Vol. 40, April 2004

The Translation E-Buzz

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Table of Contents

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Employee Profile
Carla Heironomus

Did you do a doubletake at this month’s employee profile picture? Don’t worry, we’re not employing them that young, but we are sharing the joy of new life with our subscribers. Many clients have talked to National Sales Manager Carla Heironimus and met her at conferences. The precious babe pictured is Carla’s daughter Ava Elizabeth, born February 8, 2004. Carla glowed throughout her pregnancy (truly!). Now rapturous in her role as a new mom, she is still glowing. We are re-running Carla’s profile that originally appeared in the October 2002 edition of E-Buzz. Congratulations to the growing Heironimus family!

Carla Heironimus joined Ralph McElroy Translation Company (RMTC) as National Sales Manager in February of 2001. She was recruited by Corrie Palm, Business Development Manager, who had previously worked with Carla at Dell Computer Corporation.

Carla grew up in the border town of Brownsville, Texas. Brownsville is a relatively small town five minutes from Matamoros, Mexico, and 20 minutes from South Padre Island. After graduating from high school, Carla attended the University of Texas at Austin. She graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science in Speech Communication. Before graduation, she had a college internship for sportscasting at the local ABC affiliate but ultimately decided to pursue a career in sales.

Carla has more than 10 years of successful sales experience with Roche Biomedical Laboratories, Merck Pharmaceuticals, Dell Computer Corporation, and McElroy Translation. After working at several large companies, she finds McElroy a welcome change. She appreciates the support and enthusiasm of everyone to implement innovative sales and marketing ideas and the personal commitment to deliver a high-quality product.

On a personal note, Carla and her husband James recently celebrated their third wedding anniversary. They both love spending time outdoors with family and friends. Carla and James enjoy fishing trips to the Texas coast and Carla spends many weekends with her husband at his deer lease. These two hobbies often result in established semi-annual fish fries and a respectable supply of venison.

When they are in town, Carla and James can be found at their favorite Mexican food restaurant on Friday nights and entertaining family and friends at home on Saturdays. She and sister-in-law Ellen enjoy new adventures. Together they have taken a variety of classes such as skeet shooting, golf, tennis, running, yoga, and kickboxing. Carla likes to work hard and play hard!

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CSN Workshop

McElroy Translation hosted Shaun Daggett of ClientSide News in Austin on April 2 for a day-long workshop on market segmentation and client messaging. This informative workshop was geared toward the company’s sales, customer service, and project management staff, and concentrated on identifying, understanding, and communicating with clients about their project and service needs and requirements. McElroy is pleased to offer this type of training to its staff in support of its core customer service philosophy.

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This article from the Financial Times is an interesting historical account and current perspective on the European Union and its languages. The role of translation and interpretation continues to increase in importance both in business and in government.


By John-Paul Flintoff
Financial Times; Mar 27, 2004

Forget budgets, forget fishing rights. The thing that truly divides one European from another is language. The way we think is largely determined by the words at our disposal—and as far as language is concerned, the European Union has no common currency. When the community was first established, in 1957, three of its members were largely French-speaking—France, Belgium, Luxembourg. The other three were Holland, Germany and Italy. Of those, the last two were hardly in a position, shortly after the second world war, to inflict their culture on the rest. Thus French was rapidly instituted as Europe’s lingua franca.

I have some personal insight into how this worked because when the UK joined up in 1974 my family moved to Brussels. I was enrolled at L’Ecole Europeen, where the offspring of officials were taught in their own languages. Once a week the various nationalities were mixed up for an afternoon’s lesson together. But I picked up my first specimen of lingua franca in the playground. Wherever I played, some larger child would run into me and shout, “Bouge!” (that’s French for “Move!”). Shortly before I turned up, the French president, Georges Pompidou—conscious of the imminent arrival of the British in the European Economic Community, as it then was—sent a discreet memo to French officials urging them to defend their linguistic advantage. One of the first two British commissioners, George Thomson, did not speak French, so his cabinet of civil servants spoke English. But, according to one British official who worked there, as soon as Thomson left the room, meetings reverted to French. “We did everything in French,” remembers another, who has worked in Brussels for nearly 20 years and is fluent in several languages. “That was an advantage that native French speakers had over others—an enormous advantage.”

Almost two decades later, when another Frenchman, Jacques Delors, was president of Europe, French still retained its supremacy. The Financial Times reported “tension in the press room” in 1994, with non-French speaking journalists having to put questions in faltering French (“Je veux demander une question sur les bent bananes”) to English- speaking spokesmen and women, who were obliged to answer in French. But the 1995 accession of Sweden and Finland vastly increased the use of English. Meanwhile, German reunification and the accession of Austria made German speakers more confident in their own language.

