Labelling and packaging are crucial in today's globally-wired consumer world

Since labels seem to have a very important role in the life of every product, not following correct labelling requirements and forgetting cultural impact could be extremely expensive nowadays.
This reminds us of four golden rules when translating or adapting labels:
- you shall always make sure to translate labels correctly;
- keep in mind that words, names, colours or images on a label might be interpreted differently in other cultures;
- research for labelling requirements is a must;
- be sure to have your label written in every mandatory language according to national or regional labelling requirements.
For example, as far aesthetics are concerned, Americans and most Europeans believe that suntans are attractive, youthful and healthy. The Japanese do not believe it and would not consider the appearance of a suntanned individual on an ad or in a TV commercial very attractive. As far as colours are concerned, black and white are colours of mourning in Japan and should not be used on a product's package there. Similarly, a packaging with a green label would not be very well received in Malaysia because of the meaning of the colour green. Malaysians actually associate green with the jungle dangers and diseases.
Therefore, getting product label translations right or picking a good brand name for a product is/are either vital for consumer safety or can mean a high level of consumer brand awareness. I have taken time to collect and display some pictures of funny labels or brand names potentially having embarrassing double meanings. Here is now a nice compilation of examples which I have found on the internet and in the press.

Enjoy the hyperlinked document and start 2015 with a good laugh (and I am sure that some readers will laugh their head off)! One more evidence that labelling and packaging are crucial in today's globally-wired consumer world:




Best wishes to all readers,

-- Bert


You can’t say that in English!

Found on Babbel.com:

By some estimates the English language has more than a million words. It’s impossible to nail down an exact figure, but it’s generally agreed that no other language has nearly as many. It’s not like any of us use all one million words, but still – you would think that English must have a word for everything, right? (by John-Erik Jordan)

Read article -- click here:
You Can’t Say That In English!


"Our Language" by Simeon Potter

More than twenty years ago, when I was still a student involved in translation studies at the University of Mons, Belgium, my father offered me an old book that he had kept and cherished for years: "Our Language" by the late Professor Simeon Potter. It was still a time when offering a rather old paperback version of a book meant a lot. It was then considered like sharing some bits of family heritage.
My Dad has retired for a few years, after having made a whole career as a language teacher in Southern Belgium's secondary schools and having been one of the few members of the Commission for Germanic language teaching programs officially recognized by the Ministry for Education of Brussels-Wallonia Federation.
The book which had been offered as a gift, a Pelican Original, was and still remains a classic for linguists.

I had read most of "Our Language" during my studies and have just plunged again into this excellent little book about the evolution of the English language. Each page of the book reveals some surprising anecdotes or astonishing explanations on how the English language and/or vocabulary has evolved and been influenced by other languages or dialects through the ages.
You are for instance reminded "that of all the living languages of Europe Lithuanian is the most archaic, preserving in its structural pattern the primitive features of Indo-European most faithfully. Lithuanian still preserves seven case-forms in its nouns, four tenses and four moods in its verbs, an elaborate series of participles and highly involved system of inflexions."
In the book written by Professor Simeon Potter, you will read that "the notion that there is any virtue in uniform spelling is recent. Shakespeare himself varied the spelling of his own name."
You will also learn that Dr Samuel Johnson, the first really authoritative lexicographer, "was not interested in the improvement of English orthography. He and other lexicographers, on the other hand, revised the French Academy Dictionary and changed the forms of some five thousand words or one quarter of the whole French vocabulary."
Another interesting anecdote is about the translation of Friedrich Nietzsche's Übermensch by George Bernard Shaw. He translated Übermensch as superman while others had previously rendered it beyondman and overman. It set the fashion in super words, especially in America.
At a time when more interest is being shown in language learning than ever before, Simeon Potter's book makes an excellent introduction to modern linguistics.
As internet users commented on some fora, websites and blogs, "Our Language" by Simeon Potter is one of the most interesting, informative and accessible books on the English language and its origins that is available. It is not a new book (first published in 1950) but it is still as accurate as ever. Definitely a book to (re)discover for all language lovers!


