There are over 7,100 languages in the world. In Europe more than 230 languages are spoken and more than 2,000 are spoken in Asian countries. In Papua New Guinea, with just 3.9 million inhabitants, more than 840 different languages are spoken! Of these languages, around 40% are threatened with extinction…

 

In all this diversity, how are the languages spoken in the world recorded? What future do they have?

 

Links between the world’s main languages 

In order, the 5 most spoken languages in the world by native speakers are:

  1. Chinese
  2. Spanish
  3. English
  4. Hindi
  5. Arabic

 

We can ask ourselves how these languages — which sometimes have very little connection, either in pronunciation or in meaning — can be related?

 

One of the main reasons is that some countries are officially multilingual, such as Canada (French and English), South Africa (Afrikaans and English), Israel (Arabic and Hebrew), Belgium (French, Dutch and German), etc. Languages influence each other and over time, they mix to create another language, another variation, another style.

 

All languages are linked to each other. They have, at one time or another in history, been crossed, declined, influenced. Even if this happens to different degrees. Take Spanish and Portuguese, for example. Some words are almost the same and mean the same thing. The link here is direct and the influence of one language on the other is obvious. On the contrary, the link between French and Chinese seems non-existent, yet it exists. But this requires going back in time. To an influence that dates back to the time of colonisation. The mixing and immersion of cultures has had an indirect and progressive effect on our languages.

 

The evolution of the main languages spoken today

The transmission of spoken languages is above all social. Their birth or disappearance is linked to linguistic policies or economic domination. The major trend today is towards the adoption of a language of international communication and a simplification of the major language areas.

However, we are tending towards the disappearance of many languages. An Anglo-Saxon researcher, Mark Pagel, has estimated that, since humans have had the faculty of language, between 31,000 and 600,000 different languages have been spoken on the surface of the globe, his average estimate being about 140,000 languages. Today, it is estimated that there are just over 7,000 languages.

 

As well as seeing changes in the number of languages, we also see changes in their structure. When new words enter our language, they are not yet fully formed or in their final state. The meaning of a word evolves over time, changing our understanding and perception of a term.

 

Therefore, languages move and change in number, but also in meaning and fundamental use.

 

What is the future for languages? 

 

Languages are not immune to globalisation. Some are increasingly spoken, while others are disappearing. Depending on location, needs and policies, people look for those that are most useful or most profitable.

 

We can assume that a sorting out will gradually take place, leaving only a minimal number of languages spoken. This is indeed what current statistics seem to show, with 40% of languages threatened with extinction before the end of the 21st century.

 

Languages will gradually change, merge and become extinct… for hundreds of years to come.

 

In the relatively near future, French, for example, is expected to grow to almost 800 million speakers by 2050, i.e. almost 9% of the population, compared with only 3.5% today, due to population growth in Africa.

 

The number of speakers of each language is constantly changing. Of the 7,111 languages spoken in the world in 2019, only 8% are considered very stable and unlikely to disappear, as they are used by governments, schools, media, etc. English, Chinese, Hindi, Spanish and French are the top 5 languages with the most speakers in the world today.

 

But what will really happen in the years to come?

Translating your website is synonymous with communication. Indeed, with globalisation and the evolution of new technologies, companies have to adapt by developing online commerce and seeking to reach a wider target audience. In 2020, the share of online purchases as a proportion of retail purchases reached almost 70% for Switzerland, while France was close to 60% and Italy 30%.

 

How can a multilingual website become an advantage for your business?

 

Expand your customer base

Translating a website into several languages initially allows a company to make itself known internationally with the aim of expanding its activity. In concrete terms, depending on its field of activity, it can target certain emerging countries where competitiveness on the internet is still weak. This is a competitive advantage in the market and can increase its visibility and even its turnover.

More than 72% of consumers prefer to buy a product/service from a site that provides information in their own language.

So, regardless of the language, the company can give access to its services to a large audience.

Moreover, the company can also target the audience that best fits its market. For example, luxury companies have adapted to the Asian market, taking advantage of the boom in tourism in the West.

 

Improving your image

Today, around 80% of website content is only available in English. However, in March 2020, only 25.9% of internet users worldwide were English speakers. Languages such as Russian, Hindi or Japanese have a significant number of speakers and therefore as many potential customers. Translating your website into multiple languages gives you an advantage over companies that do not have any or do not translate them. But also against companies that limit themselves to certain languages and markets. Turnover will increase accordingly.

Translating a website allows a company to show its reliability and seriousness by making the buying experience simple for their customers. By ensuring that the content is fully translated, from product descriptions to payment processes, the conversion rate will be optimised.

