Is the comma on its way out?

comma use

It’s probably one of the most difficult forms of punctuation to get to grips with and, for some, it’s starting to be more and more unnecessary. The question is, will the comma will eventually die out completely in the future? Let’s take a look at the arguments…

Linguist and Columbia University professor John McWhorter is certainly in favor of putting commas to rest forever. His analysis of the subject falls into two broad categories. Firstly, according to McWhorter, it seems pretty fair to say that there’s no list of definitive rules that explain exactly when and why one should place a comma in a sentence.

William Strunk Jr.’s The Elements of Style is one of the most popular texts for comma use, still in use today. One of the rules laid down in this 100-year-old publication is that commas should “enclose parenthetic expressions” and come “before and or but” when introducing an independent clause.

Even so, as McWhorter quite rightly points out, Strunk was wandering around in a pair of spats when he wrote The Elements of Style and so little of what’s written in the publication needs to have very much to do with how we communicate today in our modern and highly technological society. With that in mind we can move on to the second category of analysis as laid out by McWhorter, that of the use of text messages, tweets and other kinds of conversational-style communications.

There’s simply no need for commas (indeed they take up valuable character space) in tweets. Even top-notch journalists who write for national and international publications choose to tweet without commas. It seems that there isn’t a need for the comma, because the essence of what one’s trying to communicate in 140 characters is conveyed with or without them.

For example, a couple of years back Gmail went down – shocking! – and the entire world began tweeting sarcastic comments about the issue. Many of the snarling remarks came from professional journalists and few of them felt the need to use a comma. They were all more interested in getting their tweet out there into cyberspace for all to read.

An editor at BuzzFeed tweeted “whoa whoa guys I can’t respond to all zero gmails at once.” Writer and biographer Rachel Syme published a joking jibe that read: “I rubbed my genie lamp and wished for one of those Freedom programs that keeps you from email but I wished TOO BIG sorry guys sorry.” And writer Jen Doll brought the entire Gmail nightmare to and end with: “I guess all those losers outside skiing or like at the movies or whatever missed out on this exciting adventure we just had.”

Did you see any commas? Did you need them to understand what you read? No!

This is exactly the point that McWhorter is trying to make when referring to the outdated nature of the comma in our super advanced technological world.

Having said all that, there are obviously a band of comma fanatics out there that continue to worry about what might happen when people start writing sentences like, “Let’s eat grandma” and not, “Let’s eat, grandma”, which are clearly two different things. But unless we all happen to be living in a version of Little Red Riding Hood, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll confuse the first sentence with the second anyway.

Comma fanatics are also worried that we won’t be able to distinguish the difference between style; that we won’t be able to produce content suitable for formal essays and articles as well as tweets and texting. The concern is that we’ll end up having to read articles in the New York Times without commas, but maybe the future’s not going to include long, formal articles in the NYT anyway. Let’s face it, tweets, texts and other digital publications have already started to turn print journalism into a thing of the past.

What do you think? Should the comma stay or should it go?

Language Assistance for LEP Individuals

The term “limited English proficiency” (alternatively “English-language learner” or “English learner”) is used in the United States to refer to a person whose primary language is not English and who has a limited ability to speak, read, write or understand English. There are laws at the federal, state and local levels that protect these individuals’ rights, including access to governmentally funded programs and activities.

One of the most significant laws is Executive Order 13166, signed into law by President Bill Clinton on August 11, 2000. Entitled “Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency”, the Order requires Federal agencies to examine the services they provide, identify any need for services to persons with limited English proficiency, develop and implement a system to provide these services so that LEP persons have meaningful access to them. It also requires Federal agencies to work to ensure that recipients (agencies, nonprofits and other Federally funded organizations) provide meaningful access to their LEP applicants and beneficiaries. All recipients of federal funds and all federal agencies are thus required by law to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to limited English proficient persons. This means that, regardless of a state or local jurisdiction’s official English or “English only” laws, entities receiving Federal funding must comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Title VI regulations prohibiting discrimination based on national origin, including those applicable to the provision of federally assisted services to persons with limited English proficiency. Title VI applies to a funding recipient’s entire program or activity, even if only one part of the recipient receives the funding.

LEP - Languages Services

It is crucial to ensure that written materials routinely provided in English also are provided in regularly encountered languages other than English. It is particularly important to make sure that vital documents are translated into the non-English language of LEP groups eligible to be served or likely to be affected by the program or activity. Documents are considered vital if the information they contain is critical for obtaining federal services and/or benefits, or is required by law, e.g., applications, consent and complaint forms, notices of rights and disciplinary action, notices advising LEP persons of the availability of free language assistance, prison rulebooks, written tests that do not assess English language competency, but rather competency for a particular license, job, or skill for which English competency is not required, and letters or notices that require a response from the beneficiary or client.

The Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (also known as ACA or “Obamacare”) includes requirements for insurers and the healthcare industry to provide translation and interpreting services for limited English proficiency (LEP) individuals in order to increase healthcare access for all, and explicitly requires translation of specific documents, including the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) and the Uniform Glossary. However, translating other documents may be implied; for example, provision of claim and appeal notices most likely must be translated since they are to be presented in a linguistically and culturally appropriate manner. The provision of these documents in plain and translated languages applies to all insurance plans, whether they are bought through an employer or privately.

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act builds on both Title VI and Executive Order 13166 and furthers protection from discrimination by including any health program or activity any part of which receives Federal financial assistance, including insurance contracts, credit and subsidies. Section 1557 also extends non-discrimination protection to the Health Insurance Exchanges (as well as any other entity or Executive agency that administers a program or activity established under Title 1 of the ACA).

What you need to know about certified translations

certified translation

Translators are often asked to translate official documents, including identity documents, immigration documents, birth or death certificates, wedding licenses, wills, diplomas, transcripts and so on.

They are two key issues to consider before beginning a certificate translation: Translating the information on the certificate itself correctly and what certification process (if any) is to be applied.

In terms of the translation itself, it is important for the translation to match the original to the greatest extent possible, not only in terms of content, but also in terms of form. This is especially important for certified translations, as the person doing the certification must check each item of the translation against the same item on the original document, including (but not limited to) the fax information on the bottom of the page, the initials written in the margins of all the pages, stamps, seals and handwritten notes. A client may request that the translator leave out certain information found on the original. Doing so will make it impossible for the certifier to certify the document which will render it invalid for legal or official use.

The “matching” issue doesn’t stop with ensuring that everything on the original also appears on the translation; it is equally important – no matter how persuasive the client may be – to never add anything to a certificate translation, regardless of how obvious an omission may seem.

So, no skipping anything, no adding anything…and no changing anything, either. You are the translator, and you must translate the words as you understand them, regardless of how insistent your client is that the word “técnico” on his diploma really means “engineer”.

The certification process itself – which grants the legal status of the original to the copy – it varies from country to country. In the U.S., a certified translation is simply a translation accompanied by the source text and a straightforward signed statement (Certificate of Accuracy) in which the translator attests to her ability to translate the material and the accuracy of the document. For extra legal protection, clients will sometimes ask the translator to have a notary public sign and seal the document in witness of the translator’s signature in his presence.

Some countries outside the U.S. have stringent requirements about who may certify a translation; check the laws of the destination country to determine what is required in order for the translation to be accepted as certified.

 

Translating Adult Content

You may have never thought about it, but adult films, websites, magazines, literature, games, comics and packaging for toys and other products don’t translate themselves; someone translates them, and that’s where the adult content translation specialist comes in.

porno-translation

And adult content is a big and potentially profitable niche market to specialize in: according to Forbes, together with internet-related businesses such as websites and pay-per-view movies, traditional porn-related businesses like adult magazines, video sales and rentals and toys and products move billions – some say as much as $14 billion – a year.

Logically, there are translators willing and eager to provide services to such a large potential market; however, those that take that step often run into a problem common to many translators, but that is somewhat more challenging in this field than many others: the lack of terminology resources.

Until just a few years ago, translators had no reliable resource for erotic terminology, a serious issue when you consider that, like slang, erotic terms vary widely from one country to another, and even from one generation to another. What’s more, the lack of information on the correct term can lead to the use of barbarisms, or foreign terms, and the concomitant impoverishment of the source language.

This was the driving force behind the creation of ETEP (Estudios de Traducción en el Erotismo y la Pornografía) in 2011. The collective’s three goals are to get academia to take an interest in sex due to its great importance, broaden studies to include other cultural media (e.g., comics and videogames) and, finally, to get students interested in a market niche of millions of consumers with tremendous financial potential.

And this market is no longer limited to the typical low-budget porn shorts. There is a growing number of adult film directors – both male and female – for whom the plot, and even a message (sometimes ideological), are also important. Erika Lust, for example, casts her actors carefully, imposes high production standards and believes that pornography can be an educational tool as well as pleasurable. Lucie Blush defines herself as a feminist porn director who wants to respect actors, characters and audience, and Antonio Da Silva makes art porn films featuring poetry and narration.

