Delicate work in translation

A letter to the New York Times Book Review complained that Gerald Martin, the biographer of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, had not given due respect to Marquez’s translators. Martin raves about Marquez’s “gorgeous sentences,” but the letter writer complains that he “neglects to mention whether he read those sentences in Spanish or English.” I have often wondered as I am reading a translation how much I am indebted to the original author, how much to the translator.

I’ve heard that the Prendergast translation of Proust’s Remembrances of Things Past is better than the old Moncrieff version, the one I own. When I finally get around to reading the novel, would my experience be heightened if I bought the new one?

I don’t know any language well enough to translate, but I did have a glimmer of the practice when I studied Russian for four years. Professor Pastuhova told me that I spoke Russian with a Boston accent and hinted that the only reason I passed her courses was that I could translate the literature into good English. She had been the tutor of Tolstoi’s grandchildren – her passion was Russian literature. I had to go word by word, using my Russian-English dictionary, but I found that I was reading the work with wonderful concentration. I fancied that I got further into its soul.

I inherited my grandfather’s interlinear New Testament and was so enthralled with it that I bought myself an interlinear Old Testament. Reynolds Price, in his book of essays, A Palpable God, explained why, as a novelist, he decided to translate some parts of the Bible, knowing no Greek or Hebrew. He convinced me to do the same. Scholars have suggested that some of the psalms might have been written by a woman in King David’s court. I looked for one that seemed to be from a woman’s point of view, chose 139, and using my interlinear Old Testament and, aided by commentaries, I translated it. Even though I was faithful to the text, I could give it a spin, emphasizing what a woman thinks of her body. I better understood the rhythm, form and certainly the meaning of the psalm.

My friend Jo-Anne Elder has published a book of short stories as well as poetry and essays, but she is better known as a translator. Two of her translations of Acadian literature have been nominated for Governor General’s Awards. How do juries choose between translations of very different kinds of books? Do they look for those that are unusually faithful to the original or for those that read as though they were originally written in the new language?

Herménégilde Chiasson invented a brilliant poetic form in his Beatitudes, hundreds of lines beginning “those who;” the reader supplies the “blessed are.” Elder translates one as “those who sing at the top of their lungs during storms.” Is the rhythm of the line as good in French, presenting the same vivid picture?

Elder at first translated Acadian poetry in collaboration with the poet Fred Cogswell. Cogswell told me that translating was like doing a crossword puzzle, a good activity while he was watching a baseball game. I’m sure it’s not that easy.

For my The Writing on the Wall project at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Nela Rio’s Spanish poem was translated into French by Elder and poet Rose Després and into English by Hugh Hazelton. Elder wrote me, “I noticed (I think!) that Hugh took a couple of liberties, so I did, too, for the rhythm, which was so strong in the poem. I’ve tried to make it contemplative, because that’s how I heard it.”

The NotaBle Acts theatre festival of New Brunswick plays opened with On and Off the Shelf, an Acadian play by Marcel-Romain Thériault translated by Elder. Translating plays must present a different set of problems from translating poetry. The dialogue has to sound authentic and yet has to convey more meaning than real speech does. The original title is Disponibles en librairie – “available at bookstores.” Why the change? The question is often asked: “What got lost in translation?” Even if you’ve learned another language so well you can translate it into your mother language, can you ever know the nuances and the emotions associated with words and phrases that a child learns instinctively? I frequently weep in church when we sing a hymn that was part of my childhood but never weep when we sing those I’ve been singing at Wilmot United for 44 years.

When I read Marquez, I am getting plot and characterization but not his actual words. We say that Shakespeare is all about language, but his plays have always been revered in other tongues. I think it must be that languages other than our own, although incomprehensible to us when spoken, have an essence we recognize.

Nancy Bauer is an arts columnist who lives in Fredericton. She can be reached at wbauer@nbnet.nb.ca.

Source: http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/salon/article/747157

Translators Wanted at LinkedIn. The Pay? $0 an Hour.

About half of the 42 million members of LinkedIn, the online professional networking Web site, are outside the United States, and to further expand internationally, the company hopes to be translated into more than its current four languages — English, Spanish, French and German. But when LinkedIn asked thousands of its translator members to complete a survey this month that asked whether they would consider volunteering to translate the site into other languages, many said “nyet.”

