The Rainbow in Translation: 7 Facts About Colors in Other Languages 

A rose is a rose by any other name . . . but would it still be red in any other language?  We all have the same eyes, of course.  But different languages classify colors differently, and that influences the way people from different cultures perceive the same color.

Want to learn more? Here are 7 facts about colors in other languages, and how language affects the way we see color.

English has 11 basic color words.248552745_2784c965ec_o

Do you remember making color wheels in art class when you were a child? Those wheels demonstrate how we divide and classify colors. English has 11 basic words for colors: black, white, red, green, yellow, blue, pink, gray, brown, orange and purple.

But a color wheel in another language might look a little bit different. Some languages have more words for colors, while others have fewer.

Some languages have 12 basic color words.

For example, Russian and Greek both see light blue and dark blue as separate colors, in the same way English speakers divide “red” and “pink.” Other languages, like Irish and Turkish, differentiate between different types of reds.

The Pirahã language has only 2 color terms.

The Pirahã language only categorizes colors as “light”” and “dark.” To describe an object’s color in more detail, the Pirahã describe would describe it as being “like” something else.

Other languages notable for having few color terms include the Himba language. According to researchers from the University of Essex (cited in Wikipedia), Himba has only four color terms:

  • Zuzu: dark shades of blue, red, green and purple
  • Vapa: white and some shades of yellow
  • Buru: some shades of green and blue
  • Dambu: some other shades of green, red and brown

Other sources say they have five terms and include the word serandu for some shades of red, orange and pink.

As you can see, a Himba color wheel might look quite a bit different!  Read more

An (Updated) Harry Potter Vocabulary Guide

This year, Harry Potter fans are thankful for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The new movie, released last week, gives fans a chance to revisit the wizarding world. But this time, the action happens on the other side of the pond, in  1920’s New York.

If you have friends who love Harry Potter, you might have noticed them lapsing into “Harry Potter-speak,” even in casual conversation. J.K. Rowling created a rich vocabulary for her fantasy world. But what if you don’t speak the language? What’s a muggle to do?

Read our Harry Potter vocabulary guide, of course! This handy glossary will make it easier to converse with your Hogwart’s-loving friends.

Harry Potter Vocabulary Guide – Words From the Original Series 

Animagus (plural: Animagi): Wizards who can transform into animals.

Auror: A magical detective who hunts dark witches and wizards.

Butterbeer: a favorite boozy drink of wizards, butterbeer is usually served warm and is described as tasting of butterscotch.

Muggles: normal, non-magical humans. This word has actually escaped the confines of Rowling’s fantasy universe and is now listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. According to, Rowling claims the term is based on the insult “mug,” but it was first used as the name for a villain in a short story by Lewis Carroll, and was also used as slang for marijuana back in the 20’s.

Apparate/Disapparate: to “disapparate” is to disappear. After disapparating from a particular location, a wizard can then “apparate” somewhere else, no matter how far away. From the Latin “appareo,” to become visible. Read more

Technical Translation Guide

Get the Best Return from Your Technical Language Partner

A Guide to Technical Translation for Manufacturers: Part 3.

Once you’ve settled on an LSP for your technical translation project, all that remains is the translation itself. That’s not to say that you can just sit back and wait for the completed texts to be returned to you; if the best outcomes are to be reached then you need to be proactive in your efforts to keep track of progress every step of the way. Unlike the previous section, the tips on offer here are by no means unique to translation services – specifics of the translation process aside, an LSP is no different from any other service supplier that you may have dealings with, whether they provide you with raw materials for manufacturing, stationery for those working in your offices, or even the snacks that fill your on-site vending machines. As such, best practice when dealing with those suppliers also applies here. Read more

Fall Language News Roundup: 8 Stories Worth Sharing

Is it just me, or does it seem like fall has flown by? Let’s take some time to relax and get caught up on what’s been going on in the world of language and translation. Grab your pumpkin spice beverage of choice and settle in! Here are 8 language and translation stories worth reading that you may have missed.

When Free Tea Isn’t Free

When is “free” tea not free? When you have to pay for it, of course! According to the BBC, an English-speaking tourist in Japan recently got into an argument with staff in a Japanese convenience store after he grabbed an iced tea off the shelf and started chugging it without paying.

The problem? The label on the bottle said “Free tea,” so the tourist thought it was complimentary. Much to his chagrin, he quickly learned that in this case, “Free” is a brand name.

Social media being what it is, the entire exchange was live-tweeted by Twitter user Akiyama Kojiro. Afterward, Mr. Kojiro offered this commentary on the irony of the brand name, which is meant to imply freedom from stress:

“This tea ended up causing a stressful problem for both the traveller who came all the way to Japan and an honest shopkeeper,” he mused.

This might be a good time to remind you that a good translation agency can help you avoid unintended meanings in your branding and marketing copy. 🙂 Read more

Translating connected packaging

Connected Packaging: The Next Big Thing?

