Interesting & varied language stories from all around the world, curated by our dedicated writer. From the topical to the absurd, the grand and the obscure, it’s all here for you to enjoy.

natashas law

How Natasha’s Law Will Affect Food Packaging in the UK

It’s official: Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced a plan to implement  “Natasha’s Law.” The law will offer additional protections to UK food allergy sufferers. If your business sells food products within the UK, these new regulations could affect your business and your labelling procedures. So, here’s a quick primer on the law and what companies need to do to ensure compliance.

What is Natasha’s Law?

In 2016, Natasha Ednan-Laperouse purchased an artichoke, olive, and tapenade baguette from an airport Pret A Manger sandwich shop to eat on her flight to Nice for a much-anticipated vacation.

That vacation never happened. The sandwich contained sesame, which she was allergic to. However, it wasn’t listed on the label. She went into anaphylactic shock in midair and died in a French hospital.

Sesame is a reasonably common allergen, so why wasn’t it listed? The answer is simple: it wasn’t required to be since the sandwich was made fresh in the store.

According to the BBC, “The coroner looking into her death said Natasha had been “reassured” by the lack of specific allergen information on the packaging.”

After their daughter’s death, Natasha’s parents began petitioning for changes to the current labelling system. In a public comment on the new law, they said,  “helping save other allergy sufferers and their families from the enduring agony that we will always bear is a fitting legacy for her life”.

Other food allergy advocates are also thrilled with the new regulations.  For example, Allergy UK commented:  “This move towards full ingredient labelling for pre-packed direct-sale food will improve the lives of the allergic customer, and it is warmly welcomed here at Allergy UK.”

How “Natasha’s Law” Will Affect UK Food Packaging and Labelling

Food allergy suffers, and the organisations that represent them are happy. Businesses, however, naturally have some concerns about compliance. While new regulations might seem burdensome, protecting customers is paramount. Better labelling also protects companies from lawsuits, so it’s a win-win in the long term. Read more

Why Translation is Vital to Public Health

Public health campaigns are like a more benign form of advertising- instead of convincing the public to buy products, you’re trying to persuade them to change their habits. But when lives are on the line, transparent, credible communication is more critical than ever. If your audience speaks more than one language, your communication strategy needs to take that into account, as well.

Let’s take a look at some real-world examples that demonstrate why translation services are vital to public health in a multilingual world.

Translation ensures comprehension.

Nobody likes being injured or ill. When people understand how to protect themselves, more often than not, they will do so.  But if you want to ensure understanding, you have to make sure your campaign material uses the language they’re most comfortable with. It’s not always enough to use the official language or the lingua franca of the area you’re targeting.

If people can’t understand how to protect themselves, they won’t – even from threats as immediate and deadly as Ebola. In fact, language and translation have been a perennial obstacle to effectively managing Ebola outbreaks in Africa.  According to Nadia Berger and Grace Tang of Translators without Borders, in the 2014 outbreak, “the crisis was one of information, and especially information in the right language, as much as anything else”.

While most of the initial messaging was in English or French, only 20% of people in the affected area spoke either of those languages.  According to Translators without Borders,

“Providing Ebola-related material in English or French leads to important knowledge gaps: in a survey published in late August, UNICEF found that, in Sierra Leone, 30% believed Ebola was transmitted via mosquitoes and another 30% thought it was an airborne disease. Four out of ten respondents believed that hot salt-water baths are an effective cure.”

Fortunately, Translators Without  Borders was able to step in and provide much-needed linguistic assistance. However, outbreaks continue to pop up across Africa. So do translation issues. For example, initial efforts to promote an experimental vaccine in The Democratic Republic of Congo didn’t use the right terminology to reach residents, particularly women over the age of 35.

Translation keeps vulnerable groups from being left behind.

Translation also makes it easier for vulnerable groups to get the care they need to stay healthy. Inadequate translations can be a barrier to access, affecting the health of entire communities. Read more

Four Ways Language Consultancy Can Supercharge Your International Business

Language is the lifeblood of global businesses.  As a result, you should seek to optimise your organisation’s translation processes just as you would any other business processes. That’s where language consultancy services come in.  Here are four ways language consultancy can supercharge your international business.

Language consultancy helps effectively target multilingual and multicultural audiences.

