Monthly Archives - November 2011

Sporting Expressions

The team I play for has recently gained an American coach. This has been great for us, but the language barrier has sometimes proven difficult to surmount. He uses a lot of sports metaphors from basketball, baseball and American football, which often leave us stumped. This got me thinking about the translation of sports metaphors, because if there can be such great differences between UK and US English, how great must the differences between distinct languages be?

Granted, much of the difficulty in this case lies in the differences between the sports played in the UK and America – football, cricket and rugby are more popular here, and so our usual sports metaphors will relate to those sports, naturally. Though we may play a casual game of baseball on a rare sunny day, the sport isn’t televised to the same extent as it is across the pond, so the idioms haven’t stuck.  The popularity of American television programmes have meant that we Brits understand some sports idioms, such as “throwing a curve ball”, but wouldn’t get the gist of some of the more technical ones. Conversely, countries that share similar sporting traditions will likely have idioms which convert well from one language to the other.

In order to ease the potential difficulties, I thought it might be fun to round up a couple of interesting sports expressions, along with their meanings. Let us know if you know any others!

Sticky wicket – a difficult situation (UK English – cricket)

Curve ball – Something that is unexpected or designed to trick or deceive (US English – baseball)

Jeter l’éponge – to quit. (Equivalent expression in English – “to throw in the towel” – boxing)

Perdre les pédales – to get mixed up. (Equivalent expression in English – “to lose one’s marbles”)

Planet Veritas is the region’s Most Promising New Business

As our regular blog readers will know, last Friday Planet Veritas attended the Swansea Bay Regional Business Awards, hoping to win the Most Promising New Business award.  I’m pleased to announce that we won! Our directors, Rachel Bryan and Sharon Stephens, and one of our Project Managers, Estrella Ruiz, attended the black-tie event to collect the award, and by all accounts had a fantastic time.

Speaking as an employee of Planet Veritas, I can say that I think this success is due to our directors’ attitude toward their staff. Never before have I worked for a company which truly strives to support and develop each member of the team like Planet Veritas does. They are committed to training, and work closely with local organizations such as Go Wales and Swansea University to develop the linguists of the future. It’s no surprise that a company who treats their employees well will thrive, and I personally think this is why Planet Veritas has been recognised for its promise.

We have a very bright future here at Planet Veritas, and with your support will continue to go from strength to strength.

Most Promising New Business

Planet Veritas' translation services win awards!We have some fantastic news here at Planet Veritas – our dedication, passion and enthusiasm has been noted by the lovely people at the Swansea Bay Regional Business Awards. Planet Veritas has been recognised as one of the region’s most promising new businesses, and we will soon find out if we have won the category. The Swansea Bay Regional Business Awards are being held at the beautiful Brangwyn Hall tomorrow, so please wish us luck!

We’re not even at the end of the year yet, but 2011 has been an exciting time for Planet Veritas – from the re-launch of our website with many useful resources, to gaining accreditation in both the BS EN ISO 9001:2008 and the BS EN 15038:2006 quality standards, we’ve achieved a lot. Our blog was also listed as one of the top 100 Language Lover blogs worldwide!

Let’s hope tomorrow brings even more reason to celebrate!

Let’s talk English: The “double U”

“Double U” is the only English letter name with more than one syllable, except for the occasionally used, though somewhat archaic, œ. It is also the only English letter whose name is not pronounced with any of the sounds that the letter typically makes.

For years, it remained an outsider, not really considered part of the Latin alphabet proper, expressed here by Valenmtin Ickelsamer in the 16th century, who complained that “Poor W is so infamous and unknown that many barely know either its name or its shape, not those who aspire to being Latinists, as they have no need of it, nor do the Germans, not even the schoolmasters, know what to do with it or how to call it…”

In Europe, there are only a few languages that use W in native words and all are located in a central-western European zone between Cornwall and Poland. In Middle High German, the West Germanic phoneme W became realized as V and this is why the German W today represents that sound.

