Business trip to Tokyo - part 2: Reign of machines in Japan
Tokyo is a dynamic city employing various means to manage and transport the millions of people existing within. An elaborate system relying on manners, politeness, discipline and perfectionism prevents the most overcrowded capital in the world from bursting into mayhem. Apart from the rules, demonstrated virtually on every corner by enormous concentration of signs with orders and warnings (see Part 1 of this story), Tokyo – just like the rest of Japan – implements technology and machines to accelerate, minimize and automate almost every imaginable (and unimaginable) activity.
A stand-alone category are Japanese trains and train networks, considered the most elaborate and fastest on the globe. It is not uncommon for Japanese employees to commute very large distances thanks to high-speed rails and trains (and that's also maybe why so many time-killing tech gadgets originate from Japan). After all, if Japanese would prefer car transport to trains, the islands would probably turn into a gigantic, constant traffic jam.
If you have an affinity for cars with no desire to experience the delights of the intense train transport and people pushers, you're bound to come across several peculiarities. How about horizontal traffic lights or "car traps" in parking lots that just won't let you out unless you pay to be released? Pretty smart.
If you need to refuel, don't get upset about the missing stands, just look up. There's another machine to assist you :)
...but if you look up in open streets, you will immediately notice the omnipresent electric cables in thick, yellow bundles. Technical progress takes its toll.
No car? No problem. Two kids to carry around? Still not a problem! By the way, the bike is electric – machines take over everywhere. Also, there's arguably not a lot of mothers who would have the steam to pedal up a hill with two kids aboard.
Another chapter in Tokyo are vending machines of all kinds. From the very common machines selling drinks or packed snacks, you can also buy hot burgers, living crabs, umbrellas, toys, even gold. Yes, the metal. On the street. From a vending machine. The idea is to automate the selling process and remove the "unnecessary" piece in the delivery chain – personal contact. There are fast food joints and restaurants in Tokyo that have removed the front-desk and service entirely, just to oblige their customers through an impersonal interface of a machine. Machines are our new friends!
...and in case you wanted to store your luggage, it requires a higher technical education :)
In contrast to highly elaborate technology luring around every corner, it's fascinating to observe how state-of-the-art machines blend in with culture and traditions thousands of years old, but no less visible for that matter. More about the fusion of old and new in Japan is coming soon in our blog :)
Translation tips: Language flavors
At idioma we translate into many different languages, over seventy at the last count, and in many different combinations (last we counted the permutations, it was over five thousand). Some of these languages are different variants of the same basic language. Sometimes they are very similar, at other times quite different.
Flavored by authorities
For example, for Norwegian, two flavors exist: Bokmål and Nynorsk. Bokmål is by far the most common variant in Norway and is used in the private and commercial sector, while Nynorsk is used mostly in some western regions and in public administration. The two dialects differ considerably from each other.
Then for Portuguese, there are also different tongues, and the language used in Portugal differs from the one used in Brazil, for example. In spite of the fact that a language reform has been signed into law (in Portugal in 2008), in reality there are quite many differences. Schools in Portugal now teach the new, standardized Portuguese language, which means that in a global perspective spelling and grammar should become standardized. Most newspapers and magazines in Portugal have also adopted the reform, which officially must have been applied by latest July 2014. The biggest obstacle, however, seems to be the choice of words. Especially in technical writing, there are numerous cases where Brazilians prefer different terms than those used in Portugal, which is one reason why Portuguese for Portugal and Portuguese for Brazil will most likely continue to coexist for quite some time.
Spanish is another case in point where differences exist. Spanish in Spain tends to be quite modern with development in a different direction from other Spanish tongues. Most of the Spanish dialects in South America are quite conservative, while the dialects used in Mexico and the Caribbean are influenced by their proximity to the United States.
Does it matter in localization?
Many times, it is more important to know the target market than the language itself or whether a document will be used in many different markets. In Belgium, for example, people in the north speak Flemish, a variant of Dutch. This dialect can’t really be called a different language as spelling and grammar are the same as for standard Dutch. Here the difference is rather in the frequency in the words used, although all words exist in standard Dutch as well. However, it can make a surprising difference when it comes to, say, localization of websites.
Similar to Flemish, the German vocabulary used in Austria and Switzerland is also common, however, the preferences, especially in Switzerland, are many times for different words than those that are commonly used in Germany. Additionally, in Switzerland the German character “ß” is not used, and instead people write “ss”.
In our work, we come across the issue of language flavor daily. We of course translate into the various dialects mentioned above, and many more, and we will be happy to help with issues regarding which language or dialect to translate into.