Effective marketing requires a strategy. Effective marketing on an international level requires multiple approaches to accommodate linguistic, cultural and technological differences. Merely translating the content from one language to another may not be enough to reach people in your target market. For instance, consider the following:

  • Images that are acceptable in one culture may be confusing or even offensive in another culture.
  • Colours can carry different meanings from culture to culture, as well.
  • Depending on the market, you may need to adjust the marketing channels you use to optimise the reach of your campaign.
  •  Some advertisements may need to transcreated, rewritten from the ground up to carry the original message more effectively to the new audience.

Professional language consultants can work with your team to build an international marketing strategy that takes these factors, and more, into account. The result? Global advertising and marketing campaigns that have the same impact as the original.

Improve workflows for translation-related tasks.

Language services are often treated as an afterthought or an add-on. However, lack of attention allows outdated methods and inefficiencies to flourish.  This creates additional costs over the long-term.  Professional language consultants can optimise your organisation’s workflows and procedures to maximise efficiency and productivity. It’s like giving your translation engine a tune-up.

Curious to see how this works in the real world?  Here’s an example. In K International’s work with the British Army, we redesigned and modernised their translation workflow using Business Process Engineering principles. After making the changes we suggested, the Army is now able to take advantage of technology to simplify the process of handling and translating large amounts of paper documents.

For instance, we implemented a secure, shared workspace to allow for easy long-distance collaboration. Our solution included an online community, library, database, termbase, glossary and previously translated material.  This will enable colleagues from around the world to work more efficiently on shared projects.

We also created a database of translation memories, allowing new material to be translated more quickly, more accurately and with less expense. Additionally, we integrated a machine translation solution to allow for real-time translation when necessary.

Reduce translation costs.

Translation costs don’t have to be a barrier to international expansion. An efficient workflow combined with the right translation tools for the job can help your organisation keep costs under control without sacrificing quality. Often, language consultancy is an upfront investment that pays for itself over time.

Helps your organisation make the best use of available technology. Read more

6 Amazing Examples of  Language and Technology in Museums

Whether as a result of increased immigration, increased international travel, or both, museums serve an increasingly multilingual audience. To create exhibits that excite and inform visitors in a variety of languages, some institutions are taking advantage of technologies like QR codes, apps, geolocation, specialised websites and augmented reality.

Read on for six amazing examples of language and technology in museums.

Amsterdam Museum’s QR Codes for Multilingual Visitors

Remember when QR codes were supposed to be the next big thing? The Amsterdam Museum has come up with a clever, useful way to use QR codes to assist multilingual visitors.

As curator Laura van Hasselt explained to,  the museum recorded short films and voiceovers in 10 different languages to make the museum more accessible to international visitors. But then, they had to figure out how to make that information available:

“But how do you put 10 voice-overs to one film? We needed some technique with which everyone could easily find his or her own language. That’s how we start the exhibition – with a leaflet in which you can find the basic information on the exhibition, but there is also a QR code on the front. We made it in 10 languages: Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Italian”.

“With this QR code you can scan your leaflet, the film will start in your language. This is the technique we’re using to reach out to the international audience, which we so far find very successful. It’s more welcoming and you make it easier for people to look and explore. That’s what you really want people to do in the museum – to look.”

Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach

In 2015, the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach released a multilingual museum tour app with an associated microsite.  

The app, available for both iPhone and Android, offers support in English, French, German, Haitian, Hebrew, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.  Meanwhile, the microsite makes the information available to online visitors in the same languages, with subtitles available for translated videos.

One common obstacle that museums encounter with mobile tour guide apps is that visitors don’t want to wait for the app to download. According to Voices of the Past, the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach addresses this issue by offering help and encouragement for individual visitors as well as school groups. The payoff? An improved visitor experience. According to Voices of the Past,  “they report that the app greatly enhances their experiences afterwards.”

Meanwhile, the microsite is often used for research and drives traffic to the website from around the world.

Natural History Museum of London

The Natural History Museum of London is using a multilingual app to guide visitors around the museum.  Geolocation features help visitors find exhibits, learn more about the exhibitions, and direct them to other nearby points of interest.

