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Six Things Arrival Taught Us About Language

An award winning thriller and critically acclaimed hit, hopeful in its message and founded in realism; Arrival proved a fascinating viewing not just for sci fi fans but for linguists and translators alike. In fact, we loved the film so much, it became the inspiration behind our latest promo vid. But what can we really learn about language from the film - and how can we apply these lessons to translation, language and localisation services?

Language influences the way we think.

Central to Arrival’s plot is a real theory that dates back to 1929, first outlined by anthropologist Edward Sapir, but later developed upon by the linguist Benjamin Whorf. Now known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, this idea is sometimes referred to as ‘linguistic relativity’.

The theory is that one’s perception of reality is either determined, or else greatly influenced, by the language we speak. Since language is the tool we use to mentally categorize emotions and communicate experiences, one can describe it as the primary method through which to organize and express thought. In other words, our mindset is shaped by our native tongue, and learning another language could help broaden it.

In fact, experiences that we may otherwise have thought to be universal - such as that of time - may be perceived differently depending on the language we use to express said experience. The idea that time moves forward in a straight line, with the future lying ‘ahead of you’ and the past ‘behind you’ was once thought to be a globally accepted notion by Westerners, but has since been realized as a merely cultural interpretation. Take the Yupnas for example. This remote tribe in Papua New Guinea have a different take on the nature of time. For these people, time travels up, rather than forward, and tribe members will gesture uphill when speaking of something to come. The past, therefore, is below them - or downhill.

In Arrival, Dr Banks’ comprehension of the aliens’ language allows her to perceive time as a simultaneous experience. While we’re unlikely to ever experience time as simultaneous, there’s no denying that some cultures experience time at a slower pace than others. There seems to be a correlation between how far society has developed, and the pace of its general lifestyle. Compare the sense of urgency and haste felt by the average person living in Tokyo with that of someone living in a small Greek village, for example.

Multilingualism improves cognitive abilities by opening the mind to alternative perspectives - but not just in relation to abstract theories. A person’s understanding of a culture can be vastly improved by learning its language. Often we’ll find that a culture’s vocabulary is very telling of its history, social values and environmental setting. All Danish speakers will be familiar with the word ‘hygge’, the cosy feeling of enjoying life’s simple pleasures, which is reflective of the cultural value Danes place on good food, family get-togethers, and sitting around the fireplace in comfy clothes. Meanwhile in France, there’s ‘seigneur-terraces’, a term for so-called ‘coffee shop dwellers’ - those who spend a long time sitting around in coffee shops without spending much money (no doubt a common occurrence in a country filled with young tourists and irresistibly quaint coffee shops). We also know that the Inuits have multiple ways of describing snow; various words that help differentiate between snow’s texture, form and even its relationship to humans.

Roy Pedersen

Our CEO Roy Pedersen dressed as Dr. Banks at a Purim party. The rest of the pictures in this blog article are screen captures from our promo video.

Literal translation causes miscommunication.

Why is a human translation so much more reliable than an automated translation? Why is a translator immersed in a particular culture so much more likely to produce better text in that culture’s language? The answer is simple; context is everything. Pluck a word out of a sentence, and it will have, singularly, one or two specific meanings. Only when placed back in the sentence can its meaning in relation to the rest of the words be understood. The meaning of any one single word is vague, malleable - almost always reliant upon its context. A single incorrect vocab choice can change the entire meaning of a sentence. To convey correct meaning, therefore, localization must be central to any cross-cultural translation. In Arrival, a literal translation of the aliens’ message causes a miscommunication so grave it almost results in war.

Even in those cases when a literal translation succeeds in expressing the general gist of the original meaning, the message’s initial clarity will be lost and, when not expressed in a manner that sounds natural to a native, will fail to captivate or instill trust in readers.

As a marketer, this has important implications in terms of how we approach cross-cultural content and advertising. If we are to build a relationship with our audience, we must convey a message in a tone and style both consistent to our brand and natural to the language with which we are marketing. At All-in Translations, the importance of localizing content for each specific market has been a central principle which underlies all our translations. Our writers are native not just in the language, but in the culture, you are targeting. Furthermore, they are specialized in the terminology of each translation and content subject matter, minimizing the risk of miscommunication and giving your content the authority that comes with correct lingo.

All-In Translations Arrival

A simple sentence is not always so simple.

