Monday, February 27, 2012

Typography 101

This lovely thing is Malika Favre's Pin-Up Alphabet made for Wallpaper for their Sex & Art issue. It makes this post about typography look like a sexy post about typography.

I stare at documents at work all day thinking murderous thoughts about the people who made them. (You send a tab table to be translated into 26 languages? Really? Don't have your administrative assistant do your DTP for a 300 page IFU in Word, for Pete's sake. Poor thing probably had to write the darn thing too.) 

So my interest in typography has been newly rekindled recently. I don't know what exactly I'm going to do with all of this newly acquired typographical knowledge, but it'll probably come after my next conlang attempt.

Here's a list linking to the best of the best stuff I've found so far.

Finally, here's a well-curated Twitter list about typography.

Content creation + Writing style

The first of a short series I wrote about prepping your documents for translation just went live on

The article links to a fabulous post on Microsoft's official blog that gives a succinct list of style principals for globalized writing, including a specific set of guidelines for text that will be machine translated or translated using CAT tools. It's most of Chapter 3 from the 4th Edition of the Microsoft Manual of Style.

on Twitter.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Polish phonology

If you've never spoken or studied a language that distinguishes between the two sounds, hearing the difference between a postalveolar fricative and a retroflex postalveolar fricative is definitely something you have to train your ears and your brain to do.

The great thing about Polish is that once I could hear the differences, the orthography matched up really comfortably. I made a phonology chart using Polish orthography, and I noticed some trends in the orthography matching up to the place or mode of articulation. I will try to explain these goofy cues for anyone who may find them helpful:
  • All off the consonants with the kreska (little stroke: ć) are post-alveolar (your tongue is just behind the ridge behind your teeth). 
    • These are the voiced and unvoiced "sh"/"zh" and "ch"/"dzh" sounds: ś, ź, ć, dź
  • Anything with a c or a d is an affricate: c, dz, ć, dź, cz, dż
    • Also, trz. This one just doesn't fit. It's three letters so that makes it special enough to fit in this category?
    • But not d. It's just d.
  • Retroflex sounds:
    • Have a Z with kropka (little dot: ż): ż, dż
    • Are when there are two letters in a consonant pair/cluster with "open space" between them. This is a purely visual cue.
      • sz, cz, rz, trz: You could "color in" the open space between these letters.
      • You can't do that with: dz, because the straight line of the d is like a brick wall.
        • But has a kropka!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Translation blogging for KJI

No, it's not actually a part of my job description, but as a new push toward a full social media strategy, Minneapolis translation company KJ International Resources is posting some short articles I've written to provide educational material about translation and localization for current and prospective clients. Here's the first one:
You can on Twitter.

While you're at it, you can follow me: 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rothfuss in translation

If you are a fan of fantasy literature, or just good books in general, I cannot recommend Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicles enough. The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear have made it into the small circle of books that I force upon all my friends because I know that they'll thank me in the end.

The third book in the series, The Doors of Stone, is on its way but not soon enough, so I was lurking on Rothfuss's blog trying to get my Kvothe fix when I found two lovely posts on the subject of translation.

Rothfuss makes the point that one of the reasons his books take so long to translate is because "If you haven’t noticed, I tend to make a lot of anormal word usements." This is a great example of why you should read Rothfuss if you are a language lover: He is crafting a story that hinges on the idea that language is power, but not in your typical LeGuin-ian fantasy way.

By the end of the book, it's clear that every sentence of these two (very long!) books is a work of art. It's not usually very flowery language, though when he tricks me into reading poetry by leaving out the line breaks or switches to rambling dialogue, it usually breaks my heart it's so beautiful. (Kvothe to Denna in Wise Man's Fear: "You are my bright penny by the roadside. You are worth more than salt or the moon on a long night of walking. You are sweet wine in my mouth, a song in my throat, and laughter in my heart.")

But the real craftsmanship is realizing that the answers to the mystery you are so desperately trying solve have been right under your nose all along; that after 1600 pages, you're still not sure if you can trust your narrator; and that every single word was carefully placed in a pattern you are just beginning to see. Give me the red pill, Pat!