Blog page is only available in English
How to communicate on international exhibitions #1: Choosing the right language

It may be once in 5 years, annually, or twice a month, but no matter how often you promote your company and products on international events, such as trade fairs or industry exhibitions, presenting internationally and transferring your message from the company's native language to the languages of potential target markets is not an easy task to accomplish. Unless, of course, you are prepared. 

As translation and localization of your content are demanding both on time and resources, it's prudent to evaluate localization priorities and the languages to focus on. Here are few things to keep in mind in this area:

1. Have all your content prepared and maintained in English – even if it's not your native language.

English is the language business of present times, there is hardly any dispute about that. Because of the popularity and extensive use of English in basically all areas of modern communication, the best translation rates you can usually get on the market are for language combinations involving English. Eventually, when the need arises and you need to translate from your not-so-common native language to not-so-common languages of your target markets, you won't pay a fortune for a translation of an "exotic language pair", but a reasonable price of the english-external language pair. 

2. English is international, but you want to be local.

No, it isn't contrary to the first point and, of course, this doesn't mean you absolutely must communicate in English, especially not if you've already done your homework regarding the first point. 

It's merely not safe to presume everyone of your potential clients understands English or the even more dangerous idea: that since they do understand, localization of your message to the languages of your target markets is just a waste of resources. Even if your company is relatively small and headquartered in a non-English speaking country, once you decide to step onto the international scene and wish to appeal to other non-English speakers, going the extra mile will pay off. Think of it this way: When you're in a foreign environment, it feels good to stumble upon somebody who speaks your language in the sea of the currentlingua franca, doesn't it? 

3. Integrate localization into your marketing strategy.

As translation and localization are closely tied to the company content and overall message, these undertakings typically are handled by the company's marketing department (and/or the documentation department). After all, analyzing the opportunities and preparing for expansion into new markets is what marketers do. Your very presence at international exhibitions or trade events is a direct result of the company's decision to focus on certain markets and clientele. The marketing department should implement localization into all international development strategies and determine the level of localization and its priorities for key international markets. As a consequence, the company message and content should be customized and localized on all communication levels, from native sales reps through localized websites and sales material, even down to paid online advertising.

To learn more about the different forms of multilingual communication and the channels to employ for your next exhibition presence, read our following blog.

Language facts: Romanian

Romanian is a Romance language, primarily used in Romania and also Moldova, being an official language in both countries, as well as of the European union. It is closely related to other Latin languages, such as Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian, and evolved from Vulgar Latin. It is also related and very similar to Moldavian language, used in Moldavia. Romanian has around 24 million native speakers.

Romanian or Moldavian?

Romanian and its grammar rules were constituted in the second half of the 18th century. Interestingly, the first Romanian grammar was published outside Romania, in Vienna. As with most of the East European and Balkan languages, Romanian also got formed by wars, conflicts, and nationalistic brawls of Romanians and Moldovans and, obviously, the Russian and Ottoman influence in the region. In fact, Romanian and Moldovan are merely two names for the very same language (the only real difference is the script – Moldavian is written in Cyrillic, while Romanian in Latin). 

After the Russians annexed the Bessarabia region (the part of Moldova that used to be under the Ottoman rule) in 1812, "Moldovian" was established as an official language, while the area itself became de facto bilingual, with Russian being the language of the higher class. Romanian was, however, banned from official administrative use and was taught as a foreign language only. This subsequently led to the awakening of a Romanian national movement that asked for the Romanian language to be reinstated in schools as the main language of education.

During the Soviet era, the term "Moldovan" was forced through to describe the Romanian language, which was meant to destabilize the Romanian nationalist movement and try to marginalize Romanian as merely a dialect.  

Alphabet

In addition to the standard English alphabet, Romanian has specific sounds …Ă, Î, S, Ţ.

A Ă Â B C D E F G H I Î J K L M N O P Q R S Ş T Ţ U V W X Y Z a ă â b c d e f g h i î j k l m n o p q r s ş t ţ u v w x y z

Why innovative manufacturers should translate their sales material into Scandinavian languages

Scandinavia is well-known for its highly innovative and progressive approach to society and development as a whole, as well its industry. Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland) are leaders in what is called the green industry. In fact, out of the top 5 eco innovators in the European Union, three of them are Scandinavian countries – with Denmark's industry being by far the most eco innovative. According to 2016 Yale's Environmental Performance Index (EPI), the first 4 ranks in the list of top environmental-friendly countries are occupied by Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark.

