Category Archives: Language Awareness/Cultural Diversity

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.

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.

Obstacles Encountered When Translating Rare Languages and How to Overcome Them

We were recently asked to translate three documents from English languages of the worldinto thirteen languages, including:

*        Arabic

*        Amharic

*        Burmese

*        Chin

*        Farsi

*        French

*        Karen

*        Karenni

*        Nepali

*        Somali

*        Spanish

*        Swahili

*        Tigrinya

Such a request is not unusual and whether or not the volume of the project is high, no effort should be spared to satisfy the client.

Before the project was confirmed, we had to evaluate and provide a proposal for the job. Two of the documents were in Microsoft Word and one was in Excel. Even though we have hundreds of vendors in our database, the search had to be fine tuned to meet the specifications of this particular project. A translator and editor/proofreader with expertise in the respective specialty area had to be assigned for each language.

Following are some of the usual concerns that need to be addressed when working with rare language translations:

1) Finding language service providers who are dedicated to quality and not to simply collecting payments. No matter how tried and true a vendor is, we have a saying at the office that “you are as good as your last screw up.” Admittedly, this sounds cynical and puts a great deal of pressure on the agency and on the vendor. However, the translation industry is one in which only excellence is good enough. Therefore strict quality assurance standards must be adhered to at all times.

2) Finding vendors who can work within clients’ budgets. Bidding on projects can be very competitive. A very important factor that clients take into consideration when selecting a language service provider is budget. Bearing this in mind, the right balance must be maintained, on the one hand by asking the client to pay enough to be able to ensure the required quality while on the other hand by asking providers to be willing to negotiate in order to be successful in landing the project.

3) Meeting deadlines. One of the biggest challenges that can be encountered during the course of a translation project involving rare languages is delayed responses due to differences in time zones and other technical factors beyond providers’ control. Some examples are loss of phone or internet service, power outages due to electrical storms and other situations that range from mild to disastrous. From the very outset of the working relationship, as far as possible, language service providers must be made to understand the importance of maintaining constant contact from the time they submit their proposals up to and including after delivery has been made to the client.

4) Ensuring that instructions are understood and carried out. Communication problems can occur, among other reasons, if English is not the native language of the language service provider and there can be other challenges if providers do not share the same work ethic as the project manager. At times a linguist may appear to agree with instructions provided, only to display behavior that proves otherwise. However, the project manager must see to it that instructions are understood and carried out.

5) Making sure that the client is satisfied with delivery. Very often the characters used for rare languages are different from those used in English and it is not unusual for them to be garbled in file formats such as Word and Excel. Therefore, along with those deliverables, pdf files should be provided so the client will be able to properly view the characters in the translations. In addition, the fonts used should be provided. Files should be zipped in a format that the client will have no difficulties opening. At times, a font installer may have to be sent to the client so that the client will be able to work with the foreign Microsoft Office files.

At the end of the day, whether a project is assigned to twenty-six different linguists or to one language service provider, the quality must be such that the client will keep coming back.

Obstacles Encountered When Translating Rare Languages and How to Overcome Them

We were recently asked to translate three documents from English into thirteen languages, including:

*        Arabic

*        Amharic

*        Burmese

*        Chin

*        Farsi

*        French

*        Karen

*        Karenni

*        Nepali

*        Somali

*        Spanish

*        Swahili

*        Tigrinya

Such a request is not unusual and whether or not the volume of the project is high, no effort should be spared to satisfy the client.

Before the project was confirmed, we had to evaluate and provide a proposal for the job. Two of the documents were in Microsoft Word and one was in Excel. Even though we have hundreds of vendors in our database, the search had to be fine tuned to meet the specifications of this particular project. A translator and editor/proofreader with expertise in the respective specialty area had to be assigned for each language.

Following are some of the usual concerns that need to be addressed when working with rare language translations:

1) Finding language service providers who are dedicated to quality and not to simply collecting payments. No matter how tried and true a vendor is, we have a saying at the office that “you are as good as your last screw up.” Admittedly, this sounds cynical and puts a great deal of pressure on the agency and on the vendor. However, the translation industry is one in which only excellence is good enough. Therefore strict quality assurance standards must be adhered to at all times.

2) Finding vendors who can work within clients’ budgets. Bidding on projects can be very competitive. A very important factor that clients take into consideration when selecting a language service provider is budget. Bearing this in mind, the right balance must be maintained, on the one hand by asking the client to pay enough to be able to ensure the required quality while on the other hand by asking providers to be willing to negotiate in order to be successful in landing the project.

