Wry observations and rantettes

What's happening at Chris Poole Translation




In 2009 a snarky Alabama uni student published a little collection of contributions to her FB page "I judge you when you use poor grammar", as a book, of internet posts....anyway, "trespass" as a transitive verb has wide currency in New Zealand and in Utah too apparently.

Am I petty? You Betty! It's a Snarknado!


Professional Development

time spent

As a provider of spontaneously required yet critically important language support, I often have to go looking for practitioners who are new to us at a moment's notice. I turn to the NAATI directory of course. It isn't everybody, but it's a lot.

One by one I click through, hoping to find someone available, competent and with an hourly rate that will make the job work for everyone and what do I find? Lots of names, but no means of contacting them! People who have paid the substantial price in dollars and time to become Certified, had their name listed for all the world to see, and all the world - like me - might be keen to stuff cash into their pocket, but they'll never know!

I won't mention the language, but of 71 interpreters listed and apparently in Melbourne, only 31 had the nous to add their phone number or email address...and only two mentioned what suburb they were in.

In all the years I have been dealing with people in this industry I have never really see a break from whinging about their low levels of income, and yet is it any wonder? Guys, if you want to make money, AT LEAST paint a target on your wallet!


Translators translate and interpreters are obstinate and uninformed


George Campbell Macaulay (6 August 1852 – 6 July 1915), also known as G. C. Macaulay, was a noted English classical scholar who produced a translation of Herodotus’ “The Histories” in 1890.

Aubrey de Sélincourt (7 June 1894 – 20 December 1962) was an English writer, classical scholar, and translator. Chiefly remembered for his translations of Herodotus' The Histories (1954), as well as Arrian's Life of Alexander the Great (1958), and Livy's The Early History of Rome among other works.

In The Histories both of these translators produced this sentence below, in Book One, describing the method of construction of the Great Pyramid of Cheops:


“On the pyramid it is declared in Egyptian writing how much was spent on radishes and onions and leeks for the workmen, and if I rightly remember that which the interpreter said in reading to me this inscription, a sum of one thousand six hundred talents of silver was spent…”

It is a good 15 years since I explained how uninformed and insular it is for the T&I profession to loudly claim that “translators translate written texts while interpreters translate speech” and then confect exasperation every time they encounter a departure from this apparently arbitrary ruling. It is in complete conflict with so much real world evidence, including in this case two of the English speaking world’s most illustrious translators themselves.

I look forward to the day that translators and interpreters stop gazing at their navels, look outwards and start learning about the world they live in.


Ezidi refugees in Armidale say gap in language translation service impacts health care


Here is an article from the ABC. I've read it twice, but something seems off.


"Every day we have clients calling us to assist them with translations, but we're not allowed because we don't have our own language recognised," Mr Qaro said.

"not allowed"?? Do they imagine that NAATI maintains some sort of flying squad of enforcers? Do they weigh health outcomes for people to whom they are so positively disposed that they will help them "flee a genocide" but that they are too scared to transgress the vague insinuations of an Australian Government QANGO?

And do they imagine that NAATI has some kind of interpreter tree in their backyard from which practitioners for any language can be plucked and distributed Australia-wide like ripe fruit, but for some twisted reason they are hoarding them all at the expense of the refugees?

Someone please give them better advice..


Don Quixote


Earlier this year I finished reading “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha” which is not the world’s first novel, “The Tale of Genji” is.

It is though one of the most translated works in history and that makes the following quote from it all the more meta. Do YOU feel underappreciated as a translator? Don Quixotes is likewise outraged at this injustice!

 “Body o’ me,” exclaimed Don Quixote, “what a proficient you are in the Italian language! I would lay a good wager that where they say in Italian piace you say in Spanish place, and where they say piu you say mas, and you translate  by arriba and giù by abajo.”

“I translate them so of course,” said the author, “for those are their proper equivalents.”

“I would venture to swear,” said Don Quixote, “that your worship is not known in the world, which always begrudges their reward to rare wits and praiseworthy labours. What talents lie wasted there! What genius thrust away into corners! What worth left neglected! Still it seems to me that translation from one language into another, if it be not from the queens of languages, the Greek and the Latin, is like looking at Flemish tapestries on the wrong side; for though the figures are visible, they are full of threads that make them indistinct, and they do not show with the smoothness and brightness of the right side; and translation from easy languages argues neither ingenuity nor command of words, any more than transcribing or copying out one document from another. But I do not mean by this to draw the inference that no credit is to be allowed for the work of translating, for a man may employ himself in ways worse and less profitable to himself.”


