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Are You A Startup Sherpa Or A UX Rockstar? Don’t Believe A Word

Language in Business, Localization, Marketing

Shopping Around For Sherpas

Check out this superb article by linguist, lexicographer, columnist, and self-described “all-around word nut”  Ben Zimmer (@bgzimmer) in The Atlantic. Ben discusses the cultural misappropriation of words and how sherpas, ninjas, and gurus crop up everywhere: Why Do Supreme Court Nominees Have ‘Sherpas’?

Ben argues that this kind of contrived lexical exoticism hides the complex cultural origins of such words but also betrays a kind of lazy stereotyping of (in this case, Asian) culture. As he says, “It may look good on a LinkedIn profile, but you might want to think twice about calling yourself a sherpa, guru, or ninja just to add a dash of exoticism.”

Indeed, but you may also be adding a layer of mysticism to the unfortunate localizer who has to figure out what these words really mean in English before attempting to transcreate them in another language.

Are there Nepali social media sherpas in the Himalayas, I wonder? Click To Tweet

Storyteller. All a matter of context. And credibility.

“Storyteller”. All a matter of context. And credibility. Example from The Visual Thesaurus.

The Pope’s Guru

NPR’s excellent Code Switch radio program also explores the origin and lexical hijacking of the word Guru. My favorite example has to be, “The Vatican Sends Its Social Media Guru To SXSW Festival.”

The tech industry is notorious for this sort of nonsense, going far beyond the annexation of those Asian words mentioned to create even more grandiose, mystical job titles that frankly make no difference to the job description or employee performance itself. Plus, how do you localize Direct Mail Demigod? Digital Nomad? E-Commerce Wingwoman?

Are HR professionals now spending time at Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Marvel movies to come up with some of these daft titles?

Storytelling Around The S-Bend

The now over-used title of storyteller really gets me going. Throw a stone in any pub in Ireland and you’ll still hit 100 storytellers (although we have considerably more colourful names for these characters). Lucy Kellaway, formerly of the Financial Times, and a legend for calling out corporate BS, had it with the craze for the word storyteller years ago: Dentists and plumbers do not tell stories. Nor should you.

Stories in the right place are an excellent thing. The Bible has some pretty good ones. - Lucy Kellaway Click To Tweet

My pet word hates from the user experience (UX) world have to be that job persona road warrior (translation: traveling salesperson) and then there’s that rockstar suffix du jour (translation: exceeds minimum professional requirements, now and then).

Attention tech developer and UX people. This is what a rockstar looks like and does:

The late, great Dubliner Phil Lynnott of Thin Lizzy. Image via Wikimedia. Thin Lizzy have a belter of a song called "Don't Believe a Word"!

The late, great Dubliner Phil Lynnott of Thin Lizzy. Image shared via Wikimedia. Thin Lizzy have a belter of a song called “Don’t Believe a Word“!

See? No laptop covered with stickers in sight. No electric scooter on stage. That thing is an electric bass guitar. Until Lady Gaga and Lenny Kravitz start winning awards for full-stack software development, you know where you can stick your rockstar title.

Until Lady Gaga and Lenny Kravitz start winning awards for full-stack software development, you know where you can stick your rockstar title. Click To Tweet

Just Call It Like It Is

And so it goes on. There are probably gurus who have the job to misappropriate words from other cultures and make roles and titles sound a lot more interesting than they really are but without paying the employee anything extra.

Me? I’ll follow Oscar Wilde‘s advice fromThe Model Millionaire: “It’s better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.”

I think Peter Drucker nails for this kinds of poseur hell: “I have been saying for many years that we are using the word guru only because charlatan is too long to fit into a headline.” Or fit into a tweet.

Now, don’t start me on the casual militarization of language and where that might take us …

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Haven’t an Iota About Fintech Localization? Try Cryptocurrencies

Localization, Localization Technology

Money, Money, Money Meets Its Waterloo

Apologies to ABBA fans about the cheesy introduction. But, mamma mia we need to talk about cryptocurrencies!

