Translation tool privacy breach explained

A Word of Warning about Free Online Translation Tools

News broke at the beginning of the month that large amounts of documents that had been submitted to Translate.com were visible to the general public.

Norwegian news agency NRK was the first to run the story, which detailed the exposure of sensitive information about Statoil, Norway’s state oil company. Contracts, workforce reduction plans and dismissal letters were publicly available to see online after the company had opted for a free online tool for their translation needs, in place of using a translation agency.

Slator, a translation industry news site, investigated further and reported similar findings for other companies and industries, including documents such as email exchanges, late payment notices, tax matters and termination letters.

Reaction from governments and institutions was quick and abrupt. The Oslo Stock exchange instantly blocked access to Translate.com.

Translation tool privacy breach explained

 Translate.com offered a full and detailed explanation of how this privacy breach occurred, stating that the documents in question had been submitted via a system that ceased to be used two years ago.

Up until the end of 2015, Translate.com used volunteers to translate documents submitted to the site. These documents were stored on the cloud so that all volunteers had access to them. This also meant that they were publicly available online.

Translate.com defended their system choice, stating that it had issued clear warnings on their homepage. The point was also made that the free service was not appropriate for business use involving sensitive data, and that a private, protected and payable enterprise service would be better suited.

An apology was offered, together with a strong warning to remove private data from documents that are submitted, including names, addresses and phone numbers.

Why translation agencies are a safer option

 When employing the services of a translation agency, you can rest assured that your data will be treated with the utmost privacy. Reputable agencies will have non-disclosure agreements that are signed as a matter of routine to ensure 100% confidentiality.

Using a free online translation tool may be an appealing way of saving money, but is it worth the risk? Exposing sensitive data and information could cost your business much more than money. You could lose your hard-earned reputation and client base.

 

How failing to proofread your website content will lose you money

In a world where internet buying has become common place, there is less and less face-to-face contact with sales people. Coercing potential customers into purchasing a product or service in-store just doesn’t arise as often.

Everything comes down to your website content. So what happens if that content is littered with typos, spellings or grammatical mistakes? It’s simple – you lose money.

People are becoming increasingly ruthless in selecting where to spend their money, so if you fail at the first hurdle by simply not having your website content professionally proofread, then you are likely to suffer financially.

Why is proofreading so important?

The inbound marketing agency, ImpactBND, answered this question nicely:

“If your content is plagued by poor grammar, it’s likely that people will think twice about the quality of your products or services.”

Your actual copy can be some of the best written around, but if it contains mistakes, its effect will be lost almost instantaneously.

When potential customers are looking for a new service or product provider, they are looking for a trustworthy, knowledgeable and credible company. This is very hard to show if a customer sees that the effort hasn’t been made to ensure the website is faultless.

There is a very talked-about case involving a British company called TightsPlease.co.uk. After correcting a typo on one of their tights category pages from ‘Tihgts’ to ‘Tights’, the company noticed a 80% increase in conversions. This is the proof that one simple error can lose your business a significant amount of money.

The importance of proofreading translations

The correct translation of your website is paramount if you want people to take your business seriously. The same applies for the proofreading of that translation. Content that has been badly translated or that contains spelling or grammar errors will very quickly fail to provide you with the extra revenue you had envisaged.

A translation agency should have a vigorous quality assurance process that involves employing a second qualified translator to proofread any translated text. Proofreading your own work is an almost impossible task, as your eye does not spot all the errors. A two-stage process means, as a client, you can be 100% sure that the translation delivered will be faultless and ready to upload onto your site.

Although having your website proofread will mean an initial outlay of money, it should be seen as an investment that will earn you higher profits in the long run.

Toxic Clients in the Translation Industry

Identifying Toxic Clients in the Translation Industry

Identifying toxic clients in the translation industry is actually fairly simple – they are the clients that make you feel bad at the end of the day, the ones that stop you from getting a good night’s sleep, and the ones who generally make you dread the job you usually enjoy.

