Translating Icelandic names to preserve language

Parents in Iceland must choose from a list of 1,853 female and 1,712 male names which are sanctioned by the Icelandic authorities. If the parents intend to opt for something more adventurous they must apply for permission from the Icelandic Naming Committee. The list was created under a 1996 Act intended to preserve the Icelandic language. Names are approved only if they can be conjugated in Icelandic, and must be “written in accordance with the ordinary rules of Icelandic orthography”, according to the law. Where a name successfully translates from Icelandic to English the child has the right to be officially known by his/ her given name, as opposed to featuring the name “Girl”  / “Boy” which otherwise would be listed in their passport ! (Thanks to the Daily Telegraph 28/6/14 for this article)

Translation of street signs will make it easier for business travel to Japan

English speakers in Japan will find it easier to navigate their way around the country, now that the transport ministry has mandated that street signs be translated into English.

In response to visitor complaints of poor, inconsistent or the complete absence of translations, the Japanese Government has made it mandatory for signs to include English words for important reference points.

Words like station, airport, city hall, hospital and river, for example, will be written out in English, reports The Japan Times.

Likewise, instead of relying on the catch-all phrase dori, streets will be identified as avenue, street or boulevard for clarification.

The exception to the rule will be the word onsen, the Japanese word for hot springs, which will remain unchanged as the Japanese Government figures it’s a universal word understood by all.

Translations in multiple languages are also being considered for museums, parks, tourist sites and public transportation. (Thanks to AFP Relaxnews (The Star Online) for this article)


Ways to avoid gender problems with business translation

One of the most important aspects and yet the simplest of tasks when working on a business translation is to ensure that any gender specified in the translation is correct. There can be nothing more insulting in some cultures in getting the title and gender wrong and it can be extremely difficult working with foreign names.

One way to avoid gender problems is not to use machine translation (MT) as this translation platform doesn’t understand gender and there is a statistical bias towards male nouns and verbs in translation. The examples of this can be seen in stereotypes in that professor, doctor, engineer and journalist are translated into male form whereas nurse and teacher into female form. Some of the reasons for this is that MT looks at; “ the most frequent translation of word combinations”; “only uses individual sentences for context and not neighbouring sentences”; “looks up past translations which historically have been the male form”, etc.  A peer-review case study published in 2013 by Schiebinger further illustrates where MT platforms really trips up!

MT has its place and we would only recommend this for understanding the gist of a translation however based on the research above do you actually know who you are communicating with!


Technical translation highlights differences between EU countries

We have worked on numerous technical translations for agrochemical labels. It’s apparent that although EU countries are working towards the same legislation there are variances in how the chemicals are used within each country as evident from the translated labels we produced.

This has been highlighted in a recent project where a label for an agrochemical product was translated from 13 EU languages into English. The result was 13 different English labels for the same chemical product, each label highlighting the uses and requirements for each specific country.

Advantages of having all labels in one language is not only to highlight the differences between EU countries but also as a central controlled databImage2ase so that each chemical can be easily accessible when future legislative changes are required to a product.

Translation of agreements and contracts

If you’re signing an agreement or contract that’s been translated by your Client it would be in your best interest to have the translation proofread before signing. There have been occasions where the ‘odd’ sentence has been ‘added’ or ‘removed’ in the translated text. A level of due diligence should be taken to ensure that the translated version is a ‘true copy of the original text’ especially when stated in the contract that the translated version prevails.

New EU labelling regulations for food labels.

From December 2014, there are new EU labelling regulations for food labels. One of our clients, who are food   manufacturers, has already been proactive in requesting the necessary changes. These needed to be translated into 11 languages for their export countries.  Overall a straight forward process, we received one email from the client highlighting the changes required for the food labels. Within 48 hours we returned one email attaching 11 translated, proofread and certified documents which incorporated all the changes to meet the new legislation.

What you need to know about tendering in Bulgaria.

We recently translated a tender into Bulgarian for a UK company which was required for the Bulgarian Ministry. One of the important lessons we learnt is that the Bulgarian Ministry required all certificates of personnel involved in the project had to have their certificates etc ., certified by a Bulgarian translation company who were on the Ministry translators database.  The implications of this is that our client thought that they would have to have the complete tender translated in Bulgaria. This wasn’t necessary. We were able to work very closely with the client in the UK as well as work with a partner translation company in Bulgaria. The only consideration to be taken into account is the extra few days in getting the work certified and returned to the UK to be enclosed with the final tender documents.

Technical Translation Services

As the name suggests a Technical Translation Service concerns itself with the business of translating documents or articles that have a technical content – for example user manuals, guides of some kind or texts that convey scientific or technological information.

In order to be considered a competent technical translator not only must he/she have a thorough working knowledge of both the source language and the target language but also have a high level of subject knowledge of the area concerned as well as an understanding of writing conventions and terminology. Technical translation is often described as a mixture of art and science as it often involves the both the linguistic and aesthetic aspects of a language effectively combined.

