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Posts from 2018


Whether or not you travel a lot, do you agree that translation is not just a matter of replacing words with words?

Speaking as a self-employed translator, translation is indeed not just a matter of replacing words with words. But how vocal can you be (or are prepared to be) on this subject? Because I know it’s not just people like me who have had something to say about this subject, by a long way.

I have written extensively on this sort of thing, in this business blog. But right here I want to propose a genuinely popular argument against relying on machine translation. It’s like this: if you type something in language A into Google Translate to translate it into language B, but then translate the product of that back into language A, you will almost always end up with something different from what you had in language A to begin with. Care to compare this result with what you proposed to begin with? I mean, check this for an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7oYn0nPij4

I am fully prepared to be studious about such a subject, even though I am as inclined to consider it humorous as most other people do.

That said, maybe I should propose a game of a list of imperfect translation examples inviting people to guess “by chance or deliberate error?”.

22nd January 2018


I am a self-employed professional translator (as if it were necessary to state that). If I won’t convince people that I am one worth the name, then who will? That’s right, no-one. That said…

I can’t help thinking that anyone who would decide to write an article which was little more than a list of ways in which translation can go wrong – for translation is not just replacing words with words, but I think we all agree that we live in an age where more or less everyone soon becomes aware of that – would soon agree that it’s hard to be sufficiently coherent and articulate about each one, even if they had some convenient examples to hand. I must admit that even I sometimes feel the need to ask someone for whom I am doing a translation job exactly how they feel about what is my best educated guess of my translation of something, or maybe it’s “Do you feel that this phrase is clear enough and suggests what should be suggested (and only what should be suggested)?” But, if only for the sake of reinforcing the idea in the previous paragraph, I have often shown an ability to be inventive with phrasing which is enough to resemble the intended message in the original. I have often come up with wording in the writing of translation products which I was confident would not be misleading even if it didn’t include certain expected terminology. But sometimes… it’s just not enough.

It’s often the case that, when I start work translating a new sentence, I allow my mind to wander, allow for whatever indefinite images may occur in my mind as I read the words – but not without being ever ready to look beyond the apparitions, the hallucinations. The very fact that it’s by no means rare for words to have more than one meaning, should be reason enough; and that’s just one argument in support of this practice. Outside of plain academically oriented arguments, one could mention the use of carefully selected language for manipulative purposes. You see, context is hardly a simplistic subject, especially when you’re in no position to judge the facts for yourself; all you can do is have simple faith in the (supposed) truth of what you’re reading while exercising common sense with regard to your own expression at all times. Indeed, a statement or idea doesn’t have to make sense to impact people in the real world – probably in a negative way. Here’s an example (contains swearing) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qo6ujFYWat0

They say a picture tells a thousand words… in a way, good translation / the pre-requisites for it is enough for clarification of notions where it simply cannot be managed by any picture (at least to a certain extent). Even for someone like me, translation / techniques for doing it with confidence / how translation should really be done is such a broad subject that I dread to think how long it would take me to cover everything I could conceive of in connection with it. But I believe that the contents of the official translation quality standard DIN EN ISO 17100:2015 (available on the ISO website) are capable of providing at least some enlightenment in this regard.

24th January 2018


This Youtube video has received a lot of attention for its (otherwise unintended) humour factor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3iNxZ8Dww

I can imagine lots of people insisting that we must consider that she must be under stress and all that, but I don’t believe that people would have thought less of her if she just took a brief moment to consider what she was actually saying, if only so that she could be sure of sticking to her point or points, even if – and I’m only saying if – she secretly had good reason to believe that she wasn’t covering them as well as she liked. Or maybe she’s just pretentious and ignorant and not worth the title. Either way, seriously, if you are not helping on any given issue, being in love with the sound of your own voice and being desperate to be heard will not help; not that I am accusing her of these things without knowing the full story.

That said, this video is more than ten years old now, and has 67 million views – so can anyone say by now that they are any wiser as to what she meant to say? Myself, being a self-employed translator with plenty of ideas, I suggested looking at her speech from a perspective of it being translated into French and German – by a professional, of course – just to see where it leads. Admittedly, it most likely wasn’t worth the effort, but what are you going to do?

Let’s start by putting the text of what she said right here (for which I ask you to bear in mind that things like punctuation can be a bit ambiguous in this case, so bear in mind if – and I’m only saying if – they are not always properly accounted for).

“I personally believe that US Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and I believe that our education, like, such as in South Africa and Iraq – everywhere, like, such as… and… I believe that they should… our education over here in the US should help the US – should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for our children.”

In French:
“Personellement, je crois que la raison pour laquelle les américains ne peuvent pas faire cela est qu’il existe quelques personnes en notre nation qui n’ont pas de cartes géographiques et je crois que notre éducation, comme, comme en l’Afrique du Sud et en Irak – partout, comme, comme… et… je crois qu’ils devraient… notre éducation ici en les États Unis devrait aider les États-Unis – devrait aider l’Afrique du Sud et devrait aider Irak et les pays asiatiques pour que nous puissions construire notre avenir pour nos enfants.”

In German:
“Aus persönlicher Sicht glaube ich dass der Grund, warum Amerikaner das nicht machen können ist weil es einige Leute in unserer Nation gibt die keine Landkarten haben, und ich glaube dass unsere Ausbildung, wie, so es zum Beispiel in Sudakfrika und Irak ist – überall, wie, sowie… und… ich glaube, sie sollten… unsere Ausbildung hier in den Vereinigten Staaten sollte den Vereinigten Staaten helfen – sollte Sudafrika helfen und sollte Irak helfen und sollte den asiatischen Ländern helfen, damit wir unsere Zukunft für unsere Kinder aufbauen können.”

Maybe someone out there would care to try this with other semi-legitimate comments? Say what you will. I’m done here.

17th February 2018


Foreword: I meant this to be a relatively “fun” blog, but you have to speak French for the “fun” part of it to apply in your case. You will see.

In the modern world, where access to foreign countries and cultures has never been easier, no-one should be that surprised to know that attempts to teach even very young children the basics of a foreign language are common. Surely there can be no other explanation for the existence of, for example, the character Tilly in Tots TV on British television. And in the United States you get Dora the Explorer, who, to my reasoning, is a character who speaks Spanish as well as English; according to the Wikipedia entry for this programme: “Each episode is based around a series of cyclical events that occur along the way during Dora’s travels, along with obstacles that she and Boots are forced to overcome or puzzles that they have to solve (with “assistance” from the viewing audience) relating to riddles, the Spanish language, or counting.”

But that’s enough talk about TV programmes aimed at pre-school children. I now want to draw readers’ attention to the following translation exercise – that’s what this blog is really all about. If your mother tongue is English and you speak at least a bit of French, I invite you to translate the following sentences into English – I think you will be entertained. (Remember: practice makes perfect.)

Elle vend des coquillages au bord de la mer.
Peter Piper a ramassé un picotin de poivrons marinés.
J’ai vu Susie Shaw assise en un magasin de cirage de chaussures.

And the other way round:

Three tortoises were trotting along three very narrow rooves.
How much do these sixty-six sausages here cost?
Five dogs were hunting six cats.

Well, they say that this is a good way to master pronunciation…

19th February 2018


This is a quickie business blog.


While their content and general image may change over the years as much as humans themselves, languages have always existed as a result of the need for people to communicate. And we always use it to discuss or refer to our own experiences in life, but as far as this is concerned, every so often one becomes aware of a new concept in life which just requires some effort to come to terms with even if the concept itself is in fact easy for one to acquaint themselves with. Hence, you occasionally get an expression in a given language for which there is no straight equivalent in other languages; this blog discusses some of these.

All things considered, at the end of the day, this is just part of the largely random writings of a professional linguist – a self-employed translator – who thrives on linguistic inventiveness and discussion of language-related adventure. Here I talk about the terms referred to in the article that the link is to – what if it were conducive to learning in the subject which I make a living in (languages)? In each case, I’ve tried not just to “explain” the word by inferring my own offhand random response; I try to answer the questions of what their existence betrays and what kind of thinking it encourages (usually on a subconscious level).

“Shemomedjamo”: it doesn’t specifically say how this “word” is pronounced (like every word on this list, I suppose). Also, for an entry that is described as a single “word”, it seemingly is no “word” that can be categorised in any way. It’s not a noun or an adjective or a verb or whatever on its own. “This is so I accidentally ate the whole thing” , for example, doesn’t work as a proper sentence, so I’m guessing that it’s only used on its own, in a manner similar to an interjection. It’s not a portmanteau or based on an acronym or anything like that. And it doesn’t look like slang or anything. Like I said, I can’t imagine this being used as part of a bigger sentence; unlike this: about the closest thing I can come up with for it in English is “moreish”, and this is also a word used only to describe one’s attachment to a given kind of food. Of course, no-one can fail to acknowledge that people always need to eat, and that people like good food! So maybe, just maybe, it will end up a borrowed expression in other languages.

“Pelinti”: “to move hot food around in your mouth”. Great. Very specific in meaning and limited in scope, though. But one thing that strikes me here is that it’s hard not to focus more on the actual pain sensation. Merely moving hot food around in your mouth won’t help to cool it or anything; only somehow salivating enough quickly enough or consuming a bit of cool liquid (or simply spitting the food out!) will. Maybe they eat a lot of hot food in Ghana, I don’t know; but how did such a word with such a meaning really end up with a properly established existence? How likely is this idea to be discussed in conversation?

“Layogenic”: the first thing I think of here is the film “Clueless”. I haven’t actually seen it myself (mainly because – correct me if I’m wrong – it’s a chick flick) but I have a rough idea of what to expect. So I’m guessing: someone who may be attractive / have an image that it’s easy to envy but, ultimately, they’re just meretricious and vacuous and all and they cause more problems than they solve. Hillary from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is another good example. Personally, I’m guessing that it’s easy to think of a type of person who is like that whatever culture you grew up in, however much the specifics may vary…

“Rhwe”: Really? I may have my share of episodes of doing stupid and / or (mildly) obstreperous things when drunk (at a younger age) but… seriously? Like “Pelinti”, just how can such a word end up with a properly established existence (only enough for an entry in the list in this article)? I hope that such a practice is not as popular as some people in some quarters might be encouraged to believe when they would hear of this word for the first time. Could they subsequently end up encouraged to be more likely to engage in such behaviour, with the result of it becoming… more common? Even if I am overreacting here, the whole idea, and how recognised it seems to be based on the very existence of this word, is just crazy!

“Zeg”: finally, a word whose meaning is just not that far away from everyday usage for anyone. And the French say “après-demain” for “the day after tomorrow”. And the Germans say “übermorgen”! Even if “après-demain” and “übermorgen” are both literal in translation or just meaning depending on how you want to look at it. I’m actually tempted to start using “zeg” in my own English speech – people borrow words from other languages all the time, don’t they?

“Pålegg”: I’m guessing the closest word in English is “filling”. But a specific word for “filling” for sandwich ingredients alone just seems like a waste of time. Think about it: chances are the only question anyone would be quick to ask about any sandwich (if they had any questions about it at all) is “what’s in it?”, even if they did not want to eat it! Not “does it have a filling or not?” And if it doesn’t then it’s just two slices of bread! Are the Norwegians really that proud about their alleged artistry with sandwiches? News to me! I don’t want to brag but the sandwich is a British invention anyway (look up the Earl of Sandwich). By the way, whoever heard of Doritos between two slices of bread? Did the author of this article know what Doritos are?

“Lagom”: like “zeg”, I can readily regard this as an everyday convenient word, and one which the masses will also regard as such. I most associate it with the tea I drink (whether I or anyone else made it): I always wait a bit before drinking it. I may like my tea hot but I certainly don’t want the inside of my mouth scalded by it. Exactly how long I should wait before it is “lagom” is very hard to determine by any means other than sipping it (although watching the steam that radiates from the surface helps).

“Tartle”: this is described as an onomatopoeic word, which makes it sound like sniggering or trying not to laugh from my point of view. I wonder how often “that panicky hesitation just before you have to introduce someone whose name you can’t quite remember” really is for the Scots. And a word for a panicky hesitation which is only for a specific kind of occasion? I just don’t get it, and I wonder: what are the chances of the word “tartle” ending up a general word for awkward silence at some point in the future (or just a brief moment of it, most likely)?

“Koi No Yokan”: is this romantic or just soppy / corny? How “serious” is it anyway? You tell me (although, I have read that it differs from “love at first sight”, which makes me personally think “relatively serious”). There are some attitudes the Japanese have toward love and relationships (in actual real life society) that are well worth mentioning. “Love hotels” originated in Japan. And somewhere, sometime, there was this dating advice booklet in Japan which included such tips as “to break the ice, make eye contact” and the “advanced” “talk to her”. Now, for all the merits that can be attributed to Japanese society and culture… what does THAT say about it?

“Mamihlapinatapai”: this is a very interesting entry. It is words like this that I want to write about here; read on to understand why. It is not specifically stated whether the thing that two such people want done is “good” i.e. something romantic or game-changing or whatever, that they are both, for example, shy about, or “bad” i.e. something which is indeed a difficult or unpleasant or even taboo subject – maybe they are in denial about it. They certainly don’t want to talk about it. It seems like a concept easy enough to… uh… “understand”, although I have to say that I have never really imagined any “special look” between two people in any such case – and is this supposedly “special” look recognised only when the two are looking at each other? But I’m not that upset that the author of this article never cared to illustrate their thoughts that much (assuming that this piece of writing is even actually based on whatever authentic thoughts they had and not just hearsay; but that doesn’t mean I’m strictly suggesting that the former always has more value than the latter).

“Fremdschämen” / “Myötähäpeä”: I have to say that I don’t speak Finnish, but I do speak German, and “Fremdschämen” translates literally as “stranger shame” – and while I’ve never watched “Meet the Parents”, shame is not the same as embarrassment. Still, I can agree that it is common for “shame” to amount to awkwardness or humiliating disappointment rather than anything truly bad or objectionable. So, in my view, one might think of “Fremdschämen” as being nervous of strangers, but strictly with the condition that the stranger has more power or authority than you, especially if you expect them to become a genuine part of your everyday life, whether directly or indirectly.

“Cafune”: I like this word. As gregarious and energetic as the Brazilians tend to be, this word is a good reminder that they often have a quieter, more sensual side. This is a relatively intimate act which is not explicit, and relatively discreet, and not done only between lovers. At least… in my experience, someone stroking someone’s else’s hair tenderly is a common act done by, for example, a parent to their sick child – but it might be different with the Brazilians, who may strictly regard “cafune” as somewhat sensual or sexy as if on principle…

“Greng-jai”: to me the meaning of this word sounds like something we are all familiar with. But I do wonder if this word arose in particular more from concepts concerning situations involving guilt in the person who felt it, or maybe it was more of a commitment to hospitality that they felt, or maybe they were intimidated by the person that they felt it for? It’s just that it’s hard to imagine this word existing outside of a sentence that is basically like “I just felt all ‘greng-jai’.” Although it’s only a word, it is essentially a word whose mere existence can prove enough to increase the chance of getting any otherwise mutually tacit concept out in the open, the result of this being a relationship being changed in a big way, or maybe even more of society being changed in a big way. Presumably always for the better; or is that just me?

“Kaelling”: do you think that all such women are essentially Chavette-like – trashy, fat, stupid, irresponsible and all the rest of it all in accordance with the well-known Chav trope? Chavs are, by definition, not Danish, of course – not that I am suggesting that no Danish women behave in this way – but I get that the actions mentioned for this entry amount to conduct which certainly doesn’t befit a lady, at any rate.

28th February 2018

[reposted – posted originally on 7th May 2017]

Looking back on my history as a highly talented linguist who always excelled in language studies at school (not to brag), I would suggest that there is little to nothing I could find myself remembering about my own experiences in the domain of languages and linguistics that would truly surprise me.

In the real world, of course, distinguished talent for languages alone is just not enough to progress as a professional translator in absolute terms, let alone compete in the industry. That said, I would be lying if I claimed I never EVER found the language side of it a bit of a challenge at times, even today. But I usually handle it well enough. However, maybe the truth is that there are certain things about language that even someone like me, a professional translator, could learn only the hard way. Things that I could not hope to remember with the assistance of mnemonics alone, even if they were my own creation. But I have every reason to be proud of myself when I myself do that. (At the very least, I would hardly recommend listening to the voices in your head for the sake of achieving properly done translation work of high quality.) Anyway, here comes the bombshell: when I seek perfect understanding of “relevant things in this matter”, I am fully aware that it’s not limited to the “things” which are generally (at least, based on experience and subjective interpretation thereof) already known and understood by those who have gone before me. At the end of the day, the more predictions, concepts and arguments I have in support of what I do – as long as they are rational ones and not based purely on fallacious ideas – the more I can be sure that I am on the right track. Hence, I bring up the topic of…


For all my talent in this line of work, “getting real with language” is something I do every day – it’s a matter of simple responsibility in my job, and one which will never change, whatever I learn, realise, discover, whatever.

Now, some might argue that it’s easier to “stay real” with something than to “get real” with it… at least, if you can be sure that your expectations of it will never change (much as I realise that lots of things in the real world change all the time, and certainly in the domain of business) – either way, how can one account for an unfaltering commitment to the truth? I can only suggest that if you really do care about something, you learn to look past your own subjective subconscious responses to anything to do with it (whether it’s “supposed to” matter to you personally or not). It’s as simple as that. In his video The Great Palestinian Lie, the popular atheist comedian Pat Condell said that all any of us can do is to tell the truth as we see it – as we actually see it, not how we think we’re supposed to see it. It’s the same with people: as harsh as it may seem to some people, claiming you respect someone else while in reality only “respecting” the fabricated idea person that you personally have accepted them as (which is not necessarily accurate), means that you don’t actually respect them as much as you would have them believe you do.

Now, for me to officially reach the highest echelon in the translation industry… well, admittedly, on some level it does seem like wishful thinking, but it spurs me on all the same. Don’t ask me “Why?” when I will only respond “Why not?” At the very least, I must be on the right track if I can proclaim that, while a person can be competent at a lot of things, they can’t be competent in “for real translation” without being imaginative… and yes, “imaginative” here does include acquainting oneself with and dealing with concepts outside of one’s proverbial comfort zone (imaginatively, of course).

So I think the most important thing for me to remember as a professional translator is pretty clear. While it is a good start for me to outline the content of a given message that is to be translated, in my own (strictly articulate) terms as if I wanted to remember and think about it in depth later (whether or not I intended to discuss it with others), a message is only as meaningful as what it actually represents (rather than random interpretation of it by the individual, where rules do not necessarily apply), and I know I should be prepared to be perceptive (often non-typically) as to what a message truly stands for.

So, try this listening exercise: how much Latin do you know? Myself, I know only a few words – not enough to make myself understood in it, but I may be able to understand individual words if I happened to read or hear them, like how I picked up “cuius” in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_IPqniaZR0 as the first word in the sentences which start at 1:41. I challenge anyone with any familiarity with Latin to watch this video just once to see what Latin sounds like, just to see what you can identify… and then ask yourself: how well could you account for what the guy has actually said to everyone else in your own words, and what does he want to encourage / discourage or otherwise achieve by making this speech? Watch it as many times as you want for the sake of practicing concentrating on more than one thing at once. For that is what reliable translation is all about.

1st March 2018

Have you seen my business Twitter profile? https://twitter.com/TrailTranslator Enjoy reading the Tweets I’ve been posting on there for a week now.

7th March 2018

This is my tenth year of doing professional translation, and yet I will admit that there are occasions where I am compelled to ask my clients for their opinions about certain aspects about the work I do for them. I don’t do it without a good reason. And I realise damn well that asking rhetorical questions about a subject on which you are no authority, is not a good idea – I think of Dekay on Brexit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF7odXxEbmw

8th March 2018


Some days ago I posted a tweet about the little-known language Mapudungun (it is listed in Ethnologue), including a link to a webpage which includes a list of quotes which have been translated from English into Mapudungun for use in the PC game Civilisation VI, for Mapudungun is the language used in that game by one of the people you can play as (in his spoken dialogue, at least). Well, the same game includes quotes from many other real-life people throughout history which are in many languages other than English; they include languages which, unlike Mapudungun, you can translate using Google Translate. For example, I have looked at some of the things that Alexander the Great (the leader of Macedon) says by taking his quotes in Ancient Greek and having them translated into English using Google Translate – yes, Google Translate’s translate from Greek option allows you to translate from Ancient Greek just like modern Greek – even though the game already provides English translations of them. Now… I don’t know how true it is for all the other languages in the game, but the English versions of these Ancient Greek quotes, that are listed on Alexander’s page on that site, differ considerably from the English versions obtained when you run the Ancient Greek quotes through Google Translate. It’s not just a case of deciding on a clearly different word or alternative sentence structure here and there; you actually need to weigh the translations that Google Translate provides against the English translations of the Ancient Greek quotes that are listed in the log of Civ 6 and apply considerable attention and initiative to see the similarities / differences. http://civilization.wikia.com/wiki/Alexander_(Civ6)

So what does this mean to me? Well, I would hate to see my own credibility as a professional translator undermined on the basis of the fact that, when I’m at work, I rarely seek to write sentences which are so different yet so loyal to the message of the original. So maybe you’re wondering how I would answer the (imaginary) question “How do you translate?” Could I ever be sure of writing a translation of anything, which I know that no-one could end up with misled conceptions about purely as a result of their own imagination (which may well be unconscious!)?

