5 Creepy Christmas Traditions from Around the World

‘Tis the season to be jolly…but in some parts of the world, Christmas isn’t all “Jingle Bells”  and “Fa La La La’s.” Here are 5 Christmas traditions from around the world that are more creepy than festive.

1. Austria and other Alpine Countries – The Krampus

If you’re good, Santa Claus brings you presents. If you’re bad, he gives you coal or possibly even a switch for your parents to beat you with, right? Right. Unless you live in certain Alpine regions in Europe, including Austria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia. There, the bad kids have to contend with the Krampus, a nightmarish horned demon who basically acts as Santa’s enforcer. The Krampus distributes coal, bundles of birch twigs called “ruten,” and sometimes carries a washtub in which he drowns bad children so he can eat them. Read more

Merry Christmas 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone we’ve worked with for helping to make this year one of the most exciting in K International’s history. We couldn’t have done it without such great clients or without our team of expert linguists. We look forward to building new partnerships throughout 2015 and continuing our commitment to delivering the best service in the industry.

We wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Enjoy the Holidays!

K International wish everyone we've worked with in 2014 a very Merry Christmas

Treat your overseas friends with a Christmas greeting in their own language:

Gmail, Now In Irish

Gmail is now available in Irish! Google just announced that the popular email service is now available in the Irish language, bringing the number of available languages up to 72.

Laura Brassil, of Gmail’s Dublin localisation team, told the Irish Times that the process was a group effort that included Googlers and outside experts in the localisation process:

“Our EMEA headquarters is located in Dublin so it is fantastic that gmail is now available in Irish. Our meitheal of local googlers and volunteers translated over 60,000 words and phrases into Irish. I’d like to offer a ‘míle buíochas’ to Prof Kevin Scannell of the University of St Louis, Missouri who first approached us with the idea and all our Irish-language experts and enthusiasts for their commitment to Gmail as Gaeilge.”

Why make the effort to offer Gmail in so many languages, especially when everyone who speaks Irish also speaks English? It just goes to show that even when you get as big as Google, you still have to work to  build a connection with your audience. For an international company, localisation is a key part of that process. People like using products that are tailored to them: their interests, their language and their needs. That’s definitely the case with Irish.  As Ms. Brassil points out in a post on the Gmail blog,

“[F]or many Irish people it sparks memories of a shared history—from summers on the Western coast to the story of Peig and the Blasket Islands. With Gmail as Gaeilge we’re honored to help bring this Irish tradition online.”

To experience Gmail in Irish, click on the “Settings” icon on the top right corner of your inbox. “Language”is the first option. Change it to “Gaeilge,” and you should be good to go.

Do you speak Irish? If so, will you use the Irish version of Gmail? Let us know in the comments!

Foreign Language Skills Lacking for UK Students 

UK foreign language students often leave school barely conversational in the languages they study, according to a new study from the Guardian. The survey polled 1,001 students and former students to gauge their attitudes toward learning foreign languages and their experiences with the UK school system. The results were not good, to say the least. Some lowlights:

  • 8 in 10 students who studied popular languages in school said they were only able to understand “basic phrases.”
  • 4 in 10 who studied Spanish, Italian, Russian and Japanese felt they would have have difficulty “understanding, speaking or writing anything.”

Ouch! And before you start blaming “kids today” for not being motivated enough, keep in mind that 3 out of 4 students agreed that “languages provide a valuable understanding of other cultures” and 7 in 10 had a goal of learning a foreign language in the future. So what’s going on? The Guardian implies that the way language classes are structured and taught isn’t helping students learn the practical conversation skills they value, and that schools don’t treat languages as important. Experts quoted in the article differ on whether the upcoming reforms to A-Level language classes will help or hurt. The Guardian concludes:

 With a clear conflict emerging in the Guardian’s poll between young people’s interest in languages and a sense that their studies are not matching their aspirations, it remains to be seen whether the reforms can rescue language study in the UK from terminal decline.