In the alphabets of most modern Romance languages, W is used very little. When a spelling for W in a native word is needed, a spelling from the native alphabet, such as V, U, or OU, can be used instead.
Unlike its use in other languages, the letter is used in Welsh and Cornish to represent the vowel U.

In the Finnish alphabet, W is seen as a variant of V and not a separate letter at all. W was only officially acknowledged as an individual letter in the Danish alphabet in 1980 and the Swedish alphabet only in 2006. The Japanese use W as an ideogram meaning “double”.

English contains a number of words beginning with a W that is silent before a pronounced R – wreak, wrap, wrench, etc.

The nine-syllable initialism w.w.w. takes three times as many syllables to say as the unabbreviated form, World Wide Web! Some people therefore shorten the name “double u” into “dub”. Volkswagen, abbreviated VW would therefore be pronounced “V-Dub”.

So, any thoughts on W?

The Scottish Dialect

The blog pTranslation services with Planet Veritasost below on Italian dialects got me thinking about the UK, and if we have anything similar occurring here. This led me straight up north to Scotland. ‘Scots’ is the collective name for a number of dialects spoken in Scotland. These are also known as Doric, Lallans, Scotch, Buchan, Dundonian, Glesca and Shetland. It is the traditional Germanic language of lowland Scotland and the Northern Isles.

There are three main languages spoken in Scotland, including Scots, with Scottish English and Gaelic being the other two.

The language arrived with the Angles who arrived in South East Scotland in the fifth century. Southern English began to encroach as the language used for formal speech and writing however after the Scottish Reformation of 1560, the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and the Union of the Parliaments in 1707. It was in this period that Scots began to be seen as a ‘dialect’ rather than a ‘language’.

The dialect spoken in Shetland shares some vowel sounds which are common in Scandinavia. The most obvious one here is ö. Although the vowel sounds can shift throughout the isles, the distinctive ae sound (e.g. paet and speak) is found in all areas. The tendency to replace the English or Mainland Scots’ th with d or t is very noticeable, e.g.; this becomes dis, that becomes dat, thin becomes tin, thick becomes tick.

Currently, the Scottish use a variety of English and Scots in their daily speech with a larger influence from one or the other depending on their upbringing and environment. Recently, thanks to changing attitudes, the language has been going from strength to strength and has been recognised as a language under the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.

This, coupled with excellent resources for teaching the language to children and a growing awareness of the cultural importance of the language, is contributing to the ever increasing longevity of Scots.

Here are a few examples of idioms in Scots;

A wee thing amuses the bairns Simple people are amused by simple things
Tak tent o time ere time taks tent of thee Take care of how you spend your time before run you out of it
Guid things come in sma bulk Good things come in small packages

For more information on the services we provide please visit our translation services and interpreting services pages.

U or me?

Translation services with Planet VeritasThe story of U is a more complicated one than may first appear…she has two ‘children’ in the form of V and W which were gradually born during the European Middle Ages. Before this she was compelled to do some of the leg work by herself; for example, in Ancient Rome U could represent either the familiar ‘u’ sound, or, when placed before a vowel, the sound ‘w’….you can still see this sound in the words ‘quiet’, ‘quest’ and ‘require’.

Before her children came, U looked very different…in fact she looked just like her future offspring V. This was back in Ancient Rome where Marcus Aurelius could expect his written name to look like this: MARCVS AVRELIVS.

What do you think of when you see the letters F and U together? …Now, now! They have quite a shameful, vulgar association; however they share an honorable past! They were born out of the same letter from the ancient Phoenician alphabet when the Greeks adopted it; from the same letter the Greeks distinguished a consonant and a vowel for themselves and these eventually grew into our F and U.

U has a relatively uncomplicated sound. The two sounds that it makes (one long and one short) are heard in this short phrase; ‘mud rules’. With the long U, the tongue is in a high position towards the back of the mouth and for the short U the tongue is low and forward. The pronunciation of O can sometimes encroach onto U’s territory: ‘loot’ and ‘lute’ or ‘son’ and ‘sun’.