Customers appreciate being addressed in their native language as they can navigate a site more easily and for longer.

 

Boosting your SEO

From a more technical point of view, translating your website into multiple languages allows you to be present on several foreign search engines, butut also to be better referenced. It therefore benefits from better visibility without the company having to invest in an advertising and/or communication campaign. To optimise the SEO of a site, it is necessary to play on strategic keywords. And the fact of translating the site multiplies the number of keywords for all the languages translated. The site will therefore be present at the top of the page of browsers and on multiple international browsers, which increases its visibility and popularity.

 

Translating your website is becoming a must. This action allows a company to reach a wider audience by expanding into new international markets and ultimately increase its turnover.

It is therefore necessary to entrust the translation of your website to translators specialised in the field to ensure that the message is correctly transmitted in the desired languages.

The field of new technologies is particularly profitable, and companies are investing, developing and innovating. In Switzerland, 22.9 billion francs were spent on research and development in 2019, which represents 3.15% of the national GDP and shows the importance that Switzerland attaches to development and innovation. So, after successive feats in terms of translation and communication, Google ensured results, performance and efficiency through innovation and the launch of GOOGLE MEET in 2019, followed by the live captioning feature in 2022.

 

I — What is Google Meet in concrete terms?

In a nutshell, Google Meet is a high quality video conferencing platform, which was previously only available to professionals. Now anyone with a Google account can create an online meeting of up to 60 minutes with up to 100 participants. Businesses, schools and other organisations can take advantage of advanced features, such as hosting meetings with up to 250 participants and live streaming for 100,000 users.

But the novelty of this platform is that it is now possible to benefit from live subtitling during videoconference meetings. However, this service is not free. Google’s live captioning is available for meetings held by people with a premium Workspace subscription, including Workspace Business Plus, Enterprise Standard, Enterprise Plus, Teaching & Learning Upgrade and Education Plus. The cost is approximately CHF 16 per month.

 

II — The limitations of Google’s automatic subtitling

This groundbreaking new feature from Google is limited for the time being as it only takes English as its starting language and subtitling is only available in 4 languages: Spanish, Portuguese, German and French. At the moment, Google has not yet announced a feature that allows meetings to be automatically translated from another language, which strongly limits the use of subtitling.

In addition to not being useful for everyone, Google’s automatic translation is not available to everyone, as this feature is only available with a particularly expensive subscription. To take advantage of it, administrators will also have to sign up for the beta version and activate the feature.

Finally, concerning the subtitling service itself, we have noticed that it has some flaws. Indeed, it is necessary to be able to read the subtitles quickly.           They appear and disappear very quickly and in limited quantity. The words are initially proposed in a grammatical manner and then contextualised with the rest of the speech. They therefore change during reading and are sometimes inaccurate. Accessibility and accuracy are the main flaws of this tool. So far, this feature is mainly useful for people with hearing impairments or to follow a meeting without headphones or speakers.

 

III — Is Google Meet really a threat to translators and interpreters?

The improvement of machine translation with the subtitles offered by Google Meet is a threat to «human» translators and interpreters.

On the one hand, machine translation is a threat because it increases productivity, reduces costs and increases the volume of translation. Indeed, this tool translates quickly and more and more accurately. Google Meet is therefore a major competitor compared to other videoconferencing platforms where a human interpreter is required. However, at a professional level, the presence of a human is still required and preferable. For example, when a text to be translated deals with a specific field, technology alone will not be able to master and contextualise all the terms. A translator, however, will be able to understand and adapt his or her translation according to a context, preferences, customs, etc.

On the other hand, technology can be a support, a tool for the translator. It will not be a threat, but a bonus. The translator will be able to rely on machine translation in order to go faster or to carry out checks.

 

To sum up, the new Google Meet subtitles are an important innovation as this year is already marked by a significant increase in video conferencing. They are shaking up the translation market and challenging translators and interpreters. Their advantages in terms of time, cost and convenience are not to be overlooked. However, their weaknesses exclude some people and may mislead others with incorrect translations.

In the future, more languages will need to be supported, both as source and target languages, to increase translation possibilities. Today it is still necessary to use translators and interpreters for those that are not available.

As you can see, the quality is still far from reaching the capabilities of the human interpreter who has the context, the specialisation and the ability to choose the most appropriate terms and to put emotion into the text.

