Translation tips: How to localize dates?

There were times, and it is not so long ago, when not even Europe had a unified calendar – not to mention the world. And although the IT revolution made us unify most of the information to 0 and 1, including all everyday thing, calendar dates can still turn into a real pain when it comes to localization. 

Calendar dates formatting

There are various formats that different languages and cultures use for writing dates. The reason for such usage of the specific formats are usually historic and cultural, but some are also driven by technical development. The calendar dates can vary as follows:

  • Order of date components (e.g. day-month-year = little-endian; month-day-year = middle-endian; year-month-day = big-endian) - the most popular in the majority of countries around the world is the day-month-year format, mainly due to the Western religious and legal customs of writing dates (e.g. the 1st day of November, Anno Domini 2016)
  • Usage of leading zeros in days and months (e.g. 01-01-2016 vs. 1-1-2016) – German-speaking and German-influenced regions, for instance, tend to use 
  • Separators like hyphens, dots, etc. (e.g. 01-01-2016, 01.01.2016, 1 January 2016, 1. January 2016 or 01/01/2016)
  • Year format (e.g. 01-01-2016 vs. 01-01-16)
  • Numeral type usage – Arabic vs. Roman (e.g. 1. XII. 2016 vs. 1.12.2016)
  • Months name usage (months can be written down using both names and numbers, e.g. 1.1.2016 vs. 1.January 2016)
  • Other language or cultural specifics (e.g. 1st January 2016 in English, or adding AD (Anno Domini), or CE (common era) to the date)
  • Reversed day and month this is a popular format used only in the United States and often a default settings in many computers, e.g. 01-31-2016 for January 31, 2016.

There is also an ISO 8601 standard for data elements and interchange formats, that works with YYYY-MM-DD format.

Time zones matter in dates localization 

Not only the formatting, but also timezones need to be taken into consideration, based on the observer's view. This can be rather tricky with important historical dates, where e.g. the attack on Pearl Harbor, generally known to be December 7th, 1941, actually took place on December 8th in Japanese time.

Language facts: Estonian

Estonian belongs to the Finno-Ugric group of languages, which has its roots somewhere behind the Ural Mountains (together with Hungarian, Finnish, etc.). Today, there are several dozens small Finno-Ugric populations settled in North Europe, in the Volga and Ural region, and in Siberia and the Russian Far North. 

Closest to Estonian are the Finnish languages, first of all Finnish itself. Estonian is, in fact, currently spoken by less than a million people in Estonia where it is the official language, and smaller communities scattered throughout the world. Estonian is also one of the official EU languages.

Two languages in one

Historically, there were actually two Estonian languages used in Estonia: the Northern and the Southern Estonian. The reason for this differentiation is quite interesting, as it results from the two main separate migration waves of the old ancestors of today's Estonians. The migration waves were not apart from each other just in terms of time, but also the separate groups used considerably different vernaculars. The modern version of Estonian is derived from the Northern Estonian dialects. Due to historical reasons (e.g. Northern Crusades, World War Two and the Soviet expansion), Estonian was quite neglected in the area, mainly in terms of literature. The first written form of Estonian is not older than the 13th century. Estonian is also heavily influenced by the languages of nations who took over the rule over the Estonian lands at various points in time, namely Sweden, Germany and Russia.

Alphabet

In addition to the standard English alphabet, Estonian includes Š Ž Õ Ä Ö Ü. Loanwords can include F, Š, Z and Ž, while C, Q, W, X and Y are used in writing foreign proper names. These letters are not considered part of the Estonian alphabet, though. It is also worth mentioning that Estonian uses up to three degrees of phonetic length (not just short and long, but also "overlong"), thus one word can have three different meanings based on how much effort (length) is put into pronouncing it.

 

A B D E G H I J K L M N O P R S T U V Õ Ä Ö Ü a b d e g h i j k l m n o p r s t u v õ ä ö ü

idioma sponsoring Translators without borders

Tokyo/Prague, (October 7th, 2016) – idioma, an international language services provider based in Tokyo since 1980, is pleased to announce that we have pledged our support to help humanitarian translations reach more people around the world by becoming a bronze sponsor of Translators without Borders.

Translators without Borders (TWB) strives to provide people access to vital, often life-saving, information in their own language by, connecting non-profit organizations with a community of professional translators; building local language translation capacity; and raising awareness of language barriers. Since 2011, TWB has translated over 30 million words in over 150 languages in the areas of crisis relief, health and education. The organization has responded to urgent crises by using its Words of Relief model, working with partners, to provide vital information in the appropriate languages to those affected by the European refugee crisis, the Ebola crisis and the Nepal earthquake. Words of Relief ensures better communications with communities when crisis response aid workers and affected populations do not speak the same language.

The financial support provided by sponsors is critical to sustaining and growing the organization. “In the course of our work, we've become aware of a huge need, which is for people in poor countries to be able to access global knowledge in their own language,” explains Aimee Ansari, Executive Director of Translators without Borders.

“According to UNICEF more people die from lack of knowledge than from diseases. People in poor countries are simply unable to access global knowledge in a language they understand. Mobile technology may be bringing more people information, but we still need to bridge the ‘language last mile’. Translators without Borders is delivering this much needed help through a myriad of tools and programs so that more people will be able to access the knowledge they need in a language they understand."

Commenting on idioma’s decision to become a sponsor, Steen Carlsson, the managing director of idioma’s Production center, said:

“Having worked with languages all my life, in my job and privately, I know what the difference of even the most rudimentary translation can mean to a person unable to communicate. When those you communicate with do not understand what you say, or what you need, or why you behave the way you do, there is only despair. Translators without Borders is a concept we are happy to support and it is my sincere hope more people in need will benefit from their help.”

Aimee Ansari adds: “We are incredibly grateful to idioma for this assistance, which is critical to enable us, in turn, to support more humanitarian work around the globe.” 

idioma is proud to be supporting Translators without Borders in this work.

About Translators without Borders

Translators without Borders envisions a world where knowledge knows no language barriers.  The US-based non-profit provides people access to vital knowledge in their language by partnering with humanitarian organizations. Originally founded in 1993 in France as Traducteurs sans Frontières (now its sister organization), Translators without Borders translates more than five million words per year.  In 2012, the organization established a Healthcare Translator Training Center in Nairobi, Kenya.  For more information and to volunteer or donate, please visit the TWB website or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

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