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Malagasy, the Language of Madagascar

At 226,917 square miles, Madagascar is the fourth largest island on the planet. It is well known for its high-quality vanilla beans and diverse wildlife (it is one of only 17 “megadiverse” countries, according to Conservation International), including many different species of lemurs. Less diverse, are the languages spoken here.

The official language, Malagasy, is spoken by most of the population. Among the more educated population, French is also spoken (as a result of Colonialism). Malagasy is a member of the Malayo-Polynesian language family, making it more closely related to the languages spoken in Borneo, the Philippines, and Malaysia than in the neighboring countries of Africa. It borrows words from French, Swahili, and English (Madagascar was used as a base for English pirates in the 18th century!).

What makes Malagasy so fascinating, is that the spoken language barely resembles the written language. This is because of a 19th century Welsh missionary named David Jones.

Jones was befuddled by the Malagasy written language, which utilized an Arabic alphabet called Sorabe. As a result, he developed his own method of writing using the Latin alphabet and, as a result, successfully translated the Bible into Malagasy in 1823. The reason the written language differs so much from the spoken language, is because Jones incorporated many English-Welsh mannerisms into the written language. For example, the last syllable of a word is typically dropped, while unstressed syllables in the middle of words often disappear entirely. Simply put, the Welsh transcribers were spelling things how they would be pronounced with their own native accents.

Today, the Malagasy alphabet contains 21 English letters, excluding C, Q, U, W, and X. 93% of the vocabulary is Malayo-Polynesian, though most words related to animal husbandry are of Bantu (African) origins.

Malagasy is one of over 150 languages we translate at World Translation Center! For an example of how this beautifully unique language is spoken, check out the link below:

Native Malagasy Speakers


Thanksgiving Food and Tradition Around the World

In the United States, Thanksgiving is celebrated by gathering with loved ones while enjoying a large meal together. In some households, football is airing on the television, or lawn games are played while the turkey finishes in the oven. Depending on which part of the country you visit, the roasted turkey may be the centerpiece of the meal with delicious accompaniments like key lime pie in Florida, or manicotti in New York and New Jersey, Hasty Pudding in New England, or pumpkin empanadas in New Mexico and Arizona. Each region has its own set of traditions and favorites, influenced by the various cultures that are represented there. But the idea of a day dedicated to giving thanks is not specific to the United States. Across the globe, people give thanks in their own way, with their own set of customs and cuisines.

The Kadazan Festival takes place in Malaysia every May, and serves to give thanks to the spirit of rice and to strengthen unity by gathering together. Rice is viewed as an extension of the Creator, and is used in many food dishes including tapai and hiing wine. Revelers participate in buffalo races and bamboo stilt races, all the while giving thanks for their bounty.

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The Celtic Origins of Halloween

Jack-o-lanterns. Trick-or-treat. Costumed children with candy-filled buckets. Most people are familiar with Halloween; but did you know that it is based on an ancient Celtic holiday? Originally, it was referred to as Samhain (pronounced sow-in), and was a holiday to celebrate the end of summer and harvest, and the beginning of winter.

The Celts believed that the veil between this world and the world of the dead was thin on Halloween, and that the ghosts of the dead returned to Earth on this day. Large bonfires were lit to ward off the spirits, sometimes with animals burned as sacrifice (the word “bonfire” is derived from the Latin “ignisossium”, or bone-fire). The Celts would also dress in costumes, typically animal skins and animal heads. Later, when the Romans occupied the Celtic lands, the worship of Pomona, goddess of trees and fruit, became infused with Halloween. Pomona was often associated with the image of apples, thus leading to the tradition of bobbing for apples.

