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4 Common Misconceptions About Sign Language

4 Common Misconceptions About Sign Language


The World Federation of the Deaf says there are more than 70 million people around the world that use sign language to communicate. But far from all speaking the same language, those who communicate by signing utilize vastly different forms of manual expression. Ethnologue has 142 distinct sign languages recorded in its database, Wikipedia has 190 entries for sign languages and dialects, and it is estimated that there are actually well over 300 sign languages and dialects used around the world. Oftentimes these languages come about through relatively isolated communities of deaf individuals, and as is with any language, with time and isolation, dialects or distinct features emerge.


The first recorded reference to sign languages was by Plato, when he mentioned deaf individuals communicating with body language. The Gospel of Luke mentions sign language as well, when the father of John the Baptist is rendered deaf by the angel Gabriel for being a nonbeliever; his family subsequently communicates with him through motions and gestures. Native American tribes, before Europeans colonized the Americas, sometimes had signed lingua francas to communicate with other tribes that spoke different languages. Turkish Ottoman courts used some variation of sign language from the 16th to the 18th century. European sign languages only just began to develop and codify more fully in the 18th century, more than two thousand years after Plato discussed them in his work.


Although there are tens of millions around the world who communicate with sign language, deaf individuals have been communicating with sign language for literally thousands of years, and Deaf communities and culture which have risen prominence in the past few decades, quite a few misconceptions around sign languages persist. Let’s take a look at some of these:



1.      Sign languages are not universal

Obviously, with the hundreds of sign languages around the world that are mentioned above, sign languages are not mutually intelligible. Even languages who speak the same language almost always have quite distinct sign languages. One of the best examples of this idea is that British and American sign languages, while their spoken counterparts are the same language with minimal difference in dialect, are entirely unintelligible and even have different alphabets – the British have a two-handed alphabet while the Americans’ is one-handed.


When Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, who created the American School for the Deaf in 1817, went to Europe to learn about methods of teaching deaf children, the two prominent schools in the United Kingdom both turned him away, but those in France welcomed him in. Accordingly, perhaps if Gallaudet had been able to learn from British schools, the two sign languages would be more similar, but the American Sign Language of today shares about 60 percent of its vocabulary with French Sign Language.


Just like for sign languages in English-speaking countries, all Spanish-speaking countries, Arabic-speaking countries, and most French-speaking countries (languages spoken across numerous countries) all have their own unique variation of sign language that wouldn’t be understood outside their borders.



2.      Sign languages do not mirror spoken languages

Quite the contrary, sign languages employ their own unique vocabulary and syntax. Gestures, motions, and signs were not born from spoken or written words but from commonly understood ideas in groups or communities of deaf individuals. Sign language is not just spoken words expressed in the same order with hand gestures.


This leads us into the next misconception, that sign languages were created by hearing people:



3.      Sign languages developed separately from spoken languages

While the current array of most widely spoken sign languages were created in the past three centuries, sign languages have been spoken by the deaf and hard of hearing for millennia. The man credited with bringing sign language and the ability for deaf individuals to contribute and participate in society to the attention of the masses, Charles Michel de l’Epee, stumbled upon two Parisian women speaking with complex and eloquent signs and gestures in the mid-18th century.


A triangle of towns known for its high incidence of deafness near Martha’s Vineyard each developed their own sign languages that, when Gaullaudet opened up his school for the deaf and brought over a French Sign Language instructor, a new language merged itself into existence, standard American Sign Language.


The British Sign Language alphabet

4.      Sign languages are not “inferior” to spoken languages

There’s an idea that the ability for sign languages to express ideas and concepts is more limited than spoken languages, a derogatory idea that has persisted among European and Western nations for centuries. Up until the 1700s, it was commonly thought that deaf individuals didn’t have the mental capabilities that hearing individuals did. This also was a contributing factor to why sign languages weren’t codified until 2,000 years after Plato first mentioned them in his writings.


Deaf babies acquire sign language the same way hearing babies acquire spoken languages, going through basic manual expressions to communicate wants and needs. Linguists classify and consider sign languages the same as spoken languages in terms of complexity, development, and vocabulary. And anyone who has studied sign languages knows that there are complex ways to express oneself, just like there are in spoken languages.