Scandinavians are willing to pay more for innovative products

Scandinavians simply prefer what's transparent and clean, and this notion transfers into the consumer behavior itself, which is demonstrated in an observable tendency to invest more into innovative, energy-efficient and nature-saving products. 

In other words, if you are a manufacturer that has invested a lot into innovative technologies and eco-friendly products in order to set you apart from the competition, Scandinavia represents a focus consumer market where the investment will pay off in a fast and straightforward way. Based on Euromonitor research, Nordic consumers tend to put high relevance to factors such as energy efficiency, durability, design and overall functionality in their decision-making, while the price becomes the significant determinant only if the above-mentioned factors are met. As a result, Scandinavian consumers are willing to pay extra, e.g. for appliances and consumer gadgets in the highest energy class. 

Green is good but often off-scale

Even though the demand is there, the supply of eco-friendly products is sometimes limited for small local producers who are often unable to compete against the bigger players supported by multinational capital and economies of scale. For innovative manufacturers and multinational companies who are able to serve the market and speak its language, time for expansion couldn't be better. 

So, maybe it's time to start thinking about translating your catalogs, product information and sales material into Danish, Swedish, Finish, or Norwegian and then head north to try to boost sales?  

Language facts: Norwegian

Norwegian is a Scandinavian language and a branch of the Germanic languages that has slightly more than 4 million native speakers. Two standard varieties of Norwegian exist, Bokmål and Nynorsk (literally "new Norwegian"). 

Nynorsk is used primarily in the western regions and is spoken by around 0.5 million people. Bokmål is used by the rest of Norway and remains the preferred variant when writing Norwegian, although the spoken Norwegian resemble Nynorsk more than Bokmål. 

Nynorsk vs. Bokmål conflict

Today Nynorsk and Bokmål both have equal legal status in Norway, though the private and commercial sectors of Norway's economy are dominated completely by Bokmål, while all public bodies uphold both variants. Interestingly, both Bokmål and Nynorsk are just writing standards, yet don't provide guidelines on the spoken form of the language. In result, a mixture of dialects is used in everyday (even official) communication and no spoken form considered as "incorrect".

The main difference in the two forms is based in their historical origin. While Bokmål is a Norwegianized version of Danish used by the elite and upper class, as Danish used to be the standard for writing Norwegian from 16th to 19th century, Nynorsk resulted from opposition to the Danish language and tried to established the language on "pure" Norwegian rural dialects. These two writing standards and their use turned into a fundamental political controversy in Norway mainly throughout the 20th century.

The decades-long efforts to merge Norwegian writing standards into one common language (called Samnorsk) failed after series of language reforms, and the policy was eventually abandoned in 2002 due to strong public resistance, keeping this interesting linguistic schizophrenia very much alive.

Alphabet

The Norwegian alphabet consists of 29 letters. In addition to the standard English alphabet, Norwegian ends with … X Y Z Æ Ø Å. Certain letters can be modified by diacritics (é, è, ê, ó, ò, ô and occasionally also ì and ù and ỳ in Nynorsk). 

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 Æ Ø Å

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 æ ø å

Machine translation in 2017: It's getting neural

By November 2016, something happened to the most used open machine translation platform, Google Translate. Users around the globe – mainly those translating in combinations of English to Chinese, Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Korean, Portuguese and Turkish – have noticed a major improvement in the machine translation results which suddenly translated whole sentences, worked with much broader context and got, well, more human. Google itself claims the platform has improved "more in a single leap than we’ve seen in the last ten years combined". So what happened?

SMT vs. NMT

In short, neural networks and AI happened. Rather than relying on statistical methods that solve problems "by force" (the more complex databases and computing power available, the better results), neural networks utilize artificial neurons in computing and loosely imitate actual models of a biological brain. Google's Statistical Machine Translation (SMT) methods impressed the world by the ability to translate words and short phrases with more or less acceptable accuracy in over 100 languages (currently 103 to be exact). But the newly implemented Neural Machine Translation goes beyond this. Using deep-learning techniques, it first assumes the most relevant variant for translation that fits the context of sentences rather than just limited phrases, and then transforms it to match human speech and grammar as much as possible (as demonstrated in the picture above).

