Saturday, January 31, 2009

Babylon Websites

Last year, I was asked to try out the Babylon dictionary and translation services. I always feel a bit guilty when I am invited to review something and then don't like it as much as I had hoped I would.

The dictionary provides quite a bit of information for each word, though only a couple of translations (to Irish and Welsh for each of the words I chose -- not quite the most useful languages). And the translation software didn't work at all from English to Swedish in my experience. It kept offering me translations to a Cyrillic language for some reason. Spanish, Norwegian, and Danish worked somewhat better, especially the Spanish.

In sum, I'd say the dictionary is pretty good for language-learners while the translation software definitely needs improvement.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Grammar Mistakes

Unfortunately, there are many common grammar and usage errors in English. This BBC article explores twenty such errors, while Paul Brians' book and website list many more.

What are your particular grammar and usage peeves? Personally, I strongly dislike the incorrect usage of apostrophes and I also don't like when "a lot" is written as one word. But there are many more that annoy me -- and I see them very often in my line of work.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Five Things Tag

Erika Dreifus tagged me on 23 December and I actually wrote this up right away, but since I had other posts planned, it is a month later that I am posting this.

What were you doing five years ago (December 2003)?

1. Living in Helsingborg, Sweden.
2. Trying to adjust to life in Sweden, even after having already spent 2.5 years there.
3.Teaching English at a variety of schools around southern Sweden, and thus spending a lot of time commuting.
4. Translating, editing, and writing (much like I do today).
5. Working towards an MFA in fiction.

What were five things on your list for today?

1. Finish a book review.
2. Write a draft of an article based on some of my research.
3. Try to get rid of my terrible back pain.
4. Attempt to find the holiday presents I had hidden and then forgot where I hid them!
5. Get organized for my trip to Chicago to visit my family (as I post this, I am now back from said trip!).

What are five snacks you enjoy?

1. Dark chocolate.
2. My grandmother’s noodle kugel and cookies (which I have now enjoyed in Chicago!).
3. Matzoh spread with peanut butter or sunflower seed butter.
4. Plantain chips.
5. Fruit, especially bananas and apples.

What are five things you'd do if you were a billionaire?

1. Charity would be the number one way I’d spend the money, with a particular emphasis on charities related to education/literacy, to medical research, and to providing food, clean water, and a source of livelihoods to people.
2. I would want to make sure my relatives and friends had enough money for living expenses, education, and other necessities, as well as for some special treats.
3. I’d travel more, including more frequent trips to visit relatives. My trips would also include lots of time spent at museums and at interesting restaurants.
4. I’d like to have one permanent house/apartment that I’d do up very nicely, with a wonderful kitchen where I could happily cook and bake and also a library with lots of lovely books.
5. Like Erika, I’ve long fantasized about starting a publishing company. In my case, I’d like one that focused on literary translations to English. While running it, I’d also continue my own translation work, as well as my research, writing, and editing. So having money would not necessarily buy me time!

What are five jobs you've had?

1. Translator, writer, and editor (okay, so I’ve had these same jobs for a long time!).
2. Acquisitions editor at a publishing company (although I got paid minimum wage for that!).
3. Teaching a writing workshop at a senior citizens’ home.
4. Tutor in Latin and math.
5. One summer I worked as a temp while also studying and that included work at a candy exhibition. The smell of sugar was truly sickening after a few hours.

Who are five people you want to tag?

1. Eric Dickens.
2. Andrew Shields.
3. Ola Wikander. (And now with a blog in English, too!)
4. Simon Ager.
5. Chad Post.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Site for Word Nerds

I'm an admitted linguaphile (or a word nerd, as some of my friends so very politely term me), so I enjoy this site, where I can indulge my frequent desire for unusual new words.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Translation Goals for 2009

This is Brave New Words' 300th post and since it almost coincides with the new year, I thought I'd use it to write about my translatorial goals for 2009.

First on my list is finishing my Ph.D. in translation studies. If all goes well, I'll be Dr. B.J. by the autumn.

Related to that, I want to keep working on my translation-based research. It is really fascinating to see how literary texts are modified in translation and why. I also think it is essential for translators and translation researchers to have more contact and I hope to use some of my research to bridge the gap between the practioners and the theorists.

Finally, I also hope to continue to get really interesting translation projects. One thing I love about translation is that I learn something new with each assignment. An additional benefit especially for literary translation work is the pleasure it gives me to know I am helping a talented author get a wider audience.

What are your goals for your translation practice in 2009? Whatever they are, I wish you a wonderful year, full of exciting projects!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Language-Sharing Programs

Has anyone tried out internet sites for language learning, in which users share their knowledge with one another? Let’s say your native language is French and you want to learn Russian; on such a site, you can find someone whose native tongue is Russian and who wants to learn French. You two can work together online, exchanging your knowledge. My university actually has a program like this and recently I’ve heard about Palabea, a site with users from 190 countries. I’ve looked at Palabea, but I am not sure if I think such sites can work so well; just because someone has a particular native language doesn’t mean that s/he knows how to teach the grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation to another person. I might try it out at some point, anyway, so I’d be glad to hear what experience others have with language-sharing programs.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Wild Words from the Voice of America

Someone from Voice of America contacted me to suggest I might be interested in a new blog by one of VOA’s reporters, Ted Landphair. This blog is about various places Mr. Landphair has visited and it features a section entitled Wild Words, where he explains some of the unusual terms he comes across. I’d never heard of “burley” before and I liked the phrase “red-headed stepchild.”