Author Archives: Grace Azadvar

Different language often means different punctuation rules

Punctuation is the use of spacing, conventional signs, and certain typographical devices as aids to the understanding and correct reading of handwritten and printed text.

The rules of punctuation vary greatly between languages, as shown in the following examples in comparison to the English language.

The Greek language uses the English semicolon (;) as a question mark (?), while the functions of the colon (:) and semicolon (;) are performed by a raised point (·). Therefore, the English Where are you? will change into the Greek Πού είσαι;

In Japanese, a full stop is an open circle () rather than a solid dot, commas are slanted the opposite way to English commas (), and quotations are enclosed in corner-brackets (「」). In addition, there are no spaces in written Japanese. In formal Japanese, no particular symbol is used to mark interrogative sentences, which end with the normal Japanese full stop ().  Various types of question marks are only used in informal text messages, the internet, or letter writing between friends and resemble words in their form rather than symbols.

As for Korean, different symbols are used for quotes depending in which country the text in question has been written. In the North, guillemets (<>) are the symbols associated with quotes, whereas the quotation marks used in the South are the same as the ones most commonly used in English.

In English, finishing punctuation is only placed at the end of the sentence, whereas in Spanish, when asking a question or expressing excitement, punctuation is placed at both the beginning and the end of the sentence. There is an inverted question mark (¿) at the beginning of a question and a normal question mark at the end, as well as an inverted exclamation mark (¡) at the beginning of an exclamation and a normal exclamation mark at the end. This happens because in Spanish, there is no difference between the word order of a question and that of a statement; for example, the two English sentences Do you like summer? and You like summer. are translated respectively as ¿Te gusta el verano? and Te gusta el verano.

In most European languages, the way numbers are separated also differs from English;  a full stop (.) is used as a thousand separator (the English 1,000 turns into 1.000) and a comma (,) is used to mark a decimal point.

While an English price tag would state that something costs £1.99, in Germany and France, you would find a price label with 1,99 € written on it. As shown, the currency sign is placed after the numbers, whereas in England it appears before the figures.

Furthermore, in French, a space is required both before and after all punctuation marks and symbols, including (.), (:), (;), (!), (?), (%) and ($).

In German, Polish, Hungarian and a few other European languages, quotation marks are in a different position to English at the beginning of a quotation: „Jak się masz?”, zapytała. (“How are you?”, she asked.).

When working with different languages, it is essential for a linguist to bear in mind the punctuation varieties between those languages, as failing to do so can sometimes change the meaning of a sentence and, in the case of numbers, can result in serious errors.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas

Put up a splash of Christmas spirit
Put in a dash of love
Stir up the sounds ‘till you can hear it
Sing out to those you love

[Paul Moosberg]

It’s that time of year again … when you just want to curl up by an open fire, switch off the lights and enjoy the flicker of the candles and the twinkle of the Christmas tree, reach for a mince pie (or a Lebkuchen if you’re from the Continent) and perhaps a glass of mulled wine. The Christmas spirit has been creeping into your home, as well as your heart, and you can’t wait for those few days at the end of December when the ordinary treadmill of life gives way to another kind of existence. This could be one of the most relaxing breaks in the year, when you don’t have to face the rush hour to work or meet that looming deadline but can instead switch off and enjoy all that this festive season has to offer: the luxurious food and drink, the presents and, most importantly, the company of your loved ones.

You might be celebrating with your close family at home or with a large group of relatives or friends elsewhere, or you might decide to leave it all behind and escape for a winter holiday. Whichever way you choose to celebrate this time of year, we at Linguamax very much hope that you have a wonderful time.

Have a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year!

Grace, Monika & Erika

Office opening times over the festive period

Please note that our office will be closed from 5 pm on Friday 21st December until 9:00 am on Wednesday 2nd January 2019.

P.S. The money we have saved by emailing our Christmas message to you instead of printing and sending a Christmas card, will be donated to the Cinnamon Trust and Hillside Animal Sanctuary, our favourite charities.

Photo © Grace Azadvar-Smith. All rights reserved.

How to… survive Christmas



 “Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveler, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!”

–Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers

It is a special time, long awaited every year and always passing too fast. However, if you can sense an element of monotony, duty or even of burden in this annual frenzy, here are a few tips which may help find pleasure in the December celebrations.

