Lunch Break Bake: Rhubarb and Ginger

As a linguist, it’s important that I know how to follow instructions to the letter. This week, I decided to put my instruction-following skills to the test with my first edition of lunch break bake!

I’m no expert baker and I know that as soon as I go off-recipe things start to go less well (just like with translation). That’s why I always like to find someone who knows more about it. The expert I deferred to on this occasion was Jamie Oliver. He may not be a client, but he does know his field better than I do, so I made sure to do exactly as he said…almost. See if you can spot the citrus fruit I had to substitute because that was the one ingredient I didn’t have!

If you, like me, have an excess of rhubarb and happen to have been given a ginger stem yesterday, then I would highly recommend giving this recipe a go – they are delicious!

If there’s one thing I enjoy even more (and am better at) than baking, it’s translation. So, when you’re done, why not thank me for the recommendation by getting in touch for your language needs?

Back to work I go, with a cup of coffee in one hand and the fruits (or vegetables as the case may be) of my lunch break baking session in the other…

Linguistic Outlook in Scotland

I am lucky enough to now be able to call Scotland my home. Having moved here just under a month ago, I am very excited to explore this beautiful country with my partner in our camper van. Ever focused on languages, however, I have to ask myself “What is the linguistic situation in this new country I’m living in?” I know it’s part of the UK, but Scotland has a rich linguistic history if its own.

Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, to paraphrase, was established with the aim of promoting and supporting language learning of indigenous, Scottish languages and those originating from further afield. Interestingly, they report that 89% of people in Scotland think that learning a language other than English in school from the age of five is important. This was a universal statistic on which age, educational qualifications and socioeconomic status don’t appear to have any bearing.

Intrigued, I delved straight into the 2016 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey to discover that in 2011 the Scottish Government, committed to ensuring their young people had the skills to thrive in Europe and in the 21st century global marketplace, stated their intention “to introduce a norm for language learning based on the European Union 1+2 model – that we will create the conditions in which every child will learn two languages in addition to their mother tongue.”

Excellent! This all sounds great so far. Surprising then, that only 11% of the population can have most or part of a conversation in a language other than English. So, the majority of people want children to have more linguistic ability than they themselves have. Perhaps even more interestingly, West European languages are considered most appropriate for children in Scotland to learn.

Stepping into this mini research project I expected to find more support for Gaelic (spoken by 1.1% of the population), Scots and Doric (around 30% collectively), but, in fact, only 8% think Gaelic is the first most important language to learn and 2% Scots, with many of these living in rural areas of Scotland.

I’m sure I’ve got some learning to do over the coming months and years, but so far so good in terms of living in a forward-thinking multicultural country with a global and European outlook. Political opinions aside, as a linguist I think I’ll be very happy here.

The Most Beautiful Words in Spanish

I recently came across an article on the 40 most beautiful words in the Spanish language. 40 seemed like a lot, so I thought it might be fun to paraphrase the top 20 and see which you like best.

  1. Sempiterno – everlasting; having begun it will never end.
  2. Petricor – the name given to the smell produced by rain when it falls on dry earth.
  3. Nefelibata – a dreamer who is not able to perceive reality.
  4. Resiliencia – ability to adapt to an adverse situation.
  5. Alba – the first light of day before sunrise.
  6. Melancolía – deep, overwhelming and permanent sadness, due to either physical or moral causes, leaving the sufferer unable to enjoy anything.
  7. Acendrado – pure. Without defect.
  8. Ataraxia – serenity.
  9. Ojalá – an active wish that something might come to pass.
  10. Perenne – continuous, unceasing.
  11. Nostalgia – sad remembrance at being far from home or friends.
  12. Compasión – tenderness and ability to identify with someone else’s suffering.
  13. Bonhomía – affability, simplicity, goodness and honesty of character and behaviour.
  14. Ademán – movement or attitude of one’s body or part of one’s body with which they express intention or feeling.
  15. Efímero – ephemeral. Something that lasts for a short amount of time.
  16. Infinito – infinite. Does not and cannot end.
  17. Inconmensurable – enormous, immeasurable.
  18. Ósculo – respectful or affectionate kiss.
  19. Mondo – clean and free of extra or superfluous things.
  20. Superfluo – unnecessary, extra.

Which do you like best? Or maybe you have a favourite word in your language that you’d like to share?


Translation and Excellence in Matera, Italy

Matera, capital of the Basilicata region in South East Italy from 1663 to 1806, is a place with fascinating culture and precarious topography. Hanging off and built into the cliffs, Matera is known as la Città Sotterranea (The Underground City), is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and, rightly so, a UNESCO world heritage site. Old it may be, but at the cutting edge of culture it remains, and in 2019 it will proudly take its place as European Capital of Culture.

I was lucky enough to spend a few days visiting Matera back in October 2016. I plunged myself in at the linguistic and geographical deep end by travelling all the way from the North West of England to the South East of Italy to join the ‘Translation and Excellence’ conference attended almost entirely by Italians and expatriates living in Italy.

I could not have had a better time exploring the city and delving into subjects ranging from “crap soup” (crab soup) on menus to the processes that go into translating and dubbing such a prominent television series as Game of Thrones (I may never have seen it but I found myself enthralled by the nuances of translating the scene in which the character Hodor finally has the origin of his name revealed). I found myself delighting in an Italian lunch that was bound to run over schedule (fill an underground restaurant with delicious Italian food and passionate linguists and you’ll see what I mean) and simultaneously envious of some of the speakers who translate for Disney.

The conference itself could not have been in a more fitting setting; the Casa Cava, a huge underground cavern with excellent acoustics. It was once used as an excavation site to mine the stone to build the houses around it and has now taken on a life of its own, home to art exhibitions, concerts, conferences and other cultural events.

Given that Matera features as my website image it seems only fitting that my first blog post be about this intriguing city. I’d highly recommend a visit, conference or no conference. Perhaps you’ll even decide to top your trip off with a few days at the beach like I did? After soaking up all that culture it would be rude not to!