Chris Irwin, who lives outside London, was irked by the third multiple-choice question, which asked what “incentive” translators would prefer, with five nonmonetary choices including an upgraded LinkedIn account and none (“because it’s fun”). Mr. Irwin checked a sixth choice, “Other,” typing in that he would prefer cash. In a phone interview, Mr. Irwin said he was surprised that LinkedIn “would have the effrontery to ask for a professional service for free.”

Another translator, Matthew Bennett, who is based in Murcia in Spain, started a group on LinkedIn for those annoyed by the survey, and it swelled to about 300.

Some translators are upset because LinkedIn showed “an enormous amount of disrespect towards them and their work from a networking site for professionals where ‘relationships matter,’ ” wrote Mr. Bennett on his personal blog, referring to one of LinkedIn’s marketing slogans.

But LinkedIn insists that the interpreters are, well, misinterpreting.

Nico Posner, the LinkedIn product manager who circulated the survey, declined to be interviewed but in a post to Mr. Bennett’s group wrote that the survey was not asking translators to volunteer per se. He said he was trying to find out whether they would consider “crowd sourcing,” borrowing the term applied to companies like Wikipedia that rely on volunteers’ collective wisdom.

“While I realize that many professionals in the translation and localization field will not be interested in participating in a crowd sourcing opportunity on LinkedIn,” Mr. Posner wrote, others “would welcome an opportunity to volunteer some of their time and skills towards translating the LinkedIn site and highlight their professional work on their LinkedIn profile, not only for pride and glory, but hopefully to land more paid work.”

In a post on LinkedIn’s company blog, Mr. Posner added that thousands of respondents said they would volunteer, especially if credited on the site.

“I didn’t feel cheapened or exploited at all when they asked,” said Erika Baker, of North Somerset, England. “I just thought, ‘Wow what an opportunity.’ ” A translator for more than 15 years, Ms. Baker said that she had rarely been credited as she would be on the LinkedIn project and that she was certain it would bring in paying work.

“These are new ways of marketing, and the Internet is really the way to go,” Ms. Baker said.

Recently a group of illustrators took umbrage when Google asked them to provide free artwork to feature on its Chrome browser; Google countered that it was offering free exposure and that dozens of other artists had signed on.

In 2007, Facebook asked volunteers to offer translations of the standard explanatory language throughout the site into more than 20 languages, with translators voting among themselves for preferred verbiage. Some faulted the company, saying it was shortchanging translators.

But Nataly Kelly, a former Spanish translator who is an analyst at Common Sense Advisory, a research firm that studies how companies translate, said that Facebook’s critics had missed the big picture.

“It would have been far cheaper for Facebook to pay translators 10 cents a word to translate material than to build a community and pay engineers to set up all this infrastructure,” said Ms. Kelly, who volunteered on the Facebook project herself, casting a vote on such head-scratchers as what to call the Facebook profile “wall,” since in Spanish there are different words for interior and exterior walls.

Web sites may expand using volunteer translators, but they often also pay for work, not only in editing and proofreading the volunteers’ efforts, but also in translating content that requires less local flavor and more legal precision, like privacy policies, Ms. Kelly said.

But Ms. Kelly is sympathetic to translators, who “are often taken advantage of and paid late if at all,” and said LinkedIn had acted undiplomatically.

“It might have been more appropriate for LinkedIn to make it very clear what kind of process this was, and the fact that they employ full-time translators, to appease the fears of translators,” Ms. Kelly said. “That would have prevented a lot of the backlash.”

By ANDREW ADAM NEWMAN
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/29/technology/start-ups/29linkedin.html?ref=business

Translation Throughout History

Translation has played a role throughout history any time there has been an intersection of two cultures and languages. And each time one culture has produced a written text, translators serve as the bridge that allows literate members of one culture to be exposed to the written material the other has produced.

Perhaps the best documented example of translation history is that of the Bible, but the work of scholars and great thinkers from all over the world has also been translated. These translations have permitted the cross-germination and exposure to ideas and values that have then spread across the world because of their availability in other languages.

