Archive for July, 2012

Mayday Mayday!


I was watching “Lost”, the famous TV series, when I first heard this word “Mayday”! Probably I had heard of it before; however, I did not pay attention at all. 

Last week, I was watching a TV movie and I heard it again. 🙂 I decided to search its etymology and I was quite surprised!

For those who did not know, Mayday is used by pilots when there is a danger. We can it is a kind of SOS. Its history dates back to 1923. As Wikipedia puts it right:

The Mayday callsign originated in 1923 by Frederick Stanley Mockford (1897–1962). A senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, Mockford was asked to think of a word that would indicate distress and would easily be understood by all pilots and ground staff in an emergency. Since much of the traffic at the time was between Croydon and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, he proposed the word “Mayday” from the French m’aider. “Venez m’aider” means “come help me.”

Other urgent calls

A Mayday relay call is made by one vessel on behalf of a different vessel which is in distress. If a vessel makes a Mayday call and it is notacknowledged by the coastguard after a single repetition and a two-minute wait, then a vessel receiving the Mayday call should attempt to contact the coastguard on behalf of the Mayday vessel by broadcasting a Mayday relay.

A Mayday relay call should use the callsign of the transmitting vessel but give the name and position of the Mayday vessel.

Mayday relay calls can be used to summon help for a vessel which is either too far offshore to contact the coastguard directly or without radio capabilities (though most vessels above a certain size or crew complement are legally required to carry two-way radio equipment, such equipment can potentially be damaged or destroyed).

Pan-pan (from the French: panne – a breakdown) indicates an urgent situation of a lower order than a “grave and imminent threat requiring immediate assistance”, such as a mechanical breakdown or a medical problem. The suffix medico used to be added by vessels in UK waters to indicate a medical problem (Pan-Pan medico, repeated three times), or by aircraft declaring a non-life-threatening medical emergency of a passenger in flight, or those operating as protected medical transport in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.[6] “Pan-pan medico” is no longer in official use.

Sometimes the phrase “declaring emergency” is used in aviation. This is the same as calling “Mayday”. For example Swissair Flight 111 radioed “Swissair one eleven heavy is declaring emergency” on discovering their situation


That’s Why English is Hard to Learn

We’ll begin with box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.
Then one fowl is goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a whole lot of mice,
But the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be pen?
The cow in the plural may be cows or kine,
But the plural of vow is vows, not vine.

And I speak of a foot, and you show me your feet,
But I give a boot… would a pair be beet?
If one is a tooth, and a whole set is teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be beeth?
If the singular is this, and the plural is these,
Why shouldn’t the plural of kiss be kese?
Then one may be that, and three be those,
Yet the plural of hat would never be hose.
We speak of a brother, and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
The masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine she, shis, and shim.
So our English, I think you will agree,
Is the trickiest language you ever did see.


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Once upon a Time English

I’ve recently discovered that there is a TV series titled “The Adventure of English”. It is a documentary indeed  but it is like 5 episodes. It is quite long, 5 hours total 🙂 However, it is very interesting, I strongly recommend you to watch it in your spare time or while you are having your breakfast or dinner 🙂 I have also begun watching and I wanted to share this valuable documentary with you. You can see the YouTube link at the bottom. Before watching, you may want to run over the short history of English. Thank you “Top Documentary Films” for sharing these videos and introduction with us! Here is their introduction and their explanation of English history besed on the documentary itself!


The Adventure of English is a British television series (ITV) on the history of the English language presented by Melvyn Bragg as well as a companion book, also written by Bragg.

The series and the book are cast as an adventure story, or the biography of English as if it were a living being, covering the history of the language from its modest beginnings around 500 AD as a minor Germanic dialect to its rise as a truly established global language.

In the television series, Bragg explains the origins and spelling of many words based on the times in which they were introduced into the growing language that would eventually become modern English.

1. Birth of a Language. The modern Frisian language is the closest sounding language to the English used approximately 2000 years ago, when the people from what is now the north of the Netherlands travelled to what would be the United Kingdom and pushed the Celts to the western side of the island. Words like “blue” can be recognized in the Frisian language.