I would say that I feel most confident when I am writing in a way where people would find it very hard to impugn or embellish the facts that are supposed to be understood from the original – in a plain and matter-of-fact manner, I think. I mean, it’s not uncommon for me to re-go over what I’ve written multiple times if I am but left guessing as to the underlying details of the meaning of the content of the message in places however sure I can be of the correctness of what I have written. What I have written may reflect the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth but if I don’t actually understand the system behind the content of the subject matter / how it works in actual practice, then I know I should try harder to avert misinterpretations / false conclusions (with myself or the future reader) and this can frustrate me. You could say that I know better than to get complacent if it were pointed out to me that I had translated a sentence better than I realised.

At this stage, I will assert this: I am against attempts to draw attention to individual words over others as if I wanted those words in particular to be remembered by the reader (especially if I didn’t actually understand why!).

13th March 2018


This is Trixi, a young German woman who has posted a number of educational videos on Youtube about the German language. I recommend visiting her channel to anyone who wants to learn German / improve their German. With my knowledge of German, and given what I do, I have actually posted a blog featuring one of her videos before (included on the Facebook page of the translation agency Language Reach in London, date 17th March 2017). Now, although in these videos she doesn’t teach any aspects of German grammar or vocabulary or phrases that anyone thinking of heading to Germany is actually likely to require she’s been quite happy to provide a list of German insults, a list of German sayings, and “10 most beautiful German words” among others in various videos – but you just know as well as I do that she’s not the only one who has made lists like these. I mean, any German could make videos like these without really thinking that much – just see what comes to mind as examples of something and expect credit for it. And that’s all they are: lists for a bit of fun; and an end in itself. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, I don’t want to just post links to those in a cheap attempt to gain attention as a professional translator. They may be fun but they don’t help to illustrate my own authority when it comes to foreign languages.

That said, she deserves a more sincere kind of credit for thinking of and creating videos like this one, in which she shows 28 meanings for one German word. In doing so she shows us just how confusing German can be – touches on more subtle issues in German which would never strike a beginner or an opportunistic learner. I can say the same thing for her videos “Don’t confuse these 10 German words!” and “6 easy German phrases most non-Germans won’t get” among others.

21st March 2018


Anyone who has travelled a lot will most likely concur that differing culture in different countries can and does encompass differing attitudes toward “manners” (whether ostensibly good ones or ostensibly bad ones), reinforced by commonly held ideas about proper etiquette. For example, as odd as it may seem, slurping is considered polite in Japan (and look at their reputation for being polite!)… they regard it as a sign that you enjoy the food. Also, you might be surprised to find out that in Ethiopia, it’s pretty common to feed other people with your hands, so much so that it’s actually considered a sign of good hospitality. Then there’s tipping (in restaurants), which is pretty much always immediately labelled either as a token of gratitude or as a patronising gesture.

It may seem like a redundant statement, but I think we’re all in favour of promoting good manners over bad ones – after all, maybe you’ve heard of the saying “manners maketh man”? If I may side-track for a moment: suppose that, in a contradiction to the idea of swearing bans, everyone in a given social group agreed to regard it as customary to use such words as much as possible for reasons best known to themselves? All immature amusement aside, I just don’t believe that it actually would last for long.

That said: if you agree, as I do, that good manners are indeed important, are a vital ingredient for harmonious and civil co-existence, then there’s every chance that you’re willing to elaborate on the subject (if only you could), maybe specifically so that those “less aware” may come to understand what they fail to grasp about it. After all, in a nutshell, it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that good manners aren’t just limited to overt goodwill gestures that are very unlikely to missed, whether by the recipient or anyone else; things like bowing or holding a door open for someone. The individual’s attitude toward others plays a social role which is often sorely overlooked. This can only go hand in hand with the concept of defining “good manners” as (quite simply) genuinely decent and considerate behaviours – not just “proper” ones that only exist out of a personal attachment to tradition which can only be every bit as transient as the people who foster it. Even if there are certain things which are considered acceptable in some places / among certain groups but rude in other places / among other groups, or certain things which are definitely considered ostensibly rude in some places / among certain groups but not so much in other places / among other groups, whoever could imagine an individual episode of a certain act (or absence of a certain act, depending on the circumstances) being performed by someone who fully and earnestly expected it to be regarded as a polite act by recipient person A but as a rude act by recipient person B?

Still, as harsh as it may seem, there are very good reasons for considering local culture when you do travel, lest you cause embarrassment or offence while not necessarily realising it. What defines “culture” in actual practice, anyway (beyond its plain and boring dictionary definition)? People are often attached to their local culture, being proud of it and for a very good reason: you could say that it’s one of the very things which makes them human. And to insult (discredit) a culture is to attack its values, which can (certainly not always; I want to emphasise that) have a negative impact on one’s self-worth. Which can quickly make them angry, of course. Couple this with the fact that it certainly doesn’t always cost anything to honour a culture worth the name; and of course there are plenty of times where people feel upright just for making a point of remembering certain aspects of their culture (and not necessarily openly). So if a person agrees that their culture deserves respect out of an impression that it has united, rather than separated, people in some way… well, what is the worst that could happen if the culture in question included no recognised elements of an appreciable form of good manners and etiquette for the purpose of basically ensuring social solidarity over resentment? Trust me, this question has a lot of weight…

It’s a tough lesson to learn that “meaning well” (in the crudest sense of the term) can count for nothing if you are lacking in social awareness – or, as the case may be, self-awareness! – not least because it encourages the attachment of stigma to the term “stupid”. Even the Mafia, for all their faults, have some distinct standards when it comes to respect and dignity, as this newspaper article reflects: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-492449/Police-discover-Mafias-Ten-Commandments-arresting-Godfather.html So it all amounts to the question of how well you can account for your own unsolicited understanding (preferably without blushing) – the kind which strictly falls under the banner of responsibility – and often that of other people as well.

But I’m supposed to be conflating the subject of manners with the subject of foreign languages and cultures. You know that the standard French expression for “please” is “S’il vous plaît”, right? If you only know basic French you will probably need it to be explained to you that that translates into English more literally as “if it pleases you” – even though it has always been used in situations when the question of whether or not it “pleases” the other person is just out of the question. Also, in Spanish the standard expression for “please” is “por favor”, which immediately makes me think “for a favour”; even though, in practice at least i.e. to my sensibilities with the English language (as a native speaker, no less), when you “do someone a favour”, a “favour” is hardly a big deal. I’m not saying that Spanish people don’t say “por favor” when asking someone to “do them a favour”, but I am saying that they also use “por favor” in a request for something important! Meanwhile, German has two common phrases for sorry: “Es tut mir Leid”, which translates literally as “It pains me”, which seems as good an explanation of the concept of an apology as any; and “Entschuldigung” – “Schuld” can mean liability (which is not far from blame / guilt / fault, for all three of those words are also valid English translations of it), and having clarified that I will mention that “Entschuldigung” is often accepted as an abbreviation of “Ich bitte Ihnen um Entschuldigung”, which translates pretty much as “I plead that you may relieve [me] of liability / guilt [here]” – it passes for an acknowledgement that one has done wrong and that they feel bad about it. Of course, while we’re on the subject of manners in direct interaction between people of different cultures: I may be a professional linguist but it’s not just limited to verbal statements. For example, shaking hands is usually accepted as a polite gesture; everyone knows that. But don’t offer someone in an Arab country your left hand, since they consider it “unclean” – look it up and see for yourself. Another example here is that Arabs get shocked if you show them the bottom of your shoe. Well, OK: I can accept that the bottom of a shoe which is commonly worn, usually is dirty to very dirty and might be enough to cause disgust.

At the end of the day, I wanted to discuss attitudes toward manners and etiquette among people from other countries at least a little bit in this blog. That said, I didn’t want to just provide a list of verifiable examples like that was enough to make an actual point in this regard. I have actually argued before (in my blog dated 24th March 2017) that, to get a sound idea about someone else’s manners (with an “s” on the end), consider conflating the ideas you get inspecting them with the ideas you get inspecting their manner (with no “s” on the end) i.e. their demeanour. And don’t make the mistake of mislabelling “by-existence” as “co-existence”, as I used to do. But I don’t want to make people more susceptible to being flustered should they get confused about another person’s position or opinions on any given subject or situation. We all make mistakes. But just look at today’s “progressive” culture, with its preoccupation with personal “safe spaces” – whatever its history, is often criticised for compelling people to censor themselves for fear of causing offence even if it’s over something petty or less than sensible; which explains why modern “feminism” is, regrettably, highly discredited and ridiculed.

With that point made, I will end this blog by saying this: if you’re thinking of travelling to a foreign country, go for it! And when you meet new people there for the first time, take the time to ask yourself what people who are not as intelligent as they think they are, and people who are more intelligent than they realise, would agree about them – but never forget that the thing about someone that is the least believable thing about them, can be the most important thing!

23rd March 2018


Sometimes when translation agencies advertise a given translation project, the advert states that they will only hire someone who has / is skilled with a certain CAT tool (like Trados or MemoQ) for it. But I don’t see what’s so great about them. For a start, they cost hundreds of pounds – go the SDL Trados website and see how much the SDL Trados Studio 2017 packages cost. And the licences that are sometimes required are not even valid forever! It’s crazy! And, while the professional translation community discourages machine translation (as it should), I got this image* of MemoQ in operation from Google and it seems to have a machine translation function itself built into it: look in the top right hand corner!

*I just wanted to point out that this image may be subject to copyright, but if it is then I don’t see why I should be held culpable when it was publicly available when I found it. And you will just have to view this blog on George Trail Translator on Facebook to see this image.


It should be obvious from part 1 that I don’t believe in the value of CAT tools which today’s professional translation community is so fond of. To me, they are little more than machine translators with some sort of “advanced” features. This is the second part of my rant on CAT tools:
I don’t speak Italian, and so I got Google Translate to translate this short article which I found in some Italian newspaper into English. https://www.avvenire.it/mondo/pagine/arrestato-puigdemont-rabbia-in-catalogna-feriti

Now, I understand that this material wasn’t exactly that tough to translate; however, while the translation I got wasn’t perfect throughout, I wasn’t really confused or left guessing at all and it was easy to understand what was meant. But translate it into your own mother tongue and see if you disagree that Google Translate often comes up with phrases which, if you could speak Italian and if you were to translate this article yourself, you would eventually come up with these phrases or ones very similar to them if you didn’t use Google Translate to “think” for you. Like I said before, I can understand people wanting to discourage the use of machine translators in professional translation, but I personally think that Google Translate deserves more credit than professional translators give it all the same. So, let all the good aspects of machine translation tools be recognised!

26th March 2018


I am a professional translator, but then anyone who’s read my blogs will know that by now. I’ve said it enough times. But then so is Ioannis Ikonomou, a Greek translator who’s been working for the European Commission in Brussels since 2002, and from what I’ve read he speaks 32 languages fluently! Like, how!? And I thought Timothy Doner left me in the shade.

I can only imagine where he found the time to learn to speak so many – he couldn’t possibly have started learning all of them in his childhood. Indeed, it does beg the question of how many he started learning from scratch ever since he became a professional translator. …Yes, I envy him, and well done to him and blah blah blah, but this blog isn’t about him. For I decided to write a blog about what experiences I would expect were I to start learning a random new language today. It would certainly be different from when I started learning French and German as a boy at school, you know? And I’m not just saying that because I was expected to learn French and German when I was at school, whereas if I were to start learning a new language today it would be purely because I wanted to. I mean, with my experience, it would likely be so easy for me (if I do say so myself) – and I would get to enjoy greater autonomy doing it today, which is always cool – but at the end of the day… I really must elaborate on what is meant by that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YHrrEvPy2A I have never even watched this introduction to Polish video but I know it wouldn’t take me long to learn everything in it, along with short phrases in the category of basic communication, like saying please and thank you and all the rest of it. I would also consider it important to learn how to count to ten in Polish, and the Polish words for a proper range of colours, as soon as possible. After I’m comfortable with things like that, I imagine I would move onto learning basic conjugation for verbs and adjectives (present tense and commands), and adverbs, to start off with when I’m not seeking example phrases in other, broader subjects which matter to the masses, like how to ask for directions (maybe to sightseeing locations in Poland), or how to talk about the clothes I’m wearing, along with the words for different kinds of transportation vehicles and musical instruments, things like that… and maybe soon I could actually start to talk about my future plans in Polish! I would be proud of myself for reaching that stage – while knowing that I still have a long way to go before I can call myself “fluent” in the language.

Yes, fluency in a language requires a wide vocabulary and mastery of grammar which goes up to being able to enunciate more complex sentences with ease, such as ones with one or more pronouns in them, and competence in all the tenses, to name a few things. Once I started displaying an aptitude for subordinate clauses and adverbial clauses and things like that, then I would definitely know that I was on the right track. A good memory certainly helps in this sort of thing, but that shouldn’t be a problem for me. That said, I would like to end this blog with the following question:

Why should learning a new word in a foreign language be considered any more of a challenge than learning a new word in your mother tongue?

27th March 2018


If there is indeed an “art to understanding and being understood”, then there can be no reason to dispute the idea that it has great significance when it comes to the art / practice of translation. Lots of people can find it easy enough to talk about how translation can be challenging, at at least a rudimentary level – although it’s probably based on bad translations and nothing but – but when it comes to the actual practice of translation, no translator wants to write anything which, inadvertently on their part, could leave the reader guessing. As a professional translator, I certainly don’t.

Now, some of my clients can be really strict and uncompromising as they judge the quality of my work. But who am I to judge them for it? In my own defence, however, when you do what I do, there’s always a chance of you being judged harshly following a decision you made purely as a result of being misled by your own imagination and nothing but. And what could be worse than being afraid of where your imagination will take you? If that applies to you, are you just… not free?

Just remember that “second-hand opinions don’t make you look any smarter” – a quote from this Natalie Imbruglia song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTqHnW29iVI

28th March 2018


I wrote this blog for the purpose of relating a certain abstract concept to the pursuit of “good and confident translation” – I intended to highlight the importance of the former in connection with the latter. And I was very excited about posting this blog…

It’s like this…

This is an episode of Wil Cwac Cwac, a children’s cartoon series which was originally in Welsh before it got translated into English in order to reach a larger audience. I have a few slight memories of Wil Cwac Cwac from my early childhood – but that’s another story. Anyway, you may have noticed that this link is to an episode of it which is in Welsh and not English. Yes, that’s what I wanted. And I loved what I did as part of the work behind the writing of this blog. It’s like this…

First, I ventured my best guess at a good English “translation” of it all, based solely on me paying very close attention to what I saw as I watched it, while being committed to sagacious speculation, if that makes sense. Sometimes I would watch a bit more ahead of a given statement for the purpose of seeking some sort of credence to whatever I would provide as an educated guess of an accurate English “translation” of this statement. Seriously, I know the names of the characters in Wil Cwac Cwac and the key facts about them, and sometimes I heard their names in the Welsh speech that you hear in this episode even though I don’t speak Welsh; but don’t take my word for the content of this story any more than that of Llinos Griffin, a professional translator in Wales that I found on LinkedIn, and the owner of Gwefus. For I hired this Welsh woman to translate the spoken words of this episode of Wil Cwac Cwac here into English for me; and now I provide the content of what my best guess of an English translation of what it all was, followed by this woman’s translation of it. I am inviting comparison here. God, I loved this exercise. And thank you Llinos, for it was your work for me that made this blog possible.

As Wil was eating his breakfast one morning, his friend Sioni turned up to see him.
“One of your friends is here!”, said Martha. “He wants to speak with you.”
“Really, Mum?” said Wil, as he walked up to them.
“Well, aren’t you pleased to see him?” [considering that Wil doesn’t look very happy as he’s approaching] [I know that Wil’s mother speaks two sentences at that point] “Don’t you want to go bike riding with him?” [For Sioni rings the bell on his bike right then]
“Oh, alright [quack],” said Wil.
“It’ll be fun!”, said Sioni – he certainly seemed eager for it.
Knowing that they would be passing the house of her friend Mari Pickles during their bike ride, Wil’s mother saw an opportunity. And so Martha prepared a box; a box which she brought to Wil. [I heard “Wil” at the end of that sentence.]
“Wil, could you deliver something for me?”
“Alright, Mum”, responded Wil.
“Very well, we’ll do that,” said Sioni. [Maybe the narrator didn’t specifically say that Wil’s mother wanted them to deliver it to Mari Pickles, even though she would have done in the actual story?]
And so they went to Mari Pickles’ house. They took the old path that led into the woods, and eventually emerged at the end of the street.
“Good morning, Mr. Owie Policeman” they said as they passed by him – making him jump. [I didn’t hear Wil’s name in that sentence.]
“Wh… what was that?” [Just that he was distracted in that he was reading a book.]
They carried on riding, past Mr. Puw The Shop [I heard his name]. And finally, they reached Mari Pickles.
She looked very pleased. “Oh, this is a pleasant surprise! [I originally thought her first sentence was “Oh, my parcel has arrived!”] Thank you very much, Wil! [I heard Wil’s name there.] How nice of you to make this for me. Would you like a bit?”
Wil was taken aback. “I didn’t make it. Sioni and I just delivered it to you. We were told to.”
[Sioni]: “No, you are mistaken, Mari Pickles. Wil’s mother told us to give you this – she never told us what it was. Right, Wil?”
“…Quack, yes…” said, Wil, disappointed. [At not having a piece of the cake after all – what else? The same can be said of Sioni.]
And so they left. “Ta-ta!”, said Mari Pickles.
Mr. Owie Policeman saw them as they were riding back, and he was a bit irritated by their next comment to him. But he refused to let it show.
“Hello again, Mr. Owie Policeman!”
“…On your way, Wil.” [Again, I heard “Wil” at what I thought was the end of a sentence there. I thought this was the narrator saying something that Mr. Owie Policeman said (under his breath), in his own voice.]
“I can ride faster than you, Sioni!”
And they both pedalled quickly. And they didn’t stop it when they got back. They rode around the front garden, over-excited, stopping by the pond. That was when they had an accident. Both launched from their bikes, Wil and Sioni landed in the pond, ending up completely filthy. After they had gotten undressed, Hwmffra pumped water on them to help get them clean again. Martha was kind to them after this, and she brought them into the kitchen and gave each of them a piece of spider cake. [I know that Wil likes spider cake ?]
As Wil went to sleep that night, he thought, “That was an exciting day, wasn’t it?” Good night! Quack!

One morning, Sioni Ceiliog Glas came along on his bike to play with Wil for the day.
“I want you to run an errand for me,” said Martha, “before you go out to play.”
“An errand, Mum?” said Wil as his heart sank, but things got better when his mother said:
“Perhaps you’d both like to go?”
“Ok. Quack,” said Wil.
“My pleasure, yeah,” said Sioni who knew how to behave away from home.
The errand was to take a freshly-made spider cake to Mari Picls because she had been ill. Martha placed the cake in a box, and the box in a sack behind Wil’s bike seat.
“Now, Wil, don’t paddle too fast in case you smash the cake.”
“Ok, Mam,” replied Wil.
“and Ta ta for now, then,” said Sioni.
They both set off straight away to Mari Picls’ house – through the forest to the village going past Ifan Twrci Tenau’s house and slowly going round the corner by Owi Plismon’s house and calling:
“Good morning, Mr Owi Plismon,” whilst going past causing him to fall out of his hammock in the garden.
“W-w-what, little ones?”
But by the time he got up on his feet, they had both disappeared past Mr Puw Siop Bob Dim’s shop. Then, they arrived at Mari Picls’ cottage.
How pleased she was to see the cake.
“Ooooh, it looks lovely. Fair play to your mother, Wil. Tell her that I am very grateful. And how about you two have a piece of cake each?”
Now, Wil would have said: “Thank you very much” without a second thought; but as Sioni knew how to behave away from home, he gave him a nudge and said:
“No, no thanks, Mari Picls. Wil’s mum, yeah, is expecting us back – but thank you for offering all the same, no, yeah, Wil?…Hmm?”
“Quack…yes,” said Wil reluctantly.
Then, off they both went saying ta ta to Mari Picls.
Owi Plismon was standing on the pavement when they both went past, but as they were paddling slowly and keeping close to the side of the road, they weren’t doing anything wrong.
“Good Morning again, Mr Owi Plismon.”
After turning the corner, however, Wil shouted:
“First one to the farm, Sioni!”
And off they went at the speed of lightning.
After they arrived home, they both decided to do tricks around the yard. Making a big circle to start, then a middle-sized one and then a small one.
Then, they made a zigzag path. Both bikes went one way and Wil and Sioni the other, straight into the compost heap.
Well, you probably know what happened next.
Wmffra pumping water over them and both of them running around the yard to dry off.
Martha gave them a piece of her mind for getting their clothes dirty but as they had both run an errand for her, she forgave them for everything and they had a piece of cake each and when Wil went to bed that night, he felt that he had had quite a good day on the whole.
Good night…Quack.

