General Translation

14 Jan 2010

TAUS Predicts

The recession was not as bad as we had all feared. A coordinated global response, the taking of difficult decisions, and public scrutiny all helped to remedy the flu sooner than seemed likely.

These same facets – collaboration, rigor and transparency – took a foothold in the translation industry during 2009, proving their worth and laying the foundations for the TAUS predictions for 2010.

Exactly five years since foundation, in a year when TAUS is going hands on, we trust that the foresight we’ve had all along will unlock the power of translation for the world.

1. A thousand MT systems will begin to bloom

Sixty years after the term ‘machine translation’ was coined by Warren Weaver, MT has reached the average citizen. Today more words are translated by machines than by humans. The MT button is hit a hundred million times a day or more. Translation “out of the wall” as we had predicted.

But business needs customized MT solutions, which has remained an opaque, complex and lengthy process. And so the MT button remains that fingertip away for many in commerce who would benefit hugely from a world that communicates better.

Not for much longer. This year will see MT technology move significantly closer to “push button” training and tuning. The result will be the “blooming of a thousand MT systems”.

A shifting from generic language pairs to MT engines targeted at specific industries and domains. Many new developers will join the scene – university spin-offs, language service providers – to put their teeth into open source algorithms. The barrier of upfront investments in customization will be removed, finally making translation automation accessible for everyone.

This development has been catalyzed and will be accelerated by the availability of language data and the dominant trend of sharing and collaboration.

2. Sharing TMs will take off in a big way

Last year, open standards, interoperable systems, and even open source became the norm with the TAUS community at the heart of the action. The result is a much better marketplace.

Founding members of TAUS Data Association have proven that sharing TMs benefits everyone. The repository now contains 1.3 billion words in 126 languages and the TAUS search language engine is rapidly becoming the de-facto terminology tool for users. Seamless connectivity with translation tools is next on the horizon.

With the status quo shown to be dysfunctional, the TDA’s supercloud and other sharing initiatives are set to enjoy the spoils.

3. TM systems – as we know them – will cease to exist

Translation memory, introduced as a sub-feature of the ALPS MT system in 1983, took center stage when the localization industry rejected pure MT as a viable option for the translation of the piles of user documentation that hit the market with the launch of the PC in the mid-eighties.

TM has since dominated the translation tools market for two decades. Apart from the relocation from the translator’s desk-top to the company server, TM technology has sadly remained just a segment leveraging tool.

The opportunities for advanced leveraging using sub-segment matches and a combination of statistical algorithms and linguistic intelligence have unfortunately been ignored for too long by the mainstream industry.

TM will now finally become a smart tool, bridging the gap with its more intelligent MT sister and significantly increasing the recycling of previous translations. At the same time, TM will move into the cloud. Leveraging of translations will be done in the cloud through web services links in desk-top and enterprise translation tools.

The combination of advanced leveraging and the sharing of TMs in the cloud will boost translation productivity by 30% to 50%. And just as important, we will see greater consistency and accuracy in translations.

Author: Jaap van der Meer

Source: [14 Jan 2010]

28 Dec 2009

Work, in Translation

The Job: Translator/Interpreter

• The Nature of the Work: Translators and interpreters work fluidly with languages, but their responsibilities differ. Translators work with printed copy. Interpreters specialize in the spoken word and serve as liaisons between two parties, such as a doctor and patient or defendant and attorney. They typically must consider ethical obligations; translators often have to massage copy to make sense of pop culture references. “Being bilingual isn’t enough,” says Judy Jenner, who co-founded Twin Translations with her sister. “We have to shape a message to an international audience.”

• The Pay: Many jobs are free-lance. Interpreters can earn between $15 and $30 per hour, according to Common Sense Advisory, a Boston-based research firm. Translations are paid per word. Ms. Jenner, for example, charges 24 to 27 cents per word, depending on the skill level. Savvy translators can earn six figures per year, says Milena Savova, academic director of the department of foreign languages, translating and interpreting at New York University. Full-time staff at language-services firms earn from $40,000 to $60,000, according to a recent survey from the Globalization and Localization Association, a language-services trade group.

• The Hours: Hours are often flexible. Ms. Jenner, who lives in Las Vegas, says she completes her assignments while lounging by the pool. Her twin sister and fellow translator/interpreter works from Austria. Elizabeth Chegezy, a translator and interpreter in Philadelphia, says free-lancers can work as much or as little as they like. However, she warns that the high-paced role technology plays in the business means some clients will demand unreasonable deadlines. At language-services firms, business hours are the norm.

• The Benefits: Free-lancers are responsible for their own health-care and retirement-savings plans. At language-services firms, traditional health-care packages are common, as are retirement-savings programs.

• Other Incentives: Translators and interpreters can cultivate a specialty in the field—thus leading to higher-paying jobs. Those with a background in chemistry, for example, will be shoe-ins for jobs translating complex documents about chemicals. Ms. Jenner parlayed her M.B.A. in marketing to nab a tourism-related translation job in Vienna.

