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Happiness: An Analyses of the Term in Different Languages

Happiness: an analyses of the term in different languages

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the following definitions:

In English:

In a way, happiness (and its antonymous term – unhappiness) are related to the verb to happen, linking them with favourable or unfavourable events taking place outside of us, our state of mind dependent on external factors. In Old English you would wish “good luck” by saying “good hap”.

In Latin, Felicitas means fortune, luck, or more rarely, destiny. (Minois, 2009)

In German, Glück means both happiness and fortune. While its antonym, Unglück, is the state of being sad, unhappy and also means disgrace.

In French we have bonheur and malheur, which follow an identical pattern.

Are we right? Are we sure that happiness comes from what happens to us?
Maybe it’s just a culturally rooted point of view.


What about in Africa? Could African culture give the West a much more interesting perspective?

For instance, the Fante speakers of Ghana describe happiness/excitement literally as “eye-get” (“anigye”) and joy/contentment as “eye-agree/reach” (“anika”), in contrast with shame as “eye-die” (“aniwu”) and guilty as “eye-put” (“anyito” in Dzokoto & Okazaki, 2006)

Suhipelli in Dagbani language (Ghana) can be translated as White heart.

Both languages suggest that Happiness is moving from inside the individual, towards the outside, so it depends on us.

Maybe we should take this possibility into consideration.

Curious to know more?

“Although many theories about the structure of emotion have been developed, none of them seem to adequately explain the African experience. This study examined the folk emotion lexica of two indigenous West African languages. Fifty monolingual Fante speakers and 50 monolingual Dagbani speakers from rural and semirural Ghana participated in focus groups to generate words in their native language that they use to describe experiences that involve emotions. Qualitative analysis of the emotion lexica generated by the focus group participants revealed frequent somatic referencing in the emotion talk of Fante and Dagbani, although there were differences in the specific body parts mentioned in references to various emotional experiences. The ubiquity of somatic referents in the expression of African emotions suggests that future theories of emotion structure may need to incorporate the concept of embodiment.”

“Happiness in the Eye and the Heart: Somatic Referencing in West African Emotion Lexica”, Vivian Afi Dzokoto, Sumie Okazaki,

Happiness in the Eye and the Heart: Somatic Referencing in West African Emotion Lexica
By Shigehiro Oishi, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

“Several programs of empirical research have also revealed cultural variations in the connotation of happiness. For instance, Lu and Gilmour (2004) found that Americans tend to associate excitement and success with happiness, whereas the Chinese tend to associate peace and calm with happiness. Similarly, Jeanne Tsai and her colleagues found that Taiwanese and Hong Kong Chinese value low-arousal positive affect such as calmness, whereas Americans typically value high-arousal positive affect such as excitement

(Tsai, Knutson, & Fung, 2006). Interestingly, Taiwanese children’s books depicted a mild smile more often than a wide smile, whereas American children’s books depicted a wide smile more often than a mild smile (Tsai, Louie, Chen, & Uchida, 2007). Similarly, Christian texts often use high arousal positive emotions, whereas Buddhist texts often use low arousal positive emotions (Tsai, Miao, & Seppala, 2007). 

Given that American concepts of happiness center on achieving of one’s goals, it makes sense that the resulting emotions are excitement and pride. 

In contrast, given that Chinese conceptions of happiness center on luck, the resulting emotional state might not be excitement but rather akin to gratitude and satisfaction”

By Shigehiro Oishi, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

How do you express happiness and luck in your language?

Do you differentiate between the two? 

Let us know your thoughts.

If you wish to go deeper on Africa:

Cultural Models of Well-Being Implicit in Four Ghanaian Languages

Folk emotion concepts: Lexicalization of emotional experiences across languages and cultures

By Anna Ogarkova

Happiness in the Eye and the Heart: Somatic Referencing in West African Emotion Lexica

Vivian Afi Dzokoto, Sumie Okazaki

Cultural Models of Well-Being Implicit in Four Ghanaian Languages
Literature Quality

Quality Part II: “Es kann immer besser werden”

or "It can always be better".

This is a brief summary with personal insights about an enlightning book "Humble Inquiry" by Edgard H. Schein.

The trickiest thing about our “errors” is that they are hard to detect, otherwise we would not make them in the first place.

On the other hand, we are inclined to see mistakes made by others.

This assumption is, in my opinion, a great starting point if we aim at improving our team’s work. It is an incredible tool.

Quality improvement in a company (or any organization) starts by isolating weak points, what we commonly call “errors”.

"Es kann immer besser werden – it can always be better"

First things first, it is crucial to detect every single mistake, false step, or underperformance. Second step is of course, to search for a solution, or at least an improvement.

Easy as it sounds, we cannot forget that this is not automatic: it cannot be imposed from above (the management), rather it has to be built one brick at a time, through daily practice and it can happen only thanks to open and frank communication. It’s a collective action, involving all stakeholders.

We are often too focused on the result, on implementing strategic choices, following market trends and neglect to improve communication inside our organisation.

Communication is like the oil inside the cylinders of an engine. If it’s lacking or low quality, our engine sooner or later will stop working smoothly.

