Friday, December 19, 2014

Language facts: Japanese

Federico Fellini said, that a different language was a different vision to life. While we cover over 70 languages at idioma, we can only agree with that statement. Each language has its history, specifics and flavors and we're here to inform you about it regularly in the Language facts.

Tokyo / source: iStock

Did you know Japanese uses four "alphabets"?

Japanese (Nihongo in Japanese) is spoken by around 127 million people in Japan, plus a couple of million people outside of Japan. It is of course the official language of Japan, but it is even an official language of Angaur (island nation of Palau). Japanese is not directly related to any other language even though it does share a lot of characters with Chinese. It uses four writing systems: kanji, hiragana, katakana and romaji. Hiragana is syllabic and is used for simple words, conjugations, particles and children's literature. Katakana is used to write foreign words. Kanji is based on the Chinese writing system and has about 2000 basic signs, but there are thousands more. Romaji is a Romanization of Japanese words, basically relying on the letters in the Roman, or Latin, alphabet, used e.g. for company names, logotypes and text entry of Japanese text into computers. 

Japanese translation specifics

Japanese has borrowed many words from the Indo-European languages, primarily English, and even made up terms that a native English speaker would never understand, especially in the line of business we are in: Technical Translation. The Japanese term for such "borrowed" words, especially from english, is Gairaigo (外来語).

Would you ever guess that ハフコン [hafukon] is a reference to 'half-concealed' wipers", while リモコン [rimokon] means 'remote control'? Or that ペンション (pension) should actually be translated as a 'a guest house'? Because Katakana can be very ambiguous, sometimes it is hard to determine how to translate a given term. "Hose" and "Hawse" for example are both written as ホース in Japanese.
There are many, many more where translators have been pulling their hairs for days, even weeks. Combining this with other peculiarities of the Japanese language – such as where the subject in sentences is often omitted – makes translating Japanese text into other languages a true undertaking.

Japanese alphabet:

Hiragana (ひらがな)

あいうえおかきくけこさしすせそたちつてとなにぬねのはひふへほまみむめもやゆよらりるれろわをん がぎぐげござじずぜぞだぢづでどばびぶべぼぱぴぷぺぽぁぃぅぇぉっゃゅょ、。 

Katakana (カタカナ)
アイウエオカキクケコサシスセソタチツテトナニヌネノハヒフヘホマミムメモヤユヨラリルレロワヲン ガギグゲゴザジズゼゾダヂヅデドバビブベボパピプペポァィゥェォッャュョー 

Kanji examples
自動, 計算, 費用, 納期, 即時, 提示, 天気, 管理, 健康, 旅行, 料理, 鍋

Romaji examples
We love Japanese!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Celebrating Lucia in Sweden

Lucia processions in Sweden
(source: Wikipedia)
Tomorrow in Sweden we celebrate Lucia. Together with advent, this is a popular celebration and the harbinger of yuletide and the Christmas holidays. Held every year on December 13th, Lucia celebrations start early in the morning, very early for some, and continues throughout the day until late evening.

Traditional Swedish Lussekatter
Girls with cookies and crown of lights
If you visit Sweden on this very date, you are bound to witness Lucia processions throughout the day. Each procession is led by a young girl with a crown of lights; they used to be candles, but for practical reasons electric ones are more popular. The procession then includes Lucia girls and boy attendants. Their number vary but each one carries a candle or light in their hands. The name Lucia originates from the Latin lux or lucis and means “the light one”. They are the bearers of light, and this is possibly one reason why Lucia is so popular – in deep winter daylight is scarce, in the north of Sweden people have daylight for only around four hours every day, sometimes less.

The Lucia girls and boys are dressed in white and sing Christmas songs for everyone watching, including the Santa Lucia, which originates from Italy. They also bring Lussekatter ("Lucia buns" often made with saffron) and other traditional cookies with them for everyone to enjoy.

Lucia everywhere
At home, those with children will often have a mini procession in the morning to wake up dad and others. In schools, there are usually processions with volunteer pupils, and most companies, eldercare centers, hospitals and other public facilities arrange Lucia processions to put everyone in a festive mood. Some processions turn into concerts in churches and other public venues.