When I was guessing what the narrator was saying before I got a proper translation of this story from Llinos: according to my reasoning, Mari Pickles guessed, incorrectly, that Wil had made the cake for her (with the help of his mother) and that it was a surprise for her. Although I was correct in my suspicion that she offered some to Wil and Sioni, I was wrong to think that Wil, given this, out of conscience, felt that it wasn’t really “his” cake, and that’s why he turned it down. The gift of the cake would pretty much definitely have been his mother’s idea anyway… I never guessed that Mari Pickles was ill – and she doesn’t look it when she opens the door to Wil and Sioni – but then, if Llinos said that she “had been ill” rather than “was ill”, then to me that suggests that she is not necessarily ill any longer. I mean…

Was my own guesswork really that bad?

3rd April 2018


I haven’t read or heard much Swiss German in my life, but I know it’s definitely present in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36oMNe8nPGs This girl is Swiss and her name is Steff la Cheffe – she is more famously known for her beatboxing talents. And it’s her 31st birthday today, so… “Frohi Gibusstag, Steff”? I’m just guessing.

But I digress. It’s time I wrote a blog in which I have a go at rewriting this song in standard German, and then translating it into English. Odd as it may seem, while it’s easy enough to find the original lyrics of this song on Google in Swiss German, I’ve never seen them in standard German. And I’ve never found an English translation of these lyrics, either. Or maybe I’m just more fond of Steff than most people. How many people know Swiss German, after all?

Getting back to the topic at hand: I started with rewriting it in standard German, although I have to say that sometimes the choices I made were motivated more by best guess English translation of the German I agreed it most sounded like than by my reasoning what it must have been in standard German! And, the length of some of the bits in the standard German version that I wrote means that it’s not always possible to sing it to the rhythm provided like in the original Swiss German version. Anyway, here I go.

My standard German version

Anna Anna, Anna Anna, Anna Annabelle

Ich brauche neue Schuhe, ich brauche ‘ne Gucci-Tasche,
Ich brauche ‘ne neue Duft, ich kaufe Flaschen tüchtig,
Ich brauchen ‘ne schöne Maske, ich brauche Make-Up,
Ich brauche ‘ne neue Nase, wo die Augen abgehen,
Ich gehe zum Star-Friseur, mache meine Haare schön,
Waschen, schneiden, fönen, mache mir Strähne, das geht auch toll (waaa),
Ich brauche viele Tan, Bleichmittel kaufen,
Ich will viel waschen, mir reine Mittel kaufen,
Ich brauche Lotion gegen meiner Cellulite (waaa),
Ich brauche ‘ner Wunder-Büstenhalter, Type Gross (Muh)*1,
Ich brauche Diamante, ich brauche Bling-Bling,
Ich brauche Grills*2, brauche Ketten, brauche Piercing,
Ich brauche es in klassischem Schwarz, ich gehe zum Ausgang,
Ich brauche Herz*3, ich brauche Stärke*3, ich brauche Mustang*4,
Ich brauche Prestige, ich brauche Checks nicht,
Wie die Mädchen brauche ich es in Heftweite*5,

Ich habe ‘ne Freundin, ich habe Drama*6, wäge deine Freude und deine Form und dein Gala,
Frage dir Brigitte oder Petra, die wissen weiter bei jedem Thema (x2)

Anna Anna, Anna Anna, Anna Annabelle

Ich gehe aus*7 (oh nei)*8, ich muss abnehmen [lose weight],
Joggen gehen, walken, mit Hanteln,
Ich gehe auf das Laufband, ich finde es voll Fun,
Renne auf dem Steuer*9 mit einem Blick auf eine Holzwand,
Ich schlucke Vitamine, ich trinke Energie,
Werde “rein”, werde fit – ihre Therapie,
Gib mir das Schmerzmittel, die bittersüsse Pille,
“Nehmen her damit”, es passiert aus freiem Wille,
Ich brauche Mundschutz*10, es mich impfen lassen,
Gehe Schwein, gehe Vogel, gehe Pilze (Pilze? – ja!)*11,
Ich brauche Sicherheit, gib mir ein Microchip,
Gib mir meinen Namen, mini-Masse und eure Fingerabdrücke,
Ich brauche Kameras, ich brauche Stacheldraht,
Ich brauche einen Leibwächter, wer mir nachts umfahren (schützen) wird,
Ich muss Karriere machen, ich muss “Cheffe-Tage” schaffen,
And ich lege Nummer an [set the time?] wenn ich mit der Cheffe schlafe

Ich habe ‘ne Freundin, ich habe Drama*6, wäge deine Freude und deine Form und dein Gala,
Frage dir Brigitte oder Petra, die wissen weiter bei jedem Thema (x2)

Anna Anna, Anna Annabelle, Anna Anna (x2)

Die Annabelle habe ich gekündigt, sie ist nur meine Freundin,
Ihre Tipps sind mir zu bünzlig, ihrer Seite sind sie zu dünn gesehen*11 [coming from her, they look too weak]

*1 It’s a good job I checked this bit in the video – I mean, at first glance I thought the “Muh” bit represented the sound of a cute kiss – “mwah” – but, no, it’s the sound of a cow mooing for some reason…
*2 Known as fronts or golds, it’s basically dental jewellery, which is common in hip-hop culture; a bit like this music video, really.
*3 In the lyrics to this song that I consulted, I read only “(?)” in place of these two individual words. I’m pretty sure that they are “Herz” and “Stärke”, meaning “heart” and “strength” respectively (don’t forget that this is in a Swiss accent) – and maybe these are traits of the horse she refers to immediately afterward.
*4 Considering the short clip of Steff on the horse and the horse neigh sound, I’m guessing that Mustang is the name of the horse.
*5 The German expression I came up with here (which I made up) is supposed to mean “I must have it in my reach” – I decided for myself that “Heft” meant “grip / handle” and not “book”, like I was always told back in school.
*6 Think of this as more like “I have an act / my style”.
*7 I go out (in the sense of “I go outside” – she talks about getting exercise in the lines that follow).
*8 This was taken as an onomatopoeic interjection which doesn’t actually mean anything. Aren’t they common in lyrics anyway?
*9 Run on the wheel? Like a hamster? Fair enough.
*10 “Oral protection” should mean “gum shield” in this context.
*11 This is only my best guess. I don’t get it either, but mushrooms are a common sight around trees, and that man does peek out from behind that tree.

And now, my English translation, with explanatory comments where appropriate:

Anna Anna, Anna Anna, Anna Annabelle

I need new shoes, I need a Gucci handbag,
I need a new scent [i.e. perfume], I am astute / discerning with the bottles that I buy,
I need a new “mask” [i.e. face], I need make-up,
I need a new nose, from which my eyes lead off [or “which my eyes are farther away from”? I’m sure it’s a cosmetic thing I’m not acquainted with, but… who knows?],
I go to a star hairdresser, make my hair nice,
Washing, cutting, hairdrying, make streaks, that’s also great (waaah),
I need a lot of tan, to buy bleach,
I want to wash a lot [or rather, essentially, “have a really good wash” – most likely in the sense of with a luxurious and sumptuous bath and all the rest of it], buy pure substances,
I need lotion on top of my cellulite (waaah),
I need a wonder-bra, big size (moo),
I need diamonds, I need bling-bling [to those of you who don’t know, “bling” is a slang expression for expensive jewellery – unfortunately for Steff la Cheffe, it’s a popular expression with chavs],
I need grills, I need chains, I need piercing,
I need it in classic black, “I am emerging” [in this case, it’s hard to know whether “Ich gehe zum Ausgang” would be better translated as “I’m going out” or “I’m coming out”, or some select expression to the effect of either],
I need heart, I need strength, I need Mustang,
I need prestige, I don’t need cheques,
Just like the girls I must have it in my reach,

I have a [strictly female] friend, I have an act, consider your friends and your shape and your appeal [even though, strictly speaking, “gala” means a big event which involves some sort of entertainment or performance – maybe a competition],
Ask Brigitte or Petra, they know more about this topic (x2),

Anna Anna, Anna Anna, Anna Annabelle

I go out (oh!), I must lose weight,
Go jogging, go walking, with dumbbells,
I go on the treadmill, I find it a whole lot of fun,
Run on the wheel with a look at a wooden wall,
I swallow vitamins, I drink energy,
Become “clean”, become fit – their therapy,
Give me that which makes me feel pain [i.e. “I’m not afraid of it” / “I can take it”], the bittersweet pill,
“And now take it”, it’s a free will thing,
I need oral protection, so that I may be immunised,
Do the pig thing, do the bird thing, do the mushroom thing (mushrooms? – yes!),
I need security, give me a microchip,
Give me my reputation, a really small weight and your fingerprints,
I need cameras, I need barbed wire,
I need a bodyguard, who will [lit.] go around me [i.e. to protect her] at night,
I need to make a career, I must create “Cheffe days” [remember what her name is!],
And I will set the time when I [lit.] “go to sleep with Cheffe” [in other words, go to bed / sleep]


Anna Anna, Anna Annabelle, Anna Anna (x2)

I have discontinued Annabelle, she is just my friend,
Her tips are too petty-minded for me, coming from her they look too weak.

Evaluation: I have reasoned that this is a music video in which Steff la Cheffe talks about living a separate persona named Annabelle who is essentially materialistic and full of expensive tastes, and she believes that it all makes her popular, so to speak, but at the end of it Steff has learned to leave her behind and just be who she is and expect credit on her own merits – it’s about self-confidence – without pushing Annabelle down for being vacuous or fake. Yes, good work, Steff, well done. ?

4th April 2018


It just came to me while I was having a pint of San Miguel last night.

Although I don’t speak Spanish as such I know a few words of it – this sort of thing is not uncommon. Say hello? Yes. Please and thank you? Yes. Count from one to ten? Yes. Just not enough to converse in it. But I recognised “cuidada” on this can, and I thought of “cuidad”, as I have seen on warning signs that are written in Spanish (it’s actually “cuidado”). And while I thought it was just always an adjective – I had never heard of the Spanish verb “cuidar” (infinitive form) back then – it didn’t take me long to reason that “Elaboración cuidada” on this can meant “careful… something”. It could only have referred to the beer, the product, and so – even though I normally don’t translate from Spanish to English – my idea of a good English translation of these two words is “Manufactured with care / diligence” – “carefully elaborated” is too literal a translation given the context. You know it is.

4th April 2018

In this blog I posted on my business Facebook account earlier this year, I talked about certain new words which only really exist in a given language https://www.facebook.com/GeorgeTrailTranslator/posts/1643066785783386

But the following are all words I invented myself, which I would love to see translated in other languages! I was quick to include a link to this blog on my LinkedIn account, for other professional translators everywhere to see.

* Dack (noun): possessions you have had for some time but you have never gotten around to enjoying / savouring. A book you have had for some time but never gotten around to reading is dack, a CD you have had for some time but never gotten around to listening to is dack; and so on and so forth.
* The froin factor (noun): you know when a table or chair is not stable even though it’s on all four of its legs (so to speak)? It can still be made to lean one way or the other until you put something under the foot of one of its legs to make it more steady. This is the table or chair’s froin factor.
* Sleepworking (verb): essentially, working with your mind switched off. Most household chores can be done while you’re listening to music or whatever and not really paying that much attention because it’s not necessary and you can take your time. You’ve heard of sleepwalking; well, this is sleepworking. By the way, I know better than to do my translation work sleepworking!
* Squain (adjective): said of something that is daft yet amusing and surprisingly engaging. To me, backmasking videos on Youtube and some of the humour of Joe Pasquale are good examples.
* Rimp moment (noun): a moment where you don’t quite know whether or not you should look shocked or offended in response to something.
* Graking someone (verb): imagine that you are on the phone with someone you don’t want to talk to, but you believe that if you hang up they will just call you back. So you hang up in the middle of a sentence that you’re saying to make them believe that it was a technical problem, not your hanging up, that resulted in the call ending. You have now graked them.
* Fatal (adjective): if you’re cool, good for you, but that’s a large step below being fatal. This was a word I came up with as a teenager – I just gave a new meaning to it – and I’m amazed I didn’t think of it when I started writing this blog. Then again, I am aware that the young people of today use “epic” in pretty much the same way. Look up “epic” on Urban Dictionary.
* Voonat (noun): another word I used as a teenager, this designates an individual “penny sweet”. Of course, they are usually sold in bags, but when I was at school you could buy them individually in the tuck shop for like only 1p or 2p each.
* PBA (Precedent-Based Assertion) (noun): I have talked about this in my professional translation blogs. “Myself, my own experience of translating has ‘taught’ me familiarity with what I call ‘the concept of precedent-based assertions’. It’s like this: you can probably remember at least one time in your life when you felt compelled to say something to someone else […] It’s just that your statement was just taken wholesale e.g. duplicated from the statement of someone else in some completely different matter – it may have actually been something someone said in a TV programme or something similar, and you felt some urge to say it because the original time you heard it, it just stuck with you; most likely because the e.g. TV programme appealed to you personally and that’s the only reason.” In other words, you borrow specific phrasing in your expression, or rather, assertion. The credibility of what you say in this manner may be undermined if someone else knew the facts behind it and, as such, they agreed that you betrayed a lack of being in control, or ignorance.
* Vorning (verb): another expression I came up with during my career as a translator. Sometimes people advertise a bigger translation project for which they ask for multiple translators but first the latter are told that they must do an unpaid test to prove their suitability for it, and the content of this test is just a part of the material that needs to be translated. The catch is that the client shamelessly issues different test content to the various translators who have declared that they are ready to do it, and the client gets it done for free in this way. The translators who agreed to do the work are cheated as the client (if they can be called that) commits an act of vorning.
* “That’s prawl to me”: say this about something that you can no longer remember having been afraid of once in your life – no more existing memories of it. Like learning how to sleep in the dark. Or maybe driving, or performing on stage.
* Trung (adjective): an adjective for a situation that you consciously and genuinely believe has a surprise in store that you otherwise simply couldn’t be prepared for.
* Chune (adjective): said of someone that you don’t really dislike, but you don’t really want to be friends with them either – they are likely awkward or frequently embarrassing in some way, and chances are that you tacitly try to avoid them.
* Glaight (adjective): an adjective attributed to a memory in your life which you are not sure whether it was real or just part of a dream.
* And finally, RAC. Short for “Relief Addiction Cure”, it’s a term of affection which it’s never OK to use flippantly. It speaks for itself, doesn’t it? There’s also TOSI / TOSP (“Tears Of Sobriety Individual / Person”).

Final note: did you know that John Milton, the guy who wrote Paradise Lost, coined 630 terms in English, according to Wikipedia?

6th April 2018


In my career as a professional translator I have enjoyed writing what I can confidently say are good (perfectly valid) translations of certain songs… subject to certain conditions. The conditions: that they rhyme and be able to be sung to the melody of the song in their original language; it is because of this that I was quick to label this work as my “most audacious marketing moves”. Seriously: check out my English translation of Le Chanteur (by Daniel Balavoine; in my blog dated 3rd October 2011), or my French translation of Right Between The Eyes (by Garbage; in my blog dated 25th June 2014), or my English translation of Libre (by Paulina Rubio; in my blog dated 26th June 2014), or my French translation (translations, it turned out) of Engel (by Rammstein; in my blog dated 19th September 2016).

That said, welcome to My Most Audacious Marketing Move V. Translation of a haiku in English into French and German, while retaining the 5-7-5 syllable format that characterises every haiku – even though haikus don’t rhyme even though they are called poems.

A word about haikus: in feudal Japan (1185-1603), it was common for samurai to write a death poem before they committed the ritualistic suicide known as seppuku, to atone for shame. I Googled “Japanese death poems” as I wrote this blog, and while I did find some written by actual Japanese samurai in the past (with their names affixed to them), which had been translated into English, the 5-7-5 syllable format had not been retained in the translation. That won’t be the case here.

This is a clip (or cutscene) from a computer game which is set in feudal Japan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWQeMN6ydCY You play as the head of a clan of your choice and the objective is to beat all the other clans and conquer all of Japan. And the person you play as is actually someone who was a real-life samurai at some point in the past – in the clip, Shimazu is none other than Shimazu Tadahisa (according to his Wikipedia article, he died on 1st August 1227). And when I heard the only words you hear in this clip, I understood that it was his death poem haiku; further to that, I noted that it indeed had the 5-7-5 format that a haiku should have, and, consequently, initially believed that, given that Shimazu was a real-life samurai, this was an actual English translation of his real-life haiku death poem in Japanese, with the haiku format retained in the new language! Maybe it actually is, but now I’m not so sure; maybe the accurate historical truth is that it is not known what his actual death poem was – if, indeed, he even wrote one at all – and that the creators of this game just made up that English haiku for the Shimazu death cutscene in it. Either way, look at this!

French version

Rouge comme feuilles d’automne
Je pars pour mes ancêtres [NB pronounce “ancêtres” as 3 syllables]
Il’s m’accueilleront ?

Did it!

German version

Bin Herbstblätter-rot
Gehe auf meine Ahnen
Werde willkommen?

There may be no “ich” for “I” here, but the very first word, “bin”, which is always used in the first person singular with the verb “sein” in the present tense in German, gives it away so – did it!

20th April 2018


When you translate, it’s only too easy to argue about how best to ensure the loyal representation of some individual aspect of grammar at some point in the production of the new article, or the best equivalent word, or anything similar. But such concerns, while important in the production of good translation, just fall under the banner of “typical” language-related challenges, and experienced translators know that not all language-related challenges are typical. Not by a long shot.

I wrote this blog to provide an example of my own verbal ingenuity during translating, as part of a challenge of writing a translation of something which involved dealing with a non-typical language-related challenge. To elaborate: the French language doesn’t distinguish between “his” and “her” like English does, and I agreed to write my own French translation of this story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEdDXxiZCPc&t=0s&list=PL0jfgYWBMDOxXOzVCY0plUl-vr8GNxX__&index=3 – one which actually does differentiate between “his” and “her” at every turn just as the English version does. Every single gender-specific pronoun is accounted for and specifically reproduced in some way in the translation – it is the specific way I wrote the story, the artificial expressions I employed, that matter.

Disclaimer: I accept no responsibility for any offence caused by this story. I didn’t write it.

Here we go:


Il y avait une fois pendant laquelle il y a eu une femme ; il s’appellait M. Hommasse Lesbienne.

Il était juste comme les autres filles. Elle avait des seins. Il avait un vagin. Et elle était au courant de la chevelure sur le dos sur sa personne masculine – juste comme les autres filles.

Elle s’habillait comme un homme, mais il parlait et pensait comme une femme. Une fois, M. Hommasse Lesbienne a débuté une grande bagarre, et elle a lutté comme un homme. Mais, plus tard, au tribunal, il a pleuré comme une femme.

Le juge a dit “M. Hommasse Lesbienne est très triste qu’elle ait fait ce qu’il a fait. Il doit être accordé une nouvelle chance pour rédimer elle-même.” Oui, M. Hommasse Lesbienne a été acquis parce qu’il était une femme.

Après avoir quitté le tribunal, M. Hommasse Lesbienne a conduit à grande vitesse à la maison de la petite amie avec laquelle elle fut en une relation amoureuse, dans l’espoir d’avoir un “moment d’action de s’entre-ciselation entre sœurs”.

Il était si pressé qu’elle a presque écrasé M. En-Transition quand il bruisait par-devant, à une vitesse maximale de 64 km p / heure en le Volkswagen Beetle rouge vif qu’elle conduisait.

M. Hommasse Lesbienne était très fière de sa petite voiture.

Où qu’elle allât, les gens souriraient, se tournèraient vers eux-mêmes et diraient, “Quelle putain de voiture laide.”

Après une bonne session de s’entre-ciselation, M. Hommasse Lesbienne, la petite amie d’elle Ana Bolique, et leur enfant adopté Barbara (qui s’appella Barry jusqu’à l’opération transgenre qu’il a dû subir après la décision ses parents quand il avait neuf ans) ont décidé de faire une promenade plaisante.

Ils feraient une promenade toujours, chaque jour, à la recherche d’hommes hétérosexuels, pour cracher sur et jurer à eux.

“Mourrez vous les écumes cisgenres blancs”, chantait le trio joyeux, avec de la rayure collective de leurs régions inférieures mycosées. “Tous les hommes sont malins. Toutes les femmes sont bonnes, à moins qu’ils aiment les hommes, et en tel cas ils sont malignes,” a dit Barbara.

“Barbara, votre mère et moi, nous allons à l’autre côté du parc, où un homme sera flagellé pour ‘homme-aspiration’, mais il n’est pas approprié pour les enfants, donc nous allons te laisser ici, sans surveillance, pour environ 30 minutes,” a dit M. Hommasse Lesbienne.

“Prends cette sucette pour toi pour la période de notre absence, avec laquelle tu dois pratiquer ta compétence de léchage du clitoris. Mais rappel : ne mets jamais ta bouche au-dessus de la chose entière, car cela constitue un acte de fellation,” a raffirmé Ana Bolique.

“Je me rappelle de ce que je dois faire,” a dit Barbara. “Je vais juste le feuilleter très très rapidement avec la pointe de ma langue,” a assuré Barbara.