As Celena Bretton, the museum’s Digital Media Strategy Manager explained on the Adobe blog:

The Museum is quite big; even regulars may stumble upon galleries that they didn’t know existed. Using signal information from our wifi network, we can pinpoint where visitors are standing in galleries, what they’re looking at, and where they’re going. Based on this information, we can deliver contextual information about the display that they’re looking at or highlight the location of other interesting exhibits..

About 58% of our visitors are international, so we wanted to include multiple language options to help us reach more visitors in their native languages. Adobe Experience Manager Mobile makes it much easier to manage a multilingual environment so that we can keep our international visitors up-to-date with the latest information.

Read more

languages of the European Union

The Languages of the European Union

9  May is Europe Day, a day to commemorate the birth of the European Union and celebrate peace and unity in Europe. To celebrate, here are seven facts about the languages of the EU that organisations need to know to do business there.

The European Union has 24 official or working languages.

The European Union has 24 official languages. They are:

  • Bulgarian
  • Croatian
  • Czech
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • English
  • Estonian
  • Finnish
  • French
  • German
  • Greek
  • Hungarian
  • Irish
  • Italian
  • Latvian
  • Lithuanian
  • Maltese
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian
  • Slovak
  • Slovene
  • Spanish
  • Swedish


This list includes all of the official languages of the EU member states, except for Luxembourgish (official in Luxembourg) and Turkish (official in Cyprus).

EU regulations are translated into these languages, as is the Official Journal of the European Union and any documents of importance to the general public. Additionally, citizens of EU member states can write to the EU in any of these languages and receive a reply in the same language.

The only exception is Irish- due to a shortage of Irish translators, only certain documents are translated into Irish. However, the EU expects to be using Irish as a working language by 2022.

For everyday use, EU organisations and institutions rely on three procedural languages.

The EU conducts its day to day business in just three languages: English, French, and German.

That said, while English is used as a common tongue, the English you’ll hear in the halls of the EU isn’t quite the Queen’s English.

Instead, a dialect called “Euro-English” has evolved, influenced by the various native languages of EU bureaucrats. To learn more, see 10 Funny Euro-English Words.

The EU has three official scripts.

They are Latin, Greek and Cyrillic.

In addition to the officially recognised languages, there are more than 60 regional and minority languages.

Some of these are widely spoken and officially supported at the local level; others are endangered.

English is the most widely spoken language in the European Union.

Approximately 13% of EU citizens speak English as a native language, although this will naturally change with Brexit. An additional 38% of EU citizens can speak it as a second language. As a result,  51% of adults in the EU can understand English.

However, English is only an official language in Ireland, Malta and the UK.  Because it has become so entrenched as a second language, it is likely to remain an EU working language even after the UK withdraws.

German is the most widely spoken EU native language.

18% of EU adults speak German as native language. The German language has official status not only in Germany, but also in Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, Belgium, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg.

The EU spends 1% of its budget on language and translation services.

In 2005, the amount spent came to  €1,123 million, or €2.28 per person per year.

Want to do business in the EU? English is not enough.

As of right now, the EU is made up of 28 member states, acting as a single market. Together, EU member states generated almost a quarter of the world’s GDP!

Want to reach as much of this market as possible? English alone isn’t enough. Yes, English is the language that’s most widely spoken in the EU- but that’s only if you include second language speakers. Even fluent second-language speakers generally prefer to shop in their native language.  As Nataly Kelly wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “Can you get by with English in Europe? You can if you’re carrying a camera, but not if you’re carrying a briefcase.”

For example, according to a 2011 study from the European Commission:

  • Although 55% of EU internet users will read web content that’s not in their native language, nine out of 10 European internet users prefer to visit websites written in their own native language.
  •  At the same time, 19% of Europeans browse the internet exclusively in their native language. If your website is English only, you’re not even on their radar.
  • Just less than half (42%) of Europeans only purchase products and services if sales material is available in their native language.

Customer preferences aside, some information is legally required to be translated into local languages.

As a result, a sound language strategy will take into account the relevant regulations and language preferences for the EU countries where you plan to market your product.

What languages are most important for businesses operating in EU countries?

The five most common languages in the EU are:

  • English (51% of EU citizens speak it, including those who speak it as a second language).
  • German (32% of EU citizens speak it, including second language speakers).
  • French (26% speak it).
  • Italian (16% speak it).
  • Spanish (15% speak it).

