Tag Archives: Professional translation

New InterpreTravel App Has its Flaws

For the most part, everyone knows that human translation is far superior to automated or computerized translation services. Humans are able to find out what context the original words are in, and they can use that content to more accurately determine what information is being relayed. Many people and businesses around the world fall victim to the convenience of computerized translation services without realizing how inaccurate and possibly offensive the translations can turn out. However, there are drawbacks to some human translation services, and those drawbacks are clearly portrayed in the new translation app by InterpreTravel.

Translation App has Lag Time

InterpreTravel’s app is specifically designed with travelers in mind. Instead of fumbling with their phones and using Google translate to communicate with people speaking a foreign language, users can use the app to connect with a live translator over the phone. While the professional translator will certainly be able to help them over the phone, there is down time while the service connects to a live person. As with any phone call, the user must wait until the translator on the other end picks up the phone, and then they’ll have to wait again once they are making their translation. If you are a traveler quickly hopping into a cab or trying to figure out what someone is saying in an urgent situation, this lag time is unacceptable.

App Can’t Translate Text

In addition to taking a moment to connect, the InterpreTravel app also can only translate the spoken word. Since the translators are helping users over the phone, the users (or the angry cab drivers waiting for their fare) must speak the language into the phone. For people who have no experience with the foreign language, this can be extremely difficult. Though computerized translator services are not always accurate, at least you can copy and paste a body of text without having to say it out loud.

Human translators are most definitely superior to computer ones, and the InterpreTravel app is on the right track. However, there are flaws with any human professional translation service that don’t make it the ideal travel companion. If you need professional translation abroad, you should consider hiring a service that you can call upon at any time for a translation. That way, you don’t need to go through the third party app, and calling directly could save you time in urgent situations.

The Perils of Translating a Speech on Live TV

Usually, professional translators have a few days or at least a few hours to translate important information for the general masses. However, a recent speech by Aung San Suu Kyi was broadcasted in an arena in Indiana, and the entire speech was in Burmese. The speech was translated in real time so that captions were presented on the arena’s screen, which proved to be a serious feat of technology and translation. To translate the speech in real time on the arena screens, a team of camera operators, transcribers and a translator needed to work together from different locations. Overall, the translation of the speech went off without a hitch. But the entire event showed just how complex the task of translation could become.


The Translator had an Especially Challenging Task

The speech’s translator, linguist Aye-Nu Duerksen, was picked by the Burmese politician’s welcoming committee. She was chosen for her language abilities in both Burmese and English, which would prove necessary talents for the translation. Duerksen sat at the arena and translated the speech as it was happening over the phone to a transcription team in Boston. Though the speech would air in Indiana, Boston’s PBS station was tasked with creating quality subtitles, since they are known for their work in that area. Duerksen could not simply translate each sentence word for word. Instead, she had to wait until each sentence was complete, and then quickly state the phrase before the next began. One of her of colleagues described the translation as mental gymnastics. Real-time professional translation, especially when the language is vastly different, can be extremely complex.


The Only Mistake was a Technological Error

Amazingly, Duerksen’s translation was fast and accurate. The only problem arose when her phone was disconnected from the offices in Boston. This error goes to show that translation on its own is a complex task, and when technology is added to the mix, it becomes downright demanding. Her phone was disconnected, so she was unable to tell the team in Boston what was being said, and they were unable to broadcast the captions to the team at the arena, which was unable to display the captions on the live feed. The translation services provided that night were more like a 007 mission.

Sometimes, translator services must go above and beyond the call of duty to help people cross language barriers and understand each other on the same level.

The Popularity of ‘Gangnam Style’ Needed No Translation

Popular music can reach beyond the bounds of language barriers and affect people around the world with no translation at all. This phenomenon is exactly why a YouTube sensation named PSY became popular around the world, especially in the United States, for his hit “Gangnam Style.” Though his song is entirely in Korean, PSY has made appearances on the MTV Video Music Awards, the Today Show, Ellen, and Good Morning America to name a few. People have loved the song and the crazy video that accompanies it for months with no official English translation. However, the professional translation has just been released, and it sheds some light on both the song and the video.

