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Idioms from around the world

Idioms of the World

This article, written by Sam Brown, originally appears on the Comtec translation blog. Used with the author’s consent.

Foreign idioms are always a source of trouble, and sometimes hilarity, when trying to translate them. Every translator knows this but it was the post by Matt Lindley for Hotel Club that really got the team at Comtec thinking. After reading his piece we discussed the funniest foreign phrases we could think of and came up with the following 10 which we love. Read more

Get Lost in Translation

This blog post has been adapted from a presentation I gave this week to the Key Account Management Club at Cranfield School of Management. I spoke about the importance of professional translation in relation to communication and what can happen when it all goes wrong.

It was for an ‘after dinner’ speech, so I wanted to make it as informal / funny as possible while still communicating the key message. This isn’t a transcript of what I said but it’s close enough and is in the same style as the original talk.

Hello and Good Evening

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Richard Brooks. I graduated from Cranfield 10 years ago (MBA class of 2005) and have been working on/at K International, a UK translation provider, ever since. Initially in a general management position, then after leading a management buyout 2 years ago, I am now the Chief Exec of the organisation.

Whenever I meet new people (very fortunate that I have that opportunity regularly), I always seemed to be asked the same questions. So being as we’re all friends (or will be soon), let me cover these questions quickly and get them out of the way. Read more

How to Translate a Joke

Humor is, without a doubt, one of the hardest things to translate. This was definitely apparent in the worldwide coverage of the Egyptian uprising earlier this year: jokes were central to the protests, but according to Al Masry Al Youm, unless they were written in English they were often lost in translation.

Is it possible to translate a joke? Of course, but it can be difficult because jokes often depend on “inside knowledge” that has to be explained to outsiders.  As the saying goes, “if you have to explain a joke, it isn’t funny anymore.” Also, what people consider funny can vary from place to place. Consider, for example, how different American humour is from British humour, even without a language barrier to cross.

Al Masry Al Youm looked at the English translations of two popular (and funny) Egyptian novels to get a better idea of how translators handle this particular hurdle. Read more