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Simple Online Diff Tool

November 30th, 2011

I have just discovered a simple and good Diff tool, which I thought I could share. Diff Checker is an online tool, meaning you don’t have to install anything on your computer. Less clutter – less hassle – it’s all good news. I pasted two large blocks of text (old and new), which I copied across from an Excel file. The formatting was not affected and the text rendered correctly. You also have an option of uploading two files. Then just clicked Find Difference! and the tool displayed underneath texts showing the highlighted areas where both documents differ. Really simple, really effective. I will definitely use it again in the future.

Sample of Diff Checker




Adventures with Bilingualism

November 19th, 2011

Kasper is now 3,5 years old and his linguistic explorations continue to amaze and entertain us in both languages. I speak mostly Polish to him, while the shared language at our home and in the nursery is English. It is proving more and more difficult to keep the two languages separate, but also to use Polish consistently on my part. The English-language surroundings are becoming more prominent, as Kasper is becoming increasingly more interactive, conversational and interested in socialising with his peers (as well as snails, dogs, cats, sheep and any other creatures we encounter on a regular basis).

Kasper’s vocabulary is expanding every day and his sentences are becoming more complex and grammatically correct. Since starting the nursery, his English stock of phrases has been enriched by typical play/interaction vocabulary, which indicates acquiring new social skills of negotiation and rule-making:
-What colour do you want? (dividing up the toys to ensure everyone knows whose in charge of which train)
-That’s wrong. This way! (verbalising rules of the game)

At the same time, he is learning to express his feelings (-Kasper is very cross! or in Polish – Kasper gniewa) and his wishes (-I don’t like that! or in Polish –Nie lubię. Coś innego (Something else)).

Kasper continues to mix up both languages, although he will make entirely English or entirely Polish sentences. He will also make phrases using both languages and inflect English words with Polish endings (e.g. meerkatów, even though he knows very well the Polish term “surykatka“). His grasp of grammar in both languages is becoming more and more apparent, however, it also reveals the limitations of learning Polish mainly from one source of language. Kasper often uses the feminine form when referring to himself (Polish verbs contain this information in their endings, while English ones don’t), and would say –Zrobiłam / Posprzątałam / Wstałam…I am trying to signal to him that there is a difference between the way boys and girls express stuff, but hope that he will naturally pick up some cues from his Polish cousins.

Kasper likes to repeat new words and Polish pronunciation poses no difficulty to him, but sometimes he gets the words wrong. Recently, as a result of learning the word “policja” (the police) and Alicja (my name) – he started mispronouncing “ulica” (street/road) as “ulicja”, a word he previously used correctly. When practising the correct pronunciation, he sometimes loses his patience with me and mocks me and my didactic tone of voice. Similarly, he used to be able to say “babcia Jadzia” referring to his Polish great grandmother, but in recent days has started saying “babcia dziadzia” (it’s easier), which I find hilarious (sounds like he was saying “grandfather’s grandmother”), but also a little embarrassing in front of my grandma.

We have just spent some time in Poland, which I think charged his Polish language batteries a bit. Kasper managed to communicate very well with my family, although confusions are still inevitable and we, the parents, remain the only people on the planet who really get the more obscure utterings and references in this 3,5-year-old’s code, whether in English or in Polish or both.




The linguistic genius of babies

November 19th, 2011


This is a really fascinating talk by Patricia Kuhl, which gives us some better understanding of how second language acquisition works for babies. She answers questions, such as why it is important to start providing input in a second language as early as possible and why contact with a human being – a speaker of that language – is necessary. Babies do not acquire language from recordings and television!




This year, Proz.com’s celebration of the International Translation Day stretches over a whole week. It seems that the ambition and vision of the Proz.com staff has no boundaries and they keep raising the game.

While there is nothing better than a face to face interaction – these virtual conferences are an exciting addition (in the last 3 years) to the already broad range of networking/learning opportunities offered by Proz. We have seen by now two days of events focused around the site itself and issues of online promotion/collaboration of translators, while today is a big recruitment day.

It is not too late to join yet – we are currently starting day 3 with some more big events on the horizon. I am particularly looking forward to several sessions presented on the last day – 30th September – at the 2011 ProZ.com freelance translator virtual conference:

Data backup for translators – by Marek Buchtel
Creating a Marketing Plan for Freelance Translators – by Tess Whitty
Be Special II in a Nutshell – by Suzanne Deliscar
Negotiation – a little effort goes a long way – by Konstantin Kisin

I will be also interested to see other translators’ advice on SEO (Ioana Mihailas and Stanslaw Czech) and online promotion (Marcela Jenney, Tess Whitty, Stanislaw Czech).

See you there!




Fry’s Planet Word

September 20th, 2011

I am looking forward to a new programme by Stephen Fry on world languages: Fry’s Planet Word. It will be shown on BBC2 from the 25th September.

In a recent interview Jonathan Ross described Stephen Fry as the most desired party guest, and I must agree. I would love to be sat next to him at a dinner party – he is definitely a Renaissance man and I doubt he has time to sleep. Not with all the blogging, twitting, writing, filming he seems to be doing.

