Archive: Sep 2016

  1. What Brexit Means for Literary Translation

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    • By Lindsey Ford
    • 20th September 2016

    What does the UK’s vote to leave the European Union mean for our future? In particular, what does this mean for Free Word’s three focus themes: literary translationfree expression and stories of climate change? To find out, we asked the experts to explain the challenges and opportunities that this outcome brings.

    As a group of people who spend their whole lives interacting with other cultures and languages, translators were almost overwhelmingly against the “B-word”; aside from all the other outcomes of the vote, it’s a twist of the knife that this ugly portmanteau has now been imposed on us forever.

    Literary translation is not a particularly lucrative industry. Those of us who work in it are often driven by a passion to help ideas and cultures cross boundaries. Many of the same ideals underpinned the EU, and a rejection of these ideals feels like a rejection of what we do as well. Why bother reading that latest Scandinavian thriller, that German classic, that Italian family saga, when we’ve got perfectly good British books of our own, thank you very much?

    It feels particularly disappointing as the literary translation community has enjoyed a real boom in recent years. There are more events, residency programmes, workshops and publicity plaudits than ever before. Sales in translated fiction have grown 96% in the past 14 years, and four out of the top five best selling translated books in 2015 were from European languages.

    EU funding has undeniably played a part in this. Key translation institutions in the UK, such as Literature Across Frontiers (based at Aberystwyth University) are recipients of much-needed EU funding. Grants such as the pan-European Creative Europe Desk Literary Translation fund have provided tens of thousands to publish and promote books which otherwise may not have seen the light of day. The status of such grants is now at the forefront of many minds in the industry. Funding cycles can span several years, so the current prolonged uncertainty is not making the anxiety any easier. If we are to leave the EU within two years of Article 50 being triggered, how will this affect publishers and translators applying for grants in 2017?

    The fall in the pound also had immediate effects – some briefly positive, for those British translators who get paid in euros and found them worth a few extra quid – but largely negative. For one, acquiring foreign rights just became more expensive, as Juliet Mabey of Oneworld pointed out. There’s also the potential issue of how English language rights will work. Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch noted that the UK may no longer be able to claim the EU as their exclusive market, leaving open the possibility of US and UK editions having to compete – an issue which could have real repercussions on foreign rights and translators’ contracts. There are countless questions on how the trade aspects of our future in the EU will affect the publishing industry, but, as is the case with every other aspect of this decision, we just don’t know yet.

    The potential loss of freedom of movement would have major consequences on all sides of the translation equation: from translators travelling for research or residential programmes, to authors travelling to the UK for promotional tours.  Many translators have honed their craft by living and working overseas. I wouldn’t be working as a translator now had I not spent a year as a student in Madrid. A grim thought for the future – if we lose things such as freedom of movement and the Erasmus scheme, how many potential future translators are we missing out on?

    There is a personal outcome to consider as well as we translators are in constant communication with other Europeans – authors, agents, publishers, not to mention fellow translators. Many of us received shocked emails from them the day after the vote, and it’s hard not to sense the undertone of hurt and rejection in their voices. Not to mention the many Europeans who have made their homes and their lives in the UK, such as Marta Dziurosz, the current Free Word Translator in Residence, who wrote movingly about her reaction to the vote.

    To my fellow Europeans: All I can do is apologise, and tell you that this will do nothing to change our desire to help tell your stories to as many as we possibly can.

    Lindsey Ford is a Spanish to English translator based in London and Hong Kong.

  2. A Moveable Feast: A Year of Reading Women in Translation

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    In a genre that prides itself on celebrating diversity and shining a light on marginalised voices, women authors have consistently been overlooked.

    This August marked the third anniversary of #WomenInTranslation month, a much-needed attempt to redress the balance between male and female authors within translated fiction. In a genre that prides itself on celebrating diversity and shining a light on marginalised voices, women authors have consistently been overlooked by publishers. The numbers paint a rather depressing picture, since according to Three Percent’s database, translated literature makes up approximately 3 percent of the literature published in English-speaking markets, and women make up a fraction of that — a mere 30 percent, or 0.9 percent of the literature that makes it to stores.

    In this respect, #WIT Month is a fantastic way of highlighting women’s voices through the power of social media – demonstrating that not only are these books read, but that there is a large audience with a voracious appetite for literature in translation penned (and translated) by women. But I suspect that, like many others, once the dust has settled and we roll into Fall, my reading habits fall back into routine. The culture industry reflects the character of the society that it markets to, and the fact remains that it is considerably harder for women to get their work to appear to English than their male counterparts. If the problem is to achieve any sort of resolution, #WIT Month needs to first inspire a recognition of the gender biases within the industry and reading habits at large, and to introduce readers to women authors that end up being overlooked or that they might not otherwise have heard of — in short, WIT Month should become a moveable feast.

    Knowing that everyone loves a good reading list, I rounded up some of Asymptote’s friends old and new to provide their own recommendations for what books and authors people should track down to begin a year of reading women in translation.

