The Contested Eñe: “Pure” and “Impure” Spanish

While written Spanish is rife with diacritical marks (a.k.a. accent marks), there is none as sexy and symbolic as the eñe. Take for example, the commonly used word, año (year). Remove the eñe, and you’re left with ano, which is the Spanish word for anus. In most cases, leaving out the accent won’t result in possible embarrassment, but there is currently a movement which posits that the use of accents online is critical to maintaining the integrity and purity of written Spanish.

The movement was borne out of the initiative of the Real Academia Española, which finds that with the spread of Internet use, online communications should be held to the same standards as written Spanish. La Academia Argentina de Letras and the Instituto Cervantes also back the campaign.

To this end, Internet domains originating in Spain can now be registered with Spanish’s beloved and emblematic ñ. Internet addresses registered in Spain will thus be more descriptive and possibly less misleading. For example, if one wants to register an organization called Campaña Para los Derechos Humanos (Campaign for Human Rights), they can now do so and keep their Internet domain faithful to the organization’s name. Previously, they’d have to omit the ñ from the address, and would be left with the potentially confusing, which means “The Bell of Human Rights.” In examples such as this, one sees how critical the correct use of ñ becomes, as campana means bell and campaña means campaign or movement.

You may wonder: why is using accent marks so critical? Realize that this is mostly an academic movement of language purists. They maintain that the integrity of correctly written Spanish must be kept across all forms of written Spanish, even in the often informal and fast-paced medium of the Internet. Furthermore, the Campaña Pro-Eñe reminds us that accents in Spanish are not extra flourishes that we can choose to use or leave out as we wish, but are in fact necessary components of a correctly spelled word.

If accent marks are so critical in written Spanish, why are they often left out? Some reasons for their omission are:

• Efficiency, as inserting accent marks takes an extra moment and extra key strokes.

• Keyboards not specifically set up for writing in Spanish often make it difficult to quickly insert accents.

• Use of increasingly informal written Spanish, especially in online communications.

• Lack of knowledge about which words include accent marks, even for those educated in Spanish.

• Inability to adapt the Internet as a primarily English-speaking medium to the written conventions of Spanish.

• The different educational levels of Internet users, as many do not have the educational background to feel at ease with accent usage.

The movement to encourage correct accent mark usage on the Internet serves to combat the abovementioned reasons. However, only time will tell if this movement has the support and general interest to win over regular Internet users as well as academics.

Reaching Your Spanish-Speaking Audience with Global Translations

Your business wants to target Spanish-speakers residing in the United States, and the best way to do this is to have your materials translated into Spanish. So you contract a translation agency to provide you with an effective translation. Simple, right? But your publicity materials and product descriptions are meant to be read by Spanish-speakers all over the country. You want your message to be understood by educated Cubans in Miami, bicultural and bilingual New York Puerto Ricans, and first-generation Mexican immigrants. Each of these groups has a distinct accent, vocabulary, and set of regional phrases.

How can one translation impact all of these groups? Some translation agencies provide translations into what the industry calls neutral, standard, or universal Spanish translations. Put into simple terms, these translations are meant to be understood by the widest range of Spanish speakers possible, and are mostly free of regionalisms and any marker that distinguishes word usage as being from a specific country.

Some caveats about “neutral” or “standard” Spanish:

• Many translators argue that there is no truly neutral Spanish, but rather only an attempt to make written material as widely understood as possible.

• By trying to reach every segment of the Hispanic demographic, you may end up with a diluted message (a conversation with your translation agency about whether to use a global versus local translation would avoid this situation).

• Because Spanish-speakers are so linguistically diverse, there are some English words that have no universally understood Spanish equivalent (again, a good translation agency will be able to produce a document that will be understood by most Spanish speakers).

• Neutral Spanish is better suited for certain types of translations such as technical or industry-specific ones in which the vocabulary is more uniform.