2. English Goes Underground. Bragg discusses how class also affected the use of English, especially in the time of William the Conquerer and for approximately 300 years after his reign; during this period, only the French language and Latin were used in state affairs and by the aristocracy, while English remained in use with the lower peasant classes.

3. The Battle for the Language of the Bible. In the early to mid 1300s, English fought to be the language of the Christian Bible through the efforts of theologian John Wycliffe, who opposed the church’s use of a Latin scripture because it prevented most of the population from reading the bible for themselves.

4. This Earth, This Realm, This England. In Queen Elizabeth I’s time, English began to expand to even greater depths. Overseas trade brought new words from France, as well as the now popular swearwords “fokkinge,” (fucking) “krappe,” (crap) and “bugger” from Dutch, in the 16th century.

5. English in America. Upon landing in North America, settlers encountered Squanto, a native man who had been captured and brought to England to learn English and become a guide. After escaping, Squanto returned to his tribe, which happened to live near the place that the English settlers had created their small village.

6. Speaking Proper. The Age of Reason began, and English scholars of mathematics and science like Isaac Newton started publishing their books in English instead of Latin. Jonathan Swift would attempt to save the English language from perpetual change, followed by Samuel Johnson who would write the A Dictionary of the English Language, made up of 43000 words and definitions, written in seven years and published in 1755.

7. The Language of Empire. British trade and colonization spread the English language. In India, scholar William Jones finds some English words already present in Sanskrit. Convicts land in Australia, blending London criminal slang and Aboriginal words into a new dialect. Jamaicans reclaim patois.

8. Many Tongues Called English, One World Language. The globalisation of the English language in the 20th century owes most to the United States. Here we look at the predominance of American Black street talk, how the Second World War and American movies threatened to “infect” the mother tongue in Britain and how some nations are attempting to stamp in the invasion of English out – for example franglais in France and Singlish in Singapore.

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Best Online Translation Tools

I, personally, do not believe that the future of translation is machine or software. However, I cannot deny that I use machine translation from time to time. In my opinion, the intention is important. If you intend to use machine translation as it is, this is unacceptable. Nowadays, some translation agencies pay more to proofreaders/editors than translators because they simply do not use translators 🙂 They rely on machine translation and corrct the mistakes afterwords. This is something I would not do because it is not quite professional- for now. Last week, I came across to an article telling the best online translation tools that can help you to get the gist of any document/website. As translators, we should also be aware of such initiatives. I want to thank Anna Heim for sharing this with us 🙂 Here is the list. If you want to read more, you can click the link at the bottom of the page.

According to the translation firm Smartling, native English speakers only represented 27% of the total Internet population in 2011. Yet, 56% of online pages are English-only. So how do we break language barriers online? Well, here are a few tools that can help you browse content in a language you don’t speak – pages of course, but also video and even speech.

Linguee, tapping into the translation memory

I find myself increasingly using Linguee as my top translation source, especially to look up for a specific expression – the kind of tasks at which tools such as Reverso usually fail. (…)

Google Translate, automatically translating the equivalent of 1 million books a day

No matter what purists may think of statistical machine translation, Google Translatefully deserves to be on this list. Of course, its results are still far from perfect at this stage, but there’s no arguing about it. How long would you have spent on a Japanese website without understanding Japanese if Google Translate didn’t exist? Yet, we now routinely find ourselves browsing foreign pages — because we care about their content enough to go past the translation’s imperfections. (…)

Worldwide Lexicon, leveraging your community’s skills to translate websites

Worldwide Lexicon hopes to get the best of both worlds, artificial and human. According to its founder Brian McConnell, it is very easy for bilingual speakers to spot and correct mistakes in an automatic translation. Hence its approach, which consists of finding people willing to use its plugin to proofread and improve machine translations of your website. (…)

