Interesting and funny blogs on translation, interpreting and language – have fun!
Have you heard of Wôpanâôt8âôk? Probably not, since it hasn’t been a ‘living’ language for over 150 years. But that’s about to change…
What is Wôpanâôt8âôk?
Wôpanâôt8âôk is the native language of the Wôpanâak (Wampanoag) tribe of Native Americans who live in the area of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It was once a very important language:
It was the first Native American language to develop and use an alphabetic writing system.
The first complete bible printed in the ‘New World’ was published in the Wampanoag language in 1663
The language enjoys the largest corpus of Native written documents in North America
Why did it ‘die’?
Wôpanâôt8âôk ceased to be spoken around the mid-19th century. As with so many indigenous languages, this happened through the processes of religious conversion, laws against the use of the language, mainstream education, and commerce.
How is it being ‘re-born’?
Although there haven’t been any fluent speakers of the Wôpanâôt8âôk language for over 150 years, the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project (http://wlrp.org) is aiming to return fluency in Wôpanâôt8âôk to the Wampanoag Nation as a principal means of expression, bringing back to life their ancestral language after over six generations of dormancy. This includes developing a Wôpanâôt8âôk dictionary (that currently holds over 11,000 words), a curriculum for second language acquisition for adult learners, and the first Wôpanâôt8ây Pâhshaneekamuq (Wôpanâôt8âôk-medium School) opening in 2015.
Their efforts are already showing great signs of success and promise. In addition to a number of adults now using the language, a few very young children are being raised with Wampanoag as their first language – the first native speakers of the language since the mid-19th century!
Why is the re-birth of the Wôpanâôt8âôk language important for the rest of the language world?
It is [...]
Tattoo translation is in demand at Veritas and we regularly get requests for Chinese, Arabic and Hebrew translations and now and again, Gaelic.
As expected, many of the requests tend to be philosophical or simply personal to the person on the receiving end of the needle, and the translator’s task would be to translate the text into the equivalent in the other language. However, equivalent does not mean literal translation, which is all too common and could be catastrophic for the person having the tattoo.Examples of translations we have carried out at Veritas include ‘Sisters Forever’ into Scottish Gaelic and ‘Love’ into Traditional Chinese characters, as well as ‘Forever in my Heart’ into Hindi.
Obviously our process involves working with professional linguists who know what the equivalents are in the other language, and who only translate into their native language, ensuring that the tattoo reads exactly what it means. There are some hilarious examples of translation errors which have resulted in a red face at the end!‘diarrhea’ inked on their arm rather than ‘prosperity’. AND they were informed of this whilst in a Chinese herbal medicine shop. Embarrassing? To say the least!
Even though there are some awful tattoo mistranslations, there are also English spelling blunders which do make you wonder, such as ‘Life go’s on’ , ‘It’s get better’ and ‘streangth’.
If you think about it, a business would not get someone other than a qualified translator to translate their website or documents, but those are elements of translation that can easily be changed, at a cost, but they are not permanent. Tattoos ARE and you would be a fool to think a tattoo artist is a linguist too, [...]
Over the last decade, things have rapidly moved on in the world of technology and the internet, and with that so has the language we use to communicate with each other, which is happening increasingly over the internet. With new words such as ‘Googled’ and ‘tweeted’ shaping our daily vocabulary, and with emerging words such as ‘rick rolling’ and ‘trolling’ taking effect, it is just one of the reasons why translators specialising in technology and IT need to be fully immersed in their target language to enable tip top technical translations.
Internet-speak is firmly implanted in language now, and as we continue to live our lives online, new expressions and words will continue to develop. Like what has been happening since the first word was spoken, we will adjust the way we use words based on what we do and see. And because what we do and see is so often the computer screen (whether that be via a PC, tablet, laptop, smartphone or netbook may I add), our language is impacted by the Internet, and it is only going to continue in that direction it seems!
Translators need to keep up with this language revolution, although it may often be words that are universally the same, it is how those words are blended with their mother tongues. How has that new word been implanted into the target language country’s vocabulary? Is it through hybrid English such as Konglish (Korean and English), Hinglish (Hindi and English) and Spanglish (Spanish and English)? This is why technical translators are required for the fields of Technology and IT. Us regular folk do not have the time, or knowledge to research this, or [...]
Machine translation vs human translation. It’s like something from a sci-fi film – the battle between humans and machines; artificial intelligence turning on its human creators and, at best, rendering us obsolete, at worst, turning us into biofuel.
It’s a debate which is always rumbling along in the underbelly of the translation industry, and periodically raises its controversial head, with the Machine Translation Enthusiasts/Companies doing their best to convince unwitting businesses that it’s The Way Forward, and the Sensible People just smiling a bit condescendingly and getting on with persuading companies to source professional linguists for their translation work (which is basically what I’m attempting to do now).
The thing is, no matter how sophisticated the tools become, they’re always going to lack the human aspects of language. They’ll never grasp that words carry with them a multitude of cultural connotations and historical significance which can never be programmed into a machine.
Additionally, machines won’t ever master the art of word play, or understand stylistic choices. Neither will they query something they don’t understand if the context doesn’t make it clear. They can’t do extensive research or ask colleagues or clients to clarify an acronym. Yes, they can use sophisticated algorithms to cross reference databases and dictionaries and web pages, but that’s still no match for a person, who won’t be restricted by programming limitations, and can think around the problem.
Moreover, languages change constantly, subtly, with each year that passes. People make up new words and hijack old ones to take on new meanings. I’m sure everyone reading this can think of at least one or two words that are used between friends or family members, which probably aren’t examples of standard usage. I forget [...]
I love working in an office that not only deals with people around the world, but includes people from around the world. Mainly because the chats we have over a coffee are always interesting and lively, and can sprout from a simple phrase or word used.
Case in point, the other day a couple staff were querying the use of “12:07 AM” in an American translation that involved translating time. An American myself, who has lived here for over 13 years, this made perfect sense to me. But a debate over its correctness ensued. Surely, they said, it should be 00:07, and leave it at that. At which point I said, “But Americans do not use a 24 hour clock.” Everyone just looked at me with a weird look on their faces.
I looked back with a look that said, I thought everyone knew that. Clearly they did not. I then explained that in America, it is either 12:07 AM or 12:07 PM; 3:15 AM or 3:15 PM. Everything is AM or PM. The only time a 24 hour clock is used is if you specify that you are using “Military Time”, which isn’t often. A 24 hour clock is just too hard and confusing. (How can seven-teen mean five? You said seven.) It took me years to learn how to tell time past 12:59 in the UK. I still have to calculate in my head to figure out how to say 3:00pm (3 plus 2 is 5 = 15:00), or to know what 17:00 means (7 – 2 = 5 = 5 o’clock pm)
So, the next time you are communicating with an American about time, use a 12 hour clock and be sure to clarify [...]