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.

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The Top Languages to Learn in 2018

Fancy learning a new language this year? As one of the UK’s leading translation service providers, we’re in just the right place to give some tips on the most useful ones to pick. 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 2018.

1. Mandarin

Guanhua

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.  According to Bloomberg, as of November 06, 2017 the Chinese economy is projected to overtake the United States economy in 2028.

Meanwhile,  China is busy constructing a “New Silk Road” to connect the Chinese mainland with Europe, the rest of Asia, and emerging markets in Africa. 

Mandarin is also the second most popular language online. And according to Statista, while the US will probably remain the largest economy overall for a few years yet, by the end of 2018 China will be the largest digital economy in the world. 

When you look at the facts, it’s easy to see why the British Council ranked Mandarin as one of the most important languages for the future of the UK.  If you’re learning a new language this year and you’re up for a challenge, Mandarin is definitely one of the top languages to learn.

Want to learn more about the languages of China? See our beginner’s guide to Chinese translation services!

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Why I love the UK

Why I love the UK

Back in the summer of 2004, I left my beautiful homeland of France behind for the prospect of a year in the damp, grey UK. I know what you’re thinking “Why on earth would you do such a thing?” well… picturesque countryside, fantastic hospitality and a pub on every corner (probably called the Red Lion or the Crown), yes please, why wouldn’t I! Now then, I forgot to mention that I came to Milton Keynes, the one and only city in the UK that, well, looks more American than British (or so I’ve been told). But, hey ho, you can add roundabouts to the list of things I love about this place, so there! Read more

6 Major Shopping Days Around The World For International Business

In the United States, the holiday shopping season officially started on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping holidays in the world, but it’s certainly not the only one, or even the biggest one.

If your business is marketing to international customers,  you need to know the days they plan to shop. With that in mind, let’s take a look at 6 of the biggest shopping days around the world. Read more

3 Reasons We Really Did Need a New Translation of The Odyssey

Homer’s Odyssey is one of the oldest and most influential works of Western literature. Before this year, it had been translated from Greek to English no less than 60 times. And now, there’s a new version available, translated by Emily Wilson.

So, did we really need yet another translation of The Odyssey? Here are 3 reasons why the latest version is worth your time:

This is the first English translation of The Odyssey by a woman.

Emily Wilson is the first woman to translate The Odyssey into EnglishBut does that matter? Yes, because the process of translation is rarely as straightforward as an outsider might think.  Often, there’s not a single correct word or phrase to use. Instead, there’s a series of trade-offs in finding the closest match, something that conveys as many of the original shades of meaning as possible, without losing the rhythm and mood of the original text.

And sometimes, a translator’s own beliefs and biases can affect the final product. Read more

Chinese Translation Services: A Beginner’s Guide

Is your business looking for Chinese translation services? The potential benefits are tremendous:

Chinese translation can also help you reach communities of Chinese speakers closer to home.

But while the potential benefits are real, the potential pitfalls are, too. To avoid mishaps, read our beginner’s guide to Chinese translation services for businesses.

What language do they speak in China, anyway?

If you answered “Mandarin,” then you only get partial credit. Mandarin (often called Standard Chinese or Putonghua), is an official language in China, Taiwan, and Singapore.  But it’s not the only language people speak in China. Far from it. According to Ethnologue, there are 299 living languages spoken in China today.  Around 70% of the Chinese population speaks Mandarin, although the government would like to increase that to 80% by 2020.

The bottom line? It’s important to know your audience.  Depending on the content you’re translating, the medium you’re using, and the audience you’re trying to reach, Mandarin may be sufficient. But in some areas, like Hong Kong, it’s important to show respect for local languages like Cantonese, too.

And referring to standard Chinese as “Mandarin” is, in itself, a bit of an oversimplification. “Mandarin” also refers to a group of dialects used across northern and southwestern China. When spoken, these dialects are not all mutually intelligible. Read more

8 Horror Novel Translations to Curl Up With This Fall

Halloween is over. But there’s still a month of fall left, and I, for one, am not quite ready to start celebrating the winter holidays just yet.  So, join me in keeping the Halloween spirit alive a little longer by curling up with one of these 8 horror novel translations.

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Translated from the Swedish by Ebba Segerburg

First published in Swedish in 2004, Let the Right One In is a classic vampire novel that’s been made into a movie. If you haven’t read it yet, there’s no time like the present!

