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Writing systems across the world: translation sources

Translation – by Lingua TranslationsSupposedly, you can tell a lot about someone from their handwriting.

Graphology is the study of handwriting and can be used to gain insight into someone’s personality and behaviour.

Each person’s handwriting is different and there are many variations in style within cultures but where did the basis for this handwriting come from?

Each language has a different written form – at least all the ones that are written down and not just purely a spoken language.

In Western civilisations the writing systems have been influenced by the Roman script, whereas in Eastern countries, entirely different writing systems are used – Chinese and Japanese for example. I studied Mandarin Chinese once a week after school for a few months before travelling to China with the British Council and I remember being completely awestruck. How can these complex characters provide so much information whilst being so beautiful! Translating languages like Chinese and Japanese requires an in-depth knowledge of an entirely different writing system.

This is the first hurdle to overcome in learning any language but for these types of languages the hurdle is all the bigger. In Japanese, for example, there are two alphabets to learn – katakana (mostly for the transcription of foreign words) and hiragana (for Japanese words or to denote grammatical aspects of the language). Then there are several thousand Japanese characters called kanji (meaning “Chinese characters” because most of them were originally taken on from Chinese). Memorising these is no mean feat!

In linguistics, writing systems are a method used to express a language in the form of letters or graphics. These systems exist for languages worldwide and are an important tool for communicating within cultures and of course – through translation – between different cultures. Modern Western writing systems are a type of syllabic writing – so a representation of the syllables used when speaking a language. Alphabetical systems then led to various forms of handwriting. The Western forms developed through many ages, from the capitals and uncial script of Latin and Greek scribes into the gothic script between the twelfth century and the renaissance and eventually became the cursive – joined up handwriting – that is used today.

Eastern writing has developed from pictographic origins. The earliest examples of Chinese were written on various materials, including bones, shells and pottery. As opposed to the Western writing systems, Chinese characters represent whole morphemes rather than individual syllables. These characters are made up of many individual brush or pen strokes, combined to form the intricate scripts we see. Just as it can be difficult to read the handwriting of someone who does not write neatly in a Western script, there can be problems with legibility of Eastern writing systems as well. With so many different writing systems across the world, with varying directions of writing and different cultural styles, is it any wonder that translation is so important today? Have you got any experiences to share about different writing systems you’ve encountered?

Here at Lingua Translations, we love languages and all their beautiful written forms. For more information on the languages we translate, please visit our translation services page.

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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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