New year, new you?

If you’re starting off the new year with some resolutions, why not add some CPD ones? They’re actually perfect as SMART targets – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely – so you’ll be more likely to stick to them!
There are plenty of providers out there, my favourites being the ITI and the language, regional and subject-specific groups as well as eCPD webinars. You could attend a workshop or webinar learning about something lecture-style or you could try out one of the mentoring schemes that some of the ITI groups run and actually get feedback on your translations, in a new area, for example. That’s what I did when I took part in the ITI German Network’s mentoring scheme. It was a great opportunity and I can highly recommend it!

I wrote about it for the GerNet Netzblatt in June 2017, if you missed it you can read it here too:
I entered translation as a bit of a generalist and was quite conscious that I would probably do better (read: earn more money!) by specialising. So, when an agency I had been working for asked me to take a test for some financial work they were expecting, I gave it a go and was accepted. The work never materialised from the agency but I did start investigating the field; I took some courses, did a few financial translations and proofread some annual reports, but I needed to do more.
I had been considering the GerNet mentoring scheme for a while, and finally took the plunge in the summer of 2016 when I thought work would be quieter. The GerNet coordinator paired me with Laura Byrne, a German to English translator who worked as a financial analyst in a former life. After being assigned to each other we had a Skype conversation to discuss the kind of areas I was interested in and for Laura to find out about my prior knowledge. The idea was to build on what I already knew and Laura managed to find texts that did just that.
The first two texts were very similar but meant that what I learned in the first one, I was able to put into practice in the second, something I found really useful – how often do we learn things and forget them by the next time we need them? So I liked this approach because it helped cement my knowledge. The third text was a slightly different area and a lot more challenging.
Overall we worked together for seven months, allowing up to a month for a piece of work at busy times. I know that’s unusual in the industry, but I couldn’t see the point in rushing a translation to a meet a short deadline and not learn anything from it – for me it was a learning process; I wanted to read through the text, look up terminology and research around the subject a bit before actually translating. Fortunately Laura shared this opinion and could be flexible around deadlines too, often revising my work within a couple of days. Overall I spent far more time on it than I am allowed to put on my CPD record, but it was much more worthwhile.
One of the first things I learned from Laura was about style. My impression of financial writing – limited as it was to the financial press – was that it uses a lot of idiom and metaphor. I thought that if the German used different words to express certain ideas, I would have to do the same – and here I’m mainly thinking of terms like increase/decrease which came up a lot in all three texts. But Laura pointed out that her experience reading and writing lengthy documents as an analyst had taught her that ‘clarity’ is the guiding principle, because as she said, investors or analysts need to “absorb the information as painlessly as possible”. So while it’s nice to be able to dress up a text with synonyms and metaphor, clarity should always take priority for these types of texts.
Naturally, there were many specifics that Laura helped me with; from explaining that I shouldn’t use documents from banks for building a financial corpus (their structures tend to be much more complicated than a simple limited business), to how best to translate anything with Konjunktur in it – despite having studied modules on ‘German economy’ at university, I have never felt comfortable translating this term, but Laura gave me some great tips to deal with it confidently in future. She also explained the difference and when/how to use terms that may seem interchangeable to the untrained eye e.g. Aktien/Renten/Anleihen/Securities…
From the first Skype conversation and throughout the mentoring, Laura sent me a wealth of useful links, and recommendations or suggestions for further reading – this has been one of the most useful things about the mentoring scheme for me, because I can continue to progress with this guided learning – now I just need the time!
Other topics we discussed were possible approaches for getting financial work as a newbie to the field, who to trust or not on (which has a large financial section) and the merits of Dragon.
Of course, I know I still have a lot to learn about finance to be able to call myself an expert, but the scheme gave me the reassurance that I was looking for: I am not ill-suited to this type of work and I do have some flair for it. I learned so much from the mentoring, it really was an invaluable experience and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to up their game!
Good luck and all the best for a happy, healthy and successful 2018!

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If you look up Labrador in the dictionary there are generally two definitions, the Canadian province (Newfoundland and Labrador) and a breed of dog. The dog is named after the place, by the way. But last week I found a third ‘definition’, if you will.

I have always wondered why a pretty bay in Devon would be named after a breed of dog, so last week we stopped at the Labrador Bay car park to find out* and I learned that the origins of the name are believed to come from the French, l’abri d’or or shelter of gold. Well, that makes a lot of sense in those parts; smuggling did a roaring trade on the South West coast in the 18th century and you only have to go into Shaldon and there’s the Smugglers Tunnel. Mystery solved, or maybe not. What if (and I couldn’t find any evidence either way), the name is more to do with the Newfoundland cod trade and fisheries, a big employer at the time? Rather coincidental, don’t you think? But today, on European Day of Languages, I am going to believe that the name was influenced by our closer neighbours and the French language. #europeandayoflanguages

* We walked the coastal path to Maidencombe, but be warned, it’s VERY hilly and not for the faint-hearted or exercise-shy!