How good can NMT get

Naturally, neural networks get better over time as they learn and Google's NMT has still a lot of learning to do in order to matchprofessional human translation, mainly for inflected languages (seems like Latin and Greek will be the last to go). But the recent evolution of the technology demonstrates exponential improvements in machine translation. Over next few years, Google will be perfecting their NMT results for all the 103 languages covered and implement the translation feature into the very DNA of "intelligent" online platforms and apps.

As it has been 10 years now since the introduction of Google Translate, it will be interesting to observe where the service will be in another 10 years and how deep will it affect the professional human translation industry. Will human translators become human editors with additional required specialization and skills by 2027?

Language facts: Latvian

Latvian is the official state language of Latvia and an official EU language. There are about 1.5 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and about 150,000 abroad.

Latvian is one of the two living languages of the Balts (the other being Lithuanian), a group of its own within the Indo-European language family. Latvian is an inflective language with several analytical forms, three dialects, and German syntactical influence (as the ruling class in the Baltic region were Germans until the 19th century). In German, the language is actually called Lettish, which is also an older English term for Latvian. 

Language as a living relic

It is still a bit of a mystery how the Baltic languages really developed in early stages when evolving from the Proto-Indo-European language, the common ancestor of the largest language family in the world (the Indo-European). Both Latvian and Lithuanian contain linguistic features supposedly characteristic of the early stages of the proto-language, which makes the Baltic branch particularly interesting to academics. In fact, Latvian and Lithuanian used to be just dialects of one common language in the Baltics and started to differentiate more only after the 8th century AD. Mutually intelligible dialects still existed in modern history (estimates go back as late as to the 17th century). 

Apart from German, also the Russian language had its say in modern Latvian language evolution. (It's actually very interesting to observe the outlines of historical conflicts and battles for influence zones mainly on minor languages of Central and Eastern Europe, based on the German and Russian linguistic impact). The first wave of Russification in the late 19th century, followed by almost 50 years of Soviet occupation (from 1941 to 1990) as well as Stalin's intent for Russia to colonize the Baltic region diminished the ethnic Latvian population (from 80% before World War II to only 52% in 1989). After massive deportations of Latvians, the area was populated by immigrants who kept Russian as their mother tongue. After the Soviet union collapsed in 1991, Latvia introduced policies to strengthen the use as well as education of the Latvian language and the number of native Latvian speakers increased to more than 60% in Latvia accordingly.

Alphabet

The modern standard Latvian alphabet uses 22 unmodified letters of the Latin alphabet (all except Q, W, X and Y). It adds a further eleven letters by modification. Latvian spelling has almost perfect correspondence between graphemes and phonemes. Every phoneme has its own letter so that a reader need not learn how a word is pronounced, but simply pronounce it. 

A, Ā, B, C, Č, D, E, Ē, F, G, Ģ, H, I, Ī, J, K, Ķ, L, Ļ, M, N, Ņ, O, P, R, S, Š, T, U, Ū, V, Z, Ž

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

Language facts: Vietnamese

Vietnamese belongs to the Austroasiatic language family (that also includes Khmer, which is spoken in Cambodia). It was heavily influenced by the Chinese due to centuries of Chinese rule and as a result around half of the Vietnamese vocabulary consists of naturalized Chinese expressions. Later, as a result of the French occupation and strong cultural influence from the West, a lot of new words were added (such as "tivi" for TV).

An emigrated language

Vietnamese is the national language of Vietnam, spoken by approximately 70 million people in Vietnam and about another 3 million mostly in East and Southeast Asia, as well as the United States and Australia as a result of vast Vietnamese emigration. Vietnamese-speaking communities and their cultural influence that surprisingly integrates Vietnamese minorities has caused the language to be recognized in very surprising parts of the world. In the Czech Republic, for example, Vietnamese even has an official status. It is recognized as one of the minority languages that entitles Czech citizens from the Vietnamese community to use Vietnamese language in communication with the public authorities as well as courts. In those municipalities where Vietnamese exceed 10% of population, the language is used also in public information channels (including election information), and the minority is entitled to require assistance in its language.

