international mother language day

6 Multilingual Education Facts for International Mother Language Day

Did you know that February 21st was International Mother Language Day?

UNESCO declared the day a holiday in 1999, but its roots go back much deeper into the past. According to Wikipedia, International Mother Language Day started in 1952 in what is now Bangladesh. At this time in history, Bangladesh was still part of Pakistan. Most of the people in what was then called East Pakistan spoke Bangla, but in 1948, Urdu, a language spoken primarily in West Pakistan, was declared the official language for the entire country.

On February 21, 1952, Students at University of Dhaka and Dhaka Medical College protested the decision. Police fired on the protesters, killing some of the students.

Since then, East Pakistan and later Bangladesh have celebrated “Language Movement Day” on February 21. In 1999, UNESCO made it an official worldwide holiday to celebrate linguistic diversity.

The holiday is celebrated with local celebrations in many communities, and at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Every year has a different theme. The theme for 2018 is “Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education.”

This year, Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, commemorated the day with a heartfelt statement: 

“On the occasion of this Day, I launch an appeal for the potential of multilingual education to be acknowledged everywhere, in education and administrative systems, in cultural expressions and the media, cyberspace and trade.”

Why is multilingual education so important?

In an age of globalism, what makes multilingual education so vital to sustainable development? Here are six reasons why multilingual education is essential to the success of communities around the world.  Read more

8 Fun Facts about the Chinese New Year

21 Fun Facts about the Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year falls on February 16th 2018. Each year is assigned one of 12 Zodiac signs with an associated animal. 2017 will be the Year of the Dog. The Chinese believe that each sign has associated characteristics, with people born under the dog sign believed to be very loyal. Honest, helpful, and steadfast to the point of stubbornness, Dogs are outwardly popular but often suffer from anxiety.

In addition to designating an animal for each year, the Chinese zodiac also cycles through the five elements of nature: Earth, Wind, Water, Fire, and Metal.

Expecting a new addition in 2018? Babies born this year will be Earth Dogs. According to this Chinese astrology guide,

“Earth dogs are broad-minded, faithful, considerate, well-disciplined and they stick to principles. Also, they are grateful, chivalrous, brave and have the courage to take the blame for what they do, thus it’s easy for them to offend somebody. Earth dogs always have clear goals and they are self-poised towards success and failure, never compromising their conscience to do things. They are persistent and never give up. They believe in the life philosophy of taking their own road in a down-to-earth manner. Although earth dogs are very capricious sometimes, they never hurt others arbitrarily and they respect the other’s position and attitude rather than forcing the other to accept their opinions. Earth dogs don’t like to interfere in the life of others, vice versa.

Earth dogs have the artistic spirit, so it’s not suitable for them to work in industry and commerce circles with fierce competition and internal strife. It doesn’t mean that their physical strength or fighting spirit is inferior to others, but their practice and personality cannot cater to others in this complicated society.”

Previous Dog years include 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958 and 1946. Famous “Earth Dog” celebrities include Madonna, Al Capone, Billy Idol, and Michael Jackson.

Were you born in the Year of the Dog? Watch out! According to Chinese astrology, 2018 will be unlucky for you.

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Valentine’s Day Around the World: 12 Ways Couples Show Their Love

It’s Valentine’ Day! Today, Valentine’s Day is all about cards, roses, and chocolate. But have you ever wondered why we celebrate love in the middle of February? Or how people celebrate Valentine’s Day around the world? Read on to learn more about the origin of Valentine’s Day, and how people celebrate love around the world.

Lupercalia and the Origins of Valentine’s Day

Like many holidays, Valentine’s Day has both pagan and Christian roots. In Christian tradition, it started out as the feast day of St. Valentine.  Well, one of them, anyway. There are actually three St. Valentines, and a variety of stories to explain why Valentine’s Day is “Love Day.” Some say he was an early Christian priest who secretly married Roman soldiers. Some say he was a bishop, who healed the blind daughter of his jailor and then sent her the world’s first “Valentine” before he was executed.