3) Meeting deadlines. One of the biggest challenges that can be encountered during the course of a translation project involving rare languages is delayed responses due to differences in time zones and other technical factors beyond providers’ control. Some examples are loss of phone or internet service, power outages due to electrical storms and other situations that range from mild to disastrous. From the very outset of the working relationship, as far as possible, language service providers must be made to understand the importance of maintaining constant contact from the time they submit their proposals up to and including after delivery has been made to the client.

4) Ensuring that instructions are understood and carried out. Communication problems can occur, among other reasons, if English is not the native language of the language service provider and there can be other challenges if providers do not share the same work ethic as the project manager. At times a linguist may appear to agree with instructions provided, only to display behavior that proves otherwise. However, the project manager must see to it that instructions are understood and carried out.

5) Making sure that the client is satisfied with delivery. Very often the characters used for rare languages are different from those used in English and it is not unusual for them to be garbled in file formats such as Word and Excel. Therefore, along with those deliverables, pdf files should be provided so the client will be able to properly view the characters in the translations. In addition, the fonts used should be provided. Files should be zipped in a format that the client will have no difficulties opening. At times, a font installer may have to be sent to the client so that the client will be able to work with the foreign Microsoft Office files.

At the end of the day, whether a project is assigned to twenty-six different linguists or to one language service provider, the quality must be such that the client will keep coming back.

Inch’Allah dimanche (Sunday God Willing) Yamina Benguigui, 2001

I recently enjoyed watching Inch’Allah dimanche, a French/Algerian film with English subtitles on Netflix. Even though there is some violence in the film, it is very easy to watch as the plot flows fairly smoothly. However, I wished the subtitles had been available in French and not just in English because I feel French subtitles better capture Arabic meanings than English ones.

Inch’Allah dimanche is the story of Zouina, a young Algerian wife, who, accompanied by her husband’s mother, Aicha, along with her three children, travels to France to be reunited with her husband, Ahmed who has been away from Algeria for quite some time. The departure from Algeria is heartrending and extremely traumatic for Zouina and her beloved mother who are both inconsolable as they separate.

Zouina’s form of dress gives one the impression that Algerian customs are relatively liberal in comparison with those of other Muslim countries where women are almost completely covered up in floor-length dresses, burqas, hijabs and niqabs. However, it soon becomes clear from the oppressive treatment she receives from her husband and mother-in-law that her feelings are not taken into consideration and there is not much difference. In fact, when Zouina, Aicha and the children finally arrive in France where the remainder of the film is set, Zouina’s husband never once shows her any sign of affection, apart from a cold, perfunctory hug when he picks up his family to take them to his apartment. If the viewer is looking for some show of tenderness between them, it never happens, which is surprising because Zouina is so attractive.

Throughout the film, Aicha’s words and behavior show how attitudes toward religion seem to play a vital role in family relationships among these Algerians. She constantly pronounces judgment on Zouina’s behavior and invokes Ahmed’s physical punishment upon her to “curse the devil.” At the boat, she shoves Zouina and upbraids her for showing emotion and for tearfully running toward her sobbing mother. As if her despair at having to leave her mother is something evil, Aicha asks Zouina if she has no shame or fear of God.

Zouina is able to enjoy very little interaction with the outside world, except to visit the grocery store and listen to game shows and talk shows on the radio when Aicha is not turning it off. However, determined to overcome the severe restraints on her life and freedom, she endures the constant verbal and physical abuse of her tyrannical mother-in-law and husband. “Damn you” are words he repeats to her upon her every infraction. She leaves viewers on the edge of their seats as she constantly risks further abuse by waiting until her husband and mother-in-law have left and constantly stealing out of her home with her children on Sundays to visit the outside world, knowing full well that such behavior is strictly prohibited.

The most pathetic part of the movie is when Zouina finally meets her fellow Algerian, Malika, whom she has expended every effort and risked her very life to see. She shares her new found ideas of freedom with Malika who, rather than being inspired, becomes very afraid and orders Zouina out of her home, accusing her of trying to have her killed. Malika’s internal conflict is evident as she tearfully stands behind the door, obviously torn apart while Zouina screams and cries for her to let her back inside and not to abandon her like this.

There seems to be no real dénouement and the story appears to end abruptly on a note of hope when Zouina arrives home with her children in the bus driven by a young man who passes her house everyday. She meets Ahmed and Aicha waiting outside with the neighbors and friends after having returned some four hours before with the sheep they have been checking on every Sunday to ensure its readiness for the upcoming Eid celebration. Ironically Zouina is holding the key that will let them inside the house. Instead of punishing her, as recommended by Aicha, Ahmed smiles at her and Zouina tells the children that from now on she will be taking them to school.