At idioma in Gothenburg, there is also an annual Lucia procession, however, this year because Lucia is on a Saturday, the procession was instead held on December 10, and the people there are now in a festive Christmas let's better get back to our translation and localization business :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sad singles in Japan and fishes in Czech bath tubs

As a multinational company, we encounter with many different winter traditions as well as multicultural approaches to Christmas. While our Prague office went off the chain this year and has been decorated in a very festive Christmasy way since the beginning of Advent, our colleagues in Tokyo are preparing for the Japanese New Years celebrations instead, having a white cake and the traditional KFC bucket for Christmas dinner... Wait - what??

KFC, illumination and Mariah Carey
Traditional Japanese Christmas cake
(source: Dollar Photo Club)
Since the 1970s, it has been a tradition for Japanese people to indulge in  KFC during Christmas, no matter how surprising and weird  it may sound to Europeans or Americans. Foreigners back in those day couldn't get their Christmas roast chicken so they went to KFC. The chain saw this as a good marketing opportunity and indeed, eating a fried-chicken-bucket has been a traditional thing since then in Japan. In fact, the Japanese version of Christmas seems a bit like a concentrate of all the western glitz and glamor multiplied by 10 :) You hear Mariah Carey everywhere and of course Wham!'s Last Christmas is an eternal hit. On Christmas Eve, the majority of Japanese people annually buy and eat a cake with fruit and icing. Also illumination is a big thing during Christmas in Japan.
Interestingly, Christmas is a season for couples in Japan, not families as in Europe or the States.  Couples  get together during Christmas, exchange presents and eat at expensive restaurants. It's not a good time for being single on Christmas in Japan – many singles feel sad because couples are together virtually everywhere (this yearly pleasure of single people is reserved for Valentine's day on the other side of the world). There are even social gatherings for single people looking for a partner during the Christmas season. On the other hand, New Years is the time for family gatherings in Japan.

Fishes in bath tubs, lead pouring and angels everywhere
idioma Prague office -
Christmas decoration making
On the other side of the globe in Prague, central Europe, the Christmas radio set list matches with Japan, however that's pretty much the end of resemblance. Czech Christmas traditions are tightly bound to religion and Christian customs, however due to cultural impact after the fall of communism several before unknown elements have been adopted. The decoration of the idioma Prague office is self-evident in this regard with a Christmas tree decorated with straw adornments and angels, the Advent wrath, pine branches with hanging chocolates and Christmas socks, local special Christmas incense sticks called "Frantisek", bells over the front door and pieces of cinnamon all around the place.

In the Czech republic, Christmas is a purely family event. It is literally the one time of the year when all members of the family should gather for a common Christmas dinner, exchange gifts, settle conflicts and enjoy each others' presence. Because of this, Christmas is also the busiest time of the year in the majority of Czech kitchens.
Christmas pastry as well as traditional Christmas dishes are rather complicated and usually prepared several weeks in advance. Traditional Czech Christmas Eve dinner usually consists of a cabbage soup, potato salad and baked or fried fish (carp being the prime choice). Interestingly, it is still a preference and also strong-lived custom in Czech families to buy the fish alive and keep it in the bath tub until the feast comes. The kids love it. Poor fish. At the right moment, the fish is ritually killed (usually by the head of the family – the father, although a lot of fathers opt for the less brutal alternative and go out and buy ready-to-eat  fish filets or even fish fingers).

Poor Czech Christmas carp
(source: Dollar Photo Club)
Another remarkable Czech custom, and also fathers' responsibility, is the lead pouring. The head of the family pours liquid lead into cold water to create a solid shape to recognize. The imagination is very important here, as it is said that the lead shape predicts the family future. We decided better not to risk this tradition inside our office :)

So that's how winter and Christmas work in Japan and Czech Republic. For fascinating winter tradition in Sweden, wait for our next blog. Until then, you can admire these delicious Czech Christmas sweets!

(source: Dollar Photo Club)

Friday, November 28, 2014

24th JTF Translation festival: Humans vs. Machines

It was raining on Wednesday and pretty cold. Nonetheless, the 24th JTF Translation Festival in Tokyo turned out to be a successful event with many inspirational panel discussions and presentations revealing new perspectives on the translation industry.