Trying to navigate all these languages can be stressful, and especially with sign language – the third most commonly used language in court interpretation – being sure to have the right materials and resources is imperative. Luckily, Ata Translation Agency is able to help you with all your translation, interpretation, and localization needs as they relate to sign language. Give us a call or send us an email now to get a free quote or learn more about our services.



Here’s Why Spanish is Such an Important Language

This is Why Spanish is so Important for Your International Success

It’s common knowledge that English is the lingua franca of the international business world, of diplomacy and governance, of art and scientific research. But it’s also common knowledge that there are actually more native Spanish speakers than native English speakers. Spanish is a regional lingua franca throughout Europe and Latin America. It’s spoken as an official language in 20 countries and unofficially by large swaths of the populations in four others (including the United States), and large Spanish creole languages are spoken in at least four other countries. The United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of American States, the Union of South American Nations, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, and even the African Union (although the measure to make Spanish official adopted in 2003 hasn’t yet been ratified) all use Spanish as an official language.


Around the world, 442 million people speak Spanish as a native language and another 90 million speak it as a second language. Even in the United States, there are 40 million native Spanish speakers and 10 million non-native speakers. The collective Nominal GDP of the 20 Spanish-speaking countries is more than $4.3 trillion, and the GDP (PPP) is more than $7.6 trillion. French, on the other hand, has more countries where it is spoken as an official language but a collective nominal GDP of about $3.77 trillion and $6.7 trillion for GDP (PPP).


Last year, the 20 Spanish-speaking countries published a collective 132,508 books and released 271 films, with 1,193 films released in total. These are just some of the reasons why Spanish is an absolutely crucial language for the success of international businesses, literature, film, diplomacy, and government.




Spanish is one of the main Romance languages that proliferated and began transforming into its modern form during the Roman Empire. It is the combination of “Vulgar Latin” spoken by local officials, soldiers, and representatives of the Empire in what is today Spain and local languages such as Basque, Iberian, Celtiberian, and Gallaecian. The roots of old Spanish coalesced in the 9th century and were codified for one of the first times in a precursor to its form with the Glosas Emilianenses, a comparison of texts in a Latin coding alongside Basque.


Arabic has also had a large influence on modern Spanish, with large parts of Spain having been occupied by Arabs starting in the 8th century. Proximity to other Romance and European languages like French, Occitan, Catalan, Portuguese, and Italian has also helped shaped the grammar and vocabulary of Spanish a great deal over the past thousand years.


In turn, Spanish imperialism from the 15th century helped spread the language throughout much of South America and other pockets around the world that the Spanish Empire controlled. This resulted in both the extinction of some indigenous languages, especially in South America, but also the birth of creole languages and very localized dialects where indigenous populations added their flair to the European tongue. Spanish adopted a handful of words from indigenous languages where the Empire’s influence spread.



The Pitch

If you’re not convinced already that Spanish is an incredibly important language, then hopefully I’ll be able to make my case with this. Forget about the trillions of dollars that Spanish-speaking countries make and the thousands of books and hundreds of movies they publish and release each year. Ignore the fact that Spanish is spoken in all corners of the world, from the Philippines to Spain, from the United States to Argentina. Try not to think about scope in terms of distance. Think about reach in terms of population.

With more than 468 million people living in these 20 countries, and way more than 500 million Spanish speakers around the world, a potentially monstrous market for consumers is sitting and waiting. For example, national wealth and wealth per adult is a good measure of how strong the average consumer in any given country is. The total wealth across all these countries is $10.2 trillion, the average wealth per adult is $24,913, and the median wealth is $11,310. Consider, as a comparison, the figures for China, one of the hungriest consumer markets in the world, with average wealth per adult at $26,872 and median wealth at $6,689.

If you take nothing away from this article, just know try to remember the reach, scope, depth, and wealth of these Spanish speaking countries as well as what they can do for you, your business, your book, or whatever it is you’re looking to introduce to the world. If you have taken something substantial away from this article, then you’re in luck, because Ata Translation Agency offers high quality translation services in more than 300 languages, including, of course, Spanish and all its local and regional dialects. Give us a call or send us an email now to get a free quote or learn more about our services.

