India and English


Languages are fascinating – the way they change, the way they merge, the way they’re created, and the way they influence one another. I love seeing how various world history events are evident in the history of a language. Language is a lot like the rings of a tree – you can tell a lot about the environment it was living and growing in based on its history, change, and adaptation.

One unexpected example of this is the influence India had on the English language. English is primarily a Germanic language—meaning its origins are most similar to German. It has also been heavily influenced by Latin and French, mostly due to the different time periods in which people of these regions controlled England and the English-speaking areas. However, it turns out that Britain’s longtime relationship with India through the East India Trading Company also had an impact on the English language. Words such as “pajamas” “loot” “shampoo” and “thug” originated in India and have crept into the English language almost unnoticed.

The earliest Indian influence on English was actually secondary—words such as “ginger” and “pepper” that had been assimilated by the Greeks and Romans on their trade routes with India were brought into English through the influence of Greek and Latin. Most of these words were practical. “Ginger” and “pepper” both were plants that became a global commodity and therefore the word also gained global popularity—not unlike the words “Google” “wifi” and “email” in today’s society.

Later on, as global trade expanded, more words reached the British Isles. Many, such as “mango” came through Portugal and underwent a Portuguese adaptation before being assimilated into English. Others came directly along trade routes with Britain, such as “shawl” and “cashmere,” both of which describe popular high society products that were traded for in India in the 17 and 1800s.

The impact India has had on English shows the ways in which languages are constantly changing and evolving. Language is fluid. It follows its speakers wherever they go. In today’s world especially, connections are everywhere, and more and more languages are impacting one another as opportunities for global collaboration grow.

Read more online on BBC Culture.


This post originally appeared at


Tech in the Classroom

ipadin-classroomI’m a big fan of using technology for educational purposes – but I ran across this blog post
today and I think it points out some great questions to ask ourselves when we start to use technology in our classrooms. Tech is great, but sometimes the cost can outweigh the benefits if the tech isn’t really the right fit.

Questions to ask when trying a new tool:

  1. Why am I using this?
  2. What will the students learn through this activity/tool?
  3. What value is added by including the use of this tool?
  4. How does my pedagogy need to change in order to effectively incorporate this tool?
  5. Is the time spent incorporating this tool worth it?
  6. Do I understand this tool? How long will it take for my students to learn it?
  7. Who will benefit from the use of this tool?
  8. What will I do if this tool doesn’t work?


Carefully considering the answers to each of these questions can ensure that the classroom remains focused on creating the best educational experience for each student, rather than on immediately implementing every new educational technology on the market.

Making a Difference – Translator Edition

When I was a sophomore in college, a very generous scholarship donor chose me as a recipient. It probably didn’t make much of a difference to the donor, but for me, the scholarship was life-changing, since it allowed me to spend a semester abroad and ultimately shaped my degree and career path. Ever since, I’ve developed a love for giving back and donating.

For most freelancers who are just getting started, it can be difficult finding resources to spare. However, there are many ways to donate, and doing a little pro bono work is a great way to gain experience and also help make the world a better place. If you’re a translator looking for a way to give back, check out Pieter Beens’ tips on his blog for getting started translating with charities. And watch the Same Day Translations blog next week for more tips on how translators can give back!


Taco Bell and Translation

Today I can’t get Taco Bell out of my mind (crunchy taco or chicken burrito, anyone?) and it reminded me of this gem that I wrote for Same Day Translations back in March. Still makes me chuckle – and the lesson is still just as applicable today: Never, ever skimp on translation. Poor translation never goes unnoticed, and it can have a serious negative impact on your company or business.

After a 20-year absence from the country, Taco Bell returned to Japan this week, opening a location in the Shibuya neighborhood in Tokyo. The grand opening was a great success, with hundreds of people lining up to try out the Mexican fast food restaurant’s food—but those who visited the Taco Bell Japan website may not have been so impressed. Japanese-speaking visitors to the site were quick to notice some funny and embarrassing translation blunders from the obviously Google-translated website.

