Multilingual films: what goes on behind the scenes

The film industry is a fascinating field for translators. It allows for creativity, research, entertainment and growth. But what challenges present themselves along the way? And who is involved in the process besides the translator?

Films translated into other languages can either be dubbed in the target language or shown in the original version with subtitles, and both options come with their own unique challenges and solutions for the linguist behind the curtain.

Dubbing: I get by with a little help from my friends

Dubbing, in this context, means taking recordings in another language and playing them over the original audio of a film or video. In doing this, it’s not just the text that matters but also what will happen to that text in the final product.

One example is choosing the right sounds. In English, if we are surprised, we might make the sounds, “Oh!” or “Ah!”, whereas in Spanish it might sound more like “Ay!” or “Uy!” Even animal sounds are described differently in different languages—while in English we might say a dog goes “woof,” in Spanish it goes “guau,” in Japanese, “wan,” in Dutch, “blaf,” in Romanian, “ham,” and in Korean, “meong!”

Another challenge is considering what the character will look and sound like when saying the translated lines. If you’ve ever watched a dubbed film and known what the actor’s real voice sounds like, it might have been hard to suspend your disbelief. Of course, there’s no perfect solution for this problem, because not all actors are polyglots (but wouldn’t it be awesome if they were?!). Instead, to lend the viewers’ imaginations a hand, nearly all famous actors and actresses are assigned one person to dub them in each language—essentially forever. For instance, Johnny Depp is always dubbed in Spanish by Luis Posada:

Notice how the voice is always the same?

So if the actor is famous, translators will not only be given the script along with the original footage, but they’ll also know what the voice will sound like reading the final product. This way, they have all the resources they need to come up with the best possible translation.

Who decides on these voices, anyway? Let’s take an extreme example. Disney’s original animated film Frozen broke records for being translated into a whopping 41 languages.

Disney actually has a specialist on board (which isn’t uncommon) who is in charge of finding the perfect voices for every language. For Frozen, Rick Dempsey, the Senior Vice President of Creative for Disney Character Voices International, was tasked with finding 40 local equivalents to Idina Menzel—no small feat.

But what does this have to do with translation, you may ask? Dempsey—and others who specialize in internationalizing films—face many of the same obstacles as us linguists. In broad terms, his job is to take a message, a feeling, a performance, and localize it in a different culture.

“Idina has one of the best voices, period. Not just in terms of her smooth tone, but also the warmth when she hits the lower end,” Dempsey said. “However, in certain territories—Taiwan, Cantonese—the voice might want to be thin because that’s part of the culture.”

Check out the final products, back-to-back:

Subtitling: time is money

On the other hand, subtitling comes with its own unique challenges. Constraints in time and space take the top spot; although some languages are less succinct than others—Spanish is some 30 percent more verbose than English—linguists must create translations that have more or less the same amount of characters. And that amount of characters is pretty much set across the board; most industry experts follow what they call the “six second rule,” which means most viewers can comfortably read the standard two-line subtitle in six seconds.

Another factor in subtitling is the art of navigating grammar, spelling and style with the end goal of reflecting accents, connotation and context. A perfect example of this is Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, a film known for being peppered with German, French and Italian in addition to its primary language, English.

Paloma Guridi, a translator who helped with pronunciation on the set of the movie, told us that sometimes the actors didn’t even speak the language their lines were in—for example, Christoph Waltz didn’t know Italian. But since his character was supposed to be fluent, he practiced diligently, and the subtitles read as a perfect translation into English.

Brad Pitt, however, had to portray a character who was pretending to know Italian, so he learned his lines and then purposefully laid on a thick Southern American accent. That accent was reflected in the subtitles. For example, when he stutters to say, “Sí, correcto,” the subtitle reads, “Yes, ‘er, correct.”

bawnjorno

Films that switch between languages within the original version itself are especially challenging, requiring expert linguists on the scene to provide assistance. Paloma says Inglourious Basterds had “a large German team, a lot of Americans and then some French actors… so it was a very multilingual shoot.” And a lot of faith was put in these natives, as Tarantino doesn’t speak French or German.

Is it all fun and games, though? Alicia Camino, an audiovisual translator for Disney, tells us the pros and cons. “My favorite part is how creative it can be, adapting a culture, the humor, sometimes rhymes, coming up with new words or names… and thanks to this I’m quite up to date with slang and tendencies, especially from the US.” The cons? “I can’t choose what I translate or proofread but sometimes I’m laughing while working, sometimes crying… and when you get something boring it can be hell. When you’re watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for hours on end, your brain goes numb.”

Typically, however, the film industry is an unpredictable and fast-paced field, and translators aren’t exempt from the chaos. But if you’re looking to specialize in something that will always keep you on your toes, it could be right up your alley.


