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03/27/07

Permalink 10:29:35 am, Categories: For translation buyers, Spanish language & translation, 1147 words  

7 ways to have your message translated

1) Automatic (computer-generated) translation

Virtually every one of us has wondered at least once if computer-generated translation could be the ideal solution to our translation needs. After all, computers get more and more powerful and intelligent every day, so they must have figured this out by now, right? Well, actually, no. Language is intrinsically related to the human conscience and the human mind, with all its richness and complexity, nuances, double meanings, ambiguities... And computers have a long way to go before figuring all of this out. Of course, there is a certain measure of relativity in this. Granted, a computer will probably never be able to translate marketing or literature materials not even faintly close to adequately. However, for highly technical, very repetitive texts, the story would be somewhat different. But more on this later.

2) Translating in-house

Okay, so now that we established that computers will not address our translation needs adequately, we know that we need a real person to translate our materials. But wait a minute! My bilingual assistant is proficient in English and Spanish! She can translate for us, right?

Well, stop to think for a minute. Would you, for example, entrust your bilingual assistant with writing your company’s technical handbooks, even if he or she is proficient in English? Probably not. You would rather look for somebody who is a skilled technical writer. Similarly, unless your bilingual assistant happens to be a highly skilled linguist with specific training in translation, and a native speaker of your target language, you will do no favor to your company — or to your assistant for that matter — if you expect him or her to accomplish a task that he or she is not qualified to perform, such as professional translation.

3) The cheapest translation company we can find

I am starting to get upset with all of this. After all, translation should not be so complicated! Why, it is just taking English words and converting them into Spanish, French or German, nothing out of this world, right? We will just ask four different translation companies for translation quotes and go with the lowest offer. That should do just fine…

However interesting this option may sound, there is a high risk associated with it. Remember that your image, your message, and ultimately your bottom line are at stake here. A poor translation, even though it will cost less initially, can be the most expensive option. Think lost clients for lack of credibility, complaints or constant queries from your customers because they do not understand your target-language materials, or even worse, being sued by them because they got your message wrong and did something that caused them an injury or financial losses…

When you seriously look for quality, it is more likely that you will find it. If you are only looking for a low price, you are probably heading for disaster!

4) A top-notch freelance translator

In this case, we will do something else… We will just go without middle-men. Let’s do a search for a freelance translator, let’s choose the very best one, and we will save on commissions charged by translation companies.

Well, this can indeed be an interesting option if handled carefully and under some conditions. Freelance translators will often provide you with translation work only. Some of them will be able to provide desktop publishing services or translations in complex formats, others not. Depending on what you need (and if you only need translations into a couple of languages, which will be reasonably easy to handle by yourself), this can indeed be a good option, provided that the translator is really top-notch. High-quality translation providers pick their translators carefully, saving you a trial and error process that can require a great deal of time and resources. If you need reliable freelance translators for your projects, you will find a very good list of them here: www.squidoo.com/translationservices.

5) A reputed translation company
Hhhmmm… I think we should go with the safest option. Let’s just take one of the world’s leading translation companies. They will be able to address all of our needs, manage our multilingual projects effectively with little or no hassle for us, and they probably have highly qualified translators that they have selected carefully. It might be more expensive, but safer.

Great choice! And here I am to point you in the right direction: SDL International (www.sdl.com) is one of the most reputed translation companies out there, well known for their high standards and responsiveness. A very safe option indeed.

6) A freelance translation network
More and more professional translators, faced with the ever-decreasing rates offered by many translation agencies, are teaming up to provide their services without intermediaries, which allows them to offer very affordable rates to the end clients (saving on administrative costs incurred by translation agencies) while earning a fair compensation for themselves. Many of these translation networks are very reliable and offer high-quality services through cooperation among their members, who are professional and skilled translators. Very often they can offer a range of services that is comparable to what translation agencies offer. www.betranslated.com is one of these freelance translation services networks, and it offers support for the most common world languages. Other networks specialize on a language or a couple of languages, such as JB Translations Spanish translation network.

7) Controlled language + automatic translation + human post-editing
What if you have tons of highly technical and repetitive texts? Isn’t there a way to cut costs in this case? There indeed is, and this is where computers come in to the rescue. If you would care to invest the necessary resources to train your staff in learning how to write in controlled English, you will actually be able to obtain the savings you are looking for. Controlled language in general consists of a set of rules entailing simplification and standardization of grammar and vocabulary, which help computers understand and translate the resulting texts more adequately. A system powered by machine translation and enhanced by a translation memory created specifically for your materials is used, and the output is then post-edited by professional translators who are trained for this kind of task, thus automating a good deal of the translation process and saving costs. You will find more information about this on this translation article: www.uem.es/web/ott/ingles/controlados.html. Companies such as SDL International can help you throughout this process, from training your staff in controlled languages to creating your translation memory to post-editing the machine-translated output.

Whatever the option you end up choosing for your translations, hopefully this post will have been a useful resource to help you find the solution that fits your needs best, and especially to help you reach your target audience with a clear and polished message that conveys the right image about your company.

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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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03/15/07

New blog section

Today I posted a comment about some differences between English and Spanish on another translation blog, and it gave me an idea for a new section here. The new section will be called "English-Spanish translation pitfalls" and it will point out key differences between these two languages that any English-Spanish translator should know in order to produce high-quality, smooth and polished translations. I won't promise it will be a weekly section. Some weeks I may write several such posts, some weeks maybe none. But I will try and keep this section alive and keep those posts coming!

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