Ozterps Simultaneous Interpreting Workshop


In December my grate frend Heather Glass advised that she was considering travelling from Perth to participate in a workshop to be held over three days in February for which she needed at least one other Japanese speaking “language partner”. This was because it was a simultaneous interpreting workshop to be held in the brand new (only one pandemic old) four booth facility at RMIT.

I thought “I’ll have a slice of that!” and blocked out those three days for Emily and I.

The organisers with the mildly bogan name of “OzTerps” are actually these two gorgeous and highly trained superstars Jemma Ives and Rebeca Spanish translators.

(With a sigh I must insert here the standard advice that by “translator” I mean to refer to translation in all modes, written, signed and spoken and without limiting it in any sense to this or that kind of setting, industry or source of funding, and add further that this usage of the word “translator” is supported by every dictionary you’ve ever seen etc etc.)

The plan, the very organised plan (they are also very organised) was four sessions a day with breaks and lunch interspersed, of people presenting speeches, others interpreting them simultaneously, others relaying those into other language, and still more others listening as though paying delegates. (We had all been asked to prepare four speeches, two in each of our A and B languages.)

After each speech we would gather and review each other’s performance and we had been provided with feedback guidelines.

Three days is a long time to spend doing stuff you always mean to get round to doing but never do!

It was bracing, it was a jolt. I was forced out of the comfort zone I had carefully constructed around my 63-year-old work habits and exposed my weaknesses in front of those scheming and vindictive people to whom I feel the most love and affection. This of course led me to overcompensate for this by asserting myself vigorously in the subsequent struggle sessions and I even went so far as to propose activities alternative to those on the program.

The net result however was unambiguously developmental. It laid bare and in detail many areas in which I need to improve; it led me (at least) to start thinking of various things I could do to improve my skills and these workshops.

Halfway through we started to record everything and although I have boxes of tapes of me (and others) working in the booth and court and police interviews going back years, who gets the time to sit around and analyse them? Not to mention with a bunch of like minded people all with highly pertinent comments to contribute. This was the true luxury, spend a whole week just talking about nouns, verbs and adjectives, and how best to arrange them so as to achieve a particular effect or outcome. So many perspectives and inputs, especially from other language groups like Spanish, Arabic and Chinese.

I had a great time and would have it again.

Some photo are down the bottom of our photo album:



Sign Language Interpreter sacked because of race


Keith Wann, a sign language interpreter working in American Sign Language (ASL) is suing a theatre accessibility programme after claiming he was fired from the Broadway production of The Lion King for being white.

It is alleged that it was a form of appropriation for a white person to be signing for a black character.

What other attributes of an interlocuter will interpreters be expected to manifest before being granted access to gainful employment? Deafness?


National Standards for Interpreters Working in Australian Courts and Tribunals


The translation an interpreting industry is right to be excited about the launch of these standards for practitioners working in courts and tribunals. But it is also an opporunity to criticise from the point of view of professional practice. That's what I did back in 2016. 

Here are the standards.



Yang Jiang 1911 – 2016


Two months ago renowned Chinese translator Yang Jiang passed away. Noted in the English speaking world for her memoir of life as an exiled intellectual during the Cultural Revolution, this book was translated into English by Howard Goldblatt, and was entitled in English 'Six Chapters from My Life Downunder'

Australia won the race to own the expression ‘Downunder’, but she (or he) was modelling the title on another work of Chinese literature ‘Six Records of a Floating Life’ – a description of day-to-day life in the form of an autobiography of the Qing Dynasty writer Shen Fù. This title was in turn referencing a line from a poem by the Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai: ‘The floating life is but as a dream; how much longer can we enjoy our happiness?’

If the Chinese title of Yang Jiang’s book is examined in Google translate however, ‘from My Life “Downunder”’ simply comes up as ‘cadre’, and ‘Floating Life’ was the title of a 1996 Australian film about a Hong Kong family who moves to Australia.


AEC under fire for conduct of the election


The letters page of The Age includes a lot of criticism of the manning levels, long queues and generally long time taken to vote.

My mother has worked as an electoral officer for the past four years, but for unrelated reasons didn’t sign up this year. She did however run into the chap that has run the local voting booth all that time, and stood with him observing the scene. He was able to offer some explanation.

Apparently this year an effort was made to hire people with “language skills”. But as he noted, this had come at the expense of the skills required to process people efficiently at a voting booth.

There are other problems with this as well generally invisible to the powers that be.