One sign of this, noticed by interpreters in Brussels, was the gradual abandonment of Hoch-Deutsche, or High German, in favour of more idiomatic speech. Now, with the accession of 10 more countries to the EU, the pre-eminence of English and the secondary status of German are likely to become even more entrenched. The French have invested money in language schools across Europe, but this looks increasingly like a losing battle. Even in Italy, where French was for decades favoured as a second language, English is now more popular.

Thus a language well suited to analysis and abstract thought (French) has given way to something more fitted to description and anecdote (English). A language that has changed little for centuries—modern French audiences can easily follow performances of Moliere—has been replaced by a mongrel dialect that rapidly absorbs foreign words. Moliere’s near-contemporary, Shakespeare, is largely incomprehensible to many modern Britons.

As the holder of both an A-level in French and a pseudo-French forename, I don’t wish to gloat or to direct any animus towards other languages. With varying degrees of success I have, over the years, studied Latin, Anglo-Saxon, German and Spanish. (I once even bought a set of teach-yourself-Arabic books and tapes.) My grandfather, who lived in Hong Kong, spoke excellent Cantonese; my father cracked Russian; my mother, Italian. I have a daughter, 15 weeks’ old at the time of writing, who speaks no known language. Will she grow up polyglot? Or does the global might of English mean she need not bother? Should she, like the majority of her compatriots, sit back and enjoy passively the economic advantage of being born to an English-speaking family—while benighted foreigners expend time and money learning her mother tongue?

And will English establish itself, in the fullness of time, as the universal language to unite nations sundered by God (as described in the story of Babel)? Or will it inevitably fail—like Latin, abandoned as the obligatory language of worship by the Catholic church after many centuries; or Esperanto, ersatz lingo of the nerds, which never really took off at all?

At the European Parliament in Brussels, epicentre of our modern Babel, schoolchildren from across Europe have come to visit. In the vast central chamber, Glenys Kinnock MEP sits on the podium, surrounded by teenage delegates wearing simultaneous-translation headsets.

Overlooking this from one of the interpreters’ booths, I pick up a headset and turn a dial allowing me to tune into any available language. On channel one, miraculously, Kinnock seems to speak in German. On channel 11, Swedish.

Language Barrier continued in following column

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Are You Getting Your Share of the U.S. Hispanic Markets?

Hispanics are 13% of the U.S. population and savvy businesses understand the implications of that growing number. The 12.5 million Hispanic Internet users in the U.S. spent an estimated $4.2 billion online last year, and they are one of the fastest growing net demographics. That number is greater than the entire online population in Spain or Mexico and it is growing by 15-20% annually.

These statistics tell a story begging to be told, but so does an informal look at the world we live in. Not only does the U.S. Hispanic population merit attention of its own accord, but just look at the dynamic influence this market segment exudes cross-culturally. Salsa is the #1 condiment in the U.S. and so many things Latino are “hip.”

McElroy Translation provides translation and localization so that communications can have full impact when our clients opt for a native language message. The decision about when and if to translate is just a small part of the big picture that will be introduced in a soon-to-be published book, The Hispanic Marketing & PR Guide.

It is truly exciting to see attention drawn to Hispanic marketing, and McElroy looks forward to this publication. The need has never been greater to recognize the vibrance and the economic authenticity of the Hispanic population of our country. Our endorsement of this timely text is noted in the press release from Hispanic Marketing & Communication Association below.

The Hispanic Marketing & PR Guide, a soon-to-be published book for marketing professionals and students, can help. It features a collection of chapters by Latino market experts including:

  • Deborah Charnes Vallejo, Managing Director, Bromley/Manning Selvage & Lee
  • Miguel Gomez Winebrenner, Senior Analyst & Marketing Manager, C&R Research/LatinoEyes
  • Richard Israel, Vice President, Hispanic Marketing Solutions comScore Media Metrix
  • Tony Malaghan, Director, Strategic Marketing, Arial International, LLC
  • Roger Selbert, Ph.D., Principal, The Growth Strategies Group

This project has been endorsed by:

  • National Multicultural Professional Interest Section, Public Relations Society of America
  • Hispanic Marketing & Communication Association
  • Hispanic PR Wire
  • Walters Media Group Inc./Carmen’s Cupones y Consejos
  • Portada
  • McElroy Translation

Proceeds benefit the Hispanic Marketing & Communication Association, HMCA, a Florida-based nonprofit professional association dedicated to Hispanic marketing excellence.

