Strangers on a train 2017

Stranger things have (never) happened on a steam train: a review of Strangers on a train 2017

I have to start with an admission: I have a bit of a professional crush on the Stranger Collective.

Ever since we first had the opportunity to collaborate with the copywriting geniuses at Stranger, translating their beautifully crafted blogs for Coca-Cola’s Think Positively Collective into five languages (this was way back in 2010 and our very first multilingual project), I’ve admired their ability to produce outstanding and ever-fresh content.

Here at AJT, we translate anything between 200,00 and 400,000 words into German and French each month, and in the process of dissecting someone’s written words in one language and reconstructing them eloquently in another, we have come to really appreciate ‘good content’. Content where each individual sentence makes sense on its own, and then effortlessly and logically links in with the next. Intelligent content that engages and tickles one’s interest to read on.

But apart from being the oh-my-god-I-wish-I-could-write-as-amazingly-as-you content creators, Strangers also know how to put on a good event. The kind of event that gets your synapses firing, that makes you think about your own life and passions, and that inspires you to [insert your own lightbulb moment here].

Having attended the magical Raft event in 2014, otherwise referred to as “a lifeboat of fresh thinking in the sea of the ordinary” (you can read a lovely review about the event here), I was chomping at the bit when I received an invitation to Strangers on a Train, a one-day micro ‘thought festival’ that promised to spark new creativity, collaboration and intrigue.

Set on a vintage train and inspired by 1930s fashion, Strangers on a Train was an absolutely magical experience. From professional actors reading short stories to a make-up artist adding a dash of period-appropriate sparkle to your face (including a mini massage!); from a quiet carriage to learn about the important work of Children in Crisis to a mini disco; from a delectable Tarquin’s gin and tonic (courtesy of Sharp’s brewery) to melodic musical renditions, each of the train’s compartments was a little mini story in itself.

But there were also inspiring talks. Simon Cohen, founder of Global Tolerance, a communications agency with a conscience, talked about the importance of optimism and how we can lead more fulfilling lives when we focus on other people’s happiness. That ‘good luck’ isn’t something that ‘happens to us’ but something that we help to make happen by taking proactive, and sometimes even brave, steps.

In another carriage, Annie Atkins, a graphic designer for the film industry, talked about her experiences of working with director Wes Anderson to create the props for the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel. Whether it’s innocuous props like a stamp (each passenger got to take home a printed stamp as used in the film!) or very prominent props like the Mendl’s “pattisserie” box (which should be spelt with one t, not two, as Annie learnt the hard way after Wes spotted her typo halfway through the movie – after about 200 scenes had already been shot featuring her beautifully hand-lettered box), Annie provided a great insight into the effort that goes into making movie props that are truly authentic.

And all of this was just happening on the train. On the platform, musicians like Tom Dale and The Mighty Spectres provided the perfect soundtrack to an unforgettable evening, while The Kitchen provided delicious nourishment (there was a whole deer lying on a butcher’s block being expertly ‘dismantled’ as the train left the station, and it was sizzling on the BBQ as the train pulled back in).

One of Stranger’s straplines is “a bazaar of talents…”, and Strangers on a Train was just that – from the organisational talents who planned this event to all the wonderful people who contributed on the day to make this such a special happening (and yes, I am unashamedly including a proverbial wink to the handsome conductor in the smart First Great Western uniform here). Thank you Strangers, you well and truly delivered on your promise!

Translation internship: An intern’s peek into the world of professional translation

On the first day of my translation internship, I was welcomed by Anja, three other smiling team members, and a nice cup of coffee. To begin with, Anja gave me some general information about the agency itself, the company’s ethos, the internal workflow and my future tasks as a translation intern. Subsequently, I was introduced to the two CAT tools, Smartling and Memsource, and even translated a few strings in Smartling right away. After my first workday, I went home bursting with eagerness for the coming eight weeks.

During the second week of my internship, when everyone had returned from their holidays, the team organised a welcome lunch for me and we all shared a huge portion of sushi in the upstairs meeting room, while chatting over various translation projects and plans for the weekend.

During the course of this internship, I got the chance to work on a diverse number of translated texts ranging from home security, software products, password management and e-commerce to holiday planning, adverts, and even fashion blogs!

