Monthly Archives: June 2015

Digital Geoblocking, fine if you speak English, not if you speak Catalan

I came across a really interesting article recently. Until reading this, I was under the, perhaps naïve, impression that the internet, certainly in the western world, allows almost free and untrammelled distribution of virtually everything legal (and much that isn’t, of which more below).

Wrong apparently. While the EU is, correctly and of necessity, very keen on encouraging the use of the various languages spoken inside its borders, it transpires that ‘geoblocking’ of digital material, as a result of copyright laws, “hinders the exchange of knowledge and culture across borders”.

To give you just one indication of the complexity of this stuff, the original EU article on copyright evaluation, upon which the article I read is based, explains, “while almost all countries have a copyright exception for quotation, the interpretation of what qualifies as a quotation is different between member states. This causes problems as text, audio and visual material is increasingly used interchangeably because of media convergence”. This is only for ‘quotation’, and there is far more involved here that simply quoting someone’s article (as in fact I’ve done here). When you get to creativity, public sector information, intellectual property and the like it becomes even more complicated.

Then when we move into the field of language, and especially minority languages, there is a further problem. Despite the fact that the EU has free movement of people at its core, companies such as Amazon and Google “routinely block access to (minority language) material” outside the countries where the minority languages are spoken.

This, it is claimed, increases internet piracy (the above-mentioned illegality), with those interested in, say, Catalan and living in London ‘accessing’ the information illegally because there is no other way they can easily find it. If the single market exists, then it must exist in the digital space as well as in the trade of good and services. And that should include the facility for a Catalan or Basque, or any other speaker of a minority language, not being excluded from seeing material in their own language because they are on the wrong side of an EU border…

David Orr, Director, GLOBAL CONNECTS




That EU Referendum – the importance of language translation to the debate

In case you have been not reading the papers/listening to the news, there is going to be a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, the first for 40 years. If the Scottish referendum is anything to go by then passions are likely to be high on both sides of the argument. However, given that the EU is an amalgamation of different countries and many foreign businesses and politicians will want to influence how we vote, how important is accurate translation going to be in informing the debate?

I am well aware we are on dangerous ground here. However, in what is going to be a year or two of claim and counterclaim, much of it ‘informed’ by the opinions of foreign politicians and businessmen, there are likely to be more complaints along the lines of one I saw recently from the Eurosceptic side that the Daily Telegraph (ironically a fairly Eurosceptic paper itself!) had seriously mistranslated an interview in Ta Nea, a Greek-language newspaper.

The interview was with Germany’s new foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the Telegraph’s headline was “German Minister attacks ‘brainless Eurosceptics”. Now, bear in mind that the website reporting this was definitely from the Eurosceptic side of the argument, but the point they made applies to both sides and carries a warning that people may be influenced one way or another by what are, in effect, mistranslations.

Reference to the actual piece in the original Greek yields the word άμυαλους (ámyalous). This translates, the Eurosceptic writer suggests, just as well into “foolish” rather than “brainless”. He or she then went on to imply that “even “foolish” might be inaccurate as a translation. A German report of the same article offers “gedankenlosen Leuten, die sich Euroskeptiker nennen”, which translates as: “Unthinking people who call themselves Euro skeptics”. The word “gedankenlos” can also be taken to mean “thoughtless”. “Brainless” is a different word: “geistlos”. I need to declare at this point that my Greek extends to ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘beer’, but I’d love to know what real Greek experts think of these words.

Anyway, who would have thought we’re going to have such fun in the next few years! Unfortunately, politicians and newspapers have a tendency never to let the facts get in the way of a good story, at least not when it’s one they support. It would be really interesting to see someone – someone genuinely independent that is – translate accurately every report in the UK media that makes reference to a foreign language speech, comment, broadcast or article about the EU referendum in our country. The truth might be very revealing, no matter which side you support!

David Orr, Director, GLOBAL CONNECTS

The perils of permanency: this tattoo takes the biscuit!

Like me, you can hardly have failed to notice the vast proliferation of tattoos adorning the various visible (and doubtless some that not visible) limbs of many, mainly younger, men and women. Footballers in particular seem to be covered in ink these days.

In the past, tattoos were associated with the armed forces, particularly the navy. A skull and crossbones, a heart, the word ‘mother’ and, not infrequently, some allegiance to a football team (often West Ham United for some reason) were invariably the subject matter.

Apart from the fact that it’s really difficult to remove tattoos, there is another problem with them. Anyone who writes regularly will know how easy it is to create a typo. The Guardian newspaper was famous for them for years. There are many, occasionally hilarious, websites dedicated to the more embarrassing ones. But not too many people think about this when it comes to tattoos. And even fewer consider the potential problems of getting a tattoo done in a foreign language.

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This arm belongs to a former US military. He was in a supermarket, when a man called Sruli Schochet noticed the tattoo and got chatting with the army veteran, who was apparently very proud of it. He believed it was the word ‘strong’ in Hebrew. Mr Schochet didn’t have the courage to tell him it actually says ‘matzo’, which, if you don’t know, is a thin biscuit usually eaten by Jews during Passover.

In the Global Connects office we all agree, there but for the grace of God go us all! While we’re not suggesting that this unfortunate American should have employed a professional translator before visiting the tattoo parlour, this DOES show you how important it is to make sure you get foreign languages right, otherwise the consequences can live with you!

James Miller, Intepreting Manager, Global Connects

A fishy tale – how translation contributes to record exports for Scottish salmon – and why we should shout about it!


The last few months have seen many Scottish salmon producing companies taking their products to some of the most prestigious food and hospitality shows in the world. From the annual Gulfood show in Dubai in February to the Seafood Global Expo in Brussels in April and HOFEX and Thaifex in May in Hong Kong and Bangkok respectively, many of our leading food firms have been spreading the word about the exceptional food and drink Scotland produces – and offers to share with the world.

It’s particularly apposite that we should be writing about salmon because the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) announced in April that more than 160,000 tonnes were produced for more than 65 countries in 2014, underpinning a £50m growth in international sales which meant that salmon exports have reached £500m per annum for the first time. Although the USA is the major market, France and increasingly China are growing their imports substantially, by 55% and 40% by volume respectively. However, the United States, obviously, presents fewer communication problems for salmon producers than France and China, and indeed Dubai and Thailand.

Global Connects has been working with a number of these food producers, and also with Scottish Development International, to translate marketing materials for these exhibitions and events. One thing that strikes us about this work is that the quality of marketing materials we are asked to translate is very high indeed. The design and content is first-class and also very ‘Scottish’ in the tone and voice of the language used.

This presents translators with unique challenges. It is essential that they fully understand Scottish culture and can convey this elegantly and in a manner that captures the audience’s imagination and reinforces their pre-conceptions of Scotland and of Scottish seafood (and other food and drink) as a premium product. Meticulous preparation and selection of translators are therefore the prerequisites of success in this field. Get it right and you can contribute massively to your clients’ – and the country’s – exports and income.

While we are not claiming responsibility for the impressive performance of the Scottish salmon industry over recent years, we are certainly delighted to have played a part in its success. If you pardon us blowing our own trumpet, Global Connects, and other translation companies, are often the unsung heroes in this trade: without firms being able to communicate effectively in the local language, these markets would be far harder to crack and the record salmon exports might be slightly smaller. Yet in the business news pages of online and offline media translation is almost never mentioned. We wholeheartedly admit to bias here, but it’s clear that we (and our competitors) do play a vital role in securing this business. We need to shout about this more – which is why this article has been written! The entire translation industry needs to be more active in making explicit the direct link between what we do and the success of our clients.

Anthony Madill, Business Development Manager, Global Connects