    My own recommendation is for Valeria Luiselli, who embodies everything that is vital about contemporary literature; transgressive, experimental and raucously funny, her novel The Story of My Teeth owes much to modernism in style but is distinctly postmodern in its affinities (one could go as far as labelling it post-postmodern in this regard). Through a heady mixture of farce and Baudrillardian theory, Luiselli creates a philosophical opus out of a man wearing Marilyn Monroe’s teeth.

    —David Maclean

    Sasha Dugdale, Editor of Modern Poetry in Translation and author of the poetry collections, The Estate (2007), Notebook (2003), and Red House(2011). She has translated Russian poetry and drama, including Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. She tweets @SashaDugdale

    “Don Mee Choi is a poet, essayist and translator of Korean contemporary women poets, in particular the poet Kim Hyesoon, whose work Don Mee has translated for both US and UK publishers. I’m OK, I’m Pig! is published by Bloodaxe Books and Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream by Action Books. Her translations are rightly acclaimed for their radical, questioning nature: thoughtful, imaginative translations that probe at the outer reaches of language.

    Karen Leeder’s work as a scholar, poet, and translator of modern German literature has brought a new generation of German-language poetry to UK audiences. She has translated Durs GrünbeinEvelyn SchlagRaoul SchrottMichael Krüger, and Volker Braun. Most recently she has worked with the young poet, writer, and filmmaker Ulrike Almut Sandigto produce beautiful, collaborative texts and performances. She is a great advocate for the power of translation and cultural collaboration.”

    Joanna Walsh, fiction editor at 3:AM Magazine. Her books include FractalsHotel and Vertigo. She also runs #readwomen, described by the New York Times as ‘a rallying cry for equal treatment for women writers.’ She tweets @baduade

  3. How Did Latin Become A Dead Language?

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    While Latin’s influence is apparent in many modern languages, it is no longer commonly spoken. So exactly why did the language die out?

    When the Catholic Church gained influence in ancient Rome, Latin became the official language of the sprawling Roman Empire. Latin was king of the world — the language of international communication, scholarship, and science. So what happened? Jules Suzdaltsev investigates in today’s Seeker Daily report.

    Latin is now considered a dead language, meaning it’s still used in specific contexts, but does not have any native speakers. (Sanskrit is another dead language.) In historical terms, Latin didn’t die so much as it changed — into French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Romanian. These are known as the Romance languages — “Rome” is the root term — and while other tongues developed from Latin, these are the most common.

    All five of these languages incorporate grammar, tenses and specific intricacies from Latin. Not coincidentally, each language developed in former territories of the Western Roman Empire. When that empire failed, Latin died, and the new languages were born.

    Part of the reason that Latin passed out of common usage is because, as a language, it’s incredibly complex. Classical Latin is highly inflected, meaning that nearly every word is potentially modified based on tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender and mood. With no central power promoting and standardizing usage of Classical Latin, it gradually passed away from everyday usage.

    Vulgar Latin, essentially a simplified version of the mother tongue, survived for a while but diverged more and more as it folded in various local languages. By the end of the sixth century, people from different sections of the former empire could no longer understand each other. Latin had died as a living language.

    Still, due to the overwhelming prevalence of Latin in early Western literature, medicine and science, Latin as a language of antiquity never quite went extinct — a term which has its own particular meaning in linguistics. Today, Latin is still used in many technical fields, medical terminology and taxonomy, the scientific classification of species.

    — Glenn McDonald

  4. Ask a Translator with Daniel Hahn

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    In normal circumstances, then, it’s not my job to make the book better.

    We’re bringing you the latest meditations on translation from acclaimed author, editor and translator Daniel Hahn. In “Ask a Translator,” he answers burning questions from readers about the gritty details of his chosen career. Today Daniel responds to Asymptote reader Tony Liang from Beijing, China.

    Do you think the translator should be allowed to edit the text he translates?

    It is not my job to change a text I’m translating. Indeed, my aim at its most essential is exactly the opposite: to focus all the ingenuity I have on figuring out specifically how to change nothing, how to give my publisher precisely the book we started with—not abridged or corrected or improved, but my best attempt at keeping it just the same, the language changed but nothing else. To rewrite the text in entirely new words while seeking to have as little of my own collateral effect on it as I possibly can. Leaving aside the fact that that’s impossible (because even as it keeps things the same, the process of translation is also changing everything), that’s the intention, that’s what we like to pretend is happening. Maintaining structural, narrative, tonal integrity, if you like, and faking it with all the rest.

    In normal circumstances, then, it’s not my job to make the book better. It’s not my job to make the book more palatable to a reader. It’s not my job to fact-check a book and correct its mistakes and inconsistencies. My job is to write the same book. That’s the general idea.

    But in practice that hard line doesn’t really apply. Every book can be improved, so when presented with an opportunity to do so, why not take it?

