Friday, July 30, 2010


First we had Dubya.. Now we have Wasilla.

"Now, some of you may think Sarah introduced “refudiate” to our common language last Sunday, when she tweeted Manhattan’s Muslims, begging them to “Pls refudiate” plans to build a mosque two blocks north of the Ground Zero.

You would be wrong.

Mama Grizzly actually gave the “word” its out-loud debut about a week before, when she bounced it off her fellow Fox News heavyweight and conservative stud muffin, Sean Hannity.

Sarah was opinionating, via live-feed from her kitchen overlooking Russia, calling on the Obamas to “refudiate” the NAACP’s charge of racism in the leadership of the Tea Party movement."

Peter Gelzinis from Boston Herald

Refudiate the fact, please, that something is very wrong with education in the USA if someone like Palin can become a politician. PLEASE??

Left or Right, East or West?

Prof. Lera Boroditsky on how language shapes thinking (or is it the other way round?). Absolutely must read! Read the comments, they are as good as the article, if not better.

  • Russian speakers, who have more words for light and dark blues, are better able to visually discriminate shades of blue.
  • Some indigenous tribes say north, south, east and west, rather than left and right, and as a consequence have great spatial orientation.
  • The Piraha, whose language eschews number words in favor of terms like few and many, are not able to keep track of exact quantities.
  • In one study, Spanish and Japanese speakers couldn't remember the agents of accidental events as adeptly as English speakers could. Why? In Spanish and Japanese, the agent of causality is dropped: "The vase broke itself," rather than "John broke the vase."

What happens in interpreting, then, when we need to bridge the east with left, or the few with five?

Cultural Translation - Not an Easy Bid

In Australia's professional LSP sector, the standard (and of course lazily comfortable) response to the question "Can translators be cultural advisers?" is "No". Too much responsibility is attached to trying to explain cultural issues A to a member of culture B, especially if B is a much more powerful and sort of mainstream culture, and A is a minority, often refugee (economic or otherwise) sub-culture. It is so much easier just interpreting words, usually making the discourse of the dominant language into something utterly alien and alienating in the receiving language.

I don't agree with this stance. A language is a vital vehicle of culture, it does not exist in a vacuum. Whether interpreting or translating, some things need to be "footnoted", explanations need to be added. It enriches both parties. But I agree it is hard.

I have been following this guy for a while now, and I am full of admiration for what he does. And today I came across another bunch of "lingovists" (language activists) from India - Video Volunteers. Their main issue, of course, is that India is a subcontinent of many cultures and many languages. And it is a subcontinent of many voiceless people.

How do you give a voiceless community a voice? You interpret and translate what they say into the language of the dominant discourse! Bravo..

Are we creating our own 'voiceless' communities by refusing to be cultural brokers?? Listen to Ted talking about what translation is REALLY for:

More on the GIGO Syndrome

I love Barbara Jungwirth posting on writing source text in "grammatically correct, clear structures free of spelling and punctuation errors" so as to facilitate the translation process, instead of getting the "Garbage In, Garbage Out" syndrome.

Barbara writes: "I was initially surprised at how frequently source text -- even fairly lengthy white papers and similar types of text -- appears not to have been proofread, let alone copy-edited. After reading a couple of books on technical and business matters recently, I am no longer surprised. Even books being printed and sold in bookstores don't seem to undergo much of a quality-assurance process any more. A case in point is Tamar Weinberg's "The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web", which I am in the process of reviewing for an upcoming issue of the Society for Technical Communication's magazine Intercom, which contains quite a few instances where sentences seem to have been hurriedly revised and fragments of the sentence's previous incarnation left behind or too much taken out. So if books aren't proofread any more, what can we expect from internal industry papers or instructions?"

Surprised, eh? I have a few books on translation studies that were published by very respectable institutions, and which contain errors. It is human to err. It is unprofessional to write slovenly, however. However, since the generation currently coming into force as editors and writers grew up on cut-and-paste, SMS and the Microsoft spell-checker, and without the benefit of being taught any serious usage of English at school, we can only expect to see more of this.

It is the translator's job to "leave source text errors in the source text" and provide a clean translation. Provided, of course, the translator knows an error when they see one. SMS your professional body for advice, maybe?

Barbara states, correctly: "However, such poorly written source text not only hampers the flow of reading, it often also adds ambiguity to the text. After all, if there are two conjunctions when only one should be present, which of the two did the author intend to use?"

I just smiled.

Ambiguity is now called "creativity" and "innovation" in language. Rules are BAD. And for someone to understand what one conjunction versus two mean in a text, they must be my age :-)


For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

The US Government Still "doesn't get it"

The Government Accountability Office reported on Thursday that Federal agencies must do more to improve employees' foreign language proficiencies.

David Maurer, director of GAO's homeland security and justice team said that DHS, in particular, has failed to take a comprehensive approach to assessing the foreign language capabilities of its employees and addressing any shortfalls despite several critical GAO reports. Jeff Neal, chief human capital officer at DHS, acknowledged the department does not have an overarching plan or program for foreign language skills.

"An effective program must be dynamic and responsive to changing situations," Neal said.

(Source: Government

Couldn't the same be said of any English-speaking business trying to enter foreign markets? All this money spent on copywriting, advertising and business meetings is going to waste if the produced materials do not actually address the target audience - that is, their potential clients and business partners.

And yet, when it comes to budgeting, the beneficial, intelligent use of language services comes as a not-so-high priority. Instead, business tend to depend on locals to tell them what to do. A bit like going to the barber to have your tooth extracted, if you ask me.

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at