Tag Archives: professional translator

How Well Has Nabokov’s Poetry Been Translated?

Nabokov was s a prolific poet and writer who was also bilingual and often translated his own poetry. Now, Dmitri Nabokov translates his work, though some have questioned his word choice and style of translation.

Nabokov is best known for his book Lolita and Pale Fire. A movie was made based on the book first in 1962 and then in 1997 . He also published several books of poetry as well as scholarly essays.

Early Poetry and Translation

Vladimir Nabokov was quite embarrassed by his early attempts at poetry. Most of the poems of his teenage years are contained in the volume Poems and Problems. In fact, he called the book “the steady mass of verse which I began to exude in my youth … with monstrous regularity.”

Just as the elder Nabokov was embarrassed by his own simplistic verses, his son was embarrassed by his rudimentary Russian translation of his father’s works. Both father and son though, eventually matured in their talents and Vladimir grew into a world renowned author and poet, while his son grew into an accomplished professional translator.

Distinguished Translator

Vladimir was also a distinguished translator, and he translated most of his own works while he was alive. He studied at Cambridge, which is where he learned fluent English, and later, Nabokov wrote several poems about his Cambridge years that played off of his bilingualism.

Vladimir Nabokov’s Main Translations were:

From French into Russian

  • Nikolka Persik Translation of Romain Rolland’s novel Colas Breugnon.

From English into Russian

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

From Russian into English

  • Three Russian Poets: Selections from Pushkin, Lermontov, and Tyutchev
  • Expanded British edition: Pushkin, Lermontov, Tyutchev: Poems
  • A Hero of Our Time, by Mikhail Lermontov
  • The Song of Igor’s Campaign: An Epic of the Twelfth Century
  • Eugene Onegin, by Aleksandr Pushkin, in prose. Includes “Notes on Prosody”.
  • Verses and Versions (edited by Brian Boyd and Stanislav Shvabrin), includes materials previously published in Three Russian Poets
  • Pushkin, Lermontov, Tyutchev
  • As well as unpublished materials.

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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.

Broadway Director Takes on a Play’s Translation Herself

When it comes to true artists, maybe passion and vision are all they need to make a satisfactory translation of a work in another language. Former Broadway star Liv Ullman will be putting that sentiment to the test when she directs her own language interpretation translation of the Norwegian play, A Doll’s House. Instead of using a professional translator or a translated version to develop her script, she will be doing it on her own to apply her own personal thoughts and beliefs about the production. She has a special understanding of the script as it is, because she starred in the show in 1975 on Broadway.

The Play is No Stranger to Translation

A Doll’s House was originally written in Norwegian when it was written by Henrik Ibsen. It premiered in Copenhagen in 1879, and has gone through countless translations and productions around the world since then. When it underwent a German translation, Ibsen’s agent actually made him change the ending so that it would suit German audiences at the time. The show has also been on Broadway in New York City thirteen times, and it even won a Tony award in 1997. In each of these thirteen productions, the play was translated to English in its entirety.

Artistic Translations Have Room for Error

Ullman probably wouldn’t take on the technical translation of a government document or a business translation for an important decision. She is not a professional, and such translations should be left to the professionals. However, a play is a work of art, and it’s always up to the interpretation of the director and actors. Therefore, even if her translation of A Doll’s House is not exactly correct word-for-word, she will still be applying her own style to the piece and the audience will still gain the intended insight by watching it. Luckily, Ullman also has many examples to refer to if she gets stuck since the play has been translated into English so many times.

Artistic translations certainly don’t require as much expertise as legal translations or technical translations, but there’s a good chance Ullman might need help with a word or two along the way. Even if she does seek out professional help on parts of the play where the translation is more difficult because of idioms and context, it will still prove to be an artistic extension of herself after she translates the bulk of it.

International Translation Day Prompts Reflection

Since 1953, International Translation Day has been celebrated by people all over the world on September 30th. While such a day doesn’t seem like one worth celebrating, translation is actually very much a part of everyone’s lives, whether they realize it or not. Even if you’ve never sought out professional translation services or even typed anything into Google translate, you’ve probably been more affected by translation than you think. Without translation, we would not be where we are today. Aside from allowing people to communicate with each other from cultures across the globe and bringing new forms of art into different countries, translation has two very real affects on everyday people and their lots in life.