Languages Are Dying and Here’s Why

How Languages Die


The history of spoken language is much more difficult to track than written language. The earliest written records are some 12,000 years old, but inevitably humans have been speaking or verbally communicating with each other for as long as 100,000 years. Since spoken languages leave no permanent record other than traditions and tales passed down between generations, finding numbers of speakers and languages before the generations we have immediate contact with is incredibly difficult. But even with limited resources and increasingly creative ways to establish linguistic histories, scientists and linguists around the world are seemingly in a race against the clock to record and catalogue spoken tongues; we are currently experiencing one of the greatest and fastest language extinctions in history.


Ethnologue is one of the foremost institutions that track living languages, and they have put the current total at 7,097. This number itself has only been growing, while we have been watching helplessly as languages all around us have been rapidly fading into extinction. Optimistic experts say half of these 7,097 languages will no longer have any native speakers – the definition of an extinct language – by the end of the century. Pessimistic experts say 90 percent of all languages spoken today will be gone in a hundred years. Truly, at the rate we are heading, losing a language entirely once every four months and having lost about 30 entire families of languages since 1960, time does not seem to be on our side.


Why does it matter?

To put it in the simplest way possible, the loss of a language means the loss of that form of communication’s unique way to express the ideas, traditions, history, music, literature, and culture of the people who speak it. Along with the language, we lose crucial knowledge about the way that group communicated and explained the world around them. This becomes especially relevant with the area of study that emerged within the past half-century: ethnobotany. Many indigenous languages have much more specific linguistic characterizations for plants and materials, and what a more globalized language might consider another sample of the same species. This research, coordinated with tribal leaders and indigenous peoples alongside scientists, tracks methods of healing used in remote tribes to find sources of medicine. It entails a combination of pharmacology, anthropology, linguistics, and botany.


Cause of Death: “Killer languages,” globalization, and shifting plates

Numerous factors influence the death of languages, and rather than a steady drop, certain historic events fuel this growing loss. Historical linguists have estimated that there may have been as many as 20,000 languages spoken around the world as late as 8,000 years ago. This was a few short centuries after humans shifted away from a nomadic lifestyle and settled in one place to establish farming communities. Before this time, humans only typically existed in groups as large as a couple hundred, and as with any distinct group, identical languages were not often shared between these groups. Throughout most of history, languages have had 500 or fewer speakers. This reflects on the fact that almost a quarter of languages spoken today – 1,514 – have less than 1,000 speakers. At least 3,731 languages, more than half of those alive today, have less than 10,000 speakers.

Source: – 8 living languages constitute 0.1% of all languages but more than 40% of all speakers. Conversely, 5,727 languages make up 80% of all languages but constitute just over 1% of all speakers.


Linguistic cannibals

A common theme among the discussion of dying languages is the idea of “killer languages”, or languages that take over the position that other, less spoken languages once held. English, Spanish, and French are three prime examples, in part because of the number of speakers of these languages is spread out over tens of countries and also because of the economic power that thrives underneath them. While, in a sense, colonial powers invading local populations and imposing linguistic rule would seem to be the leading cause of language death, the much larger source is the loss of the sense of need for younger generations to learn.

What has been seen to happen all over the world is that parents assume the idea that a local language serves no greater purpose when the business of the world is conducted in English (or French, Spanish, or Chinese), and being able to assimilate into that world takes precedent in their mind above the preservation of the language. Many people who speak endangered languages either don’t realize the situation they’re in or aren’t completely interested. And while it has been shown repeatedly that bilingualism is in no way detrimental to the economic success of individuals around the world, parents are going to raise their children as they please.



Climate change and natural disasters

One serious factor that has led to an increase in language death over the past few decades is climate change. Natural disasters, floods, earthquakes, and similar environmental events have either killed off or forcibly relocated indigenous populations, leading to the kind of migration that results in cultures merging and languages fading away. For example, there are at least 110 languages spoken on the island nation of Vanuatu, the third most linguistically diverse country on Earth in terms of number of distinct languages compared with the total population. Some of its islands have begun to sink as a result of shifting tectonic plates, forcing whole villages to relocate. Indonesia faced similar problems, another massively diverse country, when flooding forced groups speaking languages previously unknown to the outside world from their villages in the mountains.