There are three general types of translation: literary, technical, and commercial. Most translation history that goes back centuries focuses on the former, literary translation, because of the need to transmit ideas and values from one language to another. The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation by Lawrence Venutis is a seminal work tracing the translation of literary texts into English and how those translations shape translation theory and thought across cultures.

The translation of literary texts is a field unto itself, and the layperson benefits from this because it allows access to great written works written in another language. As Venutis says in his book: “I see translation as the attempt to produce a text so transparent that it does not seem to be translated.” The reader benefits from skilled translations that stay true to the style and content of a text written in the source language and rendered into his own without the need to understand the source language.

The history of machine translation may be more critical to the modern person because of its use as an aid to transmitting information as opposed to ideas and art. Technical and commercial translations can be rendered more quickly and with greater continuity when machine translation tools are utilized. Wikipedia gives a brief overview of the history of machine translation, beginning with its origins in the seventeenth century.

Because of skilled translators and their ability to bridge two languages, we have access to texts as varied as the richly detailed novels of Isabel Allende, scholarly articles, instruction manuals, and pamphlets for non-native English speakers about health resources. Each of these examples are made possible because of the craft of translation whose history dates back to the first intersection of two cultures with written texts.

Hispanic Buying Power: Will it Continue in 2009?

You may think it strange to discuss the growth of Hispanic buying power as the United States is in the midst of one of the deepest economic downturns in recent history.  But when times were flush, a few oft-quoted reports came out about the expected increase in Hispanic wealth-accumulation and buying power.   The SeligCenter for Economic Growth’s The Multicultural Economy is a rich source of data.  To access the entire report, click here.  A key piece of information from the report finds that Hispanic buying power is projected to grow to $1.1 trillion by 2009 and $12.4 trillion by 2011.   United States residents may be buying less overall, and Latinos certainly have been hit hard by the sub-prime mortgage crisis, but with the surge in the Latino population, they will continue to buy goods and services.  Granted, most families are cutting back on purchases, but as the U.S. economy moves out of the recession, many marketing pros are counting on Latinos jumping back into the purchasing frame of mind.   A report from Experian Consumer Research indicates that Hispanics may be less affected by the recession due to certain cultural factors, including less reliance on credit for purchases and the pooling of resources among extended family.  And companies may be cutting their advertising budget and outreach to preserve jobs and keep their doors open, but Latinos are one demographic that should not be ignored.   This recession is too new to tell whether Hispanics have curtailed buying at the same rate as other ethnic groups, but article from the last recession in the early 21st century showed that Hispanics were less affected by the downturn.  Regardless, savvy marketing pros will continue to tailor their message to the demographic that shows the most promise whether that message is in Spanish or in English with a Latino flair.

Tips for Getting a Quote for Your English to Spanish Translation

The first step in forming a relationship with a potential translation agency is getting a quote for your project or document.  Translation agencies are experienced with asking the right questions so they can provide you with an accurate cost estimate.  Many agencies’ websites allow you to submit your document and query via an online application.   Some preparation on your end will make the process much more streamlined. Below are some questions you should be ready to answer when requesting a quote: 

  • What is the source language and into what language will the document be translated?
  • How complex is the document to be translated?
  • What file format do you require for the final translated document?
  • What turn around time will you require?
  • What is the word count of the document?
  • Do you require a certified translation, such as those for immigration purposes?
  • Will you require any value-added services such as Desktop Publishing or complex formatting of graphs and tables?

 In turn, the translation agency will give you a cost estimate based on the above factors.  Don’t be seduced by bargain basement quotes, as the adage “you get what you pay for” applies to translations.  A reputable translation agency or freelancer will charge more for highly technical or complex document translation because of the level of expertise required.  And agencies may apply a surcharge for formatting the document so that it mirrors your source language document.  In this case, be prepared to send the agency all images and tables so that the agency can return a print-ready file. Depending on the file format of the original, you may not be able to tell the translation agency the word count.  If you only have a hard copy or scanned copy of the document, agencies will price the project based on either the final word count of the translation or the number of pages.  In this case, the final cost may differ from the initial estimate offered.   Your chosen translation agency should be able to work in various file formats and many are able to provide value-added services such as those mentioned above.  Being clear about what you require in the end product and being open to dialogue with the agency will facilitate not only pricing but also the entire translation process.

