Cultured language: why advertising authentically and informally is important

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We’ve talked about translation being a creative process on this blog before, but what we haven’t mentioned recently is the need for knowledge, not only of other languages but also of the different business cultures across the world.

For any one business person, it can be difficult to specialise in more than one language and culture, but that’s where the translation industry and its global reach comes in. Translation partners from other nations, ones who can help you understand local business languages, are a huge boon in creating something that feels authentic.

Engaging with someone’s emotions makes a noticeable difference in advertising, so dry clinical language – such as that, perhaps, of someone who is not fluent – can result in an advert of less persuasive quality. The difference between formal and informal language is significant, and generally speaking we learn formal versions of foreign languages at school (and to a lesser extent in higher education). If we try to advertise using this sort of language it may well create the wrong sort of perception of a product.

Technically accurate language may get the message across, but it can lack verve. The difference between ‘It is summer every day at ‘Generic’ Restaurant and we are loving it’, and ‘Summer never ends at Generic Restaurant! We’re loving it!’ illustrates this. One feels like English, the other a hesitant translation. Ultimately, the feeling you get from an advert, like it or loathe it, should be that it’s communication from someone who speaks your language. Authenticity counts for a lot here, and if you want your brand to be internationally recognised you’re going to have to hire translators and interpreters who can provide it.

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

Languages – more important for business, but in decline in schools

In 1996, roughly forty thousand pupils achieved a pass in Standard Grade French. Eighteen years later, and the number had fallen below half that figure. The figures for studying German reduced by a similar percentage.

Until 2015, the statistics showed a decline in the number of Scottish students studying languages at Higher. In that year there was a ten per cent rise in those taking French, and Spanish continued to rise in popularity. While there was some optimism regarding these figures, there was some wariness that this could simply be a temporary blip. Languages such as German and Italian can experience brief surges in popularity as a result of schools only teaching them in alternating academic years.

Learning Chinese – despite funding from the Chinese government – has not been popular. Russian, despite being widely spoken across Europe, is being scrapped as a Higher after a mere 41 pupils sat the exam.

Part of this has been due to the reform of the exam systems in Scotland, but it is nonetheless a worrying figure considering the potential for employment that bilingualism brings. Obviously, if you speak another language, the possibility exists for employment anywhere that language is spoken. Languages such as French, Spanish and Chinese are spoken across the world, and in the latter’s case would potentially give you a career inside the economic structures of what is expected to be the next global superpower.

Translation services will be necessary of course, as trade necessitates international business ventures and as the world gets smaller art will also be exchanged across cultural and linguistic divides. So whether you have a head for business or an artistic temperament, there’s an area of translation you can flourish in. Recently, The Vegetarian by Han Kang won the Man Booker International Prize after being translated into English from Korean by Deborah Smith. Anime and Manga series are popular in the UK, but of course someone has to translate these into English first. Alternatively you could be translating pitches and documents in business negotiations, thriving under the pressure of helping to seal important deals between international companies. Consider the travel, the chance to see the world.

It’s rare that somebody knows what they want to do with their life at school age, so it’s worth considering the options that are out there. Learning another language is, even if not a long-term thing,  a very useful skill to have, but there’s also the potential there for something greater, something that will provide for you in later life. It all starts at school. Why not include it as part of your studies?

Rosetta Stone

 

 

 

Klingons are, famously, not real. There is a version of Hamlet available in Klingon.

So far, so ridiculous.

We could mention that the Klingons originally spoke English in Star Trek, and that when James “Scotty” Doohan came up with some alien sounding language for the first movie it wasn’t designed as a consistent language, rather as some unconnected noises. It was Leonard Nimoy, when working on one of the follow-up films, who decided it needed to have some structure. The task was given to Mark Okrand (pictured), but – as often is the case with long running stories – the language has expanded and changed within the fiction.

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While this expansion has mainly come through Star Trek fandom it must be noted that fictional languages – for example Game of Thrones’ Dothraki or Far Cry Primal‘s language based on Indo-European dialects (see blogs passim) – have become increasingly complex in comparison to Klingon. Yet the latter has been, through its longevity, the most famous of them. As well as Hamlet there have been Klingon translations of Much Ado About Nothing, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Tao te Ching. There is even an institute to promote the language and a daily Klingon word available on Twitter!

Nonetheless, Klingon is not a viable concern for the translation industry. The number of people who speak it is in double figures only and an attempt to raise a child speaking the language ended in the child rejecting the language in favour of English.

Intuitively, fictional languages are thought of as being unworthy of interest from the business of translators: broadly speaking  this is true. Klingon, for example is only ever going to be relevant for people in spaceships with futuristic technology. Dothraki is centred on a nomadic warrior culture fixated with horses. They simply aren’t relevant to the day-to-day lives of people consuming the fiction they enhance. Also, fictional languages are subject to copyright, as a Star Trek fan film recently found to his cost.

However one must not assume that fictional languages have no linguistic virtue. We blogged earlier about the devising of Far Cry Primal‘s language and how translation involves creativity. The logic behind Klingon’s structure is intriguing. Okrand had intended Klingon to be dissimilar to existing natural languages, and so chose to avoid word patterns and structures that appear frequently. As a result, Klingon feels more ‘alien’ to the viewers while simultaneously rewarding a knowledge of natural languages and their structures. I’d be really interested to hear from any translators out there who have, if only for professional interest, tried to translate (or in any other way work with) other mythical languages. If nothing else, as Tolkien demonstrated, there is money in it!

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

Translators or interpreters – what do they do?

This is a question that often perplexes people who call upon our services. They ask for interpretation, when they mean translation – and vice versa.

To be fair, there is no reason why anyone who doesn’t work in our industry should know. As far as our clients are concerned, they want one language changed to another – and that’s it.   There is a danger that companies like ours get snooty about this sort of thing, and it’s important that we don’t.

So…. What is the difference between interpreters and translators?

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (whose origins are being commemorated in an exhibition, as detailed here) offers a simple definition of an “interpreter” as a “person who translates the words that someone is speaking into a different language.” So interpreters translate. Or do they interpret? It’s hardly surprising people get confused.

The difference is that interpreters work to interpret the spoken word, while translators translate printed copy. Or, to put it another way, if it’s written down it’s then translated, but if it’s said then it’s interpreted.

So far, so good, however (and I appreciate I may be accused of making a fine distinction), here is a fuller definition of an “interpreter” (again from our friends at Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary):

Full Definition of interpreter

1 : one that interprets: as
a : one who translates orally for parties conversing in different languages
b : one who explains or expounds

Part ‘a’ is exactly what I’ve written above. Part ‘b’ though is a more general description and can be regarded in much the same way that a talented musician ‘interprets’ the work of a great composer. The notes in the original manuscript don’t vary, but how they are interpreted does. In this context, “One who explains or expounds” is an excellent description. The nuances and understanding of the precise definition of words with seemingly similar meanings become very important. An example might be the difference between the English words “garrulous” and “loquacious”.

This applies equally to “translation.” While the definition may mean taking written content in one language and changing it to another, this is not a literal thing that a machine or program can (yet) do to the same level of sophistication and understanding as a talented human. Machines don’t really care, but a good human translator does – or certainly should. Words and phrases have multiple interpretations and idioms or “sayings” rarely translate well when taken literally. This article, covering the very basics of what translation can do for you, states that “translators not only translate, but they also teach sometimes.”

The good translator (or indeed interpreter) “interprets” the original language and provides the light and shade and, dare we say it, grace notes that transform a precise and well-expressed translation to a piece of quality work that not only conveys meaning but also expression and “mood music.” It’s a rare skill, whether done orally as an interpreter or in writing as a translator.

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

Eleven tips for businesses using translation services for the first time

IMG_0798Many new businesses and entrepreneurs hoping to expand their operations, whether in the United Kingdom or abroad, need to consider how they communicate with those whose first language is not English. Even though we expect people in the UK to speak English, for many it’s not their first language. Abroad, it obviously isn’t, so if you want to reach these people you’ll clearly need to involve translators. Clearly, new businesses will want to do this as economically as possible, but where do you start, when trying to find a translating service for the first time? What do you have to take into account?

Business 2 Community has offered eleven tips for people wanting to use translation services for the first time. In the article they state very clearly the reasons for never using online translation software; specifically that it lacks the nuance of human translations. If an inaccurate translation is provided then the impression you’re giving to your customers is that you don’t care enough to provide them with an optimum service, which reflects badly on your business in general.

So, if you want to be taken seriously, you have to use a professional translation service. And you have to consider that your budget will affect the service you receive. To make sure your final message works it is vital to consider your initial message, where you are sending it (taking note of religious and cultural differences), and to remember that the initial text may expand in terms of length once it’s been translated.

It’s also worth considering that translations take time. Leave plenty of it so you aren’t waiting on tenterhooks by the phone as the deadline looms. Ensure that you have a clear aim of what you can achieve in terms of layout, text, and format. Translators have their skillset, and to establish a good working relationship with them it’s worth learning how to make their job easier.

