Incentives to Learn Languages

Over the last few years, many people have asked me what the best way to learn a language is. Personally, I am a firm believer in using multimedia such as songs and movies as an incentive to keep learning; while learning different verb forms and grammatical points is certainly important, it's incredibly dull. Only focusing on the mechanical aspects of language learning rather than the reason why someone has chosen to learn the language in the first place can be incredibly off-putting and dampen the enthusiasm of new language learners. 

I started learning French and Spanish because I was fascinated with French and Latin American cultures and wanted to be able to feel more engaged with them. As I live in Australia, though, actually going to the countries that I am interested in can be a lengthy and costly process, so I keep my enthusiasm for the cultures up by listening to songs, watching movies, reading books and newspapers from around the world. When I had to revise verb tables during the first few years of learning, the promise of all the audiovisual ways of connecting with the cultures helped me to carry on and keep studying! At first I especially liked watching French and Spanish movies with English subtitles, because it helped me to hear how the language should be spoken but wasn't too difficult to understand.

The songs below probably aren't the best way of learning French and Spanish, but anyone who has learnt some of the languages should be able to identify with them pretty accurately!


Franglais and other mistranslations

Since beginning my translation studies, I have been asked many times whether I only translate into English or also into French and Spanish. When I reply that I prefer to translate into English, my friends and family seem amazed. 

Perhaps surprisingly, this is not uncommon for translators, and even those that have been expats for a decade or more usually choose to only translate towards their birth language. This is because there may be some small nuance of language or grammatical anomaly which they do not recognise in their second (or third) language, which jars with native speakers and is an instant flag to the "foreignness" of the text. 

A grammatically correct (and quite sweet) translation, but yet it still seems rather odd in English.

A grammatically correct (and quite sweet) translation, but yet it still seems rather odd in English.

This is probably most seen by English-speaking audiences in instruction manuals for electronic goods, which have bizarre sentence structure and sometimes incomprehensible instructions, or else in chain emails which make fun of "Chinglish" translations of street signs. 

Because of this chance of mistranslation, it is generally not considered to be a sign of professional conduct for a translator to choose to translate into their non-maternal language(s). 

Other funny mistranslations from around the world

On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

A menu in Vienna: Fried milk, children sandwiches, roast cattle and boiled sheep.

In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: We take your bags and send them in all directions.

A sign at a vehicle repair shop in Bali Indonesia: Cat Oven.

In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist: Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.

Instructions for a soap bubble gun: While solution is not toxic it will not make child edible.