It’s amazing how much language expertise is required behind the scenes of your favorite movies. We haven’t been called to the set of the latest Hollywood blockbuster yet, but VeraContent’s language services cover pretty much anything a multilingual media production could need.

How to not be embarrassing on social media

Millennials. Those tricky, tricky millennials. What are they thinking? What do they want? Are they leaving Facebook? Are they still using emojis? If your company is using social media, chances are you’re interested in having better relations with the digital natives that are slowly taking over the world, one tweet at a time. And though I hate to break it to you, it’s not that hard to make a faux pas and become the laughing stock of the internet. The good news is that I, a culturally fluent, bona fide youth, am here to give you the map to avoiding that fate. These are the top do’s and don’t’s of commercial social media.

Don’t try too hard

Millennials are pretty smart. Yes, our overabundance of screen time has probably fried quite a few of our brain cells, but we have a keen nose for when we’re being pandered to. This is a pitfall that snared Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign when she sought to woo young voters by doing the nae nae or asking students to describe their loan debt feelings in three emojis or less.

Hillary Clinton two hand waving

A daring attempt at a double nae nae?

These gestures definitely got attention, but not in a good way. For the portion of millennials who already regarded Clinton as an outsider and a non-ally, these attempts at speaking the youth language only highlighted the size of the rift. After all, many millennials are already chafing under a societal tendency to patronize us by reducing the entirety of our culture to just the silly things we do on the internet, like using emojis. To have a politician with power over the many real issues in our lives address us on that level as if it was all we could relate to struck many as condescending and frustrating.

Have a brand and stick to it

This isn’t to say that memes, slang, and pop culture can never be used to good effect in corporate social media campaigns. The issue is to know your brand, and have a social media voice that is appropriate and consistent.

There are four types of commercial social media presence in terms of internet-savvy content. You can be old-fashioned, genuinely fluent, successfully ironic, or embarrassing. It is important to be self-aware of which of these your company can pull off. There is no way to generalize the answer to this; it depends on a whole network of factors.

For example, as explained above, Hillary Clinton’s Twitter efforts fall into the “embarrassing” category. Embarrassing content reduces credibility, alienates younger audiences and does nothing for older audiences, making it a loss all around. Hillary Clinton’s campaign was the sort of entity that would never be able to use youth-speak convincingly or naturally, and that already lacked widespread trust among young people. If these two factors apply to you (and if you have to ask if you can use youth-speak convincingly, you probably can’t), it’s best to keep your social media presence straight-laced and old-school. Just tweet and post like a normal, professional adult. If you’re a big oil company, an expensive student loans provider, or a napkin manufacturer, your safest bet for jiving with the kids is to not do it. You’ll be either stonily ignored or ridiculed and trusted even less.

The other end of the spectrum is the genuinely fluent social media presence. This style calls for a social media manager who is, well, genuinely fluent. When it comes to social media, there’s really no substitute for hiring someone who spends a lot of their free time immersed in the internet. It’s like any other language: just knowing the words isn’t the same as mastering the nuance and the cultural context.

Irony

Achieving the coveted genuinely fluent social media voice also depends somewhat on what you’re selling. If young people aren’t obviously the main market for your product or service, a meme-happy, slang-heavy social media feed is going to be a little odd no matter how well it’s executed. However, if you have talented employees and millennials don’t actively dislike you, there is a fourth possibility open to you: irony. And this is where true corporate social media legends are made. To illustrate, I take you to the reigning champions: Denny’s.

A few years ago, Denny’s was a generic, mostly forgotten diner super-chain. Most people had probably stopped in a Denny’s at least once on a road trip or late-night snack run, but for the most part, it was afloat in irrelevance. Nobody was loyal to Denny’s. Nobody made a point of going there.

Then Denny’s got a Twitter and a Tumblr and handed the passwords over to some absurdist, nihilist weirdos. The accounts are apparently managed by a professional ad agency, and while the chain’s 370,000-strong Twitter following and massive Tumblr fanbase might not know that detail, they have no illusions that Denny’s is really “one of them.” But this is exactly what makes the phenomenon so popular. Denny’s has struck a special chord of cognitive dissonance, a unique and powerful comedy. Everything about it is bizarre and surreal. But bizarre and surreal is the language of the internet and its devotees. And thus, against all odds, trust is born.

Again, self-knowledge is vital here. Young people don’t want their presidential candidates to be ironic. And not everybody can be Denny’s. But the larger point here is that hiring a good social media manager can take you far even if your brand isn’t naturally “cool.” The trick is harnessing irony.

Engage with individuals

People love being touched by fame. And something about public social media accounts has an aura of celebrity, whether your company is multinational or indie and local. So never underestimate the opportunity of an individual engaging with you on social media.