By the way – here is Stephen Fry’s website – which I do find really cool and colourful – just as Fry’s life seems to be.

Stephen Fry's website




This is a rather amusing story of one of my favourite radio stations and how I got to know of its existence. Nowadays, I listen to it online on my laptop or through my wifi radio and I love it just the same as the first time I heard it. This is a story of true love at first hearing, followed by a heartbreaking separation and a happy reunion after years.

After my graduation in Poland in June 2004, I joined my husband to be in the UK and we started off living in a very central area of Brighton. We were flat-minding a lovely little apartment in the first few weeks while searching for somewhere else to live in the long term. We were driving back home one evening when we picked up this fantastic radio station that really mesmerized us. Very quickly we found it on our home radio and just marvelled at the great music taste of the DJs and the programming. It played everything from jazz, blues, chanson, world music, film music and classical, often in playful sequence with original track immediately followed by a sampled version or around some theme. We were intrigued by the fact that the station was French (neither of us speaks any French) and played music non-stop with only short news updates and introductions. Most of the DJs were female with very sexy and velvety voices.

Alas! After we moved into our flat in Brighton’s ‘posher but duller’ twin – Hove – we were out of range of our mystery radio station. Had I known this, I would have negotiated a 10% discount on rent…

Soon after this, I read a whole article in a Brighton newspaper about the radio station FIP (France Inter Paris), a niche French public station broadcast from Paris, whose radio waves mysteriously cheat the laws of physics and reach Brighton of all places (but not Hove!). After two FIP-lean years, I discovered to my great joy that FIP could be played online from their own website with all track titles provided live, and a few years later I upgraded the sound quality thanks to my wifi radio. Whenever I put FIP on, I feel like I am joining a celebration of musical eclecticism or embark on an expedition of musical discovery.

In the meanwhile, I learnt that FIP was illegally re-broadcast in Brighton for seven years by its most avid fan who installed two transmitters in the area. This continued until 2007 and a closure of the pirate station by Ofcom to the dismay of many Brightonians. Nevertheless, Brighton continues to reverberate with the Parisian sound with a local appreciation society Vive la FIP keeping up its regular DJ nights and get-togethers for the fans of the station.

Bonne écoute!




I think it is high time to update you on Kasper’s progress with language learning – we have gone a long way since I last blogged about this.

A bit of background information: Kasper is growing up with a Polish mum and an English dad. He is spending quite a lot of time with me at home and so his Polish is getting rather good, but we are looking at nurseries here in Scotland and I expect a linguistic revolution to take place in his little world. But let me give you some examples of his vocabulary and grasp of grammar as it stands right now.

Kasper’s vocabulary has become quite extensive with some words which are familiar to him in both languages, and some only in one. Some words he prefers to use in one language – often according to a first-come first-served principle – but knows them in both languages. For example, we will look at a book he associates with me (Polish) and he will name all animals in Polish, but he will call a butterfly ‘a butterfly’ in English. I rarely ever get him to say it in Polish ‘motyl’, as the word he learnt first seems to be more obvious or more readily ‘available’. This works both ways, as there are Polish words that he rarely replaces with English equivalents.

Kasper is clearly aware that some people might prefer one language (word) to the other. He tends to switch to Polish when we talk to my parents on Skype, and to English when we visit his English Nana. The need to be understood is quite paramount. I overheard him once saying to my father ‘Press! Press!’ trying to express how much he wants to press the button to call the lift, and when he could see that grandfather did not understand him – he added ‘Guzik!’ (button). Alles klar.

At the same time, Kasper will quite happily mix both languages making such wonderful utterances as ‘Piesek go jeść’ (doggy go eat), ‘będzie fun’ (it will be fun), ‘Going na basen in the car ala splash.’ (going to the swimming pool in the car to have a splash) and ‘duży castle’ (big castle) or ‘lots of klocków’ (lots of bricks). The amazing thing is that he will (sometimes) decline the Polish words according to the rules of Polish grammar. The example above, ‘lots of klocków’, in Polish would be said ‘dużo klocków’, while ‘klocki’ is the nominative form. Here he uses ‘lots of’ instead of Polish ‘dużo’ but declines the Polish noun correctly. Amazing!

Kasper is clearly picking up some grammar rules in both languages – he will use English plural -s, which sometimes proves tricky when he says ‘sheeps’. Sometimes, the language boundaries can get blurred here too, as when he exclaimed ‘Piękne górys’ (beautiful mountains). The Polish noun ‘góry’ is already plural, but just to be on the safe side Kasper added the English -s to make sure it is definitely so.

While Kasper is only beginning to use full sentences (still relatively simple), his vocabulary is quite rich. He does not shy away from having a try saying such difficult Polish words as ‘dżdżownica’ (worm), ‘gąsienica’ (caterpillar), ‘ośmiornica’ (octopus) or ‘pszczoła’ (bee). Now your turn – have a go!




