Cross-Cultural AT&T: Opa! and True Dat

January 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

I stumbled upon these two commercials from AT&T. I’m not sure what demographic they’re going for, but they got my attention.

The first one shows us a fun (but possibly expensive) custom from Greece. The second lets us hear that girl-next-door Lily Adams speak Russian. Turns out that the actress who plays Lily, Milana Vayntrub, was born in Uzbekistan, moving to California at age three.

Paddington: A Fish out of . . . um . . . A Bear out of the Jungle

November 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

15810316086_62a83999d1_zPaddington is one of my favorite movies that I saw last year. Much more than just a kids’ movie, it was nominated for best film at the UK’s 2015 Empire Awards, and won for best comedy. It also carries a 98% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

The story in a nutshell is this: When Paddington comes to London, it’s not quite what he’s heard it would be. And as if it weren’t enough of a culture clash for an orphan bear to arrive in the big city, this cub comes from “Darkest Peru.”

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you should. It’s a great family film for Christmas time. And if you have seen it, here are some clips to refresh your memory.

First Contact: Meeting the Brown Family

BSL: Bear as a Second Language

Bathroom Etiquette: Those Aren’t Ear Brushes.

Sign Language: Why Do I Need a Dog for the Escalator?

[photo: “Paddington Bear Trail, Special Delivery By Ben Whishaw,” by Martin Pettitt, used under a Creative Commons license]

Of the Translation of Books . . .

July 10, 2015 § 2 Comments

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Here’s a mystery I wonder if you can solve.

Who holds the top spot as the most translated author (at least in the last 30 or so years)? Take a guess. I’ll bet you a shiny new nickel that you won’t get it right.

How about I give you some hints? If you thought it was Shakespeare, sorry (hint). In fact, translations of her (hint, hint) works outnumber the Bard’s by nearly 70%. The answer really is a mystery (hint, hint, hint). Got it? Give up?

Here you go: The holder of the top spot is none other than Agatha Christie.

Who says so? Well, the ranking is part of UNESCO’s Index Translationum, which has been collecting translation data since 1932. Since the online database dates from only 1979, it’s not exhaustive, but it does give us a good snapshot of more-recent translations.

So if Christie is in the top spot, and Shakespeare is number three, who else rounds out the top ten? Glad you asked.

  1. Agatha Christie (British, English)
  2. Jules Verne (French)
  3. William Shakespeare (British, English)
  4. Enid Blyton (British, English)
  5. Barbara Cartland (British, English)
  6. Danielle Steele (American, English)
  7. Vladimir Lenin (Russian)
  8. Hans Christian Anderson (Danish)
  9. Stephen King (American, English)
  10. Jacob Grimm (German, followed closely by Wilhelm, the other Brother Grimm)

Some of you are probably thinking, “Why isn’t the Apostle Paul on this list?” That’s because while the Bible is the most translated book in history, Paul’s contributions aren’t published as stand-alones. That leaves Paul well behind Christie, whose books number over 80. Fair enough.

Following are some other top-tens from the Index Translationum.

Top source languages:

  1. English (at over 1.2 million books, English has more translations than the next 49 languages combined)
  2. French
  3. German
  4. Russian
  5. Italian
  6. Spanish
  7. Swedish
  8. Japanese
  9. Danish
  10. Latin

____________________

Top target languages:

  1. German
  2. French
  3. Spanish
  4. English
  5. Japanese
  6. Dutch
  7. Russian
  8. Portuguese
  9. Polish
  10. Swedish

____________________

Top authors translated in China (I picked China because it has the most people in the world):

  1. Dale Carnegie (American, English)
  2. Hans Christian Andersen (Danish)
  3. Jules Verne (French)
  4. Maxim Gorky (Russian)
  5. Alexandre Dumas (French)
  6. Leo Tolstoy (Russian)
  7. Arthur Conan Doyle (British, English)
  8. Thomas Brezina (Australian, English)
  9. Charles Dickens (British, English)
  10. Victor Hugo (French)

____________________

Top authors translated in the US (because that’s where I live):

  1. Rudolf Steiner (Austrian, German)
  2. Jacob Grimm (German)
  3. Wilhelm Grimm (German)
  4. Georges Simenon (Belgian, French)
  5. Hans Christian Anderson (Danish)
  6. Pope John Paul II (Italian)
  7. Plato (Greek)
  8. Dana Meachen Rau (American, English, translated into Spanish)
  9. Anton Chekov (Russian)
  10. Bobbie Kalman (Hungarian-born American, English, translated into Spanish; French translations make her number one for Canada)

[photo: “Libreria Gozzini,” by hjl, used under a Creative Commons license]

4 Ads for Your 4th

July 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

Here are 4 new advertisements in honor of the 4th of July. The first one actually commemorates the 4th. The others actually don’t. But it’s not July 1, so I needed 4 of them.

4 de Julio
Who knew that Honey Maid makes documentaries? This one’s about American immigrants. “When you first come here to America, you’re kind of like invisible. You don’t seem to be noticed, but at the same time you see that they’re looking at you.”

Hello Pizza
Last year, Brazil’s CNA language centers put English learners in contact with senior citizens in the US. Now they’re having them answer phoned-in pizza orders from the States. By staying on the line, customers can get their pizzas free. It’s a win-win with double cheese.

Are We There Yet?
You can use this to each your kids how to be annoying in five languages. This one came out late last year, but it’s new to me, which leaves me wondering: Have you seen it yet? Have you seen it yet? Have you seen it yet?