If someone comments on a Facebook post, respond. If someone mentions you in a tweet, retweet it. Chances are they’ll be surprised and happy, no matter how little they cared about you before. Interacting goes a long way to humanizing a brand and building good will. It shows that your social media is run by actual humans, not some kind of robot, which leads to the sense that your whole company is, in fact, run by humans. Maybe that should be obvious, but it’s easy for the business world to feel monolithic. Your replies don’t have to sound like perfect, polished corporate form letters, either. Stay courteous, of course, but let your social media managers sound like real people. It will be appreciated.

Think of all the ways it could go wrong

The upcoming movie Ghost in the Shell, an anime (Japanese cartoon) adaptation starring Scarlett Johansson, had a Twitter snafu recently. The movie, while eagerly anticipated by some, is also facing widespread criticism for casting the white Johansson as the Japanese protagonist instead of hiring a Japanese actress. The promotional Twitter for the film tried to start the hashtag #IAmMajor, referring to the protagonist, and let the public tweet pictures with their own text substituted in. The idea was to raise a buzz of innocuous personal statements, like “I Am Strong” or perhaps “I Am Excited to Buy a Ticket to Ghost in the Shell.” What they got, however, was a lot of clever sass about whitewashing.

Don’t get me wrong— people don’t have to interact with your content exactly as intended for it to be effective. The internet will run with any joke it can get its hands on, but sometimes that’s okay. You may want as many eyes on your brand as possible. Just be sure you’ve thought it through. If you need another example of victims of poor forethought, check out the tragic rise and fall of Microsoft’s AI Twitter bot, which Twitter quickly programmed into a racist, fascist PR disaster. Before posting anything, ask “what is the worst place someone could take this?” and be prepared for it to be taken there. If the worst case scenario is too bad, steer clear altogether.

The internet is a beautiful, confused wilderness. Its culture shifts and mutates every day, and it has no surefire paths to any goal. However, those of us who spend a lot (way too much) of our time there know certain common-sense guidelines to get along smoothly. If you follow these rules of thumb, you can’t go too wrong, and if you do well enough, it could be a real game changer. May the retweets be ever in your favor.


Social media marketing is a minefield of faux pas, not least when you’re managing pages in multiple languages. VeraContent takes out the guesswork for its multilingual social media clients by publishing consistently high-quality content adapted to the language and culture of the audience. 

Woke and broccoli on the rise, fleek and fam falling fast

“She’s not as woke as I thought she was.” It happens all the time. A word or phrase catches you off guard in a casual conversation. You may have heard the word before, but not said like this. Or you hear a word you’ve never heard before, and must assign its meaning from context clues.

Ironically, after the new slang is introduced, you hear a woman use the word as she talks loudly on her cell phone. Then you hear your favorite bartender say it. Next thing you know your mother is slipping the new jargon into your weekly video chats.

woke

The English language does not have a fixed vocabulary. There was no cut-off point when linguists said, “These are the words were going to use and here’s how we’re going to use them.”  In fact, we create new words all the time. So much so that it’s hard to keep up with the latest lingo.

Tracking the trends

The job of linguists is to listen and monitor those evolving speech patterns. Luckily, Google News Lab offers all the raw data needed on new words to stay “woke.”

As millions of people around the world become curious about the new words they hear, they enter “definition of ______” into Google, allowing the search engine to track the trends of newly popular sayings. For example in 2013, “selfie” was searched more than any other word.

But every star dies eventually. The internet popularity of  “selfie” peaked around the middle of 2014, making room for other popular searches like “definition of ‘turnt,’” “what does ‘fleek’ mean,” or “define ‘lowkey.’” Some of these frequently searched words are tied to pop culture references. Others rose in the grassroots style straight from the people’s tongues to the top of Google’s charts.

Behold the ten most-searched words of 2016:

  1.     Triggered

  2.     Shook

  3.     Juju

  4.     Broccoli

  5.     Woke

  6.     Holosexual

  7.     Shill

  8.     Gaslighting

  9.     Bigly

  10.   SJW (Social Justice Warrior)

Emerging words

Google considers these ten words “emerging words.” Or, they were not popular searches in 2015 but gained consistent interest in 2016. By the end of 2016, these ten words were as commonly searched as existing words in the English language.

In years past, these coveted spots went to words like “Felicia,” “slay,” and “Netflix and chill.” What is it about these words and sayings that propels them from irrelevant to definable? We can connect 2016’s batch of trendy words to everything from the American election to hip hop songs. I’d like to think hip hop artist D.R.A.M.’s “Broccoli” (released in 2016) had something to do with this vegetable’s historic rise to the top.

woke

Image courtesy of: http://uk.complex.com/music/2016/04/dram-new-song-broccoli-feat-lil-yachty

Donald Trump’s use of “bigly” in the presidential debate against Hillary Clinton surely caused the internet’s interest in this fictional word. It is interesting to think that one person can say a word in a highly publicized context and the next thing you know the whole world is using it.  The explosion of this word taps into the satirical and critical way we think about language.