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Food memories: Pimm’s as a translation problem

Back from a surprisingly sunny August bank holiday filled with nice walks in the countryside followed by delicious food and Pimm’s and lemonade and I am reminded of this:

Pimm's o'clock on campus!

Pimm’s o’clock on campus!

Such a shame it wasn’t a permanent fixture on campus when I was writing the dissertation for my MA I’m sure my writing would’ve flowed much better 😉 – this shot was taken at the 50 years of Aston University celebration in April.

But talking of (drinking) Pimm’s, reminded me of an article I saw in the Tesco magazine (We Heart Food, May 2015 pp. 8 – 13) about British ‘food icons’ and about how ‘our food experiences help to shape our identity’ (p.8). Alongside pictures there was also some background info (memories) about the icon, making the article perfect as a crash course on our food culture. It was a light-hearted article but taken from a translation (studies) perspective, it was really interesting!

Apart from Pimm’s and lemonade in the garden, ‘is there anything more civilised than enjoying a glass of Pimm’s in the sunshine?’, some of the other icons they mentioned were a fry up at a greasy spoon, pick ‘n’ mix sweets and hot buttered crumpets ‘perfect with lashings of butter and a slick of gooey golden syrup’ (and let’s not even start on the crumpet or English muffin debate!).

The article had many references to the importance of food in our culture, they used words such as nation; collective DNA; shape our identity; UK food scene and it is these things which make it so difficult to translate the food items they mention for a different target audience. Peter Newmark said that, “Food is for many the most sensitive and important expression of national culture; food terms are subject to the widest variety of translation procedures”(p.97). And that’s how I read this article, as though it was a translation problem.

If we were to try and translate the article for another culture, how would we deal with these culture specific terms? Much would clearly depend on the purpose of the translation (or its Skopos) but if it were to be used to explain our food culture to someone from a different target culture, then any translation would probably need to loan the English name into the target language but then add what Chesterman (I used his classification in my Masters dissertation…) calls an information change-addition, either some extra information or a literal translation so that the target reader knows what the item is – so that they can decide if they want to try it and what it’s called in English.

If on the other hand these items cropped up in a book translation or in a situation where the reader only needs to know that this is food or drink, then cultural filtering could be used so that items are “translated as TL cultural or functional equivalents, so that they conform to TL norms”(Chesterman, p.108). Take the Pimm’s illustration, does Germany have a drink that summons up the same sentiment that Pimm’s does in us Brits? I think this type of translation would be much harder, but would allow the translator more creativity (after all, they are the cultural expert here).

This article reminds me how important it is to live in your source language countries where it is much easier to learn about cultural references, such as food and drink. Sure, I know about the obvious food customs (Kaffee und Kuchen ­more of an elderly lady thing these days ­ and Glühwein at the Weihnachtsmarkt; or Galette des Rois in January and how seriously bread is taken in France), but it was only by living in Germany that I found out that they drink dark beer (Alt) in Düsseldorf and region.

There must be so many other regional and local food customs I’m missing out on ­share your favourite customs with a memory / some background info like in this article!

Chesterman, A., 2000. Memes of Translation. Paperback ed. Amsterdam: John Benjamins B.V.

Newmark, P., 1988. A Textbook of Translation. Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall International (UK) Ltd

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6 takeaways from an introduction to the German legal system

Last Saturday I attended a full day workshop in Birmingham on the German legal system. ‘Einführung in das deutsche Recht’ was aimed at all translators (we all have to sign contracts after all) not just those specialising in legal texts and Heike Simon, a lawyer, lecturer and translator from Bayreuth, took us through some of the basics.

Some of the main takeaways from the day were:

  • Having a look at the relevant law will often help since many contracts will use the terminology from the BGB
    • Action point: buy a copy of the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB) available on Amazon Prime for £6.60
  • The BGB is also online ( as are all other laws and there are even translations into English to get you started at
  • Be very wary of translating ‘fair and reasonable’ as ‘Treu und Glauben’ and vice versa as these terms to do not encompas the whole meaning of each other
  • Different terms for the same thing are used in different areas of the law – this will help you find out which area of the law is applicable – you need to check you’re using the correct terminology for that area
  • A ‘simple’ Kaufsvertrag’ is not actually all that simple! In Germany it’s not one but 3 different types of transaction rolled into one…
  • Fun fact: German lawyers’ usual response to anything is identical to lawyers in English (only in German, obviously!) ‘es kommt darauf an’

It was a great workshop (thanks to Cherry for organising!) and lovely to see some familiar faces and new ones too.