“Tu es un bon garcon – désolée, je voulais dire une bonne fille,” a dit M. Hommasse Lesbienne.

M. Hommasse Lesbienne ayant vu la flagellation publique, elle a senti un énorme grondement dans son intestin. Elle a pensé à lui-même : “c’est une possibilité excellente d’utiliser une toilette publique”.

M. Hommasse Lesbienne a poussé et poussé, mais rien n’émergerait. “Je ne comprends pas. J’ai un désir ardent à chier, mais le pistolet à peinture est embouteillé,” a réfléchi M. Hommasse Lesbienne.

Puis elle a pensé à lui-même : “Oh, quel(le) sot(te) je suis. J’ai oublié de retirer la carrotte de mon cul.”

Il a été à ce moment-là que M. Hommasse Lesbienne s’est rappellée qu’elle possédait toujours une quantité de carrottes, une desquelles il insérerait dans son cul, pour les temps où il reconnaîtrait qu’elle était en le présence des hommes.

Presque deux heures plus tard, M. Hommasse Lesbienne est enfin sortie de la toilette publique, et a reconnu promptement qu’Ana Bolique et Barbara étaient rentrées à la maison sans elle.

“Les putes de chiennes lesbiennes,” a plaint M. Hommasse Lesbienne, oubliant pour un moment qu’elle en était une lui-même.

“Au moins je peux prendre du réconfort dans le fait que je n’ai pas été abandonnée par un homme,” a pensé M. Hommasse Lesbienne, avec l’emploi d’une logique bizarre selon laquelle être abandonné(e) par une femme est moins offensif qu’être abandonné(e) par un homme.

“Heureusement, étant donné que je suis une lesbienne, je peux infliger de la violence domestique sur Anna et Barbara, et il ne sera enregistré en les figures nationales,” a pensé M. Hommasse Lesbienne à elle-même.

En le soir, toutes les trois dansaient en la cuisine à l’écoute du plus grand hit de leur amie Negrosia. Elle avait trouvé de la gloire et de la fortune après avoir changé son nom à Beyonce.

Après tout ce plaisir, M. Hommasse Lesbienne avait un final cadeau special à partager…

Dans une rage lesbienne ivre, il a assommé Ana et Barbara avec l’objet le plus proche, qui s’est avéré être un grille-pain.

Cette fois, le juge ne serait pas si clément.

“M. Hommasse Lesbienne,” a dit-il d’une voix sévère, “Vous avez tué comme un homme, mais maintenant vous apparaissez devant moi, pleurant comme une femme. Vous êtes une femme qui a apporté de la honte sur lui-même,” le juge a ajouté.

Et avec cela, M. Hommasse Lesbienne a été condamnée à trois années en prison pour deux meutres, le juge ayant prise en compte le fait qu’il était une femme.

La fin.

28th April 2018


When you do what I do for a living – professional translation – it’s not hard to imagine people confiding in you, the expert linguist in their entourage, to deal with whatever language-related problems or questions they could come across, whether it’s a translation task or not. It’s not hard to imagine them blindly expecting you, possibly in total ignorance, to somehow just do it all by yourself – “if not a professional linguist, then who?”

There’s discussion of how to learn and remember vocabulary in a foreign language better, for example. I can recall a few methods for doing this that I heard of back when I was still studying French and German at school; and today I have even thought of one of my own. The idea of my own is this: write out a single nonsensical never-ending passage in the foreign language which includes the first word, then the next one, then the next one, then the next one… at random points. When you read it to yourself afterwards, the individual words that you are trying to learn at the time should strike you again as soon as you read them. (Although, I guess you can use that method only if you have learned a sufficient competence of grammar and a reasonable vocabulary in the language already. It wouldn’t be very helpful to beginners.)

Even when it comes to translation, if I wanted to explain the methods I used to do it for the benefit of someone else if they wanted to improve their own translation skills, it would be up to me to be coherent about it all by myself, expecting little to no help from the listener (based on whatever feedback I got from them) to help them understand it. The most important of these methods, which I always use these days, involves marking out (in both the original and the translation as I produce it), for example, separable adverbial or subordinate clauses in one colour and then saying to myself that everything covered by that colour definitely included 100% of said clause and nothing but, and then marking out, for example, the content of the nominative of the main clause in another colour in the same way… for sometimes the only way to translate an entire sentence confidently is to do it a bit at a time, for the sake of assured confidence that you are getting it right.

But this is the point where I exhort anyone who calls himself or herself a professional translator, to get a sense of context. I choose to assert that some problems and questions in the language-related task that is translation just cannot be explained or even properly acknowledged without a proper sense of context – and at this point I strongly suggest that you take a moment to look that word up even if you think you know what it means… no matter what your position in connection with general language matters / subjects or absence thereof. You may be very glad you did at a later point in your life… I must admit that I didn’t properly know the meaning of “context” until I looked it up on Google recently, having been inspired to do so by this video on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67WWrtWvxFw Nothing – literally nothing – can substitute context, and I don’t think anyone could dispute that, and I certainly don’t think that they could impugn the idea that context is actually a “big thing” if the content of this video is anything to go by.

I say this because, in a nutshell, context determines truth – but it goes as far as mediocre subjective opinions ending up forming the basis of what is accepted as fundamental truth if they are consistently unaddressed as to their actual value over enough time… if you can make sense of out of that, it is a scary concept indeed. And, as the linked video clarifies, it is just undeniably possible for anyone to say something “out of context” i.e. something with an element of (convenient) half-truth in it, which is grounded more in their personal feelings / biases – feelings not necessarily resultant of negative personal characteristics as such i.e. blatant arrogance, cowardice, selfishness, intolerance, but still biases in all but name given the lack of objectivity – than in actual fact. In other words, assertions with elements of half-truth have no more than (most likely) overly credited personal feelings and biases as their context; personal feelings and biases whereby the one who has them never expects to actually take charge of or defend their argument with an honest attitude as part of their position on a given topic. And when something mentioned out of context in this way reaches a person who shares similar feelings / biases (whether they, or anyone else for that matter, are aware of them or not), it’s not enough to say that there is a chance that they will consume it with a tacit kind of eagerness in light of the half-truth resonating their feelings / biases; they will probably ignorantly accept the statement as something which (somehow) reflects an element of the “truth” solely based on this element of half-truth… with the result that they actually drift away from and begin to dismiss that which is the real i.e. fundamental truth of the subject matter that the statement is pertinent to.

There’s often plenty to be said about such people that they don’t already know; but what about their peers (if that is the best word for it)? I can only reason that people don’t think they do anything morally or criminally wrong when they just go ahead and consume that which qualifies as junk information (also referred to as “crap” in the video) merely because it’s so quick to resonate with their biases and meretricious tastes. (By the way, have I basically just explained what “fake news” is all about right there?) All this junk information on the Internet, and so much of it (probably all of it) freely available, and given its format, it will not perish naturally the way biological organisms do. And all those people so eager to discredit the opinions of those they disagree with, and indeed the people that they disagree with simply for holding those opinions and to undermine their reputation for it, invoking convenient half-truths as leverage in doing so wherever it strikes them that they can – never thinking for a moment that they could ever be expected to validate their own position in the argument on their own initiative with the help of something verifiable (not just hearsay)… and if they are, then they are only too quick to dismiss anything and everything that they personally would rather shun, in denial.

There will be innumerable cases throughout history of people refusing to account for the actual, plain yet bare-knuckle truth of a subject simply because “it’s not my problem”. “Is it really any of my business anyway?” These people likely absorb new pieces of junk information that resonate with them (or rather, their feelings and biases, and not their aims in life – inasmuch as they have any) ceaselessly on a regular basis, even though they may argue that they don’t take it too seriously compared with “other things”. They just don’t realise that, in this way, they psychologically participate in their own further self-distancing from the heart of things that matter. They wouldn’t know where to look for “the heart of the things that really matter”, and in all possibility couldn’t handle it if they found it. And, in the somewhat likely event that they don’t even really care about the origin of the junk information that they consume, or about whether it is true or false… what does THAT suggest about the future of society?

If nothing else, it suggests that there will be more and more people genuinely thinking (subconsciously) that it won’t matter if they are not actually familiar with the real truth about things… and yet they are more than happy to talk about these things based on ideas about them which they have no intention of taking responsibility for (“after all, they are only thoughts.”). That can only promote mass delusion and complacency.

Anyway, so it is in life in general, so it is in translation work. I just wanted to say that unfaltering commitment to the actual truth of the subject matter is important when you’re doing translation work. Thanks for reading. Bye.

1st May 2018


Further to my last comment, I have decided to provide an example of me putting something into context – this “song video” – even though it may originally seem like a waste of time. I understand that the events that take place in this so-called work are completely fictional – there’s not even any character or plot development – but what does it suggest in the real world that someone could even conceive of something like this, let alone take the time to create it? I aim to provide theory on / explain the events behind the content of this video – not just talk about how I like / dislike it including the reasons why which in themselves make sense in their own right. Isn’t this creating context – putting this “song video” into context?

This video struck me first as amusing – probably best defined as sweet niceness conflated with such a blatant opposite – then as misanthropic: so many innocent people losing their lives as a result of what is to come! And not even their armed forces could neutralise the threat! But the robot’s heart, so to speak, is still warmed by “cute and fuzzy animals” after it all as it pets that dog. (I’m just so fond of absurd yet morbid humour, I guess.) But I have found that it’s not necessarily just the robot that is misanthropic; when the robot pets the dog at the end of it the dog’s response is an expression which is as if it hasn’t just witnessed destruction on a massive scale – or been afraid of dying seconds earlier – at all! What does that say about the dog’s state of mind – or should that be what WOULD it say in real life, or even in just a piece of fiction that made sense?

I’m putting this in a context of discussion of the life of a robot as I bring up the science fiction story I, Robot – the Will Smith film version, anyway – and how the robots eventually start killing humans for the sake of humanity, at least on a logical level. And yet, we shouldn’t forget that Sonny sought “spiritual freedom” i.e. how “he” yearns to go to Lake Michigan and assume a leadership role for other robots. If I were a robot I would probably eventually feel resentful of living only to serve humans like non-stop, doing so much work for them at rates exponentially faster than they could, while humans enjoyed lives of increasing indolence and complacency. Just that Sonny looks for a life of “his” own. And, if we go back to talking about the dog in the song video linked to here: you have to ask yourself what any creature in such a situation really thought about humans deep inside for them to respond in such an irrational way (much as I realise that this was very unlikely to have crossed the creator’s mind as he created this song video like it was actually supposed to have cultural value).

Another thing, when the robot reveals the ponies in its van to the people, it doesn’t seem to register the disturbing sight inside of it. And I guess I’m the first person to ask if it actually does so or not, and how it might have influenced its imminent actions otherwise. The robot is not looking at its van when it presses the button to show the ponies kept inside of it. Maybe it’s because its attention is more focussed on the people considering what it intends to do with them. Did the creator recognise any of these points when creating this video?

6th May 2018


I wrote these French and German rhyming translations of the lyrics of my business music video (link below). What have I got to lose?



Yo, je suis traducteur free-lance
Me voici sur une mission
Pour vous montrer que je m’occupe
Sérieusement de ma position
Ceux qui jugent mon travail ne cherchent pas seulement
Des erreurs linguistiques et des omissions
Alors j’essaie de me préparer pour n’importe quoi
Comme si je m’attendais à l’Inquisition

Mais rappelez que nous tous suivons quelques règles
En notre communication
La grammaire, l’accentuation de mots spécifiques
Et toutes autres choses en relation
Mais, avoir maîtrisé trois langues,
J’ai maîtrisé trois systèmes entiers
Et est-qu’il indique de la sagesse quand je m’assure
Qu’elle ne va pas déteriorer ?

Quand je traduis, je reconnais les faits pour m’assurer
Que rien d’important ne sera négligé
Car il faut refléter pas quel que soit conclu
Mais – bien sûr ! – la vérité
Quelques mots ont de différentes significations
Mais la mode est à considérer
Et on doit se prémunir contre des réponses biaisées
A l’attitude qui est amenée

Mais je ne peux pas toujours espoir de l’aide pour montrer
Que ces facteurs sont connus
Et soient averties des situations qui puissent être seulement
Pointilleusement résolues
Donc je rumine sur ce que j’écris
Même quand mes clients ne le font pas
J’inclue des commentaires en des projets finis
Et cela c’est la raison pourquoi

Il faut souligner que je prends toujours
Au coeur cette question
Si vous voudriez mon conseil
Je suggère ceci comme commencement :
Evitez d’écrire des choses auxquelles
La logique ne s’applique pas
Par exemple : “pensez-vous que
M. DURAND soit mon CAA ?” (Cure d’Addiction à Assistance)


Yo, ich bin selbstständiger Übersetzer
Und ich bin hier auf eine Mission
Um Ihnen folgendes zu zeigen: ich bin
Ehrlich über meine Position
Bei Beurteilung meiner Arbeit sind nicht nur sprachliche
Fehler und Auslassung auf der Karte
Nun versuche ich auf alles vorbereitet zu sein, als ob ich
Die Inquisition erwarte

Bei unserer Kommunikation folgen wir alle
Nun bestimmte Regeln
Grammatik, Betonung einzelner Wörter,
Und ich könnte mehr angeben
Ich habe drei Sprachen gemeistert; da sind
Drei ganze Systeme beherrscht
Und Weisheit muss auch offensichtlich sein beim
Sichergang dass es nicht nachlässt

Bei Übersetzung erkenne ich Fakten, mit Sicherstellung dass
Nichts Wichtiges versäumt wird
Es werde die Wahrheit, nicht nur Irgend Etwas
Geschlossenes reflektiert
Einige Wörter haben mehr als eine Bedeutung
Aber man soll die Stimmung erkennen
Und man sollte gegen der vermittelten Haltung keine
Befangene Reaktion vorstellen

Aber es gibt nicht immer Hoffnung um Hilfe zu zeigen
Dass diese Sachen anerkannt sind
Und ich versuche was auf jeden Schritt abzuwenden:
Eine Situation mit heikler Wind
Nun sinniere ich auf was ich schreibe
Noch wenn Kunden das ablehnen
Darum werde ich gelegentlich in meiner Arbeit
Durchzulesene Kommentare erwähnen

Bei mir wird diese Frage
Immer zu Herzen getragen
Möchten Sie meine Beratung?
Vielleicht könnten Sie mit folgendes starten:
Seien Sie vorsichtig keine Sachen zu schreiben
Mit keiner Logik da
Hier ist ein Beispiel: “Glauben Sie
Hans Schmidt sei meine LSH?” (Linderungsuchtheilung)

23rd May 2018


What is this? It’s a blog in which I provide my own equivalents of certain improper English phrases in French and German.
Let me make this clear: in a few of my past blogs I have hinted at how to translate “I should of” into French, this being “Je de dû”; this was invented by me. And now, let me show you all the rest:
“I could of” = “Je de pu”
“I would of” = “J’aurai’de”
“I will of” = “J’aur’de”

And in German:
“I should of done that” = “Ich sollte das gemacht von” [“von” in place of “haben”]
“I could of done that” = “Ich könnte das gemacht von” [again, “von” in place of “haben”]
“I would of done that” = “Ich hätte das gemacht von”
“I will of done that” = “Ich werde das gemacht von” [again, “von” in place of “haben”]

But I wanted to write this blog as a prelude to another blog: my longest blog ever (by far) in which I translate several bad rap lyrics. For the sake of that, I now provide here the French and German equivalents of “ain’t” that I invented:


I ain’t got a job = Je n’ôt pas de boulot

They ain’t stupid = Ils n’ôt pas stupides

Perfect tense
He ain’t found her = Il ne l’ôt pas trouvée

I’d prefer that I ain’t got cancer = J’aimerais que j’ousse pas le cancer
I’d prefer that you [tu] ain’t got cancer = J’aimerais que tu ousses pas le cancer
I’d prefer that he/she ain’t got cancer = J’aimerais qu’il/elle oût pas le cancer
I’d prefer that we ain’t got cancer = J’aimerais que nous oussions pas le cancer
I’d prefer that you [vous] ain’t got cancer = J’aimerais que vous oussiez pas le cancer
I’d prefer that they ain’t got cancer = J’aimerais qu’ils/elles oussent pas le cancer

In such a situation, I’d prefer that I ain’t drunk too much = En une telle situation, j’aimerais que j’ousse pas trop bu etc.

I was sad that I ain’t [i.e. hadn’t] succeeded = J’étais triste que j’ouasse pas réussi
I was sad that you [tu] ain’t succeeded = J’étais triste que tu ouasses pas réussi
I was sad that he/she ain’t succeeded = J’étais triste qu’il/elle ouât pas réussi
I was sad that we ain’t succeeded = J’étais triste que nous ouassions pas réussi
I was sad that you [vous] ain’t succeeded = J’étais triste que vous ouassiez pas réussi
I was sad that they ain’t succeeded = J’étais triste qu’ils/elles ouassent pas réussi

I ain’t see(n) it = Je l’ûs pas vu
You [tu] ain’t see(n) it = Tu l’ûs pas vu
He/she ain’t see(n) it = Je l’ût pas vu
We ain’t see(n) it = Nous l’ûmes pas vu
You [vous] ain’t see(n) it = Vous l’ûtes pas vu
They ain’t see(n) it = Ils/elles l’urent pas vu

And here is the German version of “ain’t”: it is “sikt”, which is essentially a semi-literate portmanteau of “sein” and “nicht”; not that I have overlooked the fact that “ain’t” also stands for the verb “to have” in English as well as “to be”.

I ain’t got a hat = Ich sikt einen Hut

I ain’t stupid [sic] = Ich sikt doof

I ain’t seen him = Ich sikt ihn gesehen

She said he ain’t got a cat = Sie sagte, er sike eine Katze
She said he ain’t a father = Sie sagte, er sike kein Vater

She said she ain’t seen him = Sie sagte, sie sike ihn gesehen

25th May 2018


Foreword: not too long before I went ahead and posted this, I posted another blog which was a prelude to this one. This previous one is the one in which I show the world my invented French and German equivalents of some examples of illiterate English. I say this because you will need to refer to it to understand some of the content of this blog.

Anyway, I recently decided to set myself a new kind of translation challenge. The way I see it, it’s all too easy to translate concepts of simple if mostly just plain “things” and “events” that happen in the everyday life of the individual – things that you have just become used to seeing, especially when active expectation of it has been allowed to develop. That’s not to say that they are never ever of some kind of genuine importance to at least someone in their life, but being too eager to reflect on, let alone discuss, such things can suggest a parochial mentality. But, as you will see below, it’s something else to have a go at translating something which you genuinely believe is only really for a demographic to which you don’t belong.

Now, as everyone knows, popular and renowned works of literature and other written works of art have always been translated into other languages. Translating Shakespeare sure sounds challenging. As an example, just have a look at the “to be or not to be” soliloquy and see for yourself how many words there are which you just wouldn’t find in modern English, and how many euphuistic but odd-sounding expressions there are which will likely quickly leave you hopelessly confused when you read them for the first time (at the very least). All these literary devices like imagery and juxtaposition and stuff like that, set in the Elizabethan period and the culture characterising it… it frequently goes over the heads of many in the modern day, wouldn’t you say? Even though I read a few works by Shakespeare at school, I could hold very little conversation about him and his legacy in the modern day.

I guess I’m not fit to be trusted with the translation of great classics of history just yet. But that doesn’t mean I won’t attempt to translate modern works of written art which enjoy more than just slight recognition – depending on what you’re translating, it would seem that this can be almost as challenging as translating Shakespeare sometimes. I mean, whatever you have to say about the obstacles to translating Shakespeare coherently / “well”, just how much easier is it to translate, at the other end of the spectrum, some of the worst ever (often semi-literate and highly colloquial, not to mention vulgar) lyrics in modern hip-hop music? How many people can honestly say that they have ever done honest and non-opportunistic translations of this? Especially when they rhyme – and I have written rhyming translations of lyrics in my business blogs before. It is something I was happy to have a go at, and I tried to be loyal to the original while keeping it coherent, as hard as that could be.

http://www.westword.com/music/the-50-worst-rap-lyrics-the-complete-list-5713165 Refer to this link to see what the original English versions are (and prepare both to be amused and left cringing).

French: “Je suis chaud ‘ce que je suis volant. Tu n’ôt ‘ce que tu n’es pas.”
German: “Ich bin heiss weil ich fliegend bin. Du sikt weil du es nicht bist.”
Notes: “Parce que” in the French version abbreviated. “Fly” used as an adjective was translated as “flying”, to avert confusion. And I invented French and German equivalents of “ain’t”: “ôt” and “sikt” respectively. I actually had invented the French equivalent long before I started writing this blog, but not the German one; I decided that the German one had to be a semi-literate mix of “sein” and “nicht” for the right kind of effect (even though I understand that “ain’t” can represent the verb “to have” as well as “to be” in English).