What is your purpose on Earth?” In Arrival, this was the pressing question humans were desperate to pose the aliens. The film’s compelling suspense rested on the possible responses these extraterrestrial creatures might give. Yet Dr Banks takes her time in asking the big question. She argues that when we take our cultural concepts and forms of expressions for granted, we fail to appreciate how differing perspectives or communication styles could render a literal translation meaningless.

When our frustrated heroine is urged by her supervisors to ask the aliens their purpose as quickly as possible, she demonstrates how an apparently simple sentence can be more complex than it might initially appear. “First, we need to make sure they understand what a question is. The nature of a request for information, along with a response. Then, we need to clarify the difference between a specific ‘you’ and a collective ‘you’, because we don’t want to know why ‘Joe Alien’ is here, we want to know why they all landed. And purpose requires an understanding of intent. We need to find out: do they make conscious choices, or is their motivation so instinctive they don’t understand a “why” question at all,” she explains to a colonel in one the film’s most eye-opening scenes.

Even the most seemingly straightforward of sentences may leave room for alternative interpretations if not translated correctly. The way in which we form sentences, and the concepts upon which these sentences are based, are unique to centuries of linguistic development that can differ widely from culture to culture.

Roy Pedersen


Games provide a universally popular method of language learning.

Using a classic game called Mahjong, the Chinese try teaching the Octopods (the aliens) to communicate through four-player competition. Mahjong is typically played with 136 tiles; each featuring a unique symbol representative of different traditional objects and natural elements. This betting game has been of great cultural significance in China since the Qing dynasty and can even be found at many of the top online casino sites today.

It would not be an outlandish proposal, should we ever be visited by an alien species, to engage in dialogue with them through the use of games. In humans, we know that the nature of play facilitates and expedites learning. The hugely popular language learning app Duolingo has become such a success in part because of the addictive nature of its level progression. Just like in any other mobile game, players are rewarded for advancing, and enjoy the satisfaction of ‘unlocking’ achievements and bonuses along the way.

Games play a central part in numerous types of education across the world, and the prevalence of the ‘learn-through-play’ method is evident when looking at children's’ toys like alphabet blocks and shape sorters. Learning through play has been shown to hold numerous advantageous because of the way it stimulates our memory and other cognitive functions, while heightening motivation and emotional intelligence. In short, games can be extremely useful in the learning of a new language. One might also argue that communicating with aliens through play would also be appropriate because games are indicative of human’s unique nature - we love a challenge.

In Arrival, however, Dr Banks criticizes the Chinese approach, highlighting how this method of teaching is dangerous in practise because it reduces relationships to a competition. Whilst the differentiation between playful competition and hostile competition is understood by most humans, the presentation of a winners-or-losers mindset to an alien species would  not allow them the contextual understanding we use in making that distinction.

language services

Language is the foundation of civilization.

Language is the glue that holds people together. So says heroine Dr Banks, although the film’s physicist Iain Donnelly disagrees, arguing that science is the foundation of civilization. The side one takes in this debate invariably depends on what you consider to be the catalyst of human advancement; the use of science in building and preserving the structures and objects key to our survival, or the ability to spread the knowledge of these inventions through the use of language?

Science exists with or without humans. Language, on the other hand, is something uniquely complex - created specifically by, and for, humans. Without language, there is no global sharing of knowledge, organisation, and storytelling with which to strengthen human connections and cooperation. As such, we’re tempted to take Dr Banks’ side in the debate. Language is the foundation of civilization.

Global language services

The study of linguistics is essential.

There’s no action hero saving the day in Arrival - just a nerdy linguist, and it makes the story all the more convincing. What if we do someday make contact with an alien species? Lingual anthropologists and translation experts will no doubt play an integral role in the first-contact scenario with any intelligent life we encounter. But before we have to worry about building a relationship with extraterrestrial creatures, there are countless ways we can employ the study of linguistics in broadening our current understanding in matters of sociology, psychology, history and global development.

Have you seen Arrival yet? What about our new promo vid based on the film? Check out All-in Translations’ latest movie spoof above to discover what we do, where we come from, and what our purpose is...

Proper Cheeky on the Sofa with Dani B

Ali G impersonator Dani B talks to Sales Manager Michele Spiteri and CEO Roy Pedersen about the upcoming Celebrations of Translations for All Nations Tour.

Click links below to register or read more about the specific events of the tour. More to follow shortly.


