Translation Tuesday–Translation Fun Fact!

If you’re a (language) nerd, this post is definitely for you. Even if you’re not a nerd, this post is still for you. You just might not be feeling as giddy as I am. You might not have extra adrenaline coursing through your veins as you think about the intricacies of switching from one language to another and then back again. It’s exciting, people!

Anyway, before I embarrass myself further, let me get to my point, which is this: bilingual dictionaries are full of collocations!!


You heard me, collocations. They’re pairs (or groups) of words that often appear together in a particular language. And the fact that bilingual dictionaries are filled with them is super helpful because when you’re trying to figure out how to say something in another language, your dictionary will most likely have that phrase, so you won’t have to look up all the words separately and put them together and end up not actually saying the phrase correctly!

So, for example, let’s say my native language is English (which it is) and I want to say, “I’m going to brew some coffee” in German (which I most certainly do). And let’s assume I already know how to say, “I’m going to,” in German, but I don’t know how to say, “brew coffee.” So basically I need to look up, “make coffee.” Now, I could look up “brew” and then look up “coffee” and then just put the two together. But since the phrase in German doesn’t translate the same way (in German it would literally be, “cook coffee”), I would sound like a silly American! But, thanks to my dictionary being filled with collocations, I could look up “coffee,” and then find the phrase, “make coffee,” and find the correct German translation!

Similarly, under “coffee” I might also find how to say “coffee bean,” “black coffee,” and “coffee house,” since all these words (bean, black, house) are commonly found next to the word “coffee.”

Aren’t words fun??!

Also, if you’d like to talk to more language nerds (or just grab some discounted drinks), come to our March Happy Hour tonight! Join us at Bossa (2463 18th St NW) from 6-8 and feel free to bring a friend!

(Have a story that somehow relates to translation? Thinking of a word that doesn’t translate well? Share it with us and it could be featured on G-Blogodaria!)

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