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.


Where to get free foreign language fonts

Foreign language support is required for any kind of digital translation, for both individuals and business e.g. foreign artwork design, websites & document translation. Due to the prevalence of translated material, numerous varieties of fonts have been designed over the years to support the needs of foreign communication.

Certain languages use very different character sets that will not be supported by most of the traditional English or Latin based fonts. Before searching for or downloading a new font, first check if one is already available on your system for the language you require. Sometimes the font you require might be stored on your operating system’s installation disc or just requires activation via the settings on your computer. The more recent the operating system, the more likely it will have extended support for a wider variety of languages.

If you are still unable to find a suitable font for the language you are working with, these websites have a good selection that incorporate support for almost all major languages. They can be accessed for free via the following links:

Once you have downloaded a font, simply drag and drop them into your system’s font folder. The font will then be installed into your system ready to use.

In most cases languages using Latin based alphabets can be used in virtually any computer application, without requiring any added features or facilities. When working with fonts for languages that use non-Latin or extended Latin based alphabets however, you may require additional software and keyboard layouts to properly make use of them and ensure they display correctly.

Due to the limited number of font styles or typefaces available for certain languages, you may have to visit a number of sites to seek out one that fits your requirements. The sites provided should be viewed as a starting point as you will find that certain styles or font families are only available commercially.

What’s your Finnish Name?

Finland’s tourist board has come up with a novel way to promote their country’s tourism prospects:  The Finngenerator, a website that automatically turns your given name into a Finnish name.

According to the site,

“Finland is a country where things are based on nature and old mythology. Even people’s names are inspired by the woods, animals and mythological characters.

Have a try and find your inner Finn by changing your name. Just type your name here and let the generator tell you what you would be called if you were a Finn.”

Let’s give it a try, shall we?

My name is Alison Kroulek, but apparently in Finnish I would be called “Hilla Halla,” which translates to “Cloudberry Forest.” Mmmm, cloudberries…

Our fearless leader Richard Brooks’ Finnish alter ego  is Ahti Ilvesniemi. “Ahti” is the Finnish god of the sea, and “Ilvesniemi” means “lynx cape.”

In Finnish, our marketing manager Johnny Henchman would be known as Pyry Petäjä. “Pyry” means blizzard, and
“Petäjä” means “Pine Tree.”

According to the Daily Mail, which translated a bunch of celebrity names, Kanye West comes out with the Finnish moniker “Sampo Ilvesniemi,” which the newspaper notes is a

“curious combination of a mythical money-maker and a fearsome wild cat. ‘Sampo’ is the name of a magical mill in the Kalevala which creates riches, Ilvesniemi refers to the sharp-toothed lynx.”

Actually, according to the Finngenerator, “Ilvesniemi” refers to a lynx cape rather than the beast itself. So, Kanye ‘s Finnish name would roughly translate to “a magical moneymaking mill with a flamboyant sense of fashion.” How apropos.

Each name “translation” is accompanied by a gorgeous photograph of a scene from Finland, the better to lure you into coming to visit.

What’s your Finnish name? Share it in the comments!

French: Language of Tomorrow?

What do you think the most valuable foreign language will be in the future?  For most of you, Mandarin (or standard) Chinese was probably the first language that came to mind. That’s not an unreasonable assumption, considering China’s size and ascendency in the world economy.

However, data released by investment bank Natixis suggests that the most widely spoken language of the future might be something a little less predictable: Parlez-vous français, anyone?

Really? French? What is this, the 1800’s? These days, American writers can achieve almost instant viral success by writing editorials describing the relative unimportance of the French language. For example, in The New Republic, Jphn McWhorter asked

“One learns French to communicate with … who, exactly? Some will yearn to read Sartre and Molière; more power to them. But what about languages like Spanish and Chinese, which are useful to learn because we encounter them in everyday life?”

It’s true, right now there are “only” about 75 million native French speakers, and about 387 million people speaking it as either a first or second language. Compared to about 960 million native Mandarin Chinese speakers, that seems like small potatoes.

