A Few Words

How To Say Merry Christmas Around The World

Posted by Elanex Marketing Team on Dec 23, 2015 10:58:00 AM

Want to know how people say "Merry Christmas" around the world? Every December, people across the globe offer each other seasonal greeting of joy and peace.

If you want impress your friends overseas by saying "Merry Christmas" in their native language then check out this impressive list of Holiday greetings.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in many different languages



Topics: Know Your Languages

Know Your Languages: Japanese, a Complex Language of Context

Posted by Jun Kurihara on Apr 30, 2015 11:07:00 AM

images-1Japan is a country shrouded in beauty and tradition and for many gaijin (non-Japanese), a bit of wonder and mystery.  Japanese culture is fascinating and its impact can be seen all over the world. Examples include ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arrangement), tea ceremonies, sushi, and, of course manga, anime and other variants of Japanese graphic art.

Japanese culture is rooted in the deepest of traditions dating back thousands of years; yet, it is a society in a continual state of flux with shifting fads, fashions and technological development. Some would say contemporary Japanese culture is a hybrid of sorts, influenced heavily by parts of Asia, Europe and North America. Perhaps there is no better example of this than the Japanese language.

japanese-beer-brands-21351612Approximately 50% of Japanese words are derived from the Chinese language - not unlike how many English words are derived from Greek. The Japanese people have also adopted many foreign words, primarily from English. These words are called gairaigo. Examples of these include: biru (beer), aisu (ice), hoteru (hotel), takushi (taxi), gurasu (glass) and teburo (table). The Japanese have also borrowed words from Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese. The word pan (bread) comes from the Portuguese word pao. Merchants and missionaries visiting Japan in the 16th and 17th centuries are believed to have influenced these language integrations.

The Japanese also create new words by way of combining or shortening English words. Examples of this are: wapuro (word processor) and masukomi (mass communications). Another interesting facet of the language is the curious distinction between male and female speech. These dissimilarities occur in vocabulary, grammar and especially in pitch. Women are inclined to speak in high-pitched voices (in public, for the most part), while men tend to speak in low, stern voices. Another intriguing fact is that Japanese vocabulary and verb conjugations differ according to who is speaking and to whom they are speaking, and in part depending on the social relationship between the two parties. Women utilize a different vocabulary than men do. For example, the male expressions for “I” are boku, ore and washi while the female expressions are watashi and watakushi - but adding to the complexity, in formal or polite contexts such as a business meeting, watashi is used by both women and men. It's actually more complicated and subtle, much like Japan itself.

KATAKANAThe Japanese writing system is made up of three different character sets. The first is Kanji, which is composed of several thousand Chinese ideograms. In addition to Kanji, there is Hiragana and Katakana, which are two sets of phonetic characters (there are 46 in each) that represent syllables and serve the purpose of an alphabet. Hiragana is the most original writing system in Japan and is used for native Japanese words where there are no Kanji, conjugations, particles, verb endings, as well as children’s literature. This is due to the fact that Hiragana is the first writing set taught in Japan. Katakana is used chiefly to write foreign words and names (see the chart to the right). Another method, known as Romaji (which translates to “roman letters”), has more recently been adopted in Japan as a Romanization of Japanese.

Japanese writing can be oriented in two ways. Writing can be done in the traditional Japanese style, where the characters appear in vertical columns arranged from the right to the left side of the page. Conversely, the Japanese also make use of typical Western style, where the writing appears in horizontal rows from the top to the bottom of the page. Both of these writing styles coexist in present day Japan.

Pronunciation of Japanese does not usually pose many problems for new learners of the language. This is primarily due to the limited number of individual sounds. Japanese has approximately half as many sounds (phonemes) as most Western European languages. In this respect Japanese is perhaps most similar to Spanish, in that it shares the same limited set of vowel sounds. Furthermore, there are quite a few homonyms; which can be a little tricky for new learners of the language to become familiar with. Some homonyms are differentiated by changes in tone (pitch accent) but this is very subtle, and is an advanced concept for students of Japanese.

