Working for generally English-speaking companies my title of “Danish Linguist” reflects what I am perceived to be adding to the mix. However, probably the most challenging aspect of my work is that of being an English linguist.
As we say in Danish: “the sweet child has many names”… Localization, L10n, Internationalization, i18n, translation… A linguist’s work (for a US company) usually involves text originally in English, translated into a target language and then reviewed for accuracy, appropriateness and tone. It is often not until we see the text in the target language (in my case Danish) that we realize that the original English could be misunderstood – and was.
So mostly this blog is about English sentences which I or my colleagues have rescued from being mistranslated. Usually not because of poor translation skills, but because the original English was ambigous. Or often internationalization professionals only see a sentence out of context, – and without a context strange things can happen. Hopefully the examples here will serve as educational anecdotes for those responsible for writing internationalizable, good English and for those responsible for localizing it. Typically the difficult sentences have words which can both be verbs and nouns in English, contain English grammar that is either correct, but not well known, or just incorrect, or words that sound or look similar to other words, -and if they can be misunderstood, they often are :-).
The art of localization could definitely benefit from a mark-up language which identified, in case of doubt, whether a particular word was a verb or a noun and allowed for marking up of other aspects of a sentence potentially causing ambiguity.
So, in spite of the name, this blog will be mostly about English, although occasionally quirky Danish will also be quoted. It’s all for fun.
And the name “Rotten Danish” was chosen of course partly because of my Danish affinities, but also exactly for all the ways in which it is ambigous:
Is it a Hamlet reference (“there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark…”)?
Is it talking about the Danish soccer players who beat your favorite team?
Are we talking about Grauballe Man, the 2000 years old mummified body of an Iron Age Dane found in a peat bog in 1953?
Or are we referring to some baked goods, aka. danishes, going bad?
Or is there a live rat involved some place?
Yes! Only two words, and so many possibilities…
Enjoy. And join the conversation.