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8 Myths About Spanish To English Translation Debunked

When I first set up my translation practice, I did mostly legal translations from Spanish into British English in a British legal system. Since then, I translate into US English as well, in more specialty areas, and I have discovered and debunked various myths about Spanish to English translation.
Myth No. 1: All source documents contain the same kind of terminology.
Fact: Source documents in Spanish can originate from at least 27 Spanish-speaking countries in the world. Therefore, terminology can differ depending on the document’s country of origin.

Spanish is spoken in at least 27 countries of the world.

Myth No. 2: Native Spanish speakers who are “bilingual” can do Spanish to English translations.
Fact: This is not always the case. Translations into English are best done by native English speakers since English is perhaps the most complicated language, and non-native speakers often have difficulty grasping all the nuances of the language.
Myth No. 3: Since Spanish and English are commonly spoken, Spanish to English translations should be cheap.
Fact: Pricing for Spanish to English translations depends on a number of variables such as deadline, format, level of difficulty or technical nature of the project, and availability of appropriately qualified linguists.
Myth No. 4: Translators can work on any kind of translation project.
Fact: No two translation projects are created equal. There are various kinds of documents, including legal, medical, commercial, corporate, pharmaceutical, financial, scientific, technical, to name a few. Successful translators are expert in the specialty area of the respective project.
Myth No. 5: Spanish to English translations should never be done by native Spanish speakers.
Fact: Some native Spanish speakers have displayed such a strong proficiency in Spanish to English translation that they have earned their qualification to translate from Spanish into English.
Myth No. 6: Spanish to English translators should be able to provide Spanish/English interpreting services.
Fact: Interpreting is the rendering of oral material from one language into another and translation is the rendering of written material from one language into another. Both translation and interpreting require different skill sets.
Translation and interpreting require different skill sets.

Myth No. 7: A Spanish to English translator of documents should be able to translate Spanish audio files into English.
Fact: A translator may have the ability to read and understand Spanish well but may not be able to hear and understand recorded Spanish in the same way.
Myth No. 8: Spanish to English translation can be done using Google Translate.
Fact: Professional translations should be 100 percent human translated to avoid serious errors, especially since words may be written the same way but have several different, unrelated meanings.
Professional translations should be 100 percent human translated.

Interesting Links

10 Quick Tips About Jamaican Patois

Jamaica map compressed

10 Quick Tips About Jamaican Patois
1. Jamaican Patois or Jamaican has long been regarded as a dialect. A simple definition of “dialect” by Merriam-Webster is “a form of a language that is spoken in a particular area and uses some of its own words, grammar, and pronunciations.”
2. Some people see Jamaican as a language. In his article, “Is Jamaica Patois a Language?” Karl Folkes suggests this to be the case as it “is rule-governed (has a grammar of its own); has its own ‘standard,’ has a community of native speakers…and can certainly be expressed orthographically in a uniform way that can – and should – encourage literacy development.” A simple definition of “language” by Merriam-Webster is “the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other.”
3. The acceptable spelling of phonetic sounds in Jamaican has not been agreed upon by everyone. Folkes writes the following sentences in Jamaican that he compares to English:
– Dem a fi mi [They’re mine.] can also be written, “Dem ah fi mi.”
– Kuyaman, awara. (Say, what’s up?) can also be written, “Cooyah man. Ah wara?”
– Unu a fi nuo seh a soh wi tan. [You must know that’s the way we are.] can also be written, “Oonoo fi know seh ah so we tan.”
– A wan dege sinting smady a gi mi. [It’s a measly thing someone is giving me.] can also be written, “Ah wan deggeh sinting smaddy ah gi mi.”
To date, there is no authority to say which spellings are correct and which are incorrect.
4. Many people who speak Jamaican Patois have also attained a high level of formal education. The popular belief held by many that speakers of Jamaican Patois are unintelligent and uneducated is inaccurate.
5. Many people who speak Jamaican Patois can also speak English and other languages. The fact that speakers of Jamaican are hired to interpret in various settings between other speakers of Jamaican and non-native speakers is proof of this point.

