Would you like to study the world of emojis?

Collins English Dictionary defines an emoji as “a small image used in electronic mail and text messaging to express an idea, such as a smiling face to express happiness” (Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers). The word “emoji” originates from the Japanese “e” (picture) and “moji” (letter).


With the growing use of emojis, it might not be surprising to read about opportunities to study and understand them. So, here is my translation of an article which recently appeared on Der Postillon, a satirical German website.



Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Emojiology: First university offers degree course on interpreting emojis

Emoji lecture

Munich (dpo) – Emojis are playing an increasingly important role in our lives, but often when trying to interpret the ideograms correctly we feel like this: 😳. That’s why the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich has created Germany’s first Institute of Emojiology where you can study Emojiology at graduate, master’s, bachelor’s and PhD level from the forthcoming winter semester.

LMU managed to recruit the prominent Brazilian emojiologist Professor Adriano Madruga as its institute director; he is internationally renowned for his fundamental research in the field of comparative animal emojiology.

“The world of emojis is as fascinating as it is complex,” explains Madruga, who is affectionately named Prof. 😜 by his students. “Most emojis have different display variants as far as skin colour and gender are concerned. Together with regional indicators, there are roughly 97 billion different combinations and numerous new symbols are being added each year.”

The relevant seminar materials are sent to students via WhatsApp.


This is increasingly leading to misunderstandings in digital correspondence, he says. “Just take this emoji which shows its teeth: 😁,” Madruga says. “Some think it’s grinning; others reckon it’s baring its teeth angrily. Such a misunderstanding can destroy entire relationships.”

Emojiological research is therefore necessary, he says, in order to set academic standards and investigate the impacts of emojis on society. The Institute is soon to create professorships in Emoji Linguistics (abbreviation: 💬), Emoji History (🏰🎌), Comparative Emojiology (😘↔😚) and Business Emojiology (💰📈).

There are courses on offer for budding emojiologists as early as this winter semester with titles such as “Advanced seminar: Why is the police officer 👮 male? – Gender stereotyping in emojis”, “Tutorial: Emoji Android/Apple Translation Course”, “Introductory seminar: The three wise monkeys 🙈🙊🙉 – Emojis and Philosophy”, “The Hieroglyphs of the ancient Egyptians”, “Revision course: Rain, sweat, tears: 💦 and its potential applications” and “Lecture: Why the hell are there lots of emojis in the form of cats’ faces as well? 😺😹😽🙀 One approach”.

In just a few years’ time, the first graduate emojiologists, teachers (Emoji Studies and Sport) and Emoji therapists will then be launching their careers.

pfg, ssi, dan; Photos: Shutterstock; First published on: 5.7.16



The original article can be found here:

This story is completely false of course. I did think the study of emojis could form a module on a linguistics course rather than being an entire degree course or combined course. Mind you, some people do study languages (!)

Have a great summer! Sunshine


Beyond Words and Back Again at the ITI Conference: 18 – 20 May 2017

[Photo: Wales Millennium Centre]

This year’s ITI Conference, held every 2 years in the UK, took place in the Welsh capital of Cardiff with the title:

Working our core: for a strong(er) translation and interpreting profession

A wealth of presentations, TED-style talks and fringe events catering to the 340 translators and interpreters attending covered practical tips for our daily work as well as inspiration for developing our long-term goals. The full programme can be found here:

This article focuses on the fundamental tools of our trade: words.

Beyond words

Translators Alison Hughes and Adriana Tortoriello explained how to be creative with their presentation Above and beyond: the creative text. In advertising, subtitling and copywriting, there may be limits in terms of space and your text may need to be eye-catching.  You must escape the literal text in favour of something more visual and daring, for example ‘Bikes for the general public’ is better rendered as ‘Pedal-power to the people’.

Matisse said “Creativity takes courage”. To write creatively, you need to have the courage to convey the meaning of the text freely and discuss options with your clients to ensure you match their brief by going beyond the literal meaning. You need experience and subject knowledge, confidence and practice. You must read and engage with industry professionals, but above all convey the meaning of the message.

Back to words

Keynote speaker Susie Dent, well-known for her contributions on the popular UK TV quiz Countdown, is a lexicographer, writer and broadcaster. Her passion for words was inspired by her school dictionary, discovering that ‘silly’ used to mean ‘nice’, ‘goodbye’ means ‘God be with you’ and ‘focus’ came from the Latin for ‘fireplace’. She discussed malaphors (mashed-up metaphors) such as ‘He’s a minefield of information’ and ‘We’ll burn those bridges when we come to them’. She described the relationship between words which appear unrelated such as ‘atone’ and ‘onion’, the connection here being ‘one’. ‘Mortgage’ and ‘mortuary’ are linked, as a debt dies once paid. The word ‘true’, meaning actual, correct, upright and straight, has the same roots as ‘tree’.

Introducing the concept of ‘new words’, Susie stated that they face obstacles to succeed and only 1% are really new. They are often repackaged, resurrected or repurposed, for example ‘pro-caffeinating’: putting everything on hold until you’ve had enough caffeine. Eggcorns (from a mishearing of ‘acorn’) are misheard words or phrases: ‘like a bowl in a China shop’ (instead of ‘like a bull in a China shop’) and ‘lactoast-intolerant’ for ‘lactose-intolerant’. She highlighted texting, now a new creative language with texted poems even being exhibited at the British Library. Innovators such as Shakespeare and Keats were once criticized, but language is evolving all the time: ‘overmorrow’ (‘the day after tomorrow’, from the German ‘übermorgen’) and ‘smirkle’ (‘to smile with your eyes’). The word ‘thesaurus’ comes from the Latin for ‘treasure’ and so Susie encouraged us to learn one new word every day.

Beyond words again

Over 40 of us took part in the Singing Translators fringe event. Our rehearsals and performance were conducted by Neil Brinkworth and organized by translator Gillian Hargreaves. We sang a four-part version of “Memory” from the musical “Cats”, inspired by the industry terms ‘translation memory’ and ‘CAT tools’. Singing has many parallels with translation and interpreting, as it requires the need for accuracy, good phrasing, but also the right expressive mood and tone. With our performance being unaccompanied, we also had to listen to each other.

Those of us attending translator Helen Oclee-Brown’s Sticky wickets: the perils of translating sports metaphors discovered that sport is special because it embodies competition, team spirit, endeavour, fair play, the common touch and tactics. Helen provided English examples from politics and journalism before treating us to translated examples, e.g. from the French newspaper Le Monde ‘la balle est dans le camp de la Chine’ (‘the ball is in China’s court’ where the literal translation would have referred to a ‘field’ rather than a ‘court’). We were challenged to guess some French and Spanish translations. Audience discussion revealed that cricket metaphors stumped many non-native English speakers. Some metaphors work better than others depending on the context and readership. We must remember this and keep things fresh, but simple.

Of course, words are the tools of our trade and, as a translator, I enjoy learning new words and meanings as part of my work. With much information to absorb and great networking opportunities throughout this conference, my conclusion is that we also need to go beyond words and really communicate and collaborate both with our colleagues and clients.