Language facts: Chinese

First of all, it's important to mention that there's not only one universal written Chinese language. There are two dominating written systems of Chinese – Simplified used in mainland China and also an official writing system in Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau and other overseas Chinese diasporas. Then is traditional Chinese used largely in Taiwan and still in Hong Kong and Macau. Interestingly, spoken Chinese is not recognized as simple vs. traditional, but as Mandarin (mainland) and Cantonese (Hong Kong) dialects.

Simplified Chinese

Chinese is the most important language among Sino-Tibetan tongues. Simplified Chinese is the official language spoken by the world's largest population, namely in the People's Republic of China, and the basic communication tool of today's most buoyant economy. This language system, consisting of several thousands of characters with each having unique meanings, is dramatically different from the western languages in terms of its wording, syntax and methods of expression. Simplified Chinese characters were promoted  mainly in the 1950s and 1960s by the governments of the People's Republic of China in attempt to increase literacy. If you are seeking business opportunities or planning to explore markets in China or Singapore, it's definitely a winning strategy to send over your messages in Simplified Chinese!

Traditional Chinese

Standard Chinese has developed gradually from the Mandarin dialect in the north of China over several hundred years, with the Peking tone as its standard tone. Traditional Chinese is the official language of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. The writing system is also referred to as ‘standard', ‘orthodox’ and ‘complex characters’. Chinese is currently the language used by most people in the world as nearly one fifth of the world's population, or about 1.3 billion people, speak Chinese as their native  language.

One of the most ancient languages in the world, with a history of 6,000 years today is also one of the working languages of the U.N. both in traditional and simplified forms.

Alphabet

Using special hieroglyphs, Chinese has a character as its minimum unit. Characters are meaning-representative  syllabic characters, with the special characteristics of integration of vision, voice and meaning. Syllables can be divided into three parts, namely initial consonant, compound vowel and tune. 

Alphabet samples:

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Language facts: Spanish

Spanish (español) or Castilian (castellano) is an Indo-European, Romance language that originated in northern Spain and gradually spread in the Kingdom of Castile eventually evolving into the principal language of government and trade (mainly thanks to King Alfonso, who standardized the language for official use already in 13th century). It was taken to Africa, the Americas, and Asia Pacific with the expansion of the Spanish Empire between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. By the time of Columbus exploring the New world, Spanish reached the point where it would be understandable even today. The authority in terms of standard Spanish is The Royal Spanish Academy, that has been producing grammar guides and dictionaries since 18th century.

Lucrative language

Spanish is the official language of more than twenty countries, mainly in the Americas besides Spain, but it is generally spoken on all five continents. It's also one of the EU languages as well as one of six official languages of the United Nations. Interestingly, after Chinese Mandarin, is Spanish language most spoken around the world by the number of speakers who has it as a mother language. Spanish language is spoken as the first and second language by between 450 and 500 million persons. Spanish is said to be quite easy to learn, also due to being one of the most phonetic languages in the world.

From Latin to Arabic

The Spanish, as other Romance languages, is a modern extension of spoken Latin (also called Vulgar Latin) from around the 3rd century A.D. However, the evolution of Spanish language was heavily influenced by Arabic and later also English. The resemblance between English and Spanish is quite visible, while the two languages share a large volume of common words and expressions. 

Alphabet:

A B C D E F G H I J K L Ll M N Ñ O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

a b c d e f g h i j k l ll m n ñ o p q r s t u v w x y z

English is spoken as a native language by around 375 million people (250 million people in the USA, 180 million in India, 58 million in the UK, 18 million in Canada, and 16 million in Australia) and as a second language by around 375 million speakers in the world. English is the official language in 53 countries and enjoys special status in at least twenty plus more countries with a total population reach of over two billion. As for now, we can surely say Modern English stands its ground as the most popular and dominant language in international communications, probably even more so than Latin in former days. This is due to global historical development and possibly also the simplicity of English grammar compared to other world languages in addition to its significantly rich, extensive vocabulary (although it is said you only need to learn 2,000 basic words to start communicating in English). English is an official EU language and actual one of the "procedural", i.e. working, languages at the institution. English is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

Dialects and foreigners' nightmare...or nitemare?

