Author Archive

America the Beautiful

Watching the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, is a pleasure.  Seeing the story about the -50 degree F. winters in Siberia makes me feel like ours has not been such a big deal after all.  But then I digress…

I was quite disgusted to see the ruckus created by that Coca-Cola commercial (America the Beautiful sung in multiple languages).  “Speak American!” its detractors shouted.

Speak American?  Well, gee, what is American? Is it the language of the immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe who fled their countries to the U.S. East Coast in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries?  Or maybe the Asians and Pacific Islanders who came here to the West Coast around the same time?  Or could it be the groups from Latin America who have sought the U.S. out as a haven for decades and decades?  What about the refugees settled here by the United Nations and the Catholic and Lutheran Charities, such as the Burmese?  Perhaps it is  just the native Americans who all those others pushed out of their ageless homelands. Are they the only ones speaking “American”? Or maybe, just maybe, it is all of them.

What do you want to bet that those detractors’ ancestors didn’t speak “American”, either?

Save for those from the British Isles, no one came to these shores speaking English.  They spoke every language on earth, but over time they or their children all learned.  They all came here to make a better life.  All of them adapted, brought their hopes, dreams, talents and hard work to this great nation.  And yes, no matter what their language, all of them speak and are “American”.

This country is a strong, vibrant amalgam of all the countries of the world.  That is what America is about.  And when Coca-Cola plays a commercial where different ethnic and cultural groups sing America the Beautiful in their native languages, THAT is a beautiful thing.  It is who we are.  It is what makes us unique in world history.  It is what makes us great.  In all its colors, races, peoples AND languages, America IS beautiful.

 

What Languages Sound Like to Others

I absolutely LOVE this video.  This girl is a genius at capturing the sound of other languages, and when you hear her speaking one you know (whichever one it is), the chances are huge that she won’t actually be saying anything that makes sense.  But man, has she nailed the sounds of them all!  Take two minutes and listen.  This is why I find listening to the musicality of different languages so doggone interesting.  Enjoy!

http://memolition.com/2014/03/31/what-languages-sound-like-to-foreigners/

Hello, Super Bowl!

Eloquence Language Services has been awarded the designation of Official Indianapolis 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee Emerging Business Participant!  This means we can display the logos on our website, letterhead and email signature.

As the sole language provider in the city awarded this notable designation, and working together with other selected Emerging Business companies, we are privileged to build relationships for Game Day itself and for the future long beyond the game.

Everyone in Indianapolis is excited and eagerly looking forward to February 5, 2012, and all the activities leading up to this world-class event in the two weeks preceding it.

Eloquence will support its fellow businesses with language translation and interpretation work wherever we are needed.

When the world comes to Indianapolis, Indianapolis will be ready for the world!

Punctuation?!

For those of us who care about punctuation (and for those of us who don’t), there’s a super article in the Wall Street Journal called “Is This the Future of Punctuation!?”.  You can find it here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204618704576641182784805212.html?mod=djemWMP_h  The author, Henry Hitchings, writes a wonderful and funny piece about how we butcher punctuation in English.  The items we take for granted (or don’t), such as the comma, the exclamation point and the question mark are relatively recent additions.  The apostrophe, the author states, is probably on its way out along with the hyphen (except where it will live on in emoticons). 

But have you ever heard of the Pilcrow?  The Interrobang?  The Exclamation Comma or the Snark?  (Gotta love something called the Snark!)  No?  Check this out (click to enlarge the picture):

 

 

 

 

 

I’d be sad to see the apostrophe bite the dust.  I’m one of those people who goes crazy when I see punctuation used wrong.  But then, linguists are like that, aren’t they?

This author’s newest book,  The Language Wars: A History of Proper English, will either be a page turner for people who like punctuation or a sleeping pill for people who don’t.  I’m planning on being up all night reading.

Whoa! Why Some Languages Sound So Much Faster Than Others

A terrifically fun article in Time Magazine on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011, by Jeffrey Kluger describes something that virtually all of us have encountered at one time or another:  listening to someone else speaking a language we don’t understand and wondering why the heck they speak so fast.  You can find the article here: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2091477,00.html?xid=newsletter-weekly

Of course, we can graciously speculate that it’s probably because we don’t know what they’re saying that makes it sound so zip-zip-zip and that English must sound the same way to them, but guess what?  The answer really is far more interesting than that.

