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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ITI MAT Tourism Workshop with Oliver Lawrence in London

*Update: was sorely tempted to ‘borrow’ the National Geographic Traveller magazine at the dentist’s as there was an article about Paris 😉

I recently made my way down to Imperial College London for my first ITI MAT workshop on tourism; my Masters dissertation topic was tourism translation so it’s a field of particular interest which I’m still trying to break into…

The workshop was in two parts – a presentation by Oliver Lawrence, an IT to EN translator and copywriter, followed by a panel discussion including Charlie Gobbett, Isabel Brenner, Alison Hughes and Oliver.  The workshop was really interesting but 5 questions (see below) in Oliver’s presentation stood out as being most relevant for a fledgling tourism translator such as myself and I decided to analyse these in this blog. I’ve included highlights of the data Oliver provided at the end of this post after I’ve summarised the findings which were most significant to me.

The presentation was based on a survey that Oliver had sent out specifically to tourism translators in order to fill gaps in his knowledge and learn from other translators in a systematic, rather than ad hoc way (article in the ITI Bulletin soon). His sample size was 73 and he received 37 responses. Questions covered areas such as the type of texts translated and how often translators travelled, to whether translators write for travel publications and have Search Engine Optimization (SEO) skills.

The 5 questions:

  • Have you worked in the travel industry, and has this helped?
  • What do you do to find direct clients?
  • What sales arguments do your clients find persuasive?
  • What are the main skills that a travel translator needs?
  • How did / do you develop your specialisms?
  • What kinds of CPD do you do for travel translation?
Summary of findings

I was rather relieved to learn that it doesn’t matter that I don’t have a background in tourism – you know how important it is in some industries to have proper work experience or a degree in that field – but seemingly for tourism translation it is not the case. My previous work experience, which involved communicating with a range of different clients, means I’m already used to tailoring my writing to different audiences and this should help.

On the other hand, I did find it a bit worrying that there aren’t any surefire things I can do to find new clients since many translators said they rely on word of mouth and being found – but I’m networking at events and online and I can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter etc. As for sales arguments that work, I had intended to approach badly translated websites (my Masters dissertation revealed that many tourism websites do not fulfil their ‘persuasive function’ in terms of promotional tourism language and webstyle) so I was disappointed to find that this tactic tended to yield little success. But it’s not all bad! By changing the slant of my ‘cover email’ to demonstrate the ‘benefit’ of using me (a professional translator)  such as avoiding losing customers, rather than highlighting ‘features’ such as my good writing style I should pique their interest and possibly gain a customer.

In terms of the main skills, some of these can be self-taught and naturally good writing and copywriting skills are paramount – I’m glad then, that I went on the German Network’s copywriting workshop a couple of years ago!  I was concerned that knowing industry specific terminology would be a high priority but it seems it’s more important to have good knowledge about places and be enthusiastic about learning more about them or new places, as well as knowing how to quickly research the things you don’t know. For a naturally curious person (aren’t all translators anyway?) it’s no problem!

I must say that I was surprised that in this field it’s client demand which has helped translators develop their specialism. I really thought it would be more down to people’s love of particular tourist destinations or types of holiday that would motivate them to learn more about them and thus become an expert. I lived in Paris for a year and love it there, so there I was checking off  some of the skills-needed boxes above and thinking I could translate tourism literature on Paris…now I ‘just’ have to find some clients who need their Paris brochure translated into English!

Whilst I was at the presentation, I had already started a list in my head of what I could and should be doing to improve my chances in this field, but the results from Oliver’s survey gave me more ideas for CPD and resources beyond Wikipedia 😉 although I will resist the urge to ‘borrow’ any glossy travel magazines from the dentist’s next week! :)

The workshop was well worth attending and has given me the confidence that I can become a specialist in the tourism translation field: my previous experience covers some of the essentials and I can always teach myself anything else! Of course, it was also lovely to meet and put faces to people I otherwise only know from ITI forums. I really enjoyed the networking with (new) colleagues so many thanks to Alison Hughes for organising. The venue was convenient too and I got a gluten free lunch :) just sorry I couldn’t have the famous ‘macarons’!

Brief headlines from the survey data

Sample size:73

Responses: 37

Number of respondents to a question/comment shown in brackets

  • Have you worked in the travel industry, and has this helped?
    • No, not worked in th travel industry (20)
    • Travel industry experience has helped with: what’s important for clients & tourists; in-depth knowledge of market and trends; corporate communications
    • BUT one respondent commented that they thought it would’ve been a bigger selling point
  • What do you do to find direct clients?
    • Nothing /  they find me / word of mouth / referrals (21)
    • Email / direct mail (11) – postcard campaign; mass mailing; cold mailing to badly translated websites
    • Tradefairs /networking / blogging /website
    • Limited success actively marketing self : contacting badly translated sites; trade fair leads came to nothing or opposite language direction needed
  • What sales arguments do your clients find persuasive?
  • Features
    • Don’t actively sell (9)
    • My experience (6)
    • Quality (5)
    • Good writing style / creativity (5)
  • Benefits
    • Improve client’s business  / increase and attract more and avoid losing customers  (5)
    • Recommendations and examples of work (4) 
  • What are the main skills that a travel translator needs?
      • Excellent writing (12)
      • Copywriting (12)
      • Creative thinking (moving away from the ST but keeping flavour (11)
      • Effective research away from just the ST (7)
      • Also subject / terminology knowledge; enthusiasm about learning about new places etc.; adapting to target audience (need cultural awareness) 
  • How did / do you develop your specialisms?
    • Client demand (12)
    • Previous experience (4)
    • Personal interest  (2) and personal reading / location
  • What kinds of CPD do you do for travel translation?
    • Reading online travel articles / blogs / newsletters / Facebook posts for destinations / tourist boards, tour operators or expats (23)
    • Travel / country magazines (22)
    • Travelling (keeping eyes open to soak up translations) (19)
    • Collecting leaflets and brochures when on the move (“stealing glossies from the doctor’s surgery”) (10)
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