How do I tell my cleaning lady? / Wie sag ich’s meiner Putzfrau?


I haven’t actually seen this book, by Christine Demmer and Heide Huck, but it was mentioned on the TV news programme this lunchtime.

There is a recommendation (in German) on the Berliner Morgenpost site.

The book discusses how to offer praise and criticism, how to deal with special jobs and special payments, how to register the job with the authorities if necessary, and above all: a large glossary with the most important expressions and sentences in the seven most common languages spoken by many cleaning women in Germany.

I would like to know which languages, and what expressions are the ones you normally use to a cleaner.

By the way, I believe that is a non-Islamic headscarf.

The Trademark Blog links to New York Lawyer’s article on disclaimers used on lawyers’ websites, saying

bq. The article contrasts Mayer Brown’s 4000 word disclaimer to Davis Polk’s “The information on this site does not convey legal advice of any kind.” I looked at its site, it doesn’t.

The article has a link to a fuller version at, which requires a subscription (a 30-day trial subscription is free, but I didn’t try it).

See my earlier entry on the language of email disclaimers with German examples.

The study described in the article is by Evan Schaeffer, well-known to law webloggers. Well, at least to those of us who made the Defense Team yesterday – thanks, Evan!

Judge cuts lawyer’s fees for typos / Anwaltsgebühr vom Richter wegen Tippfehler gekürzt (The Legal Intelligencer, by Shannon P. Duffy) reports:

bq. Finding that attorney Brian Puricelli’s courtroom work was “smooth” and “artful” in securing a $430,000 verdict in a civil rights suit, but that his written work was “careless” and laden with typographical errors, a federal magistrate judge has ruled that his court-awarded fees should be paid at two rates — $300 per hour for the courtroom work, but $150 per hour for work on the pleadings.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart wrote a 12-page opinion on fees.

bq. Hart said he recognized that the case was a complicated one, but said he found some of Puricelli’s writing in the amended complaint to be “nearly unintelligible.”

bq. When defense lawyers complained that the typographical errors in Puricelli’s work were “epidemic,” Puricelli’s response included several more typos, Hart said. The judge quoted a paragraph from Puricelli’s response, adding “[sic]” after each typo.

bq. Puricelli wrote: “As for there being typos, yes there have been typos, but these errors have not detracted from the arguments or results, and the rule in this case was a victory for Mr. Devore. Further, had the Defendants not tired [sic] to paper Plaintiff’s counsel to death, some type [sic] would not have occurred. Furthermore, there have been omissions by the Defendants, thus they should not case [sic] stones.”

I haven’t read the whole of this long article, which is not all about typos.

One of the big problems of translators is errors in the original, of course.

Via The Legal Reader.

Private Investigator Blog / Weblog eines Privatdetektivs

Britischer Privatdetektiv erklärt den Beruf.

The Guardian Weblog’s pick of the day is Private Investigator:

bq. I hear so many people ask how to become a Private Investigator or a Private Detective, what does it involve etc. so I thought I would dedicate a blog to this particular field of work. I’ll cover everything you want to know from training, to getting that first Job, to running your own business and to the latest developments in the Industry. Nearly forgot! This is Private Investigation in the UK.

It seems more of an information collection gradually building up than a diary.

Article on FBI and CIA use of translation

Ein Artikel auf Englisch in der Technology Review beschreibt die Versuche der FBI und CIA, mit modernen Technologien Dokumente in Fremdsprachen zu analysieren. Maschinenübersetzung wird nicht weiterverfolgt; der Computer soll Humanübersetzern (ein schönes Wort) unterstützen, nicht mehr ersetzen.

In the Technology Review, there is an article by Michael Erard called Translation in the Age of Terror. The topic is the National Virtual Translation Center in Washington D.C., the FBI & CIA’s joint project to expand the use of computer-assisted translation technologies in the intelligence community (to quote Michael Erard’s own description on the Forensic Linguists mailing list.

bq. In a Washington, DC, conference room soundproofed to thwart eavesdropping, five linguists working for the government—speaking on condition their names not be published—describe the monumental task they face analyzing foreign-language intercepts in the age of terror.

