Malapropism Monday, Week 5

It’s Monday again! Exciting, right? For today’s Malapropism Monday I’d like to bring up yet another writing and speech pattern that bugs me! I know you’re dying to find out about it.

Today’s topic is the use of “try and ____” vs. “try to ____.” Did you know that these are not interchangeable? People often say “try and ____” when they should say “try to ____.” Or, at least in my opinion, they should…

Continue reading

Language Links

こんにちは! Or rather, konnichiwa or hello (yes, I am continuing to study Japanese, with Lee’s help!). Thomas here with this weekend’s language links:


Whale mimics human speech.

From the Smithsonian. My mother sent this in (thanks!) and says this is a sad story, so I avoided reading it 🙂 But I bet it is interesting!

Do the linguistic ideas in the film Arrival have any merit?

From the Smithsonian.


National Grammar Day.

From the American Enterprise Institute. Did you know March 4th was National Grammar Day? I didn’t, but this post from AEI outlines a treasure trove of awesome grammar-related resources!

Typo Terror:

Typo just about kills the internet for a day.

From Business Insider. Whenever something breaks on Amazon, it feels like my life is over. How spoiled we are! 🙂 😉


Getting beyond intermediate Spanish.

From Actual Fluency. Kris talks to Olly Richards from Fluent Spanish Academy.

Five fun facts about Brazil’s Carnival.

From Busuu.

Daily Audio Bible — iPhone App Review

If you’re like me, you don’t have enough hours in the day to get done all the things you wish you could do. Does that sound familiar?

One thing that’s important to me is increasing my knowledge of the Bible. Don’t worry; this is not a proselytizing post! But it is a post about another resource for practicing languages if you’re open to learning more about the Bible, even if just to study it as literature.

Continue reading

Mistakes Are the Best Teachers

A few days ago, I joined the year 2010 (only a few years late!) and made an Instagram account. It’s called, unsurprisingly, leethelinguist.

I made my first post, and what did I notice a few minutes later? A typo! I blame it on my iPhone’s autocorrect! I’d mentioned how my day job was having a technical problem on their end, so I had more time to write posts. Of course, it autocorrected to “there end,” which is something I would instantly notice anywhere! And I did notice it right away but only after I had nervously posted the photo. Before any of my *zillions* of followers could see it and criticize me, I quickly commented on the photo that autocorrect had gotten me!

Continue reading

City of Love: Paris — iPhone Game Review

Before I got married, I used to play video games. I loved Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Game Boy back in the day! This is one of the things my husband liked about me when we met. When I lived in Japan, I even bought the Game Boy Advance that was a lovely pearl pink color, which at the time was only available in Japan; I got the old-school Zelda and Mario rereleases that came out for it at the time. I know, I’m dating myself!

Once we had our first daughter, I had no more time for games. Well, more accurately, I didn’t prioritize them, much to my husband’s chagrin. He was in grad school, I was working and taking care of the baby, and we were exhausted. To be honest, I still don’t really have the desire to prioritize games like I used to — I can always think of a hundred other things to do! I know this annoys him because he makes video games for a living. Sorry, Honey!

A week or so ago, I came across an iPhone game called City of Love: Paris, by a developer called Ubisoft. I can’t even remember how I heard of it! Maybe I was researching materials for learning French? I have no idea. Anyway, the concept sounded intriguing: you’re an American woman working in Paris and solving a mystery while enjoying French culture and possibly finding video game romance. Oh là là!

Continue reading

French Study Resources

Bonjour, mes amis! French is by far my weakest language, though I use it every day for my work! I’m able to do that because in my job I never have to speak French, and I only rarely have to write it. When I do write it, I don’t have to write long, complex passages of prose, but rather short phrases and sentences.

That said, I do read French pretty well as long as the topic is something common enough and not too full of specialized jargon. My short time of formal French study combined with my strong Spanish skills and a decent amount of independent study have made French enjoyable enough for me that I do want to continue learning more. Continue reading

I Need to Choose a Goal!

There’s a lot I’d like to do with this blog in the future. Something I’d like to use it for is to document my own language studies, with the eventual goals of passing certain exams. My college degree is in Spanish and Japanese, but I’d like to go far beyond what I learned in college. Someday I’d like to go to grad school if I can make it work with all my other responsibilities, but there are other things I can do to show my linguistic qualifications.

In high school, I took the AP Spanish Language exam and became the first person from my high school to earn a score of 5, which is the highest possible. As far as I know, I’m still the only person to have done that in my high school. I was pretty proud of that and I received 5 college credits for it.

Recently I’ve become interested in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, or CEFR. You can find more info about it here. As with any test, you can find sample versions on the internet, and when I tried a sample for the Spanish C2 exam (the highest level), I passed it. Of course, that’s no guarantee I’d pass the real thing. So at some point in the future, I’d like to attempt this test and document my studies for it.

Maybe I’ll even attempt to improve my French skills to the point where I could try one of the tests! I think I read French pretty well and I have no problem reading French for my day job or when we visited Paris or when I see it on product packaging, but my other skills are lacking when it comes to French. I’ve come across some resources about French that I’ll blog about eventually.

The CEFR is for European languages, but the standard test for Japanese is the JLPT, the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test. Years ago, when I started studying Japanese, there were four levels of this test, with N1 being the toughest and N4 the easiest. At my university, in order to be able to graduate with a Japanese minor as I did, we had to be able to pass an old sample version of the N3 test, which I did easily.  This was after I did the 9-month work/study program in Japan, but before I participated in the JET Program, which requires a 4-year degree. So I’d had one year of high school Japanese, almost a year of working and studying in Japan, and several college classes to get me to that point.