Bert's selection of useful language and translation related links

Here are a few reliable links to top-notch language and translation-related websites which Bert uses and finds very useful:
Find here the EU's multilingual term base. IATE (Inter-Active Terminology for Europe) is the EU inter-institutional terminology database. IATE has been used in the EU institutions and agencies for almost ten years in order to collect, disseminate and share management of EU-specific terminology. The main project partners are: the European Commission, the Parliament, the Council, the Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the European Central Bank, the European Investment Bank and the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the EU.
This project was launched in 1999 with the objective of providing a web-based infrastructure for all EU terminology resources, enhancing the availability and standardisation of the information.
IATE's task is to incorporate all existing terminology databases of the EU’s translation services into a single, highly interactive and accessible interinstitutional database. The following legacy databases have been imported into IATE. It now contains approximately 1.4 million multilingual entries: Eurodicautom (Commission), TIS (Council), Euterpe (EP), Euroterms (Translation Centre) and CDCTERM (Court of Auditors).
Linguee is a dictionary and search engine for 100 million translations. It is not an automatic translator. Linguee is rather a unique translation tool combining an editorial dictionary and a search engine with which you can search hundreds of millions of bilingual texts for words and expressions.
As described on the Linguee website, the Linguee search results are divided into two sections. On the left hand side you see results from the reliable editorial dictionary. This provides you with a quick overview of various translations of your search term. On the right hand side, you see example sentences from other sources. They give you an idea of how your search term has been translated in context.
The majority of the example sentences you see on the right hand side is from professionally translated websites of companies, organizations, and universities. Other valuable sources include EU documents and patent specifications.
Linguee is being developed by Linguee GmbH headquartered in Köln, Germany.
OmegaT is a free translation memory application written in Java. It is a tool intended for professional translators. OmegaT, the open-source translation memory software application, is developed, distributed and supported by an informal, international group of volunteers.
If you are a translator who wants to use this software for daily work, you will quickly be convinced that it speeds up your searches on the web and your work will therefore be delivered on time! Besides being fast and light, IntelliWebSearch has got a lot of pre-configured search engines. It is easy to install and to use and it really helps you find what you are looking for on the web.
TranslatorsCafé.com is an online directory of translators, interpreters and translation agencies.
Visitors to TranslatorsCafé.com will find a new and very convenient way to connect with others in the international linguistic community. You can also offer your professional translation and interpretation services to registered translation agencies. Useful linguistic news and resources as well as chat with other linguists about issues of the day are available too.
The BBC offers free online language learning: courses, audio, video and games, including the alphabet, phrases, vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, activities and tests.
The Times in Plain English brings its readers important news from some of the best American sources of information. The writing is in clear, readable English. Among the publications The Times in Plain English stories come from such newspapers as:
The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, The Arizona Republic, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Daily News and The Toronto Globe and Mail. The Times in Plain English is not affiliated with The New York Times. The Times in Plain English is a publication of News in Plain English, Inc. (PO Box 577, Germantown, NY 12526). Arthur Schiff is the editor of The Times in Plain English.
This little game has been designed by the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union. Have fun and good luck!
As already mentioned on this blog (see here), Collins has launched a free beta online version of its English language dictionary as well as bilingual dictionaries in French, German and Spanish. The http://www.collinsdictionary.com/ website went live on 2011-12-31 and is owned and operated by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. Its content is displayed for personal, non-commercial use only. Collins, a pioneer in dictionary publishing since 1819, has made this fully-searchable website free to any user who can browse the dictionaries and English thesaurus by letter or search for specific words.
Here is another free searchable dictionary and thesaurus, word games, a word of the day, and many other English language and vocabulary reference tools and resources. All Merriam-Webster products and services are backed by the largest team of professional dictionary editors and writers in North America (and one of the largest in the world). For more than 150 years, in print and now online, Merriam-Webster has been one of America's leading and most-trusted providers of language information.