A miserable day for translators in rainy Tokyo :)
We set everything up at our idioma booth early in the morning, and then welcomed visitors throughout the day until 5 pm when the festival ended. It was really nice to see our existing clients visiting us, and we also met many new people and had constructive discussions about our cooperation and future translation projects.  
idioma booth at 24th JTF Translation Festival in Tokyo
The topic we introduced at the 24th JTF Translation show was the improved Stream online estimator and idioma's document alignment service iSync. Along with other smart language services we provide, all are based on a combination of online solutions, in-house software development and most importantly: human professional translators, reviewers  and project managers.

Presentation of Stream – online translation estimates service
This year's show was noteworthy because many participants were discussing machine translation (MT) as one of the possible future scenarios for the translation and localization industry. While considering machine translation a promising field as an aid in the translation process, we believe it should be an aid to human, professional translators who will be "editing" text instead of translating. Machine translation sure does have a lot of potential, and we look forward to how it will affect the way we work and our translation services.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Time zones work for US with Stream!

Stream – our popular online ordering system – has evolved into a new and improved processing tool. The service currently supports 70+ languages in over 5,000 combinations. Stream runs 24/7 and can be reached by any device with an Internet connection. Whether you are in your office, meeting clients, or travelling and need to manage translation projects, Stream is the ideal solution for you. Use its clear 3-step process to easily upload files, receive instant estimates with clear deadlines, and then place orders. 

Timezones work for us!
Moreover, you can order translation project during your day via Stream and let our European production center take care of it overnight. Our shift-based coordination system and 24/7 availability make Stream the best choice for overseas clients in different time zones.

New features
Stream has now been improved with these convenient features:
  1. Advanced Options feature has been added to allow inclusion of translation memories, glossaries, references, etc. that are relevant to your project.
  2. Express translation (our speedy 4-hour translation service) also supports the Advanced Options feature including uploading of reference material. This will assure consistency in translation with other text content. This service has no minimum charges!
  3. Any language to any other language. Thanks to a large supplier network, Stream goes beyond standard language combinations to offer more than 5,000 different combinations to choose from. No matter whether you need to translate from Tagalog to Kazakh or Danish to Japanese, Stream can help you and provide a price and delivery term any time of day.
  4. Full TM support allows you to upload e.g. a Trados project and get an estimate with turn-around and a detailed price breakdown for different fuzzy match categories. These new features are just the tip of the iceberg. Feel free to try out our improved Stream. It makes ordering translation a lot easier for you and it works any time of day. If there is something you think should be added or changed, we will be happy to listen and then implement it. 

Streamline your translation today with Stream!

Friday, November 7, 2014

idioma at JTF Translation Festival in Tokyo

Hmmm, what to do on November 26th 2014...? How about going to Tokyo to the 24th JTF Translation Festival?! The country's biggest annual show for translators and translation vendors takes place in Japan and idioma will, of course, participate, as it does every year.

24th JTF Translation Festival 2014 - Tokyo

Break the Paradigm, Shape the Future
With Tokyo hosting the Olympic Games in 2020, the festival is likely to unknowingly face the "dawn of the new translation era until 2020". idioma will present its innovative portfolio focusing on online translation services with trendsetting potential (Stream, CrossCheck, Ask, iSync and more) that might also shape the future of translation services in general.

Stream - Putting Translation Orders Online
Our top asset to boast at the festival is our flagship service - Stream. It provides free online translation estimates and 24/7 ordering, with no minimum fees and delivery within 4 business hours. With new handy features including full translation memory support and fuzzy matching, over 5000 possible (and exotic) language pairs and an API that supports integration with CMS systems, Stream is the future of ordering and purchasing translation projects. We have developed Stream to support fast turn-around of ad-hoc mini orders, as well as demanding translation projects.
So come and see us yourself...or wait for the Festival to finish to see none can rock harder than translators! (will provide the footage) :)

Monday, October 27, 2014

20th Anniversary of idioma Prague Office

Time flies, no matter how much we try to outwit it. As it happens, because of all the intense translation, amazing project management and innovative online translation and localization tools development, we almost missed that the Czech office of idioma® is already 20 years old! :)

To celebrate such an important event, we decided to launch our very first idioma blog at Our idioma blog represents a platform to inform you about the field of translation localization as well as to bring useful information and guidelines. And, of course, to give you a little peak behind the curtains and show more about us at idioma®...

...for example, what's our secret at idioma® that we look so cool and fresh even after 20 years... :)

idioma® Prague office - 1994
idioma® Prague office - 2014