For as long as I can remember, the BBC has always prided itself on the quality of its English.

However, I seriously doubt whether it deserves its reputation as a guardian of the English language any more.

My biggest disappointment usually occurs when listening to the news on Radio 4. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve fumed at the use of the phrase “spoken through a translator”. It also annoys my fellow translators (and no doubt our interpreter colleagues too) to an equal extent. Such terminological inaccuracy does not do dear old Auntie any favours.

We linguists earn our crust on the basis of our precise use of terminology and there’s a real distinction between the work done by translators and that done by interpreters. Indeed one might go as far as to assert that they’re different skills, even though the outcome is the same: enabling communication between people who lack the capability to understand what another is communicating in another language.

For the benefit of passing BBC staff, here’s a brief explanation of the difference between interpreting and translation: interpreting deals with the spoken word, translation with the written word.

That’s easy to remember, isn’t it? 🙂

Needless to say, my heart soars and a smile of relief crosses my face when Auntie gets the terminology right and I hear the words: “(insert name of prominent person), speaking through an interpreter, …”.

Furthermore, the geek side of me groans inwardly when the likes of Radio 4’s You and Yours and Woman’s Hour regularly ask listeners to email the programmes involved ‘through the website’, but that’s a matter for another post entirely (as are the manifold sins of Auntie’s TV programme sub-titlers). 🙂