Allí no se habla español (They don’t speak Spanish there)

Experts will tell you that the Spanish language is such a babel of conflicting idiom that you might as well forget about communicating clearly unless you write specifically in the Spanish of your target country. Only Mexican Spanish for the Mexicans, and so on. The experts apparently neglected to inform Cervantes of this notion. And Gabriel García Márquez. And Jorge Luis Borges. Not to speak of McGraw-Hill, with five publishing divisions and thousands of titles in Spanish. And the authors of the many school and college textbooks that have for years been in common use by students in every Spanish speaking country in Latin America, and in Spain. The experts are plainly talking nonsense. While, as in the United States, there are regional differences in pronunciation, idiom, slang, and dialect, with research and the appropriate translation memory tools, an educated writer from any Spanish-speaking country is perfectly capable of expression, on any subject, that is clear and unambiguous to an educated reader from any other Spanish speaking country. Period. Microsoft, with all its deep pockets, and with a mandate to speak clearly to its software customers everywhere, prefaces its Spanish language manuals with a User Note addressed to the 300 million people of all countries that share the Spanish language. The note says that Microsoft writes manuals only in a universal Spanish that all of their software users can understand. Why do they do this? Because it saves a lot of time and money. Microsoft’s manuals aren’t written in some kind of lowest common denominator pablum, either. They are as precise and clear in Spanish as they are in...

Eat the Way Your Mama Taught You

By Greg Bathon I’ve been lucky enough to have lived and worked for a long time outside the United States-in Europe, in Asia, and in South America-and I’ve seen hundreds of American executives coming and going in the international marketplace. And in my view most of them did just fine without the help of the culture cops, who feed on the notion that it just won’t do for dumb Americans to be let loose among the sensitive souls in older and more civilized societies until they’ve been through a boot camp of costly culture-study programs. I’ve got a bug in my ear about this, because I was reading an article recently by one of these experts, who says that Americans doing business overseas are too much influenced by our frontier past. The expert says we come to the bargaining table with a “do or die attitude that often defeats our purpose.” The expert further says, “One of the biggest mistakes an American can make is to take his table manners with him to France – because the French get very disturbed watching an American switch his knife back and forth, so it can be embarrassing for a French person to be seen eating with you at a good restaurant” And so forth. There are people who actually pay good money to be exposed to this kind of rubbish. Here’s the expert again: “US executives only make things difficult for themselves and their companies by saying to executives in Tokyo, Paris or London, “Just call me Pete.” The expert thinks this kind of stuff gives fainting fits to foreigners. Well,...

How long does translation take?

A good technical translator can translate about 2,000 words per day. An editor can proofread about 4,000 words per day. Desktop Publishing (formatting) can take a few hours – or many days. Every translation project is unique and timeframe will vary based on many factors: Technical Level – Ten pages of Technical Specifications for Dense Wave Division Multiplexing equipment will take longer than a 10-page Assembly Manual for a bicycle. The more technical a file’s subject matter is, the longer it will take to translate. Word count – A 3-page patent which is typed in a very small font size in 3-column format is going to contain a lot more words than a double-spaced 3-page business letter. More words equals more time required. Graphics – Does your file contain graphics with callouts that need to be translated? Are the graphics easy to edit? Do you have the electronic copy of the graphics to supply to us? If there are a lot of graphics with a lot of text inside, it is time consuming work for a translator to open the graphics file and translate the text while maintaining the graphic integrity of your drawings. Format – Translations International can work in any file format. But keep in mind that a manual in QuarkXPress is going to take longer than a manual in Microsoft Word. Our Project Managers are certified in these programs to make sure your translated files have the same quality as your original English files. Translators – As mentioned above, the average speed of a good technical translator is about 2,000 words per day. Some work faster,...

Graphic Design with the World in MindGraphic Design with the World in Mind

Written by NANCY A. LOCKE and reprinted with permission from INTERCOM, the magazine of the Society for Technical Communication. Arlington, VA U.S.A. In the past twenty years, two developments have had an important impact on the creation and design of communication: the appearance of personal computers on every desktop, equipped with “user-friendly” authoring and design software, and the globalization of world markets. The first development means that document design is no longer left to graphic artists. Technical communicators now may be asked to “package” as well as draft copy, designing documents from scratch or working with graphic style guidelines or a prescribed design template. The second development means that, increasingly, documents authored in one language (usually English) serve as the source for countless localized versions destined for distribution in markets around the world. The concomitant development and marketing of computer assisted translation (CAT), translation memory (TM), and content management systems promote the notion that any and all documents may serve equally well as source documents. Despite the hype, technical communicators know that authoring software does not a writer make. Graphic designers know that sophisticated design software cannot compensate for a lack of basic design know-how. And, despite remarkable advances in technology, computers still cannot produce the elusive FAQMT (fully automatic, quality machine translation). Localization still requires a committed, coordinated, and skilled team of human beings-software engineers, translators, desktop publishers, and project managers-to produce localized documentation that remains true to the content and graphic intent of the source. Even though effective localization relies on the quality of the source, documentation groups and localization teams rarely collaborate in its creation. It...

Translation Stumbling Blocks

Written by BETSY M. MAAKS and reprinted with permission from INTERCOM, the magazine of the Society for Technical Communication. Arlington, VA U.S.A. Some grammatical structures in English can pose problems for translators, particularly if those structures can be interpreted in more than one way. Murphy’s Law says that your reader will often use the wrong interpretation, resulting in mangled translations. Spoken language allows supplemental methods-like voice intonation, facial expressions, and physical movements- to convey meaning. However, print communication lacks the support of those nonverbal clues. To ensure clear meaning, writers must avoid expressions that require supplemental, nonverbal clues. They must depend on good structure and correct grammar to communicate their meaning. In this article, we’ll take a look at some grammatical structures in English that are potentially misleading and see how we can remove these stumbling blocks for our translators and end-users. Unsafe Structures To appreciate some of the pitfalls of English grammar, consider the following paragraph. Eight or more grammatical problems in this example can pose problems for readers and translators. Gardening requires planning and care taken with selection of plants based on their hardiness. Without using prescribed, time-tested guidelines, recommendations, and advice from local greenhouse experts, gardeners might err, since interpretation of data obtained might get misconstrued. While hardiness determines suitability of planting locale, it also better ensures a longer-lasting landscape. You should avoid and reconsider selection of plants based on color coordination suitability. This text is difficult to read. It’s even more difficult to translate. Let us see why, issue by issue. Gerunds In the first sentence of the paragraph, “gardening” is a gerund. Gerunds pose...