Firstly “language skills” is a vague description, it generally means that a person is a native speaker of the language spoken by a significant proportion of local residents, who may otherwise lack English proficiency.

It is completely different from proficiency in translation and is no guarantee whatsoever of their being able to perform the duties in that language that they would otherwise be required to in English.

It is also likely to lead to inequitable treatment of some language communities as it is notoriously difficult to predict or manage the very wide spread of languages found in various parts of Australia.


Just the connective tissue


I heard once that to ensure their product is the same wherever you go in the world, McDonalds buy local beef, and run it under chilled water until there is nothing left but collagen, which they then replenish with their carefully designed flavour.

That was rubbish, it turns out, but still, this guy has done something similar with great literature!



“I have studied English literature”


Said the North Korean interrogator to the detained BBC journalist.

I can’t work out whether this was a method of trumping up charges, or whether studying English literature could be so useless.



Entry Level Copywriting


I kind of hope they moved onto more challenging and rewarding forms of literature like graduate resumes.

Entry level copy writing

Language lessons from The Hateful Eight


Still feel a bit oomy after watching it last night. It’s a “Feel oomy movie”.

But leaving aside the more broadly themed criticisms of plot structure (pretty good) acting (overbaked), there were a couple of interesting linguistic points. I was completely unaware of the historical connotations attached to the expression “Lost cause”, but now I’m not, thanks to Wikipedia.

Then at one point one character asks another if they’re not being “paranoid”. This is an “anachronism” as the word was coined around the turn of the century, well after the setting of the movie and before all fun was destroyed by my pedantry.




“Can’t you just translate it?” is often the response when we go back to a client with an ambiguity that needs to be clarified. This for example. Until we know who did what to or with whom and where this may have taken place, we simply can’t choose words in the target language, let alone build a sentence.


I can vouch for this


We were camped near Pine Creek, first night out of Darwin, interpreting for the Osaka Sangyo University Team on the Solar car race 1991 and a wizened Chinese woman approached from the General Store over the road as I was breaking up wood for a fire. The first words out of her mouth completely threw me. It was the broadest croakiest Aussie English “Do you want an axe, love?” It was cognitive dissonance, and here is a video breaking it down to the “McGurk Effect”.


A skulker


I bet the journalists can barely contain their enthusiasm.

Legitimate grounds for using the word “skulk”, and use it a lot! There's even photos.

Here’s to neglected words.


Getting 51% of words in edgeways


This research paper analyzes Disney Movies to see how it teaches little girls to keep talking, or not. You can't just look at how many words they get to say. I mean, are they in the right order?




According to Wikipedia this is “..a form of cant slang used in Britain by actors, circus and fairground showmen, merchant navy sailors, criminals, prostitutes, and the gay subculture.”

It died out in the 60s naturally though assisted by the view, as homosexuality was decriminalized in the UK, that there was no need to hide anymore.

Those were the days, when people happily abandoned linguistic affectation in order to join the mainstream..

Anyway, here is a short film entirely in Polari. See if you can understand it.


Do they think we are psychopathic morons? Yes.


Translators have to make words work. Why else did we get the call in the first place if not to change the world the way our client wants it changed?

But the function of words can be diminished by factors other than too little fluency.

If you say or hear a word too many times it can lose it’s meaning altogether. If we think about it we know what it means, but meaning does not normally require reflection. Instead we start to hear it as a sound only, much the same way it must appear to people who do not speak that language.

(This phenomenon goes by a variety of names)

Then there is desensitization. For example it is common for news broadcasts to slip in a value judgement when reporting an instance of cruelty or violence by reporting it - smoothly, with no pause or sign that the announcer is personally experiencing these emotions – as a “sickening attack” or “vile assault”. You can search for the terms to see. Bashing pensioners, kicking quokkas. The news organizations think we need to be told how bad these events are. We wouldn’t know otherwise I guess.


The Age again


Killin it literacy-wise.

It clearly says "duck".

The Age again

Arrival of the wallists.


Our intern knows a bit of French, and so I had her go through this performance by Fellag called ‘Un bateau pour l’Australie’ (A boat to Australia) which, although mentioning Australia in the title, uses it only as a symbol of hope for the Algerian “hittiste”.

This is an Arabic word given to those young people who are unemployed and wait, “backs against the wall”, “hitt” being “wall” in the Algerian dialect. Otherwise known as “muriste” in standard French.

The reference recalls an incident in 1987 when a rumour gripped Algeria that Australia was sending boats for these people, to whom jobs and money would be offered back in Australia. There was a riot outside the embassy.