• Neutral Spanish may not be suited for a message involving jokes or double-entendres. A quip that would get a chuckle from a Colombian businessperson may leave a Mexican farm worker scratching his head, thus possibly alienating a potential customer.

A good translation agency will be able to guide you through the process of deciding whether a neutral translation is the most effective way to transmit your message. If your target audience is US, the best option is to translate into Neutral Spanish.


Translation Studies Degrees: Giving Yourself an Advantage

While the United States has no minimum educational requirements to be a translator, many freelance translators have undergraduate degrees in a foreign language (their source language) combined with extensive coursework in a particular discipline.  Those who want to further their understanding of translation theory and practices may decide to continue their education with either a Certificate in Translation Studies or a Master’s in Translation Studies.  Below is a sampling of undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs in Translation Studies.

Institute for Applied Linguistics (IAL) at Kent State University

As noted on the school’s website, the IAL is the country’s only comprehensive B.S. to Ph.D. program and offers a Bachelor’s of Science in Translation, a Master’s in Translation, and a Ph.D. in Translation Studies.  The IAL provides training and coursework in five language pairs, including Spanish.  For more information about the IAL at Kent State, click here.

Marygrove College

Marygrove College, located in Detroit, offers a Certificate Program in Modern Language Translation.  The year-long (attending full time) certificate program is designed to train professionals to work as translators and train them for the American Translators Association certification.  Click here for contact information, admissions requirements, and program requirements. 

Starting Out as a Freelance Translator – Second Part

Read the first part of this article

Honing Your Skills Through Education

Even the most seasoned translators benefit from continuing their educations, and you should consider studying at the university level either towards your Master’s or even a certificate program for translators.

New York University-SPCE offers a certificate in various language pairs entirely online (you may also attend courses onsite).

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst offers a Master’s in Translation Studies, but does not offer an online option.

In the Getting Established section of ProZ’s forums, you can find ongoing rousing discussions about whether a translator needs an advanced degree or if language skills and specialized knowledge suffice. If you don’t live near a university with a translation studies program or NYU doesn’t offer your language pair, the ProZ forum provides sound suggestions for self-study.

Building Your Network

Often freelance translators acquire work through a combination of using translation agencies and finding jobs on their own. Translation agencies provide a level of convenience and quality control for clients that an independent freelancer cannot, especially once starting out. Translation agencies will ask you for a test translation before placing you on their roster and contacting you for jobs. While contacting agencies is a worthwhile pursuit, working with one will not guarantee steady work until you’ve established yourself as a translator able to produce quality documents.

Although the United States has no universal certification requirement for translators, the largest translation association is the American Translators Association. By joining the ATA, you can increase your networking opportunities through conferences and professional development seminars, work towards a certification in one of 27 language pairs, and join local groups to assist you with marketing and support services.

Concluding Points

To successfully break into the freelance translation world, you will need to utilize various strategies at once. No one particular strategy will be able to guarantee the start of a thriving freelance career. Rather, you can work towards becoming a translator by attempting all of the strategies included here: working pro bono to gain clips, experience, and references; developing your skills either through formal education or self-study; applying to both local and remote translation agencies; and joining professional organizations.

Starting Out as a Freelance Translator – First Part

First Considerations

Many bilingual or multilingual people have considered embarking on a career as a freelance translator. But simply speaking and reading in two or more languages does not mean that you will be able to successfully work as a translator. Freelance translators have near native competency in their source language and native competency in the target language. The field of translation requires that you not only be able to understand and write two languages, but also that you be able to effectively translate the nuances and subtleties of the source language into a target language document of equal tone, meaning, and quality.

Most freelance translators also have from one to several areas of specialized knowledge and translate documents in those areas, often gained as an undergraduate. While translators make work outside their specialized subject areas, most become experts in just one or a couple of fields.

If you have strong language skills and are adept at manipulating text from one language to another, you may be ready to explore the translation field. Below you’ll find practical tips to guide you as you start to work towards becoming a freelance translator.

