Spanish Translation  //  Traductor inglÚs-espa˝ol  //  Traduction franšais-espagnol

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03/21/07

English-Spanish translation pitfalls #2

English and Spanish are different. Hardly a surprise, right? But they are different in many ways that sometimes can go unnoticed, especially if you are so focused on the original English text that you fail to step back and think: wait, this is not how I would express myself in Spanish if I wasn't translating...

One of these important differences is in the use of personal pronouns. While in English we use them very often, this is not the case in Spanish. There is a reason for this. Let's take a look at conjugation for a common verb, like "say" ("decir" in Spanish):

I say
You say
He/she says
We say
You say
They say

Yo digo
Tú dices
Él/ella/usted dice
Nosotros decimos
Vosotros decís
Ellos/ellas/ustedes dicen

It becomes clear that personal pronouns are essential in English in order to specify which person is "saying" something or performing any other action. However, in Spanish we can easily stick to:

Digo
Dices
Dice
Decimos
Decís
Dicen

Since all of these verb forms are different in writing and pronunciation, we really do not need the pronouns to specify the person performing the action. Every verb form already provides this information.

This is why in Spanish we rarely use personal pronouns in a text or in oral speech. We do use them for emphasis, or when the context may lead to confusion if we didn't use a personal pronoun. However, most of the time, the verb form alone is enough (and more than this is considered poor, unnatural style.)

English example: I think they noticed that we didn't attend.
Personal pronouns: 3
Spanish translation: Creo que se dieron cuenta de que no asistimos.
Personal pronouns: 0!

The alternative translation with all personal pronouns "Yo creo que ellos se dieron cuenta de que nosotros no asistimos", even though grammatically correct, is really a pain to read or hear, and is anything but natural in Spanish...

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Permalink 06:23:03 am, Categories: For professional translators, 35 words  

Long live IATE!

This piece of news is spreading like wildfire among translators, but in case you don't know yet, the successor to EurodicAutom, the European Union terminological database, is already here: IATE (Inter Active Terminology for Europe).

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03/20/07

Permalink 08:05:59 am, Categories: For translation buyers, 685 words  

How to determine the quality of your potential translation provider

Most translation providers offer a polished and attractive presentation of their language services on their websites and other marketing materials. They all look convincing and credible. When you consider this, the next natural step for you is to think “any of these four providers will do, we’ll just ask all of them for a quote and go with the lowest offer.”

The truth of the matter is, some translation companies do not live up to the expectations they create. They are sometimes better at marketing than translation! And by choosing the lowest bid, you are jeopardizing the outcome even more. I wouldn’t suggest choosing the most expensive option, either. Nothing guarantees you that it will be the best one. The point is, pricing is not a determining factor when it comes to assessing quality. As it happens in many other situations, the proof of the pudding is only in the eating.

So how do you go about assessing a translation provider’s quality? There are several possibilities for this. Many people do not know about them and thus miss an opportunity to make an informed choice and greatly increase their chances of success. Hopefully, this will not be your case after reading this post!

When considering translation providers, you can ask them for a free translation test. You can submit to them a 250-300 word-long text, which would be a part of the texts that you would like to have translated, and ask them to translate it for free as a means to assess their quality. The advantage of this option is that you would be testing their performance with the very materials that you need to have translated. The fact that they can skillfully translate product patents does not necessarily mean that they can translate your marketing copy equally well. So if you send them a sample of your text, you will get an idea of what kind of performance you can expect from them when working with your own materials. The problem with this option is that very often, 300 words of translated material are hardly enough to determine a translation provider’s quality.

Considering this, a probably better option would be asking them for samples of translated materials in the target language and in your specific field: this option will provide you with a greater sample of translated material from your potential translation provider(s). You should make it a point to specifically ask for translated texts related to the materials that you need to have translated. For example, if you need to have an employee handbook translated into Spanish, it would make sense to ask for samples of employee handbooks already translated into Spanish by this translation provider. They will probably mask any brand names and avoid disclosing any sensitive information, and this is a very good sign. It means that they will treat your materials with the same degree of confidentiality.