To some it may seem that these changes in languages are coming too fast and too soon. Does saying a word over and over again legitimize it? After all, people make language mistakes all the time, even in their mother tongue. Should we revere these mistakes?

For example, “irregardless” is such a common mistake that it Webster added the word to the dictionary. Webster’s Dictionary offers a disclaimer that this is a popularized word meaning “regardless.” However, the more a word is said, “irregardless” of if it’s wrong, the more accepted it becomes.

Using trends in SEO

How do we use this information to enhance and improve our content and readability? Google News Lab is an important tool for tracking trends in language. Relevant and frequently searched language are sure to enhance great content.

Including one of these emerging words as a keyword in your article’s SEO may help increase your traffic. SEO allows your articles to pop up more frequently and higher up on search engines, no matter the keyword or phrase. However, it’s just smart SEO to use a keyword that is already trending.

woke

“Holosexual,” or a tendency so great it may as well be sensual towards holographic objects, also made the list. Examples like this show how we attach humor and satire to our word choices. What these words really show us is how the tradition of language adapts to express our ever-changing needs, desires, and interests.

It is telling that words like “juju” and “broccoli” owe their spot on Google News Lab’s list to the popularity of music.  When we love a song we have a desire to be privy to all the jargon and references the artist uses.

The lesson here is that great content encourages exploration and understanding. Great authors don’t shy away from using grandiose words because they have a certain faith in their readers. They bet on the assumption that enthusiastic readers do their own research.

Similarly, today’s artists take chances with their content. They include words, sounds, statements that may be unfamiliar or not yet popularized. Just think of Rihanna’s 2016 hit “Work.” People around the world are mumbling along to words they don’t fully understand. Why? Because the quality of the song has won them over.

woke

Image courtesy of: http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/7256322/rihanna-work-hot-100-fourth-week

Consumers are becoming more and more open to popularizing slang, made-up words, and even mistakes. Google News Lab offers data straight from the source on how people are making choices on- and offline. Staying “woke” to the word trends of 2017 could be what takes your content to the next level.

Colloquialisms: the best thing since sliced bread

Colloquialisms, more often called slang, are a fascinating part of language. These words or phrases are most often spoken as opposed to written. We say them so often that we often fail to realize how bizarre they sound when taken out of context.

Nevertheless, colloquialisms are a great way to introduce some personality into your writing. However, take caution; these words aren’t always your best bet. Here’s how to do it well:

Send the right message

 A text’s tone sends clues to the reader preparing them for the content they are about to receive.  If you want your content to be lighter or more relatable, colloquial words or phrases can help achieve that. They’ll add the extra je ne sais quoi to your text.

Colloquialisms will make a piece of writing more casual. However, a casual tone isn’t always ideal. It’s important to remember that the tone serves as the medium that can either make or break the message. For example, when writing How to Deal with Loss, it’s best not to lighten the mood with colloquialisms such as: “it’s okay to feel cray on this sad day.”

Something about pairing an informal word choice with a serious topic confuses the mind and creates disconnect between the writing and the reader. Similarly, when writing comical content, why use stuffy, academic language?

Use colloquialisms informally

Colloquialisms, in general, are spoken. This can make it tricky to insert a casual colloquialism into your copy. For this reason, more formal copy should leave out colloquialisms all together. Adding slang words or phrases will distract from the serious content within the text.

colloquialisms

Even commonly used colloquialisms like the contractions “can’t,” “he’ll,” or “shouldn’t” are best left out of formal written texts. Just like a professor won’t appreciate seeing a “gonna” in a term paper, readers of serious texts will expect you to take the time to write out “going to.”

 

Know your audience

Colloquialisms aren’t just limited to contractions. They also serve as cultural clues that help readers identify who is speaking and the intended vibe of the writing. Colloquialisms differ in each region of the world, derived from the unique speech of the area.

Being from Chicago, my international friends tilt their heads when I utter a regional colloquialism. When I asked a friend to “pass me my pop,” she had no idea what I was referencing. I had to point to my can of Coca Cola, forgetting that Midwesterners may be the only people in the world who call soda “pop.”

In this sense colloquialisms may seem exclusive or limiting. However, they are a great tool when you have a specific audience in mind. If you want to appeal to millennials, be aware of all the epic colloquialisms this group identifies with. While millennials will understand what it means for something to be “legit,” they probably won’t know what to think about something that is “far out.”

