Over the past few years, there has been a constantly growing trend – especially among young people - toward using abbreviations on the Internet, in emails, and text messages. These abbreviations are usually used in part to help save time (except for cases in which the reader is not familiar with a particular abbreviation, thus conversely causing them to spend more time reading the text, trying to decipher it), in part to look cool, and in part almost subconsciously, because they’ve been pretty much ingrained into our contemporary culture.
Seeing as how translators generally don’t get hired to translate text messages, chats, and private emails (usually), most people in the industry probably don’t come across these abbreviations too much in the course of their daily work. However, these abbreviations appear extremely often on the Internet in general, and are sometimes present in text to be translated when working on, for example, a story, or maybe an article covering contemporary culture or youth trends.
As a native English speaker and longtime Internet user, I am familiar with a good number of the abbreviations commonly used in English. But – and I must admit, I hadn’t even considered this until recently – English is not at all the only language in which these abbreviations are used. Most (if not all) languages used regularly on the Internet possess their own respective sets of Internet-based word and phrase abbreviations, and some of these can be pretty interesting and creative.
In English, most of these abbreviations are simply straightforward abbreviations of simple phrases using the first letter of each contained word. Some of the more common abbreviations are “LOL” = “laugh out loud”, “OMG” = “oh my God”, “IDK” = “I don’t know”, etc. Let’s check out some of the more interesting variations on these themes in other languages...
In French, people seem to get a bit more creative. For example, “A12C4” means “See you one of these days,” – pronounced as/short for “À un de ces quatres”. Some more examples: “Ksk t'fu” - meaning “What the hell are you doing?” – is short for/pronounced “Qu'est-ce que tu fous?”, and “J'ai acheté du vin” (“I bought some wine”) is rendered “GHT2V1”.
In Japanese, a very common “abbreviation” (technically closer to an emoticon, possibly) is “orz”. While this is technically not an abbreviation, I’ve decided to include it here because it’s related to the subject matter, and because I can. orz is usually quite tricky for first time viewers... Looks carefully – do you see it? It’s supposed to represent a person kowtowing or giving a deep bow - the “o” representing the head touching the ground, the “r” is the arms and shoulders, and the “z” is the legs bent – expressing apology, disparity, or hopelessness. (I bet you see it nhow, right?)
In Spanish, people have taken to borrowing, combining, and Españolizing words and abbreviations from other languages. For example, “lolear” is the forced Spanish verb form of “to LOL”. Another word commonly used recently is “ganbatear”, which is the Spanicized form of the Japanese verb “ganbaru”, which can be loosely translated to “to try one’s best, to go for it”, and which among translators and Japanese speakers is famously difficult to translate accurately.
The English abbreviation “LOL” itself has spawned many internationally localized versions. I’ll wrap up with a quick list of some of the more interesting versions:
Thai: 555 (pronounced “hahaha”)
Chinese: 哈哈哈 (also pronounced “hahaha”)
Hebrew: ההה (technically the transcription of “hhh”, because in Hebrew vowels are usually left out in writing)
Russian: лол (literally “LOL”)
French: mdr (short for “mort de rire”, or “dying of laughter”)
Arabic: لــول (also a transliteration of “lol”)
Afghani: mkm (abbreviation of the phrase “ma khanda mikonom”, meaning “I’m laughing”)
Japanese: w (short for the Romanized version of the word “warai”, meaning “laugh”)