About The Újítás Blog

Communication, Language learning and Translation

Újítás is a blog first and foremost about communication, via the problems presented by learning foreign languages and in producing translations.

It looks at how language mistakes or misuse can be used to improve / teach translation and improve communication. Variations in forms of expression—deliberate or not, native or otherwise—providing us with countless clues to the richness of language, problems of misunderstanding and the power wielded by good communicators.

So, while I’ll inevitably end up posting embarrassing examples of translation mistakes, the aim—alongside amusing ourselves—will be to find the reasons why these errors were made and look at how to avoid them or what we can learn from them. Far more important, I want to explore the cognitive and linguistic capacities and capabilities of people: both in encoding and decoding messages.

In a nutshell, I want to know the answer to the question: what does the translator need to know to avoid these mistranslations? If I go just a small way to answering that question I shall be very happy.

All that aside, the issue is necessarily more complex as often the question of what is grammatically and lexically correct can hinge on questions of register, social norms, context and audience. Such issues are unavoidably intricate.

Native versus non-native

Added to which, we must consider the dichotomy between real native English and that of the many dialects of “Globish”—the international version of English through which most non-native speakers communicate. These are two parallel, and in some ways complementary, languages; each with their own unique types of variations, rules and flaws.

Hungarian

The name of this website “Újítás” is Hungarian, a language I have had the good fortune to study and, to some extent, learn. This has all been achieved non-formally, so my knowledge is far from complete. At the same time, I have learnt through daily use, so to some extent, my knowledge is of the real language, rather than a theoretical structure.

The corollary of which is that many examples will be from Hungarian sources. One clear advantage of using Hungarian as one of the focus languages is that it is quite distinct from many commonly spoken European languages, whilst sharing many properties that are common with a range of other non-European tongues. As such, we can use these differences as a means to deeply examine grammatical, lexical, pragmatic and social differences in communication.

Újítás

The Hungarian word “Újítás” itself means variously innovation, improvement or reform (en) [nuálaíocht (ga), yenilik (tr), innovación (es), nouveauté (fr), Neuerung (de)]. It occurs in compounds such as “nyelvi újítás” meaning ‘neologism’ (en) [nuafhocal (ga), yeni kelime (tr), neologismo (es), néologisme (fr)]. In and of itself, it is has positive connotations.

Having said that, for those people experiencing such language reformation and cultural shifts, the process can feel disconcerting and leads to a good deal of ill-tempered arguing about such life-critical issues as the placement of commas, the adoption of smilies, verbing, abbreviations or the real meaning of a word in contrast with how people have come to use it.