Author Archives: Grace Azadvar

Celebrating 20 Years in Business

20th anniversary clouds

It’s celebration time! Linguamax has been in business for 20 years this month! Thanks to our great Clients, Colleagues, Linguists and Friends, we are celebrating this milestone anniversary. We have built many great relationships along the way and we are looking forward to strengthening them even further. Thank you all for contributing to our success! It has been a real pleasure working with you!

With a vision of offering the highest value to our clients, we set out in 1995 with determination to build a business known for providing highly personalised client-oriented services, exceptional quality and fast response times with a commitment to follow these principles consistently at all times. Since our humble beginnings we have built up a loyal following of clients who value the personal service our project managers bring to every job, as well as the ability of our translators to solve even the trickiest language-related challenges.

Linguamax attributes the company’s success to a number of things but there is one, which stands alone as the cornerstone. Our passion is unrelenting and we always strive to be better at what we do every year even after two decades. We aim to offer services that fully meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. We simply enjoy what we do!

It is with enormous pride that we celebrate 20 years of business and thank everyone who has been involved in helping Linguamax become the business it is. We look towards the coming years in a positive way and with determination to deliver on the promises the business was founded on.

Happy Easter!

Crocus

Easter is a symbol of hope, renewal and new life and we wish you lots of happiness, love, peace and joy this season!

From all at Linguamax – Grace, Erika, Monika & Justyna

Office closing times over the Easter period

Please note that our office will be closed from Friday 3 April until 9:00am on Tuesday 7 April 2015

Happy Christmas from Linguamax!

 

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
[Henry Wadsworth Longfellow]

Red berries after the rain

What is Christmas? As somebody said, it is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a wish that every cup may overflow with rich blessings and that every path may lead to peace.

Once again we find ourselves immersed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions – log fires, mulled wine and mince pies. Hope you all have a wonderful time this Christmas and keep your ‘Christmas hearts’ open all the year round!

Office opening times over the festive period

Please note that our office will be closed from Wednesday 24th December until 9:00am on 5th January 2015.

Thank you all for your business over the past year, and we look forward to working with you in 2015.

Winter xmas wishes

P.S. The money we have saved by emailing our Christmas message to you instead of printing and sending a Christmas card, will be donated in full to the Cinnamon Trust, our favourite charity.

Photos © Grace Azadvar-Smith. All rights reserved.

China – Discovering Beijing

On my second day in the ‘Northern Capital’, I decided to officially turn into a tourist and take on the sights of Beijing starting with the most famous complex in town, the Royal Palace, a.k.a. the Forbidden City.

On my reconnaissance mission the night before, I had discovered a small travel agent near my hotel which advertised various day trips to sights in the Beijing area. I thought this would come in handy for longer trips where an organised tour could eliminate lengthy journeys by public transport and the possibility of not actually making it to the sight due to getting lost or being taken on a detour by an enthusiastic taxi driver with whom I can only communicate using hand signals.

Like most tourists, I had a list of essential attractions that I wanted to tick off during my short stay in the Chinese capital, at the top of which was, naturally, The Great Wall. To my relief, one of the ladies in the travel agent’s spoke perfect English and once we got talking, I knew I wouldn’t take my business anywhere else. After a brief chat, I quickly booked myself a trip to The Great Wall for the next day and asked her what route she suggested I should take to the Forbidden City. She waved her hands in the air and said ‘Oh, it’s not far. You can walk there from here.’ I was surprised to hear that as it didn’t look that close on the map, but I took her advice.

After having walked for about half an hour along one of the main thoroughfares of Beijing comprising an astonishing seven lanes on each side (yes, counting the number of lanes on each major road became my favourite pastime on this trip!), I was still nowhere near the Royal Palace. Lesson learned: ‘not far’ means ‘absolutely miles away and do not attempt to walk it unless you are a regular marathon runner’ when uttered by a resident of one of the largest cities on earth.

