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Posted By P & L Blog

If you're a list maker, you're probably thinking about what you'd like to accomplish in 2009.  For many of us, learning or improving our knowledge of a foreign language makes the list every year.  So, what stops us from making any progress?


The time and expense involved in taking classes seem to be the top reasons.  A lot of people travel or work in the evenings when most adult education classes are offered so they are not an option.  The cost involved is a barrier for others, particularly when no one knows where the economy is going.  Seriously, do you want to spend $400 for beginning Spanish when your 401k has gotten smaller and smaller in the past year?


There are other options.  We can't vouch for the effectiveness of any of these suggestions (the success of any method depends on how disciplined you are), but here are some sources for you. offers online courses in many languages.  You can take a free sample lesson with a teacher and if you don't like it, you can try again with someone else.  Classes take place whenever you want them. And, they offer an free library with links to audiobooks, radio stations, videos, podcasts, newspapers, etc.


At, you can learn verb conjugation, ask questions in the forum, learn a new word a day  and how to pronounce it,  and receive their weekly newsletter.  If you know any Spanish, the offerings here may be too basic for you, but they also provide interesting cultural information. provides links to language courses from Abenaki to Xhosa.  They do mention that the quality of the courses varies from one language to another.  You can also link to dictionaries, chat sites, and language learning on YouTube.


Many public libraries have audio language courses that you can use for free.  The Pimsleur series is popular and is available in Chinese, Spanish, French, and Japanese, to name a few.


Whatever method you choose, we wish you "mucha suerte" and a Happy New Year!


Posted By P & L Blog

Scrabble celebrated its 60th birthday last week.  Alfred Mosher Butts, the inventor, determined the distribution of the letters by studying the front page of The New York Times.  He first named the game Lexico, followed by Criss Cross Words before coming up with Scrabble.


For all you word lovers, here are some fun facts about the world's most popular word game:


  • Scrabble is available in 29 different languages.
  • The English version of the game has 100 tiles while the Portuguese and Italian games have 120.
  • The word "scrabble" comes from the Dutch word meaning to claw or scrape.
  • Japanese and Chinese versions of the game do not exist, but a rule book is available for speakers of both languages.
  • World championships are held in English, French, and Spanish.
  • The official Scrabble website provides information in 5 languages: German, French, Spanish, Italian, and English.


More fun facts are available from the Daily Telegraph which published a list to commemorate Scrabble's 60 years of popularity:


Posted By P & L Blog

In "Politics and the English Language", George Orwell wrote that "vagueness and sheer incompetence" were the "most marked characteristics" of written English.


The essay, which he wrote in 1946, is considered to be one of his most influential non-fiction pieces.  The six rules he proposed for better, clearer writing still apply, even for documents that you want translated.  The translations will communicate your message precisely  in other languages if you follow Orwell's rules.


Before you submit your marketing materials, website or user manuals to your translations provider, review these rules and edit the copy as needed.  If you're not sure that the text is culturally appropriate for another market, give us a call and we'll help you.


Orwells's  6 Rules for Better Writing 


1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which are you are used to seeing in print.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word,  or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.


Posted By P & L Blog



There's an interesting post at Three Percent on how translations could play a role in easing the publishing industry's woes.  About 50% of the books in translation are translated from English, but only 3% are translated into English. 



Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Nobel Committee for Literature, said earlier this year that Americans are "too isolated, too insular" and that American publishers are not open to translations.  Yet with some U.S. publishing companies in crisis mode (remember Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's freeze on new acquisitions), could 2009 be the year of translations?


Posted By P & L Blog

Literary translation requires cultural awareness in addition to language skills.  Translators must recreate customs, behavior and context for readers who may know nothing about the novel's setting.


Three translators recently discussed the challenges of their profession on NPR's "All Things Considered".  The program concluded that "reconciling language and culture is both a science and an art."





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