The history of translation and translation marketing

Marketing translation and translation, in general, have a long and robust history. How did the modern translation industry become what it is today?

What is translation? In its simple form, it means to turn symbols from one set to another, such as words from a body of text in one language to that of another. Translation and its emergence have played a very important role throughout history in bridging cultural and linguistic divides that have evolved through trade as well as a means of spreading traditions and religious beliefs. 

Where and how did translation evolve? How has translation changed today, and how will it be used in the future? 

Translation Origins

Sumerian bilingual text tablet

Sumerian bilingual text – Photo from Wikimedia Caption – “This is the first known Sumerian-Akkadian bilingual tablet which dates back to around 2270 BC. The practice of translation is believed to have begun in Mesopotamia.”

Scholars believe that writing began to emerge in humans some 5,550 years ago. First, with early pictorial signs in early Mesopotamian and Egypt, we have evidence of fully-formed writing platforms as early as 1300 BC in China. With the development of written communication, translation became a necessary means of communication for the growth of populations and trade. While translation started within the trade as a business translation for financial means, translation eventually found its way into culture, art, and religion as it proved to be an effective means of spreading your beliefs, values, and traditions to other people. 

The word “translation” and it’s meaning come from two different languages.  The word itself comes from Latin and means “to bring or carry across”, but its meaning is also derived from the Ancient Greek word metaphrasis, which means “to speak across”, which then led to the word metaphrase, which means “word for word”. While the meaning of translation comes from these ancient languages, it is believed that those in the Mesopotamian region were the first to practice the art of translation. 

St. Jerome Writing

“St. Jerome Writing” by the famous painter Caravaggio, painted in 1606.” – Image from Wikimedia.

One of the earliest known pieces to be translated is the Sumerian poem, the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was translated into Asian languages in 2100 BC. From there, one of the first known significant translations is that of the Old Testament in the 3rd century, as the bible was translated from Hebrew to Greek. Between A.D. 383 and 404, a man named Eusebius Hieronymus, or St. Jerome as he would become known, translated the bible from Greek to Latin. What made St. Jerome’s translation so innovative is that he first translated the text from Greek. Still, he then went back and checked his newly translated Latin text against the original Hebrew version (since he was fluent in all three languages) to increase the translation accuracy. St. Jerome also endorsed the transcreation method rather than the traditional word-for-word translation. In a letter St. Jerome wrote to his friend on the best methods of translation, he said,

For I myself not only admit but freely proclaim that in translating from the Greek, I render sense for sense and not word for word, except in the case of the Holy Scriptures, where even the order of the words is a mystery.”

With his masterful translation of the bible and the concepts that he created, St. Jerome became one of the most prominent translators in history. St. Jerome died on September 30th, 420, and since then, St. Jerome has become the patron saint of translators. September 30th is also officially recognised as International Translation Day. 

The evolution of translation

The earliest days of translation required the work of educated polyglots or at least bilinguals who would painstakingly translate passages of text by hand. This work would take translators months and sometimes even years to complete. The advent of the printing press made things somewhat easier as the translations became more consistent. 

With the printing press, documents only needed to be translated once before being typeset and then run repeatedly. While this method was more efficient in producing copies, if there were any errors in the translation, they too were also reproduced, and there wasn’t a quick method to fix this. As a result, any translations with errors used as foundational pieces for translation into other languages meant that further errors followed and compounded into the next translation. 

It wasn’t until the late 20th century, with the emergence of machine translation and machine translation post-editing, that made the translation process became more consistent.

Modern-day translation

Woman sitting at computer program

Machine translation has changed the translation industry forever. Machine translation post-editing has resulted in quality translations that are reliable and accurate.

With the emergence of machine translation and platforms like Google translate, anyone can get a quick and immediate translation of nearly any text. However, just like in the early days of translation, machine translation alone is prone to many translation errors, especially since machines can’t translate the cultural concepts, idioms, etc., that make human language so robust. Machine translations are decent at finding concordances at the sentence level but fall flat when making suggestions at a morphological level. This is why international translation companies now use machine and human translations in a process called machine translation post-editing.

Even with current technology, machine translation doesn’t compare to human translation, which is what makes machine translation post-editing the most effective means of translation. Translators use a machine to translate the text first, a process that helps expedite the translation process, and then once the content has gone through a machine, the translator will then go through it and edit and compare it to the original text. This results in an accurate, reliable, fast, and quality translation for the client or business.

Related: How to be a translator in 2022

Regarding translation management, translators today don’t need to be polyglots anymore. Still, most translation companies want translators who are experts in language pair translation, meaning a translator needs complete mastery of two languages, as well as subject-specific expertise (i.e. English-Chinese legal translation). Language pair translations ensure you get the most accurate and quality translation

Future of translation

iPad and world map

It’s easier than ever to take your business global- Photo by Geralt on Pixabay

While machines have made things easier in the translation industry, and I’m sure even St. Jerome would be impressed with the progress that has been made, as of yet, machine translation cannot operate alone and still requires the handy work of a professional translator. Using a professional translator is especially important in business as businesses today are not afforded the same luxuries of making translation errors as the early pioneers were. Companies today now use business translation services to ensure that they’re getting the best quality translation possible to represent and expand their brand. These companies use machine translation post-editing with qualified translation professionals to produce consistent results.

Related: Why Google Translate Isn’t Enough for Business

That is not to say that machine-alone translation isn’t being worked on, however. The Semantic Web or Web 3.0 is an extension of our current internet that is being worked on that aims to create instant translations of any language online, which would include any semantic or cultural content, and make the searches and the retrieval of this information universal. Web 3.0 aims to analyze every piece of data that is available on the internet and have it make sense in every language. This would create interactive pages that are no longer just text translations but include audio/voice and all other forms of media. While the Semantic Web sounds impressive, the fact that there are over 6,800 languages worldwide and that we are still confined to our current means of machine translation means that this idea is a very long way from becoming reality. 

In the meantime, quality translations are best left to the professionals at international translation companies like Into23. Into23 offers localization and translation services in any language with professional translators from all over the globe. Into23 can help your brand or business reach new markets in other languages and offer translation solutions for every industry. Check out our services today and get a free quote.

Can English continue to be a dominant global language?

No other language has held sway the way English has globally. Can it maintain its dominance as the most important language for business? 

It’s estimated that more than 1.75 billion people around the world speak English, that’s a quarter of the world’s population. Around 400 million people speak English as their first language, with more than a billion knowing it as their secondary tongue; it’s also the official language in at least 59 countries and the lingua franca of many more. While English is not the most spoken language around the world, English is the language of business, diplomacy, science and much more. If we were to rate English on a financial level, its GDP would massively overshadow other languages. Yet English is just one of 7000+ languages spoken globally, so how did it become the most important global language, and will it continue to hold its business and cultural dominance?

translation and localization

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels – The English language has shaped how we do global business but will its dominance remain?

A brief history of the English language

Map – Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels – Caption – “English has its roots in the nomads that used to roam the southeastern European plains some 5000 years ago.”

Belonging to the Indo-European family of languages, English is a West Germanic language that has its roots in the nomads that used to roam the southeastern European plains some 5000 years ago. As migrations happened in the 5th and 6th centuries, Old English began to take form. Words were taken from French during the Norman conquests of 1066, and in the 12th century, English transformed from Old to Middle English as Greek and Latin words began to enter and influence the language. In the 1500s, English began transforming the modern English we recognise and use today. Between trade, conquest, religion, and British colonialism, English spread worldwide. 

Fun fact:

The closest modern relative to the English language is Frisian. It is 80% lexically similar to English and is a language still spoken in parts of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, though by only around 450,000 people.

English’s success is a result of money, status, and politics, as well as the ease with which it borrows words from other languages and its flexibility in adapting to changes in the world and technology. Economic and technological development has played a major role in English dominance. The US still leads economically and has been one of the most dominating modern cultures, which was heavily influential to English dominance during the birth of the internet. The result of this history and influence has led other countries to place a high value on English speakers, in that those that can speak and use English have a higher chance of getting ahead or entering the global elite, thus furthering English’s influence and dominance in business and more. For example, China has the most speakers of English as a second language than any other country. 

While English generally remains the international business language, global business is changing, and its dominance is starting to waver as more and more companies aim to enter other markets and expand using a localized marketing and advertising transcreation strategy for their business.

How technology has changed the prevalence of English

advertising transcreation

Photo by www_slon_pics on Pixabay – eCommerce business and other global markets are changing English’s prevalence in business.

