English Plus: The Antidote to English Only?

Last week’s blog post focused on the English Only movement and its proponents who want to make English the nation’s official language. Their hard-line approach, which many feel attempts to negate the benefits of a multilingual society, is countered by the English Plus movement.

Those who support English Plus encourage second-language acquisition for immigrants and citizens alike. Rather than looking at those who are not native English speakers as somehow disabled linguistically, English Plus attempts to celebrate their native language ability while providing immigrants with the resources to become proficient in English.

Furthermore, English Plus encourages monolingual English speakers to acquire skills in a second language. While in certain parts of the country, American-born people are proud to have learned a second language, the country as a whole remains staunchly monolingual.

In fact, the world jokes about the prevailing attitude of Americans that forces others to learn English without reciprocation:

What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
Trilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks two languages?
Bilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks one language?
American.

English Plus proposes to counteract popular opinion of monolingual American citizens as well as support newcomers’ acquisition of English as a Second Language.

But what do they seek to do on the legislative front?

• Oppose any English Only policies at the state and federal levels.
• Expand opportunities for English language learning.
• Enable newcomers to participate in civic life even if they are not yet proficient in English.
• Encourage the retention of immigrants’ native languages for the benefit of both the individual and society.
• Retain and strengthen language assistance systems, especially in the public sector.

But what are the main barriers to our moving towards a society that respects people’s rights to retain and use their native language while supporting their desire to learn English? Two things: attitudes and funding. The English Only movement boasts 170,000 members, and there are plenty more people who feel threatened by languages other than English who aren’t official members. And as the U.S. economy flounders, funding for state and federally supported English classes is being cut.

To read more about English Plus, follow the links to two resources:

English Plus Movement (founding document)
English Plus vs. English Only

English Only or Official English?

No one can deny that immigration is one of the hottest topics in the U.S. today, especially as we are poised to elect a new president.  Often those who seek to limit immigration and combat illegal immigration use language about “invasion” and stridently oppose the “press one for English, press two for Spanish” phenomenon as indicative of a trend in pandering to a population who many feel refuses to learn English.   While English currently isn’t the official language in the U.S., several states have passed legislation making it their official language.  Again and again, “English Only” pops up in political rhetoric at the city, state, and federal levels.  But what does “English Only” truly mean? U.S. English, one of the country’s oldest proponents of English Only or Official English actually paints a much more benign picture.  From their website, we find a brief description of what they propose: Declaring English the official language means that official government business at all levels must be conducted solely in English. This includes all public documents, records, legislation and regulations, as well as hearings, official ceremonies and public meetings.  To read more about the details of this movement, read their FAQ section.  ProEnglish (which maintains that Official English is very different from English only) posits that opponents continue to use the term English Only to capitalize on the fact that it’s a loaded term that implies Official English supporters are anti-immigrant xenophobes.  While ProEnglish purports to welcome the use of different languages in the public sphere, they also strongly state that immigrants cannot assimilate without learning English.  And that they, in fact, have no right to reside in the U.S. if they do not learn English.   On its face, encouraging immigrants to learn English certainly doesn’t seem like a negative thing.  But they propose to remove many of the public supports for first-generation immigrants, such as: court interpreters, translation of government documents and paperwork, bilingual education, and bilingual ballots.  Basically, this would take away any ability for immigrants to participate in civic life if they are in the beginning stages of learning English.   James Crawford, author of Hold Your Tongue offers a scathing critique of this movement to limit use of any language other than English.  The three excerpts from his book offer insight into how opponents understand this movement, whatever terminology they may use.

Spanish-Language Statistics

If you live in the United States, you’re probably no longer surprised to overhear Spanish being spoken. But just how widespread is the Spanish language in the world today? Over 250 million people speak Spanish as their first language and if we include those who speak Spanish as their second language, the total number of Spanish speakers is over 400 million.Within the United States, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language. According to the 2006 US Census, over 34 million people primarily speak Spanish at home.

Some more facts about Spanish usage in the United States:

  • Over half of the country’s Spanish speakers live in California, Texas, and Florida.
  • 19% percent of Hispanics in the U.S. speak only Spanish, 9% speak only English, 55% speak very limited English, and 17% are fully English-Spanish bilingual.
  • Almost all second-generation Hispanic Americans speak English and 50% speak Spanish at home.