Arabic, Spanish, German and Turkish more widely spoken in Brussels

A study conducted by the VUB-Vrije Universiteit Brussel on 2500 adults, all living in Brussels, show a decline in mastering French, English and Dutch languages in Belgium's capital. These three languages keep being the most widely spoken languages in Brussels anyway. Just like in 2000, when the first study of this type was carried out, Arabic comes fourth in the rankings. In 2006, Arabic was nevertheless overtaken by Spanish.

The panel of Brussels' citizens who indicate that they notably speak Arabic has gone from 6.6 % to an impressive 17.9 % in a period of just 6 years. Demographic evolution in Brussels could explain this score.

According to the authors of the VUB study, there are always more Arabic-speaking people coming to live in Brussels and more of them are therefore included in the panel of people who are polled indeed. Brussels, also considered as the capital of Europe, is a linguistic melting pot (with a lot of expats coming to work in European institutions, federations and lobbies, at NATO, etc.) with 104 different spoken languages. The top 8 spoken languages remain identical to the one of 2006: French is first, English remains second and Dutch keeps the third rank. Arabic, Spanish, German, Italian and Turkish come next in the right order. Also to be mentioned: Dutch (Flemish), French and German are the three official languages of Belgium.

To have a close look at some of the results of this study, go to http://blog.lesoir.be/docs/2013/03/20/la-maitrise-des-langues-a-bruxelles/ (in French).

See also the article published in The Bulletin (the magazine for Brussels' expats) and on www.xpats.com (on 2013-03-20): http://www.xpats.com/english-remains-brussels-second-language (in English).


European languages' future not necessarily at stake

Did I already tell you that I commute and work in Brussels every day? Besides being the capital of Belgium, Brussels has become the polyglot home of various international organisations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants. In the Belgian city which hosts several institutions of the European Union (EU), there has been much talk about the following news lately: an Ombudsman criticized the restrictive language policy of the European Commission (EC) regarding public consultations and the Erasmus student exchange program of the EU is now short on funds.

EC under fire over language policy

The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, criticized the EC for refusing to conduct public consultations in the 23 official languages of the European Union (EU). He called it on to publish its public consultation documents in all 23 EU languages or to provide translations upon request.

In a decision issued on October 11th, the Ombudsman found that launching EC public consultations in only a few EU languages constituted maladministration.

The decision said that the EC "has not shown any real willingness to ensure that all European citizens are able to understand its public consultations, which should, as a matter of principle, be published in all the treaty languages."

It also noted that the EC had not provided any "convincing and acceptable justification" for limiting the use of EU languages in public consultations.

The Ombudsman has issued a decision on a complaint from a Spanish lawyer about some public consultation documents that are available in English or in a limited number of EU languages only, even if they are intended for the general public. The lawyer, who argued that the EC's policy was arbitrary and contradicted the principles of openness, good administration and non-discrimination, brought the initial complaint in 2010.

According to Nikiforos Diamandouros, multilingualism is essential for citizens to exercise their right to participate in the democratic life of the EU. The Ombudsman’s decision is publicly available at:

The EC’s response in November was that it had to prioritise its translation work in view of a limited budget and demands of the legislative process. It also indicated that EU citizens have the right to submit their responses to public consultations in any of the 23 official languages.

It is nevertheless very funny to see that only the English and Spanish versions of the decision have been made available online. It looks like the other 21 official languages have been forgotten indeed...

Erasmus short on funds

For 25 years, the Erasmus program has helped students to do some of their degree work abroad. This EU student exchange program is nevertheless in danger of becoming the victim of its own success. According to the EC, today’s Erasmus budget has a staggering shortfall of some €90 million ($117 million). This will need to be filled by a supplementary budget. If not, any student who receives a place in the Erasmus program for 2013 cannot be sure whether his exchange year will actually take place or not. 99% of the budget for 2012 was already used up by October because of the growing popularity of the program among students. 

So far, the budget of the EU student exchange program had always covered the administrative costs behind the program itself and the scholarships for those who were selected to participate.