Gaining Experience

In today’s multicultural world, the competition is strong for translation jobs. It can be difficult to break into the freelance translation world, especially when you have little formal translation experience and you are up against translators who have been in the business for years.

How can you get the experience necessary to start applying for freelance translation jobs? One of the best ways to start freelancing is to donate your time to a nonprofit agency whose work you admire and whose cause you champion. You may already have volunteered for an organization such as this in another capacity or perhaps you have simply donated money to a cause.

Below are a couple of links where you can look for nonprofit translating opportunities:

Translations for Progress

UNV Volunteering

Volunteer Match

Also, look to your community for places that you are already involved with and may benefit from your translation services. If your church has a large bilingual population you could offer to translate its newsletter. Your children’s school may need help translating flyers or letters to parents into your native language. Perhaps a community or neighborhood organization you work with wants to do outreach in other languages, and you could provide no-cost translations for them.

Volunteering your time as a translator will benefit both you and the organization by:

• Giving you clips to provide to future prospective employers
• Providing you with demonstrable translation experience

Read the second part of this article.

Services a translation company may offer – First Part

The services a translation company may offer vary greatly from client to client and from project to project. Every day, clients are renovating their global identity and hence their needs are constantly evolving. In addition, technical and industry advances generate new standards with which translation clients and translation service providers must strive to stay caught up with.

Assignments differ in size and difficulty: from a single birth certificate of less than 100 words, to legal documents that a law company needs for litigation, to an advertising brochure for a home appliance to be marketed to Spanish speakers in the U.S., to website localization for a multinational firm.

These projects will require tailored project plans and work flows. However, they will all include elements from the following services:

Translation and Editing- a source document is translated and edited into another language.

• Usually one translator and one editor work together as a team, with the translator finalizing the document after reviewing the editor’s tracked changes.
• Most translation agencies offer translation, editing and proofreading when quoting translation rates.

Translation Only – a source document is translated only.

• Clients may request this if they need to translate a document for informational purposes only; other customers may have in-house or in-country resources to edit or proofread the translation.

Project Management in the Translation Industry

Project Management is a fast-growing field and it is tailored differently for specific industries.

A translation Project Manager (PM) is responsible for the overall coordination of translation-related projects for their clients. The objective of a translation Project Manager is to be the bridge that connects the client’s needs with the vendors that are best prepared for the project. Translation Project Managers establish the proper steps and procedures for the translation process, starting with the initial project analysis and developing the project plan, to contracting and overseeing the appropriate team members.

Translation Project Manager

The PM must be focused on the process and on the client’s requirements in order to successfully complete the assignment. It is essential to take into account that the role of a translation Project Manager is not to translate. Language knowledge and translation experience is advantageous as this information helps the PM to better understand the process, and educate and manage the client. Translation Project Managers outsource most of the translation work to qualified freelance linguists/translators.

The ideal translation PM needs to be comfortable multi-tasking and must be attentive to all the details of a project. They should have the following traits:

– Organized
– Able to multi-task, solve problems and prioritize
– Detail-oriented
– Dedicated and perceptive
– Should be able to work under pressure and meet deadlines
– Good team player with a positive attitude, determination, and strong management skills
– Should be able to lead and make decisions for the team
– Excellent communication skills with good negotiation skills
– Should be able to consult with clients, identify requirements, and inform technical information clearly
– Background in the translation and localization industry

Terminology for the Translation Industry

There are some terms related to the translation business which every translator should be familiar with. This terminology also helps Translation Buyers to make an educated decision when choosing a Translation Provider.

Below are some terms:

A simplified and standardized form that is used for the purpose of providing a certification of certain public documents relating to adoption, including notarized documents, that is used in countries that are in compliance with the provisions of the Hague Convention. 

Back Translation
Back Translation is the process of translating a document that has already been translated into a foreign language back to the source language – preferably by an independent translator.

Copywriting is the process of writing the words that promote a person, business, opinion, or idea. It may be used as plain text, as a radio or television advertisement, or in a variety of other media. 