• Best Part of the Job: For those with a passion for languages it’s a way to flex that muscle for personal satisfaction. Ms. Chegezy enjoys learning different strands of slang from Spanish-speaking countries, from Panama to Mexico. “Languages are an acquired skill for me, and there’s always something new to learn,” she says.

• Worst Part of the Job: Interpreting jobs in the health-care industry can make some squeamish. Ms. Chegezy has seen broken bones and patients vomiting while on the job. In addition, professionals must aggressively look for jobs. “It’s feast or famine,” says Ms. Jenner.

• Education/Qualifications: There are no official certifications required, although several are offered through trade organizations, such as the American Translators Association. A college degree is not required, but most have them. Spanish is the most in-demand language, but other languages are growing, such as Arabic.

• Hiring: Demand for translators and interpreters is expected to increase 24% through 2016, according to the Department of Labor. Joining an industry group such as the American Translators Association, which has its own job bank, can help translators find jobs in both translation and interpretation. The All Language Alliance also connects job seekers and positions.

Author: Diana Middleton

Source: [28 Dec 2009]

16 Dec 2009

Back to Basics

Recently, I came across an interesting monolingual dictionary of translation terminology. I believe going back to basics from time to time in order to refresh information on terms we use in our everyday work could be useful.

9 Dec 2009

Transcreation: Translation with Super-Powers!

Transcreation is another concept which could easily be mistaken for a buzz word. In reality, it refers to vast areas of translation which have for ever been adapting content rather than simply translating it.
Like “Localisation” itself however, it seems to have been appropriated and reinvented by the Information Technology industry (2). So what do we mean by it and do methodologies really differ enough to warrant the use of this term?

Origins of the Concept

If you’ve grown up in an environment where English wasn’t the first language, chances are you have been exposed to transcreated content from a very young age. It may have been through entertainment, television, or advertising; most likely all of the above.

I never knew, nor did it matter to me, that Musclor was not He-Man’s real name. A more famous example of very liberal marketing translation is the story behind the Mitsubishi Pajero’s alternative name in Spanish-speaking countries. I’m also pretty sure that Smurf is not a literal schtroumpfation for Schtroumpf. Spider-Man: India seems a successful example of a multi-national company truly embracing a local culture.

This phenomenon does not only relate to the “Americanisation” of western-culture or even to the intense globalization of this century. Research (3) has shown that forms of Transcreation have been used in Indian poetry and religious writing, where form and content have always been adapted to some of the many cultures and languages of India.

There, is the key to Transcreation in my opinion: recognising the need to become part of a local culture rather than simply communicate in its language.
While translators always aim to reach out to their audience, the software industry often bounds them to the demands of technical content. Transcreation in its modern sense signals the releasing of these bounds, and gives the explicit brief to stray from the source message in favour a better way to communicate the same idea to the target audience.

Videogames Localisation

The term Transcreation is often attributed to Carmen Mangiron and Minako O’Hagan (1). They were among the first to use it in the context of IT, more precisely of the gaming industry.

They recognised the fact that with most games developed in Japan or the U.S., yet targeting truly global markets, there was an inherent need to free translators from the source text in order better connect to local gamers everywhere. In fact even some of the functionalities of games are sometimes adapted to the local culture: the amount of violence, explicit language etc. is not only changed to meet age ratings, but in cases to actually comply with the cultural and legal requirements of different regions of the world.

Countries such as Germany have laws which regulate video game content and manufacturers are faced with the choice of adapting their games or not being commercialised.

Advertising, Copywriting and SEO

The localisation of advertising, or copywriting is an area where the idea of Transcreation is also very apt.
While in a lot of cases translators are not copywriters themselves, they are given instructions to be creative with their work. Rather than just delivering the meaning in a grammatically correct manner, they have the task to also deliver in a form which creates the same reaction in the potential customer.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) copywriting and translation are a further extension of this, where the translator even has to select the words in a very strategic manner. SEO is of course more than just selecting keywords, but even this part of optimisation has to be translated in ways which achieve the best search engine rankings in the target languages, not the source.

Measuring Quality

But is all this really that progressive an idea? Aren’t all translators always trying to come up with the best possible translation anyway?

Things get complicated when you try to measure or monitor the quality of translations where the translators have been asked to stray from the source in order to convey a marketing campaign’s message in the best possible way.

This becomes a highly subjective exercise where chiefly, the client is right.

Here comes the next hurdle: localisation clients rarely have marketing staff in all the countries they market to. So vendors have to come up with processes which ensure that the product delivered meets those sometimes subjective requirements. This in my mind can only be achieved through a durable relationship between the clients and their translators/reviewers. Processes must transcend the limitations of the outsourcing model and recreate the fuzzy feeling of enlightened ownership once only common to the now endangered species of the in-house translator.

Such is the challenge of Transcreation: creative translation requires creative quality management.


