Saturday, May 09, 2009

Localisation "Arrrrgh"

Julie from Traduxis warns about the pitfalls of localising your code. Here are her ten tips:

1. Try to team up with a translator as soon as possible.

2. Identify all data that will require localization.

3. Punctuation/spacing: Punctuation and spacing rules differ according to language and region.

4. Avoid Compound messages/string concatenation.

5. Use UTF-16 in coding.

6. Make sure your string comparison methods use the right algorithm for sorting Unicode values.

7. Thinking of machine translation? Think again! To avoid mistranslations, have the help files ready for the translator, screenshots, technical notes or any other documents that will provide context.

8. Make up your mind about terminology and stick to it. These error messages all mean the same thing, but will raise your localization cost needlessly.

9. Once your application is up and running in many languages, keep track of changes you make to your next version, so that only those changes will be translated.

10. Present your customers with a well translated web site.

There is also an interesting posting on "pseudo-translation" - the pre-translation of strings into a fake but legible idiom that mimics a variety of languages. This should expose the following:

1. It will detect problems with encoding across all languages.

2. It will detect problems with string length/height.

3. It will detect hard coded strings.

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

English "not lingua franca for business"

So said Leonard Orban, the EU Commissioner for Multilinguism at the First European SME Week, a campaign to promote entrepreneurship across Europe and to inform entrepreneurs about support available for them at European, national and local level.

The roundtable discussion, entitled 'Languages mean business for SMEs', gathered EU officials and SME representatives, including arts and crafts entrepreneurs, to discuss how small companies can "work better with languages". Multilingualism Commissioner Leonard Orban unveiled the EU's new languages strategy in autumn 2008. The strategy called for "significant efforts [to] be made to promote language learning and to value the cultural aspects of linguistic diversity at all levels of education and training".

The EU executive's communication came hot on the heels of a report published by European business leaders last July, which warned that EU industry is at risk of losing competitiveness as other countries start outperforming the bloc in terms of language skills.

Their report complements an earlier one from the High Level Group on Multilingualism chaired by Lebanese author Amin Maalouf, which urged EU citizens to learn a second, 'personal adoptive' foreign language alongside one acquired for professional reasons.

"Sometimes people think that English is the lingua franca for business, but this is not true," Commissioner Orban told participants. "In terms of communication, English might be the lingua franca, but in addressing consumers everywhere in Europe and outside the EU, of course the company should […] develop linguistic and intercultural strategies."

Referring to a Commission-backed report, Orban said "the study clearly shows that small and medium-sized companies are losing business – losing money – due to the lack of linguistic and intercultural skills".

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

Friday, May 08, 2009

It's bad, but not very - but is it good?

The Common Sense Advisory again - they promise registered users access to reports and then the link keeps taking you back to the darn registration page even though you are logged in.. Very frustrating. I hope their research is more solid than their site.

Anyway, here we have some more stats (remember, I said you can do anything with numbers).

They surveyed 277 freelancers "from around the world" (which countries?) to find out that

  • 49.8% of them said Q4 of 2008 was satisfactory, 27.8% said it was good and 22.4% said it was bad. Without country, language and specialization data these percentages are telling me bugger all. What is "satisfactory"? You made more money, but not as much as you wanted? You made less, but not as little as you feared?
  • 67.5% of those surveyed said rates stayed the same, 18.8% said the rates dropped and 13.7% raised them. Again, a whole lot of questions. How low were the fares of those who raised them? Were those who dropped them overpriced in the first place? By how much did they raise them or drop them?
  • Large numbers of interpreters and translators reported requests from agencies to decrease their rates, but the overwhelming majority (76.9%) said that they did not intend to charge any less in the next three months. Hmmm.. I didn't get any, and heard about it from only two colleagues as anecdotes they heard. Wouldn't that have made vibes on major translation websites such as proz, etc.?
  • Many freelancers explained that when they saw decreases in demand in a given industry or setting, they witnessed spikes in other areas. Which areas? Which countries?

Any answers?

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

Gripping About Translators

From the Masks of Eris (Finland):

"I acknowledge translating stories is difficult, okay? A machine can translate 80% of the content/words and 10% of the mood/associations, but (at the moment) it takes a very skilled, careful and thoughtful human artisan to drag both to the nineties (...) the best possible translator would be a foreign mirror image of the original author (...) You have a chimp translating Shakespeare, you get chimp adventures; you got a Goethe translating Shakespeare and you get Shakes-worthy results. You got a Goethe translating chimp scribblings, I don’t know what the heck you’ll get. Maybe a book better than the original."

Apparently, he would have to come up with something Faustian, he would.. No excuse for having a bad translation, that.. err.. chimps scribblings.

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

Not the Talking Breed

A charming comment from Corinne McKay's web log

"At the recent Colorado Translators Association marketing workshop, Judy Jenner asked us to get into small groups and discuss the selling points of our freelance businesses. There was a moment of terrified silence, and then a small voice in the front of the room said “Can’t I just post it to the CTA e-mail list?” Talking…selling…groups of people…all things that many translators are terrified of. By contrast, many of the interpreters I met at the CAPI meeting could charmingly chat up a potted palm tree and pass it a few business cards in the course of the conversation. It was a really interesting chance to “cross the aisle” of the language profession and get a sense of what many interpreters’ daily work consists of."

Ok, it isn't that bad here yet. Or is it? Who talks most at my workshops? The interpreters? And they are truly disadvantaged in Australia, where the majority of work is government-based community interpreting (no Obama, not even Kevin 747) and where they are underpaid and could possibly end up talking to a pot plant for very different reasons. And the translators? Well, there are those that talk, and those that sit with arms folded, absorbing. There are also those who - like the unnamed entity in Canberra - fall asleep with their mouth wide open during the presentation. I assume you get your PD points regardless to whether you are there in mind and body, or just in body.

I remember many years ago a colleague telling me all translators are sociopaths. Of course that is a huge load of crap, but they do tend to be less extroverted than the interpreters. And those among the writing breed who are into social interaction soon end up working also as interpreters, to get away from the isolation of the screen-human environment.

Looking into my own soul - and I show many others how to market themselves - there seems to be a huge psychological block to talking about myself to potential clients, a sort of awkwardness that disappears when I am in the teaching seat, or blogging, or with colleagues I am comfortable with. I know it is social (nice ladies don't brag), but I wish it wasn't there. I wish, also, Corinne would add a chapter to her book about overcoming it :-D

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

Translation and Its Artist

Surfing through blogs gets you to discover some fascinating people. Such as, for example, the Finnish Kersti Juva.

She is an Artist Professor. Artist Professors are appointed by the Central Arts Council, from among the candidates proposed by the National Councils of Arts, either until further notice or for a maximum of five years. It is required that the appointed person be considered a particularly competent artist on the basis of his or her earlier activities. Artist Professors have to practice creative, artistic work in their field. They can also lecture in universities and guide other artists.

Her art? Translation.

The list of books Kersti translated from English into Finnish is massive: 85. Among the names Tolkien features prominently, but other gems include AA Milne, L. Frank Baum, Laurie Lee, Alice Walker, Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde. She has won the Finnish Government Annual Award for Translation 1976 (Lord of The Rings and Watership Down) and 1986 (The Hobbit and Papermen) , Werner Söderstöm Publisher’s award 1997 (No One to Accompany Me), Suomi Award (Finnish Government Annual Award) 1998 (Tristram Shandy) , Agricola Prize for the best translation 1999 (Tristram Shandy) , Finnish nomination for the European Union Aristeion award 1999 (Tristram Shandy) , and the Finnish Cultural Fund Prize for Life's Work 2006.