    Editing practices vary drastically between one publishing culture and another. There are relatively few places where the process is as robust as it is in the English-speaking world. I have writer friends in many countries whose books are barely more than spell-checked between being delivered to the publisher and sent off to the presses. Nobody will read the manuscript critically, carefully, questioningly, to figure out what it needs, treating it as a still malleable draft, before coming back to the author with major observations and suggestions. (Chapter 7 slows the action down, the subplot in the second half is distracting, the character of the older son could do with a bit of fleshing out, some of the dialogue in the classroom scene is a bit ropy, if this is a whodunit the ending is maybe a bit too predictable, if this is a comedy I’m afraid the jokes aren’t yet, um, quite funny enough…) Even great writers can benefit from the observations of clever, fresh-eyed first readers, and fundamentally that’s what editors are.

    So when this doesn’t happen, the English-language publication can sometimes offer a second shot at getting this right.

    But as a translator I never make these decisions myself. Whether editorial interventions are necessary usually depends on the editor; whether they are permissible depends on the author. I will sometimes weigh in—I might suggest a cut or a rearrangement when I’ve felt something amiss as I’ve made my way through it—but it’s never my ultimate call.

    Sometimes, of course, it’s not a question of making the book better per se—making it more coherent or clear or improving the flow or the shape—merely better suited to our new readership. A historical novel I translated became a dozen pages shorter in its passage to English, losing its long epilogue detailing the latter lives of the real historical characters, because the publishers felt it could only be of interest to Spanish readers. (I argued with this decision, for what it’s worth, on structural grounds.)

    Edits on a smaller scale do sometimes take place at my instigation (though again with the editor’s approval and the author’s)—if I find a factual mistake, for example, or a moment in the writing that might have suited an original reader that mine might find problematic in one way or another. And a writer is often grateful for the opportunity to do some light tidying. Not always, of course (don’t ask…), but often—grateful to have at least the book’s minor infelicities or inconsistencies or inadvertent ambiguities pointed out to them, so that they can be cleaned up before the next wave of readers get their hands on it.

    I’ve corrected facts in non-fiction books, or nearly-but-not-quite quotations. I’ve cleared up points of inconsistency that really should have been caught first time around: photos that are in colour when we first hear of them and then twenty pages later are miraculously in black and white; a one-way street that seems to go one way in two different directions, etc. I’ve toned down some things that might have had faintly racist overtones to my Anglophone readers (a book for children, so the question of what is or isn’t palatable is even more loaded). Things of that nature. And oh, of course, every time I’ve translated a book I’ve replaced all the author’s words with new ones. But apart from that…

    For more insights from Daniel, check out this compilation of our favorite bits of translation wisdom from his past columns. Send us any questions you have for Daniel about language, translation, or the ‘curious composite’ of world literature to!


  5. Is the Native-Tongue Principle a True Guarantee of High-Quality? Paying attention to the demands of the market and stepping out of our comfort zone may not be as hard as we think.

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    AUGUST 31, 2016

    Greater than 6 minutes, my friend!

    One of the principles that are most advertised by freelancers and agencies in general is the importance of being a native speaker when translating into any particular language. And there’s an apparent reason for this principle to be so prevalent in the translation industry—better results are expected when a translation into Spanish, for example, is carried out by a translator whose native language is Spanish.

    Even though the native-tongue principle seems to be a no brainer for many translators, there are many who think differently and choose to work “both ways,” which may offend other translators who seem to think of this practice as dishonest and unacceptable.

    However, is this principle a true statement?

    Is it really true that the quality of a translation will be compromised if performed by a non-native speaker?

    Before I share my opinion on this issue, let me tell you a little bit about my friend Chris (name has been changed).

    Chris was born in the United States and lived in this country until the age of 18. He attended college for one year, and during that time he became fascinated with the Spanish language. At 19, he served for two years as a missionary for his church, and during that time his Spanish flourished, becoming surprisingly fluent during such a short time.

    When returning from his mission, he went back to school and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Translation. Being drawn to the Spanish culture, he went back to Mexico, got a job, and lived there with his wife and children for the next 18 years.

    About a year ago, my husband hired him as a Pathway manager for the international sector in Mexico. He moved his family up to Rexburg, Idaho, USA, and ever since we met him we have been blown away by his fluency and native-sounding abilities, as well as his perfectly developed Spanish writing skills.

    Now, do you think he may be an unsuitable candidate to become an ENG>SPAN translator?

    Allow me to present to you another scenario.

    I moved to the United States at the age of 19 and have lived in this country to this day. I attended college and obtained my Master’s degree here in the United States as well. I’ve almost completely lost my Spanish accent when I speak English, and my Puerto Rican accent has certainly been modified through the years as I’ve met other Hispanics from all over Latin America and adopted vocabulary and other differences from their Spanish dialect peculiarities.

