Lost in Translation

I read, with some amusement, that the new French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, has been forced to provide alternative pronunciations of his surname to Arabic-speaking countries as his surname sounds like their word for a rather intimate male body part!

This is not the first time that I have heard of people having to change their names due to unfortunate translations. Indeed, our Assistant Academic Manager was forced to use his middle name when he lived in Japan upon realising that his first name corresponded to a Japanese translation of “Toilet”! Can you guess what his real name is?

This led me to think about the often derided ‘Chinglish’ – Chinese translations of Mandarin into English – and my own time reading this whilst travelling in China. This,

usually after a couple of beers, became extremely funny to myself and my travelling companions and I have added my own example of the “best” chinglish that I found whilst in the bathroom of a restaurant in Beijing! If you want to see more, just search “chinglish” in Google and a whole host of websites will appear.

What this tells us is that not everything will easily translate, as anyone who is bilingual will tell you. Thus, it is so important to understand the context of a sentence and how it relates to the words around it to ensure a correct estimation can be made for the meaning. One can’t solely rely on a dictionary – a fact that any Spanish waiter could tell a British tourist, no doubt!

I think that by being in a country and dealing with locals in the local language, you get a much better grasp of the more colloquial language that often prevails – thus, helping you to understand the nuances that a dictionary will not tell you. Better still, if taking a course in that country, you can ask your tutor to help you with the definition!

Then, you are further along in your goal to becoming fluent.

How about you? Have there been times that you were “lost in translation”? Perhaps there is a funny translation in your name? Or, there has been a local idiom which you have been unable to understand? Join the discussion and let us know!

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English Speaking Universities

I have read with interest the recent news, reported by the BBC that the Politecnico di Milano, one of Italy’s leading Universities is now switching the majority of its Undergraduate courses and all of it’s Graduate courses from Italian Language to English.

The University’s rector, Giovanni Azzone states that if the University wishes to remain visible on the world stage, then it simply must adopt the English language.

Citing that English is now the language of higher education, particularly in science and engineering internationally, and with it being the international language for business, graduates will become more employable, research will be more widely shared and the best international students and professors will be attracted to the University.

Thus, I presume, ensuring the continued success of the University.

Additionally, pointing out the increased competition from wealthy American and Asian universities, Mr. Azzone suggests that to effectively compete with these, students must use English.

I believe it to be a shrewd move by the the University and, to me, this all makes perfect sense. I see it as the University simply reacting to the increasingly globalised world that we all now live in.

Like any good business, they are adapting to fit the new needs that are fast emerging, ensuring that they stay ahead of the game – and being the first Italian University to do this, they should be well ahead in 5 or 10 years time compared to their Italian counterparts.

Many Northern European universities already teach in English and enjoy excellent Erasmus schemes with other Universities and don’t distinguish based on language. Thus, they already receive top talent and are able to be ranked higher for research as this is in English.

This realisation of the global language is something that Edinburgh School of English has advocated for a long time. The communication skills workshops we run are specifically designed to help students use English in international teams and build confidence in English, focusing on performance, fluency and accuracy. Furthermore, incorporating student interests and focuses, we keep classes topical and relevant to the student, leading to a higher level of applied skill when outwith the classroom.

We aim to to help our students perform to the best of their ability on the world stage!

It is my thought that as more Universities and businesses enforce an English Language requirement, communication focused English courses such as ours will become ever more in demand as parents and students alike realise the opportunities this opens to them and the need to remain competitive in ever increasing competition.

We’ll see what happens in 5-10 years time…!

Jerry