Translating films that are meant to be more than simple eroticism is as demanding as translating literature, and it’s not something usually covered in standard translation studies programs. Translating other adult content has its challenges, too, which is why ETEP has designed a course on translating adult content literature that covers everything from types of adult literature, sex toys, creativity, humor, comics, fetishes, author’s rights, BDSM, the current market and research.

Is translating porn for you?

Would you put it on your résumé, if you did?

Let us know what you think!

The U.S. – Number One in Spanish Speakers by 2050

Español en USA

Today, more than 548 million people – or 6.7% of the world’s population – speak Spanish, and for 470 million of these, Spanish is their native or dominant language, according to the “El Español: Una Lengua Viva” report issued by Instituto Cervantes.

Mexico tops the list with almost 121 million Spanish speakers, followed by Colombia and Spain, with 48 million and 46 million, respectively. In the US, there are 41 million people with Spanish as their native or dominant language, but if you include the 11.6 million second- and third-generation “limited competence” speakers, the total surpasses the number of Spanish speakers in Mexico, Colombia and Spain. The highest concentrations of Spanish speakers can be found in the country’s south and south-west, where 47% of New Mexico residents, 38% of California and Texas residents, and 30% of Arizona residents are Spanish speakers. In the east, 18% of New Yorkers are Spanish speakers. Surprisingly, 6% of Alaska residents also speak Spanish.

For demographic reasons, the growth of Spanish is outstripping that of English and Chinese (the overall percentages of speakers of these languages are decreasing) globally, while some 21 million people are studying Spanish worldwide (7.8 million in the US); Spanish is also the third-most used language used on the Internet. According to this report, by 2030, 7.5% of the world’s population will speak Spanish, and it is predicted that this figure will reach 10% within two or three generations.

In the US, the number of Spanish speakers (native speakers, limited competence speakers and students of Spanish) is expected to reach 138 million, or about 30% of the population by 2050.

Prioritizing your Translation Needs: Quality, Speed and Price

quality-translation

When you have a large – or even small – translation project at hand, there are three factors that you should take into consideration when choosing a translation agency, and they come from the classic quality/speed/cost project management triangle.

In an ideal business world, your goal would naturally be to achieve all three goals, and end up with a top-quality translation, delivered quickly at the lowest possible price. However, in the real world, achieving all three goals equally can pose significant challenges. Let’s see why.

One flaw in this paradigm is the assumption that these factors are of equal importance, but this is a fallacy. In the business world, poor quality is never an option for a company who wishes to keep its clients and grow its business. In this globalized business environment, your company’s written materials – especially its website – are its calling card. And how very important that card is: a 2011 study carried out by Briton Charles Duncombe, who manages online shops in various industries, found that spelling and grammar mistakes undermine the credibility of the company and the trust of the consumer, often in the first 10 seconds the web page is viewed. What’s more, spelling errors can have devastating effects on the SEO, as search engines will not find a keyword if it is misspelled. The total cost of business lost due to these kinds of errors is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

So, if we agree that quality must be the top priority, where does that leave speed and cost?

Actually, these two factors also affect quality, since a top-quality translation will require finding just the right translator who is available and able to deliver the translation on time. Urgency can negatively affect translation quality, as working under time constraints limits the translator’s ability to carry out effective research for accurate terminology and to polish the translation to perfection. Price, too, can have a major effect on the quality of the translation, as good translators rarely come cheap; they are highly skilled professionals whose skills are in constant demand and they have no need to work at a discount rate.

The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a quality translation, you’ll want a good translator who has been given enough time to deliver the translation you need for business success, because anything less can cost your business far more than the money you save when you prioritize cost over speed and quality. Translation errors can be excruciatingly costly both in terms of finances and reputation.

Times have changed, yet no matter how globalized business becomes, the old adage that “you get what you pay for” has never been truer or more important to your business’s success.