Trelissick Garden

AJT has its own style guide, which serves as a guideline for translators and editors. In Smartling there is also a style guide and a glossary for each client and it is also expected that translators have a look at clients’ websites before translating, in order to understand their needs and goals and to capture the right tone of voice. My translations were usually edited by one of the German in-house translators or by Anja herself. This meant that I often got immediate feedback on my translations and knew what to improve on next time.

The Minack Theatre


My favourite project was the translation of the website Cornish Cycle Tours into German. This company is a local provider of organised self-guided cycle tours throughout Cornwall. The website had originally been translated by AJT, however, the content had changed over the years and new tours had since been added to their offering. I had to translate the content for several new tours from scratch and update the translations of the older webpages, so the new content would be available in German as well. After my translations had been edited by one of the in-house translators and I had received feedback on my work, I uploaded the translations with the aid of the content management system WordPress to the new website. This project was not only a great opportunity to learn more about Cornwall, but it also gave me an insight into how a project is processed at AJT, as I was involved in nearly every work step. I learned more about the complexity of bigger projects and the problems that come along with them, as well as the importance of client contact.

Lanhydrock Gatehouse

Furthermore, I also got an idea of the occupational profile of a project manager. Every now and then, I would assist Anja with some basic tasks such as generating pending lists, preparing a website for translation, uploading texts to Memsource and assigning them to translators and editors, keeping track of translation jobs on a spreadsheet, and adjusting the design of translated texts.

AJT attaches great importance to creating a good working environment for their employees. The atmosphere in the office is informal, but at the same time professional. I felt welcomed and encouraged by the entire team and was always supported by the other translators when in doubt or unsure about what was expected. They also integrated me well on a more social level and we would often go out for lunch together or for a pint on a Friday evening.

Fistral beach in Newquay

Newquay is Cornwall’s so-called surfing capital and there are plenty of famous and scenic beaches only a stone’s throw from the office. Cornwall itself has a lot to offer, especially during the summer months. Most weekends, I was usually out and about exploring the coast path, surrounding towns and picturesque fishing villages, time-honoured manors (thanks to the National Trust) and some of Cornwall’s absolute highlights like St Michael’s Mount, the Minack Theatre, and Land’s End.

Looking back over the past few weeks, this internship has given me so much more than I initially could have hoped for. It afforded me a first peek into the world of professional translation in a very friendly and supportive environment, helped me to improve my translation and foreign language skills, and now I can honestly say that I feel well prepared for the final year of my Bachelor’s studies. I would like to highly recommend any young translation student out there to apply for an internship at AJT and share in this wonderful experience.

nautical vocabulary in every english language

10 English expressions with nautical origins

Here at AJT, we live and translate by the sea. Every day we’re inspired by our relationship with the ocean, so we thought it might be fun to have a look at where some of the nautical terms found in our daily vocabulary originated. Some expressions have quite an obvious nautical connection: to know the ropes (to understand the procedure), to batten down the hatches (to prepare for a crisis), to be a loose cannon (to be out of control or unpredictable and likely to cause damage) or to give something a wide berth (to keep a safe distance) – you can quite easily see the connection there.

But there are plenty of other less apparent terms which you might not immediately associate with Britain’s seafaring past, so here’s our top 10:

1. To overwhelm

We can find ourselves overwhelmed in all kinds of ways. We might find ourselves ‘overwhelmed’ with emotion, or our football team completely ‘overwhelmed’ by another side. It also conveys the sense of being inundated or overpowered by something, and we may feel ‘overwhelmed’ by our workload, or a delicate flavour might be ‘overwhelmed’ by a much stronger one.

But closer to its original Old English nautical meaning of to capsize or founder (in fact ‘whelm’ comes from the Old English verb ‘qhelmen’, to turn upside down) is the notion of being submerged or drowning beneath a huge mass of something, especially water – a small sailing boat could easily be ‘overwhelmed’ by huge waves – and in this way we continue to use ‘overwhelm’ in the way it always has been.

2. To be groggy

If you’ve ever woken up from a poor night’s sleep or suffered from a heavy cold, you’ve probably found yourself feeling a bit dazed and weak, a bit ‘groggy’ perhaps?

But ‘groggy’ was first used to describe sailors who had drunk too much ‘grog’, a watered-down rum and water mixture ordered by a British Admiral in the 1800s. His nickname being “Old Grogram” due to the type of coat that he wore, naturally the term ‘grog’ was born, and it is still used today to describe an alcoholic drink. But whereas back in the 19th century ‘groggy’ described the state of being intoxicated, today we would refer to a person as drunk, legless or plastered, using ‘groggy’ to describe the feeling the day after indulging in a night of excess.