Probably would’ve been useful to have more clue about the English legal system first though! *adds to CPD plan*

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Why Brexit Matters – Rt Hon. Neil Carmichael MP for Stroud

Last Thursday I attended a talk at Aston University by Neil Carmichael MP for Stroud on ‘why Brexit matters’. As a member of the Conservative Group for Europe, he is clearly in the ‘pro-Europe’ camp so I went along hoping to hear some convincing arguments as to why we should vote ‘stay’ when it comes to a vote later this year (most likely on 23 June).

I know that as a translator I probably should be 100% convinced that we should stay in the EU and so know exactly how I’m going to vote in June. But there’s nothing wrong without finding out more info to add to the gut instinct…So this is what I learned about why Brexit matters.

I already knew that we trade a lot with the EU, and that this was probably one of the biggest issues if we leave. What I didn’t realise is that it can take up to 4 years to arrange a free trade agreement and we would have to do a lot of them! Presumably in the interim between leaving the EU and arranging free trade agreements, things would be tricky? Exports would fall (the EU is 40% of our trade) which would hurt our growth, not to mention decreased, more expensive imports… Of course once the agreements are in place, assuming they’re good, things would be ‘back to normal’ or thereabouts. 4 years though…I’m still in the dark about how it will affect me as a sole trader working with EU clients, but I’ll figure that out later.

Other arguments for staying such as security – having the EU have our back in these times of international terrorism, and losing our sovereignty – actually we already lost that to NATO[1] weren’t all that compelling to me. Nor were Neil’s arguments about the good the EU has done (and can continue to do) in terms of the environment or promoting liberal democracy.

What I found held real significance – for me – was the overarching thread of influence. Influence that we have had in some of the major reforms that have taken place in the last 40 years – the introduction of the single market, the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and the EU enlargement in 2004 – all of which Neil stressed were driven by Britain. It was a point he hit home time and again – our interests are best protected when we help to drive EU reform.

Looking at it the other way round, how would we have felt about decisions made in the wake of the financial crisis on the financial services sector, a big employer in the UK, if we had had to sit on the sidelines with no influence over the outcome? What will it be like in the future, trading with EU countries and having to obey EU regulations which we have not helped shape and which we may not agree with, much as Norway’s situation is now? And what about our position in the world? The Empire is long gone and the Americans would prefer we stay in the EU, suits their interests better – how much of that is because we speak English, I wonder? – so it seems that to continue to lead, we need to be in the EU where our position is stronger than as a single state. Certainly that’s what the pro-Europe camp think; their slogan is ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’.

Immigration is perhaps the tabloid’s favourite bugbear and reason to leave the EU, yet net migration is not really so overwhelming. Of course having worked in both France and Germany, I have benefitted from the freedom of movement. Frankly, I think that if more children studied languages they too would be able to reap the rewards of this particular treaty by working abroad themselves. So I am inclined to agree with Neil on this actually being a positive reason to stay (BTW he naturally didn’t mention benefits, so we’ll leave that to another day!).

So to conclude, on the basis of this talk alone I think am now (still) sat on the fence but with my feet dangling over onto the pro camp. But I’m not going to make any decisions until I’ve learned (more) about the reasons why we might want to leave the EU and I’ll need some hard facts from a less biased source to do that!

[1] A “directive” is a legislative act that sets out a goal that all EU countries must achieve. However, it is up to the individual countries to devise their own laws on how to reach these goals.


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Do you know your second-language spelling alphabets?

P1110511Enjoying a leisurely walk along The Esplanade in Weymouth last month, I came across these pedalos with phonetic ‘names’. Naturally, being a translator, my first thought was, what are the French and German phonetic alphabets? And how useful would they have been on placement when I was trying to write down phone messages and names! Why weren’t we taught them??…so back in the office, I looked them up and thought I would share them here. Might frame them like my ALT codes for quick and easy access too.

Although called the ‘NATO phonetic alphabet’, it’s actually a ‘spelling’ alphabet and not the same as the International Phonetic Alphabet ( This spelling alphabet was introduced by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in the 1950s to aid communication by telephone or radio by assigning code words to letters that could be understood regardless of language barrier and possible transmission static.

Interesting fact: Alfa and Juliett are not spelled incorrectly, they are ‘non-English spellings’. As non-native speakers of English may not pronounce the ph of Alpha correctly, an f is used; likewise there is a second t on Juliett because French users may leave the single t silent.