The Meaning of the Song is Deeper than You Might Have Expected

Though the song is outrageously synthesized and clubby, it actually sheds light on a part of Korea that many Americans might not have known about. Essentially, the song is a tribute to the wealthy city of Gangnam in Seoul, Korea. Thanks to the professional translator who took the on the song, we learn that it implies that the ladies of Gangnam are much like the city itself. They are noble and respectable during the daytime, but crazy and exciting at night. While the song is admittedly a musical satire, many people know more about Gangnam now after reading the translation, or even the description of the translation.

The Translation Proves that Any Piece of Culture is Valuable

After reading the translation and learning a little bit more about Korea, we see that even the translation of a simple pop song can give us valuable insight into another country’s culture. This idea proves the importance of translation. Whether a German reality TV show is translated into Spanish or a Portuguese translation comes out for a popular Canadian book, small pieces of culture can be windows into other sectors of society. For example, we might not want to allow translations of Jersey Shore to hit the airwaves, but it is a piece of an American culture, whether we like it or not.

‘Gangnam Style’ could just be regarded as a silly viral song from Korea, but it can also be a considered a fun way to learn about a piece of Koran culture. PSY might not have had a learning experience in mind when he wrote his hit, but translation services have turned it into just that.

Digital Comic Books Strike Translation Deal

While paper editions of comic books tend to be more popular if they are old and wrapped in their original plastic, comic books in a digital format are circulating among today’s youth. While you might not see kids on the bus catching up with Betty and Veronica or rapidly turning the pages to the latest Spiderman story, they might actually be doing so on their phones or tablets. Marvel and Archie are two major distributors of digital comic books, and they have both signed a deal with a worldwide translation service iVerse to make sure their international sales are secure. More than 50% of all digital comic book sales are from international readers, so translated editions are necessary to boost sales and remain popular around the world. The project has been in development for approximately two years, and iVerse uses a specially designed method to make sure the translation is accurate and understandable. The words will go through two machine translations first, and then a final translation by a native speaker to make it more idiomatic.

Marvel to Go Global Immediately

With the release of multiple Marvel movies starring classic comic book stars, there is a high demand for translated Marvel comics around the world. People who had never even heard of Iron Man or Wolverine before the recent releases on the big screen want to learn more and start from the beginning. For that reason, iVerse will be translating the Marvel comics into every language to reach the global audience. iVerse’s professional translation is part of a multi-year deal with the company .

Archie is Starting Small

Though Archie has been sold digitally for quite some time, it is not as popular as Marvel internationally. However, the owners are hoping that the translations will change that and spark worldwide interest. Because that interest is not guaranteed yet, Archie will only be offering Indian, Japanese and Chinese translations to begin with, and rolling out other options gradually.

Once the translations through iVerse become available, the two comic book companies will be offering the digital copies on a myriad of different platforms. Amazon books, iBooks and different apps will sell the translated versions so that people can access them from anywhere in the world. Archie already offered a Spanish translation for its digital comics, but this was only available through iVerse’s store. Now, each translation will be more readily available.

Children’s Literature Themes Come Across in Any Language

Adults are picky about the books they read. Often, translations of popular books in other countries don’t become popular in the United States because readers find it difficult to connect with the characters. The English translation of a story about a woman’s strife in Africa to keep her family healthy is interesting to many people, but it is not going to fly off the shelves. Those themes are difficult for a busy professional woman to relate to between picking her kids up from school and making steak for dinner. Children on the other hand can relate to each other easily from anywhere across the globe. Whether a kid is reading the German translation of a Spanish children’s book or the Chinese translation of a book from Portugal, he or she will likely understand the themes and relate to them well.