These dreams are now coming true in Europe.


Glossary of T&I terms


Translators and interpreters don’t “use” dictionaries – they write them!

Well I did. I got sick and tired of people not knowing the meaning of all the technical terms applicable to the occupation of translation and interpreting.

So here is our glossary. If I use one of these words, this is what I mean.


New Word Competition


My Facebook friend invited people to invent a word that means

“a stupid complaint about something by a single person or small group of people that goes viral and engenders a massive outraged counter-response by people thinking they're reacting to an equally massive number of complainers.”

Here are my entries

Grass root movement
Pain in the mass
Cry meedom
Squeaking truth to power


Like Left and Right


Oh god you’d think after memorizing Japanese for “Intracranial Haemorrhage” and “Non-Valvular Atrial Fibrillation” and “Systemic Embolism” that I would also be able to remember which was which out of “veins” and “arteries”. But no. Just as bad as “volts” and “amps”.


Japanese English


There are many variants of English, with words used in one in ways that mean nothing or the opposite to people from another.

For example, in the Japan Times it always confused me when they used the word “slated”, because in Australia that means that someone was criticised mercilessly. But not in Japan. Also, I have no idea what the word “tapped” means in this article. Which incidentally is very exciting news.


We'll see who's right about this..


I always thought it was about placating a child, reassuring them that they would have fun on the roundabout that they didn't have on the swings, but it's actually from the point of view of the fairground operator, who might lose money on one thing but make up for it on another.


George Orwell's predictions


As a parent rep on our High School council I sometimes struggle to even understand what’s going on. In the education industry words sometimes acquire meanings which are the opposite of what we would assume outside the school gates.

For example they were discussing a “Student leadership course”, and various students that teachers thought would benefit from this course, and who they thought they needed to approach and encourage to participate, and how they thought they might not succeed in persuading them.

If a kid has to be dragged to a “leadership course”, they are never going to be a leader, unless of course the meaning of the word has been inverted.




Lorrainne is the wife of my first ever boss. I have known her since I was three. Her people came from Bendigo. She remembers as a little girl visiting her Grandmother and how her great Grandfather – then at a very advanced age - was not allowed to smoke and money was withheld to enforce this ban.

But he would say to the five year old Lorraine “Let’s go get some baccie money” and would fossick in the creek until he had enough gold nuggets to buy a pouch.

Wresting alluvium from the very earth to swap for drugs.

In South Africa though a “bakkie” is a ute.


Antiques Roadshow at the British Museum


Discussed the oldest known chess set in Europe and had this to say about the Queen:

“Now I’m already liking her”

“Well you shouldn’t, when you look at her more closely she is clearly a pain in the neck. She’s very very gloomy, sitting with her head in her hands. Looking miserable.”

“And why does she look like that?”

“Well, we think, that around 1200 if you wanted to be thought intellectual, and wise, you looked kind of fed up and gloomy.”

So, hats off to your modern Goth for historical accuracy!

Goth queen

I just edited Wikipedia


“HRT” can stand for “Hormone Replacement Therapy”, but if you are into language it stands for “High Rising Terminal”, or what Christopher Hitchens called “Uptalk”.

That upwards inflection that so many pocket linguists like to claim as unique to their own nation. Wikipedia is fairly thorough but reserves judgement on its origins, mentioning that it may have started as far back as WWII, and speculating on whether it is a Californian thing, or perhaps driven by Australian soap operas.

But they missed this reference in a 1963 article by Terry Southern “… that oddly rising inflection peculiar to girls of the South, making parts of a reply sound like a question.”

If you want to hear a lot of this, just tune into any RRR interview where some performance artist or curator seems to beg for approval with every utterance.




So many problems encountered while translating, are mere facsimiles of problems that occur within the one language. A good example is getting confused or tongue tied when you trip over a cluster of personal pronouns. Remembering who is who in the space of a second when various people are referring to others, can confuse the hell out of me.

Going to the Bowie exhibition brought this to mind, watching him sing Starman on the Top of the Pops, and in particular this line:

“He’d like to come and see us but he thinks he’d blow our minds”

Five pronouns in fourteen words. That’s tricky to say, let alone interpret.

I wish the exhibition had been more chronological so that we could just have stalked out after “Heroes”.


‘Netflix and chill’


This has become one of the most successful, though unintended, marketing campaigns in the history of the everything. Check Urban Dictionary for the meaning, but now check out this fun exercise of asking for the equivalent in many Asian languages.

Hey, could be useful?


Can failure to use translators harm vulnerable people?