However, it is important to identify why a client like this has become problematic. Toxic clients usually display one, but often more, of the traits we discuss below.

General disrespect – at any level

Disrespect at a lower level can be the client not valuing the translation work you do for them, but not causing you too many problems. This can simply be a lack of gratitude – never getting a thank you can be very frustrating and demotivating.

At the higher end, translation agencies and freelance translators do sometimes come across rude clients, who voice their feelings in an inappropriate way. Once this line has been crossed, it can be hard to continue working with the client.

The middle ground is a client that leaves you feeling stressed at the end of the day. Remember that if you are taking longer to wind down at the end of the day because of the way a client treats you, this extends your working day.

No respect for your time

Having no respect for your time can come in many different forms. It can be an unawareness of the time it takes to complete a translation. Clients can presume that if you are a translator you can just translate thousands of words right away.

A client can monopolize your time, by constantly checking up on what you are doing, changing the task at the last minute and asking for continual amendments. If you have fifteen clients and one of them is taking up the largest proportion of you time in relation to the amount of work you do for them, this is unfair to both you and your other clients.

The ‘grass is always greener’ client

When a company employs the services of a translation agency, there has to be trust. A client who is constantly questioning your work and thinking they could get better services elsewhere does not have any trust. Worse still are the clients that get a bilingual employee without qualifications in their firm to ‘check’ your work and take their word over yours.

Late payers

A translation agency has bills to pay, like any other company. A late paying client can mean that you cannot meet your financial commitments. This is not good business practice and should be addressed when onboarding a new client in order to set expectations.

Low payers

Clients that pay low rates are not always bad clients – some just don’t have the means to pay more. It is then your choice whether to work with them or not. After all, it isn’t all about money. Doing small projects in your favorite field for lower rates might be just what you need to keep you motivated.  However, if you do agree to lower rates, make sure you can do it without feeling bitter.

The real problem arises when a high-end company approaches you and offers you peanuts. This is the time to say no, as they don’t respect the skill, time and effort that go into translation work.

The bottom line is, if you feel bad at the end of the day working for a certain client, then it is time to reevaluate. The first step should be to think about how to improve the relationship. If this doesn’t or can’t work, you need to make plans of how to move away from them.

Calendar of translation conferences, workshops, courses, webinars. July and August 2017

Calendar of translation events – July and August 2017

July 1

Course: How to Get Machine Translation to Work for You. Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
Online and Monterey. California, USA

July 5 – July 7

8th Asian Translation Traditions Conference. Faculty of Languages and Cultures, SOAS, University of London
London, UK

SSAWW 2017, Society for the Study of American Women Writers, Université Bordeaux Montaigne
Montaigne, France

July 6 – July 7

ND Focus on Sales & Marketing, Elia (European Language Industry Association), Geneva, Switzerland

July 6 – July 9

ACLA 2017, American Comparative Literature Association, Utrecht, Netherlands

July 10 – July 14

International Terminology Summer School, TH Köln, Cologne, Germany

August 1 – August 4

Computer-Assisted Translation Course, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Monterey, California USA

August 3 – August 5

FIT XXI World Congress, International Federation of Translators, Brisbane, Australia

August 4 – August 6

1st Translation Industry Conference in Latin America, Translated in Argentina, Cordoba, Argentina

August 5 – August 6

TRADUSA 2017, Brazilian Meeting of Specialized Translators in Healthcare, São Paulo, Brazil

August 8 – August 10

University of Malaya, The 16th International Conference on Translation (ICT-16), The Value of Translation in Society, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

August 12

California Healthcare Interpreting Association (CHIA), CHIA Training: Interpreting Skills Workshop, Madera, CA

August 16 – August 18

PACLING 2017 , Pacific Association for Computational Linguistics, Yangon, Myanmar

August 20 – August 24

Interspeech 2017 Special Session, conglomerate, Stockholm, Sweden

August 31

Community Interpreting as a Profession, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, online

Must-have tools and apps for translators and freelancers

Essential tools and apps for translators

When it comes to translating, having the right tools for the job can make all the difference. Whether you are a translator, a translation agency, or a freelancer these tools and apps will help you manage all your activities.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT / ORGANIZING / SCHEDULING / COLLABORATING

  1. Rulingo

English and Russian
Paid version

Cloud-based translation business management platform.

