January 15th, 2015

Are Smartphones Stupid?

If you get on the subway in Beijing, Shanghai,  Shenzhen—or any city in China, really—you’ll be confronted with a sea of people;  but you’ll be hard pressed to find a pair of eyes not glued to a phone or tablet. As smartphones become increasingly ubiquitous in China—there are an estimated 700 million of them, concentrated in affluent urban areas— their users seem to be only physically present while their consciousness is projected down into their glowing screen and,  from there, out into the ether of elsewhere. This growing phenomenon of “present absence” is changing the face of in-person communication in China.

January 14th, 2015

Wacky Word Wednesday – Officious

Being thoughtful and considerate to others by offering unrequested help is an admirable characteristic but people who have an excessive eagerness to offer unwanted advice can be seen as intrusive and annoying. Today, let’s poke our noses into today’s Wacky Word Wednesday to meet the busybodies and those who have come uninvited.




Volunteering one’s services where they are neither asked for nor needed.

January 13th, 2015

Not Just a Scrawl

As a follow-up to last week’s post about the graffiti culture in China, today we will explore São Paulo where street art is flourishing and adorning every conceivable concrete. The tagging culture in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, has been thriving since the mid 1980s and has turned the city into a colorful display of expressions and art.

January 12th, 2015

Brands Lost in Translation

“One moment please?”

As simple as it may sound, the phrase you just read could mean very different things to different people, especially when in terms of cross-cultural communication. In the United States, for example, a “moment” means “instant,” something which will happen very quickly. However, in France, this same phrase is often interpreted to mean “I can’t do it immediately, or I’ll do it when I have time.” Despite how it may sound to an English-speaker, “un moment” or “un instant” to a francophone means something that could take a very long time—maybe about half an hour or so.

January 9th, 2015

In The News: Bill Gates Drinks Water Made From Feces, Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker Unveiled, Uber Launches Logistics Service

This week in the news, Microsoft founder Bill Gates wants to tackle the world’s health problems by drinking water made from human excrement, Intel has pledged to spend $300 million to boost diversity within its company by 2020, and basketball star Shaquille O’Neal teams up with headphone company Monster Inc. to promote the company’s latest inventions, including a waterproof floating speaker.

January 8th, 2015

Shenzhen – Young City, Young People

Walking down any street within the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (SEZ), you are assailed with the gleam of burnished metal and the glitter of polished glass. An amazing architectural variety of gargantuan towers vie for supremacy of the sky and, with cranes nearly everywhere, their number is growing month on month. The names of China’s most recognizable brands sit atop the skyscrapers, proclaiming their success. To put it with stereotypical American vulgarity, the city looks like money. And, as they say, time is money; so it’s easy to assume that the city must have taken quite some time to get to where it is today. In reality, though, Shenzhen is a very young city. Before the SEZ was established in 1980 – because of its proximity to Hong Kong – Shenzhen was a “sleepy fishing village” with a population of 300,000. Times have changed.

The 14 million people whom today call Shenzhen home are – like the city – also young. According to the latest census data, the average age in Shenzhen is just under 30 years old, with 88.41% between 15 and 59 and 20% between 20 and 24. Those aged 65 and above account for just 1.22% of the population compared with nearly 10% for China as a whole. Youth – both of the place and the people that live there – is one of Shenzhen’s defining characteristics. The other is that very few Shenzheners were born in the city. Instead the city has embraced its migrant culture branding everyone that comes to the city a “Shenzhener.” We asked some of these young dreamers working in our branch office to share their experience of Shenzhen with T for Translation.

January 7th, 2015

Amphigory – Wacky Word Wednesday

“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.”

If that section of verse doesn’t make much sense to you, you’re reading it right. It’s taken from Lewis Carroll’s classic poem “Jabberwocky,” and is the quintessential example of today’s wacky word – amphigory.




A nonsensical piece of writing, usually in verse form, typically composed as a parody.

January 6th, 2015

The Language of Laughter

“A dyslexic man walks into a bra.” If you told this joke, some would chuckle immediately, while others might gaze at you with a blank stare. While joke telling and humor can be difficult enough to master in one’s native language and culture, the task becomes exponentially more problematic when translation comes into play. Jokes typically require a certain level of cultural understanding, and when your audience comes from a range of different cultures, much can be lost in translation. In today’s T for Translation, we’ll take a look at the intricacies of cross-cultural joke telling and how it is affected by cultural and linguistic specificities.

January 5th, 2015

The Dragon’s New Groove

China has long been known for cheap labor, fast turnaround times and copycat products. But now, as one of the world’s largest economies and projected to overtake the U.S. in terms of GDP within the next 10 years, China has been making moves to change these perceptions. The move from imitation to innovation, however, can’t come by way of a Central Committee decision; an entire shift in mindset is needed. For the Middle Kingdom, it might even be considered a change of culture. Nevertheless, the process of changing that mindset is already underway – the people are growing bolder, Chinese companies more creative and their products increasingly competitive.

January 4th, 2015

In the News

For 2015’s first edition of “In the News,” we’ll take a look back at the biggest stories of 2014, what the world was reading, and what trends affected us most.

  • Turbulent Times for Air Travel
  • The Ebola Epidemic
  • Conflict in Ukraine