Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Lexical Distance Among the Languages of Europe



Nordic Translation services languages
This chart shows the lexical distance — that is, the degree of overall vocabulary divergence — among the major languages of Europe.


This chart shows the lexical distance — that is, the degree of overall vocabulary divergence — among the major languages of Europe.

The size of each circle represents the number of speakers for that language. Circles of the same color belong to the same language group. All the groups except for Finno-Ugric (in yellow) are in turn members of the Indo-European language family.

English is a member of the Germanic group (blue) within the Indo-European family. But thanks to 1066, William of Normandy, and all that, about 75% of the modern English vocabulary comes from French and Latin (ie the Romance languages, in orange) rather than Germanic sources. As a result, English (a Germanic language) and French (a Romance language) are actually closer to each other in lexical terms than Romanian (a Romance language) and French.

So why is English still considered a Germanic language? 
Two reasons. First, the most frequently used 80% of English words come from Germanic sources, not Latinate sources. Those famous Anglo-Saxon monosyllables live on! Second, the syntax of English, although much simplified from its Old English origins, remains recognizably Germanic. The Norman conquest added French vocabulary to the language, and through pidginization, it arguably stripped out some Germanic grammar, but it did not ADD French grammar.

The original research data for the chart comes from K. Tyshchenko (1999), Metatheory of Linguistics. (Published in Ukrainian.)



Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Finnish (Suomi) is a Finnic Language Spoken by About 5 Million People

translate in to Finnish language
Credit: Baltic Media


Finns often run into questions like “Is Finnish like Swedish?” or “Does everyone in Finland speak Russian?” A simple answer to both questions is no. 
Both Swedish (one of the two official languages of Finland) and Russian belong to the Indo-European group of languages, while Finnish is a Finno-Ugric language. The latter group also includes Hungarian, Estonian, Sámi (spoken by the indigenous people of northern Finland, Sweden and Norway and northwestern Russia) and several lesser-known languages spoken in areas of Russia. 
The Finno-Ugric languages share enough common lexical and grammatical features to prove a common origin. Although these languages have developed separately for thousands of years, it can be seen that common features include:
1) absence of gender (the same Finnish pronoun, “hän,” denotes both “he” and “she”)
2) absence of articles (a and the in English)3) long words due to the structure of the language4) numerous grammatical cases5) personal possession expressed with suffixes6) postpositions in addition to prepositions7) no equivalent of the verb “to have”

There are various speculative theories about the time and place of the origin of the so-called Proto-Finno-Ugrian language. According to the most common theory, Hungarian and Finnish are separated by a mere 6,000 years of separate development.
How long Finnish-speakers have populated Finland is a question that has always interested Finnish scholars. Nowadays it is thought that speakers of a Finno-Ugric language have been living in the area of present-day Finland since at least 3000 BC. 
During the following millennia, contacts proliferated between the speakers of the Finno-Ugric language and speakers of neighbouring Indo-European languages (e.g. Baltic, Germanic and Slavic dialects). Numerous loan words borrowed by Finnish, Estonian and the other Baltic Finnic languages (Karelian, Lude, Vepsian, Vote and Livonian) demonstrate the existence of contacts between the people speaking Finnic languages and people speaking Indo-European languages. 
Not only vocabulary has been borrowed, but also many grammatical features. 
Most loans in present-day Finnish have come from the Germanic and Scandinavian languages, especially from Swedish.

 Read more: This is Finland 

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Digitalisation in the Nordic Region—The European and Global Contexts



The Nordic countries are often positioned as digital front-runners in both the European and global contexts. In the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index, Denmark, Sweden Finland and the Netherlands (in that order) top the list in terms of the overall ranking, as well as performing well on individual indicators (see Figure 1).
Digitalisation in the Nordic Region—The European and Global Contexts
Figure 1

Norway also performs well on the indicators, despite not being formally included in the ranking.
 The ranking is based on five aspects:
1) connectivity (fixed broadband, mobile broadband, speed and affordability);
2) human capital (digital skills);
3) use of the Internet (content, communication and transactions);
4) integration of digital technology (business digitisation and e-commerce); and
5) digital public services (e-government) (European Commission, 2017c).

We find that Nordic countries also rank highest in the tables for each of these aspects. Finland leads the way on human capital and digital public services, Denmark on integration of digital technology and Norway on Internet use.

Alongside the agenda at the European scale, work has also occurred to map the state of play with respect to digitalisation in the Nordic–Baltic Region (Wernberg and Andersson, 2016). To date, two reports have been released that map indicators across the Nordic–Baltic states, with the most recent having a particular focus on cities (see Baltic Wernberg and Andersson, 2016).

The Nordic countries perform well in the Nordic–Baltic context. Again, however, there is substantial variation in performance based on different indicators. For example, there are quite large gaps between the countries when it comes to the use of e-procurement in firms or private R&D expenditure in science and technology, whereas rather small gaps exist when it comes to fixed broadband penetration and startups in ICT across the Nordic–Baltic countries (Wernberg and Andersson, 2016).