  1. Todoist

Multilingual
Free and paid versions

Manage tasks and projects anywhere with Todoist. At home. At school. At work. Online. Offline. And across 10+ platforms.

  1. Trello

Multilingual
Free and paid versions

Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process.

  1. Asana

English
Free and paid versions

Asana is a web and mobile application designed to help teams track their work.

  1. Quahill Basic

English, French, German
Free and paid versions

QuaHill Enterprise is translation management software for LSPs and teams of translators. The software enables complete administration of all processes ranging from the receipt of purchase orders, through preparing quotations, generating the project, preparing and recording purchase orders, ensuring access to files by vendors, delivery of translations to the client and invoicing.

  1. Portable Kanban

English
Free

 Portable Kanban is a Personal Task Manager. This Portable Free Personal Electronic Kanban Software might be used to help schedule and track your daily events or tasks and to monitor assignment productivity.

  1. LSP Expert

English and French
Paid tool – 30 day free trial.

LSP.expert helps you manage your daily translation jobs. Features: track daily work, invoicing, reporting, client management.

  1. Remember the Milk

Multilingual
Free and paid versions

Remember The Milk is the popular to-do list that’s everywhere you are: from your phone, to the web, to your Google apps, and more.

  1. Podio

Multilingual
Paid version

Podio supplies a web-based platform for organizing team communication, business processes, data and content in project management workspaces.

  1. Doodle

Multilingual
Free and paid versions

Doodle radically simplifies the process of scheduling events, meetings, appointments, etc. Use Doodle to find the best time for any event. Suggest a number of times and invite participants to select their preferences.

  1. Insightly

English
Free and paid versions

Insightly is the easy, powerful and affordable online Customer Relationship & Project Management.

TERMINOLOGY/DICTIONARIES

  1. InterpretBank

Paid version

InterpretBank is an intuitive terminology tool for interpreters to create and manage multilingual glossaries.

  1. Glosbe

Free

Provides free dictionaries for almost every existing language and translation memory with 1 013 284 995 sentences included.

  1. IATE’s Chrome extension

Free

IATE (= “Inter-Active Terminology for Europe”) is the EU inter-institutional terminology database. IATE has been used in the EU institutions and agencies since summer 2004 for the collection, dissemination and shared management of EU-specific terminology.

  1. Termcoord

Free

Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. Resources, Traineeships, Glossaries, Articles about Terminology.

PDF VIEWER / CONVERTER

  1. SumatraPDF

Multilingual
Free

A free PDF, eBook (ePub, Mobi), XPS, DjVu, CHM, Comic Book (CBZ and CBR) reader for Windows. Includes screen shots, documentation and a support forum.

  1. Abby FineReader

Multilingual
Paid version

FineReader is an all-in-one OCR and PDF software application for increasing business productivity when working with documents. It provides powerful, yet easy-to-use tools to access and modify information locked in paper-based documents and PDFs.

SCREEN CAPTURE

  1. FastStone Capture

English
Free. For commercial use, license is required.

FastStone Capture is a powerful, lightweight, yet full-featured screen capture tool and screen video recorder. It allows you to easily capture and annotate anything on the screen including windows, objects, menus, full screen, rectangular / freehand / fixed regions as well as scrolling windows / web pages.

  1. Snipping tool

Multilingual
Free

A screenshot utility included in Windows Vista and later. It can take screenshots of an open window, rectangular areas, a free-form area, or the entire screen. Snips can then be annotated using a mouse or a tablet, stored as an image file (PNG, GIF, or JPEG file) or an MHTML file, or e-mailed.

