Translating Trump: A ‘dirty’ job but someone has to do it

Donald Trump’s use of the word “sh-thole” has sparked fury in some quarters and left many media scratching their heads on whether to repeat the slur.

The Japan Times is having a look at the non-English language media outlets that had to translate the president’s colorful epithet into local languages.



Lithub solved the mystery of the 1901 icelandic edition of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. A fascinating story about a literary discovery hidden in plain sight: “Certainly the most surprising and intriguing Dracula-related discovery of this still-young century is the unearthing of the novel’s Icelandic sister. Its title, Makt Myrkranna (Powers of Darkness), has been known to Dracula experts since 1986, when literary researcher Richard Dalby reported on the 1901 Icelandic edition and on its preface, apparently written specifically for it by Stoker himself.
Ever since Dalby published an English translation of this foreword, it has been the subject of literary speculation, as it mentions the Ripper Murders—although Jack the Ripper was never described in the 1897 English edition of Dracula.”

That’s where it gets interesting. Read on over here.

Translators without Borders

Originally founded in 1993 in France as Traducteurs sans Frontières by Lori Thicke and Ros Smith-Thomas to link the world’s translators to vetted NGOs that focus on health, nutrition and education, Translators without Borders (TWB) is a U.S. non-profit organization that aims to close the language gaps that hinder critical humanitarian efforts worldwide.
The effectiveness of any aid program depends on delivering information in the language of the affected population. By maintaining a global network of professional translators, TWB helps non-profit organizations overcome communication barriers, increasing access to critical information and services while fostering a climate of understanding, respect and dignity in times of great need.

Since 2011, TWB has increased its translation capabilities from just a few languages to more than 190 language pairs. TWB currently works with over 3,800 translators and has translated over 40 million words as part of humanitarian crisis response, and health and education services.

Translators without Borders is a non-profit organization supported entirely through volunteers, grant funders and generous donors and sponsors. We invite you to learn more about their work and join their efforts.

A Few Thoughts on Comics Translation


Marc-Oliver Frisch, who has translated works of Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman or The Walking Dead, writes on his blog: “Due to its formal constraints, comics translation probably has more in common with subtitling or dubbing than with regular prose translation. With limited space available, the length of the text is crucial, of course, and German words and sentences tend to be longer than their English equivalents, often substantially so. Consequently, there’s often no room to use what might seem like the best translation if space were of no concern.

Then again, the fact that the formal restrictions eliminate certain solutions forces you to be creative in a way that prose translation doesn’t. It encourages you to take liberties with the text that you otherwise might not, and to look for solutions in places that might seem unlikely at first. It’s a challenge that can be frustrating, but it’s also a huge part of the appeal of comics translation.”

Read on…

Image above from Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 3 #1-2, (C) by Marvel Comics

Talking about comics, here’s a page from Spider-Man vs. Wolverine (Marvel Comics, 1987). Spider-Man climbs over the Berlin Wall and the writer had some jolly good fun with his dictionary.


How do we measure language fluency?

language fluency

“The first and central culprit is the idea that fluency is an absolute status, that the world of each language is divided into two groups: “fluent” and “non-fluent”. But here’s a brief example of how muddy these waters can actually be: if I am born in Moscow, but then move to Toronto at 14 and never speak a word of Russian again for the rest of my life, am I still fluent at 89? Language is a living thing; it always happens within a context and relative to that context, and those contexts often do not have any exterior criteria by which they could be termed standard.”

From “Let’s Bust Some Myths About Fluency” by Noah Harley, a short essay over at

Babbel Voices | Myths of Fluency

Wikipedia says: “Language fluency is used informally to denote broadly a high level of language proficiency, most typically foreign language or another learned language, and more narrowly to denote fluid language use, as opposed to slow, halting use. ”

Lesson Planet: Ready . . . Set . . . Read! Teaching Reading Fluency – There are many activities and lesson ideas that teachers can use to reinforce reading fluency skills.

Image lifted from Almost Fearless.

Selfie: Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year

Oxford Dictionaries recently named selfie its word of the year. The announcement was greeted with derision from some quarters and approval from others. Indeed there have been few neutral parties in the war over the word selfie.

But away from the investigations of the word’s more troubling implications of an increasingly self-involved and narcissistic culture, I found myself thinking that the entire decision was really quite fitting. In fact, I had cause to look it up myself recently on the Oxford Dictionaries website: I ended up proofreading/editing some advertising copy for a German auto manufacturer, which referred to “Taking a selfy.” “Selfie with a Y,” I thought, “that can’t possibly be right.” Over I went to Oxford Dictionaries, which confirmed that the correct spelling was indeed the version with an “ie” at the end of it. I made the appropriate changes and thought little more of it, but upon reading Oxford Dictionaries’ announcement I was surprised to learn that the “y” version of the word had once also been in circulation before being eclipsed by the seemingly inescapable “ie” variant of the word. So I guess my friends in the auto industry weren’t completely making it up when the spelled selfie as “selfy.”

However, as the Oxford Dictionaries article implies, a firm pattern for usage has now been established. They are not alone in this: The American Heritage Dictionary website too provides a definition of selfie. The Associated Press also joined the action recently, with its Stylebook team answering a question on the use of the term. They advised using the term “without quotes now that it’s understood.” So there you have it: Love it or hate it, selfie has made it into the English-language establishment.