Is machine translation the future?

  • 19/11/2018
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There is a widespread belief among many that machines will replace human translators over the next few years. Media reports keep pointing to the latest advances in computer translation technology and often conclude that the days of human translators are numbered.

But is this really the case? Not so, according to the US Department of Labor, which recently predicted just under 30% growth for the translation profession by 2024.
Using free machine translation tools instead of paying a professional may seem like a good idea, especially if you have a limited budget, but it rarely turns out well. Such software can provide the gist of a foreign tongue, but for businesses and organisations that are serious about the way they communicate, a rough translation is not enough.

While platforms like google translate are great for short sentences or one-word translations, the end results are often very literal; automatic translation devices are incapable of translating native colloquialisms or other cultural themes from language to language – only translation professionals can provide this.



Getting it wrong is costly

There are many horror stories about bad translations, from the light-hearted to the more severe. One memorable example is when KFC’s tagline “finger-lickin” good’ was translated into “we’ll eat your fingers off”, or the time HSBC had its strapline “Assume Nothing” mistranslated to “Do Nothing” in several countries, resulting in a costly $10 million rebrand!

The problem with machine translation is that translating involves more than typing in another language. Professional translators, such as the ones we use, hone their skills through years of training and practice. Continuous professional development and plenty of diligence is the key to a successful translation career. It’s what differentiates the expert from the hobby linguist.
Serious translators also know their areas of expertise. The best are not jacks of all trades, but specialists. For instance, if a market research report into the UK pharmaceutical industry requires translation, it is important to deploy a translator with a background and credentials in this sector.  Similarly, if a technology website, press release or product brief needs interpreting, we will always choose a sector specialist on such a project. This way, the client gets a professional outcome and the translator is rewarded for the years of hard work and training they have invested. 

Vandu Language Services has been providing professional translation and interpreting for nearly 20 years in over 120 languages with friendly and helpful staff who can work with you throughout the process. Please contact us on 01273 473986 or email for further information:


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Black History Month

  • 04/10/2018
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Black History Month has been part of the UK calendar since 1987 and has steadily become more popular ever since – being observed and talked about in more and more places, such as schools, churches and places of work. However, its roots are just over 60 years older then that having been born in America in 1926, at a time where many African-American’s feared their history was destined to be forgotten forever.



Initially starting out as ‘Negro History Week’, this period of remembrance was the brainchild of Carter G. Woodson, an American intellectual and historian as well as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, a group Woodson had created with several of his peers. The first Negro History Week took place on the second week of February because it coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass due to their influence on African-American history. It was met with a lukewarm reception at first, but grew as the years went on and was taken on by schools and churches in all states with a significant black community. At the inaugural Negro History Week, Woodson spoke on the importance of recognising African-American History:

"If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated. The American Indian left no continuous record. He did not appreciate the value of tradition; and where is he today? The Hebrew keenly appreciated the value of tradition, as is attested by the Bible itself. In spite of worldwide persecution, therefore, he is a great factor in our civilization."

Since those early day’s others have taken on the responsibility of Negro History Week, changed it to Black History Month, and the idea has spread across the Atlantic. So where does Black History Month stand now? As it seems with every social or political issue today, the answer is no longer black and white. Critics suggest that Black history shouldn’t be designated to a single month and in doing so counteracts the purpose of the event, and that Black history should be integrated with mainstream history. Others say that relegating Black history to a single month also reduces the complexity of the related historical figures to simple heroes and villains. Another argument is that there is no Asian or Arab history month, so why a Black one?

Perhaps these critiques are a reflection on where we are as a society today – yes, there is a higher awareness of Black history, its protagonists and antagonists, with world leaders acknowledging it and lessons being taught in schools and churches; compared with the situation in 1926, progress has undoubtably been made. But it’s equally obvious that there’s a long way to go; maybe until ‘Black’ and all other histories simply become ‘Human’ history.      

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Amazing Language Facts

  • 13/09/2018
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There are thought to be around 6,500 languages in the world today (that was a free bonus fact), though around 2000 of these languages have less than 1000 speakers. Of the 7.5 billion people on Earth, just over a billion of us speak Mandarin or Cantonese, the languages of Earth’s most populous country, China. But these are just the warm up facts, allow us to really ‘impress’ you with some of the lesser known language facts!

  • The language with the largest alphabet award goes to…
    • Khmer is the worlds largest alphabet with 74 letters – of which some currently have no use! The Cambodian language consists of 33 consonants, 23 vowels and 12 independent vowels and is by far and away the largest alphabet – but Chinese uses a different method called an ideographic writing system of which there are thousands of symbols for the different words, symbols and concepts. Semantics and technicalities, but rules are rules!


  • There are over 200 artificial languages… 
    • Perhaps the most famous of these are Elven, from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (he’s created 13 overall), or Klingon of Star Trek fame. These languages are often unfinished, but they generally tend to have rules like real languages.


