January 2012 Archives

Sign Language

Communication in daily is life is taken for granted.  We speak and listen to others all the time. We may listen to the trivia of the lives of our friends and family, we may address a meeting, or be required to give instructions in a life-and-death situation.  The hard-of-hearing and the deaf find communication has its own challenges when operating in the hearing world.

I was delighted to read in the Bath Chronicle that Bath Building Society staff have undertaken a tailor-made course in British Sign Language to communicate with their deaf customers.  This is a wonderful development in promoting the idea in our largely monolingual society that languages at work are an essential tool.  Effective communication, be it in English, sign language, or foreign languages, ensures better service, customer acquisition and customer retention.

News of language bookshops

I have only just discovered that the wonderful London foreign-language bookshop, Grant and Cutler, is now located at Foyles on the Charing Cross Road (and has been since March 2011).

I am particularly fond of Grant and Cutler because I was a frequent customer during my undergraduate days. It was located in Buckingham St in a wonderfully labyrinthine building down by the River. The rooms were small and stuffed from top to bottom with all sorts of fascinating tomes; one could easily allow a couple of hours to pass unnoticed ensconced in the atmospheric surroundings.

After graduating, I was employed in the shop's German department after the business had relocated to Great Marlborough St. This was a very lively area - just next to Liberty's and Carnaby St and directly behind Oxford St. I was assigned a desk in the middle of the shop with a typewriter that looked as if it might have been state-of-the-art in 1936 when the shop first opened its doors but which looked decidedly antiquated by the time I came to use it. I don't think the little finger on my left hand has ever quite recovered from the force needed to hit the "a" and "z" keys ("z" is much more commonly used in German than in English). Computers were not in common use at the time and unbelievable as this may sound these days we managed perfectly well with ordering and despatching books without their advantages.

I shall make a point of going to visit the shop in its new incarnation when I am next in London and see if I can spot any former colleagues lurking behind piles of Goethe plays and Kafka novels. I don't suppose their desks will be in the middle of the shop!

The next piece of bookshop news is slightly more current. Waterstones has recently announced that it is opening a bookshop selling Russian-language books in its Piccadilly branch. A bit of healthy competition for Foyles perhaps?

Bath Literature Festival

The Bath Literature Festival's programme has been published and it is proving popular. Two events I thought I might attend have already sold out!  So get your skates on if you want to attend.

Two other events for which I believe there are still seats available and that will be of interest to translators and other linguists in Bath are these:

Translating Tolstoy on Tuesday 6 March with Rosamund Bartlett who is currently translating  Anna Karenina. She will be in conversation with the Artistic Director of the Festival, James Runcie. It will be interesting to hear about how she tackles her work.

All fans of correct punctuation will be delighted to hear that Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves will be talking on that subject on Sunday 11 March. I wonder what her position is on the recent decision by Waterstones to drop their apostrophe?

There are lots more events too! I can't wait.

independent-logo_335.jpg(Image copyright of Bath LitFest)

New Year Reading List

I once heard that a 40-year old man worked out that if he lived to the age of 70, he would have time to read only another 360 books at his current rate of one per month.  It does not sound like an awful lot of books so with that in mind one has to be discerning about what one selects. There is no time to waste on the wrong kind of book - whatever you might deem that to be.

Two books that I have come across recently are definitely on my reading list and are likely to appeal to almost all readers of this blog.

The first is The Etymologicon by Mark Foster which is a fascinating stroll through the highways and byways of the English language during which he demonstrates the links between words. See if you agree with his sweeping claim that "almost every word in the English language derives from shah"!

Never dusty, always entertaining and I can recommend it as un-put-downable. (I've had to hide my copy from myself (!) to make sure I concentrate on a project I'm currently doing!!)

51SSrCHF6KL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_.jpg(If you want to look inside, you'll have to visit the Amazon website. I obtained my copy from the wonderful Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath - a hugely satisfying "real world" experience).

Another book I cannot wait to start looking at is already causing a buzz in the translation world.  Most translators will be already familiar with Mox's blog - and now the hilarious cartoon strips of the world of freelance translation have been collected into book form by Mox's creator, Alejandro Moreno-Ramos. Follow this link to find out more about Mox. Illustrated Guide to Freelance Translation.


Calling would-be linguists

Graduates with degrees in languages are in great demand so this event will help you to think about pursuing a career using your skills.  The Careers in Languages Day on Saturday 28 January (and again on Saturday 12 February) held at the University of Westminster, London, sounds like a good place to find out about the options open to you.

Check out this link for all the details you need - and contact the organisers direct. Have fun!

News from Bath German Society

Bath German Society, of which I have the privilege of being Chair, has been running in its current incarnation for just over 20 years.

It holds its main meetings on the third Thursday of the month (usually - but check the website for details) at Manvers St Baptist Church rooms. This venue is conveniently located near the railway and bus stations for those coming from further afield. Free car parking is available in the adjacent car park from 8 p.m.

Coffee is served before the meetings from 7.45 pm and there is the opportunity to chat in German before the main activity takes place which usually starts at 8.15.

On January 19, Dr Daniel Wolverson will be leading us on a journey through the Galgenlieder of Christian Morgenstern. Copies of the poems will be available on the night.

On February 16, Dr Steve Wharton will be giving a lecture on Die Propaganda der Vichyregierung in Frankreich 1940-1944.

As Bath residents may be aware, the wonderfully Tyrolean-style shop, Hansel and Gretel, is moving from Margaret Buildings to a larger space out of town. Bath German Society would like to wish Christa, Del and their staff all the best for their exciting new adventure. We are sad to see them go as, for the past two years, their Strudel bar has been "home" to the Society's Stammtisch.

The Stammtisch's new venue is Café Retro on the corner of York St (and opposite the gloriously inelegantly named Bog Island!). Serendipitously, there is a Germanic connection at the café as the owner's father-in-law is Austrian and a chef - so I think we will be well looked after!  The Stammtisch meets on Wednesday mornings and operates on a "drop-in, drop-out" basis. Anyone who is free between 11.30 a.m. and 2 p.m. is welcome to come and chat in German (of whatever standard... the Grammar Police do not attend!) for as long as they wish.

We hope to see some new faces!

The Written World

Don't you just love the BBC?  There is always a wealth of interesting programmes and entertainment offered.

This week's little gem is Melvyn Bragg's The Written World tracing writing from its very beginnings (used originally for keeping accounts) through to the arrival of books, its influence on ideas and religion and the spread of information.

By the end of this week there will be five episodes that you can find on the BBC's Listen Again facility.