Regardless, 14 February falls right in the middle of Lupercalia, an ancient Roman fertility festival.  During the festival, Roman women would be gently whipped with goat hides dipped in the blood of sacrificial beasts.  This practice was supposed to make them fertile. Whatever floats your boat, right?  Then, unmarried men and women would be paired up via a matchmaking lottery for a blind date that would last for the rest of the festival or even the rest of the year.

Once the church gained power, you can see why they’d want to tame this wild holiday and turn it into a more chaste celebration of love and friendship!

Many cultures, both Western and non-Western, have special days to celebrate love and romance. Here are 16 ways Valentine’s Day (and other holidays like it) are celebrated around the world.

Valentine’s Day in Italy: St. Valentine has the key to your heart

In Padua, Italy, people traditionally gave each other small metal keys for Valentine’s Day as a symbol of love. Epilepsy was once known in northern Italy and surrounding areas as “Saint Valentine’s affliction.”  So, small children also receive St. Valentine’s keys to ward off epilepsy.  Read more

4 Cringeworthy Social Media Translation Fails 

Thanks to social media, businesses, brands, and celebrities can now easily communicate with followers all over the world. But sometimes, their posts get lost in translation. Need some examples? Here are four cringe-worthy social media translation fails.

These unfortunate incidents demonstrate why knowledgeable translation help is essential for communicating with a global audience.

Maki-san and the Cursed Sushi

social media translation fail sushiIn 2017, Singapore-based sushi chain Maki-san released a special sushi roll called the “Maki Kita”  to commemorate Singapore’s National Day. The first two words of Singapore’s national anthem are “Mari kita.” So, the product name is obviously meant to be a play on words. Unfortunately, changing that “r” to a “k” had a major impact on the meaning in Malay. “Maki kita” means “curse us.”

Can you blame the restaurant’s fans for doing just that?  The Instagram post was removed, but Mothership got screenshots. It looks like it was a rough day for whoever was managing the brand’s social media accounts.

But they really should have checked the translation. Malay is one of Singapore’s four official languages. 13% of the Singaporean population speaks it home.

Probably the best comment came from Instagram user Zaimondok, who wrote:

@rollwithmakisan this is why you need a diverse team. And in the office working on strategy not just the service staff so you can get halal certificates.

Ouch, but . . . He’s right, you know. At least about the need for a diverse marketing strategy team or some translation help. Read more

Medical Translation Gone Wrong: 7 Devastating Medical Translation Errors

“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. However, quality is of the utmost importance when lives hang in the balance. These examples of medical translation errors show why it’s important to use highly skilled and specially trained medical translators and interpreters.

Is this the most expensive medical translation error? Willie Ramirez and the $71 million 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.  They rushed him to the hospital, but he woke up 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.

Doctors only discovered the haemorrhage after days of improper treatment. 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

10 Language and Translation Stories for January

Can you believe we’re already one month into 2018? So, what’s been going on the world of languages? Settle in, get cozy and let’s find out. Here are 10 stories about language and translation that are worth reading and sharing.

The National Book Foundation adds award for translated literature

Only about 3% of literature published in America is translated from another language.

In response, the National Book Foundation is adding a new award to its list: The National Book Award for Translated Literature. According to Executive Director Lisa Lucas,

“We want American readers to deeply value an inclusive, big-picture point of view, and the National Book Award for Translated Literature is part of a commitment to that principle. The addition of this award lends crucial visibility to works that have the power to touch us as American readers in search of broadened perspective.”

No, Google Translate is not ready to replace humans

A generation that grew up on science fiction is still eagerly awaiting for their universal translators. But Google Translate is nowhere near that capable. Read this article from the Atlantic and follow along as translator Douglas Hofstadter puts Google Translate’s deep neural networks the test. Then, watch as it fails miserably.  Score one for the humans!

Why are so there so many bad menu translations?

When it comes to unfortunate translation mistakes, foreign menus are amongst the most frequent offenders. Everything from roasted children to fried crap has been spotted on translated menus. In this article from Atlas Obscura, culinary translator Emily Monaco digs deep to figure out why so many food translations are simply unappetizing.

Facebook’s machine translation turns “Métis” into “half-breed”

Facebook had to apologize last week after its machine translation program translated the word “Métis” as “half-breed.” The Métis people are a Canadian group descended from First Nations and European settlers, with their own specific and distinct culture. The word “half-breed”, of course, is a racial slur.