  • The best second-language English speakers?
    • That accolade goes to the Swedish! The English Proficiency Test released statistics on English exam results and Sweden came top, with the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland taking 2nd, 3rd and 4th spot respectively.


  • The hardest languages for English speakers to learn are…
    • The Foreign Service Institute, responsible for the US’ training of foreign affairs training has organised a difficulty rating for new languages to English speakers, going from one to five with there estimated time needed to learn.
    • Category 1 languages — Afrikaans, Danish, Spanish, etc — will take between 575 and 600 hours of study to master. These languages bear the most similarities to English.
    • Category 2 languages — when it was published German was the only language included — will take around 750 hours to master.
    • Category 3 languages — Indonesian, Swahili and Malaysian — take roughly 900 hours to master. These languages feature some linguistic and cultural differences to English.
    • Category 4 languages — Bengali, Czech, Hebrew, La, Russian, Urdu and Xhosa —these languages take 1,100 hours to master and feature significant differences to the linguistics of English.
    • Category 5 languages — Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese and Korean — are “exceptionally difficult” for English speakers to learn and take the title of trickiest tongues.


  • The country with the most official national languages is…
    • Zimbabwe, with 16 languages: Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Khoisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and sign language. The country with the most languages altogether is of course Papa New Guinea, with over 850.
  • The first printed book was…
    • The German Gutenberg Bible was the first book to be printed. In fact, the Bible is the most translated book in the world too, with 531 translations as of 2014, followed by Pinocchio at 260 translations.

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Krishna Janmashtami

  • 30/08/2018
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Otherwise known as Janmashtami or Gokulashtami, Krishna Janmastami celebrates the birth of Krishna the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, Krishna. As the Hindu God of compassion, tenderness and love Krishna is one of the most revered deity’s in Hinduism’s assembly – the festival is observed on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) in the month of Bhadrapada of the Hindu Calendar, which is August/September in our Western calendar. 

It’s said that Krishna was born in a time of anarchy, where religious persecution was rife, and freedoms were supressed under Krishna’s uncle King Kamsa. Of course, Krishna eventually defeats King Kamsa relieving the Indian people of his tyranny and sealing his own greatness. To celebrate the birth of Krishna, the Hindu people keep fast, perform enactments of Krishna’s life recounted in the Bhagavata Purana, one of Hinduisms ‘Great Histories’ that promotes devotion to Krisha and is 18,000 verses long! Once midnight passes (the time that Krishna is believed to have been born), any statues of baby Krishna are washed, clothed and then placed in a cradle. Following that, Hindus break their fast by sharing food and sweets.

The Janmashtami is celebrated a little more wildly in the areas of Mathura and Vrindavan where it’s believed Krishna spent his life - the temples and homes of the two areas are colourfully decorated, night long prayers and religious mantras are offered in the local temples.  These northern regions of India are thought to be the birth place of Vaishnavism, a tradition within Hinduism that places greater reverence on Vishnu and subsequently Krishna, being his most popular avatar.

So, from all of us at Vandu, happy Krishna Janmastami!

Do you require interpreting or translation in Indian languages such as Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Urdu or Gujarati? Please call us on 01273 473986 or email for more information!

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Why do you need the Level 3 Community Interpreting qualification?

  • 09/08/2018
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As it is with all professional interpreting agencies in the UK, to become an interpreter here at Vandu requires the Level 3 Community Interpreting Qualification (which we’ll refer to as Level 3 CI from here on) to join our active interpreters list. One might balk at the idea of enrolling on a course to become an interpreter – “I speak two languages perfectly well, why do I need a separate qualification for interpreting?” but the fact of the matter is that it requires much more than speaking two languages to become a professional interpreter. In this blog post, we’ll have a look at the requirements you may not have considered for interpreting, as well the benefits you’ll receive from the Level 3 CI course.


The first thing that many people don’t consider is who you’ll be interpreting for. Though it varies from agency to agency, the majority of work comes from the public sector; a professional might be needed to interpret for a young man coming from a war-torn country, another needed for an elderly lady at a GP appointment. Would you know your roles and responsibilities in these situations? Perhaps the social worker is not quite up to date on the current affairs or cultural norms of the young man’s home country – what and when is the correct way to appropriately explain or intervene? In the case of the elderly lady at the GP the cultural norms issue could be applicable, but what if you notice the GP staff discriminating against her, would you know the process at that point? While it may be unusual, unfortunately it's not unheard of. All these skills and more are what you’d learn on our Level 3 CI course.

As for the benefits, there are several. As mentioned, the course is the base level required to become a professional interpreter here in England and means you’ll be able to sign up with agencies up and down the country. We also look at your strengths and weaknesses on the course so that you can review and improve upon them, making yourself a better professional which makes you more likely to be requested to provide interpreting. You’ll develop a better understanding of your local community and social services and be a great help to both.

If you’re interested in applying or learning more about our Level 3 Community Interpreting Course, please call us on:

01273 473986

or email:

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