French: “Je n’aime pas qu’ils soient giggité gros, j’aime qu’ils soient empiggité empilés / t’es niggité niggité naze si tu n’ôt pas de chaud cul ciggité.”
German: “Ich mag’ sie nicht diggity dick, ich mag’ sie schiggity schichtet / du bis’ miggity miggity Müll wenn du giggity heisses Gesäß sik-t.”
Notes: “Stacked” is reference to money i.e. lots of notes piled up. Also, regarding the bit, “I don’t like ‘em figgity fat,” I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s women he’s alluding to, in which case the corresponding bit in the French version should be rewritten, “Je n’aime pas qu’elles soient giggité grosses”. Indeed, if you’ve “got back” then it means you’ve got a nice arse, judging by what I have read on Urban Dictionary. I believe I have done a reasonable job implying that in these translations of these lyrics. Meanwhile, “wack” is an adjective which means the opposite of “cool” in English, and although I could think of “naze” as a fitting French translation of that, that wasn’t the case with the German version; but I didn’t want to translate “you suck” literally in German so I just used the German word for “rubbish” like it were an adjective. Of course, “ôt” and “sikt” have the same meaning as they do with the one above, but “sik-t” is supposed to be pronounced as two syllables rather than one – for I kept some sort of rhyme in these foreign language versions just like in the original (talking of which, the last word in the French version, “ciggité”, is supposed to be pronounced “si-GEE-tay”). Not bad, huh?

French: “Et ma bite va profond encore, si profond encore / si profond et elle s’endort.”
German: “Und meiner Schwanz geht tief hinein, so tief hinein / so tief hinein und sie schläft ein.”
Notes: Don’t take “her ass” at face value here – ultimately the artist is just talking about this woman rather than her rear end in particular. It’s just butchered language which I can only imagine is supposed to be taken as cool, not least for its irreverent element.

French: “J’emmerde Pusha T et tous ce qui lui fêtent / sa tête dans le cul, je dois lui donner un coup de tête.”
German “Fick Pusha T und alle die Liebe für ihn schallen / er hat sein Kopf im Arsch, ich muss ihm mit meinem Kopf prallen.”
Notes: I changed a few words without forfeiting the feel of the original. In the French version, “tout ce qui lui fêtent” translates literally as “all who celebrate him.” Meanwhile, in the German version, I think “resounding / echoing love for someone” is passable, and “prallen” means “collide” (in this case, “with my head”).

Notes: Apart from translating the word “rule”, nothing else matters for this entry. The Spanish words are just not supposed to be translated.

French: “Il est un peu difficile à concevoir, comme Kanye West revenant de son accident fatal pour refaire des beats et créer des spectacles de rap à voir.”
German: “Es ist etwas schwierig sich darum voranzustellen, genau wie als Kanye West aus seinem tödlichen Unfall zurückkam um Beats-Schaffen und Rapmusik fortzusetzen.”
Notes: The first entry which doesn’t sound like semi-literate verbal diarrhoea (if you will pardon “kinda”). This one only made it to the list because of the word “fatal” being used incorrectly. Oh well.

French: “Peut-être tu as plus de pognon que moi, mais tu n’ôt pas l’habileté à manger un nigga-fond comme moi.”
German: “Vielleicht zwischen dir und mir hast du mehr Gelder, aber es fehlt dir an meiner Fähigkeiten mit meinem Mund und einem Nigga-Ende.”
Notes: I won’t apologise for using the N-word here when it’s not in the context of a racist slur directed at a black person. Its dark origins aside, over time black people – certainly those who are part of hip-hop culture and certainly in America – would give it a new contrived meaning where it could essentially mean friend (in which case it often has the new ending -a rather than -er) – but only if they were another black person! In this way they keep the unfavourable history of black people as slaves at bay / banish it as far from them as possible (even though slavery is now illegal, of course), figuratively speaking. In my experience, they still don’t like it when anyone who’s not black calls them their “nigger” in the sense of friend. Anyway, Canibus definitely intended for these lyrics to be interpreted in the sense of getting the best of someone in competition rather than one of homosexual anilingus, so some inventiveness is required when searching for some – any – kind of translation of it in French or German. And the word “nigger” translated into French is still “nègre”, which pretty close to it; and it’s none other than “Nigger” in German. In this French version, I essentially meant to imply “eating a nigga’s substance” – a made-up expression which essentially amounts to defeating them, while the word “fond” still has a double entendre whereby it also hints at a person’s rear end. As for the German version: I included the word for “mouth” because, knowing modern hip-hop culture, this is a culture of rapping and verbal combat; and again, “Ende” is supposed to have a double entendre: a nigga’s “end” in the sense of their defeat, not just their rear end.

French: “Nageurs olympiques du Nigeria / Émeraudes dans mes oreilles, si loin d’être claire car elles ressemblent à la laitue congelée / 91 degrés et vrombant, est-ce que tu as jamais vu du jello au citron vert fondu ?”
German: “Olympische Schwimmer aus Nigeria / Smaragde in meinen Ohren, so weit von klar, denn sie gefrorenem Lattich ähneln / 91 Grad aus und brummend, hast du je geschmolzenes Limone-Jello gesehen?”
Notes: I didn’t need to make this rhyme when it doesn’t rhyme in the original either. It seems to be an entry with no slang with ostensibly elusive meaning, but it still makes no sense to me, and I imagine it’s the same with you.

French: “Cette nana savait comment souffler quelque chose comme elle jouait à la flûte.”
German: “Jenes Mädchen wusste wie sie etwas blasen sollte als ob sie Flöte spielte.”
Notes: Well, everyone knows that a flute is a wind instrument and I can’t be the only person who considers these lyrics just plain idiotic. They will only appeal to young men with a very crude sense of humour and most likely a low IQ, for “how to blow something” merely hints at the concept of oral sex. In German, “blasen” can mean to do a blow job, not just blow in any other “general” sense.

French: “Je deviens solide comme une putain d’érection.”
German: “Ich werde hart wie eine mutterfickende Erektion.”
Notes: The Germans may say “Mutterficker” as a direct translation of “motherfucker”, but I decided against a literal translation of “motherfucking boner” in French i.e. “érection mère-baisante”. That just doesn’t work for me, whereas “putain de” actually is a properly established expression in vulgar French (and don’t ask me how I know that).

French: “Oui, j’ai quelques derniers mots : j’emmerde tous vous salauds / N’écrivez plus de raps, allez jouer au volleyball.”
German: “Ja, ich habe einige letzte Wörter: fick euch all’ / Schreibt keine Rapps mehr, spielt Volleyball.”
Notes: Nothing worth writing – whatever ideas the author of this would like us to buy into, this has no objective value, and me talking about it is as pointless as the author doing so.

French: “Tu es un enfant de destinée / Tu es l’enfant de ma destinée / Tu es mon enfant avec l’enfant de Destiny’s Child.”
German: “Du bist ein Kind von Schicksal / Du bist das Kind meines Schicksals / Du bist mein Kind mit dem Kind von Destiny’s Child.”
Notes: Whatever. I know Jay-Z is married to Beyonce, but this is not the place for me to be responding to what the author of the article wrote in it. I don’t want to put words in his mouth that he didn’t say.

French: “Un éléphant n’oublie rien, donc ma bite se rappelle de tout.”
German: “Einer Elefant vergisst niemals, also meiner Schwanz erinnert sich an alles.”
Notes: What is this if nothing but a claim by the author as to how big his penis is – not to be taken at face value, of course – which doesn’t even make sense? Crude and forgettable – but I continue this exercise all the same.

French: “L’amour est malin. En verlan – je vous le monte.”
German: “Liebe ist übel. Rückwärts und zentraler Buchstabe los – ich zeige es dir mal.”
Notes: This one made me consider giving up this exercise even more than the last. Then I decided to make up equivalents, the results of which are not too far off the mark, if you understand what I mean. You just have to pronounce it a little bit differently, in a specific way. That said, butchered language such as that found in crap rap lyrics like these is likely to encourage people to pronounce words differently – why should this be any different? Look up what verlan is in French and adapt your pronunciation of “l’in-ma” to make it sound closer to “l’amour”; while for the German one I called for the German word for “love” to be written in reverse with the removal of the middle letter, again with adjusted pronunciation.

French: “Faire éclater cette chatte comme un bouton.”
German: “Jene Muschi knallen wie einer Pickel.”
Notes: Please, don’t go… whatever you have to say about the content of these lyrics, this is exactly the kind of thing I was prepared to deal with, the kind of thing I wanted to challenge myself to translate, when I decided to write this article. Literal translation is of course out of the question in a case like this, but it’s not enough to say that. Sometimes it’s a just matter of being able to justify your choice of an individual word in the foreign version in place of another individual word in the English version – the meanings of “knallen” include “pop”, “slam” and “explode”; not that I usually translate this sort of thing for a living, of course.

French: “Pute jolie et petite, mais dégoulinant comme de l’eau / je suis sur cette paille dans la poursuite de cette basse-basse, yo.”
German: “Hübsche, kleine Hündin, aber tropfend wie Wasser / ich bin auf jedem Stroh, jedes Nieder-Nieder umfassend.”
Notes: If you’re thinking, “Who the hell writes this stuff!?”, I understand. I felt exactly like this at the time of writing. Forgive me… here, “dripping” is supposed to imply reference to a woman when she is sexually aroused i.e. the standard consequence of it in her genital region. In the German version, “umfassen” can mean to embrace, and, as such, “umfassend” is supposed to be understood as “embracing” here. But fancy referring to a vagina as a “low, low.” Like I said, who the hell writes this stuff!? And we’re not even half way there…

French: “Mange cette soupe de wanton j’ai la pognon comme chang, chang, chang / Chiennes me sucent la bite puisque je décharge [comme] de 36 façons.”
German: “Jene Wanton-Suppe essen ich habe die Kasse wie Chang, Chang, Chang / Hündinnen saugen mir den Schwanz weil ich auf wie 36 Arten ausspritze.”
Notes: More nonsensical and crude ribald ramblings that sound like they came from someone with no interest in accounting for their imagination – not that I exactly sincerely care for doing that either. Sorry about that. (What am I saying?)

French: “Oh, tu es membre de Wu-Tang ? Pourquoi ton visage a-t-il l’air spectre alors ?”
German: “Ach, du bist Wu-Tang-Mitglied? Dann warum ist dein Gesicht gespenstlich?”
Notes: You know, I recently wrote a blog in which I talked about assigning context to stuff. Maybe, just maybe, the author of this never envisaged anyone outside of a certain group of people assigning context to something like this… and I know I don’t belong to that certain group of people. And that doesn’t bother me at all.

French: “Aucun soufflement trop forcé / La vie est des cartes en leur paquet.”
German: “Keine Blasen zu harte / Das Leben ist ein Deck Karten.”
Notes: If you think that he should have said “house of cards”, then you’re not the only one; even if, in the context of this blog, I dismiss that. I don’t know what else to say for this one.

French: “Groupes de ceux qui me dénigrent silencés. Mes mots les violent – confirmé. Et où est Papa pour les sauver ? Seul une envie fatale aura un effet. En le monde de musique, quand il s’agit d’ascendre, le ciel est la seule limite à comprendre – je dois seulement rester consistent avec mes yeux comme truc-instrument.”
German: “Volle Gruppen Hasser lernen bloss: es passt nicht. Durch meinen Wörtern werden sie wirklich vergewaltigt. Vati wird ihnen helfen? Keine hilfsvolle Ansicht. Meiner Drang muss scharf und sicher verdammt dicht. In der Musikwelt bin ich zum Aufsteig gedrängt, nur vom Himmel beschränkt, so noch nach Konsistenz und mit Augen als Gag-Instrument.”
Notes: I must admit that I read the author of the article’s response to these lyrics before I even started compiling my own French and German translations of them – something I haven’t done for all the ones preceding this one – and I guess he had a point when he said that “We’re not even sure he knows what most of these words mean.”

French: “Flambe si intensément. Cette merde cinglée, n’ôt-elle pas, Jay ? Qu’est-ce qu’elle a ordonné, poisson filet ?”
German: “Flamme so intensiv. Verrückte Scheisse, eh, so, so, Jay? Was hat sie bestellt, Fischfilet?”
Notes: In the original, I have reasoned that “ball” is in the sense of the slang verb: if you’re “balling” then that means you are doing well in life, and earning respect among your peers for it. There’s no straight translation for that that I can think of in either French or German, so I went with what I considered to be a close-sounding equivalent, translating the verb “to blaze” (“so intensely”) instead. I have also reasoned that “cray” is just an artificial abbreviation of “crazy”, and that there’s every chance that it was created just for the sake of the rhyming “ay” sound in this lyric alone. The author must be talking about some aspect of Jay-Z’s life I’m clearly not familiar with, but like that information is really important to me. Let’s move on.

French: “Fanfaron plus serré qu’une levure-infection / Volez, aller fort, comme oie-erection.”
German: “Stolzieren fester als ‘ne Hefe-Infektion / Fliegen, hart gehen, wie ‘ne Gans-Erektion.”
Notes: Yes, I know geese are not mammals and therefore don’t get erections like male mammals do. Other than that, there’s just no articulate discussion for this one. That said, I really must avoid developing a habit of trying to make sense out of nonsense… so should you.

French: “Va contre moi maintenant – c’est un défi pour certes. #Bambi.”
German: “Komm gegen mir jetzt – hier-‘st-‘ne Mutprobe. #Bambi.”
Notes: As I continue looking for farfetched solutions: for the French version, try to re-pronounce “certes” “kind of like” “cerf”; for the German one, try to re-pronounce “hier-‘st-‘ne Mutprobe” “kind of like” “hirsch’ne Mutprobe” – this is an expression I made up which is supposed to translate (however clumsily) as something like “deer’s dare”.

French: “De la peur évidente / Vous êtes des putains d’homos, je le sens / Grandissez une putain de barbe à entendre / Je devrais être ici, aucune gourance.”
German: “Ich sehe Angst / Ihr seid einige fickende Schwuler, Fakt / Züchtet eine fickende Barbe, intakt / Ich soll hier sein, dies ist meiner Akt.”
Notes: I felt the need to add a few words to maintain the rhyme. This French version actually translates as, “Evident fear / You are some fucking homos, I sense it / Grow a fucking beard (that one can recognise) / I should be here, no mistake.” And the German version actually translates as, “I see fear / You are some fucking queers, fact / Grow a fucking beard, intact / I should be here, this is my act [“this is my moment”].”

French: “Moi, pas travailleur ? Mais, oui, absolument. Concevez une image de cela avec un Kodak / et, encore meilleur, va à Times Square, prends une photo de moi avec un Kodak.”
German: “Mich, nicht fleißig? Ja, absolut sicher. Stelle dir das mit einem Kodak dar / und, noch besser, gehe auf Times Square, nimm ein Bild von mir mit einem Kodak.”
Notes: A relatively easy one (not least because of the two lines ending in Kodak); but I hoped I captured the sarcasm of “Yeah, right” in the choices of words I used in the translations of it.

French: “En movement en le Grand Prix, la même couleur que le tonnerre.”
German: “Im Grand Prix bewegend, die selbe Farbe wie Donner.”
Notes: To be honest, I’m at a loss to relate these two statements – no surprise, right? I can’t make any sense of it – even when I consider the notion of a contrived attempt at creating context – and I’m moving on.

French: “Ai flux de diarrhée, maintenant je chie sur niggas / Même quand je suis constipé encore je chie sur niggas.”
German: “Habe Durchfallfluss, jetzt scheisse ich auf Niggas / Selbst wenn ich verstopft bin noch scheisse ich auf Niggas.”
Notes: Say what you like about the history of hip-hop, but when hip-hop artists will happily dismiss the realm of what makes sense for the sake of any cheap attempt to sound edgy / “hard” / “cool” purely to gain attention for themselves, they don’t do it any favours. Of course, there’s no reason to take lyrics like this literally – not even in a context of suspension of disbelief.

French: “Mon paragraphe seule vaut cinq microphones / Un Longue Durée de douze chansons, c’est 36 microphones.”
German: “Meiner Absatz allein ist fünf Mikrofone wert / Ein Langspiel mit zwölf Liedern, das macht 36 Mikrofone.”
Notes: In the original, “mic” is short for “microphone”, while “LP” stands for “Long Play” (which I admit I had to look up). Other than that, I just don’t get it, and not just because of the terrible maths.

French: “Je chie en vert comme les trous de cul de végétariens.”
German: “Ich scheisse in grün wie Arschlöcher von Vegetariern.”
Notes: Yet another nonsensical and bizarre concept in rap music which the author couldn’t explain if they tried, and which was probably best never expressed. The swear words may make it “offensive”, but only in a crude, idiotic and nonsensical way which triggers embarrassment (if not completely without wry amusement) among educated people like me more than anything else.

French: “Rock star : je suis plus volant qu’un autruche.”
German: Rockstar: ich bin fliegender als einer Strauß.”
Notes: Here we go again with the word “fly” used as an adjective in a way that’s supposed to sound – I apologise – hip, with genuine cultural value in any shape or form less of a concern. Of course ostriches don’t fly. Come to think of it, that fact, if the author really is as “fly” as he claims to be – if you will allow for distorted language and distorted meaning of language – actually makes the statement true, if probably not in the way he expected. The human imagination certainly is very fertile – and I trust my customers appreciate how fertile mine can be, as is exemplified here. By the way, I thought this guy was a rapper, not a rock star…?

French: “Ne me laisse jamais glisser, puisque si je glisse, donc cela veut dire que je glisse.”
German: “Lasse mich nie rutschen – wenn ich nun rutsche, dann rutsche ich.”
Notes: Maybe I am starting to forget words, but I had to look up “to slip” in French and German, and got expressions I would normally use for “to slide”. Here’s how I see it: slipping (up) is very different from sliding (along), although the latter can still appear clumsy, I guess.

French: “Elle connaît ma bite / elle appelle ce nigga Richard / Avant mon éjaculation / J’ai dû insérer ma pouce en / Son cul une fois plus / Renifle mon doigt, te faire vomir.”
German: “Sie weiss meinen Schwanz / Sie heiss jenen Nigga Richard / Vor meinem Ausspritzen / musste ich den Daumen in ihren / Arsch einmal mehr / Meinen Finger riechen, lass dir erbrechen.”
Notes: OK, so let’s recap: this is a case of someone who has written a lyric in which a made-up woman with whom he has had one or more fictional sexual encounters has given a name to his penis; and he acts like he’s proud of this (and he has made money from it) – brilliant. You know, maybe the author of this article is right: maybe there was a Richard Pryor joke intended; but if that were true, I can imagine people thinking of it as an overly subtle and farfetched one – and certainly not one which would have a place in French or German culture. That’s why I haven’t translated this Richard Pryor joke, if it were existent. I hate to disappoint but I don’t think I could.

French: “First Family va peu à peu élever ce cul comme la gravité / Et transformer ton cadre physique en cavité.”
German: “First Family wird jenen Arsch allmählich erheben wie Gravitation / Und den Rahmen deines Körpers in eine Höhlung.”
Notes: They may not have quite as much rhyme as the original, but given that both words in “First Family” start with capitals, this has got to be the name of some collective – most likely one with which the author of this lyric is affiliated – and I decided to leave this proper noun the way it was, without translating it (even though, in French, “London” is “Londres” and “Warsaw” is “Varsovie”, for example). Besides, these two words can easily be translated with a machine translation tool, you know? When reading the German version, try to modify your pronunciation of it in an artificial way (because it’s “cool”; y’know, cuz homies sumtimz shun proppa English and proppa ‘nunciation, yo!); you should be able to learn how to pronounce the last syllables of “Gravitation” and “Höhlung” such that they are almost the same easily enough. By the way, I know gravity does the opposite of lift things up, but apparently this is what you get when you look for the worst rap lyrics ever, and all I’m doing here is translating some of those – something which I genuinely believe no-one else has ever done – for business purposes (probably against my better judgement, admittedly, but whatever).

French: “Je les aime quand ils sont noirs, blancs, portoricains ou haïtiens / Tout comme japonais, chinois ou même asiens.”
German: “Ich mag sie wenn sie sind schwarz, weiss, puertorikanisch oder haitianisch / Genauso wie japanisch, chinesisch oder noch asiatisch.”
Notes: I may have compromised on proper grammar in the translations just a bit, but then look at the nature of the original material. Along with one or two made-up words, like “asien” instead of “asiatique”. By the way, although I never watched the clip for this video, he’s probably talking about women, in which case all the adjectives in the French version should be rewritten so that they are feminised.

French: “Presque noyé en sa chatte, donc j’ai nagé jusqu’à son bout.”
German: “Fast in ihrer Muschi ertrunken, also bin ich bis zu ihren Hintern geschwommen.”
Notes: One word: What!? I’m sorry but I would not want to have a mind like whoever wrote this – even if it weren’t for public consumption.

French: “.38 tourner comme le soleil autour de la Terre.”
German: “.38 drehend wie die Sonne um die Erde.”
Notes: Another factual inaccuracy – in truth, the Earth revolves around the sun, of course it does. But I just have to let it slide – it should take more than a bit of easy-to-explain idiocy like this to make a professional translator give up in their work…

French: “Inoubliable, insoumissable / Maintenant je m’identifie comme N, seule une syllabe.”
German: “Unvergesslich, nicht übertragbar zwischen / Jetzt nenne ich mich als N, nur eine Silbe.”
Notes: In the German version, there was an added word: “zwischen” on the end means that it is essentially supposed to signify “not submittable between people” (if “submittable” was an actual word).

