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.

10 Language and Translation Stories for January

Can you believe we’re already one month into 2018? So, what’s been going on the world of languages? Settle in, get cozy and let’s find out. Here are 10 stories about language and translation that are worth reading and sharing.

The National Book Foundation adds award for translated literature

Only about 3% of literature published in America is translated from another language.

In response, the National Book Foundation is adding a new award to its list: The National Book Award for Translated Literature. According to Executive Director Lisa Lucas,

“We want American readers to deeply value an inclusive, big-picture point of view, and the National Book Award for Translated Literature is part of a commitment to that principle. The addition of this award lends crucial visibility to works that have the power to touch us as American readers in search of broadened perspective.”

No, Google Translate is not ready to replace humans

A generation that grew up on science fiction is still eagerly awaiting for their universal translators. But Google Translate is nowhere near that capable. Read this article from the Atlantic and follow along as translator Douglas Hofstadter puts Google Translate’s deep neural networks the test. Then, watch as it fails miserably.  Score one for the humans!

Why are so there so many bad menu translations?

When it comes to unfortunate translation mistakes, foreign menus are amongst the most frequent offenders. Everything from roasted children to fried crap has been spotted on translated menus. In this article from Atlas Obscura, culinary translator Emily Monaco digs deep to figure out why so many food translations are simply unappetizing.

Facebook’s machine translation turns “Métis” into “half-breed”

Facebook had to apologize last week after its machine translation program translated the word “Métis” as “half-breed.” The Métis people are a Canadian group descended from First Nations and European settlers, with their own specific and distinct culture. The word “half-breed”, of course, is a racial slur.

Overall, not a great week for machine translation.

Read more

Translating Brand Names for International Success

Should you translate your brand name or business name when you enter a foreign language market? What about product names?  There’s not one right answer, but the following questions can help in the decision.

Is your brand name already a word in the target language?

When it comes to translating company names and product names, one of the first considerations is whether or not the name is the same as or similar to an existing word in the target language. Words that are spelled or pronounced the same as your brand name in the target language bring their own meanings and connotations. These can either work for your brand or against it.

For example, consider the famous case of Clairol’s “Mist Stick” curling iron. It sold quite well in the United States but fell flat in the German market, where “mist” means “manure.

Canadian Mist and Irish Mist whiskeys were also hard to sell in Germany. Nobody wants their whiskey to taste like crap.

Obviously, if your brand name means something offensive or unsavory in the target language, you’ll need to consider renaming it. Read more

28 Hilarious Movie Title Translations

Sometimes, the hardest part of a movie to translate is the title, and the results can be unintentionally hilarious. To prove it, here are 28 movie title translations, translated back into English. Can you guess the original titles? The answers are below the fold.

  1. He’s A Ghost!
  2. Vaseline
  3. The Hole of Malkovich
  4. Captain Supermarket
  5. Is The Spy Capable Or Not? 
  6. 17-Year-Old Girl’s Medical Chart
  7. The Teeth from the Sea
  8. Satan Female Soldier
  9. I’m Drunk, and You’re a Prostitute
  10. Run! Run! Cloudzilla!
  11. I Will Marry a Prostitute to Save Money 
  12. The Explosive Woman 
  13. The Desire to Win
  14. Sex Crimes
  15. Gangsters, Sex, and Karaoke 
  16. The Boy Who Drowned in Chocolate 
  17.  Young People Who Traverse Dimensions While Wearing Sunglasses 
  18. Multinationals Go Home! 
  19. Action Skyscraper 
  20. Die Hard: Mega Hard 
  21. Electronic Murderer 
  22. Mr. Cat Poop
  23. His Great Device Makes Him Famous
  24. The Night Of The Cold Noses
  25. Super Power Dare Die Team
  26. Dimwit Surges Forth
  27. The Lady in Yellow
  28. Interplanetary Unusual Attacking Team

Read more

ursula k Le Guin quotes about translation

10 Ursula K Le Guin Quotes About Languages and Translation 

American writer Ursula K. Le Guin died on Monday, 22 January 2018. She was best known as a fantasy and science fiction author, of course. But did you know she was a translator, too? Before her death, she had four published translations to her name:

  • Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral.
  • Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way, although Le Guin described this as “a rendition, not a translation.”
  • Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was, by Angélica Gorodischer.
  • Squaring the Circle: A Pseudotreatise of Urbogony Fantastic Tales by Gheorghe Săsărman.

Le Guin loved languages:  writing, playing with words, translating and inventing new ones. She wasn’t merely a powerful storyteller; she also had an incredible insight into the nature of language and communication. With that in mind, here are ten quotes from Ursula Le Guin for translators and language lovers alike to enjoy.