The needed supplementary budget has recently been met with hesitations by EU governments. In today’s economic crisis, the dispute is clearly over money. Nevertheless, the chairman of the European Council, Cyprus’ Andreas Mavroyannis, has promised a solution to the problem. One other question remains nevertheless open: when will this problem actually be solved? No time frame has ever been given so far.

Erasmus is important for EU integration. It helps ease conflicts as well as controversies. It also gives a unique chance to improve foreign language skills. Even if some students might not work as hard during their exchange year, it was still a crucial experience for most of them. Should the ongoing funding issues be solved by 2014, there will then be hope for improvements to the program. In future, it could be easier for students to get their masters abroad indeed...

Studying abroad is undoubtedly often good both for academic and personal development. Erasmus is probably one of the only projects that made generations of young people believe in a true European Union. What impact will it have on the European youth if the program is in jeopardy?

Let me reassure you straight away: there are many other excellent international youth exchange programs besides Erasmus. Some of them are even better structured and focus even more on cultural exchange (the student is considered as an ambassador of his country of origin during his exchange year). A long time ago, before the existence of Erasmus, I was actively involved in one of them (funded by the world-known service club Rotary International) and it is still running successfully today.

Click on the following link for more information on the Rotary Youth Exchange Program: https://www.rotary.org/en/youth-exchanges


I hope it won’t be all Greek to my son (j'espère qu'il n'en perdra pas son latin...)

Last June, my son came back from school with class options to be picked and a form to be filled in for the 2012-13 school year. We sat and talked in the living room: the kind of discussion that a dad and his son can have when weighing the pros and cons for choosing one class instead of another, while the father keeps trying not to be too influent. My son seemed interested in Latin. I insisted on the fact that it had to be his own decision and I gave him some time to decide. On that very same evening, the one-man-show of French humourist Kev Adams was broadcasted live on TV. Kev Adams is particularly well-known and influent among teenagers in French speaking countries. I must admit that I find some of his shows quite fun, dynamic and amusing.

One part of Kev Adams' show dealt with the purpose of learning Latin at school... Learning Latin language won’t help you in life, said Kev Adams with a good sense of humour: "Le latin, ça ne te servira jamais à rien. Jamais dans ta vie tu vas entrer dans un bar/bistrot/PMU et dire: Ok les gars, poum pouloum pouloulouloum... Alea jacta est, est ce que c'est clair ?!"

C'mon, Kev! You are very a talented entertainer but don't say that Latin is not worth being learned.

My son had a look at me and laughed out loud! "Dad, what would be your answer to him?"
I suddenly told my son that if he was really interested in learning any language, Latin would be crucial for him to learn. I insisted on the fact that most of the words in French or English derive from other languages such as Latin or Greek. I also explained that the declination approach of the Latin would help my son if he wants to learn German at some point. I eventually had to be influent to counter Kev Adams' negative vibes on learning Latin.

At least, I thank Kev Adams for having given me the opportunity to explain why Latin has actually always been helpful to me simply for understanding the etymology of some words.
This theory was recently reinforced by the article entitled Natalie Haynes: It's not Latin's fault that toffs and Tories studied it that I read in The Independent on 2012-06-25 (also made available on the web, see http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/natalie-haynes-its-not-latins-fault-that-toffs-and-tories-studied-it-7881114.html).

The article mentions the following: “Learning another language makes you think differently about your own: it makes you analyse the role each word plays in a sentence. It also introduces you to the idea that some cultures are so different from your own that there are words which are literally untranslatable. Latin will help you learn piles of other languages that have similar vocabulary or grammar or both. And it will give you excellent spelling and grammar in your first language[…]”

Ooooh! By the way, my son Rémy eventually picked Latin as a main option for the 2012-13 school year and still is a big fan of Kev Adams (see Kev Adams’ official web site here: http://kevadams-officiel.fr/). I simply hope that Rémy will also remain my number one fan and that I have not been too influent in his choice.