Notes: I’m sorry, but this is one even I’m not going to have a go at translating. I’m just too hopelessly confused, but far from ashamed of that. (Nagging thought in my head: “Why am I still doing this exercise? Is it even worth it?”)

French: “32 grammes brut, éplucher-le en demi, avoir 16. / Doubler-le par 3, nous avons 48, qui veut dire de la crème balèze. / Diviser le gain par quatre, réduction d’huit, nous sommes revenus à seize…”
German: “32 Gramm brutto, in Hälfte gehackt, 16 bekommen. / Verdoppeln es mit 3, wir haben 48, das heisst viel Sahne gewonnen. / Den Gewinn teilen durch vier, acht abnehmen, wir sind wieder auf sechzehn gekommen…”
Notes: My role is not to criticise as much as it is to translate… with continued innovation. Do you know the word “balèze” in French? This is the hopefully passable expression I decided to use as something that would rhyme with “seize”.

French: “Je suis ton pire cauchemar quadrillé / Cela c’est deux fois pour vous niggas qui n’êtes pas mathématiquement informés.”
German: “Ich bin eurer schlimmste Albtraum kariert / Dass heisst zweimal für jede von euch Niggas nicht mathematisch informiert.”
Notes: Yes, I know as well as any half-educated person that a number squared is not the same as the same number doubled (unless, it’s two, technically speaking). It takes a certain kind of patience, creativity and humour to insist on translating this sort of thing, doesn’t it?

This is another one I’m actually not going to bother translating – sorry to disappoint. The first line is easy enough to understand – even if you can but wonder about the context behind such an occurrence – but the rest of it just forms a meaningless pun which doesn’t even make sense (not least because the pane of a window would prevent someone from leaving through it).

French: “Chaussures Louboutin, elle est trop fière / Ses pieds la tuent – chaussure-icide misère.”
German: “Louboutin-Schuhe, bei ihr zuviel Stolz dort / Ihre Füße töten sie. Ich nenne es Schubstmord.”
Notes: Again, only a translator’s imagination free of constraint or conditions could ensure the provision of a French version with retained rhyme i.e. “shoe-icide misery” at the end. And in the German version, “Schubstmord” is a made-up portmanteau of “Schuhe” and “Selbstmord”.

French: “Tu as cassé mon cœur en une million de pieces, c’est compris / J’aurais dû le voir venir, j’aimerais avoir la télékinésie.”
German: “Du hast mein Herz in eine Million Stücke zerbrochen / Ich sollte es vorausgehen haben, ich möchte Telekinese bekommen.”
Notes: Again, no need to point out the factual inaccuracy i.e. in this case, I know that telekinesis is in fact NOT something that lets you see into the future. Also, again, yes, I improvised with the wording in order to maintain the rhyme, using one or two additional / modified expressions just not present in the original; but that’s adept translation work for you. Nothing about the content (or should that be the substance?) has been lost. Just trust me.

French: “Quand j’étais geisha, il était samurai / Je l’ai en quelque sorte compris quand il a parlé en la langue du thaï.”
German: “Als ich Geisha war, war er auch Samurai von Osten (Fakt) / Ich habe ihn irgendwie verstanden als er thailändisch gesprochen hat.”
Notes: I guess this goes to show that whatever your education or imagination capacity, there are some contexts that it’s just not possible to conclude or explain. I sure know that I can’t relate historical Japanese culture to modern hip-hop culture. If you can’t invoke any kind of rational reasoning in connection with someone’s statements, you can at least hope that they will eventually one day be understood in real terms – by themselves, if no-one else.

French: “N’ôt aucun temps pour de la parlote ; j’essaie de me procurer de cet argent / ‘Lors disparais, tu caca-tête sot, tu comprends ?”
German: “Hab’ keine Zeit für Geplauder, ich versuch’ dieses Geld zu machen / Also verschwinde doch, du mistliche Geistesschwache.”
Notes: Well, the “doo-doo head dummy” insult is certainly a difference from swearing-based insults which are certainly common in this kind of music; but what can I say (other than to suggest getting a native French / German speaker to review how I have translated this one if you have any doubts as to how well it was done)?

French: “Elle a une grande derrière, donc je l’appelle Grande Derrière.”
German: “Sie hat ein grosses Gesäß, also heisse ich sie Grosses Gesäß.”
Notes: What is there that anyone can point out about this one – never mind “say about it” – apart from its obvious complete lack of intellectual merit? But I translated it anyway.

French: “Je te permets de te sentir comme La Merde, mais yo, tu ne peux pas me surpéter.”
German: “Ich werd’ dich wie Die Scheisse dich fühlen lassen, aber du kannst mir sicher nicht überfurzen.”
Notes: In vulgar English, “feeling like the shit” is very different from “feeling like shit”. I would translate the latter as “sentir de la merde” in French and “wie Scheisse fühlen” in German, but in the sentences above, I just put my faith in capitalisation of the words “The” and “Shit” to convey a sense of the former – does it rub off as such with no explanation required, do you think? And like there’s really any set expression in foreign languages for “to out-fart someone”. And don’t think less of me for pointing this out – I didn’t write this stuff.

French: “Swag, swag, swag, swag, frangin / Brang-dang-dang ta petite amie.”
German: “Swag, swag, swag, swag, Brud’ / Brang-dang-dang deine Freundin.”
Notes: A classic case of what happens when you decide to compromise on sounding literate and when your ego matters more to you than self-awareness. Just pronounce “swag” and “brang-dang-dang” like you would in English in the new language. “Bruh” is a bastardised abbreviation of “brother”, in case you’re not aware; as for “Brang-dang-dang”: this is hardly an expression I use all the time either, but I can see for myself that it is used as a verb meaning something explicit and irreverent. And that really is all you need to know.

French: “Que quelqu’un le dise à elle / Son cul a une voix, et elle chante a capella.”
German: “Jemand sollte es ihr berichten / Ihrer Arsch hat eine Stimme, und sie kann a capella singen.”
Notes: He’s talking about her backside and talking about her singing… I think. Ultimately, your guess is as good as mine. I laugh at it rather than with it, and I don’t want to hate but it’s retarded; there’s no more appropriate word for it.

French: “Eau, incendie, air, saleté / Maudits aimants, ils marchent comment ? Expliquez ! / Et je ne veux parler à aucun scientiste / Tels connards me mentent et m’enquiquinent.”
German: “Wasser, Feuer, Luft und Erde / Wie wirken fickende Magneten? Bemerken! / Und ich will mit keinem Wissenschaftler schwatzen / Da sie lügen und mich stocksauer lassen.”
Notes: I didn’t even know ICP were classified as rappers – I have listened to some of their music. Actually, you know what? The author of this article is right; this song has no significance which indicates that it deserves credit; and I’m glad that this thing is finally over.

26th May 2018


I want debate about what I – and others in my position, for that matter – do as a professional translator to be both frank and earnest. There is plenty of evidence indicating that I am particularly determined to be vocal about the nature of what I do – but, all things considered, can you blame me? That said, I cannot dismiss the idea that professional translation has what can only be described as an element of (alleged) authority to it in all but name… not to brag.

You see, when I do what is expected of me, as I create I know that I cannot always easily expect forgiveness were I to let personal biases get in the way as part of subjective response to material that someone, somewhere has formally entrusted me to translate. If this means anything, it is to support my claim that what (or should that be “whatever”?) I write must be subject to consideration of the “don’t just take my word for it” factor… I must emphasise this, considering how eager I personally can be to create when it comes to exploits in writing or the arts. Allowing subjective and / or invalidated convictions or pretend beliefs to influence translation work – especially when it is professional translation work! – is out of the question, lest it corrupt sound understanding, and the same should be said of things you like to pretend to see…

Like this: look on the page for the character Iskra of the This War Of Mine wiki website (This War Of Mine being the computer game) http://this-war-of-mine.wikia.com/wiki/Iskra , under the “role” headline, what is says her response will be if she is asked to open a barred door, or to clear rubble. While there is nothing wrong with this kind of “play imagination”, what matters in connection with the subject of my article here is that, when this “play imagination” is displayed, those who do so are, in my experience, just about never expected to explain / account for their own unchained imagination that fuels it. Just how would Iskra describe whatever she is pretending to think when she is asked to do these things anyway? You tell me (well, suggest it). Whereas professional translation demands thorough consideration of how, like, anything (!) you put (or indeed, happen to put!) will be interpreted outside of any gated community that you like to identify yourself as a member as – whether you do so genuinely or falsely is not the meat of the matter here.

I can still remember a former client being really, surprisingly upset at me choosing to translate something as “social responsibility” rather than “corporate social responsibility” – enough that she told me that she would not be considering me for any future work, which I found particularly harsh. I took it as over-reaction, especially considering the patience and humble willingness to help that I showed in my emails to her just before she actually went as far as to say something like that.

Still… again, not to brag, but speaking as someone who went to university I would say that I have very good reason to claim that I am what you would call “well educated”. And, me being well educated means that it should not be hard to understand why I would be confident in most of the choices that I make as I do my translation work. It’s basically all about choices that are based on an open mind – and development of an open mind is really what getting a proper education is all about, isn’t it? Those who have fallen victims to cults, or abusive relationships, are victims of them because they have surrendered their lives to them, trapped in a cycle of what can only be described as conditioned thinking at their own expense, all for the unscrupulous benefit of someone else. But, to get back to the topic at hand: I’m saying that a good translator won’t let the decisions in their work be shaped by their own conditioned thinking – or thinking which, while not conditioned, might as well be.

Yes, I would say that, as harsh as it may seem, naivete can jeopardise good translation… and maybe I should befriend a psychologist. Try to understand that the importance that I attach to all this is that, when I translate, I really do decide what makes sense and not, don’t I? When I translate, anyone can be forgiven for believing that the decisions I make in the writing of a new article will (at least in part) ultimately shape the ideas that a future reader of it will “take” from it in terms of what makes sense and what doesn’t… whether or not it actually does. That’s what I meant by the “element of authority” bit at the end of the first paragraph. All of a sudden, professional translation just doesn’t seem like something for the faint-hearted, huh? By this standard, it’s probably only fitting that my approach to my work might as well be characterised by me acting like everything I write is simply to be taken at face value, like it were grounded in proper authority on the subject matter. Because I care about my work. Oh yes I do.

Anyway, thank you for reading this.

15th June 2018


In my experience, it’s quite common for professional translators, like me, to state comical bad translations as we remind you that translation is just not as easy as some people think; we list the bad translations as a statement: “this is what happens when you do it wrong i.e. with ignorance.” It’s just that we are seldom bothered to discuss not just how it’s wrong and what a better suggestion would have been, but what went wrong (whether in terms of fact or personal theory) – explaining the linguistic fallacies on the part of the person who wrote it, or concluding the misleading impressions that led to them doing so.

But I like reading bad translations as much as plenty of other people, whether they translate for a living or not. And as languages and translation are indeed my livelihood, I decided on a little game in my business marketing:

Here are 10 bad translations. At least three are ones I came across somewhere on the Internet and at least three are ones I made up. But which of the two do you think they all are? (I will provide the answers in a subsequent blog.)

Have fun! ?

1. “Please don’t touch yourself, let us help you to try out. Thanks!”

2. “Please to be knowing that this lift is receiving technical maintenance working attention and you can not use the lift at this time because of this reason which is important that our guests know it.”

3. “When you are enjoying a nice ride on our boat of pleasure rides, you must be knowful of the regulations by the concerns of personal safety. It is against the order here for to run on the deck.”

4. “Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.”

5. “Dear Noble Guest, if you want massage in your room you must go to the reception or the management through one telephone number under. Possible time for massage is between 19:00 and 23:00. Massage must be booked by 17:00. Shower before the massage is imperative and you are expected to be finished of your shower before the masseuse that you appointed will be arrived at the door of your room. The staff will inform you the prices for massage when you are conversing with them on phone.”

6. “In a fire incident, please have the concern to make a staff person be in aware of this emergency soonest that is possible. We can understand that you develop mental alarm but we ask you for no attempting to diminish fire in your own actions.”

7. “Please don’t put off your socks.”

8. “Cake eat tissue – the tissue is for an occasion of eat a cake segment. Guests should ensure to have cake dust collecting in tissue when they do a bite of cake.”

9. “Because you are dangerous, you must not enter.”

10. “If you would like to join us, rubbish will never be homeless.”

A link to the answers: https://www.facebook.com/GeorgeTrailTranslator/posts/1763330500423680


Given the abundance of material listing bad translations these days, it’s easy to believe that lots of people, whether they are a professional translator like me or not, would have ready, perfectly reasonable statements when it comes to attempting to describe what “literal translation” is (or at least be willing to provide recalled examples of it), or indeed why it should be avoided. That said, however, I can understand people not quite knowing how to translate certain expressions from one language to another without it being “too literal”.

What really encouraged me to write this blog was the hypothetical question of how best to write the sentence “We might as well get used to it” in French and German, the two foreign languages from which I translate into English, and which I have a degree in. I mean, when you look at this sentence, I wouldn’t blame you at all for not being able to conceive of any “ready equivalent” of “we might as well” in any foreign languages you have studied, and the verb “to use” has nothing to do with using anything in this context. So let’s look at these two exhibits, which are my own suggestions:

French: “La meilleure chose est pour nous à s’y habituer” (a direct / “semi-literal” English translation of this being: “The best thing is for us to get used to it.”)
German: “Am besten würden wir uns daran gewöhnen” (a direct / “semi-literal” English translation of this being: “The best thing is that we would get used to it.”)

But don’t think for a moment that I would suggest only those specific expressions as the “best” way to say this sentence in French and German (that I can think of anyway); here’s some other ideas:

French: “Il est meilleur pour nous à s’y habituer” (a direct / “semi-literal” English translation of this being: “it is best for us to get used to it.”)
German: “Nichts dagagen aber alles dafür, dass wir uns daran gewöhnen würden” (a direct / “semi-literal” English translation of this being: “Nothing against it but all for it that we would get used to it.”)

Now, while I wouldn’t describe these suggestions as unforgivably clumsy or awkward and “bad” as such (even if I do say so myself), they still do seem a bit “clunky” (unwieldy) and / or “thrown together” in appearance, and, me being a keen professional translator and all, I am keen to seek something better in the sense of less clunky when translating such a statement into French and German. I mean, what could we accept as a “ready equivalent” in French or German of “we might as well” or “getting used to something”?

That soon led to me coming up with these suggestions, which, in my opinion and experience, sound closer to what French and German natives actually would say:
French: “Il vaut mieux s’y habituer.” (in English (lit.): “It is worth the best for us to get used to it.”
German: “Wir könnten uns nun / mal daran gewöhnen.” (in English (lit.): “We could get used to it”; but the verb “können” is strictly not without “nun” or “mal”).

Those would be my very best suggestions. But I am not going to leave it at that. As the final part of this exercise I asked a regular French client and a regular German client, whom I have done work for again recently, how THEY would translate “We might as well get used to it” in their own respective native languages. The answers they gave me are provided below; go ahead and compare them with my own suggestions ?

French: “Nous pourrions aussi bien nous habituer” – which I would retranslate into English more as “We could also get accustomed” (But I couldn’t help noticing the absence of the preposition “y”, for “it”).

German: “Wir könnten uns daran gewöhnen” – which I would retranslate into English more as “We could get used to it”. (But to think that it really is the same as my own best German suggestion – while my native tongue is not even German – but for the absence of “nun” / “mal”!)

27th June 2018

To read my latest blog article (uploaded today) you will have to go to George Trail Translator on Facebook – a key part of it is an uploaded photo I included there which I just couldn’t include here.

29th June 2018


This is another of my translation exercises I am only too keen to show the world.

Basically, Italian is a language I don’t speak, but I found an article in an Italian newspaper https://motori.ilmessaggero.it/speciale_lemans/f1_24_ore_le_mans_500_miglia_indianapolis_mito_tripla_corona-3797487.html and, although I did use Google Translate to translate it, I had it translate only each individual word separated, rather than whole sentences or phrases or clauses; as if I were using an Italian / English bilingual dictionary and that alone to, eventually, understand the content of it all when it was all recreated in English, so to speak. Anyway, I wasn’t at all surprised that, most of the time, I was offered multiple possible English translations for a given Italian word in this article, but after I had completed the list of it all I used my brain and wrote this English “translation” of it:

“LE MANS – any child who puts on a suit and helmet before climbing into a kart for the first time, is a child who dreams of one day becoming the best driver. Maybe the biggest driver of all time. Even the adults who are responsible for arranging the lists, look at the Formula 1 results which serve as the expression of the rules of motorsport. And those who devote a lot of time to their game, are the ones who achieve new records. Schumacher feels like he has been exceeded on a number of levels by Fangio; Hamilton says that he has felt torn by some of these things about this German; as much as Vettel felt; right up to the child prodigy Verstappen. However, there is no-one who has agreed on this row of numbers – just look at the golden circus of the single-seater. Becoming a great driver is something else – indeed, it is something more romantic; a fascinating world where grit and talent, passion and one’s own unconsciousness are all part of the game. Above all, it’s about tradition.

With this, there has emerged this theory (which is hardly a new one) that, in order to be the king, you have to examine races and maybe qualify in a few different categories. This is the “Triple Clown”, as the British call it – a showcase which features the F1 World trophy (although it’s actually for a GP victory at Monte Carlo), the Indianapolis 500 Miles Cup (held since 1911) and the Le Mans 24 Hours Cup (which is said to date back to 1923). Indy, in the States, is the only competition in the world in which the pole position achievement is determined by an average speed of nearly 400 km/h; the French Marathon is the only race on the planet which recognises no stages with a track length greater than 5,000 km. So far, the only person who has been in the Hall of Fame of any class is the legendary Graham Hill, the father of Damon (who was also in the F1 World Championship in 1996). This Brit won two F1 titles (in ’62 and in ’68), and won Indy in ’66 and Le Mans in ’72, by the time his career came to an end.

They attempted to be on par first with Mario Andretti and then with Jacques Villeneuve, but at the 24 Hours Competition they arrived only at second place (in 1995 and in 2008 respectively). Alonso’s aim was this: to join the ranks of Graham and become among the greatest together with him; better than Michael, Lewis and Seb. However, there is someone who, even though they never progressed in F1, brought home the Cup for yet other, completely different, reasons: none other than Romain Dumas – put him in the driver’s seat and it’s enough to get the world excited. This Frenchman has won Le Mans and the Mondiale Endurance, and triumphed in the 24 Hours Cup at the Nürburgring, and the same race at the Spa; he has indeed climbed very far up the ladder; right up to the podium of the Sebring 12 Hours Competition. Last year he came eighth in Dakar in a Peugeot; the next week he won the GT class in the Monte Carlo Rally in a Porsche.

Tomorrow he will head off to win the 24 Hours Cup (GT class) in a 911 RSR; then he will make a quick stop at a race in Colorado to win his fourth Pikes Peak (a racing competition which has become most famous throughout the world; one said to date back to 1916; with 156 curves to conquer at a height of 4,300 metres on Montagne Rocciose). It’s worth heading there anyway, considering that Romain has written an article on the story of it all ever since he got behind the steering wheel of a 100% electrically powered Volkswagen with nearly 700 hp.”

Some comments in retrospect.
In paragraph 1, sentence 1: I put “becoming the best driver” at the end, but also found that “becoming the fastest driver” could have been equally valid, at least in theory.
About “Schumi”, also in the first paragraph in the original: I know that “Schumi” is short for “Schumacher” only because I looked it up on Google. And I thought that “manbassa” in that sentence was a typo: one word where it should have been two i.e. “man bassa” – again, I only suspect this because I just had to Google it. And I had to look up “Fangio” to know that this too was someone’s name.
With the sentence “However, there is no-one who has agreed on this row of numbers”, I remember that my own self-dialogue with regard to it was: “This might be confusing. How about ‘on the numbers of it all?’ – figuratively speaking”.
I was surprised to think that the (equivalent) word for “romantic” would be used near the end of the first paragraph.
Finally, when I wrote the word “unconsciousness” near the end of the first paragraph, I knew in my heart that I basically meant “one’s own unconsciousness of oneself” as much as anything else, even if I just failed to articulate it as such. This is about competitive and popular sport, after all. Think about it.

But I also hired someone to provide their own English translation of this article: someone who actually translates from Italian to English professionally, name of Alex Millward. alexmillward14@hotmail.co.uk I found him on LinkedIn. Thank you for this, Alex.