  •  Have the house ready sooner than later. Closer to the merry days, decorate all rooms, especially the hall and living area, with silver, gold, green and red ornaments. Make it appear gentle and fine, rather than rich and lavish, leaving space for your mind and soul to breathe and flourish in a peaceful setting.
  • Book tickets for a night out in December. It doesn’t have to be Christmas carols concert (though why not?), just lose yourself in what you love: a movie, theatre show, ballet or a concert. You will return home enchanted and in perfect mood for the approaching festivities.
  • Prepare presents in advance and hide them well – this will take a lot off your head during this busy time. Be generous, try to read the minds of your closest ones to surprise them in the best way and see their contented faces on Christmas Day.
  • Treat yourself and the family with quality food – give preference to healthy options with plenty of fruit, veg, nuts, etc. This will fill you up with energy and your mind with fresh ideas. Engage everyone with joyful cooking and baking. Let the scent of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and cardamom permeate the air. When all is ready, celebrate at a table decorated with subtle embellishments and set with festive tableware.
  • Share out the jobs, as guests want to feel useful too. Do what you can ahead of time, but then put all the ongoing jobs on a list, for example emptying the dishwasher and setting the table.
  • Turn off the lights – have your meals and spend time by candle lights, burn the fire in the fireplace, let the Christmas tree shine all evening.
  • Don’t forget the music – whether Christmas carols, Tchaikovsky’s Nut Cracker or your favourite current pieces. This will complete the atmosphere and make you wish the time has stopped at this beautiful moment.
  • Get out of the house at least once a day. The fresh air and open spaces will invigorate, the natural light will lift mood, and you will return feeling calm, renewed, refreshed, and ready for the  next round of Trivial Pursuit!
  • Appreciate your loved ones. This time is a rare occasion to gather together. Let the climate of cordiality, forgiveness and unity prevail in hope that everyone will return next year.
  •  Don’t expect it to be the “perfect” Christmas! Celebrations such as Christmas can throw changes in families such as divorce, bereavement or people moving away so learn to adapt.
  •  Break up the time. Spending the whole day in a confined space can add extra strain. Plan time to go for a walk, watch a film or play a board game – but one with simple rules!
  •  Leave the sweet, cosy home and head off to help others, especially those in need, the elderly and sick, animals in shelters. Make their days happy with good words and deeds. Give them what they may miss every day. Making their day special will make yours even more!

Office opening times over the festive period

Please note that our office will be closed from 3 pm on Friday 22nd December until 9:00 am on Wednesday 3rd January 2017.

P.S. The money we have saved by emailing our Christmas message to you instead of printing and sending a Christmas card, will be donated to the Cinnamon Trust and Hillside Animal Sanctuary, our favourite charities.

Photo © Grace Azadvar-Smith. All rights reserved.

Happy Easter from All at Linguamax


Blossoms, song-birds, all spring voices
The world wide,
Chant thy solemn Paschal blessings,

[Eliza Allen Starr]

Happy Easter from all at Linguamax – Grace, Erika & Monika 

Office closing times over the Easter period

Please note that our office will be closed from Friday 14 April until 9:00 am on Tuesday 18 April 2017

How NOT to translate legal texts

As a translation agency, we accept requests for translation of legal documents on a daily basis and deal with text such as contracts, litigations, legislations, wills, various types of certificates, and many more.

Legal translation is a field most sensitive to error, the consequences of which may be far-reaching and in certain cases disastrous. Therefore, such texts must be approached with caution and commissioned to linguists with suitable background knowledge.

There are certain aspects of the legal translation process that pose a risk of error and below we discuss ways to avoid them and their consequential damage.

  • Literal translation of legal jargon specific to every language and developed over the centuries may result in serious deviations from the intention of the source Idiomatic phrases particular to legalese should first have their meaning established and be translated accordingly. The following are examples of phrases that would hardly ever benefit from literal translation into any language:

 in my custody (‘under my supervision’)

 witness my hand (‘in my presence’)

  • Synonymous words with minute differences in meaning used interchangeably, or opposite terms confused in often complex legal discourse, may cause ambiguity and disrupt further legal proceedings.

If there is an appeal, the appellant, logically, will be the party who has lost in the first instance, while the winner will be respondent. However, since either the plaintiff or defendant can win or lose at first instance, the translator should be careful not to confuse identities of appellant and respondent, even though their roles appear to be reversed.

In law, injury may relate to people’s body, but surprisingly, rights can suffer injury too. The physical sense may be distinguished from the moral by adding the adjective personal or bodily.