However, many French-speaking countries are located in Africa, with a rapidly growing population. So, according to Natixis, by 2050 we’ll have around 750 million French speakers, equivalent to or slightly more than the number of Mandarin speakers expected at that time.

As Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry notes in Forbes, the projections may not be entirely accurate because Natixis is assuming that every person born in an officially French-speaking country will speak French. This is unlikely to be the case; local and tribal languages will undoubtedly continue to be  spoken. However, overly optimistic projections aside, he believes

“The point still stands: French is still a fast-growing, global language. The other mooted language of the future, Mandarin, despite being excruciatingly hard to learn for most Westerners, will probably not be that given China’s certain demographic slide. Meanwhile, French will be present on all continents, and particularly predominant in a continent that, by 2050, should be a fast-growing economic powerhouse–Africa.”

What do you think?

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Medical Translation Apps: First Do No Harm?

Used wisely, technology can be a helpful tool for communicating across language barriers. However, there are some situations where an app just won’t cut it.

Is healthcare one of those situations? New applications promise to help doctors and nurses communicate with patients who don’t speak English, a tempting prospect for cash-strapped hospitals in the US and the UK alike. For example, a recent story on profiled two medical translation apps developed by Transcendent Endeavors. One app relies on a tablet touchscreen to help patients relay basic needs to the nurses who care for them, while another helps health care providers communicate basic medical instructions to patients.

The key word here is “basic,” and critics say that’s the problem. The  level of communication provided by translation apps is simply too basic to be helpful in a medical setting, and may even cause harm.

Dr. Glenn Flores, the director of the general pediatrics division at the University of Texas Southwestern and Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, explained his concerns to

“The medical encounter is incredibly complex and nuanced. If you just have a simple tablet that asks, do you have pain or not, that’s going to give people a false sense of security. You’re going to end up putting people at risk.”

Nextgov points out that medical translation involves more than just language; trained medical interpreters can often help physicians understand important cultural factors that might affect the patient’s symptoms or care, like traditional remedies that could be harmful.

In the future, medical translation apps may improve to the point where they can play a valuable role in healthcare, according to Dr. Flores:

“What I think is exciting, but it’s probably a number of years away, is we may at some point have a smartphone that’s able actually to provide state-of-the-art, spoken-language translation,” Flores says—a tool that accurately translates spoken language in real time. Google Translate’s speech-enabled smartphone apps, an early attempt at this, aren’t always grammatically accurate, he says, and shouldn’t be used in a health-care setting.

At least for now, a trained medical interpreter is the safest, most reliable option for ensuring every patient gets the care they need.


Learning Languages

UK Primary Schools Unprepared for Language Classes

Primary schools in England will struggle to provide quality language classes due to a lack of qualified teachers, according to the annual Languages Trends survey. As of September primary schools around the country will be required to teach language classes to seven to 11-year-olds.

“many primary classroom teachers have neither sufficient knowledge of another language nor sufficient confidence in their language skills to be able to teach a language to the level expected in the new national curriculum” Read more

Tolkien’s Beowulf Translation Coming This Spring

J.R.R. Tolkien fans and fans of Old English literature alike will get a treat this spring: Tolkien’s Beowulf translation will be published in May, according to the Guardian.

Edited by his son, Christopher Tolkien, Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary is due out of the 22 May. Included will be Tolkien’s translation of the epic poem, transcripts of Tolkien’s Beowulf-themed lectures from Oxford and a previously unpublished short story called “Sellic Spell,” based an Old Norse saga about Hrothgar’s family.  Be still, my geeky heart!

Tolkien was obviously fascinated by Beowulf.  The Guardian quotes him as calling it

“laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination”, saying that “the whole thing is sombre, tragic, sinister, curiously real”.

Themes and images from Beowulf appear throughout Tolkien’s work. Tolkien scholar John Garth told the Guardian that the story had

“a deep and detailed impact on what Tolkien wrote – from his earliest poem of Middle-earth, written in September 1914, right through The Hobbit with the theft of a cup from a dragon hoard, and The Lord of the Rings with the arrival at the halls of Rohan”.