“The F1 World Championship, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500: the legend of the “Triple Crown”
by Giorgio Ursicino

LE MANS – Every child who pulls on a race suit and helmet and climbs into a kart for the first time, dreams of one day becoming the number one driver. Perhaps even the greatest of all time. Even adults tend to look at results in Formula 1, the pinnacle of motorsport, when ranking a driver’s achievements. And as time goes by, new records are set. Schumi surpassed several of Fangio’s, and in turn Hamilton has broken some of the German’s, as did Vettel until the whizz-kid Verstappen came on to the scene. But some people don’t measure success by numbers focusing solely on podium finishes. There’s more to being a great driver, certainly something more romantic; it’s a mystical world where courage and talent combine with passion and instinct. And above all, tradition.
The time-honoured theory says that to be the King, you need to have raced and (perhaps less importantly) won in different categories. And so we have the “Triple Crown”, as the British call it, an elusive trio of trophies for an F1 World Championship (preferably having triumphed at the Monte Carlo GP), the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (which have been contested since 1911 and 1923 respectively). The Indy 500 in the States is the only race in the world where pole position is clinched at speeds approaching 400 km/h, while the French marathon is the only race not held in stages to exceed 5,000 km. The only person ever to have achieved this feat so far is the legendary Graham Hill, father of Damon (also an F1 world champion in 1996). The Briton won two F1 titles (in ’62 and ’68), the Indy 500 in ’66 and Le Mans in ’72, towards the end of his career.
Mario Andretti, in 1995, and then Jacques Villeneuve, in 2008, sought to emulate his success, but could only manage second place in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. So Fernando Alonso is striving to match Graham and join him as the greatest, better than Michael, Lewis and Seb. There are some drivers, however, who have won an even wider range of trophies, without ever competing in F1. Put Romain Dumas behind a steering wheel and he’s a world-beater. The Frenchman has won Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship, and has also made the top step of the podium at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, 24 Hours of Spa and 12 Hours of Sebring. Last year, he drove his Peugeot to eighth in the Dakar Rally and the following week won the GT category at the Monte Carlo Rally with Porsche.
Tomorrow he will set out to win the GT category at Le Mans with the 911 RSR before flying to Colorado to take on his fourth Pikes Peak (the world’s most famous uphill race, which dates back to 1916 and takes place in the Rocky Mountains, with 156 turns on a climb of 4,300 metres). Whatever the result, Romain will enter history for driving a 100% electric Volkswagen with almost 700 horsepower.”

Of course, I actually think my own “translation” of it was pretty good, even if I do say so myself. But I am eager to invite comparison between Alex’s work and mine – not just for accuracy but because I was interested in seeing what perfectly valid expressions he would come up with, if any, which I just never would have. Mind you, as far as “accuracy” in translation is concerned, the meaning of a given expression can hinge more on cultural or societal values than anything else – these are grounded in not mere “ideas” but shared convictions or principles, which are provably enough to unite the members of a given society even when its members disagree. I say this because that’s what makes a given society or culture what it is and… well, that’s what life is. It certainly impacts translation.

4th July 2018


Anyone who has played Tekken 4 should recognise this track https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgf37ERwQMI

Now, if you’re wondering why I would include a link to something like this in a business marketing blog – and I certainly wouldn’t blame you! – I was sure that the background voice you hear here is German, and I was intrigued; I wanted to know what it was. Intrigued as to what it was about this speech that was supposed to be in some way appealing (or, if you like, cool); intrigued as to what it really was and how it could be understood to have its place in the music track of a popular computer game.

It went as far as me trying to hire one of my own clients in Germany to provide me with an actual German transcription of what is said at 0:34-0:45 and 0:57-1:07. But this was not before I did my own guesswork of it all; provided below, with English translations. I wouldn’t be surprised if you found them obscure, but have faith and read them again and again until you get the gist. Of course, I fully expected it to be wrong, as proud as I was of it all; not unlike the time I hired a Welsh woman to translate an episode of Wil Cwac Cwac that was narrated in Welsh, which I don’t speak, into English for me and invite comparison of what she provided against my own guesswork of what the narrator was saying that I did beforehand. But I digress. This is my guesswork in THIS exercise:

0:34-0:45 Der Zeuge weiss oben was marschiert, so gut auf Erlassung, was war dies heute spezifiert? Eine Ohrenei wegt ohne Militär. Für es euch, ein Romeo nutzt es um sie zu trümmern.
“The witness above knows what is marching – so good at making people submit to it – what is it currently specified (known) as? A hearsay rumour [I (sort of) invented the word “Ohrenei” in the original, giving it that meaning] doesn’t need a military to spread. In your case, a [true] Romeo will make use of it to make them collapse.”

0:57-1:07 Sehr es sägt, es scheint es auszuwerfen, was haben die Täter diskutiert – schäden Täterchen! Nun schon, ein’ Mayan seither ungekuppelt – er guckt an wenn er tut es
souverän und denn denkt an es Zero.
“It saws [cuts] a great deal, it seems to be throwing it out. What have the culprits discussed – only to harm younger culprits!? Of course, since then, it has been enough to make a Mayan separate himself from it – he will look at it if he can “do it” sovereignly; even if he will endeavour never to think about it afterwards.”
NB: The “Zero” bit is of course supposed to represent the “never” factor; and yes, I (sort of) made the expression “und den denkt an as Zero” up, as opposed to it being an echo of some German speaker using such an expression which I actually heard at some point in my life.

To evaluate: let’s not forget that the appeal of the Tekken series all lies in thrill / hype moments of fighting (I’m sure anyone who has enjoyed watching Fight Club will be familiar with the concept) – and, by extension (let’s be honest), ideas of “heroism” associated with it (whether they are real or pretentious, and validated or reasonable or not). Having said that: maybe the Mayans were fierce and brave warriors but not bloodthirsty warmongers by any means, and “do it” in the quotes above should be interpreted as a euphemism for “destroying it”. That was my reasoning.

Of course, in reality, it counts for nothing, for I was told by my client in Germany that she couldn’t understand any of the dialogue (if that is really what it is) that you hear in this video.

9th July 2018

Look at this screenshot (edited) of the last project I did for a regular client in Switzerland. It was German to English, but the bit right at the top is in both French and German. Question: if you speak more than one language, and you know that a comment written in foreign language A and a comment written in foreign language B both say the same thing… is that enough to help you answer the question of which do you prefer to translate from?

17th August 2018

Historians and anthropologists are still perplexed as to the intended significance of this old Khmer religious text which I have copy and pasted here:


26th September 2018


It’s this simple: what could be more important in my work – certainly when the sum total of everything I normally do just doesn’t quite cut it? Indeed, if there’s anything in which I would rather worry too much than too little, it is my career as a professional translator.

Having been a self-employed translator for ten years now, I have become “expression-conscious” on a whole new level. And, as I have so determinedly tried to put forward before in various verbose ways in previous blog articles, this is indeed not just about the question of being certain that what I say is grammatically correct, or using “clear” language. I mean, I have already discussed how I’m not given to using clichés and PBAs when I (try to) say whatever it may be that I have got to say – what matters is that I refuse to say the first thing that comes into my head without being sufficiently critical of it, as if I were in love with the sound of my voice over my reputation / dignity. Quite apart from the fact that I couldn’t tell you the worst that could happen as a result of that – I really, really couldn’t – in light of what I do for a living, unknowingly spouting incorrect information or encouraging any kind of deviate impression from that intended with the thing I am discussing – which I would not necessarily understand independently – is basically my worst nightmare, you know?

Let me state at this point that I hope I don’t sound too vague in this blog – vague enough to make readers look a whole lot less like they were listening to me, much to my chagrin and frustration (if only they would take the time to envision themselves in the present moment) when in reality they are trying to get a grip on it by seeking to form a working illustration of it in their minds in order to make things a bit more clear when what I am talking about is just too pithy for them. I really do do the very best I can to be properly articulate and clear about it all, but I understand that this a phenomenon which, depending on the particulars in any given case, can get in the way of understanding in communication. That’s what being a self-employed professional translator – a professional linguist, no less – worth the name is all about. This is what I look at, study, even interpret for others. This is a reference to the kind of approach and core values that, in my humble opinion, all professional translators should make a point of exercising. For I am the kind of professional linguist who, however ready they may be to do their bit for society at large from within their own psychological bubble which encompasses all that they are familiar with and embrace habitually, is ready to do more than just follow predefined methods in exercises of, say, speech therapy or elocution teaching. For it is not true that your brain hallucinates to create “reality”, a basis on which to justify explanation / coherence of your own experiences in life, along with all your convictions and opinions (some of which you may not even be aware you have)? Confusion can be a source of humour, but it can also be a curse – oh, yes.

It’s not just about things like applying labels coined by specialists for the sake of explanation of the components of language or its structure and where they are actually being exemplified in particular cases in real life, enough to develop an understanding of them or even assist with another’s understanding of them; true translators focus on matters of language in practice “as is” (i.e. language as it is forged by the hoi polloi in blissful ignorance through no truly shameful fault of their own, and what it actually means) – flat fact must always come first, and certainly over taking sides in terms of personal opinion. Think about it. Did you know that somewhere in the United States, it is actually illegal for donkeys to sleep in bathtubs? Well, how does the statement “my donkey does not sleep in a bathtub” actually make any more sense than the statement “my donkey sleeps in a bathtub” in actual practice? And professional translators should have the wisdom and the good grace to know when they are trying to answer a question only by answering another, hypothetical, imagined question. After all, it’s not just about taking the opportunity to draw attention to certain aspects of merit that you may or may not have good reason to believe that you have while your peers don’t; it’s about understanding.

Each translation essentially tells a story, and yet… such a story should also be the truth – even if it is perfectly possible for inaccurate information to prove conducive to personal development, or the development of a group, or society as a whole. But you can’t argue with scientific matter. It is my belief that very young children whose cognitive skills have not yet fully developed would be at a loss to conceive of “imagination” as anything other than what is strictly made up and not to be treated as real, like the content of a piece of fiction. And yet there comes a point where you just have to take responsibility for your imagination for the greater good, whether it’s indication of the simple truth of certain circumstances (however harsh they may be) which really should be reflected in a translation, or simply upholding social cohesion in the form of practicing basic good manners and kindness.

Now, it is important to get your thoughts organised if you’re serious about good translation – but all too often it’s just not as simple as scribbling whatever notes or little drawings come to your head, on a piece of paper (especially if we’re talking about ones of a specific / habitual kind), for the sake of clarification unto yourself as you perform a translation task. Hence, it’s often only a matter of time before cultural awareness / sensitivity will shape things. What if there are things which a given intelligent person could only come to understand in the event of some element of stupidity on the part of someone else?

People always say that it is essential to consider certain cultural aspects when it comes to translation, and that is very true. Now, personally, consider what this says about my own cultural awareness: born an autistic child, I guess that, back then, it was impossible for me to conceive of the opposite of happiness as being anything other than sadness. But… it can also be anger, can’t it? Getting back to the topic at hand: I never want to unknowingly create a situation I cannot change, or a situation which could only be changed at someone else’s expense and probably not my own expense along with it. In the context of translation, this would be sowing the seeds of a misunderstanding of something, or fallacious logic, possibly pernicious depending on the circumstances. Never forget that there are three essential categories when it comes to reference to something: known knowns (i.e. things we know we know); known unknowns (i.e. things we know we don’t know); and unknown unknowns (i.e. things we don’t know we don’t know). There is a quote that goes “If you don’t know how to explain it, it means it doesn’t make sense.” Amen.

Truly intelligent people understand stupidity and even embrace it, without letting it go to their head. For those who don’t know better, putting other people’s thoughts first – however irrational they may be – but without reacting to them foolishly, can weigh on their patience if they are not accustomed to it; and professional translators should be accustomed to it .

That said, let’s look at these examples:

Look at the various translations of “allenfalls” (a German expression) provided by Google Translate. They certainly differ a fair bit, certainly from the perspective of how we are inclined to view each one differently!
“Actions nominatives” in French is better translated into English as “registered shares” than as “nominative shares”. This coming from someone who, quite frankly, is no specialist in the subject of finance / economics by a long shot.
And I must confess that I am becoming a lot more aware of my limitations when it comes to languages. For example, I incorrectly guessed what “voyage de prévu” meant, which is why I had to look it up on Google Translate. I knew “prévoir” came from the infinitive “prévoir” but got sort of misled as to what that verb really meant in English.

At the end of the day, you can’t approach professional translation as “just a job”, for the knowledge and opinions of others play as much of a role as your own knowledge and opinions – sometimes more of a role. The sooner you get used to challenging / defying your own imagination, the better. But then maybe I would say that, seeing as I am an entrepreneur and all.

30th September 2018

If you want to know what nationality someone else is and they speak literally not a word of any language you speak, what do you do?

Personally, I would suggest showing them you counting from 1 to 5, putting up the fingers on one of your hands as you do so, then point to them and try to coax them to say 1 to 5 in whatever language they would be most inclined to while raising 1-5 of the fingers of your hand slowly. Then chuck “1, 2, 3, 4, 5” through Google Translate – it can provide both written and oral translations. It is even capable of recognising what language a certain bit of text is in. How great is that?

Or maybe it would be easier just to view their ID (if they wouldn’t mind).

12th October 2018


Everyone who knows me knows that I have a degree in French and German and that I have been a self-employed translator for several years – I have a number of repeat clients including quite a few in France. So you can be certain that I speak fluent French… and yet, some aspects of authentic native French speakers’ French still go over my head. One could say the same in the case of German, but that’s another story. For now, in this blog, consider this exercise:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKAfcMLBei8 This is a link to one of Pat Condell’s videos, with French subtitles. I watch his videos all the time. But here I began with watching it all from start to finish right through a single time while reading the French subtitles; when it was finished I aimed to rewrite the French subtitles as closely as I could, inventing stuff when I just couldn’t remember it. I decided to see for myself what I could remember, and if I couldn’t remember anything, oh well, no real reason to be ashamed as long as I provided a sound equivalent. I believe that what I wrote here is worth examining as an example of a sample of my French which, although perfectly sound in theory, may betray some lack of knowledge or correct reasoning in places all the same. The truth is that I did make some minor alterations before posting the final product publicly, after having viewed the French subtitles in this video one more time.

Here goes:
Selon un nouveau sondage, beaucoup de musulmans disent que si l’Occident veut avoir de meilleures relations avec l’Islam, il devraient lui montrer plus de respect. Et bien alors, qui a dit que les musulmans manquent un sens d’humeur ? Étant donné que l’Islam est officiellement au-dessus du criticisme en l’Occident, c’est difficile à imaginer comment il est possible de lui montrer encore plus de respect même après fermer toutes les tavernes, cultiver des barbes et assommer les femmes qui ne veulent pas s’habiller commes de religieuses. Mais, oui, bien sûr, quel sot de moi ! Selon moi, je dirais que beaucoup de gens en l’Occident reconnaissent maintenant que l’islam a déjà été donné beaucoup trop de respect, en particulier ici en l’Europe, où, selon un autre sondage, les gens ont commencé à le regarder à une menace à leur culture. Bien sûr, il continuent à accommoder toutes ses demandes, mais ce n’est pas parce que l’Islam est bien accueilli en l’Europe – bien loin de cela ! C’est parce que le mensonge de multiculturalisme a mené les gens à croire que ce qu’on attend qu’ils croient est plus important que ce qu’ils croient vraiment. Donc, même s’ils vont critiquer l’islam en privé, ils savent bien que le faire en public – ce qui veut dire être honnête au sujet de leurs sentiments – les rendraient toute de suite des racistes, des islamophobes, des nazis, des maudits salauds impérialistes, ethnocentriques et facistes qui oppriment les innocents et les faibles. Donc, il ne faut pas faire des vagues ! Vous voulez assommer votre femme et mutiler votre fille ? Faites comme chez vous ! On va même le subventionner, puisque nous voulons être vos amis ! Quoi ? Vous voulez détruire notre société corrompue ? C’est notre faute, pas la vôtre ! Ici, voici un peu plus d’argent ! Il y a ce film qui paraîtra en les Pays-Bas en quelques moments grâce auquel le pays entier est en un état d’alerte de terrorisme augmentée, qui est encore plus de preuve que maintenant en Europe il est nécessaire de peser toutes choses contre la possibilité de la violence musulmane. Chaque pièce, chaque film, chaque exposition d’art, chaque article en un magazine – en fait, notre culture entière a besoin de l’approbation musulmane maintenant. Mais ceci c’est l’Europe ; nous avons une histoire d’apaisement et de se soumettre aux menaces. L’islam radical est conscient de ceci, et il nous exploite à son propre avantage. Ils savent que l’islam ne sera jamais accusé pour aucune chose en Europe, quoi que se réalise. Par exemple, quand la presse danoise a récemment réimprimé les dessins, après lequel on a vécu une semaine d’émeutes commises par de jeunes musulmans, le chef de police de la Copenhague a refusé d’admettre qu’il était lié aux dessins. Il a dit qu’ils étaient ennuyés. Mais oui, bien sûr, ils ont tous couru en les rues et ont mis le feu à la cité chaque nuit pour une semaine parce qu’ils voulaient quelque chose à faire. Si seulement ils avaient eu un club de ping-pong ! L’incident s’est passé parce que trois fanatiques musulmans ont été attrapés en leur planning d’assassiner le dessinateur ! Est-ce qu’on peut imaginer à quel point ils s’ennuyaient !? Et aussi, un point important pour les journalistes européens : une attaque antisémite par des musulmans contre des juifs n’est aucun conflit entre communautés. Si vous ne le saviez pas, l’islam déteste les juifs. Même si l’Israël n’éxistait pas, l’islam détesterait les juifs encore. Le livre saint des musulmans leur dit qu’ils devraient détester les juifs, donc je pense que vous allez trouver que ce qui se passe n’est aucun conflit entre communautés, mais une attaque violente raciste et sans provocation commise par les musulmans contre les juifs parce qu’ils sont des juifs. Je voulais seulement clarifier cela pour vous pour que vous puissiez le désigner précisement la prochaine fois, si vous allez la rapporter du tout. Si on était sérieux au sujet de respecter l’islam, on demanderait qu’il soit passé à un test honnête de la réalité. L’islam doit s’adapter à l’Europe, pas vice versa. Je devrais dire que beaucoup de musulmans sont en la réalité d’accord là, et ils essaient de s’adapter et de s’intégrer avec les autres. C’est merveilleux est très bien accueilli, mais nous tous savons que beaucoup d’autres ne font pas cela. Ça c’est parce que beaucoup de cités en l’Europe ont de larges ghettos musulmans qui sont contrôlés par de bigots religieux, où les lois et les valeurs indigènes sont de moins et moins acceptées. Ils sont des endroits remplis de gens qui n’ont aucune intention de s’intégrer et qui ne veulent que la fin de notre civilisation au même temps que nous les dorlotent en nous y arriérant, avec une presse préjugée, un système judiciaire auto-satisfait et des politiciens que vous ne souhaiteriez pour votre pire ennemi. Ou bon, oui ! Cette situation menace la liberté de musulmans réguliers aussi beaucoup que celle de tous autres gens, et c’est une indication claire que ce dont nous avons besoin en l’Europe maintenant, ce n’est pas plus de respect pour l’islam, c’est moins de respect pour l’islam, et plus respect pour nous-mêmes. Nous devrions cesser de prétendre – c’est ça ce que nous faisons – prétendre que toutes cultures sont égales quand il nous est clair qu’elles ne sont pas toutes égales du tout. La culture islamique n’est pas égale à la culture occidentale. Elle promeut la violence contre les femmes, contre des juifs et des homosexuels. Elle autorise la polygamie et le mariage de vieils hommes à de jeunes enfants en une parodie répugnante des relations humaines. Celui que plaiderait de telles valeurs en l’Occident se trouveraient très rapidement derrière des barreaux. Ce n’est pas égale. C’est inférieure. Et étant donné l’ouverture de l’islam radical sur son ordre du jour totalitaire, c’est quelque chose qui ne devrait être nul part encouragée. Elle devrait être découragée avec de la législation ferme et par l’application rigoureuse de la loi. Vous vous souvenez de la loi ? Je sais que je recevrai des accusations de racisme et d’islamophobie par les imbéciles égoïstes habituels, mais ça ne me gêne pas car tels mots n’ont aucune valeur dans ce contexte. L’un a été neutralisé par de faux usage répété non-honnête, et l’autre n’est rien qu’un mensonge nu concocté par la gauche politique en tandem avec la droite religieuse en un mariage de convenance qui est, tout simplement, pire que méprisable. Une phobie est une peur irrationnelle. Se résister à l’islam n’est pas irrationnel. S’y plier est irrationnel. Soutenir le mensonge que la culture islamique est (d’une façon indéfinie) égale à la culture occidentale tout en ignorant les victimes de la première est plus qu’irrationnel ; c’est tout à fait criminel. Et si vous voulez parler vraiment du racisme, il ne faut que regarder la fiction pernicieuse du multiculturalisme, qui est une idéologie raciste divisive et condescendante. Et les gouvernements européens qui la soutiennent sont de gouvernements racistes. Les fonctionnaires qui s’y plient sont des racistes, les conférenciers en universités qui l’encouragent sont des racistes, les journalistes qui mentent à son sujet sont des racistes, et les personnes normales qui disent une chose en privé et une autre en public sont des hypocrites racistes lâches. Si nous sommes incapables de nous apporter d’articuler nos vrais sentiments quand ses conséquences seront vraiment importantes, nous avons déjà abandonné notre liberté, et avec cela la liberté de générations futures, ce qui est quelque chose que nous n’avons aucun droit de faire. Nous n’avons pas gagné cette liberté. Elle nous a été servie sur un plateau par des personnes qui l’ont gagné au prix de leurs vies. Nous ne sont pas ses propriétaires. Nous sommes ses gardiens. Ce n’est pas notre chose à céder. Donc, Europe, il est temps de parler plus fort. Il est temps de cesser de se plaindre des américains pour cinq minutes et de montrer un peu de determination pour une fois. Seulement une fois ! Ou est-ce que nous voulons passer le reste de nos vies se pleurnichant comme des souris apeurées devant une poignée de bigots violents qui pensent qu’ils ont le droit de se mettre le doigt en notre poitrine et de nous dire comment nous sommes autorisés de vivre, ce qui nous pouvons faire, dire et penser ou pas ? Je ne sais pas la position que vous occupez, mais celui qui me pose une telle question aura une réponse très courte. Et je vous donne un indice : il ne contiendra ni le mot “Allah” ni le mot “Akbar”. Paix. Ce serait sympa, n’est-ce pas ?