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

Creative Business Uses of Language

It’s been established that Google Translate and the like are risky tools to use when it comes to mass communication. To avoid the pitfalls of machine translation (of which there are almost countless examples),  you need an expert, human translator who is going to be able to notice when you accidentally copy ‘This bit needs to be in Welsh’ into the text window. It’s good business sense to be able to communicate with more people.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 16.48.55Translation is also creative, in the context of translating fiction and poetry. Fantasy literature, such as the Lord of the Rings, contain multiple languages – concocted by the author J.R.R. Tolkien – that lend verisimilitude to the mythical world of Middle Earth where different races speak different languages. In the movies, this approach translates into making props that represent the different races’ abilities. It’s all part of the storytelling, and the better this is achieved the better the film does, and the different languages are a key part of this.

Similarly, in the computer game Far Cry Primal – where you play as a hunter who rises through the ranks of a Stone Age tribe – linguists have done this, using creative translation skills to lend realism to a fiction. The point of which is, of course, to sell more copies of the game. Like Tolkien, languages have been created based on real, existing ones – proto Indo-European languages in Far Cry Primal’s case, Welsh in the case of Lord of the Rings  – but due to the computer game medium there was a need for a wider vocabulary as part of a lived-in world. The cast were, by the end of it, fluent in the different languages for different tribes!

Here, the evident skill of linguists – Brenna and Andrew Byrd – has enhanced a business prospect. This creative element is a key part of translation, one which you simply do not get from translation programs, and one which gives human translators the edge in business.

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

 

 

Cyberwords: language changes are often older than you think!

What would you say is the definition of the word “cyber”? It feels, intuitively, like a prefix rather than a word in and of itself. However, here is what the Oxford Dictionaries suggest:

1. ADJECTIVE relating to or characteristic of the culture of computers, information technology, and virtual reality:”the cyber age”

mobile-paymentAnd so, yes, when we think of the word “cyber” we think of it in relation to other concepts and words such as “crime” or “bullying”, or “age” as offered in this dictionary definition (although personally I don’t recall anyone ever using the phrase “cyber age”). Being associated with computers, it is a word that feels modern, and certainly the ideas represented by it are entwined with recent technological advances. However, the actual word and the sound of it derive from ancient Greek. The BBC has taken a look at its history in a brief magazine piece here. The original word – or at least the earliest version we have – is “kubernao” meaning “steer a ship”. This transliterated into Latin, from which an American mathematician derived the word “Cybernetics”. Norbert Wiener developed the concept after working on anti-aircraft guns in World War Two, and rather than being associated with computers it is an idea about exploring regulatory systems be they animal or mechanical.

Science Fiction took up the concept and popularised the association with computers. In 1966 Doctor Who had an unofficial scientific advisor called Kit Pedler. Between him and story editor Gerry Davis they developed Pedler’s concern about spare part surgery – which had recently resulted in the coining of the term “cyborg” – and invented the Cybermen. The connection was entrenched in the Eighties when author William Gibson invented the word “cyberspace” to describe a virtual reality. This was in the novel Neuromancer which, while now dated in its technological references, was massively influential among early internet advocates (see also Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash).

Intriguingly, for a word with such a long history of evolving meanings the links between them are clear – a helmsman, controlling a vessel, through to the Cybermen and cyborgs under the control of a central program and directive. Perhaps ironically, Gibson simply made up the term because it sounded impressive and didn’t really mean anything. Yet today, its ‘meaning’ is, in most people’s minds, equally clear. Cyber, usually as in the form of a prefix, is taken to mean to do with the internet (as in cyberspace).

Language is, as we all know, constantly changing and it’s intriguing to note that the association with computers and the internet has been further enhanced by a portmanteau, employed simply because of its evocative connotations. A new word has resulted in many more, and slightly altered the original meaning, but that, of course, is what makes language so fascinating!

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

 

LANGUAGE SHOW LIVE SCOTLAND – Glasgow 11th – 12th March 2016

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Language Show Live Scotland, which took place last weekend at the SECC in Glasgow, was, as they described it themselves on their website, “two inspirational days packed with free educational seminars, language classes, live forums and cultural performances in an incredible celebration of languages.”

Global Connects, naturally, were there in strength, and we were pleased to play an active part in one of the panel discussions about the perspectives of linguists and agencies on the interpreting and translation industries.

The room was full – there were even people sitting on the floor and standing against walls – and the session started with interpreter Miranda Stewart explaining the different options on the interpreting industry and the rise of remote interpreting through the use of a video link.

Norma Tait explained the in and outs of being a translator. I focused on answering the question “what makes a good interpreter?” Then I explained the type of interpreting jobs that we have, including the variety of interesting work we do for international football and rugby matches and also our role in working with refugees who have come to Scotland. I also mentioned that we are an agency that offers work to both interpreters and translators.

