Posts in the category "Language" and its subcategories.

I’m a grammar geek (Finnish at least) and I enjoy nitpicking things. I also enjoy English and learning other languages. Through the years I’ve got acquainted with English, Swedish, German, Spanish, and Persian. And, Finnish is my mother tongue.

That’s not pluperfect!

Aaaaagh, this is driving me crazy and I need to vent somewhere!

There was this dialogue in episode “Parent Trap…” of Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23:

— It’s a ton of work, and, frankly… Me encuentra un peu bukan zhongfu.
— Huh?
— That means “I’m feeling overwhelmed” in Spanish, French, and Mandarin. I really wanted to wing some Tagalog at you, but I don’t know the pluperfect.

There’s no pluperfect there! Or am I misunderstanding something?

Abuser name

Login failed. Most likely you entered your abuser name or your password.

A quirky typo

Dear English-speaking reader. There should be a space between “väärin” (= wrongly, mis-) and “käyttäjätunnuksesi” (= your username). “Väärin” specifies the word “kirjoitit” (= you typed).

Translator’s amnesia

I’m waiting for an email from the library so I changed the address in my library information to my mobile email. I also set up the phone to check mail every hour (not in the middle of the night). I use the Finnish user interface and this, not surprisingly, caught my eye:

Email settings in Finnish

First of all, it’s funny how it says “30 minuutin väl.” instead of “30 minuutin välein” even though there’s quite a bit of empty space… (This isn’t by far the worst case I’ve seen. I’ll show you a bad one if you’re interested :) ) but the 4th item makes you miss a few heartbeats (no? Is it just me?). How did that happen? When you look at the English options, they are nice and consistent:

Email settings in English

I envy you who use the English UI! :) (I know I could use it too, but Finnish feels somewhat more comfortable — despite things like these.)

[Edit: Dec 6th]
By popular demand :) Here’s the Swedish UI

Email settings in Swedish

Firefox the Nitpicker

Last night I installed the newest version of Firefox (2.0) and just now I noticed that it checks spelling in form fields!

What a wonderful feature! This might be a good reason to switch to using Firefox as my main browser (currently I’m preferring the good ol’ Mozilla). I had a list somewhere where I’d written reasons why I haven’t switched yet. I’ll have to look it up and see if something is still holding me back.

[edit Oct 31st]

There is at least one thing: I haven’t found a setting for “Autocomplete best match as you type” which is Mozilla’s Location Bar Autocomplete feature.

Also, why doesn’t it select a link when I search for text?


Recycling UI strings is bad

I work in localisation among other areas of translation and I know it’s very tempting to re-use texts that one might think are “the same”. (What a money-saver it is, too!)

If only it was that simple.

One problem is caused by the grammatical gender. Here’s a simple example from a text I was working on today (it won’t give anything away): the word “Saved” — that was the whole UI string. In English and many other languages it can easily be translated and re-used without a problem. But in for example Spanish (I pick a language I know) you need to know what has been saved because the adjective/past participle is inflected depending on whether the subject is masculine or feminine (salvado or salvada respectively). You can’t use the same 7-character string in all contexts; I suppose most of the time it would just be annoying, in worst cases it might even be confusing.

Just now I borrowed an eBook from the library and looked at the file properties in Adobe Reader 7.0. Here’s what the window looks like:

Adobe Acrobat 7.0 file properties

I’ve circled the word Tulostetaan (Finnish). In an English program I’m sure it would say “Printing”, that is “Printing is allowed/not allowed”. The word can also be used when you print a page and the program lets you know that it’s busy doing something by displaying “Printing” or perhaps “Printing…” with animated fullstops. The words do look the same but they don’t mean the same. The problem in Finnish (and other languages) is that, if translated correctly, the words do not look the same. “Tulostetaan” can be used in letting us know that the program is busy but not in this context. Here the word ought to be “Tulostaminen”.

Usually recycling is encourageable — not in localisation I’m afraid.

Addition, Thu 5th October

I don’t know what has “gone wrong” with the above localisation, and I don’t know if the two (or more) strings are perceived as the same (i.e. use the same resource) or if they just have been copied to save money/time/trouble. They shouldn’t be perceived as the same because they clearly aren’t. Some problems could perhaps be solved if at least words that are of different parts-of-speech would be separated from one another (noun printing vs. gerund printing). Perhaps they are. Do remember that I don’t know a thing about application development or the inner workings of Windows applications (among others) so I have no idea what’s going on under the hood.

I suppose WordPress functions similarly (“the wrong way”) because it uses GNU Gettext framework where texts are translated on message level. At closer look it does look like the context is taken into account, though, so problems like in this example on multiple meanings of “post” are avoided. Way to go!