Ouch! In an ironic twist, the survey also showed that while 1 in 5 UK students are bilingual with a home language other than English, their built-in language skills are not being recognized and rewarded by the school system. Even more depressing, almost 40% of these students don’t consider their home language an advantage. According to Cambridge University’s language centre directer, Jocelyn Wyburg, negative attitudes toward non-native English speakers may be to blame:

“I’ve talked to young people who don’t want to admit they have another language or, if they have a qualification won’t put it on their CV. They’ve been reluctant even to be proud of it.”

What can the UK can do to help students learn foreign languages in school, and to help students who already know a foreign language value the knowledge they have? Let us know in the comments!


Badly Translated DVD Covers

Pretty sure all of these are bootlegs. But they’re funny none the less. Ladies and Gents here are my favourite DVD cover bad translations.

Loin King II.

‘not as good as the first one, but ok’.

not as good as the first one but ok

50 Fist Dates

Drew Barrymore’s face says it all. That’s the last time she’s using tinder.


Arnie Star Wars

Would have made this movie a million times better with Arnie in it, ‘get to the faaaalcon’.


Jesus Speaks Nigerian

It says broadcast time is up to 3000 minutes. That’s 50 hours! (is that more than the whole of Breaking Bad?).


40 Year Old Virgem


Saving Mr Banks II

aka Freezing Mr Disney.

Saving Mr Banks II

Metal Man


Sean Connery Vs Who?

Sure some people (not me) would agree with this.


The Matrix Reloaded

With an interesting plot addition.


Lost in Translation

My #1 movie of all time… but its looks different.


The Incredible Hulk

or is that King Kong. Maybe its a mash-up. You wouldn’t like us when we’re angry.


Santa Claus in Different Languages

During the Holiday Season, one man and only one is the centre of attention. Flying in the sky on his magic sleigh, distributing presents all over the world and bringing joy in each home, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa Claus. Ever wonder what Santa is called in different countries?

Here’s your answer (with the literal translation in brackets afterwards if needed) & remember, if you need anything else translated our document translation service is here for you.

Brazil Brazil – Papai Noel

Chile Chile – Viejo Pascuero (Old Man Christmas)

China China – Dun Che Lao Ren (Christmas Old Man)

Denmark Denmark – Julemanden

Finland Finland – Joulupukki

France France – Père Noël

Germany Germany – Weihnachtsmann (Christmas Man)

Greece Greek – Άγιος Βασίλης

Hungary Hungary – Mikulas (St. Nicholas)

Italy Italy – Babbo Natale

Japan Japan – Hoteiosho (A god or priest bearing gifts)

Norway Norway – Julenissen (Christmas gnome)

Poland Polish –  Święty Mikołaj

Portugal Portugal – Pai Natal

Spain Spain – Papa Noel

Romania Romania – Mos Craciun

Russia Russia – Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost)

Turkey Turkey – Noel Baba

Santa Around the World

Santa Claus is the most universally recognised figure around the world, adopted by differing cultures, many of which never see snow from year to year. One of the reasons for his, or her, popularity is the ability to merge with local gift giving customs, resulting in a multitude of hybrids with their own unique traits.

The origin of the story is traced back to Saint Nicholas, born in the Turkish town of Patara and who died in 350AD, having travelled around Roman controlled Palestine and Egypt. He was renowned for his anonymous gifts of gold coins to the needy and this has been traditionally celebrated on the 6th December.

Father Christmas personifies the British version of the tale, dating back to the reign of Henry VIII, and representing the spirit of Christmas. This was reinvented by the Victorians when the Queen popularised the traditions of her German consort Albert, including the first Christmas tree, under which presents too big for stockings, magically appear.

Sinnterklaas in Holland

SinterklaasThe pronunciation of Saint Nicholas in Dutch can be phonetically spelled ‘Sinnterklaas’ from which Santa Claus was derived as settlers headed across to the new lands of America, mixing with many other cultural influences. The gift giving became associated with the Magi, the three wise men who visited the birth of Christ, with German and Scandinavian influences favouring the 24th December.