"Translating can be described more or less like this: I dress myself in the original text and start to imitate the author’s gestures and movements . . . If one sets out from the premise that the translation must be the equivalent of the original text in another language, translating is impossible. A translation cannot empty the original into a new language. The true goal of a translation is not to resemble the original text, but to fill its place, or, perhaps better, to create a similar place within the target culture.

You can read her ideas about translating literature here.

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

On Translating Arabic Literature

Kilito, A. (2008) Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language. Syracuse University Press

It has been said that the difference between a language and a dialect is that a language is a dialect with an army. Both the act of translation and bilingualism are steeped in a tension between surrender and conquest, yielding conscious and unconscious effects on language. First published in Arabic in 2002, Abdelfattah Kilito's Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language explores the tension between dynamics of literary influence and canon formation within the Arabic literary tradition. As one of the Arab world's most original and provocative literary critics, Kilito challenges the reader to reexamine contemporary notions of translation, bilingualism, postcoloniality, and the discipline of comparative literature. Waïl S. Hassan's superb translation makes Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language available to an English-speaking audience for the first time, capturing the charm and elegance of the original in a chaste and seemingly effortless style.

At the center of Kilito's work is his insistence on the ethics of translation. He explores the effects of translation on the genres of poetry, narrative prose, and philosophy. Kilito highlights the problem of cultural translation as an interpretive process and as an essential element of comparative literary studies. In close readings of al-Jahiz, Ibn Rushd, al-Saffar, and al-Shidyaq, among others, he traces the shifts in attitude toward language and translation from the centuries of Arab cultural ascendancy to the contemporary period, interrogating along the way how the dynamics of power mediate literary encounters across cultural, linguistic, and political lines.

And an excerpt from a review of the book by Kanishk Tharoor, an associate editor at openDemocracy:

[T]ranslation, particularly in the world of Arabic letters, has never been an innocent or simple process. In his slim, energetic work Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language, the Moroccan scholar Abdelfattah Kilito burrows into the age-old problem of the translation of Arabic literature. The book, itself translated from Arabic, privileges anecdote over argument, drifting playfully through the centuries to explore the relationship between the Arab and the foreign. Kilito indulges in a wide panoramic view, taking into account writings of numerous periods and styles, including ninth century theoretical musings on Persian-Arabic translation, various accounts of Arab travel writing (including Ibn Battuta’s famous journey to China), and passages from 20th century crime novels. This disparate material is shaped by the premise that there is something essentially unsound and compromised about the very act of translation, and that foreigners have yet to treat Arabic literature with appropriate sensitivity and care.

While numerous philosophical, historical and scientific works crossed into Arabic, barely any poetry made the same journey. As early as al Jahiz, the ninth century Afro-Arab writer, Arab scholars had already begun to argue that while it was possible to translate philosophy, the same could not be said of literature. Poetry in its very nature resists the estranging force of translation. “Whenever we find [the translator] speaking two languages, we know that he has mistreated both of them, for each one of the two languages pulls at the other, takes from it, and opposes it.”

Kilito himself seems to share in this distrust, but his own suspicion grows from more modern, political roots in the inversion of power relations with Europe and in the experience of colonialism. Breached and looted, Arabic has been invaded by the west. The problem now is not one of translating into Arabic, but of the implications of translation from Arabic. “The fundamental change for us in the modern age,” Kilito says, “is that the process of reading and writing is always attended with potential translation, the possibility of transfer into other literatures, something that never occurred to the ancients, who conceived of translation only within Arabic literature.” Classical Arab poets never considered the world of letters beyond their own. Their contemporary counterparts have no option but to do so.

The translation of Arab literature into western languages yokes it to western sensibilities and conventions. As Kilito muses, “Who can read an Arab poet or novelist today without establishing a relationship between him and his European peers? We Arabs have invented a special way of reading: we read an Arabic text while thinking about the possibility of transferring it into a European language (...) Woe to the writers for whom we find no European counterparts: we simply turn away from them, leaving them in a dark, abandoned isthmus, a passage without mirrors to reflect their shadow or save them from loss and deathlike abandon.”

Of course, the sins of translation are not simply those of Europeans. Though he laments the fate of these marooned Arab writers, Kilito opens the book with his own account of the pitfalls of cross-cultural translation. Invited to give a lecture in France on al Hamadhani’s maqamat (a 10th century collection of stories written in rhymed prose), Kilito describes his struggle to find a way to make the genre comprehensible to a contemporary European audience. The only European contemporary to al Hamadhani, he finds, is an obscure female German poet named Roswitha, who wrote dialogues in verse. He declines to make this connection – it strikes him as absurd, for who in his audience will have heard of Roswitha – but in his lecture he does equate the maqamat with the picaresque novels popular in Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Whatever uncertainties Kilito himself holds about the possibility of translations, they are not – seeming observations of fact. Instead, they were forged in the furnace of recent Arab-European history and, more importantly perhaps, in the memory of colonisation by the French, who were far more aggressive in their use of language as a pacifying and “civilising” tool than the British. However poignant within their own context, Kilito’s doubts about multilingualism carry a whiff of the parochial about them. [He] argues that “to speak a language is to turn to a side. Language is tied to a location on the map or a given space. To speak this or that language is to be on the right or the left ... and since [the bilingual] looks in two directions, he is two-faced.” This is a real dilemma for Kilito. But it forgets that multilingualism in much of the world is (and was) a comfortable, untortured fact of life. Language is not always wedded to geographical and political loyalties. That Kilito suggests it is says much about a common Arab and European understanding of language: not the caliphate-era vision of language spread boundlessly by the sword and the book, but a vision of a fissured landscape of languages, each guarded by its own political project, its own nation. To accept this view of the world is to succumb to that false cliché produced by the era of the modern European nation-state: a language is but “a dialect with an army.”

We can forgive Kilito, perched as he is in Rabat, on the joined frontiers of Arab and European history. Just as poetry (in al Jahiz’s view) could not be lifted from its original language and dropped into another, Kilito’s misgivings about multilingualism should not be translated out of their own context. His book should be understood as a commentary on the Arab experience of translation, not on translation in general (...) He even questions his own doubts about translation, spying an unsettling chauvinism in his jealous guardianship of Arabic from the European interloper.

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

Translating Erotica

From the Concordia University Journal:

"On April 24, the Département d'études françaises hosted the Translating Erotica conference, bringing together academics and the public to consider the intricacies of converting the erotic text from one language to another.

"There are specificities of text that travel successfully across language and some that don't," said Études françaises professor and conference organizer Pier-Pascale Boulanger. "You could ask the same questions about humour; it's a cultural, historical and generational thing. We wanted to explore how erotic literature works in translation."

For example, she explains the word for 'hairy' in English may often have off-putting connotations, but the German term behaart merely means 'the presence of follicles on a man’s skin' – in directly translating the word, the effect on the reader may be counterproductive.
"The point of erotica is to, well, turn on the reader or at least catch their attention. If there's any text that isn't clear and slows the reader down, it needs to be taken out," Boulanger said. "It's like the instructions for Ikea furniture; you read them, build, and you have a result at the end.

For Montreal-native Boulanger, who has been at Concordia since 2005, the idea for the conference stemmed from teaching literary translation here at Concordia – a class she's taught for four sessions.

