All posts by Linguistica International

Bilingual speakers

Further Proof of the Perks of Being Bilingual

Translation, transcreation and telephone interpreting services have never been in more demand than they are right now. Globalisation and the internet have made it possible for even small businesses to expand into foreign markets thousands of miles away. The ability to communicate with foreign customers, clients and suppliers is the only barrier that prevents businesses from expanding into almost any market. As a result, the job prospects of bilinguals have never been better.

The last 15 years has seen a considerable amount of research into the benefits of a bilingual mind. Last week’s Linguistica Recruitment blog looked more closely at research which revealed the increased earning potential and improvements in the quality of life bilinguals could expect. There’s also evidence to support the fact that bilingualism makes our brains more efficient at relaying information.

As if the odds weren’t stacked high enough in the polyglots’ favour, the latest research published in Psychological Science shows bilinguals also benefit from being able to view the world differently depending on the language they are communicating in.

A study of English and German language speakers

The research published by Psychological Science centred on a comprehensive study of German-English bilinguals and monolinguals to see how different language patterns changed the way the participants reacted to a number of different tests.

In one test, German-English bilinguals were shown video clips of events that involved a motion, such as a man cycling to a supermarket, or a woman walking towards her car. The participants were then asked to describe what they saw.

Interestingly, a monolingual German speaker would typically describe the action and the goal of the action i.e. “a man is cycling towards the supermarket” or “the woman is walking to her car”, while English monolinguals would simply describe the action i.e. “the man is cycling”, or “the woman is walking.

The researchers believe the reason for this difference is rooted in the way the grammar of the two languages places actions in time. English requires its speakers to grammatically explain the events are ongoing by adding –ing, whereas the German language does not require this grammatical mark.

Different language, different perspective

When it came to testing the bilingual speakers, they were able to switch between the goal orientated German language and the action focused English in accordance with the language they were speaking at the time. In fact, they were just as goal orientated and action focused as any of the German or English speakers, but they also had the ability to switch between the two

These findings support previous research which has showed distinct behaviour depending on the language bilinguals are speaking. For example, in another study, Israeli Arabs were more likely to associate Arab names like Ahmed and Samir with positive words when speaking an Arabic language rather than Hebrew.

Emotional and economic language biases

People often self-report that they feel like a different person when using a language other than their mother tongue, and that the expression of certain emotions carries a different resonance depending on the language they are using.

The same can be said for economic decisions. Bilinguals tend to judge risk differently in a second language, which leads them to make more rational economic decisions. Why? Well, in contrast to their native language, they have not formed the innate, often misleading biases that influence how risks and benefits are perceived. The result is a change not only in the way bilinguals think, but also the decisions they make.

How can we help?

If you need some assistance understanding the cultural and linguistic biases of your clients, suppliers and customers, our mother tongue translators, transcreators and interpreters can help. Get your business communications word perfect by contacting Linguistica International today.

Arabic Rated the Second Most Important Language for UK Businesses

Arabic Rated the Second Most Important Language for UK Businesses

A new initiative has been introduced into UK schools by the British Council to get more school children interested in studying languages. However, unlike the ubiquitous French and German classes that are currently undersubscribed in schools across the UK, this new initiative is a project with a difference.

The British Council has been spurred to introduce the teaching of Arabic into eight clusters of schools across the UK after research revealed it was the second most important language for future UK businesses. The study, which took into account the UK’s export links, government trade priorities, most popular holiday destinations, and diplomatic and security priorities, found that only Spanish was a more important language for children to learn.

Arabic is not only accessible, it’s also in great demand

Arabic is currently in great demand across a range of UK business sectors, but there’s a real shortage of well-qualified speakers. The culture, history and politics of much of the Arab world are so different that many young learners prefer to stick with languages a little closer to home.

