The variety of languages makes the world unique, colourful and rich. Communicating with words makes it necessary to understand languages. At Word Works, as a translation agency, we work with many languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, Chinese, Italian and German, to name but a few of the most commonly used. If you are looking to reach a certain target group, you need to translate. Clients want to buy and understand in their own language and we help make their message understandable to the whole world, because languages shouldn’t become a barrier in order to understand the message they want to deliver.
In order to understand exactly what and how to translate, it is advisable to contact specialists, i.e. a translation agency. Thanks to years of experience, a translation agency will be able to guide you in understanding how the process and the sector work and devise the best possible translation service to meet your needs. It is easy to request translations into Spanish, however, is it used in Spain, Latin America or perhaps in the United States? It’s not as easy as it seems. The following are certain matters of importance as regards the languages we work with.
The term British English refers to the different varieties of written and spoken English in Great Britain. Accents play an important role because, taking into account the size and population of the country, there is a larger variety of accents than in any other English-speaking area in the world.
British English dates back to the fifth century, when three Germanic peoples invaded Britain: the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. In those days, Celtic was spoken in Britain, however, when the invaders landed, these speakers moved to the north. The Angles spoke Englisc and that is how the currently used word “English” came about.
In Shakespeare's day there were between five and seven million English speakers, whereas today there are around 250 million. Additionally, it belongs to the group of Germanic languages and 70-80% of its vocabulary has been formed from words of Latin or Greek origin.
To end on a curious note, it is intriguing how British English uses more American English expressions than vice versa.
American English refers to the varieties spoken in the United States and Canada. It is said to be the most powerful in the English-speaking world and one of the reasons is the important position of the United States in the world. Nevertheless, only 20% of English speakers in the world live in the United States.
American English landed in America with the English settlers in the 17th century, which is when the language began to develop in this great country, with only the slightest local variation. It is worth noting that American English preserves more characteristics from Old English than British English does, although it has also brought about equally important innovations. Certain things did not have a name when the settlers disembarked in the new country, and so these words needed to be invented.
British people understand American English better than Americans understand British English. Documents written in American English tend to focus more on sales than their counterparts in British English, and there are more multinational companies based in the United States, which is why we can see more American English in the world of business. That is why American English is known as the “safe option” when it comes to choosing a variety of English, however, it all depends on the target market.
Australian English is used less often in the world of translation, despite the fact that it is spoken worldwide. It is the language that varies the most with regard to other English varieties and comprises highly colloquial words and expressions, which often leads speakers to shorten words.
The oldest form of Australian English is that spoken by the descendants of the New South Wales settlers. During the first gold rush in the fifties, a great wave of immigration introduced many external influences into the language. It is said that the most widespread introduction of the many sounds that make up the Australian accent originated from the south-east of England.
Australian English mostly differs from other varieties of English in the accent and the vocabulary, although differences can also be found in pronunciation, register, grammar and spelling.
Did you know there are more native Spanish speakers than there are of English? Spanish, also known as Castilian, is a Romance language and its origin stems from the Spanish region of Castile.
Castilian was one of the dialects that developed from Latin in the third century A.D. Although Spanish is mainly of Latin origin, it also has other influences such as Greek, French, Italian and Arabic.
The language underwent a major expansion during the Spanish colonisation (1565-1898), an era when Spain was an empire where the sun never set. Spanish is the official language of Spain, though it is also spoken in Andorra, Gibraltar and several small communities in Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and France.
Spanish is one of the official languages of the United Nations and the European Union. The main difference with Latin American Spanish can be found in pronunciation and part of the vocabulary. You will be understood throughout the world, however, when it comes to marketing, business, etc. it is vital to establish a target group. Spanish can open you up to the world.
You can travel to practically any country in South America and Central America and Spanish will set you flying. Even though it’s the same language, certain nuances can be noted between the different areas.
So, what kind of differences can be found between European Spanish and Latin American Spanish? The latter sounds more formal because it always uses the third person pronoun (Usted), both in singular and in plural forms.
Another meaningful difference is that different words can be used to describe the same action or the same object, or that the same word can have one meaning in Latin America, and a completely different meaning in Spain (computadora/ordenador, meaning ‘computer’; papa/patata, meaning ‘potato’; extrañar/echar de menos, meaning ‘to miss’; llanta/rueda, meaning ‘wheel’).
