch and understand the wedding of the year. (more…)

Does spelling matter?

When contemplating the topic of spelling and its importance, I idly wondered how many spelling mistakes appear in journalism. Surely, as examples of high-quality writing composed by the most talented journalists in the country, newspapers, both in their paper and online form, should be free from errors, particularly orthographic errors?

I decided to have a look at the Daily Mail website, and within minutes of browsing articles, I found an error, unless of course I am mistaken and the flashes of light that go hand in hand with thunder are flashes of “lightening”. Some may argue that the spelling mistake does not detract from the information given, and that a reader would still understand what was meant (in this case, that Kate Hudson’s dress has lightning motifs on it). However, surely that does not excuse the error that appeared in a national newspaper? Readers would only understand the word by recognising it as being similar to the correct word “lightning” and realise that this is the intended meaning.

So just how important is spelling? Even though not a single word in the following paragraph is spelt correctly, we can still read it:
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch by the Lngiusiitc Dptanmeret at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

So if we just need the first and last letters to be correct in order to be able to understand a word, does the order of the letters in the middle matter?

When translating text, spelling is extremely important. Correct spelling is necessary in order to ensure that the translator, who will be translating from a language that is not their own, can understand exactly what the author of the text wants to say. One letter out of place could potentially change the whole meaning of a word and therefore a sentence. In addition, for foreign readers, who are making the effort to learn English, it is important that they learn the correct spelling of words. If there is a word they are unsure of, they would presumably believe the spelling that appears in a newspaper, thus incorrectly learning a piece of English vocabulary.

The question of technology should also be addressed. Are computers partly to blame for spelling mistakes we make? With the ever-increasing use of spellcheckers, not just in Office applications now, but also in various email sites, are we becoming too reliant on them? Do we think that we can get away with not learning how to spell correctly, as we know that the computer will correct any errors we commit? Are spelling mistakes in the press merely typing errors? Should we go back to pen and paper and photocopies? Or is spelling not that important after all? In my humble opinion, it is, it is an inherent part of the English language, that is at risk of being compromised due to laziness and lack of care. I think spelling should be one of the most important parts of any English lesson given to school children, so that our language continues to flourish and be passed from generation to generation correctly.

Apologies, rant over… just don’t get me started on apostrophes…

How many words are in your vocabulary?

I have to say, if asked, I would find it difficult to say how many Spanish or French words I know. An article on the BBC website reported that Fabio Capello recently claimed he uses just 100 English words to communicate with players. (more…)

Should the German language use English words?

The question of the introduction of anglicisms into foreign languages is not new, it has long been a polemic, controversial topic about which many feel strongly. Words such as “le weekend”, “das Marketing” and “un hobby” spring to mind. Recently, German linguists have expressed fears that the introduction of more and more English vocabulary could be dangerous for the future of the German language.

The German Language Association, Verein Deutsche Sprache (VDS), makes monthly updates to its “Anglicism Index” to include English words that have been recently incorporated into the German spoken word. They then suggest German alternatives for these words. Recent additions to the VDS list include “follower” and “live-stream”, words for which there also exist German equivalents.

Opinion is currently divided regarding the threat that the introduction of English words carries to the German language. VDS spokesman, Holger Klatte, recently commented: “Particularly in the areas of technology, medicine, the internet and the economy, English is becoming ever more important.” He also stated: “There are not enough new German words being invented, and many people find they are excluded from the conversation because they can’t understand it.”

Not everyone is in agreement with VDS and the threat English poses to the German language. The Managing Director of the Society for the German Language (Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache), Andrea-Eva Ewels, comments that “only 1%-3% of the average German’s vocabulary of 5,000 words is made up of anglicisms.” This Society believes that the inclusion of English vocabulary enhances the German language, rather than harming it. However, the public in Germany seem to be on the side of VDS, with 39% of interviewees questioned in 2008 confirming their opposition to anglicisms.

There are a handful of foreign words that we use in English, such as “déjà vu”, “siesta” and “rendezvous”. How would we feel if more and more foreign words were introduced into our everyday vocabulary? The most important question that this discussion and debate poses is surely: why use an English word when a German word will suffice? Is there a benefit to incorporating a new English word into the language, in place of the equivalent German? Let us know what you think…

Benefits of Bilingualism

Recent research conducted by Dr. Athanasopoulus, of Newcastle University has revealed that bilingual speakers, or those who have studied a foreign language to some extent, see the world differently to monoglots.  According to Dr Athanasopoulus, immersion in a foreign culture, including the use of another language, leads people to think in a completely different way: “There’s an inextricable link between language, culture and cognition”.

One example he provided, after conducting a study involving English and Japanese speakers, is that Japanese speakers tend to distinguish more between “light blue” and “dark blue” as there are two single Japanese words to describe these variations. He took into account the extent to which both languages are used, as well as the length of time spent in the countries in question, and used colours as an example due to the huge range of vocabulary that can be used in descriptions. He concluded that it is the extent to which a language is used, rather than the user’s proficiency that is most influential.

It was also discovered, by a study conducted in 2009 for a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, that speaking two languages improves a person’s ability to ignore distractions, and also to switch between two tasks.  This has been linked to the necessity of blocking out one language when speaking in the other.  There have also been supported suggestions that bilingualism can help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

The importance of bilingualism in terms of business has been highlighted in various articles in journals and newspapers.  Immersion in another culture, as well as enhancing the distinction between various shades of colours, helps a person understand another culture, another language, and another way of life.  This can be of immeasurable significance in the business world, when working on an international scale. Relations between two companies from different countries are likely to be stronger if both parties have an understanding of the way in which the other conducts business.

As if you needed any more encouragement, as The Daily Telegraph comments, “we are all designed to acquire language, but we are built to learn and accommodate more than just one: monolinguals are effectively under utilizing abilities by not tapping that potential.”

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