Alphabet

Vietnamese uses the Latin alphabet (quốc ngữ), but with frequent use of diacritics, and has borrowed a large part of its vocabulary from Chinese. Formerly until the 20th century, the language was written using the modified Chinese writing system set (chữ nôm). 

 

A Ă Â B C D Đ E Ê G H I K L M N O Ô Ơ P Q R S T U Ư V X Y

a ă â b c d đ e ê g h i k l m n o ô ơ p q r s t u ư v x y

How to update your multilingual product catalog

The year comes to an end once more (as the years pass, it seems it is disturbingly faster, right?), and the time has come to update the yearly product catalog again. In all those languages it comes in, and hopefully, some more – since everyone wants to expand internationally. Your best choice is to entrust a professional language service provider, but even then there are things to watch to make sure the process will run smoothly.

If you keep just 3 things in mind this year, those multilingual updates won't turn into a nightmare. Read on and enjoy: 

1. Have your translation resources revised before you reuse them. If you don't have any, you should get them created (see how to create translation memory here).

Translation resources consist mainly of translation memories and glossaries (translation memory explained in detail here). These are databases of already translated text, which significantly reduce translation cost and delivery times when applied in translation, mainly in case of repetitive content – which surely applies to product catalogs. 

The translation resources, however, degenerate over time if not maintained and properly updated. They need to be checked from time to time because any errors detected in the resources will propagate into all future translations. Or in plain words: You don't want to have the same typos in a catalog 3 years in a row... 

2. Ask for a price estimate including a pre-translation analysis. Don't pay for repetitive, or already translated content.

As explained above, having a good part of content already translated before and processed in form of translation resources logically reduces both translation time and translation cost. Your supplier shouldn't charge the same for repetitive or exact match content, and the price tag on your translation project needs to reflect this. Therefore always ask your translation supplier to provide you with a translation estimate that contains a detailed analysis of reused content and check how this affects the final price. 

3. Always insist on having the translated content reviewed and proofread.

Humans make mistakes, and machines programmed by humans make mistakes too. Until the day comes when AI takes over translation, it's always a healthy idea to review translated documents before they are published. Especially with technical content, it can be critical not to overlook mistakes (e.g. a translator confusing "always push this button" with "never push this button") or else such mistakes can end up as very unpleasant lawsuits. For this reason, demand that your texts not only be translated, but also fully reviewed and edited by a second native translator, and then as a final step proofread by humans with computer-assisted checkers. By the way, it's also good to make sure your translation supplier holds indemnity insurance - just in case...

That's it. The issues are clear, the process is given, but if it sounds as too much to handle, just leave the job to us. We specialize in technical translation and we're experts on catalogs, manuals, and guidelines. 

Order your translation now, or contact our project coordinators for further information and enjoy the Happy Holidays – this time stress-free.

Language facts: Slovenian

Slovenian (or Slovene) is a Slavic language from the South Slavic group, most closely related to Croatian and a distant relative of languages such as Russian. Slovenian should NOT be confused with the Slovak language, which does not have much in common with Slovenian, apart from both being Slavic languages. Interestingly, both languages call their own language by the same expression – slovensky/i, sloven(s)cina – which literally means Slavic in the old Slavonian. Slovenian is spoken by about 2 million people in Slovenia – a small country, but with both high mountains (Alps) and a sea (the Adriatic sea), as well as Slovenian communities in neighboring countries and immigrants around the world. Slovenian is also an official EU language.

The least homogeneous Slavic language

Slovenian is a heavily inflected language with some ancient grammatical peculiarities, such as the dual grammatical number. Despite the small number of speakers, the dialects are heavily diversified and strong dialects from opposite sides of the country, influenced by neighboring languages, are practically mutually unintelligible. This was due to the fact that compulsory schooling was in other languages than Slovenian (mainly German and Italian). Standardized Slovenian as a national language was formed in the 18th century based on the Upper and Lower Carnolian dialects. 

Alphabet

Slovenian uses the Latin alphabet, without the letters Q, X, Y, W and with the addition of a few extra letters. The letters Q, X, Y, W, however, are used as independent letters in encyclopedias and dictionary listings (and as such are included in the alphabet here). 

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

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

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.