Similarly, if you’re writing copy for “10 signs you’re from Madrid,” colloquialisms are a great way to gain credibility. It’s a waste to talk about las fiestas in Madrid when you can simply and more accurately refer to la marcha. When your content refers to a specific place, it’s worth it to research the colloquialisms and truly speak to your audience.

Translate with care

One of the trickiest aspects of using colloquialisms in content is that they are quite a handful to translate. Take the phrase “a handful.” When translating this phrase into another language, assume that both languages don’t use the same idiomatic expressions. The translator must be comfortable enough in both languages to decipher the correct meaning of each colloquialism and find its equivalent (if one exists) in the target language.

As confusing as colloquialisms and idiomatic expressions can be for language learners, they can offer invaluable insight into the cultural influence that gives context to every language. For example, observe the Spanish equivalent of “giving into temptation.” In Spanish, morder de la manzana prohibida translates as “to bite the forbidden apple.” While this may seem arbitrary to some, this reference to Eve biting the apple from a forbidden tree in the garden of Eden provides a crucial cultural context. It demonstrates the influence of Christianity on the Spanish language.

Colloquialisms are a rich part of language and a great way to add cultural references and style to your copy. The next time you’re wondering what will take your writing the extra mile, consider dropping in a colloquialism to blow your readers away.

Five secret languages around the world

Languages, in general, are designed to facilitate communication. But sometimes the most clear communication with the widest group of people isn’t the goal. It’s a global constant for groups of friends, especially children, to invent ways of twisting their language to make it more secret or interesting. These new languages within languages are often called language games, secret languages, or argots. Many language games are simply about following a rule to rearrange or add letters to each word, while others require more thought and technique.  Here are a few language games from around the world.

Pig Latin

This one will be the most familiar to anybody who grew up in the USA. Most American kids at some point learn Pig Latin, in which the first consonant or group of consonants is moved to the end of the word and “ay” is added. So “Pig Latin” in Pig Latin ould-way ound-say ike-lay ig-pay atin-lay. Adults sometimes use Pig Latin to jokingly tell one friend not to mention something to another friend in the conversation, as in “ix-nay on the surprise arty-pay!” As for kids, if they’re anything like me as a child, they practice and get as fast at speaking it as possible and then use it to confuse other kids and bond tighter with their circle of friends.

What many Americans might not know about Pig Latin is how old it is. Humor involving fake Latin made of rearranged English words can be found as far back as Shakespeare. Magazines from 1866 begin to describe a language game very similar to modern Pig Latin, although with “ge” added to each word instead of “ay.”

william shakespeare

A forefather of Pig Latin.

Cockney Rhyming Slang

Do you sit around fretting over how “Bob” ever became a nickname for “Robert”? You might not like this next entry. It starts with a similar premise and takes it a whole lot farther. Rhymey word associations are at the heart of Cockney rhyming slang, a verbal game that dates back to the mid-1800s. The trick is to rhyme a word, pair the rhyme with another related word, and then drop all but that third word. So “eyes” become “mince pies” become “mincers”; or “telephone” becomes “dog and bone” becomes “the dog.” Perhaps the most familiar product of rhyming slang is “blowing a raspberry.” The expression comes from rhyming “fart” with “raspberry tart.”

cockney

Official Cockneys are born within earshot of the St.    Mary-le-Bow bells.

Some believe certain groups arranged rhyming slang as a code against outsiders, like the police, but others say the mechanism emerged naturally. The expert explanation? People like rhymes and sounding mysterious. Rhyming slang remains in use today, often with new celebrity names or pop culture references being swapped in for older ones. For instance, you can use “Scooby” (Scooby Doo) to mean “clue.” This slang is entrenched enough that people sometimes use the it without even realizing how it formed. Knowing the trick doesn’t remove the work of reasoning out some of the more ambitious substitutions, but it might make a conversation with a strong Cockney-accented speaker a little less bewildering. At least you can know what’s happening, even if you still can’t understand it.

Língua do Pê

If you don’t have the time to think up rhymes or figure out why someone thought “apples” above any other fruit were a natural match for “pears” (peaches at least would be alliterative?), Língua do Pê might be the word game for you. If you speak Portuguese, that is. Translating to “P Language,” Língua do Pê encompasses a few different varieties of word modification, but they are all pretty straightforward. Like Pig Latin, they involve adding and rearranging letters in each word. The most common method of Língua do Pê is to break a word into syllables and duplicate each one, with the first consonant changed to a P. You can put the repeated P syllable either before or after. So the word for yes, sim, would be “pimsim,” or “simpim.” The word for friend, amigo, would be “paapimipogo” or “apamipigopo.”

