Translation queries

I get several emails a day–on a good day! sometimes it’s more than several–that have this subject line: translation queries about some aspect of the software that it’s my job to get localized. 

When I travel to various countries to meet with my translators, I have translation queries of my own: how do I order another beer? (in Japan, for draft, it’s “o sem a sen!–nama hitotsu”) how do I excuse myself after bumping into people on the elevator with my enormous multi-laptop-laden backpack? (in Korea, it’s “shilye hamnida”). 

And usually late at night, after a few rounds of beer, or wine, or mou tai, or sake, or soju, or shoju, or whatever the local firewater is, I get translation queries from my translators. These are the really interesting ones. These are the questions about English that professional translators are still wrestling with after years of translating professionally, so you know they’re the good ones. 

I’d become extra-professionally close with one of my Japanese translators and struck up an actual ink-on-paper personal correspondence, and I’d signed one such ink-on-paper letter with an “XXOO –Erin” kind of sign-off that we use all the time over here in the so-called New World, and when my translator asked by email what this meant, it turned into a back and forth that lasted several days. Since kissing and hugging are not normal Japanese behavior among friends or even intimates, this was a strange signoff, and the mysteries of how and why X and O signify hugs and kisses was yet another line of inquiry. I could go on about this, but I won’t. Not now, anyway. 

Recently after dinner, my Korean translators asked me to explain what “lovely” means. I’m reminded of their query by my blog mom’s use of the word several times in her most recent post

I said that it’s beautiful wrapped up inside loveable wrapped up inside elegant, but I don’t think I quite hit the nugget of loveliness in “lovely.” 

How would you answer that? Use the Comments link, people.

I forgot to clarify that in Great Britain (this translator’s company’s home office) it’s just yet another vague adjective for “nice,” i.e., it means nothing at all–same as brilliant, which here means brightly lit or brightly thought and there means anything from “thanks” to “mediocre.” And then there’s “cheers!” which means “drink your damned drink already!” here and means anything from “please” to “thank you” to “drink!” there.