In France, Netflix has a catalogue of over 5,600 films and series. This corresponds on average to the number of film releases in French cinemas in 2020. This explosion of video-on-demand services reflects the new mode of consumption, «everything, right away». But to satisfy the 208 million subscribers worldwide, films and series must be subtitled. Translators are therefore increasingly called upon by this style of platform.

How can platforms release so many films and series in so many languages?

First of all, it is the law in France that defines the number and chronology of releases of films and series; it is called the Chronologie des Médias and it regulates the catalogues after the cinema release. This is why you have to wait 36 months before you can access films on SVoD services (such as Netflix, Amazon, etc.), or 6 to 8 months on pay-TV services such as Canal+ or OCS.

Platforms such as Netflix then produce their own films and series so that they are directly online. This is where the translators come in.

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ are constantly looking for translators to ensure their releases. They call on translators from all over the world in order to offer the widest possible range of languages. It is now very easy to see a film or series in French with Japanese subtitles, such as the series Lupin, which has been a great success abroad and has been subtitled in many language combinations.

A tool to become an official translator

The American platform Netflix, for example, has to provide subtitles in around 20 languages. In 2017, it therefore launched its own translation recruitment platform «Hermes» with the aim of increasing its subtitling quality and checking that the translators who offer to work on the subtitles of a content have a perfect command of all the subtleties of the original language. Translators are tested on this platform before being selected. A computer selects them by means of algorithms; the quality of their translation is no longer judged by a person, but by an algorithm!

Once selected, translators are paid by the minute, up to a maximum of 25 dollars. This is a matter of debate in the translation world, as some translators are underpaid, depending on the dialogues they translate.

Moreover, this system competes with translation agencies specialising in subtitling. Some people talk about the uberisation of subtitling. This alters the translator’s profession; they have to work more and more on an increasingly tight deadline and no longer have time for creativity. Moreover, their copyright is not well recognised, as negotiations with these platforms are sometimes tough. Translators are therefore increasingly in demand, but the working conditions are deteriorating.

The quality of subtitles, at the heart of the debate in 2021

The quality of subtitling is increasingly at the centre of criticism. The working conditions of translators, which leave little room for creativity, have resulted in a decline in the quality of subtitling. This was the case in September 2021 with the release of the South Korean series Squid Game. This series was a great success, but its dubbing and subtitles in English were not. Some dialogues were badly transcribed, preventing viewers from understanding certain plots or subtleties of the characters. This would have had a snowball effect on the translation of other languages.

This process puts the profession of translator to the test.

The place of translators in the audiovisual industry

Translators have a very important place in the audiovisual world and this is reflected in the explosion of streaming and VOD platforms.

Viewers are becoming aware of the importance of quality subtitles with all the series being released on these platforms.

But for translators to keep up with the crazy pace of film releases and platforms, their working conditions must not be neglected and the uberisation of the translation profession must be avoided for better quality… but also so that it is a recognised profession.

Around 30,000 people are gathering in Glasgow at this very moment for the 26th United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP26).

From 31 October to 12 November, 120 heads of state are expected to attend and some of them have already taken the floor in the first few days to raise awareness of the urgency of the climate situation and find solutions.

Politicians, activists and citizens from all over the world are listening carefully to what is happening in Glasgow.

What commitments will be made?

More than 80 countries are committing to reducing methane emissions by 30% by 2030. Although absent from the conference, India wants to be carbon neutral by 2070, announced the Indian Prime Minister.

More than 100 leaders, representing 85% of the world’s forests, are pledging to halt deforestation by 2030.

These commitments are only the beginning of a list that will continue to grow in the face of the climate emergency.

But how can these ambitions and commitments be translated?

Climate is a global concern, most countries are involved, which implies a large number of language combinations. There are as many countries participating in COP26 as there are languages to be translated. Every speech must be understood by everyone. While many speak English, translating speeches from Indian or Nigerian into Chinese or Swedish, for example, is less common.

This is where the need for professional interpreters and translators comes in.

Global warming, carbon neutrality and deforestation are sensitive and complex issues. The physical presence of interpreters who can master the vocabulary of climate and environmental issues, as well as diplomatic and geopolitical jargon, is indispensable. Translators and interpreters are the ones who will be responsible for passing messages between countries and for negotiating, and they play a vital role.

Who are these interpreters and how are they organised?

At international meetings, there are always professional and specialised interpreters. They are members of the United Nations and are responsible for the official interpreting at COP26. They participate in technical negotiations, conferences, etc.

For the conferences to run smoothly, they are meticulously prepared in advance with an order of appearance for the speakers: for example, on 2 November, the presidents spoke in a precise order so that the interpreters from each country could prepare themselves. Speakers were given a time limit of 3 minutes to speak. Statements and speeches were sent to the interpreters about 30 minutes before each speech.