Though much has changed over the millennia since Halloween was first celebrated, it remains a day of fun and revelry. This Halloween, impress your little werewolves, witches, and Buzz Lightyears with a few Irish words pertaining to Halloween:

 -Trick or Treat: Cleas nó cóir (class noh koh-ir)
Ghost: Púca or taibhse (pookah or tie-v-sheh)
Costume: Culaith (cull-ah)
Scream/shriek: scréach (shkraykh)
Skeleton: Creatlach (krat-lukh)
Halloween: Oíche Shamhna (ee-ha how-na)
Vampire: Vaimpír (vam-peer)
Blood: Fuil (fwill)

Sense of Humor

Don’t write with a broken pencil, it is pointless
I’m glad I know sign language; it’s pretty handy.
Whiteboards are remarkable.
I am so poor I can’t even pay attention.
I used to be a banker, but I lost interest.
Claustrophobic people are more productive thinking out of the box.

Could you explain the meaning of the above sayings to someone who does not speak English? You would realize rather quickly that translating the phrases, word for word, would do little to convey the humorous intention.

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Newsletter Summer 2019

Click the link below to view our newsletter for Summer 2019.

Newsletter Summer 2019

Sexiest Accents 2019

Are you too sexy for your accent? Not if you’re from one of the countries voted as having the sexiest accents!

New Zealand English

People often mistake a New Zealand accent for an Australian one but Kiwi, or “the Newzild” accent, was voted the sexiest accent in the world! Decide for yourself and listen to a couple of demos of our voice talents from New Zealand:

(listen to more here)

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Branding Strategies

By Linda Hovhan

There have been many funny translation mistakes in advertising that can be prime material for an all-night comedy show. Any advertising aimed at another country requires thorough research, culture-specific idiosyncrasies and beliefs. Make sure you are localizing your brand to another language and culture while maintaining your brand’s identity. Making a blunder in any language, grammar or context can turn your products into something of a laughingstock. Research carefully before proceeding with any marketing! Words are very important. They can make or break your marketing strategy.

Your ad may look fine in your native country, but in another your marketing ads may be bled of their life and essence. They might simply not connect with people on an emotional level thus failing to motivate your audience into a purchase. There is more to translation than correct grammar.

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NBA Playoffs

The 2019 NBA playoffs will start on April 13. What does basketball and translation have in common, you ask? Nothing much, but…

Imagine for a moment that your company works in the international market and requires marketing, newsletter and product translations on a regular basis into several languages and is working directly with the individual translators. People from other countries come to visit the U.S. office and since your department received tickets to an NBA playoff game, you are inviting the visitors to attend. Imagine further that this turns out to be such a special event, that your next newsletter contains pictures and an article about the game.

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English to Hindi

After Mandarin, Spanish and English, Hindi is the fourth most-spoken language on the globe. It is the official language of the Republic of India along with the English language. But Hindi and English are not the only two official languages, there are 22 languages altogether. The Indian constitution has not recognized Hindi as the national language of India; no language in India has been given such a status yet.

If India is divided into two halves with a line horizontally through the middle, the top half is where Hindi is almost exclusively spoken. However, India is not the only country where Hindi is spoken. Several other countries recognize Hindi as an official language, like Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname and a few more, but in those countries, the Hindi is different from the Standard Hindi language spoken in India. Instead these Hindi languages descend from other dialects of Hindustani. Hindustani, also known as Hindavi, Dehlavi and Kekhta refers to a mixture of Hindi and Urdu which is also recognized as lingua franca of northern India and Pakistan. There are a few words used differently between Urdu and Hindi, but the spoken Hindi is mutually intelligible with Urdu.

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Phubbing – Our Language is Always Evolving

By now, the word ‘phubbing’ is most likely a familiar word to everybody but just in case, it is defined in the dictionary as: the practice of ignoring one’s companion or companions in order to pay attention to one’s phone or another mobile device. The word is derived from the two words ‘phone’ and ‘snubbing’.

In January 2019, the city of Wenzhou in China’s Zhejiang province fined a Phubber 10 Yuan, an
equivalent of approximately USD1.50 for crossing the street with her head down, eyes glued to a smart phone. The Wenzhou regulations on the promotion of civilized behavior state: “Anyone who looks at their mobile phone while crossing the road shall be fined 10 yuan.” Is fining phubbers the answer to phubbing? Seat belts were the answer to saving lives of drivers and passengers; phubbing has caused accidents and fining phubbers might save lives as well.

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