"Generally, students translate the classics, such as Shakespeare, but we don't really get to work on anything that's not considered literary." In an attempt to shake things up, she began her students translating dialogue from authors such as Dan Brown or Nick Hornby to gain practical experience. "But it got me thinking, how would you translate erotica? What would be the problems? Especially regarding with the masculine-feminine designation of objects in French."

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

Mush-up Poetry

Barbara Jane Reyes is a US poet born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the author of Gravities of Center (Arkipelago Books, 2003) and Poeta en San Francisco (Tinfish Press, 2005), which received the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. My third book, entitled Diwata, is forthcoming from BOA Editions, Ltd. in 2010.

Barbara writes both in Tagalog and English. Here is what she has to say about writing in other than English language:

"Now as for languages other than English, I can only say that so many of us exist between languages. Let’s not perpetuate the erroneous assumption that monolingual English speakers should be privileged over the rest of us. Let me add to this the fact that “proper” English is only one sliver of the Englishes we speak and hear every day. Think about what folks speak in East Oakland, or the Fruitvale, or in the Mission District, or in Chinatown, or on Powell Street, or in any major American city, cosmopolitan spaces, inner cities, suburban and rural communities. People are not speaking in proper academic English but in really interesting figurative language.

One positive result of my English Tagalog Spanish mash-ups is that subtracted bilinguals like me relate to it; take away the negative connotation that this is “broken” language, and it reaffirms our wholeness. We were never broken to begin with, and it’s unfortunate we were ever led to believe this in the first place

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

The Writer As Migrant

The Writer As Migrant by Ha Jin consists of three interconnected essays, this book sets Ha Jin’s own work and life alongside those of other literary exiles, creating a conversation across cultures and between eras. He employs the cases of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Chinese novelist Lin Yutang to illustrate the obligation a writer feels to the land of his birth, while Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov—who, like Ha Jin, adopted English for their writing—are enlisted to explore a migrant author’s conscious choice of a literary language. A final essay draws on V. S. Naipaul and Milan Kundera to consider the ways in which our era of perpetual change forces a migrant writer to reconceptualize the very idea of home. Throughout, Jin brings other celebrated writers into the conversation as well, including W. G. Sebald, C. P. Cavafy, and Salman Rushdie—refracting and refining the very idea of a literature of migration.

A 53-year-old professor at Boston University, Jin’s also written five novels, three books of poetry, and three collections of short stories, all in English. He’s won two PEN/Faulkner awards and a National Book Award and in 2004 was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

When he started writing, Jin says, "I viewed myself as a Chinese writer who would write in English on behalf of the downtrodden Chinese." But how could he write on behalf of a people if he couldn't also address them? Since his books often deal with the politics of modern China most of them haven't been published there. Of course, had he returned to China he could have written in Chinese. Then again, he might not be writing at all. Jin thinks he'd have become a translator or critic or maybe a professor, but wouldn't have written much. When he was starting out in the U.S., he says, writing was a matter of survival: he was on the tenure track at Emory and had to publish to keep his job. But writing in English offers another sort of survival as well. It's "a way for me to do meaningful work in a language that's not controlled by authorities. In that way it's a matter of artistic survival." So he writes in English, even though he argues in the book's second essay, "The Language of Betrayal," that "no matter how the writer attempts to rationalize and justify adopting a foreign language, it is an act of betrayal that alienates him from his mother tongue.…"

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

In Love With Sagan

Douglas Hofstadter's translation of Françoise Sagan's That Mad Ache is two books in one. Aside from the translation of the novel, it includes a translator's super-afterword -- at 100 pages almost half the length of the translation itself --, that stands on its own. To emphasize that, Hofstadter's piece, Translator, Trader, is printed upside-down and with its own cover.

What caught my attention - again and again - is the psychological relationship to text. La Chamade itself is not a classic, but Hofstadter had his own reasons for translating it:

"I found La Chamade beautiful and touching, and I yearned to re-experience as strongly as possible the emotions it had churned up in me. Merely re-reading the novel would not have allowed me that degree of emotional intensity and intimacy with its characters, but rewriting it in my native language did."

The reason this hit me on the nerve is that from my early twenties I have been doing that with non-fiction texts that made an impact on me. Now nearing my half-century, I came across a younger colleague who, finding me trawling pencil in hand through a book on linguistics, confessed she was doing the same during her university years, when she majored in English Literature.

I am not sure for me it was the "emotional intensity" as much as the need to own the text - what better way than to translate it? When I was in high school, part of English Language classes was a now-dead subject: precis. That too was about mastering the gist of what was said. I see translating as a similar tool. One needs very close readings to translate - you cannot just skim the text.

Further: "Not only how much liberty may a translator take, but how much liberty must a translator take, in order to do a good job." He sees himself as a "phrase-trader" - I don't like the tradesman connotation, and can't understand why he hasn't chosen "phrase-crafter" instead?? He notes that many translators aspire to invisibility, wanting to disappear behind the text; but not him. He feels translation gives him co-ownership, and he is determined to leave his imprint on it. Then he doubts his own approach:

"But do I, a mere translator, have the right to turn up the clarity and vividness knobs ? Well, the fact is that I'm naturally inclined to turn these knobs up high no matter what I'm writing, because clarity and vividness are, in some sense, my religion. I would be betraying myself if I didn't allow myself to be as clear and as vivid as possible when I translate. indeed, were I told that I had to adopt the principle of such rigid "faithfulness" to the author, then I would just give up translating, for it wouldn't allow me to use my own mind. "

Clarity and vividness. I am not a literary translator, but when I was working on non-fiction texts in philosophy or sociology, I often had to do that. These were teaching texts, and it would have benefited no one if the students could not understand what was said. But that implied to a degree that I was doing my own interpretation of how I understood the text.

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

Are we heading towards Obamisms

Bush couldn't string sentences in English. Obama speaks in tongues and makes wunderbar mistakes in foreign languages.

After the "Austrian language" error, he did a Spanish one.. On May 4th, he addressed a crowd gathered in front of the White House for a May 4 celebration of Cinco de Mayo, the Mexican holiday honoring an upset military victory over the French.

"Bienvenidos. Welcome to Cinco de Cuatro — (laughter) — Cinco de Mayo at the White House. We are a day early, but we always like to get a head start here at the Obama White House.”

Ouch! Cinco de Cuatro?? Fifth of the Fourth? That's April 4th, three days too late for April's Fool, and a whole month ahead of Cinco de Mayo.

Next time, it would be nice if the elected President was also an academic. I am dreaming, nu?

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

On Dialects and English..

A few choicy pieces from a very well written posting by Balthazar Oesterhoudt :

"Americans speak a wholly different language than the average Briton. Europeans who learn English unanimously confirm this to me. They say that it’s much harder to understand an American than an Englishman, primarily because Americans phonetically alter sounds that appear different in writing. For example, the word “getting” looks like it should contain a “t” sound. Yet when an average American says it, there is no “t” to be heard. At most, you will hear a “d” to replace the “t” (ie, “gedding”). At the least, you will hear a strange, swallowed “-nnh” sound to replace “-tting” altogether (ie, “getting” degenerates into a half-swallowed “ge-nnh”). For a foreigner who learns to pronounce every sound he reads, these American dialectic differences cause immense confusion. By contrast, a Briton does pronounce a “t” in “getting." They do not swallow or alter sounds, allowing the foreigner to more easily hear what he remembers seeing in writing."