Harm and damage are close synonyms. Both are uncountable and examples of use are as follows: ‘His rights suffered damage’. ‘Her goods suffered damage’. Damages in plural, however, has an entirely different meaning, synonymous to ‘compensation’.

  • Translators must beware miscomprehension or misalignment of the relationships between words and phrases in lengthy, complex sentences and intricate syntax, so characteristic to legal discourse, such as the following passage:

The Licensor acknowledges and agrees that the Licensor may, at any time, be privy to confidential information including but not limited to (a) the production, development and/or exploitation of the Programme and/or any ancillary matters; (b) the general and/or business affairs of the Group; (c) participants and/or contributors to the Programme; and/or (d) this Agreement, and the Licensor agrees that the Licensor will not, by any means whatsoever, communicate or divulge to any person (including a company) or make use of or permit any other person to make use of any confidential information, (save for by its professional advisers or as ordered by a court of competent jurisdiction) by any means at any time.

Even if reordering of phrases or of parts of sentences is required to maintain different stylistic conventions of the target language, one must ensure the relation between particular items is retained in the translation, for a single slip can redirect liability or at least result in confusion and deem a legal document void.

  • Certain source language expressions may not have precise equivalents in the target language, as in the case of the terms tipper and tippee in the following example:

Insiders (‘tipper’) may be liable for communicating or tipping material, non-public information to a third party (‘tippee’).

In many languages, direct equivalents of the terms with acceptable usage in a similar context will not exist and an attempt to coin a corresponding term might result in an awkward word, inappropriate in the high register of a legal language. Therefore, these terms would need to be paraphrased as, for instance, ‘person disclosing confidential information’ and ‘person receiving confidential information’ respectively.

  • Difficulties may arise due to differences in legal systems in the countries of the source and the target languages. These can be explained by means of translator’s note.
  • Missing Notary Public certification, which is required for certain purposes. The translation will not serve its function if not accompanied by a separate notarial document with original signature.

The above are several of the most common pitfalls we come across while translating legal documents. It is of utmost importance that legal translators are familiar with and approach with sensitivity both source and target legal jargons, which are often characterized by dissimilar usages in terminology and various styles of writing, necessitating appropriate adjustments by the translator. The ability to see through the source text and to aptly interpret its wording and possible ambiguities is another desired quality of a linguist undertaking a legal translation, the absence of which may give rise to altered information and consequently different from the intended function of the text produced.

Happy Christmas from Linguamax


“In the middle of falling snow and sparkling crystal rain
when winds blow cold against the frosted window pane
there’s a pleasant warmth felt everywhere in the merry Christmas glow…” 

[Marjorie Foster Fleming]

As we enter the month of December each year, we often wonder where the year has gone, how quickly it has passed and what we did or did not accomplish. The end of each year finds us thinking about holidays, gifts, parties and friends, as well as the closing of another business year. The end of the year is a time to look back on the previous year and look forward to the next. 2016 has been challenging for everybody and I’m certain 2017 will bring its own mix of successes and challenges but our direction is clear. Our job is to continue to focus on what we can control: providing our clients with the best service possible.

We appreciate the hard work and dedication of our linguists – thank you for your support throughout the year. Please enjoy some well deserved rest with family and friends during this holiday season! We look forward to working with you in 2017.

To all our clients and linguists we wish a new year of happiness and hope for a world at peace. Have a very Happy Holiday Season and wishing you every happiness in the coming year.

Office opening times over the festive period

Please note that our office will be closed from 2 pm on Friday 23rd December until 9:00 am on Tuesday 3rd January 2017.

P.S. The money we have saved by emailing our Christmas message to you instead of printing and sending a Christmas card, will be donated to the Cinnamon Trust and Hillside Animal Sanctuary, our favourite charities.

Photo © Grace Azadvar-Smith. All rights reserved.

Wishing you a very Happy Easter!


The air is like a butterfly

With frail blue wings.

The happy earth looks at the sky

And sings.

[Joyce Kilmer]

Happy Easter from all at Linguamax – Grace, Erika, Monika & Justyna

Office closing times over the Easter period

Please note that our office will be closed from Friday 25 March until 9:00 am on Tuesday 29 March 2016

Happy Christmas from Linguamax

December has come and with it all the joys of Christmas – the happiest time of the year, filled with festivities and gift giving. But what is the real meaning of Christmas? Is it the celebration of the birth of Christ, the gifts under the tree, the lights in the windows, the cards in the mail, traditional Christmas dinners with family and friends, snow on the ground or stockings hanging in the living room?