Jamaican Patois can be translated into English or any other language
Jamaican Patois can be translated into English or any other language

6. There are many ways to say the same thing in Jamaican Patois. Just as in other languages, the same concept can be expressed in different ways in Jamaican Patois.
7 Jamaican Patois is spoken differently in varying geographic locations, situation and settings. There are various registers, accents, regionalisms and strains of Jamaican Patois. People from different parishes of Jamaica sound different, whether they hail from urban or rural areas.
8. Jamaican Patois can be translated into English or any other language. Jamaican Patois has come a long way in its verbal and written development and usage so that Jamaican concepts can be translated, transcribed, interpreted and transcreated from and into other languages.
9. Interpreters of Jamaican Patois are often hired so that non-native speakers can communicate with Jamaican speakers. Jamaican Patois translation and interpreting services are used for court cases, medical and hospital visits, prisons, insurance claims, and others.
10. Speakers of Jamaican Patois come in all ethnicities. Speakers of Jamaican Patois come from African, East Indian, Chinese, mixed and other origins.

Translator’s Guide to Handling Client Complaints

Continue reading Translator’s Guide to Handling Client Complaints

Eighth Anniversary Celebrations – Part 1

Deborah Lockhart, the daughter of Sir Louis H. Lockhart, was bestowed with an Honorary Doctoral Degree in Humane Letters by the Canadian International Chaplaincy Association (CICA) on the occasion of her Company’s eighth anniversary, which was observed with a thanksgiving service and awards ceremony on August 23, 2104, in Queens, New York.

His Excellency, The Right Rev. The Honorable Dr. Phillip S. Phinn, OEA, Chancellor of CICA-International and Dr. Deborah A. Lockhart
His Excellency, The Right Rev. The Honorable Dr. Phillip S. Phinn, OEA,
Chancellor of CICA-International and Dr. Deborah A. Lockhart

Dr. Lockhart is the founder and president of The Language Shop, a full service language solutions provider offering translation, interpreting, editing, proofreading, transcription, desktop publishing and voiceover recording and dubbing in all languages and all areas of specialization including legal, financial, entertainment, film and media, online games, medical, humanitarian and refugee issues, website localization and more. Since childhood, she excelled in languages with English as her native language. She works to preserve the standard in all languages and dialects and in the respective cultures with which they are associated.

After she graduated in 1985 from the University of the West Indies (Mona Campus) with an Honors Degree in History with (French and Spanish) Language and Literature, she launched her career in translation and interpreting in Antigua and Barbuda where she provided translation and interpreting services to government offices such as the Elections Office, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Ministry of Public Works, the Immigration Department, the High Court and Magistrates Court, et al. She translated and interpreted for the Venezuelan and US Embassies and for various law firms, medical practitioners, media and advertising and commercial entities.

After nine years, she moved to New York, USA where she obtained Certificates in Translation and in Court Interpreting at NYU SCPS. She worked as a freelance translator while serving for about a decade as a legal secretary in New York City law firms.
In 2006, she established The Language Shop where she directs project managers and their teams in every time zone to provide top quality language support to the Company’s diverse, worldwide clientele on a full time basis.

Dr. Lockhart speaks English, Antiguan Patois, Jamaican Patois and various other Caribbean dialects, Spanish, French and basic Arabic. Her interests are pets, gardening, language and culture, film, food and entertaining. Some of the causes close to her heart are the needs of the poor and hungry, the rights and needs of abandoned animals and the needs of the aged.
When accepting the doctorate, she stated among other things that she was accepting it more as an indictment than as an honor since she feels that “there is so much left to do to make a difference and so little time; that life is one big ‘to do’ list that keeps getting updated as often as new needs and crises arise in the lives of our fellow human beings and in this world because, after all, that is what we are here for: to meet needs and resolve crises not just locally or nationally, but globally also. We each need to continually analyze our own situations to determine how we may be most effective in accomplishing this.” She also noted that “You don’t have to be famous to be great. You just have to make a difference.”

Celebrating Eight Years

We are truly grateful to everyone who has played a significant role along the way.

We are in the eighth month of 2014 and this is our eighth year in business. As we celebrate new beginnings (eight is the biblical number of new beginnings), The Language Shop is abuzz with activity as we make plans for our Eighth Anniversary Thanksgiving Service and Awards Ceremony to be held on Saturday, August 23rd at 7:30 p.m. in Queens Village, New York and everyone is invited. There are so many things to do.