A baby might adopt the sound of U as it is attempting to talk; ‘oooo!’ and may sometimes attach an easy consonant to the front of it… ‘googoo!’

What does the letter U evoke in your mind? A U-turn? A U-frame? ….U2?

For more information on the services we provide please visit our translation services and interpreting services pages.

Cup of T is vital to the English language and is the second –most-often-occurring letter…but have you noticed how much thinner the T section of your dictionary is? This is because it occurs more often at the middle or the end of our words than at the beginning.
Note where your tongue sits when you say T and D; these two letters are phonetic ‘brothers’ and the sound of both is created through spurts of breath released from the tip of your tongue against the back of your front teeth…the only difference is that D engages the vocal chords and T does not. (Although in some country and western songs saddle can be rhymed with cattle!)

T’s tendency to occupy a position in the middle of words leaves it open to being softened or even left out. The Cockney accent swallows the T, for example in the word ‘bottle’, which leaves it with the pronunciation ‘bah-owe’. Words like ‘nation’ and ‘creature’ soften the T, and in ‘listen’ it disappears altogether! (Although this wasn’t always the case…)There are hundreds of words where T precedes the letter I plus a second vowel and in these instances T has acquired the sound ‘sh’; for instance, ‘inertia’, ‘patience’, ‘facetious’ etc.

There is a darker side to T with some sinister and daunting associations; the sign of the cross, the mark of Cain, the image of containment or suppression, the profile of a spike or a nail…

Here is a bit of light relief though; some unusual words beginning with T!

tachism painting by smearing or splattering
tachygraphy shorthand
teleseism tremor due to a very distant earthquake
tephra ash and debris ejected by a volcano
terrene of the earth; earthly; wordly; mundane

For more information on the services that we provide please visit our translation services and interpreting services pages.

Italian Dialects

A dialect isInterpreting services with Planet Veritas a regional variation of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar or vocabulary. This can be influenced by location, historical background, and possibly from differing cultures. This is especially true of Italy where, until 1871, it was a fractured peninsular split between different, and constantly shifting, nations.

The first appearance of a national vernacular in Italy appeared with the publication of La Divina Commedia by Dante Alighieri. Standard Italian came into its own however, with the advent of popular television in the 50s. Since then the local dialects have been somewhat in decline.

I spent my year abroad in a small town called Urbino in the north west of Italy and travelled extensively throughout my stay. I couldn’t help but notice that the further south I headed, the stronger the local accents and dialects become; the city where I found this the most noticeable was Naples (la lingua Napoletana was officially recognised as a language in 2008 by the regional government of Campania)

How different are the regional dialects to the standard Italian language? Here are some proverbs from different areas all over Italy written first in the dialect, then in standard Italian. (I have translated each one into English, although some of the cultural contexts may not carry over…if you have any questions don’t hesitate to comment at the bottom of this page!)

Sa pioeva la smana ad pasion, pioeva tut la stagion– Busseto, Emilia Romagna Se piove nella settimana di Passione, pioverà tutta la stagione – Standard Italian If it rains during Holy Week, it’ll rain all season/summer.
Nadel al sul e Pasqua stiss – Busseto, Emilia Romagna Natale con il sole, Pasqua nuvolosa – Standard Italian Sunny Christmas, Cloudy Easter
I chiu bass sun chiu intelligent’ – Puglia I più bassi sono più intelligent – Standard Italian The shortest are the most intelligent
Quanno so’ troppi galli a cantà ‘n sé fa mae ghjorno. – Umbria Quando sono troppi galli a cantare non si fa mai giorno. When too many cockerels sing, day will never break.
Quannu u patri duna o figghio rire upatri e rire u fighhiu; quannu u fighhiu duna o patri chiangi u patri e chiangi u fighiu. – Sicily Quando il padre dà al figlio ride il padre e ride il figlio; quando figlio dà al padre piange il figlio e piange il padre. When a father gives to his son, the son laughs and the father laughs; when the son gives to the father, the son cries and the father cries.

For more information on the services we provide please visit our translation services and interpreting services pages.