I didn’t mind the walk too much as it was a warm, sunny but pleasantly breezy day and being late morning, the humungous motorway by my side seemed to be almost void of traffic. The smog, however, was really getting to me. I did contemplate wearing a mask but I didn’t see many locals wearing one, so I reasoned that I would be fine, as I was only going to inhale those toxic fumes for a few days, while anyone living in this city would have to put up with it for a lifetime. It was a shame that even the strong May sunshine could not penetrate the thick layer of smoke generated by the approximately eight million private cars that use the enormous road network of this huge city on a daily basis. My throat and nose didn’t feel happy about the exposure to such a high concentration of unpleasant particles, but I carried on regardless.

About forty minutes into my walk to the ‘nearby’ tourist attraction, a very friendly middle-aged man joined me, who seemingly just happened to be walking in the same direction as me. His English was surprisingly good and he must have sensed that I had been deprived of my regular dose of daily conversation and would be more than happy to chat to him for a while. He said he was a teacher of calligraphy, which I found intriguing, and while talking about his life and asking questions about mine, he very ingeniously guided me to an art shop, where his friend was selling typical Chinese paintings depicting the four seasons, playful pandas and scenes of peaceful lakes with water lilies.

I couldn’t believe I had fallen for this again! Only the night before, while strolling along the shopping mall near my hotel, I had been approached by a ‘Professor of Art’, who also spoke surprisingly good English. I was happy to listen to him explaining the different styles of Chinese painting, the significance of certain motifs, such as plum blossom, and the four seasons representing the four stages in a person’s life. To me, it was a fascinating introduction to a culture and artistic style so different to ours and I didn’t mind spending some of my Yuan (quite a significant chunk of my cash, actually) in his lovely art gallery.

So here I was again, less than 24 hours since my last purchase, expected to buy at least two, perhaps three pieces of the amazing art hanging on the walls of this small shop. The salesman was very polite; I didn’t feel threatened or intimidated by any means, but I definitely sensed his determination not to let me leave his shop with my purse full. Naturally, there was some haggling involved, where the price of a certain piece on silk miraculously dropped to half of its original tag after I’d explained that I was already the proud owner of four beautiful paintings by an unnamed Chinese artist. Eventually, I agreed to buy the silk scroll, and was persuaded to add just one other small piece with an extremely generous discount, before continuing my way to the Royal Palace.

Unsurprisingly, by the time I reached my destination, I was positively exhausted. And I hadn’t even entered the vast complex of halls and palaces that was supposed to be the highlight of my day. I sat down under a tree and had a snack and a bit of a rest before starting my tour of the finest example of Chinese imperial architecture.

Art gallery in Beijing

Art gallery in Beijing

Written by: Erika Arvai

China – First Impressions

I have recently had the privilege to visit a country that is most famous for its ancient history, the only man-made structure visible from outer space and its huge population, which − even after 35 years of strictly controlled one-child policy − exceeds 1.35 billion.

I was invited by Nationalities University in Dalian in the North-East of China to deliver lectures on business and leadership to its students of International Trade in May this year. On my way there, I decided to spend four days in Beijing, as it would have been a shame to pass through this ancient city without visiting some of its famous sights.

Beijing road

Beijing road

I had been warned to expect large buildings and great distances in the ‘Northern Capital’, but I could hardly believe my eyes when, having taken the ‘Sky Train’ from the airport to the city centre, I stepped out of the railway station in search of a taxi to the hotel. The road in front of me was the size of a large European motorway with five lanes on each side and a barrier in the middle acting as central reservation. I was hoping to hail a taxi from the pavement, but there was also a metal barrier separating pedestrians and cyclists from the road and I could not see an opening in it anywhere. I even ventured down into the subway hoping to be able to cross underground to the other side of the vast avenue but only ended up back at the metro station that I had come from.

