Translator's Corner

Our Translators, Your Brand Ambassadors


Translators don't get the recognition they oftentimes deserve. They have the power to make or break the language that powers your international branding. In this blog post, we'll explore the role of the translator and how we select our translators at Acclaro.

Occupied Languages: The Story of Lithuanian

Lithuanian castle

Lithuanian is considered an "old" language by linguists, as it's one of the closest European languages to Proto Indo European. But how did such a small country manage to preserve its language over centuries of occupation and foreign rule? In this blog post, we'll explore the story of an occupied language that triumphed over history.

Translating for the Arabic-speaking World

How do you begin to market to 300 million Arabic speakers worldwide? Is there such a thing as standard Arabic? The short answer is yes; the long answer is yes...and no. An understanding of Arabic's history may help raise your voice in and help define your global business strategy for this huge linguistic region.

Top Tips for Japanese Localization

June 24, 2011 by Acclaro
Category: Localization Tips, "Spot" on Language, Translator's Corner

The Acclaro blog entry below is featured today on the Japan Intercultural Consulting Blog. Japan Intercultural Consulting is an international training and consulting firm focused on Japanese business. 

Translating content into Japanese presents a variety of challenges, most notably capturing the natural flow and tone of Japanese sentences. In American business, writing tends to be more informal, yet if translated into Japanese, it would seem too casual and possibly even rude. Translating English content, which is more than likely not in the appropriate tone for Japan, into Japanese is challenging, but not impossible. Read these tips to achieve high-quality, natural Japanese translations when working with a translation vendor. Also refer to our tips for preparing for any translation project, no matter what the language.

Our recommendations for translation into Japanese:

  • Supply approved text samples in Japanese. Before you begin translation, give your translation partner examples of Japanese text that has a tone, style, and voice approved by your Japanese management. This is essential in order to speed up the translation and review process – and should save you time and energy (and maybe even costs) in the long run.

Why Didn’t Italians Want to Celebrate their 150th Birthday?

May 27, 2011 by Alessia Petrucci
Category: Translator's Corner, Culture

italian flagsA nation's sesquicentennial is usually cause for festivities, fairs, and public reflection. Such was not the case for the Italian state, which celebrated its big 1-5-0 on March 17 of this year without a lot of fanfare. For instance, the day was finally declared a national holiday (the decision was made in February) — but nobody got the day off work.

Why would this be? Tim Parks takes a look at the reasons in a fascinating New Yorker piece. This piece got me thinking, as an Italian, about how a nation cobbled together from many different regions each with their own culture, speaking their own dialect, might find it difficult to forge a national unity that sticks.

First of all, Italy's geography discourages a sense of unity. It's a long way from Milano and Torino at the top to Palermo at the tip of the boot. The regions are divided by mountains — and in the case of Sicily and Sardinia, by the Mediterranean itself.

And for reasons that are both historical and geographic, Italy's many regions are at very different stages in their development, type of economy, cultural, and social structures.

Translating Wine: Part Two

February 10, 2011 by Alyssa Paris
Category: Translator's Corner, Culture

wine bottlesEvery industry has its own unique culture, complete with an insider lingo and a clear definition of who the elites are. In the world of wine, the elites are the French. Look no further than the Napa Valley for proof of this. American wineries pay homage to the French all the time by adding words such as château or clos to their estate names (i.e. Château Saint Jean, Clos du Bois), or creating new labels with famous French expressions (Ménage à Trois, Vérité, Amuse Bouche Winery). The most popular grapes bear French names: Cabernet, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Chardonnay (which is actually the name of a village in Southern Burgundy where the grape was first planted). French wines are associated with quality, tradition, breeding and good taste.

And because the French have historically dominated the international wine scene, “winespeak” is often derived from French. For example: it is common to hear words such as en primeur, cru, remuage or caudalie roll off the tongue of English-speaking wine tasters. Such high-class Franglais can seem a bit cheeky but it’s not frowned upon in wine culture – after all, any savvy wine aficionado should know a little French. So how does this particular industry jargon affect wine translation?

As with most translation, it’s all about the target audience. For French-to-English wine translation, the target audience is an English-speaking demographic that is receptive to the subtle qualitative messages French terms convey.

Let’s revisit the tasting notes from our first blog post and take a stab at adapting them for this particular audience. In French, we have:

Un vin blanc subtil et souple, aux arômes de pâte d’amande et de brioche. La bouche est ample avec des nuances de coing confit et des groseilles, se culminant en une finale qui est fraîche et persistante.

A literal translation would be:

A subtle and supple white wine with aromas of almond paste and French breakfast bread. The mouth is broad with nuances of candied quince and gooseberries that culminate in a long and refreshing finale.

Translating Wine: Part One

February 3, 2011 by Alyssa Paris
Category: Translator's Corner, Culture

wine Speaking the language of wine fluently requires a study of so many interesting disciplines such as biochemistry, gastronomy, linguistics, foreign languages, art, history and geography, to name a few. Add translation to this rich and complex culture and things get really challenging.