He hasn't heard some parts of UK, or Murphy Creek, QLD. We got our Volvo stuck in 50 cm of mud after a rain while viewing a property up on the range. Both our mobiles had no connection - bless living in the country - and the property owner had gone that morning to hospital because his wife was delivering (at least that's what it sounded on the phone). We ended up walking for 40 minutes before we came across a property with humans on it - the rest was occupied by snorting equines and mad Blue Heelers. We waved the guy on the motorised mower down and he allowed us in to use his phone for RACQ. Although he spoke understandable English to us (not much of conversation, he seemed to find ours difficult), what flew out of his mouth when he spoke to his mother was a total surprise. Neither Dan and I could make sense of it, at most maybe a word here or there. Mind you, he was not a foreigner.. what he spoke was English.

It was many months later that I told this story to another friend who lives up in Toowoomba, and she said "Bushie". I still have to research what "Bushie Australian" is like.

Another place where English is not English would be the Town Called Alice. The amount of Aboriginal words mixed into it makes it officially a separate language. Now, mind you, there are more than one tribe in Alice, and they speak different indigenous languages, so this is a green salad-pidgin made of more than just two languages.

I was also fascinated by how our Kimberly interpreters, and the translator from Torres Strait Islands spoke English. Given, it is not their first language, but they are very fluent in it. It is the intonation, the inflections, all that music of language that was new to my ears - so much softer, gentler, calmer than the barking of Sydney or the Melbournian machine-guns. Then again, it was shorter than the Queensland drawl. Fascinating.

Enough of me. Back to Oesterhoudt:

"English is a Germanic language that likes to masquerade in Latin finery, but without Latin charm or grace. English is not romantic; it is schizophrenic and crass. Because English draws on so many linguistic traditions, it can express the same thought in two, three or even four ways. For example, to express the idea “a door leading out,” we can say “Exit,” from the Latin “ex” (“out”) and “it” (“he goes”), or we can opt for the good old German “Way Out,” from “weg” (“way”) “aus” (“out”). “Exit” sounds more official and more serious than “way out.” “Way out” is prosaic. It sounds too obvious. For better or worse, English has confused itself into thinking that Latin words are somehow more “urbane” than German ones, even though our German words are much more basic and convey meaning much more readily than Latin imitations. "

Which language is not schizophrenic and crass? All European languages have roots in Greek and Latin; Many Asian countries have roots in Sanskrit; Arabic travelled both west and east and left its marks on both Spanish (and jumped with it to South America) and Hindi, not to mention Dari, Farsi, etc. Central Asian languages all carry both Chinese and Turkic elements. In the globalized village, everyone borrows from everyone.

But whereas you can ask a person to leave in more than one way in English, in Arabic I can express amazement, displeasure, approval, doubt, despair and much more with a single term - Ya Salam - by changing the intonation.

Oesterhoudt goes on to propose that the core of English language consists of the prepositions, because they "express the locations of objects or actions. We cannot precisely describe things we see or hear. In short, prepositions allow us to linguistically depict our experiences to others. "

Just as an experiment, I will try to spend this evening talking to Dan without the use of prepositions. We will see how much gets lost in translation.

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

Translators Are from Tralfamadore

Paul Verhaeghen (b. 1965) is a Belgian novelist, writing in his native Dutch.

His novels include Lichtenberg (1996) and Omega Minor (2004). Omega Minor has been translated into German (2006, Eichborn Verlag) and English (2007, Dalkey Archive Press). The original Dutch version won the F. Bordewijk Award (2005) and the Culture Award of the Flemish Government (2006) as well as the Award for Prose of the Joint Flemish Provinces (2007). The English translation, done by the author himself, won the 2008 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

Verhaeghen is also a cognitive psychologist, currently working at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. He studied theoretical psychology at the Catholic University of Leuven (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) in Belgium. In 1993 he earned his Dr.Psyc. degree with the thesis, Teaching old dogs new memory tricks: Plasticity in episodic memory performance in old age.

Here is what the self-translating author has to say about translators (other than himself, of course):

"..all writing is in essence translation. A writer has a vision, so the argument goes, and that vision is put into words, which invariably soils it somewhat. Groovy little gyrations you’ve got going on there, son, but, woah, wait a minute: They’re totally incidental and totally irreproducible (...) writers and translators have different loyalties. Translation is, after all, a business of rigid motion, with an allegiance to accuracy; writers are wedded to – and I apologize to use this word in polite company – the truth (...) To know the truth, you have to get up early, forego your shower, don a bathrobe or (better still) stay in your boxers, and bang away at the keyboard until your fingers are numb – twelve hours of work done in a single instant, with a single sentence to show for it.

When you write, in other words, the world shifts and moves. You are, emphatically, certainly, positively driven, but you are not the driver. If it works, at the end of the day you may sink into your warm puddle of words, the song that cannot be unsung, blisters of joy on your lips; otherwise you’ll find yourself at midnight weeping into the open fridge, your tears freezing in their ducts. Yes, writers, like all lovers thrown into a fling, are tempted by the illusion of destiny, reaching for a heaven that exists only in their carefully rearranged memories, all the while trying to figure out if reality is more a wilderness of mirrors or a pillar of smoke. If you know where you are going, if the vision is clear, if you know the exact note that will come out when you open your mouth to sing, you are not a writer. Give up on the idea that writers are gods. They have no overview, the mere thought of their omnipotence is laughable, they are most ungracious, and certainly not in the possession of any mercy whatsoever. (Watch them kill their characters!)

In walks the translator. Doesn’t he look a bit like a plumber’s friend, with his suction cup neatly planted on the ground, so eager to teach the writing Earthling many wonderful things about time? Linear or non-linear, it doesn’t matter, because the text is there and the translator ploughs through it at will, and from every angle. The translator is an honest-to-god liar, pretending to believe in a truth that is entirely somebody else’s – yours -- cross-wiring his dreams with the wind that whipped some other fellah’s plains -- yours. The irksome paradox is that in his command of the fourth dimension, the translator becomes shallower, not deeper. He sobs over the death of every character, but not inconsolably so – it’s only a book, and the character lives on, forever on the page. True, the translator is powerless to prevent your mistakes, but he is gracious and merciful towards them. So it goes, he says, and he either shrugs his shoulders or tries to smooth it out. Did you notice that he is stylishly two weeks overdue for a haircut, while your hair gets brutally trimmed every six months by your lover, in your sleep, with very blunt scissors? Did you notice he’s wearing a full set of clothes while he translates, and never skips a meal? He is extraordinarily precise, your translator, he wants to render each and every one of your puns, he wants to bring each of your clever nuances to light – the best of translators are so good, you can’t believe it’s not writing.

This, obviously, is why the Italians call the translator a traitor: He is completely unlike you; he is a smooth-talking interplanetary god."

I don't agree. First of all, we do agonize over words just as much as the writer does. From my own experience, I do three and often four drafts of the same text before I am satisfied (or the deadline looms). Secondly, I am often dishevelled and in my pyjamas while working, and I not only miss meals, but also medical appointments, social events (I just discovered that a friend's birthday was last month, not last week), and professional commitments - simply because I am here 13-14 hours translating something.

Thirdly, my belief is that you cannot be a good translator unless you are a good writer yourself.
The only difference I see is that whereas the writer often does it for love, we do it for livelihood. And that means that we need to do it properly. A stuffed up novel will get forgotten after a few critical bashes on the pages of literary reviews. You can always try and write a better one. But if I stuff up my translation, I simply don't get paid.

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

Arabizing, Not Translating

Pharmaceutical industry and regulatory bodies in the Middle East relies heavily on English language guidelines to regulate, operates, and market one of the most vital industries in the region.