Language facts: Tagalog

Tagalog (also known as Filipino or the native Pilipino) is one of the two official languages of the Philippines, the other being English. Tagalog is an Austronesian language and as such related to Malay, Javanese and Hawaiian. Tagalog is the first language of one third of the Philippines with about 21.5 million speakers, and the second language of the remaining two thirds (approximately 70 million speakers) who use other regional languages such as Ilocano, Cebuano, Waray, Bikolano, Bisaya, etc. The language is also spoken by many ethnic minorities (including 1.5 million diaspora in the United States).

Mysterious language ruled by the Spanish

Very little is known about Tagalog that most likely has its origins in Mindanao (the second largest island in the Philipines). Literally Tagalog means “river dweller”. It was declared the official language by the Philippines’ first constitution in 1897. Today, Tagalog is concentrated to the central and southern parts of Luzon, but is also spoken on many other islands. 

Tagalog's first written record dates back to 900 AD, while the first book known to be written in Tagalog – the Doctrina Christiana – came to light by the end of 16th century (1593) and used also Spanish alongside Tagalog.

The Spanish colonists and the strong Christian culture they brought upon the islands heavily influenced evolution of (not just) the languages of the Phillipines. It was, after all, Spanish monk Pedro de San Buenaverture, who wrote the first dictionary of Tagalog. Interestingly, another and much more substantial dictionary (Vocabulario de la lengua tagala) was written by Czech Jesuit, Paul Klein, who published several other books in Tagalog.

Alphabet

Until 1987, Tagalog was based on a writing system consisting of 20 Latin letters, the so called ABAKADA alphabet. Today it adopts 28 letters under the official name Filipino.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N Ñ NG 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 ñ ng o p q r s t u v w x y z

Endangered languages: Will your mother tongue survive?

Welcome to the extinction era! You may not be aware of it since it seems the human race is thriving, but Earth is experiencing yet another mass extinction. Scientists have lately suggested defining a new epoch, Anthropocene, as it may be us, humans, who have contributed our bit to the current unfolding of events. Human impact is endangering the animals and plants, but in truth they are not the only ones endangered. 

Migration killing unique cultures?

96% of the world's languages are spoken by only 4% of the global population according to the Sorosoro foundation. Globalization and mass migration in the 21st century have caused adoption of a dominant language in many areas to the detriment of original, local languages (what a paradox in terms of multiculturalism). It is now estimated that a substantial part of the world's presently known languages and dialects will cease to exist in written or spoken form and even become extinct in the not-so-distant future.According to UNESCO, unless this trend is reversed, half of today's 7,000+ languages will disappear by the end of this century. Columbia University linguist John McWhorter's predictions are even more gloomy with the outlook that 90% of today's existing languages will be displaced on a global scale by simplified versions of culturally dominant languages. Given that one of the important defining factors of a culture – if not the most important one – is its language, such development would irreversibly deprive us of our world's most important cultural heritage. New languages simply don't come into existence in amounts that wouldcompensate this trend. And by definition, they cannot compensate the loss of languages that have developed through the course of human history.

These languages should begin to worry us

Despite many arguments and disagreement on the definition of a language vs. a dialect, in terms of extinction, both a language and a dialect are equal. Hundreds of languages literally waiting to cease to exist as their last living speakers pass away. In Europe, we see dialects such as Bavarian (Germany, Austria), Gordiol (Italy), Istriot (Croatia) and Cornish (UK) that are likely heading toward their terminal days. Also Walloon, spoken in a good part of Belgium, Yiddish, and Romani – the tongue of Romani (Gypsy) people across Europe – are on the endangered list. 

AdobeStock 52177435

How to preserve a language

Systematic efforts are being made to document as many languages as possible and preserve them at least in artificial form. It is in fact feasible to revive a language suppressed or existing in "lab conditions" only, and history has shown us many an example. One is modern Hebrew, which was revived to a living official language from ancient religious texts. Also Irish and Greenlandic languages were resurrected from near-death thanks to social and political development, and they are now slowly beginning to spread. And in terms of language documentation, preservation and popularization, the translation industry can in fact help a lot :)



Blog archive

Log ind
Få en gratis konto nu
Denne hjemmeside anvender cookies til at analysere trafik på hjemmesiden, forbedre funktionaliteten af de leverede tjenester og sikre, at du får den bedste oplevelse på vores hjemmeside.

Læs mere

Jeg er enig