Translating the taste characterisics of wine requires the melding of a scientific mind and an artful spirit. As with any hard science, there is a great deal of objective material that needs to be rendered accurately in the target language — data such as sugar levels, degrees of alcohol, chemical compounds, temperatures, acids, fermentation processes, and the like. This is straightforward enough, albeit technical. But unlike purely scientific translation, wine also has a subjective element: the human factor. This is the sommelier or winemaker’s sensory experience of the wine. And here is where literal translation ends and artistic license begins.

Usted, Tú, Vos - Challenges for English-to-Spanish Translation

November 17, 2010 by Alyssa Paris
Category: Translator's Corner

Your high school Spanish has probably been retired to some remote corner of your mind that you visit only occasionally by necessity. Even so, you likely remember the challenges of learning this rich and beautiful language that so many Americans claim is ‘easy’. In reality, Spanish is much more complex than the layman realizes and its structure varies greatly from one country to another.  The vocabulary, idioms and even grammatical forms are very different in Spain and Mexico, for example – lo pasé bien in Spain is la pasé bien in Mexico. Taking these subtleties and nuances into account and choosing the correct target audience are keys to successful English-to-Spanish translation.

Mexican flagsOne of the elements of Español that varies greatly across dialects and borders is the use of pronouns - usted and vos. Could anything be more fundamental to a sentence than the pronoun?  This particular grammatical element is absolutely crucial and yet its application is very culture-specific. Though we do not have this distinction in English, we can appreciate the difference in tone between ‘you guys’ and ‘you’. When addressing members of the board of your company, it's unlikely that you'd ask, “So how are you guys doing today?” The formal and informal tone is even more developed in Spanish and is nuanced uniquely in each hispanohablante country.       

Translating Humor: Achieving the Universal Chuckle

October 21, 2010 by Alyssa Paris
Category: Translator's Corner, Culture

Translating HumorHere’s a challenge for all of you who speak more than one language.  Pick one of your favorite jokes in your native tongue, one that usually gets a good laugh, and recount it in another language without embellishing the humorous elements. Limited success? Not a surprise. Humor is so very hard to translate.

If you've ever watched a subtitled comedy in a movie theater with natives, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I remember watching an American comedy in a movie theater in Bordeaux a few years ago, and feeling rather sheepish when my hysterical, resounding laughter met total silence.  Finally, towards the end of the film, I had grown so embarrassed (it seemed I was distracting quite a few individuals from enjoying the film), I attempted to stifle my cackling with a scarf, to no avail. Now one could deduce from this scenario that I have a very strange sense of humor, but (luckily) the film was a huge success in the States, leading me to believe that it’s more of a lost-in-translation issue. I walked away from the cinema with two observations: that the level of (American) English in that movie theater was modest at best, and that the subtitles were poor renditions of American humor.

Lost In Perception

celloOne of my favorite Italian columnists, Michele Serra, writing about the qualities of a certain South American poet, remarked “It has to be said, to be fair to all other poets, that he starts with an advantage: Spanish is to poetry what cello is to music: everything sounds better.”

I’m an Italian, just like Michele Serra and to me, Spanish is indeed a refined, erudite language with just a touch of exoticism. It sounds elegant but slightly harsher than Italian, more serious and structured, but with some strange sounds (the unpronounceable “j” for example) and a better defined rhythm. Yes it indeed sounds great, like the cello — beautiful, soothing and warm while at the same time, deep and slightly threatening.

When you’re a linguist and when you live abroad, you hear a lot about the qualities of languages: beautiful, hard, musical, poetic, harmonious, harsh. And while recognizing that there might be some science behind what makes a language pleasant to the ear, I cannot help but thinking that none of these qualitative remarks have any truth behind them.

Of Sweaters and Translations

knittingWith crowdsourcing being so much in the localization news lately, the concept of "consistency" has also frequently come up.

Consistency, along with quality, has been declared the victim of crowdsourcing by those opposed to using the "crowd" for localization. Promotors of crowdsourcing claim that consistency is a myth and not dependent on the number of people working on a project. I sometimes feel this is a false debate.

Yes, consistency is sacred to translators, but are they wrong, defensive, and antiquated?

A text is consistent if the same term is used to describe the same source term throughout the translation, and if the style applied to it is the same as well. Basically, a consistent text is one in which a reader cannot tell that it has been written or translated by more than one person.

Now, let's bring knitting into this debate.

'Teutonic Cozyness' For Your Home

instructionsWho hasn't come — or rather stumbled — across a user's manual or instructions-for-use document for a foreign-made product they just bought and couldn't make heads or tails of the "translated" text? Or had to stop what they were doing and have an attack of hysterical laughter?

The value that a professional translator can add to the basic usability of such documents – let alone to the respect for the customer the manufacturer doubtlessly intends — is best demonstrated by a few choice examples of haphazard efforts in conveying such instructional contents in the target language.

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Smart, fun and useful. Acclaro shares news and tips on translation, localization, language, global business and culture.


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