Translation Fails in Animation: 5 Cartoons that Got Lost in Translation 

Around the world, kids (and kids at heart) have a soft spot for cartoons. However, just because animation is usually aimed at children, that doesn’t mean translating it is child’s play. Translation fails in animation can be caused by carelessness or sheer cultural differences.  In some cases, censorship or overly aggressive localization can also leave fans confused or offended.  Here are five cartoon shows that lost something in translation.

Leo the Lion

The New York Times’ Brian Feldman dubbed this feature-length cartoon “Netflix’s Worst Movie.” Now, we’re certainly not blaming the localisation team completely. After all, even the best translator can’t spin straw into gold.  They have to work with the material they’re given.  From the very first scene in Leo the Lion, it’s abundantly clear that you’re not watching fine Italian cinema.

That said, the translation aspect is a mess, too. As Feldman observes, ” the subtitles for the film do not line up at all with what happens in the film. Broadly, the arcs are similar but character names, terminology and jokes are completely different.”

This movie is so bad that there’s a Tumblr devoted to cataloguing its many eccentricities. One Tumblr user observed that not only are the subtitles a completely different script from the dubbed dialogue but the subtitled dialogue also “matches up better with the lips than the current audio.”

Feldman’s theory is that the “subtitles appear to be a more literal translation of the film, its spoken audio track a localisation.”

Our theory: whoever was in charge of localisation threw their hands up in the air and backed away rather than spending time making the subtitles match the dialogue, or the dialogue correspond to the characters’ lip movements.

So, the next time your little darling tells you to put on “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” for the umpteenth time, remember that it could be worse. Much worse. Read more

How We Support You When Things Go Wrong

Everyone loves to laugh at translation fails, but it’s not quite as funny when your business is on the receiving end of the mockery. It’s even less funny when your products are stuck at a border due to translation errors in labelling and documentation, or when poor translation exposes your organisation to liability issues.

To survive and thrive in today’s connected global economy, businesses have to be willing to overcome language barriers. But what happens when your material gets lost in translation? The difference between a disaster and a bump in the road often comes down to a quick and effective response. At K International, we’ve got your back. Here’s how we can support you when something goes wrong.

We provide correct translations and relevant advice.

Obviously, the first step in responding to a translation error or a cross-cultural marketing fail is to correct the mistake.  At K International, we’ll assemble a team of professional linguists, project managers and other experts in relevant fields like compliance and copywriting. Whether the error in question is as simple as having the wrong ingredient listed or as complicated as an advertisement that isn’t delivering the desired message, we’ll get it sorted.

We help you deploy the corrected content quickly.

The next step is to deploy the corrected content. This step will take different forms depending on your industry and the nature of your error. It may be as easy as updating your website. It could be as labour-intensive as re-shooting a video. Or, it could be a logistical nightmare like trying to figure out how to re-label entire shipments of goods destined for foreign markets. Regardless, time is of the essence. Fortunately, our team includes specialists in a wide range of disciplines, from graphic design and desktop publishing to retail compliance. That means we can usually handle all aspects of your project in-house, for greater efficiency and a speedy resolution. Read more

retail compliance

The A to Z of Retail Compliance: A Checklist 

Compliance is one of the most intimidating parts of international retail.  Around the world, retailers are coming under increased regulatory pressure from both governments and consumers. The more regions your business operates in,  the more difficult it is to comply with all of the different regulations. That’s especially true if your business involves potentially hazardous products like food, electronics or products intended for children.

The exact steps to retail compliance will vary depending on what your organisation sells and where you’re selling it.  That said, this checklist provides a generalised set of best practices that can help your retail organisation stay in compliance wherever you do business.

retail compliance checklist

Read more

How to Say Hello in 15 Languages

Did you know that the 21st of November is World Hello Day? To celebrate, learn how to say hello in 15 languages today!

Participating in World Hello Day is as easy as saying “Hello” to ten people. But what if they don’t speak your language? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to say “Hello” in 15 different languages, along with some etiquette tips for greeting people from different cultures.

How to Say “Hello” in 15 Languages

How to Say Hello in French

Bonjour (formal)
Salut (informal)

Use “salut” only for close friends and family. For everyone else, use “bonjour.” When meeting a stranger, it’s polite to shake hands . . . quickly, and with a light grip.

In other words, not like this:


Friends, family, and acquaintances may greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. However, the French are not huggers.