Desktop publishing (DTP)
Using computers to lay out text and graphics for printing in magazines, newsletters, brochures and so on. A good DTP system provides precise control over templates, styles, fonts, sizes, color, paragraph formatting, images and fitting text into irregular shapes.

The science or practice of compiling dictionaries, based on a study of the form, meaning, and behavior of the words in a given language.

Machine Translation
A technology that translates text from one human language to another, using terminology glossaries and advanced grammatical, syntactic and semantic analysis techniques.

Mother Tongue
A person’s first language, native language or mother tongue is the language that was learned first by the person. Thus, the person is called a native speaker of the language

Neutral Spanish, Universal Spanish, Standard Spanish
A linguistic variety or that is considered a correct educated standard for the Spanish language. Standard Spanish is not merely Spanish adjusted to fit in prescriptive molds dictated by a linguistic overseeing authority, but also a form of language that respects the literary canon and cultural tradition.

OCR (Optical character recognition)
The translation of optically scanned bitmaps of printed or written text characters into character codes such as ASCII. Most OCR systems use a combination of hardware and software to recognize characters.

Proofreading means the critical revision of a text. In translation, this task mainly consists of checking aspects of spelling, grammar and syntax plus the general coherence and integrity of the target text.

Source Language
The language in which the document that is to be translated was originally written.

Target Language
The language in which the document that is to be translated is converted to (e.g. from English to Spanish).

More Terminology for the Translation Industry

Translating PDF Documents

What is a PDF?

“Portable Document Format” or PDF is a file format which allows the author to preserve her file in its original form, complete with text, images, and other formatting features. By its nature, PDF is not a file format conducive to editing, but rather for documents intended for final distribution.

This can make doing translations from PDFs complicated despite various types of software and strategies for working around the semi-permanent nature of these files.

Working with PDFs

You may come across either of the two types of PDFs: application-generated and scanned PDFs.

Working with the former type is much less complicated, as the document was originally created with another computer application and then converted. You will be able to extract lines, paragraphs, pages, and entire sections of the document so as to save it as a Word document.

If you receive a scanned PDF, your work becomes more complicated, as these are images and therefore cannot be edited. You can purchase OCR (optical character recognition) software such as ABBYY FineReader, Textbridge, or ReadIris which will read the image and then convert it into text.

Preserving Formatting

Whether you are working from application-generated or scanned PDFs, preserving the formatting of the original document is a challenge, especially if the document is rich in images and tables. Once you either extract or convert text, you will be able to manipulate the Word or Rich Text document so as to match the formatting of the PDF, but this is time consuming and not very feasible, especially if your contract with the client doesn’t reflect the extra time and effort necessary to return a perfectly formatted finished document.

If it’s important to your client that you produce a translation formatted exactly as the original was, request that they send the source files rather than a PDF. This will ensure that you are able to efficiently provide the client with a well-formatted translation.

You can then convert the finished document into a PDF for the client or return the Word or Rich Text document to them so that their graphic designers can lay out and format the piece as they wish.

How do I count words in shapes and text boxes?

Those who usually need to count words in .doc documents (MS Word documents) may already know that words in text boxes cannot be counted using the Word count tool. There is a fabulous tool called CompleteWordCount which not only allows you to count words in: headers, footers, footnotes, endnotes, shapes ad text boxes and comments. It will even allow you to omit pages from the total word count. It is easy to install and is designed for Microsoft Word 2000 and later versions.
1. What does CompleteWordCount do?

The CompleteWordCount add in allows you to see a full word count for the different areas of your document.

2. Why doesn’t Microsoft Word give me an accurate word count?

Word does not give you a full word count of your document.Microsoft Word includes a built-in word counter. But it is not always accurate. It does not give you a count of all the words in your document. It doesn’t count words in headers or footers, or, importantly, in diagrams made up of text boxes, autoshapes and other Word elements. Only in later versions of Word can you get Word to include footnotes and endnotes in its count. Earlier versions of Word don’t count words in footnotes or endnotes.