    Likewise, there are many other native Spanish speakers who’ve come to the United States at an early age, as early as 5 years old, and continued to speak Spanish at home. It didn’t take long for many of these natives to embrace the English language and speak it fluently, but they still claim the Spanish language to be their native tongue.

    Which leads me to ponder–

    First, would the fact that Spanish is our native language make us more suitable to become ENG>SPAN translators than those who–like Chris– learned Spanish as a second language?

    And second, would we still be considered native speakers of Spanish, even when we haven’t permanently lived in our countries of origin for over 25 years?

    I don’t know about you, but even when the native-speaker principle emphasizes the importance of a native speaker of Spanish to translate into Spanish, out of the scenarios presented above, I would feel very comfortable choosing Chris.

    The reality is that there are many factors to be considered when determining the suitability of a translator to provide a high-quality translation.

    Just recently I joined a translation group through Ashoka, to help with some translation work on a pro bono basis. We were to translate several articles about entrepreneurship, and at the end edit each other’s work. Although I didn’t really know the translators’ educational backgrounds, through the editing process I was able to assess the quality and attention to detail of their work.

    Were they natives? I don’t really know. Some of them had Spanish last names; others didn’t. But to me, that knowledge didn’t play a role in judging their translation quality.

    There was one translation I was very impressed with; I only suggested a few corrections, but overall the translation was well-written and didn’t read like a translation.

    However, the other two I edited were somewhat unpolished and lacked natural flow.

    Now, I would not dare to say that this was the result of translators doing work into their non-native language; there are many translators who strictly translate into their native tongue and still don’t achieve polished results.

    So, in answer to the initial question, will the quality of a translation be compromised if performed by a non-native speaker?

    I believe that it depends on the translator.

    In the end, it all comes down to the translator’s ability to write well, regardless of his native or non-native status.

    Is the translator a proficient enough writer in his native language? If he is, his translation work will stand out, even among natives of his second language.

    There’s more to a high quality translation than just being a native speaker of the language. Translation is an art that even non-natives of the language that are good writers can develop and be successful at.

    However, doing this takes a special skill, and not every translator can do this without letting their standard of work drop below a level that isn’t considered professional or high-quality.

    Every translator should know their limits and determine if translation into their non-native tongue is something they can manage and that will not compromise their productivity and/or quality.

    Just recently I had a good conversation with Claudia P. Mirza, founder and CEO of Akorbi, an established and highly recognized translation agency. As we started talking about the needs of the translation industry, she mentioned how there’s a high demand for translations into English. At first I thought this would be out of my league since English is not my native language. But she actually assured me that I was more than capable to go in that direction.

    “You’ve lived in the United States for more than twenty years and you speak both languages perfectly. I don’t see why you couldn’t do it.” She said without hesitation.

    I was actually very grateful for her comment. It taught me that sometimes it’s very important to pay attention to the demands of the market and to step out of our comfort zones.

    It also inspired me to look beyond the “native-speaker” principle as there may be a lack of native speakers to be able to do it all.

    After our conversation, I started offering certified translations into English. My first project was a translation of a birth certificate, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. It was the confidence boost that I needed to feel comfortable translating both ways in certain areas.

    So, the conclusion? As Professor Antonella Sorace of Edington University once shared, “…a “mother-tongue” principle is not a static concept. A person’s first language is in a constant state of flux, depending on circumstances such as age, location, surroundings, etc.”

    And I couldn’t agree more.

    The trouble lies in assuming that a native tongue will always stay fresh and polished without any effort on our part to preserve it. It takes work to continue to improve our language skills in both our native and second language. It takes effort to maintain a language, since every language is constantly evolving.

    A translator who’s neglected to take care of his native tongue, will most likely struggle with the little details that separate a good translation from a great one.

    A non-native who’s given his heart and soul in learning and continuing to develop his language skills, is more likely to be successful in translating into his non-native language than a native who doesn’t do the same.

    Therefore, the native-tongue principle, in my opinion, is not an absolute guarantee of quality.

    Do you have an opinion about this?

    Feel free to comment down below!

    About the author:
    Beverly Hayes specializes in translation of written documents & website localization from ENG>SPAN in the following areas: social sciences, education, healthcare, marketing, & business. A mother of five, Beverly is the founder/owner of Spanish Connect Translations, a translation agency based in Rexburg, Idaho. She graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah with a Bachelor’s degree in Clinical Laboratory Science, and this last December she finished her Master’s degree in Spanish Linguistics from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Being a stay-at-home mom for most of her life, Beverly has now taken upon herself a new goal–to contribute to the world in a different way by jumping on the entrepreneurship bandwagon. She has the education, the cultural background, and the writing skills that are necessary to succeed in this competitive field and provide a quality product that’ll stand out among the rest. You may visit her website at, or contact her via Twitter: MySpanConnect and email:

  6. When Your Miranda Rights Get Lost in Translation

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    By Paul DeBenedetto

    August 24, 2016

    Photo by Flickr user Elvert Barnes

    This year marks the 50th anniversary of Miranda v. Arizona, the landmark US Supreme Court case that required law enforcement officials to read you your rights upon every arrest. Since that case, any statement made to law enforcement is inadmissible if the defendant was not first informed of his or her Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights—the right against self-incrimination and the right to consult with an attorney before answering any questions.

