Does the Arab World Have a Translation Problem?

During the Islamic Golden Age, from the 8th century to the 13th century AD, the Arab world was a center of learning and philosophy. It was also a center of translation. In Baghdad, scholars worked furiously to translate Greek, Persian and Indian texts into Arabic for the library of the House of Wisdom, preserving knowledge that would have otherwise been lost to time.

But now, according to, the Arab world may have a translation problem. Medialine quotes a study by the UN that found that only 10,000 books have been translated from other languages into Arabic in the past 1,000 years. That’s an average of about 10 books a year, although in 2003, which is when the most recent data is from, there were about 330 books translated.

Arabic publishers and governments alike are taking steps to try and change this. For example, the UAE just wound up a government-sponsored international book fair, and both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have funded government initiatives to increase the amount of translated material available. Read more

China Says Linguistic Diversity “Not Important”

Over 1.3 billion people live in China, speaking a variety of different languages and dialects. To help unify such a diverse country, the government has long promoted the use of China’s official language, Mandarin. As a consequence, though, China’s linguistic diversity is fading. 88 Chinese languages are endangered, according to the Globe and Mail, and the Chinese government doesn’t seem particularly interested in preserving them.

The upcoming census could have been used to help quantify the problem, simply by asking respondents to select the languages they speak.  However, questions about language were not included in the form.

Chen Xizhou, a minority language expert from the Yunnan Institute for Nationalities, told the Globe and Mail:

“They didn’t ask about something that we really need to know, but they did ask how many houses people have and how many rooms. I don’t know why that is.”

It appears Chen Xizhou can stop wondering. Fang Nailin, the Vice Director of the census, answered that question for the Globe and Mail: the government simply decided that gathering the information was “not important.” Read more

Rodeo, Fried Chicken and James Dean

With the release of Country Strong next January starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim McGraw, I thought it was the perfect time to take a closer look at this fascinating American state that everybody calls Texas where cowboys, country music and fried chicken reside. Since the Oscar winning movie Giant in 1956, every guy is in the hope of becoming as cool as James Dean someday and all the girls are secretly in love with him. It sounds quite logic actually, I mean, we are talking about James Dean here, one of the most talented, good-looking and charismatic American actors of all time who incarnated the real cowboy attitude with so much ease that it’s not even fair.  You won’t become the next James Dean overnight though but you can try to live the Texan life if you fancy following some tips.

First, you need to move to Texas (obviously) and find a job in a ranch in order to learn as much as you can about cattle, cows and horses. If you can make few cowboy friends along the road, it would be great for your learning experience and well, let’s be honest, it’s always better to eat fried chicken, baked corn and barbecued spareribs when you share them with mates! Secondly, you need to learn some rodeo skills and take a plunge in the bull-ring…you will never be a real cowboy if you can’t ride guys, make sure you keep that in mind. Read more

Teaser Trailer for our 2011 Calendar

As some of you might know, few months ago we introduced our unique mascot called Picnik for the launch of our brand new website. Cute, chubby and a red book, Picnik originally from Manhattan was sent here to K International by his temporary owner Sam to be translated into Spanish. He really enjoyed his trip to England and Spain but now he is ready to take on the world.

Our 2011 desk calendar is the perfect opportunity for Picnik to discover a lot of fabulous countries and participate in some of the most amazing worldwide events. From celebrating Australia Day in Sydney with his kangaroo friend Quarkie to training for the 2012 Olympics in London, we hope you will enjoy taking part in this one year journey with him.

Take a look a the Teaser Trailer…

You can also look at the trailer on Vimeo and Flickr.

We know you’ll be excited so if you want a calendar email us now (as numbers are limited) on

Picnik will be waiting for you…

How to Become a Superhero in 6 Steps

Superheroes have always existed, from Batman to Spiderman, we are used to see them on TV, in movies, comics or on our favourite cereal box. Thanks to movies such as Iron man, Kick Ass, The Incredible Hulk or X-Men, it’s almost impossible not to like these life and world savers, even for the most reluctant of all of us. Always wondered what it would be like to become one of them? Today is your lucky day, by following these quick steps, you are 100% (money back) guaranteed to be the next Superman!

Be ultra-Motivated

That’s the most crucial condition. If you want to become the super hero you have always dreamed of, you need to be ultra-motivated. Why? Well guys, do you think it’s really a question worth asking… You will have to fight the bad guys all day long, and this, for FREE, yeah you heard me, for free, no paycheck at the end of the month, no money, no cash, no peanut, nothing! That’s means that you will have to get a job at your local shop or pub to afford your pasta meals and eventually your rent. Second point, do you have any idea of all the risks you endanger? Well, see James Bond…prepare for worst. If I have only one advice to give you: subscribe to the best healthcare insurance in town!

Sport, sport and more sport!

I guess everything is said in the title. You need to develop muscles and build invincible armour to be able to beat each one of your enemies. I mean, don’t get me wrong, motivation is key but you need to acquire an actual strength, a fit body (plus, don’t forget that you will have to wear tight clothes…) to punch strong, run fast and fly high. So, hit the gym now if you can, the sooner, the better. 🙂 Read more

The Language of Golf

Golf is a terrific sport and great way to meet interesting people. To help you get out there and start playing I’ve prepared a quick A to Z of some of the language you’ll hear on the course.

