Friday, January 31, 2014

Languages In The News: January 2014

As we sluggishly approach the end of January, we hope you have managed to keep your resolutions. Today we'll be having a look at the top language news stories from the first month of the new year.

On the last day of the year NPR was clearly thinking about its resolutions for 2014. They put together an argument for why twerk and selfie are words that need to go.

The Guardian challenged spoken language with its fascinating look at prescriptivism in British dialects. Without asking, we later got the opposing opinion from across the pond from Techcrunch.

Of course, the beginning of the new year is always full of retrospectives on the previous year. The BBC was no exception, looking at the 20 most overused words of 2013 on New Year's Day.

It certainly seemed that on both sides of the pond, twerk and selfie were the most popular words of the year, as well as the most likely to be condemned to lexical hell.

Our favourite academic blog, Language Log also looked back at 2013 and the word "because" in its new, somewhat disgusting usage.

The Oxford University Press blog mixed music with language and showed us a number of instruments that took their names from their creators. Sadly, there was never a Mr. Piano or Mrs. Guitar, but there were a few interesting ones that we had no idea were named after a person.

Edutopia cleared the muddy waters of academic language with 8 strategies for teaching academic language.

The video game website Eurogamer had a story on a devoted group of translators who translated an entire game for free since there was no English version available.

NPR's codeswitch blog posted a riveting look at dying languages and the eventualities when their last monolingual native speaker dies, while the main site brought together science, music, and language in a story on a pill that could help you attain perfect pitch and language learning skills. Codeswitch was back in the latter half of the month with a look at Puerto Ricans living on the US mainland, revealing that not as many of them speak Spanish at home as one might think.

Slate gave us an interesting anthropological and etymological piece on the origins of Jewish surnames, plus a piece on translation and some of the more difficult terms to translate from The Metamorphosis.

Montreal Gazette had a divisive opinion piece on the ongoing debate of why English speakers should be speaking French in Quebec.

It seems that for every colour there's an etymology.
By the middle of the month, we came across something quite amazing: a Buzzfeed article that wasn't a list peppered with GIFs! Not that we hate images of cute cats and reaffirming that we were born in the 80s, but it's always nice to see real articles there too, such as the one on the Spanish translation used for the Obamacare website. This wasn't long-lived as later in the month, Buzzfeed was back with a list, this time the 37 worst translated movie titles ever. Though it only includes Spanish language titles, it was nice to mindlessly muse over the translation decisions and why they were made.

Sarah Hashim-Wallace of the LA Times provided us with a piece in which she tested how useful the Google Translate app was on a trip to Tokyo. It may have received 4 out of 5 stars from one reviewer but the results in the field paint a very different picture.

Towards the end of the month an opinion piece from The New York Times appeared on translation as a performing art. We were drawn in by Antony Shugaar's piece and hope you will be too. To end the month, Gizmodo had a wonderful piece on the etymology of colours, plus a video with the Oscar-nominated song from Disney's Frozen in 25 languages was doing the rounds and we loved it! Here it is for your viewing pleasure:

Did we miss any of your favourite language articles? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Medical Interpreting Advocacy for the Deaf by Nina Lizunova

Healthcare affects us at every stage of life; not only are we consumers of the healthcare system from before birth until the end of our lives, but healthcare has become a large part of our national discourse and consumes more of our financial resources every day.  Interpreting also forms an important part within the healthcare system. It seems like the right time for sign language interpreters to increase focus on healthcare and ensure the effectiveness in this important area of practice.

A growing need

The demand for skilled healthcare interpreters is growing. Research found stated that in 2012, NHS Direct in the UK spent more than £16 million on interpreters to help patients from foreign countries communicate with healthcare specialists.

Research in the US also found that at Hennepin County Medical Center, one in every three encounters involves a spoken or sign language interpreter.  Another indicator of this growth is the recent hiring of multiple staff sign language interpreters at the six largest health systems in Minnesota.  There are reports of similar increases in requests for interpreters and expansion of interpreting groups in other large US metropolitan communities.

(Courtesy SignVideo)
NHS 24, which is the Scottish equivalent of NHS Direct, has started using the online Video Relay Service (VRS), InterpreterNow! It is a simple way of connecting a Deaf person to a hearing person via an online interpreter. The service is accessed using a live webcam link that connects the Deaf person to qualified British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters. The Deaf user communicates their health query to the interpreter and the interpreter telephones NHS 24 and relays the conversation. The interpreter will then relay the result of the conversation with NHS 24 to the Deaf person.

When is a medical interpreter necessary?