The public love a manhunt.


The public love a manhunt. As I write, the Stocco father and son bush rangers are being spotted all over rural Victoria and NSW. On an ABC radio news bulletin they slipped in a sound bite from one of the investigating detectives who was, in a blokey way, explaining their MO, included this phrase ‘…well, father and son, they’re operating a high trust model….’

I confess I didn’t know what this meant, though perhaps everyone else did? With my awesome translator’s Googling skilz I found it is a term of art in organizational psychology. A bit of jargon leaking into our world like the monster in The Mist.


Just how stupid are Age readers?


Quotation marks are often used for purposes other than reporting speech. A common use nowadays is the 'scare quotes' or 'air quotes' where they stand in as typographic or even mimetic symbol of irony. A synonym for 'so-called', that distances the speaker or author from the particular word or phrase they are using.

But yet another use is to highlight the introduction of a new concept with which the author suspects the reader might not be familiar.

Interpreters and translators constantly struggle with people over-estimating their existing knowledge, but in this article from today’s Age, the author seems to think that the readers need their hands held while they struggle with the word ‘pun’. 


A lost pejorative


We’re quite proud of our many terms of abuse in Australian English, and of course they are constantly changing, with new words appearing and old ones withering away.

One that has fallen out of our lexicon is “urger”. 60 years ago this was as bad a thing to call someone as a “bastard” or “bludger” or worse, all words that we still recognise and use.

But who says “urger” anymore?

I found one 2007 reference by a pharmacist giving evidence in a coroner’s hearing of a death by drug overdose. Maybe he was an old pharmacist. Maybe Darwin is behind the times.


To be fair, this line is hard to parse in English.


But to translate it! A Nightmare.

“I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now”

Here’s several attempts in Japanese.

Mostly dreadful. And they don’t even try to resolve questions like:

What is happening “now”? Is it that he doesn’t believe now? Nobody feels about her that way now? HE feels that way about her now? Or the way she is now?




Interpreters have to build sentences instantaneously out of the motives and backgrounds and data found in other people’s heads. Reading poetry out loud is for an interpreter like going to the gym.


I wouldn’t bother watching any stupid debate in American politics


But I do enjoy this sort of analysis.

And yes I know they mixed up the axes.


Imprudent use of quotation marks


"I was detained without official charges. I spent five days without charges in a horrible prison in the UK. My health was very poor then, and they applied electricity to my shins," Assange was quoted as saying during the joint press conference with Ecuadorian Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Patino on Thursday.

Turns out this was a mistranslation. As explained in this article: “His comments have led to some mistranslations. [Assange] was referring to electronic surveillance but somehow that was translated into the use of electronic cables and torture,” Hrafnsson said.

“It’s an obvious mistranslation,” Hrafnsson added.

“He was actually referring to the fact that he was forced to wear an electronic tag around his ankle for almost two years,” Hrafnsson told RIA Novosti.


What if the great Russian composers had been born in Australia in the Sixties?


Here’s a helpful guide to Australian hypocoristic treatment of said composers’ names, in case that ever happens:




The Glazier

The Borrower

Rackoffmanoff, or Sir "GAY"






These are not mistranslations


But that's what people call them.
They are most likely just poorly produced English sentences by people who do not speak English as a first language and who are therefore unaware of their inadvertent double entendre.
But unless there was an original text, and the person producing this English was intending to reproduce that source text accurately and faithfully, and had failed in the actual process of transferring that meaning and pragmatic effect, and unless the reasons for their failure are explained, then who knows if they are "mistranslations"?
More likely this is just English speakers laughing at foreign people, with the flipside being the expectation that all you need to be a translator is to be able to speak English well.


Everything I ever said was wrong, probably


Thrice-accursed subordinates! Questioning my Honour!

After consulting all these books, I declare that henceforth I shall use “ize” instead of “ise” in many cases, and use single quotation marks for reported speech.

Wish me luck. Whoresons.

Reference books

Japanese Famous Comedian


So Yoko and I were discussing laughter yesterday, not “polite-I-agree-with-you” laughter, but helpless laughter that takes you over. She said one of the funniest things that she and her brother ever saw on TV, when she was 15, was Takada Junji appearing on an Australian talk show and shooting a bazooka into a stranger’s house in the middle of the night.

I was so his interpreter for that event!

Check this out and freeze the screen at 3:58 to see me darting in to finish off the green room cheese platter.

And my brother Ian made the Bazooka!


