Happy New Year in over 150 Languages

Happy New Year everyone. 

Translation of Happy New Year

In alphabetical order (let us know if we’ve missed any).

Happy New Year in: Afrikaans: gelukkige nuwejaar / voorspoedige nuwejaar

Happy New Year in Akposso: ilufio ètussé

Happy New Year in Albanian: Gëzuar vitin e ri

Happy New Year in Alsatian: e glëckliches nëies / güets nëies johr

Happy New Year in Arabic: عام سعيد (aam saiid) / sana saiida

Happy New Year in Armenian: shnorhavor nor tari

Happy New Year in Atikamekw: amokitanone

Happy New Year in Azeri: yeni iliniz mübarək

Happy New Year in Bambara: aw ni san’kura / bonne année

Happy New Year in Basaa: mbuee Read more

Happy Christmas and all the Best for 2014

We’re closing the office in ten minutes which just gives me enough time to thank all our readers of the language blog for all the support in 2013 and wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year for 2014. We have lots of new things planned for 2014 and know you’ll all be part of it.

Thank you.

Happy Xmas from K International

Google Translate

Can’t I just use Google Translate?

I was asked this question today.

It wasn’t the first time. If I’m honest, it annoyed me that I should have to answer it at all. But I guess if you don’t work in the language industry, you might perceive Google as a trustworthy company who can do no wrong, so you could be forgiven for thinking that their machine translation would be equally reliable. I’m answering it here on the language blog, to share with anyone who may be guilty of having the same thoughts.

It’s surprising (to me, at least) how many times I hear things like;

  • So basically you do the same as Google Translate?
  • Why should I pay you anything when I can get Google Translate to do it for free?
  • Do you use Google Translate for all your translation?
  • Do you just have one big computer who does all the translation?

(the answer is NO to all of the above) Read more

Jokes about Translation

Its our Christmas party tonight… we’re all of to the pub for a meal then its a night at the comedy club. To prove translators and designers can be funny here’s our favourite jokes.

Jokes about Translation

How many translators does it take to change a lightbulb? It depends on the context.

Two translators on a ship are talking. “Can you swim?” asks one. “No” says the other, “but I can shout for help in nine languages.” Read more

Quotes about Language

I heard Nelson Mandela’s quote about language a couple of times last week and it inspired to collect my favourite ones together and put them on the blog. Whether you’re working in the language industry, teaching languages, studying language or just here for fun we’re sure one of these will make you smile.

Which one’s your favourite? or do you have any more? let me know in the comments.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

Nelson Mandela

Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

England and America are two countries separated by the same language.

George Bernard Shaw

Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.

Walt Disney
Read more

Happy Arabic Language Day!

December 18th is the second annual World Arabic Language Day.  Established in 2010 by UNESCO, it marks the annual anniversary of the date in 1973 that Arabic was given the status of official UN language.

This year, Arabic Language Day was celebrated not only by UNESCO, but by companies and organizations around the world. For example, in Dubai, the Dubai Centre for Arabic Language  was launched to “foster a stronger understanding and appreciation for the Arabic language,” according to Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed, who chairs the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is hosting a book fair in Riyadh, and Egypt’s Supreme Council for Culture hosted a conference featuring Arabic scholars and local poets.

In a speech commemorating the holiday, Director-General of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Irina Bokova called the occasion 

“an opportunity for us to acknowledge the immense contribution of the Arabic language to universal culture and to renew our commitment to multilingualism. Linguistic diversity is a key component of cultural diversity. It reflects the wealth of human existence and gives us access to infinite resources so that we may engage in dialogue, learn, develop and live in peace.”

To celebrate World Arabic Language Day, here are 7 facts about the Arabic language:

  1. Arabic has between 380 and 422 million native speakers, making it the fifth most spoken language in the world.
  2. It is the 11th most-spoken language in the US.
  3. The Arabic alphabet is read from right to left, rather than left to right.
  4. Different Arabic dialects vary from each other about as much as the different Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian, etc) do.
  5. Arabic letters are drawn differently depending on where they appear in a word.
  6. The Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State ranks Arabic as one of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn.
  7. Some surprising Arabic loanwords in English include but are certainly not limited to: cotton, algebra, hazard, mattress and orange.

Sign Language Interpreter Fiasco at Mandela’s Memorial Service

For a man like Nelson Mandela, who fought so hard to create a more inclusive society, it was neither a proper nor a fitting sendoff. A sign language interpreter was provided to interpret Mandela’s memorial service for deaf audience members and viewers, but it seems nobody bothered to check his qualifications before they put him on stage.

