Past Is Prologue

And other examples of why more is more in Italy

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The Statue of David in Florence. Photo: iStock

In Italy, you’ll find signs about face masks with 40 words in bureaucratic language. No smoking signs consist of 109 words of legal text, and simple toilet signs can be made up of 122 words. What reasons can we find for this in Italian society?

Among the novelties the Covid-19 pandemic has given us—in addition to face masks and awkward elbow bumps—is a variety of new signs instructing us how to behave. …


Helsinki and Brussels apply bilingualism differently, with the Belgian capital clearly standing out. Here is what these bilingual cities can teach us when designing a multilingual website, along with five best practices.

Golden ornaments on houses at Grand Place in Brussels
Golden ornaments on houses at Grand Place in Brussels
Grand Place in Brussels

Are you creating a multilingual website and need some guidance on the user experience? A good source of inspiration is to look at how bilingual cities or multilingual countries work, and how their websites are set up.

Let’s take a trip to two bilingual European cities, Helsinki, the capital of Finland, and Brussels, the capital of Belgium, to explore how bilingualism functions, and see what this can teach us when designing our website.

I lived in Helsinki for a few years as a child, where both of my mother tongues Finnish and Swedish are official languages, and have regularly visited…


Finnish flag with idyllic lake Saimaa in the background
Finnish flag with idyllic lake Saimaa in the background

What do American brands Taika, Vuori, Levätä, and startups Sisu, eero and Lumi Labs have in common? Their names all come from Finnish, and shows how brands look for unique names in a language that is one of the most difficult to learn for English speakers

If you work in Silicon Valley, you might have picked up a Taika coffee on your way to start-ups like Sisu, eero or Lumi Labs. You have probably enjoyed a refreshing Elossa kombucha when relaxing at the beach, or maybe you have added protein powder Kasvi to your superfood smoothie, after working out in…


Some brand names are more memorable than others, while a few even become synonyms for words, and present in everyday language. Can you come up with the next brand name that will be used as a verb?

A Google sign at a stand outdoors in a backyard type setting
A Google sign at a stand outdoors in a backyard type setting
Photo by Rajeshwar Bachu on Unsplash

Nike. GE. Disney. Google. Some of the most famous brands in the world, with probably the least in common in terms of names. What is it that have made their names stick? Is it the success of their products and services alone, that has made us remember their names, no matter what they would have been called? Or can we attribute a significant part of their success to their names?

Branding consultant Jonathan Bell categorises successful brand names into seven types in the American context. …


Linguistic and cultural differences do not respect production schedules. If you do not take cultural context into consideration when translating your message, you can end up in trouble. Having lived in five different countries, I have often noticed this myself.

A busy New York street with skyscrapers, billboards, people, and taxis
A busy New York street with skyscrapers, billboards, people, and taxis
Photo by Aaron Sebastian on Unsplash

Companies and agencies can feel frustrated when an approved master version of a message cannot be translated into other languages that easily –imagine if Google Translate, or some app, could translate and culturally adapt our message accurately into other languages.

Let us stop and really think about what happens when we are adapting a message for an audience speaking another language. We release our messages into their cultural context, into societies that are complex and filled with contradictions, shaped by hundreds, even thousands, of years of history. …

Anders Pettersson

Multilingual digital marketer that has lived in Finland, Sweden, Italy, Belgium & the UK. Thoughts on languages & marketing. anderspettersson.co.uk/contact

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