 

Translation Events – April 2015

Translation events. April 2015

9

Localization QA for Responsive Design, Globalization and Localization Association, webinar

10-11

New Spaces of Translation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Université Denis Diderot, Champaign, Illinois, USA

11

 Conferência regional da ProZ.com em Porto, Portugal

13-15

LocWorld Shanghai, Localization World, Ltd., Shanghai, China

16-18

Elia Networking Days Lyon, Elia (European Language Industry Association), Lyon, France

16

The Future of Global Online Marketing: Localization Workflow and Optimization, The International Multilingual User Group (IMUG), Mountain View, California, USA

18

Seminario regional de ProZ.com en Córdoba, Argentina.
“Recursos informáticos para traductores”

21

Stories are the Fabric of Our Lives, The Content Wrangler, online

23-25

Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI). ITI Conference 2015.
Newcastle-Gateshead, UK

23-24

10th EUATC International Conference, European Union of Associations of Translation Companies, Lisbon, Portugal

23-26

2015 International Medical Interpreters Conference, International Medical Interpreters Association, Rockville, Maryland USA

24-26

International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA). 18th Annual International Congress. United We Are Stronger! Washington, DC, USA

25-26

ATA Spanish Language Division (SPD). Delaware Valley Translators Association (DVTA). English<>Spanish Translators & Interpreters Conference. Philadelphia, PA, USA

Sixth Language Creation Conference, CONLANG, Horsham, UK

26

Assn of Translators & Interpreters in the San Diego Area (ATISDA).
English <> Spanish Criminal Procedure Law Terminology Latin-American Reforms Workshop. San Diego, CA, USA

28-30

Thailand Translation & Interpretation Conference, Association of Asian Translation Industry, Bangkok, Thailand

30-May 3

NeMLA 2015, Northeast Modern Language Association, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

 

 

Keeping Your Translation Clients Happy

One of the most important keys to a successful career as a translator is keeping your client happy. To do this, it’s crucial to understand the difference between a “happy” client and a “steady” client. A steady client is no doubt happy with your work; this is a logical conclusion, otherwise he would not return with new job offers. A happy client, however, will think of you first when his company wins that large project. A happy client will value your attitude, reliability and accessibility and be happy to negotiate proper compensation for your work, knowing that there are no worries when he’s put the job in your hands. A happy client (if a project manager) may well recommend you to his colleagues, bringing you even more work.

Keeping your translation clients happy involves what is really a series of common-sense principles that will set you apart from (and above!) the rest, help you build a strong relationship with your client, and keep him happy so that he’ll keep coming back with those well-paid and interesting projects that keep translators happy, too.

translation customer and translator

Follow these tips to build the kind of relationship that will keep your client satisfied and your agenda full:

Be open and honest about your skills, experience and production. Clients need to know that you can handle the job. No one is an expert in everything; if it’s a field you don’t work in, just say so. Being honest builds trust, which is essential to keeping your client happy.

Keep the lines of communication open. This can be especially true with new customers with whom you haven’t yet established a relationship. If the delivery date is more than a few days away, consider giving a few updates as the days or weeks pass. This will let your client know that his project is important to you and that you are making good progress.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. As mentioned above, no one is an expert in every field, and sometimes the original text itself needs to be clarified. Admitting that you need more information is not a weakness; it is a sign of a true professional and will be welcomed by clients who put quality first.

Be available to your client. One advantage of freelancing is setting your own hours; the downside is that you need to be available to your customers in order to assess and accept potential projects, and this can cause conflict with your work-life balance. There’s no perfect solution, but one way to set some limits is to make your availability (however many hours a day or days a week that may be) clear and then be absolutely consistent about sticking to it. This is also an important consideration if you work with – or are targeting – clients in distant time zones.

Stick to your deadlines. Your client will be very happy to turn the job over to you knowing that it will be delivered on time or before. Again, knowing that you can be counted on to keep your word is key to keeping a long-term relationship.

Pay attention to the details. Little things count! Attention to fonts, spacing, layout…even something as seemingly minor as whether one space or two should follow a period gives that extra bit of polish that will tell the client you care enough to offer not just a brilliant translation, but to deliver it in a package that’s good to go.

Overdeliver. A little “added value” can go a long way. Everyone likes to have his expectations beaten, and surprising your client with an early delivery or letting the client know when you spot a potential error in the source text will show that you value his business and want to contribute to his success.

Request feedback. The best translators know that we never stop learning, and some of the best folks to learn from are our own peers. Ask your client for feedback, if appropriate for the project, and take the time to study it. No one likes to make the same mistake twice (especially with the same client), and letting the client know you’ve studied his feedback and learned something from it is a way to show your appreciation for his time and effort on your part.

Finally, bill on time. It’s certainly counterintuitive, but customers sometimes find that translators delay billing them. Your hard work would generate the desire to demand the compensation due, yet it seems that invoicing is one of those “kick the can down the road” kind of tasks that some translators would rather do “mañana” because they’ve just received another “urgent” project request. Not only can this cause cash flow problems for the translator, but it can for his client as well. Invoicing a June project in October can throw off your client’s bookkeeping, and this will most definitely not make him happy.