3. To be aloof

We can describe a person who comes across as distant or withdrawn and who may be seen as unapproachable and perhaps standoffish (or detached), as ‘aloof’.

‘Aloof’ actually originates from an old Dutch word ‘loef’ which meant ‘windward’ and was used when an individual vessel within a fleet would sail higher to the wind meaning it was drawn apart and sailed further away from the rest of the fleet.

4. To pipe down

If a person tells you to ‘pipe down’, they’re telling you in no uncertain terms to stop talking and be quiet!

In nautical terms, though, ‘pipe down’ was the name given to the last signal each day from the bosun’s pipe or whistle. The bosun, or boatswain, being the foreman of a ship’s crew, would sound the the ‘pipe down’ signal to signify time for lights out and silence below deck.

5. To fathom something out

When a person is attempting to come up with a solution to a problem or to work something out, it can be said that they are trying to ‘fathom it out’.

In nautical terms, a fathom is a six-foot (1.8-metre) measure used to determine the depth of water at sea with ‘to fathom’ being the act of taking the measurement. So, when you’re ‘fathoming something out’, you’re trying to get to the bottom of it – which makes perfect sense, when you think about it.

6. To be taken aback

We are said to ‘be taken aback’ when we find ourselves taken by surprise by something we really weren’t expecting.

However, the phrase originates from a nautical situation in which a ship finds itself heading up into the wind with its sails pressed back against the mast (said to be ‘aback’). With the wind on the wrong side of the sails the ship finds itself forced astern (backwards), a perilous situation for the crew.

7. Something is in the offing

When something is ‘in the offing’, it’s imminent, it won’t be long before whatever is expected to happen, happens.

A sailor, though, would know that the ‘offing’ is the part of the sea that can be seen from land, although not that part nearest the shore. If a long-awaited ship was ‘in the offing, its arrival was imminent, and it’s easy to see how this sense has been carried through to its present-day usage.

8. By and large

‘By and large’ is a general term used to refer to the bigger picture – ‘By and large’ this blog post is a very informative read; It’s been a great holiday, ‘by and large’.

However, at one time sailors would use ‘by’ to mean ‘into the wind’ and ‘large’ to mean ‘off the wind’ so a phrase such as ‘by and large this ship handles quite nicely’ means that the ship sails well, both into the wind and off the wind, which seems like the best of both worlds to us.

9. Hand over fist

We use ‘Hand over fist’ to refer to a steady and rapid gain and it’s most often used when talking about money – to make (or lose) money ‘hand over fist’.

However, the phrase started out life as ‘hand over hand’, a British nautical term for the act of moving quickly up a rope or hoisting a sail, which was a matter of pride and competition among sailors. It is thought that American sailors subsequently changed this term to ‘hand over fist’.

10. The cut of one’s jib

The ‘cut of one’s jib’ is used to make reference to a person’s, usually well-dressed, appearance – you may like ‘the cut of someone’ jib’.

In nautical terms the jib is the triangular sail stretched in front of the foremast. Warships often had their jib sails cut thinly so that they could maintain point and not be blown off course. If a captain sighted thin foresails on a distant ship he might decide that he didn’t like the ‘cut of his jib’ and would then take the opportunity to escape.

So, whether you’re a landlubber (an inexperienced seaman who would probably fare better on land), or a bit of an old salt (an old, retired or experienced sailor), we hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post as much as we’ve enjoyed researching it.

Are you a fellow ocean lover? Follow our hashtag #translatebythesea on Instagram!

Just another lunch time in Newquay 😎 happy weekend everyone! #newquay #cornwall #translatebythesea

A post shared by Team AJT (@team_ajt) on

Quick post meeting lunch stop in Perranporth! #Cornwall #translatebythesea #translationservices

A post shared by Team AJT (@team_ajt) on

Chambers Dictionary of Etymology
The Chambers Dictionary


My first steps into the world of translation

Before I learned about Anja Jones Translation, I was always a little wary about internships and working for free, since my university teachers warned us about it. However, after coming across this opportunity and reading a bit more about AJT on their website, I decided it was worth a shot. The first impression I got was that it was a small, friendly and driven team of translators. Over the course of the next eight weeks, this impression was proven right many times.

