Stephen in Seville (in Spanish)

Learning Spanish can be fun and very enjoyable if you try to mix with local people. It will enhance your holiday to any Spanish speaking part of the world. Stephen is one of my students (Braulio Ramos). He has been studying Spanish for a little less than a year. He visited Seville with his wife and met Joaquin (first video). Joaquin showed them Seville and took them to places the tourists never see, including a flamenco show for local people. Stephen and his wife enjoyed it so much, they returned to Seville and Stephen interviewed Joaquin in Spanish.   Video of Stephen’s first visit to Spain, after just a few lessons.   Second visit, interviewing Joaquin in...

Read More

Mistranslations may be funny, but damage your reputation

At a recent seminar for an MA degree in translation at University of Salford, Manchester, I asked the students to explain how the following mistranslations would be interpreted by potential customers: In a Bangkok dry cleaners: Drop your trousers here for best results Outside a Hong Kong dress shop: Ladies have fits upstairs Although these caused great hilarity for the students, who immediately appreciated that the translations suffered from being more literal than grammatically correct, understanding how the target language of a translation is understood by native speakers requires nuance only gained from experience. So why do people treat translations so lightly, and what are the consequences? Clearly, when you don’t understand how your translation will be read by the target audience you don’t give the translation as much attention as you should. The consequences though are more serious than just causing amusement, as the quality of your products and services are called into question. The examples above are just small samples of translations found by people while on holiday. They contain most of the right elements, but they are certainly not right, rather like the famous television sketch says “all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order”. What impact would such sloppy translation have if included in your company brochures, documents, leaflets or manuals? To have your customers point out the problems with your translation such as spelling and grammatical errors will leave them with an impression of lacking professionalism. They may well think you are taking on tasks beyond your capabilities, thinking that they are behaving as Del Boys. The image on the left shows an English owned shop selling to Spanish natives, where the English is clear. However, for Spanish customers they get to read ‘Plug socket of the Hotel Furniture’ which is a mistranslation of the word outlet, compounded by grammatical errors. David Jason (Del Boy Trotter) would be proud of this, but if you don’t want to be seen as a Wide Boy, you should get a proper translation done. Good quality translation requires a comprehensive knowledge of the source language in general, but also of particular trade of professional nuances that alter general meanings. Having a nuanced understanding of the target language is by far the most important aspect of translation and is the area where a translation becomes a gaff. Translators who have a native understanding of the target...

Read More

Translation Aid Software

Can Computer Aided Translation (CAT) Software and other tools replace the human translator?  The development within the translation industry of computer aided translation (CAT) software tools, is claimed by some as wonderful, while others with experience of it think otherwise. I belong to the latter group, those who see the limitations which should be of concern to the final user or customer! Translation aid software and CAT tools need a human to operate them. These products are database dependant whilst language is a living thing and is evolving all the time. A document translated today may be different from a similar document translated the previous year due to language changes and other relevant factors. For the translator these tools, therefore, present a number of challenges that can seriously affect the quality of the final translation, one of them is the fact that any mistakes introduced will be replicated by the database because machines do not  recognize mistakes and will keep on repeating the error or errors. This is a potentially serious problem, if it is not seen and corrected promptly, the resultant document could end up full of errors. Correcting a database can cause problems and errors can be introduced, if not done properly, which will affect the quality of the final translation. A further problem faced by the translator is that generally these software programs present material for translation in segments, a segment can be from one full stop to another, these segments vary in size and present a before and after context problem, this is serious and will probably affect the quality of the final translation and usually does with negative results. It is difficult, I would say impossible, to translate with accuracy without considering before and after context. Another factor to consider is; the software and computer do not recognize and are not able to deal with nuances and subtle changes that will affect the accuracy of the translation itself (please see the posting “Translations have consequences”). The final translation itself will resemble a series of statements without correlation to each other. The machine is no match for the human brain!!!  I have tried translation aid software myself, just in case, and found it defective in many areas, including the conversion back to the original format, when some unusual changes are introduced by the software. A major problem for the professional translator is that agencies and companies who use these software programs will...

Read More