Some of the conferences and meetings are held online. This was the case for the Queen of England, who was unable to attend this COP26, and who made her statement live via video conference. However, these online conferences can become an obstacle to understanding each other in international negotiations of this magnitude.

Once ended, COP26 will allow countries to negotiate and agree on key issues to fight global warming and save our planet. The main challenge for countries is to limit global warming to 1.5° by the end of the century. The language challenge for interpreters will also be over.

What is the role of translators?

Agreements will be drafted and it is the translators who will have to translate these agreements and official documents into the languages of the signatory countries.

Just as for interpreters, this COP26 is also a linguistic challenge for translators

In the face of this urgency, let’s hope that interpreters and translators will pass on the right messages to the leaders so that they too can take up their climate challenge!

The long-awaited summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin shook up the news this week. After 36 years, the two great world powers met in Geneva and debated for more than 3 hours on various subjects such as the US presidential elections, hacking and cyber security operations, nuclear arms control, the Ukraine issue without forgetting the Navalny case and now the Protassevitch case.

One American, the other Russian, one might ask how the two presidents managed to understand each other?

A major challenge.

In order to ensure perfect and fluid communication between the two great powers, interpreters are indispensable. But this is not as easy as it sounds. In addition to their ability to «listen and speak at the same time» in two different languages, they have to be extremely concentrated for long periods of time.

In keeping with diplomatic protocol, each leader travels with his or her own interpreters working for the White House or the Kremlin. In addition, UNIGE interpreters also worked for the delegations and for Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS).

Words that can be misinterpreted.

During this meeting, Joe Biden repeated the words of the ABC News journalist and reproached Putin for being a «killer» by assuring that he would pay the price for his actions. Because of the translation, this sentence could have been misinterpreted by Putin. This is why the mistranslation of such words can worsen important international relations.

Translation at the heart of the agreements.

In order for everyone to adhere to the different issues discussed during the meeting, it was essential to translate the agreements into writing. This translation task had to be accomplished with great delicacy and subtlety by professional translators who are experts in this field.

Switzerland is extremely fortunate to be recognised for its multilingual profile and its neutrality in international decision-making. A Biden-Putin meeting in the US or Russia was out of the question. Relations between the two are too bad for either of them to accept an invitation. According to Guy Parmelin, «it is Switzerland’s role to interfere between the great and the good of the world.

This is how the profession of translator/interpreter is valued and indispensable in this magnificent country and how the two icons of world power knew that such a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland would be a success.

Translation problems can appear in many forms: lexical-semantic, grammatical, syntactic, rhetorical, pragmatic or cultural. Among the many issues, we have selected a few to help you understand the degree of difficulty our translators face.

1. Doing preliminary research

Before starting a translation, translators begin by getting to grips with the broad outlines of the document through initial reading and preliminary research on the subject.

2. Have specialist knowledge

For a quality translation, translators are specialised in specific fields and are used to playing with terminology. Translation requires rigour, and above all, a perfect command of one’s mother tongue and field of activity.

3. Working in collaboration with the client

We are aware that our translators need help and precise instructions from our clients. This is why we ask for reference documents whenever possible, so that the final translation is satisfactory.

4. Be available and responsive

Being available is also part of the challenge for a translator. Translation projects cannot be anticipated. The same applies to translators who cannot prepare in advance without having the document. Reactive, linguists are ready to start a translation or proofreading job.

5. Meeting deadlines

Meeting deadlines and time pressure cannot be overlooked as major challenges for our translators. Indeed, they must be fast, because some requests must be processed in a short period of time. In other words, they have to be able to deliver a first-class translation within a few days.

6. Proving yourself every day on every project

Every project is a new translation, but also a new story. We give our translators the chance to prove themselves with each translation. Translations are graded on the basis of client feedback and this encourages our translators to constantly improve their quality.

7. Challenging your work

One of the other challenges facing our translators is to question their work. It is important to be able to re-examine your work and to listen to your client. Translation is not a solitary mission and an exact science, but a collaboration.

 

It is a constant challenge to try to convey the meaning of the source language in the target language as naturally and accurately as possible. Whether it is a question of understanding the culture, speaking the language, or knowing the expressions specific to a country, this union between peoples accompanies our evolution, and this, beyond the borders.

ISO 17100 certification was created to guarantee the organisation and the level of requirements expected during a translation. It demonstrates a service provider’s ability to produce a certain quality and to respect procedures during all stages of a translation.