Language facts: Chinese
First of all, it's important to mention that there's not only one universal written Chinese language. There are two dominating written systems of Chinese – Simplified used in mainland China and also an official writing system in Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau and other overseas Chinese diasporas. Then is traditional Chinese used largely in Taiwan and still in Hong Kong and Macau. Interestingly, spoken Chinese is not recognized as simple vs. traditional, but as Mandarin (mainland) and Cantonese (Hong Kong) dialects.
Chinese is the most important language among Sino-Tibetan tongues. Simplified Chinese is the official language spoken by the world's largest population, namely in the People's Republic of China, and the basic communication tool of today's most buoyant economy. This language system, consisting of several thousands of characters with each having unique meanings, is dramatically different from the western languages in terms of its wording, syntax and methods of expression. Simplified Chinese characters were promoted mainly in the 1950s and 1960s by the governments of the People's Republic of China in attempt to increase literacy. If you are seeking business opportunities or planning to explore markets in China or Singapore, it's definitely a winning strategy to send over your messages in Simplified Chinese!
Standard Chinese has developed gradually from the Mandarin dialect in the north of China over several hundred years, with the Peking tone as its standard tone. Traditional Chinese is the official language of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. The writing system is also referred to as ‘standard', ‘orthodox’ and ‘complex characters’. Chinese is currently the language used by most people in the world as nearly one fifth of the world's population, or about 1.3 billion people, speak Chinese as their native language.
One of the most ancient languages in the world, with a history of 6,000 years today is also one of the working languages of the U.N. both in traditional and simplified forms.
Using special hieroglyphs, Chinese has a character as its minimum unit. Characters are meaning-representative syllabic characters, with the special characteristics of integration of vision, voice and meaning. Syllables can be divided into three parts, namely initial consonant, compound vowel and tune.
idioma at Prague Marathon 2015
Every May since 1995, there has been a big runners' event going on in Prague – the Prague International Marathon, celebrating it's 20th anniversary this year. The Prague Marathon has risen in popularity and has become one of the most prestigious city marathons in the world, hosting up to ten thousand runners from many different countries. The Prague Marathon even gained IAFF Gold Label status in 2010, an award that only 17 city marathons has won world-wide so far.
Of course, as the Prague office of idioma includes a number of serious sportsmen of all kind, we had our representatives in a peloton of the major marathon event this year in the Czech Republic. READY - SET - GO!
Finish line of heroes
The first idioma runner, Tomas – one of our IT and TM guys, has already participated in various half-marathons, but this time he decided to go all the way and apply for his first full marathon in life.
"I had a feeling that (compared to half-marathons) the crowd in the audience was more appreciative and grateful towards the runners who actually passed the finish line. It didn't matter whether someone made it in 4 or 6 hours, everyone was cheered and applauded rapturously. A lot of little kids were standing by the track with their hands extended, eagerly asking for high-fives and having a wonderfully joyful time when they collected some."
Although probably gripping for foreigners and out-of-Prague participants, the marathon circuit starting and ending at the famous Old Town Square, runs through Prague's old town and along the Vltava riverbanks. Still these were unsatisfactory vistas for Tomas, who's been living in Prague for years. "The track is indeed long, but to me also a bit boring – after the 10th km had passed, I contemplated how to (except for the running) entertain myself for the next 3 hours", he said. As marathon is both physically and psychically exhausting, it's definitely a discipline for winner-oriented minds. "At the 32nd kilometer I got struck by a terrible pain in my knee, so I alternately ran and limped the last 10 kilometers. But I told myself I just had to make it through the finish line."
Don't dive and run
Another story is our Prague office manager Jan, an experienced marathon wolf running already his 2nd full marathon. Being a passionate long-distance and cross-country runner, Jan rarely misses events and opportunities for a good run. But, as Jan remarked, "life is too short to enjoy all we wish to do and sometimes we need to pick just one". But this wasn't the case this time, as the choice was really impossible.
"Last weekend, two events of my favorite activities took place at the same time – two days of deep technical diving in beautiful lakes in Austria, followed by participating in the Prague International Marathon on Sunday, with only one short night in between", Jan said. "All was just beautiful and great, however, it made me realize one deep truth: man can do just one activity with top results, or can enjoy several activities, but on lower level only. The price I had to pay for the great weekend combining my two obsessions was a lot of pain and personal overwhelming, for just a very average marathon result – 4:15, more than 30 minutes behind my best time".
Despite Jan's little disappointment over his 2015 Prague Marathon result, the truth is that there's not many people who would even run a full marathon, but instead walk the full distance. Therefore we congratulate all the Prague Marathon participants...but mostly Tomas and Jan!