Zeta Consulting (Jordan) started this project as it believes that content in the mother language is a very important contribution to the industry. Zeta Consulting does not produce Arabic language replicas by translating English language guidelines; it transfers cumulative knowledge and understanding to an Arabic text, which can be built on and evolve. For example its first guideline (Computerized Systems in Pharmaceutical Industry) brought years of experience and touches of the most known regulation together to form an Arabic language document that can be used by regulatory bodies to inspect and audit manufacturers and researchers, and can be used by the industry to better understand regulatory requirements in what still considered a black box by many. This guideline is only a beginning for a larger effort, which many Arab experts from the industry are interested to participate in, other Arabized guidelines are in our pipeline, and will be available for Arab regulatory bodies.

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

Market Trends: Going In-house

Multivac Sepp Haggenmuller GmbH & Co. KG, manufacturer of packaging solutions used in over 100 countries worldwide does translation projects for 31 languages are now directly managed from the headquarters in Wolfertschwenden, Germany, with many in-house and external resources included in the translation process.

Multivac made a decision to translate documentation into more than the 25 EU languages required by the EC Machinery Directive. With this decision, the translation volume immediately rose by a multiple factor, from its original 11 languages served to 31. Around the same time, the number of technical documents needing to be prepared also rose by about 20%.

Needing greater flexibility and transparency of translation projects, the editorial team decided to administer and manage their language projects in-house. This allows the company to keep the language data -- the entries in the translation memory and in the terminology database -- in-house, so they can be used during the creation of the source text. It also allows re-use of sections of existing translations, keeping costs down.

They use Across Language Server as the central platform for all language matters in the company to enable them to meet their specifications in an optimal manner. In addition, Ovidius TCToolbox, the XML-based editorial and content management system (CMS) used by Multivac, was integrated with the Across Language Server, allowing initiation of projects in the CMS.

Precisely the reason for us, freelancers, to start looking inside large industry compounds for either full-time employment or short-term contracts (I prefer the second, not an employee by nature). I predicted many months ago that as belts tighten, the middle-man (the agency) will be slowly pushed out of the equation. Not exactly excellent news for me, because my agents save me time and money on marketing and project managing - so I have more time to translate.

More Gealic Hooters As Councillor Asks Members to Undress

From The Press and Journal (Aberdeen):

"Meanwhile, it is hot air that is the problem at committee meetings of Western Isles Council; and Gaelic hot air at that. Translator Dollag, a Niseach, sits in a booth at the back and rabbits away, converting perfectly good Gaelic into a squawky north-of-Galson dialect that, being heavily guga-flavoured, has only a passing resemblance to the Queen's English. Still, it's only for the benefit of the handful of councillors who are non-Gaelic speakers, so they can sit there nodding, wired for sound.

Unfortunately, I have to report that the usually reliable process of simultaneous translation sparked unseemly scenes at a recent meeting of the transport committee. In the chair was the usually precise and immaculately spoken member for Barra, Donald Manford.

He began proceedings by reading out the announcements. They included a reminder to everyone present to switch off their mobile phones. A mischievous imp who was there tells me that Donald was distracted by something and misread the note. Instead of asking the councillors to put off their phones, what he actually told them was to put off their clothes.

There was a stunned, awkward silence. Then the voice of an audibly shocked Dollag could be heard in the headphones. Afraid that the elected members were taking the dress-down concept way too far, she was heard protesting loudly that there were some things she just would not translate. So there.

The Gaelic-speaking members were in total disarray. Stornoway North member Murdo Macleod's jaw dropped so much it nearly fractured the desk; Morag Munro, of Harris, needed smelling salts, and Benbecula's Martin Taylor had to jump on Catherine Macdonald, the Dame of Drinishader, as she tried to comply with the chairman's instruction. Isn't it a pity that council proceedings are not televised?

A supremely remorseful Donald Manford feebly tried to excuse his outrageous conduct by explaining it was an easy mistake for him to make because the note was written in a dialect he was not familiar with Lewis Gaelic. His colleagues now hope he will get more familiar with an optician."

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

Taha and Adina - Translating the Other

Taha Muhammad Ali, is a Palestinian poet born in Saffuriyya, a Galilee village that Israel bombed during the 1948 war and demolished in its wake. An autodidact (he had just four years of perfunctory village schooling), Taha has spent nearly 60 years now operating a souvenir shop near the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. At the same time, he has taught himself much of classical and contemporary Arabic literature, absorbed copious quantities of English and American poetry and prose, and evolved, slowly but with a stubbornly single-minded kind of determination, into a writer of formidable power.

Adina Hoffman describes herself as an American-born Jew who has lived in Jerusalem for much of her adult life with a sort of double identity. She met Taha just after the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000, when together with her husband and another Palestinian friend they started translating Taha's works into English. Translating Taha was itself seen by Adina as an act of political protest against the atrocities.

Now she has published a book about the poet, "My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness. The book places Muhammad Ali’s life in the context of the lives of his predecessors and peers, My Happiness offers a sweeping depiction of a charged and fateful epoch. It is a work that Arabic scholar Michael Sells describes as “among the five ‘must read’ books on the Israel-Palestine tragedy.” In an era when talk of the “Clash of Civilizations” dominates, this biography offers something else entirely: a view of the people and culture of the Middle East that is rich, nuanced, and, above all else, deeply human.

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

Ugly English?

That's what the cover of the Quebecan Michel Brûlé's "Essai sociologique" Anglaid: Une langue irrémédiablement vouée à l’impérialisme et à l’ethnocentrisme ("English: A language irremediably devoted to imperialism and ethnocentrism") has as a title. The title is a blend of the French words Anglais "English" and laid "ugly" — perhaps it could be approximately translated as "Uglish". His reasoning?

For a long time, the supremacy of France illuminated the entire world. At all times, the French nevertheless recognized the numerous contributions of different languages and societies to the cultural patrimony of the world.

These days, the Anglo-Saxon culture dominates the world. Whether they are British or American, the Anglo-Saxon elites are interested only in themselves. Music, literature, drama — there is nothing but English-language works created by English speakers. (translation from The Language Log at UPenn)

So what's the angst that made him write it? Mind you, he had to publish it himself, no one wanted to touch it! He then went on and plastered posters all over town. With his bulldog like semblance and the Graffiti-like book cover, he sort of gives me the shivers.

Apparently, it was the first singular pronoun in English that was the offending term:

"I made a very simple revolutionary observation, which is that the English "I" is hypertrophied by being always capitalized. This changes the way one looks at the Other. It's a case unique in linguistics. And people are so confused by the omnipresence of English that they don't even notice this evidence."

How "revolutionary" is that?? But he doesn't stop at writing - he also sings about how bad English is and wonders if Montréal will one day become Mont-real (uhm, Mt. Real?)

So France illuminated and Britain colonised? Interesting rewriting of history. What was France, pardon me, illuminating in Algeria? At least the Brits build lots of infrastructure which they couldn't take home with them.

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

Googling in Arabic

From the Financial Times:

When it comes to the internet, the Arab world punches well below its weight. Less than 1 per cent of the internet’s content is in Arabic, while the world’s approximately 370m Arabs form more than 5 per cent of the global population.

Internet usage has jumped 1,000 per cent over the past seven years in the Middle East, yet it still lags well behind other regions. Overall internet penetration has reached 10 to 12 per cent, although with the region’s large number of shared connections, up to 50 per cent of the population is estimated to have access to the net.