Lattés with your Litecoin? Crypto Café in Dublin, accepts cryptocurrencies and hard cash. (Image: Ultan Ó Broin)

Lattés with your Litecoin? Crypto Café in Dublin, Ireland accepts cryptocurrencies and hard cash. (Image: Ultan Ó Broin)

The Chips Are Down For Fintech

I enjoyed a must-read Medium article from Graham Rigby of Iota Localisation Services about the challenges of Fintech localization. Graham talks about how Fintech localization is different from ERP financial or vertical banking localization. He also tells us how a changing business environment means localization providers need to be agile, collaborative, and flexible:

“The way financial products are sold, communicated, and presented in the current market mean that linguists who have spent 20 years translating mortgage terms might not be best equipped to deal with the style and nuance of the text in a money transfer app.”

Indeed, the very notion of a “bank” itself has changed: Deutsche Bank in Berlin is now into Kaffee und Kuchen for the hip and happening people of the Hauptstadt.  ImaginBank from Spain is aimed at snombies, sorry, I mean the mobile generation.

And now, cryptocurrency localization is upon us, and that requires linguistic domain expertise too. Ironically, there is even a cryptocurrency called … Iota (designed for use with the Internet of Things [IOT]).

Oh No, It’s ONO!

I’ve changed career in the last few months, now offering digital transformation consultancy to established and startup ventures seeking to design the right digital thing the right way and to be ready to go global. I’ve been diving into the cryptocurrency space and grappling with the new ideas, concepts, and a new strange language that comes with it.

Cryptocurrency word cloud: Has language itself been disrupted by innovation? (Wordle by Ultan Ó Broin)

Cryptocurrency word cloud: Has language itself been disrupted by innovation? (Wordle by Ultan Ó Broin)

This is about much more than the Bitcoin and blockchain buzzwords du jour that people throw about without actually having an iota what these mean or indeed possible uses (blockchain, for example is behind the Chinese social media platform, ONO).

Mental “Block” About Cryptocurrencies?

If you want to explore this decentralised space further, there’s a blog series worth reading from Genson C. Glier on blockchain, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and cryptocurrency. I also recommend  this podcast from Tim Ferriss that covers all you were afraid to ask about, although some of terms and concepts will make your head spin (cheat list: jump to the “Show Notes” on the podcast). Try understanding these terms: Miner, Smart Contract, Daap, Truffle, Ganache, Hashcash, “Wet” Code, “Dry” Code, ICO, Metamask, and Gas.

Advertisement for eToro cyrptocurrency platform on Dublin public transport. Interest in cryptocurrencies has increased greatly in Ireland.

Advertisement for the eToro cryptocurrency platform on Dublin public transport. Interest in cryptocurrencies has increased greatly in Ireland. (Image: Ultan Ó Broin)

Although many people and institutions are rightly cautious about cryptocurrencies, they are a “thing” now and attitudes are shifting from suspicion to curiosity Providing localization of the conversation around cryptocurrencies and non-developer facing terms would be a great starting point to increase familiarity and adoption

Providing localization of the conversation around cryptocurrencies and non-developer facing terms would be a great starting point to increase familiarity and adoption Click To Tweet.

Read the small print. Consumer warning about cryptocurrencies lack regulation and protection on an eToro advertisement in Dublin, Ireland. (Image: Ultan Ó Broin)

Read the fine print. Consumer warning about cryptocurrency lack of regulation and protection on an eToro advertisement in Dublin, Ireland. (Image: Ultan Ó Broin)

Cryptocurrency Localization Needed

Generally, cryptocurrencies are for most adopters a form of value storage. However, cryptocurrencies are rapidly becoming a medium of value exchange, too (“digital money”). Bitcoin ATMs are appearing globally, for example. In Ireland, about 120,000 people in Ireland now own a cryptocurrency, a 300 per cent increase in the last four years. And yet, that basic usability heuristic of using plain language to communicate a concept even to experts to enable ease of use and adoption has already gone out the window.

The list of Bitcoin-friendly countries contains some surprises (Estonia is number one), and includes locations where English is very often not a mother tongue (although development tools and coding platforms are in English). We cannot be dismissive of the significant regulatory and security aspects of cryptocurrencies for now. But localization challenges are worth planning for now if cryptocurrencies are to move to the mainstream beyond those Silicon Valley types and their friends.

It’s likely, of course, that we will also see traditional finance, banking, Fintech, and cryptocurrencies all interact with more solidity in the future, adding to the need for more localization creativity.

Cryptocurrency Disruption Includes Language

At times, it’s hard to accept that the localization maxim English Is Just Another Language could apply in a cryptocurrency space that seems to have disrupted the notion of the English language itself. James Joyce might be proud of this kind of word invention, and of course it’s all a matter of context. But I remain gobsmacked by some of the terms I come across. It’s clear that lack of localization is a serious barrier to cryptocurrency adoption when even someone who has  worked in digital tech for three decades is struggling.

