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Businesses Concerned at Decline in Foreign Language Learning across UK

  • 04/03/2019
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A major BBC study of languages taught in UK secondary schools has discovered that foreign language learning is at its lowest level in the UK since the turn of the millennium, with German and French falling the most.

Business organisations have expressed concern at this and the increasing lack of language skills in the UK.

Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director for business group the CBI, said: "Employer demand for French, German and Spanish skills have significantly increased over the last few years.

"The decline in language learning in schools must be reversed, or else the UK will be less competitive globally and young people less prepared for the modern world."

To read the BBC report in full please click the link below and if, as a business, you ever require translation or interpreting support, please contact Vandu Language Services (www.vlslanguages.com) as we can offer professional linguist support covering more than 100 languages:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-47334374

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Why do you need professional translation?

  • 05/02/2019
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There's a reason why the translation service industry is booming and according to the US Department of Labor, the translation profession will grow a further 30% by 2024. In today’s commercial world, when foreign markets are so easy to access, its hugely important to be able to communicate with your audience in an authentic and coherent way; but this is not the only reason why professional translation is becoming so vital in the modern age. 

 

 

Language’s importance to national identity

According to Pew Global Research, around 72% of Europeans believe knowing their country’s language is the most important aspect to national identity; this fact needs to be reflected in how you present your product and your company as a whole. Customers are more inclined to part with their money and trust the provider if the information is in their first language - Common Sense Advisory found that 60% of their non-English speaking participants would either never or very rarely buy from an English-only website, and that 75% preferred to buy products in their native tongue. If you want to sell something or have your content read, it really is essential that you converse in the consumer's language.

 

Accurate communication is more important than ever

Brexit, globalisation, nationalism… you may be tiring of today’s buzzwords, but they could seriously affect your business and further illustrate the importance of good translation. As the world gets smaller but our dividing lines seem to grow larger, your company and your product needs to feel familiar and approachable to a wide and varied audience; indeed, a 2015 study predicted that by 2025 880,000 small UK business will be expanding overseas meaning the lines of communication must be accurate, localised and carefully thought about. If you truly want to take a larger slice of a foreign pie, almost everything you do must be translated accurately to your target audience, whether its correspondence emails with clients or partners or localising your website, or understanding precisely what your audience is saying back to you - almost all aspects of your business might need a professional translation service, to make sure that nothing is 'lost in translation' at all. 

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. 

 

Automatic and free translation providers aren’t good enough

While platforms like Google Translate are great for short sentences or one-word translations, the end results are often very literal; ultimately, quality issues are the main problem with machine translation services. A machine is incapable of understanding the context of a sentence, particularly in complex situations and on top of that, translation is a deceptively creative task in which a translator must to have a deep understanding of two different languages, the associated cultures and cultural norms, and be able to communicate a message between the two. Whilst it may be a tighter competition in the future, humans are still streets ahead when it comes to quality translation. 

 

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!

However, there are more sombre stories too. At a hospital in the US, the Spanish word ‘intoxicado’ was misinterpreted as ‘intoxicated’, when it actually means ‘poisoned’ or ‘having an allergic reaction’… this easily avoidable mistake resulted in the patient being given the wrong medication and losing the use of all four limbs, and a $71 million-dollar lawsuit for the hospital. Although this is slightly different in that was a face to face interpretation, you can see how easily translation can go wrong and how costly it can be.

Vandu Language Services are a bespoke and professional translation and interpreting services for organisations across the UK, Europe and worldwide, please contact us on 01273 473986, or email for further information.

translations@vlslanguages.com

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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:

translations@vlslanguages.com

 

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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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