5 Lessons You Can Learn From the World's Biggest Businesses

International Expansion: 5 Lessons You Can Learn From the World’s Biggest Businesses

Sometimes it can seem like the world is smaller than ever – that we live in a global village where international borders mean little.

However, when it comes to international business expansion, the importance of cultural differences cannot be underestimated. Indeed, many businesses have found out the hard way that what works at home can go down very differently in a foreign market.

Here, we present five lessons you can learn from some of the world’s biggest businesses’ most notable successes and failures. Read more

alice header

What “Alice” Can Teach Us About Translation 

Did you know that Alice in Wonderland is the 2nd-most-translated English novel ever? It’s been translated into 174 languages, from Afrikaans to Zulu. Only The Pilgrim’s Progress has been translated more times.

Alice in a World of Wonderlands, a new book that came out over the summer, brings together 140 of these translations, including back-translations of certain chapters. Readers are invited to compare, contrast and generally geek out over all the different versions of a familiar story. What can this teach us about translation and localisation? Read on to find out!


Names Don’t Always Stay the Same

Sometimes, a rose by any other name actually smells more sweet. Choosing a familiar name can help both protagonists and brands alike appeal to local audiences. As her story is translated into different languages, “Alice” doesn’t always stay Alice.  Some translators choose a local name instead. Here are some examples:

  • Hungarian (1935 version): Évike
    Russian (1879 version): Sonja
  • Russian (1923 version): Anja
  • Swahili: Elisi
  • Cockney Rhyming Slang: Crystal
  • Danish: Maries
  • Marathi:  Jaai

Deciding whether or not to localise a company or product name can be difficult. If you’re already well-known internationally, you may decide to just localise the spelling. Or, you might not want to change anything.  That said, even some of the world’s largest brands market themselves by different names in different countries.  This article from Business Insider has some excellent examples. Read more

Language learning hacks

7 Language Learning Hacks: A Cheat Sheet to Learning a New Language Fast

Many people wish to learn a new language. Few actually do so (at least in the English-speaking world).  What do successful language learners do differently? We won’t lie; persistance and determination is key. That said, these clever language learning hacks can make learning another language easier.  Why not give them a try?

Tap Into Your Inner Child

Children’s books, children’s shows and children’s songs teach basic vocabulary in a fun, easy-to-grasp format. If it’s a story or song you’re already familiar with, you might be surprised at how many words you can decipher on your own.

David Bailey, the CEO of Spotnight, didn’t know how to speak French when he arrived in France to stay with a friend. 17 days later, he was able to hold a conversation. As part of his language learning endeavor, he read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in French. In a post on Quora, he said

“Reading the children’s books you read as a child is a great hack to learning new languages. Firstly, the language used is simple and secondly, knowing the story helps you to guess the meaning of new words and avoid using a dictionary. Surprisingly children’s books are more entertaining in a foreign language.”

Another bonus: children’s music tends to be ridiculously infectious.  I put on the Spanish version of “Bob Zoom” a couple of days ago for my toddler, and “Mi Pollito Amarillito” has been stuck in my head ever since. Read more

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Language and Translation News: 5 Stories You May Have Missed

Busy month? Having trouble keeping up with the latest language and translation news? Let’s get you up to speed, then! Here are 5 language and translation stories that you may have missed.

Skype Releases Instant Translation (and K International Tests It Out On The Gadget Show)

On 1 October, Microsoft began rolling out real-time instant translation to Skype users. The service is available in six langauges: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Mandarin.

That means human interpreters will soon be obsolete, right? Not so fast. Quartz put it to the test here. The conclusion?

If you have a lot of patience and absolutely no knowledge of the language of your interlocutor, Skype will be a fun way to say hello or deliver a simple message. But for anything else, you’re still better off using broken English and body language.

Ouch. And they’re not the only ones to have tested it out and found it lacking.  Our very own  Monica Bloxam and Jochen Dehmel took on Skype on an episode of the Gadget Show. Get the details here. Read more

Website translation – person typing on a laptop

The Multi-Lingual Digital World: Why You Need to Translate Your Site

Image by Pixabay

The internet is an incredibly powerful tool for businesses. Since it first became available to the public in the late 1980s, it’s transformed the commercial landscape, allowing companies to easily market their products to consumers all over the world.

However, while the internet started out as an almost entirely English-language based resource, the volume of foreign language content, as well as foreign language users, has dramatically increased.

And with around 42% of consumers saying they would never purchase products or services in other languages, targeting these users, in their own tongue, clearly makes sense for businesses.

Here’s why you need to translate your site to compete in the global marketplace. Read more


Here Comes Halloween: Traditions and Translations from Around the World

It’s Halloween! How will you celebrate? Here are some traditions and translations from around the world.


Halloween in Ireland

Many of our Halloween traditions come from Samhain, the ancient Celtic harvest festival. So, it’s no surprise that Ireland is one of the world’s biggest Halloween hotspots.  On 31 October, everyone dresses up in scary costumes and celebrates. Children often go out “guising,” going door-to-door to beg food and candy. This tradition dates back to 16th century Samhain celebrations, but the phrase “trick-or-treat” is a relatively new American import.

One thing sets the Halloween festivities in Ireland apart from the rest of the world: Fireworks, and lots of them.  In Northern Ireland, the city of Derry has a street carnival parade that ends in a massive fireworks display. Fireworks are prohibited in the Republic of Ireland, but that doesn’t stop people from setting them off anyway.

Irish Halloween Words

  • Trick or Treat:  iCleas nó cór or Tabhair féirín dom, nó buailfidh mé bob ort! 
  • Happy Halloween: Oíche Shamhna Shona Duit
  • SkeletonCreatlach
  • Costume: Culaith
  • Bonfire: tine cnámha

Read more


Medical Translation Gone Wrong: 4 Devastating Examples

“First do no harm” is a difficult promise to keep when language barriers interfere with communication between doctors and patients.  Medical translation and interpreting can break down those barriers, but quality is of the utmost importance when lives hang in the balance. These four examples of medical translation gone wrong show why it’s important to use highly skilled and specially trained medical translators and interpreters.

Willie Ramirez and the $71 Million Dollar Word

Willie Ramirez was only 18 and out with friends when he suddenly developed a splitting headache. By the time he got to his girlfriend’s house, he was barely conscious.  He was rushed to the hospital, but when he woke up he was paralyzed. He will never walk again.  A brain bleed left him a quadriplegic for life.

But it didn’t have to be that way. The haemorrhage should have been treatable, but the Ramirez family did not have access to a Spanish interpreter. So, when they told the emergency room doctors that they believed Willie was “intoxicado,” he was treated for a drug overdose. As Health Affairs explains, “intoxicado” is not the same as “intoxicated:”

Among Cubans, “intoxicado” is kind of an all encompassing word that means there’s something wrong with you because of something you ate or drank. I ate something and now I have hives or an allergic reaction to the food or I’m nauseous.

The haemorrhage was only discovered after days of improper treatment, and by then it was too late. The hospital, which should have provided a professional interpreter, is liable for a settlement of approximately $71 million dollars to pay for Willie’s care for the rest of his life.  Read more