Seeing my despair (and it is not easy for a European visitor with a large suitcase to blend into the local crowd), an octogenarian rickshaw driver in slippers approached me and asked if I wanted a lift. When I showed him the address of the hotel, which I had very smartly printed out in Mandarin before I left home, he shook his head and waved me to a taxi that had miraculously appeared between the pavement and the roadside barrier. I couldn’t have been more grateful! I didn’t even mind the fare he was going to charge me which, for a relatively short journey, turned out to be twice the cost of an airport transfer.

It was just as well that I hadn’t contemplated making my way to the hotel by public transport, as there was no way I could have carried my heavy suitcase up and down the numerous stairs that seem to be inherent to any underground journey in Beijing. Public transport in China seems to have been designed solely for able-bodied athletes. If you wonder why most Chinese are so slim and fit, this is one reason: in order to get from A to B without a chauffeur-driven car or a taxi you have to walk for miles and climb hundreds of stairs every time.

I was relieved to eventually arrive at my lovely hotel and to be greeted by English-speaking staff and a comfortable bed to sleep off some of my jet lag. In the evening, refreshed, I ventured out for a walk to discover my immediate surroundings. I was pleasantly surprised that, despite the hotel being near Beijing Railway Station, the area was far from dodgy or run down. In fact, it was very modern with tall office buildings and shopping malls, and also very clean and free from any rough sleepers or beggars you would normally expect in such a location in most other countries. The roads, however, were still vast.

On my first evening stroll, I decided to walk across the zebra crossing in front of the station, the memory of which still sends shivers down my spine. I obviously waited for the lights to turn green for pedestrians before starting my long walk across the ten lanes that this particular road consisted of, luckily in the company of some brave and experienced locals. However, once on the crossing, I was astonished to see cars turning from both left and right onto the zebra crossing and expecting the pedestrians to somehow vanish from their paths. I didn’t know which way to look and whether to keep walking or to start sprinting, so I simply decided to stick with the small group of determined locals and kept walking while trying to ignore the cyclists and rickshaw drivers who, at that point, also joined in the commotion. In a situation like this, having only two eyes is simply not enough! Since I’m only blessed with the usual one pair, and this was not an experience I wanted to repeat any time soon, on subsequent trips out, I insisted on using the subway nearby to get from one side of the road to the other. Where this wasn’t an option, i.e. on smaller roads only consisting of four lanes, I would check both ways, check again and then run for it, hoping no local driver would want to get involved with foreign insurance firms over injuring a European visitor.

On this first outing of mine, I decided to pop into the local supermarket. The layout of the shop was very similar to that of many supermarket chains in Europe where you can find everything from clothes and household appliances to fresh fruit, meat and fish under the same roof. It didn’t surprise me too much that approximately 70% of all the food on sale was unrecognisable to me either due to its appearance or its Mandarin labelling, or both.

I wasn’t on a mission to try some exotic Chinese delicacies on my first evening, though; I was actually hoping to find some bread. I know that in Oriental countries bread isn’t part of the essential diet like it is in Europe, but I thought a large supermarket in the centre of Beijing would surely cater for more unusual tastes. Having spent about half an hour looking at various shelves and walking up and down numerous isles, I decided to ask someone for help. I thought I was very well prepared for this adventure as I had downloaded a couple of Chinese translator apps to my phone at home and this was the time to put my new gadget to the test. I quickly discovered, however, that both my apps were completely useless without Wi-Fi and I wasn’t desperate enough to use mobile internet 5,000 miles away from home at rates of about 1 ounce of gold per megabyte, so I resorted to approaching young, professional looking women (assuming that they might speak some basic English) with my ‘Do you speak English?’ pronounced as slowly and clearly as humanly possible. The reactions to this ranged from sheer panic followed by a swift move away from the stranger to giggles or simply saying ‘no way’ in Mandarin.