When the internet started in 1998, there were around 70 million internet users, with English speakers accounting for over 80% of them. However, since then, there has been a steady decline in the percentage of web pages in English. In 1998, 75% of the internet was in English, whereas now it’s only around 25.9%. Today Simplified Chinese alone accounts for 19.4% of web content, just shy of English, which shows the growing trend of companies expanding into different global markets with the use of technology and the necessary use of translation and localization for websites, eCommerce translation services, eLearning platforms, and more. 

Further studies have also found that more than half of consumers would pay more for a product if it were presented to them on a platform in their native language. This shift away from English has even been noted by The British Council as far back as 2006, when it published a report that stated that even though English is becoming more widely spoken, its dominance as a language appears to be fading. This shift is happening for a variety of reasons. 

Related: The Top 9 Emerging Languages for Business

Countries with large populations now have more access to technology than they did in the past, and many of these same countries also have a growing number of middle-class consumers that are eager to spend money. With 72.1% of consumers spending most of their time on web pages in their native language, the demand for localization and translation services and a shift away from English has increased. Other factors, such as continued globalization in general, changes in the economy, and other creative alternatives, such as emojis, may also influence the prevalence of the English language in business and online.

English’s future as a global language

high quality translation services

Photo from Pixabay– Other languages are starting to make their way into mainstream business and culture.

It’s estimated that 50-90% of the world’s languages will be extinct in the next century. This is because linguists believe that with more people moving around and native languages not being passed on to younger generations, there will be a drop in the overall number of global languages.

A Dutch sociologist named Abram de Swaan classifies languages into four categories. The peripheral language category includes 98% of the world’s languages but is spoken by less than 10% of humanity. The national or central category includes languages that have a territory to call their own and are written and taught in schools. Next, in the category of super-central languages are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swahili, as each host around 100 million speakers or more and are the most commonly spoken second languages worldwide. At the top is the ‘hypocentral’ language. It is the language that holds the whole language system together, and that crown is held by none other than English. Japanese novelist Minae Mizumura, who has written on language, similarly described English as a “universal language” and that this status is held not by the number of native speakers of the language but rather by the greatest number of non-native speakers.

With that said, it seems likely that English will continue to hold its super-power status for the time being; however, it will also have to continue to make way for other super-central languages that are growing within political and economic spheres. For example, China’s presence outside of Asia continues to grow. As other countries and populations continue to gain traction in online consumer markets, businesses will need to adapt and recognise that business is no longer an English-only affair.

If you’re ready to start localizing your business or need high-quality translation services, Into23 can help you transform your business for any local market. Specializing in Asian languages, Into23 offers English to Chinese translation services and more, as well as website localizationtranslation and localization marketing strategies to suit your business needs. Contact us today for a free quote!

Are Less People Speaking English now?

How languages rise and fall & why English’s dominance is waning

Humans have utilised language for some 100,000 years. In that time, some languages have risen, and others have fallen into obscurity. The list of today’s endangered languages, those heading toward extinction, includes dozens of languages with just a handful of speakers, like Ainu, which is spoken in Hokkaido, Japan. The National Geographic Society estimates that out of the 7,000 or so languages spoken on Earth, one dies every two weeks. On the other hand there’s English, which is the most widely spoken language since humans started using language.

Languages Mapped

This world map of languages is the result of a complex set of processes. Two of these processes that have had a particularly outsized impact on the languages we speak today are colonisation and the globalisation of communication, as outlined by Professor R.M.W. Dixon in his 2012 book The Rise and Fall of Languages.

Both for changes within languages and for changes to languages, there are two main modes of change: abrupt or gradual (language splitting). Professor Dixon outlines how profound linguistic changes do not occur gradually, but rather abruptly, typically over the course of a generation or two. Change, in other words, is more like a succession of steps than a constant climb. But how do these abrupt changes occur, and can we expect that today’s dominant languages – Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, and Arabic, in order of native speakers – will undergo the same process?

Lingua franca

Linguist and historian Nicholas Ostler in his 2010 book The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Babel examines how English became a lingua franca.

English, while indisputably the world’s dominant language today, is not without flaws. Its use has generated societal issues in certain nations, leading to its rejection, while in others it has provided a compromise communication option.

The globalisation of English occurred as a result of a number of historical developments, each of which has left its mark. Languages spoken over broad swaths of land are first and foremost produced and preserved by big polities—empires—and English is no different. However, an empire’s choice of language has historically mostly been pragmatic; nationalism has only lately motivated governments.