How to Say Hello in Spanish

Hola (formal)
Buenos días (Good morning, with morning being anytime before lunch)
Buenas tardes (Good afternoon)
Buenas noches (Good evening)
¿Qué tal? (Informal-  What’s going on?)

In most Spanish-speaking cultures, it’s polite to shake hands with strangers and acquaintances you don’t know well. Between people who know each other, air-kissing is a common way for women to greet each other and for men to greet women.  Men often hug.

How To Say Hello in Russian

Zdravstvuyte (Formal)
Privet (Informal)

When greeting strangers or acquaintances,  shaking hands is the preferred greeting.  Russians generally go for firm handshakes. Don’t shake hands over the threshhold of a door, as this is considered bad luck.

Need some help with pronunciation? Here you go: Read more

How Translation Encourages Tolerance

16 November is the International Day for Tolerance. Since 1996, the UN has celebrated the International Day for Tolerance with the aim of fostering “respect and appreciation of the rich variety of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human.”

This year, the focus is on reducing intolerance towards refugees and migrants and building a sense of connection between refugees and their hosts.

Translation, interpretation and other language services have an essential role to play in these efforts. Here are seven ways translation encourages tolerance.

Translation helps people understand each other.

People fear what they don’t understand. That’s one reason so many episodes of intolerance stem from people being confronted by a foreign language. For example, in the United States this year, there’s been an uptick in incidents of people being harassed or attacked for speaking Spanish in public.

Why are people so uncomfortable with hearing others speak a foreign language? One of the most common reasons given is that they think foreign language speakers are saying something negative. They don’t understand what’s being said. So, they assume the worst.

Translation lifts the veil so that people can see each other’s common humanity.

Translation fuels negotiations.

Without communication, disagreements can turn violent.  And once they turn violent, it’s hard to break the cycle of mutual distrust that results. Translation and interpretation fuels negotiations between countries and between different factions within a country.

For example, consider the end of the Cold War. Politicians like President Reagan, President Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev get all the credit in the history books.  However, this NPR piece shows how important translators and interpreters were in negotiating the end of that conflict.

Translation helps people help each other.

Translation is also a vital part of foreign aid. Without translation, it becomes exponentially more difficult to determine what people in distress need most and to manage the logistics of providing it. That’s why K International is proud to support Translators Without Borders every chance we get.

As this recent piece in the Economist notes, Translators Without Borders has been instrumental in helping Rohingya refugees access aid, particularly in regards to health issues. There’s a shortage of interpreters, so aid workers have had to rely on interpreters who speak related dialects for help. However, the Rohingya are a rural group with a conservative culture. So, they have their own collection of euphemisms to talk about health concerns like diarrhoea. Sadly, many of the women and girls have also been raped or sexually abused. They also rely on euphemisms to describe what happened to them.

Around the world, translation also helps refugees access services and integrate into their new communities. 

Translation encourages appreciation for other cultures.

Translation makes other cultures understandable.  Often, with understanding comes tolerance. When you know the meaning behind different cultures’ mythologies and traditions, they no longer seem quite so foreign.

Translation helps to publicise intolerance and injustice.

Public pressure doesn’t always work to protect vulnerable people from intolerance. But sometimes it does. For example, US President Trump was forced to revise his family separation policy after publicity led to protests, both in the United States and internationally.

As many of those families did not speak English, translation and interpretation was an essential part of getting the word out.

Translation helps enforce international laws.

Education is one of the best ways to encourage tolerance, but it’s not enough. Sometimes, consequences are needed as well. Translators and interpreters are vital to efforts to successfully enforce international laws.

Without a doubt, the most famous example of this is the Nuremberg trials. There were 200 defendants from the Nazi regime. All proceedings had to be translated into four different languages: English, German, Russian and French.  Due to the complexities involved, a system of simultaneous interpretation was developed that’s still used to this day.

Translation keeps the United Nations running smoothly.

According to the United Nations, promoting tolerance “lies at the core of the United Nations Charter, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is more important than ever in this era of rising and violent extremism and widening conflicts that are characterised by a fundamental disregard for human life.”

The United Nations isn’t perfect. They can’t solve every problem.  But they’ve done a lot of good over the years for some of the most vulnerable people and to fight intolerance around the world.  With that in mind, let’s take a moment to tip our hats to the translators and interpreters who work behind the scenes to keep the organisation running.