During JET, I was chosen to study Japanese at the Japan Foundation near Osaka for a short time during summer break. There weren’t very many participants, but many of those in my class were planning on taking the N2 level of the JLPT. I didn’t plan on taking it because I lacked confidence in my kanji skills. Kanji are the Chinese characters used in Japan, for anyone who isn’t familiar with Japanese.

The other issue was that although I was confident I could have passed the N3 test, at the time there was a huge gulf between the N3 test and the N2 test and I didn’t want to bother with N3, only N2. You had to know a ton more kanji and vocabulary to get up to the N2 level. The difference between N4 and N3, or N2 and N1, was much more manageable. Because of this, a few years ago they renumbered the levels and added a level in between the old N3 and N2, so now there are 5 levels with more of an even spread between them.

But if I want to take the time and effort to do the real JLPT exam, I think I’d want to go all the way and go for N1. That’s pretty much the standard for foreigners who want to work in Japan in jobs that aren’t English teaching. Some employers will accept N2, but N1 is the best and it’s what I’d want to go for! Of course, that would require a lot of study and effort, and the fact that I’m not living in Japan anymore would make it that much more challenging. On the plus side, it’s never been easier to access Japanese media (and friends), so I could choose to surround myself with it as much as possible.

We (my husband, our kids, my mom, and I) have bought our plane tickets to go to Japan in April, which we’re really excited about! That makes me want to study Japanese more. But on the other hand, being there for just over a week will not get me ready to take a challenging test. I’m thinking I may study Japanese until the trip so I can enjoy it as much as possible, and then switch to Spanish. I’m much more confident in my ability to pass the C2 Spanish exam on short notice. Once I pass the C2 exam, I can set a longer-term goal of the JLPT. Then… maybe French? Someday?


¡Encuentro Erratas en Español También!

¡Saludos a todos mis amigos hispanoparlantes!

Bueno, por fin escribo mi primera entrada completamente en español. Hoy mientras navegaba por Facebook vi una palabra que antes no había visto y decidí investigarla. La palabra era “librejo,” y por el contexto en el cual lo vi adiviné que era una versión despectiva de la palabra “libro,” pero quería asegurarme. No apareció en los diccionarios que utilizo normalmente, por ejemplo, y me puse a investigar más por Bing.

Descubrí un sitio que se llama, y ese sitio tampoco me dio una buena respuesta, pero tropecé con una errata en la página de búsqueda. Saqué una copia de la imagen que se ve a continuación:

¿Descubrieron la errata? Casi al fondo de la imagen se ve la palabra “excepción,” pero le falta la “n.”

Y ya, eso es todo para esta entrada. No tengo la ilusión de que mi manera de escribir en español sea perfecto, pero por medio de este blog deseo mejorarme. Por favor, mándenme un comentario si tienen sugerencias para mí, sean correcciones o ideas para otras entradas. ¡Mil gracias!




Domestication vs. Foreignization vs. Localization

It’s Thursday, which means that soon the weekend will be upon us!

Yesterday’s post brought up a point that I wanted to explore further. The article I translated from Spanish mentioned that in years past, dialog translators would often lean too far in the direction of “domestication.” An example they gave was that in the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith’s character makes a reference to a Spanish celebrity named Ramoncín. Of course, Will Smith’s character in the show is an urban youth from Philadelphia and he would likely have never heard of Ramoncín, but the change was made to make the reference more comfortable for Spanish viewers. That’s domestication, making content more easily understood by the consumer by changing the content to what’s familiar.

Now, I took a couple of translation courses in college, but I had not heard this term brought up, though we were taught some of the thinking behind it. Since I hadn’t heard of it before in regards to translation (for my ESL friends, “domestication” is commonly used to refer to animal farming and breeding), at first I wondered whether I should translate it as “localization,” which I had heard of many times regarding video games. That’s what happens when your husband makes video games for a living!

I decided to do some more research and came across this blog post:

In case you didn’t click on the link, the blogger discusses translating the same German novel twice, once using domestication and once preferring foreignization. In the foreignized version, the reader is expected to become comfortable with foreign names, places, and cultures. Conversely, in the domesticated version, the translator changed the names and places to those more familiar to a North American reader, which also required leaving out the part of the story where one character had escaped East Germany in his youth.

This is my problem with too much domestication: the writer had a purpose for choosing the names, setting, and culture of their writing (future post to come on the use of the singular “their”). When you change these things, truly a lot is lost in translation, to use that old cliché. Personally, if I choose to read something about someone from another culture, I usually want to learn about that culture in the process. I want to learn about the people and places, what makes them different from me, and what we share as fellow human beings. I want to learn some new names and customs I may have never heard of before.

On the other hand, too much foreignization may cause part of the target audience to be lost. For instance, a Spanish friend I met in Rome strongly recommended that I read Crime and Punishment. I was living in Japan at the time, so as soon as I returned to Japan I managed to find an English translation (yay, Kinokuniya’s English section!). Unfortunately, after fewer than a hundred pages I put it down and have never finished. I really should try it again, perhaps in a different translation, but at the time I was trying so hard to learn Japanese that I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to keep straight all the Russian names which were so unfamiliar to me. I’m not saying that the names should have been changed to John and Mary, but just that I wasn’t able to get into it at the time.

I mentioned video game localization above, which I think is a mix of domestication and foreignization, depending on the game. The Wikipedia article I linked to discusses varying philosophies on the topic and controversies that have arisen. Localization is a larger process than translation because it can involve hardware, software, and legal issues with shipping intellectual property to countries with different standards of what’s acceptable entertainment. But I think there’s an interesting cross-section there.

That’s what’s been rolling around in my head! I learned something new and I hope you did, too. If you found this topic interesting, go ahead and leave a comment. Where do you fall in the domestication vs. foreignization spectrum?