Translation Value

Translation: Price is what you pay, Value is what you get

Picture the scene, it’s the weekend, the sun is shining, not a cloud in the sky, a perfect day for a leisurely drive. About an hour into your jaunt around the local country roads, you notice a strange clunking sound coming from under the bonnet. It looks like a trip to the garage is in order. Once you get home you call the guy (or girl) you always call when your car needs attention. You drop it off at the garage and wait for the workshop to call, what are the first three things you want to learn from that call?… Most people would likely answer along the lines of “can they fix it, what is it going to cost and how long is it going to take”, probably in that order.

Now you are probably wondering what going for a drive and suffering an impending breakdown has to do with anything, well I’ll get to that. About a year ago I was talking to a chap in a pub, the best stories always start with that line right? His name is Dave, you wouldn’t say he was anything out of the ordinary, casually dressed, glasses, drives a van, all very run of the mill, he wouldn’t mind me saying that, he’d probably agree. Anyway, I sat at the bar waiting for my friends to finally show up and just happened to strike up a conversation with him. He told me about how he works in a garage and has done probably longer than I’ve been alive, another classic line from the book of pub stories huh. Dave’s customers go through exactly the same ritual as I had you imagine at the beginning, but when it comes to that phone call, his customers have slightly different expectations. Read more


No French Translation Needed for Brand Names in Quebec

The Quebec government has long been known for its stringent attempts to preserve the province’s French character. The Office québécois de la langue française has a controversial history of policing businesses of all sizes.  Inspectors with the Quebec “language police” issue tickets and fines for unauthorized use of English on signs, menus and the like.

In 2011, bothered by the impact of English language signs from multinational corporations on Quebec’s linguistic landscape, the OQLF began encouraging these companies to translate their brand names. In 2012, they began threatening to sanction companies that refused to at least add a generic French business term to their signs, such as “les cafés” for a coffee shop. So, a group of retailers including Best Buy, Costco, The Gap, Old Navy, Guess, Walmart and Curves sued to have the scope of the law clarified.

Now, a Canadian judge has ruled that under current Quebec law, the government lacks the power to impose sanctions on brands that refuse to translate their English brand names or to add French to their signs.

In an opinion quoted in the  National Post, Justice Yergeau wrote

“It is up to the Quebec legislator to show the way if he feels Quebec’s French linguistic face is suffering from a wave, a breaker even, of English trademarks on public signage and to impose, by legislation if necessary, the solutions he considers adequate.”

Lawyer Brent Tyler told CTV Montreal that he expected the government to appeal, but he doesn’t seem to think they have much of a case:

“I was a little amazed when the Office first came up with this interpretation. The OQLF argues that a company name is the equivalent of a trademark and that’s not the case…The OQLF took the position that a French description was not required and then, without changing the law or regulations, suddenly changed their position to say that it is required.”

Photo Credit: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by MPD01605

Who Should Win This Sign Language Rap Battle?

Jimmy Kimmel may have made history on Tuesday, when he hosted what was billed as the “first ever (probably last ever) sign language rap battle” on his show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!

A sign language rap battle? How does that work?

Kimmel invited three of the most well-known and experienced live music American Sign Language interpreters to interpret for his audience. Holly Maniatty, Joann Benfield and Amber Galloway Gallego have interpreted for a long list of musical performers including Eminem, Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne and Snoop.

The interpreters took turns interpreting a live performance of “Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa.

ASL interpreting at concerts has grown in visibility over the past few years, fueled in part by videos of the interpreters enthusiastically performing for their audience.  Their interpretations have captured the attention of hearing and deaf fans alike, and of the artists themselves. In 2013, rapper Killer Mike told Slate the way Holly Maniatty interprets is “[A}n art form; that’s more than just a technical skill.” Watch the video, and you’ll see why.

Another great moment in ASL interpreting came after the rap battle. Asked if he usually has a sign language interpreter onstage, Khalifa responded “Yeah, sometimes I get like pretty stoned, I can’t remember the words.” As it turns out, you don’t have to know ASL to understand the sign for “marijuana.” To quote Holly Maniatty, “It’s pretty universal.”

After the performance, the rapper was assigned the difficult task of choosing a winner. He took the easy way out and chose all three.  Who do you think should have won?

wedding hands

German Language Laws Divide Spouses

According to the Goethe Institute, six percent of all couples living in Germany are bi-national; that is, one partner is from another country.

However, strict German language laws create obstacles for these couples, often making it impossible for them to live together in Germany even after they’ve been legally married.

The laws require foreign spouses to pass a German language test to join their partners in Germany. No test, no visa. Recently, one couple kept apart by the law spoke to the Associated Press about their situation.

Michael Guhle and Thi An Nguyen had a fairy tale romance. They met in her small Vietnamese fishing village when Guhle was on vacation. They married in Vietnam in 2007. Their plans to live together in Germany were on hold for years while the new Mrs. Guhle tried to pass the German competency test.