It’s clear that over generations in the U.S., Hispanics shift from being Spanish-dominant to English-dominant, as explained in a previous blog post. But it also remains clear that as immigrants continue to arrive in the United States with little to no English-language proficiency, there remains a need in the marketplace for products and services to be marketed in Spanish.

Text Expansion in Spanish Translations

If you’ve ever listened to a Spanish-English interpreter, you may have wondered why the interpreter’s translation into English of a Spanish statement seemed so much shorter and the converse so much longer. What you’ve witnessed is contraction and expansion when translating between two languages.

The same thing occurs in written translations, and can affect how your final document appears if you don’t take text expansion into account when creating your layout. When translating from English into Spanish, the text may expand up to 20% and when working into Spanish from English, the text can contract up to 15%.

If you need a document with a fixed template or page count translated, such as a brochure or newsletter, not taking text expansion or contraction into account can make your best graphic design attempts fall apart in translation.

Here are a couple of tips to avoid large expanses of white space or overcrowding in the final translated document:

  • Use a larger font in English to account for text expansion into Spanish and a smaller font for Spanish to English translations.
  • Have a translation-friendly template ready with reduced point size and decreased space between paragraphs.
  • Avoid document styles such as nested lists, since what looks clean and crisp in English may look silly when translated into Spanish.

Spanish 101 or How Not to Embarrass Yourself Immediately

Anyone who has successfully learned a second language as an adult will tell you that it’s not easy, but the more risks you take, the more rewarding the results will be. Rather than looking at the Spanish language as a minefield of potential mistakes, look at it as a journey during which you will explore communicating in a new tongue. And your tongue and mind will certainly work overtime as you attempt to roll your r’s, formulate questions and thoughts, and understand what native speakers say.I always liken learning Spanish to child development: a baby first learns to crawl, then to stand upright, and then finally to walk. Don’t expect to be running a language marathon before you’ve even learned to roll over.

At the beginning, your attempts at communication may seem simplistic. This can be frustrating for adults who have been thinking and expressing complicated ideas in their native language for years, but it’s part of the learning process. Let’s start with a couple phrases that you might try to use that will definitely get a giggle.

You may feel self-conscious and timid when faced with a conversation with a real-live Spanish speaker and you want to let them know. Your first impulse is to share your embarrassment and nervousness so you carefully say “Estoy embarazado(a),” because you want to tell them you are embarrassed. There are several issues with this statement:

  • You tried to translate your English thought directly into Spanish.
  • You unintentionally used a false cognate, which is a word seemingly similar in English and Spanish, but actually has two very different meanings in each language.
  • You just told the listener that you were pregnant and not embarrassed.

What you should have said was either “Me da pena” “Me da vergüenza” (It gives me shame) or “Tengo pena” “Tengo vergüenza” (I feel shame).

When we have few words at our disposal to describe our feelings or we find ourselves making small talk with a new person, what topic do humans often resort to?

If you thought about the weather and our reaction to it, you hit upon the most common topic for idle chit-chat as well as the one with the most probability for mortification for a new Spanish-speaker.

Imagine that you’re sitting in a tropical garden with your new host family and you’re from a cold climate or that you’re sweating through a business meeting with new clients in a Latin American country close to the equator. You decide to open a dialogue about the heat, so you search your brain for a phrase to describe how you feel about the weather. Translating directly from English, you come up with “Estoy caliente.” Your companions either stare at you or hide their smiles behind their hands.

Why would they have this reaction when you simply mentioned the heat? Well, because in translating directly from English, you just told them that you were sexually aroused rather than warm. You should have said “Hace calor,” both of which express that the weather is warm and have no sexual connotations.

Also, beware of the possible sexual connotations implied in doing something as simple as ordering breakfast. You’re probably used to inquiring about whether a restaurant or your host has a particular item in stock by using the phrase “Do you have…?” Beware of using the phrase in Spanish when asking about eggs, as in “¿Tienes huevos?” or the more formal “¿Tiene usted huevos?” What you are asking the waiter or host in this direct translation is “Do you have testicles?,” since huevos is slang for testicles. You’re better off using the generic “¿Hay huevos?” if you’d like eggs.