Fear and Trembling

March 19th, 2011

Having read Amelie Nothomb’s autobiographic novel entitled “Fear and Trembling” (translated from the French by Adriana Hunter), I reached for the film under the same title. It is directed by Alain Corneau and features Sylvie Tastud as the main character – Amelie, the writer herself.

Though the story takes place in Tokio, it does not leave the perimeters of interiors of a Japanese corporation, where Amelie is hired as a Japanese-French interpreter on a one year’s contract. Her dream job soon turns into nightmare as a sequence of events and cultural misunderstandings put her in conflict with her superiors, particularly, the beautiful but distant, Mori Fubuki, and result in her degradation within the company structure.

I greatly recommend both the book and the film to all linguists, anyone interested in Japanese culture and the East/West divide.




Non-Literary No-Brainer?

November 30th, 2010

A year ago, while living in Germany, I applied to become a member of the Kuenstlersozialkasse (KSK) – an association of freelance artists, journalists and writers, which supports them financially by subsidising their state health care contributions (a significant expense in Germany) proportionally to their income. From what I heard, translators would normally be included in the ‘Artiste’ category as people who work creatively with language.

Does technical translation belong to the domain of the left brain hemisphere?

Does technical translation belong to the domain of the left brain hemisphere?

As a part-time freelancer, it seemed like a perfect solution for me and so I produced tons of documentation to prove my translator qualifications, professional memberships, samples of work, project history, etc., etc. – as stipulated by the KSK application guidelines. After some 2 months I received a request for some further details, which I duly sent back, and then received another request for even more details one of them being the following question:

What is the % breakdown of the types of translations that you normally carry out:
a) literary texts
b) journalistic/editorial texts
c) specialised texts, manuals, company reports
d) contracts, legal texts, private correspondence as well as interpreting.

Being primarily a technical translator, I marked c) 90% and d) 10% assuming that translation of specialised websites and software would most likely fit in the ‘specialised’ (fachbezogene) category. I do not translate literature nor do I translate for the press.

The reply to this last letter came very quickly. ‘We are very sorry, but we must turn down your application due to the lack of artistic/journalistic quality of your work (fehlender Kunstler-/ Publizisteneigenschaft).

What???

First of all, why didn’t you spare me the several hours it took to put documents together by asking this question sooner rather than later in the application process? Secondly, by asking a tricky question which I could have easily interpreted differently (websites=published (publizistisch) material after all) you disqualified me outright. Not only that, just because I do not translate Joyce or Yeats, you made me feel like my work was mechanical, brainless and had no creative qualities whatsoever.

It still makes me angry when I think about this, and I regret now not contesting this decision. I was so fed up by then that I had no appetite for further correspondence with KSK. It took about 7 months to get to this stage and by then we knew we were leaving Germany back for the UK in autumn, so I just put the letter to the bottom of the drawer and counted it as a lost battle with German bureaucracy.




Certified Translation: the UK Way

November 24th, 2010

One of my most bizarre experiences as a translator took place some time ago not so long after my move to the UK. An agency asked me to translate a marriage certificate, which then needed to be certified by an affidavit. I had to check in my dictionary what an ‘affidavit’ is and found out that it is a formal statement sworn in front of a notary public. It seemed so far departed from Poland, where to become a sworn translator you not only need the right qualifications (a relevant degree), but also have to take a rigorous competence exam organised by the Ministry of Justice. After that you receive an official stamp and can certify your own translations, which is required in case of most official documentation (marriage, birth certificates, etc).

Photo courtesy of Kriss Szkurlatowski

Photo courtesy of Kriss Szkurlatowski

I arranged a meeting with a notary public who was also the ‘taker of oaths’ and brought my translation with me not sure what to expect of the whole process. The notary’s office was based in a house which could have been taken out of a Dickens’ novel. I was ushered into a room where I waited for the notary, who soon turned up wearing his black robe and looking rather distracted. He looked at my translation and the original text, marked them as page A and page B and then offered me the Bible (sic!) to put my hand on. Amazing! I felt like in an American court movie, while at the same time thinking that I might as well be swearing on Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’.

He pronounced:
‘Do you swear that the text A is an accurate translation of text B?’
‘I do’ (pharyngeal swallowing sound). He scribbled some sort of signature underneath my translation.
‘OK, please pay £16 at the reception.’
‘But wait a minute! How about some sort of official stamp?’
‘Oh, she wants a stamp. There you go’, he sounded amused, like he was pampering his little niece by letting her play with his stationary.
‘And receipt??’ I really panicked here. I was wondering what evidence there was of me obtaining the ‘certification’ that I could present to the agency who hired me.
‘Oh, the receptionist will give you a receipt. Good bye!’ and he disappeared into the back rooms of the house.

I paid and collected my receipt (which I still have as a keepsake) and left with total confusion and disbelief. The agency was very happy with the translation and they did not question the affidavit. I guess it must have still had the aura of credibility bestowed on it by the notary public’s magical powers to turn a translation into an accurate translation. Cross my heart and hope to die!