Clear Communication with Your Freelance Translator

A qualified English to Spanish translator can save your business time as well as bring in new clients with their document translations. But keeping your communication streamlined and clear will expedite any translation job you contract them to work on.

Below are some tips on getting the most out of your working relationship with a freelancer English to Spanish translator:

  1. Remember, you are the expert on the material to be translated and they are the experts in giving you the end product. You have to put your trust in your translator because you can’t check the accuracy of the final document.  Therefore, hiring a freelancer knowledgeable in the subject matter should be your first priority.
  2. Provide your translator with the final document to be translated, not a draft. If you alter the document midstream, then you may be opening yourself to extra charges depending on what is in your contract with the freelancer.  Not to mention, the translator may have already rendered most of the English document into Spanish, which wastes time.
  3. Keep the lines of communication open! Just as you appreciate a freelancer who checks in about her progress, make sure that communication goes both ways.  Ensuring a timely response to any emails or calls with questions will allow the translator to continuing working.  What may seem an unimportant question to you could hold up a translator as she waits for an answer.
  4. Explain your needs and expectations at the beginning. The nature of freelance translation requires that translators be flexible, but there’s a point where unclear communication can cause a project to crash.  This could ultimately wreck a relationship with a trusted English to Spanish translator.  Head off a communication breakdown by explaining what you expect before starting a project, and make sure that your translator has all her questions answered so that she can start work.

Of course, even translation projects that seem simple at the outset can turn complicated.  But by keeping courtesy, clarity, and communication a focus of your partnership with a freelancer, you will reap the rewards of powerful, accurate Spanish translations.

Translations for Nonprofits in a Bad Economy

If you work for a nonprofit, you’ve seen the funding from both private and public sources diminish as the demand for the services you provide increased in recent years.  Your constituents may be mostly Spanish speakers or you could serve people with a wide range of linguistic backgrounds.  Any good nonprofit will have bilingual or multilingual people on staff to serve their non-English speaking clients.  But when your development staff or grant writer solicits new funding, do they build in a line item for translation costs?

If this doesn’t happen, your organization should evaluate why not.  Do either of the following reasons for not having translation as a built-in cost sound familiar?

We have bilingual people on staff who can also translate documents.

In many cases, your bilingual employees may be able to produce a fairly good translation from English into Spanish.  But as funding dollars decrease, your already committed employees may be stretched too thin taking on other tasks to keep the agency running.  Asking them to translate something because they speak two languages may be pushing their skill set and stressing an already busy employee.  And while they may be fluent in Spanish, if they don’t have a background in translation, they will not give you the high quality documents that the people you serve deserve.

We’re trimming the fat from our budget to deal with the bad economy.

Of course keeping the lights on and programs running is a priority to any nonprofit.  But if those you serve speak any language other than English, outreach and education in the language they understand best should be critical to your agency’s vision.  If you need documents in Spanish to be able to reach out to clients, then providing the highest quality translations should be central to your approach.  If Spanish speakers can’t understand the services you provide or information you share, then you are ultimately undermining your agency’s mission.  By keeping translation services as a line item, you will ensure that you are connecting with your target population.

Many translation agencies want to assist nonprofits in continuing the important work they do and support agencies with discounts.  While outsourcing English to Spanish translations may seem like an avoidable cost, your agency will see the fruits of this investment in your improved ability to connect with those you are charged with serving.

Transpanish offers discounts for Nonprofit Organizations.

Providing Financial Services to the “Unbanked”

An article from the website Hispanic Bank Marketing cites that roughly 56 percent of Latinos are currently “unbanked,” meaning that they do not use financial institutions to keep their money safe and grow their savings.  Why such a high percentage?  The usual suspects of distrust, lack of accessibility, language barriers, and lack of understanding about how financial institutions can help come into play.

So what can banks and credit card companies do to reach out to this growing demographic in such a way that builds trust and shows Latinos how using financial institutions can be beneficial?

1. Having Spanish translations of flyers, publicity, forms, and contracts is always an excellent start.

2. Since online banking is becoming easier every day, a bank should have an easily navigable website available in Spanish.

