Milestone: 100 Followers!

Launched in June 2013, Linguistic Alchemy’s blog has recently reached the milestone of 100 followers! Thank you to all my loyal readers. It makes the time and effort to write these posts all the more worthwhile. As work and life seem to have accelerated for me in the past year, the blog has gone fairly quiet, but I still hope to add to it on occasion, so do stay tuned!

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Translating Chinese Whispers

We all know the hackneyed expression “lost in translation”. Yet, some seem to expect translation to work like an exact science.

I was recently working on an exhibition catalogue and one of the texts, written by a German artist, had been translated into English for me to translate into French. Not having been offered to see the German text, and my German being limited anyway, I had to Continue reading

Translation May Not Be What You Need

Just like being able to speak English is not enough to be the next Oscar Wilde, not every job that involves a foreign language can be allocated to a translator. There are times when a translator is the wrong person for the job.

To come up with a snappy slogan or a memorable acronym, you have probably delegated the task to a skilled person within your marketing department or even hired a professional copywriter. Many translators can Continue reading

Trust Me, I’m a Linguist

Each language has its own logic, sets of rules and exquisite weirdnesses. If something looks strange to you in the translation, it may be due to such idiosyncrasies rather than a translator’s mistake.

For example, in French there is a hard space in front of certain items of punctuation such as question and exclamation marks, colons and semicolons, and quotation marks. Also note that the latter Continue reading

Teaming up for Clients

Here is an article I have written, published this month in The Linguist, the Chartered Institute of Linguists’ magazine. When looking for translators working in other language pairs on behalf of clients, the response to my search for a suitable candidate can be of mixed quality and standards. This article gives fellow linguists tips on how best to respond when contacted by a colleague. Continue reading

Give the Cream to Those who Want it Most

Out of the blue, a Toronto-based artist contacted me, asking whether my MA dissertation (on J. M. W. Turner and the Industrial Revolution) was available for purchase. Who would have thought! The artist is currently doing some research on Turner and found my details in the Association of Art Historians’ member directory.

While my translation services are irrelevant in this case, this anecdote illustrates that translators are everywhere, even where you might Continue reading

That Doesn’t Break Three Legs to a Duck

If you hire an amateur “translator” who speaks French like a Spanish cow, your audience could feel like a hen that has found a knife, leaving you in the cabbages while the crook runs away in the English fashion.

Puzzled?

Idioms make languages colourful and interesting. When using them, we don’t think about what they say literally but non-native speakers hearing them for the first time will Continue reading

Translation or Localisation?

An agency once sent a translation with some complaints from the client to me by accident. The problematic translation was a Belgian French version of a text that I had translated for them into French French. The agency had commissioned two translators to work on the same text into two different variants of French. While adapting the text to each country is sensible, translating the text twice into very similar variants of the same language is not the most cost-effective way to do it. Continue reading

The MOOC Experience

In September, I completed a MOOC in Social Psychology with the Wesleyan University (USA) via Coursera and I’m pleased to report that I passed with distinction (91%). So what was the course like?

Well, I expected a MOOC to be a fairly light course, but it proved fairly demanding: each week comprised several videos to Continue reading

Keeping Up With Languages

After much thinking, deliberating, hesitating and mmm-ing, I have decided to stop offering translation from Spanish.

People who do not speak a second language struggle to understand that the knowledge of a language is not for life. Languages are living things. If you don’t look after them, they will wither away and die from your memory. Even your mother tongue can Continue reading