If you are a medical institute or relevant professional, you may at some time need an interpreter to communicate with your Deaf, hard of hearing, Deaf Blind, or late-deafened patient, or with their Deaf, hard of hearing, Deaf Blind, or late-deafened spouse, parent, guardian, or family member. This might be for triage in the emergency room, a weekly therapy session, or for 24-hour coverage in intensive care. It is vitally important in these situations to work with a qualified interpreter, one who has training and experience in medical or mental health interpreting. In many cases, your specific need for interpreters does not justify hiring someone full-time. Working with an experienced interpreting agency to obtain services on an as-needed basis can help to make your communication accessibility a reasonable task.

Interpreters accept assignments based on their varied skill sets, depending on the type of interpreting needed: sign language is appropriate with many who are Deaf or hard of hearing, tactile or close vision communication with many whom are Deaf Blind and oral transliteration with many who are late-deafened. In addition, a qualified Deaf Interpreter may be needed in situations involving children, or with someone who has limited formal language, limited cognitive function, or is from another country.

There may be someone in your hospital or office who knows sign language, but unless that person is a certified interpreter, serious errors can occur. Alternately, the patient, or their family member or friend may offer to interpret. Again, errors can occur, and a true and accurate interpretation may not be rendered.

Having an interpreter for full communication access is essential. However, there have been numerous cases of failure (or outright refusal) of medical establishments to provide sign language interpreters.

Specialized practice

As interpreters continue to develop and to take their place as greater and active members of the healthcare team, they will need to consider what their model of practice might look like.  What behaviours must be demonstrated in order to indicate to the nurses, technicians and doctors that we are their colleagues, not friends or the patient’s family members? As professional colleagues, what are their obligations to these medical team members? How are they focusing on supporting the best health outcomes for the patient?

Systematically discussing questions like those above are only part of the bigger picture of developing standards of practice and quality care.  The time has come to build a specialized practice of interpreters in healthcare.  Interpreters need to advocate that healthcare interpreters, Deaf or hearing, should have the education and supervised work experience to support full access to effective communication in healthcare settings for Deaf and Deaf Blind people.  Communication is an important part of the doctor – patient relationship, and when needed sign language interpreters should be considered an important part too.

Please note Deaf with a capital “D” refers to the Deaf community and deaf with a small “d” refers to a person who is deaf.

Nina Lizunova is a Language Project Coordinator at Romo Translations, which provides translation and interpreting services in London, for private clients and large corporations that operate in a multinational, multi-cultural business environment.

For more information, please visit

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Everything You Need To Know About Getting To A UK University, All In One Place by Jennifer Lee

There are an overwhelming amount of university options open to international students in the UK; the Study Group University Fair for International Students is the place to make sense of them.

Most people will tell you that, when learning a language, it always helps to have a goal in mind. Whether seeking personal advancement, improved career prospects, or in the pursuit of academic greatness, keeping your eyes on the prize maintains focus and can help you get there much sooner.

The UK has a thriving community of English language schools, attended each year by tens of thousands of students from all over the world. For many, it’s the first step in an exciting journey towards their dream of securing a place to study for a world-class degree at a leading UK university. Studying for a degree abroad alongside a wide array of students from many different backgrounds can be transformative, both personally and in terms of language development – students may pick up more than just English in classes with British, South America and Asian students. Having mastered English at language school, higher education (HE) at university is the place to push understanding and ability to the limit.

However, to get to university, a pathway programme is often required to secure the correct academic and English language qualifications. But this is where things can get overwhelming for many international students, with IELTS and academic requirements to consider as well as student visas and UCAS applications. Here at Study Group, we have been preparing international students to study at UK universities for many decades, either in partnership with leading universities such as the University of Lincoln, the University of Sussex and the University of Leicester; or at our Bellerbys Colleges in Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton or London. Having seen firsthand how the wealth of HE options open to students can make a tough decision even harder to reach, we’ve organised a fair in London that has all the relevant information in one place – IELTs and UCAS (Universities & Colleges Admissions Service) experts, representatives from more than 75 universities as well as advisors on hand to discuss things like visa issues. The Study Group University Fair for International Students takes place at the Park Plaza Victoria Hotel, Central London, Saturday 8th February 2014. Entry and registration is free.

There will be seminars at the fair dealing with applying and studying at a UK university, adapting to UK culture, work placements and employability issues, advice on how to secure your university place, as well as insights into some of the highest-ranking UK institutions.

Information about specific degree courses will be readily available, and experts will be available to talk you through options and show you which pathway to university entry would work best based on your individual requirements. Friendly student enrolment advisers will even be issuing on-the-spot offers for Study Group preparation courses to students who meet the entry requirements (click here for details).

