Language facts: Arabic

Arabic belongs to the Afroasiatic language family and is a Semitic language of the Arabo-Canaanite subgroup – therefore closely related to Hebrew or Phoenician. 

With approximately 290 million speakers (of Modern Standard Arabic), it ranks in sixth place among the world’s major languages. In today's form, Modern Standard Arabic happens to be an official language of 27 states. Only English and French score higher. As the Arabic world is very large, it is not surprising that a large number of Arabic dialects have developed – counting all these, the number of Arabic speakers rises to an estimated 420 million. Arabic is the language of the Holy Quran, poetry and literature as well as an official UN language. As a liturgical language of Islam, it is used by an astonishing 1.6 billion Muslims.

Complicated language of complicated society

Arabic is a so-called sociolinguistic language, which means that from a purely linguistic view it's actually a group of familiar languages. For cultural (e.g. religious) or socioeconomic reasons it is considered as one language, though, despite that there are branches of Arabic that are mutually unintelligible. Arabic can be sub-classified as follows: Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic and Colloquial Arabic. Obviously there's also a large number of dialects.

Classical Arabic (or Quranic Arabic) is used as the language of prayer and recitation throughout the Islamic world. Modern Standard Arabic, a constituted version of the language, is, though intelligible, much distinct from the spoken variants of Arabic dialects (with no observable boundaries or rules). The official constituted form of Arabic actually co-exist in common usage with various Arabic dialects while covering different social situations.

The language of culture

Because of Muslim expansion in the past, Arabic has influenced a lot of the world's languages, including Indian languages such as Urdu (which is in fact a Muslim influenced version of Hindi – that was actually also previously influenced by Arabic), Punjabi or Bengali. Also Roman languages, mainly Spanish, Catalan or Portuguese, borrowed many expressions from Arabic in the middle ages, when the Muslim world represented the cultural and scientific drive in then decimated Europe.

Alphabet

The Arabic alphabet has twenty-eight (28) letters. Arabic differs from Latin languages in that it is written right to left, but sequences of digits, such as telephone numbers, read from left to right.

أ ب ت ث ج ح خ د ذ ر ز س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ك ل م ن ه و ي

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

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. 

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: Russian

Russian is the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages, and the largest native language in Europe. It belongs to the family of Indo-European languages.  Russian is the native language of around 165 million people and second language of an additional 110 million people.  Startling fact: Over a quarter of the world's scientific literature is published in Russian. Nowadays, Russian is spoken primarily in Russia and Belarus, partly Ukraine and is also one of six official languages of the United Nations as well as official EU language.

To foreigner's ears, most of other Slavic languages sound similar to Russian, although the languages are far from being interchangeable (in fact it is even less mutually similar than Romance languages are).

Language of the red Empire

Due to the status of the former Soviet Union as a superpower, Russian had great political importance in the 20th century and was in fact forced as a second language to all countries under Soviet influence, including central European countries and East Germany. Russian was a mandatory subject in school, even a mandatory part of school leaving exams. After the Soviet union collapsed, public attitude towards Russian language in satellite countries went to the opposite extreme, neglecting and suppressing the language out of general education while swiftly replacing it with English due to new political trends. Until today, a lot of 50+ people in post-communist countries still read the Cyrillic script (Azbuka) and have a general understanding and basic knowledge of Russian.

Alphabet

Russian uses the Cyrillic script, which is originally derived from the Greek script, but adjusted and supplemented by some letters from so called Glagolitic alphabet, developed by the brothers Cyril and Methodius, in order to comply with Old Church Slavonic sounds. Old Church Slavonic was, at that time, considered 4th liturgical language for a brief period beside Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Although a dead speech now, its still being used in the Orthodox church.

А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Ъ Ы Ь Э Ю Я
а б в г д е ё ж з и й к л м н о п р с т у ф х ц ч ш щ ъ ы ь э ю я

Language facts: French

French is a Romance language spoken by 65 to 80 million people around the world as a native language, and by an additional 200 million or so people as a second or third language. Most native speakers of the language live in France, while most of the rest live in Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, Francophone Africa, Luxembourg and Monaco. French originates from the Latin language of the Roman Empire. Today, it is an official language in 29 countries, especially in many African countries, most of them former French or Belgian colonies. French is the official EU language, as well as one of the three working languages of the European Commission.