Politics of the tongue

For several hundred years, English-language speaking nations gained a cruel notoriety for actively working to suppress the languages of natives. America and Canada, with the Native American Indians, dove deep into the most surgical and effective way of smashing out languages: severing the connection parents make passing their native language to their children. For decades, the states of these countries would rip children from their parents and force them into boarding schools, where they would be corporally punished for speaking anything other than the official state language. The effects of this kind of policy have lasting effects, evident by the huge number of languages that have gone extinct in America: nine language families have disappeared in the past two centuries in America alone; approximately 175 of the more than 300 indigenous languages spoken when Christopher Columbus sailed to America have gone extinct.


Russia and China are two nations whose governments view local cultures and languages as a threat to their hegemony and have enacted policies bent on reducing the influence of non-official languages. Another more sinister example happened in El Salvador in the 1930s, when indigenous populations abandoned their own languages to avoid being identified and killed after the Salvadoran army massacred thousands of native people.


Source: – Languages in the 6b – 9 categories are considered endangered.


Reviving and reigniting

While extinction appears to be final and irreversible, there are a few instances of languages coming back from, or the brink of, extinction.


Wampanoag (Massachusett Language)

This language was spoken by Native Americans in the northeastern United States, and the first written records of the language were made by Christian missionaries (a translation of a bible in the 17th century) and, later on, legal documents and public records. The last groups of fluent speakers began to pass away in the late 19th century, and the last known fluent speaker died in 1890 at the age of 90. Jessie Little Doe Baird, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag, formed the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project in 1993, and using official records, previous translations, and the vast linguistic resources of MIT, recreated the pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary of the language. She published a thesis on the revived language in 2000, and the Project boasted in 2014 of a handful of children having grown up as native speakers.


Hebrew never went entirely extinct, but the language moved out of common use around the 2nd century CE and was only used for religious traditions and scholarship for almost 1,700 years. Along with the rise of Jewish nationalism in the late 19th century and the beginning of a large migration of European Jews to Palestine, Hebrew went into use as a lingua franca between diverse Jewish populations. Use of the language proliferated after the end of WWI when the British Empire took control of part of the region, established an administration, and declared Hebrew one of the states three official languages along with English and Arabic. Jewish immigrants often learned Hebrew as a second language, but with the new generation born in Israel-Palestine, Hebrew became the first language for millions of Jews living in the area.



Where do we go from here?

Saving dying languages is no easy feat. No matter how extensive records may be, there is always going to be some aspect of the language that fades away with its speakers: pronunciation, syntax, idioms, colloquial phrases, or the nuances of that particular language. Some global organizations are working tirelessly to find the last speakers of dying languages; the Endangered Languages Project, the Endangered Language Alliance, and Cultural Survival are three examples of this kind of organizations. Incidentally, one city that has drawn so much attention for dying languages is New York, where immigrants and locals are among the final speakers of as many as 800 endangered languages.


Ata Translation Agency prides itself on reaching more than 300 languages and dialects around the world for translation services. With services offered for languages spoken in remote regions of India to America, we work to help people with high-quality translations that themselves can act as a record of the bridge between languages. Send us an email or call us today for more information about our services or to get a free translation, interpretation, or localization quote.


Additional Sources:

Translation or Localization: Which Do You Need?

How Do I Know Whether to Pick Translation or Localization?

When first getting into the world of commercial translation, this can be a question that’s on the back of a lot of people’s minds: For my multilingual project, do I need Translation or Localization services? While the short answer is, Yes, you do, the long answer is going to take up a majority of this blog post to explain. If we really wanted to make things complicated, we could also toss in internationalization and transcreation into the mix, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just stick with these two forms of communication.

A wide number of factors influence whether you, your business, or your organization need one type of language service or a completely different service: source material, source language, target language, target population, target population’s language’s dialect, target population’s language’s dialect’s specific region or city. Each of these items will have a profound effect on how your finished project will be understood and interpreted, and before you decide whether to seek out a translation or localization service, you need to be sure you have a clear idea of what each of these factors entail.