Such is the dearth of Arabic speakers that government departments, the armed forces and many UK businesses are willing to pay their employees to study the language at an advanced level. As one of the six official UN languages, Arabic can be a real boost to the CV of anyone looking to start a career in international organisations and diplomacy, as well as tourism, journalism and international trade, particularly in the energy industry. Many of these jobs are also well paid, so studying Arabic at an early age is an excellent choice to develop the skills that will set language learners apart.

One written language with many spoken varieties

The lack of Arabic learners in UK schools and universities is attributed to the fact that many people believe it to be one of most difficult languages to learn. Arabic is written from right to left for a start, which can certainly be off-putting for some (try doing that in English and you’ll soon realise just how hard it can be!). However, Japanese is still currently more popular in UK schools despite there being thousands more characters to learn.

Arabic is not the language of a single county, but of 26 different nations across the Middle East and North Africa. There isn’t a single Arabic language as different dialects are spoken from country to country. This means that Arabic learners will have to get to grips with the universal written language, known as fus-ha, which translates as ‘the purest’, and one of the locally spoken dialects, which vary in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary.

The top ten future languages for UK businesses

French has consistently been the most popular language in UK schools, but this latest research shows how it is slowly slipping down the league table in its level of importance for UK businesses. According to the British Council, the most important languages for the UK’s businesses are:

1. Spanish
2. Arabic
3. French
4. Mandarin Chinese
5. German
6. Portuguese
7. Italian
8. Russian
9. Turkish
10. Japanese

In 2010, the schools secretary Ed Balls warned British businesses that Mandarin was the language of the future and wanted at least one school in every area to offer it as a subject at secondary level. Now all that has changed, and Arabic has become the lingua franca for British businesses with international aspirations.

An Arabic translation and interpreting service

If you’re yet to plug your skills gap with an Arabic speaker, we offer a full mother tongue translation and interpreting service that can help your business make waves in the Arab world. For more information, please get in touch with the Linguistica International translation team today.


International social media

Our Guide to Localising your International Social Media Campaign

The world is in the grip of a social media explosion. Just a few years ago, it used to be enough to have a business website to capitalise on those online opportunities, but nowadays, social media is king. Without a Twitter account or a Facebook page, your online business is virtually prehistoric.

The money businesses are spending on social media is on the rise. In 2014, 80 percent of businesses reported increased traffic to their website as a result of their social media efforts, while 66 percent generated additional leads. This shows how effective a well-run social media campaign can be at tapping into audiences that were previously off limits, and helping to create a recognisable international brand.

Navigating the minefield of localising your social media campaign for each market can be daunting, particularly on a limited budget, but there are a few a steps you can take to create international social media campaigns that support your expansion plans.

1. Define the market

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube might be all the rage in the UK and across much of the western world, but if you’re planning to expand into Asia, particularly China, then it’s Qzone and Renren that you’ll have to get to grips with.

Not every social media channel will be the right fit for your brand. While LinkedIn is great for reaching out to a corporate audience, visual sharing platforms like Instagram or Pinterest are more effective for lifestyle businesses like fashion, food and interior design.

Once you’ve decided which social media platforms will appeal to your target country and market, you need to understand exactly what that market are using the platform for. Are they watching videos, reading articles or private messaging? Ask yourself what makes a particular channel popular; once you have the answer, you can start creating your localised content.

2. Consider the culture

To travel effectively across international borders, it’s essential your content is culturally relevant and native to each target market. The best way to create culturally relevant content is to use a mother tongue linguist who lives and works in the target country. Their innate understanding of societal norms and cultural conventions will help to create content that introduces your brand to a new market in an appealing way.

3. Create assets that can be easily localised

Creating assets that appeal to your target market can be a time consuming and sometimes expensive business, but creating infographics, videos and original articles with localisation in mind can help to reduce the costs and increase the return on your investment.

Something as simple as sending infographics as .psd files rather than .jpgs, which will have to be edited all over again, can help to save a huge amount of time and expense.