Another report based on the Boston Consulting Group’s E-Intensity Index4 includes Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden among nine European ‘digital front-runners’5 (Alm et al., 2016).6 The report highlights the higher share of e-GDP 7 in these countries (8% on average) compared with what it terms the ‘EU Big 5’8 (where e-GDP is 5.1% on average). Accordingly, the research suggests that these countries stand to make the greatest gains from further digital advancement, particularly full realisation of the European digital single market and further digitalisation in emerging fields (e.g., IoT, advanced robotics, big data analysis and augmented/virtual reality). At the same time, the authors argue that these countries have more to lose if Europe fails to keep up with the rest of the world. They are highly critical of European action on digitalisation, suggesting that ‘the window of opportunity is closing fast’ for Europe to position itself as a global leader in this space (Alm et al., 2016: 19).

The report estimates that, based on the current pace of development, even the front-runner nations in Europe will be behind China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan by 2025 (Alm et al., 2016). It suggests that the front-runners should work together to share good practice (all are strong in different areas) and take a leadership role. This includes both ideological leadership—to address the concerns of more pessimistic nations—and practical leadership to target the currently broad EU strategy (Alm et al., 2016).
Nordic cities are also front-runners when it comes to various smart technology solutions, including the management of urban systems and environments. Nordic cities have been early adopters of ICT infrastructure in cities, and of knowledge expansion through the implementation of 'smart city' solutions. This builds on a long tradition of developing infrastructure to support the digitalisation of public services. For example, Finland was the first country to declare that broadband access was a legal right for every citizen and Sweden ranks fourth in the world in the percentage of fixed broadband subscriptions on fibre-optic networks (Borges et al., 2017).

Sweden is among the most successful countries in developing community based broadband initiatives, so-called “local fibre networks. The Swedish Local Fibre Alliance has supported local governments and communities to plan and launch municipally owned and managed networks (ENRD, 2017). The Swedish government is committed to providing expanded high-speed Internet to rural areas and Stockholm is expected to be the first city in the world with a 5G network in 2020 (Borges et al., 2017; NyTeknik, 2018).

In terms of the provision of public services, recent research found that the Nordic cities were the most digitally advanced in Europe, independent of city size (ESPON, 2017). The study also showed that there is a generally high confidence level regarding the readiness of cities to respond to digital transition and seize the opportunities of digitalisation.

Read full report here norden.org  

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Translation and Global Marketing Missteps: Don’t let Global Content Missteps Trip You Up


By Rebecca Ray*




Companies still learn the hard way that almost all the content they publish – or that is created by their customers and prospects – is global.

Whether or not content is translated or intended for a specific audience, all viewers have access to it and make their opinions heard at the global level – especially if they have negative feelings. 
As content plays a larger strategic role in business success, organizations are looking for ways to do a better job to world-proof the words, images, and audio that project their brand. 
In this article, we describe the challenge of global content missteps, provide examples, and offer advice on how to avoid becoming a bad localization meme.
  
Firms generally recognize that content has value in supporting their brand worldwide and attracting and retaining customers. However, executives tend to over-invest in the creation of the original material while scrimping on the localized versions upon which they often depend for a hefty portion of their revenue. 

This disproportionate spending frequently results in a lack of oversight during the design phase, which can lead to embarrassing, if not disastrous, results in terms of PR. Worse yet, the missteps can cause a reduction in overall brand value and market cap numbers over the short term, as well as adversely impact the career path for C-level executives.
All organizations want to avoid being the poster child of global marketing missteps. Yet, examples unfortunately appear all too often:  

H&M’s catalog miscalculation

Regardless of one’s opinion of its appropriateness, you have to wonder how the original product and accompanying marketing content for a T-shirt ad in January 2018 survived internal review at fast-fashion retailer H&M. 
Even if its home base in Sweden was not offended by the product, H&M only had to ask personnel in top markets such as the United States, Germany, France, or the United Kingdom what they thought before proceeding with the design idea. 
As a result, H&M lost clothing line collaborators such as Weeknd and faced a high level of backlash from U.S. customers.


Image 1: H&M advertises a product without thinking through its global implications
Source: H&M online offering in the United Kingdom

United Airlines’ damage control goes awry

Asia has always been a strategic market for United – long before the rise of China – so one would expect that its corporate behavior is followed closely. However, the company’s crisis response team failed to take that into account when news broke about an outsourced security team dragging a passenger off one of its planes under rather violent circumstances. It turned into an international incident as hundreds of millions (not thousands) of people commented on Weibo, with some even cutting up their United frequent flyer cards. Calls for boycotts spread throughout Asia – especially worrying since China is the second-largest market in the world for aviation and still growing. The company briefly lost almost US$1 billion due to the incident.

Yelp’s obliviousness in the face of Turkish history

When the review forum Yelp announced via Twitter last year that it was entering the Turkish market, it rather oddly chose the image of a church for a country that is overwhelmingly Muslim – comparable to using a mosque graphic for an announcement targeted at North Americans. That being said, the church image didn’t match what most Turks see in their country, as the construction of Christian Orthodox churches doesn’t resemble the humble wood building depicted in the image. But even more bothersome to many Turks was the mention of the Trojan Horse used to hide Greek soldiers for an ambush during the war for Troy.


Image 2: Yelp selects a tone-deaf image to enter the Turkish market
Source: Yelp.com


Global content requires governance beyond translation sign-off

The companies in the examples cited are certainly not the only global brands that have stumbled over global messaging and content. Yet it’s impossible for even the most global-savvy person or team to recognize all possible cross-cultural reactions to a particular message, image, or video. So, what is a company to do?

Read more: TCWorld  

*Rebecca Ray is a senior analyst at market research firm Common Sense Advisory (CSA Research).