Whatever Christmas means to you personally, it is always a very special time spent with our loved ones and so we wish you a holiday season filled with love, peace and joy. May these gifts be yours this Christmas!


Thank you all for your business over the past year and many thanks to our linguists for your support, hard work and commitment – we look forward to working with you in 2016.

Grace, Erika, Monika & Justyna

Office opening times over the festive period

Please note that our office will be closed from Thursday 24th December until 9:00am on Monday 4th January 2016.

P.S. The money we have saved by emailing our Christmas message to you instead of printing and sending a Christmas card, will be donated in full to the Cinnamon Trust, our favourite charity.

Photo © Grace Azadvar-Smith. All rights reserved.

Hungary – A brief guide to the quirkiness of the Hungarian language and social etiquette

Whether you are visiting Hungary for work or pleasure (or both), this insight into the beauties of our unusual language and some of its quaint social aspects should help you understand and impress your Hungarian hosts.

As Hungary is surrounded by Slavic nations (with the exception of Austria and Romania), many assume that Hungarian belongs to the Slavic group of languages. This is not the case. Hungarian is a Finno-Ugrian (or Finno-Ugric) language, which is related to Finnish and Estonian, although it would be difficult to identify any similarities without in-depth research into the history of this linguistic group.

The main difference between the structure of the Hungarian language and that of English is the lack of prepositions. Hungarian is an inflecting language, which means that the relationship between one word and another in a sentence is expressed by the use of various prefixes and suffixes. In theory, any number of suffixes can be added to the end of each word, but in practice, most words will only have between one and three. Morphology, therefore, is a vital part of Hungarian grammar. The best way to decipher a text is by identifying the root of each word and then adding the meaning of each prefix and suffix.

Let’s take the very commonly used word ‘egészségedre’ as an example (it means ‘Cheers!’ as well as ‘Bless you!’). The stem of this word is ‘egész’, which means ’whole, complete’. The suffix ‘ség’ turns this adjective into the noun ‘egészség’ meaning ’health’ (literally ’wholeness’). The next suffix ’ed’ is the equivalent of the possessive pronoun ’your’, so ’egészséged’ means ’your health’. Finally, the last suffix, ’re’ is (in this case) the equivalent of the preposition ’to’ in English. ’Egészségedre’, therefore, literally means ’to your health’. If you want to learn one word to impress your Hungarian friends, this one will work every time, as having a drink with your Hungarian host will most likely be a regular occurrence.

You should not be put off by the complicated appearance of written Hungarian. The strange accents you see over the vowels form an essential part of each vowel and change the way it is pronounced. In fact, they are separate letters in the alphabet and, therefore, the Hungarian alphabet comprises an astonishing 44 letters. Most accents simply make the vowel sound longer, e.g. ‘í’ is an elongated ‘i’, ‘ó’ is an elongated ‘o’, and the same goes for ‘ú’ and ‘u’, ‘ő’ and ‘ö’, as well as ‘ű’ and ‘ü’. The letter ‘a’, however, is pronounced very differently (as the vowel in ‘cut’) to ‘á’ (as the vowel in ‘baa’) and ‘e’ (as in ‘get’) sounds very different to ‘é’ (as in ‘cake’).  These accents are not optional or inter-changeable. If a word is spelt with a long ‘ú’ and you write it with a ‘u’, you’ll have made a simple spelling mistake. However, if a word is spelt with an ‘ü’ or an ‘ű’ and you spell it with a ‘u’, this will change the meaning of the word or render it meaningless, e.g. ‘fűt’ (pronounced as the French ‘sur’) means ‘he’s heating’ and ‘fut’ (pronounced as ‘foot’) means ‘he’s running’, but ‘füt’ or ‘fút’ have no meaning at all.

The other contributors to the large number of letters in the Hungarian alphabet are the digraphs, which are the combination of two (in one case three) letters that represent a single speech sound, such as ‘cs’, ‘sz’, ‘zs’ or ‘gy’. Because they are pronounced as one sound, they are considered separate letters in the alphabet. The letter combination ‘cs’ is not pronounced like ‘cs’ in the English word ‘crocs’, but rather like ‘ch’ in the word ‘chimney’. ‘Sz’ is pronounced like the English ‘s’ in ‘seven’, while the letter ‘s’ on its own sounds like ‘sh’ in ‘shoes’. The letter combination ‘zs’ sounds like ‘measure’ and ‘gy’ is similar to the first sound in the word ‘due’.