When it comes to levels of politeness in Japanese, there are different words and expressions that are used, depending entirely on who the speaker is speaking to. For example, there are four ways of addressing people in Japanese using honorifics as a suffix to their names. They are: kun (used for a boy or a young man; can be somewhat condescending), chan (used for children and young women), san (the universal mode) and sama (deferential). There are more than a dozen different words for the English word “I”. They are used exclusively within the context of a given situation. Honorific vocabulary and conjugations are called “keigo” and are used in daily conversation by virtually all Japanese speakers.

images-3-2Despite the intrigue and allure of learning and speaking Japanese, non-verbal communication is a major social indicator in Japan. The Japanese believe that context affects the tone of a conversation and the people are keen on noticing any changes in posture, tone or facial expressions. Many Japanese speak with little to no facial expressions. Because words can have more than one meaning, the Japanese look at a person’s physical reactions to determine the true meaning of their words. Conversely, Japanese people are so used to body language being important to a conversation that it is common to see a person speaking on the phone and unconciously bowing, even though the person they are talking to cannot see them. 

Japanese is the ninth most widely spoken language in the world  (nearly 130 million speakers) and is worth learning because of its prevalence in both Japan and the rest of the world. Outside of Japan, close to five million people speak the language, including nearly 1.5 million speakers in Brazil alone, primarily due to a major migration in the early 20th century. Brazil now has the second largest population of Japanese speakers in the world. Speakers of Japanese can also be found across the globe in locations such as Argentina, Australia, Belize, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Mongolia, Philippines, Taiwan, and the United States.



Topics: Know Your Languages

Know Your Languages: Romanian-The Only Member of the Romance Language Family Spoken in Eastern Europe

Posted by Ljubomir Lukov on Apr 2, 2015 6:53:17 PM

UnknownWhen it comes to Romania, there seem to be two classic misconceptions. The first:  there are vampires everywhere.  The second:  Romanian is a Slavic language.  Both are utter nonsense.

Romanian is actually a Romance language and holds the intriguing status of being the only member of the Romance language family spoken in Eastern Europe. As such, it is more closely related to French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Catalan than the languages spoken in Russia and other Slavic countries. That isn’t to say, however, there is no Slavic influence on the language.  Romanian contains many words from the surrounding Slavic languages, as well as from French, Old Church Slavonic, German, Greek and Turkish.

Like other divisions of Romance languages, Romanian descends from Vulgar Latin. The history of the Romanian language can be traced back to the Dacians (pronounced dachyanz), who were a civilization that occupied the area now known as Romania about 2,000 years ago. Linguists have found that approximately 160 words from modern day Romanian can be linked back to the language of the Dacians. Some of these words include:

copil = child

prunc = baby

baci = shepherd making cheese

gard = fence

brad = fir

copac = tree

images-5The region, known as Dacia, was ruled over by the Romans for about 160-165 years, starting in 106 AD. The Romans had a tremendous impact on the land and its people and the name Romania comes from the Latin word Romanus, which translates to “citizen of the Roman Empire.” Linguists attest that Romanian is, much like the other Romance languages, fairly easy for English speakers to understand. This is due to it being a phonetic language, which means that words are pronounced just as they are spelled.

Between the 7th and 9th century, the Slavs also influenced what has become modern day Romanian. During this time, Slavs came to the area and gained knowledge of Latin. Just as the Dacians were adopting Slavonisms, the Slavs began adopting the Romance language that would become Romanian. They seemed to prefer using words of their native language whose meanings and expressive connotations of which they were familiar. This was evidenced by the Slavs insistence on continuing to use their own language’s emotional terms. Hence, Romanian is the only Romance language that has not preserved the words amor, carus, amare, sponsa, etc. They have been replaced by dragoste, drag, a iubi, nevasta, logodna (betrothal) and a logodi (to betrothe). The most prominent influence passed on to Romanian from the Slavs is in word pronunciation. An example of such a word is trup, which means body.

images-3Romanian has an alphabet consisting of 31 letters. Certain letters and letter combinations differ slightly from those found in English. Some examples are:

Romanian Letter             Pronunciation

e                                                  as in tell

i                                                   [e] as in pick

j                                                   as in leisure

ce                                                as in check

gi                                                 [dsi] as in gin

ge                                                [dse] as in gender

chi                                               [ki] as in skill

che                                              [ke] as in chemistry

ghi                                               [gi] as in give

ghe                                              [ge] as in guess


Romanian is the official language of Romania.  Approximately 24 million people speak Romanian as their primary language. An additional four million people speak it as their secondary language. The language itself is about 1,700 years old.

images-4The modern Romanian language has four core dialects: Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, Daco-Romanian and Istro-Romanian. Speakers of the language can be found all over the world, from Australia to the United States and from Russia to Canada. Romanian is one of the official languages of the European Union as well as the Latin Union.  Interestingly, neighboring Moldolva speaks what they call Moldolvan, but others say it is Romanian. Moldovans insist that their language is separate and distinct from Romanian.  This contentious debate has divided scholars through the years in regards to the differences between the two languages.  Many linguists consider it a different language, even if the two are almost identical (vocabulary is slightly different, but such words could be regionalisms).