But first, let’s take a look at what exactly translation and localization are and what the difference is between these two concepts.


With blatant disregard for the cardinal rule of writing, I’m going to quote a dictionary entry: The Oxford English Diction defines translation as A written or spoken rendering of the meaning of a word or text in another language. We all know what translation means. It’s a common practice in language-learning, in places where multiple languages are spoken, and in many professions like science, academia, and business, where it is often necessary to present work in a language other than the source language.

Localization, in the most basic sense, takes translation one step further and considers all the elements of the local dialect or customs of a group of people and integrates them into the translated final product. This might seem like a big nonsense glob of a sentence, but localization came around to account for the linguistic, cultural, and local themes that separate the way different people speak the same language.

For example, let’s say we have a short story we’re translating from Chinese into English. Standard practice for translation would be to take the Chinese characters and convey their meaning as closely to the original text as possible in a standard form of English. When localization steps in, it takes this translated project and picks out each relevant component – everything from dates, measurements, currencies, vocabulary, proverbs, idioms, regionally specific spelling, slang, addresses, and much more – so that it matches the way a specific community utilizes English.

The common theme is that localization is key when working with a language that has multiple dialects like English, Spanish, Arabic, French, or any of the languages under the umbrella of Chinese.



Well when should I use what where?

This isn’t a question we can universally answer. Each project has its own set of elements that dictate which process is necessary, and the wisest choice would be to discuss your specific needs with a language service provider who will more adequately be able to tell you what you need to do. But to give a general idea, let’s discuss some of the more common differences between the two services.


Commerce, marketing, advertising

These three fields all embody the idea of “targeting” a specific group of people. In commerce, we sell products to consumers, in marketing we work out ways to sell products to consumers, and in advertising, we write messages about products to send to consumers. These three fields inherently demand a level of creating content for a specific person living in a specific area. When advertising and marketing experts from a company team up to create messages, visuals, and strategies to spread the word about a product, it would be absurd for them to think that the same content would be effective in both America and Britain – even if the linguistic difference is small, the impact would be minimal if Americans couldn’t understand British slang.

In the same vein, working with websites also often requires more localized content, product descriptions, culturally appropriate images, and suitable layout. Those living in France, Canada, and Western Africa could read and understand a French website, but when content and presentation seems foreign, consumers tend to shy away, even if they can decipher whatever message you’re trying to send. Video games are another prime example of something that translation just can’t tackle on its own: Players often demand a more personal connection with the characters, landscapes, themes, and conversations within a video game, and the lack of this personal connection can threaten a video game’s potential for success in foreign markets.


Law, research, and medicine

Again, it would be foolish to make blanket statements about these two services, but at least a broad overview of what translation is good at would suggest that literature, law, and research are three fields where localization might not be the right option.

All of these also share a property that makes translation more appropriate, which is that they are all typically written in a more advanced, proper, and formal style of the language. The language of law is typically something that transcends dialects within a country or region, and so it whether the recipient of the translation is Saudi or Moroccan Arabic won’t make much difference as these kinds of documents would be written in a universally formal language (Fusha, or Modern Standard Arabic).

Research and medicine follow similar guidelines in that they both typically have internationally accepted standards for writing, presenting, and vocabulary, especially as many medical terms originate from Latin and Greek in a variety of European languages, and adaptations of these words in non-European languages often take similar forms. With research, specifically, these standards are written so that the content, findings, and debate can be understood by people from a wide variety of backgrounds, culturally and linguistically, so as long as the translator knows how to follow these styles and rules, the final product should require localization.

Okay, but what about MY project?

Like I said, there is no universal answer to whether you need to have your project localized or just translated. But there is a language service provider that can help you make the decision and that offers affordable prices for both services: Ata Translation Agency. We work with a wide network of translators, interpreters, editors, and more to provide top quality services throughout the language service sector. Call now or submit a query through our online form for a free quote or more information.

5 Dos and Don’ts of Doing Business in India

5 Things to Watch Out for When Doing Business in India

A former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management and British economist Jim O’Neill proposed a thesis in 2001 that the “BRIC” countries could become the four most dominant economies in the world by 2050, based on population and economic trends and development. Two of these “BRIC” countries – Brazil and Russia – have been downgraded a couple places to occupy the 4th and 6th ranks on the list, respectively. But the two remaining “IC” countries are charging forward, breaking past the biggest powerhouse markets in the world and tipping the balance of the global economy from west to east. These two countries are of course China and India.