When things go wrong…

Although pr ofessional translation companies continually monitor their quality processes and try to ensure that excellence comes as standard, when things go wrong and a problem suddenly arises, (which happens in any kind of business) what should you expect?

There are several strategies to deal with the unexpected; some will show how professional a company is, whereas others highlight a lack of structure and decision-making skills. First of all, companies who really care about their clients are willing to provide sincere and transparent communication, so they will not lie if there is a problem which will affect performance or deadlines. It is professional to advise the client in advance if any major issues arise, so that both the translation business and the client can try to look for a solution, as quality is always the final goal of any committed translation professional.

Secondly, a translation company run by professional linguists know how to deal with texts which have been badly translated. Some businesses will upload the text on their server and tear it into short excerpts for people to translate it as quickly as possible. This method not only lacks structure, but also quality. If we take manual translation as an example, having hundreds of people translating a few sentences means that consistent terminology and quality control become very difficult to ensure. I don’t think many companies would want to waste their precious money in this way. Even in the worst cases, if a translation team is allocated – i.e. a group of professional linguists who work on the same document or group of documents – it cannot be too large a group, and it is always essential to nominate a proofreader, who will review the work of the whole team in order to check the consistency of terminology and style.

If things go wrong, a committed business will accept their responsibilities. They won’t moan, but will briefly explain what happened, so that their client understands the situation, negotiate again on rates and deadlines and explain their strategy towards finding a suitable and effective solution. A true language provider is not just a company offering language services, but rather a team of professionals who can create solutions in a quick and effective way.

Literary Translation – Part III

Of all t he types of translation that are out there I’d argue that literary translation, be it novels, poems or short stories, is probably the one where it is the most important to constantly bear in mind the intention of the author, the message the text carries…but to also, simultaneously, bear in mind the emotive effect the language has on the reader; and that’s just for starters! For instance, when it comes to poetry, the translator has to bear in mind the style, syntax, rhythm, meaning, form…the list goes on.

Scott Esposito, a reviewer of literary translations, recognises the fact that the translator’s job in the field of literature is ‘an incredible balancing act, wherein so many things are considered at once: a different language, a different culture, a different writer, a different public, a different set of editorial and publishing standards, just to name a few.’ (from his article ‘On reviewing translations’ on the fab website

But how can the translator seamlessly weave cultural context into the paragraphs without resorting to blocky footnotes or indeed shifting the focus of the text and rendering it too far from the original? (This is one of those ‘contentious’ issues I mentioned in a previous post!) This is a tricky question and one with as many answers as there are translators. It only takes one unsuitable adjective, badly rendered verb or inappropriate metaphor to jar the reading of a translation, no matter how high the standard of the surrounding text.

Can/should literature even be translated? How free can/should a translation be? Should an author lay a heavy hand on the translated text or stand back and let a talented translator take the reins? I am very interested to hear what the readers of this blog think and how they feel about works of fiction, poetry and even philosophy in translation. (It has been argued that philosophy is nigh on impossible to translate…) Let me know what you think!

For more information on the services we provide please visit our translation services and interpreting services pages.

Hissing S

SWhat does the letter S bring to your mind…hissing snakes? Slippery slopes? Sticky shoes? S is the primary sibilant in the English language (a sibilant is a hissing or hushing sound or it can be a symbol representing the same) and has at least four sounds.

Say ‘season’ to yourself – two of the major sounds that S produces occur in that word; in the first, you’ll notice that the vocal chords are not engaged, whilst in the second they are. In other examples it can represent the sound ‘sh’, for instance, ‘sure’ and ‘mansion’. It can sound like the French J: ‘fusion’ and ‘closure’. Or it can even be silent, as in ‘island’.

Non-native English speakers can struggle with the pronunciation of sibilants. Spanish or Italian speakers for instance have trouble pronouncing the S at the start of English words and this leads them to add an initial vowel which acts as a buffer: ‘eh-song’, ‘eh-slice’. Children up to the age of three or four struggle with the ‘sh’ sound and substitute it for ‘s’, saying ‘sooz’ for ‘shoes’ and ‘sy’ for ‘shy’ until they grow into the correct speech.