4. Stay up to date

When it comes to social media assets created for multiple markets, some social media platforms are real stickers for the rules. YouTube, for instance, has strict rules in place that international marketers must adhere to, and simply putting different subtitles in place usually won’t do. Meanwhile, in China, there are certain words you are simply not allowed to use. Failure to adhere to the rules could lead to a ban from all social networks.

How are you localising your international social media campaigns? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave your two cents’ worth in the comments section below, or drop us a line on Twitter.

Localising your website

Our Five Point Guide to Localising your International Website

Digital globalisation is the cheapest way to expand your business internationally. The internet has put an end to the traditional barriers to entry into foreign markets. Now, no expensive infrastructure or tangible international assets are required, paving the way for thousands of small online businesses to pedal their products across the world.

However, just because some of the barriers have been removed, that does not mean success overseas is a given. Creating a successful multilingual website that opens doors in new markets is a serious undertaking. If you take a look at any successful international company, let’s take McDonald’s as an example, you’ll see that every region has its own version of the McDonald’s website.

Why? Well, a good website localisation strategy can make or break your attempts to expand overseas. Everything from the layout and design to the imagery, text and symbols you use must be relevant in the cultural context of each location.

So, to help with your international expansion plans, here’s our five-point guide to localising your global website…

1. Cultural context is key

The cultural context is everything when attempting to successfully localise your website. Every element of design, the text, images, and even the choice of colour must be considered in the cultural context of the target market. A page that works well in one language could have a completely different impact on a new audience. Taking the McDonald’s example again, a picture of a hamburger or cheeseburger on the homepage of their Indian website would not go done too well given that 80 percent of the population do not eat beef!

It’s also important to consider attitudes to business etiquette. In the UK, being informal and showing the human side of a business can work well. However, in countries like Poland and Japan, the business style and language is much more formal, so a direct translation of a more relaxed UK website may lack appeal.

2. Don’t take any translation shortcuts

Think about all the elements of your content that make it appeal to a specific audience, such as cultural references, slang, idioms and turns of phrase. All too often, businesses simply turn to an automated translation tool like Google Translate to localise their website pages – often with disastrous results.

Google Translate cannot take cultural references into account, so while it might be a clever tool that can provide some assistance with very simple translations, when you want copy that resonates with your intended audience you should always use a professional.

3. Make your message appropriate

Brand messages can mean different things to different people, with culture playing an important part in the message you convey. Crafting a brand message to let customers know what they can expect from your business is important, but creating a universal message that conveys the right message in different cultures can be tricky.

To be successful, it’s essential you make culturally appropriate changes to your branding, whilst ensuring that your overarching message and brand values are accurately recreated.

4. Check the layout

In some markets, the very fundamentals of your website will need to be changed to make your content accessible. In the Western World, we read in an F-shaped pattern, from left to right. However, in the expanding Arab market, people read from right to left, so that’s something you’d have to change to stand any chance of success.

5. Localise your keyword research

A localised SEO campaign will play an essential role in establishing your brand in overseas markets. Translating your website is all well and good, but if you merely translate your keywords, rather than checking the words and phrases your new audience are actually using, you could miss out on loads of potential traffic.

Localised link-building should also play an important part in your strategy. Optimising for Google alone might not be enough, so check out the most popular search engines in your target market. Do this well and you will benefit from a boost to your rankings and increased visibility for local searches.

Here at Linguistica International, we can advise you on every aspect of the website translation and localisation process to help you compete in overseas markets.





Linguistica Launches South Coast Based Recruitment Site

In a bid to meet its ever growing client base’s needs, UK translation agency Linguistica International has launched an in-house recruitment site. Developed to help jobseekers and employers find, advertise and apply for multilingual roles, South Coast based Linguistica Recruitment is part of the company’s commitment to offering clients superlative linguistics services across the globe.

