Mad Max, a sign language interpreter and a blind proctor walk into a bar

Note: I put this initially on my “after hours joint” but decided quite a while afterwards to move it over here to Reno Languages; after all, the topic is strongly tied to my work.

Mad Max hunting for sign language interpreter clowns
Illustration from the Mad Max video game

A sign language interpreter does serious business, so I expect news articles about the subject to match it in rigor. Sometimes, however, journalistic comedy ends up writing itself on the back of some ridiculous misunderstanding of the issues underlying the story at hand. Not so much due to a circumstantial lack of factual knowledge (because accidents can happen when trying to report both early and comprehensively, and I don’t count honest mistakes as farcical relief) but more due to a simple lack of common sense and basic analytic skills, applied to what is well-known already. It gets better still when it is accompanied by a straight-faced accusation of ridicule. In the case prompting me to write this, it tops all as it is served with an extra side of smug lecturing on incompetence (indeed) and topped generously with an undue projection of shortcomings, onto an entire nation no less.
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In favor of recording court interpreter performance

When it comes to defining professionalism I’m a bit old school; to me, it is a two-way street. I mean that the true determinant of a professional is neither being paid or the rate of the pay itself – ideally that merely reflects success in the market place – but the degree of accountability given by the profession. That may well sound like a somewhat meaningless truism but when applied to the current state of court interpreting in the United States, at least based on my own observations and experiences in Nevada and California, I’m not so sure we can collectively truly claim that we own that gold standard. What guarantee can we really offer an objectively observing layperson that we truly do a good job as qualified and professional state court interpreters?

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Annoying spelling errors in Samsung TV ads aired in the US

For quite a while now, I am seeing Samsung advertisements aired here in Reno – and I trust elsewhere, too – hawking some phone, purportedly of the smart type. It points out that even the included pen is so smart that it has its own brain! Unfortunately however its makers are less so gifted, considering the curious errors displayed fairly prominently, starting at the 42nd second of this ad:


Did you see that? Here is the screen shot:
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An interesting illustration of semantic specificity and cultural dominance

It’s not so much unusual for neologisms that are adopted from another language to have a very concrete meaning, which is far more specific than the word as used in the original language. A more or less random example is the term factoring as used in business Dutch, with that very particular meaning explained in the Wikipedia article. Yet in English that term can also be used in reference to an algebraic operation. I just came upon an interesting and quite visual example in a much more common word: sombrero, the word for “hat” which in Spanish is just as its English equivalent quite generic.
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