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Translation News

Translation is More Than Words

A familiarity with a specific subject or niche makes all the difference for translators and interpreters. "It's not just about having the language skill. There is a wealth of knowledge and background you need in your area of specialty," says Abigail Dahlberg, who translates waste management documents from German into English. American Translators Association President Nicholas Hartmann said at the organization's recent 50th Annual Conference in New York City that demand for translation and interpreting services should grow 15% in the coming year. The LA Times noted that while email, Skype and other technologies have opened the door to cross-cultural communications, they alone cannot bridge the language gap. "Translation is far more than words," said Hartmann. The conference attracted more than 2,400 attendees—convincing evidence that the industry is strong even in this economy. The need for information in various languages is driven by a number of factors, including globalization, the Iraqi and Afghan wars, and the worldwide green movement. Hartmann noted that his own specialty, translating German patents, requires an understanding of technical and legal issues in addition to the context of words and phrases. Despite their importance, niche translators and interpreters are hard to find, especially in U.S. government agencies. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says its translation workload has increased 100% following the September 11 attacks. Meanwhile, with the growing diversity of the U.S. population, hospitals, schools, courts, and other institutions have been hard-pressed to provide sufficient translation and interpreting services.

From "Demand Grows for Niche Translators" Los Angeles Times (CA) (11/16/09) Susman, Tina

Studios Work to Improve Movie Translations

The U.S. film industry's growing reliance on international audiences for revenue has forced studios to invest more in translation - both dubbing and subtitling. Dubbing is more popular in Europe while subtitling is more common in South America. Japanese theaters typically offer both versions. With subtitling, the translator is faced with the need to shorten dialogue and remove proper names and modifiers to maintain the gist of what is being said. The goal is not to overwhelm the audience with too many words to read. "You're getting a more abstract version of the movie," says Sandra Willard, who has spent 30 years working with translators in the industry. She adds, "You have to be obsessive to do this, and you have to keep up with pop culture, too, in order to ensure you're staying true to what's being said. "A great example of the problem is "gag me with a spoon" from the 1983 comedy "Valley Girls." In the French version of the movie, the phrase was translated as "stick a spoon in my throat." Movies that take place in the past can add an extra level of difficulty, requiring translators to find linguistic equivalents for slang that is not only uniquely American but also no longer in use. "Holy cow" and "your goose is cooked" are two examples from this summer's Captain America movie which is set in the 1940s. As the international market has expanded, smoothing over cultural subtleties has become crucial in film translation. Elena Barciae, a writer of Spanish subtitles for Central and South America, prepares a single translation, which she compares to being forced to devise a generic dialect that is applicable to the U.S., Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. "The more slang, the harder it gets because slang tends to be very localized," Barciae says. For words that do translate, she still has to consider what a country's censors will allow on the screen. "You try to get the feeling across and still get by the ratings," Barciae notes. "Subtlety is important." Industry analysts say, however, that the movie business may have grown too fast for this kind of attention to detail. With movies being released simultaneously around the world, studios have to crank out subtitling and dubbing at a rate that outpaces their available translators. Many have begun to outsource these services to larger media firms that offer one-stop package deals to producers. According to Barciae, the result could be far less sophisticated translations. "Good translators are really writers who love working with language," she says. "And you've got to love movies, too, because you'll be watching a lot of them, over and over again."

From "Studios Try to Lessen What's Lost in Translation" Associated Press (NY) (07/18/11) Glenn Whipp

Maximizing Global Websites

Business globalization expert Don DePalma believes that companies should focus more on local languages for their international websites. Common Sense Advisory, an international market research company, surveyed consumers and business buyers in eight countries where English is not the primary language. The survey results showed that the respondents preferred to buy products offered and documented in their own languages, DePalma says. The study also found that consumers with limited English proficiency are 4.8 times more likely to buy products offered and documented in their own languages. Among English-speaking respondents, 65.5 percent said they favored local - language products. Many consumers also said they would pay a higher price for a localized product. DePalma explains that businesses can save time and money by developing a global website in many languages. He adds that they should target languages spoken in countries that spend the most money online. Company websites should also display all the characters in a language, use translated content in all major browsers, and respond to errors with messages in different languages. The company should test their multilingual keywords for global search engine optimization and marketing to make sure that local content shows up in local search results. DePalma notes that in country-aware customer service management, capturing prospects who email or register online will provide language- and country-specific follow-up.

From "Getting Your Web Site to Work for You in Global Markets" Chief Marketer (CT) (07/12/09) DePalma, Don

Why Hire a Professional Translator?

Hiring professional translators cannot only reduce costs for companies, but lower the likelihood of embarrassment and a loss of credibility, according to American Translators Association (ATA) President Jiri Stejskal. Professional translators can make sure that the company's ads and information are culturally relevant and deliver the same message across different cultures without being insulting or confusing to the target audience. Errors and mistranslations can also have serious consequences-financial and otherwise-in health care and other areas. Stejskal notes ATA circulates a brochure, both online and in print, designed to help people hire translation services. The guide's suggestions include eliminating unnecessary information before translation; using pictures rather than text whenever possible; avoiding cultural clichés, literary references, and sports metaphors that make no sense in other countries; ensuring that the translators understand the type of publication and the intended audience; differentiating between translation for information only and translation for publication; and refraining from "correcting" translated text to follow English conventions.

From "Save Money/Face: Hire a Professional Translator" Scoop (New Zealand) (01/23/09) Stejskal, Jiri