Pronunciation also varies; for example, the letter ‘c’ (when placed before ‘e’ or ‘i’) and the letter ‘z’ equivalent to the [θ] sound, just like the ‘th’ sound in ‘thing’ in English. It is important to understand these aspects when faced with the intention to launch a product to the Latin American market.
Traditional Chinese, also known as Cantonese, is a language that has been written and used by the Chinese population for decades and that belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. With a view to simplifying traditional Chinese and thereby reducing the country’s astoundingly high level of illiteracy, the Chinese government created simplified Chinese. Nevertheless, not all regions adapted their language to simplified Chinese, and many maintained traditional Chinese as we now know it.
Nowadays, traditional Chinese is used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao. Most of the differences can be found in the written characters, however, due to many years of political isolation between mainland China and Hong Kong/Taiwan, differences can also be found in style and wording, which of course has an impact on written text.
It is very important to take into consideration which variety of Chinese is needed in the region where you wish to do business.
If you are going to do business in China, you are probably asking yourself what variety of Chinese you need to translate into.
Simplified and traditional Chinese share the same basis, seeing as both were used in ancient China. However, simplified Chinese, also called Mandarin, was created so as to be easier to understand and learn, particularly because most people were illiterate.
The Chinese government began the reform to simplify characters in 1949, meaning this language can be regarded as relatively new and is used today in China, Singapore and Malaysia.
Most Chinese websites are in simplified Chinese, even though some of the most traditional institutions continue to use both to this day.
French is a Romance language derived from Latin. The origins of the French language date back many years: the first written document dates from the year 842. European French was of great importance in colonial history and that is precisely why it continues to be an official language in small African countries. As a matter of fact, it is an official language in almost thirty countries, for example, Belgium/Wallonia, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Monaco and the Aosta Valley.
France was a European power between the 17th and 19th centuries and was considered to be the lingua franca of well-educated Europeans, especially when it came to discussing art, literature and diplomacy. Nowadays, it is the fourth most spoken language of the European Union, in addition to being an official language thereof and of many other organisations.
Given its strong ties with history, the French are very proud of their language, which also explains why they try to avoid using English. There are even regulating laws, meaning that if text in a foreign language appears on adverts, billboards, etc., a translation into French must be provided.
What is the difference between French and Canadian French? There is no easy answer, because differences can depend on the type of document, the subject matter, etc. Nevertheless, when doing business, it is important to know that there are two varieties. Canadian French is one of the official languages of Canada and Montreal is the fourth biggest French-speaking city in the world.
Canadian French speakers can’t always understand European French, and vice versa. The accent may vary and Canadians tend to be more informal. There are also subtle vocabulary differences and Canadian French uses more words in English as a result of being in contact with the United States.
As for written French, these differences disappear owing to the fact that both languages originate from a more modern classical French and are based upon French and Parisian grammatical rules.
European Portuguese is a Romance language derived from Latin. It is said to be a medieval language, known today as Galician-Portuguese, and the first documents date back to the ninth century. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Portuguese expanded across the world to Africa and America. It is the official language in Portugal and in some African countries, such as Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde.
Something to bear in mind when speaking Portuguese is the Portuguese Language Orthographic Agreement (since 2009), which had the aim of somehow unifying both Portuguese languages (Brazilian and European) by simplifying words. However, it did not prove very successful among Portuguese society, despite the fact that the implementation became a law.
Some feel they are in danger of losing their language, while others see it as an evolution towards its development. The main differences between these two languages are that European Portuguese uses more formal expressions, some words are written differently and the syntax can vary.
Brazilian Portuguese began to develop around the year 1500, when Portugal colonised Brazil and from then on, the country was also influenced by African slaves from Nigeria.
It is the only official language in Brazil and, given the large size of the country, there are various dialects of spoken Portuguese. When you think of Brazil and Europe, you can be understood in both places, whether using European or Brazilian Portuguese. Nevertheless, certain differences can be found in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary, and Brazilian Portuguese is less formal and can make up foreign words by adding a touch of their own phonetics, for example, ‘half’= mídia in Brazil and media in European Portuguese, and many words can have different meanings.
The orthographic agreement we referred to in the section on European Portuguese also applies to Brazilian Portuguese. The idea is to unify both Portuguese languages as much as possible.
When doing business, it is important to bear in mind that they are two different languages. The target groups “speak” differently and want their products to be in their own language. This is particularly true when it comes to marketing or even technical manuals if the terms are not the same. Who’s going to buy a product if they can’t even understand the message?