Wax in my grammar ear – or someone else’s?

Suddenly this started to bother me a lot. I surf to and on the front page it says: “Why Blog? All the cool kids are.

That doesn’t make sense, does it? All the cool kids are blogs? Is this correct language in some young and hip native-English speaker sort of way that is designed to baffle the non-natives, or should it in fact be “All the cool kids do.”? In my mind, ‘are’ requires a gerund: “Why should I be blogging? All the cool kids are!”

There isn’t (luckily?) a “Click here to nitpick” link on the site, so I’ll just complain about it here. :)

I just don’t have anything to say right now

I had received the following spam comment which was sort of refreshing after the “Hi Jane! I like your site!”, “Best site I ever seen!”, “May we exchange links” comments that come in the dozens.

I’m really stupid
Yestarday I’ve got married and
today Im going make money online
So stupid
O-O-_ohh Mein Gott really you can see

Mein Gott, I’m so glad to have spam blocks.

I don’t really understand what this means:

Your site is very cognitive. I think you will have good future.:)

What is a ‘cognitive’ site?

But this is the most idiotic of all:

I just don’t have anything to say right now.


Misfirings in the brain

Chatting with Vera, I noticed I misspelled all the time. I wrote “where I you flying on Tuesday?” without noticing it. I of course should’ve written ‘are’ instead if ‘I’. Why did I write it like that? They don’t even sound alike! In the same conversation I had written “I’m not sure why there links aren’t in exactly the same place though”.

My brain’s a bit wonky anyway. For as long as I can remember, I sometimes mix up the letters s and r when I’m writing by hand. In cursive handwriting they probably looked similar to me when we were practising it on 3rd grade (onwards) and nowadays I sometimes mix up even the normal handwriting letters and capital letters which look nothing alike.

I also confuse the words ‘orange’ and ‘purple’. I do know which is which, but sometimes I accidentally say one when I mean the other, and then it takes a while before I can find the correct word I was looking for.

Does something like this happen to you, too?

And again! “I could’ve slept this 10-11 if he hadn’t come whining behind my door at 8.” Jeez!

Grammar terrorists

At Jafer‘s there’ve been discussions on grammar and grasp of language (and lack there of). I’m so glad someone else is similarly enthusiastic about these things.

This email I received today to university mail seemed somehow very fitting:

I’m looking for a native english speaker who could be interested to come to test usability of an user interface. The testing takes about 1,5 hours and as a thank you the tester will get a 30 euros gift card to Stockmann’s warehouse or 4 movie tickets to Finnkino.

Testing takes place at [censored], which address is [censored]. Available testing times are:

tuesday the 21th March from 8 o’clock to 15.30
thursday the 23th March from 8 o’clock to 15.30
friday the 24th March from 8 o’clock to 12.30

Usability tests are unformal and relaxed happenings and the test is based on the testers opinions and natural actions [‘scuse me?!].

If you got interested or know someone who could be interested please contact me by email [censored] or by phone [censored]. I will also tell more to those who are interested to be a tester.

(emphases mine)

Ay ay ay! Almost as bad is this video where the guy says e.g. “flied.”

Recently I wrote to a company because they ran a newspaper ad which had a very serious comma error (“Valikoimaa enemmän, kuin koskaan.”). Quite a while ago I complained to a game store because their website had ugly mistakes (they corrected some of them!). The oddest thing I’ve noticed was an error at the library’s (!!!) homepage. It was a compound noun error. I don’t know if they’ve fixed it yet; I’d have to order a book to know.

My id (Inner Despot)

After having been a project manager for a week now I’ve started to get annoyed by the technical people. I’m willing to work without a lunch break (let alone coffee or cigarette breaks (I do drink coffee, but I don’t smoke)) to get something urgent done — I did that on Friday — and in my naïvete I expect everyone else to do the same. I was furious when the person who was supposed to be working on an urgent project (deadline on Monday) was nowhere to be seen. I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to do something snap, right there and then. I realise the work isn’t progressing, so I’ll probably have to do it myself on Monday. I can’t really tell the client that I couldn’t keep the deadline because the others weren’t doing their jobs, can I?

I know I’m horrible. I’m sure the others have lots and lots of more work to do than I — even if they have time to frolic and complain that they’re bored. On Friday I was panicking about the deadline and they laughed that I’ll probably throw something heavy at them. I couldn’t, I was too tired.

I’ll be very glad when this 2-week multiple personality disorder is over. I don’t mind doing the technical stuff and I don’t mind doing the project manager stuff (it’s been, despite everything I’ve just said, very interesting and refreshingly challenging). But I can’t do them both, full-time, simultaneously.

Despot — a person exercising power tyrannically

Picture of Mitler from South Park Create A Character