Category Archives: Translations

Amazing Poem by 18-year-old Nienke Woltmeijer for National Rememberance Day

Nienke WoltmeijerShe is only 18 years old, but she penned an amazing poem. Every year, the Dutch government organizes a poetry contest. Youngsters between 14 till 19 are invited to write a poem for National Remembrance Day which takes place on May 4.

There were 260 entries in total. The winner of the 2014 competition is Nienke Woltmeijer with her powerful poem about a tree. Chairman of the jury Anne Vegter explained: “The jury was especially impressed with the amazing image that the poem evokes. A tree that has witnessed it all. Nienke also impressed with her presentation.”

Woltmeijer will read her poem in public on the Damrak in Amsterdam on the 4th of May.

Following is Nienke Woltmeijer’s original poem in Dutch with my TipTopTranslator’s English  translation:


Woltmeijer: “The old trees at Westerbork or in the garden of the Anne Frank Museum are tangible reminders of the past. Each time I see those trees, I wonder what they have seen over time that we as the younger generation heard about, but never witnessed. That is what I want to communicate.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Grammar, Language, Poetry, TipTopTranslator, TipTopWriter, Translations, Writing

What They Say and What They Mean

universal-translator-comic-pictureWhat people say and what people mean is often worlds apart – especially in business meetings.  “Decoding” is therefore essential. I personally attended meetings where a potential buyer rated the product offered by the producer as “interesting”, basically saying that it was garbage. It took some delicate talks (and lots of coffee and cake) to convince the producer that (a) the potential buyer was not interested and (b) the product quite likely did not fit the local market.

As a marketing writer and translator, “decoding” is part of myjob.

To give you some tips:

What is said What is meant
Uh, huh I am not really listening to you
Interesting What a piece of garbage
I really don’t mind I DO mind!
OK Whatever
I assume that you can deliver in time? I have my doubts that you will deliver in time!
I hear what you say Are you serious?!
I say You are wasting my time
I must say This is your final warning
Not bad at all Are you serious? Stop wasting my time!
Please understand Let me explain it to you one more time
With the greatest respect I think you are a nincompoop
Not bad at all Please spend the next decade improving it
Quite good Nice effort, I bet our people can do better!
I would suggest… Go back to the drawing board, pronto!
Ah well, Let’s finish this meeting, you bore me
We’ll bear in mind We will forget all about you and your product  once you left or office
I would suggest You don’t know what you are talking about, I know better
That’s quite good Interesting concept for us to develop ourselves
We’ll let you know We will send you a thank-you note at a later time
I love your country Never visited it, but will check Wikipedia for main points of interest
Have a nice trip back Get out of my country

Leave a comment

Filed under Grammar, humor, Language, marketing, TipTopWriter, Translations, Uncategorized, Writing

What a difference a comma makes…..

The comma is powerful since it makes text readable.

This punctuation mark indicates when to pause and when to take a breath. In short, that reads like a pause when speaking. Without it, we would be faced with the additional challenge to find out what the text means.

To illustrate, let’s have a look at what Lynne Truss wrote in her book Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. It nicely illustrates the power of the comma:

A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. “Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder. “I’m a panda,” he says at the door. “Look it up.” The waiter turns to the relevant entry, and sure enough, finds an explanation. “Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

A comma in the wrong place completely changes the meaning of a sentence. Even when it’s not a complete sentence, a comma can be very important in purveying the right meaning. Just compare the following two phrases:

Woman, without her man, is nothing
Woman, without her, man is nothing

Furthermore, even in a list a comma can make a big difference. Just look at the following:

Please bring a battery, charger and backup disk for your computer
Please bring a battery charger and backup disk for your computer.

In the first sentence, you must bring three items, in the second two…..

To round it up, let’s look at the following statement:

“See you in hell Sheldon

This implies that there is such a thing as a Hell Sheldon (his friends and colleagues quite likely agree)

Moral of this story: use your commas wisely!

Leave a comment

Filed under humor, marketing, Translations, Uncategorized, Writing

The Tricky Task of Translating

Language is tricky, especially when it comes to translating.

In Germanic (e.g., English, German, Dutch) and Nordic (e.g., Swedish, Danish) languages, both written and spoken, are organized in a linear way with an emphasis on being concise.  There is an introduction, the main body of the story, followed by the conclusion.

Romanic (or Romance) languages (e.g., Spanish, French) like to be elegant and interesting.  Detours from the main storyline are expected to build the context and atmosphere. In Asian languages, opinions are not being expressed directly. As a result, there is a lot of circularity.  To avoid potential loss of face, ideas are hinted at or indicate and not presented in a straightforward way. A point of view is only expressed once feedback from other speakers or readers is received.

Translators are very much aware of this. Due to differences in culture and language structure, it is impossible to translate “word-for-word” from one language to another.  A translator must have a solid understanding of this before starting to translate. For example, the Japanese word “hai” is literally translated as “yes.”  For most Westerners, that would be pretty straightforward: “Yes, I understood and agree”.  Japanese however, would understand “Yes, I understand what you are saying” without any further commitment. Even more, r a Japanese would understand “hai” as “Yes, I hear that you are saying something but I don’t understand what you are saying”.

Differences in cultural values result in different preferred methods of speech.  In American English, an individual is assumed to be in control of his or her destiny) the American Dream). As a result, there is a preference for using the “active” tense (e.g., “I wrote the marketing plan”) as opposed to the passive tense (e.g., “The marketing plan was written by me.”). Some US companies such as Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) even have that in their guidelines (e.g., on their partner portals)

Good translators are very much aware of these issues. They will do their research and make sure that their translation is being proofread before submitting it to the client.

Want to know more? Contact Tip Top Writer to learn more about translations.

Leave a comment

Filed under humor, marketing, Translations, Uncategorized, Writing