Amara, crowdsourcing subtitles

While Amara shares many characteristics with Worldwide Lexicon, such as its open source and crowdsourced approach, there’s one big difference. It focuses on subtitles (it was previously known as Universal Subtitles). In practice, that means that it could make millions of hours of video accessible to people who don’t speak the original language in which they were recorded. (…)

Smartling and Easyling, competing for the website translation market

Smartling and Easyling may be competitors, but they have one thing in common: they hope to make high-quality translation available to any website owner. (…)

Transfluent, eradicating language barriers in social media

Transfluent is the youngest service on this list. Launched by the language community Xiha, its goal is to use human translators to translate social media messages in real time (see our previous story). It is a promising field, and one that traditional tools usually struggle with, due to the large amount of colloquialisms and abbreviations contained in your average tweet or Facebook post. (…)

Babelverse, disrupting interpretation

As you may remember, Babelverse officially unveiled its public beta during The Next Web Conference in Amsterdam last April. Yet, you may find it hard to believe that its service exists: doesn’t real-time speech interpretation sound like pure science-fiction? But if you are still having doubts, we can confirm that the startup has proven multiple times that its platform is fully operational.

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You Should Read These Books Just in Two Months!


Have you seen this project? If you do not read these books in 2 months, the words and sentences just fade away! So you have to read them right after you buy. It aims to increase the rate of reading books; however, I do not quite like it. I love collecting books and form my own library. It is a kind of legacy and I want my children to read the books I bought from New York, Virginia, Belgium or France… I know this feeling and it feels good 🙂 I, myself, have inherited many books from my grandad. I love even their smell. So in short term, this project is quite interesting but it is not for such big fans of books- like all the translators out there 🙂

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What does “Third World Country” Mean?

Before reading this article, I used to think that the term “Third World Country” means something about the rateof development; however, this is just a rough generalization and misconception. As language-lovers and translators, we should pay extra attention to such sensitive issues. We can offend the reader or even get very negative reactions. We should use more general and “rounded” terms instead of certain expressions when the issue is controversial.

Here is the article explaining what “Third World Country” means. I hope it is informative! Thanks DAVEN HISKEY for this precious information.

Today I found out a “Third World” country is not a country that simply is primitive, underdeveloped, or poor, as most people think.  In fact, a third world country is actually just a country that is not considered a capitalist country (first world) and not considered a communist country (2nd world).

This terminology was originally coined just after WWII with the “first world” countries being roughly all the countries that were aligned with the United States after WWII with more or less common political and economic structure (capitalists); the “second world” countries were all those that roughly aligned with the Soviet Union in terms of their political and economic structure (communists and socialists); the “third world” countries were just everybody else.

This “everybody else” meaning included an awful lot of countries that were underdeveloped or poor.  Through time, this has given rise to the misconception that “third world” means only countries that are underdeveloped and poor, even though there were, and still are, many countries in this group that are very well developed and a few of them are among the wealthiest nations in the world.”

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Do you Like Shopping on

It has been almost 1.5 years since I started this blog and together with the Facebook page. We are more than 1000 people on Facebook and we share many funny posts and pictures about languages, translation and life itself. I have more than 200 daily readers on my blog. I want to thank everyone. To show how I’m glad, I have started a campaign on our Facebook page and Twitter account. You just tell why you love languages and you can win a $ gift card from Amazon. Every week I give a gift card to the most creative tweet! You can find the details on our Facebook page.

If you want to try it just send a tweet 🙂 But don’t forget to use #ilovelanguages and @aimtr

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Domestication of Idioms

Domestication is the key point of any translation. It is the power of “human translation” because a machine cannot understand the cultural items quite as any translator.

Cultural items are so important that a translator should think in both languages to produce a fluent translation. There is a saying in Turkish: “It smells like translation.” If we translate the cultural items such as idioms and phrasees as they are, the outcome will not smell- it will stink 🙂 Here is a text in English. You can see many idioms trsanslated from Turkish as they are. Does the text make sense to you? Please share similar examples if you have! Let’s have some fun 🙂

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