Thursday, November 21, 2013

Is it washed or isn't it?

This note on a bag of romaine lettuce advises English speakers to wash the lettuce before eating it -- but tells French speakers it's already been washed (though phrased awkwardly).

Bilingual packaging requirements in Canada open the door to a wide range of errors: you need good proofreaders for the English, good proofreaders for the French... and in some cases, good proofreaders who are adept in both languages.

The PR Major had a great discussion this week, led by Erika Miller, about Coca-Cola's vitaminwater promotion-gone-wrong, in which the company inadvertently printed offensive statements on its bottle caps because of unanticipated pairings of English and French words.

Translation isn't just about getting out your French-English dictionary or using Google Translate. Over the years I've heard people say "I speak French so I can do the translations." Mistake.

Would you have anyone who speaks English write your corporate materials? Of course you wouldn't. You'd hire a writing specialist, if you wanted them to be good.

Unless you are a professional translator, hire a professional translator.

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Cheating... are becoming"

My brother sent this headline from an Ottawa daily newspaper last week:

This headline contains an error in subject-verb agreement. In any sentence, the number of a verb has to match the number of its subject.

To determine the correct form of the verb, we would ask ourselves, "what is/are becoming more creative?"

The answer is "cheating," which is singular. For correct subject-verb agreement, the sentence should read, "Cheating at Ottawa schools is becoming more creative each day," since "is becoming" is the singular form of the verb.

If we re-worded the sentence slightly, and "cheaters" became the subject of the verb "becoming," it would be a different story (and likely, a more accurate statement, since cheating can't really be creative -- only cheaters can). In that case, we would say "Cheaters at Ottawa schools are becoming more creative each day." The plural subject ("cheaters") would call for a plural verb ("are becoming").

Thanks for the tip, Chris!