Professional solidarity


Here we see one “TED Translator” praising another, to people who have no ability to judge for themselves. Except for my hypercritical staff. “By representing the same word exactly the same in both in Katakana and Hiragana, it made the line equally funny as the original.” Yes. Not particularly funny.

No one here can work out why writing something in katakana is necessarily funny, unless “funny” is no more than a signal attached to an utterance for an audience to laugh in solidarity with the speaker’s views.


CPT Alumni


Many people who have worked here over the years have gone on to other even more interesting roles: nursing, massage therapy, parent.

The famous Midori became PA to the TMCA Factory Manager. The awesome Chiaki is now an in-house interpreter at McCann Erickson Tokyo, one of our people was Michael Woodford’s personal interpreter the day he was removed from office at Olympus, and Adam transcended this dimension, became a pillar of light, danced Butoh in Iceland and now lives in a Parisian stream with a basket on his head.

Adam Wojcinski - apprentice God.


Sex and the City, Season 4 Episode 11 “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”


The one where Carrie gets Aiden to swear on Dior to keep a secret, then reveals that his mate Steve is the unwitting father of the fetus Miranda plans to abort.

This is a scenario that illustrates the difficulties faced by interpreters in some situations where we argue that we have the professional discipline to do our jobs notwithstanding that we possess information that might otherwise might let the interests of the parties influence our work.

On the one hand we have much more discipline than is often assumed, and in order to produce accurate and faithful sentences we need much more contextual and background information than most people realise. But on the other hand there is probably a limit on the extent to which clients should knowingly place us in those circumstances.

The real difficult is of course committing before you know how sharp the conflict of interests actually is.




Scholars of Weber have always taken care to advise that this word is difficult to translate, and point to either “authority” or “domination” as the two most common attempts.

Google Translate now offers “reign”, with “authority” not even appearing as an alternative.

It remains a problem of interest only as long as people remain stuck with archaic expectations of formal equivalence. There is no book handed down from on high stating that a single SL word must end up a single TL word.


Brilliant people, and me.


Academic can’t help herself


Very interesting results from this study that reinforce my views that there is little point in studying foreign languages while you are growing up in your own country. But then the researcher feels obliged to produce something more palatable for consumers of politically correct orthodoxy:

"Understanding other cultures and languages and how they work can only be of benefit.”

This was neither the objective nor the findings of her research.


What is the subject in this sentence?


“The multinational beverage company's purchase of Mountain Goat, launched in 1997, continues the consolidation that has swept through the craft beer sector.”

That’s a long launch!


I’m sorry


But as a professional linguist I keep track of changes in language and so I feel obliged to share the news that “teledildonics” is now a word.

See here to see why.


Oh well now that’s hilarious


Geddit? Need a machine to translate what women really mean. Not that this joke hasn’t already been done to death, but

academically this one bothers me. Why does the target language utterance sound like a caveman? Would it be more or less faithful to render the translation in her voice? I don’t know. But I know this. It annoys me.




A lot of the speech and text that we translate serves a purely prosodic function. It is there as filler, to flesh out the rhythm, to make the sentence fit the breath, to create a short story of high notes, low points and a finale. It’s poetry. We take this seriously and try to make the target language perform in all these ways as well, but this is also a battlefield of form versus function. Three similar adjectives in English might sound great, but that greatness might have to be achieved by means other than listing three adjectives in Japanese.

To show prosodic effect stripped of any communicative function whatsoever, here’s the brilliant Alexei Sayles!


Gold! GOLD!! oh wait..


The other day we were translating stimulus materials for use in focus group interviews to be conducted in Japan, for an Australian wine maker, and had to advise that some of their copy would not work.

Several of the test slogans relied on an association in the mind of your typical English speaker between the colour yellow and the substance gold. But no such relationship occurs to a Japanese person.

You don’t want to mess around with gold and Asian people. Ten years ago a group of Chinese investors sued Mirvac for selling apartments off the plan that were meant to have “gold” windows, and they turned out – in the eyes of the Chinese – to be brown. Mirvac was defended by that champion of the downtrodden property developer: Julian Burnside, so successfully that I can’t even find any mention of the outcome online. But here is a contemporary article from Crikey.


No, I do not think オタク “Otaku” means something like “homeboy”.


The Gasso, if you prefer


My eldest son was out late partying the other night in Fitzroy and related how he and some mates had fetched up near the Gasometer Hotel in Collingwood for some oysters and softshell crab shooters. He reports that his friends had not grown up with such devices on the skyline and so, not knowing what a gasometer was, they were pronouncing it ‘gasometer instead of ga’someter. Oh how we laughed!