The interpreter, a man by the name of Thamsanqa Jantjie, spent hours on stage “interpreting” the speeches of leaders and dignitaries from around the globe. Unfortunately, he “interpreted” their words into the sign language equivalent of gibberish. As Action on Hearing Loss CEO Paul Breckell told NBCNews: Read more

Government translation legal responsibility

Legal Responsibility for Government Translation

Translation and the Law

When developing your Government department’s language policies and communication strategies it is advisable to consider the following articles of law. This research should be used to help you to decide what you translate and when you use interpreters (or telephone interpreters).

Race Relations Act (1976)

The Race Relations Act 1976 established the Commission for Racial Equality and provided definitions of direct and indirect discrimination, on grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origin. Direct discrimination is defined as treating one person less favourably on grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origin, in the provision of goods, facilities and services, employment, housing and advertising. Indirect discrimination means discrimination by the imposition of unjustifiable conditions which can be met by more people of one colour, race, ethnic or national origin than another. Someone who has been discriminated against can take individual civil action, through an industrial tribunal for employment matters, or in the county court for other matters. Read more

Languages in New Guinea

Languages in New Guinea

Which country has the highest number of different languages within its borders? Surprisingly, the answer is not China, India or any other large country.

Tiny Papua New Guinea is all of 462,840 square kilometres in size, about as big as the state of California. Despite its small size, it is the most linguistically diverse country on the planet. According to the Ethnologue website, there are approximately 6,912 known living languages in the world today.

The exact number is subject to change as new languages are discovered and other languages become extinct. Of those 6,912 languages, 820 of them are spoken in Papua New Guinea. Can you imagine 820 languages being spoken in one country?


Why so Many?

There are a couple of reasons that New Guinea has so many different languages. For one thing, the island has been occupied by human beings for a long time-at least 40,000 years!

This means that there has been plenty of time for the language or languages spoken by the original settlers to change and mutate. In fact, even though the same group of people populated New Guinea and Australia, after 40,000 years there are very few similarities between native Australian languages and native New Guinea languages. Over the millennia, they have grown so far apart that they are not even considered part of the same language family.

The territory of New Guinea is also extremely fragmented. New Guinea villages are cut off from their neighbours by a variety of obstacles, including steep mountains, dense forests, rivers and treacherous swamps. Because of this fragmentation, New Guinea has many small indigenous groups with vastly different lifestyles, all having lived in relative isolation from each other for thousands and thousands of years.

Small tribes of people live by fishing on the coasts, by farming at higher elevations, and by gathering sago palms for food in the lowland swamps. Over many centuries, each of these tiny groups has developed its own culture and in many cases its own language.

In New Guinea, most languages have a relatively small number of native speakers. The native New Guinea language with the highest number of speakers is Enga, spoken by approximately 165,000 members of a nomadic tribe called the Maramuni. In so many cases, countries are only held together by a common language. In New Guinea, shared land and a shared history as an Australian colony create a tenuous bond between the citizens.

Still, how do they communicate?

Map of Papau New Guinea

New Guinea has 3 official languages: Tok Pisin, Hiri Motu, andEnglish.

Tok Pisin is an English-based Creole, a language that started out as a combination of two different languages and evolved into a distinct language of its own. In New Guinea, around 121,000 people grew up speaking Tok Pisin as a first language, but 4 million of the country’s residents are fluent in it.

If you need to be able to communicate in New Guinea, Tok Pisin is probably the best language to learn. Hiri Motu is a pidgin, a combination of the Motu language with English, Tok Pisin and various other regional languages. Very few people grow up speaking Hiri Motu, but approximately 120,000 New Guineans understand it as a second language. Because it is not spoken as a first language, it cannot be considered a Creole language at this time.

According to the New York Times, one of the world’s languages is lost forever every two weeks. New Guinea’s linguistic diversity has so far been protected by the inaccessibility of much of the country, as well as the fact that many people in New Guinea think of themselves as members of their tribe first and their nation second.

Hopefully, as New Guinea becomes more and more modern in the years to come, its rich linguistic heritage will remain intact.

Nordic Languages

Nordic Languages

The Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Icelandic languages are collectively known as the Nordic languages. Since they are all descended from Old Norse, these languages have a lot in common.

In fact, someone who speaks one language can often understand someone who speaks another Nordic language, although it may take a bit of effort to do so. The Nordic languages, also known as North Germanic languages, are spoken today by about 20 million speakers.

Naturally, they are spoken primarily in the Nordic countries. However, there are also small populations in Canada and the US that speak Nordic dialects.