Google, the internet company, hopes to provide the tools that will help users to increase the amount of Arabic content online. The regional engineering team, based in Switzerland, is adapting existing Google products to the Arabic language while also developing new bespoke products, says Ahmad Hamzawi, Google’s engineering manager for the Middle East. Google News, Blogger and the company’s new browser, Chrome, have Arabic versions. The company’s suite of “cloud applications”, such as Google documents and calendar, has also been changed to include regional features. More innovative is Ta3reeb, which allows users who do not have an Arabic keyboard or cannot write Arabic script to transliterate phonetically into Arabic text through an English keyboard.

“For me the impact of it is very powerful because people can start publishing in a very easy, simple manner, directly in Arabic,” says Gisel Hiscock, the company’s director of new business development for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. While penetration may lag behind, the region is quickly adopting social media trends, such as Facebook, the social networking site, and Twitter, the micro-blogging site.

Comment: Why do I find it normal that Arabs would go for social software more than for other Internet uses? Isn't that part of the culture - extended families, clans, tribes, networks of related people who could be all over the world? Blogging, too, since you have your mouth glued by censorship most of the time.

Ahmed Nassef, general manager of Arabic web portal, says cultural tweaking is as important as translation when launching regional products. “Besides just offering up an Arabic interface, companies need to take the time to really understand cultural and social factors – what works in London may not work in Cairo,” he says.

Comment: Keep dreaming. No profit-oriented business has the time to waste on understanding culture and language and all that wet stuff that makes the world outside their own. Especially not US businesses, where learning a second language is hopelessly low on the priority list.

From the Middle East Institute Blog

Although most Google applications, plus Facebook and other media now have Arabic language front-ends that allow people to blog, e-mail, etc. in Arabic, there are still many challenges to fuller Internet penetration. One is the simple one of illiteracy in the Arab world, which is still high by global standards, especially among women. Another is the problem the linguists call "diglossia": the fact that Modern Standard Arabic, the language of newspapers, university instruction, public speeches, etc., is actually no one's first language; Arabs grow up speaking their own local dialect (usually referred to as ‘amiyya or lahja in the East and darija in the Maghreb), which they learn at their mother's knee. They don't just have to learn to read the language they already speak: they have to learn a related but more complex and formal language that no one speaks today, or may ever have spoken as such. It's a deterrent not only to literacy but to entering the public sphere as a journalist, politician, or academic expected to perform in Modern Standard Arabic.
Comment: This is not limited to the Arabic language. There are dialects in every single language in the world that has more than 1000 speakers. Illiteracy is a problem, granted, but that has nothing to do with the fact that MSA is different from the spoken language. It has to do with corruption, over-population and poverty.

If you are interested in the differences between MSA and dialects, you can read the rest of the posting here, but take what the guy says with a barrel of salt.

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

BBC: Worries About "Word Poverty" Unfounded

Children are to be offered lessons on how to speak English formally amid fears that many are suffering from "word poverty", it has been reported. But how many words do people tend to know and use?

Do people know more words than they actually use? And is having a large vocabulary something you learn or have a natural ability for?

These are burning issues in the worlds of linguistics and education. On Monday it was reported that children in England will have lessons in formal language amid fears that some are suffering from stunted vocabularies.

US company Global Language Monitor (GLM) believes that the one millionth word will be added to the English language in mid-June.

While there is agreement that a word becomes a word when it is used by one person and understood by another, grammarians and lexicographers stand divided when deciding which to include when calculating a total.

Obamamania, bankster and bloggerati are just some of the "brand new words" GLM has been tracking.

The operation, based in Austin, Texas, says 25,000 citations in the worldwide media, social networking sites and elsewhere are its benchmark for a word to be included in its total.
They estimate a new word is created every 98 minutes.

The English language is likely to contain the most words of all languages, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, and estimates for the number of words range from one to two million.

Agreement will probably never be reached over whether or not to include words used in botany or chemistry, let alone slang, dialects and influences from foreign shores.

Some areas GLM does not include are product names and chemicals and Paul Payack, president and chief word analyst, says the 600,000 species of fungus are not in.

So, can a precise word total ever be known? No, says Professor David Crystal, known chiefly for his research in English language studies and author of around 100 books on the subject.

"It's like asking how many stars are there in the sky. It's impossible to answer," he said.
An easier question to answer, he maintains, is the size of the average person's vocabulary.

He suggests taking a sample of about 20 or 30 pages from a medium-sized dictionary, one which contains about 100,000 entries or 1,000 to 1,500 pages.

Tick off the ones you know and count them. Then multiply that by the number of pages and you will discover how many words you know. Most people vastly underestimate their total.

"Most people know half the words - about 50,000 - easily. A reasonably educated person about 75,000 and a really cool, smart person well, maybe all of them but that is rather unusual. An ordinary person, one who has not been to university say, would know about 35,000 quite easily."

The formula can be used to calculate the number of words a person uses, but a person's active language will always be less than their passive, the difference being about a third.

Prof Crystal says exposure to reading will obviously expand a person's vocabulary but the level of a person's education does not necessarily decide things.

"A person with a poor education perhaps may not be able to read or read much, but they will know words and may have a very detailed vocabulary about pop songs or motorbikes. I've met children that you could class as having a poor education and they knew hundreds of words about skateboards that you won't find in a dictionary. We must avoid cultural elitism."

His research led him to ask people how many different words appeared on average in a copy of The Sun newspaper. All respondents came back with a low figure.

After counting a paper picked from random he found there to be about 8,000. "That's the same as the King James version of the Bible. "It is not very varied and names don't count but you see, people see headlines like 'Gotcha!' and make a judgement."


For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at

5 DTP suggestions to help your translation projects move faster


(1) Use tabs, not the space bar, to align type.
(2) Word-processing programs may not print on an image setter with the same line and page breaks as on your office printer. The best solution is to save the document as a .pdf file as well as providing the original document.
(3) Delete extra blank pages and any clutter, such as unused type, boxes, and art, that remains on the pasteboard.
(4) Provide a proof usually a pdf of the most current version of your document.
(5) Place copies of your document, fonts, art, and photos in the same folder so that files link properly.

I need to stick this on my board every time I talk to a new client. Some are still sending me .pub files *grin*

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Error Recognition and Translation Quality

This is an edited text:

"Speaking of translation quality, recognition of errors in the source text is of great importance for a quality translation work. Translators are supposed to be discerning readers who pursue refinement. So the recognition of original mistakes is an important factor in high performance. The translator should focus on the interrelationship and coherence of the source text and never draw any conclusions without supporting proof. Moreover, simple mistakes such as typing errors and some factual mistakes could also be detected by an experienced translator. Such mistakes in the source materials are not rare and the translator should regard himself as a first-hand information extractor and not a literal translator. In additon, the lack of comprehension about the background and culture can render nonsense translations, not to mention sentence structures or syntax being sometimes careless in the original material. "

That's just a first edit of the following text, purporting to be written by a translator *clearing throat* who is giving advice on quality:

"While we talk about the translation quality, recognition of errors in original presents great importance for a quality translation work. As we know, the translators are supposed to be the discerning readers who pursue refinement more than literacy. So when we take the recognition of original mistakes as an important factor for perfect performance. The assigned translator should emphasize on the interrelationship and coherence of the source language text and never draws an imprudent conclusion without any supporting proof. However, simple mistakes such as typing error, the slip of the pen and some factual mistakes could also be detected by an experienced translator. Actually, it is not rare to make such mistakes in the source materials unless the translator regards himself a first-hand information extractor instead of a literal translation operator. Also, the lack of the comprehension about the background, culture can make his translation no sense. In addition, sentence structure or arrangement is sometimes involved in careless original writing materials. The following examples might cast a light on common mistakes."

