All posts tagged: idioms translation

The World’s Newest Language

It might come as no surprise that English is the most popular spoken language in the world. In the past few decades, there’s been a trend for people to learn a foreign language with an American accent which gradually replaces British English as a dominating international language.

However, a new dialect of English is spreading rapidly and has already become popular under the name Globish.

Jean-Paul Nerriere, the French CEO of IBM, introduced the term in 1990.

Is Globish is the new lingua franca?

Globish is an English language without borders. It belittles the importance of grammar and the syntactic structure, avoids confusing idioms and pays attention to the efficiency of communication. Nerriere identified 15000 keywords which help communication between people of different nationalities. According to him, this “new” language is spoken by two billion people worldwide.

It’s interesting what the future of Globish will be. Whether it will assimilate foreign words from various other languages, like lingua franca, or remain closer to the English language? Will people begin to write books or even poetry in Globish? Will there be any movies featuring this language?

Despite the mass widespread of Globish, the international business needs and will continue to depend on professional, high quality translation services. An universal and simple language such as Globish can not capture all the nuances, can not achieve technical precision and recreate specific expressions typical of the unique cultural context of each traditional language. And let’s not forget that although 2 billion people speak Globish, at least five billion people are unable to communicate with each other so easily.

Contact us to learn how we can help you communicate better with business partners around the world.

 

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Meet the Interpreters: Four Things You Might Not Know About Them

History has seen situations where people had to deal with more than one language. In translation, however, there are often two faces. Just think of the Italian pun “traduttore, tradittore” (‘translator, traitor’).

Yet people still respect and recognize the skills of the translator as something extraordinary. Few realize, however, how difficult it is to understand and interpret something from one language, while producing the same meaning in a second language.

Susan Sontag says: “Translation is the revenge of intellect upon art. Even more! It is the revenge of intellect upon the world.To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world – in order to set up a shadow world of ‘meanings’.”

If you think of it, we can all agree that translators have always been engaged in one of the most important and difficult jobs in the world and definitely deserve respect and recognition for it. Often heard, but rarely seen. Maybe they don’t quite have “a front row seat to history”, but you can guarantee that interpreters are always hidden somewhere in the most significant rooms.

In appreciation of these people who make the remarkable utterly routine, we have compiled a list of four things you might not have known about their lives.

  1. Your intepretator is (most probably) not a translator

The qualifications are different, and the job descriptions barely match. We’re talking about different qualifications here, even job descriptions. One works alone, at home, with a dictionary; the other gains experience from meeting people face to face. Not only do the skills involved differ, but the kinds of people attracted to each profession may be different too. One of the main misconceptions out there is that mastering multiple languages somehow makes you an all-rounded professional. Mastering multiple languages is the (necessary but insufficient) minimum entry grade for either profession. Much like having two hands is probably a minimum requirement for becoming a concert guitarist; ditto for becoming a car mechanic. And here’s the analogy: someone being a professional translator and a professional interpreter is rather like someone being a premier league footballer and a pro tour golfer at the same time*.

*There are, of course, more people who earn money as translators and interpreters than as footballers and golfers. This is an example to show that these people have a unique set of skills.

 

  1. Interpretation is Rich in Content

Different situations call for your interpreters to have a diverse range of skills.

  • Simultaneous Interpreting

Simultaneous interpreting occurs at the time of speaking. It is usually performed by a team of two interpreters. Here, any more than a few seconds lag would disrupt the entire event With this kind of instantaneous, real-time transfer, 30 minutes is considered the absolute maximum time any individual can sustain this feat.

  • Consecutive Interpreting

With consecutive interpreting, the speaker has to leave gaps at the end of a sentence or a conceptual break in their content. In these breaks, the interpreter renders what has just been said into the target language. Events that use consecutive interpreting can take up to twice as long. Someone doing consecutive interpreting may have a few seconds pause to think.

  • Chuchotage

This type of translation is derived from the French verb “chuchoter “which means “to whisper”. Chuchotage involves the interpreter sitting next to the client and performing simultaneous interpretation in hushed tones. It’s best suited for meetings. Too many people in a room doing this for any length of time might result in progressively raised voices and ultimately chaos. Therefore, it’s best suited for shorter meetings in a narrow circle of people. Strictly speaking, the former don’t need to have any interpersonal skills to do their job, whereas the latter couldn’t survive without them.

  • Relay Interpreting

This is an interpretation between two languages via a third one. When a delegate speaks a language that is “unmarked” by the intepreter in the booth, it can be “transferred” (via audio) to another booth which marks the respective language and accepts the function of the active languages booth. The interpreter works via another language without disrupting quality. To understand why relay interpreting is necessary, we just have to imagine the complexity of the situation at the EU. There are 24 official languages, into which every single document must be translated. When it comes to conferences, the same job must be repeated verbally with interpretation. Languages like English and French are far more widely spoken and understood than, say, Maltese and Latvian, and it’s uncontroversial to say that you will have trouble finding many Maltese-Latvian speakers qualified to interpret in either direction. When the delegate from Latvia is to give a presentation about Marine Preservation to a conference, the simplest solution is to find a common language – for example, a Latvian-English interpreter and an English-Maltese interpreter. One will read from Latvian into English for all English speakers. The second one will listen directly to the original speech, but to the rendition provided by the first interpreter. Then the second interpreter will interpret this English version of the speech into Malteese for the Malteese attendees.