Do you have any more examples of how translation encourages tolerance? Share them in the comments!

kindness around the world

World Kindness Day: 5 Ways People Show Kindness Around the World

13 November is World Kindness Day.  World Kindness Day has been celebrated since 1998, and this year I daresay we need it now more than ever. 2018 has shown that intolerance knows no borders.  It’s easy to forget that kindness is ALSO universal. Every culture has its own customs and traditions of kindness, compassion and hospitality. Here are just five of the endless ways people show kindness around the world.

Southern Africa: Ubuntu

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:  An anthropologist tries to get a group of African children to run a “winner take all” race with a basket of fruit as a prize. It doesn’t go as planned. Instead of racing each other, the children all hold hands. They cross the finish line together and share the fruit. When the anthropologist asked them why they cooperated instead of competing, they said “Ubuntu, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?”

I hate to be a spoilsport, but I can’t find any confirmation that story actually happened as described.

However, ubuntu as a cultural concept is real. As a philosophy, it was made famous by South African leaders like Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. But it’s much older than they are. Ubuntu is an idea that’s common to many of the cultures of Southern Africa. In Zimbabwe, the Shona call it unhu. In Malawi, it’s called uMunthu. In all of these languages, the meaning is constant: “I am because we are.”

This philosophy encourages kindness in a variety of ways, including:

  • Sharing resources.
  • Taking care of each other.
  • Caring for children as a community.
  • Taking care of travellers. For example, according to Nelson Mandela, “A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food and attend him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu …”

Read more

What to do if your products are stuck at the border

What To Do If Your Products Are Stuck At the Border

Selling your products in another country sounds like a fantastic opportunity. In most cases, it is. However, it’s also more complicated than selling goods in just one country. Multilingual labelling is particularly tricky. Different regions have different requirements, and if your labels are found wanting, your products will likely end up stuck in limbo at the border.

Obviously, the potential business impact of such a mishap is enormous. If your products are stuck at  the border, they aren’t selling. If they aren’t selling, you’re losing money.

So, how do you get them moving again? The exact steps you need to take will vary depending on where your products are stuck, and why they’ve been barred from entry. That said, we’ve put together a guide to common labeling problems and solutions to get you started. Here’s what to do if your products get stuck at the border.

Common Labeling Issues

Labels matter. Here are 3 reasons your product labels might be rejected at the border.

Missing allergen information

Food allergies are a hot topic these days. Their frequency and severity seem to be on the rise, as is media attention on the subject. Food labelling regulations give allergy sufferers the ability to do things the rest of us take for granted. Like going to the shop, buying a chocolate bar, and eating it without going into shock.

When allergens aren’t labelled, tragedy can result.  For example, in the UK, two people died recently due to incorrectly marked sandwiches from popular ready-to-eat chain Pret A Manger. One victim, Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, was only 15 years old and allergic to sesame. She read the label on the sandwich she picked up at the airport. Unfortunately, it didn’t list the sesame seeds baked into the bread. Under the current “fresh foods exception,” it didn’t have to.  She collapsed on the plane and died a few days later.

Incidents like these generate new labelling laws that can vary by country. The “fresh foods” loophole is likely to close soon in the UK, with the expected passage of “Natasha’s law.” Read more

audiovisual heritage

How Transcription and Translation Preserves Our Audiovisual Heritage

Did you know that 27 October was the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage?  The goal of this observance is to “raise general awareness of the need to preserve and safeguard important audiovisual material for future generations.” “Audiovisual heritage” can include anything from movies to TV to radio broadcasts. UNESCO calls these “the primary records of the history of the 20th and 21st centuries.” However, these records are more fragile in some ways than the journals, letters and newspaper articles of years past. For example, UNESCO notes that “sound recordings and moving images can be deliberately destroyed or irretrievably lost as a result of neglect, decay and technological obsolescence.”

Around the world, digital archivists look for strategies to preserve these pieces of our shared history. Much of the work involved is technical- trying to find ways to keep original media intact and accessible or copying it into a digital format. However, translators and transcriptionists also have a crucial role to play in preserving these materials.

Transcribing Audio

Transcription is one way to preserve the content of an audiovisual resource.  Digital transcriptions also have the advantage of being easily searchable. However, transcriptions are no substitute for the original content. Nor is transcription a replacement for proper storage and digitisation. The magic of actually hearing voices and seeing images from the past is irreplaceable.