Every language obviously generates various dialects through its use. And since English is the world's most popular language, the differences of speech in various regions are much more pronounced. Most of English learners can distinguish between British, American, or Australian English after only several lessons, the more experienced have no problem identifying  dialects by sub-region (a New Yorker would definitely not pass as Texan, and Irish and Yorkshire dialect speakers wouldn't fool anyone they are from Devon). Typically as a foreign learner of Oxford or Cambridge English, in your first encounter with native British speakers you could be in for a rather shocking experience. Maybe even making you doubt the legitimacy of all that time and money spent on countless English lessons, as you feel like being spoken to in Klingon. Once the shock has faded though, endless English dialects and differences are actually something to be even enjoyed. Not so much in case of writing. Color vs. Colour, Center vs. Centre, and Neighbour vs. Neighbor. Interestingly, there was no standard for English spelling until the early 18th century and it was basically established with the publishing of the dictionaries of Samuel Johnson (Dictionary of the English Language, 1755) followed by the current British English and of Noah Webster (An American Dictionary of The English Language, 1828). It is worth noticing that the first attempts of spelling standardization followed soon after the printing press invention arrived in England in the 15th century. Nowadays, the difference between BrE and AmE emerges also in the world of computers, where PC keyboard layout differs.

English translation specifics

When we translate into English, it is important to know for which market documents are intended. Everyone knows that Queen’s English differs from US English in spelling. The examples above are well-known, others are more subtle differences such as use of past tense of verbs where UK English uses “-lled”, while US English uses “-led”. And which variant uses a period in “Mr”? Even simple things such as a writing the date differ.

As a result, sometimes it is worth contemplating whether texts should be published in different English language variants. In car manuals, for example, the British put their travelling bag in the boot and head for the motorway. An American would put his travelingbag in the trunk and get on the highway. And when it rains in London, children put on their wellingtons…

Alphabet:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Language facts: Swedish

Swedish (or Svenska) is the mother tongue of idioma's top management and one of the Scandinavian languages, a branch of the Germanic languages - North Germanic, or East Scandinavian in particular. 

Viking heritage and God bless Guttenberg

Swedish is the official language of Sweden and due to six centuries of Swedish supremacy also one of the two (and equal) official languages of Finland. Until World War II, it was also spoken in parts of Estonia and Latvia. Swedish is an official EU as well as a Nordic Council language, spoken by approximately 9 million people in Sweden and by around 300,000 people in Finland. 

Similar to e.g. Czech and Slovak, Swedish is mutually intelligible with Danish as well as Norwegian, but only to some extent. This is actually a Viking period heritage, as these languages have a common predecessor, the Old Norse, generally spoken in Scandinavia by Germanic tribes. New classifications in fact label Swedish together with Norwegian and Danish as one branch of Continental Scandinavian languages. It was not until the invention of printing and the Reformation movement for what is now known as modern Swedish that the language emerged. King of Sweden Gustav Vasa wanted to have the Bible translated into his native language, and indeed, in 1541 the Gustav Vasa Bible was introduced, representing the first full Swedish Bible translation, common in use for almost four centuries, until 1917.

Swedish language influence and translation specifics

Dollarphotoclub 68212871
Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte became
 King of Sweden as Karl XIV Johan
in 1818  and reigned till 1846.
Source: DollarPhotoClub

Over the years, Swedish language has taken over many loan words from other languages. A number of French expressions were introduced in the early 19th century when the Royal House of Sweden took in a French marshal, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, from the Napoleon reign. He took over the throne in 1818, but never managed to learn proper Swedish during his 26-year reigh, instead communicating in  the international French language.
Now, in more modern times with the influx of computers and the digital age, the vocabulary has expanded with many English words – often replacing or anglicizing old-style traditional Swedish words for better or worse.

In translation, documents in Swedish tend to address the reader directly and in the informal style instead of the more common passive voice as used in English language, or the polite "Sie" form in German.

Alphabet: 

Swedish uses the Latin alphabet and has in addition to English three extra letters … X Y Z Å Ä Ö. Interesting to note is that sorting follows this order, and e.g. the "Ö" entries are not included under "O", nor the "Å" and "Ä" under "A" as one does in e.g. German.

The vowel "Ö" is often perceived as very typical for Swedish by non-Scandinavians, mainly those familiar with distinctive patterns of product names in IKEA catalogues :) Other companies have elected to drop the distinctive letters, for example SKANSKA, by converting the "Å" in "Skånska" to a standard "A" in their internationalization efforts.Interestingly, the consonant "Z" is used in foreign words only.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Å Ä Ö 

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z å ä ö

Language facts: Czech

With our production center based in Prague, Czech is after English and Japanese one of the most used "in-house" languages at idioma. 