Michael Guhle explained to the AP:

 “I thought marrying the person you love and living together was a human right. Apparently this is not the case in Germany.”

The German government claims the laws are there to protect potentially vulnerable immigrants. A spokesman from Germany’s Interior Ministry told the AP that the laws help prevent forced marriages. He also claimed they help new immigrant spouses to integrate into German society.

 ”If an immigrant doesn’t have to start from scratch but already knows how to communicate, he will be more motivated to successfully work on his integration after he has received his visa.”

On the other hand, opponents claim the laws effectively discriminate based on social class. According to Hiltrud Stoecker-Zafari, the head of the national Association of Binational Couples and Partners:

“Well-educated people who can afford the language classes won’t have any problems meeting the language requirements quickly — but not the others. Therefore we think: This country obviously wants to send out the message that financially weak and not well-qualified spouses should not even come here.”

The law is set to be challenged in the European Court of Justice this month. Meanwhile, six years later, Mr. and Mrs. Guhle finally got their fairy-tale ending, when a German court agreed to allow her to immigrate. How stringent do you think language requirements should be for foreign spouses?

Photo Credit: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Multilingual Design

Multilingual design and translation documents

Multilingual design

Working with a single language is relatively straightforward so long as you are familiar with its nuances & rules. When dealing with multiple languages though, great care and attention to detail must be employed to ensure that each language is given its due. Every Language has its own unique combination of factors in style, script or reading direction.

Whenever undertaking any kind of multilingual design, a clear understanding of what typesetting a foreign language involves is imperative. If you were to compare Chinese and German to English for example, you would see that German words appear much longer and the Chinese, much, much shorter.  Even at this basic level, text length alone can have a dramatic effect on a documents’ design.

Text length is just one basic aspect of many which has to be considered while designing a multilingual document. The next thing to take into account is the direction of which a language is read. In Latin based languages, sentences are read from left to right where as other languages like Arabic, Hebrew and Urdu are read from right to left. This variation has a significant impact on a documents layout, which generally needs to be completely flipped. For a multipage document, this can mean the back becomes the front and vice versa.

Another factor that designers need to be aware of is that not all languages use a standard font. For instance, Western European languages generally employ Latin or Roman script whereas Greek, Russian, Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian languages use completely different character sets.  These are just some of the fundamental differences designers need to consider when working with foreign languages…

  • Text length
  • Word order
  • Reading direction
  • Character sets

Aside from just the technical implications, designers also need to be sympathetic to several cultural concerns. Colours and images may have significantly different connotations when viewed in different regions, which can range from benign to severe depending on the target audience. Depending on the document, this can require a significant redesign to ensure any potential culture shock is avoided.



English is a Crazy Language

When you speak it every day, you tend to take it for granted, but the English language is actually kind of crazy. In fact, a video reminding us of all the ways in which its sanity could be called into question recently went viral on YouTube. Here it is, for your viewing pleasure:

A few gems from the video (all excerpts from Richard Krogh’s poem “The English Lesson”):

“If you speak of a box, then the plural is ‘boxes.’ But the plural of ‘ox’ should be ‘oxen,’ not ‘oxes.’”

” One is a goose, two are called ‘geese.’ Yet the plural of ‘moose’ should never be ‘meese.’”

“We talk of a brother and also of brethren, but though we say ‘mother,’ we never say ‘methren.’”

“I take it you already know/ Of tough and bough and cough and dough?”

“Watch out for meat and great and threat/ (they rhyme with suite and straight and debt).”

Why is English so weird?

Wikipedia notes that “In general, English spelling does not reflect the sound changes in the pronunciation of the language that have occurred since the late fifteenth century.”

For example, once upon a time, tough, bough, cough, and dough were all pronounced the same. However, the pronunciations naturally shifted over the years. The spelling, on the other hand, did not.

In fact, it seems like the only “spelling reforms” that ever stuck in English were the reforms that had the effect of making things more confusing. Take “debt,” for instance. Originally, it was spelled “dette.” Apparently the “b” crept in there when people began trying to tie it to the Latin word “debitum,” from which it was believed to be descended.

What about the irregular plurals? Many of them go back to the days of Old English. For example, “oxen” and “brethren” come from Old English weak declension, while “geese” is from Old English consonantal declension.

Crazy, isn’t it?


British School to Teach English as a Second Language

Earlier this year, a report showed that in 1 out of 9 British schools, English is no longer the language spoken at home for the majority of students.

Now, in a proposal that’s sure to get people talking, a secondary school in Leeds has announced that they plan to teach English as though it were a foreign language to everyone – even students born and raised in Britain.