The Crimson Labyrinth  by Yusuke Kishi

Translated from Japanese by Camellia Nieh

Did you like The Running Man? Then you’ll like this novel from Yusuke Kishi, in which unwitting contestants are forced to compete to survive the deadly Mars Labyrinth.

From The Hunger Games to Doctor Who, this premise has become quite common in our reality-TV obsessed era.  But this is an especially well-done example, with 4.5 stars on Amazon and 3.7 stars on Goodreads.

And Unbound Worlds recommended it as one of the best novels for readers who are just beginning to dip their toes into Japanese horror.

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Dracula in Translation

Dracula in Translation

It’s almost Halloween! That means it’s an excellent time to reread your old horror favorites like Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Most cultures have some sort of indigenous vampire mythology. But Stoker’s novel helped spread the modern, Western image of the vampire around the world.  What dark, supernatural powers made it so influential?

The power of translation, of course! Here are 6 facts about Dracula around the world that you might not have heard before.

Dracula is available in at least 29 languages.

Dracula has been continuously in print since it was first published in 1897. During that time, it has been translated into at least 29 languages. That’s not quite Translation Hall of Fame material but it’s not too shabby, either.

Dracula’s origins are lost in translation.

Many people think Stoker based Dracula on the historical Wallachian ruler Vlad III, or Vlad the Impaler. But this is likely a myth. There are certainly some similarities between the two figures. For example, some English speaking texts call Vlad Tepes “Voivode Dracula.” And the Count talks about fighting Turks as a mortal. But there’s not much evidence that Stoker modeled his fictional vampire on Vlad the Impaler. Read more

lullabies from around the world

12 Nightmarish Lullabies From Around the World

Mothers everywhere sing babies to soothe them to sleep. But the songs we sing are sometimes less than comforting. Consider, for example, the first verse of Rockabye Baby, which ends with a baby falling out of a tree.

Like the original versions of most fairy tales, there’s a dark undercurrent in a quite a few of the traditional songs we sing to our children. And the urge to soothe babies with creepy songs is apparently found almost everywhere. Need proof? Here are 12 sweet-sounding but nightmarish lullabies from around the world.

Nightmarish Lullabies from Around the World: Iceland

When it comes to creepy lullabies, Iceland may take the prize. Here are 2 examples:

Bíum, Bíum, Bambalóu


The scene described here would make an excellent opening for a horror movie. Here’s an English translation:

Bíum bíum bambalo/Bambaló og dillidillidó/My little friend I lull to rest/ But outside, a face looms at the window.

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8 Stories About Language and Translation for September

Are you having trouble getting over the hump this week? Could you use some midweek motivation? Why not take a few minutes to catch up on all the news you’ve missed over the past month from the world of language and translation? We’ve handpicked 8 interesting stories, so grab a cup of your favorite pumpkin spice-flavored beverage, sit back, relax and enjoy:

Should you learn a local dialect instead of a global language?

That’s the idea behind this article from Quartz. The article posits that since Google Translate already has global languages covered (yeah, right!), it makes more sense to learn a local language like Welsh or Irish instead.

We’re all for more people learning smaller local languages, obviously. But machine translation still has a long way to go, and it will be a long time, if ever, before being able to speak another global language becomes an “obsolete” skill.

That said, there’s evidence that once you’re fluent in two languages, it’s easier to pick up a third. So, maybe you can have your cake and eat it, too.

Looking for some global language learning suggestions?  See The Top Languages To Learn in 2017 Read more

The Languages of Moana 

If you’ve got kids of a certain age, you’ve probably seen Disney’s Moana more than once.  In fact, you can probably sing the soundtrack from memory, or at least the parts of it that are in English.

But what about the parts that aren’t? Have you ever wondered about the other languages used in the film? Have you ever been curious about the meaning of the song that you’ve had stuck in your head since the last time you saw the movie?  Here’s some background on the languages of Moana, along with some helpful translations.

The Languages in Moana

The English-language version of the film is primarily in English (obviously.) However,  the character names are Polynesian:

  • Moana means “ocean” in Maori, Hawaiian, and most other Polynesian languages.
  • Hei Hei means “chicken.”
  • Moana’s father Tui is named after a New Zealand bird.
  • Her grandmother’s name,  Tala, means “story” in Samoan.
  • Moana’s pet pig is named Pua, which means “flower.”

The soundtrack showcases Polynesian languages more fully.  For example, “We Know the Way” includes lyrics in both Samoan and Tokelauan. Read more

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