The British Empire in 1920

History & English

At its zenith, the British Empire in 1922 ruled over 458 million people or 25% of the world’s landmass. The impact of the British Empire on its constituent countries’ culture, legal systems, and language was immense. In the colonisation process, indigenous inhabitants experienced the erosion of their native languages, belief systems, and cultural traditions.

 The current status of English is without precedent, Ostler argues. At the same time, it plays a major part in finance, science, tourism, commerce, politics, sport, and even entertainment and popular music around the world. 

It appears practically embedded, with no clearly comparable opponent; even in China, one of the only countries with a language with more native speakers, every schoolchild today studies English. And India, which is expected to surpass China in population by 2050, is already capitalising on an English proficiency inherited from the British Empire and meticulously preserved and nurtured since then. If it keeps its usefulness as a worldwide medium of communication, English is unlikely to break into a family of languages, Ostler argues. 

Language imperialism

If we survey humankind’s linguistic history, there are numerous examples of languages that rose to prominence and then fell into disuse. Perhaps the most widely known one is Latin. While it is still learned and studied, it’s not spoken. It’s dead, not extinct. The spread of Latin was the result of the expansion of the Roman Empire, and subsequent use by the Catholic Church. This process is known as language imperialism.

The working definition of linguistic imperialism, according to linguist Robert Phillipson is: “the dominance asserted and maintained by the establishment and continuous reconstitution of structural and cultural inequalities between English and other languages.” 

An estimated 1.5 billion people in the world speak English, according to the World Economic Forum

Indeed the author argues that the mere teaching of English is an act of linguistic imperialism. One of the key ideas in this school of thought is that the spread of English, largely through language education around the world, has undermined other languages and marginalised the opportunity for broad multilingual education. 

More about the Spread

From the 18th century, English’s spread, according to Phillipson, was the result of English-speaking countries’ desire to conquer and quell other nations. This process negatively affected the life chances of many non-English speakers, and put pressure on indigenous languages. And this isn’t a process that’s confined to dusty old history books.

For example, in the US, the predominance of English has driven the demise of many Native-American languages. Ethnologue today lists 245 indigenous languages in the US, with 65 already extinct and 75 near extinction, many with only a handful of elder speakers remaining. One aspect of this demise is that many of the languages spoken around the world have yet to be documented, or preserved in the form of a dictionary.

As with English, the spread of Latin was due to language imperialism

The final curtain

There are several stages to a language’s demise and terminology to match. 

  • A vulnerable language is one where children speak their parents’ language only at home or when conversing with relatives.
  • An endangered language is one that children no longer study, although it is their mother tongue.
  • A critically endangered language is one where the youngest speakers are grandparents.

While language pedants may lament a perceived decline in the usage of English, with adults mimicking teen slang and the populace’s understanding of grammar diminishing, resulting in what’s argued to be an expressive decline, it’s clear that the prevalence of English in much of the world is here to stay. 

However, that’s not to say that English isn’t evolving. In fact, it has been subject to constant evolution since its earliest roots. There is no one standard form of English that’s spoken around the world – there are many versions of English. 

From Germanic settlers who moved to England, through the Norman conquerors from France and the influence of the Celts and Angles, English roots form a rich tapestry of influences. This diversity, as well as its recent past as the language of the Empire, indicates that English’s reach and influence will likely continue.

When looking at the languages used in modern multilingual translation services, English is always a core language. These services range from translation services Chinese to English, multilingual translation services, and localization and translation services, to technical translation services, academic translation services and gaming translation services. Whether you’re looking for legal translations Spanish to english, american voice over services, content translation service, or an ecommerce translation services, Into23 can help with all your translation requirements. 

To access expert quality translation help, get in touch with Into23 today.

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History Lesson: Why is Right Translation Important

Words that altered history – translation blunders in international relations

Poor translation in international relations can have profound and far-reaching consequences, sometimes for several countries, especially when it comes to negotiating complex trade agreements, like the one the European Union recently signed with the UK after years of torturous negotiations detailing Brexit arrangements.

translation blunders in international relations

Don’t let your translations build walls


In perhaps the most shocking instance, a mistranslation of a Japanese word contributed to the dropping of nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in the final days of World War II.

