Lost in Translation -- >Language >Place Blog Carnival Edition 13

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The >Language >Place Blog Carnival is all about language and how humorous or just plain hard it is to understand when it's foreign. For my post on the theme of "Lost in Translation" I've chosen the foreign language of English. Having lived in Germany for almost 17 years now, English has in many ways become foreign to me. Others have chosen to interpret the theme in various ways--some humorous, some not. Click on any of the pictures in the parade of posts and READ MORE if you want to win pretty points.

Linda Evan Hofke -- You Walk Me on the Cookie!

In one of my older posts (What Did You Say?) from March I wrote about the troubles of travelling to a country where one doesn't speak the language. At the end of the post I shared an embarrassing moment that happened to me shortly after moving to Germany.

To give you my own example, when I first starting teaching English, I knew very little German. One night in class I brought a snack and knowing that some of the participants are very health conscious I tried to explain that there were no artificial sweeteners or preservatives. I knew the word for sweeteners but not preservatives and it wasn't in my book, so I said in a German accent “No sugar and no--preservatives?” Everyone started laughing and said “I hope not.”   


Hart Johnson -- What's So Funny?

Y'all know I am dark, mysterious and edgy, right? Some of you are even scared of me, yeah? No? Come on. Not even a little scared? You KNOW that is my goal in life! That and sexy and sleek... *nods*

My aspirations to be quirky and strange are... well... sort of the leftover result when I can't control myself? The result of not quite hitting that dark mysterious thing, so here I am, naked and awkward? But being me, I am practical and so thought, FINE. I will work with that. See... I don't MEAN to be funny. But the word is I am... And I guess if I can't be edgy and beautiful, funny is a pretty good alternative.


Angela Williams -- Lost in Translation

‘I’m sorry Miss, I have to leave class early today. I’m going soliciting.’ Although we were in Amsterdam and the Dutch are a broadminded lot, I was pretty sure that my English-language student wasn’t heading towards the red light district. It was another case of False Friends – an English word that looks similar to a Dutch word but with a totally different meaning. She was seeking work and going for a job interview, the Dutch verb for which is, soliciteren. I explained to her what she’d said and we all had a good laugh about it. Fortunately, the Dutch have a great sense of humour and don’t take themselves very seriously.  


(Writers Abroad is a password protected site, so if you'd like to leave a comment, you can come back here and leave one.) 

M.J. Nicholls -- Come Ride My Elephant

I struggled with this ‘language’ prompt for several weeks—all good writing to me makes language intrinsic to its purpose, how could it do otherwise? Then I thought about amusing misunderstandings had with people from different countries. None. All the people I’ve met from Italy, France, Africa, America, even Wales, have spoken clearly and without fault. My own incompetence with identifying accents is slightly amusing—I once mistook an Englishman for an American (hahaha) and corrected a French Jehovah’s Witness’s grammar for a ten minutes (hahaha—priceless!) OK. Not that funny.

Instead, this post is about unspoken languages, conversations we have with people in our heads that comprise an entirely subconscious system of communication conducted with ourselves that we hope other people might share and respond to via telepathic intuition. This will make sense as the piece progresses, I hope. If not, think bad things about me.

Dorothee Lang -- Three Cups of Chai

Some warned me that Varanasi, the holy city at the river Ganges, would be terribly dirty. Others said it is a magic place. What I wasn't prepared for, though, were the tea misunderstandings that happened there. Here's what happened: Three Cups of Chai.  


Kris Brummet -- Dear Santa, I want the iMan . . . with APPs

My Dad asked me this year what I wanted for Christmas. I said, “a man.” He gave me an iPad. He gave me an iPad with the sole intention of having the ability to Skype with me. OH THE HORRORS. He calls me every Sunday. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Sunday phone calls, but I often look like I’ve been pulled out of the muck of some city sewer on Sunday.  The first time he says, “you look like shit,” the Skype deal is O-V-E-R.


Laurie Kolp -- Have you Heard Anything Funny Lately?

Conversations can be so ludicrous sometimes, don't you agree?  I've had some humdingers I'd like to share with you. Grab a chair and take a seat; let's talk.

The first conversation took place at a business dinner Pete and I had with another couple. None of us had ever met except for Pete and the other man. I don't remember how we got onto talking about deviated septums and sinus surgery, but that's what was buzzing at our table when Pete said he couldn't smell anything as a result of his turbinates being zapped ten years ago.  


Marcus Speh -- appealing to angels: a london travelogue

went to lon­don last week where i lived for ten years until after our daugh­ter was born & where i hadn’t been in four years. walked a lot. noticed how much fuller the city seemed though i have no idea how that’s pos­si­ble. how many more peo­ple can you squeeze into this town? no more tower records on pica­dilly cir­cus, but instead another soul­less mega cloth­ing store. how many clothes can you sell to peo­ple who’re already clothed?


Robin Graham -- The Return of K

We’re in the living room. Laptopping.

K is browsing fashion sites and I am doing an obsessive compulsive circuit of my usual haunts; making sure things are alright on the social networks, repeatedly. If you add enough of them to your armoury then by the time you’ve checked them all it can seem worth popping back to the first, in case anything has happened there in the meantime. And then the second…  


Michelle Elvy -- You Say Arugula, I Say Lettuce

I was surprised when Carrie called. We hadn’t seen each other in years. We’d been high-school friends, sure — the kind you don’t expect to see again after you’ve been  pomp-and-circumstanced down the school stadium steps and the last D-Major chord has drifted out on the breeze. But I’d just had my first baby and she’d had her second, so she called for a mommy’s lunch.