Language of artists, diplomats and chefs

Dollarphotoclub 79094140Around 17th century, French became a widespread lingua franca (in fact replacingItalian that enjoyed such popularity during the Renaissance period), similar to today's status of English. It has been much used in science, diplomacy, even arts for several centuries – in fact, until World War II. (The first signs of French being pushed back by English emerged after World War I., e.g. when the Treaty of Versailles was written in both French and English, despite former diplomatic convention). The truth is that English has been widely influenced by French and many English words related to law, government, military, and, of course, cuisine and cooking, are derived from French vocabulary (lieutenant (same), attorney/atourné, treaty/traité, finance/finer, fee/fie, jail/jaiole, etc). In case of French cuisine-related words (picnic/piquenique, spice/espice, soup/soupe, sausage/saussiche, juice/jus, beef/boef, etc), some of them are used in English even with original French spelling (grape, menu, bacon, omelette and so forth).

French in translation

It is important to note that in translation, documents destined for France can usually be used as they are in Belgium, Switzerland, etc. There are no major differences. In Belgium, to give an example, they have their own word for ninety "nonante", but the French equivalent "quatre-vingt-dix" is generally understood. However when documents are intended for Canada, they should be translated into Canadian French since there are significant differences between standard French and Canadian French. Canada for example has taken in many loan words from its US neighbor, and the language at times tends to be more formal than European French. And when working with translation memories, it is important to separate the two by their correct languages codes. Use "fr-ca" for Canadian French.

Alphabet

French uses the standard English alphabet with added ligatures (œ and æ) and also frequent use of acute accent ( ´ ), grave accent ( ` ), circumflex ( ˆ ), diaeresis ( ¨ ), and the cedilla ( ¸ ). Diacritics have no impact on the primary alphabetical order. 

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

Italian is a member of the Romance group of languages. It is the official language of Italy, San Marino and Vatican City, and one of the official languages of Switzerland. Italian is spoken by about 58 million people in Italy, 30,000 in San Marino, and 840,000 in Switzerland. Italian is regarded as the 4th or 5th most studied language in the world and is also an official EU language. It is also one of the most visited countries in the world – close to 40 million people go there every year – which could explain the interest in studying Italian.

Medieval lingua franca

Italian is descendant of Latin, or better said Vulgar (common) Latin, and shares or resembles Latin in terms of vocabulary more than other Romance languages. From late medieval to Renaissance (mainly due to the cultural and trade impact and dominance of Italy) Italian had a function of so called lingua franca – universal language in trade and international relations in Europe, similar to today's English. Italian is profound with its number of mutually incompatible dialects and it is said (with a little overstatement) that two neighboring villages don't understand each other when speaking in their own regional dialect. 

Well-known Italian words

While it is common for many languages to have borrowed words from English and French, Italian is also a language from which many tongues have picked up a few terms. The most well-known are perhaps 'Pizza' (a word understood almost all over the word), 'Bank', 'Alarm' and 'Ghetto'. Other borrowed words that spring to mind come from the world of music and performance, e.g. 'Piano', 'Violin' and 'Opera'. In the world of science, look no further than 'Volt', which is an electric unit named after Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the world's first battery in 1779. 

Alphabet

Italian uses the same letters as in the English alphabet, with acute, grave and circumflex accents on vowels. Some letters (j, k, w, x, y) are excluded from the standard Italian though, used only in loan words.

 

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

FRESH - INTERACTIVE - EFFECTIVE. 

newstream finalOn June 1st, we released our new website and brand new idioma WORLD™ platform to enhance your possibilities in the translation universe. 

Apart from new services such as Translation Memory creation, Glossary Creation and our unique Stream Translation API, all current services, including Stream (for instant online estimates of translation price and delivery term) and Ask (systematized language queries) have been completely redesigned including a full overhaul of the functionality to make everything more user-friendly. 

The new idioma WORLD™ replaces our former TC platform and stuns users with a fresh, intuitive design. Moreover, it was designed to meet the new Web 3.0 standards and fully complies with mobile device requirements.

newstream final2idioma WORLD™ controls all aspects of every project we handle. The system is closely interlinked with iQube, our web-based translation platform, which all translators and verifiers work against online. idioma WORLD™ has been developed in-house to manage localization projects the way we want. The system keeps track of all project details, including individual project steps. 

