The Language Room, Translation & Interpretation, Edinburgh, Scotland, London, UK

Translation is a fascinating industry: it is never boring, always surprising, and occasionally completely puzzling. Here are some fun translation facts that put smiles on our faces and we thought we would share them so that you can enjoy them, too.

Did you know?

  • Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese) do not have punctuation marks.
  • The bible (followed by ‘Pinocchio’) is the most translated book in the world.
  • There are close to 330,000 translators world-wide.  This does not include individuals who translate on an informal basis; there are even more of them.
  • Seventy-eight percent of all books that appeared between 2000 and 2010 were translated into French or German, but only 5% were translated into Chinese.

More fun translation facts

  • Certain expressions or words are so engraved in the culture of the country that it is difficult to translate them. For example, there is a word in Malay, ‘Pisanzapra’, which means ‘the time needed to eat a banana’ – quite tricky to translate into English using a single word!
  • In Gaelic, ‘Sgriob’ refers to the peculiar itchiness that settles on your upper lip before taking a sip of whisky.
  • In German, ‘Kabelsalat’ is a word to describe a mess of very tangled cables, literally a ‘cable salad’. ‘Drachenfutter’ is the gift a husband gives his wife when he’s trying to make up for bad behaviour, which can be rendered literally as ‘Dragon fodder’.

Can you translate the above expressions into your own language?

Translation is a challenging, subtle task that requires skilled, experienced, and astute linguists to tackle such little gems. Countless phrases, even much simpler ones, are specific to a country or language and require great care to be translated properly.

Statistics show that most people prefer to read things in their own language. Do you want to reach more clients and people in the world? Then you should have your message translated.

Lastly, the word ‘translate’ comes from Latin and means ‘to move from one place to another’. The word’s etymology could not be more appropriate – translation allows us to travel from one place to another and understand each other. It is little like black magic – not a science, but an art.