We are forging ahead with invitations and plans, crossing off things on our “to do” list, taking care not to miss a single detail. We will be proudly displaying our Company’s banner during the ceremony. We will also be awarding certificates and tokens to our local and national independent contractors who will be acknowledged for their loyalty to the Company and our clients over the years.

In addition, special mention will be made in absentia of some of our overseas team leaders, project managers, translators, interpreters, editors, proofreaders, transcriptionists and desktop publishing designers based in Argentina, Brasil, Cameroon, Egypt, France, Mexico and the United Kingdom whom we have hand picked from our providers in every time zone and from every continent and who have contributed to our success through their continued and loyal partnership and commitment to excellence.

In the meantime, things continue to be busy at The Language Shop as we field inquiries and fulfill orders from clients seeking desktop publishing/design, transcription and translation services into and from various languages such as Arabic, Amharic, Burmese, Chin, Dinka, Farsi, Filipino, French, Juba Arabic, Karen, Karenni, Kirundi, Nepali, Nuer, Sakha, Simplified Chinese, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tigrinya, and Traditional Chinese.

Ever since the Company’s inception, The Language Shop has created and upheld a reputation for working with as many languages as there are speakers in the world, especially the rare languages. We have employed all sorts of creative means of contacting linguists who can provide these language services. It has been an exciting journey as we have engendered and maintained relationships with experts in all kinds of specialty areas from varying cultures and with varying modes of expression. We are truly grateful to everyone who has played a significant role along the way.

Film Review – Film Review: Joyeux Nöel [Merry Christmas] directed by Christian Carion (2005)

I enjoyed the fact that Joyeux Nöel is trilingual.
Recently, I had the ultimate pleasure of watching “Joyeux Nöel” [MERRY CHRISTMAS], nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 78th Academy Awards, on cable. Not a lover of war movies at all, I was more than pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. This was perhaps because it possessed many, if not all, of the traits that impress me in a movie. It is unusual that I would go as far as to consider viewing the film another time since I find that the theme of war in films is generally one of the most unpleasant.

However, Joyeux Nöel contains enough goodwill and comedy to ease the tension associated with the subject material and to maintain a positive tone throughout the film. I enjoyed the fact that Joyeux Nöel is trilingual. Music, custom, scenery, costumes and the English, French and German languages spoken throughout the film all depict the three respective cultures of the soldiers fighting in the war. In addition, the subtitles are written in British English and this also provides a refreshing treat! Even religion has its place as Father Palmer, the Anglican priest, presides over a service during which music plays a key role in the film with heart warming singing by Nikolaus Sprink and Anna Sorensen. The soldiers sing popular songs of their countries amidst the sound of the bagpipe and harmonica.

The film provides an education in history since it is based on a true story. The director was inspired when he discovered a book entitled “Battles of Flanders and Artois 1914-1918” written by Yves Buffetaut that covers the sequence of events surrounding World War I that broke out in the summer of 1914 and culminated that same Christmas Eve when the war became more deadly and the soldiers decided to call a truce for Christmas.

For a brief moment, the viewer is able to tune out the horrors of war or at least cope. I experienced a great deal of mirth while watching the soldiers leave their rifles in their trenches. Enemies shake each other’s hands; they exchange cigarettes, champagne and chocolate and wish each other “Merry Christmas.” I found myself laughing out loud several times during the film and I was filled with strong feelings of optimism to see the soldiers of the three different nationalities sharing moments of peace and friendship.

On Christmas Day, the officers enjoy coffee together, bury their dead and challenge each other to a football match and even when they shelter each other during artillery barrages on both sides, they are aware that reality is yet to be faced. The soldiers must later face their superiors as they return to their own trenches. When news of the fraternization across lines leaks out, the commanders worry that it could hamper the war effort, and take extreme measures to put a stop to the fragile peace. The troops are replaced because they have been tainted by the experience.

I was shocked when Father Palmer is harshly criticized by his bishop who remonstrates with him quoting the scripture that Jesus “did not come to bring peace but a sword.” The bishop later tells the new recruits that they are in a crusade, a holy war for freedom. Father Palmer removes his cross and rejects the views that are so inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus.