My head is spinning a little just from typing out those examples, but Portuguese speakers with enough dedication can get very good at it, and there’s no denying that there’s something amusing about all those Ps. Lots of languages have word games like this, focused on repeating a vowel sound. It’s a subgroup referred to as double talk. For example, Spanish has something called F Language—I’ll let you deduce what letter that one adds. Double talk appears in all different cultures, from Danish to Japanese to Albanian. Sometimes extra letters are just funny and children around the world make the most of that.

Nói Lái

Vietnam grabs the lever of difficulty on word games and cranks it all the way up. Vietnamese is the type of language where tone is central to the meaning of words. Speaking a letter in a higher or lower pitch, with a different rise or fall, or for a shorter or longer duration can change the word you’re speaking even if the letters themselves are the same.

Vietnam city

This alone makes the language a challenge for outsiders to learn, but it also sets the stage for the word gymnastics of Nói Lái. The goal of Nói Lái is to take a pair of words that mean one thing and swap all but the first letters in such a way that the result means something new. The non-letter tones have to be swapped too. Those are represented by the small accents and markings around the letters. For example, đại học (“university”) could change to độc hại (“toxic”). In some cases, Nói Lái can be achieved by changing only the tones, leaving the letters untouched. So bí mật (“secret”) could become bị mất (“lost”).

Esperant’

Considering Esperanto was invented more recently than blue jeans, you wouldn’t think its speakers would have had time to get bored and create variations yet. But you’d be wrong: Esperanto has its own code language called Esperant’. Esperanto is designed to be simple to learn, but the rules of Esperant’ are more involved than most language games. It has to do with changing and removing suffixes, and turning verbs into nouns.

Despite the grand ambitions for Esperanto to become a universal language, its base of speakers remains small enough that in most settings the simple version would be secret code enough. Still, there is a small global community of native Esperanto speakers; it’s only fair that they should have their own wordplay tradition. If you plan to learn Esperanto, you can put Esperant’ down as a stretch goal. After all, a language designed to be learned should leave you plenty of energy for a second challenge.

File:Stampo Esperanto 001.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Secret languages are a lovely example of the human spirit. We’re never content to keep things rational and solemn; we have a fundamental drive to create and innovate. The same processes that create language games enrich, build and change languages themselves. So the next time you and a few friends have a spare hour, why not invent a new argot? You might just leave your mark on linguistics for years to come. Arpe-cay iem-day.

How to tweet like Donald Trump

Type “Donald Trump” into Google and likely the first suggestion to pop up will be “Donald Trump Twitter.” For better or for worse, the 45th U.S. president’s prolific tweets have captured global attention almost more than his policies have.

If you’re even a casual follower of American politics, you might be suddenly finding yourself punctuating your remarks with “Sad!” or “Tremendous!”

Donald Trump tweets

If you’re looking to deprogram yourself, your best bet is to go cold turkey and leave your Wi-Fi router by the curb. But for those who want to steal—or satirize—our tweeter-in-chief’s particular linguistic flavor, we’ve developed this six-point style guide to get you started.

1. Misspell at least one word

Much of Trump’s success has rested on the notion that he is genuine and uncensored, not the product of a big team of image managers. His large repertoire of glaring typos certainly backs up that branding. It’s unclear whether the president needs a spelling refresher or is just too busy running the country to proofread his tweets.

Maybe he should take a “brake” between writing and publishing them, to give himself a chance to edit. Either way, adding an inexplicable typo is a great way to put some Trumpian flair in your next tweet.

Don’t go overboard, though. More than one misspelling in a short tweet could start to smack of trying too hard. Or… maybe you’ll just sound like you’re stuck in 2016.

donald trump tweets

2. Capitalize random words

donald trump tweets

From time to time, Trump displays something a little less brazen than a misspelling, but still hard to ignore: unnecessary capitalization. In the tweet above, for example, he likely meant to demonstrate respect for the governors he was meeting with, but without a specific governor referenced, the word isn’t a proper noun. Random capitals add a touch of the je ne sais quoi that makes a good Trump tweet.

3. Capitalize JOBS

donald trump tweets

While we’re on the subject of capitalization, there’s one word that Trump just can’t resist digitally shouting. His platform is heavy on the creation of new American JOBS, and he wants to be sure we hear about it far and wide.

donald trump tweets

donald trump tweets

Our nation’s English teachers and editors can rest assured knowing there’s at least one word Trump always spells right. AND BOLDLY.

4. Add unnecessary quotation marks

donald trump tweets

Everyone has that grandma or older family friend in the Facebook comments making you nervous with her wish for you to “enjoy” your vacation. But these days gratuitous quotation marks are a presidential affair.

donald trump tweets

Some of Trump’s punctuation additions are pointed, like talking about the “sources” cited by newspapers he disapproves of, or whistle-blowing government “leakers” who he perhaps thinks should be given a stronger descriptor. More often, though, Trump seems to arbitrarily put quotation marks around words or phrases he deems “colloquial.”

donald trump tweets

Maybe this is meant as a nod to linguistic formality while preserving his trademark casual tone. But to anyone fluent in the nuances of Internet language, it undeniably ages his Twitter voice.