Romanian has been studied by historians and linguists for nearly 1,000 years. The history of the Romanian people is one brimming with stories of being conquered by larger and stronger civilizations. The language itself illustrates their perseverance and strength. From its Dacian roots to the Vulgar Latin and Slavic influences, Romanian is a language built and fostered by a populace of survivors.  

Topics: Know Your Languages

Know Your Languages: Italian-A Romance Language with Roots in Vulgar Latin

Posted by Francesco Monticelli on Mar 4, 2015 4:18:00 PM

When it comes to the most widely-spoken languages in the world, Italian does not rank in the top ten, but the language appears everywhere. Italian is a reference language for art, music, fashion, and food, which peppers our everyday conversations with the language of the dolce vita.  Think about it.  Pizza, ciao, piano, graffiti, crescendo, soda, primadonna, and virtuoso are just a few examples of Italian words we commonly use.

Although Italian words are commonly shared around the world, this romance language is mainly spoken in Europe. It is a primary language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, and Vatican City. It is a secondaryItalian2 language in Malta, Croatia and Slovenia. Certain minorities in France, Albania, Libya, Monaco, Romania, and Somalia also speak Italian. Including speakers of Italian in non-EU European countries, the total number of Italian speakers is around 85 million.

Italian is a Romance language, and therefore a descendent of Vulgar Latin. Among the Romance languages, Italian is one of the closest to Latin in terms of vocabulary. Unlike most other Romance languages, Italian retains Latin’s contrast between long and short consonants. Stress is distinctive, as is the case with most Romance languages.

This table shows some of the similarities between Latin and Italian words:

  Latin                         Italian                         English
castellum                 castello                       castle
natio                           nazione                       nation
ordo                            ordine                          order/rank
lex                                 legge                             law
cantamus                  cantiamo                    we sing
obvius                          ovvio                            obvious
removere                   rimuovere                 remove

 Italian grammar is similar to that of other Romance languages. Cases exist for pronouns, but not for nouns. There are two genders, masculine and feminine. Nouns, adjectives and articles inflect for gender and number (singular and plural). Adjectives are sometimes placed before their noun and sometimes after. Subject nouns generally come before the verb. Subject pronouns are usually dropped, their presence implied by verbal inflections. 

Despite the fact that over 17 million Americans are of Italian descent, only a little over one million people in the U.S. speak Italian at home.  In Canada, Italian is the second most spoken non-official language when ItalianChinese languages are not grouped into one language. After the Chinese languages, Italian is the second most spoken foreign language in Australia. Italian is the second most spoken language in Argentina after its official language of Spanish, with 1.5 million speaking it natively. Small Italian-speaking minorities on the continent can also be found in Brazil, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Italy is one of the world’s top economies. It has grown steadily since the end of the World War II, mainly from the exportation of goods. Italy is focused on building strong trade agreements with China and India. As a result, many employers actively seek people who can speak both English and Italian. An estimated 7,500 American companies do business with Italy and more than 1,000 U.S. firms have offices in Italy, including Cisco, General Electric, IBM, Motorola, Microsoft, and Citibank. Italian fashion firms from Armani to Zegna are globally recognized leaders along with automotive icons Alfa Romeo, Fiat (which owns US-based Chrysler), Ferrari, and Maserati. The Italian eyewear company Luxoticca Group controls 80% of the major global eyewear brands, including Ray-Ban, Oakley, and Persol.

Because Italian is derived from Latin and an estimated 60% of the English language also comes from Latin, knowing Italian may improve English test scores. A recent study showed that enrollment in Italian language classes at U.S. high schools and colleges is growing faster than enrollment rates for Spanish, German, and French.

Italian is one of the most beautiful languages spoken in the world and, for those interested, it is the language with the most words that can be used to describe food. Ciao!