Sign up to receive information on updates and special prepublication offers. There is no cost to sign up. You will be among the first to receive information on promotions and the release date of The Hispanic Marketing & PR Guide. To sign up, email your request to promotion@poyeen.com. Write The Hispanic Marketing & PR Guide in the subject line.Sign up today!

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Continued from previous column

Simultaneous interpreting was pioneered at Nuremberg. It was an astounding innovation, halving the time the war-crimes tribunal would previously have taken. Before then, interpreters waited until speakers had finished before translating. “Simultaneous interpreting is a highly complex cognitive activity that requires the interpreter to simultaneously listen, analyse, comprehend, translate, edit and reproduce a speaker’s utterance in real time,” wrote Barbara Moser Mercer in the academic journal Interpreting. To get some idea how difficult it is, try watching TV and simply repeating what you hear—without even attempting to translate. “During a regular 30-minute turn,” continued Moser Mercer, “working from an original speaker whose speaking speed is between 100 and 130 words per minute, an interpreter processes and delivers final copy of an average of 3,000 to 3,900 words.” That is not much less than this article—and some speakers are much faster.

Interpreting is not mere rote-work. “When you go on mic, you have to assume as much as possible the persona of the person speaking,” says the English interpreter Kenneth Cleary. “If you are translating M. Le Pen, you have to translate his views”—even if you dislike them. A British interpreter was translating Silvio Berlusconi last year when the Italian president compared a German MEP to a concentration-camp guard. “She said she could not believe her ears, but the adrenalin was flowing. She just had to say something. The interpreter must, in a nanosecond, use what could be called nous: ‘Is this man really saying this? Am I going to ruin my career and cause a political incident?’ Can you imagine that stress?”

Olive Rayner, a senior English interpreter who is sitting beside me in the booth, learnt French, German and Latin at grammar school. After further study at Cambridge she applied to the European Commission in 1976. Officially her languages are English, French, Italian, Portuguese and German. She hopes soon to add Spanish. Every so often, in the course of her work, she jots words and phrases in the back of her diary. These have included: “Die Kuh vom Eis bringen” (German for “to get out of a tight spot”), and “fuite en avant” (French for “slippery slope”). She takes me for lunch with a colleague, Alan Rodger, at a nearby restaurant that claims to be Italian—but where the mostly Belgian staff pronounce tagliatelle without the final “e.” Over that dish and others, Rayner and Rodger patiently explain the sheer complexity of the interpreting system in Brussels.

As the EU has 11 official languages, there are 110 different translation combinations (such as English to Danish, Greek to Spanish or German to Finnish). Between them, the three or four people in each translation booth must be familiar with 10 languages other than their own. But with the accession of 10 new countries language combinations will rise to 420. Individuals such as the Portuguese interpreter, originally from Brazil but with an Italian passport, who also speaks Polish—or the British interpreter who speaks French and German as well as Czech, Slovak, Polish and Finnish—are exceptional. In the run-up to Europe’s latest expansion, it was suggested that only a few languages be retained as official—English, French and German. But that solution was never going to be acceptable, as no political leader could tell voters that their language was second-class.

Ideally, interpreters translate only into their mother tongue. But this ideal became impracticable on the accession of Finland, because hardly anybody outside Finland speaks Finnish. A new system was born: Finns interpret out of their mother tongue into a second language (usually English) which is in turn relayed by, say, Portuguese or Greeks. If this works satisfactorily it’s because the Finnish interpreters are a talented bunch, but it necessarily introduced an element of—so to speak—Chinese whispers into proceedings. This can only get worse with the forthcoming expansion, when new interpreters from the incoming countries will routinely be expected to work in the same way.

Perhaps conscious of this, some MEPs believe they will attract more attention if they speak English. This is not necessarily true. “Suppose you have a Greek member who thinks he will be better off speaking English,” says Rodger, stirring his caffe. “A certain number of people in the room will listen to him directly. They may not be convinced because he may not speak well. Others will listen to interpreters making the best of what he is saying—badly—in English. And that will be worse.”

Back in the translation booth, a screen shows a plus sign when interpreters are working directly from the source language. A minus sign indicates that they are interpreting on relay. As if to demonstrate, a Danish schoolgirl addresses a question to Glenys Kinnock while we are watching. Because none of the interpreters in the English booth speak Danish, they listen to another interpreter and relay that translation into English. The result reaches my headset slowly and in a markedly less confident manner than the preceding, direct translation.