    Even if you’ve never been arrested, you’ve seen enough movies and television police procedurals to know the familiar refrain: You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you, and so on.

    But for primarily Spanish-speaking people in the United States—which has become the world’s second-largest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico—those rights can easily get lost in translation. In countless cases across the US, Spanish-speaking defendants have been read incorrect or mistranslated versions of their rights, where butchering words like “free” and “right” can cost someone their best shot in court.

    Now that could all change: The American Bar Association (ABA), at its annual conference earlier this month, voted unanimously to create a uniform Spanish-language Miranda warning and urged law enforcement agencies to adopt such a warning for defendants who do not speak English well or at all.

    “As we looked into it, we discovered that too often Miranda is mistranslated, and that shouldn’t happen,” Alexander Acosta, who chairs the ABA’s Special Committee on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities, told VICE. “This is something that should be very straightforward.”

    Related: Why Do So Many People Confess to Crimes They Didn’t Commit?

    Every year, law enforcement across the country use Spanish-language Miranda warnings in 874,000 arrests, according to a report from the committee. In many of those instances, inaccurate translations that could potentially violate a person’s civil rights can lead to excluded statements in court. But countless other incidents slip through the cracks, where a person did not understand their rights and their incriminating statements are used anyway.

    “Even if there is a one-in-1,000 error rate, you can imagine how significant that would be nationally,” Acosta said.

    The problem is not uncommon: The committee’s report lists dozens of instances of bad translations, including the use of Spanglish, and completely made-up Spanish words like “silento.” (The Spanish word for silent is “silencio.”) In other instances, words were found to be mistranslated, according to the ABA Hispanic committee’s report: One Ohio case used the word for right-hand side, instead of a legal right. In a few different cases, defendants were told they had the right to “apuntar un abogado“—to “point at” a lawyer, rather than to appoint one.

    In other situations, bad translations can lead to complete inaccuracy as to what rights the Fifth and Sixth Amendments even afford you. In Minnesota, a defendant was told of a right “not to say nothing.” Others were told of a “right to answer questions.”

    One high-profile case in 2013 led to some clarification on the issue of Miranda translation. That case stemmed from a 2008 incident in which defendant Jeronimo Botello-Rosales and four others were arrested and charged with conspiracy to manufacture more than 1,000 marijuana plants. Botello was also charged with illegal possession of a firearm, according to court records.

    Upon arrest, Botello-Rosales was read his rights, first in English, and then in Spanish. Officers said he waived those rights and proceeded to spout off a number of incriminating statements, including his alleged connection to a marijuana operation and about his immigration status, according to a brief.

    Botello-Rosales’s lawyer, Michael R. Levine, filed a motion to suppress his client’s post-arrest statements, something not uncommon for such a case. Here, though, Levine had the court interpreter listen to the Spanish-language warning read by the arresting detective on the stand.

    “He finished, and then I turned to the interpreter who was in the back, and I said, ‘Well, how did it go?’ And she said, ‘Well, actually, he made a couple of mistakes,'” Levine told VICE. “And I immediately perked up and said, ‘What do you mean mistakes?'”

    It turned out that, in his warning, the detective garbled the translation and misinterpreted the word “free,” as in “without payment.” According to court documents, the detective informed Botello-Rosales, “If you don’t have the money to pay for a lawyer, you have the right. One who is free could be given to you.” But the version of “free” he used was the Spanish word “libre,” which would be interpreted as “available,” or “at liberty” to provide service. The Spanish word for “could” instead of “would” was also in dispute, as it is the government’s obligation to provide a free attorney, not a choice.

    The detective later admitted that he didn’t always deliver the Miranda warnings the same way, but added that he always used the word “libre” in that way, according to court documents.

    “He’d been doing it wrong for 25 years,” Levine said. “He thought, honestly, that the word ‘libre’ in Spanish meant ‘at no cost,’ which it doesn’t.”

    The district court nonetheless denied the motion to throw out his post-arrest statements, finding that Botello-Rosales probably understood the English Miranda warning. He pleaded guilty, on the condition that he could appeal the judge’s order denying the motion to suppress.

    On appeal, the Ninth Circuit panel reversed the lower court’s decision. The panel’s opinion effectively said that Miranda rights must be translated correctly in order for them to be valid—reciting them properly in English is not enough. The case was remanded, and Botello-Rosales took a plea deal for a lesser sentence, according to Levine.

    “This is something that’s given probably thousands and thousands of times every year, to a myriad of defendants, and there’s no reason to assume that they’re not getting it wrong,” Levine told VICE.