I need to learn that lingo though, as Dublin seems to be place it’s all happening for those cryptocurrency and blockchain ambitions.

Ah, the irony of that word, block, when it comes to getting your head around cryptocurrencies.

More About Cryptocurrencies?

 

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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The Irish Language: A Cereal Troublemaker Hits the Gaeltacht

Language, Localization Culture

The semantics of selfies in Irish

I was reminded of the whole Dara Ó Briain (@daraobriain“Sé-Mé” #selfie uproar (a classic case of urban Irish — or Gaeilge, and not “Gaelic” — usage versus the “official” Irish (where “selfie” is “féinín”) when I visited my son in the Gaeltacht (or primarily Irish-speaking area) in Ireland recently.

Dara Ó Briain discovers "Sé-Mé". And the sky fell.

Dara Ó Briain discovers “Sé-Mé“. And the sky fell.

Flaky terminology

I joined my son (aged 13) for breakfast and asked him if he knew the Irish for “cereal.” Officially, the term would be “gránach bricfeasta” or similar, but he simply said, “calóga” (which basically means “flakes”).

Kellog's Special K in France

Kellog’s Special K on sale in France (Carrefour, Paris). Image by Ultan O’Broin.

But I thought he’d said “Cellógga,” my Dublin urban Irish ear already tuned into expecting to hear brand names and slang as terminology. That’s the Irish language for you today in Ireland: more people than ever (claim to) speak it, but we just can’t understand each other.

That's the Irish language for you today in Ireland: more people than ever (claim to) speak it, but we just can't understand each other. Click To Tweet This issue of an evolving Irish language demographic was covered by Brian Ó Broin (no relation) a few years back in a previous issue of MultiLingual and he has also written about emerging Schism fears for Gaeilgeoirí (or Irish language speakers) elsewhere.

Whereas I could natter along in my pidgin Dublin Irish about “blockchain” or “chatbots” to other Dubliners, when weather announcements are made on Ireland’s official Irish broadcasting network in Irish, I haven’t a clue what they’re talking about.

Language wars not worth fighting

I am sure other languages (French, for example) face these kind of issues. But does it really matter as long as people can communicate, and use the context to figure out the differences?

And I don’t think the official Irish versus everyday street version delineation is as clear-cut as many would like to think.

It was remarkable that many people in the Gaeltacht that I met switched between the urban “pidgin” Gaeilge, official Gaeilge, and even interspersed the conversation with English terms, depending on their innate human sense of what the listener would get.

As for that Kelloggs Special K, ironically there is no letter “K” in the Gaeilge alphabet.

If you’ve found yourself in similar situations or come across terminology conflicts in the digital age, then let us know in the comments!

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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The Only Irish Language Act in Town

Language in the News

Ireland’s Got Language Talent

The Irish Language (Gaeilge) is making news again. This time with US performer RuPaul (@rupaul) tweeting about the Irish in Gaeilge.

Ireland’s gone gaga over it.

RuPaul tweets in Irish. A mighty and deadly Irish language act in a good way!

RuPaul tweets in Irish. A mighty and deadly Irish language act in a good way! Here’s the English translation of the tweet.

The Sashayáil My Father Never Wore

If you’ve been reading Thomas Gilmartin’s great piece on MultiLingual Insights about the deadly seriousness of the status of the Irish language in Northern Irish politics, or been amazed by the kind of mighty passions that can arise over the Irish for “selfie” (“sé-mé” versus “féinphic“), then you might consider that RuPaul is exactly the kind of language act we need to see more of on the island of Ireland.

Maightí and deadlaí indeed!

 

 

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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An Cód: Craicing the Code in Irish

Language, Language in the News

It’s often assumed that computing coding lessons are always taught in English because most (though not all) programming languages use English language syntax.

Not so.

Hour of Code is worldwide

Hour of Code is worldwide

Take this great example of learning to code in Irish (Gaeilge), part of the Hour of Code initiative in 2016, thanks to computer science professor Kevin Scannell (@kscanne), from Saint Louis University in Missouri in the United States of America.

The Irish Independent newspaper tells us that Hour of Code‘s focus is on “making coding fun through the use of popular games like Minecraft, as well as films such as Star Wars and Frozen“.