Researchers from the French Université de Lyon wondered, too, and they recently did a study to find out why.  You can read the details in the article, but in short they discovered that some languages are more “dense” than others, meaning that some languages say more in fewer syllables than others and don’t have to fit as much into the same time period as others to say the same thing.  So, while English is a relatively “dense” language and can be spoken at a little slower pace to impart meaning, Spanish, it turns out as one example, is less dense than English, and so it IS spoken faster to make up for it.  And the fastest spoken language of the 8 tested was the least dense of all, which was…..Japanese!

So, it isn’t your imagination running away with you when you hear another language and think, “Whoa there–not so fast!”  Everybody is trying to get their thoughts out in a similar period of time, and depending on the language you happen to speak, you may just  have to “giddy-up”!

To Write a Wrong

Yes, sadly that “write” is correctly written.  The  State of Indiana has recommended that Indiana schools stop teaching children cursive handwriting and replace it with keyboarding.  This is drawing everything from ridicule to applause from all over the country.

Me?  I don’t like it at all.

I think cursive handwriting is part of the formative process of learning a language.  I’ve read that research has shown that the process of physically forming and connecting cursive letters actually enhances the cognitive language learning process.  It has to do with the brain’s analysis of the letters and sounds making up the word as the hand slowly forms the letters one by one.  It aids with spelling, which heavens knows, a lot of people can use the help with.

An article in the New York Times by Jennifer Lee describes how using a computer keyboard has all but destroyed many Chinese people’s ability to write Chinese characters.  They’ve plain forgotten them.  You can see the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/featured_articles/20010201thursday.html .  Americans who use computers all the time forget how to spell properly, too — their spellcheck does it for them.  As a linguaphile, I know how untrustworthy spellcheck can be.  Just because you type a word doesn’t mean it’s the word you meant.  But if it’s in the dictionary–even if it’s the wrong word for the sentence–the spellcheck often accepts it. 

Lovely.

I like a keyboard as much as anyone else.  It’s fast, and it’s simple.  But I’d rather get a handwritten thank you note any day than a tweet.

I’m old fashioned.  I believe we owe it to our kids to keep them in touch with a pencil or pen and teach them the detailed care of creating cursive letters to heighten their language learning.  In my opinion, taking the easy way out by teaching strictly keyboarding at the expense of cursive writing is asking for trouble. Indiana doesn’t get it.   This decision isn’t doing our kids any favor. It’s just going to make them language poorer.

Humili – What?

I recently posted a job on a professional site for translators and interpreters.  I was looking for someone with a particular technical background for a possible upcoming  job. 

A response arrived that knocked me over.  It was from a self-proclaimed medical doctor from a country that shall remain nameless and who was so full of himself I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to work with him in person or from afar  The letter was over the top.  It was chock full of hyperbole like “One of the best translators you’ll ever meet in your life”,  “No need to mention how great I am”,  “I am very clever and helpful”, or “I won’t talk very much about the championships I got”.  Really?

The more a person demands the attention of others to how superior he is, the lower his own self-esteem.  Such insufferable know-it-alls rarely make good team members.

One hallmark of a good translator  is humility.  It’s the acknowlegement that he doesn’t know it all, the insatiable interest to learn new things and the openness to self-improvement.  Mr. Full-of-Himself didn’t get my job.  Eloquence chooses to work with fine, thoughtful, serious linguists whose focus is on the customer, not on themselves. Working for excellence for the sake of the product, not for the glory. That’s the real secret to success.

Arabic – The Newest Hot Language

Now that the U.S. government has Osama bin Laden’s computers and thumb drives securely in hand and stored at the FBI’s facilities in Langley, Virginia (to make sure they’re in the right chain of command in case the evidence they produce will be uncontestable if used in court), the race is on to decipher what they say.  Word is that Arabic translators are in hot demand to scour the data to discover what new, nepharious plots and individuals we aren’t aware of should be followed up or hunted down. 

If I were an Arabic translator with government clearance right now, I’d be jumping on the government’s doorstep to get a piece of the action.  Not only would it be guaranteed work, it would be national-defense-quality important work.  Can you imagine the responsibility for getting the translation precisely right on that job?  You certainly don’t want to mess up that baby!

