Spørsmål angående engelsk språkbruk kan sendes til Stewart Clark, e-post: stewart.clark@adm.ntnu.no
eller faks: 73 59 79 99.

«Engelsk oversettelse av terminologi i UH-sektoren» (KUF, 8 January 1998 )

This letter from the Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs (KUF) is now being circulated in NTNU and elsewhere in the higher education sector in Norway. With one exception, the translations given agree with how most senior academic and administrative titles are already translated into English. But please note the following:

1. As no capital letters are used in the English titles given by the Ministry, the initial letters must be capitalized on calling cards and in letters. Thus:

stipendiat should be Research Fellow (no abbreviation)

amanuensis should be Assistant Professor (abbreviation, Assist. Professor).

førsteamanuensis should be Associate Professor (abbreviation, Assoc. Professor)

professor should be Professor (avoid the abbreviation Prof. which is slang)

professor II should be Adjunct Professor (abbreviation, Adj. Professor)

This way of writing titles in English also follows the pattern given by UD on the Internet in ODIN, 5 Feb. 1997: «Viktige stillingsbetegnelser i statsforvaltning», where titles such as «ekspedisjonssjef» are correctly capitalized: «Director General».

2. The translation of «fakultetsdirektør» as «director of faculty» in KUF's letter is most misleading when AE usage of the term faculty is considered. Without capitalization, KUF's translation can only mean «a director of academic staff». So to avoid giving such signals to our professors, I suggest that the time-tried «Faculty Director» is retained at NTNU (as it is in Oslo) and KUF is asked to think again.

3. Perhaps they should complete their list, as well. Under «råd og styre», there is no translation of the highest controlling body of a university «kollegiet» (Senate) and I would also expect to see «fakultet» (Faculty) and «institutt» (Department) in such a list.

Words for skin colour

It is easy to be guilty of linguistic racism when it comes to describing groups by their skin colour. Take South Africa, where an authoritative English language style guide from the mid 1980s suggests Coloured (capitalized) as a technical term for those of «mixed race», but a style guide of similar status from the late 1990s states that coloured (small case) is widely disliked and is now only used in inverted commas: «This was previously a 'coloured' area». No suitable alternative is given.

Collections of synonyms, like Roget's Thesaurus, are extremely dangerous in this area. Consider black where the synonyms include: negro, negress, nigger, darky, sambo, shine and coloured. Black Americans, African Americans and Black Africans prefer black as the politically-correct word. This can be capitalized for a group but not for an individual: «a black republican». Negro is to be avoided except as an ethic or historical term as in «Negro spirituals». The feminine form Negress, and the slang terms sambo, shine and nigger are insulting and should never be used, although blacks sometimes use the term «nigger» as a humorous form to each other. Coloured (BE)/colored (AE) is also disliked by most blacks and is mainly found today in organizational names, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Blacks also have skin colour slang terms for whites. A recent collection of American slang gives snow as a general word for whites and snow bunnies for white girls.

There are numerous other terms used for ethnic groups, but few are based on skin colour outside slang. Apart from Blacks, a general rule is avoid all ethnic terms that are based on skin colour. An example is redskin and Red Indian, which nowbelong to the history books and politically-correct usage today is Native Americans in the USA and Native Peoples or Natives in Canada.

Tricky words

criteria, criterion and criterium

Criteria (Norw. «kriterier») is the plural of criterion. Criterion (Norw. «kriterium») is a standard of judgement, and has the plural forms of criteria and criterions though most style guides prefer criteria. An easy mistake is to translate the Norw. «kriterium» as criterium in English, which exists, but means a type of horse race or bicycle race.

Tips to teachers

When you lose your train of thought during a lecture or presentation in English:

«I do not believe in written manuscripts. Unfortunately my photographic memory has just run out of toner.»

When you misspell something on an overhead/blackboard in front of an English-speaking group: «Please excuse the Dan Quayle.»

When students repeatedly hand in very substandard work, you may consider printing some «Post its», that read:

«I am returning these sheets of A4 to you because someone has written gibberish all over them and put your name at the top.»

forsida  nyheter  kronikk  innspill  kultur  debatt