Archives for English Language

How do I become a Police Interpreter?

ChristianIt was years ago when an old colleague asked me what I planned for my future. Surprised by his question and knowing that he was passionate about computers I said I liked the English language. He laughed saying, “I could make a future for myself with my computer – what future could you make with your English?” That was more than 20 years ago, back in my native country.

I eventually made the decision to live in the UK and have been settled here for the past 13 years. During that time I have made a lot of English friends who visited my country for my wedding, where I acted as their interpreter. I felt important; I was their communication bridge.

It was then I realized that being fluent in English was not enough. It was difficult to process quickly in my head the English language into my native language and vice versa. Although I thought I had “good English”, that seemed not to be sufficient. I had a passion for the language and I had to find a way to improve my abilities. …read more

Localising Election 2015 messages

union jack umbrella London in the rainSpeculation about the role of the Scottish National Party after Election Day on 7 May has got me thinking about how a higher profile for Scottish MPs at Westminster might just benefit the translation and interpreting sector. For a start, we might find some new untranslatables making an appearance:Movie A Dog’s Purpose (2017)

Dreich is the Scots shorthand for dark and dreary days of bleak, cold and depressing rain. That should work well for English and Welsh voters too! Smirring is an altogether gentler rain although responsible for some real bad hair days. Most women could make good use of a (printable) word to describe that fine, drizzling wet you can’t quite see, that comes with a powerful frizz action.

When you give something a shuggle you shake it about, or loosen it up a bit. Perhaps a new, post-election coinage might encapsulate politicians shuggling along together in coalition?

For all those voters who keep changing their minds, there’s swithering, which is almost onomatopoeic. And lastly, there’s my particular favourite: wabbit, a unique mix of tired and exhausted, defined by a Glaswegian friend as feeling ironed to the bed sheets. A fair few politicians might find that a useful term come May 8.

So, I’m looking forward to an injection of vividly descriptive new words for our translators to get their heads round. Can we also anticipate a run on our localisation services? After all, whatever the precise outcome of the election, it’s a fair bet that many of the new MPs, regardless of party, will have a worldview and familiar cultural references very different from the current Westminster bubble.

As someone who pays close attention to just how connected politicians are to the electorate, I can’t help wondering where the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon gets her messages? In Scotland, when people talk of getting the messages, they’re not talking focus groups and hard-working families. No, in Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Fort William, getting the messages means you’re just popping off to Tesco or the Co-op, not taking in the kind of electioneering designed to persuade us that our politicians really do know the price of a pint of milk!

This carefully localised message was crafted for a British audience by me, Tess Wright, Cintra Translation’s CEO. Our translators and interpreters are experts in localising your marketing materials wherever in the world you do business.

Photo Credit: Thank you to pjohnkeane via Compfight cc

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No English here, please – we’re Indian!

elephant eyeAfter my last post on whether English is losing its position as the lingua franca, it was fascinating to hear that India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, wants Hindi to be more prominent in India and has ordered civil servants to use it on Facebook and Twitter, rather than English.

English was once, of course, the language of government and the elite in India, but Mr Modi insists on using Hindi in his meetings with world leaders and for major speeches.

Fair enough, you may think – this is India, after all – but is he swimming against the linguistic tide?

That was Kate Adie’s question in her intro to Craig Jeffrey’s piece in From Our Own Correspondent on Radio 4 (you can catch it here –   – 23.25 minutes in)

Craig Jeffrey says that English is resurgent in India – Indians frequently drop English words and phrases into their everyday speech, even when there are perfectly good equivalent words in Hindi, Bengali or Gujarati.

It’s wrong to call this ‘Hinglish’ he says – it’s not just a passive use of English, but a creative reinvention, with new coinages and expressive, inventive usage.

For example, ‘tension’ is used as a noun (don’t give me tension), a verb (don’t tension me) and even an adjective (that was a very tension exam).  And there’s even an Indian version of rhyming slang in use!

It seems likely that Mr Modi – like the grammar police in this country, and the Academie francaise – is doomed to fight a losing battle.  People everywhere will carry on using whatever language they like, and there’s very little officialdom can do to stop them.  There are signs that the Academie is recognising this – last year they even elected an Englishman, Michael Edwards, as an Immortel!

Tess Wright, Chief Executive


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Will English lose out as the lingua franca?

16th century Holy Roman Emperor Charles V apparently said that he spoke Latin with God, Italian with musicians, Spanish with his troops, German with lackeys, French with ladies and – wait for it – English with his horses!

Obviously, he would not have believed it possible that the English language he dismissed so rudely would become the language of choice for businesses and people all over the world, looking for a common language in which they could communicate with each other.

The Last Lingua Franca Nocholas OstlerAccording to Nicholas Ostler, however, this situation won’t last.  In his book ‘The last lingua franca‘, Ostler – President of the Foundation for Endangered Languages – argues that English will lose its dominant place and no other single language is likely to replace it.

His point is that there have been many equally powerful languages throughout history – Greek and Latin are prime examples – and they eventually die away.  Others say that English has no serious competition, and it is spoken by choice rather than conquest, so is likely to keep its pre-eminence.

Ostler disagrees, saying its influence will decline as Anglo-American power diminishes, and no other language will be strong enough to replace it, so people will fall back on their own languages.

Perhaps the good news, if this happens, is that the need for translation services will never die!

You can get the book here — and through all good bookshops.

Tess Wright, Chief Executive




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