Tag Archives: business translation

Astronaut Learns Russian before Going into Space

Even though the Space Shuttle is gone, it doesn’t mean that American astronauts have to find different careers or that American children have to give up their dreams.

There are other nations going into space that are more than willing to give other astronauts a lift to the stars. However, for many astronauts, that means learning a new language well enough to provide professional translation, because in space, mistakes can be deadly.

How to Get to the International Space Station

For NASA employee Shannon Walker, the only way she was getting back into space was by hitching a rocket ride to the international space station. Before she was allowed to go though, she had to learn Russian. The Russian language is a notoriously tricky language to learn for many people, and though Walker struggled, she prevailed and was sent to the international station in a Russian rocket.

Russian translation is now easy for Shannon, and she is hoping to go back into space soon. She recently shared her story to students at St. Anne School in Barrington, Chicago, and is planning to speak to more students around the country.

NASA Audience

“NASA takes all kinds of people,” Walker told her student audience on Wednesday January 9th. “The most important thing is you have to do well in school, so study hard if you want to be at NASA.” The students who eventually get to be employed by NASA might have something else to look forward to now: being bilingual.

Shannon’s story isn’t uncommon. Astronauts commonly work with people from other counties, and they are frequently Russian cosmonauts. It only makes sense that astronauts should be proficient in professional business translation to make work conditions more comfortable and safe.

Language Isn’t the Only Barrier

To become a candidate for going into space, Walker also had to become a physicist. That made her eligible. When she was chosen for the space program, she had to begin training. Besides learning Russian, Walker had to become physically fit and learn basic medical and dental skills.

She was trained rigorously on emergency procedures and survival skills as well. Walker suggested that if students want to become an astronaut, they should learn Russian while they are still in school. She says it’s much easier than learning the language as an adult with a deadline.

North Carolina High School Offers Advanced Chinese Courses

The Chinese program at Charlottesville high school in North Carolina has over eighty students enrolled this year. Even though some of the classes have the students sing Rebecca Black’s famous internet song “Friday,” the students are engaged in the material and eager to learn the complex language. Many of the students shuffle along to the song and embarrassedly go through the Chinese translation, but some are having fun singing the simplistic lyrics as they are accompanied by a student on the guitar.

Chinese Language Club Grows into Three Classes and is Still Expanding

The Chinese language program at Charlottesville high school didn’t start out as an actual class. It started as an after school program that quickly grew too popular to keep going as just a club. The school now offers three classes in the Chinese language, each growing more advanced until hardly any English at all is spoken in the classroom at the third level. The school is also hoping to start an AP class for the most advanced students and wants to eventually hire a second teacher. Some students want to continue learning the language when they graduate, hoping to use their skills in business or working for professional translation companies.

The students also say that with China growing as quickly as it is and with the population of Chinese immigrants expanding in the United States, the Chinese language could possibly become one of the most commonly spoken languages in America.  In order to be able to compete for jobs, the students say that they need to be prepared, and that means being able to speak the language. Being able to provide business translation services will greatly increase their chances of landing quality jobs out of college.

Is Good Teaching the Driving Force Behind the Language Program?

Many of the students at Charlottesville high school are enthusiastic about learning Chinese because they think it will help them with future careers, but many are excited because they have an engaging and interesting teacher. Sara Epperly is the Chinese instructor at the high school, and she strives to make her classes interesting and enjoyable because the class is an elective. Epperly is originally from Roanoke, Virginia and is only one of ninety-two teachers to have their Chinese endorsement. She is a professional translator who also has experience with Spanish as well as Chinese. She has also spent several years teaching abroad in China before getting her master’s degree in 2005.

McDonalds’ Failed Attempt at Foreign Outreach

For companies that are nationally recognized, every move they make is in the public eye. McDonald’s especially is constantly under scrutiny in the United States as it fights against backlash from health professionals and organizations such as PETA. For that reason, their most recent billboard translation blunder is all over the news. You’d think that a company as large and powerful as McDonald’s could afford a higher quality professional translation service, but instead all they got was a botched billboard and public outrage. The billboard was put up in St. Paul, Minnesota, where there is the largest Hmong community in the United States.

Hmong Message Lost in Translation

Hmong are people from the mountainous regions of Vietnam, China, Laos, and Thailand. They are a sub-group of the Miao ethnicity, and there are many of them in St. Paul who still speak their native language.  The billboard, which appears in English all over the country, was supposed to say “coffee gets you up, breakfast gets you going.” Hmong people in the area said that whatever professional translator assigned to the job clearly did not speak the language, as the message barely even made sense. It would be the equivalent of trying to read a sentence on a sign in English with no spaces between the words.

Message Was Not Offensive in Nature

While the Hmong community is offended that McDonald’s carelessly printed the incorrect translation, the message itself is not actually offensive. Lucky for McDonald’s, there were no bad words or symbols in the failed translation. However, you can’t blame the Hmong people in the area for feeling like McDonald’s must have skimped on their plan to reach out to the large but minority community and might have hired a Chinese translator with little knowledge of the Hmong dialect. McDonald’s officials released an apology for the blunder, announcing that they’ll repost the billboards with the correct translation within a week.

Even if you own a company that is on a smaller scale than McDonald’s, it is important that you get your translation right the first time when tailoring a special message. While you’re trying to make a certain community feel important by reaching out to them personally, you might end up offending them by proving you didn’t do your research. Even when communicating one-on-one with clients or business partners, make sure you hire a reputable business translation service to avoid any errors.

Translation Error Fuels International Tensions

Although professional translation is an important and useful service, it is never more important than when the words being translated can ease or spur international tensions.  On August 30th, the president of Egypt, Muhammad Morsi, gave a speech which was translated into several languages.  Unfortunately, Farsi interpreters got part of their translation wrong, replacing the word “Syria” with “Bahrain.”  This seemingly minor mistake, made for an entirely different interpretation of what the president was saying, and now the Bahraini government is demanding an apology.

Was the Translation Error a Mistake or a Strategy?

To Bahrain, the mistaken translation included them in the list of Arab states dealing with revolution this past year.  They claim that their crackdown on Shi’ite protestors are not enough to be considered the same as dealing with an all-out revolution.  Iran and Syria though have criticized them for these crackdowns in the past and are fairly open about their stance on the matter.  This has led Bahrain’s state-run news agency to accuse the Iranian media of making the “mistake” on purpose.  They believe it was yet another strategy meant to interfere in their affairs and should be considered “a violation, fabrication, and unacceptable media behavior.”

Bahrain Demands Apology

If such a mistake were made in an important business translation or even a technical legal translation, there would most likely be avid apologies by the translation company for any harm the mistake might have caused.  Because the countries involved don’t agree on the issue of Shi’ite power in the Middle East though, an apology for this particular translation issue is yet to be made.  Bahrain has publicly demanded an apology from Iran’s media and the Iranian officials though, by formally filing a complaint with their government.  However, experts believe an apology is unlikely, especially with all of the tension surrounding Syria and Iran right now.

Even if you’re not using translation services at such a high level as these governments, it may be just as important.  One word could completely change the meaning of an entire conversation or document and could potentially put an end to important business relationships.  That’s why it’s so important to make sure any translation company involved has the experience and knowledge necessary to make accurate translations.

About The Translation Company

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