Great Chinese Names for Great Britain
“This was the first time in history that a country had invited the citizens of another to come up with names for its major landmarks.” What say we pop over to the Street for the Tall, Rich, and Handsome?

By the way, just in case you’ve never heard it asked before: Do the British have the 4th of July?

Of course they do. What else would come after the 3rd?

A Modest List of Invented Expatisms, Inspired by the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

June 13, 2015 § 2 Comments

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My son pointed me to The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, where John Koenig creates words to name before-unnamed emotions and ideas. Many of them are melancholy, such as amenuerosis, “the half-forlorn, half-escapist ache of a train whistle calling in the distance at night”; and chrysalism the amniotic tranquility of being indoors during a thunderstorm. . . .”

Others are more on the humorous side. For instance, a reverse shibboleth, is “the practice of answering a cellphone with a generic ‘Hello?’ as if you didn’t already know exactly who was calling . . .”; and lalalalia is “the realization while talking to yourself that someone else is within earshot, which leads you to crossfade into mumbled singing. . . .”

Expats have their own feelings and experiences that are yet to be named, and I think this needs to be remedied. So while I don’t have Koenig’s talent, here are a few of my offerings:

dyslistening
the condition by which your over preparation for answering an expected question in another language overwhelms your auditory senses and you answer the query you’ve anticipated, no matter what is actually said, as in responding to “How many would you like?” with “Yes, but no ice, please.”

welwelwel-ke-come
the glorious sound of the immigration agent thumbing through your passport looking for an empty page—and then adding the stamp that says you’re free to enter.

altivism
gazing out of an airplane window, seeing the new landscape below, and feeling joyfully overcome with the real and imagined possibilities.

visatrig
the act of trying to predict which agent in the office will be the most likely to give you your visa or other important document and then conducting complex calculations concerning the number of people in line in front of you to see if you will get the agent you hope for. A domestic version of this is sometimes encountered in the DMV.

unchewing
the physical and mental reaction that occurs when you realize that the chocolate-covered, cream-filled donut that you just took a bite of is in fact not a donut and that’s not chocolate and the filling might very well have gristle in it.

Finally, here’s one more from Koenig: onism

[photo: “The Dictionary,” by Bethany King, used under a Creative Commons license]

The Top Baby Names of 2014: There’s Poetry in the Meanings

May 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

5317791293_7fc9b47ff6_zIn some languages, most names carry an understood meaning. For instance, the name of the president of Taiwan is Ma Ying-jeou, which literally means Horse Brave-nine.

While some given names in English have recognizable meanings (e.g., Hope, Pearl, Colt), for most, the definitions come from non-English origins and are long forgotten.

So when we look at the list of top-ten baby names for 2014, announced yesterday by the Social Security Administration, we don’t think much about the meanings behind them. We’re more inclined to think about their sounds or the feelings they evoke or maybe people we know of with the same names.

But the meanings are meaningful, so here’s the list from the SSA . . . with a twist. Instead of showing the names themselves, I’ve lined up those meanings.

The Boys’ names are first, then the girls’.

It’s rather poetic.

(If this reverese-look-up-style list leaves you in the dark, I’ve got the actual names and their languages of origin, too. Just use your cursor to highlight the list, and they’ll magically appear.)

Rest     Hebrew: Noah
Will and protection    Irish, Germanic: Liam
Stoneworker     French: Mason
Deceiver     Hebrew: Jacob
Desire and helmet     Germanic: William
Enduring     Hebrew: Ethan
Who is like God?     Hebrew: Michael
Defender of man     Greek: Alexander
Supplanter    Hebrew:  James
God’s judgment     Hebrew: Daniel

Universal     Germanic: Emma
Olive     Latin: Olivia
Wisdom     Greek: Sophia
God is her oath     Hebrew: Isabella
Giver of life     Hebrew: Ava
Rebellious     Hebrew: Mia
Rival     Latin: Emily
Father’s joy     Hebrew:Abigail
Child of God’s gift     English: Madison
Man     Germanic: Charlotte

(Doug Walker, “Two New Arrivals: Our New Blog and Top Ten Baby Names for 2014,” Social Security Matters, May 8, 2015)

[photo: “Baby N – 5 Days New,” by RebeccaVC1, used under a Creative Commons license]

Three Ads: Pretentious Pronunciations, a Never-Before-Seen Oz, and a Lying Dad (get a Kleenex for the last one)

March 14, 2015 § 2 Comments

6088059547_f927b9db32_zI don’t have much of an intro for this—just that I saw these three commercials on Adweek, and I like them.

The first one gives us the “correct” pronunciations of some brand names—many are foreign, and expensive. I sometimes pronounce Adidas as “Ah-dee-dahs” just as a joke, because it rhymes with la dee das and sounds so highfalutin. Didn’t know how cultured I am. After hearing several of the “right” pronunciations, my eight year old said, “Yeah, I think people are going to stick with the old ones.”

The next one is an extended commercial that gives the back story for Comcast’s XFINITY, a system that lets blind people select their own movies. Watching this is a step beyond seeing the world through other’s eyes—especially since that world is Oz.

And this last one is from MetLife Hong Kong. Made me cry . . . each of the four times I’ve watched it so far.

[photo: “Old Philips TV,” by King-of-Herrings, used under a Creative Commons license]

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