Translation Saves Lives

At any given moment, translators around the world are working diligently to scan news articles from other countries to watch out for threats on the United States. By translating these stories, we can be prepared for any terror threats on our country as well as any serious health outbreaks. That isn’t even the only way translation saves lives, as many doctors use translation services to help people visiting from other countries. Even if you don’t travel, you could someday need medical care from someone who speaks another language. Some diseases can only be treated at world renowned hospitals in other countries, and communicating with your doctor would be impossible without translation.

Translation Fuels the Economy

To meet the expectations and demands of shareholders and customers, most Fortune 500 companies use professional translator services so that they can communicate globally. If they don’t hire staff specifically for that purpose, they probably hire bilingual staff should the need for translation arise. Exportation is part of the United States economy, and it simply would not be possible without translation. Even if a company does not export globally, there’s a chance its investors are from another country, and they’ll need a way to update these investors on progress.

It’s easy to forget the role that translation plays in our every day lives, which is why International Translation Day gives us cause to pause and reflect. Whether officials are using a German translator to halt a global war crisis or you’re reading the English translation of a French poem to your loved one on Valentine’s Day, translation is an essential part of the health, happiness, cultural understanding, and general well being of people around the world.

Google Offends Azerbaijan with Translation Errors

There’s no doubt that automated and computerized translation services are convenient when you’re doing a simple translation of a lyric you heard or something someone said to you in passing. However, time and again we are reminded that these automated translations often contain errors, and their translations shouldn’t be considered final. Even Google translate can make serious errors in its translations, which is what has Azerbaijan citizens up in arms. Google translate makes grave errors when translating simple geographical names related to Azerbaijan.

Google is Incorrectly Naming Azerbaijan Cities in its Translation

When translated into Russian, the names of certain geographical locations in Azerbaijan are seriously incorrect. In many separate cases, the city of Baku was translated into “Istanbul” and Azerbaijan was translated into “Turkey.” These are separate areas entirely, and they should not be confused with Azerbaijan or its cities. The ambivalent translator service obviously didn’t mean to offend anyone in the translation, but Azerbaijan citizens are offended that their country would be so easily confused with another.

Some Worry that the Mistakes are Intentional

Raed Alekperli is the technical director of Azerbaijan’s Delta Telecom, which is essentially the backbone of the Internet there. He explained that he was worried the incorrect translations were actually a prank pulled by Azerbaijan’s ill-wishers. Since users can interactively help Google translate “learn” different translations, people might have purposely called correct translations incorrect, and changed them to offend the people of the country. While there’s no way of proving this, it certainly calls out one of the major flaws in Google’s crowdsourced translations. Instead of having a single professional translator create the database, Google allows its users to have a say in the translations. Crowdsourcing translations can usually lead to more accurate results and a larger database, but Alekperli is correct in worrying about people using the ability for evil instead of good. The anonymity of the Internet can make people do mean things for no reason.

The Google translate errors in regards to Azerbaijan won’t cause a world war or any serious scuffles, but it definitely draws attention to and reminds us of the flaws of automated translation. It goes to show that if you need to make a serious business or technical translation for your company or business, hiring a professional translation service would be wiser than entering your thoughts into Google translate. It’s easy to offend people with grossly incorrect translations.


Japanese App Translates Phone Conversations in Real Time

In the United States, a recent trial release by AT&T allows English-speaking customers to speak with Spanish-speaking customers in real-time with a text translation app. The technology is sure to bridge common language barriers in the United States. Because Japan has similar language issues in their country, they have developed a very similar app called the DoCoMo Translation App. Since the app was developed in Japan, one member of the conversation needs to be speaking Japanese to use the translation services. The other member of the conversation can be speaking one of thirteen other available languages available for translation with the app.