More popular as appears 

Czech is a West Slavic language with about 12 million native speakers. "Čeština" (= Czech), is the name derived from a Slavic tribe of Czechs that inhabited Central Bohemia in former days. Today it is the official and main language in the Czech Republic and spoken by Czechs worldwide (especially by immigrants in the USA, Canada, and Ukraine). Czech is similar to and mutually intelligible with Slovak, due to mutual history and decades of being a common republic: Czechoslovakia. Even today, many books or films distributed in Slovakia come with Czech, rather than Slovak translation or dubbing. 

Various internationally significant artworks in literature and music (especially opera) were originally written in Czech – Dvořák's Rusalka, the works of Alois Jirásek, Bohumil Hrabal and many more.

Since the integration of the Czech Republic into the European Union, Czech has also become an official EU language.

"Strč prst skrz krk!" (stick a finger through a neck)

Czech is considered one of the hardest languages for foreigners to actively master, due to overcomplicated grammar, as well as tricky pronunciation. Some words, for instance, do not have vowels, such as zmrzl (froze solid), ztvrdl (hardened), scvrkl (shrunk), vlk (wolf), krk (neck), prst (finger) or smrt (death) and more. There are actually tongue-twisters based on consonant-only words, such as "strč prst skrz krk", frequently used by Czech wives late in the evening to check their husbands' alcohol intake.  :)

Czech also features the consonant ř, a phoneme that is said to be unique to the Czech language and that is problematic to articulate even to some native Czechs. 

Alphabet:

A Á B C Č D Ď E É Ě F G H Ch I Í J K L M N Ň O Ó P Q R Ř S Š T Ť U Ú Ů V W X Y Ý Z Ž a á b c č d ď e é ě f g h ch i í j k l m n ň o ó p q r ř s š t ť u ú ů v w x y ý z ž

Language facts: Japanese

Federico Fellini said, that a different language was a different vision to life. While we cover over 70 languages at idioma, we can only agree with that statement. Each language has its history, specifics and flavors and we're here to inform you about it regularly in the Language facts.

Did you know Japanese uses four "alphabets"?

Japanese (Nihongo in Japanese) is spoken by around 127 million people in Japan, plus a couple of million people outside of Japan. It is of course the official language of Japan, but it is even an official language of Angaur (island nation of Palau). Japanese is not directly related to any other language even though it does share a lot of characters with Chinese. It uses four writing systems: kanji, hiragana, katakana and romaji. Hiragana is syllabic and is used for simple words, conjugations, particles and children's literature. Katakana is used to write foreign words. Kanji is based on the Chinese writing system and has about 2000 basic signs, but there are thousands more. Romaji is a Romanization of Japanese words, basically relying on the letters in the Roman, or Latin, alphabet, used e.g. for company names, logotypes and text entry of Japanese text into computers. 

Japanese translation specifics

Japanese has borrowed many words from the Indo-European languages, primarily English, and even made up terms that a native English speaker would never understand, especially in the line of business we are in: Technical Translation. The Japanese term for such "borrowed" words, especially from english, is Gairaigo (外来語).

Would you ever guess that ハフコン [hafukon] is a reference to 'half-concealed' wipers", while リモコン [rimokon] means 'remote control'? Or that ペンション (pension) should actually be translated as a 'a guest house'? Because Katakana can be very ambiguous, sometimes it is hard to determine how to translate a given term. "Hose" and "Hawse" for example are both written as ホース in Japanese.

There are many, many more where translators have been pulling their hairs for days, even weeks. Combining this with other peculiarities of the Japanese language – such as where the subject in sentences is often omitted – makes translating Japanese text into other languages a true undertaking.

Japanese alphabet:

Hiragana (ひらがな)

あいうえおかきくけこさしすせそたちつてとなにぬねのはひふへほまみむめもやゆよらりるれろわをん がぎぐげござじずぜぞだぢづでどばびぶべぼぱぴぷぺぽぁぃぅぇぉっゃゅょ、。 

Katakana (カタカナ)

アイウエオカキクケコサシスセソタチツテトナニヌネノハヒフヘホマミムメモヤユヨラリルレロワヲン ガギグゲゴザジズゼゾダヂヅデドバビブベボパピプペポァィゥェォッャュョー 

Kanji examples

自動, 計算, 費用, 納期, 即時, 提示, 天気, 管理, 健康, 旅行, 料理, 鍋

Romaji examples

We love Japanese!



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