Ursula Le Guin on how writing relates to translation:

 

“Translation is entirely mysterious. Increasingly I have felt that the art of writing is itself translating, or more like translating than it is like anything else. What is the other text, the original? I have no answer. I suppose it is the source, the deep sea where ideas swim, and one catches them in nets of words and swings them shining into the boat… where in this metaphor they die and get canned and eaten in sandwiches.”Tweet: Ursula Le Guin on writing and translation:

Read more

Translating Trump, Part 3: How to Insult Developing Countries in 10 Different Languages

Once again, the President of the United States is making translators’ lives difficult. Last week, they faced a new dilemma – how to translate President Trump’s preferred epithet for certain developing countries. 

Even American newscasters had problems figuring out how to handle the profanity. But news organizations in other countries had an even bigger problem on their hands. How do you translate what President Trump allegedly said accurately in a language that doesn’t have a direct equivalent? And how do you balance accuracy in translation with differing levels of cultural acceptance of profanity?   Read more

15 Powerful Translation Apps and Devices for Travelers in 2018

You’d love to see the world, but fear holds you back. You’re afraid of being isolated in a foreign country, unable to speak the language. How are you going to communicate? Charades? Well, stop worrying, and book those tickets! Here are 15 futuristic translation apps and devices for travelers in 2018 to help you get your point across.

This post was originally published in 2016. It has been updated for accuracy and to include new apps and devices. 

Best Translation Apps: Google TranslateTranslation Apps 1

When it comes to translation apps, Google Translate is obviously the elephant in the room — and for good reason. It supports more languages than the competition, and its comprehensive feature set makes it especially well-suited for travelers.

Languages: Google Translate offers varying degrees of support for 103 languages:

  • Type to translate: 103 languages
  • Offline support: 52 languages
  • Real-Time Video translation: 30 languages
  • Camera Mode: 37 Languages
  • Speech-to-speech translation: 32 languages
  • Handwriting translation: 93 languages

See which features work with which languages here.

Cool Tricks: Translate signs, menus and other written content using your phone’s camera. Offline support for some languages, plus excellent integration with the Android operating system for translating text messages and websites.

Recently, Google added neural machine translation (NMT) for improved accuracy in some languages. And you can launch it with your voice using Google Assistant.

All this, and it’s free. Free is good.

How to Get It: Download it from the App Store or from Google Play. Read more

german translation service guide

German Translation Services: A Beginner’s Guide

Is your company in the market for German translation services? German translation offers numerous benefits for international businesses. For example:

  • German translation makes your business accessible to 95 million German native speakers around the world.
  • German is the most widely-spoken language in the European Union, and the German economy is the 4th largest in the world.
  • Almost 84 million Internet users speak German. Studies show that even if these Internet users can read English, it’s easier to sell to them in German.

Want to learn more? Read on for six essential facts about the German language, German translation services and marketing in Germany!

German is an official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Lichenstein.german translation services map

It’s also officially recognized in South Tyrol, Italy, and parts of Belgium.  Additionally, it’s an official language of the European Union and one of the three working languages of the European Commission.

And while German may be one of the most important languages of continental Europe, its influence isn’t limited to one continent. For example, German is still frequently used in Namibia, in Africa. German dialects are officially recognized in some parts of Brazil. Read more

Funny Expressions for Sickness from Around the World 

It’s winter in the Northern hemisphere, and that can only mean one thing: you and everyone you know are either sick now,  just getting over being sick, or about to be sick. Maybe you have “a cold,” or a “frog in your throat,” or you’re just feeling a little “under the weather.” But have you ever thought about how strange those phrases might sound to someone who didn’t grow up hearing them?

And have you ever wondered how people describe being sick in other languages? Take a look at these metaphors and expressions for sickness from around the world.

Expressions for Sickness in English

Feeling “under the weather?”  This expression has nothing to do with the weather forecast.  In fact, it’s an old nautical term that made its way into common use. During long voyages, sick sailors and passengers would be sent below deck– literally “under the weather” – to recover.

Do you have “a frog in your throat?”  This phrase actually comes to us from 19th-century American English. It spread across the pond when an American company began selling their popular “Frog in Your Throat” cough lozenges in England.

Fun fact: No frogs were harmed in the making of “Frog in your Throat” cough lozenges. However, in the 17th century, holding a live frog in your mouth until the frog died was believed to cure a sore throat.

Perhaps a bout with the flu has left you “sick as a dog?” This phrase dates back to the 18th century and is probably derived from the familiar canine habit of eating random objects and vomiting them back up.