(1) Game Localisation: Unleashing Imagination with ‘Restricted’ Translation
Carmen Mangiron and Minako O’Hagan, Dublin City University, Ireland

(2) On the Translation of Video Games
Miguel Bernal Merino, Roehampton University, London

(3) Elena Di Giovanni “Translations, Transcreations and Transrepresentations of India in the Italian Media” (2008), in Klaus Kaindl and Riitta Oittinen (eds), The Verbal, the Visual, the Translator, special issue of META, 53: l. Les Presses de l’Université de Montreal, pp. 26-43.

Author: Nick Peris

Source: [9 Dec 2009]

20 Nov 2009

The (demanding) Art of Translation 🙂

English – Lingua Franca Nova:

  • The Dairy Association’s huge success with the campaign “Got Milk?” prompted them to expand advertising to Mexico. It was soon brought to their attention that the Spanish translation read “Are you lactating?”
  • In a Zurich hotel: “Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.”
  • In an East African newspaper: “A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workers.”
  • In a Czechoslovakian tourist agency: “Take one of our horse-driven city tours — we guarantee no miscarriages.”
  • On the box of a clockwork toy made in Hong Kong: “Guaranteed to work throughout its useful life.”
  • In a Paris hotel elevator: “Please leave your values at the front desk.”
  • Coors put its slogan: “Turn It Loose” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer From Diarrhea.”
  • Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”
  • In a Tokyo bar: “Special today for the ladies with nuts.”
  • In a Bucharest hotel lobby: “The lift is being fixed for the next day.  During that time we regret that you will be unbearable”.
  • In a Leipzig elevator: “Do not enter lift backwards, and only when lit up.”
  • Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick,” a curling iron, into Germany only to find out that “mist” is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the “Manure Stick.”
  • In a Rhodes tailor shop: “Order your summers suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.”
  • In a Tokyo Hotel: “Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please.  If you are not a person to do such a thing is please not to read notis.”
  • Advertisement for donkey rides in Thailand: “Would you like to ride your own ass?”
  • In a Rome laundry: “Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.”
  • In a Hong Kong supermarket: “For your convenience, we recommend courageous, efficient self-service.”
  • A hotel notice in Madrid: “If You Wish Disinfection Enacted In Your Presence, Please Cry Out For The Chambermaid.”
  • In a Belgrade hotel elevator: “To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor.  If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor.  Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.”
  • In a hotel in Athens: “Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 A.M. daily.”
  • An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope’s visit. Instead of “I saw the Pope” (el Papa), the shirts read “I Saw the Potato” (la papa).
  • Pepsi’s “Come Alive With the Pepsi Generation” translated into “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Grave” in Chinese.
  • On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: “Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.”
  • Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop:  “Ladies may have a fit upstairs.”
  • A sign posted in Germany’s Black Forest: “It is strictly forbidden on our black forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each  other for that purpose.”
  • The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as “Kekoukela”, meaning “Bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax”, depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent “kokou kole”, translating into “happiness in the mouth.”
  • When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” The company thought that the word “embarazar” (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant!”
  • In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist: “Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.”
  • The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, “Salem-Feeling Free”, was translated into the Japanese market as “When smoking Salem, you will feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty.”
  • In a Swiss mountain inn:  “Special today — no ice cream.”
  • Ford had a problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company discovered that the word Pinto was Brazilian slang for “tiny male genitals.”
  • In a Bangkok temple: “It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man.”
  • In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: “We take your bags and send them in all directions.”
  • On the door of a Moscow hotel room: “If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.”
  • In a Norwegian cocktail lounge: “Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.”
  • When Kentucky Fried Chicken entered the Chinese market, they discovered that their slogan “finger lickin’ good” was translated as “eat your fingers off.”
  • Frank Perdue was no better off. This chicken magnate’s slogan: “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken” was rendered in Spanish as “It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused.”
  • In a Budapest zoo: “Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.”
  • In the office of a Roman doctor: “Specialist in women and other diseases.”
  • In an Acapulco hotel: “The manager has personally passed all the water served here.”
  • In a Tokyo shop: “Our nylons cost more than common, but you’ll find they are best in the long run.”
  • When American Airlines wanted to advertise its new leather first class seats in the Mexican market, it translated its “Fly In Leather” campaign literally, which meant “Fly Naked” (vuela en cuero) in Spanish.
  • From a Japanese information booklet about using a hotel air conditioner: “Cooles and Heates: If you want just condition of warm in your room, please control yourself.”
  • From a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo: “When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.”
  • Two signs from a Mojorcan shop entrance:  “- English well speaking   /  – Here speeching American.”
  • Tokyo hotel’s rules: “Guests are requested not to smoke and do other disgusting behaviors in bed.”
  • In the window of a Swedish furrier: “Fur Coats Made For Ladies From Their Own Skin.”
  • Sign in a German hospital: “No Children Allowed In The Maternity Wards.”
  • The sign at the concierge’s desk in an Athen’s hotel: ” If You Consider Our Help Impolite, You Should See The Manager.”
  • A notice in a Vienna hotel: “In Case Of Fire Do Your Utmost To Alarm The Hall Porter.”
  • Detour sign in Kyushi, Japan: “Stop: Drive sideways.”

Source: [20 Nov 2009]


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