    That case and others illustrate the need for a standard of some kind. Once the ABA commission puts together an official translation with help from law enforcement experts, it will look to promulgate the translation out through state attorneys general and local bar associations, according to Acosta.

    “I think at the end of the day, if the American Bar Association says, ‘This is one that we have vetted and we support,’ I think many law enforcement agencies would certainly use that,” Acosta told VICE. “Because it provides them a safeguard.”

    Of course, even a consistent Spanish-language warning is not a cure-all solution. For example, while the warning may be uniform, the Spanish language itself is not. The committee is working on trying to address regional or dialectal differences in its implementation to help mitigate this. And of course, there’s human error: In some cases cited by the commission, even printed-out Spanish-language Miranda cards contained errors.

    But the ABA’s vote this month was a promising first step that could lead to translations not just in Spanish, but ideally in other languages—and a decision that defendants, attorneys, and judges could benefit from. During remarks to the commission ahead of the vote, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Bernice Donald talked about her stint as a federal judge and said she hopes that her time on the bench was not marred by mistranslations.

    “We have an opportunity with the passage of this resolution to make certain that Miranda is more than words,” Donald said, echoing the theme of this year’s ABA conference. “I spent 15-and-a-half years as a judge on the United States District Court, where I heard cases, and we had one Spanish-language interpreter. I hope that we were not one of the courts that engaged in any of those mistranslations. But this is serious.”

  7. 11 Rare Old Words for the Heinous and Villainous

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    Whether you’re watching a movie or reading the news, it’s hard to avoid villainous, heinous, wicked behavior—but we all could use a few new words for the diabolical. Fortunately, there are plenty of older words ready for a revival. Please consider using the following out-of-fashion terms the next time you talk about the deplorable deeds of Dr. Doom, Dr. Evil, or that guy down the street who always walks his dog without a leash.


    The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition leaves little to the imagination: “Extremely wicked or immoral; grossly criminal; vile, atrocious, heinous; infamous.” This Latin borrowing was big in the 1700s but has faded in use since then, though it has spawned a few amusing derivatives. In George Borrow’s 1841 book The Zincali, he writes that Constantine the Great “condemned to death those who should practise such facinorousness.”

    2. MIXSHIP

    Mixship is a rare, old word for a villainous deed. If mixship seems opaque, that’s because it sprang from an Old English sense of mix that disappeared a long time ago: mix was a word for dung or other filth. So calling something a mixship was like saying “What a total pile of crap!” or “That’s BS” today.


    Back in the 1500s, repudious was first used as a word for anything rejection-worthy, in particular the vile and villainous.

    4. SKELM

    As far back as the early 1600s, a skelm was a villain or other rascal. The word comes from a German term that could refer to various awful things and beings, including the devil and a pestilence. By the 1600s, the term was also being used as an adjective, like in a 1673 mention by English poet John Dryden of the “Skellum English.”

    5. DERF

    Derf is an adjective and adverb that first referred to boldness around 1200, but by the 1400s, it had taken on a sense of boldness that is evil. Not much has been described as derf for a few centuries, and a comeback is unlikely. Anything rhyming with Nerf doesn’t sound very evil or bold.

    6. GALLOWS

    Gallows is well-known as a noun, but began appearing as an adjective in the 1400s for miscreants presumed to deserve it. The contemporary equivalent would be a coinage like lethal-injection-y.

    7. NINETED

    This term, first found in the late 1700s, is equal parts wickedness and mischief. John Palmer, in his 1798 novel Like Master Like Man, used the term in a sense that suggested incorrigibility: “So prone to mischief, that his supposed aunt declared, ‘it was beyond her to manage him—he was a nineted one’.” The etymology is uncertain, but it could be a variation of benighted, which has a wonderful OED definition: “Overtaken by the darkness of the night; affected by the night.” That definition could also apply to Batman.


    The OED traces this word back to the Bible, and it’s fitting it may have originated in a book concerned with sin—it refers to people who are guilty. A 1796 book called An Apology for the Bible contains this memorable sentence: “You will have annihilated in the minds of the flagitious all their fears of future punishment.”


    Since the days of Old English, someone nitheful has been wicked.


    The slightly euphemistic word mislived provides a subtle way of saying, “Wow, are they ever vile and wrong and offensive.” This term has been used in relation to wicked behavior since the 1400s and turns up in Chaucer. A career criminal is very likely a mislived miscreant. A similarly understated word is unperfect, which has had many senses but referred to sinful wickedness from the late 1300s on.

  8. Multilingualism is vital for an inclusive EU – researchers

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    Multilingualism is vital for an inclusive EU – researchers

    People with weak foreign language skills may not be able to fully engage in European society. Image credit: Pixabay/ keijj44

    While most of us have experienced the frustration of not being able to join in with a conversation because we don’t understand what’s being said, weak foreign language skills can also prevent people from fully engaging in European society, particularly if they are poor. 

