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


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


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


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


 Conferência regional da em Porto, Portugal


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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:

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.

Bad translations are not always a laughing matter

A professional translator is far more than someone who speaks a couple of languages; a professional translator not only has native-level skills in both languages; he or she will consider both the terminology and register of the message to be interpreted (the text), and also the target audience to which it is directed.

Errors in register, terminology and culture can result not only in a garbled or inaccurate message, but can cause PR and legal nightmares as well. A poorly translated contract or tender may lead to faulty business decisions with enormous financial and PR fallout. Cross-cultural translation blunders can confuse or even offend target audiences, especially in new markets, resulting in negative financial consequences and damage to a company’s reputation. And while some of the translation mistakes you see below are funny, it should not be forgotten that inaccurate translations of medical prescriptions and medical information have actually resulted in the injury and death of patients.

Bad Marketing Translations

 Translation errorsSource: Rudy.Keysteuber @ Flickr.


Bad TranslationSource: Heima001


Bad Restaurant TranslationSource: raquelseco

Funny translationSource: Acula 

Bad TranslationsSource: Quinn.anya @ Flickr

A guide to understanding translation costs

In today’s globalized world, accessing translation services can be as easy as googling “translations” and taking your pick from the myriad of options appearing on your screen. You’ll find translation agencies and freelance translators all ready to undertake your translation project…for a price.

Some lower-end agencies charge a flat-rate per-word fee for a particular language. In some cases, you can even go to a website, enter the source and target languages and the number of words to be translated and be given an automatic quote. No consideration is given to the many underlying factors that determine whether a translation project is done to a professional standard or not…for these service providers, translating your document is simply a matter of languages and number of words. These agencies usually have lists of translators and mass-mail project offers to them, with no consideration given to expertise or experience. Quality is secondary to their goal of getting the job done as quickly as possible at the lowest price, period.

But in the business world, your website or printed documentation may be all that you have to give that great “first impression” that will grow your business. In the business world, a professional appearance and top-quality products can make or break a company. The best translation agencies understand that, and are ready to partner with you to show your clients – current or potential – how great your company is.

And it all starts with your words…translated into the language of your current and potential clients.


Translation fees


But just how are translation costs determined?

There are a number of factors that top-quality translation agencies (and translators) take into account when offering a quote for a translation project. The most important include:

Language pair. Logically, translations between common languages (such as English and Spanish, for example) cost less than translations between less-common languages (e.g., Swedish, Gaelic, Croatian) or between unusual language combinations (e.g., Spanish to Finnish) simply as a result of the law of supply and demand. If the target language is a specific language variant (Chilean Spanish, for example), your translation may cost more than if you request a general language variant (e.g., Latin American Spanish).

Agency or freelancer? A translation from a top-quality agency will generally cost more than a freelancer’s translation due to issues like business overhead, etc. However, choosing to go with an agency may be the right option for you if you need your text translated into a number of languages (for example, in the case of on-line businesses with a global target audience), as freelancers generally offer services in one or two languages only. Also, translation agencies have quality control processes that usually include at least one proofreading by another translator or a professional editor.

Subject matter and level of complexity. Here the rule is quite simple: the more difficult the subject matter is, the higher the translation rate. Top-quality translation agencies have a roster of translators who are highly experienced in specific fields; they may have received training in the topic in question, worked professionally in the field or have translated a large number of similar texts in the past. Rates for texts that are complex, highly specialized, technical or otherwise demanding are higher in order to compensate the increased level of expertise of the translator carrying out the project.

Turnaround times. Perhaps you’re in a rush and need your translation “yesterday”…or maybe you’re not and you’re happy with having it ready for you next week. Deadlines are another determining factor in translation pricing. Top-quality translation agencies have quality control processes that usually include at least one proofreading by another translator or a professional editor and – like anything else that is done well – this takes time. If you have a highly technical document, if the language combination is unusual, if your text requires DTP services, getting your document through the entire translation/quality control process becomes more complex, as does assembling the team that is going to carry out the project. Longer deadlines give agencies and translators more leeway in finding the most competent, yet cost-effective, providers of the services you need, and that means a lower cost for you.

Volume. The economy of scale does apply to translations. Handling one large translation project consumes less time and fewer resources than the same number of words spread among several projects. This means that the costs in human and material resources are lower for the agency or translator, and should mean a savings for you, too. This is also true for regular clients; once the agency or translator gets to know your particular needs (style, terminology, etc.), you may be able to negotiate a lower rate.

Document format. Simple formats (MSWord or plain text) take less preparation and handling than complex formats (documents converted from .pdf files, or documents with DTP characteristics such as brochures) as the latter cost more because it takes more time to process them.

Extra services. In today’s fast-paced world, it often makes sense to turn an entire project over to one service provider, and translating your document or website is no different. Top-quality agencies often offer one-stop shop complementary services so that you don’t have to seek out a DTP specialist or web page designer to get your project up and running. Of course, these services entail extra charges, but the savings in time, effort and stress may more than compensate the cost. When the team working on your project speaks the languages involved, you can rest assured that your web page or document will contain no language-based errors.

When you consider entrusting the translation of your document to a translation agency or freelance translator, remember that the text to be translated will be part of your company’s image and that it is far easier to create a good brand image than it is to fix a poor one. Put your company’s image into the hands of experienced professionals who will provide the expertise and outstanding quality you need to show your business in the very best light.