That said, transcription is still an essential part of the preservation process. For example, the US nonprofit organisation LYRASIS recommends that all recordings be transcribed and indexed, with multiple copies of the transcription saved in different formats.

Translating Content for Wider Distribution

Translation has always played a vital role in the preservation of knowledge. For example, Arabic translators helped preserve the work of ancient Greek philosophers when Europe was stuck in the Dark Ages. Likewise, translating audiovisual content can help ensure its survival. Even more important, translation makes the content understandable to a wider audience. As UNESCO notes in its publication on Audiovisual Archiving: Philosophy and Principles, “preservation is never an end in itself: without the objective of access it has no point.”

UNESCO also notes that there’s an opportunity for translators to help make both audiovisual resources and media scholarship available worldwide:

[T]his wealth of knowledge is not equally available to all. To the extent that much of it is written in English, non-English-speaking professionals are at a disadvantage.

Clearly, translation has an important role to play in making this knowledge more accessible to everyone. Read more

technology and security at K International

Technology and Security at K International

Every time you turn around, it seems like there’s another data breach in the news. Even tech giants like Facebook and Google are affected. To protect your business, you have to keep security top-of-mind. Since language service providers often deal with sensitive data, that means you need to choose an LSP that follows strict standards and procedures to keep that data safe.

At K International, we treat information security as the serious issue it is.  Our clients trust us with their sensitive data. Here’s how we safeguard it:

Technology and Security at K International: ISO 27001 Certification

We are proud to hold full accreditation of information security management standard ISO/IEC 27001 from the British Standards Institute. “That sounds great,” you might be thinking, “but what does it mean to me?”

The answer, in 3 words: “peace of mind.” Since we’re ISO 27001-certified, you can have confidence that all of the procedures we use to protect your company data meet security standards set by the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO).

Before we could even apply for certification, we were required to complete the following steps:

  • Systematically examine our operations to identify security risks, with an eye for threats, vulnerabilities and potential impacts.
  • Create and put into a practice a “coherent and comprehensive” set of information security protocols and procedures to mitigate these threats.
  • Create and put into a practice a management system that ensures these standards continue to provide suitable protection over time.

To become certified, we also had to pass an independent compliance audit from the British Standards Institute. Furthermore, to maintain our certification, we have to complete an audit from an external management consultant every month, and additional inspections from an independent international quality management specialists twice a year.

Our ISO 27001 accreditation proves that we’re not just mouthing pretty words where security is concerned.

Security Clearances

Information security is of paramount importance to both government and business clients. However, government clients often have special security requirements, and K  International is pleased to be able to fulfil them.

Every single person on our staff is CTC (Counter Terrorist Checks)-cleared or better. We regularly handle sensitive documents, and we have a pool of pre-selected, specially cleared linguists available for government clients. If you need a specific security clearance for your project, ask us.

We also offer security-cleared transcription services with four levels of government security-cleared transcribers, ranging from CTC to Security Checks (SC) and even Developed Vetting (DV).

Non-disclosure agreements protect your information

At K International, all of our contracted freelancers (and occasionally, their pets) sign non-disclosure agreements to keep your business information confidential, as it should be.

Secure Document Handling Procedures

Need to send a paper translation request? No problem. To safeguard paper documents that may contain sensitive information, we never use PO boxes. All materials are delivered directly to our headquarters. When we aren’t translating them, they are kept securely in one of our fireproof safes.

We’ve been in business for over 30 years, we’ve handled over one million documents for the UK government, and we’ve never lost a single document. Whether you work for the UK  government or not, that demonstrates how seriously we take security.

Machine Translation Used Appropriately In a Secure Environment

This should go without saying, but at K International, we never use Google Translate or any other free online machine translation platform. That’s not just because the results are prone to errors- it’s also because online machine translation comes with extra security risks.  For example, last year, Norwegian oil company Statoil suffered a major scandal when journalists found quite a bit of the company’s sensitive information available freely online.

What happened? This particular data breach wasn’t caused by hackers, rather by Statoil’s own employees. They had been using the free machine translation service to translate internal documents., in turn, had been uploading the translated text into the cloud. And there it remained, publicly available. The data included everything from staff termination letters to employee performance reports!