The App Works in Two Modes

Unlike the text translation app released by AT&T in the United States, the DoCoMo translation app has two modes of use. The first mode is the text translation, similar to the AT&T version. Users can see their texting conversations translated in real time, and they can check to make sure their text has been translated properly. This is much more convenient that reverting to translator services such as Google translate to have a conversation with someone that speaks another language. Additionally, users can actually have translated spoken conversations over the phone. There is a two-second lag time for each translated phrase, but this delay is nothing compared to other translation options. Users also won’t know if their phrase has been translated the way they intended, so there’s some room for error.

Still in Development to Correct Errors

While the translation in the conversation mode is decent, it wouldn’t be recommended for important calls or business meetings. Even though it will get some phrases correct, the uncertainty about whether or not your sentence was translated correctly is enough to prevent many people from using it. Until these errors are fixed and there is a better chance that each translation will be correct, the conversation translation is not ideal for important talks. For serious conversations, a professional translator would be a more sound choice.

Once the DoCoMo translation app has corrected some of its errors, it will be an excellent travel companion or even a perfect tool for people anywhere in the world hosting Japanese guests. However, if you’re working on a multi-million dollar business deal with people from Japan, you should still always look into professional translation services before using a Smartphone app, because the threshold for error will always be high.

Translation Problems Causing Chaos in UK Courts

Professional translators and interpreters are vital members of the court in some cases. If a plaintiff or defendant can’t speak the native language of the country in which they are being tried, the trial will not be fair and the outcome will be meaningless. When those translators fail to translate the hearing accurately or are not present at the ruling, the case becomes much more complicated, and in many cases is delayed for months. If you’ve ever waited with baited breath for a court decision to go through, you know how strenuous that waiting period can be.

The Problems are a Result of Translation Monopoly

Earlier this year, the British Ministry of Justices awarded a company called Applied Language Services (ALS) a monopoly contract for their services. In other words, ALS was set to be the only provider of translators for court rulings in the United Kingdom. The contract was meant to supply UK courts with an endless supply of quality, professional translation experts, but the opposite happened instead. ALS wasn’t paying enough to their experienced translators, so many of them left to continue working on their own outside the courtroom. This has left ALS with very few and very inexperienced translators to send to the courts.

Translators Making Rookie Mistakes

The courtrooms in the UK have been looking less than professional because of the failed monopoly contract with ALS. They have been cancelling hearings the morning of, and in some cases suspects are being released based on the completely incorrect legal translations. Since so many translators have left ALS to find better pay with more reputable companies, ALS is sending in the rookie translators, and they are making horrible mistakes. In some cases, translators don’t even show up. Only 58% of hearings that required a translator in February 2012 were actually supplied with one. The remaining percentage had to simply cancel the hearing or work without one.

If the UK courts don’t end their contract with ALS soon and open up their hearings to professionals from other translation services, they will quickly lose the respect and trust of the general public. Especially for people requiring hearings with a translator, going to the court might seem too risky, and serious crimes might be left unpunished. Without repair, this could be the downfall of the UK court system as a whole, so they should fix the problem as soon as possible.

Translations for YouTube Videos Now Immediately Available

Whether you’re on YouTube watching a historically significant news video or a video of kittens in a box, it helps to know what the people in the clip are saying. YouTube gives us access to millions of videos from around the world, so we often find ourselves watching those in foreign languages. Instead of clicking away to find an English equivalent, Google has developed a solution for this problem so that you can watch and understand YouTube videos in any language. You’ll now be able to read subtitles to any video in the language of your choice. Whether you need a Spanish, German, French, or Chinese translation, the service is available in any language.

Translations Will Help Both Viewers and Video Creators

Obviously, the real-time translation services by Google are helpful to YouTube viewers because they can finally figure out what the people in their favorite videos are saying. They also will not feel limited when they’re interested in a foreign news story, as any story from around the world will be translatable. However, the translations will also benefit the people uploading these videos. When you uploaded a video to YouTube before, your audience was enormous, but also limited to the people who spoke the same language. Now, anyone in the world who can read his or her own native language can understand your video. This is particularly outstanding for marketers and people just trying to get their word out there, because they will no longer need to create videos in multiple languages.

