6 Industry Experts Tell Translators How to Survive and Thrive After Brexit

Did you expect the UK to vote to leave the EU? The Brexit vote rocked the world in June, and the shockwaves will undoubtedly be felt for years to come.

People in all sorts of industries are now trying to make sense of an uncertain future. The translation industry is no exception. In fact, translators and others in the language services industry have reasons to be wary, as so many translation opportunities depend on international business.

It’s always best to be prepared, but how do you prepare when the future is so uncertain? To help, we gathered six experts in translation and international business to discuss how Brexit is likely to impact the industry and what we can do to stay ahead of the game. Here’s what they had to say.

Uncertainty and Opportunities

Our fearless leader Richard Brooks is the CEO of K International.

He sees uncertainty and some potential problems ahead, but also opportunities.

How do you think Brexit will affect the translation industry?

Short Term Effects

If (and I think this is a big if as leaving the EU is an issue for the law makers) we issue article 50 and leave the EU I see there being several short term effects impacting on the UK translation market.

  • Fall in value of the pound, making what we produce cheaper to big markets such as the USA. However our unit cost is already cheaper than the US market, so I wouldn’t expect to see a huge influx of work.
  • Economic slowdown. The debate is for how long. Looks like the Government wants the economy to be kickstarted again by an entrepreuners. When this happened last time (2008) we saw policies from Government to encourage business to retrain staff and invest in plants and machinery. This may be the end of austerity as the Government has opportunity here to develop something big.
  • Unravelling the law. We’ve been part of the EU for over a generation and lots of our laws are intertwined. This generates an enormous amount of work for the legal services industry … A part of this will (by nature) require language assistance. The big issue is who is going to pay for it all (my belief is that it will run into £billions).
  • Uncertainty during the 24 after we begin the process.  Big business hates this and will delay investment until the time period has passed. Fear of slowdown causes a slowdown.

Read more

Your End-of-Summer Language News Digest

And just like that, summer is over.  Feeling left behind? Here are 7 interesting stories about language and translation to keep you in the know!

Britney Spears’ French Teacher is Probably Dying of Shame Right Now 

8514687036_83acba7062_bSo, this week Britney Spears released a new album. One of the songs, “Coupure Electrique,” is sung entirely in French. How sophisticated! Except she obviously didn’t get a French translator to help with the lyrics. To quote Bustle,

“The French lyrics in this track are not actually grammatically correct, so a direct translation would result in English lyrics that actually don’t really make that much sense.”

But if you’re interested in what she’s trying to say, Bustle does a good job of trying to parse the lyrics into understandable English.

United States Finally Settles on a Spanish Translation of the Miranda Warning

26682691294_385a8a19c4_bIf you’ve watched an American cop show, you’ve heard it: The Miranda warning, which advises suspects being placed under arrest that they have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, etc.

But if what if the suspect doesn’t speak English? The US now has the world’s second-largest population of Spanish speakers. Only Mexico has more. But until this month, the US did not have a standard translation of the Miranda warning. And that has caused all sorts of problems. According to Vice, there have been “dozens of instances of bad translations, including the use of Spanglish, and completely made-up Spanish words like “silento.” (The Spanish word for silent is “silencio.”)

Finally, a half-century after the Miranda warning became the law of the land and standard police operating procedure, the American Bar associaton has voted to create a standard Spanish-language Miranda warning.  Read more

3 Notable International Business Failures to Learn From

Conquering a new international market can be tricky. Even the largest companies make mistakes — and you can learn from them. For example, here are 3 times big brands tried to expand into new countries, only to come limping back. Let’s see what lessons we can take from these international business failures.

Starbucks in Israel


With more than 24,000 stores in 70 countries, Starbucks is no stranger to international business.  But their attempt at expanding into Israel was not quite so successful. The first Starbucks in Israel opened in Tel Aviv in 2001. The plan was to open 20 Israeli stores in just the first year. But by 2003, the coffee company was abandoning the country entirely. What happened?

Middle Eastern politics being what the are, the store closings ignited a firestorm of contradictory rumours. Did they close because they hate Israel? Are they secretly a “Muslim organisation?” Or were they secretly sending profits to support the Israeli Army? The truth is out there!