As a client, you can track on-going projects, who is the translator and reviewer, and easily see the progress on translation projects as percent ready. This can be highly useful for your planning and to assure you that delivery will be on time, especially when deadlines are tight. Obviously, as an intranet solution, idioma WORLD™ has built in https encryption/decryption with SSL certificates to ensure your data is safe and cannot be sniffed or hacked.

However, it's not just our clients, who will benefit from new idioma WORLD™ platform. The redesign included, inter alia, also supplier pages, adding motivational statistics and analysis of translator performance (including translation and verification speed and quality indicators). Thanks to this, as well as a comprehensive booking and availability tracking system, we take translation quality and speedy turnaround  to even higher levels. 

IWmyaccountCLIENTDon't have your idioma WORLD™ account yet? Register now at www.idioma.com and enjoy a whole new experience in ordering and managing translation projects! 

Translation tips: Language flavors

At idioma we translate into many different languages, over seventy at the last count, and in many different combinations (last we counted the permutations, it was over five thousand). Some of these languages are different variants of the same basic language. Sometimes they are very similar, at other times quite different. 

Flavored by authorities

For example, for Norwegian, two flavors exist: Bokmål and Nynorsk. Bokmål is by far the most common variant in Norway and is used in the private and commercial sector, while Nynorsk is used mostly in some western regions and in public administration. The two dialects differ considerably from each other.

Then for Portuguese, there are also dif­ferent tongues, and the language used in Portugal differs from the one used in Brazil, for example. In spite of the fact that a language reform has been signed into law (in Portugal in 2008), in reality there are quite many differences. Schools in Portugal now teach the new, standardized Portuguese language, which means that in a global perspective spelling and grammar should become standardized. Most newspapers and magazines in Portugal have also adopted the reform, which officially must have been applied by latest July 2014. The biggest obstacle, however, seems to be the choice of words. Especially in technical writing, there are numerous cases where Brazilians prefer different terms than those used in Portugal, which is one reason why Portuguese for Portugal and Portuguese for Brazil will most likely continue to coexist for quite some time. 

Spanish is another case in point where differences exist. Spanish in Spain tends to be quite modern with development in a different direction from other Spanish tongues. Most of the Spanish dialects in South America are quite conservative, while the dialects used in Mexico and the Caribbean are influenced by their proximity to the United States.

Does it matter in localization?

Many times, it is more important to know the target market than the language itself or whether a document will be used in many different markets. In Belgium, for example, people in the north speak Flemish, a variant of Dutch. This dialect can’t really be called a different language as spelling and grammar are the same as for standard Dutch. Here the difference is rather in the frequency in the words used, although all words exist in standard Dutch as well. However, it can make a surprising  difference when it comes to, say, localization of websites.

Similar to Flemish, the German vocabulary used in Austria and Switzerland is also common, however, the preferences, especially in Switzerland, are many times for different words than those that are commonly used in Germany. Additionally, in Switzerland the German character “ß” is not used, and instead people write “ss”.

In our work, we come across the issue of language flavor daily. We of course translate into the various dialects mentioned above, and many more, and we will be happy to help with issues regarding which language or dialect to translate into. 

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:

欢迎您采用我们的翻译服务

We are often approached to provide guidance on what is the most common way of using decimal dividers and thousand separators for the various languages that we translate into.

While everyone is aware of US English using periods for decimal division and commas to separate thousands in big numbers, the issue is somehow obscure when it comes to all the different lan­guages used in Europe. 

Diacritical mayhem

comaperiodIn US English, the value of pi is 3.14 while a million is written as 1,000,000 with comma separators. This system is also used widely throughout Asia and in almost all English speaking countries. In Spain, pi is written like “3,14” and everyone would like to win “1.000.000” Euro in a lottery. Many other European countries apply similar punctuation in numbers, but there are exceptions. In Germanic languages, i.e. German, Dutch, Danish, Norwe­gian and Swedish, the decimal comma is also standard and pi is written as “3,14”. However, while a million can be written like what is the custom in e.g. Spain, there is now a general trend to instead use nonbreaking spaces and people like to win “1 000 000” Euro instead on the lottery. To complicate things, for the Germanic (and also Slavic) languages there is also a general preference to not use any divider in single thousand numbers. So you would e.g. pay “€1500” for a very good bicycle and “€9000” for a decent car. If you add German value added tax of 19%, the final price becomes “€10 710” (yes with a space) for the same car.