For all the same reasons businesses are shying away from Beijing, they are strolling on down to Delhi to set up shop: the language barrier is easier to overcome, business practices in India have been influenced by British colonialism, getting a visa is easier in India, government pressure on economic freedom is lighter, opening bank accounts is a less restricted process in India, government ownership of industry is much lower and competition in many industries is therefore more balanced, and the forced disclosure of trade secrets China is infamous for isn’t prevalent in India. China does have benefits in its own right, including more developed infrastructure, a larger middle class with more spending power, and more favorable tax advantages to foreign companies.

Let’s Get Down to Business

Although many broad, anecdotal indicators of doing business in India might make it seem like it’s a commercial paradise, it is important to remember that the country only seriously started implemented liberal economic reforms in the 1990s and still has a long way to go. The World Bank Group issues a ranking and analysis of doing business in countries all over the world, and India ranked 100th out of 190 countries (It’s a long report).

While China beat India out at 78th, it is important to note that India jumped 30 places from the year before, and rose 4.71 points on the 100-point scale used to rank the countries. China, on the other hand, only rose 0.4 points with no change in rank. The United States exported $25.7 billion to India and imported $50.6 billion from India in 2017. China might be more settled in its approach to accommodating foreign businesses and have higher rates of import-export, but India is clearly on an upward trajectory, so there’s no time more suitable to catch this changing wind than now: let’s hop right on in.

Let’s say you have an adventurous business with a model you are positive would succeed over in India. You have the funds, the infrastructure to support an expansion, and the motivation to do business across the ocean. Here’s what you have to look out for when diving into India.

1.      Don’t take English for granted

India hosts a massive number of English speakers – about 125 million people in India speak the Indian dialect of English. This makes things astronomically easier in terms of immediate communication and establishing personal connections more quickly, but don’t be so quick to take this for granted.

The key word here is “dialect”. Back when British colonialists brutally subjected the country to almost two centuries of control, they sought to make English the main language of communication and drive out local languages and dialects – of which there are 455 alive today – and this legacy has lasted until today.

But with any dialect, there are certain phrases, expressions, and words that don’t quite have the same meaning or an entirely different implication altogether. When speaking with Indians in English, be sure to realize that English may not be your counterpart’s native language and, even if it is, you may not understand and communicate the language the same. Be patient, understanding, and thorough if you are unsure about an encounter.



2.      Don’t be fooled by the Golden Arches

Starting with English being so prevalent, many can be lulled into a sense of familiarity in India: some aspects of doing business and culture seem less foreign than, say, doing business in China. Offices might be structured the same way, businesspeople behave similarly in professional settings, and Westernization has been influencing the region ever since the British Empire invaded several centuries ago. Just reminding yourself of your surroundings and treading more lightly than you would in the United States.

3.      Let’s keep it formal, last names only

Indians have much more rigid ideas of social structure, authority, and hierarchy than many Westerners do. India has one of the oldest systems of social hierarchy in the world, a caste system that is estimated to be more than 3,000 years old, and this long tradition of social classification has made titles and formal introductions central to doing business.

The system places emphasis and social importance on people belonging to different groups, and dictates social mobility and many social interactions throughout society. Being sure to address someone properly, formerly, and respectfully is important, as is being sure to focus attention “upwards” – try not to go into too deep of conversation with junior members without first regarding those at the top.



4.      Don’t read into a handshake

Americans like to use a handshake as a way to give someone strong, confident, and assertive impression, often gripping each other’s digits like they’re hanging off the edge of a cliff (maybe a little bit hyperbolic, but still). In the United States, these values are translated into human contact and we see a strong connection between a competitive, motivated, and aggressive businessperson and how they hard they can shake your hand.

This is not something present in Indian culture, and encountering a limp handshake while meeting a new associate or potential business contact in no way indicates that this person is of weak business stature.