No, really, it is…it’s just not that exciting.

Starbucks expected Israeli consumers to give them the royal treatment, but they didn’t bother to thoroughly research the country’s existing coffee culture. According to The Jerusalem Post:

“In Israel, Italian cafe offerings like espresso and macchiato coexist with strong, flavorful Turkish coffee made simply by brewing coffee grinds in hot water and letting them settle into “mud” at the bottom of the cup. It’s rare to see a standard American filter coffee — in my experience it tastes like weakly flavored hot water.”

Read more

Translating Eastern Cinema into Western Success

Translating Eastern Cinema into Western Success

If you have more than a passing interest in cinema, you may well have heard the rumblings surrounding a new film scheduled for release at the end of 2016. The film in question is called ‘The Great Wall’, a record breaking 135 million dollar epic set entirely in China, with a huge all-star Chinese cast, directed by Zhang Yimou (who you may recognise as the director of Hero & House of Flying Daggers), but perhaps surprisingly, it stars American actor, Matt Damon, in one of the leading roles.

Damon’s appointment has drawn some criticism in the media with accusations of whitewashing (the casting practice in which white actors are cast in historically non-white character roles). Yimou denies this and it’s interesting to hear the director’s motivations behind the decision. “For the first time, a film deeply rooted in Chinese culture, with one of the largest Chinese casts ever assembled, is being made at tentpole scale for a world audience. I believe that is a trend that should be embraced by our industry… Matt Damon is not playing a role that was originally conceived for a Chinese actor. The arrival of his character in our story is an important plot point. There are five major heroes in our story and he is one of them – the other four are all Chinese.” Read more

4 Passages in the “Little Prince” Show Why Translation is an Art

Is translation an art or is it a science? A little bit of both? 4 passages from The Little Prince show just how much influence a translator has on how readers experience the original work in another language.

Did you know that Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s story The Little Prince  is one of the most-translated books in the whole world? It’s been translated into 253 different languages from around the world.  And it’s been translated from the original French into English several times. From 1943 to 2001, the most widely-read translation of The Little Prince was by Katherine Woods. That translation is now out of print, scrapped in favor of a more “modern” translation by Richard Howard. Native English readers have strong feelings about which translation is the best. When you look at how each translator interpreted the same passage, it’s easy to see why!

Here are 4 passages from each of the Little Prince translations that show the differences between the two.

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

This quote, spoken by the fox in the Woods translation, is often cited as the quote that best illustrates the theme of The Little Prince. Here’s how it fared in the Howard translation: “One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”

While you can tell both versions are based on the same original, each one has a different rhythm, cadence and voice.  And you can bet that readers noticed. For example, one Amazon reviewer commented

“Huh? “Anything essential is invisible to the eyes”? Far from expressing Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s meaning, this generalization means, in effect, nothing. And it is obviously not true: Water is essential, and you can see it (more or less).

Read more

Infographic: How translators can market themselves online

Infographic: How Translators Can Market Themselves Online

In our field we work with literally 1000’s of translators, sometimes they come to us directly, but often we need to go looking for specialists with linguistic skills in specific areas like document localisation or website translation. It’s here where we noticed a problem, a great many translators aren’t making themselves visible to potential online customers anywhere near as much as they could. Some of the very best translators we have on our books don’t have any kind of online presence, which made us think, maybe we can help.

Being a freelance translator is a competitive business, even more so if you are just starting out. To make sure you have the best chance of getting work in from clients, you absolutely must make sure those clients can find you. More and more people are using the internet to research and buy translation services and you really don’t want to be left behind as this trend shows no sign of slowing. It’s not enough to set up a profile on Proz.com and wait for the jobs to roll in, thousands are already doing exactly that… you need to start taking a proactive approach and make sure potential clients have the best chance of finding you vs. your competition, how do you do that? Well besides being great at what you do, marketing yourself effectively online can help enormously. Read more

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3 Iconic Science Fiction/Fantasy Scenes That Gave Translators Fits

When translating, one does not simply swap one word for another. Writers choose their words carefully, combining characteristics like sounds, sentence structure and meaning to create different effects. Often, what works in one language simply doesn’t work in another, and translators have to come up with creative solutions that preserve the impact of the original words.