3. At least one fully bilingual staff person should be available to answer questions, process transactions, and open accounts.

  • 4. Banks and lenders may want to consider providing financial literacy training in community settings (such as at churches or community centers) with the aim of educating potential customers rather than selling products.
  • 5. Once a bank representative finds a group to provide onsite financial literacy training to, she can offer add-on services such as one free credit counseling session at the bank.

Many Latino immigrants arrive in the U.S. with alternate ways of saving money.  An example of this is the Mexican tanda which allows a group of people to pool their savings over time so that each receives a large lump sum, then used to make a larger purchase or down payment.  And though remissions to family in one’s home country are decreasing in this economy, many Latinos continue sending potential savings back home. 

Most likely the latter situation will not change, and is indeed an important part of the Latino immigrant experience.  But by working with Latinos who are uneasy about putting their savings in the bank or nervous about cutting into their remissions, financial institutions can educate Latinos about alternate ways of savings and creating a long term safety net for their families both here and abroad.

Cutting Translation Budget: Good Business Move or Not?

In these tough economic times, many business owners are shaving their budget of unnecessary expenses.  This week, Transpanish’s blog post will talk about the effects of cutting your translation budget.

If your business provides a product or service, cutting your translation budget might actually harm your bottom line in the long run.  This is especially true if you are located in an area with a large number of Latinos.  The Pew Hispanic Center recently released a report about the explosive growth of Latinos in counties where there formerly weren’t many Spanish-speakers.  By checking out the Center’s maps, you can see which areas of the country are expected to see further growth.

Making a commitment to providing quality translations of your marketing materials may foster connections in the Latino community and bolster sales.  If you offer Spanish translations of your documents, you will reach this rapidly growing demographic.  As overall spending decreases, doing outreach to the Spanish-speaking population will spread your sales into new territory.

Many business owners may look to cut costs for Spanish translations by looking in-house, especially if they have bilingual staff.  Is this a good idea?  Probably not, unless your staff also has a background in translation.  Working with a reputable translation agency will ensure that your Spanish translations are accurate and compelling.  This ultimately brings in more business than a sloppy translation done by an already busy staff person.

But contracting your Spanish translations out doesn’t have to be a pricy affair.  A good Spanish translation agency will have translators who can produce quality translations quickly and carefully.  And the longer you work with the same agency, the more familiar that agency becomes with your business and its documents, ultimately reducing overall cost.

Another excellent way to cut costs while maintaining high-quality translations is to ask your translation agency if they have any special offers or if they give a discount for repeat business.

Keeping your translation budget intact and working with a translation agency that prides itself on accurate and economical document translations might give your business the boost it needs.  If you operate in an area with a growing Latino population or have a web presence, documents translated into Spanish can be the business boon you need to survive the flagging economy.

Translations for U.S. Immigration Done Right

Whether you are an individual applying for a family-based visa or an employee bringing over foreign-born workers, you will need some official documents translated into English for the immigration petition.  The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) requires that you provide a “certified translation” of important Spanish documents.  This Transpanish post talks more about what exactly a certified translation is.

The paperwork you need to fill out when petitioning for a visa for a loved one or worker can be overwhelming and seemingly endless.  But having a translation agency translate your documents from Spanish to English can take some of the pressure off.

Here is a list of some documents USCIS may ask for that you will need to have translated:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce decree
  • Police records
  • Diplomas
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Change of name documents

You will need to include a copy of the Spanish language original, the English translation, and a separate page certifying that the translation was done by someone proficient in both Spanish and English.  While you may speak some Spanish, if it’s not your native language, having a professional translation agency take care of translating these critical documents will ease your mind.  A good translation agency will be able to provide an English translation of your Spanish documents that uses accurate terminology.  And spending a little extra money for your translations will save you the stress of fiddling with document formatting.

Putting together a packet for an immigrant petition is a headache in and of itself.  By contracting out your Spanish to English translations, you can concentrate on making sure that the rest of your paperwork is perfect and accurate. Professional translators will ensure that your Spanish to English immigration translations are accurate.  They take pride in knowing that their translations will be a perfect addition to your immigration petition. Let your translation agency help you make sure that your loved one or potential employee has the best chance possible for being granted a visa.