As you could guess, this week’s digest is dedicated to Thanksgiving, which is celebrated in the US today. We’ll make a linguistic journey into gratitude and turkeys — but also into the challenges faced by aboriginal languages and the measures aimed at improving their fate.
Thanksgiving in words
Of course, no Thanksgiving can pass without bloggers telling us “how to say ‘thank you’ in 30 languages.” This year was no exception, and Oxford Dictionaries were the most creative of them all. Here are some nice geoinfographics they shared:
It’s interesting to note the etymology of the word in different languages. We couldn’t find an article on this, so we compiled a short list ourselves:
- The English “thank” (and its other Germanic counterparts) is related to “think,” as in “a kind thought.”
- In Japanese, arigato etymologically means “it’s difficult to exist.”
- The Portuguese obrigado (strangely unrelated to the above) refers to being obliged.
- When Russians say spasibo, they are actually saying “God save you.”
- The French seem the most pragmatical of us all, with their merci originating from the Latin merces — reward.
It would be interesting to read about how these subtle differences in word origins affect the unconscious relation of respective peoples to thanking and gratitude. Anyone wants to volunteer a guest post on this for our blog?
The other word of the day is, of course, “turkey.” Judging by its many names, the turkey is quite a cross-cultural bird. As you will learn from an article on VOA Learning English, its name does actually stem from Turkey the country in English, from India in Turkish and French, and from Peru in Portuguese. We can also add that the Spanish Pavo traces its roots to the Ancient Greek ταώς, which is sonically resemblant to TAUS.
We almost feel like naming the turkey the symbol-bird of translators!
Saving aboriginal languages
Not everyone was as festive, and some writers used the occasion to turn our attention to indigenous languages and the problems they face today. Can they be revived, and what we (as in translators) can do to rescue them?
According to Jane Simpson of The Conversation, reviving indigenous languages is not as easy as it seems. In an article with the same name, she writes about the following major challenges in this regard:
- Need to reconstruct the grammar, spelling, and phonetics of a given language,
- Lack of indigenous language teachers,
- Development of curriculum and resources, and
- “Wasting money on well-meant but ill-thought-out projects.”
Speaking of well-thought projects, some countries try to approach the problem in a creative way. For instance, Nicole Chardenet of Yappn mentions a movie filmed in the US about “the story of the first Thanksgiving from the viewpoint of the Natives.” As Nicole points out, “many pains were taken to make the movie as historically and linguistically correct as possible,” with “the Native actors playing Natives in the movie” all speaking “their dialogue in the western Abenaki language, coached to be as linguistically close as possible.” “Abenaki is only spoken by about twelve people today,” she adds.
But our favorite is Tjinari, an video game set completely in the Australian indigenous language Ngaanyatjarra. As you will know from an article by Penny Travers of ABC News, Tjinari (the closest English word being “vagabond”) follows the story of a boy who “must find the correct plant to give to a traditional healer to save the life of a young girl, facing many obstacles and giant animals along the way.”
Led by Ngaanyatjarra linguist Elizabeth Ellis, the project goes to great length to engage the young indigenous audience. The article quotes her as follows: “We have recorded the children’s voices for the game so when they go to play the game, it will be their own voice or a friend’s voice that gives the warning ‘palayi‘, meaning ‘watch out.’ And when they successfully complete a task or navigate the obstacle they will hear their own voice saying ‘walykumunun‘ meaning ‘excellent.'”
As a saying goes, children are the flowers of life, so let us hope that such youth-focused endeavors will bring aboriginal languages to bloom.
Copywriting for translators
Back to business, we get to Elena and Dmitry of #TranslatorsOnAir. Together with David Miralles Pérez of Circa Lingua, they talked about copywriting — an activity closely tied to translation (and a source of side gigs for many freelancers). During the talk, the guys specifically covered the following questions:
1) How can translators can use copywriting in their business?
2) What copywriting techniques can translators can use on their websites?
3) What are some tips for making a good About Me page?
You can watch the full episode on Crowdcast — or right here:
Writing better emails
Back with David Miralles Pérez once again, we bring your attention to his guest post on our blog, where he discusses a topic no freelancer has the right to ignore: writing emails. And making sure that they will be replied to.
If you don’t have time to read the whole post, here are the main points put together in a one-minute video:
If you prefer reading, here you go:
- Make your objective clear: Why are you writing this email?
- Sympathize with the reader. Show that you understand them.
- Focus on the reader: What can your business do for them?
- Add a call-to-action: What do you want them to do?
- Speak your reader’s language. Make them comfortable speaking to you.
- Add value: What will they gain from this?
- Keep it short. Cut off all that does not serve your purpose.
We’ll surely come back to the topic of writing emails later, but even with this simple tips you’ll certainly start finding more email responses in your inbox.
And, finally, we would not be able to call this day a day without saying a few words to the guys who work their backs off to make this world go round. Wonder who we are talking about? Watch this video:
Once again, thank you, and have a great weekend and/on #Thanksgiving vacation!