Next week we’ll explore more common errors for Spanish language learners.

Voting en Español: The U.S. Presidential Race

With an estimated population of 44.3 million as of July 2006, Hispanics are the nation’s largest ethnic minority in the U.S. It’s no wonder that the three main presidential hopefuls (McCain, Obama, and Clinton until just recently) spend a lot of time and money courting this powerful demographic. The political realm is always convoluted and ever-changing, but throughout the presidential race, each contender has reached out to win over the Hispanic community in a variety of ways and to different degrees.

Each candidate has his or her webpage translated into Spanish and clicking through their online information and rhetoric shows varying levels of commitment to swaying the Hispanic vote in their favor.

Take, for instance, Obama’s Spanish language website. While all the navigational buttons are in Spanish, when you click on Temas (Issues), you are taken to a page in English. He also hasn’t updated his blog since the beginning of May.

Senator Hillary Clinton’s Spanish language website has a substantial amount of information and commentary in Spanish. But her navigational buttons are all in English and you must scroll down to the bottom to get to the Spanish information on the right sidebar.

John McCain’s website en Español has the most attractive, eye-catching layout and you can access the majority of his website in Spanish. Upon opening the website, a voice over from a former Cuban political prisoner presents support for McCain’s campaign.

Of course, the measure of a presidential candidate’s dedication to the Hispanic community can’t be solely determined by how well his or her website is translated. Each candidate has aired Spanish language TV and radio spots and both Clinton and Obama have released campaign songs in Spanish.

Follow these links for a sampling of the candidates’ multi-media Spanish outreach:

• John McCain’s first Spanish language ads.

• Barack Obama: Reggaeton campaign song; Viva Obama!; footage of a speech in Spanish.

• Hillary Rodham Clinton: song for Texas primaries; press release announcing ads, including a Spanish language one (note: has been removed from YouTube).

While each candidate purports to reaching out to the Hispanic community Obama seems to be getting the most press for his efforts. HispanicTips, which is a leading blog that compiles news of note for Latinos, is heavy on the Obama article links in their Election ’08 section. All three have web presences in Spanish, but what will really matter to the Latinos is the stance on issues of import that each takes.

Opening a Word 2007 files (docx) in an earlier version of Word.

“.docx” is the new file extension that Microsoft Word 2007 uses when it saves documents in the new default format.

To open Microsoft Office Word 2007 .docx or .docm files with Microsoft Office Word 2003, Word 2002, or Word 2000, you need to install the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for 2007 Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint File Formats and any necessary Office updates. By using the Compatibility Pack for the 2007 Office system, you can open, edit some items, and save Office Word 2007 documents in previous versions of Word.

Although you can open Office Word 2007 files in previous versions of Word, you may not be able to change some items that were created by using the new or enhanced features in Office Word 2007. For example, equations will become images that cannot be changed. You will find a list of document elements that are changed when they are opened in a previous version of Word here.

How do I create a Translation Memory (TM) in Trados?

When we are beginning a new project, we will need to create a new memory. You can also import memories that clients or other translators provide. Even if you already have a TM of your own you should always ask the client to supply the TM at the start of all projects because other people may have made updates to the TM.

1. From TRADOS Freelance, open Translator’s Workbench

2. To create a New (Empty) Memory, Select file, new and then choose the source and target language from the Create Translation Memory dialogue box. Click Create. If your translation is from English to Spanish, you should select English as your Source Language and Spanish as your Target Language.

3. Name your Translation Memory file, navigate to where you want to save your TM and click Save

A Translation Memory consists of five files:

TM is saved as a .tmw file, but in order to run it must have four supporting files. For instance, if you named your Translation Memory “Legal”, your files will be as follows:

  • Legal.iix
  • Legal.mdf
  • Legal.mtf
  • Legal.mwf

For more info on Translation Memory (TM) Tools, we suggest that you read our article Lowering Translation Costs: What a Translation Memory Can Do for You

Learning Spanish Online

The best method for learning Spanish is total immersion in the language. However, you might not have the time or the money to take an extended learning holiday to ramp up your Spanish skills. And while there are some excellent software programs and sets of CDs that you can purchase, the Internet has a fantastic array of free language learning resources. Below are links to and brief descriptions of a selection of Spanish learning tools.