Letter English France Germany
A Alfa Anatole Anton
Ä Ärger
B Bravo Berthe Berta
C Charlie Célestin Cesär
Ch Charlotte
D Delta Désiré Dora
E Echo Eugèn Emil
F Foxtrot François Friedrich
G Golf Gaston Gustav
H Hotel Henri Heinrich
I India Irma Ida
J Hotel Joseph Julius
K Kilo Kléber Kaufmann
L Lima Louis Ludwig
M Mike Marcel Martha
N November Nicolas Nordpol
O Oscar Oscar Otto
Ö Ökonom
P Papa Pierre Paula
Q Quebec Quintal Quelle
R Romeo Raoul Richard
S Sierra Suzanne Siegfried
Sch Schule
ß Eszett
T Tango Thérèse Theodor
U Uniform Ursule Ulrich
Ü Übermut
V Victor Victor Viktor
W Whiskey William Wilhelm
X X-ray Xavier Xanthippe
Y Yankee Yvonne Ypsilon
Z Zulu Zoé Zepplin

 Austria and Switzerland have a slightly different code to the Germany one. These can be found online for example at: France’s is also not standardised and the variations can be found at

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October 6, 2015

The tatty sheet of paper stuck on my wall for checking French and German ALT codes got even tattier when I had my office redecorated earlier this year. I didn’t want to put it back up again because a) it was torn and b) it wasn’t really fit for purpose because I had to get up and unpin it every time I wanted to look at it…no, I had to reinvent the wheel! So now the codes are kept pristine in some cheerful frames within reaching distance. Much more ‘shabby chic’ then just plain ‘shabby’.

2015-09-23 15.17.50


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memoQ Level One Certified

A week or so back I had some spare time, so decided to complete the online memoQ training modules. I’ve been using memoQ for a while but I still learned a few new tips and tricks so it was worth doing! I passed too and can now proudly use this logo :)memoQ_level1_certified_logoIf you’re a memoQ user, I also came across this useful link from Kilgray for resources and help: memoQ resources

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Shedding Light

Published in ITI Bulletin May/June 2015

Friday 20th March 2015. Not your average Friday because of the partial eclipse forecast for the UK. Everywhere people flocked outside in their droves to catch a glimpse (from behind ‘eclipse glasses’ or using pinhole projectors, naturally!) and outside the Main Building at Aston University was no different. Thanks to Emmanuelle Jeannot who brought some glasses along, members of the West Midlands Group were able to safely view the eclipse before getting stuck into their Translation Workshop and AGM. Who said that AGMs are dull and boring?! For me the eclipse was overshadowed by the WMG event! The day was lively with a festive atmosphere, ‘partially’ due to the eclipse but probably more to do with the opportunity for networking with colleagues old and new.

Once everyone had made their way inside for coffee and the welcome, groups were formed for the translation workshops; French, German, Italian and even Danish this time. Colleagues had brought along texts either about solar eclipses or containing rhymes and other translation challenges. The French translation workshop I joined tackled the song Le soleil et la lune a 1930’s song by Charles Trenet. The song is about an impossible meeting of the sun with the moon and is a metaphor for romantic rendezvous between men and women on Earth. The most obvious challenge was to match our translation to the music of the song. Beyond that we also discussed how we would deal with the gender of the sun (Mr Sun?) and the moon (Lady Moon?) and discovered that translating into Polish would be even harder than into English  because the moon is a masculine noun and the Sun is neutral!

After refuelling with a sandwich lunch we moved on to the serious business of the day: the AGM. Fortunately that was all concluded quickly and painlessly and we were soon listening to Lloyd Bingham’s talk about Twitter. Very practical, especially for those of us just starting out because we could then join in at the TweetUp organised by TweetOutWest after the workshop at Aston.

In the afternoon translation session, I stayed with the French group as Emmanuelle Jeannot had brought along some French idioms for us to look at – some of these were really intriguing but Emmanuelle gave us print-outs of the meanings and origins to help us understand them. Who knew that cats feature in so many French idioms! “Chat échaudé craint l’eau froide”, literally a scalded cat is scared of cold water (I wonder if this is where scaredy-cat comes from?) is equivalent to the English proverb “once bitten, twice shy”. Great tip: You can sign up to and receive French idioms daily.

To finish off the day we relocated to Bacchus Bar in the Burlington Arcade to practise our new-found Twitter skills and socialise with colleagues. Bacchus is a bit of a find; on Birmingham’s oldest street, with its imposing vaulted interior, it’s like being in an abbey and surprisingly the prices weren’t sky-high! Linguist Bingo got everyone networking with questions like ‘what’s your USP?’ or ‘what’s the strangest thing you’ve translated/interpreted?’. One lucky person’s most exciting assignment was interpreting for a contestant in a treasure hunt around London for a luxury cosmetics brand. Sadly, they didn’t get a goody bag! And here’s a great suggestion for an ‘ideal CPD event’: Something combining wine-tasting with translation.

Many thanks to the organisers, Juliet Hammond-Smith and Charlie Gobbett, for such an enjoyable and interesting event. The next total eclipse isn’t until 2090 in the UK but fortunately we won’t have to wait that long till the next WMG event; the 10th anniversary summer walk is on Saturday 19 July 2015! All being well, it will be in the Severn Valley near Highley, scene of the first walk in July 2005.

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