Tag Archives: Linguamax

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.

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

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.

20th Anniversary: a Personal View

Erika Arvai, Project Manager

Erika Arvai, Project Manager









This is a very special month in a very special year for Linguamax. Our translation agency is celebrating its 20th anniversary! 20 years is a long time in human relationships, let alone in the cut and thrust world of small business, where 35% of all start-ups don’t live to see their second birthday. It’s an even greater achievement considering that over the past decade the availability of multi-lingual staff in many UK companies, especially in London, together with the wide use of Google translate have dramatically reduced demand for translation services. The only way to survive in such an environment is by constantly adjusting our services to meet the ever-changing demands of the market and by delivering translations of the highest quality.

Thanks to Grace’s tireless efforts, careful management, flexibility and open-minded approach, this small agency has now been on the global map for two decades and has grown into its adult years in the same way a human would, i.e. by entering the world of social media – Follow us on Twitter! Like us on Facebook! – and by providing insights into our ‘home life’ and adventures on blogs like this.

I’ve been lucky enough to be part of this dynamic business for more than half of its lifetime, initially as a free-lance translator and more recently as project manager. For me, working here after all these years feels more than just a job. When I re-joined as project manager after a year or so of absence, one of our long-standing translators greeted me with an e-mail saying ‘Welcome back to the family!’ He couldn’t have phrased it better – Linguamax does feel like my second family. And right now, it gives me the flexibility to look after my immediate family more easily, too, by allowing me to work part time.

Long live Linguamax! We wish you good health and many happy returns!