City of Leeds School’s student body is quite diverse, including 55 different nationalities. Students’ families come from all over the world, with some of the largest groups being Pakistani, Czech Roma and Traveller. According to the Yorkshire Post, less than a quarter of the students have English as a first language.

The school is rated as “requires improvement” by Ofsted, though that’s not entirely unexpected considering the challenges faced by its pupils.

Head teacher Georgiana Sale explained the problems faced by the school to the Yorkshire Post:

“Many of our pupils are not only new to English but they are not even literate in their own language. In some cases we are the first people to put a pen in their hand…Around half of our children are new to the country within four years. It is generally thought it takes five years to properly learn a language and that is when you have total immersion it. A lot of our children don’t have that because it is not being spoken at home.”

But what about the English students? Apparently, having parents who speak English doesn’t guarantee that a student will speak English well enough to excel on the GCSE exams. So, the instructions will aim to help these pupils improve in spelling and grammar. Ms. Sale told the Telegraph,

“The demands on the formality of language and the standards of spelling and grammar in GCSE exams are getting higher and higher. The level of language written and talked by the vast majority of our native English speakers would not be high enough to get A grades…It won’t be taught like you or I learned French. It’s going to be differentiated according to what they need and a lot of my children need to be taught English as a language.”

What do you think of this plan?

Photo credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by James Sarmiento

Elia ND Riga

Come see me present at EliaND Riga

I will be presenting at EliaND in Riga (Latvia) later on this month.

The topic I’ve chosen to talk about is ‘Running a Growing Company’. It builds on the topic I spoke about at memoQfest last year and consolidates a lot of my learnings from the Business Growth Program (at Cranfield Uni), Growth Accelerator, the last 18 months being a CEO and as far back as my own MBA.

Just putting the finishing touches to my slides together now. Here’s a quick look. Yes I am still using Greiner’s Curve (because its awesome and explains exactly the issues we face in growing LSPs). I do have some new models you’ve not seen.

Greiners Curve

My slot is 10.30 > 11.40 on the 24th April. Hope to see you there.



The Language of Content Strategy

It is always a buzz seeing your work in print and today I got that special feeling.

My copy of The Language of Content Strategy arrived in the post, all the way from San Francisco. For those who don’t know the project was put together by Rahel Anne Bailie and Scott Abel and is described as the ‘gateway to a language that describes the world of content strategy’. It contains contribution from 52 experts from all over the world of content creation (me being one!) and covers all sorts of topics. Its vital reading for anyone in the content/publishing world.

I got mine for free! but you can guy yours from Amazon or Barnes & Nobel.


Lorem Ipsum

What Does Lorem Ipsum Mean?

At some point in time, almost everyone has encountered the “Lorem ipsum” text that’s traditionally used as filler for unfinished webpages. It’s written in some kind of bastardized Latin, but what does it mean? Never fear, Nick Richardson of the London Review of Books had translated it for you. But first, a bit of background.

“Lorem ipsum” text has been in use since at least the 1960′s. Before the Internet, it was used for typesetting in the publishing industry. The Latin in the text is derived from Cicero’s De finibus bonorum et malorum (On the ends of good and evil), with the original text scrambled like an egg until only nonsense remains. This was done on purpose; the idea was to help people focus solely on visible design elements by making it impossible to focus on content.

Curious as to what it would like translated into English,  Nick Richardson asked Latin scholar Jaspreet Singh Boparai to translate the text.  Here’s the result, via the London Review of Books blog:

“Rrow itself, let it be sorrow; let him love it; let him pursue it, ishing for its acquisitiendum. Because he will ab hold, unless but through concer, and also of those who resist. Now a pure snore disturbeded sum dust. He ejjnoyes, in order that somewon, also with a severe one, unless of life. May a cusstums offficer somewon nothing of a poison-filled. Until, from a twho, twho chaffinch may also pursue it, not even a lump. But as twho, as a tank; a proverb, yeast; or else they tinscribe nor. Yet yet dewlap bed. Twho may be, let him love fellows of a polecat. Now amour, the, twhose being, drunk, yet twhitch and, an enclosed valley’s always a laugh. In acquisitiendum the Furies are Earth; in (he takes up) a lump vehicles bien.”

Poetic, isn’t it? I could see this being read in a coffee shop, with copious amounts of finger-snapping.

Translating more straightforward text is difficult enough. How do you translate nonsense? Boparai explained his translation process to the Guardian:

“[My] basic challenge was to make this text precisely as incoherent in English as it is in Latin – and to make it incoherent in the same way…I could only do this by steadfastly refusing to see the wood for the trees, and faithfully reproducing every error, and every minute instance of ‘what the f#*@ does this mean?’ When you spend eight hours a day reading Renaissance Latin texts you get used to elaborate Ciceronian syntax that makes no sense whatsoever, and so the absurdity of this content left me serenely unperturbed.”