Minion Language

The ‘Language’ Behind the Minions

Parents still reeling from the decimation of sanity caused by the soundtrack to ‘Frozen’ will be all too aware of a new plague, as the childless amongst us laugh uncomprehendingly at their misfortune. It is known to a generation as Minionese – the virtually-incoherent language spoken by those googly-eyed yellow chaps, introduced to an unprepared world by the 2010 movie ‘Despicable Me’. The internet is abuzz with Minionese-English dictionaries; and this is exactly how it would have started with Klingon, if there were high speed internet in the 1970s. Should we fear, or embrace, this new language?

We may have little choice. Now they have become the stars of their own self-titled, full-length movie, the Minions are more inescapable than ever. In the movie we learn that they have served many masters the world over, so it makes a bit more sense that they couldn’t be held to just one earthly language. Read more

Learn a Language

The Top Languages to Learn in 2015

Fancy learning a new language this year? Whether you’re still a student or you’re just looking for a way to improve your career outlook, we’ve selected the top languages to learn in 2015.

1. Mandarin


The official language of China, Mandarin is already the most widely spoken language in the world. Per Wikipedia, 955 million people, 14.4% of the world’s population, claim it as their native tongue.  The demand for Mandarin speakers will only grow in the years to come, as China nudges the United States out of the top spot as the nation with the world’s largest GDP. Mandarin is also the second most popular language online. In a 2013 report, the British Council ranked it as one of the top 10 most important languages for the future of the UK.

Difficulty level: High

Mandarin is considered a difficult language for English speakers to learn. According the United States Foreign Service Institute, it takes an average of 2,200 classroom hours for English speakers to master. Are you up for the challenge?

2. Arabic


Arabic is the fourth most commonly spoken language in the world, and it’s an official language for many of the dynamic, growing economies in the Middle East and Africa. As puts it:

Because of the fast-growing market of eager consumers in the Middle East, businesses should consider making their products easily available to Arabic speakers, and enterprising businesspeople should consider taking a few lessons.

Arabic also made the British Council’s list of important languages for British language learners due to the potential economic and diplomatic benefits. Whether your desired career path is public sector or private sector, the Arabic-speaking world’s complicated relationship with the west ensures bright job prospects for those who can speak this challenging language.

Difficulty Level: High

As with Mandarin, the US Foreign Service Institute classifies Arabic as a difficult language. You’ll need at least 88 weeks of class time to become proficient.

3. Spanish

Flag of Spain

With 405 million native speakers, Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language after Mandarin. Learning Spanish opens doors in Spain, Latin America and even the United States. According to the British Council, 34% of UK businesses said that Spanish was “useful to their organisation.”

Difficulty level: Easy

More good news about Spanish? It’s a fairly simple language for English speakers to manage. According to the US Foreign Service Institute,  it only takes around 600 hours of classroom time (less than six months) to achieve language proficiency in Spanish.

4. German

Map of GermanyGerman has between 89 to 110 million native speakers.  That may seem like small potatoes compared to most of the other languages on this list, but Germany is the largest economy in the European Union. As the British Council notes, it’s an incredibly important language for UK businesses:

“Germany is the UK’s most important trading partner, its second biggest export market in goods (worth £32 billion in 2012) and also its greatest source of imports. To these impressive export figures can be added those of Luxembourg and Switzerland (also in the UK’s top ten export markets) and Austria which boosts the UK’s exports by £1.5 billion.”

In fact, 45% of UK companies surveyed by the British Council rated German as “useful.”

Difficulty Level: Fairly Easy

Learning German comes fairly easily to native English speakers. That said, it’s a bit more difficult to grasp than Spanish. According to the US Foreign Service Institute, if you start today, you should be proficient after about 900 classroom hours, or a little over six months.

5.  Portuguese

Portuguese is spoken in BrazilPortuguese is spoken by around 215 million people in Portugal (naturally), Brazil and some parts of Africa. For businesses, Brazil is the main attraction. It’s already the seventh largest economy in the world, and it’s expected to keep growing at a rate of four to five percent each year for some time to come. The British Council listed it as one of the top ten most important languages for the UK’s future, citing potential opportunities in trade, science, education and diplomacy. Most Brazilians speak English poorly or not at all, so if you want to do business there, you’ll need to speak the language or have an excellent Portuguese translation team.

Difficulty Level: Easy 

Closely related to Spanish, Portuguese is also quite easy to learn. Expect to spend about 600 classroom hours before you’re proficient.

6. Russian

Why Russian? First off, with 155 million native speakers it’s the eighth most common language in the world. Plus, its already formidable economy is on track to beat Germany’s by 2030. As puts it,

“Russia is full of very wealthy people hungry for new arenas in which to do business. There are some great opportunities available for companies looking to expand to this affluent part of the world, but many Russian businesspeople do not speak good English. Because they don’t know much English, most may only do business with others who are Russian-speaking.”

The British Council notes that Russia contains extensive potential opportunities for British organisations in areas like trade, diplomacy and education, but called the business climate there “difficult.” Being able to speak the language is a tremendous advantage!