On July 26, 1945, towards the end of World War II, the United States, Great Britain and China called on Japan to surrender unconditionally. The demand, issued at the Potsdam conference, which was convened to discuss what peace would look like, came some two months after the fall of Hitler. However, the war raged on in the Pacific, with Japan showing few signs of letting up. The declaration pledged that the country would not be “enslaved” or “destroyed”, and warned that a negative response would result in “prompt and utter destruction.”

Answering the demand, then Japanese prime minister Suzuki Kantaro responded with the term “mokusatsu,” the translation of which has subsequently become the focus of heated debate.

Notably, he was speaking to reporters off the cuff, before the government had formally decided on its stance. In this context, mokusatsu can be translated as “no comment.” The word has other meanings, and the international press variously translated the response as “not worthy of comment,” and “held in silent contempt,” which riled the US and the UK, who saw the perceived response as aligning with the kamikaze spirit.

Ten days later they decided to drop two nuclear bombs on the country. Linguists have called this the world’s most tragic translation.

translation blunders in international relations

Keeping the peace requires precise, nuanced translations

From Russia with love

Not only did a mistranslation play a part in determining the way World War II ended, another mistranslation arguably increased the likelihood of World War III some 50 years ago.

Against the backdrop of simmering Cold War tensions, and the growing threat of nuclear war, comments by Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev caused a stir. Speaking in 1956 to a gathering of ambassadors from Western Block countries at the Polish embassy in Moscow, Khrushchev’s comments prompted the envoys of 13 countries to turn their backs and leave the event.

Khruschev was reported to have told the diplomats, “we will bury you”.

However, the context of the quote was not precisely conveyed in the translation. The translator was one Viktor Sukhodrev, who was dubbed the king of interpreters. Sukhodrev has commented that Khrushchev was a difficult speaker to translate as he told jokes and sprinkled his speeches with proverbs.

So what did it actually mean?

Some observers argue the translation was too literal, as other meanings of the phrase used include “we will live to see you buried,” or “we shall outlast you.”

Putting the phrase into the context of the whole speech, which was about ideology and not war, shows the threatening element of the “we shall bury you” quote is overblown when taken out of context.

Indeed, Khrushchev later clarified the statement, saying, “I once said, ‘We will bury you’, and I got into trouble with it. Of course, we will not bury you with a shovel. Your own working class will bury you.” This sentiment aligned with communist ideology, which saw the proletariat as the undertaker of capitalism. The sentiment being expressed was that Communism would outlast Capitalism. In the end, Sukhodrev’s translation was technically right, but he had arguably misjudged the audience’s level of understanding of the cultural context of the phrase.

Observers continue to debate whether it was a misinterpretation or a full-on mistranslation.

Persian problems

In 2005, then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad kicked up a brouhaha with comments he gave at a conference titled The World Without Zionism. The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported that the then newly installed leader had said that Israel was a “disgraceful blot” and it should be “wiped off the face of the earth.”

France, German, Israel and the US swiftly condemned the statement. Indeed, previous Iranian leaders had previously issued similar comments, though not for several years, and in that time, relations between many Muslim states and Israel had improved.

Behind the Veil

However, linguists like Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, pointed out that the original Persian statement did not express the thought that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth. Rather, a more accurate translation is, “Israel would collapse.”

It seems newswire translators had mistranslated the statement. These translators had relied on a quote from a speech given in the 1980s by Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which had also been translated imprecisely, as a reference for the quote.

Not only did the transaction mishap stoke international tensions and the perception that Iran was adopting a more militaristic stance on Israel, in Iran the quote in English was taken up by nationalists and plastered on billboards.

Poleaxed in Poland

On a lighter note, US president Jimmy Carter was subject to some colourful mistranslations on a visit to Poland in 1977. In one speech, he intimated that he’d like to get to know the Polish people’s “desires for the future.” The interpreter, however, mistranslated it as Carter expressing sexual desire for the country. The comment was met with stone-cold silence.

translation blunders in international relations

With so many languages spoken in international relations, slip-ups are all too easy

The interpreter also mangled another part of Carter’s speech, reported Time magazine. In this instance, “I left the United States this morning” became, “I left the United States, never to return.” Queue more silence.

The interpreter was replaced, but the problems didn’t end there. While giving a toast at a state banquet later that same trip, Carter looked up from his speech to be met by another wall of silence. The new interpreter had found the US leader’s English too challenging, so instead of interpreting, he just stayed silent.

