Paul is Dead, the End is Nigh, and Mr. Squidward is Supreme Leader: 10 Language Stories to Read This Week

Looking for some new reading material? Wondering what’s been going on in the language and translation world? We’ve collected 10 language-related stories from the past month. They’re guaranteed to make you laugh, make you cry and give you plenty of office conversation material.

So, sit down, fill up your coffee cup, and let’s dig in.

How Translation Wages Affect the Popularity of Foreign Classics in China

Earlier this month, we posted a story about how literary translators are the unsung heroes of the literary world -and how they are frequently underpaid. This story from The Sixth Tone shows why low wages are a problem – it affects quality in a big way:

“[B]oth translators and editors are forced to work for paltry wages, and under such unfair working conditions, it is difficult to improve the quality of translations. This in turn gives translations of foreign literary works a bad name among Chinese readers, perpetuating a vicious cycle.

What Language Should Algeria Speak?

Next, let’s take a look at how Algeria is currently struggling to balance the country’s four major languages: French, Standard Arabic, Berber, and Darija. It’s quite a challenge to juggle the different languages used at home, on the streets, in the schools, and in courts.

New Imaging Techniques Reveal Secrets Hidden In Ancient Parchments

New imaging techniques have allowed scholars to read the “undertext” of ancient manuscripts. Hundreds of years ago, parchment was valuable.  In an old-school example of recycling, scholars would erase words from old manuscripts so they could be used again.  Some of these manuscripts landed in St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt, where scientists have been able to uncover the lost writing, including long-forgotten languages like Caucasian Albanian and Christian Palestinian Aramaic. Read more

UK Translation Qualifications

Navigating the UK’s Linguistic Qualifications

Whether you’re a business looking to procure translation services for the first time, or even the tenth time, understanding the UK’s array of linguistic qualifications can seem a little daunting. How does an MA in Translation Studies differ from an MSc in Translating? Is it worth paying more for a translator with a BA in Translation Studies than for one with a Diploma in Translation? Read more

11 Foreign Phrases to Stop Using Right Now

Some English speakers love peppering their speech with foreign phrases. We think it sounds sophisticated. But here are 11 foreign words and phrases that don’t go over quite as well in their home languages. Let’s all agree to stop using them now.

Phrases to Avoid in French

Bon Appétit! 

According to the Daily Mail, [you can’t really trust this poor excuse for a paper] language learning app Babbel has identified this innocuous-sounding phrase as one of the most common gaffes made by Brits abroad: “It literally invites diners to ‘a good digestion’, suggesting that they are so hungry that they are willing to jump at any food offered.”

There is, however, some controversy about this. A 2007 New York Times article, for example, quotes a French etiquette teacher who says,  “In France, ‘Bon appétit’ is not proper.” But an article in the Guardian a year later found that most Parisian locals had no problem with “Bon Appetit.” Ironically, the few people who did think it rude were English speakers.

So, perhaps the key here is to know your audience. [Our in house French natives say there’s nothing with it]

Garçon for Waiter 

Did you know garçon actually means boy? You might think you sound suave when you address your French waiter this way. But really, you sound like a jerk. Don’t be a jerk. Use “monsieur” instead.

Sacrebleu!

If you’re visiting France, don’t expect the French to express dismay by exclaiming “Sacrebleu!” Unless, of course, you have a Tardis and you’ve time-traveled back to the 19th century.  And if you use it, expect to get some odd looks at best.

Entrée

Watch out for this one if you’re American.  While we tend to use it as a fancy word for “main dish” or “main course”, in France it means an appetizer.

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?

Yeah, yeah, it’s the French-language chorus of a famous sexy pop song. But it’s not likely to win you any friends in France, and it almost certainly won’t win you any bedmates.  It might win you a slap across the face, though . . .   Read more

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