It could be worse. Another sign on the screen, a double minus, indicates that the interpreters are on “double relay” (from the source language into another, then another, and finally into the target language). In this situation, speakers using Europe’s more obscure official languages will sometimes—perhaps frequently—come across worse than their mainstream counterparts, sounding less eloquent and less persuasive.

Over time this will surely affect negotiations to their detriment. If the French regret the declining use of their noble tongue, Europe’s smaller nations must almost inevitably feel that their own languages have second-class status. A measure of this is the willingness, or otherwise, of foreign governments to teach citizens the language in question. During the cold war, the British government compelled some of the country’s brightest young talents to study one particular foreign language for the sake of the nation. The writers Alan Bennett, Dennis Potter and Michael Frayn, the former Bank of England governor Sir Edward George, and numerous actors, diplomats, academics and clerics were, as part of their National Service, intensively trained in Russian. It seems unlikely that anyone is similarly planning, at least for the forseeable future, to create a cadre of interpreters fluent in Maltese.

John-Paul Flintoff is contributing editor of the FT Magazine

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Queen for a Day

Everyone should be treated like royalty from time to time. Has the world forgotten how special you are? Let us remind you! The winner of the April promotion will enjoy spa services valued at $125 at a spa of their choice. Notification will come in the form of a note and something special delivered to the address you enter when you register for this regal promotion.

Click here to enter our April raffle.

This month’s winner will be selected and notified on Friday, April 23. Good luck! Results will also be posted to the web site. A random number generator will be used to select the winner from an ordered list of entries.

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Spotlight on United Kingdom

The People

Four countries make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Residents of any of these countries may be called “British.” Use “English,” “Scot” or “Scotsman,” “Welsh” and “Irish” or “Northern Irish” only when certain of a person’s heritage. While the four countries share many customs, each has its own set of cultural nuances. In England, politeness, reserve, and restraint are admired. The English are courteous, unassuming and unabrasive and are very proud of their long and rich history.

Scots are passionate about their country, guarding its uniqueness and refusing to go along with English ideas. While cool and aloof externally, they are extremely sentimental about their family and their country. Overall Scots are free of class consciousness and social elitism, except in religion. Generally, Protestants mix only with Protestants and Catholics mix only with Catholics. Scots have a keen, subtle sense of humor and value generosity, respectability.

Wales has been part of the United Kingdom for more than 400 years, but has kept its own language, literature and traditions. Most residents of Wales are of Welsh or English heritage. Many are immigrants from former British colonies and other parts of the U.K. Welsh take great pride in their country and their heritage. The Welsh love to sing and talk and spend much of their free time at with their families.

Two-thirds of the Northern Irish have Scottish or English roots. The others are of Irish descent. Irish value friendliness, sincerity and nature. They dislike pretentious behavior and possess a strong work ethic. Family ties are very important in Northern Ireland.

Meeting and Greeting

  • The British are reserved, which may cause them to appear cool and indifferent or overly formal. In fact, they are very friendly and helpful to foreigners.
  • Shake hands with everyone present—men, women, and children—at business and social meetings. Shake hands again when leaving.
  • Handshakes are light—not firm.
  • Women should extend their hand to men first.
  • Use last names and appropriate titles until specifically invited by your British hosts or colleagues to use their first names.

Body Language

  • The British are not back slappers or touchers and generally do not display affection in public.
  • Hugging, kissing and touching is usually reserved for family members and very close friends.
  • The British like a certain amount of personal space. Do not stand too close to another person or put your arm around someone’s shoulder.
  • Staring is considered rude.

Corporate Culture

  • In Great Britain, punctuality is important for business meetings. Be on time.
  • Brits prefer a congenial business relationship, but tend to get right down to business after a few moments of polite conversation.
  • Business is best initiated through a well-connected third party.
  • The Board of Directors is the source of power and the principal decision making unit in a company. Formal approval of the board is required for most decisions. Decisions may be slow in the making.
  • Expect formalities and protocol to be observed in business, especially in London.
  • Business organization traditionally is multi-layered with a vertical chain of command. A network of committees, formal and informal, exists in larger companies. Group consensus is preferred to individual initiative.
  • In older companies, business still centers around the “old boy network” with prep schools, universities and family ties being of great importance. Newer companies are more progressive.
  • Meetings should be scheduled well in advance.
  • Meetings generally have a concrete objective, such as: making a decision, developing a plan or arriving at an agreement.
  • Presentations should be detailed and subdued.
  • Scots are known for being skilled businesspersons, priding themselves for being internationalists. They also are suspicious of “go-getters” and respect success only when it is achieved over time.