How can we create and nourish communication?

Through what E. Schein calls “humble inquiry” i.e. asking questions with open mind and sincere interest in the answer.

In Western society, we prefer to assert (“to tell”) rather than ask (“inquire”), because asking is felt as sign of ignorance and inferiority. When we ask questions, we temporarily transfer our power to the other, we make ourselves vulnerable as it implies that the other knows more than we do. We need to overcome this cultural bias, and the question shall be considered the will to go deeper, to improve.

What, when and how we ask questions – it’s all bricks building a relationship, which is, by definition a complex matter. It takes time and trust.

Maybe my personal takeaway of all, is the approach: it has to be transparent, respectful and sincere, if we wish to have clear communication, we need to build reciprocal trust and we do it by temporarily abdicating to the power of assertion.

Instead of you and me, it is advisable to go for a “we”. This shift in perspective will bring a joint solution to a problem.

In his book, Schein gives a beautiful example.

Colleagues are like runners in a relay race. 

Each runner has to do their best, but also needs to think about the next team member “how shall I pass the baton?”, “Is my team mate left or right handed?”. I do depend on them for the final result of the race, the same way they depend on my performance. This is a clear metaphor standing for: “how can I facilitate the next step?”.

Quality Part II: “Es kann immer besser werden”

Now let me share a personal example: when I talk to our CAT Tool specialist to solve an issue. His activities are outside my field of competence. I ask questions, yet I still don’t always understand the answer. So, before answering my questions, maybe he shall try to understand what I really want to know, as sometimes I am not asking the right questions. On the other hand, I need to understand the essence of his “geek” language and see how I can find the right information. We need to put together different aspects, maybe client’s request, the choice for the best technical tool for the specific case, as well all the needs of a linguist, for instance.

Our industry joins different cultures by definition and we need to find a common tongue to reach the common goal. We are aware of how a virtuous workflow will impact on final result. As tasks become more complex and articulate we need to find a good solution together. The key is asking humble questions and listening with an open mind.

The success of what we do will depend on the way we pass the ‘baton’.

Would you like to ask us anything?

We're ready to listen and share some answers.

Educational Translations

Quality Part I: “Ad meliora et maiora semper”

or continuous aiming at better and greater things.

Among the many meanings of the word “quality”, two are of critical importance to managing for quality:

·         Quality means those features of products which meet customer needs and thereby provide customer satisfaction.

·         Quality means freedom from deficiencies / freedom from errors that require doing work over again (rework) or that result field failures, customer dissatisfaction, customer claims and so on.

We should previously determine which domains can successfully be processed using MTPE. Technical domain, user interfaces, medical translations, patent, legal could be more suitable for MT as they consist in usual phrasing and specific terminology that is standardized. Scientific documents with limited vocabulary are also giving great results. By limited, we consider the number of meanings that a word can have. While we are faced with the complexity of the technical/scientific field, we know that the higher the degree of technical complexity is, the more specific the translation of the word must be, and the more likely that the machine will choose the right word.
Quality is an ancient topic :Code of Hammurabi

Quality is an ancient topic.

In the beginning, Quality Control focused on “after the fact” – The Code of Hammurabi (c. 2000 B.C.) prescribed the death penalty for any builder of a house that later collapsed and killed the owner. So laws were enacted for punishing those whose poor quality caused damages.

This approach proved limited with the growth in science and technology. Therefore, over time, a trend for Quality Regulation “before the fact” emerged, to become preventive in nature.

It is clear that – now more than ever before – quality has come to take center stage. It is crucial for products reaching consumers to guarantee their safety and general satisfaction.

If you feel like going deep into Code of Hammurabi, make sure you don’t miss this source shared by Wikipedia. 

The translation industry plays its role in the process and must comply with the latest quality requirements; thus it is also regulated by International Standards (ISO EN Norms, for instance) in the same way products are.

The nature of translation itself as a nonmaterial good (intangible product according to ISO EN 17100), makes Quality management a subtler topic if compared to measurable features of a material object. It is not possible to perform a chemical analyses or a lab test to check for objective failures.

So how do we strive towards Quality?
What are our tools to ensure it?




LSCs working in our industry are well aware that QA Check is a powerful tool evaluating the performance of a specific project and implementing necessary corrections. It can be embedded in the CAT Tools or used as a further stand-alone step. It provides for quality assurance by pointing out errors and warnings from terminology, spelling, inconsistencies to missing localization standards.

Yet quality control in a broader sense aims at ‘continual improvement’. This term connotes the ongoing nature of strategy and its main purpose is to verify that control is being attained and maintained.

Every single step of the process shall aim at quality.

Clear communication between client and LSC is crucial to successfully carry out the tasks on a specific translation project, and also to maintain and improve the quality on future projects through the virtuous habit of using a feedback loop. Systematic planning for quality control, with extensive participation of all stakeholders is the key: Quality is the result of interactive cooperation between the client and the provider of translation.

While the 20th Century has been the ‘century of productivity’, the 21st Century will be known as the ‘Century of Quality
[Juran J.M.- 1989].

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Quality Assurance?

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