Tag Archives: French


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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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 (http://www.internationalphoneticalphabet.org/ipa-sounds/ipa-chart-with-sounds/). 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: http://german.about.com/library/blfunkabc.htm. France’s is also not standardised and the variations can be found at https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:French_phonetic_alphabet.

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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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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 Expressio.fr 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 WMG Workshop, AGM and TweetUp

Last Friday I attended the ITI West Midlands Group Translation Workshop and AGM at Aston University. Who said that AGM’s are dry and boring?!

The day was lively with a festive atmosphere, possibly due to the partial eclipse (thanks Emmanuelle Jeannot for letting me have a look through your glasses!) but probably more to do with the opportunity for networking with (new) colleagues. The French translation workshop I joined tackled a song, idioms and a tourist brochure – fascinating! To finish off the day, Lloyd Bingham of @tweetoutwest organised a TweetUp with a few drinks at Bacchus Bar, a lovely bar on one of Birmingham’s oldest streets. A great find!

Many thanks to the organisers, Juliet Hammond-Smith and Charlie Gobbett, for such an enjoyable and interesting event, looking forward to the next one!

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