Interesting & varied language stories from all around the world, curated by our dedicated writer. From the topical to the absurd, the grand and the obscure, it’s all here for you to enjoy.

google penalizes bad machine translation

Google Penalizes Bad Machine Translation

& 10 tips for good international SEO

Planning to translate your business website into another language? Free, automatic translation tools like Google Translate might seem tempting, but here’s one more reason to avoid relying on them: Google doesn’t like it. And if Google doesn’t like it, you’d better not do it, at least not if you value your website traffic.

It seems odd that the search engine gods would issue penalties for using Google’s own product, but apparently search engine spammers have been publishing lots of awkward, error-laden machine translated content.  To keep their results as accurate as possible, Google classifies automatically translated content as “automatically generated content,” which violates their webmaster guidelines.

That means that poorly translated content could seriously impact your rankings.  Also,  as Ariel Hochstadt pointed out in Search Engine Land, if you’ve monetized your site using AdSense, your account could be disabled for including “websites with gibberish content that makes no sense or seems auto-generated.”

Ironically, Google itself has started using automatically generated content on its own properties, like the Google Play store. However, as Search Engine Land points out, it appears that Google is using some sort of new and improved Google Translate that’s not available to the general public.

Why not release the latest and greatest Translate tool? Hochstadt speculates:

My best bet is that Google is afraid of mass spamming that could be hard to identify. Nevertheless, if they think it is good enough for them to publish it on their Android and Chrome stores, why wouldn’t they allow others to do the same in Google Translate? Knowing Google, you probably are aware that their rules sometimes oblige us, but don’t apply to those located in Mountain View.

Fair or not, you’re better off using a professional translator, or at the very least having the final product reviewed by someone who is fluent in your target language and able to correct any mistakes. To help you out and keep you the right side of the Google police, we have put together a collection of 10 International SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) tips that you can employ to help boost the performance of your multilingual site. Read more

closest to English

Which Languages Are Closest to English?

Have you ever wondered which languages are most closely related to English? Well, wonder no more! Here are the 5 languages that linguists say are the most closely related to English. Some of them might surprise you…

The Closest Language to English: Scotsscotslanguagemap

The closest language to English is Scots . . . assuming you consider Scots a language, that is. According to a 2010 study by the Scottish government, a majority (64%) of Scottish people don’t.

And yet, Scots began to diverge from English as far as back as the Middle English period.  The UK government classifies it as a regional language and it is protected under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

Fast Facts About the Scots Language

  • Scots is spoken by about 1.5 million people
  • Technically, the Scots alphabet has one more letter than the English alphabet. The last letter, called yough, looks like a backward “3.” The letter “z” usually replaces it.
  •  Scots has been primarily an oral language for so long that it does not have a standard spelling system.

Scots is not only the closest relative of the English language, it’s also been heavily influenced by its “big brother.” So, how easy is it for an English speaker to read Scots? Try it for yourself!

Aw human sowels is born free and equal in dignity and richts. They are tochered wi mense and conscience and shuld guide theirsels ane til ither in a speirit o britherheid.

Got that? It’s Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Here’s the English translation:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Read more

language of science

The Language of Science: Lost in Translation

These days, most scientific work is done in English. But why is English the “language of science” when brilliant scientists come from all corners of the globe? And does it matter?

We like to think that science transcends language. After all, experiments are experiments and data is data, right?

Actually, language and translation have always been vital to the progression of science. The English language’s current dominance is relatively new, and has had both positive and negative effects.

How English Won Out As the Language of Science


Ibn al-Haytham, considered the inventor of the scientific method.

The first scientists most definitely did not speak English, or even Latin or Greek. They spoke the languages of ancient Egypt, ancient Mesopotamia, and ancient China. Then came the ancient Greeks and Romans. Their work was later translated by medieval Islamic scientists and scholars, who in turn went on to produce their own impressive discoveries.

By the Renaissance, translators had translated most of the Arabic and Greek texts into Latin, allowing European scholars to build on the knowledge they contained.  Read more

8 Fun Facts about the Chinese New Year

18 Fun Facts about the Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year falls on January 28th 2017. Each year is assigned one of 12 Zodiac signs with an associated animal, and 2017 will be the year of the Rooster. The Chinese believe that each sign has associated characteristics, with people born under the Rooster sign believed to be very observant. Hardworking, resourceful, courageous, and talented, Roosters are very confident in themselves.

