Once upon a time we had languages, but no dictionaries or other resources to help us with understanding a text or learning a language. A nightmare situation for translation by today’s standards.
We should give thanks to those pioneers who made improvements to the quality of translation through their efforts to create dictionaries. One such person was Johannes Rebmann (1820-1876) who compiled the first Chichewa / Chinyanja dictionary. It is difficult to imagine the effort that this accomplishment took and so I am pleased to offer a little recognistion in this blog.
Approximately 7 to 8 million people speak Chichewa. Chichewa is an official national language, along with English, in Malawi. It is a Bantu language and is also spoken in Zambia and Mozambique, where the language is known as Chinyanja and Zimbabwe.
A biography of Johannes Rebmann is now available ‘Johannes Rebmann: A Servant of God in Africa before the Rise of Western Colonialism’.
August 9, 2011 | Language Translation | No Comments »
The BBC have aired a series ‘Mark & Olly: Living with the Machigenga’ on their international channels, but have received criticism from anthropologists regarding the translations for the subtitles. The series shows the presenters adjusting to life with an Amazonian tribe, but it appears the series did not give a true account and that subtitles were falsely translated and scenes staged.
Examples of subtitle issues are as follows:
Subtitle – ‘We use arrows to kill outsiders who threaten us.’
Corrected Translation – ‘You come from far away where lots of gringos live.’
Subtitle – ‘they’re playing instead of rowing’
Corrected Translation – ‘They’re going to die.’
Subtitle – ‘if you were Colonistas he would have tied you up’
Corrected Translation – ‘I thought you were a herd of wild boar’
The above subtitles clearly mislead the audience in their impression of the tribe and the reality of the situation.
In addition, an authority on the Machigenga tribe said that, despite having spent 35 years living in their villages, he had never seen the ‘wild pig dance’ featured in the programme. This has lead experts to believe that many scenes had been ‘staged’.
It is now reported that subsequently Ron Snell, who grew up with the Matsigenka and is fluent in their language, has met with the translator and the village chief and that it was confirmed that some parts had been staged. The translator said they had become disillusioned with the project but needed the money. They are now ‘ashamed and embarrassed’ about their involvement.
However, this issue also undermines the efforts of the presenters. Any experienced translator will appreciate the difficulties a person faces when they live in a new country, but living with a tribe in the Amazon is in another league! For this reason we should hope that a correct translation of the subtitles can be made and that the staged scenes can be edited out. Surely the reality of the situation will be interesting enough…….and better than watching a boring reality TV show with some people stuck in a house facing made up challenges?
August 4, 2011 | Language Translation | No Comments »
ASAP – As Soon As Possible indicates that the person needs it fast. It seems that this is added to every request in the modern world, but especially so when it comes to language translation services.
However, ASAP can cover a multitude of situations and may also be dependant on the clients level of understanding of the process. For example, ASAP could mean ‘a total realistic timescale’, ‘a totally unrealistic timescale’ or ‘a very easy deadline’. This is why ASAP must also equal dialogue between the translation service provider and the client.
This dialogue will be to: 1) understand the clients circumstances. In some cases they have also been asked ‘ASAP’ and they will also need to define this with the person who gave them the request.
2) communicate the projects translation time requirements.
3) Considering (1) and (2) a deadline and solution will then need to be agreed.
This step/dialogue is important as you are guessing until you have a deadline or better understanding of the actual requirements. The client is guessing when they get it back – but it will be as soon as possible. You are guessing when they need the translation – but you are assuming that your ‘ASAP’ is going to be agreeable. This is gambling with assumptions.
So……..ASAP in language translation may still mean ‘As Soon As Possible’ but it also means dialogue to avoid confusion.
August 3, 2011 | Language Translation | No Comments »
Recently I travelled through Brussels airport and the choice of imagery on the site of a vending machine caught my eye. It was not the translation of an advertisement, but rather the images and how they might be understood by the viewer.
If I think of an advertisement for a fruit flavoured drink I generally expect to see pictures or images of fruit or tropical settings. If it is a drink focused on sports I might expect to see pictures of runners and cyclists. On this occasion they presented an image of a small boy urinating while standing on top of a bottle!
What might the viewer think or believe? That the drink contains pee?
However, it is all about the location. These vending machines were placed in Brussels Airport and one of the most famous landmarks is a statue named the ‘Manneken pis’.