Oh, did that last bit leave you feeling a little “green around the gills?”  Where did that come from, anyway? People don’t have gills! Well, not anymore. However, in earlier centuries, English speakers sometimes referred to the lower part of the face as the “gills.” Read more

7  Fun Facts About Translation at the Olympics In 2018

Since the birth of the modern Olympic Games in 1894, the event has grown from a mere 24 countries to over 200. As you might have guessed, the linguistic challenges involved are tremendous. Preparations are underway for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. To celebrate, here are seven fun facts and interesting stories about translation at the Olympics.  Enjoy!

The 2018 Games Have 3 Official Languages: English, French and Korean

The Olympics always have two official languages: English and French. The others are assigned based on the languages spoken in the host country. This time around, that’s Korean.

Korean is the official language of both North and South Korea.   It is spoken by 80 million people around the world, making it the 17th most common native language in the world. Korean is either a language isolate or a member of the small Koreanic language family. It all depends on whether you consider the Jeju language, a local language spoken on the Korean island of Jeju, to be a language of its own or a dialect of Korean.

Much of the 2018 Winter Olympics branding was inspired by the Korean alphabet

Korean is written in the Hangul script, and the shapes of the Korean alphabet inspired many of the visual branding elements for the 2018 Winter Games.

For example, the emblem for the Games is a stylized version of the hangul letters ㅍ (p) and ㅊ (ch), for the initial sounds in “PyeonChang.”

Even better, the left symbol represents heaven, earth, and humanity and the right symbol represents ice.  It’s a great example of the opportunities (and potential pitfalls) that come with translating into a non-Western script, where letters may carry additional meanings beyond just sound.

Need help translating your marketing materials? We can help! 

This Year, As Always, the French Are Watching

Pity the Francophiles! Unless the Olympic Games are being held in a French-speaking nation, the French language seems to get the short end of the stick when compared to English and the language of the host country. Every year, the International Organization of la Francophonie observes the games to make sure that French gets its due. They also appoint a language watchdog called le Grand Témoin, which translates to “the Great Witness.”

This year, le Grand Témoin is Fleur Pellerin, former French Minister of Culture and Communications. Pictured at left, she was born in South Korea but raised in France.

It’s PyeongChang, Not Pyongyang

South Korea would like to remind you that the 2018 Winter Olympics are being held in Pyeongchang, not Pyongyang. Pyongyang is the capital of North Korea. And yes, one person has already gotten the two cities confused.  In October 2014, a Kenyan man attending a UN conference in Pyeongchang accidentally booked a ticket to Pyongyang instead.

According to NBC News, the indigenous people’s rights advocate was “held in North Korea for more than four hours, forced to pay about $500 for a plane ticket out of the country and ordered to sign a pledge saying he would never return to North Korea without a visa.”

Harsh! And given the current level of tension between North Korea and almost everywhere else, it would probably be for the best if this didn’t happen again.

To that end, Pyeongchang is changing its name to PyeongChang for the Winter Olympics.

South Korea Sought Out 2,100 Volunteers for Translation at the Olympics

Although the winter Olympics are smaller than the summer Olympics, translation remains a top concern. This year is no different. In preparation for the 2018 Olympic Games, South Korea sought out 2,100 volunteers with language skills to act as interpreters and translators for athletes, delegates, and the press.

Of course, let’s not forget the professional translators and interpreters who worked hard behind the scenes, without the benefit of press coverage!  Read more

Learn a Language

The Top Languages to Learn in 2018

Fancy learning a new language this year? As one of the UK’s leading translation service providers, we’re in just the right place to give some tips on the most useful ones to pick. Whether you’re still a student or you’re just looking for a way to improve your career outlook, we’ve selected the top languages to learn in 2018.

1. Mandarin

Guanhua

The official language of China, Mandarin is already the most widely spoken language in the world. Per Wikipedia, 955 million people, 14.4% of the world’s population, claim it as their native tongue.

The demand for Mandarin speakers will only grow in the years to come, as China nudges the United States out of the top spot as the nation with the world’s largest GDP.  According to Bloomberg, as of November 06, 2017 the Chinese economy is projected to overtake the United States economy in 2028.

Meanwhile,  China is busy constructing a “New Silk Road” to connect the Chinese mainland with Europe, the rest of Asia, and emerging markets in Africa. 

Mandarin is also the second most popular language online. And according to Statista, while the US will probably remain the largest economy overall for a few years yet, by the end of 2018 China will be the largest digital economy in the world. 

When you look at the facts, it’s easy to see why the British Council ranked Mandarin as one of the most important languages for the future of the UK.  If you’re learning a new language this year and you’re up for a challenge, Mandarin is definitely one of the top languages to learn.

Want to learn more about the languages of China? See our beginner’s guide to Chinese translation services!

Read more

Blog Posts
Portfolio
Pages

Available Pages

Categories
Monthly