Working for a translation agency and having great passion for foreign languages, I do appreciate the importance of speaking the local language when visiting other countries. I also normally try to learn a few local phrases before travelling somewhere new, but in this case I felt completely unprepared: I could not communicate with a single person in that shop. The fact that I did eventually find something that looked like sliced bread but tasted more like brioche (an added bonus?) was not thanks to my verbal abilities but rather to my determination of not leaving the supermarket empty handed.

If lessons are to be learned from our experiences in life, then my first evening in Beijing taught me to avoid road traffic in Chinese cities at all costs and it made me realise that one must not assume that English is the international language of our globalized world. China is very happy with its own language and culture and is in no hurry to give it up or adjust it to our convenience.

Written by: Erika Arvai

Hotel in Beijing

Outside my hotel with the bell boys

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter from Linguamax

 

Wishing you all a very Happy Easter!

 

Have a peaceful, sunny holiday full of joy and excitement – from Linguamax

 

Office closing times over the Easter period

Please note that our office will be closed from Friday 18 April until 9:00am on Tuesday 22 April 2014

 

Eastern Europe – Polish and Slavonic languages a speciality

Are you hoping to expand your business into new markets?

For anyone considering business expansion, Central and Eastern Europe constitute an exciting market.  Important developments are taking place in commerce, science and medicine, spurred on by strengthening ties within the European Economic Area. Many of the countries of Eastern Europe became members of the European Union in two waves, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia in 2004, followed by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, and lastly by Croatia in 2013, with some of the later countries finally achieving full migration rights in 2014.  Other countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) are at varying stages of the negotiation process, whilst Armenia, Georgia and Moldova have all expressed interest. As Europe gradually emerges from the effects of the recent recession, economic activity across the region is steadily picking up. All this means a growing customer base and new opportunities for trade.

Slavic languages map

Slavic languages map

How can we help?

Linguamax is proud to have a particularly strong pool of language specialists for Eastern European languages. Our Management Team includes native speakers of Polish, with many years of experience in successfully arranging and overseeing diverse and demanding language projects, and our highly qualified Eastern European translators include legal, medical, technical and financial experts, who of course translate into their mother tongue.

Some of our most recent projects include:

Translation into Russian and Czech of product specifications

Translation of medical reports from Polish to English

Translation of clinical trial questionnaires into Hungarian, Bulgarian and Czech, with proofreading

Translation of insurance documents from Russian to English

Translation into Bosnian of legal communications

Translation of financial documents from Serbian to English

 

Which languages are spoken in the area?

Slavic or Slavonic languages

Predominant amongst the languages of Eastern Europe are those belong to the Slavic or Slavonic group. They show strong similarities, but each language has its own marked characteristics.

The Slavic or Slavonic languages can be divided up into broad families:

South Slavic: including Serbo-Croatian, Slovene and Bulgarian-Macedonian

West Slavic: including Czech, Slovak and Polish

East Slavic: including Russian, Ukrainian and Belarussian

These Slavic languages also share some common attributes with the neighbouring Baltic languages comprising Lithuanian and Latvian.

Since the break-up of the former Soviet Union, and subsequently Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, individual Slavic dialects have become identified as the official languages of the newly formed states, whilst some countries have more than one official language. As a consequence translations may need to be specifically adapted for the target audience in particular countries. Our native translators can ensure that you are genuinely speaking the language of your client or customer.

Geographically, the Eastern European area is also shared with other non-Slavic languages such as Romanian, Estonian, Hungarian and German. In the neighbouring Caucasus, Turkic languages are spoken in Azerbaijan and Armenia, whilst the distinctive language of Georgia is of unknown origin.

Scripts

A further complication is the use of different scripts. Cyrillic script is used to write all East Slav languages plus Bulgarian, Macedonian and Serbian. However other languages such as Polish and Czech use Latin script together with special diacritic signs to represent particular sounds.

Just to confuse matters, Cyrillic script is also used by several non-Slavic languages: Kazakh, Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik, as well as Mongolian, so it may not always be easy to identify the language of a document if the source is not specified!