Topics: Know Your Languages

Know Your Languages: Dutch, A Germanic Language With Far Reaching Influence

Posted by Joe Dougherty on Feb 11, 2015 3:21:55 PM

Dutch is a West Germanic language, which constitutes the largest of the three branches of the Germanic family of languages. Other languages in this branch include German, English, Scots, Afrikaans and Yiddish. Dutch is the native language of about 96% of the population of the Netherlands, and about sixty percent of the population of Belgium and Suriname. These three countries compose the Dutch Language Union, which was founded in 1980 to govern issues regarding the Dutch language. Most speakers of Dutch live within the European Union, where it is the primary language for approximately 21-23 million people and the second language for approximately five million more people. 

In the Caribbean, Dutch commands official language status for the countries of Aruba, Curacao and Saint Maarten. Upwards of half a million native Dutch speakers reside in the United States, Canada and Australia and there are small communities of speakers that exist within France and Germany. Afrikaans, which is a somewhat mutually intelligible daughter language of Dutch, is spoken today by an estimated 15-23 million people in South Africa and Namibia.

Dutch is closely related to German and English and can be thought of as existing somewhere in between them. There are some noticeable similarities between the vocabularies of English and Dutch, as well as Dutch1between Dutch and German. Letters that are indistinguishable in Dutch and German are pronounced, for the most part, exactly the same. The exception being that German has a variation in pronouncing some letters. For instance, when speaking German, an aspirate (a sound pronounced with an exhalation of breath) is used for the letter ‘K’, whereas for Dutch, aspiration is not used. In addition, ‘S’ in German is pronounced between ‘S’ and ‘Z’, and ‘G’ as ‘gamma’ just like in Greek, but in Dutch it is ‘kh.’

To further illustrate the difference between Dutch and German, here are some characteristic sound shifts:

German ‘CH’ becomes ‘K’ in Dutch: Auch/Ook (too)
German ‘IE’ becomes ‘E’ in Dutch: Viel/Veel (many)
German ‘T’ becomes ‘D’ in Dutch: Tier/Dier (animal)

The original Germanic case system, which is still present in Middle Dutch (the collective name given to a number of closely related West Germanic dialects which were spoken and written between 1050 and 1500) disappeared after the 16th century. It is in this regard that Dutch is more similar to English, a language in which cases also disappeared after the Middle English period. In contrast, German has preserved its case system into modern times. But Dutch developed a word order that is closer to that of German. Unlike English, the verbs are not all placed together. In main clauses, the conjugated verb is in the second position, and the remaining verbs are located at the end of the sentence. Dutch also has a different word order when it comes to dependent clauses.

Dutch and English are both considered West Germanic languages that linguists refer to as Low German. Here are some examples of consonant shifts in Dutch and English words and the differences found in High German (which is essentially modern German).


   English                              Dutch                                   High German

sleep, ship                      slaap, schip     p>pf           schlafen, Schiff
eat, that, out                 eet, dat, uit      t>s             essen, das, aus
make, book                   maak, boek     k>ch          machen, Buch

Dutch is derived from Franconian and Saxonian languages, which were not affected by the High German consonant shift. Seen from this angle, Dutch retains certain archaic traits.

The Dutch dialects that are spoken in Belgium are jointly known as Flemish. To a certain extent, they differ from the Dutch that is spoken in the Netherlands in regards to intonation and pronunciation. Minor differences also exist in vocabulary, including loanwords from English and French that are not found in Standard Dutch.

For those who are not privy to information discussed in linguistic circles, not much is known about the Dutch language. Interestingly enough, far less is known about Dutch than there is about the Netherlands and Belgium, those countries where Dutch is the standard language. Oftentimes, tourists visiting the Low Countries are surprised to discover that there exists a Dutch language that is fairly distinctive in relation to German and English. Further exploration into this topic would reveal that Dutch has been a civilized language for over a thousand years and exhibits an abundant array of literature. An example of this is the Woordenboek der Nerderlandsche Taal (“Dictionary of the Dutch Language”) which is the largest monolingual dictionary in the world currently in print, and has over 430,000 entries of Dutch words.
Some believe that it wasn’t until the 20th century that Belgian Dutch and the Dutch of the Netherlands began to develop at a similar rate. The influx of immigrants in Belgium and the Netherlands in recent decades has influenced pronunciation and changed usage by adding loanwords. Dutch has proven to be very capable of incorporating the borrowed words and phrases into its own phonetic system and its own morphological and syntactic rules. While Dutch language conservationists are not thrilled by this, it has increased the accessibility and overall usefulness of Dutch.