For over 16 years Linguistica International has been delivering word perfect mother tongue translation services to businesses wanting to arm themselves with a global edge. Now, the company has launched a purpose built solution designed to place qualified, mother tongue linguists on-site in permanent roles.

Globalisation is rapidly sweeping the world and the demand for talented linguists has never been greater. Breaking down language barriers is the key to conquering global economies, and businesses that fail to realise this will be left behind. Corporate recruiters often struggle to cater for the niche multilingual market which is where Linguistica’s new recruitment service comes in. Already, the foreign language careers specialist has placed hundreds of professional linguists in positions across England’s South Coast. There’s more than enough talent out there to fill the positions, and Linguistica Recruitment helps employers pinpoint the crème de la crème of the applicant pool.

Using a tried and tested online process, the recruitment team screens high calibre candidates and selects optimal roles based on individual skills and experience. Every placed candidate undergoes written and oral tests to ensure absolute fluency, as well as an in-depth reference check. This meticulous interview process conducted by professional linguists allows employers to recruit with confidence. For businesses, the result is a curated workforce that speaks the language of their customers.

The company makes the recruitment process easy with its dedicated team of HR experts. Employers in search of high quality candidates simply get in touch to discuss requirements, budgets and other details. The team will then scour the existing database of experienced linguists and actively recruit for each individual role.
Carrie Wilson, director said, “The inability to communicate effectively with customers will categorically impact a business’s bottom line. Linguistica Recruitment has been developed to help businesses arm themselves with a global edge, while simultaneously offering professional linguists a place to actively seek out and apply for roles.”

Professional linguists on the hunt for exciting new career opportunities can use the platform to browse job listings and submit applications. Once received, a member of the HR team will be in touch to discuss suitability. As part of the agency’s commitment to ongoing excellence, candidates also enjoy ongoing support and assistance throughout the search.

Currently Linguistica Recruitment is advertising a diverse range of permanent and contract roles in a variety of foreign language careers. From marketing, project management and IT to customer services, administration and HR, employment opportunities are dynamic. Live positions include Multilingual Customer Service Professionals based in Hampshire, Polish Speaking Customer Service Personal based in Portsmouth and an Italian Business Information Manager based in Surrey.

The agency works with a myriad of top companies located in Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Dorset.

To find out more about Linguistica Recruitment, go to: or email us at

Language Translation and Interpreting

What are the Differences between Translation and Interpreting?

For most people, the question “what do you do for a living?” is a relatively straightforward one. You’re a mechanic, a sound engineer, a lorry driver, a hairdresser or one of any other number of easily understood occupations. When you’re in our line of work, the question is not such a simple one to answer.

The question is: are we translators, or interpreters? The chances are, whoever’s asking probably won’t know the difference between the two, but to language translators and interpreters, there’s an important distinction.

Whatever carefully considered explanation you use to describe your profession, the most likely response you’ll receive is, “ah, so you’re a translator”, regardless of the position you hold within the linguistic spectrum. But just what is the real difference between a translator and an interpreter?

What does each role entail?

There are undoubtedly similarities between translation and interpreting. Both disciplines make it possible to communicate orally or in writing across language barriers, so language is clearly the common denominator. However, there are also some differences in the way the language is used; for this reason, you’ll very rarely find a linguist who works both as a translator and an interpreter.

The translator…

When translating the written word, a linguist must work with precision to express the ideas and meaning conveyed in the source material, whilst maintaining the style, content and form of the original. Just as in the translation of a piece of classic literature, the translator must scrutinise the text to ensure all its intricacies and implied meanings are maintained. This is an activity that requires reflection, time, and an excellent understanding of both languages.

The interpreter…

The work of an interpreter allows far more creative licence. Overcoming the idiosyncrasies of the spoken word and the constraints of time mean the interpreter must work quickly and demonstrate the ability to improvise and think on their feet. The greatest challenge for the interpreter is to accurately reformulate words and phrases that may not have a direct equivalent while (in the case of simultaneous interpreting) listening and speaking at the same time. The demands of the job mean interpreters have no safety net and little time to correct errors, so it’s important to only work with an interpreter you can trust.