Action: Backspin on ball causing it to stop dead or spin backwards.

Albatross: 3 under par on one hole.

Approach shot: Hitting the ball to the green.

Birdie: 1 under par on one hole.

Bogey: 1 over par on one hole.

Divot:    The piece of turf that flies out when a shot is hit on the fairway.

Dogleg:  A hole where the fairway turns to the right of left.

Double Bogey: 2 over par on one hole. Read more

Ancient Humans May Have Developed Language Capabilities From Tool Use

Some things just go together: Cookies and milk. Peanut butter and jelly. Language and tools. Wait a minute…language and tools? Yes, according to the Guardian, scientists are now saying that language development and tool use went hand in hand as humans evolved.

The tools made by the earliest humans were quite simple-really just sharp flakes of stone used for cutting. As time went on, though, early humans began to develop tools that were both more useful and more complex to make, like hand axes. Scientists were not sure whether the improved tools came into being because humans became smarter or because they became more dextrous. Now, a study from the Imperial College in London may have provided an answer. Read more

Getting Married in the Maldives? Get an Interpreter!

The Maldives are an idyllic island  chain in the Indian Ocean, blessed with white sands and surrounded by intensely blue waters. Sounds like the perfect place for a wedding, doesn’t it? Perhaps, but if a video of a “Maldivian Vow Renewal” ceremony that recently surfaced on YouTube is any indication, you might want to bring an interpreter along to the ceremony.

During the ceremony, which was conducted in the Maldivian language of Dhivehi, the couple was insulted by the “celebrant.” while they renewed their wedding vows. Since they didn’t speak Dhivehi, they had no idea that the celebrant was calling them “black swine” and declaring their marriage “cursed,” among other things.  The video, as seen here on the Daily Mail website, contains obscenities, although they are in Dhivehi, not English. Read more

8 Languages, 3 Months, 1 Guy: Discover Benny Lewis.

It’s a fact, life is short and if someone has understood this concept very well, it’s Benny Lewis. Irish polyglot, he left his native land 8 years ago and keeps traveling around the world since then. But more than your average globetrotter, Benny has made its principal mission to learn the language of each country he is visiting. Now fluent in 8 languages, Benny is sharing with you his secrets and knowledges through his blog Fluent in 3 months and his brand new Language Hacking Guide. Always convinced that you couldn’t learn a language? Forget your prejudices and check his story out!

If you could only use 3 words to describe Benny, what would they be?

Ambitious, ridiculous, optimist.

What is Benny’s story?

I studied electronic engineering and when I graduated I could only speak English. I moved to Spain and only spent time with other expats and learned very little Spanish for 6 months. Then I took the language seriously and saw that it wasn’t that bad after all, despite believing I wasn’t talented. After several years I’ve applied the same attitude to learning other languages and hope to convince as many people as possible that they can do the same thing too.

“You don’t have to be rich to travel the world”, is that true?

Absolutely. For most of my travels I had a very tight budget, but could get by on very little. In fact, when you travel and don’t have a mortgage or car insurance, or don’t get bored and waste money on TVs and fancy clothes, you realise that the travel lifestyle is cheaper than most people’s lifestyles. If people learned to spend wisely, they’d realise how far their money can take them.

Flights are not expensive nowadays. My flight home from Colombia to Ireland is €300, and most flights within Europe are next to nothing on cheap airlines. You can save money on accommodation by Couchsurfing, and you can always find a kitchen to cook in to avoid restaurants.

What sort of jobs are you doing to support yourself?

I’ve had dozens of jobs. My favourite (and worst paid) was working at the reception of an International Youth Hostel. I’ve also taught English and worked in office jobs and as an engineer. For most of the last few years I was a freelance translator. Since my work was all e-mail based, I could do this from anywhere. Now I am attempting to earn from my website.

How many countries did you visit? Any funny anecdote to share with us during your trips…

I’ve lived in about twenty countries. Other travellers have much higher numbers than that, but I have genuinely lived in all countries and spoken their language, with the exception of week-long trips to 3 or 4 countries.

There are way too many anecdotes. I nearly died seven times, I danced with a president, got recognised dozens of times by strangers who read my blog etc., but I think the best stories are simply the friendships I’ve made along the way. Read more

Vocabulary for the Day of the Dead

Right after Halloween, on November 1st and November 2nd, Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead, or El Dia de los Muertos. Unlike Halloween, where traditional activities like dressing up in costumes stem from an attempt to protect the living from the dead, traditional rituals on El Dia de los Muertos are intended to welcome dead friends and relatives.

On these two days, the spirits of the dead are said to be able to visit their families again. The first day of the celebration, November 1st, is for dead infants and children. The second day is for adults. To mark the holiday, families clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones, prepare special foods to give as offerings, and often spend the whole day and even the night at the cemetery. Read more

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