Monthly Archives: March 2016

Cyberwords: language changes are often older than you think!

What would you say is the definition of the word “cyber”? It feels, intuitively, like a prefix rather than a word in and of itself. However, here is what the Oxford Dictionaries suggest:

1. ADJECTIVE relating to or characteristic of the culture of computers, information technology, and virtual reality:”the cyber age”

mobile-paymentAnd so, yes, when we think of the word “cyber” we think of it in relation to other concepts and words such as “crime” or “bullying”, or “age” as offered in this dictionary definition (although personally I don’t recall anyone ever using the phrase “cyber age”). Being associated with computers, it is a word that feels modern, and certainly the ideas represented by it are entwined with recent technological advances. However, the actual word and the sound of it derive from ancient Greek. The BBC has taken a look at its history in a brief magazine piece here. The original word – or at least the earliest version we have – is “kubernao” meaning “steer a ship”. This transliterated into Latin, from which an American mathematician derived the word “Cybernetics”. Norbert Wiener developed the concept after working on anti-aircraft guns in World War Two, and rather than being associated with computers it is an idea about exploring regulatory systems be they animal or mechanical.

Science Fiction took up the concept and popularised the association with computers. In 1966 Doctor Who had an unofficial scientific advisor called Kit Pedler. Between him and story editor Gerry Davis they developed Pedler’s concern about spare part surgery – which had recently resulted in the coining of the term “cyborg” – and invented the Cybermen. The connection was entrenched in the Eighties when author William Gibson invented the word “cyberspace” to describe a virtual reality. This was in the novel Neuromancer which, while now dated in its technological references, was massively influential among early internet advocates (see also Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash).

Intriguingly, for a word with such a long history of evolving meanings the links between them are clear – a helmsman, controlling a vessel, through to the Cybermen and cyborgs under the control of a central program and directive. Perhaps ironically, Gibson simply made up the term because it sounded impressive and didn’t really mean anything. Yet today, its ‘meaning’ is, in most people’s minds, equally clear. Cyber, usually as in the form of a prefix, is taken to mean to do with the internet (as in cyberspace).

Language is, as we all know, constantly changing and it’s intriguing to note that the association with computers and the internet has been further enhanced by a portmanteau, employed simply because of its evocative connotations. A new word has resulted in many more, and slightly altered the original meaning, but that, of course, is what makes language so fascinating!

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects


LANGUAGE SHOW LIVE SCOTLAND – Glasgow 11th – 12th March 2016

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Language Show Live Scotland, which took place last weekend at the SECC in Glasgow, was, as they described it themselves on their website, “two inspirational days packed with free educational seminars, language classes, live forums and cultural performances in an incredible celebration of languages.”

Global Connects, naturally, were there in strength, and we were pleased to play an active part in one of the panel discussions about the perspectives of linguists and agencies on the interpreting and translation industries.

The room was full – there were even people sitting on the floor and standing against walls – and the session started with interpreter Miranda Stewart explaining the different options on the interpreting industry and the rise of remote interpreting through the use of a video link.

Norma Tait explained the in and outs of being a translator. I focused on answering the question “what makes a good interpreter?” Then I explained the type of interpreting jobs that we have, including the variety of interesting work we do for international football and rugby matches and also our role in working with refugees who have come to Scotland. I also mentioned that we are an agency that offers work to both interpreters and translators.

Sam Bennett followed up my presentation by explaining how to stand out once a translator joins an agency so that you become a ‘go-to’ person when a job comes in.

Our panel presentation was very well received with many people coming back to thank us and ask for more information.

I noticed that the majority of linguists at the event were translators or interpreters who also do translation. There were just a few that were just interpreters.

During the Q&A session on video links, interpreters explained that they do not like this option because you cannot have the same rapport with the client, which offers important clues for the message that is being communicated. However, video is definitely an improvement on telephone interpreting, which is already being used regularly in the public sector. Our interpreter Kuba Hiterski also contributed to this discussion and previously the NRPSI Director Eulilia Pessoa-White had spoken about it at her talk. She mentioned that there are issues at the moment with bandwidth and that IT systems do not yet talk to each other from different departments in England, but this will be a way to save money on travel costs.

This will not be just applied to interpreters but to other court officials as well. There are proposals to have a solicitor in one room in his or her own firm, the procurator fiscal in another location, the sheriff in another location and the interpreter also in a different place.
Many courts have been closed down and court staff numbers have already being reduced in England, Wales and Scotland as a cost-cutting exercise. Public sector decision-makers are trying to make the use of remote interpreting via video link more acceptable and we need to acknowledge that it is a matter of when rather than if this becomes the norm. The technology is good enough but improvements are still necessary.

IMG_0249Continuing pressures on the public purse will, whether the interpretation/translation industry likes it, make this inevitable. The key will be how we collectively as an industry – and more specifically in our case, Global Connects as a company – respond to this and seek to ensure that the delivery of high quality interpretation and translation is always the sine qua non.

Ricardo Mateus, Recruitment and Training Manager, Global Connects


Bilingual road signs – the underlying hope that shows how it can be done!

Occasionally in the news we hear stories of poorly translated bilingual road signs, where someone has gone online and hurriedly copied and pasted the wrong words into the final proof. There are a lot of articles featuring Chinese signage (including this one from The Telegraph – featuring a dinner menu with a meal called “Explodes the Large Intestine”), or when a Welsh road sign read “I am not in the office right now. Send any work to be translated.” Or when the Isle of Bute was renamed something rude for ten years by mistake.

Then there are complaints that many of the signs require words lacking in the second language, and that this is a largely unnecessary task which wastes money. When the translations are wrong or contrived, it produces dissent from the speakers of both languages.

In Washington State, however, they’re starting small; producing street signs at two intersections and a newly constructed downtown park honouring the Khallam people native to the area. Great care has been taken with these projects so that they authentically replicate the language, and due to the smaller scale this has been achieved successfully.

What’s surprising about this is that, back in 1990, only eight people spoke the Khallam language.

In 1992, a language programme was introduced to transcribe recordings of tribal elders. In 1999 a two year course was introduced at a local school, incorporating diverse media including computer games and audio CDs. This increased usage and preservation of language influenced the local government to make the street signs. Even if it’s just on a small scale, it’s a demonstration of the underlying hope behind bilingual road signs, that their being visible is a reminder of the multiple cultures in the area, a hint that there is greater understanding to be had.  And that, surely, is one of the great advantages of our multiple language world, and one that we lose at our peril.

Rosetta Stone