Evolving language

28th Feb 2014

Modern technology allows instant communication throughout the world, news events are transmitted into our living rooms from any corner of the globe as they unfold, and the internet on the whole knows no borders or cultural divide. Language is evolving to accommodate this new information era and the technologies themselves are creating new words and terms. For example, last year a new word ‘Selfie’ entered the Oxford English Dictionary described as:

Aphotograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.

Another example is the now prolific use of the @ symbol. Once upon a time it was usually seen in accounts ledgers, it now forms a corner stone of modern communications.  In Polish, my native language, this is described as Ma?pa, meaning ‘monkey ’, due to the symbol’s shape similarity to a monkey tail.  Likewise it is referred to as C????? (sobaka), meaning "dog" in Russian.

Interestingly, the above are two examples that are now in common usage, they are not obscure medical or technical terms, and they are types of usage that did not even exist when I originally settled into the UK!

Language has always evolved to accommodate the needs of its users but the rate of change has quickened. Thankfully the upside of this technological advancement allows me to have Polish domestic television stations beamed into our home.  This means I can follow the new trends in Polish language usage, as well as keeping up to date with current events. Skype allows me to chat with my friends and family in Europe as though they were across the street, with my son and my niece both being teenagers they routinely use new words in Polish and English, some more significant than others.

Having a sound education in English is important but keeping a keen ear is just as vital in order to maintain my skills polished. People who have recently arrived in the UK use the contemporary vocabulary and they expect likewise in the interpretations I provide. It’s one of the interesting aspects of the job. Conversely, as I work with professionals in the field of medicine, I need to keep up to date with that terminology too. So you may find amongst my luggage returning from Poland, a current edition of a medical dictionary, since medical language and its new procedures are also evolving. The transition from professional language of the medical expert and the contemporary language of the customer should be as seamless as possible.

Thankfully we live in an age, where I am able to embrace technologies to ease this task. There is no substitute for a good understanding of English, but the standard English language favoured by the BBC, known as received pronunciation (RP), is not really in general use. Therefore, as well as keeping up with the Polish satellite TV shows, it’s still worth watching Eastenders, purely for the regional dialect of course.

If you need any help with your interpreting or translation requirements, please contact the Pearl team on 020 7253 7700 or email sales@pearllinguistics.com.

Anna Henshaw, Polish Interpreter (full time)



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