For many students at the UK’s English language schools, a degree from a UK university is their ultimate goal, but their time at university is also a wonderful opportunity to build their language skills. Therefore, I would absolutely encourage them to come and visit us in London in February.

Jennifer Lee is project co-ordinator at Study Group, and is responsible for the Study Group University Fair for International Students. Keep up to date with the show on Facebook or by following @StudyGroupFair on Twitter.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Evaluating Translation: Why Translation is Like Women

A painting suspected to be of Gilles Ménage.
One of the great unsolved mysteries in linguistics is the issue of translation itself. Evaluating the quality of translation is an incredibly difficult and arduous task, and literal translation versus free translation is always a point of contention.

Long before the field of Translation Studies even existed (that is, if we take its inception as when it was formalised in the 1950s as comparative literature, before being renamed), a French philosopher named Gilles Ménage was quoted as saying in reference to translation that "they remind me of a woman whom I greatly loved in Tours, who was beautiful but unfaithful". What he was really saying was that translations can be either faithful or beautiful, but never both. Whilst inherently sexist, he was, after all, a 17th century French philosopher.

His take on women may be outdated, but his take on translation could be said to hold true. The issue of faithfulness versus transparency runs very deep. For many years, the two have been divided as if they were mutually exclusive.

Though these terms seem sufficient to explain translation, you could argue that translation theorist Lawrence Venuti effectively recoined them as domestication and foreignization. Where domestication replicates the target text in the style of the target language and culture, foreignization prefers for the translation to appear like it was written in a foreign language and usually by a foreign author. Though neither translation style is a one-size-fits-all solution, this uncertainty has plagued the study of translation, and it seems that nobody can find a perfect answer.

Sadly, whilst Ménage knew the complicated nature of translation, his take on women was definitely wrong. There are women who are beautiful and there are women who are faithful. Beautiful women can be faithful and the not-so-beautiful women can be unfaithful. Guess this mystery will remain relatively unsolved.

What is your opinion of transparency versus faithfulness? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Languages In The News: December 2013

In many western countries, spirits were probably very high in December as the festive season rapidly approached. Sadly, on 5 December, the world lost Nelson Mandela. Since we're not a politics or history blog we won't say much about this, though we felt it deserved a special mention.

On 7 December, had a fascinating article on localisation, (or localization to quote it directly), which looked at the issues surrounding the localisation process for China.

This is more likely to be sign language than anything the
Mandela interpreter signed.
Returning to the sad news of Madiba's death, there was controversy surrounding his memorial when a 'bogus' sign language interpreter marred the proceedings with fake signing. The news was covered pretty much globally, but we preferred the approach of UK newspaper The Independent,
 on 11 December.

The same day, The Independent covered news that a French café was charging rude customers extra, something that we certainly agree with.

The following day, there were developments in the sign language interpreter debacle. We saw in The Guardian that apparently the interpreter suffered from schizophrenia. Elsewhere, it emerged that he also had somewhat of a sordid past. 

Also on 12 December, the Prospero Column of The Economist covered language and thought and whether speaking German changes the way one sees social relationships.

On the 15th, we found the fascinating story of a translator who found love by translating poetry. This was covered in Russia Beyond the Headlines and is one of the most incredible and heart-warming stories we've seen about language in a long time.

The next day, the Telegraph's expat blog told a tale of the long, hard road to learning the Thai language. It may not be for everyone, but if you're a language learner interested in Thai, this may be the story for you.

On 19 December, had an interesting article on the linguistic diversity of Wikipedia. By Christmas Eve, any semblance of productivity had left us, and thankfully, The New York Times provided us with a delightful dialect quiz showing us what our language usage indicates about our city of origin, as long as it's in the US. Hopefully there will be more quizzes for other parts of the world and other languages soon.

We can't wait to see what January and 2014 will bring us. Here's hoping it's a good one!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Get It Right: Nauseous and Nauseated

Today I'll be addressing a personal pet peeve: the difference between nauseous and nauseated. Have you ever had someone correct you and say that you can't be nauseous but you can be nauseated? Annoying, isn't it? Today we will show you how, finally, the grammar Nazis are wrong. However, before we even get into the differences between the two terms, let's have a look at some common suffixes.

Suffixes are common word endings that can, and usually do, dictate word type. Our two words for today, nauseous and nauseated, share a common root - nausea. The word nausea comes from the Ionic Greek nautia, which made its way into Latin as nausea, literally meaning seasickness. Now that we understand our root, we can begin to understand today's problematic words.