 

What are the particular challenges of translation between Slavonic languages and English?

Monika:

As a translator between Polish and English, I was asked about the translation challenges posed by the differences between the two languages.

The main difference is grammar, which is significantly more complex in Polish, with different suffixes added to words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs etc.) in sentences, depending on a particular case, tense, person or gender. And unlike just a couple of mostly regular suffixes in English (-ed for verbs in past tense or -s for nouns in plural), the suffixes in Polish are numerous and different for each 7 noun cases, 3 verb tenses, 6 persons and 3 genders. This may be troublesome for a non-native translator of Polish and will require a great attention to detail.

Polish is also more sensitive when it comes to the use of language and style. Written Polish seems to be more formal comparing to English and when translating one must avoid repetitions, ensure proper collocations and carefully adapt the language to a given register.

English vocabulary is of a larger volume, there is a greater specificity of words, which in the absence of equivalents in Polish must be paraphrased. This often expands the volume of translated text and may pose a problem when the space is an important factor (e.g. subtitling).

A Day in the life of a Project Manager

The great thing about working as a Project Manager for a small translation agency is that one never knows at the start of the day quite what challenges the day will bring! So much of our work relates to analysing the client’s varied and specific requirements for each particular task and selecting the most appropriate person to meet those requirements.

As I open the morning batch of e-mails, in pops a message from a regular client, a legal firm dealing with transport claims. The attached pdf file reveals the rough handwriting of a Russian lorry driver’s report. A quick phone call to our favoured Russian translator who is best able to deal with semi-legible scrawls, rouses him from his bed (he’s a man of nocturnal habits!) and after examining the text he asks if an improved source text can be obtained, as some words cannot be made out at all! After we’ve done a little work on enhancing the contrast, he promises to give it his best attention for delivery the following day. This eye-witness account may prove crucial to the case, and we know our translator will give an accurate rendering of the driver’s words. We are lucky this time that the reports are not in Kazakh or Tajik, which also use the Cyrillic alphabet, and so are not easily distinguished by the uninitiated!

The phone rings. A young woman needs a certified translation of her German birth certificate. The source document and the certified translation need to be presented to the American Embassy in London in just two days’ time. We arrange for the document to be translated, certified, and sent by Special Delivery in order to reach her in time.

In the meantime, a 6000 word financial report has been delivered by our Danish translator. This is part of a batch of jobs for translation into several languages, due back to the client by the end of the day. It will need careful checking to ensure that all facts and figures match the source text. We will go through it systematically, line by line, checking each figure, as well as doing a spelling and grammar check. We are expecting the Portuguese, French, German and Norwegian texts to come in during the course of the day, and each will be checked with the same meticulous attention to detail. If independent proofreading is required, we will liaise between the proof reader and the original translator over differing forms of words, but ultimately the original translator will have the final say on the wording which is adopted.

Another regular client contacts us with some updates to a product manual. The new text needs to be translated into 5 languages, Russian, Polish, Czech, Greek and Turkish, and it is best if it is done by translators who have worked on the text before. In fact they need to be users of Trados and have the relevant Translation Memory to match the new text to the old. Translators are contacted, deadlines established and Purchase Orders raised in double-quick time, so that within an hour we are able to report to the client that the project is underway.

An English translation of a Polish medical report is needed as part of a job application. It includes both numerous medical abbreviations and some semi-legible handwritten text. We have a strong pool of reliable Polish medical translators to call upon, but because they are often very busy, we may have to contact several people before finding someone who is available. After several e-mails and phone calls, a satisfactory deadline is achieved for the client.

Each of our translators has their own special strengths. An English translation of a Portuguese text comes in from one of our oldest translators. He is a real wordsmith, the master of the apposite phrase. He produces reliable and trusted translations of complex legal texts. Unfortunately his eyesight sometimes fails him when faced by arrays of figures, so we prefer to use him for continuous text, giving jobs which are dominated by figures to a younger translator with good formatting skills.