Ladies Night in Vegas during G2E


Ball In Cup SiGMA Malta


Movemberfest at SiGMA Malta


Ball In Cup Tel Aviv



All In Translations helped Yako Casino to land with a blast on the German market


YakoCasino has launched its innovative casino in Germany at https://yakocasino.com/de/ with the help of language service provider All In Translations. This revolutionary online casino enables it to track and analyse the customer’s activity whilst playing and provide players with recommended games.

The customers casino lobby is fully personalized and YakoCasino have some fantastic promotions on offer in September, including 10% cashback every Monday, reload bonuses, free spin hunts, YakoChallenges and personalised bonuses for its loyal players.   Continue reading

Translating the Best Online Football Slot

With the Euro Cup in full swing these days, who wouldn't boost their zest for football by trying a brand-new slot themed around... the Euro Cup? And we're not talking about the average romp you're getting with the classics out there -- this is a whole different level of cool!

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The Euro Golden Cup slot is Genesis Gaming's latest marvel, recently unveiled for the online gaming arena to make sure all football fans are keeping their zing alive. The supplier is a regular and valuable client of All In Translations and so we got the shot at translating this ultimate game into 16 languages. As usual, we did our job with the best of our ability, making sure that our translations are up to the highest standards and even hosted the demo of the game back at ICE in early February.

Euro Golden Cup is already available to play on Unibet and ComeOn and we're betting our kids' college funds that this slot will get super popular very quickly. What's more is that the guys at slots-guide didn't lose any precious time and put Euro Golden Cup to test just to convincingly conclude that this game deserves all the superlatives you can think of. In their own praising words, Euro Golden Cup is "THE perfect football slot."

Needless to say, we're very proud we took part in this project with such an important client ranked among world's top suppliers of video slot content. With such wind in our sails, we're ready to translate the next fabulous slot and keep our name on the lips of many gaming suppliers worldwide!


Are you our new Project Manager?



UPDATE: This vacancy is no longer available. Thank you to all of you who applied and click here to check out our vacancies.

Due to their time-proven expertise and client-centered approach, All In Translations are a market leading provider of language services to the booming iGaming industry.

We are now adding at least one Project Manager to our team in Porto (Portugal) and in St. Julian's (Malta), to a position where your most important responsibilities will be:

-To handle projects and emails from clients.
-To receive projects, distribute them to translators, receive the translations, check the quality of formatting, and to return the translations to the client.
-To handle new clients and provide quotes.
-To contribute to translating, proofreading, resource maintenance and other operational processes.
-Report to the Operations Manager.

The key attributes we are looking for are:

-Education and/or experience from language services
-Passion for games and sports
-Experience with CAT tools and/or project management software
-English communication
-Attention to detail

What does All-In Translations offer?

First and foremost, you will get the chance to join a winning team that is a vital link between two sectors which have shown constant and drastic growth for more than two decades: the language industry and the gaming industry. With 70+ languages available, no other language service provider can offer such a wide variety of languages AND a genuine enthusiasm for games and sports - a unique combination that brought us an exemplary reputation, an International Gaming Awards finalist spot in 2015 (Corporate Services Supplier of the Year category) as well as a double triumph in the 2014/15 Malta Pentasia Clubs League.

At All-In Translations, we are known for keeping our promises and treating people with respect. We are ambitious and committed to growing our business, however our working hours are one hour less per day than local standards. We believe in mutual flexibility. Salary is competitive and negotiable depending upon experience and qualifications. 

Send the cv and the cover letter at hr@allintranslations.com or apply here.

PM team from All In Translations

All In team building “kicks off” at Old Trafford

There was the perfect excuse for a team travel: The 2015 Language industry Summit!

This year’s ATC conference took place in Manchester at the magnificent Old Trafford stadium! What a great venue to host this event and what a great venue to welcome the team of the leading language service provider for the online gambling industry – All In Translations.

PM team from All In Translations

The All In Translations team

We’ve rented a 5 bedroom house (somewhere in Manchester) and we got the perfect scenario for a great team building week.

Five Super Stars from our team flew in from Malta and Spain and a lucky lady even had the chance to stay a few more days and enjoy the Old Trafford atmosphere to the full whistle watching Manchester United defeating Sunderland for 3-0! (We all got the English Breakfast though)

Angelique, Edu, Orsetta, Eloy and Tiago were the elements representing All In Translations among other industry leading companies.


Working hard!The conference was a great opportunity to mingle with leading industry organisations, participate in insightful debates, keep up to date with industry trends and tool developments as well as learn from other players experience and develop business relationships.

We hope that the trend is here to stay and next year’s conference takes place in Maracanã or perhaps Cam Nou? Just a hint!