At K International, we use machine translation only when it’s appropriate for the project, and only in our own secure environment. This approach ensures your company’s data stays where it belongs. (Bonus: it also ensures more accurate and effective translations!)

The bottom line is simple: Finding the right language services partner is crucial to protecting your organisation’s sensitive data.  With decades of experience, a verified set of information security procedures, secure document handling and a trustworthy, vetted staff, K International is uniquely positioned to be that partner. For more information on how we can help you talk to the world, take a moment to review the services we offer and contact us to discuss your next project.

project managers and freelancers

Project Managers and Freelancers – Working Together to Make Your Project a Success

“If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

You’ve no doubt heard that saying before, but when it comes to language services, it’s a recipe for disaster. Savvy businesses know the value of outsourcing complex tasks that are outside their core competencies. In most cases, language services like translation and localisation are best handled by a team of experts. These projects are complicated. Doing them right gobbles precious time and resources.

Meanwhile, taking shortcuts often leads to costly errors. (We’re looking at you, Google Translate!)

However, if you outsource to a language services provider, you don’t have to worry about any of it. Instead, meet your new best friend: your project manager. LSP project managers work with a team of freelance translators to make sure that your localisation projects are successful. Here’s how they do it.LSP project managers freelancers


Project managers get new translation and localisation projects started off on the right foot.

The project manager’s work begins long before a single word is translated. It’s their job to review the project requirements and create a project timeline. They also prepare clear, easy-to-follow instructions for the other professionals who will be working on the project, and they get all the relevant files ready to send off.

Project managers work to understand your industry.

A good LSP project manager knows the ins and outs of your industry (or is willing to learn), so they can offer you relevant advice and the best possible service.

Project managers find the perfect translators for your project.

There’s a reason we advise against buttonholing a bilingual employee or friend and asking them to translate something important. Not everyone who can speak two languages can be a good translator. Translation requires native-level proficiency in the target language, fluency in the source language, and training in the art of translation. Plus, some projects require additional knowledge and experience. For example, industry-specific terms are often puzzling to laypeople.

A project manager can source freelance translators for all desired target languages, ensuring that they have the experience and qualifications necessary for the job.

Project managers act as single point of contact for clients.

Translation and localisation projects are a team effort, and often, that team is large and scattered over many different time zones. There are freelance translators, editors and proofreaders. Depending on the type of project, other professionals may need to be involved, too. For example, you may need graphic design help to ensure the final product looks just as good in the target language as it did in the original.  For audio content, you’ll need multilingual voiceover artists to read the translated script.

Project managers act as a liaison between clients, freelancers, and all of the other professionals involved in the project. They coordinate everything, from the initial translation to the proofreading to the quality control process.

Meanwhile, freelance translators translate your content into the target language of your choice.

In most cases, this is not a simple matter of substituting one word for another. Languages vary when it comes to word order, grammar, and vocabulary.  The translator’s job is to understand the source text and reproduce it in the target language, coming as close as possible to the original in meaning, style and tone.

For marketing and advertising, transcreation is often the best option. The original text may need to be recreated from the ground up to take cultural variations into account so that the result has the same impact on the target audience that it did in the original language.

If the translators have questions or need clarification, they’ll come to the project manager for help.

Project managers coordinate review, proofreading and editing of translated texts.

A project manager’s job doesn’t stop after the initial translation. Even the best translators make mistakes, so quality control is essential. The project manager will coordinate the editing and proofreading process. If an in-house review is necessary, they’ll coordinate that with your team members, too.

LSP project managers maintain all of the glossaries and translation memories to streamline future projects.

With so many people working on different aspects of the project, you’d think it would be difficult to keep a consistent style for translated content.  No worries, your project manager can build and maintain a style guide and a glossary to keep freelance translators on track. Project managers are also responsible for maintaining translation memories so that you never have to pay twice to translate the same words or phrases.

The project manager delivers the completed project and gets feedback to ensure continuous improvement.

Once every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed, the project manager delivers the complete project to the client for approval and feedback. If you’ve chosen an LSP with a great project management team, you can expect your experience to keep getting better the longer you work together.

At K International, we have a fantastic team of project managers with the skills and industry experience to make your next project a success. Put them together with our international team of qualified, vetted linguists, and you have a winning combination. Want to learn more? Take a look at our language services and contact us with your next project. We’d love to hear from you!