Croqueta, azotea and coco: Some lunfardo words for head

Lunfardo is a rich and often slyly humorous dialect, and nowhere is its imaginative use of language more evident than with the plethora of words it has for “head” (cabeza in standard Spanish).


As can be expected, many of these terms are related to its shape:

coco – coconut

mate – the hollowed-out gourd used for drinking yerba mate

calabaza – pumpkin

sandía – watermelon

cucusa/cucuza – from the Italian cucuzza (pumpkin)

croqueta – croquette

marote – from the French marotte (dummy head used to display wigs or hats)

bocho/bocha – the wooden ball used to play the game of bocce.

Others relate to the head’s position on the body:

azotea – roof terrace

cúpula – cupula or dome

chiminea – chimney

bóveda – dome

terraza – terrace

altiyo – variant spelling of altillo, attic or upper cupboard

capiya – variant spelling of capilla, cowl or hood

coroniya – variant spelling of coronilla, crown or bald patch on the head

Some make reference to the head as the seat of wisdom:

sabiola/sabiondo – from sabio (wise)

And some to its function or action:

sesera – from sesos (brain)

caspera – from caspa (dandruff)

sombrerera – hat holder

rompepeines – comb-breaker

Or to its appearance:

aceitosa – from aceitoso (oily, as in the hair oil formerly used by men before the advent of hair gels)

Other terms refer to it as some kind of mechanical or electronic calculation device:

computadora – computer

carburadora – carburator

I.B.M. – brand of computer

registradora – cash register

Finally, we have the word “testamento”, a play on the words testa (head) and testamento (will and testament)

These words are also found in a number of expressions:

Hacerse el bocho: to have sexual fantasies about someone

Tener gente en la azotea: to be crazy

Estar de la cucuza: to be crazy

No te hagas la croqueta: don’t overthink it

Ser un bocho: to be smart, to be a “brain”

Bilingual drug labels: Can you trust them?

In recent years, laws have been passed in the U.S. at the national and local levels to guarantee that Spanish speakers (and others who don’t speak English) are provided with the instructions for taking the medication in their language. The aim was to make sure that those with a low level of English proficiency were provided with instructions they could understand in order to prevent taking the medication at the wrong dosage or time, thereby making the treatment more effective and less likely to cause an overdose, and leading to a healthier patient and fewer associated costs.


Unfortunately, though, instead of helping matters, it appears that the translations can be wildly inaccurate, leading to confusion and even injuries. What was meant to help the patient get well has instead often hindered this process.

Research carried out in 2010 in a New York City borough with a large Spanish speaking population revealed a veritable tangle of errors that would leave any Spanish speaker at risk of taking the wrong amount at the wrong time, or even of medicating their children or others who depend on their care incorrectly.

Of the 316 pharmacies invited to take part in the research, 286 (91%) agreed to participate. Of these, 209 (73%) provided medicine labels in Spanish, with independent pharmacies more likely to do so than chain or hospital-based pharmacies. Of those providing labeling in Spanish, 86% used one of 14 computerized translation programs to translate the instructions (70% of the pharmacies used one of three different major programs), while 11% used staff members. Only 3% used a professional translator.

Seventy-six medicine labels were assessed by the researchers who found that, while the majority of pharmacies provided labels with instructions in Spanish, a shockingly high 50% of these labels were translated inaccurately, including 43% with incomplete (mixed English and Spanish) translations; an additional six contained misspellings or grammar errors.

These errors were mainly of three types:

Confusing directions: instructions to take the medication “once” a day could be interpreted as being told to take it eleven (spelled “once” in Spanish) times a day, potentially leading to an overdose.

Misspellings: Typing errors by the pharmacist (e.g., “poca” – which means “little” – instead of “boca” – which means “mouth”) could lead to a patient taking less than the prescribed amount. A case in point was the patient who was prescribed iron supplements to treat anemia; the patient was taking only one drop a day instead of the prescribed amount. Fortunately, the physician saw that the patient wasn’t responding as expected to the treatment and took the time to find out what had gone wrong.

Spanglish: Instructions with words like “dropperfuls”, “take with food”, “apply topically”, “for 7 days”, “apply to affected areas” were often simply left altogether untranslated, leaving out information that could very well be essential to the effectiveness of the treatment and thus the health of the patient, and also leading to confusion about the meaning of words (e.g., “once”, above).

Clearly, caring for a patient is a task that must be overseen by human beings able to use their professional judgment, not computer programs incapable of discerning a correct translation from an incorrect one. While health care costs must certainly be efficiently managed and contained to the extent possible, it is obviously counterproductive to provide and pay for treating patients when the very treatment itself may be administered incorrectly, leading to wasted time, effort and medication while at the same time threatening the health of the very person at the center of the treatment program: the patient.

The solution is clear: pharmacies must invest in providing accurate medicine labels so that patients understand the instructions; the costs associated with the financial and social losses arising from mislabeled medicine are far more expensive than hiring professional translators to do the job right from the very beginning.

Pharmacists that understand this and provide their customers with accurate information are likely to enjoy the trust of their customers, gain their loyalty and, in the end, will know that they are fulfilling part of their oath: to embrace and advocate changes that improve patient care.