Sam Bennett followed up my presentation by explaining how to stand out once a translator joins an agency so that you become a ‘go-to’ person when a job comes in.

Our panel presentation was very well received with many people coming back to thank us and ask for more information.

I noticed that the majority of linguists at the event were translators or interpreters who also do translation. There were just a few that were just interpreters.

During the Q&A session on video links, interpreters explained that they do not like this option because you cannot have the same rapport with the client, which offers important clues for the message that is being communicated. However, video is definitely an improvement on telephone interpreting, which is already being used regularly in the public sector. Our interpreter Kuba Hiterski also contributed to this discussion and previously the NRPSI Director Eulilia Pessoa-White had spoken about it at her talk. She mentioned that there are issues at the moment with bandwidth and that IT systems do not yet talk to each other from different departments in England, but this will be a way to save money on travel costs.

This will not be just applied to interpreters but to other court officials as well. There are proposals to have a solicitor in one room in his or her own firm, the procurator fiscal in another location, the sheriff in another location and the interpreter also in a different place.
Many courts have been closed down and court staff numbers have already being reduced in England, Wales and Scotland as a cost-cutting exercise. Public sector decision-makers are trying to make the use of remote interpreting via video link more acceptable and we need to acknowledge that it is a matter of when rather than if this becomes the norm. The technology is good enough but improvements are still necessary.

IMG_0249Continuing pressures on the public purse will, whether the interpretation/translation industry likes it, make this inevitable. The key will be how we collectively as an industry – and more specifically in our case, Global Connects as a company – respond to this and seek to ensure that the delivery of high quality interpretation and translation is always the sine qua non.

Ricardo Mateus, Recruitment and Training Manager, Global Connects

 

Bilingual road signs – the underlying hope that shows how it can be done!

Occasionally in the news we hear stories of poorly translated bilingual road signs, where someone has gone online and hurriedly copied and pasted the wrong words into the final proof. There are a lot of articles featuring Chinese signage (including this one from The Telegraph – featuring a dinner menu with a meal called “Explodes the Large Intestine”), or when a Welsh road sign read “I am not in the office right now. Send any work to be translated.” Or when the Isle of Bute was renamed something rude for ten years by mistake.

Then there are complaints that many of the signs require words lacking in the second language, and that this is a largely unnecessary task which wastes money. When the translations are wrong or contrived, it produces dissent from the speakers of both languages.

In Washington State, however, they’re starting small; producing street signs at two intersections and a newly constructed downtown park honouring the Khallam people native to the area. Great care has been taken with these projects so that they authentically replicate the language, and due to the smaller scale this has been achieved successfully.

What’s surprising about this is that, back in 1990, only eight people spoke the Khallam language.

In 1992, a language programme was introduced to transcribe recordings of tribal elders. In 1999 a two year course was introduced at a local school, incorporating diverse media including computer games and audio CDs. This increased usage and preservation of language influenced the local government to make the street signs. Even if it’s just on a small scale, it’s a demonstration of the underlying hope behind bilingual road signs, that their being visible is a reminder of the multiple cultures in the area, a hint that there is greater understanding to be had.  And that, surely, is one of the great advantages of our multiple language world, and one that we lose at our peril.

Rosetta Stone

From “Noo Yoik” Speak to Nu-speak

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Technology has developed at a rate where the gadgets of Star Trek seem near. Mobile phones are not too far off the original series’ communicators, and indeed can even be voice activated. Why press a few buttons when you can just ask Siri to perform a task for you? This technology has also been used for translation, with online applications – such as Google Translate – now able to translate your words as you speak them.

However, it also has problems. Firstly there’s the problem with translation programs in general, and secondly the issue of voice recognition software not always recognising people’s voices.  If you think about it, that’s pretty important!  In particular, accents and colloqualisms are not always recognised, so if you’re not from the USA then it helps to be something of an impressionist. It now remains to be seen whether voice recognition software will develop faster than users are adapting their accents.

We all have a phone voice, and adapt depending on who we’re speaking with, but ultimately these programs could result in significant changes to the way people speak. We also apparently have a “machine voice” which we use to speak to automated services. These are becoming more prevalent and in the near-future young adults won’t have known anything different, and this is part of the process that moves all regional accents towards standard English.

TV, social media, and a more cosmopolitan world in general lead to “accent levelling”, whereby people are speaking in their phone voices in everyday life, only returning to regional dialects when surrounded by close friends or family.

Voice recognition software will advance, however, to the point where it becomes more familiar with its user’s patterns. This won’t halt the advance of accent levelling, though, due to the involvement of other factors. It’s a shame, because while the standardisation of accents will make it easier to understand one another, we will also lose a variety of phrases, idioms and colloquialisms from the world.

Rosetta Stone