However, there’s more to a successful export strategy than just translation.  See our export guides for more details about doing business in EU member states like Germany, Italy and France.

Language Services for the EU Market

If you need language services for the European market, we’re here to help. Our team of qualified, native-speaking linguists, local language copywriters and other experts will make sure that all of your product packaging, labelling, documentation and marketing material is translated correctly every time.

For more information, take a look at the services we offer and contact us about your next project today!

7 Types of Interpreting Services (and When to Use Them)

Are you looking for an interpreter?  Different types of interpreting services are available to suit various business needs. If you’re not sure what type you’ll need, we’ve got you covered. Here are seven types of interpreting services and a rundown of when to use each type:

Types of Interpreting Services: Simultaneous Interpreting

In simultaneous interpreting, the interpreter interprets speech as it’s spoken.  Despite the name, simultaneous interpreting isn’t actually simultaneous. The interpreter still has to hear what the speaker says to be able to interpret it, so they’re always a sentence or two behind.

That said, simultaneous interpreting is still an impressive feat. To keep up with the speaker, the interpreter has to think on their feet, mentally translating quickly and accurately without even a moment to stop and think.

Simultaneous interpreting generally requires specialised equipment, like headsets, to help the audience follow along in their own language.

When to use it:

Simultaneous interpreting saves time and creates a more natural experience for listeners. This type of interpreting is best suited for large events, like conferences, trade shows, and large meetings with many speakers. In fact, another name for simultaneous interpreting is “conference interpreting.” It’s also the method of choice for the United Nations.

Types of Interpreting Services: Consecutive Interpreting or Face-to-Face Interpreting

In consecutive interpreting, also known as face-to-face, liason, or ad-hoc interpreting,  the speaker stops speaking every few minutes to give the interpreter a chance to interpret what’s been said.

When to use it: 

Simultaneous interpreting saves time, but it’s a bit like walking and chewing gum at the same time. Consecutive interpreting is easier on the interpreter since they aren’t trying to listen and interpret at the same time. However, since the speakers have to stop and wait for the interpreter, it also takes longer. As a result, consecutive interpreting is suitable for smaller business events, including

  • Meetings and training workshops (depending on size)
  • Negotiations
  • Seminars
  • HR meetings

This is also the type of interpreting you’re most likely to see in courtrooms.

Consecutive interpreting is also used in more informal settings, such as interviews and doctor’s visits. Read more

Six Tips To Give Your Bilingual Exhibits Multicultural Appeal

How can museums make their exhibits more accessible to visitors and to the surrounding community? Often, language is the key.

Around 55% of museums and science centres around the world already offer information for visitors in more than one language. Bilingual or multilingual exhibitions help museums better serve their home communities and attract international visitors, as well. Urban centres are becoming more linguistically and culturally diverse, and the number of international travellers is also on the rise. As a result, the need for multilingual exhibits will continue to grow.

However, designing a successful bilingual exhibit is more complicated than creating an exhibition in one language only. Use these six expert tips to give your next bilingual exhibition multicultural appeal.

Build a glossary to keep the terminology consistent.

For the sake of continuity, it’s essential to use the same terms throughout the exhibit, in both languages. A bilingual glossary of terms keeps your translators on the same page, and the vocabulary consistent.

According to the Canadian Museum of History, it’s often more efficient to create this glossary while you write the original draft of the text.

Aim for a recreation of the original text, rather than a direct translation.

It’s more important that the translated text convey the same meaning in the same tone than it is for it to be a word-for-word translation. Since languages can vary in structure and custom, rewriting is often necessary. The Canadian Museum of History explains:

“For example, in our English-language texts, we rarely start sentences with subordinate clauses because it is too indirect an approach in an exhibition context. In French, however, subordinate clauses are considered more elegant. They are more readily accepted, as without them, text can feel brusque.”

One possible exception to this general rule: translating the title an artist has given to their work. Here, you have a choice to make: translate the artist’s words as directly as possible, or use an interpretation that might better convey the meaning. Read more

E-Learning Localisation: How to Successfully Localise Your E-Learning Content

Global businesses of all sizes are taking advantage of the power of e-Learning to educate employees, partners and customers around the world.