With a quality like that, am I safely to assume his surname is Babel and he is an electronic piscis?

Translating Environmental Changes

By Emanuel Pastreich in FPIF

Many think tanks and NGOs in the United States and Europe — Sierra Club, Earthwatch, 1Sky — wield multimillion-dollar budgets with the aim of reducing environmental degradation and climate change on a global scale.

Yet a glance at the websites of these institutions makes it immediately obvious that very few offer materials online (or offline) in the foreign languages spoken by corporate leaders, civil servants, and citizens' groups in countries the United States expects to make changes in environmental policy. We find nothing on these institutions' websites in Chinese, Russian, Hindi, or Arabic.

Although English-language prescriptions may have some value in communicating with highly educated, English-speaking researchers from other countries, those individuals aren't the key figures driving reckless, damaging development and building of factories and coal plants. Nor are they likely to be the decision-makers in the government's response. To address issues like poisoned groundwater, increased numbers of coal plants, and disappearing forests, one must engage directly with local government and local industry, and make the case in their common language. In some nations, even the elites don't consider this local language important for intellectual discourse.

In a nutshell, getting serious about combating climate change isn't about bringing English speakers from developing nations to listen to Harvard professors; it's about talking to players at the local level in the languages they best understand.

Even highly educated civil servants in Japan find Japanese summaries of English proposals far easier to comprehend. And although educated Indians may wince at the suggestion, at the local level we need to get information out in Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, Sindhi, and Bengali.
Someone may ask if we really need to translate our ideas into dozens of languages to be effective. The answer is simple: Yes, eventually we must, if we are to pull the world back from the brink of environmental destruction. In the short term, however, we should focus on key languages such as Chinese, Russian, Arabic, and Hindi.

Translating English-language documents doesn't imply people in these countries have a greater responsibility for global warming. Indeed, because the United States has the much larger carbon footprint, U.S. NGOs have the greater responsibility to invest in the dissemination of information about global warming.

Translation isn't simply communication. It's also the basis for cooperation as U.S. NGOs work with their counterparts overseas to refine the language and implement the recommendations. Translation is more than linguistic; it's cultural. Anyone who has engaged civil servants and corporations on the ground in Asia soon learns that it's not enough to make a proposal in the native language. A proposal has to be formatted in a specific form that can be processed by government, NGOs or companies internally. Translation, and translation that is relevant for the task at hand, is a key step in building partnerships.

Yes, it will take extra effort for the Brookings Institution and the Earth Institute to put up websites in Chinese, Arabic, and Russian. But that's what has to happen if we want to start reaching people who can effect change.And if we don't, well, those in the developing world who complain that the developed world is simply not living up to its side of the bargain would have a point.

Ionesco’s theater of the absurd, and the chaos of language

With the first American English translation by playwright Tina Howe, NAU Theatre has taken on the challenge of two of Eugène Ionesco's classics: “The Bald Soprano” and “The Lesson" to bring audiences a different breed of humor.

Taking on political issues of conformity or social situations, Ionesco’s work takes familiar characters and situations and stretches them to the extreme. In the case of “The Bald Soprano” and “The Lesson,” language is the issue.

The stuffy Smith household on the outskirts of London is quiet except for the steady sound of time passing on the ticks of a clock. Awaiting the arrival of their guests, Mr. and Mrs. Smith sit together in awkward silence until finally Mrs. Smith, desperate for her husband’s attention, rambles on about their dinner. The Martins, who are married but for some reason do not seem to remember each other, arrive followed by the Fire Captain and the strange evening begins to unfold. Language suddenly fails them, and what should have been a social evening turns into a hopeless attempt at communicating. Finally, left with only nonsense phrases, vowels and consonants, the characters in “The Bald Soprano” erupt into vocal chaos almost to the point of violence.

“The Lesson” follows a similar path. A young, eager student arrives at her professor’s home in hopes of furthering her education and obtaining another degree to add to the two she has already earned. The hunched professor becomes increasingly anxious when he realizes that although his new pupil is highly educated, she cannot seem to grasp the concept of subtraction and can only add. Similar to the way the characters soldier on in “The Bald Soprano,” the professor and the student continue on with their lesson, talking in circles until a terrifying act of violence is committed.

"So much in our world is in turmoil due to the ‘tragedy of language.’ We try to communicate but so often we cannot and language is reduced to meaningless verbiage. Often in this world, we result to violence if we cannot find the answers through discourse," said the plays director Kathleen McGeever. "Ionesco has a way to take us on the universal journey of the meaning of language while we laugh,” continues McGeever. “Ionesco’s serious and important treatise on the tragedy of language became a comedy when performed and this remains true today. So, audiences can laugh and think at the same time.”

Tina Howe’s translations of “The Bald Soprano” and “The Lesson” breathed new life into the English versions. “I translated the plays because they are screamingly funny in French,” says Howe. “But the current English translations are literal translations. So there is no wit. There is no rhyming. There is no humor. There is none of the fun you get in the French.”

Walking a fine line between staying true to Ionesco while still making the plays “sing” in English was a challenge, but Howe’s success is what caught McGeever’s attention. “Her translation is able to blend language’s mayhem and madness with the formality of the English drawing room in ‘The Bald Soprano,’ and provide a light yet maniacal touch to the language in ‘The Lesson.’ But, what is truly delightful in her translation is the spirit—a vibrant and dizzying cacophony of sound. The repetition of the sounds, the music, of the language is exquisite in the original language and I believe that Tina Howe has captured the music.”

New Research on Healthcare Interpreting

Diamond, L. et al (2009) Getting By: Underuse of Interpreters by Resident Physicians. In Journal of General Internal Medicine, 24(2): 256-262.

Language barriers complicate physician– patient communication and adversely affect healthcare
quality. Research suggests that physicians underuse interpreters despite evidence of benefits and even when services are readily available. The reasons underlying the underuse of interpreters are poorly understood.

20 internal medicine resident physicians from two urban teaching hospitals with excellent
interpreter services participated in the research.

Four recurrent themes emerged:

1) Resident physicians recognized that they underused professional interpreters, and described this phenomenon as “getting by;”
2) Resident physicians made decisions about interpreter use by weighing the perceived value of communication in clinical decision making against their own time constraints;
3) The decision to call an interpreter could be preempted by the convenience of using family members or the resident physician’s use of his/her own second language skills;
4) Resident physicians normalized the underuse of professional interpreters, despite recognition that patients with LEP are not receiving equal care.

Although previous research has identifiedtime constraints and lack of availability of interpreters as reasons for their underuse, our data suggest that the reasons are far more complex. Residents at thestudy institutions with interpreters readily availablefound it easier to “get by” without an interpreter, despite misgivings about negative implications for quality of care. Findings suggest that increasing interpreter usewill require interventions targeted at both individual physicians and the practice environment.

Getting clients in your field

Although written specifically with environmental translators in mind, Abigail Dahlberg gives some good pointers to all of us on where to look for clients:

(1) Big players outside your field who need your expertise in that field.

(2) Providers of services in your field

(3) Consulting firms, trade journals and research institutes in your field

(4) Government institutions

(5) and finally translation agencies

There is some more good advice in her posting.. like reading trade and professional journals to get an idea of who is doing what that might need your translating skills; attending trade fairs, and talking to other colleagues about what you do so they know who to call when they come across a good opportunity.

Do read it in full.

What Studying Arabic is Good For..

..making coffee!!