The ability to speak Dutch can increase a job searcher’s employment prospects. This is especially true in the UK which has close economic relations with its neighbors across the English Channel. As recent labor market research by the University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) states, U.K. industry demand exceeds the supply of graduates with Dutch language studies. Dutch is the fifth most requested language in U.K. job advertisements, after French, Spanish, German and Italian.

Topics: Know Your Languages

Know Your Languages: Portuguese – Two Dialects With A Rich History

Posted by Michael Gray & Renato Pontes on Jan 14, 2015 5:53:00 PM

population-of-brazil-2014Approximately 215-220 million people speak Portuguese as their native tongue and there are upwards of 260 million total speakers of the language worldwide. Portuguese is usually ranked as the sixth most spoken language on Earth, the third most spoken European language of the Southern Hemisphere. Portuguese, a romance language, is the sole language spoken in Brazil, Portugal, Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and São Tomé and Príncipe. It holds co-official language status in Macau (China), East Timor and Equatorial Guinea. It is one of the official languages of the European Union and is the most spoken language in all of South America (just ahead of Spanish). The very first language museum, the Museum of the Portuguese Language, was opened in 2006 in São Paulo, Brazil, which is home to the largest number of Portuguese speakers in the world.

Significant Portuguese-speaking immigrant communities are beginning to pop up all around the globe. Some countries where this has been documented are Andorra, Australia, Bermuda, Canada, France, Namibia, Paraguay, South Africa, Switzerland, Venezuela, and many locations within the United States as well. Some states in the U.S. include Connecticut, Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York.

According to UNESCO estimates, Portuguese is the fastest growing European language in the world after English and is slated as having the highest potential for growth as an international language in southern Africa and South America. Estimates indicate that by the year 2050, there will be upwards of 335 million speakers of Portuguese in the world, an increase of more than a 50%.

What is known as Modern Standard European Portuguese is based on the dialect of Portuguese spoken in and around the cities of Lisbon and Coimbra, both located in central Portugal. On the other hand, Modern Standard Brazilian Portuguese is based on the Portuguese spoken in the area including and surrounding the city of Rio de Janeiro, located in southeastern Brazil. Portuguese-speaking African countries prefer to speak the Standard European Portuguese. Because of this, Portuguese has two primary dialects: the Brazilian and the European.


Some aspects of the language found in many of the Brazilian dialects are exclusive to South America and are not found in Europe. In formal writing, the written Brazilian standard differs from European Portuguese when it comes to spelling, lexicon and grammar. However, the most significant difference between European and Brazilian Portuguese is in phonology and prosody. For example, vowel sounds are very different. Those speaking Brazilian Portuguese tend to open the vowels and pronounce them fully, while European Portuguese tend to reduce vowels. Unaccented vowels are often reduced to the point of being dropped from speech entirely. Furthermore, European Portuguese has greater phonetic variety: Brazilian Portuguese has two fewer vowel phonemes than that of European Portuguese. Finally, in Brazilian Portuguese, speakers omit mute consonants, whereas European Portuguese continue to use them.

The majority of the Portuguese lexicon is derived from Latin. Due in large part to Portugal’s participation in the Age of Discovery, it has adopted loanwords (words borrowed from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language without translation) from all over the globe, including words with Germanic, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, South American, French and English origins. Correspondingly, Portugal has had a noticeable influence on other languages, providing loanwords to many languages, including Indonesian, Malay, Manado Malay, Sri Lankan Tamil and Sinhalese, Bengali, Hindi, Swahili, Afrikaans, Japanese, English, Lanc-Patua (spoken in northern Brazil), and Sranan Tongo (spoken in Suriname). The word for bread in Japanese is “pan,” from the Portuguese “pao,” (and not from the Spanish “pan,”) for example.*The Romanization of Chinese was heavily influenced by the Portuguese language, particularly regarding Chinese surnames. One example of this is Mei. During the years 1583-1588, Italian Jesuits Michele Ruggieri and Matteo Ricci created a Portuguese-Chinese dictionary, which became the first ever European-Chinese dictionary.