As a freelance translator, you can win and keep happy clients who will offer you interesting and well-paid projects by following the tips above.

Let us know what you think.

Italianisms in Lunfardo – Part I

The Lunfardo dialect of Spanish arose in the last quarter of the 19th century among petty criminals living with immigrants and native Argentines in the conventillos – sheet metal tenements – of lower-class neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. Because so many of these immigrants (some ten million between 1821 and 1932) were poorly educated or illiterate Italians speaking their regional dialects, and because of the pressing need to communicate with their Spanish-speaking neighbors and associates, a fluid and linguistically unstable macaronic language called Cocoliche was formed among these first-generation, mostly rural, immigrants, and it is this imperfect form of Italian-flavored Spanish that is the direct cause of most of the non-Spanish words as well as of other lexical changes such as suffixes found in Lunfardo. The very word “Lunfardo” itself is, in fact, an Italianism derived from the word lombardo (someone from Lombardy) in various Italian dialects.

Italianisms in Lunfardo - Argentine Spanish

Conventillo in Buenos Aires – 1914

Today, Lunfardo is no longer associated with petty criminality and the lower social classes, and its Italianisms have earned their own place as part of the dialect, elements of which have spread to other Latin American countries such as Uruguay and Chile.

Following is a sampling of some lexical Italianisms in Lunfardo.

chitrulo (from citrullo) –  the original citrullo means “stupid” or “silly” in several southern Italian dialects and derives from cetriolo, which means “cucumber”

atenti (from attento or attenti) – interjection meaning “to take care”

encanar (from incaenar) – the Italian word means “to chain”, leading to its meaning of “arrest”, “detain” or “incarcerate” in Lunfardo.

furcazo (from forca or fùrca) – This word describes a technique for beating someone up with a blow to the back, the right knee on the kidneys and an elbow holding the neck under the chin, which is its connection to the original words’ meaning (gallows).

morfar (from morfa or morfilar) – The original word means “eat”, and still does so in Lunfardo, although it has expanded to include “to rape”, “to suffer” and “to kill”.

parlar (from parlare) – Unlike standard Spanish, where this word means “to chatter”, parlar retains the original Italian meaning of simply “to talk”.

posta (from Latin appositus to Italian posta) – The original Latin meant “appointed” or “assigned”, which gave rise to the Italian posta (“a place to stay”, “the place for a horse in a stable” and, finally, “set of horses for mail and transport service”). This was adopted into Spanish with the meaning “a soldier standing guard”, which generalized into “to be somewhere on purpose”, which led to the form “aposta”, meaning “on purpose”. It is unknown whether the Lunfardo word derives from the Italian or the Spanish, but it originally meant “comprehensive” or “precise”, from which its current meanings of “good”, “excellent” or “beautiful” arose.

We’ll continue with more Italianisms in Lunfardo next week!

Which language is most “important”?

To determine which language is the most “important” globally, we first must define the term “important”. Does it mean the language spoken by the most people, or the language spoken in the most countries, or the language of the most economically-developed nation, or…?

Global Language Network. Credit: S. Ronen et al., PNAS 2014. Interactive version: http://language.media.mit.edu/visualizations/books.

Global Language Network. Credit: S. Ronen et al., PNAS 2014. Interactive version.

MIT Assistant Professor César Hidalgo and his team have come up with a way to answer this question in today’s globalized context: it’s the language that connects the most people. And, not surprisingly, they’ve discovered that “being born into a highly connected language is a better predictor of whether that person is going to be important or not, than being born into a language that is very populous, or that is spoken by people who are very wealthy.”

So, how did they determine which language is “most-connected”? The team used the Web and various repositories of data that enabled them to connect information and map languages spoken with others. They used Twitter, books (over 2.2 million volumes representing over 1,000 languages) and Wikipedia, connecting books translated from one language into another, articles on Wikipedia edited by humans (not bots) to see if editors were writing in multiple languages, and over a billion tweets sent by 17 million users in 73 languages, noting a connection each time a tweet was sent in more than one language.

Being able to communicate with a wider number of people gives one a certain amount of power because of the greater number of people who can be influenced. The team discovered that, after controlling for the income and population of language speakers, “[t]he centrality of a language in the global language network is a significantly strong predictor of whether that language produces a large number of successful people,” says Hidalgo.

So, which language was found to be the most highly connected? No surprises here: English, with over 50% of all Internet communication. Other language hubs (though to a far lesser extent) include Russian, German and Spanish.