Pharmacies Agree to Provide Prescription Data in Many Languages

In a deal that underscores the challenges and obligations of doing business in polyglot New York State, five major chains that sell prescription drugs have agreed to provide customers with information about them in the customers’ primary languages, the office of Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Tuesday.

The agreements stem from a lengthy investigation by Mr. Cuomo’s office that found that pharmacies across the state, in violation of the law and at great risk to customers, routinely failed to provide information about medication in a language their immigrant customers could understand, officials said.

“The need to understand prescription information can literally be a matter of life and death,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. For those New Yorkers who do not speak English as a first language, he said, “this agreement will ensure they have the medical information needed to protect their health and well-being and that of their families.”

State law requires that pharmacists personally provide to patients spoken and written information about the dosage, purpose and side effects of prescription drugs, officials said. The law also prohibits pharmacies from discriminating against non-English speakers.

Complying with the law has become an increasing challenge for pharmacies in a state where the foreign-born population has grown to 4.1 million, or 21.3 percent of the total population in 2007, up from 3.8 million in 2000, or about 20.1 percent of the total population then.

According to census data, about 3 in 10 residents of New York State, and about half of the residents of New York City, speak a language other than English at home. There are an estimated 170 languages spoken in the state.

The agreement announced Tuesday involves Wal-Mart; Target; A.&P., which operates Pathmark, Super Fresh, and Food Emporium among other stores; Costco; and Duane Reade, the largest pharmacy chain in New York City.

Under the agreement, the retailers will equip their dispensaries with telephones that will connect customers with off-site interpreters working for language-service contractors. Some stores plan to provide dual handsets to allow pharmacists and customers to confer jointly with the interpreters, Mylan L. Denerstein, executive deputy attorney general for social justice, said at a news conference in Brooklyn announcing the agreement.

Ms. Denerstein said that customers at the five companies’ pharmacies will have access to interpreting services in more than 150 languages.

In addition, the retailers have agreed to provide written information about the medication they sell in five of the main foreign languages spoken in New York: Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Russian, and French.

Ms. Denerstein said the agreement was “a major undertaking” for the stores.

In a statement, Duane Reade said, “We applaud the attorney general’s efforts to upgrade prescription-translation services,” and noted that the company currently provides language translation services in 13 languages as well as telephone interpreting for more than 170 languages.

Last November, under pressure from Mr. Cuomo’s office, two other major pharmacy chains, CVS and Rite Aid, reached similar agreements.

The investigation began with a complaint filed in 2007 by a group of immigrant-advocates’ organizations, led by Make the Road New York, which works primarily with Latino immigrants in New York City.

“Over the past two decades, New York has undergone a major demographic shift,” the group’s co-executive director, Andrew Friedman, said at the news conference. “Literally millions of New Yorkers are in the process of learning English.”

While the state and New York City have tried to adjust to the increasing linguistic demands by providing services in an increasing array of languages, he said, “most New York State pharmacies have been lagging far behind.”

In an interview, Mr. Friedman said that the initial complaint to Mr. Cuomo’s office involved more than 20 customers who claimed they had not been able to communicate with pharmacists and could not read the written material provided to them. Most of the customers were Spanish speakers, he said.

One woman, he recalled, had been giving her child a medication by mouth, “and her kid kept throwing up.” She turned to Make The Road, which determined that the medicine was a topical drug. “We figured that if pharmacies were doing this badly in Spanish, they were doing significantly worse with other languages,” he said.


Spanish-English Translations: Business Errors to Avoid

Transpanish’s April 1st post focused on things that novices to the craft of English-Spanish translations should avoid.  This weeks post will focus on the business side of freelance translating.  Novice Spanish translators may be eager to please their first few clients, and that makes sense.  But beware of being so eager to please that you end up exhausted with very little return or making mistakes that could potentially turn clients off from being repeat buyers.

To avoid this, keep the following in mind:

1. This is a business!  As a freelance translator, you are first and foremost a business person.  Your translation services are what you sell, but you also need sound business practices to survive and thrive.  Consider taking a course in running a freelance business at your local college or adult education center.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate with your translation buyers.  Don’t stalk them and update them on every miniscule bit of progress you make, but do keep in touch with them.  Ask them clarifying questions and remind them that their answers help you provide them with a superlative end product.  If it’s a large project and the deadline is far off, don’t just disappear.  It’s good relationship building to check in occasionally, even if it’s just to say that you’re making progress.

3. Be realistic about what you can complete.  Don’t jump at the chance to take on a project if the terms seem unrealistic.  If the buyer wants 10,000 words translated in a day, be honest that this is not realistic.  Rather than taking on a project that’s too large and then renegotiating the terms after, only agree to projects you know you can accomplish.  As you start out, you may have a learning curve about your output which could cause some sleepless nights but as you go you should start determining what you can really do.

4. Get the project terms in writing.  How many rewrites and adjustments are you willing to make before tacking on extra fees?  Do both you and the buyer understand the terms of payment?  Sort this out beforehand and set the terms down in writing before starting a Spanish translation project.

These four tips should get you started as you think about how to manage your freelance translation business and apply whether you freelance after a day job or want to translate full time.  Being prepared will have the dual benefit of protecting yourself and keeping translation buyers happy.