At the upscale yuppy café (“my fave,” she gushed), I ordered a baked stuffed potato (the closest thing to real food on offer) while she drank protein-vitamin-water and pushed sprigs of delicately arranged arugula around her plate.


Christopher Allen -- English as a Foreign Language

Something you may not have known about me: I teach EFL. Yes, I do. And I've taught English as a Foreign Language for the last 16 years. How time flies when you're drilling the irregular verbs, I know.

I came to Germany on June 1, 1995, and for the first ten years--with the exception of old Alf reruns--I had no access to American TV. I didn't have CNN or MTV or SNL. I lost touch with Friends; actually to be honest I had never been in touch with Friends before I left the US, so it would be more accurate to say that I met new friends in, I think, 2007--long after my new friends had stopped being Friends.


Andrea Spirov -- Picking up Palabras

¡Hola! ¿Cómo está?

These were the first words I learned in Spanish. All last year I promised myself that once the wedding madness was over, I was going to treat myself to an intensive language course. I registered online for a class, only to be left hanging at the last minute because the school didn’t attract the minimum numbers to run with it. It was too late to enrol in another one.  


Cathy Douglas -- One Word of German I Know

I don’t really like to travel. The older I get, the less I like it. It’s not so much about the airports and gross food and unfamiliar bedding; it’s more about dropping all my projects for whatever length of time. I’m interested in what I’m doing right here, right now. I don’t need adventures.Of course that’s not true–everybody needs adventures. Getting lost has always been my specialty.  


Nine -- Gumboot

Cobwebs are everywhere here, and spiders with ugly bodies and long legs. They hang curled up like closed umbrellas, then reanimate to trek across walls and blankets. The house is a rickety old thing that sits on a hill. The door is never locked. When the big earthquake comes, I don’t fancy this place’s chances, but last week’s shaking and rumbling didn’t bother me. Maybe I adapt too easily to my surroundings. The people who live here find the earthquakes scary.  


Kate McCahill -- The Phone Store

I knew when I boarded the bus that I would have no luck at the phone store. Every time, it’s been the same: they tell me to come back later, it will be ready by Sunday, it will be ready by Tuesday. I bought a phone in Guatemala, you see, and for it to work here, the band needs to be opened. Whatever that means. So a kind friend takes me to the phone store the first time, because she, too, had to open the band on her phone. They tell us to come back later, and so the next time I return by myself.  

(Kate's site is a password protected site, so if you'd like to leave a comment please come back and leave one here.)

Brandon Graham -- A Variety of Hand Gestures Related to Agents' Responses

This symbol  is a printer's mark, called a manicule (from the Latin root 'manus' for 'hand') or printer's fist. Though less common today, it was regularly used between the 12th and 18th centuries, hand drawn in the margins of books, and was formerly included in lists of standard punctuation marks. Today it's used primarily as a bullet point in documents, or as a graphic compositional element. I've spent some time looking at old manuscripts at the in Chicago's very lovely Newberry Library and was interested in the variety and style of the loose interpretations of the mark by various artists (mostly monks). My brain brought these marks back over the past week as I received my first several responses from literary agents.  


Austin Wood -- Sentence Mining

I’m currently four days into my first 30 day trial – to create at least 10 flashcards a day using the sentence mining technique. I didn’t have any problem making 10 flash cards on Thursday. I’m currently taking private Russian lessons in Petrozavodsk so I pulled my sentences from the worksheets and notes that had accumulated since I started taking lessons four days ago.

Friday was a little more difficult because I only had one day’s worth of lesson material to mine for sentences. Six sentences came from that material and the rest came from random stuff I had lying around, such as the paperwork from the cellphone I bought at the airport and a newspaper I found on the kitchen table.


Steven Wing -- Punctuality 

During one of our first journeys in Mexico, I was reminded many times of things I had read about the lack of punctuality there.  Here's a sample:

"Mexicans have many traits to admire: their enterprise, their ability to make do, to endure and to enjoy life. Punctuality, though, is nowhere on the list for most of them. The Aztecs may have cared enough about time to carve their famous stone calendar, but you wonder sometimes if people here are relying on it to get through the day . . . .  


Sheree Mack -- The Golden Season

The Golden Season

Early morning, a fresh nip in the air.
The smell of raindrops.
The suns gives out a gentle warmth
as nature wakes up from the long
lazy days of summer, getting ready
for the long sleep of winter.


Edition #14 will be hosted by writer and poet Stella Pierides. Stella lives in Germany and England. She blogs HERE and tweets at @stellapierides. In the past couple of years Stella has developed a soft spot for haiku and has had work published in Contemporary Haibun Online, A Hundred Gourds, tiny words, Sketchbook, 140 and Counting, Mainichi Haiku in English, Asahi Haikuist Network, and elsewhere. She has co-edited and contributed to Even Paranoids Have Enemies (Routledge), and Beyond Madness (JKP).

The feature theme for Edition #14 is "Locating the Senses in Language / Place".  


I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire). He writes fiction, creative non-fiction and of course this here blog. His work has appeared in numerous places both online and in print. Read more about him HERE.


  1. Thanks very much for including Return of K!

  2. Moreover, the syntax, grammar of English, and German languages are pretty much hinged on the similar rules and practices. The phonology is what seems to set both languages’ worlds apart and probably the hardest to learn online translation. I learned that my most beloved *lingua franca* apparently had some of its origin from the German language that I regard as so cryptic.


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