Experts suggest some apparent differences in lexicon between Brazilian and European Portuguese are not really differences. In Brazil, the common term for carpet is tapete. And, in Portugal, it is alcatifa. However, many dialectal zones in Portugal use tapete and other areas in Brazil use alcatifa. This applies in several such apparent differences, except in newer terms, such as ônibus in Brazil, which is autocarro in Portugal. A conversation between an Angolan, a Brazilian and a Portuguese from very rural areas flows very easily. The most exotic Portuguese dialect is vernacular São Tomean Portuguese, because of the interaction with local Portuguese Creoles, but even with this one there are no difficulties when talking to another person from another country.


Language standardization efforts are being made across all eight Portuguese-speaking countries. The Orthographic Agreement (OA) aims to strengthen the role of the Portuguese language internationally and to guarantee linguistic uniformity among the eight member states of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP). One of those reforms includes a single spelling system. Although the OA was signed in 1990, it has only been in force in Brazil since January 2009 and in Portugal since May 2009.

Portuguese is classified in the West Iberian branch of the Romance languages. Portuguese and other romance languages, such as Italian and French, are not mutually understandable, although they do share sizeable similarities in both grammar and vocabulary. Educated Portuguese, Brazilians, Spaniards and Spanish speaking Latin Americans typically understand one another with little to no difficulty.

Due to Brazil’s rapidly growing economy and its economic and geographic closeness to the United States, learning Portuguese is an attractive opportunity for many people, most notably language students. Brazil currently has the world’s seventh largest economy and is rapidly growing, with an important role in global markets such as agriculture, energy and manufacturing.

Additionally, Brazil is preparing to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, which is expected to bring the country and the Portuguese language greater cultural attention on an international scale. Combined with the international interest gained from the country’s hosting of the 2014 World Cup, the likelihood is that increasing interest in learning Portuguese will come from many young Americans who are eager to learn a new language, further increasing its role as a global language.


* Source: "List of Japanese Worlds of Portuguese Origin." Wikipedia. 

Topics: Know Your Languages

Know Your Languages: Somali – Picking the right words and the appropriate writing system

Posted by Annette Heidrich on Dec 17, 2014 5:58:00 PM

Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and the Gulf of Aden, and has a population of 10 million people. The official languages of Somalia are Arabic and Somali. Manysomalia_map Somalis left their country after the outbreak of a civil war in the 1990s, seeking asylum. This caused the increase in demand of translation into Somali by mainly Government departments and NGOs.

A number of different writing systems have been used for Somali. The Somali Latin alphabet, which has been the official writing script since 1972, is the most widely used. This script was specifically developed by a linguist and uses all letters of the English alphabet, except p, v and z.  Other scripts have been used for centuries including an Arabic-based abjad known as Wadaad’s writing, and the Boroma, Omanya and Kaddare alphabets. Samples can be seen below:













Latin alphabet:

Aadanaha dhammaantiis wuxuu

dhashaa isagoo xor ah kana

siman xagga sharafta iyo xuquuqada

Waxaa Alle (Ilaah) siiyay aqoon iyo

wacyi, waana in qof la arkaa qofka

kale ula dhaqmaa si walaaltinimo ah


Somali is a very rich language and when translating from English into Somali, this has to be taken into consideration. A word-for-word translation wouldn't work, as the concepts have to be ‘translated’ into the Somali cultural context .

Another challenge when translating into Somali is that only a small segment of the society has studied Somali spelling in school and has been able to master the written language. New Somali terms were created to express concepts that did not previously exist in the language, mainly relating to the way of life, health and government and education. It is therefore important to determine which script is best suited for the target audience and subject matter being conveyed.


Topics: Know Your Languages

Know Your Languages: Rohingya - An Evolving Alphabet Leads to Challenges in Translation

Posted by Annette Heidrich on Nov 19, 2014 10:57:00 AM

Rohingya is spoken by around 3 million people in Burma and parts of Thailand. It is the written and spoken language of the Rohingya Muslim people who are from the State of Arakan in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) in South East Asia. In recent years, they have been in the news for being persecuted for theirRohingya_map religion. This has led many to flee to bordering Thailand and Bangladesh.

Their language is derived from the Bengali language and is similar to the Chittagonian dialect spoken in nearby Chittagong, Bangladesh. The Rohingya's second language is either Urdu (for studying at religious schools) or Burmese (for studying at government schools). The study of English is also very much encouraged. You can find many words from Urdu, Hindi, Burmese and English assimilated into the Rohingya language.