Maybe it’s different in many places but I did use some words and expressions that I remembered having seen in the video with French subtitles; ones which I just never would have thought of otherwise.

17th October 2018


If you’re wondering exactly what I mean in the title of this article, don’t worry; the following paragraph is devoted entirely to explaining it.

Some time ago (on 27th March 2018, to be exact) I wrote an article in which what I wrote arose purely from speculation as to what I would expect if I were to start learning a new language from scratch. If you have ever read it (or are going to now), maybe you’re wondering exactly what language it would be most likely to be. Maybe Dutch, considering how close it is to German, which I am actually fluent in. Which should hardly be a surprise when you bear in mind that German and Dutch belong to the same branch of languages (West Germanic). I say this because when I read the original Dutch lyrics in the Dutch national anthem in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwBrR_G70RE , I can’t help noticing how much it looks like German on the surface, so to speak; and yet I wondered just exactly what language / linguistic differences there are (in meaning if nothing else) between individual Dutch words and the German words that they immediately make me think of. For example, reading “ben ik” in this video immediately makes me think of “bin ich” in German, and the English translation that is also provided in the video confirms that “ben ik” does indeed mean “am I” / “I am” in English, just as German “bin ich” does. Or Dutch “van”, which immediately makes me think of “von” in German; again, the English translation is enough to confirm that this Dutch word does essentially mean “of” in English, just like German “von”.

Anyway, what I did here was write a German version of the Dutch national anthem which is supposed to parallel the original Dutch version as much as possible, all with the critique you would expect from a fully-fledged professional linguist – I do translate for a living, after all. Here goes:

Wilhelm von Nassouwe,
Bin ich, von niederländischen Blut
Dem Vaterland treu
Bleibe ich so bis mein Tod.
Einer Prinz von Orange,
Bin ich, frei, unverängstigt,
Den König von Spanien,
Habe ich immer geehrt.

Vor Gott verängstigt leben
Habe ich immer versucht

OK, here’s my first temporary interruption for the sake of critique. “Betracht” can pass for both a Dutch word and a German word – it is a past tense verb in both cases but consider this: in Dutch it means “exercised” in the sense of “practiced”, while in German it means “considered”, or something like “regarded”, which, depending on the context is not too far away at all. Now, while the German word “betracht” has a different meaning from the Dutch word “betracht”, I can just about agree that “To live in fear of God, I have always considered” is, in a nutshell, passable in this context. What do you think?

Dafür wurde ich verdrängen,
Um meines Landes, meines Volkes beraubt.

Right, I can imagine many people who speak German would say here that if the Dutch word “daarom” parallels any German word, it’s “darum”… and I must admit that “darum” can translate into English as “because of this” / “therefore” or words to that effect, even if I personally was inclined to think “about it” (while, I confess, not being able to provide any ready context). But I insisted on “dafür” anyway because I felt that this better hints at a reason as to why something has happened – strictly in the sense of someone having decided on something – than “darum” does. If you ask me, “darum” works better when referring to something that has happened as a result of a random situation which will be attributed more to fate than to purposeful action or decision.
And, apparently, the specific term “bereft” means “beraubt” in German – which, out of my own experience, I would today always be more inclined to translate as “robbed”. But in this video I see “bereft” provided as an English translation of Dutch “gebracht”. Fine – it’s just that I’ve always known “gebracht” to be a German word basically meaning “brought”… here, if we’re talking about the “bringing” of land or people, that just seems the complete opposite of what the Dutch lyrics of the Dutch national anthem would suggest! Mind you, I don’t think the Germans actually say “berauben um”, just “berauben”.

Aber Gott wird mich führen,
Als ein Güte-Instrument

Hmm… the German word for “but” is “aber”, while Dutch “maar” was something I compared more with “mais” in French. And is “zal” usually a standard component of the future tense in Dutch? Because when I read that I think of “soll” in German, which means “should” in English; but I suppose “But God should guide me” would not be too far off the mark if the speaker wanted to emphasise their faith in God. Finally, there’s “regeren”, which immediately made me think of “regieren” in German – but that means “govern” / “rule” in English rather than “direct” in the sense of “guide”. You see, this is what I mean by “looking for differences in similarities”. By the way, this is probably the most prominent example of what I have aimed to talk about in this article.

So dass ich wiederkehren kann
In mein Regiment.

Here we go again: with “Dat ik mag wederkeren”, I decided against putting “dass ich mag wiederkehren” in the German version, not just because it is grammatically incorrect anyway, but because – especially if there were no context to consider – I would translate “dass ich mag wiederkehren” into English as “because I want to return”. Mind you, having said that, that’s not too far from the content of this point in the Dutch national anthem. But – and this is the final point I bring up regarding these lines – when I saw “regiment” translated as “domain” I was a little bit surprised. Doesn’t “regiment” (in English at least) normally mean like a military grouping, whereas “domain” means “area” (like: “my place”) here?

Mein Schild und mein Betreuen,
Bist Du, O Gott mein Herr,

Basically, Dutch “betrouwen” made me think of “Betreuen” in German… do we agree that acts of “looking after” / “being in charge of something” (worth the label, at least) can in fact amount to “reliance”, in the sense of loyalty and selflessness if nothing else? Say what you will.

Auf Dich möchte ich verlassen,
Verlasse mich nie wieder.

From a personal perspective, “bouwen” makes me think more of the expression “bow [to someone]” in English (whether literally or figuratively) than any German word I could think of for relying on someone. I suppose, in a sense, it’s not that hard to associate bowing to someone with relying on them. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help agreeing that “nie wieder” is better German than “nie mehr”.

Dass ich noch wacker bleiben werden mag,
Und Dir dienstbereit aller Zeit stehe,

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is about looking for, and discussing, differences in similarities (between languages). That said, whatever Dutch “doch” means, German “doch” means “but” / “however” sort of thing. And whatever Dutch “mag” means, German “mag” essentially means “want” or “like”. Were I to insist on the more literal equivalent “Dass ich doch wacker bleiben mag”, well, for this I would put the (admittedly loose) equivalent of “That I want to remain brave in spite of everything” as an English translation of it. As for the second line, I have been thinking “und dir dienstbereit aller stehen” – basically: “and ready to serve you always”, if we treat the German word “aller” from a genitive perspective – not that “und dir dienstbereit aller stehen” is properly grammatical.

Die Tyrannei überwinden,
Die mein Herz durchdringt.

I could think of no close German equivalent for “verdrijven”, but so what? The word “überwinden” does a sound job. As for “doorwondt”, I provided “durchdringt” for that but there are other perfectly fitting “durch-” words.

11th November 2018

Everyone else says “Why?” I say “Why not”?


La Page Web Officielle sur Ninjas

Vrai Pouvoir Ultime

Salut, ce site s’agit de ninjas, VRAIS NINJAS. Ce site est impressionnant. Je m’appelle Robert et je ne peux pas cesser de réfléchir à ninjas. Ces mecs sont cools, et quand je dis cool je veux dire totalement frai.

Quelques faits :
1. Ninjas sont des mammifères.
2. Ninjas combattent TOUT le temps.
3. Le but du ninja est de flipper et tuer des gens.

Armes et équipement :
Épée de ninja
Étoiles de ninja
Tenue de ninja

Attestation :
Les ninjas peuvent tuer quiconque ils veulent tuer ! Ninjas décapitent TOUT le temps sans même y réfléchir deux fois. Ces mecs sont si cinglés et impressionnants qu’ils flippent TOUT le temps. J’ai entendu qu’il a eu ce ninja qui mangeait à un wagon-restaurant. Et quand un type a laissé tomber une cuillère, le ninja a tué la ville entière. Mon copain Mark a dit qu’il a vu un ninja donnant totalement un uppercut à un gamin seulement parce que le gamin a ouvert une fenêtre.

Et ça, c’est ce que j’appelle de VRAI Pouvoir Ultime !!!!!!!!!

Si tu ne crois pas que les ninjas aient de VRAI Pouvoir Ultime tu devrais gagner une vie toute de suite ou ils vont te décapiter ! C’est un choix facile, selon moi.

Ninjas sont siiiiiiiiiiii frais que je veux chier mon pantalon. Il y a quelques temps au cours desquels je ne peux pas le croire, mais je le sens en mon cœur. Ces mecs sont totalement frais et cela c’est un fait. Les ninjas sont vites, lisses, cools, forts, puissants et frais. J’ai hâte de commencer le yoga en l’année prochaine. J’adore les ninjas avec mon corps entier (incluant mon zizi).

Q et R :

Q : Pourquoi est-ce que chacun a une obsession avec les ninjas ?
R : Les ninjas sont le paradoxe ultime. D’une part, ils se fichent de tout, mais en revanche les ninjas sont très prudent et précis.

Q : J’ai entendu parler que les ninjas soient toujours cruels ou méchants. Leur problème c’est quoi ?
R : Celui qui vous a dit cela, qui qu’il soit, est un menteur total. Juste comme autres mammifères, les ninjas peuvent être méchants OU totalement impressionnants.

Q : Que font les ninjas quand ils ne décapitent ou flippent pas ?
R : Ils passent la plupart de leur temps libre à voler, mais parfois ils poignardent (parle à Mark si tu ne me crois pas).

Voici une image de mon copain meilleur, Mark, frimant. Il est beaucoup plus vieux que moi et presque fini avec la puberté, ce qui est vantable.

(Ne clique pas si tu es un bébé qui porte des couches et / ou tu as peur que tu chieras fortement et sans contrôle.)

[…] Établis un lien vers moi – coupe et colle la boîte de lien !

Tout le matériel ici est la propriété de Robert Hamburger. Donc ferme ta bouche ou je te tuerai.
Droits d’auteur 2013


Die Offizielle Ninja-Webseite

Echte Ultimative Kraft

Hallo, diese Seite geht um Ninjas, WAHRE NINJAS. Diese Seite ist genial. Ich heisse Robert und ich kann nicht aufhören, über Ninjas nachzudenken. Diese Type sind geil, und mit geil meine ich total frisch.

1. Ninjas sind Säugetiere.
2. Ninjas kämpfen ALLER Zeit.
3. Der Zweck des Ninjas ist auszuflippen und Leute zu töten.

Waffen und Ausrüstung:

Ninjas können irgendjemanden töten die sie wollen! Ninjas schlagen Köpfe ALLER Zeit ab, ohne sogar zweimal davon nachzudenken. Diese Type sind so verrückt und genial dass sie ALLER Zeit ausflippen. Ich habe von diesem Ninja gehört, der bei einem Speisewagen ass. Und wenn einer Typ einen Löffel fallen gelassen hat, hat der Ninja die ganze Stadt getötet. Meiner Freund Mark hat gesagt, er habe einen Ninja gesehen, der einem Kind total ein Uppercut gegeben habe nur weil der Kind ein Fenster geöffnet habe.


Wenn du nicht glaubst dass Ninjas Echte Ultimative Kraft haben dann solltest du sofort ein Leben bekommen oder sie werden dein Kopf abschlagen! Es ist eine einfache Wahl, meiner Meinung nach.

Ninjas sind soooooooo Frisch dass ich in meiner Hose kacken will. Bisweilen kann ich es nicht glauben, aber ich fühle es in meinem Herzen. Diese Type sind total genial und das ist ein Fakt. Ninjas sind schnell, glatt, cool, stark, kraftvoll und frisch. Ich kann kaum erwarten, nächstes Jahr mit Yoga zu beginnen. Ich liebe Ninjas mit all meinem Körper (einschliesslich meines Schwanzes).

F & A:

F: Warum ist jeder von Ninjas so besessen?
A: Ninjas sind das ultimative Paradox. Auf der einen Seite sind sie mit alles egal, aber auf der anderen Seite sind Ninjas sehr vorsichtig und präzise.

F: Ich habe gehört dass Ninjas immer grausam und gemein sind. Was ist ihr Problem?
A: Wer dir das gesagt hat, ist ein totaler Lügner. Ganz wie andere Säugetiere, Ninjas können gemein ODER total genial sein.

F: Was machen Ninjas wenn sie nicht Köpfe abschlagen oder ausflippen?
A: Das Meiste ihrer Freizeit wird mit Fliegen verbracht, aber bisweilen stechen sie. (Frage Mark wenn du mich nicht glaubst.)

Dies ist ein Bild meines Freundes Mark, wobei er protzt. Er ist viel älter als mich und fast mit der Pubertät fertig, welch prahlerisch ist.

(Klicke nicht wenn du ein windeltragendes Baby bist und / oder du davor Angst hast, dass du starkes und unkontrollierbares Kacken tun wirst.)

[…] Verknüpfe mit mir, durch Ausschneiden und Einfügen des Linkkastens!

Alles Material hier ist Eigentum von Robert Hamburger. Also halte den Mund oder ich werde dich töten.
Urheberrechte 2013

30th November 2018

What I wrote and posted on the night of 30th November 2018, I did it while totally drunk – I had just suffered a break-up. I’ve just about gotten over it now. But looking back on it, you see that I am capable of high quality translation work even in that state of mind. Not that I would ever drink alcohol while doing my work, of course. And there’s another, “better” (for want of a better word) blog on the way.

2nd December 2018


I take my work as a professional translator seriously. Indeed, ever since I heard it said (and rightly so) that journalists give a voice to the voiceless, I have started to view wholeheartedly that the same can be said of translation. That said, the question “to judge or not to judge?” is easy to associate with moments when you realise that “paying attention” isn’t enough. We like to believe that paying attention, like “everything else”, gets easier the more we do it, but you can do it and still fail to understand the significance / message of something; and so this is a question which, I believe, should be on the tip of every professional translator’s tongue. After all, failing to get something can lead to the matter in question not making sense to a person… and external matters, as well! There is no denying that a proper education is the thing most likely to prevent this.

Maybe to some this sounds like an overly obvious point, but when you translate professionally you can be sure of translating stuff which is someone else’s business and clearly in no way yours – is it really any wonder that my own career as one has started to make me view my whole life in a wholly new way? Like, now I realise how much I interact with in my own everyday life that I never consider anyone other than me judging (however fairly), and how this may in fact reflect a mentality which may encourage others to believe that I am selfish or arrogant. Or things I interact with / do which others may falsely believe I don’t judge, or maybe they think I judge these things more than them when I just don’t… but why? …At the end of the day, the history of your own mentality, as well as that of others, can always be engrossing / intriguing. Is it just me or can memories (or, indeed, awareness of them) be as important as a plan? Now I think about it, I guess that’s a question I have been pondering for a very long time.

As part of this article I had thought of recruiting two people to do separate translations of a single piece of material written in a language I don’t understand and then comparing (or should that be judging?) them – but not purely for the sake of deciding which is “better”. However, I would later decide that it wouldn’t do as good a job explaining the term “bias” in connection with translation work, as well as this does https://www.ranker.com/crowdranked-list/annoying-celebrities-who-should-just-go-away-already It is kind of amusing that, in addition to many celebrities who would likely be quick to insist that there are very good reasons as to why they should be labelled popular and liked (not necessarily reflecting a lack of humility as they do so), the list also includes both the current US President Donald Trump and Osama Bin Laden. I’m just saying that the labels people give to things, if the basic concept of difference of opinion is anything to go by, are seldom consistent from person to person. Indeed, on another list of annoying celebrities I saw somewhere else on the net, it included both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, which is a clear example of how you can certainly expect the exact criteria to vary, unlike (for this is ultimately supposed to be a blog about language) dictionary definitions, even if their wording will vary slightly. Just as there’s no limit to the number of categories a person can like or hate at some kind of genuinely significant level. And people are fickle – I mean, as if Osama Bin Laden was really thought of as a “celebrity” or merely “annoying” in the first days after 9/11 happened. How has it come to pass?

The truth is, whether you like it or not, in translation work, biases and judgement of the original speaker, biases and judgement of the translator, and even biases and judgement of the recipient, all shape the output – or rather, success – of translation; so if you have ever done translation I now suggest that you ask yourself how good of a judge of bias you really are (both those of others and your own). Subjective biases are one thing, but objective ones can also form based on certain personal experiences in the past; it depends on what you have become used to; what has become normal to you as an individual. That said, we certainly don’t all think the same, and sometimes we’re forced to accept that, or are reminded of it, in a way that just might be shocking or upsetting. Yet, for the sake of appreciation of translation as an art, it can also be a source of humour or even spiritual understanding.

I would be grateful to anyone for agreeing that translators are people who are likely to be expected to “get something” in a text where there isn’t actually anything real to get. I mean, as an example, a real faux pas and a fake faux pas in speech (designed to mislead and deceive someone by furnishing an incorrect idea about the person saying it) will seldom if ever be able to be clearly differentiated in writing or speech – I suppose, if anything, you should look more for very subtle hints in the person’s actions, such as their body language. But, getting back to the topic at hand, this is the basic concept of sometimes indeterminate irrationality in language – don’t you just agree that irrationality can be born of misunderstanding a misunderstanding?

Have a nice day.

7th December 2018


It is a fact that lots of people are familiar with and enjoy the family-friendly TV game show Countdown. I know I do; I have watched episodes of it archived on Youtube playing the role of a contestant. It’s just what I do for leisure sometimes. That said, this is the point where I state, quite immodestly, that, in the words game, I usually come up with words at least six letters long. And I got to thinking that my talent as a real linguist might well likely be a key factor in this regard. And I was quite happy to write a business blog relating the two; if you don’t mind reading random ramblings rather than a properly planned and structured essay.

However, I’m not so good at the conundrums at the end, where there’s a collection of nine letters with which it is always possible to make (at least) one nine-letter word. The question is whether you can work it out in thirty seconds. That’s where I stumble. Could I get better at it? The link above is to a video featuring only conundrums. Personally, I would find it nice if I could get better at it, as trivial a matter as it is. And that’s the reason why I have actually developed a habit of making a note of whether words I come across, or just cross my mind, have nine letters in them. Sure, it’s a silly thing to do, but what other starting points are there?

If I were recruited to come up with words for Countdown conundrums, I know I would make a point of ensuring that most of them didn’t share common endings, such as “-ed” or “-ing” in the case of verbs, or “-ly” in the case of adverbs. There are lots of nouns which end in “-tion”, and many nouns and adjectives end in “-ent”, just as there are lots of verbs which end in “-ate” or “-ise”. Now let’s look at the concept of giving hints which are not just dead giveaways, like “something you kiss under” if the answer were “mistletoe”. How helpful are hints as to the meaning of a given word in a conundrum likely to be on a more general level anyway? And look at what I argued above – if you take the hypothetical hint “it’s an adverb”… just about all adverbs end in “-ly”, don’t they? Meanwhile, I don’t think saying which letter comes first or last or whatever will destroy the challenge element too much.

Of course, I usually write blogs with much more meaningful substance than this. Consider that I’m just killing time while I wait for the confirmation that this new project I expressed an interest in has been assigned to me. I look forward to doing translation work again.

9th December 2018


When I posted a blog about Countdown yesterday, one thing I really should have made some mention of is what follows. It’s to do with the invention of new words.

This other Countdown video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-c4vCrzraI is enough to make it clear that we can’t all be on the same level in the word game (or, indeed, the numbers game, but that’s another subject). I remember playing Countdown when I was much younger, and back then I could manage only words of four or five letters regularly when the playing the words game; I simply wasn’t as good at it as I am now. And it’s fair to say that I envied people on par with this Andy Platt bloke, but never mind him. Back then, I may have felt inclined to make up words with the letters that actually were available in a given round of the letters game, to “compensate” – some of them, if not all, loosely revolving around real words. As an example of what I mean by that: “empossiblate” is not a real word, but I would suggest that it’s easy to imagine what it’s supposed to mean. A transitive verb meaning, essentially, to make something – or a given course of action or procedure, depending on how you want to look at it – possible.

But new words invented in a context like this are, put crudely, just not the same as new words which were actually inspired by real life when they were invented. Like “mansplaining”, which is a relatively new word that anyone can see has elements of “man” and “explaining” in it. I can certainly understand how it caught on i.e. promoting the cause of getting men to treat women with the respect they deserve. But my argument here is that words invented in the latter kind of context would have more substance than words invented in the former kind of context, because they are rooted in real life experiences rather than just theories as to what could “work”, only without any real-world information or experiences to back them up for real. So if you had a habit of making up words invented in the former kind of context here, how likely is it that it would delude you as to how intelligent you are?

10th December 2018

About the author

I am a self-employed translator with the following language pairs: French to English and German to English. I work from home - I am based in Crowthorne. Berkshire.
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