Iconic pictures and literature became the established version of Santa Claus in a world short of multi-media. The poem ‘A Visit from St Nicholas’ in 1823 set the story of arriving by sleigh on roof tops and climbing down chimneys, while a black and white print by political cartoonist Thomas Nast in 1881 portrays the jolly man in fur lined robes that everyone recognises today. Contrary to urban myth it was not Coca Cola who first changed Santa’s robes from green to red but White Rock Beverages, but it was the former’s brand awareness that made the change permanent.

Today the Dutch version of Sinterklaas retains a close link to the story’s origins and has a much darker side than most. Assisted by Zwarte Piet, he arrives from Spain by boat and then spends three weeks travelling round the country delivering presents to good children by dropping them down chimneys. Those that are found to be on the naughty list are reputedly whipped and thrown into sacks before being carted back to Spain. In the Alpine region of Europe Zwarte Piet is a minor villain compared to Krampus (the Claw) who travels with Santa spreading chaos and misery amongst sinners. He has his own feast day, the fifth of December, when people dress up to scare and play pranks on each other.

Papai Noel in Brazil

Papai-NoelPapai Noel takes over the role in Brazil, with typical flair and style in a country fond of Carnival. Swapping fur trimmed velvet for a more tropical red silk suit he arrives by helicopter at the Maracanã football stadium a few days before Christmas, which is packed with expectant children. Since most houses in the country are built without chimneys the children leave shoes outside to be filled with sweets.

Elsewhere in South America it is el Niño Jesus, the infant Jesus, who brings presents to Mexico, Columbia and Costa Rica. While in Puerto Rico there is a second day of celebration on the Epiphany, to celebrate when the Magi arrive bearing gifts. Children place grass under their beds for the camels on which they travel, and awake to find their kindness rewarded.

Japan, Italy and Sweden

In Japan the Christmas period is traditionally a time for performing charitable work but at New Year the figure of Hoteiosho appears as a fat monk with eyes in the back of his head to spot whether children are being well behaved or not. He carries with him a sack full of toys to reward those he sees fit.

In Italy one of the original pagan characters still survives, a witch who goes by the name of La Befana, who might arrive on Christmas Day or the Epiphany, depending upon the region. A benevolent soul, she brings gifts of sweets and dried fruit, which she leaves in the socks of good children, all others receive a lump of coal as a mark of her displeasure.

For Sweden it is the Julbock, the Christmas goat, who is credited with bringing presents and festive cheer. His origins are derived from the stories of the Norse God Thor, who used two goats Taningnjost and Tanngrisner to pull his chariot through the air, a method of transport that sounds vaguely familiar.

Ded Moroz and Sengurochka

Ded Moroz & SengurochkaThe territories of Eastern Europe are presided over by Ded Moroz, Grandfather Frost, who is assisted by his grand-daughter Sengurochka, the Snow Girl. Carrying a magical staff he travels in a traditional sleigh, drawn by three horses running side by side. Moroz is renowned to have a split personality, rewarding generously those he finds to be honest and hard working, but punishing pitilessly those who are immoral and lazy. He is also known as a highly skilled smith, whose powers include chaining the waters with iron frosts.

So wherever in the World you are this Christmas, Santa Claus and his associates will be visiting somewhere close to you. The concept of rewards for the good and punishment for the bad have been part of folklore for millennia, Saint Nicholas just happens to be the figure to have bound them all together.

Tracking Santa

For the last couple of years you can track Santa around the world using Google, more accurately using the Google Santa Tracker. Its a handy little tool to help the kids (and big kids) watch were he’s been on the big night and the estimated time of arrival at your location (obviously you have to be asleep when he actually comes down your chimney or the magic won’t happen).

track santa with Google

And (bonus) if you go there now there’s an advent calendar with a new game each day to help you pass the time away.


Colors in Translation

A rose by another name might still smell as sweet…but would it be as red? That might depend on the language you speak. The amount of influence that language has on how we see the world has been debated for centuries, but studies do seem to support a relationship between the words we use and our perceptions.