The increasingly complex challenges faced by today’s retail industry have been well documented of late – challenges which are often compounded when exporting.

Brands and retailers need to address rapidly changing consumer behaviours and expectations, as well as respond to the pressures of speedy delivery, regulatory demands and fluctuating exchange rates – just to survive in these unpredictable times.

So the search is on to identify and implement the very best of the latest innovative technology solutions – those which can be scaled up to suit international trading conditions and engage directly with consumers wherever they may be.

One of the routes currently being explored is connected packaging. Here at K International’s Retail Division, we can see some exciting potential uses for our clients, should this become accepted practice… Read more

5 Truths About Translation From “Arrival”     

Have you seen Arrival yet? In this new science fiction movie, linguists and translators finally get their due. The heroine, Dr. Louise Banks, doesn’t use weapons or fly a spaceship. She’s a linguist, and the plot of the movie centers around her struggle to translate the language of an alien race visiting Earth. Want to learn more? Here are 5 truths about translation from Arrival:  

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

 spoilers Read more

apple translation fail

Apple Translation Fail

Translation fails are a well-trodden internet path for people looking for a quick giggle. Whether it’s that Chinese toilet sign inviting you to ‘pee in the pool’ or a coffee shop in Bulgaria that proudly boasts a poster saying ‘we hope you lick our coffee and our waiters’, the idea that something so inappropriate could reach public display is just plain comedy gold. These well-meaning attempts at transmitting a message aren’t just funny though; they remind us that translation is more complex than a lot of people imagine. I mean how obvious are some of those classic examples weve all seen? Well, not very if you have little understanding of the language.

There are situations where this kind of innocuous mistake can have more serious implications, though, if say it was made by a giant multinational technology company for example. Take the Apple iPhone 7 slogan ‘This is 7’. Hilariously, in September when this ad was shown in Hong Kong it became apparent that in Cantonese the slogan read as ‘This is male genitalia’. Read more

A brief history of translation during times of conflict

Translators at War

Translators are often the forgotten vital intelligence asset in wartime. Their role has developed considerably in the twentieth and early twenty-first century, becoming increasingly important in a globalised world that faces the challenges of terrorism and complex international relations. Today we need their skills more than ever, but the origins of translators in warfare go back further than most people imagine.

The Stone Age

The story of the human species is a story of war and conquest. From the very earliest movement of people from Africa, human beings have made war to establish new territory and gain social dominance. Since that time humans have made use of soldiers and sailors who spoke the language of their enemies, hoping to gain an insight into their opponents’ tactics and the lie of the land (or sea), and in the process gain the advantage in battle.

The Spanish Conquest of the Aztecs

One notable use of native translators in history was during the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. It began in 1519 when conquistador Hernán Cortés landed in Mexico with Spanish forces. Faced with more than one local language to navigate, the clever Cortés decided to make use of the translation skills of a local woman, Malintzin, to help him make alliances with other groups hostile to the Aztecs. She quickly learned Spanish and translated between this, Chontal Maya, and Náhuatl. Malintzin also taught Cortés about Aztec culture and helped him defeat the Aztec forces. She even warned him of a planned assassination attempt. Eventually she became Cortés’s personal interpreter and mother of his son. Read more

vogue the language of fashion

Vogue: The Language of Fashion

Almost two centuries ago, in 1892, Arthur Turnure came up with a great idea and decided to publish a weekly newspaper in the United States named Vogue, little did he know that Vogue would go on to become perhaps the world’s definitive fashion publication. In this article, you’ll find out how Vogue began and went on to successfully leverage language, advertising and regional targeting to ensure its brand is recognised around the world. 2016 marks Vogue’s debut in one of the few regions it has yet to conquer and there’s no sign of it’s international influence dwindling in future, read on to discover more. Read more

The Vocabulary of Standing Rock – Lakota Words In the News

Earlier this week, over one million people from around the world “checked in” to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation via Facebook. “Checking in” is an easy way for people to show support for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.  The tribe is protesting oil pipeline construction that they believe threatens their water supply as well as sacred archaeological sites.

But let’s leave politics aside for the moment. As the visibility of the protest has grown, so has the visibility of the tribes’ native language. Do you want to learn more about the Sioux language? Are you curious about the meaning of native words you’ve seen protestors and supporters use? Here are some fast facts about the language and some Sioux translations.

Fast Facts About the Sioux Languages

  • 20 to 30 thousand native speakers of Dakota and Lakota, the two major Sioux dialects, still live today in North America.
  • Linguists often classify Dakota and Lakota as separate languages, and each has its own dialects and subdialects. However, they are so closely related that they are mostly mutually intelligible.
  • Counting all dialects together, Sioux is the fifth most common indigenous language in North America.
  • That said, Ethnologue lists it as threatened because not enough children are learning it.
  • Sioux has some words that only one gender uses. For example, only men use the greeting “Hau.” The female equivalent is “han.”
  • You can watch the Berenstain Bears in Lakota. 

Read more

Blog Posts

Available Pages


Archives by Month: