Reaching Your Spanish-Speaking Audience with Global Translations

Your business wants to target Spanish-speakers residing in the United States, and the best way to do this is to have your materials translated into Spanish. So you contract a translation agency to provide you with an effective translation. Simple, right? But your publicity materials and product descriptions are meant to be read by Spanish-speakers all over the country. You want your message to be understood by educated Cubans in Miami, bicultural and bilingual New York Puerto Ricans, and first-generation Mexican immigrants. Each of these groups has a distinct accent, vocabulary, and set of regional phrases.

How can one translation impact all of these groups? Some translation agencies provide translations into what the industry calls neutral, standard, or universal Spanish translations. Put into simple terms, these translations are meant to be understood by the widest range of Spanish speakers possible, and are mostly free of regionalisms and any marker that distinguishes word usage as being from a specific country.

Some caveats about “neutral” or “standard” Spanish:

• Many translators argue that there is no truly neutral Spanish, but rather only an attempt to make written material as widely understood as possible.

• By trying to reach every segment of the Hispanic demographic, you may end up with a diluted message (a conversation with your translation agency about whether to use a global versus local translation would avoid this situation).

• Because Spanish-speakers are so linguistically diverse, there are some English words that have no universally understood Spanish equivalent (again, a good translation agency will be able to produce a document that will be understood by most Spanish speakers).

• Neutral Spanish is better suited for certain types of translations such as technical or industry-specific ones in which the vocabulary is more uniform.

• Neutral Spanish may not be suited for a message involving jokes or double-entendres. A quip that would get a chuckle from a Colombian businessperson may leave a Mexican farm worker scratching his head, thus possibly alienating a potential customer.

A good translation agency will be able to guide you through the process of deciding whether a neutral translation is the most effective way to transmit your message. If your target audience is US, the best option is to translate into Neutral Spanish.


Translation Studies Degrees: Giving Yourself an Advantage

While the United States has no minimum educational requirements to be a translator, many freelance translators have undergraduate degrees in a foreign language (their source language) combined with extensive coursework in a particular discipline.  Those who want to further their understanding of translation theory and practices may decide to continue their education with either a Certificate in Translation Studies or a Master’s in Translation Studies.  Below is a sampling of undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs in Translation Studies.

Institute for Applied Linguistics (IAL) at Kent State University

As noted on the school’s website, the IAL is the country’s only comprehensive B.S. to Ph.D. program and offers a Bachelor’s of Science in Translation, a Master’s in Translation, and a Ph.D. in Translation Studies.  The IAL provides training and coursework in five language pairs, including Spanish.  For more information about the IAL at Kent State, click here.

Marygrove College

Marygrove College, located in Detroit, offers a Certificate Program in Modern Language Translation.  The year-long (attending full time) certificate program is designed to train professionals to work as translators and train them for the American Translators Association certification.  Click here for contact information, admissions requirements, and program requirements. 

Making Safety a Priority for All Employees: How Translations Can Help

Some sobering statistics about workplace safety for Latinos in the U.S.:

• In 2006, there were nearly 1,000 Latino workplace related deaths in the U.S. (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)

• Latino workers’ fatality rate was 21 percent higher than all workers in 2006 (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)

• More than one out of three Latinos killed on the job worked in a construction related field.

The causes behind these stats are complex, but if your company has many limited-English speaking workers, the first step in ensuring the safety and productivity of your workers is to provide safety information in your workers’ native language. This is especially true in the construction, transportation, and manufacturing sectors where it’s common to find English-speaking supervisors and Spanish-speaking workers. While the latter group may speak enough English to get by, their English reading skills may not be strong enough to understand complicated safety procedures with technical vocabulary.

The Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that companies with safety training provide the information in the language that your workers understand. Getting this required information translated into Spanish is a good opportunity to form an ongoing relationship with a translation agency that will be able to provide translations that are culturally and educationally appropriate.

If your English safety materials are clear, concise, and accompanied by graphics, your chosen translation agency will be able to create Spanish safety materials for your Hispanic workers that are just as effective as the originals.

Points to keep in mind when preparing safety documents for translation and choosing a translation agency:

• Over 40 percent of Latinos living in the U.S. do not have a high school diploma (2005 American Community Survey) so make sure that the original safety material is at an appropriate grade level so that the agency can faithfully translate both the meaning and style.

• Spanish is an extremely diverse language, and what Puerto Rican workers understand may be lost on Central American workers, so make sure that you are aware of the country of origin of your employees so as to provide the most widely-understood translation.

• Also keep in mind when choosing your translation agency that Spanish has many varieties and nuances and make sure that the agency you choose employs translators who are knowledgeable about the regional variations and language subtleties.

• A good option is to translate into Neutral Spanish which will be accepted and understood by the entire Spanish-Speaking population.

There are many cultural and political factors beyond the scope of this article that make workplace safety such a critical issue for those who employ Latinos, but working with a qualified translation agency to provide materials in Spanish is the first step in ensuring that your employees follow safety guidelines.

Related Article
Hispanic Employees in the Workplace

Starting Out as a Freelance Translator – Second Part

Read the first part of this article

Honing Your Skills Through Education

Even the most seasoned translators benefit from continuing their educations, and you should consider studying at the university level either towards your Master’s or even a certificate program for translators.

New York University-SPCE offers a certificate in various language pairs entirely online (you may also attend courses onsite).

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst offers a Master’s in Translation Studies, but does not offer an online option.

In the Getting Established section of ProZ’s forums, you can find ongoing rousing discussions about whether a translator needs an advanced degree or if language skills and specialized knowledge suffice. If you don’t live near a university with a translation studies program or NYU doesn’t offer your language pair, the ProZ forum provides sound suggestions for self-study.

Building Your Network

Often freelance translators acquire work through a combination of using translation agencies and finding jobs on their own. Translation agencies provide a level of convenience and quality control for clients that an independent freelancer cannot, especially once starting out. Translation agencies will ask you for a test translation before placing you on their roster and contacting you for jobs. While contacting agencies is a worthwhile pursuit, working with one will not guarantee steady work until you’ve established yourself as a translator able to produce quality documents.

Although the United States has no universal certification requirement for translators, the largest translation association is the American Translators Association. By joining the ATA, you can increase your networking opportunities through conferences and professional development seminars, work towards a certification in one of 27 language pairs, and join local groups to assist you with marketing and support services.

Concluding Points

To successfully break into the freelance translation world, you will need to utilize various strategies at once. No one particular strategy will be able to guarantee the start of a thriving freelance career. Rather, you can work towards becoming a translator by attempting all of the strategies included here: working pro bono to gain clips, experience, and references; developing your skills either through formal education or self-study; applying to both local and remote translation agencies; and joining professional organizations.

Starting Out as a Freelance Translator – First Part

First Considerations

Many bilingual or multilingual people have considered embarking on a career as a freelance translator. But simply speaking and reading in two or more languages does not mean that you will be able to successfully work as a translator. Freelance translators have near native competency in their source language and native competency in the target language. The field of translation requires that you not only be able to understand and write two languages, but also that you be able to effectively translate the nuances and subtleties of the source language into a target language document of equal tone, meaning, and quality.

Most freelance translators also have from one to several areas of specialized knowledge and translate documents in those areas, often gained as an undergraduate. While translators make work outside their specialized subject areas, most become experts in just one or a couple of fields.

If you have strong language skills and are adept at manipulating text from one language to another, you may be ready to explore the translation field. Below you’ll find practical tips to guide you as you start to work towards becoming a freelance translator.

Gaining Experience

In today’s multicultural world, the competition is strong for translation jobs. It can be difficult to break into the freelance translation world, especially when you have little formal translation experience and you are up against translators who have been in the business for years.

How can you get the experience necessary to start applying for freelance translation jobs? One of the best ways to start freelancing is to donate your time to a nonprofit agency whose work you admire and whose cause you champion. You may already have volunteered for an organization such as this in another capacity or perhaps you have simply donated money to a cause.

Below are a couple of links where you can look for nonprofit translating opportunities:

Translations for Progress

UNV Volunteering

Volunteer Match

Also, look to your community for places that you are already involved with and may benefit from your translation services. If your church has a large bilingual population you could offer to translate its newsletter. Your children’s school may need help translating flyers or letters to parents into your native language. Perhaps a community or neighborhood organization you work with wants to do outreach in other languages, and you could provide no-cost translations for them.

Volunteering your time as a translator will benefit both you and the organization by:

• Giving you clips to provide to future prospective employers
• Providing you with demonstrable translation experience

Read the second part of this article.

Services a Translation Company May Offer – Second Part

In our last week’s post, we discussed some services a translation company may offer:

Certified Translations
Back Translations

In this post, we will review other services such as Proofreading, Interpreting and DTP.

Proofreading – a quality assurance check where the final translation is verified against the source document

• Check for completion, formatting, the integrity of non-translatable text, etc.
• Proofreading should not involve re-translation, if there is a serious problem with quality in the translation the translator and editor should be notified.
• Proofreading can take place multiple times in a project: for instance, pre-DTP and post-DTP.

Typesetting/Desktop Publishing (DTP) – translation is laid out in client’s source layout file to create a formatted translation that matches the source as closely as possible.

• The translation will be typeset in the client supplied application (e.g. Quark, InDesign, FrameMaker, PageMaker, etc.)
• Since translations can contract or expand depending on the language (in general, a Spanish document will be twenty percent longer than its English counterpart), it is important to note that typesetting may need to modify the source file styles – though the goal should always be to match the original format as closely as possible.

Web site localization – translation and localization of Web sites. Localization adapts the material to be culturally appropriate and relevant for the target country/culture. Re-engineering of the site and thorough testing are required. Also, globalization and internationalization

Glossary creation, Translation Memory (TM) – clients may request the creation of glossaries for them, but they may prefer the translation memory from CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools.

• Client’s could request the TMs for their internal use, but more often they will rely on the translator or translation company to update and keep the TM current for use on all their projects.
• Glossary creation, though required less by clients, can still be useful when working on large translation projects that are only available in hardcopy.
• CAT tools require files to be prepared for appropriate use. These services are provided to standardize terminology and style for an on-going client. They can also reduce costs, based on leveraging previously translated material from the TM.

Interpreting – some clients don’t have documents to translate, but they need to someone to translate orally.

• Interpreting may be requested for a corporate meeting, a legal deposition, or for medical purposes when the patient speaks a different language than the doctor, etc.

There are two types of interpreting:

• Simultaneous: interpreters use special equipment and interpret in as close to “real” time as they can, beginning shortly after the speaker starts and staying as close to the speaker time wise, as possible
• Consecutive: the speaker and the interpreter trade off speaking with the speaker pausing every few minutes or after a full idea to allow the interpreter to do his/her work

Services a Translation Company May Offer – First Part

Bilingual Blogging: How Translators Can Help

If your company has a web presence, your marketing strategy most likely includes a blog touting your product or service.  But if your blog is only in English, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to expand your sales by reaching out to the Hispanic Community. What better way to target this demographic with enormous purchasing power than having your blog translated into Spanish?   You may already have your website available in multiple languages and perhaps have employees who can provide customer service in Spanish, but by translating your blog, you can increase Latino buy-in.  This is especially true if your blog includes value-added information such as news about your product or industry, tips, or commentary.   Translating a blog into Spanish isn’t as simple as cutting and pasting the published text into an automatic translation website, as explained in this blog post.  Doing this will most likely alienate and confuse the exact community you would like to target.   Because a blog is always a work in progress, most clients without a bilingual writing staff would be well-served by contracting this work out.  A good blog with a lot of traffic and comments needs to be consistently updated and the translation should be right behind the original English-language postings.   By contracting blog translation out to a translation agency, your company will ensure that the message and content of each post is just as effective as the English-language original.   Keep in mind some questions to consider as you plan to launch a blog in two languages: 

  • Should the English-language blog simply be translated into Spanish and left as is?
  • Should the translator also translate the user-generated comments on the Spanish language blog, and if so, what are the logistics of doing so?
  • Is it best to have two separate communities with separate sets of comments for the ease of translating?
  • If so, will the community created at the English blog lose out on the benefits of the comments at the Spanish blog and vice versa?

 There is no right or wrong answer to these considerations especially in the relatively new world of blogging.  When your company decides to actively reach out to the Hispanic community through dual-language blogging, a translation agency with experience in Spanish Translations will be able to offer guidance on how to navigate the above questions. Transpanish is offering 15% discount on Blog Translations. Offer expires on April 1st, 2008.  

Services a translation company may offer – First Part

The services a translation company may offer vary greatly from client to client and from project to project. Every day, clients are renovating their global identity and hence their needs are constantly evolving. In addition, technical and industry advances generate new standards with which translation clients and translation service providers must strive to stay caught up with.

Assignments differ in size and difficulty: from a single birth certificate of less than 100 words, to legal documents that a law company needs for litigation, to an advertising brochure for a home appliance to be marketed to Spanish speakers in the U.S., to website localization for a multinational firm.

These projects will require tailored project plans and work flows. However, they will all include elements from the following services:

Translation and Editing- a source document is translated and edited into another language.

• Usually one translator and one editor work together as a team, with the translator finalizing the document after reviewing the editor’s tracked changes.
• Most translation agencies offer translation, editing and proofreading when quoting translation rates.

Translation Only – a source document is translated only.

• Clients may request this if they need to translate a document for informational purposes only; other customers may have in-house or in-country resources to edit or proofread the translation.

Project Management in the Translation Industry

Project Management is a fast-growing field and it is tailored differently for specific industries.

A translation Project Manager (PM) is responsible for the overall coordination of translation-related projects for their clients. The objective of a translation Project Manager is to be the bridge that connects the client’s needs with the vendors that are best prepared for the project. Translation Project Managers establish the proper steps and procedures for the translation process, starting with the initial project analysis and developing the project plan, to contracting and overseeing the appropriate team members.

Translation Project Manager

The PM must be focused on the process and on the client’s requirements in order to successfully complete the assignment. It is essential to take into account that the role of a translation Project Manager is not to translate. Language knowledge and translation experience is advantageous as this information helps the PM to better understand the process, and educate and manage the client. Translation Project Managers outsource most of the translation work to qualified freelance linguists/translators.

The ideal translation PM needs to be comfortable multi-tasking and must be attentive to all the details of a project. They should have the following traits:

– Organized
– Able to multi-task, solve problems and prioritize
– Detail-oriented
– Dedicated and perceptive
– Should be able to work under pressure and meet deadlines
– Good team player with a positive attitude, determination, and strong management skills
– Should be able to lead and make decisions for the team
– Excellent communication skills with good negotiation skills
– Should be able to consult with clients, identify requirements, and inform technical information clearly
– Background in the translation and localization industry

Lowering Translation Costs: What a Translation Memory Can Do for You

Translation memory tools (TM) aid human translators in producing translations through the use of software-based databases. Many translation agencies use Trados, which allows translators to take advantage of repetition throughout the document to make translation quicker and more effective.

Documents and projects which would be good candidates for use of TM tools include those that are:

• Highly repetitive
• Technical in nature
• Large-volume translations
• Newer versions of previously translated materials

TM databases are continually growing entities which work best the more the translator uses them. Because all previous translations are stored in the software, any time a phrase or sentence recurs in a text, the TM tool produces either a 100% match or a “fuzzy” match (one that is close but not exact). The translator can either accept the match or manually translate the phrase or sentence.

Trados, one of the most popular TM tools, is especially effective if a document has many repetitions. Trados is also useful in creating consistency among various translations with similar language and phrasing. If the client has a large volume translation that many different translators will work on, using Trados also allows for consistency among the sections that each is translating.