Learning to code as Gaeilge thanks to Hour of Code

Learning to code in Irish thanks to Hour of Code and Professor Kevin Scannell.

2016 was the “third year the (Hour of Code) event has been run in Ireland since it was taken up by digital learning movement, Excited“, co-founded by Irish member of parliament, Fine Gael’s TD Ciarán Cannon (@ciarancannon).

The Indo also says that “Prof Scannell kickstarted the initiative as he loves the language and believes children should be able to access coding lessons in their mother tongue.”

Who could argue with that?

Super initiatives. Kudos, or should I say “Comhghairdeas” to all concerned.

Oh, and about that “Irish” word “craic”.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Kudos and Comhghairdeas* to Duolingo’s Irish Language Volunteers

Language, Language in the News, Translation Technology

The Irish President (Uachtarán Na hEireann) Michael D. Higgins (Micheál D Ó hUigínn) (@PresidentIRL) has publicly recognized seven volunteers for their work in building up the Irish language (Gaeilge) version of the crowd-sourced, languagelearning social app Duolingo (@duolingo).

Duolingo on Twitter

Duolingo on Twitter

This is first time I’ve read about a head of state doing something like this in the language space, although volunteerism is something that’s often acknowledged publicly by officialdom.

Indeed, it is well-deserved recognition for these Duolingo volunteers given the results.

Duolingo Irish in the Top Ten

Over the past two years, over 2.3 million people had downloaded the language app and selected Irish as the language they wanted to learn. This means that Irish is in the top 10 most popular languages offered by Duolingo.

Over 2.3 million users have selected Irish as the language they want to learn on Duolingo

Over 2.3 million Duolingo users have selected Irish as the language they want to learn

About 75% of these Irish language users are outside of Ireland, and the majority of new learners are located in the United States.

President Higgins commended the volunteers’ efforts at the official residence of the President, Áras an Uachtaráin, saying that their contribution was “an act of both national and global citizenship”.

The President also took this opportunity to comment on the status of the Irish language generally and about Government plans for the language.

Well done to Duolingo and to its volunteers in Ireland, and indeed everywhere!

The Duolingo Lessons for Other Languages

The Journal.ie quotes Oisín Ó Doinn, one of the volunteers, who was clearly delighted so many are enjoying the benefits of the contributions made to the Irish language lessons on Duolingo:

“The fact that an average of 3,000 people a day have begun using the Duolingo Irish course shows the massive worldwide interest in our native language and makes all the hard work we put in worthwhile.”

Aodhán Ó Deá (@aodhanodea) of Conradh na Gaeilge (@CnaG) was also quoted by the Journal.ie about Irish language proficiency and the reasons behind it. Some of his remarks will resonate with many Irish people:

“The thing I hear again and again from people is ‘I’d love to learn the language’, and I wish I learned it in school’.

So, despite all the negativity we hear about the Irish language, particularly from within Ireland, Duolingo’s success with their Irish language version again proves that not only do people want to try and master conversational Irish but that when the digital user experience (UX) of language learning suits their world, and it is made easy and is fun, they will give it an honest shot and try to learn.

Duolingo Irish language lesson in action

Duolingo Irish language lesson in action

Again it is also clear how smart use of technology and an ever-improving UX can benefit the health of “minor” languages.

Duolingo language learning options. Duolingo also offers gamfication and social ventures to the experience of learning Irish.

Duolingo language learning options. Duolingo also offers gamfication and social features to the experience of learning Irish.

It will be interesting to see how the Duolingo impact plays out, if at all, in the responses to questions about Irish language usage in the next Irish census!

Other languages, please take note!

The Irish President's speech to Duolingo's Irish volunteers and about the Irish language generally is on SoundCloud

The Irish President’s speech about Duolingo’s Irish volunteers, and about the state of the Irish language generally is on SoundCloud.

You can listen to the Irish President’s Áras an Uachtaráin speech about Duolingo’s Irish volunteers and about the Irish language on SoundCloud.

  • Congratulations (in Irish).
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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Things Are Looking Black For Boring Fridays Worldwide

Language in Business, Localization Culture

“Sir, – Does Ireland have to still mimic everything the Americans do? We now have tiresome “Black Friday” retail promotions everywhere in Ireland.”

A letter in the Irish Times of Friday, 25-November-2016 caught my eye.

