A couple of years ago, a co-founder of an EPFL start-up came to me for help. Their html5 video player had just gotten fantastic reviews on gizmodo, and they wanted to make sure the English on their website was good. I suggested a few corrections, he asked me how much they owed me, and I said it was on the house. I thought their product was great, their enthusiasm was palpable, and I knew they probably didn’t have much money. He was very appreciative.
A few weeks ago, I translated an EPFL press release about another start-up. I visited the company’s website to check some details, and noticed that it had some serious problems. I wrote the two young co-founders an e-mail, telling them that I would be willing to help them polish the English on their website. I didn’t mention money explicitly, but I hinted that I was prepared to spend a couple of hours working for free, like I had with Jilion.
No response. Not even a No, thank you.
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Bonjour! (Kiss, kiss, kiss)*
Hello. Nice to meet you. (right hand extended, waist level)
* language and number of kisses may vary
These appear to be the accepted Western greeting rituals. But which to use? With whom? When? And how are they properly executed? It’s no big deal until you screw it up. One moment is all it takes to go from potentially interesting person to totally awkward inept proto-caveman. That first impression is everything, right?
As an expat, this issue comes up frequently. Continue reading →
I keep returning to the idea of stereotypes. Or perhaps the idea keeps finding me.
As the poet John Donne so aptly put it:
No man is an island; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
That’s the human dilemma, isn’t it? We’re alone, yet not alone. We each have our own unique perspective, the way things look from the island of moi. And yet we want so badly to belong, to make sense of all those other islands whose views are so unlike our own.
On that geographical note, I thought I’d share a series of maps designed by Bulgarian-born London-based “graphic designer slash illustrator” Yanko Tsvetkov. He has taken the idea of stereotyping up a notch, with maps that stereotype how different people stereotype each other. The whole idea is wildly politically incorrect, yet … You’ll see what I mean. Continue reading →