S can invite philosophical or spiritual interpretation. There is a murky side to it however with its connotations with sin, Satan and the infamous SS, Hitler’s private army. But on a slightly more positive note, the Roman S is very nearly an infinity symbol, implying timeless continuity. It could be a link in a chain, or (perhaps more obviously) a snake or serpent.

For more information on our services please visit our translation services and interpreting services pages.

Literary Translation – Part II

I stumbled upon a collection of quotes about literary translation…some of which really stood out to me so I’m going to share them with you!

‘A great age of literature is perhaps always a great age of translation.’ – Ezra Pound

‘Any translation which intends to perform a transmitting function cannot transmit anything but information – hence, something inessential. This is the hallmark of bad translations.’ – Walter Benjamin

‘Humor[sic] is the first gift to perish in a foreign language.’ – Virginia Woolf (see the blog below written by Estrella called Translating Humour)

‘I do not hesitate to read all good books in translations. What is really best in any book is translatable – any real insight or broad human sentiment.’ – Ralph Waldo Shelley

‘The best thing on translation was said by Cervantes: translation is the other side of the tapestry.’ – Leonardo Sciascia

‘There are few efforts more conducive to humility than that of the translator trying to communicate an incommunicable beauty. Yet unless we do try, something unique and never surpassed will cease to exist except the libraries of a few inquisitive book lovers.’ – Edith Hamilton

‘Woe to the makers of literal translations, who by rendering every word weaken the meaning! It is indeed by doing so that we can say the letter kills and the spirit gives life.’ – Voltaire

…and my favourite so far…‘Translation is entirely mysterious. Increasingly I have felt that the art of writing is itself translating, or more like translating than it is like anything else. What is the other text, the original? I have no answer. I suppose it is the source, the deep sea where ideas swim, and one catches them in nets of words and swings them shining into the boat… where in this metaphor they die and get canned and eaten in sandwiches.’ – Ursula K. Le Guin

And on a less positive note…!

‘As far as modern writing is concerned, it is rarely rewarding to translate it, although it might be easy. Translation is very much like copying paintings.’ – Boris Pasternak – Do you agree with him?

For more information of the services we provide please visit our translation services and interpretation services pages.

Literary Translation – Part I

It may not surprise you, considering that I work in the translation services industry, but I spend a lot of my time thinking about translation and when I do my mind inevitably wanders to the wonderfully diverse, and at times controversial, world of literary fiction translation.

Unfortunately, despite a recent surge in the popularity of Swedish crime fiction in the UK (Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo & others) the US and UK have quite a poor track record when it comes to publishing translated foreign literature; 3% of around 200,000 US publications are translated, with a similar figure in the UK for adult fiction and less than 2% for children’s fiction (Tintin anyone?).

Conversely there has been a big rise in the number of US publications being translated and sold abroad (Stephen King & John Grisham for starters) which can be attributed to the rise and rise of American popular culture, which turns ‘foreign rights…into a profit center[sic]’. (Emily Williams’ very interesting blog at provides an in-depth analysis of literary translation into English for the American market).

To me, literary translation is exceedingly important for a number of reasons but the central one is this; it pulls down language barriers and spreads cultures across the globe in a format that is endlessly creative, forever changing and occasionally divisive…

Daniel Hahn, an award winning author and literary translator is quoted as saying ‘Translation is one of the tools we need to make sense of the world beyond our field of vision’ and what better way than to delve into to a world that would otherwise be shielded from us. Philip Pullman (author of ‘His Dark Materials’ which has been translated into 37 different languages) adds his view with respect to children’s foreign literature; ‘if we DON’T offer children the experience of literature from other languages, we’re starving them. It’s as simple as that.’

Language translation in a literary context can be tricky and quite contentious…do you have a favourite author in translation?

Do you wonder how it compares to the original?

For more information on the services we provide please visit our translation services and interpreting services pages.