Additionally, India has a much more personally conservative culture than America, and women and men almost never physically touch in professional settings. While mistakenly reaching out to shake the hand of a female associate won’t be viewed too unfavorably – after all you are a foreigner – it is wisest to wait for your female counterpart to indicate whether you will or won’t be shaking hands.

5.      Let’s be a little more flexible with time

It’s not a secret that many cultures view time, schedules, and punctuality through a different lens than Americans do. While many Western cultures view tardiness as unprofessional and punctuality as crucial to successfully doing business, many other cultures couldn’t care less.

In India, for example, the work day often doesn’t start until 10 am, after a long, hearty breakfast, and might not end until much later than in the evening than what we’re used to. Dinner meetings might enter more into the purview of a midnight snack, since they often won’t kick into swing until 9 pm or later.

In a similar manner, setting goals and achieving targets might take a lot longer than anticipated. Rajiv Khanna, an M&A lawyer for K&L Gates, said, “If you expect something to take a week, it’ll take a month … If the average American businessman wants to do something in one will take four times as long.”

This Seems Like a Lot to Remember…

Expanding internationally is going to be a lot of work and a lot of new experiences, regardless of whether you’re moving into the second most populous country in the world or just up north to Canada. But the good news is that the long-term payoff for getting your business on the ground and running could potentially be huge.

But one big step we didn’t mention in this article yet comes before the actual feet-on-the-ground stage is relevant: localizing your business. Ata Translation Agency offers a wide localization services for languages ranging from Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Urdu, Malayalam, Nepali, Punjabi, and more.

Fill out our online form, send us an email, or give us a call to get a free quote on any translation, localization, or interpretation project.

The Longest Words in These Languages Will Make Your Head Spin

Words So Long They Take Hours to Read

What exactly is a word? This might seem like an odd or even obvious question, but it is an important one to ask when trying to figure out what the longest words in a language are. See, some languages inherently have the ability to create absurdly long words just by stringing together a bunch of nouns, adjectives, prefixes, or suffixes. Agglutinative languages – languages like Turkish, Japanese, and Esperanto, along with many Native American languages, in which stems and suffixes can theoretically be added infinitely to the ends of words, slightly changing the meaning – are prime examples of those where writers and linguists can literally string together chains of nonsense that will be grammatically correct but have absolutely no applicable value or real use.

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6 Things to Watch Out for When Doing Business in China

What You Need to Know Before Diving Into Chinese Markets

The world is changing. Well, the world has always been changing, but for many Americans who have only recently begun to accept that China will soon take over as the largest economy, it seems the world is changing faster than ever. The United States still sits on top in terms of nominal Gross Domestic Product at around $19.3 trillion, total national wealth at over $95 trillion, and beats out China with its GDP per capita of $59,501. China, on the other hand, has been making leaps and bounds to catch up to the United States, growing at record speed in recent decades.

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Why Game of Thrones is the New Standard for Fictional Languages

Game of Thrones, Sci-Fi Fantasy, and the Key to Convincing “Conlangs”

In the fictional and diverse lands of Westeros and Essos from George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice” book series and subsequent Emmy-winning HBO show “Game of Thrones”, more goes on behind the scenes for the complex web of cultures and languages than what we might expect. Throughout the books written thus far, a developed backstory behind the language families and local dialects persists.

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It Might Surprise You How Many Languages Are Alive Today

How many languages are alive today? We could make an educated guess and say that if each country speaks on average on unique language, throw in a couple of indigenous languages, and come up with a number around 500. This might seem like a pretty accurate number, but actually there are more languages spoken just in Papa New Guinea (840), Indonesia (709), and Nigeria (527). Ethnologue, a highly respected and probably the most authoritative catalogue of living languages around the world has estimated that there are 7,099 languages currently spoken in the world.

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3 Important Lessons We Learn from the Minions Language

Three Important Lessons We Can Learn from the Minion Language

Even if them and their films don’t quite fit with your age group, nearly everyone has most likely heard of the Minions. The both lovable and formidable yellow creatures first appeared in the Despicable Me film franchise when its first movie came out in 2010, and they have since incited a global revolution featuring more yellow pill-shaped merchandise than the world ever needs, endless memes and online Minions content, and their own spin-off film that ended up out-grossing the previous three films in the franchise and becoming the 14th highest-grossing film and breaking various other similar records.