Old Norse

Old Norse was the mother tongue of the Vikings, who carried it to Iceland and to various other settlements during the Viking Age. Old Norse evolved around the 8th century AD from an older language called proto-Norse. Although there were two distinct Old Norse dialects, Old East Norse and Old West Norse, the differences between the two dialects were minor and a speaker of one dialect would have no trouble understanding speakers of the other.

In the late 8th century, the Vikings burst out from Scandinavia to terrorise England, Ireland and Scotland as raiders and pirates. This explosion of activity was probably mainly due to population pressure in the Scandinavian countries at the time. Whatever the motivation, the Vikings and their longboats soon became a source of fear for coastal residents and sailors in surrounding countries.

The Vikings and their Longboats

When most people picture the Vikings, they picture huge savages in horned helmets destroying entire villages for fun and profit. Naturally, the truth is little more complex than that. Also, several of the myths surrounding the Vikings are simply incorrect. For example, Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets. They wore conical metal helmets that might have had designs hammered into them, but never had horns attached. Also, they weren’t necessarily savages. At least, they probably were not any more savage than other Europeans alive the same time.

The Vikings lived during an especially violent period in European history. Warfare was much more commonplace than it is now, and although Vikings certainly did there share of dirty deeds, they weren’t the only savages around. In his campaigns to Christianise the Saxons, for example, Charlemagne had 4,500 Saxon prisoners killed in one day in response to a rebellion. Charlemagne is often described as ‘wise’ and ‘kind’ by historians, so it seems that the pagan Vikings may have been the victims of a historical double standard. Vikings were not merely uneducated heathen thugs. They had an amazing culture with a rich set of myths and folklore, a love of poetry, and their own system of writing.

In their longboats, they were also incredible sailors and intrepid explorers. Icelanders speak a Nordic language today because the Vikings discovered and colonised it. They also discovered Greenland and maintained a settlement there for many years. Leif Ericsson, a Viking living in Greenland, was the first European to discover the New World, approximately 498 years before Columbus. In L’Anse aux Meadows, Canada, visitors can inspect the remains of a Viking settlement, quite possibly ‘Vinland’ as described in Eric’s Saga, although the exact location of Vinland is still a matter of bitter scholarly dispute.

Additionally, Vikings were a literate society. Like other Germanic peoples, they used the runic alphabet as a system of writing until they were Christianised, when they adopted the Latin alphabet. The Scandinavian version of the Runic alphabet is named Futhark, after the first 6 letters of the alphabet. Runes had a variety of uses: they may have been used for magic and in rituals, they were used to memorialise people and events on runestones, and at least in the latter part of the Viking Age they were also used for everyday purposes such as labeling personal items. Of course, not everyone could write, but it was an important skill for upper-class Norseman and mastering the runes increased ones prestige.

Ancient Runes

According to the Eddas, a cycle of mythological Norse poems, the runes were discovered by the god Odin at a great personal cost. He hung for 9 days on a tree without food or water, pierced with a spear, and at the end of the nine days the runes were revealed to him. This myth demonstrates how important literacy was to the ancient Norse. There are two stories that describe how the runes were passed on to humans. In one version of the story, the god Rig or Heimdall fathered 3 sons, with each son representing one of the three classes in Norse society (slaves, freemen, and lords). The runes were taught to the noble son and passed down to his descendents. In another myth, a human stole Odin’s rune staff, learned the runes and taught them to other people.

The ancient Norse also loved poetry, considering it too to be a gift from Odin. Norse poetry encompassed a variety of different forms, ranging from epic sagas to shorter verses suitable for runestones. Poetry could cover a range of topics, including episodes from Norse mythology, the deeds of heroes, and the deeds and accomplishments of ordinary Norsemen who did extraordinary things. Many of the long epic poems, known as sagas, were collected and preserved in Iceland.

As time went on, the different dialects of old Norse became more and more distinct from each other, eventually forming 6 different languages: Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish and Norn, an extinct language that was once spoken in Norse-occupied regions of Orkney and Shetland. Of the surviving languages, Icelandic is actually closest to Old Norse. In fact, when written down the two languages are almost identical, and Icelanders can read Old Norse manuscripts without much difficulty. However, the way the language is pronounced has changed dramatically over time in Iceland as well.

The Nordic Council

Today, the Nordic countries are bound not only by a common linguistic heritage.

They also cooperate as part of the Nordic council. In 1987, the Nordic Council enacted the Nordic Language Convention, which gives citizens of Nordic countries the opportunity to use their own native language in certain circumstances while they are in other Nordic countries. Situations where the Language Convention applies include hospital visits, interactions with authorities such as tax offices, social security offices, the police and in the court system.

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