The correspondent explained what this “Black Friday” is, by way of her frustration: “The Black Friday retail tradition is, of course, the big day of sale activity on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States of America, a holiday not recognised in the Republic of Ireland.”

(If you need more information on “Black Friday” then Wikipedia can oblige, alluding to the fact that the term may have religious connotations that might resonate with some Irish Roman Catholics, though at a different time of the year. However, that is news to me.)

It is completely true that “Black Friday” is everywhere in Ireland now, whereas even a couple of years ago it was unheard of.

Trash talking languages everywhere: "Black Friday" in Dün Laoghaire, County Dublin, Ireland. Image: Ultan O'Broin

Trash talking languages everywhere: “Black Friday” in Dün Laoghaire, County Dublin, Ireland. Image: Ultan O’Broin

“Black Friday” in Ireland has nothing to do with religious observance.

It’s a marketing term.

Furthermore, I was in Italy on the day in question, and in Florence (Firenze) this “Black Friday” business was all over the place too. Not a single translation of the term was needed to entice local shoppers.

Black Friday in Florence. No translation needed. Image: Ultan O'Broin

“Black Friday” in Florence. No translation needed. Image: Ultan O’Broin

Black Friday signs everywhere to be seen in Florence. Image: Ultan O'Broin

“Black Friday” signs were everywhere to be seen in Florence. Image: Ultan O’Broin

Image: Ultan O'Broin

20% “Black Friday” discount for today only on this store in Florence. Image: Ultan O’Broin

Black Friday signs in Florence on both multinational chains and locally owned and operated stores. Black Friday signs everywhere to be seen in Florence. Image: Ultan O'Broin

“Black Friday” signs in Florence on both multinational chains and locally owned and operated stores. Image: Ultan O’Broin

Black Friday signs in English. Making the world a more boring place. Image: Ultan O'Broin

“Black Friday” signs in English. Making the world a more boring, linguistically discounted place. Image: Ultan O’Broin

Thankfully, some sensible translation was sometimes to be seen in Firenze’s Mercato Centrale for example.

On the ground translation in the Mercato Centrale in Firenze. Image: Ultan O'Broin

On the ground translation in the Mercato Centrale in Firenze. Image: Ultan O’Broin

Whatever.

So, how could this “Black Friday” phenomenon in Ireland and Italy (and I bet everywhere else) have come about all of a sudden?

I blame the Internet and online shipping. “Black Friday” deals and sales specials are all over the place on Amazon, for example. How this could work across multiple timezones is anyone’s guess, so small wonder the special offers are available all weekend, or sometimes even for the entire week that follows …

And now the bricks and mortar stores have followed their clickable variants.

Another example of Internet-led globalization, I guess. Certainly, online retail knows no borders and doesn’t always need translation, but here on terra firma its influence is sometimes making the world an increasingly homogeneous, even boring, place for the rest of us and sounding the death knell for originality in local branding.

Don’t start me on “Cyber Monday“.

Amazon Italy Cyber Monday advertisement on the back page of La Repubblica of Monday, 28-November-2016. Image: Ultan Ó Broin

Amazon Italy Cyber Monday advertisement on the back page of la Repubblica of Monday, 28-November-2016. Image: Ultan O’Broin

In Irish folklore a bargain bought on a Monday (Margadh an Luain) was regarded as unlucky.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Blue, Gorm, Elektrisches Blau: David Bowie in Irish and Transcreation

Localization Culture, Travel and Culture

Táimid ann sa mhóimint dhraíochtach seo
Sin é an stuif as a bhfitear brionglóidí  . . .  *

I’m mega-fan of the music of the late David Bowie. I love everything he did from Hunky Dory (1971) up to his Lodger (1979) album (you can keep the rest). His so-called Berlin Trilogy is amongst my favorite recordings; I always go to some of his old Berlin haunts whenever I find myself in the Hauptstadt.

Indeed, Berlin is the European city for David Bowie fans to visit, even more so than his native London.

Plaque outside Hauptstraße 155, Berlin commemorating David Bowie. (Image: Ultan Ó Broin)

Plaque outside Hauptstraße 155, Berlin commemorating David Bowie. (Image source: Ultan Ó Broin)

Yet, Bowie didn’t speak German and often seemed aloof from real words on the Berlin streets.