The importance of finding the right team

Despite the obvious differences between the two roles, both translators and interpreters must be extremely talented linguists with the ability to use language skilfully and accurately. While the two professions complement each other beautifully, very few linguists can master them both.

Given the complexity of the two roles, it’s essential that businesses communicating orally or in writing across language barriers work with a team of professional linguists they can trust to reach the highest level of skill and accuracy, and that’s where we can help!

For more information about our translation or telephone interpreting services, please call +44 2392 987 765, email: or use the live support feature on our website.


Technical translations

Essential Preparations for your Technical Translations

We complete an extremely diverse range of work here at Linguistica International. One minute we are busying ourselves with the localisation of a dating website to capture the European market, and the next we’re knee deep in some certified or notarised translations, where our every word must be pitch perfect.

With international regulations becoming increasingly rigorous, the completion of accurate and precise technical translations has become a vital component of our work. When the success of product exportation or global system integration relies on the meticulousness of the written word, our clients trust us to deliver.

However, while the engagement of a quality translation company is certainly a step in the right direction, there is also some essential preparation you can do to put your technical translations on the path to success.

Identify your end-reader

Before approaching a translation company about performing technical translations, it’s crucial you consider the needs of your target audience. For example, the audience for medical translations will differ between professional medical staff and patients, with each having different levels of experience and technical expertise. As such, the level of complexity and the use of technical language should be geared towards the end user.

When targeting patients, the language should be simple and straightforward. However, if your product or service is destined for medical professionals, scientific language, and technical expressions should be used.

Use industry-specific translators

Technical translations or localisations performed by translators without experience in your particular field will lack the expertise and sector-specific knowledge required to produce documents that meet your needs.

At Linguistica International, we only work with linguists who hold excellent language qualifications and have at least five years’ experience in professional translating and interpreting. However, they must also hold subject-specific qualifications and have professional experience in their chosen field. This ensures the level of technical understanding our clients need.

Avoid vague and culturally-biased language

The garbage in, garbage out adage is extremely appropriate to technical translations. You will only receive a technically accurate and precise translation if the original document is on the money. Avoid idioms, adages, cultural references and figurative language as it can lose its meaning on translation.

If these expressions are crucial to the text, try the transcreation process instead. This will take into account these phrases and adapt the document to suit the intended audience, without losing any of its meaning.

Produce style guides and glossaries

An effective way to keep the costs of your technical translation down is to produce style guides and approved glossaries which provide insight into the type of work you expect to see. This can provide long-term benefits such as quality, assurance, and contingency, as well as cost savings.

As an experienced medical, legal and technical translation team, we can advise you on the production of glossaries and style guides, and help you prepare for technical translations without overwhelming you with any unnecessary details.

To see how we can help with your technical translations, please contact Linguistica International today. Give us a call on 02393 987 765, email:, or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter.

Cultural diversity and the impact on your multilingual message

Cultural Diversity and the Impact on Your Multilingual Message

Anyone who works across international borders will have been exposed to the dramatic changes cultural diversity can bring. Simply crossing the border from England into Wales or Scotland can expose you to distinct societal differences, so it’s hardly surprising just how much of a culture shock we can experience when travelling to the other side of the world.

Culture can be defined as the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society. Acknowledging and understanding this diversity has a huge part to play in communicating between cultures, and effectively marketing your business. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the major key cultural differences at play, and explain how we can help you navigate them safely.

Are rules important?

Well, it depends who you ask. The majority of English-speaking countries generally like rules and believe they should be followed. This includes the UK, USA, Australia and Canada, as well as parts of Northern Europe such as Germany and Switzerland.

