The serial comma – all you need to know

Ah, the serial comma. If there’s one topic that can be relied upon to polarise opinion among language lovers, that’s it. Yet for most people, its niceties are something of a mystery. Also known as the Oxford or Harvard comma, it’s that little flick of the pen or keyboard that some use between the last two items in a list:

Tom, Dick, and Harry

as opposed to

Tom, Dick and Harry.

Some insist that you should always use it; others, that you should never. But, if you look closely (and dispassionately), you can see that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Here’s why. Continue reading

How to crack those tough translation nuts

You know those expressions that are a pain to translate to/from Italian? Awkward words that don’t behave, that stubbornly resist your best attempts, that never seem to come out nicely first time. Or second time. Those.

Ever wondered if your lovely colleagues have found a quick and elegant way to crack some of them? Well now there’s a chance to find out. The upcoming ITI conference in Cardiff will feature a session for Italianists and Italophiles on the Saturday morning (20 May 2017), where you can compare notes and tap into the collective wisdom of your compagni di viaggio. Over a cup of proper coffee. What could be finer?

So till then, make a note of any of your “favourite” troublesome words or phrases, and pass them on to me at, ideally as example sentences with a bit of context. I’ll collate, add a couple of my own, and we can all pit our wits against them in Cardiff.

Sign up now:

Illuminiamoci d’immenso!

Instagurus and faking it up

So. I hear you’re diversifying?

Sure am. It’s the way to go these days, you know. Everyone’s got an online course, a membership programme, a coaching scheme or some sideline or other. It’s about time I got in on the act. I mean, how hard can it be? Sounds like a nice little earner.

You’re becoming an instaguru, then?

A what now? Don’t think so; social media isn’t really my thing, although I do have 37 followers on Twitter, you know.

Not Instagram, you lummox. Instaguru. An “instant guru”. A shiny expert with all the answers* available for a great-value price (hurry while stocks last!).

* The actual experience and expertise underpinning these answers may vary from that implied.

Hang on a sec –

– Because if you are, you might find yourself persona non grata.

Continue reading

Peer training, peerless value?

Translators need continuous professional development (CPD), and the best people to provide it are often other translators. You might look to a wine expert to add zest to your oenology specialism or turn to an accountant to learn about your tax system. For many other topics, though, peer training can be your best bet, especially if you need help applying the knowledge to your translation business, or simply if the subject is purely translation- or language-related.

e-learning is one of the latest big things, and more and more professionals are getting in on the act. Increasing numbers of translators are providing teaching, training and learning opportunities for other translators, from webinars to workshops and from blog posts and courses to conference speeches. Which is great, right? Continue reading

METM16 conference bulletin

As a translator, what do you expect from a good conference?

A variety of thought-provoking, entertaining presentations and workshops; a spot of productive networking; plenty of convivial chinwagging with friends old and new; cementing bonds with online teammates; a slam (yes, a translation conference with an actual translation slam! Why don’t they all do that?); a beautiful, atmospheric conference venue; a beautiful, atmospheric host city; good food; gorgeous weather; the giddy, nerve-jangling high of getting up there and giving a presentation; and coming away with reams of notes, things learned, ideas to implement in your business, and the feeling that it had all been a grand experience?

Well that – apart from the weather – was METM16 in Tarragona. Miss out? See you in Brescia 2017 then ;).

[shamelessly reblogged (with acknowledgements, etc.) from the METM16 Facebook page]

Cut the coy act, translators!

The other day, the UK Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) re-opened the call for papers for its prestigious 2017 conference, because not enough submissions were “on topic”: honing and toning our core translation skills. It seems we’re keener to talk about marketing, technology, pricing, agencies, ergonomics, social media, or whatever – all pressing and worthy matters, of course – than about what we actually do. Hard to believe? Continue reading

More quality, less speed: translation buyers beware!

Pick any two, they say, from price, quality and speed. Two, not three. Because you can’t have a top-quality translation for an urgent deadline without paying a premium, for example.

It’s true that translators can produce a sublime piece of work in a big rush now and then, when a valued client needs it, but it’s not a sustainable approach. And it’s dangerous to imply that it might be. In the long run, speed and quality are not reconcilable. Continue reading

Translation ethics: an experience at the wordface

What would you do if this happened to you?

We were all brought up to be good boys and girls (probably girls, statistically speaking, given the demographics of the translation ‘fraternity’). We all have our moral compass and our idea of what’s right. And when we join a translation institute, we sign the code of professional conduct, glowing gently with the noble feeling that we’ve just made the world a slightly better place.

Then we merrily translate away in our snug home offices for several years, and nothing of note happens, ethics-wise.

Until one day, something does… Continue reading

Keep going

He’d been waiting for me.

“I say! Laddie!”

The Lord Todd of Trumpington waved his walking stick at me from across the First Court of Christ’s College, Cambridge.

Actually, he’d been waiting for anyone. To aid his recovery from an altercation between his kneecap and a paving stone, his doctors had instructed him to take a tour of the Court each morning. Accompanied, of course. Which was where I, the next undergraduate to walk through the gate at the time, came in.

I forget what we talked about during our laggardly lap of the circular lawn, except his parting words: Continue reading