“Scaredy Squirrel” to be Released in Iran

Though the United States and Iran certainly have their differences, there will be a professional translation of a children’s book from English to Iranian. The book is called “Scaredy Squirrel,” and it’s the first in a series of books about a squirrel seeking courage to take on events in his daily life. Though adults from the two countries disagree on many points, children in both places can all innocently relate to the universal themes of courage and friendship.  So far, only the first book has been translated, but other books in the series have been released in the United States. These include, “Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend” and “Scaredy Squirrel at Night.” The books were written by Melanie Watt and have received numerous awards.

Translator Known for Her Children’s Books

The translator responsible for the release of “Scaredy Squirrel” is known in Iran for the many translations of children’s books that she’s completed. Her name is Mahboubeh Najaf-Khani and she was born in Tehran in 1956. She studied at the Supreme Translation School and is now a professional translator of English.

It’s easy to forget about children’s literature when examining the importance of translation from a global perspective, but in many ways it’s just as important as business, legal or technical translation. It gives children the opportunity to connect with each other from across oceans through books. Kids can learn that, even though they are miles away, people in other countries are just like them and sometimes they struggle with the same problems but in different ways.

Translation of Bulgarian Play to Premiere in New York

While his play is the first Bulgarian play ever to premiere at a major theater in New York, Ivan Dimitrov was only making his first attempt at drama. His first Bulgarian play ended up winning a contest in Shumen, Bulgaria. He took his prize money and put it towards creating an English translation of the play. While the decision to translate the play was just a realistic step in case anyone wanted to read it from the states, he ended up with an offer to produce the play in New York. He worked with a professional translator on “The Eyes of Others,” and it is now the first play originally written in Bulgaria to land a New York opening.

The Play Translates Well

It might be hard to believe that a play written entirely in Bulgarian would translate well on the American stage. Surprisingly, it does. While Dimitrov is shocked to have his play produced on a coveted New York stage, he did expect the themes to be highly relatable in the states. The play is about mass consumerism and the increasing level of anonymity in the age of digital communication. It touches on themes with references to Facebook and celebrity gossip. With a description like that, it sounds as though an American wrote it. Even the locations in the play were vague enough to remain unchanged in the professional translation. Some food items were changed in the translation so as not to distract the audience. For example, a traditional Bulgarian pastry became a donut.

Dimitrov Worked to Keep the Play From Becoming Too American

While working on the English translation for his play, Ivan Dimitrov actually struggled to keep its Bulgarian identity in tact. It translated to English so smoothly that he worried it would start to feel like an American sitcom. However, he also didn’t want it to sound like he ran it through some soulless translation services to get a literal translation that lacked personality. The play’s themes are understandable to an American audience but also mystical enough to be European or simply foreign in general.

The New York opening of “The Eyes of Others” will prove to be historically significant, and Dimitrov is the first Bulgarian playwright ever to accomplish such a feat. Many Spanish and German translations of plays have hit the New York stage before, but Bulgarian to English translations are less common.

World Renowned Translator Dies at 94

It’s easy to forget what an important role professional translators have in the history of language. Sharing stories and literary works between different cultures would not be possible without them, and we’d therefore miss out on many important pieces of global history. Some of the most widely read stories in the United States are actually translations made by dedicated literary translators. One such translator was Zheng Younghui, who passed away at 94-years-old this week. He was considered the translator with the largest number of readers simply because he translated so many works in his lifetime.

Youghui’s Studies Went Beyond Language

Perhaps one of the reasons Zheng Younghui was such a comprehensive literary translator was that he was not only focused on language throughout his life. When translating literary works, the words on the page are not the only thing that’s important. Idioms and cultural contexts must also be taken into account, so a wide range of knowledge is preferable for professional translation. Younghui was born in Vietnam in 1918 and studied law for the first half of his education. He then went on to teach French until he was 80-years-old.


Some of the World’s Most Famous Pieces were Translated by Younghui

Zheng Younghui completed his first translation in 1933 and went on to translate some of the world’s most celebrated literary works. Some of his most notable translations included Quatre-Vingt-Treize by Hugo, Nana by Zolaesque and Salammbo by Flaubert. These were taken from French and turned into a Chinese translation. In addition to translating French works into Chinese, Younghui also corrected other Chinese translations. He found more than fifty mistakes in the most popular Chinese translation of Merimee’s Columba at the time, and he marked them down for correction.

