Mark Williamson wrote:
In addition, I have a feeling that article overstates
abilities of the average non-native internet user. Yes, lots of people
have a very (very!) basic command of English, but that is not the same
as functional bilingualism. A user may happen to know the name for a
horse, but what are the chances a casual user from Peru knows the name
for an anteater, a giraffe or a jellyfish?
Amusingly enough, a former student of Martin Luther, by
the name of Michael Agricola, faced this problem when
translating the bible into Finnish in the 17th century.
Yes, Virginia, the Finnish language really didn't exist as
a written word but late in the 17th century.
Michaels solution to the knotty problem of how to describe
animals the common folk had not really had any experience
of, was to rely on the most conspicuous visual, which often
ended up mildly humorous to later readers. An ostritch he
dubbed what would be literally "Stork-camel", ("kamelikurki"
Lion in a more amusing coinage was to Michael "a noble deer"
("jalopeura"), going with the color of the pelt despite the fact
that lions are hardly ruminants.