Solution? idioma QA style sheet

This trend of omitting the separator is also picking up in many other European countries, and it is a commonplace practice today. We have learned that many of our clients are not aware of this. As a result, we have developed special QA style sheets in which we have recommendations for all the 70+ languages we translate into.

Clients can accept these recommenda­tions or enter their own preference for the various languages that projects should be translated into. It is even possible to enter non-standard practices, e.g. to omit all dividers in thousands and larger, for example when translat­ing very technical documents where numbers should simply remain the same in disregard of what language they are translated into. The information in the style sheets is passed on to our translators and proofreaders as ‘mini rules’ so they can adhere to your pref­erences while handling your projects.

Please contact our project manager for more information on these style sheets and how you best can use them to your advantage.

iqube bigMultilingual documentation has become increasingly challenging over the years – quality in translation must be maintained while we match clients’ detailed specifications accompanied with short deadlines. One translator can only produce so much in a day, and splitting projects on multiple translators usually affects the overall style and draw negative feedback from clients. As we accept clients’ requests with increasingly shorter delivery terms, it is unrealistic to make translators remember each and every instruction and use reference material that overwhelm rather than help. We have taken this issue into serious consideration to be able to handle volume projects in short time frames without this affecting the quality. So, through extensive development and testing, we have developed an innovative translation platform called “iQube”.

TM engines – friends or foes?

iQube™ is a smart Translation Memory (TM) solution developed in-house at idioma. It represents a 3-dimensional service: Quality, Quantity, and Quickness. Many TM tools exist in the translation industry today, each with different advantages. We have tried to implement most of these in iQube while we have kept an extremely simple interface. From experience we know that the majority of translators struggle in a TM environment, many are lost in all the available settings and almost everyone complain that tags in existing TM systems make actual translation difficult and post-checking even more so. Style, being another issue, is difficult to unify as every translator has different writing styles. As such iQube was designed as an intelligent TM platform, where emphasis was on a clean work environment for the translator to make it easier to concentrate on the translation task and subsequent verification of translated documents.

4 reasons 4 iQube™ 

iQube™ accentuates Quality, Quantity, and Quickness in translation in the following ways:

  1. Integrated QA! idioma’s CrossCheck® QA application is completely integrated in iQube – each and every segment that is translated and verified is subject to mandatory QA checking to make sure Quality is not compromised.
  2. Highly customizable! iQube™ can be adapted to match client specifications – it notifies translators working on projects about client preferences, even checking to make sure writing rules are respected.
  3. Team work! If you have a tight deadline and are in a hurry, we can divide your project among multiple translators who will work in real time together against the iQube™ platform so translators can check and reuse each others’ work. This common way of working ensures unification of style in translated content.
  4. Process automation! As translation projects become increasingly complex with unification and detailed specifications constituting core issues, iQube™ systematizes glossary use, automates QA checks, and style sheet loading, this way contributing to Quickness.

1 more reason – it is Free!

A fifth reason should also be mentioned. iQube™ is offered for free use to all idioma suppliers. There is no need to invest 50, 100 or even 1,000 Euro in an expensive commercial solution that you don´t know will be useful or even used again. The iQube™ software solution also undergoes continuous change to make sure it is always up-to-date, making it an ideal work tool for translators and reviewers.

The better TM engine, the better translation?

The end result to clients is of course shortened delivery terms with enhanced consistency in their documentation. iQube™ has positively changed the translators’ work experience. Translators now receive maximum assistance and can focus on producing premium quality translation. As iQube™ manages the translators’ work environment, we recommend generation of custom glossaries, style sheet creation, and to specify project parameters prior to starting projects. We are determined to make your translation perfect. By combining iQube™ with our QA services, we can guarantee a completely different quality dimension on your translation projects even when working with large volumes and short deadlines. To get to know more about iQube™, please contact us (either via email or just call our office for further assistance), or visit www.idioma.com

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

Translation is not an easy task. Many people say that the best translation is when translated text exceeds the quality and understanding of the original text. We fully agree, but to get there is an uphill battle and a struggle unless we know what we are dealing with. In reality, there are hundreds of different ways that you can combine words to make up an intelligent expression that reflect the original meaning without getting into wordiness or veering too far off subject. We do this as a matter of course daily – actually round the clock.