Roosters are always active, amusing, and popular within a crowd. They are talkative, outspoken, frank, open, honest, and loyal individuals. They like to be the centre of attention and always appear attractive and beautiful. People born under the sign of the Rooster are happiest when they are surrounded by others, whether at a party or just a social gathering. They enjoy the spotlight and will exhibit their charm on any occasion.

Roosters expect others to listen to them while they speak, and can become agitated if they don’t. Vain and boastful, Roosters like to brag about themselves and their accomplishments.

Their behaviour of continually seeking the unwavering attention of others annoys people around them at times.”

Read more


7 Fun Facts About New Year’s Resolutions Around the World

Well, 2017 has arrived. Have you made any New Year’s resolutions this year? In Western cultures, making New Year’s resolutions (and failing to keep them) is a long-running tradition that’s also become kind of a joke. So, why do we start out the new year with such lofty goals? Do people in other countries torture themselves like this? Here are 7 interesting facts about New Year’s resolutions around the world.

The ancient Babylonians made the first New Year’s resolutionsishtar_gate

Who started the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions? Possibly the ancient Babylonians, about 4,000 years ago.

The ancient Babylonians celebrated the New Year on the first new moon after the spring equinox. They called it Akitu, and it was a major festival that lasted 11 days. During the festival, the Babylonians made New Year’s resolutions to keep themselves in good standing with the gods.  But kale juice cleanses and the like were unknown back then, of course. So, they often resolved to get out of debt or to return borrowed farm equipment. Much more sensible, probably.

The tradition continued in ancient Rome

Starting off a new year in the middle of winter is a Roman innovation, and we still use an improved version of the old Roman calendar today. Originally, though, the Roman calendar started off in March. Ancient Roman tradition held that the month of Ianuarius (January, in case you haven’t guessed) was one of two months added to the original Roman calendar by the Roman king Numa. According to the writer Columella, who lived in the 1st century AD and wrote an ancient Roman version of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, farmers were supposed to make an “auspicious gesture” on 1 January by getting started on the tasks they intended to get done throughout the year.

Romans in all occupations offered resolutions to Janus, the god of beginnings, endings and the New Year. Read more

New Year Traditions

New Year’s Around the World

It’s official: 2016 is drawing to a close. While New Year’s celebrations around the world almost universally involve fireworks and drinking, many places have their own intriguing local traditions as well. Here’s a look at some interesting ways that people around the world are welcoming in 2017:

Scotland: Hogmanay

The Scottish New Year’s celebration is called Hogmanay. This is an ancient festival with roots that go back to the pre-Christian era. Many Hogmanay customs are designed to provide celebrants with good luck in the coming year. For example, the “first-foot,” or the first person to enter the house after the clock strikes midnight, brings gifts for the household. In some regions, this person is believed to bring good or bad fortune depending on their physical characteristics, with “tall, dark and handsome” men being preferred.

Fire is another traditional part of Hogmanay celebrations. For example, in Stonehaven, people build fireballs by wrapping chicken wire around flammable substances like paper. Then, they run through the town to the sea, swinging the fireballs over their heads until they go out or until they reach the water’s edge.


According to Travel + Leisure, one popular Danish New Year’s tradition is for everyone to jump off chairs at the stroke of midnight. Per Wikipedia, it’s also traditional to throw old dishes at your friends’ houses on New Year’s Eve, but according to this article that tradition is no longer practiced. Any Danes want to weigh in? Read more


12 Festive Christmas Songs From Around the World

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here! Christmas Eve is almost here!

Are you excited yet? Frantic? Both? Soothe your stress and get in the Christmas spirit with this collection of the top Christmas songs from around the world:

Christmas Songs From Around the World: “Petit Papa Noël” (French)

This French Christmas classic was originally recorded by Tino Rossi in 1946. It’s currently the best-selling French single ever, and it’s been covered numerous times by other artists. Here’s the original version.

Looking for something a little heavier and more irreverent? Check out Trust’s cover, here. 