In the long run, Inch’Allah dimanche is a story of the triumph of the human spirit over oppression and the willingness to make the ultimate sacrifices to achieve a dream or desire.

Jamaican Language and Cultural Identity

It has been said that how a person speaks may identify where they are coming from but not necessarily where they are going.

Access to travel and emigration have impacted upon the evolution of Jamaican Language, sometimes called Jamaican Creole, Jamaican Patois or Jamaican Dialect, of which there are a plethora of variants. It is spoken by most, if not all Jamaicans all over the world and the very diversity of the language is one reason why it has had difficulty being accepted as an official language and has often been erroneously referred to as “Broken English” by those who do not understand or who have no regard for its origin and/or history.

Knowing that English is the official worldwide language, many Jamaican parents who read, speak and write Standard English fluently demand that it be used in the home so that children will master it as their native language. They figure that their children will have no difficulty learning Jamaican Language from their peers in informal settings so they enforce the learning of English in every other possible situation. In such situations, children learn to separate the two languages and find no difficulty switching from one language to the other, when appropriate and necessary. Since the mastery of Standard English has a tendency to represent breeding, class and education, for social reasons, they believe that the greater the speaker’s mastery of Standard English is the more socially acceptable that speaker is, whether or not they occasionally use Jamaican Language.

Ironically, there are situations in which the converse can sometimes be true because the more that Standard English is used to mitigate Jamaican Language is the more broken the English really becomes and such users are technically poor speakers of Jamaican Language. In actuality, the less the mastery of written and spoken Standard English by the Jamaican Language speaker is the more likely the speaker will use “Broken English” rather than speak Jamaican Language, which is a totally different language. This is true of many Jamaicans who claim that they do not speak Jamaican language, even though their English sentence construction is not grammatically correct and their accent and intonation may sound as if they are in fact speaking Jamaican Language.

While the accent, intonation and syntax of some Jamaican Language speakers may sound humorous to other Jamaicans, the truth is that the more Standard English is interspersed into the Jamaican Language, is the more humorous the resulting sound really can be. The more conscious a listener is of the history of Jamaican Language is the less they will see another Jamaican speaker’s accent as something to be ridiculed, no matter how strange the intonation may sound. In addition, historically aware Jamaican Language speakers will not see the need to intersperse the accent, intonation and syntax of Standard English, thereby mitigating the Jamaican Language, in order to sound socially acceptable.

A Jamaican listener may judge the speech of a Jamaican Language speaker using one of two criteria: (1) the linguistic rules of Standard English; or (2) a respect for the history of Jamaican Language. If the listener uses the former criterion, the Jamaican Language speaker will sound humorous or strange. However, if the listener uses the latter criterion, he/she will find nothing wrong with the sound of the speaker.

Following are some situations in which Jamaican Language speakers may sound humorous to Jamaican listeners but quite acceptable to speakers of Standard English or other languages who base their judgment solely on the subject material being discussed:

– When listeners from the urban or more privileged socioeconomic areas of Jamaica are listening to speakers from more rural or lower socioeconomic areas;
– In settings where the Jamaican Language speaker’s accent may be influenced when interacting with speakers of various different languages and cultures, including British English and American English;
– In interviews in which the Jamaican Language speaker may try to impress the listener by using an inconsistent accent, in an effort to sound sophisticated [or “speaky spokey”]. Jamaicans will probably be the only listeners who pick up on this. Other speakers will probably not notice.
– In cases when the speaker is trying to use complex words and sentences,–sometimes to the point of using malapropisms. The foreign listener will probably just assume that this is part of the dialect.

In most cases listed above, a Jamaican Patois or Jamaican Dialect Interpreter will be hired to facilitate understanding between both (sets of) speakers. A Jamaican Language Interpreter may be necessary for:

– Press conferences and interviews;
– TV and Film (subtitles and voiceover dubbing can also be used);
– Court hearings;
– Jail Visits;
– Wire taps for surveillance (translators receive audio tapes or audio files in electronic format and in turn, provide a transcript in the respective target language of what has been recorded in Jamaican Language).

Jamaican Language has endured modifications from its original usage because of the impact caused by the growing numbers of Jamaican users all over the world who speak Standard English and other languages and dialects. In fact, in modern times, how something is said may just sound comical, while in previous times, the same statement may probably not have been understandable at all in Jamaican Language.

Interesting Links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaican_Patois
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaican_diaspora
http://www.uvm.edu/~debate/dreadlibrary/herbold.html