Why Into23?

It’s not just international relations where precision and context are key. Interpreting business requirements need the same level of skill and experience. For example, eliciting the same responses as the mistranslations above in customers would be disastrous if you’re engaging in the likes of a media localisation agency, audio transcription services provider, or legal translator. Correct translation and translation quality assurance are incredibly important.

These examples clearly demonstrate the need for precise translations that are nuanced enough to take account of the cultural context. Whether you’re looking for a Russian translation agency, or want to access a Arabic vs Urdu vs Farsi translating and interpreting service, to avoid diplomatic faux pas, get in touch with Into23’s team of expert, and very precise, polyglot translators.

Read our Blog here.

Baghdad Translators: An Important Role in History

Civilisation Today Owes A Huge Debt To Baghdad Translators Of Yore

When we think of the technology behind today’s machine translation, and the science behind the wondrous COVID-19 vaccines, and space travel, it’s hard to believe that none of this would have been possible were it not for a group of expert Arab translators located in Baghdad some 1,000 years ago.

From Wordpress translation, localisation services  and multimedia localisation, to transcreation and linguistic testing, today’s language services companies  are the inheritors of a noble tradition that has had a profound effect on the very fabric of civilisation. Read on to discover the surprising history of translation.

The Graeco-Arabic translation movement

The Islamic Golden Age (8th to 13th century) centred on Baghdad, and saw science, economic development and cultural endeavours flourish in the Islamic world at a time when Western Europe was shrouded in the so-called Dark Ages, where most ancient Greek and Roman texts on maths, science and philosophy had been lost and Christianity held sway. The Christian church preached that it wasn’t humankind’s place to probe God’s creation, so inquiry into the nature of the world was effectively discouraged. Indeed, many of these texts were considered heretical, and the penalty for engaging with them was severe.

During this period, Arab translators preserved ancient Greek and Roman texts through translating them into Arabic. It’s estimated that nearly all Greek secular books available in the Near East at the time were translated into Arabic. The subject range was vast, covering alchemy and astrology, the theory of music, philosophy, physics and botany, logic, health science, pharmacology and medicine, to name just a few. Just one edition of commentary on Aristotle comprises 74 volumes. Much of what we know today of Hippocrates, Plato, Socrates, Euclid and many other great thinkers, is the direct result of these Arab translators.

Arab translators preserved ancient Greek and Roman texts through translating them into Arabic.

Arab translators preserved ancient Greek and Roman texts through translating them into Arabic.

Cynics may wonder what significance translating musty old tomes a millennium ago has on today’s scientific and social achievements. The Graeco-Arabic translation movement saw secular Greek and Roman text translated into Arabic and these texts then found their way into Europe, partly through Spain, which was then controlled by a caliphate.

Caliph Al-Mansur launched the Arab translation movement in CE 754, a few years after Chinese paper-making techniques had leaked to Arabs. From here, Arab translators organised into an extensive translation system with vast resources.

The House of Wisdom

Built by Caliph Haround Al-Rasheed (786-809 CE) and located in Baghdad, The House of Wisdom – the size of today’s British Library – was a huge library of ancient texts. These texts outlined concepts like common zero and the numerals we know today. This abstract mathematical language underpins scientific innovation and would go on to transform the world. At the time, Western Europe was still using Roman numerals, which made division and multiplication or any higher forms of mathematics incredibly challenging.

 This abstract mathematical language underpins scientific innovation and would go on to transform the world.

This abstract mathematical language underpins scientific innovation and would go on to transform the world.

The library, which contained Indian and some Chinese works as well as Greek and Roman texts, became a centre for learning. Translators trained in specific areas, like engineering, much like today’s translation agencies do. As the library’s collection grew, the building was extensively extended. It was populated by scientists, scribes, writers, and philosophers, who spoke a wide range of languages, like Farsi, Hebrew and Arabic, much as today’s translation agencies rely on experts in their fields and language area. It was a diverse and learned environment.

At the time, this was the largest transfer of knowledge in history. The model proved successful with other Islamic leaders, who emulated the endeavour and established their own centres of learning, such as Dar al-Hikma in Cairo, which was constructed in 1005 CE by Caliph Al-Hakim.

So, just how did these Arabic texts make their way to Europe and help spark the Renaissance and Enlightenment?

Viva Toledo!

