Brexit puzzle

New challenges: translation services in a post-Brexit economy

Brexit puzzle

Image possibly copyright Coffin Mew Solicitors; awaiting confirmation

When we first started thinking about this article, the UK’s exit from the EU was certain. Article 50 had been triggered and there would be an incumbent Conservative government to steer the negotiations until 2020. Now of course we have a general election to think about. There are also rumblings that, should a new government seek to withdraw our notice, we may be accepted back into the EU fold.

However, let us return to thinking about the course we’re currently on. Britain’s notice to leave remains in place and, come 2019, we will have left the EU whether there’s a deal in place or not. We will need to form a new economic relationship with the EU, and our trading partners further afield will take on additional significance.

Against that backdrop, our ability to communicate effectively with dealmakers overseas will be crucial in ensuring our economic survival. How will Britain’s approach to language influence its future?

Language skills

We’ve always needed to speak to people in other countries, whether for business or diplomatic reasons. Historically, multilingual traders have been able to extend their reach and broker the most favourable deals.

As a nation, our language skills are now falling behind the rest of the world’s. Speak to a cross-section of business owners and you will find starkly opposing views: some view language and translation skills as a key resource for continued growth, others simply take the view that ‘everyone speaks English’.

There’s a government statistic, which estimates a loss of around 3.5% of the UK’s GDP every year due to a lack of language skills. Whether you accept that figure or not, the simple fact is that the UK needs people with professional language skills to achieve sales in new markets. This doesn’t just mean speaking another person’s language. Understanding and respecting their culture is also a key consideration – but that’s a discussion for another time. We’re promised funding to close the technical skills gap but investment is also needed to ensure we have the language skills to match. We can’t merely rely on English speaking markets any longer.

What about the Commonwealth?

There seems to be a prevailing view that we can simply trade with the Commonwealth once we’re outside the EU. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Where we might once have relied on strong markets within the Commonwealth, the growth areas are now to be found elsewhere. China is the most prominent example but there are strong emerging markets across South East Asia and South America.

Realistically, our trading partners in Europe will still have a role to play. Their geographical closeness aside, we have existing relationships to build on.

Building new relationships

Our multicultural society is likely to be a big plus in a post-Brexit economy. We have people settled here who speak a wide variety of languages but who also have an awareness of other cultures. Investment will be needed to build on those skills for the future. However, we have the ability to begin negotiations using a combination of shared language and cultural sensitivity.

One can only hope that the politicians assembling a team to sit around the Brexit negotiating table are also mindful of this.

Text contributed by Kirsty France

The English Pedantry


Can one be a translator without being a pedant?“, a colleague exclaimed rhetorically in an e-group for translators. The answer is clearly a resounding: “No!

The English Pedantry

On the other hand, in a Guardian article from November 2015 under the heading “Taking on the pedants” (see below) Steven Pinker suggested: “Linguists have long known that many of the alleged rules of usage are actually superstitions“. Discuss…


Previous HE Translations logo

Appropriateness of flags to represent languages and the history of the HE Translations logo

In the past, a flag-based logo was used on the HE Translations website and on HE Translations business cards. For old times’ sake, here is an image of the original business card:

HE Translations, original business card

HE Translations, original business card

An illuminating blog post by James Offer under the heading “Why flags do not represent languages” prompted the abandonment of the flags. In essence, the blog states:

Flags are unique to a country or nation: but languages are often spoken across national borders. By using a flag for a language, you may confuse or even offend users.

In addition, there are plenty of related Google hits.

The next HE Translations logo “subtly” contained the colours of the British and German flags. In case you are wondering, the green T stood for “green” translations, reflecting our focus on renewable energy, environment and sustainable development.

Previous HE Translations logo

Previous HE Translations logo

The latest HE Translations logo – this time not “home-made” but professionally designed by Duncan Shea Simonds – is shown below. Note the continuation of the green T theme from the previous logo, as a symbol for “green” translations.

Current HE Translations logo

Current HE Translations logo

HE Translations banner

The impressive new HE Translations pull-up banner recently had its first outing at a railway industry event.

HE German Technical Translations roll-up banner; quality, service, satisfaction

HE Translations pull-up banner

Graph of Spellings by Language Region

Internet or internet?

The trend towards lower case i is clear – see article under the heading:
Should you capitalize the word Internet?
So be it.
 Graph of Spellings by Language Region
Source: Should you capitalize the word Internet?
Chez Herbert Cafe

Chez Herbert

An old school friend, who is a Francophile and usually spends the summer in southern France, had a summer holiday in Reunion Island this year and sent this photo with the caption “Die Folgen des Brexit” (Brexit consequences).

Chez Herbert Cafe

Positive Psychology

Anyone suffering from symptoms of post-Brexit depression would probably be well advised to avoid reading the horror scenario described in an article by Tobias Stone with the title History tells us what may happen next with Brexit & Trump.

La Peste di Firenze, Marcello 1348

On a related note see Spiegel article under the heading The Horrifically Contemporary World of Hieronymus Bosch.

Hieronymus Bosch, “The Garden of the Earthly Delights”
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid /
Depósito de Patrimonio Nacional

You have been warned, but if you can’t resist the temptation to read the article, it would no doubt be a good idea to put it into perspective by reading the article on positive psychology by Tim Lomas.

Interestingly, a few weeks ago the same author wrote an article on ‘lexical limitations to happiness’ under the heading How other languages can reveal the secrets to happiness, featuring the German terms Schadenfreude and Waldeinsamkeit, for example.

Learning the language of happiness. Kzenon/Shutterstock

Dining philosophers problem

Linguistic research relating to the translation of the German term Nebenläufigkeit led to the conclusion that the English term is concurrency (not concurrence) and to further reading on the dining philosophers problem and Edsger Dijkstra, who is described as one of the very early pioneers of the research on principles of distributed computing.

An illustration of the dining philosophers problem

The “Dining Philosophers”,
a classic problem involving concurrency and shared resources

Word of the day: monomaniacal

Although HE Translations specialise in technical documents, inquisitive translators are always keen to expand their general and other specialist vocabulary. The latest word of the day is “monomaniacal”, spotted in an article at PoliticsHome.

OED entry for monomania

OED entry for monomania

Abbreviation (initialism) of the Day: UKCS

According to the comprehensive documentation on the Development of UK Oil and Gas Resources, published by Data by Design Ltd, the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) comprises those areas of the sea bed and subsoil beyond the territorial sea over which the UK exercises sovereign rights of exploration and exploitation of natural resources. The map below shows the UKCS has been extended since the mid 1960s. The exact limits of the UKCS are set out in orders made under section 1(7)of the Continental Shelf Act 1964.

UK Continental Shelf Designatios. Source: