Languages differ in what they MUST say

There is a popular belief that some things can only be expressed in some languages and not in other languages. The linguist and literary theorist Roman Jakobson (1896-1982) took issue with that belief in his well-known statement: ‘Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey’. That statement appears in his short essay…… Continue reading Languages differ in what they MUST say

ISOs on translation

In February 2024, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published ISO 5060 Translation services, Evaluation of translation output—General guidance. It gives guidance on evaluating human translation output, post-edited machine translation output, and unedited machine translation output. I searched the ISOs online store for other ISOs dealing with translation. I have prepared summaries below from the…… Continue reading ISOs on translation

Nynorsk writer wins Nobel literature prize

The winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature was someone who writes in Norwegian, Jon Fosse. That award is notable not just because Fosse is the first winner known best for his plays since Harold Pinter (2005). And not just because he is the first winner who writes in Norwegian since Sigrid Undset (1928).…… Continue reading Nynorsk writer wins Nobel literature prize

International Translation Day

Today is International Translation Day, a day picked because 30 September is the feast day for St Jerome. The Catholic Church regards him as the patron saint of translators—and also of archaeologists, Biblical scholars, librarians and students. For more information about International Translation Day, please see the following information produced by the International Federation of…… Continue reading International Translation Day

A tricky legal translation problem: food packaging

I’ve written before about a court case which concluded that UK retailer Tesco mis-translated the phrase chocolate powder into Czech. Translation and food packaging – Language Miscellany The judgement of the EU Court of Justice was produced in French. When I wrote before on this case, the official English translation wasn’t yet available.  The English…… Continue reading A tricky legal translation problem: food packaging

Anglicised Germany—again

Here’s a link to a map of German in which the place names have all been translated into pseudo-English. https://www.facebook.com/TeutonicTongues/photos/a.2123278127942706/2699877216949458/ We recently stayed in Hambury, from where we did day trips to Henver and Lubbitch. On the way back, we changed trains in Theesbury and Minchin Ladbatch and Ea. I’ve linked to this map before.…… Continue reading Anglicised Germany—again

Translation gaffe at Gatwick

I was shocked to see this beginners’ translation blunder at Gatwick airport. This picture shows a box inviting passengers to donate their spare currency. The largest word on the box says Change. Presumably, this is the original English word. No doubt, the intended message is that passengers should give over their remaining small change. The…… Continue reading Translation gaffe at Gatwick

Using translation to show how the perfect differs across languages

Many western European languages have a perfect tense, formed by combining an auxiliary verb (meaning ‘have’ or ‘be’) with a past participle. Different languages use this verb form in different ways. A recent paper used translations of a well-known French novel to explore those differences. The aim was to see which tense the translators used…… Continue reading Using translation to show how the perfect differs across languages

Untranslatable words

People are endlessly fascinated by words that are claimed to be untranslatable. A recent request by the American dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster led to many suggestions of words that are untranslatable. On 28 February 2023, the publisher tweeted a question: ‘Non-native English Speakers, what’s a word from your language that you think is perfect that doesn’t…… Continue reading Untranslatable words

Young linguists who thanked Darwin

At a new exhibition on the correspondence of Charles Darwin, I came across a letter from 5 daughters of a family friend of Darwin’s. Describing themselves as botanists and linguists, they ended the short letter with a saying in the Maori language. Text of the letterThe Botanists present their best thanks to Mr Darwin for…… Continue reading Young linguists who thanked Darwin