I have already achieved the first year of a Master’s degree in translation, but before AJT I had no concrete experience in working as an actual translator. This, in addition to moving to a new place for the summer, made the whole experience very daunting (however exciting) for me. I was told I would be treated like one of the in-house translators right away, and my biggest worry was to not meet Anja’s expectations, and to feel completely overwhelmed by the amount of work or the difficulty of the projects.

However, I was given full training for the different software programs used by the company, and plenty of patient advice during my period of adaptation. I really appreciated the fact that I was introduced to the working process step-by-step, but trusted immediately.

The translations I was given were varied and interesting. I worked a lot with one big client’s content, which made me realise the importance of being consistent in the way you translate, and of knowing what your client does and what your audience might expect. I had plenty of time to get to know this client, but working sporadically with several other ones also allowed me to practice looking for exactly the information I need for the job, when I’m given a short period to submit the completed work.

Although I was mostly given translation missions using the Smartling software, I also had the opportunity to translate and write several blog posts, as well as editing other people’s translations. On top of this, I had the chance to help out Anja with some project management, which was an interesting first approach to owning your own translation business, and to managing a team’s work. I feel like I have gained a lot of concrete experience, which will definitely matter very soon, as my studies are coming to an end.

Altogether, I will keep very happy memories about the couple of months I spent at AJT. The whole team is helpful, friendly and dedicated, the office surroundings are gorgeous, and I now feel a lot more confident in my ability to conquer the professional world in a few months, when I finish my Master’s degree!



Translating voices: Subtitling

In the second part of our Translating Voices mini-series, we take a look at the exciting world of subtitling.

For many of us, subtitles play a massive role in our daily lives. We make use of them on the big screen, small screen and online, whilst watching a diverse range of genres in different languages to our own. These on-screen translations serve the important purpose of recounting to us, in a digestible way, all the foreign-language elements we are encountering in our selected programme. Mainly this is of course the dialogue of the characters or speakers, but subtitles also importantly provide a translation for any on-screen text (names of buildings, graffiti, the list goes on), and also often for the soundtrack. Any subtitler will tell you that subtitling a film or television series is no easy feat, so what are the specificities of this method of localising audiovisual content?

The two restrictions of subtitling

The subtitler is often said to be subject to two big restrictions in their work, and these are the temporal and spatial limitations they face. Crucially, subtitles must be timed to sync with the speaker and to the natural breaks in their utterances, which are of course heard loud and clear at the same time as we are reading them. This proves difficult as words are most often spoken much faster than they can be written on-screen. Add to this the tight spatial limitation – the fact that each subtitle must contain no more than 35 characters per line – and you can see the type of challenge subtitlers face, especially those translating into the more “flowery” languages or languages with particularly long words such as German. On top of this, subtitles must also be perfectly timed to appear and disappear in time with shot changes (as this ensures a smoother viewing experience for the audience). It goes without saying that these restrictions have a great bearing on the translational decisions the subtitler must make.

The subtitling status quo

While we will go into more detail about the challenges the subtitler faces in our next Translating Voices post, for now it is worth pointing out that with all the skilled subtitlers’ will in the world, subtitling is not a localisation mode that is universally adored. Subtitled films and programmes are found to varying degrees across Europe, one of two major forms of localising audiovisual content alongside the popular dubbing localisation method. Whether a country favours subtitling or dubbing is often dependant on local customs and history. So what is the current status quo in subtitling today?

In Scandinavian countries not an hour goes by when subtitled programmes are not in the television viewing schedules. Absolutely everything is subtitled and very little is dubbed. This is also the case in countries with multiple languages, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, where subtitling means that different languages can be displayed on-screen simultaneously. It is a different state of affairs in Germany and Spain, which are traditionally dubbing countries, rooted in a long history of the practice. Of course, some content is subtitled where budgets do not lend themselves to the dubbing process, but overall dubbing is the prevalent method. And then we come to countries where learning foreign languages is not high on the priority list – such as the UK and the US – where often watching subtitled programmes can feel like a bit of a chore. In these demanding markets, film and television creators sometimes even lean towards full-on adaptations and remakes of foreign content.

Subtitling and dubbing: a comparison

Now that we know a little about the status quo, just how does subtitling compare to dubbing – its main competitor -as a localisation option?