The Ig Nobel Awards


With the childish fetishisation of science in recent years hordes of people who would otherwise not have cared, are now swept along to heap derision or swoon in adoration according to who or what is for or against “science”. One beneficiary of this craze is the Ig Nobel Prize awards that since 1991 have served as an excuse for practicing scientists to slightly overstate the whackiness of some colleague or others’ research project.

Sadly though this is leading to instances where the research of actually very high interest and utility being regarded as “funny” by the mindless fans because they are told to think that it is. This is an example, a perfectly legitimate and likely avenue of enquiry in the discipline of linguistics which as an interpreter I find immediately relevant to my work. Please have a look.



Monty Python and Cultural Hegemony


Listening to Bryan Magee interview Herbert Marcuse in 1978, or Eric Hobsbawn lecture on Gramsci in the 60s is very interesting for a variety of reasons, but it’s sometimes hard to take them seriously, because these are clearly the people Monty Python were imitating in every interview or TV quiz show based skit, right down to accent, intonation etc. And I and so many of my generation have unwittingly imported them into our own idiolects. Check it out.


A Dictionary of Intonation


Well, there isn’t one. We’re used to that, and there are other problems translators and interpreters need solved sooner than that one. But to illustrate the problem let’s begin with this thing I just saw on Facebook:

“Insert the word ‘only’ anywhere in this sentence: ‘She told him she loved him’”

The meaning changes, depending on where the word “only” is inserted, and so would the translation, because other languages don’t necessarily use word order to modify meaning like English does. But as well as that, once you have inserted the word, you can place emphases on different words in the sentence which will further change the meaning, and hence the translation. We might be ringing you up to ask you to read the sentence out loud for us.


Grammar nazis


It is worth pondering this term, which means a literate person who offers unsolicited corrections of the spelling and grammatical errors of others. The use of this expression opens onto the question of what sort of unsolicited advice is socially acceptable and what isn’t. Picking holes in another person’s language pushes emotional buttons because the development issues that have limited a person’s literacy are so back in time that culpability is diminished. But there is plenty of unsolicited advice offered on dietary or fashion or political choices, and these are less likely to attract the unkind comparison with the National Socialists. But it’s probably only a matter of time I suppose.


Revolutionary Pickle


Here is an interesting quote from the Telegraph in the UK. Now maybe they don’t know which word to use, or maybe their quote is accurate and Who’s Who doesn’t know, or perhaps they were all just quietly retailing the original statement by the new UK shadow Chancellor.

“Mr McDonnell has proposed the full public ownership of Britain’s banking system in order ‘to take control of our casino economy’.

His Who's Who states his pastime as ‘generally fermenting the overthrow of capitalism.’”


Bloody Junk Emails


We’re getting all these junk emails from supposedly SEO experts offering to improve our website, I suspected they were spambots but I got one from someone named “Marco” in email address, but then the message confirmed my suspicions…
“My name is Macro, i am an online Strategist….”


Beware the translator that asks no questions


A Facebook page devoted to Polish news has upset some by reporting “Polish historian causes outrage with claim that Poles killed more Jews than Nazi Germans during Second World War”.

But in the comments people have pointed out the ambiguity. He meant that they had killed more Jews than they had killed Nazi Germans, not that they had killed more Jews than the Nazi Germans had killed.

As it would likely be two quite different sentences in target languages, you would not want your translator flipping a coin to decide which way to translate it. Could cause a grave mistranslation and further upset.

That’s why your translator should ask a lot of questions.


What CAN'T be Art Deco?


The decorative style named in 1925 and popularised in the 60s as "Art Deco" is a term that is conventionally  collocated with nouns such as "movement", "teapot", "interior" or even "aesthetic". But Australian real estate agents - going for gold - have decided that an "opportunity" can be "Art Deco" too!



Review - Urban dictionary


Review - Urban dictionary

In a world where a 14 year boy who kisses a girl for a dare is charged with assault and Snow White now consorts with Seven “Friends”, it is joyous, nay gravely important, that there are still places in the world completely unbleached by the corrosive curse of Political Correctness.

One of the most exhilarating examples is “Urban Dictionary”. Freedom prevails on this website, and so of course those spiritless milquetoasts with no shares in civilisation will quail at and be triggered by some of the views expressed there, but it is not a promoter of views, it is a dictionary.

Now to be sure it has achieved self-consciousness and so you do have to wade through a lot of artificially created slang, but it is still good for nearly every modern and not so modern neologism.

