A brief history of translation during times of conflict

Translators at War

Translators are often the forgotten vital intelligence asset in wartime. Their role has developed considerably in the twentieth and early twenty-first century, becoming increasingly important in a globalised world that faces the challenges of terrorism and complex international relations. Today we need their skills more than ever, but the origins of translators in warfare go back further than most people imagine.

The Stone Age

The story of the human species is a story of war and conquest. From the very earliest movement of people from Africa, human beings have made war to establish new territory and gain social dominance. Since that time humans have made use of soldiers and sailors who spoke the language of their enemies, hoping to gain an insight into their opponents’ tactics and the lie of the land (or sea), and in the process gain the advantage in battle.

The Spanish Conquest of the Aztecs

One notable use of native translators in history was during the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. It began in 1519 when conquistador Hernán Cortés landed in Mexico with Spanish forces. Faced with more than one local language to navigate, the clever Cortés decided to make use of the translation skills of a local woman, Malintzin, to help him make alliances with other groups hostile to the Aztecs. She quickly learned Spanish and translated between this, Chontal Maya, and Náhuatl. Malintzin also taught Cortés about Aztec culture and helped him defeat the Aztec forces. She even warned him of a planned assassination attempt. Eventually she became Cortés’s personal interpreter and mother of his son. Read more

Cinelistics: 30 Words & Phrases Popularised By Film

Cinelistics: 30 Words, Phrases and Neologisms Popularised by Film

Popular culture has always helped contribute to language development and been responsible for many little additions over the years. Cinema is one of the key delivery methods that has ensured new words and phrases have been given the chance of becoming adopted by a worldwide mainstream audience. While some may only have a fleeting period in the limelight, others become indoctrinated into everyday language long term. Here’s a list of a few of the all-time classics in no particular order, I can imagine a few of these have caused major headaches for translators and subtitlers along the way! Read more

The Different Types of English

Who invented the English language? This is a question that is just as complicated and diverse as the language itself. In truth, English can be considered one of the few “melting pot” languages of the world. With far-ranging roots including (but not limited to) Germanic, Dutch, Latin, Old Norman, French and even ancient Greek. It should come as no surprise that English offers an interesting insight into the past.

However, we also need to realise that different regions of the world speak entirely different dialects while the exact same words will have entirely different definitions in regards to where we live. Believe it or not we do localise (or should that be localize) texts for different ‘English’ speaking markets, this is part of our Transcreation Service. Let me show you what I mean and take a look at some examples that will leave you tongue tied at the end of this article.

The USA Vs the UK

Let’s assume that a British citizen is visiting the states and needs some repair work done on their car. Strutting into a garage and asking the employee to take a look under the bonnet would be quite confusing. “Bonnet” is the head covering for an infant. “Hood” refers to a vehicle. Still, the laughs don’t stop here. Many an American has found himself red in the face after referring to his trousers as “pants”. Suddenly, privacy seems to have been thrown out the window. In the same way, an English woman would never be caught dead wearing a “fanny pack” around town for obvious reasons! I blogged about this a couple of weeks ago on the Association of Language Companies’ blog, the link is here – US and UK EnglishRead more

Minion Language

The ‘Language’ Behind the Minions

Parents still reeling from the decimation of sanity caused by the soundtrack to ‘Frozen’ will be all too aware of a new plague, as the childless amongst us laugh uncomprehendingly at their misfortune. It is known to a generation as Minionese – the virtually-incoherent language spoken by those googly-eyed yellow chaps, introduced to an unprepared world by the 2010 movie ‘Despicable Me’. The internet is abuzz with Minionese-English dictionaries; and this is exactly how it would have started with Klingon, if there were high speed internet in the 1970s. Should we fear, or embrace, this new language?

We may have little choice. Now they have become the stars of their own self-titled, full-length movie, the Minions are more inescapable than ever. In the movie we learn that they have served many masters the world over, so it makes a bit more sense that they couldn’t be held to just one earthly language. Read more

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