Ericameria nauseosa, also known as "rubber rabbitbrush".
The suffix -ous also comes from Latin, which means it pairs well with words with Latin roots. Though the Latin suffix was spelled -osus, it made its way into French as both -ous and -eux, whereas the former is preferred in English. This suffix makes a noun into an adjective as the suffix effectively means "having, full of, having to do with, inclined to", therefore making nauseous mean literally, full of nausea.

Our second word is from a verb, the infinitive to nauseate meaning "to become sick" or "be affected by nausea". Nauseated is of course the past participle of to nauseate, meaning that the person has been affected by nausea.

Most grammar Nazis will tell you that you can only use nauseous in reference to the thing that will make you feel ill, unwell, or akin to seasickness, such as rotten fish, mouldy cheese (except the good kinds that are meant to have mould), and dog poo. These self-righteous leaders of grammar will also tell you that you feel nauseated as a result of the aforementioned nauseous agents. Now that we have looked at the roots of these words can you really agree with them? Especially since if you feel sick you definitely have or are full of nausea, right?

Once you actually look at the word roots and take the time to find out what they mean, you'll understand why the OED and Merriam-Webster dictionaries both state that the two words can pretty much be used interchangeably with nauseous referring to feeling sick and the thing that makes you feel thus, and nauseated only referring to the feeling of being sick.

Next time a grammar Nazi tries to insult your intelligence by telling you that you don't feel nauseous but rather nauseated, you can tell them that their self-righteous and incorrect grammar correction is nauseous and makes you feel both nauseous and nauseated. Guess I have a few people to apologise to...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Best of 2013

What a year it's been! Today we'll be looking back at the best of 2013, including your favourite posts and guest contributions. We'll start with the Top 10 Posts of 2013:

Top 10 Posts of 2013

In April for our Intro to Linguistics series we looked at thematic relations. You guys seemed to appreciate it, as it makes its way into our Top 10 Posts at number 10.

Exactly a year ago today we encouraged you to learn a language and helped you on your way by providing you with a shortlist for the best languages to learn in 2013. We hope you stuck to your resolution!

Russian is often overlooked when it comes to languages that have influenced the lexicon of English. Back in April we had a look at a few examples of words that came from Russia with love, which made it our number 8 post this year.

Though we hate language stereotypes, people seemed to like us setting the record straight back in March.

In January we looked at the Index Translationum, a list of books translated in the world. We found this bibliography of translations interesting and given that it is number 6 in our top 10 posts of 2013, you did too.

Some people swear, others don't. Some people hate swearing, others don't. Back in March, we looked at just how cursed cursing is and whether we should really be so upset by it. Clearly you lot aren't massively upset by swearing or it wouldn't be number 5 in our list.

We also addressed our dislike of artists using their non-native tongue in a song in March. Whilse we want people to learn languages, these examples were so bad that they show that the artists that were named and shamed should have studied a lot harder in school.

In May we addressed the educational issues surrounding compulsory language learning, an issue close to our hearts. It's clearly close to your hearts too and that's why it's number 3 in our list.

Another entry from our Intro to Linguistics series, our look at morphological typology was far more popular than we could have dreamed and made its way into our list in a silver medal position at number 2.

Sometimes it seems that we are all suckers for life's simple pleasures. Our simplified look at word categories was the most popular post of 2013.

Favourite post not featured? Check out the other months of 2013!

Best Guest Contributions

To mark our first birthday back in September, we opened up The Lingua File to guest contributions. Here are the top five guest posts from this year, though that's not to say the others weren't amazing too! If you'd like to contribute to The Lingua File, send an email to

In September, linguist and ESL teacher Jennifer Collins of looked at the relation between language and politics, how we define languages, whether countries can own languages, and how we choose official languages. We found it fascinating and so did our readers, making it number 5 in our best guest contributions.

4: Spelling Wars: The Problem with Reviving Languages by Rhian Davies

Rhian Davies, language policy and planning student, evaluated the spelling issues you encounter when you revive languages. Her post focusing on the minority language of Cornish was fascinating and earned it fourth place in our top 5 guest contributions.

In October, freelance writer Steven Armstrong of looked at ways to motivate students to learn English. This informative and useful post is the first onto our imaginary podium.

Language enthusiast and adventurer Cher Hale of The Iceberg Project gave us 12 ways to get the Italian language into our everyday routine in order to help us master this beautiful and romantic Romance language. We found the steps indispensible and so did you. It's second in our list.

Our guest contribution from famed linguist David Crystal was always going to be number one on our list. The distinguished linguist was kind enough to contribute to The Lingua File and easily earned his place at the top of this list.

If your favourite Guest Post wasn't here, check out our other Guest Posts.

Thank you for being with us so far and we hope that 2014 is as good for you as 2013 was for us!

Happy New Year!!!