Another massive translation movement took off in Andalusia in Islamic Spain in the 12th century. Here the works that had been translated into Arabic were translated into latin, making them accessible to latin-speakers across the continent. Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars flocked to the city to get involved, which fostered the creation of a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic centre of learning. Though Toledo was the centre, translators were hard at work across the caliphate.

When Christian forces reconquered Spain in 1085, they set about methodically organising the huge body of work they inherited from the caliphate. This acted to accelerate the pace of translation. Under this system, a native speaker would speak the contents of the text to a scholar, who went not to dictate the Latin equivalent to a scribe.

Perhaps the most prolific translator of this era was Italian Gerard of Cremona, who translated some 87 texts, including works on surgery, physics and maths.

A step away

The extent of knowledge that was transferred is staggering. From Spain, this knowledge extended through universities across Europe, where ecclesiastical opposition to studying ancient texts had softened somewhat.

In a vivid example, Al-Zahrawi’s translation of information on surgical instruments helped revolutionise medical intervention. It included information on a drill to dislodge calculus from the urethra, and a technique to remove tonsils. In another example, translations of chemistry texts by Jabir and Al-Razi helped form the basis of modern science. These works comprised information that led to industrial processes like metal refining.

translation of information on surgical instruments

Al-Zahrawi’s translation of information on surgical instruments helped revolutionise medical intervention.

You may have learned about Kepler and his revolutionary telescope at school. Kepler’s achievement was made possible by texts on optics translated by Ibn al-Haytham. There is also evidence to suggest that Copernicus, who determined that the Earth orbits the sun and not the other way round, built his model on ancient Greek knowledge translated out of Toledo.

Copernicus, who determined that the Earth orbits the sun and not the other way round, built his model on ancient Greek knowledge translated out of Toledo

Copernicus, who determined that the Earth orbits the sun and not the other way round, built his model on ancient Greek knowledge translated out of Toledo

This flourishing of knowledge in the Christian world helped spark the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the explosion of scientific discoveries and theories that led us to where we are today.

So, when you next send a text to your expert Translation Agency in Hong Kong , commission a legal document translation  or use AI generated sentences , you’re participating in an endeavour that helped create the modern world. To speak to an expert translator, contact us today.

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The Top 10 Translation Blunders In Advertising

Use Professional Advertising Translations to avoid these pitfalls

With the ubiquity of the internet and social media, the world really is your brand’s oyster. You can reach billions more consumers than was possible just 20 years ago, but while it’s much easier to access foreign markets, it’s far harder to make a connection with consumers that speak a different language. This is where localisation comes to the rescue.

Localisation is not just about translation, though. It’s also about brand designing in a way that makes it easy for a new reader or listener to understand what you are saying. There are many pitfalls in this localisation translation process, as many a prominent brand has discovered.

Here are 10 translation blunders in advertising

… and how they demonstrate the need for professional human translation and localisation, followed by tips on how to get your marketing customisation / localisation right first time.

Food & Beverages

  1. Coors was left red-faced when it translated its Turn it Loose slogan into “suffer from diarrhoea” in Spanish. This blunder highlights the difficulty of translating slang between languages.
  2. Though chicken feet are a staple in China, citizens of the PRC were probably surprised to be encouraged to “eat their fingers off” by KFC when it tried to localise its “finger lickin’ good” slogan into mandarin.
  3. But when it comes to bizarre slogan translations, The American Dairy Association excelled by asking consumers whether they were lactating, instead of the catchy “got milk.”
  4. After the last two ad mishaps, Chinese consumers could probably have done with a Pepsi, given the brand promised the drink “brings you back from the grave” when it launched in China. The original brand promise was that it “brings you back to life.”


  1. Staying with the death theme, Ford advertised in Belgium by translating the slogan “every car has a high-quality body” into “every car has a high-quality corpse”. (They just need a Pepsi.)
  2. When Mercedes-Benz entered China, it chose to do so under the moniker Bensi, or rush to die.

Home & Furnishings

  1. Over in the UK, Ikea introduced the Fartfull workbench into the UK, which raised much mirth.
  2. And while Paxam’s Barf washing powder also raised a few chuckles as the word means to vomit in English slang, other errors have been more insensitive.

Energy & Banking

  1. For example, Gazprom named its Nigerian company Nigaz.
  2. Every brand hopes its marketing campaigns drum up more business, but HSBC Bank didn’t even get off the starting block when it translated its “Assume Nothing” slogan into “Do Nothing” in many countries under a 2009 global campaign.