It’s 2.30 pm, and a client in Canada has started work for the day. He wants a Chinese translation of a medical text proofread for start of business tomorrow. The job will involve some four hours’ work. Working across different time-zones creates particular problems.  It’s a conundrum: most Chinese native speakers are based in China, where it is already 10 pm! We try our UK-based contacts, but they are all very busy and would need more time. As the clock ticks by, tension mounts. Can we find an appropriately qualified and available translator in the time we have? Fortunately one of our contacts in China is working late and picks up our message. With a medical degree and extensive medical translation experience he is ideal for the job. Grace works overtime to get the project in place.

A request for interpreters for a multilingual conference requires careful negotiation on times, prices and general requirements. Will interpreting be consecutive or ad hoc? Is there likely to be any equipment available? Additionally, access to the venue and travel arrangements need to be established. A full day’s session may require more than one interpreter per language to allow for breaks and ensure efficiency. To confirm the bookings, signed terms of agreement need to be acquired from each interpreter.

Out of the blue, and coming up to closing time, a request for a Mongolian translator comes in. This is not a language for which we experience frequent demand, but we willingly turn our minds to the task of finding a UK-based Mongolian speaker. Whilst it is generally preferable that translators should work into their own mother tongue, the difficulty with less common languages is that they are seldom studied by English native speakers, so translators are likely to be non-native speakers. Extra special attention has then to be paid to the quality of the English translation, and if necessary individual phrases are double-checked to ensure accuracy.

Before we shut down the computer for the evening, we make sure all outstanding projects have been safely delivered, any queries from the clients have been answered, and all Purchase Orders have been sent out to translators for the next round of jobs. What will tomorrow bring?

Written by: Sarah Wright

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Season’s Greetings from Linguamax!

Another busy year has sped by, and the twinkling lights and Christmas trees outside our Holt office are a cheery reminder that the festive season is upon us!

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Office opening times over the festive period

Please note that our office will be closed from 5:00pm on Friday 20th December until 9:00am on Thursday 2nd January 2013.

As always, we would like to thank you all for your business over the past year, and we look forward to working closely with you over the course of 2014.

We wish you all a fun-filled Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Grace and Sarah

P.S. The money we have saved by emailing our Christmas message to you instead of printing and sending a Christmas card, will be donated in full to the Cinnamon Trust, our favourite charity.

Words, Words, Words

Word: “a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing”.  Oxford Online Dictionary

Picking up passing scraps of conversation, or tuning in to radio or TV programmes, we are all aware that language is constantly evolving, never more so than in the last few decades. The pace of change everywhere has been fuelled by rapid technological progress, cultural shifts and wide dissemination via the internet and mass media. New things and novel ideas require fresh means of expression. It’s a two way process. Words lose popularity and drop from common parlance within the lifetime of the original speakers (Rather! I say!). Broadcasts from the 1950s on “the wireless” and Pathé “newsreels” already sound pompous and stultified to modern ears. Yet that same period in America spawned a host of new words for new concepts (fast food, junk mail, DJ, weirdo, sexism) which caught on rapidly around the world and still seem quite new today.

With the current popularity of period drama, we may even be struck by how odd our modern expressions would have seemed back then. Anachronisms – such as the use of “learning curve”, “fan club” and “defining moment” in the UK TV series Downton Abbey – provide fun for gaffe spotters. Getting the language of the period right is perhaps even more important for creating atmosphere than costume and setting – a misused phrase can stand out like a pylon in an ageless rural scene. But because words and meaning have changed significantly over time, programme producers are aware that to stick too closely to the language of more distant periods can make it alienating and impenetrable to a modern audience. The past can indeed seem like a foreign country.

