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Interesting Facts about Translation and Localization

Posted by Anne Quach on Dec 2020.

What is the most translated document? When is the international translation day? A lot of your questions about the translation and localization industry will be answered in this post. We constantly update the post to give you more interesting and up-to-date facts about language, translation, and localization.

Fact 1 – The patron saint of the translation industry

Saint Jerome was a Latin priest, theologian, and historian. He became the guardian of the translation profession after he translated most of the Bible into Latin in the 5th century. Beside his translation of the Bible, Saint Jerome was also well-known for his commentaries on the Christian Bible’s Gospel of the Hebrews.

Saint Jerome - The guardian of the translation profession

Jerome is recognised as Doctor of the Church and a saint by the Catholic Church. His feast day – 30th September later has become the International Translation Day which to pay tribute to the work of language professionals including translators and interpreters.

 

Fact 2 – The origin of the word Translation

The English word Translation is derived from the Latin word Traslatio, which means ‘to carry across’.

Translio = Trans (means ‘across’) + Ferre (means ‘to carry’/’to bring’).

 

Fact 3 – The first non-human sign language practitioner

Washoe was born around September of 1965 in Africa. Later, she was brought to the United States and adopted by Drs. Allen and Beatrix Gardner on June 21, 1966, for their research experiment on animal language acquisition. She was first taught American Sign Language there. When Washoe was 5, as the Gardners moved on with other projects, she was under the care of Roger Fouts and Deborah Fouts in the University of Oklahoma’s Institute of Primate Studies in Norman, Oklahoma.

During her life, Washoe learned approximately 350 signs of American Sign Language. She also taught her adopted son named Loulis some of the signs she had learned.

Washoe Chimp, first non-human sign language practitioner

There is an interesting story about Washoe when she was 17. She was close to a pregnant volunteer researcher named Kat and frequently asked her about the baby inside using sign language. When Kat missed works for several weeks due to her miscarriage, Washoe was heartbroken. After Kat returned and signed “MY BABY DIED” to Washoe, Washoe signed back “CRY” and touched her cheek as if a teardrop was falling.

 

Fact 4 – Language with the largest alphabet

According to Guinness World Records 1995, Khmer (Cambodian) is the language that has the largest alphabet, with 74 letters although some of them are not of current use. The alphabet derived from the Pallava Script, created in the south of India during the Pallava Dynasty in the 6th century. It consists of 33 consonants, 23 vowels, and 12 independent vowels.

 

Fact 5 – Top 10 countries with the most spoken languages in the world

Based on Ethnologue’s statistics, Papua New Guinea has the most spoken languages in the world, with 840 languages, all of which are established. In fact, more than twice the number of languages used in Europe are spoken in this country alone.

The second and third countries are Indonesia (with 710 established languages) and Nigeria (with 517 established languages). The United States ranks at fifth, with a total of 328 languages. Around 70% of which are established languages, the rest are immigrant languages. Brazil has the 10th most languages in the world with 218 established languages and 3 immigrant languages.

 

Fact 6 – The most translated document in the world

It is widely known that the Bible is the most translated book in the world? But how about the most translated document?

The Guinness Book of Records has recognized The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations in 1948 as the most translated document in the world. This 6-page document has been translated into 370 languages and dialects as of 2009.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Since then, the United Nations Human Rights offices have received rumours translations for this document from all over the world. Anyone can submit a new translation of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in any languages and dialects to UN Human Rights offices by simply following the provided submissions guide.

 

Fact 7 – The most translated website in the world

Have you ever wonder which is the most translated website in the world? Popular guesses might be big companies and brands like Coca-cola, Microsoft, Wikipedia or Google. Well, none of which are the right answer. The answer might be a little bit surprising to you… The most translated website in the world is The Jehovah’s Witnesses (jw.org).

As of January 2021, the website has been translated into 1,028 languages, including 100 sign languages, making it accessible to deaf and hard of hearing people.

The most translated website

 

Fact 8 – The most translated writer in the world

Agatha Christie, an English writer known for her sixty-six detective novels and fourteen short story collections, is the world most translated writer. Some of her most famous works include Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None, and The Mousetrap and The Mysterious Affair at Styles. With 7,236 translations of her works from English into 103 languages, she became the most translated individual authors.

The other authors on the top 5 include:

        • Jules Verne – 4,751 translations
        • William Shakespeare – 4,296 translations
        • Enid Blyton – 3,924 translations
        • Barbara Cartland – 3,652 translations

 

Fact 9 – The first public demonstration of machine translation

The first public demonstration of machine translation took place in New York on January 7th, 1954. It was the result of the collaboration between IBM and Georgetown University. In the event, the IBM 701 computer automatically translated 250 words and 6 grammar rules from Russian into English. This demonstration raised a great deal of interest from the public and expectations of high-quality translation from machines in the near future.