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  • Writer's pictureNikolaj Widenmann

Santa's Translation Workshop

Every year, millions of children worldwide send letters to Santa with their Christmas wish lists. To ensure that the children of the world receive the right presents, Santa’s Translation Workshop operates at full blizzard toward the end of the year.

Many would assume that Santa speaks and reads every single language in the world. The truth is that the sheer number of languages on this planet exceeds even Santa’s linguistic capabilities (which may explain why the most frequently heard utterance that the lucky few have heard is a mere “ho-ho-ho”; the expression is relatively universal and requires only minor phonetic modifications).

In addition to letters from hopeful children, Santa used to receive letters of complaint from parents who were frustrated by their children’s behavior (these were also used as a coercive method to encourage proper behavior).

The letters travel in both directions; Santa does reply to letters. (Scam alert: Reply letters may be fake; some organizations aid and abet non-believing, though otherwise well-meaning parents in a conspiracy to issue falsified reply letters, complete with fake North Pole stamps.)

However, the real letters – ingoing and outgoing – typically require translation. We spoke with a confidential elf, who wishes to remain anonymous because he is not an authorized spokes-elf. He explained Santa’s translation process as follows:


When mail arrives, the letters are sorted according to language. Letters written in one of the official Santa languages (Inuit, Greenlandic, Greek, or Sami) are handled internally by Santa’s Translation Workshop (STW) to ensure that they are understood throughout the organization. This also applies to several other major world languages, including English, Chinese, German, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. These languages are typically translated into one of the official Santa languages (see above).

Letters in most other languages are normally – and especially in December – outsourced to different freelance translators worldwide.

Translation Locations

STW’s various offices share premises with Santa’s Workshops. Santa’s Workshops are reported to have numerous locations, including the famed North Pole, Lapland (spanning the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, and Finland), and Greenland.


Once the letters have undergone the obligatory linguistic sorting in the mail room, the busy elves sort letters according to format:

Handwritten: Many children – whether because of age, tradition, or lack of access to technology – submit handwritten letters. Santa enjoys handwritten letters because he feels a closer connection to their young authors. Handwritten letters are translated manually – i.e., without the use of any CAT software – using a special word processor developed at the North Pole long before the rest of us even had electricity.

Typed/printed: Typed and printed letters are scanned and then undergo an OCR process to render the text editable. This enables the translator elves to employ translation memory for rapid, accurate translation of repeated words (you’d be surprised how many children want an Xbox or an iPhone). Typed letters used to be produced on typewriters but are now mainly written on computers, tablets, and even smartphones and then printed.

Electronic submissions: Some letters are submitted electronically via a special app that only children know about, as well as by email. CAT tools also play a role in translating these letters.

The Translators

Santa’s in-house translators are highly educated elves, who are fluent in five or more languages (most have had several centuries to hone these skills). They are also prolific writers. Many hold translation degrees from renowned universities worldwide (in recent years, many elves have opted for online degrees to eliminate the hassle of wearing a disguise to class). All are certified by Santa’s Translators Association (STA).

The outsourced translators are not elves but are likewise highly qualified and STA-certified. For obvious reasons, we are unable to reveal the identity of the individual translators, but it may be someone living in your community.


All translations undergo a meticulous review by one or more translators to ensure accuracy. A single mistranslation, and a child could receive a completely unwanted gift! An error in the children’s behavioral statement could even cause an otherwise worthy child to be placed on the naughty list and receive the consequent coal delivery!

Pro Bono

All of Santa’s translations are performed on a pro-bono basis. After all, who in their right mind would bill Santa? Besides, all of Santa’s translators – be they elves or mortals – know that the greater blessings come from giving.

As you can see, translation plays a major role in the annual rush to deliver the world’s gifts. As important as this may be, however, everyone involved with Santa's Translation Workshop is fully aware that the millions of presents really point toward the ultimate gift ever presented to humanity. That gift was given freely by Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world – and it is Him Whose birth we truly celebrate and commemorate at Christmas time.



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