Overall, not a great week for machine translation.

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Translating Brand Names for International Success

Should you translate your brand name or business name when you enter a foreign language market? What about product names?  There’s not one right answer, but the following questions can help in the decision.

Is your brand name already a word in the target language?

When it comes to translating company names and product names, one of the first considerations is whether or not the name is the same as or similar to an existing word in the target language. Words that are spelled or pronounced the same as your brand name in the target language bring their own meanings and connotations. These can either work for your brand or against it.

For example, consider the famous case of Clairol’s “Mist Stick” curling iron. It sold quite well in the United States but fell flat in the German market, where “mist” means “manure.

Canadian Mist and Irish Mist whiskeys were also hard to sell in Germany. Nobody wants their whiskey to taste like crap.

Obviously, if your brand name means something offensive or unsavory in the target language, you’ll need to consider renaming it. Read more

28 Hilarious Movie Title Translations

Sometimes, the hardest part of a movie to translate is the title, and the results can be unintentionally hilarious. To prove it, here are 28 movie title translations, translated back into English. Can you guess the original titles? The answers are below the fold.

  1. He’s A Ghost!
  2. Vaseline
  3. The Hole of Malkovich
  4. Captain Supermarket
  5. Is The Spy Capable Or Not? 
  6. 17-Year-Old Girl’s Medical Chart
  7. The Teeth from the Sea
  8. Satan Female Soldier
  9. I’m Drunk, and You’re a Prostitute
  10. Run! Run! Cloudzilla!
  11. I Will Marry a Prostitute to Save Money 
  12. The Explosive Woman 
  13. The Desire to Win
  14. Sex Crimes
  15. Gangsters, Sex, and Karaoke 
  16. The Boy Who Drowned in Chocolate 
  17.  Young People Who Traverse Dimensions While Wearing Sunglasses 
  18. Multinationals Go Home! 
  19. Action Skyscraper 
  20. Die Hard: Mega Hard 
  21. Electronic Murderer 
  22. Mr. Cat Poop
  23. His Great Device Makes Him Famous
  24. The Night Of The Cold Noses
  25. Super Power Dare Die Team
  26. Dimwit Surges Forth
  27. The Lady in Yellow
  28. Interplanetary Unusual Attacking Team

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ursula k Le Guin quotes about translation

10 Ursula K Le Guin Quotes About Languages and Translation 

American writer Ursula K. Le Guin died on Monday, 22 January 2018. She was best known as a fantasy and science fiction author, of course. But did you know she was a translator, too? Before her death, she had four published translations to her name:

  • Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral.
  • Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way, although Le Guin described this as “a rendition, not a translation.”
  • Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was, by Angélica Gorodischer.
  • Squaring the Circle: A Pseudotreatise of Urbogony Fantastic Tales by Gheorghe Săsărman.

Le Guin loved languages:  writing, playing with words, translating and inventing new ones. She wasn’t merely a powerful storyteller; she also had an incredible insight into the nature of language and communication. With that in mind, here are ten quotes from Ursula Le Guin for translators and language lovers alike to enjoy.

Ursula Le Guin on how writing relates to translation:

 

“Translation is entirely mysterious. Increasingly I have felt that the art of writing is itself translating, or more like translating than it is like anything else. What is the other text, the original? I have no answer. I suppose it is the source, the deep sea where ideas swim, and one catches them in nets of words and swings them shining into the boat… where in this metaphor they die and get canned and eaten in sandwiches.”Tweet: Ursula Le Guin on writing and translation:

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Translating Trump, Part 3: How to Insult Developing Countries in 10 Different Languages

Once again, the President of the United States is making translators’ lives difficult. Last week, they faced a new dilemma – how to translate President Trump’s preferred epithet for certain developing countries. 

Even American newscasters had problems figuring out how to handle the profanity. But news organizations in other countries had an even bigger problem on their hands. How do you translate what President Trump allegedly said accurately in a language that doesn’t have a direct equivalent? And how do you balance accuracy in translation with differing levels of cultural acceptance of profanity?   Read more