With this knowledge we can understand that this is imagery of Brussels landmarks and that we might expect the Eiffel tower on equivalent vending machine in Paris. However, I know Brussels pretty well and have seen the statue, but I was still amazed by the choice and wondered if they might not have at least excluded the swish of pee hitting the bottle. I suspect that they would not use such imagery for a swimming pool!
So I also wonder if the choice of imagery included an intentional shock element. Lady Ga Ga might be able to sing and create a catchy song, but how much of her success is down to her continuous efforts to shock us? I believe so as if the choice was only based on landmarks then where is the Atomium?
I should also add that I was only transferring through the airport and many travellers may therefore not know about Brussels attractions and the statue. Many might just see a boy standing on a bottle have a pee.
These images show how difficult and subtle advertising translation can be. We must think outside the box, how the translation might be perceived and if the correct translation might not be appreciated by the target market. We also enter further into the arena of stylistic choice; where one viewer might think that the Nike logo ‘Just do it’ is a little too suggestive even though it has been very successful.
So what do you think? Did this choice of advert increase your thirst and make you want to buy a drink? I can say that I did not even buy a coffee in the airport (which might have been by coincidence) and wonder if drink sales have changed on the vending machines or the airport as a whole.
June 15, 2011 | Language Translation | 1 Comment »
I am pleased to announce that we have just updated the list of Italian recipes with 12 new dishes. Each recipe was written originally in Italian and then an English translation was provided. We will also have added some tips.
The recipes are all good and include such Italian dishes as ‘Sgombro in salsa aramatico’ or ‘Mackerel in an aromatic sauce’. However they can also be useful for those looking to improve their language skills. Cooking is a part of life and so terms with practical applications are used.
So, check out our Italian recipes, in Italian or the English translation, and please let us have some feedback.
June 10, 2011 | Business Translation | No Comments »
Thousands of languages and dialects are spoken in the world today, but this number is declining each month. Local dialects and languages are increasingly ceasing to be of use in favour of the major languages of the world.
How does this occur? Lets look at the Italian language for example. Historically Italy did not speak Italian, but a mixture of languages and dialects. Many of these dialects may still be in use today, but they are declining at varying rates. The Italian language is in fact one of these languages that was selected to be the national language.
The situation in North America is also of interest. Of approximately 165 indigenous languages, only eight are now spoken by 10,000 or more people. About 75 are spoken
only by a handful of older people and seem to be heading towards extinction.
Television has also played it’s part. TV companies would find it impractical to cover all their programs in all the potential languages and dialects and so have favoured the majority. This has decreased interest in the other languages.
So, while we cannot calculate how many languages there are, we can say that the number is decreasing.
June 3, 2011 | Language Translation | No Comments »
The Summer Institute for Linguistics (SIL) Ethnologue Survey (1999) lists the following as the top languages by population:
(number of native speakers in parentheses)
1. Chinese* (937,132,000)
2. Spanish (332,000,000)
3. English (322,000,000)
4. Bengali (189,000,000)
5. Hindi/Urdu (182,000,000)
6. Arabic* (174,950,000)
7. Portuguese (170,000,000)
8. Russian (170,000,000)
9. Japanese (125,000,000)
10. German (98,000,000)
* The totals given for Chinese, Arabic, and French include more than one SIL variety.
However this is a little out dated as more than 10 years have passed. A more recent list changes the order slightly
German has now been replaced by Punjabi which will be related to difference in birth rates.
May 29, 2011 | Language Translation | No Comments »
How many languages exist in the world? Ask this question on the street and you will receive a range of answers. From my own experience the answers were in the hundreds, but the answer is actually in the thousands.
However, there is currently no exact count of the number of languages. The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language states that estimates of total living languages in the world vary from 3,000 to 10,000.
Part of the problem is with the definition of a language as there are also many dialects and variations of the same language. Another problem is that parts of the world have not been explored in enough detail to ensure all languages have been counted.
May 25, 2011 | Language Translation | No Comments »
Can the installer or the user really understand the technical manual? Can they understand the person providing the training? If not, expect trouble and this might be a health and safety issue that a translation service could avoid.
Incorrect use of equipment can create accidents, decreased life of an asset, void warranties, increase running costs and damage property. This can easily occur if the user does not know how to install/run/maintain the equipment.
On some occasions the manual may be available in other languages. Otherwise the translation of a user manual is best discussed before purchase as you may be able to insist that it is included in the sales price.
May 20, 2011 | Language Translation | 1 Comment »