Without Columbus, Spanish wouldn’t be a global language

Santiago, Apr 3, 2009 (EFE via COMTEX) — If not for the discovery of America, Spanish today would be just another European language ranking 27th worldwide in terms of number of speakers, just ahead of Ukrainian, according to the director of the Chilean Academy of Language.
“But in addition to the huge number of speakers (in the) Americas, (the Spanish language’s cultural influence) is rising as a force,” Alfredo Matus said Friday during the presentation of the first two volumes of the study “El Valor Economico del Español: una empresa multinacional” (The Economic Value of Spanish: A Multinational Enterprise).

Matus referred to the 5th International Congress of the Spanish Language, which will be held in the Chilean port city of Valparaiso next March to coincide with bicentennial independence celebrations in Chile and several other Latin American countries and will have the slogan “The Americas in the Spanish Language.” “This is not just another congress about Spanish in the Americas.

There’s a 180-degree shift: the Americas in the Spanish language,” said Matus, who noted that in his study he maintains that “Spanish is a language of the Americas and it is here where it’s future is being played out.” The study was presented at the Americas hall of Chile’s National Library in a ceremony also attended by that institution’s director, Ana Tironi; and the president of the Chilean subsidiary of Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica, Emilio Gilolmo.

The three-volume project is sponsored by the Telefonica Foundation in collaboration with the Spanish government’s Cervantes Institute and the Elcano Royal Institute for International and Strategic Studies, a private Spanish foundation.

The first two books of the study – “Atlas of the Spanish Language in the World” and “Economics of Spanish: An Introduction” – reflect Spanish’s status as the world’s No. 2 language in terms of international communication over the next decade and one that could surpass English in terms of number of speakers.

The study notes that a total of roughly 438 million people speak Spanish worldwide, including native speakers and those who use the language with varying degrees of competency as a second language.

Over the past eight years, the number of people who speak Spanish has grown by 9.8 percent, the second-largest increase – after Arabic – among the six official languages of the United Nations.

The study predicts that Spanish will continue to be one of the five most widely spoken languages in the world in 2050. EFE mf/mc


Spanish-English Translations: Pitfalls to Avoid

As with any field, newbies at freelance translation will make mistakes. But being aware of possible mistakes and correcting those errors is a part of any freelance translator’s journey from novice to expert. This list of tips will focus on errors of content and the nuts and bolts of translation work, not on the freelance business side of the equation.

  • Know your audience.Or in translator lingo, don’t forget about localization. If you translate from English to Spanish, is your audience Spanish? Mexican? South American? While you may be Argentine, if your main audience is from Central America, the translated message may be misconstrued or garbled because of differences in word usage. If you work from Spanish to English, will the translated document be used in Australia or the U.S.?

  • Translate content, not each word. Truthfully, if you translate each word without regard for the grammatical and syntactical conventions of the target language, you should not be translating. Spanish to English and English translations require a sophisticated knowledge of both languages. Leave word-for-word translations to those beginning the study of a language or online machine translators, not a paid freelance translator.

  • Be consistent throughout your translated document.While both English and Spanish are rich with different vocabulary words that mean similar things, don’t forgo consistency of terminology throughout a document. This is especially true in technical translations, as the language is very specific.If you translate documents with high word counts or different documents with similar content, consider using translation memory software. This will save you time over the course of the project as well as lend consistency throughout.

  • Only translate into your native language.If your native language is Spanish and your second language English, only translate into Spanish.While your English may be impeccable, there is no substitute for a native English speaker’s translation and vice versa.

  • Invite constructive criticism and feedback from your translation mentor. Your mentor can offer you invaluable insight that will allow you to grow as a Spanish to English or English to Spanish translator. Being open to their perspective and advice will enrich your translation work and facilitate your journey from novice to seasoned translator.

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.

Finding Translation Work Close to Home

English to Spanish translators who live in urban areas or even rural areas with many Spanish speakers can find translation work close to home.  It’s just a matter of knowing where to look and knowing how to sell your Spanish translation services.  Mining your local resources to find new clients who need documents translated from English to Spanish can help you land a variety of translation assignments.

Below is a list of ideas and resources for you to get started:

1. Local Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Association:

Reach out to potential clients by attending meetings, networking functions, or putting an advertisement for your services in their newsletter.

2. Local Translation Agencies:

Most cities have a number of translation agencies that work with freelance translators, and in many U.S. cities, there is a high demand for English to Spanish as a language pair.  Some nonprofits also have a for-profit branch in which they employ freelancers to do translation work.

3. Nonprofits:

While a nonprofit may not have a big budget and many projects for you to work on, this is an extremely close-knit community.  A nonprofit focusing on education may only need you for a one-time English to Spanish translation of a letter to parents, but you can be sure that this agency has close connections to agencies providing other services with similar translation needs.

4. State and city government departments:

State and city agencies have to comply with laws regarding dissemination of information regardless of native language, and approaching these places may yield some English to Spanish translation work.

5.  Networking with Acquaintances, Friends, and Family:

Even at social events, you know full well that the subject often turns to work, and the business card exchange isn’t far behind.  This tactic may not bear immediate fruit, but you never know when the business card you gave to someone at a cocktail party last year will find its way into the hands of a small business owner who wants to market his services to Spanish speakers.

These five resources are only a start, but as an English to Spanish translator, you understand the importance of marketing your services in creative ways.  Keep in mind that some of the translation work you find might be outside of your specialty area. If you have a medical terminology background but not a legal one, you can’t provide the highest quality translation for a law office.  But that lawyer you turned down may appreciate your honesty and refer you to a doctor he knows needs English to 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.