The most succinct word – 16/08/2010

Word Dorks, today I found what the Guinness Book of Records recognises as the most succinct word: Mamihlapinatapai, the meaning of which is “a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that they both desire but which neither one wants to start.”

Unfortunately this then opened the wikipedia-rabbit-hole which lead me to the Untranslatable words and the merely difficult to translate (I’m sure that’s been linked here before, but I couldn’t find it).

I was also fascinated to see that it lead me to a Hofstadter book, Le Ton beau de Marot, In Praise of the Music of Language, described by the author as “ruminations on the art of translation”. I’ve not read that one yet, but his Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid was another of those books that kept my teenage brain wandering into dark corners of learning (half a life ago) – if you like wordplay, I highly recommend GEB’s Crab Canon as a playful example of Hofstadter’s ability with language.

Dedicated to the misuse of Asian characters… – 16/08/2010

Finally, I’ve found a link that will lead to more laughs than furrowed brows, confused stares or plain fear. Although this time, it may lead to schadenfreude.

Hanzi Smatter is a blog “dedicated to the misuse of Chinese characters in Western culture.” Largely focused on tattoo art, it’s hard not to feel pity for some, bewildered by others and plain rib-tickling giggles at the rest. Let the fighting over the fact that some Japanese is involved (but that those Kanji come from a Chinese past) begin! Instant classic:
from: Alex Y.
to: “”
date: Sun, Aug 15, 2010 at 9:44 AM
subject: Friend’s tattoo

Wondering if you could translate this. My friend thinks it says something like, “to learn as much as possible.”



Hanzi Smatter says:
means “empty, hollow, bare, deserted”.

(eds. note. Some people don’t understand the internet. Photo can’t be posted, but it’s link can be.)

Interpreters in the news – 02/08/2010

It’s not often you read the paper and see two stories involving interpreters in the first three pages.

In the first, we have an excellent example of a interpreter doing their civil duty (and, I would have thought, in accordance with the AUSIT code of ethics, although on reading, I see no mention of “reporting illegalities”), even when, as in this case, it was a claim against the police. The hardest accusations to make are against the police, for obvious reasons, but usually also the most necessary.

Unfortunately, in the second article, the Australian involved has behaved reprehensibly and the interpreter in question should be provided the support of, and a defense by, NAATI/AUSIT members (well, Interpreters and Translators everywhere really).

In fact, I would call on both of these organisations (and others) to make official complaints to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the minister in question, at the very least insist upon an official investigation, and if the story is confirmed, ask that the person in question be removed from international duty and the interpreter given appropriate compensation as requested.

Crowdsourcing – upsetting designers as well – 23/07/2010

An interesting post on about how crowdsourcing is driving down prices for design work. I recently debated that technology _wasn’t_ deskilling the Translation industry at a Symposium for the Interpreting and Translation Research Group at UWS. I think this article supports one of my main points – the problem isn’t one of skills – it’s one of big corporations forcing prices down by leveraging those just starting out in the industry that can afford to work for a lot less.

Another interesting point made is that the design process, just like the translation process, requires understanding, communication, and development feedback loops, without which “they’re losing out on the full experience of design.”

<edit>I found this on a nerd site – there is interesting discussion at Slashdot pointing out that this is happening to the writing profession as well….

Website Localisation: dislocated from history? – 26/06/2010

As an educator, one of the tasks I set my students is to compare multilingual websites or discuss how monolingual, yet multinational, websites can be, and are, localised. The reports I got from my students were fantastic – websites, especially those that are of a more commercial nature, can be radically different across cultures, presumably dependent on the demographics of that particular culture’s interwebs trailblazers.

Slashdot has a discussion looking at Japanese sites and how their complexity breaks from the perceived (by western society) design minimalism that Japan is famous for.

“Jeffrey Zeldman brings up the interesting issue of the paradox between Japan’s strong cultural preference for simplicity in design, contrasted with the complexity of Japanese websites. The post invites you to study several sites, each more crowded than the last. ‘It is odd that in Japan, land of world-leading minimalism in the traditional arts and design, Web users and skilled Web design practitioners believe more is more.'”

From my perspective, I can see why the question is asked – but it also occurs to me that the sites mentioned aren’t necessarily that busy – potentially that perception is based on the ‘foreign-ness” of the Japanese characters? At least one commentator agrees with this analysis, pointing out that the English version of the JAL site is more palatable to our western eye than the Japanese version.

Do websites across you language pairs differ markedly?

Free TEnT comparisons – 17/07/2010

Jost announced in his latest newsletter that is now free. If you’ve ever wondered if a different TEnT tool might be better for you, this is your best place to see what makes other software different (and what makes them all the same). There’s 3 hours of watching, some videos are longer and more informative than others – I think each vid is made by the company that makes the software, so the info you are getting is straight from the source.