Rohingya has been written in Arabic and Burmese for hundreds of years. In the 1980s a new alphabet called Hanifi was invented.  Hanifi, however, is written right-to-left, which makes it awkward to use on some computers and mobile devices.  This led to the development of Rohingyalish or Rohingyalic, a new writing system that uses the Latin alphabet plus some additional letters. It is constantly evolving and updated as new vocabulary is added. Rohingya is recognised by ISO with the ISO 639-3 code "rhg". The below tables show the two scripts currently in use.

Rohingyalish Character Set 






























Hanafi Script


The Rohingya do not have an automatic right to education, which presents a challenge for translating into or from Rohingya as there are a limited number of people who have the education or experience to do so. Accordingly, with so few professional translators available, the turnaround time for this language pair is generally much longer than for other more common languages. This should be considered when planning translation into or from Rohingya.

Rohingya is not a common request from commercial clients.  Most requests tend to be from government or aid organisations for communication with new arrivals or refugees/asylum seekers. When planning a Rohingyan job, it is important to confirm which form of Rohingya is required, and confirm that your team are all using the same form of Rohingya. Unless there is consistency, there will be problems when consolidating a large document translated by several translators, or, when sending a translation to an editor who does not use the same writing system. It is also important to confirm that your target market actually requires Rohingya, or if Burmese is a suitable alternative.




Topics: Know Your Languages

Know Your Languages: Chinese-the Differences Between Spoken and Written Chinese

Posted by Elanex Marketing Team on Oct 22, 2014 12:01:00 PM

The term Chinese is broadly applied to many different forms of written and spoken languages and dialects. More than one billion people – one-fifth of the world’s population – speak Chinese as their first language. Whether you are doing business in China or with the increasing number of Chinese speakers around the world, it’s worth understanding a little about these languages.

China’s Spoken Languages
Spoken Chinese is actually a collection of as many as seventeen major regional languages so different from each other that speakers of one often cannot understand speakers of another. Mandarin is the most common, with a number of native speakers greater than the entire population of Europe (about 840 million native-language Mandarin speakers). Three other important languages, Wu, Min and Cantonese, each have more native speakers than the populations of Italy, France or the UK. The next three languages, Hakka, china-2Xiang and Gan, are the first languages of more than 30 million people each. Adding to the complexity, each language has dozens of distinct regional dialects, making China home to hundreds of very different spoken languages and dialects.

Speaking Putonghua
An effort to adopt a single spoken language in China was started in the 20th century with the creation of Standard Mandarin (“Putonghua” or common language). Based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin, Standard Mandarin is now the official spoken language of the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and Singapore, and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Putonghua may be the official language of the media, education and politics, but the other local languages still thrive. Most Chinese are multilingual, switching between their local dialects for casual conversation and Putonghua for business and formal situations. These differences may be important for interpretation assignments or for voice-over recording.

Written Chinese
Translating the written language is fortunately much simpler. There are only two written forms, called Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese. Both are character-based writing. Either form can be universally applied to any of the spoken variants (Hong Kong and Taiwan have their own sub-classifications of Traditional Chinese, but we’ll discuss those differences another time). People from different regions of China may not understand each other when they speak, but they can read each other’s writing. In the 20th century, to increase literacy in mainland China, Simplified Chinese was created by reducing the number of strokes required for the more complicated characters, making them easier to write and memorize. Simplified Chinese is now the standard writing system for the People’s Republic of China, Singapore and Malaysia. Traditional Chinese remains the standard in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and other overseas Chinese territories.

The table below illustrates some examples of the differences, with traditional forms in the first column, followed by their simplified forms, pinyin pronunciation, and English equivalents.


Implications for Localization
Although Taiwan and Hong Kong both use Traditional Chinese, their writing styles have diverged noticeably. If you are writing specifically for just one of those two areas you may wish to request that local flavor of Traditional Chinese. If, however, you’re targeting mainland China or Singapore, any qualified china_1professional Simplified Chinese translator can provide the translation you need. Considering that the People’s Republic of China alone has over 560 million internet users (Larger than the entire US population - making it the world leader in internet users), Simplified Chinese is rapidly becoming a dominant Internet language.

