Linguists: Preserve the Style & Force of the Language

Linguists: Preserve the Style & Force of the Language

Quote by Cicero


Lucky Linguist Winner: Jagdish Mistry

Love Our Linguists

On Wednesday, July 3, 2013, thebigword welcomed one of its Linguists to LinkUp House, Jagdish Mistry. Jagdish was thebigword’s lucky winner from its BPSS completion prize draw and travelled 5 hours on a round trip from Leicester to come and meet the team!

Jagdish has been registered with thebigword since March 2012, speaks Gujarati, and interprets regularly for IPS & Atos! He’s DPSI qualified and has a CTC; so, he is ready to begin work for UKBA!

Jagdish said, “spending time face to face with people who have taken time out of their busy day to spend with linguists is absolutely dynamic for building positive and memorable relationships with the linguist community.”

He shared experiences of good & bad agency praxis and added that thebigword is one of his preferred and loved agencies to work with due to the assignments being interesting and variable. He noted, “the teams make the experience of working as a freelance linguist extremely positive.”

“On leaving, Jagdish wanted [Tasha (an employee of thebigword)] to pass on his gratitude for the kindness, welcome, and generosity given by all at thebigword and is looking forward to getting to grips with his new iPad, which will help with his work management and invoicing.”

Language = More Than Just Words (Linguists Know Best)

Let’s start off with the Top 10 most spoken languages in the world.

1. Mandarin—1.026 billion total speakers
2. English—765 million total speakers
3. Spanish—466 million total speakers
4. Hindi/Urdu—380 million total speakers
5. Arabic—353.5 million total speakers
6. Russian—272 million total speakers
7. Bengali—250 million total speakers
8. Portuguese—217 million total speakers
9. Japanese—123 million total speakers
10. German—111.8 million total speakers

The list of languages above has, for a couple of years now, been known to be the top spoken languages in the world, especially in the business world. These 10 languages are used the most out of a total of 7,000+ languages in the world. Companies may ask for a translation thinking that by simply asking for a language is enough. However, as Linguists know, it is also important to specify the dialect to be used either for the translation or interpretation.

A language is defined by as “a body of words and the systems for their use common to people of the same community or nation, the same geographical area, or the same cultural tradition.” The definition for a dialect may be very similar but distinguishes the difference in the phonology, grammar and vocabulary used by a group of speakers who are set off from others geographically or socially. For example, a country can have a national language, such as English in the U.S. (the de facto national language), but the dialects depend on the geographic location, such as a southerner saying “Y’all,” which is the use of the English language but a different style of pronunciation and spelling. Also, don’t confuse accent and dialect; accent refers solely to how the language sounds, while dialect includes both the accent and the grammatical way that the person speaks. If a company’s target market is southern U.S., then they will most likely use the southern dialect in their marketing materials to connect with the southerners, but they would not use the same dialect if marketing in New York.

Let’s discuss the Portuguese language as another example. If an interpreter is needed for English to Portuguese interpretation, does the client want Brazilian Portuguese or the Portuguese used in Portugal? Although most in those countries can understand both, there is a huge difference especially when doing verbal interpretations. There are different accents and expressions used, as well as the same words used yet with different meanings. The Portuguese language has about 9 different dialects and is officially spoken in 9 different countries, including Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde. Dialects become even more complicated when considering the differences of the language depending on location within the same country. Portuguese in Northern Portugal is spoken differently than Portuguese in Southern Portugal; the terms, expressions, and idioms used in the different locations within Portugal are different, which makes it important for companies to know exactly where within the country they are trying to reach.

There are thousands of languages used worldwide, around 7,000 to be more precise, but there are 5x that amount in dialects. The Chinese language alone has about 9 different varieties of the language, and each variety has several different dialects. Specifying the dialect along with the language for the translation and/or interpretation is important, especially when selecting the ideal Linguist for the task.

The Importance of Localizing While Globalizing


The terms “globalization” and “localization” seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. Globalization focuses on international integration of views, ideas, products, and culture in order to create a neutral product and/or service that can be used anywhere, while localization focuses on adapting the product or content to the culture and customs of a specific locale. As companies become global, however, it is still important to keep in mind the cultures and values of the countries where business is being conducted in order to guarantee an appeal to local customers and businesses.

In a world where English is unofficially becoming a universal language, taught in school and used in business, there is still an importance placed on ensuring that content is also translated into local languages of the places where the content is displayed and marketed towards. The Common Sense Advisory, a go-to place for information regarding the translation and language industry, previously published statistics that put an emphasis on the need for translating content. In order to reach about 80% of the world’s population, 83 languages are needed… Whereas, reaching 100% of the world’s population takes 7,000 languages. Also, about 56% of the world’s population agrees that having information in their own language is more important than price. If people are willing to spend more, and a great number of languages are needed to reach those people, translating content into local languages should be a top priority for any global company.

This is where the importance of linguists comes in. You help the process become easier for companies by introducing not only your knowledge and expertise of the language, but also of the culture and background of the locations where that language is most commonly used. To ensure that the message and emotions are translated along with the words, it is best never to do a word-by-word translation, like certain online automated translation websites do, but to also translate the expressions, humor, and/or idioms within the content. Translating and interpreting means to secure the message and not just to interpret and translate the words. Localization involves adapting the expressions and idioms locally, which can be done during translation. By working with a linguist, companies will gain the advantage of making sure that they localize their content while going global.

KFC turned PFK: Translation AND Localization are Equally Important

On a road trip up to Montreal, Quebec for some fun, I decided that a strong desire for some of the Colonel’s Original Recipe was getting the better of me. After 6.5 hours of driving, the craving was growing stronger than ever, and with Montreal being a major city, I figured we are bound to find a KFC sooner or later. Before we knew it, there it was. Only, I couldn’t help but notice that they had the lettering backwards… or scrambled… or huh?!  With further examination, I realized that the letters weren’t the same at all. It was the same ol’ Colonel’s face posted on the same red background with vertical white stripes—but the lettering read “PFK.” Totally bewildered, I sat there staring, remembering that in my travels to Europe, franchises like McDonald’s were always, well, McDonald’s. At first I didn’t think that PFK (Poulet Frit Kentucky) was the translation of the well-known Kentucky Fried Chicken, but then I remembered that Montreal is a part of French Canada.

PFK in Montreal

This led me to realize that although other franchise names do not change internationally like KFC changes to PFK, their menus certainly do get modified. The staples of the fast food industry, which we are so familiar with, conflict with certain geographic locations and therefore need altering. We all remember the iconic Pulp Fiction scene where Jules enlightens Vince that France refers to a McDonald’s “Quarter Pounder with Cheese” as a “Royale with Cheese.”

quarter pounder 1quarter pounder 2

Language is such a vital and ever-changing concept in respect to location. Evidently, franchises around the world realize that a truly important aspect of culture is localization. Therefore, they have made their establishments more locally friendly and altered details here and there to relate to the people they are serving. Smarter, more successful companies use Language Service Providers… and rightly so.

Next time, you’re out having some finger-lickin’ good chicken, remember how important it is to localize, and remember this post as a great conversation starter. Although, I’m sure your mouth will be used for eating, not talking!