In view of the mass of material collected, technology has to assist translators. It seems that attempts to use machine translation have been given up in favour of techniques to assist human translators. For example, software might make Arabic easier to read – the documents are often in bad condition. In one example of the way things might work, a document containing one suspicious word is farmed out to a retired translator in Idaho (!), who uses translation memory with a shared database of translated phrases to determine that the document is not suspicious. (This is an odd example – I would have thought a quick human inspection would have done that, saving the OCR time, and if not, that machine translation rather than translation memory would have been used to give the document a once-over).

Other software processes Arabic text to make it easier to search.

Of translation memory it says:

bq. A translation memory works sort of like a spell-check application; it selects a chunk of text—whether a word fragment, several words, or whole sentences—and matches that chunk against previously translated material, saving time and improving accuracy by providing at least a partial translation. It’s already a key tool in the medical and legal industries—where the same jargon frequently crops up in different languages.

The reference to the ‘legal industry’ is rather brief and I have my suspicions. The article also has a sidebar on ‘white elephants’ – transliteration and multimedia systems that have not lived up to the hopes invested in them in the past.

For more forensic linguistics links, see my earlier entry.

‘Brain up’ revisited

Further to my recent entry, one of the comments on language hat’s site points out that the term ‘brain up’ was used in a Guardian article of August 2002, which I quote:

bq. Mr Saumarez Smith, a former academic, believes the answer is not to dumb down, “as the Department for Culture Media and Sport would sometimes seem to like us to do”, but to “brain up”.

Charles Saumarez Smith is the new director of the National Gallery. I found a brief biography (in Google’s cache) but with no suspicion indications, for example of him being German.

I am ashamed to say I believed the letter to the FAZ which had done an Internet search. In fact, a Google search brings more evidence that the term ‘brain up’ does exist. Not much support, but a ‘margaret’ (not me, however) contributes to the British Council word exchange:

bq. Word::brain up
Meaning::to bring some intelligence to a conversation, activity or presentation
Type of word::
Example::If this chat show host doesn’t brain up, I’m switching channel

‘Switching channel’ in the singular sounds a bit foreign.

Here’s another Guardian example, from the Education Guardian in January 2004:

bq. The message is that we have to brain up or fall behind, and that means two things.

Well, I shall e interest to hear how the FAZ discussion continues. It looks to me as if the word exists but is very new and may not even take hold. But some of the blame should be withdrawn. If an SPD education minister can’t trust the Guardian education section, who can she trust?

Non-native speakers/Nicht-Muttersprachler

Pf arbeitet als Lektor für eine türkische Zeitung, die auf Englisch erscheint. Die englischen Texte, die er redigieren muss, sind anscheinend kaum verständlich.

This is copy-editing rather than translating, but somehow it reminds me of some translations I’ve read.

The famous pf, of pf’s blog, is copy-editing for an English-language newspaper in Istanbul. Here’s an early example (February 19th) of copy before editing:

bq. Global variation wavy began at last quarter of previous century and gained acceleration in 90’s, shaked political and ideological positions in us extremely.

bq. Because the lived was not the influence of West norms to the world. At the same time, the modern world?s perception was opened to interrogation and a new mental formation’s prolongation entered to policy over democratism.

And here’s an example of February 21st. Here is the way pf wrote it (it’s about cloning for stem-cell research):

bq. “Science has never been in the monster-production business, however Hollywood might film it. The real monster is the unequal distribution of wealth in our society.”

He (I think) uses block quotes plus quotation marks, the belt-and-braces approach. Here is what the paper did before putting it online:

bq. “Science has never been in the business of producing monsters, assuming of course we ignore Hollywood’s portrayals! The real monster is the unfair distribution of the wealth among people.”

Here’s the paper itself, Zaman Daily News. One good thing – after a year and a half of trying to learn Turkish, I can still understand this better than Hürriyet. Ah, but this is good – I can get the same stories in Turkish. But will the English ‘translation’ bear any similarity to the original?

I have rarely encountered English as incomprehensible as the example first quoted, but the general behaviour of the client ‘improving’ the English is very familiar.