Of course, when it comes to Beowulf, the real question is: How does Tolkien translate “Hwaet”? The first word in the text, “Hwaet” is an exclamation that has been translated as everything from “Listen!” to “Lo!” to the decidedly un-epic “So.”

There’s also some evidence that “Hwaet” may not have been a stand-alone interjection as it is usually treated, and that instead the famous first sentence should read something like this: “How we have heard of the might of the kings!”

There’s word yet on how Tolkien translated that tricksy opening line, but it will be interesting to see.

Learn a Foreign Language, Get Rich Slowly

Students struggling with foreign language classes often ask themselves, what’s the point? What’s the point in learning a foreign language, when so many people and companies are willing to cater to you in English?

How does an extra $67,000 sound as an incentive? That’s the amount The Economist determined an average American college graduate fluent in a foreign language could expect to earn over their working life. This was calculated based on research carried out by MIT economist Albert Saiz.

Of course, the actual amount you could expect to gain from your foreign language proficiency depends on factors like what language you learn and what career field you are in.

Per the Economist:

“Albert Saiz, the MIT economist who calculated the 2% premium, found quite different premiums for different languages: just 1.5% for Spanish, 2.3% for French and 3.8% for German. This translates into big differences in the language account: your Spanish is worth $51,000, but French, $77,000, and German, $128,000.”

That’s all well and good if you’re American, but what about in the UK? Here, the difference is even more significant. In 2004, the Michel Thomas Language Centre found that foreign language fluency could increase your income by  £3,000 a year, or £145,000 in a lifetime.  That’s not surprising, considering the UK’s proximity to other, non-English speaking countries.

As an additional bonus, the Michel Thomas Language Centre study also found that learning a second language can increase your popularity with potential romantic partners.

Is this extra earning power likely to decline in the era of Google Translate? Probably not anytime soon. Machine translation is still an imperfect beast. Meanwhile, globalization increases the need for businesses to be able to communicate in other languages. The Economist sums it up well:

One optimistic estimate is that half the world’s people might speak English by 2050. That leaves billions who will not, and billions of others who remain happier (and more willing to spend money) in their own language.

Photo Credit:  Some rights reserved by

Swearing in Translation

New research from the University of Warsaw confirms what we already knew: learning to swear in translation is innately appealing. Think about it: If you only know a few select phrases in another language, chances are they’re either “survival phrases” or swear words.

To test whether bilinguals prefer to swear in their native language or their second language, the researchers designed a “covert experiment” amongst a group of bilingual university students, all fluent in both English and Polish.

The students were asked to translate two “equally offensive” texts from English to Polish and from Polish to English.  When translating from English to Polish, the majority of the students tempered the obscenities, bowdlerizing the texts.  However, when they translated from Polish into English, they were much more willing to use offensive language, sometimes even adding obscenities out of whole cloth.

Well, at least for certain obscenities. The study actually only found a significant difference when it came to ethnic slurs directed at certain outgroups. Apparently, swearing in a foreign language can be easier from a psychological standpoint because the words don’t carry as much weight in your mind. However, since society has become somewhat deadened to even the “big seven” dirty words, the effect was only significant when it came to ethnic slurs, words that today are designated as “hate speech” and thus are far more taboo than your standard four-letter obscenities.

In a write-up of the study published in PLOS One, the authors conclude that “the main factor triggering the language choice in bilinguals is not necessarily the different emotional power of both languages, but social and cultural norms.”  The “distancing effect” of using a foreign language makes it easier to cross those cultural boundaries.

(Via IO9)

Photo Credit: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Kidmoxie

How to Translate your Website

How to Translate your Website

So you want to translate your website?

With the widespread introduction of easy to use CMS’s like WordPress, it’s never been simpler to create a website. As a by-product of this, it’s never been more competitive, that’s competition for visitors, not just sales.

If you are a business, blogger or creative, you probably created your website with the intention of getting it seen by as many people as possible. After all it’s popularity that brings in the sales, Ad revenue and puts you in front of customers/readers.

One way a lot of people are attempting to increase site traffic is by implementing website translation to broaden their business’s appeal to visitors from other countries…

So should you follow the trend and get your site translated? That depends entirely on what you want to achieve… Read more

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