  1. ScreenGrab

Language depends on your browser settings
Free

Add-on – Firefox (I am not sure if it is available in other browsers). Saves webpages as images

VOICE RECOGNITION

  1. Dragon Naturally Speaking

Languages supported: U.S. English, UK English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and Japanese.
Paid version

With Dragon Naturally Speaking Home, you can talk to your computer and watch your spoken words instantly appear in documents, email and instant messages.

ACCOUNTING / INVOICING

  1. Wave

Language: English

Free accounting software for small businesses.

  1. Zoho Books

Paid version

Zoho Books is an online accounting software to manage your invoices, bills, banking, inventory and do mobile accounting as well.

TRANSLATION SCAMS

  1. Payment Practices

Paid subscription

Dataset related to the payment practices of translation agencies and other consumers of translation services.

  1. Translator Scammers Directory

English
Free

Website maintained by volunteers from the TRANSLATOR SCAMMERS INTELLIGENCE GROUP to fight the plague of translators’ impersonation and identity and CV theft and fake translation companies running wild in the translation industry.

VARIOUS

  1. Lock Hunter

English
Free

It is a free tool to delete files blocked by something you do not know. LockHunter is useful for fighting against malware, and other programs that are blocking files without a reason. Unlike other similar tools it deletes files into the recycle bin so you may restore them if deleted by mistake.

  1. Search and Replace

English and Deutsch
Paid version

Search and replace utility used by programmers, webmasters, translators, and novice computer users. Search and Replace searches through one or more files files for a string and can also replace that ‘search hit’ with another string.

  1. Repetition Detector

    Free trial

Repetition Detector 2 helps you detect repetitions in texts (while preserving your formatting), and much more: overused auxiliairies, adverbs, adjectives and complete phrases are also detectable. The software is available in English and French but works equally well with texts in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Icelandic.

  1. Remove line breaks

English
Free

Have you received a document full of broken sentences? Remove line breaks with this tool!

IMPROVING CONCENTRATION

  1. Focus@Will

English
Paid version

focus@will combines neuroscience + music to boost productivity and tune out distractions.

WORDCOUNT

  1. Count Anything

English – It counts Asian characters
Free

Count Anything is a free word-count utility for Windows. It supports: Word (.doc, .rtf), Excel (.xls, .csv), PowerPoint (.ppt), Writer (.odt), Impress (.odp), Calc (.ods), HTML , XML, Text, PDF.

BACKUP

  1. Backblaze

English
Paid version

Robust, scalable low cost cloud backup and storage services. Personal online backup to enterprise scale data storage solutions.

PRINT TO PDF

  1. Bullzip PDF Printer

The Bullzip PDF Printer works as a Microsoft Windows printer and allows you to write PDF documents from virtually any Microsoft Windows application.

  1. Microsoft Print to PDF

Multilingual
Free

Microsoft Print to PDF feature is available in every application in Windows 10 that has printing capability.

TAKING BREAKS AND TIME MANAGEMENT

  1. Workrave

English
Free

A program that assists in the recovery and prevention of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). The program frequently alerts you to take micro-pauses, rest breaks and restricts you to your daily limit. The program runs on GNU/Linux and Microsoft Windows.

  1. Eyeleo

English
Free

EyeLeo is a handy PC application that regularly reminds you to take short breaks for your eyes.

CUSTOMER RELASHIONSHIP MANAGEMENT (CRM)

  1. Highrise

English
Paid version

Highrise makes running your business easy. Share tasks, notes, deals, email history, and more with our CRM Software for small business.

  1. Streak

English
Free and paid version

Manage customers directly inside Gmail. Useful for: sales , CRM, hiring, and support

  1. Yesware

English
Paid version

Yesware puts powerful sales tools inside your inbox, with email tracking, phone dialer, and sales automation.