The Minions are small, pill-shaped yellow creatures that always wear some combination of overalls and goggles, vary in height, weight, and number of eyes. They are, literally, the minions of the protagonist supervillain in the film Despicable Me, where their ridiculous demeanor, comical behavior, and perhaps their most identifiable characteristic, their absurd language helped them steal the hearts and minds of millions. It might be the sounds, the vocabulary, the intonation, or just the body language that make us laugh. But what’s interesting about Minionese is that people can understand Minions when they speak.

What Exactly is Minionese?

In recent decades, we’ve seen constructed languages come into existence alongside epic, fantasy, or mythical films like Klingon language with Star Trek, Elvish with Lord of the Rings, and Dothraki with Game of Thrones. Despicable Me, however, blessed us with the language of the Minions, also known as Minionese. The director of the Despicable Me franchise films, Pierre Coffin, does the voice of the Minions himself with help from American filmmaker Chris Renaud and New Zealand comedian Jemaine Clement. In the production notes for Despicable Me 2, Coffin noted:

“I have them speak Indian, French, English, Spanish, and Italian. I mix up all these ridiculous sounding words just because they sound good, not because they necessarily mean something.

Renaud chimed in, saying:

“Their language sounds silly, but when you believe that they’re actually communicating, that’s what makes it funnier. What’s great about the Minion language, while it is gibberish, it sounds real because Pierre puts in words from many languages and does the lion’s share of the Minion recordings.”

The directors knowingly compiled gibberish and nonsense phrases together into sentences strung together with combinations of real words from foreign languages and strange sounds, and held together with the body language, the tones, and the phrases of the Minions that make the language, albeit nonsense, somewhat intelligible. Words from French, English, Spanish, Italian, Hindi, Hebrew, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, and many other global languages shine through in Minionese.

If It’s Gibberish, Why Can We (Kind of) Understand Them?

Of course, Coffin didn’t design Minionese to be understood, spoken, or learned by dedicated fans like with other constructed languages, but he did want the language to have some relatable attributes to it. Bloggers and Minions fanatics have compiled small Minionese and some have built a Google Translate-like platform for Minionese alone. Coffin apparently liked this feeling of slightly knowing what the little yellow creatures were saying, which is why when the film is dubbed in different languages for release around the world, the voices of the Minions are also altered to assume some vocabulary familiar to the target audience.

But even so, why is it that without knowing their language we can still understand what the Minions are trying to communicate? Body language and emotion. We understand a great deal from what someone is trying to say from the way they express themselves with movement and the emotion behind their words. Often subconsciously, we read the facial expressions, postures, gestures, eye movements, touches, spaces, and tone of voice of people. Obviously with such ridiculous little characters, their actions, emotions, and movements exaggerated so that it becomes very easy to read.

One 1971 study by Albert Mehrabian even suggested that only 7 percent of communication is verbal, or based on the words we speak, with 93 percent of our everyday communication being nonverbal. Merhabian reported that 38 percent of our nonverbal communication is our vocal tone and 55 percent is body movements and language.

What’s the Takeaway?

If we want to take the absurdity of the Minions and their nonsense language and try and learn something from the way they communicate, there are a few things worth noting:

  • Body language is incredibly important, not just in communicating in one language but across languages. An often overlooked skill of interpreters is how they read those they interpret. When the target and source languages have different syntax and structure, some interpreters will use body language to fill in the blanks while waiting for the speaker to finish a sentence.
  • Many say that the Minions’ language is what makes those little characters so lovable. And with a franchise that has grossed more than $3 billion, it would be safe to say that the Minions language has contributed to the films’ global success. But one assumption we can make is that by altering the Minionese in dubbed versions around the world, Coffin localized content to impress foreign audiences. This is just one simple example of how localization helps businesses succeed in foreign markets.
  • And finally, whether you think the Minions are cute or just plain annoying, a final takeaway is that we have to give Coffin credit for creating the language, voicing the characters, and getting a ton of laughs.


Unrelated to their language, if you want to hear how else the Minions have wreaked real havoc off the movie screen, read about the Gmail Minions “Mic Drop” Scandal.