It’s good to see that foreign languages are still making headlines–even though it took ten years and a scumbag like Osama bin Laden to make the need for Arabic translation the next big thing.

2010 Census

I was looking at the recent publicity on the 2010 census and struck by how it relates to the Hispanic population of the U.S. 

According to the most newly released information, one in six Americans is now Hispanic.  Hispanics account for more than half the nation’s growth between 2000 and 2010, jumping to over 50 million people.  They are all over the continental U.S.  While before they were mostly concentrated on the coasts in the larger cities, now they live in the most unlikely places, including small towns, of the U.S. heartland and elsewhere.  Seven states would have lost population were it not for the Hispanic community in this last decade.

What this means is that this country, which up to very recent years was primarily a black-white nation, is now heavily populated by growing ethnic communities, such as Hispanic and Asian, for example, everywhere, which cannot be ignored.

Americans have long felt alienated from the rest of the world, separated as we are by two oceans from Europe and Asia, and with one of our two adjoining nations speaking English like us, we’ve felt pretty smug about not having to deal with the “foreign influence” and gotten pretty upset when told that we had to accomodate to other languages and cultures. 

That world of isolation is dead.

Nowadays, if a business or government entity wants to make contact with all the members of its community, it can no longer ignore the fact that a vast majority of the faces out there are not necessarily native English speakers or members of the good old boy membership.  When the census says that barely three decades from now non-Hispanic whites will be a minority, any company worth its salt had better sit up and take notice.  Foreign languages are going to have to become part of the focus in outreach, advertising and public relations of any organization planning to stay in front of the public market. To think otherwise is to ignore the onrushing future, bury one’s head in the sand and nail one’s feet to the floor. 

We’re here to help you get on board the language train.  Don’t get left behind and become a statistic.

How Low Can You Go?

It’s insulting.  I just received a call from an agency that has called me several times over the years to serve as a medical interpreter for some of their Workmen’s Comp clients in the Indianapolis area.  My rates are reasonable by most standards.  We agreed on them originally, and they paid them without any fuss.  They also paid me for mileage, although they wouldn’t even match the Federal rate, but I tolerated it. 

This afternoon I heard from this company for the first time since last fall.  They say they have a new system, a “Five-Star Rating System”, and they want to “negotiate” my rates so I can be “competitive” with the other providers in my area.  (Red flag!)

First the caller started with my certifications.  She needs proof, she said, that I have a company certification.  (I certainly do–I’m a Certified Woman’s Business Enterprise with the State of Indiana AND the City of Indianapolis, as well as a trained Spanish-English medical interpreter. What do they do with independent providers who aren’t a company??) Okay, so no problem there.

Then we got into the rates.  “I see you charge $XX with a 2-hour minimum,” she said.  I concurred.  “In order to be a competitively ranked Five-Star provider, we’d like to negotiate a payment with you of $YY.”  I was stunned.  She was offering me less than two-thirds of my current rate, which is already more than fair for this area.  I said no dice.  I could see this was going downhill.

Next she brought up the mileage.  As it was, they had only been paying $0.45/mile despite the Federal rate being $0.51/mile and gas now pushing $4.00/gallon.  This lady then had the nerve to ask me to “negotiate” a gas rate of  just $0.30/mile.  That was  unbelievable. I said an emphatic no to that one, too. 

Finally, she told me they now pay a flat rate for No Shows that is basically just a one-hour rate (nowhere near enough to compensate for the expended (read, wasted) time to drive there, cool your heels until you find out no one came and go back to the office) and NO mileage rate to compensate for your gas.  I politely declined again.  We were three for three.

Where is it written that it’s okay to devalue medical interpreting to the point that rates are ”negotiated” down to nothing while when pocketing the difference the agency greedily fattens its bottom line?  It’s disgraceful and unprofessional, especially with that old canard ”cheap pay will make you a Five-Star competitive provider”.  Baloney!  Do you tell a doctor to drop his rates to be  a “five-star competitor”?

Professional work deserves professional pay.  Foreign language provision deserves the respect of any other highly skilled talent.  Don’t show up on this doorstep to wheedle down the pay rates in order to make us think it’s ”competitive”!  Quality is worth the price, and you get what you pay for.

That company should be ashamed of itself.  And as for all those “Five-Star providers” it’s ostensibly sending out?   I feel sorry for their patients.

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