If it weren’t for Younghui, many people that can only speak Chinese would not be able to experience some of the most famous French literary masterpieces. While technology is considered a valuable resource for some translations, it will never replace the value of translation services by a live human being. Computers will never be able to understand certain innuendoes and subtleties that stretch across different languages, so masters like Zheng Younghui should never be replaced. If you need any translations for your business or company, you should seriously consider hiring a translator instead of relying on services such as Google translate. It could save you from making grave errors and offending clients.


New Website Makes Education and Translation Simultaneous

Online Education written on LCD

When you need to translate an entire webpage, you’d usually use one of many quick online translation services that generate a computerized translation. While you might get the general gist of the site, you’ll miss out on any subtleties or innuendos in the language that could really add to the content. A new start-up website called Duolingo looks to solve that problem. The website’s creed is that, even if the translator is just learning the language, a human translation is superior to that of a machine.

Translating the Web with Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is the process of outsourcing a task to a large number of individuals, usually on the Internet. With Duolingo, people who are trying to learn a language can practice their skills by translating websites to the language that they are learning. However, the site isn’t just for education. These translated sites are then made available to people searching for a website in their native language. The labor is free, and the process benefits both the translators and the users. So far, content on Duolingo is only available for English, French, Spanish and German translation.

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Users Already have Big Projects

Wikipedia has almost four million articles that are in English and only approximately one million in every other language. Wikipedia already uses crowdsourcing for its content, so it makes sense that Duolingo would take it on for its first major challenge. Even the New York Times has started experimenting with Duolingo as the means for translating its content into other languages. If the company were to hire translator services for every one of its articles, the cost would certainly begin to rack up.

While you might get a more accurate translation of a website by using a professional translation service, you’re certainly getting a better one than if you had used a simple robot translator. Humans, even at the most basic level, can understand contextual subtleties, which a computer cannot. The new website will make the translation process a learning experience for those just starting to study a new language, and it will make translation services more accessible to people around the world. Combining the processes of learning and translating creates a method that is beneficial to countless people, so even if Duolingo doesn’t provide the highest quality or most flawlessly accurate translation, it will still deliver value in a different way.

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.

D.C. Makes Language Translation a Priority

In 2004, a law required government agencies in Washington D.C. to work on the translation of important documents and services into several languages.  Unfortunately, though the law technically made it a priority, it was not considered one until now.  After a report showed that 58% of non-English speakers in the region had trouble understanding D.C. agency documents, they decided to finally make professional translation for all the information they offer a priority.  This is good news, because 74% of those speakers said that there were no interpretation services available to them when they needed help, and 50% of the documents they needed to read, understand, and fill out were not in their language.  For a state with so many foreign residents and with such high expectations for setting a standard for national government policies, many believe that eight years after the creation of a law is a little late for taking care of it.  Then again, others feel it is better late than never.

One Government, 10 Different Languages

As of now, the people living in D.C. are from 25 different countries and speak 10 different languages.  While there do seem to be plenty of documents with a Spanish translation, their study found that it was primarily Vietnamese and Mandarin speakers who had the most trouble finding information in their language or translators who could interpret for them.  The D.C. Office of Human Rights plans to combat this, by making more information available in more languages and by informing their residents of this change through a public service campaign.  For those who speak Amharic, Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish, or Vietnamese, all they have to do is request translation services, and their language needs will be met by any D.C. government agency.

“I Speak” Cards Help Give Foreigners a Voice

If a person does not speak English at all, even asking for an interpreter for the language they do speak could be difficult.  This is why the Office of Human Rights created their “I Speak” card.  Basically, the card gives foreigners the numbers, information, and even English words they’ll need to request an interpreter.  They are hoping this card will encourage non-English speaking residents to come forward for the services they need and to feel more welcome in the community.  Hopefully, this change will also give the government more information about who’s living in their city and the kind of services they require. In the meantime, at least this translation policy is finally seeing some action, so that a conversation can get started.