Archive for the ‘Musings in Translation’ Category

Learning German Boosts Your Salary

Anyway, that’s what reports in its June 4, 2014, online magazine (  The article says that learning any second language can boost your salary, although in many cases it takes years for the difference to matter.  The average boost, according to the research, is just 2%, but German jumps that to 4%.  I’m sure the German translators and interpreters will feel very pleased at that.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in fact, translators and interpreters are among the top five fastest growing occupations, and opportunities between 2012 and 2022 are expected to increase by 46%.   Hooray!   But…

The fact is, learning another language isn’t as important as learning it WELL.  Anyone can learn to speak another language poorly enough to be dangerous.  Think of the hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of people who speak not only their own language, but one or more others, which can range from just a few words to total fluency.  And the speaking of another tongue is only half the battle.  Language absolutely derives from culture.  If you learn a language, you must study and come to understand the culture that brought it forth.  And then we must learn to WRITE it properly.  That means spelling, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation–all those things that kids spend years in school attempting to master, and many winding up at best mediocre.  Case in point:  how many people do you know who are terrible writers or spellers?

So working as a translator or as an interpreter is no small feat to do well.  Excellence in this field demands extraordinary talent and skill, not just knowledge.  It’s the talent to intuit the pulse, rhythms, nuances and subtleties of both languages in question.  It’s the skill to correctly pick the proper word in the target language that imparts exactly the same message in the most societally appropriate way as the source tongue.  Trust me, that can be very hard, indeed, especially when the cultures are so very different, and one language’s everyday word is another language’s no-no.  And let’s not even get into the terminology differences in the very same tongue as used from country to country.  Translators achieve this in writing.  Interpreters must do it instantaneously in speech.  Without expertise, translation and interpretation can be a minefield.

So, learning German may pay off more than other languages because of the technical fields to which it lends itself, but in the long run, all second languages are rich in payoff, both personally because of the in-depth knowledge of the other culture required, and professionally because of the ability to bridge a language gap successfully for business or otherwise.  The market is the market, and all should be well paid.

Language can promulgate the best of times or the worst of times.  Whether it’s for German or any other tongue, a good linguist is worth his or her weight in gold.

Do you speak…dolphin?

Okay, let’s face it.  We translators pride ourselves on being fluent in other languages.  But here’s a new one for the list:  Dolphin.


Well… computers now recognize patterns in the speech of wild dolphins.   A Cetation Hearing and Telemetry device, or CHAT, is currently being used by artificial intelligence researchers at Georgia Tech.  Divers are attempting to communicate with these creatures using a two-way translation device.  Employing a call-and-response method, the divers will play one of eight sounds they have already created that correspond to the dolphins’ desire to play, such as “play with seaweed” or “ride the boat’s wake”.  The divers will then figure out whether the dolphins repeat the sounds and eventually will learn to recognize the dolphins’ accent (who knew dolphins had accents?!) and ultimately how to decipher the mammals’ natural sounds.

Wow!  Before long, Eloquence Language Services can offer Dolphin to English as a niche.  Then Dolphin to French, or Dolphin to Spanish, or…   I wonder how many millions of requests that will garner?

Working in this communication business is always interesting due to its variety, but a translation job like this one?  Um, that definitely takes the…seaweed!

Fun Write-Up!

As a long-time member of the American Translator’s Association (ATA) and my local ATA chapter, called the Midwest Association of Translators and Interpreters (MATI), I was recently contacted to do a write-up on me and on my company.  I was so excited and pleased–and it turned out great! It was a lot of fun to write, and so I want to share it with you, too.   Here is the link.  It even has a picture!  🙂

In the article I speak of my daughter, Sandra Alboum, in this.  How could I not?  To me she has been both an inspiration and a joy.  I feel like such a lucky person to have a person like her in my life and to be doing something, thanks in no small part to her, that is of importance and value to others.  I would have it no other way.


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!

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!


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:  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:,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: .  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. 


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.

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