5. Use parentheses to make commentary

Sometimes extraneous quotation marks are too subtle for Trump when he wants to make his opinions on current events known. Still, tweets are short, and sometimes he doesn’t want to interrupt his point to share his opinion. For these occasions, the president often uses parentheses.

donald trump tweets

donald trump tweets

These asides function like a mutter, coloring the tweet with their message without wasting too many characters. Sliding a criticism into a train of thought like this is also a clever argumentative move. It forces anyone who might respond to choose between tackling it and getting derailed form the larger point, or just letting it slide.

6. Finish strong with a one-word exclamation!

This is perhaps the most classic facet of the Trump twitter voice. Satirical tweeters are widely using it for its immediate recognition factor.

donald trump tweets

Exclamation marks are a must for any Trump tweet—he almost never ends with a period, no matter the topic. But there’s something special about the tweets he ends with a monosyllabic judgement.

donald trump tweets

Bonus points for caps lock and channeling Wayne’s World.

donald trump tweets

There’s no doubt that the 2016-2020 chapters of future history books will be important ones for entirely non-digital reasons. Even so, the Trump Twitter phenomenon is hardly the least interesting part of the whole affair.

It’s clear we’re in a new world—social media is now a player in every arena of society, politics included. You may think that’s Sad!, tremendous, or somewhere in between, but only time will tell what comes of it. Here’s hoping we all survive to find out.

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The tricky translation of quedar(se)

The aim of a good translation is typically not to improve the writing or add their own touch of style. A good translator will generate a final product that is as close to the original meaning as possible by using the same register, punctuation, and syntax. The role of a translator is specific and clear: stay true to the text.

Examining the Spanish verb quedar shows us how the nuances of language make translation such a complex task. For this single verb alone, I have found 10 different meanings in English. Verbs like this exist in many languages. It is important for translators to identify these verbs and become familiar with their many uses.

Quedar(se) generally means “to be left” or “to stay.” However, Spanish speakers manipulate this word to mean quite a variety of things. In Spain you may hear it used as slang for joking around or even to tell a friend their haircut isn’t so flattering. You’ll hear it used to mean “hang out” as well as “to be.” Here’s a guide to make sure you’re translating quedar correctly.

Quedan dos exámenes.

This use of quedar translates to “to be left. This sentence reads, “There are two exams left. This usage can refer to abstract nouns as well, such as time or energy.

quedar

Nuestra casa queda cerca de la tienda.

Queda in this sentence does not mean “to be left,” “to stay,” or “to keep.” In fact, it would be easy for a translator to overcomplicate this sentence without proper knowledge of the usage of quedar. In this example the verb simply means “to be,” or “to be located.” This sentence translates to, “Our house is close to the store.”

Cuánto queda para Barcelona?

Here queda is being used in a similar way as in our first example, “Quedan dos examenes,” in the sense that it is identifying how much of something is left. However, in question form this sentence translates to “How much further is it to Barcelona?” Further, here, indicates time or distance left.

Tenemos que quedarnos en esta calle.

The verb quedar in this sentence is used as a reflexive verb. Use reflexive when the subject and the object of the sentence reference the same thing. This sentence translates to, “We have to stay on this street.” In this sentence quedar is translated to “stay” or “to continue.”

quedar

Puedes quedarte el cambio.

This sentence translates to: “You can keep the change.” This is also a reflexive use of the verb quedar, and is used to indicate possession. This phrase is sure to score you points with any bartender or waitress.

Se quedó ciego con dos años.

This sentence translates to, “He went blind at age two.”  In this interesting use of quedar, the verb means something between “to be” and “to be left.” This usage can also be used to express emotions or a state of being. For example, se queda triste means, “he is sad.”

Su equipo quedó quinto en la liga.

In this sentence, quedar means “to end up.” The English translation reads, “Her team ended up ranking fifth in the league.” This usage can be compared to the previous example. Both usages describe a person or object reaching a state of being. The final state of the team is fifth place.

quedar

Quedamos en el parque a las 5.

This sentence introduces a new meaning of quedar, which translates to, “Let’s meet at the park at 5.” This usage can also mean “to hang out.

No me quedó bien con ese hombre.

Here quedar is used to mean to have an impression on someone. It is generally paired with an adjective: quedar bien or quedar mal. This sentence translates to, “That man didn’t make a good impression on me.”

quedar

Te queda bien esa chaqueta.