The trick is though that you must read EVERY entry. It is a corpus, and towards the end of the reading you will have obtained a very good understanding of a word, its connotations and collocations, and had a laugh as well. This is the level of information required by a translator to translate properly. Look up “Selfie”, “Kidult”, “Senpai” and of course “Nigger” to feel at home amongst the serious linguists.



84 Charing Cross Rd


Off to see the play tonight, so read the book last night. Came across this sentence:
“She was more like Nora’s mother than her step daughter.”
I had to pause, I thought “We haven’t met Nora’s mother, how are we meant to know what she’s like?” 
What the author meant was that Sheila, who actually was the step daughter, was acting like the author thought a mother would act. And of course to translate this you would also have to know that Sheila was in fact the step daughter. Without these pieces of information a translation could come out in a variety of incorrect ways, and obtaining these pieces of information takes time, and that’s why we don’t quote over the phone.


So what is a "meme"?


Words change – become more popular, fall into disuse. But few have been propelled as rapidly into the buzz of adolescent discourse from where it was nestled in Richard Dawkins’ lap faster than the word “meme”. Here is a link way more interesting than Wikipedia.

I’ve tried telling my kids that I was into this before it was cool. They ain’t listening.



Who loves Wagyu?


I was recently drawn into a “GetUp” or some petition campaign to save the farm of David Blackmore. It was in danger of being closed down by nearby residents, and, in part due to the influence of the petition I signed - started by pony-tail forcing chef Neil Perry - the State Government has intervened to save it.

Not sure how I feel about government intervention, but I have a soft spot for this brand since the 90s when we did all the translating and interpreting for him when he first imported the wagyu genetics to get his herd started.



Manufacturing is not dead!


CPT's familiarity with Lean Manufacturing, TQM, Just in Time and all those other proprietary manufacturing and maintenance philosophies was first established interpreting for a consultant from JIPM back in the 90s. Under his guidance Dandenong based Nissan Casting became the first recipient of the TPM Excellence Award in the Southern Hemisphere.


The surprising thing is that while manufacturers - including volt-hungry aluminium smelters - seem to be deserting Australia, Nissan Casting has not just weathered the storm, but is rapidly expanding to supply new projects such as the Nissan Leaf.



SBS on hospital interpreting


SBS reporting the very common sense views of a new Australian in the Health system, but slips in a suggestion that being a “private contractor” rather than be “regulated under one government agency” is somehow a problem. Sure everyone needs to be regulated to do a good job don’t they.

The comments are also quite the tapestry of community views.






Who you callin' "Foreign"?


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Ambiguity comes in many flavours


In a recent interpreting job a list of things was presented by an English speaker to the other side with the comment “These are things we would like to see in your proposal”. The other side asked “Is this list complete” and the speaker said “No” and did not elaborate.

It looked like the English speakers were withholding useful information, but in fact their answer “No” meant “By all means feel free to add items to this list”. An interesting misunderstanding that took a few minutes to clarify.


Japan’s attitude to English?


This, I am sad to say, is not that an inaccurate portrayal of Japan’s attitude to English. Hilarious though.



Global issues seen through Australian English 1


In our translation work related to newly settled asylum seekers we are careful to manage the nuances and connotations attached to various key terms.

The colloquial UK English term “Asians” generally includes Indians and Pakistanis, a point requiring regular clarification for Australia readers. A more interesting distinction has arisen with the recent increase of refugees seeking to move to Northern Europe with the European English press referring to them as “migrants”. A word that connotes very different ideas in Australian English.



Global issues seen through Australian English 2


The use of language by political movements, whether fringe or in power, always seeks to further their agenda. We have seen the various Australian governments flip from “irregular” to “illegal” boat arrivals, and then try to avoid using the expression “asylum seeker” altogether.

Translators must position themselves in as neutral a space as possible when handling this sort of material. Here’s more insight to the problem with Al Jazeera’s view of the use of the word “migrant” to refer to people seeking asylum in Europe.



We have awesome people


We had a 67 page PPT translated from Chinese into English this week, I checked it and sent it back to the translator Tuesday morning asking for about 20 edits, and I didn’t hear back from her. This was odd. She’s usually very responsive.

Got a message Tuesday night promising to do the edits soon, along with a photo of the baby she’d had that day.

Puddling up at the dedication!


Is anything an accident in PR?


 Having to translate and sometimes explain swear words to clients is always a linguistically challenging task.  The function of profanity is not always what it seems. Here it is used shamelessly to draw attention to and promote popular culture. NSFW if your workplace is lame.


copyright © Chris Poole Translation