DESIGNING

  1. Canva

Multilingual
Free and paid versions

Canva makes design simple for everyone. Create designs for Web or print: blog graphics, presentations, Facebook covers, flyers, posters, invitations

TIME MANAGEMENT – PRODUCTIVITY

  1. TomatoTimer

English
Free

TomatoTimer is a flexible and easy to use online Pomodoro Technique Timer

  1. Moosti

English
Free

Moosti is a simple time tracker with similar functions described on Pomodoro Technique.

  1. Fitbit App

Free
Multilingual

Use the Fitbit app and dashboard to track activity, record workouts, log food, connect with friends and family & more.

  1. RESCUE TIME

English
Free and paid versions

A personal analytics service that shows you how you spend your time and provides tools to help you be more productive.

UNIT CONVERSION

  1. ConvertAll

English
Free

ConvertAll is yet another unit converter. But it can combine the units any way you want.

EDITING/PROOFREADING

  1. Verifka

Multilingual
Paid

Verifika is a software tool that helps to locate and resolve formal errors in bilingual translation files and translation memories. It detects formatting, consistency, terminology, grammar and spelling errors in the target language.

  1. PerfectIt.

English
Paid

PerfectIt helps professional editors and translators to deliver error-free documents. It helps improve consistency, ensure quality and enforce your style guide.

  1. NaturalReader

English
Free and paid versions

NaturalReader is a text-to-speech app that reads webpages, documents, and eBooks aloud to you with quality, natural-sounding voices.

  1. Xbench

Free and paid versions

ApSIC Xbench provides simple and powerful Quality Assurance and Terminology Management in a single package. Just load files in any of the dozens of CAT formats supported and get your translation quality to the next level.

SOCIAL MEDIA

  1. Hootsuite

Multilingual
Free and paid versions

Save time by managing all of your social media marketing efforts from a single dashboard. With Hootsuite’s platform, you get the tools to manage all your social profiles and automatically find and schedule effective social content.

  1. Instapaper

Multilingual
Free

A simple tool for saving web pages to read later on your iPhone, iPad, Android, computer, or Kindle.

  1. Buffer

English
Free

Share to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn – all from one place, on your schedule.

MAILING

  1. MailChimp

Multilingual
Free and paid versions

MailChimp provides email marketing for more than 15 million people globally. Send better emails, connect your e-commerce store, and sell more stuff.

FEEDBACK – SURVEYS

  1. SurveyMonkey

Multilingual
Free and paid versions

Create and publish online surveys in minutes, and view results graphically and in real time.

  1. Typeform

English
Free and paid versions

Build beautiful, engaging, and conversational online forms, surveys, quizzes, landing pages, and much more with Typeform.

INVOICING

  1. FreeAgent

Paid version

FreeAgent provides online accounting software made specifically for freelancers, small business owners and their accountants.

CLOUD STORAGE/FILE SHARING

  1. Dropbox

Multilingual
Free and paid versions

Dropbox is a free cloud storage service for sharing and storing files including photos, documents and videos.

  1. Google Drive

Multilingual
Free and paid versions

Get access to files anywhere through secure cloud storage and file backup for your photos, videos, files and more with Google Drive.

  1. OneDrive

Multilingual
Free and paid versions

OneDrive is pre-installed on Windows 10, and it works well on all your devices. Access and share files and photos on PC, Mac, Android and iOS.

ANTIVIRUS

  1. Advanced SystemCare Ultimate

English
Paid version

From IObit: Advanced SystemCare Ultimate 10 is a powerful and full-scale software for PC security and performance. It offers ultimate protection to Windows system in real-time against various security threats such as spyware, ransomware, DNS attacks, browser tracking, homepage modification and helps the users to block malicious online threats such as phishing websites and pop-up ads ensuring a secure and ads-free online surfing.

  1. CCLEANER

Free and paid versions

CCleaner automatically deletes unneeded files and Windows Registry entries. It can also detect duplicate files, securely wipe a storage device, and act as an alternative to Windows’ Programs and Features tool for uninstalling software.

MICROSOFT OFFICE ALTERNATIVES

  1. WPS OFFICE

English
Free and paid versions

Totally free office suite. Download the free office suite from wps official website. Compatible with .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, .pptx.