Community

Palabea: The Speaking World and My Happy Planet are both community oriented sites. On each site, users create a profile and then are able to chat and practice with native speakers of their target language. Both are social networking sites, so the value in using them would come from communicating in Spanish with native speakers and others who are learning the language.

Spanish Slang

If you already speak some Spanish, there are two great sites to explore regional slang. Tu Babel is an online dictionary of slang and regionalisms created by the online community. The “angel” button is a nice feature, and will enable you to block entries that aren’t PG-rated. Jergas de Habla Hispana is another great, constantly growing resource for those seeking to understand the varied and colorful slang of the Spanish-speaking world. Both sites are completely in Spanish, and require a fairly good level of comprehension, but can be indispensable if you communicate with Spanish-speakers and want to really understand the words they use.

Tools for Translators

Translators use a multitude of tools to make their work easier and more efficient. However, many are quite costly so it’ll take time to acquire all of the resources necessary to make your work as fast and accurate as possible. Most translators use a combination of computer-based and hard copy resources. Of course, it depends on preference as to whether you primarily use computer or paper resources.Below you’ll find a brief description of certain tools that you should have on your wish list.

Dictionaries and Glossaries

I like the Gran Diccionario Oxford: Español-Ingles, Ingles-Español as a general, comprehensive dictionary.

Of course, a general Spanish-English dictionary can only get you so far when you are doing specialized translations in your field of expertise. In these cases, you will need a dictionary with specific entries for your field. There are many dictionaries which cover technical, engineering, and scientific terms.

A hot topic on the Proz Translators’ Resources forum is glossaries. While the forum covers all language pairs, translators can find links to extensive glossaries for specific language pairs and post a query if they can’t find information about the glossary they need.

But both dictionaries and glossaries fall short when a translator needs to know how to translate a colloquial phrase. Word Reference has an active forum that you can visit if you are working with a phrase whose translation eludes you. The search function will lead you to not only a translation of the word, but links to previous forum discussions about related phrases. If you don’t find the answer you need, a posted question will be answered by an active community of translators and linguaphiles.

If you prefer to store your tools on your computer, many dictionaries have a CD ROM version for you to purchase.

Targeting different Spanish-Speaking Audiences Through Translation

Last month, Transpanish posted an article about using Neutral Spanish to reach the widest possible Spanish-speaking audience. Those who translate documents into neutral or standard Spanish strive to remove any vocabulary or markers that would identify the text with a specific region where Spanish is spoken. Using neutral Spanish is useful when your document will get distributed in more than one country.

But if your goal is to market a product or spread your message in the U.S., you may want to consider a more tightly targeted translation. Rather than trying to reach all Spanish-speakers in the U.S., you should work with your translation agency to define the demographic you want to reach so as to make your message more potent.
Are you selling real estate to educated immigrants in Florida? Promoting a new cell phone plan to young urban Puerto Ricans in New York? Or informing first-generation Mexican immigrants in the Southwest of the importance of prenatal care?

All of these groups speak Spanish with a different vocabulary, different idioms, and slightly different speech patterns. The short, snappy sentences that will sell a cell phone plan to young Puerto Ricans may turn off older immigrants from South America. The tone that gets your business new customers looking to retire will be too stuffy for the younger crowd.

Of course, attention to your audience is always important in any kind of writing. When you’re not only trying to target your intended audience, but also trying to make sure that the target text is faithful to the source, the expertise of your translation agency becomes even more critical. This is especially true if you don’t speak or understand Spanish, as you have to completely trust that the contracted agency has the knowledge necessary to create a translation that targets your specific demographic.

Related Articles
Researching Neutral Spanish Terms and Dialect-Specific Terms
Reaching Your Spanish-Speaking Audience with Global Translations
The Use of Neutral Spanish for the U.S. Hispanic Market