This is especially true when it comes to how we see colors, as this infographic at muyueh.com illustrates. Using data from the English and Chinese versions of the Wikipedia entry on color, the visualization shows the differences in how English speakers and Chinese speakers describe color.  According to creator Muyueh Lee:

Language represents our view of the world, and knowing its limits helps us understand how our perception works. I used the data from Wikipedia’s “Color” entry for different languages. My assumption was:  “Different languages have different ways to describe color.”

So how does English compare with Chinese? Looking at the infographic, it’s clear that English (or at least the English Wikipedia article)  has more words for color than Chinese does. Additionally, the most popular “base color words” in Chinese are red, blue and green. In English, it’s blue, green and pink. English also differs from Chinese in using place names to distinguish between colors, like in “Persian Blue.”

The visualization is interesting, though Wikipedia is obviously not the most reliable source of data. But what does it mean? Do differences in the way different languages describe colors affect what people see? Does having more ways to describe colors help you to perceive differences in different shades? A couple of studies, summed up in the Daily Mail, suggest that they might:

A 1954 study found that Zuñi speakers, a tribe of Pueblo Native Americans, found they do not differentiate between orange and yellow. As a result, they have trouble telling them apart. A separate study focused on how Russian speakers have separate words for light blue (goluboy) and dark blue (siniy).  MIT recruited 50 people from the Boston area in Massachusetts, half of whom were native Russian speakers. They found they were 10 per cent faster at distinguishing between light (goluboy) blues and dark (siniy) blues than at discriminating between blues within the same shade category.

Possibly more important from a business standpoint is the way the same colors can have different meanings and associations across cultures.  For example, purple is associated with royalty in the West, but in Thailand it is associated with widows and mourning. It’s important to make sure all aspects of your brand translate well into your target markets. We can help!

Agile Project Management in Localization

Agile Project Management may by the ‘method-du-jour’ but it has actually been around and experimented with for over 50 years. Gaining traction with the software development community following the Manifesto for Agile Software Development (2001) this methodology is now well used and very well respected across many disciplines of project management.

From a localization point of view it answers a lot of our prayers. Inasmuch as it moves localization upstream and no longer do we deal with translation/localization as a ‘waterfall’ afterthought. Instead we are integrated into the development, code and management of the very product which we are helping to develop. This has to be a good thing as the feedback loop from local consumer to global brand is encouraged.

Read more

Idioms from Around the World 

Idioms, well-known phrases of figurative language like “It’s raining cats and dogs,” are to languages as spices are to cooking. Often peculiar, charming and funny, they add a distinctive local flavor to everyday speech. They also don’t translate very well.

A new infographic from Hotelclub.com illustrates just how odd some of these phrases seem to foreigners by translating ten of them literally and then drawing the results. In the HotelClub blog, Matt Lindley writes,

“I’ve always been fascinated by foreign idioms; they give us a unique insight into the culture that uses them. Did you know that in German you can say “to live like a maggot in bacon” instead of “to live the life of luxury”? Idioms can tell us a lot about what matters to a nation. They’re a window to the soul.”

Of course, it’s not just foreign idioms that seem absurd when you stop to think about them.  As Lindley told the Guardian,

“I’m sure English idioms sound really strange to other people. Often ones that resonate with different cultures are the ones that are quite far away from the ones they have.”

See the full infographic below for more. Meanwhile, here are seven more idioms from around the world that we’d like to see illustrated. Hey guys, how about a sequel?

  •  French: “To eat dandelions by the root.” Meaning: The state of being deceased.
  • Spanish: “When frogs grow hair.” Meaning: When pigs fly…or never.
  • Armenian: “Stop ironing my head!”  Meaning:  Stop annoying me!
  • Dutch:  “I sweat carrots.”  Meaning: I’m sweating like a pig
  • Hindi: “To excrete embers.” Meaning:  “to get very angry”
  • Norwegian: “To pace around hot porridge like a cat.”   Meaning: “To beat around the bush,” or to discuss a subject in an indirect manner.
  • Russian: “To hang noodles on one’s ears.” Meaning: “To tell lies or  talk nonsense.”

Idioms of the WorldSource – HotelClub

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