The diverse origins of the English language have resulted in a peculiarly rich linguistic culture. Other languages may perhaps boast greater purity, or more actual dictionary words, partly depending on how variants, compounds and inflections are counted, but contributions from the linguistic heritage of Anglo Saxon, Latin and Norman French have melded with more recent influences to create a varied lexicon replete with multiple layers of meaning. Strangely, grammar, the actual structure of language, is much less subject to external influence, and changes very slowly, but one of the peculiar strengths of English is its vast ability to absorb new vocabulary.

Al dente, sushi, latte, macho, siesta, doppelganger, zeitgeist, déjà vu… we assimilate new words from a variety of sources and influences, but not many neologisms now come into English from other languages, the massive trend being in the other direction.

Words which evolve from a shared localised culture, whether popular or highbrow, can be opaque to outsiders – references to British youth subcultures (hoodie, chav) or to literary sources (Catch-22, Orwellian, scrooge) can be equally mystifying.

However the most noticeable aspect of language development in recent years is the rapid globalization of new words for new concepts in science, technology, the media and popular culture, and here the predominant influence is transatlantic – from US to British English. By extension, the worldwide source for most modern neologisms is the American-English-dominated internet, and to some, the plethora of new words can seem like an invasion. Official bodies in many countries (Russia, Sweden, France and Spain) attempt to prescribe accepted terminology, often amidst fears about the corruption of the official language.

With hundreds or even thousands of new words emerging each year, the ever changing panorama creates a particular challenge for translators looking for meaning. In Britain, non-prescriptive dictionaries record common usage rather than official acceptance. New words may arise as compounds (earworm, senior moment), new phrasal words (laid-back, chill-out) or blends of words (staycation, brunch, metrosexual).  Abbreviated words (detox, decaf, sat-nav) or words formed from acronyms (yuppie, ASBO) have become increasingly common, as have text messaging abbreviations (LOL, BTW), whilst large numbers of old words have gained new meanings (surf, tweet, hack, sad, cool) or have been altered by the addition of prefixes or suffixes, sometimes borrowed from other languages (uncool, über-modern, fashionista).  New terms move from slang status to more general acceptance, disseminated by the media. Other terms come and go, arising from transitory political or cultural events (eurogeddon, eurosceptic).  The Oxford Online Dictionary may even be ahead of most of us, having already raised definitions for such new compounds as omnishambles, buzzworthy and hackerspace. Who knows how many of these will survive? Such words have to prove their longevity before they can get in to the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary, but even here the notional ten year rule is disappearing: despite its relative novelty, “tweet” has been accepted for inclusion this year!

The problem for translators is that not all languages may adapt so readily. Many languages, such as Turkish, Hungarian and German, have similar ways of dealing with new concepts, by building up a descriptive compound word from component parts, allowing almost infinite variety. However, preferred terms for common objects may take a while to emerge, the concept itself may not be familiar to the target audience, popular names may differ from officially minted terminology, and the step from popular use to official recognition may take even longer.  In Spain, the term “email” is widely encountered but “correo electrónico” is officially preferred. Some words like “avatar” (Sanskrit in origin) have been directly adopted into other languages. Hungarian and Russian have their own, home coined words for the World Wide Web (“világháló” and “всемирная паутина”) but in Germany, “das Internet” is more widely used than the home produced version “das Weltnetz”. Other terms like LOL (“laugh-out-loud”) are subtly transformed by local speakers, so “jajaja” in Spanish, becomes 555 (hahaha) in Korean! Curiously, “geek” in Spanish becomes “friki” which also has an Anglo-Saxon origin, whilst Germans use an English word “Handy” for mobile phone, a term not recognised by English speakers!

Popular slang may be of limited concern to professional translators, but new terminology is also constantly being introduced in science, medicine, business, marketing and politics, yet until very well established may not be recorded in printed bilingual dictionaries and is unlikely to be found in automated translation systems. It is up to translators themselves to be part of the ongoing process of defining and explaining new words and concepts, whilst keeping a close eye on developments!

 

Written by: Sarah Wright

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