5 Things You Didn’t Realise Were Translated


Many of us are not aware of just how big a role translation plays in our daily lives. In today’s world, almost every product or service we use has come through several countries. To demonstrate the importance of translation and how it affects our lives, we have come up with a list of 5 things you’ve probably dealt with in the past week that that you may not have realised went through the translation or localization process. 

CarYour car

Unless you drive a Range Rover, one of the last car brands to be manufactured in the UK, chances are your car and car manual have been translated, most likely from French, German, or Japanese. The safety notices, instructions, and even symbols for things like window wipers and all vary depending on the country where the car is to be sold.

PhonesYour phone

Virtually all of our mobile phones began life as microchips in countries most often located in the Far-East. Samsung mobiles are manufactured in Korea, iPhones mainly in China and Taiwan, HTC in Taiwan, and in 2012 Nokia moved production from its native Finland to the Far East.

As with cars, instruction manuals, symbols and keyboard layout must be linguistically and culturally attuned to each target market.

Your work

You might think the only people working in a multilingual environment are those working for companies like Google, IBM, Yahoo, or the many other large multinational companies, many of which now have large offices in Dublin. However, it is more likely than not that translation plays a bigger role in your workplace than you may think, and it is difficult to identify an area of work where translation would not play a role, even if a small one.


For example translation is vital in the medical sector, with interpreters and translators working to ensure that patients understand their treatments by relaying the English-speaking doctors’ instructions in their own language. Important medical documents from a person’s home country must also be translated for use by doctors in Ireland.

It may seem unlikely, but translation also plays an important role in the teaching profession. All Junior and Leaving Certificate papers must be translated into Irish, and for Irish-speaking schools, schoolbooks must also be translated into Irish.

In the social services, many documents such as birth certificates and passports also need to be translated on a daily basis.

Translation also plays a particular role in Irish civil and political life. Since the Irish language became an official EU language in 2007, all official documents from treaties, to annual reports and passport forms must be translated into Irish and made as equally available as the English versions. 

Your food

Although we rarely read the information given on food packaging, it is likely that it has gone through many languages before reaching English. Considering the Irish climate, much of the food on the shelves in our supermarkets did not originate in this country, or indeed the UK, which has a similarly poor climate. The situation also applies to Irish produce which is exported abroad, for example, the current initiative to promote Irish dairy products in the Far East.

Food packaging translation is a specialist field like scientific translation. Considerations for the target audience also need to be taken into consideration, such as Halal or Kosher produce, in which case correct and clear translation is important. Even between English speaking countries, differences in terminology can occur, for example, ‘courgette’ in Ireland and the UK, means ‘zucchini’ in the US, or ‘pepper’ in the UK, US and Ireland is better known as the ‘capsicum’ in Australia, or the Hiberno-English word ‘scallion,’ better known as ‘spring onion’.

BibleThe Bible

Although it might be an exaggeration to presume that most people would refer to the Bible every day, if at all, it is interesting nonetheless to consider the role translation has played in creating the modern English version of the Bible. The linguistic journey of the Bible can be compared to a game of ‘Chinese whispers.’ The King James Bible, created between 1604 and 1611, is known as the authoritative version of the Bible in English, but before this the Bible also went through many languages. Indeed, some parts of the Bible exist only in translation; parts of Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947, are in Aramaic, into which the original text was translated.  However, given the formal Renaissance English style used in the Bible today, it has been thoroughly anglicised.  The main original languages the Bible was written in were Hebrew, and an ancient form of Greek.

This list demonstrates just a few samples of items that have gone through stages of translation. It shows that translation plays a role not only in the lives of bureaucrats and diplomats, but in the daily lives of average citizens. Where would we be without it…..! 

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