Difficulty Level: Medium

Russian is quite different from English, and as such it’s more challenging for English speakers to learn. Expect to spend 44 weeks or around 1100 hours in the classroom.

7. French

ParisFrench is spoken by about 74 million people in France and former French territories around the world. While it’s not as prevalent globally as it once was, there’s no question that France is and will remain one of the United Kingdom’s most important trade partners, and French language skills are both necessary and important for businesses here. In fact, according to the British Council, 49 percent of UK businesses are looking for employees who can speak French.

Difficulty Level:  Easy

Like Spanish and Portuguese, French comes easily to native English speakers.

8. Japanese

Japanese boasts 125 million speakers located primarily in Japan, which happens to be the third largest economy in the world. The British Council calls Japan “a significant contributor to UK prosperity – both as an export market and as a major investor” and  notes that Japan provides a wealth of opportunities, especially in terms science and technology.

As points out, there’s also the fact that Japan is in the process of building our future robot overlords, so maybe we all need to get with the program:

According to Wikipedia, “Japan employs over a quarter of a million industrial robot workers. In the next 15 years, Japan estimates that number to jump to over one million and they expect revenue for robotics to be near $70 billion by 2025.” Robotics or anything else, revenue of that size might be something to consider being a part of.

Difficulty Level: High

Learning Japanese takes a certain amount of persistence and time, over a year and a half or 2,200 classroom hours to be exact. However, if you can stay the course and master the language, it will definitely help you stand out from the pack.

Of course, economic factors are only part of the story. People learn languages for all sorts of reasons, and all language learning is beneficial in one way or another.

What languages would you like to pick up? Leave us a comment below… we’d love to hear from you.



7 Times Translation Changed History

How important is translation in history? History is made when different cultures collide, and the art of translation has played a key behind-the-scenes role in shaping historical events. In fact, here are seven examples of translations that changed the course of history:

#1 The Vulgate Bible

horned MosesThe Bible has been translated hundreds of times as Christianity spread across the globe. The historical consequences are immeasurable. The Bible has inspired wars, conquest and crusades, as well as acts of charity and courage. Probably the most important Biblical translation dates back to 382 AD. In that year, the Pope Damasus I commissioned St. Jerome to translate the Old and New Testaments into Latin from the original Greek and Hebrew texts. The resulting work became known as the Vulgate. For a thousand years, it was the only version of the Bible that most Christians ever encountered. Read more

5 tips for Website Localisation

Digital Globalisation: 5 Essential Website Localisation Tips

Digital globalisation has dramatically lowered the barriers to entering new markets. But creating a successful multi-lingual site is far more complex than you might think.

Visit the regional versions of the McDonald’s website and the pages you see will have numerous differences – and not just in the language used. Everything from the layout to imagery and symbols will have subtle variations.

There’s good reason for this. McDonald’s, like most successful global brands, understands the importance of tailoring their content to each of their international audiences – a process known as localisation.

Here are five essential tips for a successful localisation strategy. Read more

The Untranslatables

The Untranslatables

No, it’s not another film about a family of superheroes or a documentary following members of society who lack certain skills… The Untranslatables is a non-exhaustive list I have started, comprising words or phrases that are not easily rendered in another language. Interestingly, it is these that punctuate the days of a translation project manager with the most tears and the most laughs… Read more


LocWorld28, Berlin Calling

I was thrilled to represent K International at LocWorld28 this year. LocWorld is a major conference for the localization industry, which takes place annually in three locations in North America, Europe and Asia. This was the 28th conference and a welcome return to Berlin, which previously hosted the conference in 2009. Once again LocWorld provided superb business opportunities, exhibitors, networking events and a full program of talks from industry professionals from global companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, SAP and Adobe. Read more

The Business Side

The ATC Conference 2015

I’ll be speaking this year at the Association of Translation Companies conference. It will be held at Manchester United‘s ground (Old Trafford) on the 24th and 25th September. I’m very excited about it and it should be a great gig.

The slides aren’t finished yet (no where near actually, since every talk I do is unique) but I do have an outline of what the talk will be about. I want to share that here in advance to give you an idea of whether you’ll want to attend (hopefully you do), and if you do want to attend, then to help you prepare any questions/comments well ahead of time.

The Business Side

The title of the talk is ‘The Business Side’. It came about after a conversation with the organisers of the TTT Conference last year in Slovenia. The dream was to develop a 1-hour framework which showed people who were exceptionally good at translation what running a business was like. It’s often a problem any talented person faces, i.e. as their business grows they need to work on their business and not in their business, and translators are no different. Read more

What does Lorem Ipsum mean?

What Does Lorem Ipsum Mean?

At some point in time, almost everyone has encountered text that reads Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet… It’s used all over the place and theories on what it is range from it being a secret illuminati code, to it being complete nonsense. Let’s explore.

What does Google Think?

Party fuelling conspiracy theories was when you pasted the first few paragraphs of Lorem ipsum into Google Translate they translated it into English as nonsense but included words like China and Nato (for the concerned foil hats instructions are here). Read more