14 Nov /12


“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”

Nelson Mandela

word of the year omnishamblesPrize giving for sporting achievement can be based on objective judgment, but prize giving for use of language is subjective. We all have our favourite books, but what of our favourite words?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the 2012 word of the year is Omnishambles, a vivid picture of a situation shambolic in every conceivable way. The word was first used in the political satire “The Thick of It” and its popularity may owe something to the public’s eagerness to mock our political leaders.

Other words on the OED shortlist included Mobot, the celebratory dance that followed athlete Mo Farah’s double Olympic triumph, and Eurogeddon, the doom laden tag for the EU financial crisis.

For all the EU’s woes, credit is due for many initiatives and one we particularly approve of is eTwinning, an online community for schools in Europe. It develops the concept of “neighbour” languages, with children taught to communicate with those across their nearest border. The United Nations has followed a similar path in Africa, with citizens living near the border of Somalia and Ethiopia among those encouraged to learn the language of those close by, turning hostile border disputes into conversations between neighbours.

EVS Translations sees daily evidence of language building bridges. Specialist translators and interpreters help clients develop new business relationships in markets that would otherwise have remained out of reach. China, for example has a middle class numbering over 200 million. This consumer group is affluent and discerning, and they expect to be communicated with in their native language. Britain aims to double trade with China to £62 billion by 2015, and last summer David Cameron announced £1.4 billion of bilateral trade agreements. The language of diplomacy has helped bring two countries closer together, but it will be the language of their hosts that helps British exporters succeed in China, or any other emerging economy.

The sophisticated modern consumer is spending more and more money online, and trade research demonstrates that they will be six times more likely to spend via sites translated into their own language. To succeed in new markets you need genuine localization, expert translation from qualified native speakers and a message that your clients will understand and warmly embrace. Anything less, and you run the risk of an omnishambles.

It’s tempting to smile ironically at the folly and verbosity of politicians, but it’s also possible to have fun with new words that give us something to celebrate, not just something to mock. For EVS Translations’ 2012 Word of the Year Award we’d like to nominate a word that celebrates Britain at its finest.

In this year of omnishambles and Eurogeddon, there were moments to be celebrated and there were words to describe them. The skies lit up over London on two consecutive Saturdays in August when a Somalian immigrant became the greatest distance runner in the world, then performed a celebration that the nation and the world could join in with.

Language can unite cultures in a warm embrace and turn border combatants into neighbours. And sometimes action and description come together in a way that makes the world smile, not with irony but with joy.

Our man of the year is Mo Farah.

Our word of the year is Mobot.