    That’s the conclusion of researchers who are studying the link between multilingualism and social cohesion, and who say that multilingualism is vital for an inclusive EU.

    The Issue

    In 2002, the EU’s heads of states agreed that they would work to enable all European citizens to speak two languagesas well as their own mother tongue.

    It was driven by the idea that foreign language skills make people more employable and build bridges between different cultures, leading to a more inclusive society.

    In 2016 and 2017, more than EUR 200 million of Horizon 2020 funding has been allocated to research projects that promote inclusive, innovative and reflective societies.

    Europe has a huge array of languages. There are 24 official languages in the EU and three working languages – English, French and German – but this still excludes the approximately 60 minority languages that are mother tongue for some 40 million European citizens.

    Dr Michele Gazzola, who is based at the Humboldt University, Germany, and has worked on the EU-funded LAPO project, says language skills across Europe are often overestimated. He has estimated how many Europeans would be adversely affected if the EU’s official language policy was changed to include fewer languages to save on costs, as is sometimes proposed in the press and academic circles.

    Using data from adult education surveys carried out across 25 EU countries and published by Eurostat in 2013 (over 160 000 observations), he found that about one-quarter of residents do not speak any English, German or French, only half can understand English, and only 20 % can speak it as a mother tongue or proficiently as a foreign language.

    The main finding of the study is that a more restricted language policy would have a greater impact on the poor, as they would be less likely to understand EU communications than richer citizens. When examining respondents classified by age, language skill, income status and education level, Dr Gazzola found that economically and socially disadvantaged individuals are less likely to speak foreign languages.

    ‘They are therefore more likely to be adversely affected if the EU stops using their native languages,’ said Dr Gazzola.

    The results vary from country to country. For example, in Italy, people in the top 10 % income bracket are twice as likely to speak English as a foreign language than those in the bottom 10 % income bracket. In France, about three-quarters of people in the top 10 % income bracket speak some basic English, whereas only a third of people in the lowest 10 % income bracket do.

    Dr Gazzola says the idea of the research is to help the EU make informed decisions on language policy, an issue he considers particularly important in the current political environment.

    ‘It has never been as urgent as now for the EU to be close to its citizens by using their native languages and to prevent fuelling Eurosceptics and populist movements further,’ he said. ‘Avoiding the elitist temptation has never been so important.’


    Another factor that can work against social inclusion is when people move to a new country where they don’t speak the language.

    Freedom of movement gives EU citizens access to the whole EU labour market, as well as the option to move to another country for study or retirement. But with increased mobility comes new challenges of inclusion within a host community.

    ‘Having more mobility for European citizens and providing a context encouraging inclusion into the local language and culture is a challenge that needs to be addressed as a public policy question,’ said Professor François Grin from the University of Geneva, Switzerland.

    He is coordinating the EU-funded MIME project, which is exploring how language policy can be harnessed to preserve mobility within the EU without compromising on inclusion. The aim is to maximise both, at all levels and scales of society.

    The project is drawing on specialists from different backgrounds to investigate a wide range of area-specific issues, including minority rights, migrant integration, second language education, and communication strategies.

    ‘(Poor people) are more likely to be adversely affected if the EU stops using their native languages.’

    Dr Michele Gazzola, Humboldt University, Germany

    Across these issues, trade-offs can arise between mobility and inclusion, since these two goals may pull in opposite directions. The core goal of the research is to study how language policy can help strike the best possible balance between them, and to see how novel approaches to linguistic diversity can help increase the compatibility between mobility and inclusion.

    For example, increasing bilingual education in schools could enhance language exposure and therefore make inclusion easier, while also equipping learners with key assets for mobility without sacrificing on time spent teaching other subjects.

    Prof. Grin says the meaning of mobility and inclusion are being challenged by globalisation and its political consequences.

    ‘Across Europe we can eat more diverse foods and access a greater variety of cultural products and identities than our grandparents ever could have. At the same time, the unifying forces of globalisation are homogenising our lifestyles, and small languages are disappearing. Diversity management policy serves to define more precisely how we can deal with this increasing complexity to ensure that (the EU) can take these new challenges in its stride.’

    He says the changes in linguistic environment tend to be particularly difficult for socio-economically fragile populations to countenance. ‘This is another reason why diversity policy work is important: it serves to help groups for whom adaptation to rapidly changing circumstances can be especially challenging.’

  9. The New Bilingualism

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    The number of dual-language programs in American high schools is on the rise.

    Sue Ogrocki / AP
    Natalie Gross
    August 4, 2016

    Graduates in white and purple robes exited the auditorium, their newly turned tassels bouncing as they sang and danced to a recording of the popular Latin salsa tune, “Vivir Mi Vida.”

    They had just graduated from the Margarita Muñiz Academy in Boston—many with more than a high-school diploma. Forty-six of the 51 new alumni of the dual-language school had also earned a Seal of Biliteracy, an official recognition of their academic proficiency in both English and Spanish.

    And though that’s one perk of learning Spanish and English side-by-side for these students, the Seal of Biliteracy also looks good on a resume—for college and beyond.

    “What it does is it kind of flags universities to see that this student has put that extra effort into their studies,” Esparza said of the June graduates. Studies have shown that they “are more prone to go to four-year universities and continue in their program and finish their program.”

    * * *

    The Boston school district currently has five dual-language programs in which students learn core subject matter in two languages. The district is developing plans to add three more in time for the 2017-18 school year to teach students French and Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Cape Verdean, and Mandarin and Cantonese, in addition to English.

    Such programs are growing in popularity all across the country. In 2000, then-Secretary of Education Richard Riley called for the number of dual-language programs in the U.S. to grow from an estimated 260 to 1,000 by 2005. The federal Education Department was unable to provide an exact number of such programs operating in schools today, but according to a 2011 article from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, it’s estimated that the number has reached 2,000.

    A joint U.S. Department of Education-American Institutes for Research reportshows 39 states and Washington, D.C., offered dual-language education during the 2012-13 school year, with Spanish and Chinese programs cited as the most common.

    Last school year, the New York City Department of Education added 40 new dual-language programs in schools across the city. District of Columbia Public Schools is poised to open three more dual-language programs this fall at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. For the first time, DCPS will guarantee students who wish to complete all of their pre-K-12 instruction in both Spanish and English can do so in the district.

    Widely cited research by George Mason University Professors Emeriti Virginia Collier and Wayne Thomas has shown that children who are bilingual perform better academically than their peers who speak only one language. A study of 85,662 students in North Carolina Public Schools during the 2009-10 school year found that overall, English-language learners in two-way dual-language programs had higher reading and math scores. At the middle school level, most students in these programs were scoring higher than monolingual students in the grade above them, and in some cases two grade levels higher than their current academic year.

    Despite these findings, bilingual education has met with its share of opposition. The “Americanization Movement” in the early 1900s and World War I sparked widespread opinion that foreign language instruction was a “threat to the integrity and the unity of U.S. society,” said Nelson Flores, an assistant professor in the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.

    In the late 1990s and early 2000s, California, Arizona, and Massachusetts banned bilingual education in schools and mandated that students who were English-language learners be placed in English-only immersion programs. Still, schools found loopholes and began to adopt dual-language models, which take on various forms, said Flores, who works with dual-language programs in Philadelphia.

    At Camino Nuevo Charter Academy schools that serve a high percentage of Hispanic-English-language learners in Los Angeles, for example, kindergartners spend 80 percent of the school day learning in Spanish and 10 percent of the day learning in English. Rachel Hazlehurst, a literacy and language specialist at Camino Nuevo, said each subsequent year, there is a 10 percent decrease in Spanish-language instruction and a 10 percent increase in English-language instruction. By fifth grade, the breakdown is 70 percent English and 30 percent Spanish. Other popular models evenly split instruction in English and a second language or adopt a 60-40 format.

    Bilingual education is up for debate again in California and Massachusetts, where legislators have proposed overturning their respective bans. Hazlehurst said the fact that this is once again becoming a political issue, at least in California, indicates that these programs have been successful.

    “Thankfully, public policy leaders are returning to the research about what works for ELLs, and therefore bilingual programs are back in favor,” she said in an email. “The research shows they work.”

    But it’s not just legislators who need convincing. Hazlehurst said at times, the biggest resistance to bilingual education has come from Spanish-speaking Latino families who prefer that their children focus only on English in school because they will learn to speak Spanish at home.

    “I think this is more related to the population we serve than a comment about Latinos in general,” she said, adding that the large majority of Camino Nuevo students come from families that are “largely low-income and less educated.”

    “In order to help families understand the benefits of bilingual education, we invest heavily in partnering with families to teach them and increase their comfort levels with the idea,” Hazlehurst said. “We are very aware that we are asking them to make an alternative choice by choosing our program. It is not the choice that many of their neighbors and family members have made, and so we have to partner with families to support them as they increase their knowledge about the benefits of bilingual education and learn how to support their children once they are enrolled.”

    In Boston and Philadelphia, Esparza and Flores—who both grew up speaking Spanish in their homes—have observed similar levels of buy-in to dual-language programs from immigrant communities and more affluent, white families alike.

    Esparza has noticed a growing interest in these programs from families associated with universities in Boston, who want their children to learn languages commonly used in business negotiations. In parts of Philadelphia, Flores said, prominent Latino-community organizations have been advocating for these programs and mobilizing parents to enroll their children.

    “It’s a diverse coalition of people who are supporting it—not necessarily for the same reasons,” he said, “but I think compatible reasons.”

    Overall, the issue is “less overtly political” now, Flores said. Whereas in the Civil Rights Era, bilingual education was often framed as a political struggle for the Latino community, “now it’s … most often framed as something that’s good for all children—something that can help people get jobs as part of the global economy.”

    It’s harder for people to argue with that, he added.