Sunday, September 21, 2008


Parallel English

At the European Court of Justice last week we had a German-language case on used-car imports into Austria. The cars concerned were ones of interest primarily to collectors - not exactly antiques but headed that way.

Actual antique cars are known in German - quite officially - as Oldtimer, which Wikipedia calls a Scheinanglizismus (i.e. a pseudo-loanword from English).

By extension, cars that are old but not old enough to be antiques - the ones at issue in our Austrian case - are called Youngtimer. This, it seems to me, goes well beyond a loanword, pseudo or otherwise. What is borrowed here is not just a word but, in a sense, the language itself - a sort of parallel English.

Other languages have their own pseudo-English, of course: the Japanese salaryman springs to mind. But I can't recall having come across too many other innovations comparable to Youngtimer. The closest perhaps is the likes of French rugbywoman based on the similarly unEnglish rugbyman, both meaning rugby-player.

Interestingly, French words of that kind are inflected according to English rules (plural: rugbymen, rugbywomen) whereas Oldtimer and Youngtimer are inflected like proper German words (no -s in plural, -n in dative plural). In Dutch, which has also adopted these words and with the same meaning, the English -s plural is used.

More examples of pseudo-English in various languages are here (although some of them seem to be purely in the eye of the beholder e.g. German Lift pseudo-English for elevator...?!).

Friday, September 05, 2008


Pay check

Via Transblawg recently a Sunday Times article on a supposed shortage of into-English translators as bemoaned by the European Commission. Echoing an earlier Guardian piece on a shortage of into-English interpreters (sneered at here).

The Commission is a somewhat recent convert to the joys of market economics and perhaps not everybody there has yet mastered the basic principles. For as any economics student knows, there is no such thing as a shortage. As explained here, for example:
Any potential deficit in supply is always removed by some increase in price, and any potential surplus is removed by a fall in the price, there always being some price which the market will clear
But the Commission (and its sister institutions) have responded to just such a "potential deficit in supply" (of interpreters) by reducing the price: a cut in the effective rate of pay for newcomers to the profession kicked in this week.

I see that a commenter on Transblawg describes the pay rates for EU translators as "astronomical". Judge for yourself (permanent staff salaries).

The daily rate for freelance interpreters, which is calibrated on a certain point of the staff scale, is here. Nett of deductions and adding back pension contributions it comes to about €500 (for experienced interpreters, and 72% of that for beginners).

Once you move on to the full rate there is no further progression, so the interpreter with decades of experience and a raft of languages doesn't get a cent more than the colleague next console with the bare minimum.

The best (and worst) paying jobs in the US can be found here. Those in the UK here and here. No sign of translators or interpreters anywhere.

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