Translating for industries is a continuous undertaking, and we do it in close to a hundred languages. We use translation memories, reference resources, and then we use glossaries – either ones we have made ourselves or those provided by clients. All of this helps, but there are times when we are at a loss, and then we usually ask.

Context matters

Many of our assignments are additions to existing documents, where we translate out of context. This can be a nightmare to a professional translator.

Once in a while, we come across terms that simply cannot be translated unless we have references. As in this title “jack” is a good one. It has so many meanings, especially when it appears as a lone item. Even my good friend Jack agrees.

jacks
Many Jacks 1 Jack Jack

But there are many others. When clients ‘help’ and prepare projects in e.g. Trados, we often come across terms like “No” that can mean both Number and the opposite of Yes. It is of course also a Japanese style of theater, mostly performed by men, and it has even more meanings, e.g Nitric Oxide. Here we try not to guess, and we use the context to try to figure out the meaning, but it is undeniably a challenge.

Don't risk. Get reference.

This is why we always emphasize use of references. Original files as PDFs are most helpful, especially with pictures. Just think of another simple term like "cart". This being a reasonably old term, it has numerous different translations in any imaginable language. It can refer to a shopping cart, the horse driven variant, or something small and ‘fast’ that kids love for downhill races and band-aid use. Grandpas and other fellows use it on the golf course, some use it as a beverage carrier, and in Africa you can go on a Rhino safari in a Cart.

The above is a typical translator dilemma. For the Rhinos, you definitely need to emphasize some protective elements when referencing the “cart”; if you are dealing with a grocery store, you simply use the standard “cart”.

cart

The core of this issue is reference. All translators need good reference that supports the text s/he will translate. Glossaries are a good help, a translation memory too – anything less is a risk of stating something imprecise or downright wrong.

Translating from and to many languages brings about lots of interesting facts, increases curiosity and reveals things most people would hardly think twice about. Well we do, so why not share some the know-how?

For instance, we regularly work with translation into English – who doesn't, to be honest :) – and handle both British English and English for the U.S. market. While it is common knowledge that U.K. and U.S. English differ slightly in spelling and also between certain expressions, the two tongues also have very different approaches to the use of Initial Capitals, i.e. the custom of capitalizing the first letter of every word in headers and sub-headers. 

The British keep it subtle, Americans Like it Big

capsTo roughly sum it up, people generally favor the use of initial capitals in the U.S., while in the U.K. there is a tendency to avoid them. If you open a newspaper from the U.S. and one from the U.K., this becomes obvious (well illustrated by the picture  on the right). To a translator, the issue is trivial, but if you publish documents for English readers in general and there is no target market, it may be worth to reconsider the use of initial caps in headers. 

Avoid international Caps schizophrenia

Having noted that Americans like to use initial caps in titles, while the British try to avoid them, for International English we recommend not to use initial caps, because it makes it difficult to balance the heading levels that should have initial caps and those that should not. It is difficult to keep respecting the rule and even more difficult to unify all headers throughout documents and between projects. Further, when writing International English text for a worldwide audience, it is easy to make mistakes if initial caps are used, which is another good reason for advocating the British preference. As to the general opinion of the British that initial caps usage appears ugly, we won’t comment. But let's admit that caps overuse can confuse and distract the reader, a fact that eventually will affect the level of understanding the context and slow down the reading speed. You really don't want your target text to appear that way to the reader – at least not if we talk promotional material. 

When to use initial caps?

519oGTae6RL. SY344 BO1,204,203,200 We do, however, agree with and encourage the use of initial caps in proper names, including product names and to some extent special part names, as well as in key phrases, e.g. catch phrases. This includes also titles (e.g. on book covers - as on the picture on the right).

The easy way out

If you are really stuck and can't make up your mind, there is always an easy way out: Simply capitalize all your headers and reduce the point size to avoid them dominating the content.

For other translation and localization tips, language facts and curiosities, keep tracking our blog!



Blog archive

Sign in
Get a free account now
This website uses cookies to analyze website traffic, enhance functionality of provided services and to ensure you get the best experience on our website.

Learn more

I agree!