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Same words – different meanings

December 11th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Here is a fun article from the WalesOnline, reporting on the publication of a new book looking at mistranslations between English and Welsh.

Examples include “the badly translated shop sign which reads “wines and ghosts” in Welsh and “the baffling bilingual road sign that warns Welsh- speaking motorists to beware of “exploding workers”.

But there is a serious side to this. Firstly, despite recent advances in machine translation there is still a considerable way to go. And even when machines can translate language literally, it is much more difficult to translate meanings. We are confronted with this constantly in international projects where whilst the lingua franca might be English and we all think we know what we are talking about, the meanings we make of different ideas and concepts may be very different. In most European languages there is a word sounding something like competence. But our understandings of the meanings of that word vary greatly depending on culture. Secondly, in developing Technology Enhanced Learning we continue to struggle to develop common understandings between different disciplines, with educationalist and developers often seemingly talking completely different languages.

Maybe we need bi-lingual roadmaps!

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