Lettering Tattoo - Using Foreign Languages in Tattoo Lettering

By Romeo Rodriguez

Tattoo lettering remains the most popular motif among tattoo buffs today because of its increasing versatility in design. Its status as the most sought after tattoo style owes much to the use of foreign languages. Many celebrities, like Robbie Williams, Scary Spice Melanie Brown, and Britney Spears, wear tattoo lettering in foreign languages.

There is something about inking words in a language other than your native tongue that increases the tattoo’s mystique, deepens the symbolism behind that tattoo, and attracts more attention from onlookers because they do not readily understand what it means in the first place.

How people choose a foreign language for your tattoo lettering is mostly based on visual appeal. A particular calligraphy style of a foreign language may attract you above others and may work beautifully with the tattoo lettering text you have in mind.

Oriental calligraphy has been a steady choice for Westerners and Easterners alike in tattoo lettering. Japanese lettering is formed by using three kinds of scripts: the kanji, the hiragana, and the katakana. These scripts are combined for lettering and can be inked vertically and horizontally. For Japanese tattoo lettering, however, people often used kanji, which originated from the Chinese and is used to convey concepts. Kanji can further be inked in three different styles �" block, cursive, and fancy cursive �" to give you options in individualizing your tattoo lettering. Japanese tattoo lettering is called “irezumi” and “horimono.”

Chinese characters are also widely used in tattoo lettering. The only danger in using Chinese calligraphy is its ill adaptability for translation. Chinese symbols have individual meanings; their connotations rely on the milieu of present times. As a result, Chinese tattoos get outdated quickly. What's more, Chinese characters are meticulous to tattoo �" one wrong brush stroke could destroy the whole tattoo.

Among foreign Western languages, the most popularly used in tattoo lettering is Latin. Superstars like David Beckham and Angelina Jolie have Latin tattoo lettering on their bodies. David Beckham has “Perfectio in Spiritua,” meaning “Spiritual Perfection” inked on his right forearm. Angelina Jolie’s Latin tattoo is a combination of a thick black cross that covers up a small dragon tattoo she go in Amsterdam and the phrase :Quod me netrit me destruit” which in Latin means “What nourishes me also destroys me.” Because of its familiarity and connection with the English language, Latin phrases are comparatively easier to translate into tattoo lettering designs than Oriental calligraphy.

With any tattoo that is not inked in your native language, make sure you do a full and comprehensive research. It is important to know what words you want done and that when translated, they convey the exact meaning and association that you intended them to. Online translations work, but always consider the context of why you want a certain foreign phrase done. Double check your translation with more than just one source

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