Translators’ time-warp


istock-pink-clocksI work from Glasgow, mainly for Italian clients. My computer’s set to Italian time, because that’s where the deadlines are. My watch is set 5 minutes fast, for punctuality’s sake (doesn’t always work…). I have a radio alarm set 15 minutes fast. It comes on at 6.45am.  My alarm clock (again set 5 mins fast) goes off half-an-hour later as back-up (and I still go back to sleep). But I always know what time it is. More or less.

Public holidays are another matter. Take May Day. It was celebrated in Italy last Friday, 1 May, as Labour Day. In the UK it’s today, 4 May –the nearest Monday to 1 May? If I take the Italian public holiday, I’m out of kilter here. And today I’m in UK holiday mode but am on duty. To top it all, I spent the holiday weekend (for both countries) on translation stand-by for an urgent speech revision.

Confused? Yes.

By Marian Dougan

Getting the name right

Governments around the world are doing everything they can to rename swine flu. They will not succeed and will end up misinforming the public. 

Gerry McGovern’s latest “New Thinking” newsletter is about Governments’ attempts to rename swine flu. He focuses on the disconnect between government and international agencies’ concerns: national pride, religious sensibilities, business interests; and the concerns of “ordinary” people – in this case, their health. But since Gerry is a web-writing and usability specialist, his article is also about using the right words in web copy. If users are Googling for “swine flu” and your web site refers to “H1N1 virus”, then you’re not going to find each other. The moral of the tale being – when you’re writing for the web, you need to keep your users’ perspective in mind. Otherwise you’re a voice crying in the wilderness.

Read Gerry’s article in full here.

By Marian Dougan

For words to even better effect – just add music

Tommaso Chiarolini, an Italian designer and illustrator now based in Edinburgh, sent me this link. It’s from Playing for Change: Peace through Music and it cheered me up on a wet and grey May Day. I hope it does the same for you.

Simple words but in an intelligent way

A good day to start a new blog about words and language.

Carol Ann Duffy, born into a “left-wing, Catholic, working class” family in Glasgow’s Gorbals neighbourhood, has just been made Poet Laureate. Amazingly, the first woman ever to hold the position here in Britain.

It’s heartening to read, courtesy of her BBC profile, that Carol Ann’s

early interest in poetry was encouraged by two English teachers at her secondary schools, one of whom typed up her early poems, much to Duffy’s delight.
“I still remember that shock of electricity seeing them on the page,” she told The Guardian in 2007.
“They seemed to have a new life and authority, and it was as thrilling as having any book published.”

Evidence of just how important it is for kids to have teachers who recognise and encourage talent – of whatever kind – and share their enthusiam for their subject.

Carol Ann likes to use “simple words but in a complicated way”. And good writing uses simple words but in an intelligent way (with maybe the odd bit of complication thrown in to keep us all on our toes).

As this blog is also about translation, here’s one of Carol Ann’s poems, called “Translating The English, 1989”:

Welcome to my country! We have here Edwina Currie
and The Sun newspaper. Much excitement.
Also the weather has been most improving
even in February. Daffodils. (Wordsworth. Up North.) If
you like
Shakespeare or even Opera we have too the Black Market.
For two hundred quids we are talking Les Miserables,
nods being as good as winks. Don’t eat the eggs.
Wheel-clamp. Dogs. Vagrants. A tour of our wonderful
capital city is not to be missed. The Fergie,
The Princess Di and the football hooligan.

So well done, Carol Ann Duffy, and well done her school-teachers June Scriven and Jim Walker for encouraging her gift.

By Marian Dougan