Some of us are able to order a coffee and croissant from a café in Paris while managing to avoid a faux pas. Maybe you can describe to a German acquaintance a trip to the cinema or a game of football you played with your little brother. Or perhaps you’re able to converse in Spanish about your holiday plans. Compared to countries such as Luxembourg though (and Europe at large), the UK is flagging; it’s claimed that 39% of UK citizens can speak more than language whilst 98% of Luxembourg’s residents are able to speak an additional one, which just gives them the edge.
Languages borrow from one another and English is no exception, our lexicon has been described thusly by James D Nicoll, ‘We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.’ Many of these words have snuck their way into everyday vocabulary, we refer to doppelgangers and aficionados without a second thought.
Another loan word is ‘tattoo’ that originates from the Polynesian ‘tatau’; in the UK and across the world, many a figure is festooned with body art, with an estimated one in three young adults in the UK now sporting a tattoo as of 2015. An especially popular tattoo is that of script in a foreign language; for some, the foreign words serve as a reminder of the few months they spent in Thailand chilling out finding themselves and getting some absolutely prime Instagram content connecting with nature. There are those, however, who have fallen prey to inaccurate translations and are thus emblazoned with the permanence of the mistake of mistranslation. David Beckham, for example, is one such victim; he chose Hindi as the language to get a tattoo of the name of his wife but unfortunately did not complete a thorough enough translation check and so Victoria was renamed ‘Vihctoria’. The error is one that any speaker of Hindi would recognise immediately according to Pademesh Gupta, editor of Hindi-language magazine Purvai, who branded it a ‘silly mistake’.
Lost in Translation
It’s not just the forearms of famous footballers that are subject to errors in accuracy, HSBC suffered from a slightly disastrous blunder in 2009 when their slogan was mistranslated in several countries. Instead of the rather more mysterious “Assume Nothing”, it was translated into “Do Nothing” which is hardly the most compelling call to action. They rebranded as “The World’s Local Bank”, which they decided to move on from in 2011 following the global financial crisis which led to the closure of branches. HSBC’s Global Head of Marketing at the time, Chris Clark, felt the tagline was “disingenuous”, ‘We weren’t the world’s local bank. We didn’t have branches in places like Thailand anymore.’ HSBC’s latest UK advert celebrates the international element of life in Britain and our appreciation for Guatemalan coffee, Swedish flat-pack furniture, and Korean technology, with the strapline “Together We Thrive”.
At Spotlight Recruitment we often hire for roles that require fluency in more than one language. Our database is teeming with candidates who possess multiple languages, so whether it’s French fluency you’re after or superbly spoken Spanish, then we’ll be able to help out. Or if you’re a candidate looking to flex your language skills then please submit your CV to see what suitable opportunities we have for you.