This is a common use of the verb quedar that references the way something looks. The English translation of this sentence reads, “That jacket looks good on you.” This use of quedar can mean two things: it looks flattering, or it fits well. An alternate translation of this sentence is “That jacket fits you well.” In order to achieve the most accurate translation, you would need to have more context.

Don’t take shortcuts while translating a verb like quedar. A translator must be familiar with the various English verbs that correspond with quedar and also must distinguish which meaning the author originally intended. The context of a text lends clues that should help identify the meaning of a particular word. When it comes to quedar, ¡no te quedes confundida!


Not easy, is it? Get in touch with our translation experts if you have any questions about the best translation for your content.

How becoming multilingual will change your world

 

 When I was five, my parents took me to a multilingual church service. I remember listening to the songs and sermon spoken with words that I couldn’t understand. I looked over to my father and watched his mouth form these words I’d never learned. As I watched him speak this whole other language I felt an unsettling sensation in my gut. I felt jealousy for his language ability, and a yearning to have it for myself. I remember going home that day and mimicking the sounds of Spanish in the mirror, expecting to have acquired the skill after my afternoon of exposure. The sounds slid harshly off my tongue and seemed to fall flat, void of any significance or eloquence.

Multilingual families are a dime a dozen in the United Stated.  My mother is an Italian-American and my father a Mexican-American, making my cultural identifier a mouthful.  As an Italian-Mexican-America I love sharing the traditions, food, and customs of my mixed family.  Nevertheless, when someone learns my cultural background they are always curious about the languages I speak. They would ask, – so you speak Italian then? – so can you help me with my Spanish homework? Admitting English as my only language felt like a missed opportunity and a hole in my cultural education.

The tipping point

When I was 19, I decided enough was enough. I took a gap year after high school and applied to volunteer at a non profit organization in Granada, Nicaragua. This, I thought, would be my chance to redeem myself after years of unilingualism.

multilingual

After living abroad for one year in Nicaragua and two years in Spain, I can look back endearingly at my younger self mimicking the sounds of the rrrrr’s and eses that make the Spanish language so rich. Even though I now have the confidence to order a beer in a loud Spanish bar, the journey was long and hard. After about nine months of practicing the word perro, I woke up one morning and successfully rolled my rr’s.

For the one moment of success I felt when I was finally able to roll my rr’s, I felt thousands of moments of defeat. To me, this is one of the most valuable lessons in becoming multilingual. When learning a language, a friend once told me, one must accept looking like a fool a hundred times a day. For me, it was more like a thousand times a day, which made me all the more humble.

When traveling to new countries and experiencing cultures that differ from our own, our first instinct may be to judge. That is why learning a language becomes so crucial when trying to absorb another culture. If one travels with a language-learning mindset, they are open to making mistakes, trying new things, and potentially looking silly. Keep these three tips in mind and I guarantee the world will open at your feet.

Make mistakes

Making mistakes is a part of any learning process. Behind every mistake, big or small, there is a lesson to be learned. If your language mistake is small and you think you order a cappuccino but receive a cortado instead, no harm, no foul. If your language mistake causes you to get on a bus to an unknown city (which trust me, can happen) chances are you will learn a serious lesson about how to pronounce the name of your small town.

multilingual

Try new things

Trying new things is inevitable when learning a new language. Why learn how to say chocolate con churros if you’re not going to order one and try the delicacy for yourself? My favorite experiences in language learning have flung me from far from my comfort zone and deep into new territory. Finding myself alone in a street market in Granada, Nicaragua, surrounded by smells I had never inhaled, sounds of fruit vendors yelling cebolla zanahoria repollo tomate aguacate in one long slur, the view of small children climbing to the tops of trees to collect mangos, these are the sensations that stick with me to this day. Those new sensations were made possible by my desire to be multilingual.

Learn to look silly

One of the prerequisites for learning any language is having the ability to laugh at yourself. At least once a day I have an experience that makes me take a step back and think, wow that person must have no idea what I just said. This ability must be learned, just like any other. It is often our pride that keeps up from saying that new word we just learned, or testing our pronunciation in front of a native speaker. Acquiring this ability took months for me to learn, but once I became comfortable looking silly in front of others, I saw my Spanish improve rapidly. I would make a note when I got a look of utter confusion, and give myself a pat on the back when I finally managed to pronounce a word right.multilingual

Even after years of being multilingual, I still find that learning a language opens doors. To learn another language is to step into someone else’s culture, absorb their slang, and learn to laugh and grunt like the natives.  One of the most beautiful aspects of learning languages is that it is near impossible to do alone. Language is not valuable inherently. What is valuable are the connections we make with those who live differently than we do, offering us a new perspective on the world. Language makes that possible.