Here are 3 iconic moments from fantasy and science fiction that probably gave their translators fits:

Game of Thrones: Hold the Door!


You may have seen this collection of images floating around the interwebs this week.  It shows how Game of Thrones translators dealt with the death of everyone’s favorite gentle giant, Hodor.  Just in case you missed it: it was revealed that Hodor was originally an intelligent, articulate stablehand named Wylis. An accident of time travel gave poor young Wylis a vision of his eventual death in the show, fending off undead long enough for his young charges Bran and Meera to escape. The vision caused a seizure that left Wylis brain-damaged, endlessly repeating “Hodor!,” a contracted version of “Hold the Door!”

Obviously, this was not an easy scene to translate, as the equivalent words for “Hold the door!” do not necessarily sound like “Hodor!” in other languages.

For example, the Dutch translators had it easy: DRVuUJB

The Italian translators had to get a bit more creative, changing “Hold the Door!” to “Block the horde!”:


Read more

The Uber Guide to Localization: 6 Strategies Worth Stealing

Ready to take your business global? You can learn a lot about localization strategy from studying other business’ efforts. Case in point: ridesharing service Uber. Founded only 7 years ago in the USA, Uber is now available in 65 countries, 450 cities and 32 languages worldwide. How did they do it, and what can everyone else learn?

Uber’s campaign for world domination hasn’t always been a smooth ride, and they recently sold their business in China to their chief competitor. That said, the company’s localization strategies are worth studying for businesses with international ambitions.

Pablo Picasso is reported to have said that “bad artists copy, great artists steal.” Here are 6 localization strategies that have fueled Uber’s global expansion. Steal them, customise them for your business and make the world your oyster:

Steal This Localization Strategy: Localize Your Visuals

Did you know that Uber’s logo is different for different countries? Sometimes, it’s even customised for different cities in the same country.  When the Uber team rebranded the app earlier this year, they came up with a design that was easy to customise for different markets.  Then, they localized the imagery accordingly. According to a story in Wired:

Amin and his team decided to create colors, patterns, and images that were specific to each market, allowing Uber employees more autonomy in crafting messages for their own cities. The designers mocked up mood boards for individual cities, regions and countries, piecing together images representing architecture, textiles, fashion, and art, among other things.

The app interface varies between markets as well. For example, in China, “People’s Uber” cars are shown in Communist red.

Steal this Localization Strategy: Localize Your Products

Ride-sharing and other on-demand services are the glue that holds the Uber brand together. But the products Uber offers are different in each market. For example, in India you can use Uber to hire cars, but you can also use UberAuto to hire a rickshaw. In Turkey, a few taps on your smartphone can summon an UberBoat to pick you up on the seashore. Read more

The Language of Pokémon Go (and Why It’s Taking Over the World)

It’s official:  Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm. A week after release, it had more active users than Twitter and more engagement than Facebook. Players are walking off cliffs and walking into traffic.  Those of us who don’t play are thoroughly confused, by both our friends’ behavior and by the incomprehensible babble coming out of their mouths.

“Pikachu?” “Gesundheit, and I’ll thank you to cover your mouth next time you sneeze!”

Why does everyone love Pokémon Go? Would you be surprised to learn that language has a lot to do with it? If you’ve been scratching your head in confusion, your wait is over. Let’s unravel the mystery of the language of Pokémon Go, and why the game seems to be taking over the world.

Pokémon Go: Nostalgia That Cuts Across Cultures


In the late 90s, Pokémon was kind of a big deal. The little “pocket monsters” (and their associated games, cards and other merchandise) spread from Japan to the US and everywhere in between.

It should come as no surprise, then, that 25% of Pokémon Go players are between the ages of 30-40, and 46% percent are between the ages of 18-29.  A substantial chunk of those 2 age groups would have been kids in the late 90s/early 2000s. Pokémon mania created a common touchpoint for people around the world who were kids at that time. So, the game taps into feelings of nostalgia that cut across cultures.

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, there will be more of these common cross-cultural experiences to bind us together, and more opportunities for businesses and brands to create and harness them. Read more

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