As the job market in the Kingdom becomes ever more competitive and the requirements of employers increasingly demanding, many Saudis are taking to work which not so long ago would have been unthinkable for them.

Abdullah Bin Mahfodh, an Arabic Language university graduate, serves coffee in a well-known Jeddah café after failing to find work more suited to his qualifications. “After graduating I applied for work at the Ministry of Civil Service, but their requirements were impossible to meet,” Abdullah said. “Everywhere I applied, they said they needed someone who spoke English and who had previous experience.” (send them to us, we will teach them)

Abdullah took a degree in Arabic after being advised that it would help him find employment (DUH? Like how many BAs in English Lang. get jobs in Australia??), but over two dozen schools and companies were unable to offer him employment and so he took to serving beverages instead. “It’s not everything I dreamed of, but I have to work here to make ends meet,” Abdullah said, as the aroma of freshly ground coffee wafted around him.

He should learn Amharic, by the way. Will help in understanding how to make really good coffee!

The Translator - Daoud Hari

The Translator is a suspenseful, harrowing, and deeply moving memoir of how one person has made a difference in the world–an on-the-ground account of one of the biggest stories of our time. Using his high school knowledge of languages as his weapon—while others around him were taking up arms—Daoud Hari has helped inform the world about Darfur.

Hari, a Zaghawa tribesman, grew up in a village in the Darfur region of Sudan. In 2003, this traditional life was shattered when helicopter gunships appeared over Darfur’s villages, followed by Sudanese-government-backed militia groups raping and murdering citizens and burning villages. He has worked as a language interpreter and guide for NGO's and the press on fact-finding trips into the war-torn and dangerous Darfur area. Hari was captured and detained by the government of Sudan as a spy in August 2006 along with Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Paul Salopek and their Chadian driver Abdulraham Anu (aka "Ali"). During their months-long ordeal all three men were severely beaten and deprived. Upon their successful release - after an international outcry from US diplomats, the US military, Bono and even the Pope - Hari moved to the US where be began work on his memoirs to help bring further world attention to the plight of his people and country.

The Translator tells the remarkable story of a man who came face-to-face with genocide– time and again risking his own life to fight injustice and save his people.

The book was written with Dennis Burke and Megan McKenna, based on hours of interviews with Daoud. Megan originally met Daoud in Darfur, where she had traveled as part of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, and she was one of the people who helped in the fight to bring Daoud to the United States. The author acknowledges with gratitude these contributions and also the efforts of other individuals – including several with direct experience of the events described – who reviewed portions of the book in manuscript. In Daoud's own words, “The story I am telling here is based on my memories of a time of great difficulty and confusion. I have done my best to capture the details of my experiences, and to set them down here accurately and to the utmost of my recollection, and I am grateful to those who have helped me focus and occasionally correct my account. Of course, no two people can view the same event in the same way, and I know that others will have their own tales to tell. Surely these collective tales will add up to the truth of the tragedy in Darfur.”

You can read an excerpt from the book here. There is also an interview with the writer on You Tube.

Why the Yemenis Don't Understand the WB

On April 13, 2009, the Yemen Observatory for Human Rights, a civil society organization based in Sana'a, officially submitted their case regarding the World Bank’s translation framework to the World Bank Inspection Panel.

The forthcoming case is the culmination of the Bank’s rejection of repeated requests by Yemeni civil society groups to translate a key World Bank document, highlighting chronic problems with the Bank’s policy on document translation as well as its requests and appeals mechanisms.

The Yemeni group is taking its complaint to the Inspection Panel, established in 1993 to address the concerns of the people who may be affected by Bank projects and to ensure that the Bank adheres to its operational policies and procedures during design, preparation, and implementation phases of projects.

Although English is the official language of the Bank, it routinely translates general information and its flagship publications into Arabic, Mandarin, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish, as a matter of best practice rather than policy. However, for projects, borrower governments alone bear translation responsibilities, and, as a result, these translations are quite limited in scope (such as summaries of environmental assessments and plans related to resettlement or indigenous peoples). Additionally, project information that is translated is difficult to locate. Core Bank documents such as Project Appraisal Documents (PADs) or Program Documents (PDs), such as those for development policy loans, are rarely translated.

The controversy involves a three-year $51 million grant to the government of Yemen designed to support non-oil growth and strengthen governance and public financial management. The Bank’s initial disclosure concerning the effort has been standard and minimal.

According to the World Bank translation framework, the translation of any program or project-related document is left up to the country manager’s discretion. Since not all officials in borrowing countries are fluent in English, it may be safe to assume that many of these documents are procedurally translated into the local languages. However, the Bank does not require the government to then submit these translated documents along with the English documents, which would then automatically be publicly disclosed upon receipt by the Bank. Requiring disclosure of the already translated documents would greatly increase access to information at no cost to the World Bank.

On January 16, 2008, a group of civil society organizations submitted a formal request for the project document for the Institutional Policy Reform Development grant to be translated into Arabic. The manager of the Yemeni World Bank office replied on January 20th thanking these organizations for their interest and “high level of awareness” of the development process in their country and summarily stated that “like all other project documents—it is available only in English, since this is the official language to be used in all the transactions and contracts between the Government of the Republic of Yemen and the World Bank.” He apologized for not being able to translate the document due to other commitments, although he hoped that the civil society groups could translate it themselves.

On January 30, 2008, civil society leaders again submitted a request to the Yemen country manager to revisit his translation policy, with 25 local organizations signing on in support. The civil society groups specifically stated that: “Civil society organizations understand quite well the importance and the volume of the role the World Bank is playing in the economic reform and integrated and sustainable development processes, including the projects posted on its website in the field of education, port cities, irrigation, energy, public works, and localities. However, we stress that posting those projects only in English limit excessively our ability to participate effectively and actively.


(1) Stop relying on others to do work for you. If you want to read something, translate it. This perpetual expectation that your government should do everything from wiping your brat's nose to translating WB documentation means you effectively believe you cannot do anything initiative yourself.

(2) Maybe they should apply for a grant from WB to have the WB paperwork translated? Looks like they seriously lack bilingually educated people over there.

Translating EU Jargon

Flexicurity = is a welfare state model with a pro-active labour market policy. (So flexible, nothing gets done)

Toilettage = the process of minutely examining new laws and treaties to make sure there’s no errors in translation and that they comply with existing legislation. (Dare I ask where it is performed??)

Constructive ambiguity = phrasing an idea in such a vague way that no one is quite sure what is being said. (Is that the opposite to the destructive clarity??)

Nuts = The nomenclature of territorial units for statistics was created by Eurostat, the EU statistical office, in order to create a single and coherent structure for the management of the Structural Funds. Currently there are three NUTS levels. You may be interested to learn that Germany is nuts level 1 and France and Italy are nuts level 3.

Read more of Andy Carling's stuff here.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Bribing your clients (aka recession incentives)

Translators, Inc., a world leader in foreign language solutions (aren't they all world leaders?) is giving its clients cash back offers, discounts, referral programs, and translation give-aways of up to $10,000, hoping they will give them work rather than go somewhere else.

Discount is a dirty word, mind you.

If you can give your client 10 grand, how much are you making? You obviously have loads of liquid cash lying around, or you would be mad to do this. Or maybe you have joined slave-trade and have a few guys locked up in various garages around Florida, slaving away at their laptops?

If I was a business, my first concern would be - can I get high quality for low price? After all, it is my product that you guys are translating for overseas markets. Can I trust you not to hire some local court clerk in you-know-where who does 7 languages officially and 6 others on the side while running a successful ear-cleaning and nasal-hairs trimming??