Crowdsourcing Option Available for the Translation

Though the translations designed by Google are automated and based on the closed captioning of the original video, there will also be an option for a crowdsourced translation. In other words, users can develop their own translation and share it with other users, who can also tweak it until it is perfect. Crowd sourced translations are more accurate than automated ones because, like professional translators, the viewers can take the context of each word into account.

The translations that will soon be available for YouTube videos will open up the community of online videos so that it is even larger, and people can share videos without language barriers. However, if your company is thinking of releasing a promotional video for global viewers, you should seriously consider using a professional translation service so that your message is clear and accurate for everyone.

Chinese Train Stations Undergo Translation Overhaul

Currently in China, each train station offers an English and Chinese translation for each station location. That way, English-speaking travelers can make their way around more easily, and Chinese commuters can go about their day undisturbed. However, the Ministry of Railways has announced a major overhaul to this system. Instead of the two translations for each, every station will be in the Chinese written language pinyin. The language was developed in the 1950’s and is considered the standard way to write Chinese. Not only will the change make travel more confusing for English-speaking visitors, but it is also confusing for Chinese residents.

Translations Defy Logic

Foreigners and locals alike cannot figure out the reasoning behind the overhaul. The English translations at each station did not confuse Chinese people at all, so the change will only make it more difficult for foreign travelers. Few people outside of China know how to read Pinyin. These travelers will now need a Chinese translator to assist them in their journey. By making the journey more complicated for English-speaking travelers, the Ministry of Railways also makes it more arduous for Chinese travelers. They’ll constantly be pushing confused Americans out of the way and missing their trains to stop and help. For many, the decision simply defies logic.

The Overhaul is Costly

As if the imminent confusion that will be caused by the translations wasn’t enough, they will also be expensive. Every sign, ticket, book, website, brochure and timetable will have to be redesigned to feature the new pinyin translation. The train stations might even lose business because travelers might opt to get to their destination in other ways. They might fear the inconvenience of scrambling to pull up automated translation services on their phones at every stop to figure out where they’re going. For such an expensive renovation, it’s surprising that the Ministry of Railways didn’t give the translation more thought.

No one knows why exactly the translations are being made, but they are already well underway. Beijing South Railway Station, now known as Beijingnan Railway Station, has already been renovated. The signs are translated and the tickets have been reprinted. The confusing decision goes to show that sometimes, translations can make things more complicated than they need to be. Though having each station displayed in two languages was unsightly, it probably attracted more tourists. Now, those tourists better come prepared with a professional translator.

Vancouver Schools Lack Translation Services

In most cities, there is one language that is considered the native one, and maybe a one or two others that many residents speak. However, these other languages are usually the minority languages. Some cities, such as Vancouver, Washington, have a lot more languages that are spoken on a regular basis, and there are too many minority languages to count. Since this is the case in Vancouver, parents of children in the Vancouver school system have been struggling to find a solution. Most of these families cannot communicate with school officials, and translation services are not provided. Although, with so many languages being spoken, it’s no wonder the school cannot translate each.

Lack of Translation Poses a Serious Problem

Especially for students in elementary schools, communication between their parents and teachers is an essential part of their learning experience. Many learning problems or learning strengths can be called out during these years, and it’s important for parents to know which to foster and which to help their child deal with. If parents cannot effectively communicate with their children’s’ teachers, they cannot help. At one elementary school in Vancouver, there are more than 32 languages spoken by families of students in the school. Ideally, the school would offer a professional translation service for these families, but there are simply too many to accommodate.

Current Solutions are Not Ideal

Currently in the Vancouver school system, there are a few ways that teachers communicate with ESL parents, but these methods of communication are less than ideal. First, parents who are part of larger groups that speak the same language can all visit teachers at the same time with a professional translator. However, this does not provide one-on-one time with teachers and parents, so the meetings are not as valuable. Teachers also have their students translate newsletters and notes to be sent home, but then there is no discretion when it comes to the information that the teacher is passing along. Some teachers ask parents to bring along family members to translate, but such coordination is difficult.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution for the translation problem in Vancouver, but the school system is actively working on improving it. While they don’t offer translator services for parents on the spot, these parents can plan ahead and hire a professional translator for meetings with their child’s teachers at the school’s expense if they feel that it’s necessary.