Dining and Entertainment

  • Summon a waiter by raising your hand. Don’t wave or shout.
  • Most business entertaining is done restaurants or pubs over lunch. The host, the one who extends the invitation, pays the bill.
  • A British business associate may invite you to watch cricket or to the regatta. Both are prestigious events. Wear your tweed sport coat or blue blazer.
  • An invitation to someone’s home is more common in England than in the rest of Europe.
  • Do not discuss business at dinner in someone’s home unless the host initiates the conversation.
  • In England, when invited to someone’s home, arrive at least 10-20 minutes after the stated time. Never arrive early. In Scotland and Wales, arrive on time.
  • A male guest of honor is seated at the head of the table or to the right of the hostess. A female guest of honor is seated to the right of the host.
  • Wait for your host to begin eating before you eat.
  • Host or hostess always initiates first toast, which is usually only given at a formal dinner.
  • At a formal dinner, do not smoke until after the toast to the Queen or until otherwise indicated by the host.
  • Keep your hands on the table at all times during the meal—not in your lap. However, take care to keep your elbows off the table.
  • When finished eating, place knife and fork side by side on the plate at the 5:25 position.
  • You should leave a very small amount of food on your plate when finished eating.
  • The guest of honor should initiate leaving a party.
  • When the host folds his napkin, this signals that the meal is over.
  • Leave a dinner party shortly after dinner ends.
  • Write a thank you note to the hostess.
  • It is considered impolite to ask for a tour of your host’s home.
  • Entertain anyone who has entertained you, but don’t try to impress British guests with an extravagant dinner. The Brits prefer understatement.


  • People in the larger cities dress more formally, especially in London.
  • Men and women wear wools and tweeds for casual occasions. Slacks, sweaters and jackets are appropriate for men and women.
  • Avoid striped ties that are copies of British regimentals.
  • Men’s clothing often expresses affiliation rather than style. Ties are important symbols. School, army, university or club ties are worn.
  • For business meetings, men should wear dark suits and ties. Women should wear suits, dresses or skirts and blouses.
  • Do not wear a blazer to work. A blazer is country or weekend wear.
  • For formal events men may wear black ties, business suits, morning coats or tails. Inquire which is required. Women generally wear cocktail suits or dresses.


  • Gifts are normally not exchanged in business settings.
  • When invited to someone’s home, always bring a small gift for the hostess. Give flowers, chocolates, wine, champagne or books. Present the gift upon arrival.
  • Gifts are opened upon receiving.
  • It is polite to send flowers in advance of a dinner party. Do not send white lilies, which denote death.

Helpful Hints

  • Men should open doors for women and stand when a woman enters a room.
  • Always hold the door for a person following behind you.
  • Honor rank when entering a room. Allow higher rank to enter first.
  • Don’t insult the royal family or show great interest in their private lives.
  • Respect the British desire for privacy. Don’t ask personal questions, such as where a person lives or what a person does for a profession or job. Don’t talk about money.
  • Do not violate a queue. It is considered very rude to push ahead in a line.
  • Do not shout or be loud in public places and don’t use excessive, demonstrative hand gestures when speaking.
  • Staring is considered impolite.
  • Do not be too casual, especially with the English language.
  • The English avoid speaking in superlatives. “I am quite pleased,” means they are extremely happy.
  • Never try to sound British or mimic their accent.
  • Humor is ever-present in English life. It is often self-deprecating, ribbing, sarcastic, sexist or racist. Try not to take offense.
  • In Scotland, kilts are worn by men at formal occasions (i.e., black tie, weddings, etc.). Don’t make jokes about or ask a Scot what he wears under his kilt.
  • In Northern Ireland, religion and politics have created conflict in for many years. Avoid discussing these topics if possible.

Especially for Women

  • The ‘Old Boy Network’ is alive and well in the United Kingdom. However, women are becoming more common in managerial positions in the United Kingdom than in most EC countries, especially in service industries and public sector jobs.
  • Foreign women will have little difficulty conducting business in Great Britain.
  • Don’t be insulted if someone calls you love, dearie, or darling. These are commonly used and not considered rude.
  • It is acceptable, but may be misconstrued, for a foreign woman to invite an English man to dinner. It is best to stick with lunch.
  • If a woman would like to pay for a meal, she should state this at the outset.
  • Crossing your legs at the ankles, not at the knees, is proper.

-- Excerpted from the “Put Your Best Foot Forward” series by Mary Murray Bosrock. These publications are available for the U.S., Asia, Mexico/Canada, Russia, Europe and South America.

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Reach RMTC at

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Austin, Texas 78701
800 531 9977
512 472 6753
512 472 4591 fax