Names and introductions

Meeting and greeting can be a bit of a minefield when you are in a foreign country and unfamiliar with its customs. Luckily, in Europe, a trusty old handshake will solve most tricky situations, but it might be helpful to know that in Hungary people tend to shake hands a lot more often than they do in England. It is customary for both men and women to shake hands when introducing themselves, but men also tend to shake hands every subsequent time they meet and part, even if they meet again on the same day. Friends and relatives (especially if the group includes women) usually greet each other with a kiss on each cheek. If you are going for a one-peck approach, you might find the other person hanging mid-air waiting for the other cheek to be kissed, otherwise the greeting gesture feels incomplete.

When addressing people in formal situations, you must always use a polite form of greeting, such as ‘Jó napot kívánok’, which literally means ’Good day to you’ and can be used all day. If you are a man and truly want to impress your female host or colleague, you could use the greeting ‘Kezét csókolom’, which literally means ‘I kiss your hand’ and should only ever be used to address women (although children also use this phrase to greet both male and female adults). In fact, if you are a female visitor being introduced to a Hungarian man (especially if it is an older gentleman), you shouldn’t be surprised to receive an actual peck on the back of your hand, as in the olden days this form of greeting was considered the height of sophistication. While on a cultural note, I ought to mention that in Hungary even the most ardent feminist will expect a man to hold the door open for them while they walk through and will consider any male pushing in front of them to be extremely rude. A real gentleman will also pay the bill at the restaurant and might even help the lady put on her coat before leaving.

There is one area where the Hungarian language is very similar to most other languages spoken on the Continent (but very different to English), which is the use of the formal/polite and informal/familiar personal pronouns when addressing people. In Hungary, it is customary to use the polite form (‘ön’ or ‘maga’ – the equivalent of the formal ‘you’ or ‘vous’ in French, although it is used with the verb in the 3rd personal singular) until the other party (usually the one who is older or more senior in the organisation) suggests that you switch to ‘te’ (the equivalent of the informal ‘you’ or ‘tu’ in French). Until this point, you should stick to addressing the other party by his/her surname, but once you have agreed to use the familiar form (‘tegeződni’), you are safe using first names.

You should also be aware that in Hungary the surname comes before the given name. English-speaking Hungarians will frequently introduce themselves by putting their given names first and surnames second, but anyone who does not speak English will use the Hungarian order, e.g. Magyar Lajos. Unfortunately, addressing ladies formally can be a tricky social puzzle. It can be considered polite to use their first name, but to be on the safe side, you should check how they want to be addressed. After marriage, a women can lose her maiden name completely if she decides to take her husband’s name. The traditional married name for a woman in Hungary is her husband’s full name with the suffix ‘né’ added to the end of the husband’s given name, e.g. a lady married to Magyar Lajos becomes ‘Magyar Lajosné’. This means that when you are introduced to someone with such a married name, you won’t have any idea what her given name is. If you address her as ‘Magyar Lajosné’, it will sound extremely official. You must not address her as ‘Lajosné’ as the second part of such a married name cannot be used on its own. ‘Magyarné’ is a possibility, but it has an official and slightly condescending feel to it, so the safest thing to do is ask the lady how she would like to be addressed.

Luckily for foreign visitors, it has become very common among the younger generation of women to adopt more user-friendly versions of married names, such as adding the suffix ‘né’ to the husband’s surname and keeping the woman’s full maiden name, e.g. ‘Magyarné Nagy Katalin’, or even combining the husband’s surname and the wife’s given name, just like in England, e.g. ‘Magyar Lajos’ + ‘Nagy Katalin’ = ‘Magyar Katalin’. It is also very common for professional women to retain their full maiden name, which makes life much easier for everyone. Well, at least until such a woman tries to travel abroad without her husband but with her young child who bears the father’s surname and she is accused by the immigration officer of trying to kidnap the youngster because their surnames are different. The only way to get out of a sticky situation like this without being arrested is by producing the child’s birth certificate, which clearly states both parents’ names.

Erika Arvai, Project Manager

Erika Arvai, Project Manager