ELearning saves businesses time and money, and it’s more convenient for trainees as well. However, when your trainees speak different languages and come from different cultures, localised content is essential.

Even if your trainees speak English as a second language, research shows that people learn better in their native language. Presenting information in a culturally relevant fashion also increases understanding.

With that in mind, here are some expert tips for successful e-Learning localisation.

The path to successful e-Learning localisation begins before a single word is translated.

Some types of content are easier to translate than others. By making your original eLearning content localisation-friendly, you save time and money when it’s time to translate it for employees with different languages and cultural backgrounds.

Here are three ways to create content that’s easier to translate:

  • Use simple, easy-to-read formats like bulleted lists.
  • Use clear, direct language- avoid slang, humour and figurative language where possible.
  • Minimise culturally specific references in text, audio and video.

Of course, these recommendations are not going to be suitable for ALL eLearning material. Your training may be more successful with a dose of humour to lighten up dry subject matter, for instance. Or, your compliance training may need to take cultural nuances into account to be effective.

That said, here are two tactics for creating content that’s easy to localise that work with almost all eLearning materials:

  • Allow extra space in your design for text to expand after it’s translated.
  • Avoid embedded text whenever possible. It won’t make your project impossible to translate, but it will make it more difficult, and therefore more costly.

Read more

8 Important Truths About Copywriting for International Audiences

Copywriting for international audiences is more complicated than you might think at first. Advertising and marketing copy depends on culturally and linguistically-specific factors to motivate the audience to act. For example, clever wordplay is challenging to translate, as is humour.

These factors can make it more difficult for international businesses to sell to customers on a global scale.  But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are eight truths about copywriting for international audiences to increase your odds of success.

Copy is more appealing when it’s in your customers’ native language.

So, make sure your company’s content is available in that language. Yes, that sounds basic. However, since so many people around the world speak at least some English, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s okay to cut corners and write in English for your international audience.

However, research shows that people are more likely to buy products when product information is available in their native language, even if they speak English as well.

There’s no such thing as an “international audience.”

Instead, there are international audiences, plural. Each target market is its own audience requiring a custom approach.

Always be researching.

Research is the foundation of almost all successful marketing and advertising campaigns. However, you can’t assume that the research you did before you came up with your original campaign will carry over to new markets. Here are some sample questions to answer before you even begin:

  • Will your product appeal to the same age groups and personas?
  • Are the demographics the same?
  • Will customers in your new target market consume the same types of media?

Also, it’s essential to understand how your target customers talk. That means you need to know not just what language they speak, but what dialect? Do they speak formally or informally? What about slang? Read more

Hand Signals Around the World

Do you talk with your hands? Many people do. In fact, some researchers claim that up to 70% of human communication is accomplished through body language. Hand signals are a common type of nonverbal communication. But be careful when you’re travelling or addressing someone from another culture. Hand signals aren’t universal, and you might be saying something unintended or even offensive with yours.

For example, here are six common hand signals with different meanings around the world along with their different meanings.

 The “V for Victory” Sign

You’re more than likely familiar with the “V for Victory” sign, or the peace sign for those of you still stuck in the 60s.

This sign has a number of different possible meanings, depending on where you are and the direction your palm is facing. When your palm faces out, towards the person you’re addressing, this sign usually means “victory,” “peace” or the number two.

However, turn your palm in so that the back of your hand faces out to the observer, and you’re insulting people in the UK and several other countries, including:

  • Australia, where the gesture is called “the forks.”
  • Ireland,
  • New Zealand, and
  • South Africa.

In the United States, this version is much more innocuous. It’s how you sign the number 2 and the letter V in American Sign Language. As a result, it’s not uncommon for Americans to get mixed up. For example, in 1992, US President George H. W. Bush (in)famously “gave the forks” to a group of protesting Australian farmers. Apparently, he intended to flash the peace sign at them.

But wait, there’s more:

In Japan, China and Korea, people commonly flash the V-sign when they pose for happy photos, often instead of smiling.

In Vietnam, it means “Hello.”

Thumbs down for thumbs-up?

In some countries, the thumbs-up gesture is a sign of approval. However, in Australia, you’re inviting onlookers to “sit on it.”  They are unlikely to respond kindly to that invitation.

It’s also an insult in Bangladesh and in parts of the Middle East. Read more

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