  • Subtitling is much cheaper than dubbing – some say up to 15 times cheaper
  • It is also a process that takes far less time and typically involves fewer people
  • Subtitling is generally seen as more loyal than dubbing, making it arguably the best option for showcasing auteur directors’ individuality and style
  • Subtitling is a good option for more informative texts where budgets may not be so high and there is a clear message to convey
  • Subtitling is often a successful method for fast-paced action films, although many argue that dubbing is a better option for this genre

Stemming from the days of silent movies, where written text would appear between shots to guide the audience, subtitling certainly has come a long way and has quite a history. In an ever more globalised world, the future of subtitling looks bright, although it does of course go without saying that there will be continued competition with other localisation methods. For those wanting to get into subtitling, be prepared for an exciting challenge.

In the next instalment we take a look at a day in the life of the audiovisual translator, looking in more depth at how they approach a subtitling translation task. Not to be missed!

To read last week’s instalment of Translating Voices, all about the world of dubbing and voice over, click here.


French vs British culture: A teenage perspective

What is it like to be a British teenager growing up in France? What are the most noticeable cultural differences for youngsters, compared to the UK? Esmée Laughlin Dickenson, our recent work experience student, lived in France for nine years of her childhood and shares her perspective on French culture. 

A lot of people don’t realise how different France and England are culturally and it can be quite a shock for them when they go to France on holiday. There are of course similarities but it is good to know all the important differences before packing up your suitcase and jumping on the plane to your holiday destination.

My being 16, I do not have the knowledge to tell you about all of the cultural differences between France and England. For instance I couldn’t say what the nightlife is like and how the work place differs. However, when it comes to the life of a teenage girl I really know my stuff. There are three main categories that I think people visiting France should definitely being informed of:

A whole lotta kissing

One of the ‘weirdest’ things for English people and in fact any people who don’t do this in their culture to get used to is the ‘bise’. This is the main greeting in France; you simply ‘kiss’ both cheeks of the person you are saying hello to. The first thing that I think I need to clear up about this whole kissing strangers thing is that it is completely normal in France, so don’t think that its weird or gross, just go for it. Also, you don’t have to ‘kiss’ if you don’t want to, most people tend to brush the sides of their faces together and kiss the air. It makes the sound, it looks right but you don’t actually have to kiss them properly.

Food food food

Something that English people really love is food. We just can’t get enough of it. Neither can French people but when it comes to eating they usually wait a lot longer before meals. They tend to eat dinner late in the evenings, mostly after 7:30pm and it can sometimes be as late as 10pm. It gets much hotter in the summer than it does in England so people tend to wait until it is cooler to eat. Lunchtimes can also be very different. I have never known a French school where children bring in packed lunches, instead they eat in the canteen or if they have a note from their parents they can go and eat out. This is a really nice thing to do in the summer, as it’s not always that nice to be squished in a lunch queue surrounded by other sweaty teenagers when it is 35 degrees outside.

School systems

School in France is pretty different to English school on quite a few levels. A lot of English schools pride themselves on being ‘friendly’, having lots of extra curricular activities and how the school is a really great community to be part of. In France, often they tend to just want to make sure you get good grades and there really isn’t any room for anything else apart from homework and dinner once you get home as French schools finish much later. Finishing times vary as you get older, but at the age of 16 you tend to finish at 6 or 7 o’clock. Although French children may not have as many and in some cases any extra curricular activates, they do have Wednesday afternoons off which is probably the best part of French education. Another big difference is that in France, you are allowed to wear whatever you want to school, which is good but it can leave you feeling a bit rushed for time in the morning if you aren’t very good at deciding what to wear. In my opinion, having to wear a uniform here in England is less stressful and so much easier. There is no fuss in the morning; you just put the same thing on every day.

Both countries definitely have good and bad things about them and even though they are not worlds apart in distance they can sometimes be in culture.


Translating voices: Dubbing and voice over

In our new translating voices mini-series, we take a look at the audiovisual translation world, focusing on dubbing, voice over and later subtitling, to learn more about the specificities of this exciting field of translation.

Whatever country we live in, the hard graft of many audiovisual translators, who specialise in translating the on-screen voice, is making its way into our living rooms and our lives. In a lot of countries, such as Spain and France, it’s no secret that we’re listening to their work pretty much on  a daily basis, in the form of the dubbed TV programmes and films that make up part and parcel of national viewing habits. Aside from this, however, we’re also listening to audiovisual translations in the form of voice over. Dubbing may tend to hog the audiovisual translation limelight when it comes to revoicing audiovisual material, but voice over, which is different on many levels, also plays an important role in our lives. So what exactly is dubbing, and what is voice over?

These two methods of reversioning audiovisual material are actually quite distinct from one another, in three main ways: how they sound, the type of content they are used for, and the translation priorities they require.

  1. How they sound

In dubbing – and particularly lip-sync dubbing – the spoken audio of the original film or television programme is stripped away, to be entirely replaced by the new, reversioned audio, which through various methods is designed to look and sound like it were the original, and NOT a translation at all.

Conversely, with voice over, and in particular the common UN-style voice over, the emphasis is entirely different. The purpose is to relay clearly to the new audience what is being said by the original speaker – the voice over serves as an aid, much like an interpreter does. The fact that it is a translation is no secret but is instead paraded loud and clear: the viewer is listening to the original at the same time as the new version, hearing just the original speaker for a second or two (to help them absorb the tone), before the translation comes in.

Another way in which the two methods sound very different is that with dubbing, for each actor in the original, a different voice actor (with similar voice traits) is heard. With voice over, however, often the same voice will be used for all speakers. This is not always the case, though – sometimes a few different voices are used, for example, one voice-over artist for narration, one for all female voices and one for all male voices.

  1. The type of content they are used for

The reason dubbing is the most renowned type of revoicing is because it is most often used for entertainment content and big-budget films. Many of these are English-language, Hollywood films, although of course this is not always the case. In countries such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy, dubbing is the go-to method for all entertainment films – be it comedy, horror or action — however in countries that traditionally use subtitling, such as many Nordic countries, it is often down to the production team to decide if dubbing or subtitling will be used for such content.

UN-style voice over, on the other hand, is hardly ever used for entertainment content (although there are instances of this working, for example in Poland where programmes such as Friends are not dubbed, but have voice over instead, which is all voiced by one artist). Instead, the fact that voice over allows the viewer to hear the translation over the original makes it a good method for translating foreign audio in documentaries and interviews, and this is where we most often experience UN-style voice-over translation. It is also used a lot in corporate videos and online videos that are more informative in nature.

  1. Their translation priorities

With both dubbing and voice over, the translator has to work with tight space limitations – as with both forms of revoicing the translation needs to fit squarely into the time it takes for the original speaker to make their utterance. But with lip-sync dubbing, there is an extra component, as the new translation also has to sync to the mouth movements of the speaker. This means that the dubbing translator needs to watch each utterance very closely, noting down mouth shapes and translating very closely according to these. They are granted quite a bit of freedom because of this priority, and, though loyalty to the original is important to some extent, dubbing translators move away from the source to ensure synchronisation with the image.

In contrast, the voice-over translator is not really justified in moving away from the source. Voice over’s raison d’être is to bring across loud and clear the words of the original speaker, and this is what the viewer comes to expect. Imagine, for instance, a presidential speech on a news programme where the translator has taken liberties to alter the speech, or a company training video where the words of the CEO are altered. Of course, in the interests of keeping to the space limitations mentioned above, the translator needs to carefully choose to remove any words which are unnecessary or superfluous, and also needs to ensure that the translation reads smoothly, but the overall priority is certainly one of fidelity.

To sum up, then, it would seem that when it comes to revoicing, dubbing has the more creative, adaptable edge, and voice over is the more loyal, serious, and straight-and-narrow one in the relationship.


In the next installment of the translating voices mini-series, we take a look at the subtitling industry – stay tuned!

Cornish language translation

A Taste of the Cornish language

Dhyd da! At AJT we may hail from places as far flung as Dresden, Luxemburg, and Burgundy, but that doesn’t stop us feeling that pang of pride for Cornwall and for all things Cornish.

The region has a distinct cultural heritage, along with its very own language, which makes it a truly special and unique place to call home. Being the language-lovers and Cornwall-lovers that we are, it goes without saying that we were all extremely excited to see the world’s first ever Cornish TV advert aired on national television last week, putting this little-known regional language firmly back on the map. And what’s more, the ad was for delicious Cornish ice cream.

You can see the 30-second advert, which is for Kelly’s of Cornwall’s ice cream, below. The ad features a Cornishman serving ice cream in a field and speaking animatedly in Common Cornish about their new range of flavours, stating: “Yma res nowydh kavadow a Kelly’s Cornish ice cream hag yw as tasty as” (There’s a new range of Kelly’s Cornish ice cream available that is as tasty as).

As mere beginners of the Cornish language, so far knowing only words such as “Kernow” (“Cornwall”) and “Myttin da” (“good morning”), the advert has certainly whet our appetite. But exactly what is Common Cornish, and who speaks it today?

Cornish is a Celtic language with very similar roots to both Welsh and French Breton. It was Cornwall’s main language for centuries, with the earliest written examples dating all the way back to the 9th century. Cornish went into decline and had all but disappeared from everyday use in the 19th century. However, thanks to the work of individuals, who documented the language, a process of revival began, leading UNESCO to change the status of Common Cornish from “extinct” to “critically endangered” in 2009.

In Cornwall today, over 500 people say Cornish is their main language, and this number is growing. There are also magazines in Cornish, as well as some radio broadcasts and newspaper articles. And it seems that there are even some Cornish speakers living as far as Australia and the US!

For more about the Cornish language, Kelly’s have developed this very useful Cornish phrasebook.

To get you up and running, here is a transcript of the Cornish advert in full:


To be continued … creative writing exercises to nurture translation talent

Inspired by the concept of Feeding – a brilliant idea from the copywriting power house that is Stranger Collective – we recently introduced a ‘creative final hour’ in our office. Every Friday, we like to use the last hour in the office (or out of the office!) to actively broaden our horizons, research language-related topics, share our linguistic knowledge and get involved in some creative writing exercises … a fun way to further improve our writing styles, explore new vocabulary and generally get the creative juices flowing.

I am always impressed by the excellent level of English that our non-native translators produce, and by their sheer creativity, so I thought I’d share some of our musings. This first story is written by Caro, our current translation intern from Luxembourg. She used a ‘random first line’ generator on to give her the beginnings of a sentence and then she had 30 minutes to write a short story. Her story is a nod to one of her favourite authors, Jasper Fforde.

Here we go:

He didn’t want to go out on such a night but then they were only in town for one day. Who’d have thought that the dodos would be coming to this tiny hamlet – of all places. But the posters on the wooden lampposts confirmed it: “Dodo Day in Donkington-on-Dobbles”.

He looked around his place; was there anything that he could take for the dodos? He knew they liked fudge. But you weren’t allowed to give them any of that, as it would make their beaks all sticky. And dodos are of course notorious for their aversion to bath time. There were some nurdles that he’d collected at the beach the other day. He’d take those. Maybe the dodos liked all the different colours. They could even use them in their nest-making. So that was settled then.

Off he went to the marketplace, where the big tent had been set up. The entrance was right next to the central fountain, the one with all the koi in it. A woman with white hair was sitting on a small plastic chair at a small plastic table in front of the big red tent. Apparently she was the designated doorkeeper for the night. A roll of faded pink tickets and a cigar box were placed on the table in front of her. He held out a handful of coins and she picked out a few ducats. Then she tore off a ticket and handed it over to him. He took a look at it. It said: “MINI GOLF – One Person – Not transferable”. He looked at the white haired lady: “Erm … ‘xuse us – why does it say ‘Mini golf’ on this ticket. I was under the impression that this was the dodo tent.” “’Tis” was all she said. As he continued staring at her, she expanded her answer: “It’s an interactive show.” He decided that continuing to stare at her was not a good idea anymore now. He blinked a couple of times instead. The white haired lady seemed to catch on to the fact that he was a bit hard of understanding, so she went on: “You get to see the dodos, the dodos get to watch you play mini golf. It’s a win-win situation.” He thought that at that point their conversation had found its natural end, so he thanked her for the ticket and turned towards the tent. At least her explanations gave him some food for thought while he was waiting for the tent to be opened up. TO BE CONTINUED …

The idea is to continue with the story every week … let’s see where it takes us 🙂

Another Friday, another instalment of Caro’s story:

Outside the cabin, the wind howled through the trees, while inside, the old woman’s fire was nearly out. If she found enough firewood, it would keep her warm for the rest of the night and possibly until midday the next day. So she hopped into her woolly loafers and headed outside. As soon as she had opened the door, a fresh gust of wind blew into her face. It carried a nice, sweet smell that she tried to identify. Candyfloss! She could not remember when she had last smelled candyfloss. Probably the last time she had gone to the village fair – might have been well over a decade ago. And where was this scent coming from? She looked towards the village, which lay at the foot of the ben where her little cabin stood. Something seemed to be happening in Donkington. She could make out a big red something where the marketplace was. Only the center of the village was illuminated. The outskirts were slowly being devoured by the encroaching darkness. The good burghers of Donkington must have left their houses to have a look at the big red something in the marketplace. Should she…? It was awfully cold and she really did not want to go out on such a night, but if there was an event in the village, chances were that there would be a few cosy fires on the go.