  1. Free Office

Multilingual
Free

FreeOffice is a complete office suite with a word processor, a spreadsheet application and a presentation program – all compatible with their counterparts in Microsoft Office.

  1. Google Docs

Multilingual
Free

Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides are a word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation program respectively, all part of a free, web-based software office suite offered by Google within its Google Drive service.

TRANSLATION SOFTWARE CAT

  1. Olifant

Free
English

Olifant is a .NET application that allows you to load or import translation memories in different formats (such as TMX or tab-delimited). You can edit the translation units, their attributes and any other associated data. Olifant allows you to save or export your data in various formats.

  1. smartCAT

Multilingual
Free and paid versions

smartCAT is a cloud-based environment enabling the translation workflow of companies (including translation companies) and individual translators.

  1. MateCAT

English
Free and paid versions

MateCat is a free and open source translation tool. Companies, translation agencies, freelance translators and any other users can use it for free with no limitations on the number of projects and users.

  1. SDL Trados Studio

Multilingual
Paid version

SDL Trados Studio is a CAT tool and translation memory software that provides features to help translate faster and more easily.

  1. Wordfast

Multilingual
Paid version

Wordfast is the world’s leading provider of platform-independent translation memory software. Wordfast offers powerful desktop, server, and web-based solutions designed to meet the needs of freelance translators, translation agencies, multinational organizations, and educational institutions worldwide.

  1. MemoQ

Multilingual
Paid version

memoQ translator pro is a computer-assisted translation tool which runs on Microsoft Windows and on Mac using Parallels or VMWareFusion. It was envisioned more than 12 years ago by a group of enthusiastic linguists who aimed to develop innovative translation software which increases translator’s productivity while being easy to learn and use.

  1. Memsource

Multilingual
Free and paid versions

Memsource Cloud is a complete translation platform that includes translation memory, integrated machine and human translation, terminology management, and a web-based as well as a desktop translator’s editor.

SUBTITLE EDITOR

  1. Subtitle Edit

Subtitle Edit is a free editor for video subtitles – a subtitle editor. With SE you can easily adjust a subtitle if it is out of sync with the video and much more.

Proofreading a text

How to proofread your own translation

A common belief is that translators can proofread their own texts due to their language and linguistic skills. However, this is often not the case as translators become ‘blind’ to their own mistakes. No matter how many times they read a text, they may not spot every error.

Working with a translation agency will probably mean that another translator or proofreader will check your translation. However, if you work with direct clients, there may not automatically be another pair of proofreading eyes.

Proofreading your own translation

Whether it is you or someone else who is going to be doing the final proofread, you should always make your target translation text as error-free as possible. Some tips of the trade below should help you proofread your own work:

Take a break

The first rule of proofreading your own translation is to take a break before doing it. Proofreading straight after you have completed a translation will heighten the risk of you missing your errors. You need to leave the text for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes.

Different format

Reading the translation in a different format can make you see mistakes that you haven’t noticed on screen. Printing out a hard copy and marking up with a pen is one option, but changing the size, color or font of the document is also useful.

Don’t rely on spellcheckers

Spellcheckers will only pick up on spelling mistakes, but won’t highlight when you have accidentally used a wrong word. ‘Fact’ can easily become ‘fat’ and ‘from’ often becomes ‘form’ when typing quickly.

Search and replace

The search and replace function is an effective tool for finding a variety of errors. All translators make the same repeated mistakes, often in the form of a typo, writing ‘teh’ instead of ‘the’ or adding in spaces to words turning ‘to this’ into ‘tot his’. Using search and replace is a good way of finding your common mistakes, as well as highlighting double spaces, and also checking any numbers, digits, place names or business names that must be 100% accurate.

Using Playback

Using a program to play back your text to you is an excellent option. Mistakes that you have not spotted will become very clear to you when you hear them out loud.