Fly east, to India, China and Korea, and rules are seen as more of a guide. They prefer to assess the situation first to see whether the rules need to be applied. In these countries, Latin America and parts of Southern Europe, it is often the case that a relationship is more important than the rule.

Who likes change?

In the US, the Netherlands and Australia, there is a real emphasis on change and innovation. They like to look towards the future, rather than relying too heavily on the past.

In China, Iran, Poland, and even over here in Old Blighty (although to a more moderate degree), we feel more comfortable if everything stays the same. We believe tradition to be extremely important and prefer to be informed by the past.

Is there enough time?

Time is central to countries that appreciate structure and prefer to complete tasks one at a time. This is a trait typically found in Northern European and North American cultures, as well as Japan.

The ability to be fluid and flexible and not be ruled by time is embedded in the cultures of much of Southern Europe, Latin American and the Arab world.

Is privacy important?

Privacy is extremely important to many Western cultures, including here in the UK, where many of us prefer to have a clear distinction between our work and private lives.

If you travel east, openness becomes more important. Those in Arab and Asian cultures are happy for the lines between their private and working lives to blur.

What about status?

Status carries very little weight in Scandinavian countries, North America and Northern Europe. They prefer to treat people similarly and try not to stress differences in social and professional standing.

Cultures primarily in Asia, Latin America, and the Arab world, and to a lesser extent Southern and Eastern Europe, are more likely to respect and honour the status that comes with age, position and even traits like gender.

Why is this important?

If your business is going global, you will have to compete with local companies who are armed with an intrinsic knowledge of their customers’ cultural values. To compete with native companies effectively, it’s essential every piece of marketing you produce, from your brand name to the language, lifestyle and behavioural patterns you promote are culturally relevant to your target market.

At Linguistica International, we only use mother tongue linguists who are native to the country of your target market. The result is culturally relevant, localised marketing messages which speak volumes for your business.

Get in touch to find out more about our transcreation services. Alternatively, if you have some cultural differences of your own, please leave your two cents’ worth on Facebook or Twitter.


Foreign Language Skills in High Demand from UK Companies

The UK has long been criticised on the European and international stage for its reluctance to embrace foreign languages, and its inability to promote their teaching in our schools. Now this lack of enthusiasm for foreign language learning is threatening to stifle the UK’s economy, with businesses unable to hire employees with the linguistic skills they need.

For some time, English has been the international language of business, but in an increasingly globalised economy with more emerging markets than ever before, there has never been a better time to learn a foreign language.

Given the economic rise of non-English speaking countries like Russia, China, Indonesia and Colombia, effective communication across multiple languages is a greater challenge than ever before. Learning languages is an indispensible tool for relationship building and financial success, but research conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) shows that the UK’s apathetic approach to language learning is creating a skills gap we’re struggling to fill.

An ‘alarming shortage’ of Brits with foreign language skills

Of 300 UK companies survey by the CBI, two-thirds said they were more likely to hire people with foreign language skills than those who only speak English. Despite claims from the UK government that more school children are learning a foreign language, the British Council believes there is still an ‘alarming shortage’ of people with foreign language skills in a number of major languages.

The most sought after languages

Perhaps surprisingly, given the global economic shift in recent years, the three languages that are most sought after by UK firms are based a lot closer to home. In a recent poll, British companies said they believed French, German and Spanish to be the most useful second languages, with 50 percent, 49 percent and 44 percent of the vote respectively. However, the importance of emerging markets was also reinforced, with Mandarin (31 percent) and Arabic (23 percent) also on the rise.

Low foreign language take-up in UK schools

So do young people understand the importance of learning a language? With A-level entries for languages falling over the last few years, and acceptances for language degrees in 2013 dipping to the lowest level in a decade, on the surface of it, the answer would appear to be no. However, on closer inspection, the picture seems to be more nuanced.

Research conducted for the Guardian reveals that of 1,001 young people (aged 18-24) surveyed, almost 20 percent spoke another language at home with their family, whilst 70 percent would be interested in learning another language in the future.