So that was settled then.

When she arrived at the marketplace, she realised that what she had seen from the cabin was a big red tent stretching from the bakery all the way to the koi-fountain. There was a young man standing right next to the entrance of the tent. He looked like the sort of fella who would know what goes on in big red tents that pop up out of nowhere in the middle of the night and keep you from going out to get firewood. She would ask him. TO BE CONTINUED…

Another Friday, another instalment of Caro’s story – the penultimate chapter:

The urge to interrupt him before he had finished was overwhelming. But the old woman thought it would be impolite to approach the young man straight away, as he seemed to be busy alternately staring at a slip of paper in his hand and squinting into the middle distance. He eventually turned on his heels and sat down on the edge of the koi fountain. That was her cue. She walked towards him, past a woman with white hair who was sat at a little table and playing a game of Patience. Before she could reach him though, she noticed an advertising poster that was tacked to the tent cloth.

She took a closer look. “Dodos…” she murmured. It had been years since she’d heard them mentioned. Of course, when she was a child, they’d had loads of dodos at their place. Her favourite had been Bobo – not her choice of name, she always hastened to add. If she’d had the choice, she would have called him something nice, like Percivall. But she had gotten Bobo – name and all – from the local bakery. That is to say, Mrs Doe, the baker’s wife used to own Bobo when he was little. But Mr Doe soon got fed up with him, as he had to throw out too many pies and pastries that had dodo-footprints on them. So the old woman’s parents (she wasn’t an old woman at the time, she was actually a young girl back then) had adopted Bobo. The family already owned some fifty dodos who were roaming freely in the grounds around their mansion. One more or less wouldn’t make a difference.

And now there were Dodos once again. TO BE CONTINUED…

Here we have the final instalment of Caro’s story! Caro will be heading back to Heidelberg University this week and she will be sorely missed here at AJT:

It was just for one night. This might be her last chance to see them – because she was getting on a bit, if she was honest.

“Are you going to go see them?” It was the young man who was sitting on the koi fountain. The old woman put on her thinking face. She had been asking herself the same question and had known that she would not be able to make up her mind. So use of the thinking face was designed to delay things at least a little bit longer. But the young man continued on his quest for an answer or conversation or whatever he was looking for. “There’s minigolf as well!”, he said enthusiastically. He tried this strategy now; if he pretended to know what he was talking about, then maybe the ensuing conversation would give him some clues as to the nature of the show that he was letting himself in for. “Minigolf!”, the old woman said in surprise. “Well, I suppose then I should really, shouldn’t I?” She had no idea what the young man was talking about. Probably one of those new things that young people got up to. Unwilling to show her ignorance of those things, she decided to go along with it; she would find out eventually what the young man was talking about.

So the young man’s strategy had not quite worked out for him.

“Lady and gentleman…”, the white-haired woman interrupted. She apparently had finished her card game and was now standing at the tent entrance, with both hands on a big red bobble, attached to a long string dangling from the entrance. “… the show is now ready for you!”, she said. The old woman and the young man looked at each other. They were the only people standing at the entrance of this big top. Was no one else going to see this show?

The white-haired woman pulled at the bobble.

The red, plushy curtain lifted.

The old woman and the young man entered the tent. THE END

Would you like to spin a yarn and continue the story? Use the random line generator and put pen to paper… it’s good fun 🙂



A photoshoot with ethical brand Finisterre

Entrepreneurs that surf: A day out at Finisterre

As a translation company, we strive to do business ethically, it’s one of our core values. This means treating our translators with respect, paying fair prices and caring about the long-term success of our customers, not just about our own bottom line. So when ethical surf brand Finisterre recently approached me to feature in their blog series ‘Entrepreneurs that surf’, I was understandably over the moon!

Besides making super functional, long lasting clothing for the cold water surf industry, Finisterre are deeply committed to sourcing fabrics responsibly and choosing their places of manufacture carefully. Their iSPY Traceability Programme fosters transparency for suppliers and customers alike. As a surfer, I love their clothing (the Stratus body warmer – made from recycled fabrics – is my favourite). As a business owner, I identify with and aspire to their way of doing business.

Check out the Entrepreneurs that surf blog or read more about the iSPY Traceability Programme.