Language facts: Hindi

Standard Hindi, also known as Modern Hindi, is mutually intelligible with Urdu, another Indian language. Hindi is the official language in India and has borrowed its vocabulary heavily from Sanskrit. Hindi has close to 500 million speakers including Hindi dialects (41% of the population in India) which makes it the 4th largest language of the world, after Chinese, Spanish, and English.

Language as a political tool

Standard Hindi is based on Khariboli, a dialect of Delhi and surrounding regions. In the 17th century, this dialect acquired linguistic prestige and became generally known as Hindustani or Urdu. After India became independent, a language reform led to Standard Hindi with a modern grammar and orthographic standards. While many Hindi and Urdu speakers claim these are two different languages, this is largely due to religious nationalism and communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims. It is in a fact hard to tell the colloquial languages from each other. In the Indian constitution from 1950, Hindi was declared the principal national language of India, instead of Urdu. This "settled" the dispute politically (also with a contribution of Mahatma Gandhi who criticized the division), although certain resistance persists until today. 

One country, 22 languages

It may be worthwhile to note that English is the secondary national language due to historical and cultural development of India. Fluency in English is considered a social advantage. English is India's lingua franca and is widely used in higher society, politics as well as in business. Apart from official Hindu and English, there is over 20 officially recognized languages in India, including Urdu, Assamese, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Nepali, Kannada, Gujarati and others.

Alphabet

The main script of Standard Hindi is Devanagari, it is also the most commonly used alphabet for writing Sanskrit.

अ ब भ क च छ ड/द ध/ढ़ इ फ ग घ ह ई ज क ख ल म न/ण ऑ प फ क्यू र स श ट/त ठ/थ उ व व क्ष य झ

jizni moravaAs strange as the headline sounds, this particular issue has amused Czech and Slovak internet readers for several days now. As informed by Czech news portal iDnes.cz, the official web site for promoting tourism in South Moravia Region www.jizni-morava.cz relied on machine (read Google) translation to localize the content into seven languages including English, German, Russian, Slovak, Polish, Italian and Spanish (NOTE: The web site was financed by public as well as EU funds with a total cost of one million Czech crowns – approx. 37,000 EUR). What may have seemed like an easy cost-cutting measure turned out as a free promotion of the region. Unfortunately, in a negative and mocking way.

Visit Refrigerator, Pregnant or Vitriol!

Comp 60290043Welcome to Refrigerator, the cultural heritage! Yes, the precise localization tool applied on the above-mentioned official web site changed the geographical names of South Moravian villages including the world renowned Lednice-Valtice complex listed by UNESCO (the name of the village "Lednice" in fact means "refrigerator" when translated mechanically, but come on... :) ). Other translation jewels to be found were, for example, the names of villages Březí (verbatim – Pregnant), or Skalice (verbatim – Vitriol). Sadly amusing results of machine translation or better said undesired effort of bureaucrats is less amusing when taking into account the lack of responsibility for published moreover internationally and tourism-oriented content, while there are a lot of user-friendly localization solutions available.

Lesson learned

Text you need to publish should always be translated by professional, human translators. Yes, it is more expensive than free, on-line machine translation, but if you want to increase sales and awareness + keep customers and other readership it is worth it. And there are many smart ways to get it done right and for modest outlays. Read on. 

Replace machine-powered app with humans

stream api newWithout a need to export texts from your content management system, you can actually install a channel to high-quality human translation. This price-attractive service includes instant cost and delivery time estimates, professional human localization, proofreading and pre-publishing. It also features tracking of content changes  thanks to translation memory and glossary creation to further   lower translation expenses. The solution is a translation API – an interface able to handle the traffic and localize web content. It is available as the Stream Translation API from idioma. Just ask your web developer to integrate the API into your content management system, or download and install our pre-programmed plug-ins yourself!

Go to api.idioma.com, or contact us directly for more information.

Language facts: German

German is the official language of Germany and Austria and one of the official languages of Switzerland and Belgium, as well as an official language of the European Union and the European Commission. It is used by more than 100 million speakers and belongs to the West Germanic group of the Germanic languages. Apart from Standard German of Germany spoken by 88 million, Austrian German (Österreichisches Deutsch) it has 8 million speakers, while Swiss German (Schweizerdeutsch) has 5 million speakers. Moreover, there are about 80 million non-native speakers.
FACT: German is also the second most used scientific language.

Too many dialects

German is an interesting language also because a vast number of flavors and dialects, some of which are so distant and even mutually non-interchangeable with Standard German, so they are considered separate languages (such as Swiss German for instance). Even though Standard German existed in written form, the pronunciation was (and in fact still remains) very different in every region and dialect. The Standard German pronunciation was influenced by North German (although, strange enough, it was learnt as a foreign language in Northern Germany itself) as well as the stage form of German used in theaters. 

The standardization of written German in fact did not occur until the beginning of the 20th century. It's worthy to note that the most comprehensive German dictionary was created by the famous German authors, The Grimm Brothers. Another important role in German standardization was also played with the publication of Martin Luther's Bible. 

Interesting fact: there is one German dialect (considered a separate language today) that is not written in Latin, but in Hebrew script and it is Yiddish – the old German dialect of Ashkenazi Jews, originated in Central Europe around 9th century.

West vs. East German

Although it might seem that 40 years of division between East and West Germany caused also variation in language, it had just a little influence given a too short development period. There are certain words that are culturally different in today's western and eastern Deutschland due to Russian influence (e.g. astronaut (West) vs. kosmonaut (East), or Gartenhaus vs. Datsche (Russian expression for garden house). Also brands influenced certain terms, e.g. tissue – Kleenex in the US – is termed "Tempo" in the West, after the major tissue producer in Germany, but only a general expression "Papiertaschentuch" is used in the East.

Alphabet

The German alphabet is basically the same as the English one, exept for the addition of the special characters Ä, Ö, Ü / ä, ö, ü, ß (so called sharp S – originally scharfen S or "Eszett", sometimes replaced in writing with a double "s" (common in Switzerland). The Eszett character is rather interesting, because it doesn't have an upper case form). When sorting, these extra letters are treated like their base characters, as if the dots (umlauts) were not present. 

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