There is also evidence that young people in the UK understand that learning a language can help to open up economic, social and cultural opportunities in the future. However, this is countered by the fact that 39 percent of students are put off by the belief that ‘most people speak English’, and 14 percent by the misconception that ‘most other languages are not useful’.

The importance of language translation agencies

Thankfully, what the UK lacks in foreign language speakers, it more than makes up for with high-quality language translation companies that are on hand to bridge the gap.

At Linguistica International, we get to know our clients’ brands and build close partnerships to help them achieve their international goals. For more information about how we can be your team on the ground, get in touch with our language experts today.

Idioms from around the world

Our Favourite Idioms From Around the World

Idioms are some of the most beautiful phrases in any language. Not only do they reveal a country’s attitude to language, but they also provide a window into the way they view life. No two countries use the same idioms; there may be similar themes, but the expressions they use to convey universal human emotions are always unique to their language.

In the UK, you might think that every cloud has a silver lining, or that variety is the spice of life, but utter these iconic idioms abroad to your foreign friends and they’ll think you’ve gone mad.

So, to celebrate the glorious diversity of idioms around the world, we thought we’d ask our team for the literal translations of some of their favourite idioms, and here’s what they said..

1. Not my circus, not my monkeys (Poland)

This Polish idiom is without doubt the best way of saying “I’m sorry pal, that’s not my problem”, which we’ve ever heard.

2. To feed the donkey sponge cake (Portugal)

Any guesses on this one? Anyone? No, thought not. By feeding the sponge cake to the donkey, you are giving someone far better treatment than they actually need. The closest English equivalent we can think of is “over egging the cake”. That’s a lot of cake to be flying around at 4pm on a Tuesday.

3. To give someone pumpkins (Spain)

This Spanish idiom is used to refer to somebody who has been rejected i.e. they were “given pumpkins.” We actually understand the sentiment with this one, because let’s face it, pumpkins are plenty big enough, but they’re really not that tasty.

4. To ride as a hare (Russia)

This beautiful little phrase adds something of the poetic to the process of riding on public transport without a ticket. In the UK, you’d be fair dodging, which sounds a lot less romantic.

5. To slide in on a shrimp sandwich (Sweden)

In the UK we might say “they were born with a silver spoon in their mouths” to refer to someone with a certain sense of entitlement who has not had to work particularly hard to get to where they are today. In Sweden, they substitute a silver spoon for some shrimp to great effect.

6. When a lobster whistles on top of a mountain (Russian)

More poetic brilliance from the Russians with their version of the English “when pigs might fly” to refer to something that’s never going to happen. In Thailand, they use “one afternoon in your next reincarnation”, while the Dutch equivalent is “when the cows are dancing on the ice”. All equally unlikely we’d say.

7. To look at each other like earthenware dogs (French)

Picture the scene if you will: two clay dogs, stock-still in the back garden, staring each other down. This French phrase means exactly that i.e. to look at each other coldly and with mistrust.

8. The thief has a burning hat (Russia)

This Russian phrase, which means to have an uneasy conscience that gives you away, is a perfect fit for Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, to describe the mindset of chief protagonist Raskolnikov, who gets away with murder only for his conscience to betray him.

9. Pay the duck (Portugal)

In Portugal, if you’re paying the duck, you’re taking the blame for something you did not do. We’d like to try and dig the sense out of that one for you, but we simply can’t. In English, you might say “take the rap”, which comes from the phrase, ‘a rap on the knuckles’.

10. Did an elephant stomp on your ear? (Poland)

They don’t have any elephants in Poland, not in the wild anyway, but if they did, and one stomped on your ear, you probably wouldn’t have much of an appreciation of music, which is exactly what this phrase means.

Do you have any favourite foreign language idioms of your own? Please share you thoughts in the comments section below or by getting in touch on Facebook and Twitter. And please keep it clean!