A translation agency specialising in the legal field is committed to positioning a team of translators specialising in this field. The success of each translation project also depends on the close cooperation between the client and the service provider. Strict quality procedures are followed.

In order to be ISO 17100 compliant, the service provider must also use a data protection system and comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Our translation process includes the following steps:

  • Project preparation

Your contact persons have experience in the field of translation and ensure that your individual requirements for each project are met.

  • Production process

We work with our specialist linguists who translate exclusively into their native language. They have significant experience in the field of translation and are specialised in medical, technical, legal, financial and communication fields.

  • Project follow-up

The translation is worked on until our clients are completely satisfied. Our translators are based in Switzerland in order to be familiar with cultural specificities but also in the four corners of the world.

  • Security and information

Your data is stored in our secure Salesforce information system.

Working with an ISO-certified service provider that respects the Swiss legal framework makes a difference.

SwissTranslate is proud to have obtained ISO 17100 certification, a guarantee of the quality of our work and our service.

The entire team remains at your disposal and will be delighted to accompany you on your next translation project.

There is an expansion of languages in the face of internationalisation. The translation of documents is becoming an essential practice for communicating and transmitting information; in this article, we will give you more details on the pricing of this service.

At SwissTranslate, we seek to respect your communication style, while following your usual terminology.

Our translation agency defines the budget for your documents according to the following criteria: language, technicality of the subject matter, desired delivery time, size of the file and type of translation.

The cost of your translation will initially depend on the source language and the language into which you wish to translate your document. In Switzerland, European languages are the most commonly requested, followed by Asian, Nordic and Oriental languages.

The technical nature of the translation will also have an impact on the cost. Each type of text and each field has its own specificities and precise terminology to be respected. Our translators are specialised in specific fields and work only into their native language.

As far as delivery times are concerned, our translators are capable of translating an average of 2,500 words per day. Given the number of words, you can estimate when you will receive your translation. However, if you would like your text to be translated within 24 or even 48 to 72 hours, this is entirely possible.

The volume must also be taken into account in the cost of the translation and different units of measurement are considered: the number of words, the number of lines and the number of pages.

In addition, our ISO 17100 and ISO 9001 certifications allow us to distinguish ourselves in terms of the quality of our translations, the skills of our professionals, and the efficiency of our processes.

The entire SwissTranslate team is looking forward to assisting you with your translation needs!

How was this language adapted from German?

Several languages are spoken in Switzerland, making it a multilingual country. One of these languages is Swiss German, a language that combines the various dialects of German. This specificity is found in other regions of the world, for example in countries where Arabic is spoken. The «original» Arabic is nowadays mainly known as Literary Arabic, and in some countries (e.g. the Maghreb) dialects of Literary Arabic are spoken. Understanding between speakers of these different variants of Arabic can therefore become difficult. But is this also the case with Swiss German?

In the German-speaking part of Switzerland, people do not speak German, but Swiss German. How has the language evolved and what are its characteristics? Why is it that French-speaking Switzerland does not speak a language like «French Swiss»?

Historically, it was the Alamans who introduced the Germanic language to Switzerland. This language gradually developed into what we know as Swiss German. This language grew steadily over the years and was spoken more and more. From the 1980s onwards, it became increasingly important and is now one of Switzerland’s four national languages (along with French, Italian and Romansh).

Swiss German is very close to German, as the two languages are similar in many ways, but this does not mean that understanding it is child’s play for everyone. In fact, a Swiss German speaker will be able to understand what the German speaker is saying with greater ease than the other way round. This can be explained by the fact that Swiss Germans often have a better overall understanding of the German language because they have learned it at school, which is not necessarily the case for a German.

Here are some examples to illustrate the differences between these two languages:

German Swiss German (Zurich) French
IHR IR YOU
VIEL MALS VIEL MAL A LOT
FRAU FRAOU WOMAN

 

Today, Swiss German is spoken throughout German-speaking Switzerland, but the relationship with German is «complicated»; not everyone understands it within Switzerland itself.

Indeed, Swiss Germans generally have an excellent knowledge of the German language, whereas in French-speaking Switzerland, it is German that pupils learn at school. As a result, they may have a lot of trouble with Swiss German, as they are not very familiar with the language.

This close relationship between the two languages is also felt in the field of translation. The differences can be complex and these 2 languages are obviously considered as 2 different languages, as for one sentence the translation into German or Swiss German can be very different. These are not mistakes, of course, but a wrong choice of target language can lead to misunderstanding by the target audience.

It is therefore important to know the target audience for your translation in order to know which German you want to use.