Technical Tip: If your translation will appear on a website, make sure you use the correct character encoding or your Chinese will appear as a string of meaningless characters. Use Big5 encoding for Traditional Chinese and GB2312 for Simplified, or save yourself trouble and use Unicode for everything you do – it covers most known written languages.

Converting Between the Two Forms
Simplified and Traditional Chinese are known as “language variants.” Translating between Simplified and Traditional Chinese is relatively easy and inexpensive because of the strong similarities. If you need both written forms, then translate first into Simplified Chinese because it is less expensive (larger supply of translators), and have that edited into Traditional Chinese. Your overall costs will be less than if you translated directly into both. Your translation partner will know how to manage this for you.

It may seem complex at first, but a qualified translation services company will have no problem helping you accurately communicate with your Chinese-speaking market. With more than twenty percent of world’s population living within the Chinese borders, it’s a market worth addressing correctly.

Topics: Know Your Languages

Know Your Languages: Spanish

Posted by Elanex Marketing Team on Sep 24, 2014 11:30:00 AM

With such a large volume of speakers, it makes sense for companies to consider Spanish translations when trying to reach a broad range of local and global customers. However, there are important considerations to make before beginning that process. The biggest? Understanding that Spanish is not one size fits all.

Is Spanish the same everywhere? Habla

European Spanish and Latin American Spanish vocabulary have evolved separately over the last several hundred years. There are distinct differences between European Spanish and Latin American Spanish (as well as between individual Latin American countries) much in the same way there are with British English and American English. Like Americans and Brits, Spanish speakers can fundamentally understand each other despite many differences in vocabulary, spelling and grammar. While both Latin American Spanish and European Spanish retain a core that is understood by all speakers, there are notable differences in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. Take the word “bus” as an example. Spaniards would likely call a bus an autobús while Cubans would call it a guagua and Mexicans would say camión.

Here are a few other uses that distinguish Spanish in the Americas as a whole from the European norm:



Latin America


Use of the interdental fricative/∆/ (as in English thanks) in zapato, zócalo, gracias

Use of /s/ throughout


Patata = Potato; Móvil = Cellphone; Correro electrónico = Email

Papa = Potato; Celular = Cellphone; Email = Email


Use of vosotros for second person plural familiar

Use of ustedes for second person plural for both formal or familiar


How can I navigate the differences between European Spanish and Latin American Spanish?

Neutral or International Spanish is considered a kind of standard Spanish. Although it isn’t an official spoken language, it is a Spanish that reaches all Spanish speakers, no matter the region they come from or live in. It consists of developing a message that pays special attention to the use of set phrases, expressions, and terminology and disregards slang and localisms from various Spanish-speaking countries. It can be a good solution for projects on a budget, trying to reach the broadest audience, or for those with very technical subjects such as mergers and acquisitions, medicine, mining, and engineering. However, if translated content is to elicit a reaction or an emotion, language that includes the use of local expressions is certainly more effective.Where-to-learn-Spanish

Here are some examples of Neutral Spanish terms:

English Term

Spanish (Spain)

Spanish (Americas)

Neutral Spanish




Equipo informático









Which Spanish should I use?

In a nutshell, it all depends on your budget, the type of message (professional or emotive) and the market you are attempting to reach. For example, if you aim to expand your business into only Mexico, use a translator and editor who are native to Mexico. They can choose the language, phrasing and colloquialisms that will resonate throughout the region. However, if you need to target the Spanish-speaking world as a whole, then consider Neutral Spanish.spanish_2 That said, you may wish to develop separate versions for Spain and the Americas. Spain usually merits its own version due to many of the grammar, style and vocabulary differences listed above.

If you are trying to reach US Hispanics, the use of Neutral Spanish is also recommended. Spanish speakers in the US come from a variety of countries so a neutral translation ensures a basic understanding across the board. This is the strategy used by Spanish language TV networks such as Telemundo and Univision. However, if you are targeting a specific region such as Florida or Texas then it makes sense to localize further. Texas or the Southwest calls for “Mexican Spanish,” while Miami would require the use of “Caribbean Spanish.” Similarly, if your message is very personal or has local competition, consider multiple regional variants to maximize appeal, especially in Latin America. It can also be cost-effective to start from Neutral Spanish and from that translation create the different variants of Spanish to help improve your prospects for this important global language.


Topics: Know Your Languages

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