Simple, isn’t it?

Except that adding in even another language increases the scale of the challenge, and there are other language-specific obstacles to successful relay interpretation.

 

  1. Your Interpreter is a True Artist

Interpreters are hired for events where there are live audiences. The stakes are very high. Every assignment entails an on-the-spot compromise. Part of the performance comes with striking the balance between preservation of tone and transposition of cultural differences. A speech on a serious subject must have its austere tone transmitted; while a lighthearted, funny delivery poses the ultimate interpreter’s nightmare – spontaneous translation of humour into a different language. Interpreters must have a good feel for what may be funny or polite in one language but dull or shocking in another. Similarly, they have to be attuned to all of the clues that make up a linguistic message – including the slightest hints from body language. One of the more important skills this high-stress job requires is the ability to clamber out of a hole. Even the most skilled linguist can find themselves mid-speech having forgotten a pivotal sentence, or being confronted with an unfamiliar word. In such awkward situations your interpreter’s improvization skills will save the day.

 

  1. Your Interpreter’s Job is Safe

And as much as people would love to find a way of avoiding the interpreter’s fee, the profession is safe for several reasons.

Firstly, more people than ever may be learning major global languages like English, Spanish and Mandarin…But this doesn’t foreshadow a decline of the language service industry. The amount of time, effort and investment that corporations like Google and Microsoft have lashed into automatic translation software is a testament to the growing demand of the global population have access to foreign language content. But there is no such automatic translator that translates a long speech or a difficult content so that it makes sense.

Machine interpretation relies on the synchronisation of two pre-existing, quite shaky technologies – voice recognition followed by automatic translation. The application of speech synthesis is a further stumbling block. Even with recent advances, the best this field can offer falls well short of acceptable standards in voice tone, emphasis and pronunciation. So, it relies on three collaborating levels of automation in which things regularly go wrong.

 

So, next time you work with an interpreter, spare a thought for the human being behind the booth, and remember that you haven’t paid for a computer;

If you need professional interpreting services, we will be happy to respond to your request!

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Translation – Art or Science?

It’s like the age-old question “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?” We often tend to forget that in order to build a fluent and natural text, the translator must have deep knowledge and attention towards the way the words interact, how they sound in reference to one another, how the writing of a word in the context of a specific idea and theme leads to the use of another world, which in turn leads to using a third one and so on.

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Methods of translation

Depending on the way we approach translation and the methods we use, we can divide it in several categories. Today translation is a highly-developed practice and there are plenty of perspectives and classifications, systemizing the various approaches to it. However, the most popular and frequent methods are the following:

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Translating idioms

Quality translation has its subtleties, one of them being the correct and understandable rendering of idioms. Any translated text needs to be understandable, and when we’re dealing with language units like idioms, choosing the right words requires a special skill.  One of the main advantages we need is a good knowledge of all the languages we’re working with.

An idiom is a set language form, typically with a figurative meaning, in a phrase or a whole sentence. This can include some slang forms and sayings found in works of art. Such expressions usually have a very clear meaning, however metaphorical.

In order to convey them, the following rules should be kept:

  • literal translation is only acceptable for idioms that are unambiguous, even when we’re working with different languages (most commonly in phrases like ‘Sisyphean task’);
  • idioms that are whole sentences should not be translated literally, for example ‘It’s raining cats and dogs.’;
  • the message of the idiom should remain unchanged, it has to be correct in terms of context and facts, regardless of the words used;
  • using loanwords is unacceptable, because most idioms have the same contextual meaning in the different languages;
  • language styles should not be mixed. This was already implied in the above rules and from the fact that idioms are only used in literary texts.

Translating new idioms whose meaning isn’t completely clear to the public, for instance in slang of dialect speech. These expressions don’t usually have equivalents and are characteristic of certain geographical regions. If a translator knows the area well, he or she has an advantage when dealing with such expressions.  Think of London’s very own Cockney rhyming slang: even the locals don’t understand it. For expressions of that type, a translator needs to muster all his/her creative thinking to come up with the right equivalent words. Or to think of a completely new expression with the same meaning.

It’s the same with dialects: knowledge in cultural geography is a big plus. Finding new expressions is not a priority here; in most cases it’s not necessary. Dialect idioms require a very small change during translation, and that change is different from what we described above. Dialect speech typically omits sounds in words or uses words that are specific for the geographical area. Such words are especially tricky and their translation requires creative thinking and the choice of the closest synonym.

These are the rules we need to follow with regard to specific expressions in literary texts. A linguist’s most reliable helper in this case is his or her own general and cultural knowledge.

 

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