Point at the words

If you decide to print off your work to proofread it in hard copy format, simply pointing your pen at the words will focus your eyes and brain more and will make it easier to pick out any problems.

Reverse reading

Master the skill of reverse reading – literally read each word from the last to the first. This will make you concentrate on the words rather than the content.

Find a proofreading buddy

Teaming up with a fellow translator as a proofreading buddy is a cost-effective way of having someone else look over your work. A reciprocal arrangement will mean you both benefit.

Highlight errors in the source text

Having studied a language for many years, you will be able to spot any errors in a source text. Make a note of them and highlight them to the client. It’s a nice touch and will make them more forgiving if a couple of your errors do slip through!

Not all the above techniques will work for all translators, so the best way is to try a few out and find which ones suit you. Proofreading is an essential part of translation and these tips will help towards you creating error-free texts.

 

Calendar of Translation Events – February 2017

4
WordstoDeeds. Words to Deeds 2017. Legal Translation to the Next Level. London, UK.

7

American Translators Association (ATA). Free ATA Continuing Education Webinar.
Spreading Your Wings: Transitioning from Classroom to Career

9

Wordsmith Communication. Wordcon 2017. Calcutta, India.

13-15

Israel Translators Association (ITA). ITA 2017 Conference. Tel Aviv, Israel.

16-17

Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCLS). National Council for Languages & International Studies (NCLIS). 2017 Language Advocacy Day & Delegate Assembly. Washington, DC, USA.

23-24
Together 2017. Berlin, Germany.

24-25
University of Bremen. 6th Bremen Symposium. Bremen, Germany.

25

El Paso Translators & Interpreters Association (EPITA). Jorge Dieppa Continuing Education Seminar. El Paso, TX, USA.

27-March 3

UBM Tech Game Network. Game Developers Conference. San Francisco, California, USA.

28-March 3

Localization World, Ltd. LocWorld Shenzhen. Shenzhen, China.

The Schwa: A Native Speaker Feature

The schwa sound is a revelation that comes to learners of English as they progress to higher levels. Considered as a ‘native speaker feature’, it helps both pronunciation and understanding by changing the stress of words and sentence.

Often referred to as a reduced, weak or unstressed sound, the schwa doesn’t involve the lips or tongue, and is merely the noise emitted when we engage the vocal cords. However, it is an essential concept to grasp for any learner of English as a foreign language.

The Schwa and Stress

Being a stress-timed language, English relies on the schwa sound to avoid sounding robotic with overuse of stress, or sounding monotone through under use of stress. To achieve anything like native level speaking skills, the use of the schwa is essential.

When it comes to words being stressed or unstressed, generally speaking, words in English can be divided up into two groups:

Stressed: nouns, main verbs, adjectives and adverbs. These communicate the main message of the sentence and are therefore stressed.

Unstressed: auxiliary verbs, pronouns, articles, linkers and prepositions. These are often referred to as grammar words and are, in general, unstressed.

“We are Going to the Shops?”: Looking at the example sentence of “we are going to the shops”, the words marked in bold are the ones that would use the schwa sound, being an auxiliary verb, a preposition and an article respectively. The other words are the ones that are necessary to communicate the main message. Essentially, they could stand alone and the message would still get across: “we going shops”. Many elementary learners of English would use this exact structure, as would young children learning to speak their mother tongue.  However, grammatically this is incorrect.

Pronunciation, Understanding and Production

As already stated, grasping the use of the schwa will not only work towards achieving more native-like speech skills, but will also improve understanding. In turn, having more advanced understanding skills will lead to more accurate production.

Before understanding the use of the schwa, learners of English often just don’t hear it in sentences, and therefore reproduce those sentences incorrectly, as in the example given above. Other examples could be:

  • What are you talking about?  –  What you talking about?
  • They are arriving tomorrow  –  They arriving tomorrow
  • Come to my house – Come my house
  • I like the black one – I like the black one

The top two examples omit the auxiliary verb, the third drops the preposition and the fourth misses out the article.

