Global Lingo Blog

Arts, Translation and Languages

The topics of language and translation, along with other language specific topics, have always been serious. When it comes to translation, it has to be. If a translation is not accurate, it will lead to all manner of problems. Every once in a while you see something fun, like a hilarious mistranslation or a made-up word in a language, but translation and languages are more fun than you might think.

There are artists who like to have fun with these topics. Their imagination and skill at drawing make a dull subject, like the origins of language, fun and entertaining. The first example comes from Minna Sundberg, who looked into the origins of the Nordic languages. With data extracted from ethnologue.com she created “The tree of Nordic languages”. You can find the original post here. If you like well drawn comics, then you definitely need to check out her website – www.sssscomic.com.

Click the image to enlarge.

The origin of Nordic languages

Next is a linguist from the UK who travelled a lot and settled in China where he teaches English in a school. He took the world map and renamed the countries based on how their Chinese names sound in English. The author says that the translation is based on the characters, rather than the sounds, so there is no specific dialect here. The result is hilarious. This is the original post.

An example to show how he did this is: “love your orchid” = “ai er lan” = Ireland

In some cases, he took the most important Chinese syllable in the name and added “land” to it:

“England” = “eng” = “ying” = “ying guo” = “Brave land.”

Click the image to enlarge.

English literal translation of Chinese names

There are also people who like to play with words and then illustrate the result. One such person is Laura Frame, a designer from the UK that lived in Belgium for 18 months. She combined her illustration skills together with Google translate to create pictures of things in Dutch that when translated literally mean something totally different.

She calls the series “Amusing Dutch words”, here are some of the images you can find there:

Koevoet (crowbar) – Literal translation: ‘cow foot’

Amusing Dutch word - cow foot

Tandpasta (toothpaste) – Literal translation: ‘tooth pasta’

Amusing Dutch words - Tooth pasta

Buitenbeentje (misfit) – Literal translation: ‘outside bone’

Amusing Dutch words - Outside bone

You can find Laura on her website – www.lauraframe.co.uk – or on Facebook, www.facebook.com/lauraframeillustration

The study of languages and translation can be fun too; you just need to look at them from a different perspective.

All of the graphics above were posted with the permission of their respective owners.

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