One recurring feature of technical translation is that it is often formulaic and repetitive in nature – for example where the content has a legal or engineering dimension. As a consequence translators often use some kind of computer assisted translation software known collectively as ‘machine translators’ to help them in their task. They fall into 2 main categories – transfer based and data driven systems.

Transfer based systems are built by linguists and operate by following the grammar and other rules of the source and target language. They are very expensive to develop but form the majority of the commercially available machine translators.

Data driven machine translators work by collecting massive amounts of previously translated bits of information and using these in order to identify matches between the source language and the target language. This method is less expensive to develop but is also generally less accurate. Tests have been conducted on the effectiveness of these various systems and the conclusion seems to be that where machine assisted translation tools are coupled with a degree of human interaction the results are significantly better thus confirming the importance of the role of the technical translator even in this process.

Technical translation is not just about converting one language to another. Just as important are how the cultural features of a language are communicated. Different cultures can exhibit significant differences in the way specific concepts or ideas are communicated. For example a study into a commonly used document ‘The UN Declaration of Human Rights’ showed that when translated into 7 different languages each version although similar in content nevertheless revealed cultural nuances in each case – words such as ‘people’, ‘man’, ‘individual ‘had different levels of importance attached to them relative to other words in the target language and consequently delivered a subtly different message to the reader in each case. Spotting these differences and compensating for them is crucial to the work of any competent translator. Researchers have toyed with the idea of developing a universal writing style in order to tackle this issue but it has been shown to be fraught with problems and probably not realisable.

Others have proposed the use of English as the primary means of communicating amongst multi lingual cultures across the globe – making English the ‘Lingua Franca’ or common world language but this has implications for the field of technical translation. Those translators for whom English is their native tongue have been seen to often adopt a ‘unilateral’ stance when translating to and from English. In other words the English message becomes the main focus of the translation and biases begin to appear in the translation as a result. Another issue concerns the idea of ‘untranslatable’ words. In Chinese for example there are words which have no equivalent in many European languages and can therefore not be translated and even amongst European cultures the same phenomenon can be seen to exist – the German word ‘shadenfreude’ – which means the joy someone may feel at witnessing the misfortune of another, has no equivalent in the English language. When confronted with untranslatable words, one research study suggested that the translators simply avoided using them leading to potential inaccuracies and misinformation in the final text. This could have potentially serious repercussions when translating for example, documents which include a safety or warning component as part of their message.

Packaged marketing and multi-lingual translation service

TW Languages in partnership with Tetra Marketing provides a ‘packaged marketing and multi-lingual translation service’ for clients who are new to exporting. Although Tetra is our client we not only have a customer and supplier relationship but have formed a partnership.

Both companies provide different services, there’s no duplication of work and we have synergies in providing a service to organisations looking to develop their business overseas. TW Languages provides multi-lingual translations for technical documentation and Tetra Marketing works on strategic marketing.

In working as a partnership there is an increase in the level of skills and capabilities together with trust and understanding. This can be seen in a recent case study where we had a common aim to design, translate, print and distribute globally a corporate brochure from English into Chinese, Russian, French and Spanish, within a tight deadline of 5 days. Successfully achieved.

UKTI Language and Culture workshop – selecting a translation company

During Export week TW Languages presented a UKTI language and culture workshop, held at the East Lancashire International Trade Club. An excellent venue with highly professional and fantastic support staff. Highly recommended.

The aims of the UKTI workshop was based around exporting and looking at ‘how to select a translation company’.

I gave a brief overview of website Internationalisation with consideration for: localisation, SEOs, meta tags, language based website, country specific website, hosting, ISP, overseas search engines etc. As a translation company we only get involved with a small element of the website development i.e. translation unless we get asked to do more. We hope the client or the website designer has considered all the other issues as this is within their remit!

At the workshop we had some interesting discussion and analysis on different websites i.e. high development cost websites achieving a ROI. Other websites developed for different purposes hence low cost and no ROI. We were able to review a German website which TW Languages translated into English (we didn’t translate the other languages) There are a few pointers to show that this originated as a German site.

Moving on to finding a translation company: recommendations, local chamber members, members of the ATC,, local search engines etc.

Selection can be quite complex as there are numerous players in the market and it’s difficult to differentiate between each: single translator, bi-lingual translator, multi-lingual translation company with or without in-house translators, mid-size to corporates, translation companies who also develop translation software etc. Translation companies who specialised in technical translations, certified translations etc.

If I’m selecting a supplier I want to know who they are, where they live, a telephone number! the ‘about us’ on the website is always important for me as I like to know about the company. UK registered, local company etc.

For a translation company the questions are: What documents do they translate? How do they translate – human or machine? Translation and proofreading or is proofreading at an extra cost? Quality measures? Who do they use to translate, native speakers in the target country? etc.

All of these questions should answered together with a clear and transparent quotation knowing exactly what the costs to do the translation include.

If you receive a quote and its unclear return to the supplier for explanation.

Trust – once you receive a translation, unless you know the language or get this checked there has to be complete trust in the work you’ve receive. If in doubt go back to the translation company.