More to Explore

There is a lot more to explore about the schwa, such as it being used for clusters of letters and also for stressed and unstressed syllables, but as a first insight the general concept of its use with stress in a sentence is key. Another angle of the schwa to look at would be its use in different accents as some use stress in different ways.

Is Being Bilingual Enough?

Parents of different nationalities who are raising their children to be bilingual are often met with comments that their children will grow up to be translators. This begs the question though of whether being bilingual is enough.

Whilst a child may grow up to be able to speak two languages, if they have been immersed mainly in only one culture, they will not necessarily be bicultural.

Here lies the question: does a translator need to be bicultural as well as bilingual?

Bilingual vs. Bicultural

Looking at The Oxford Dictionary for the definitions of bilingual and bicultural, we find the following:

  • Bilingual: Speaking two languages fluently
  • Bicultural: Having or combining the cultural attitudes and customs of two nations, peoples, or ethnic groups

Bilingual

Being bicultural is a lot more involved than being bilingual. Many people can become bilingual: university graduates, people who use a second language in their job, children of parents with different nationalities, and basically anyone who is willing to put in the hard work it takes to be able to use more than one language proficiently.

Bicultural

Becoming bicultural is not as straightforward as, generally speaking, it means somebody has to have lived within a certain community, experienced everyday life, eaten with them, taken part in traditional celebrations. Basically, they need to have lived and breathed the culture in the same way they have their native culture.

Why is Being Bicultural Important as a Translator?

Turning to the Oxford dictionary again, the definition of translation is ‘the process of translating words or text from one language into another’. Surely being bilingual should be enough if we take this definition literally, so why is it important for a translator to be bicultural too?

In reality, a translator needs to understand so much more than just the words and grammar of a language to be able to produce a true and accurate translation. Being bicultural as well as bilingual means that amongst many other aspects, the nuances, allusions and idiomaticity of a language and culture are understood; basically the information that a dictionary cannot always convey. Without this, a translation risks being stilted and awkward.

Bilingual is a Gateway to Bicultural

It is believed by some that being bilingual is a gateway to being bicultural. A person can be bilingual without being bicultural, but it would be very hard to be bicultural without being bilingual. Without language, it would be very difficult to enter into a community with enough depth to gain sufficient understanding and knowledge and meaning to be counted as bicultural.

questions translators

Questions to ask clients during the translation process

Translation projects are important and a part of the overall creation of useful content for companies. There are many problems though that may surface during such a project. One of the most important issue faced by a translator is the right understanding of specific terms. Many translators believe that it may be unprofessional to ask for clarification as this could show lack of knowledge, but, on the contrary, asking the right questions and in the right way during a translation project will show that you are going out of your way to deliver an accurate translation.

Questions before the Project

All translation projects should be preceded by obtaining some basic information which will allow you to understand the right context. The first question to ask is: who is the target audience? You should also find out if the client can provide some reference material such as glossaries or any previous translation they have done of similar content. Another key aspect is the tone of the translation because some languages such as Spanish have distinct informal and formal tones.

Questions during the Project

Clients often need to translate documents which are specific to their industry and it is difficult to understand a term or acronym which is used internally in a company. However, make sure to only include questions which you have not been able to search out satisfactory answers for. You should always refer to dictionaries, forums and do a research in the web before contacting a client.

Don´t rush and email your client if you come up with a question in the first page of a text. A good rule of thumb is to read the whole document first or check if the term in question appears more times in the document so that you have more context to understand it.

It is very common to come up with typos in the source document and you should always query your customer if you think there is an error which could change the meaning of a sentence. You will definitely score some points with your client if you identify these type of errors which are usually overlooked.

If you have too many questions which do not prevent you from continuing translating, a good option is to insert the questions as comments, your client can have a look at them once the translation is finished and answer you back inserting comments as well.

The right questions will not bring your value down, rather raise your prestige as a translator who values his clients and aims to deliver a professional translation, turning a one-time customer into a return customer.