The site was quickly pulled down and visitors were instead redirected to the company’s Japanese social media sites—but not before a few visitors got some screenshots and a few of the more comical errors hit Twitter. “Cheesy Chips” were labeled yasuppoi chippusu, which can also be translated as “low-quality chips.” “Cheesy Fries” became “A low-quality fleece,” which isn’t even a food. And on the company history page, the phrase “A legacy is born” retained only the computer technology meaning of the word “legacy” (old, obsolete, backdated), to render the phrase in Japanese as meaning “An obsolete program is born.” Finally, in the ingredient sources section of the site, Taco Bell announced that “We’ve got nothing to hide”—but unfortunately the Japanese translation reads more along the lines of “What did we bring here to hide?” That’s likely not quite the message the company was trying to convey.

Despite the lack of quality translation, Taco Bell’s Japanese return appeared to be a great success, with customers traveling for miles to try out the new restaurant. However, in many cases a website translation failure can be a major setback to a product’s launch in a new market, especially if the errors are culturally offensive or if there are a lot of them on the site. While even professional translators sometimes make mistakes, paying for a professional translation ensures that at least two and sometimes three native speakers approve the text before it appears on a live website—which protects a company from embarrassment and potential product launch failure.

See the Rocket News report and more of the Taco Bell translation blunders online here.

Now What? Job Hunting Tips

When I graduated from college, I thought I was all set. I had a great freelance project manager position from a local LSP, I worked from home and set my own hours, and life couldn’t have been better. However, the company restructured less than a month later, and after several months of confusion my job was eliminated and I found myself holding a diploma with “nothing” to show for it. The stress and worry of what to do next was overwhelming, as it is for many college grads. Everything worked out in the end, and I learned some valuable lessons. I love the advice below from Liz Wessel, cofounder and CEO of WayUp:

  1. Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs that require one to three years of work. (I was, and I shouldn’t have been!) Wessel says that many businesses they talk with say that this type of job posting is really an entry-level job. Often businesses will accept internships and part-time experiences while still in college as acceptable prior experience.
  2. Don’t rely just on job fairs. “It typically costs a business many thousands of dollars to attend a single career fair,” Wessel explains. Job fairs represent a very small sampling of the companies out there that might be hiring. If you limit yourself to career fairs, you’ll miss a lot of potentially great opportunities.
  3. Be creative in finding a way to meet someone who works in an industry that you’re targeting. College students are often frustrated that they’ve spent years becoming experts in their field, only to find that the jobs go to the people with connections and not necessarily experience. Wessel recommends “cold” emailing people whose careers seem interesting and related to your field. Tell them you’re a recent graduate and ask if you can ask them some questions about their career and profession. This can lead to them introducing you to more colleagues and maybe even the HR representative at their company—which ultimately opens up more doors for future employment. People are generally happy to share tips and advice with you. Don’t be afraid to ask for it!
  4. Be flexible. Sometimes things simply don’t work out. If you’re doing all you can and you still aren’t finding employment, consider other options. Maybe there’s a slightly different path you can take that will still ultimately lead to the job you want to have. Wessel shares the example of a prospective investigative journalist taking a job as a paralegal in order to get research and writing experience, while also starting a blog to practice the creative writing aspect of investigative journalism. “Most people don’t have perfectly linear careers. There’s a lot of zigging and zagging to get to where you want to be.”


Freelancers and Taxes

It’s that time of year again… the most dreaded month of my year: tax season.

However, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Check out these tips from a post I wrote for Same Day Translations on freelancers and taxes. There’s a lot of things here I wish I’d known before becoming a freelancer (like estimated tax payments for example…)

Tips for freelancers to simplify the tax filing process:

  1. Get help from a tax advisor who knows their stuff. Even a one-time consultation can drastically simplify the process. Additionally, investing in tax preparation software will make filing your taxes much easier.
  2. Use a separate bank account for your business – as well as a different credit card. I’ve tried it with and without and, trust me, the benefits are worth the hassle of opening a new bank account (and it’s not even that hard!) This will make it easier to track your income and expenses, something you’ll need to know when you take business expense deductions.
  3. Pay taxes quarterly. Many freelancers don’t realize until it’s too late that if their employer isn’t withholding taxes from their paycheck, the IRS requires quarterly estimated tax payments to be made. These payments count toward your total tax liability at the end of the year, and the amount due is based on your projected income. If you don’t make the quarterly payments, you will have to pay a penalty and interest at the end of the year when you file your taxes. Here are some more details about estimated tax payments.
  4. Set aside a percentage of your income specifically for taxes. Just as your employer would withhold taxes, set aside an amount equal to or higher than what you expect you’ll have to pay. That will make it easier to make the payment at the end of the year (no big tax returns for freelancers!) Remember, not only do you pay income tax, but also an additional 15% for self employment tax (which covers the Social Security/Medicare taxes that you would pay if you had an employer).
  5. Get health insurance, and set up an IRA. In many cases, health insurance premiums are tax deductible for freelancers, and most IRA’s are set up so that you don’t pay taxes on the money you put in until you pull it out. That will help you save on taxes in the short term and set up your future in the long run. While health care and retirement savings may seem extravagant for a beginning freelancer’s budget, both are important benefits that can save you a lot of money long term.
  6. Work professionally. This might seem a little weird in a post about tax preparation tips, but actually treating your work like a professional business will help you (and others) take your business seriously. Set up a home office space used exclusively for business (that’s a tax deduction!) Get a business phone number, manage and schedule your work time, attend conferences and events in your field of expertise, and try not to work in your pajamas too often… Maintaining a professional attitude toward your work will help you feel more confident and less stressed during the difficult times of freelancing. Plus, you’ll feel a little better writing those IRS checks if you can see measurable evidence that yes, you are a working professional.

Thanks to this post here for the ideas included above!


I recently had a discussion with a friend about translation in marketing situations and the troubles that can arise. During the course of the conversation, the topic of transcreation came up and reminded me of something I wrote a year or two ago. I think transcreation is one of the most important concepts in the translation fields and one that would be useful for businesses and marketing departments to understand and familiarize themselves with.

Transcreation: “An adaptation of a creative work into another language or culture.” In business terminology, you could call it marketing localization. While translation is a part of transcreation, transcreation is more than just translating words. It’s the act of totally reworking a concept to have the same effect on the target audience as it had on the source audience.

For example – say you have an ad for a new car. The desired effect? Increased sales of the car. You spend time researching your audience – their character, what they value, their buying habits, etc. Then you develop a video ad that appeals to those characteristics. The result? More people buy the car after viewing the ad.

Now, say you want to expand your market to another country. Does it seem reasonable that you could simply translate the text of the ad and have the same sales results among your new target audience? Perhaps. However, anyone who has traveled at all will note that while people are people all over the world, different regions value different things. Perhaps your new target audience values style over price. Perhaps they are more safety-conscious and care less about the “features” of the vehicle. Perhaps certain colors or model names have negative connotations in their culture that are not an issue among your original audience.

Enter transcreation. A good transcreation team will put together an ad that appeals as directly to the new target audience as the original ad did to the original audience. It may use elements of the original – or it may not. The unifying characteristic will simply be that the goal of the ad will be the same: increase car sales among the target audience. How that goal is achieved can vary drastically.

If you or your business is considering expanding your market into another region or country, make sure to consider transcreation as you plan your timeline for creation and launch of advertising campaigns. Plan to do some market research about your target audience. Have your marketing team develop a new or adapted ad that appeals to the values of the new group. Then have the ad approved, translated, and reviewed by a professional translator who has native-like familiarity with the target culture. These steps will help you avoid marketing blunders and save money in the long run – not to mention the likelihood of higher sales and better success in the new target market.