Top 5 Interesting Facts About Translation

Do you feel like you know everything there is to know about translation and translators? For a practice that has been around for centuries, there are still many new tidbits of information to discover! This holiday, we would like to celebrate the season of ‘giving’ by giving you 5 interesting facts about translation and translators that you may have never heard before.


1. One Mistranslated Word Cost a Multinational Bank Millions


Sometimes, just a single word can change the entire meaning of a sentence. Such was the case of this marketing mishap in 2009 with HSBC Bank. Through a few back-and-forth translations, HSBC Bank’s slogan of ‘Assume Nothing’ quickly turned into ‘Do Nothing.’ Instead of a slogan meant to reassure transparency with their customers, their slogan suggested the very opposite of security and transparency. The blunder resulted in HSBC needing to spend $10 Million in rebranding.


2. Only Three Documented People Reman as the Last Speakers of Their Native Language

Some languages become lost to time, fading away with the passings of the people who spoke them. As of 2020, there are three people remaining who are the final pillars of their languages:

  • Yaghan is the spoken language of the Tierra del Fuego indigenous group in South America. Of its full-blooded people, Christina Calderón (92) is the last native speaker of Yaghan.
  • Verdena Parker (84) is the last speaker of the Hupa language. Hailing from northern California, Hupa is an Athabaskan language spoken by the Hoopa Valley Tribe.
  • Wukchumni is the spoken dialect of Tule-Kaweah Yokuts of California. Marie Wilcox (87) is its last remaining speaker. 

We would be remiss not to mention Gyani Maiya Sen Kusanda, who passed away in January of this year. She was the last known speaker of the Kusunda language in western Nepal. 


3. International Translation Day has been Celebrated for Over a Decade


September 30th is known as ‘International Translation Day.’ It is a day for celebrating multilingualism and all the good work translators do to connect people all over the world! The date was chosen to accredit St. Jerome, who is viewed as one of the forefathers of translation. St. Jerome was responsible for translating the New Testament of the Bible from Greek to Latin. 

Since its recognition in 2005 by the United Nations, International Translation Day also features the UN St. Jerome Translation Contest. Students and staff of the United Nations are invited to show their best translations in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish and German.


4. 'Listen to God and Live Forever' is the Most Translated Book as a Whole


Arguably, the Bible is one of the most translated pieces of text in the world. But did you know that Listen to God and Live Forever is actually considered the most wholly translated book? If you add both the Old Testament and New Testament of the Bible, their translated-language total amounts to 531 languages - this does not include partially translated texts. However, Listen to God and Live Forever has been translated into 583 languages to date. Considering the Jehovah's Witness website is one of the most translated websites around, it’s no surprise they hold one of the most translated books too!


5. The Most Translated Fiction Authors



Stories are beloved by many, so all great works of literature must be translated and shared. UNESCO keeps a record of every fiction author that has been translated into various languages. Here are the top three fiction authors, as of 2020, that have been translated the most across the world:

  • Mystery novelist Agatha Christie remains the reigning champion of three years, with 7,236 translations in total and over 100 targeted languages. Her works, Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None are two of her most notable translations.
  • Second to Christie, Jules Verne has had 4,571 of his works translated across the world. A science-fiction writer, his most notably translated works include Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days.
  • William Shakespeare is another frequently translated author. With 4,296 total translated works (some even including the fictional language Klingon!), both Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet have been translated into more than 60 languages. 

Did you enjoy our top 5 interesting translation facts? We believe in connecting with each other, and the best way to start is by having a shared understanding of language!

To keep the learning and translating going, order your Jarvisen translator and start exploring language on your own! 

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