What is localisation? Translation, Localisation and Transcreation

If your business specialises in a particular industry, you may have developed a comprehensive dictionary of frequently used language words for your customers. You also may be translating print materials, such as brochures or web content for mobile phones and tablets. But what exact service do you need?

Translation is the process of reworking a text from a source language into another language, maintaining the original meaning. Meanwhile, localisation is the process of adapting content or a product or service for a specific culture or market, and transcreation, a portmanteau of translate and creation, is a form of translation that preserves the original context, emotion, tone and intent. Transcreation often begins with a creative brief, rather than the source text, and includes the translation of images into a different context. Its uses include software localisation services.

Why it’s important to localise

Creating a product or service that caters to a global audience is a competitive advantage in today’s economy. Being able to reach the widest range of customers possible means your products or services are easier to sell in other markets. The best way to do this is to localise your product or service. A common misconception about localisation is that it’s an up-front cost and comprises a one-off period of manual translation. These are actually quite different things involved in localisation and the process is often a continuous one.

Tips on how to get localisation right first time

Use a professional multilingual team for localisation and translation. That way, localisation can be better planned and executed and you’ll be less likely to experience a faux pas. Test your translation and localisation as you go along in order to spot the right choices for the correct audience. The professionals don’t rush into creating a potentially misleading translation in order to quickly launch a campaign, service or product.

Localise your ads on a trial basis, not on the basis of any preconceptions you may have about the language. Consider all the options, have multiple mock-ups prepared for each language and test which is the best way to communicate your message in the market.

Find the right translator

Finding a translator who speaks the language you need and who can translate professionally is one thing. Finding a translator who speaks your target market’s native language and understands the cultural nuances can be quite another. If you don’t speak the language or you don’t have a translator who speaks it, a popular alternative is to contact a professional translator agency, which can ensure that the translation is done professionally and accurately, and that there will be no surprise embarrassments.

Take care of your target audience

Making sure you understand your market is imperative if you want to get localisation right. If you’re thinking about applying for a European franchise licence or entry into the Japanese market, you need to find out what your target audience is comfortable with. Look at the language the country uses for its official communication. You may find that they use only one language, like Spanish or Portuguese, or that the majority of citizens use several languages, like English, Chinese, and Korean.

Identify your consumers’ cultural needs

Understanding the needs of the people you’re targeting is just as important as understanding your market. In many cases, your target audience will be multi-ethnic, having interacted with a multitude of cultures. This is especially true in a diverse region like Asia. Moreover, localising from two closely related languages and cultures, for example with an English to French translation service, is less challenging than localising between two unrelated languages, such as with English to Chinese translation services.

Whether you need the best legal translation Hong Kong has to offer, scientific and technical translation, or game localisation services, getting localisation right means finding the right localisation translation service. To find out more, get in touch with Into23 today.

Read our Blog here.

Celebrating 1st year in the Translation Business

What we learnt during our first year of business as a translation company

A portrait of Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds

Into23 will be one-year-old at the end of June! It was a crazy, tumultuous, difficult, journey but it has also been exciting, humbling, exhilarating and life-changing. Often at the same time.

We went through the gamut of emotional experiences: good, bad, sad, stressful, joyful, angry, happy!

We are starting our second year with a renewed vigour and focus, we have a strong customer base we build in year 1. We have new prospects in the good pipeline.

We have some exciting news coming that we hope to share in June.

We will be sharing some blogs about the experience of building a localization business in 2018. Our views on the future of the industry, of the business and, in particular, the impact Asian will have more of.

I would like to answer any questions anyone has: whether a suggestion for a topic, a question on running a startup or the industry in general.

I believe that most businesses fail to reach their true potential only due to the gaps in communication. Reaching out to a global audience or at least large section of the society, any business must be willing to utilise a translation strategy. Effective usage of a translation strategy will play a vital role in outreach and subsequently in building the business impact.

Please add them here on the blog, on the LinkedIn share or email me on I promise to answer each and everyone! Ask us anything! We have lots of opinions.

If anyone is interested in having a business discussion please get in touch! We are always open to discussions, partnerships, referral agreements or anything else you may want to talk about…Into23 provides Best Translation Services in Singapore and across Southeast Asia.