Director Christian Carion stated that “the film has more than a European dimension for me. It has a humanistic dimension. In my opinion, anyone on the planet would be touched by the fraternizing that went on, not just the German, English and French. That’s why I’d like to show the film in a country that is at war.”

If you have not seen this film, I recommend that you do. I for one will be seeing it again as soon as possible.

Challenges Faced by Consecutive Spanish Interpreters

Why Spanish Interpreters Are Really Multi-Lingual, Especially When Speakers Use Spanglish

One of the ultimate objectives of Spanish language training is to teach students to speak, read and write accurate and impeccable Spanish with the hope that some day, they may become sufficiently proficient in the language to use it professionally. Great efforts have been made to maintain standard Spanish and some of the career paths students of Spanish have aspired to are translation, interpreting, document review, voice-over recording, writing, teaching, et al. 

In this article, we will discuss the challenges some Spanish interpreters face in their daily work. There are two main types of interpreting: (1) simultaneous and (2) consecutive. In simultaneous interpreting, the interpreter renders the speaker’s words from one language into another while the speaker is still speaking. In consecutive interpreting, the interpreter waits for the speaker to stop speaking and then renders the speaker’s words from one language into another. Consecutive interpreters can interpret at court hearings, depositions, jailhouse visits, interviews, business meetings, medical appointments, independent medical evaluations, during telephone conferences or exchanges between a small number of persons. 

Since speakers can go uninterrupted for a significant amount of time before a break is finally given for interpreters to render all that has been said into another language, consecutive interpreters are faced with the task of remembering extraneous amounts of speech. They have to rely upon their short-term memories and note-taking skills. In order to recall what speakers have said that needs to be rendered into another language, consecutive interpreters have to develop an elaborate, personal system of symbols to represent everything that is said in interpreting assignments. To a certain extent, the note-taking system developed by the interpreter is like a language in itself. 

In addition to relying upon their short-term memories and note-taking skills, consecutive interpreters have to be familiar with the respective terminology and subject material being discussed, along with the various regionalisms used in different Spanish-speaking countries, so constant vocabulary building is essential for interpreters’ success since during each assignment, they will have to interpret for Spanish speakers from different regions. 

three ring venn diagram
Spanglish is a blend of Spanish and English used at varying extents


As if they do not already have to think on their feet, finding the appropriate symbols to represent everything that is said and then rendering the verbal translation at the appropriate time, interpreters also stand the risk of being baffled when a defendant, deponent, claimant, participant, patient or other speaker says something that they have never heard before in Spanish. It can take the interpreter some time to regain his or her composure and he or she may request a moment to check a dictionary. At some point, the speaker may even clarify the intended meaning of what was said or the interpreter may eventually figure it out. Whatever the case, when such clarification is provided, the interpreter can be taken aback at the realization that the speaker has just spoken Spanglish![i] Spanglish is a blend of Spanish and English that can be used at varying degrees. Users of Spanglish simply do not pay any attention to the efforts being made to keep Spanish, or English for that matter, standard. To the contrary, they have a mind of their own and develop this new way of speaking for their own convenience. Spanglish vocabularies have seen tremendous development and are no longer just a matter of a few words..[ii] 

Hence, Spanish interpreters must either decide to study Spanglish and stay up-to-date with the growing vocabulary or run the risk of being rendered speechless in interpreting assignments. Following are a few Spanish words, their Spanglish counterparts and English meanings:

Spanish Spanglish English
sótano beisman basement
paseando jangeando going out or hanging out
goteando liquiando leaking
alfombra carpeta carpet
éxito suceso success
almuerzo lunche lunch
ayudar asistir to assist
asistir atender attend
empujar puchar to push
estacionar parquear to park

Spanglish is constantly evolving; it is neither organized nor consistent. Perhaps, the only way in which Spanglish may be comparable with Spanish is that different Spanglish expressions are used by different speakers in different regions.[iii] It would appear as if the responsibility for Spanglish interpreting has automatically fallen to Spanish interpreters and embracing this responsibility is not always easy. As Spanglish continues to evolve, the translation and interpreting industry may have to rethink this arrangement and more specialized Spanglish linguists may have to arise to embrace the task of interpreting Spanglish as distinct from Spanish and English.