Alternately, if the news lately has you ready to forget the holidays altogether and curl up in a ball to wallow in despair . ..  well, here’s a punk version of Petit Papa Noel that might appeal to you.

Christmas Songs From Around the World: La Fiesta de Pilito (Spanish)

El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico is a Salsa music orchestra that’s been called the “most popular Salsa music group that has ever existed.” The group has been since 1962, but the lineup changes frequently as new up-and-coming salsa musicians join and others strike out on their own.

“La Fiesta de Pilito”  is all about putting your problems aside for the holidays and enjoying the festivities . . . and the rum. Read more


An International Marketing Cheat Sheet: Color Meanings Around the World

When you see the color black, what do you think of? Death? Funerals? Johnny Cash? The answer depends, in part, on where you’re from. And that means the colors you use on your website and in your advertisements can affect the message your international audience receives, in ways you might not intend.  How well does your color scheme translate? Find out with our international marketing cheat sheet to color meanings around the world:

How well does your business color scheme translate? Find out with our international marketing cheat sheet to color meanings around the world:


Red: Color Meanings Around the World

It’s the color of blood, the color of wine, and the color of rubies. In any culture, red is an attention-getter, and there’s probably a reason for that. According to the BBC, “Wearing red can change your physiology and balance of hormones and alter your performance in a football match.”

But what kind of attention will red attract for your business? That depends in part on where you’re marketing.

  • Western Cultures (The US and Western Europe):  Love, passion, and danger. Red is a youthful, energetic color.
  • Eastern/Asian cultures: Most Asian cultures associate red with luck, long life, and happiness. Brides often get married in red dresses to ensure a happy marriage.  In India specifically, it also brings to mind purity, love, beauty, wealth and power.
  • Middle East: Danger and caution, but sometimes with threatening overtones.
  • Latin America: In Latin America, red means passion, but can also symbolize Christianity when used alongside white.
  • South Africa: In South Africa, red also represents sacrifice and mourning.

Read more

transcription services for the vulnerable

The Vital Ways Transcription Services Help Improve the Lives of the World’s Most Vulnerable People

Headlines around the world have been dominated by the humanitarian crisis provoked by the sheer numbers of refugees fleeing war and conflict in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan.

As governments and NGOs try to work together to manage the situation at every stage, rapid, accurate and reliable transcription services enable authorities to share information gathered, collect information about the situation on the ground, and deliver international aid as effectively as possible.

Whether this is achieved by transcription of local investigations, through transcribed video or voice interviews, or by sharing transcribed minutes of meetings or conferences, accurate, reliable and secure transcription helps governments to make informed decisions that positively impact the lives of refugees.

Reliable multilingual transcription is particularly valuable, as it enables government departments and NGOs to work in partnership internationally, allowing them to understand the experiences of refugees and aid workers. Transcribed materials such as videos and interview notes can be vital to effectively train staff to meet the emotional, cultural and material needs of refugees. At the same time, these valuable resources help governments and NGOs to communicate the reality of the situation to a much wider audience, gaining greater public support. Read more


What Language Does Santa Speak?

Santa sends toys to children all over the world, or so the story goes. But what is his native tongue? Where does Santa live, and what language does Santa speak?  Since we can’t ask the big guy himself, let’s take a look at the evidence. Here, we examine some of the possibilities.

 The North Pole: English or Inuitnoaa3-2006-0602-1206

Every American kid knows that Santa lives at the North Pole. But where is that, really? In real life, the geographic North Pole is a barren wasteland of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. It would be quite difficult to set up a workshop, and feeding all of those reindeer would take significant expense and trouble.

And in a couple of generations, there might not be any sea ice at all. Santa would need an underwater workshop!

The nearest inhabited area to the geographic North Pole is the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut, Canada.

Here, people mainly speak Inuit languages like Inuktitut or English.

But the geographic North Pole isn’t the only “North Pole.” For example, there’s also North Pole, Alaska, where you’ll find Santa Claus House. Santa Claus House is an old trading post turned into a Christmas gift shop that also issues “letters from Santa” to children around the world.

Obviously, if North Pole, Alaska were Santa’s headquarters, he would speak English. Or possibly a native Inuit language- if he’s immortal, that would mean he was there before the Canadians and the Americans showed up, right? Read more

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