Much of the heavy language lifting of David Bowie’s time in Berlin was done for him by his long-time assistant Coco Schwab and I even recall an interview with the man himself a few years ago when we went on about living in Charlottenburg (he lived in Schöneberg). Then we have the goofed spelling of the song title Neuköln (it should be Neukölln) on the “Heroes” album, his pronunciation of KaDeWe on one of his last recordings Where Are We Now? (2013) is definitely not that of a Berliner, and the German language version (‘translated’ by Antonia Maaß) of his most iconic song “Heroes” (“Helden“) is regarded as “odd” (“Und die Scham fiel auf ihre Seite“?) by German Bowie fans, who generally much prefer the English language version.

That said, David Bowie’s ‘heroic’ contribution to Berlin was recognized on his passing.

German Foreign Office Tweet recognizing David Bowie's contribution to the end of Der Mauer (The Berlin Wall)

German Foreign Office Tweet recognizing David Bowie’s contribution to bringing down der Berliner Mauer (The Berlin Wall)

But, does David Bowie’s work even warrant any translation from English? And, if so, do we care how it is translated?

I recently attended a performance of David Bowie’s songs in Irish (Gaeilge) which was held in the Pavilion Theatre in my native Dún Laoghaire: Réaltnach: An Tionscadal DAVID BOWIE (Starman: The DAVID BOWIE Project). The performance was by Liam Ó Maonlaí  and the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra and friends.

Bowie Realtneach project. Source: IMRAN/Pavilion Theatre

The David Bowie Réaltneach project. Image source: IMRAM/Pavilion Theatre

On the BBC News, Liam Ó Maonlaí said, “(David) Bowie’s work is so perfect it doesn’t need translating, but as a Gaeilgeoir or Irish speaker . . . (I) couldn’t pass up on this opportunity.”

I had arrived back from Berlin that afternoon, and I wondered whether the Irish language project that evening would work or not.

It did.

David Bowie’s songs were crafted beautifully as Gaeilge by a skilled writer and linguist in his own right, Gabriel Rosenstock. You can read some of the Irish-language versions of the David Bowie’s songs by Gabriel Rosenstock on his blog here, including a version of Bowie’s last work Blackstar (Dúréalt).

I am not sure whether the term transcreation is completely correct to use to describe Gabriel Rosenstock’s work in this context (normally we think of it being about marketing and branding), but I think it’s reasonable to say Gabriel Rosenstock re-created something new yet immediately familiar using the skill and talent of a great translator and artist together.

True, at times I thought some stuff I heard sounded a little bit hokey, such as the version of Sound and Vision (Fuaim is Fís) from the Low album (1977):

Gorm, gorm, aibhléis-ghorm
Sin é dath mo sheomra
Im’ chónaí ann
Gorm, gorm

Blue, blue, electric blue
That’s the color of my room
Where I will live
Blue, blue

(David Bowie / Gabriel Rosenstock)

But then, there’s hokey . . . and there’s hokey . . . 

However, when it came to Liam Ó Maonlaí’s performance of the Irish-language version of Win from the “plastic soul” Young Americans  album (1975) I could see tears in the eyes of audience members. You can listen to Liam Ó Maonlaí singing it here on RTÉ radio (about 6 minutes into the recording of the programme).

This was a simply astounding song in its own right. The emotion in the song, the lyrical flow of the words, and the passion put into the delivery by Liam Ó Maonlaí all resonated deeply with the audience, myself included. I came away feeling that the Irish version delivered this way might actually be better than the original English version on the album.

The performance also reminded me of what a beautiful language Irish can be, and the tragedy of how it has become something so difficult to use in even ordinary, human ways for most people in Ireland.

In the hands of culturally adept multilingual artists (Liam Ó Maonlaí and Gabriel Rosenstock are well qualified in this regard), I’d argue that even the most iconic songs, and perhaps other works of art, can be performed or communicated in any language. This is of course, a matter of much more than simply translation, but then when it comes to communicating human emotion, it always is, isn’t it?

Ultan Ó Broin outside the Pavilion Theatre in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin Ireland (#selfie)

Ultan Ó Broin outside the Pavilion Theatre in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin Ireland (#selfie)

A finer example of artistic transcreation I defy you to find. It’s the stuff of which dreams are woven.

That said, you may know of other great music translations or transcreations. Let us know in the comments.

* Here are we, one magical moment, such is the stuff

From where dreams are woven . . .

 

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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