Okay, so now that I have a translation test or translation samples from 3 or 4 different translation providers, how can I tell which one is the best if I don’t speak the target language? Well, if you have subsidiaries or business partners in the country for which these translations are intended, you can ask them to have a look at them. Or maybe you have employees who are native speakers of your target language. The point is having a language-aware person who is a native speaker of your target language go over those samples and tell you which one would be the most adequate.

This comparison process, rather than the comparison process based only on price considerations, will be your key to success.

Even though this process requires time and effort, it can really pay off. A successful translation will save you headaches, lost opportunities, and financial leakages that you can’t even imagine. And more than anything else, it will portray the same image in your target market that you strived so much to create in your local market. It has served you well up to now, so why compromise it by going with a less-than-brilliant translation provider?

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03/17/07

Permalink 10:26:00 am, Categories: For translation buyers, For professional translators, 462 words  

Why is translation such a tricky project to undertake?

You might wonder why there seems to be so much concern about quality when it comes to translation. Aren’t all translation providers more or less the same?

The truth of the matter is, there is a bit of everything in the translation arena, and probably less excellence than mediocrity.

Let’s face it: translation is not a highly reputed profession. Only if you are well ahead in your learning curve do you know that computer translation is not a good idea, and that speaking two languages is far from enough to make anybody a good translator. There is a generally held belief that translation is easy. Hey, even I was naive enough to choose translation studies because I thought they would be easy for me, considering my knack and love for languages! When you are in this frame of mind, you expect professional translation to be quick and cheap, and you will do everything possible to find a translation provider that matches your budget. And you probably will, no matter how low you set your limit.

On the other hand, high-quality translation providers strive a great deal to find quality translators. They start out by selecting translators with seemingly solid profiles and qualifications, and then they test them, only to keep about 1 out of 10 of them. Top-notch professional translators tend to be on the expensive side because they generate a lot of demand for their services. But some translation providers are less concerned with quality than they are concerned with boosting their bottom line, and hire translators who charge low rates. Why do these translators charge low rates? Usually because the quality of their work does not attract that much business, and instead of trying to study and work harder to improve themselves — which admittedly takes a good deal of time and effort — they choose low pricing as their winning argument. Whether they do this out of immediate financial necessity or lack of pride for what they do, the outcome is more or less the same: substandard translations.

Of course, not many things in this life are completely black or white, but these are general patterns. You can sometimes find good translators who are cheap — though they tend to quickly increase their rates as they are soon flooded with work — and you can find not-so-good translators who charge high rates. How do they manage it? Who knows!

The point of this post is not telling you to go with the most expensive translation provider you can find. The point is rather highlighting the importance of taking appropriate measures to assess your prospective translation provider’s quality, and hopefully caring about price later. With a little bit of luck, this reading will save you some hard trial-and-error steps in your learning curve!

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03/16/07

English-Spanish translation pitfalls #1

The English words "eligible" and "eligibility" are often translated as "elegible" and "elegibilidad" in Spanish. In my opinion, these are unnecessary and rather ugly calques. These words do exist in Spanish, but they mostly refer to people who can legally be elected (and are thus eligible) for political positions. But it is admittedly not always easy to translate these words into Spanish without using those calques. Depending on the context, these would be some of my suggested options:

Somebody that is "eligible":

- Cumple los requisitos para
- Reúne las condiciones para
- Está cualificado / calificado para
- Tiene derecho a
- Puede optar a
- Puede acceder a
- Es candidato a
- Corresponde a los criterios de selección
- Se ajusta al perfil
- Es idóneo para
- Es apto para

And eligibility may be translated as:

- Derecho a
- Idoneidad para
- Aptitud para
- Cualificación / calificación para

There are probably other "eligible" options, but the ones included here should already help in many contexts. The idea is asking yourself how you would say what the English text is conveying if you were writing in Spanish from scratch rather than translating from English...

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