The worst advice we’ve ever heard about translation services

Free advice is more often than not worth exactly what you paid for it: nothing. This does not mean that all free advice is bad, we like to think our blog offers plenty of legitimate translation advice, but it does mean once in a while we hear tips that make us do a double take. Here are some of the worst tips we have ever heard about translating.

Advice: You do not need a professional translating service, just use Google Translate or a computer system (machine translation).

Why this is terrible advice: The difference between a professional translation done by a real person who actually knows both languages and a software system designed by a group of engineers is huge. Computers simply do not pick up the little human language complexities and nuances that professional translators do, and this causes some spectacularly horrendous results for corporations that think a computer will suffice. Take a global ethics report from a large corporation. It is vital that the nuances of that language are translated over to English correctly in order to avoid misinterpretation and potentially serious legal issues. For large corporations this means either avoiding potentially costly lawsuits by using the correct professional translation services or walking straight into them with a computer translator.

Years ago, while working in a large Midwest city, we received an invitation by regular mail to attend a “Hispanic” event sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. The invitation was in Spanish, or at least a mere semblance of Spanish since it had been translated by Google translate. We called several colleagues in the Hispanic industry who also received the invitation and who were also very surprised by the terrible Spanish used. After contacting the Chamber, we learned that the director had trusted her new assistant to translate the invitation after he had told her that he was bilingual. He might have known a little bit of Spanish, but thought he could convince his colleagues he knew more by using the online translation tool. It backfired on him and the Chamber. It was an embarrassing lesson for them.

Advice: All translation companies are the same, just pick the cheapest.

Why this is terrible advice: When a business truly looks into the issue it is very clear that all translation companies are not the same. Using an experienced professional service with a proven track record that is dedicated to providing translation services as their primary focus is essential to getting a quality product. The difference will be noticed throughout the international corporation, from the quality of new recruits improving by having higher quality eLearning materials that are correctly translated, to a smoothly-run HR department, that can read fluent ethic reports translated into fluent English instead of broken English, the difference is substantial. It is worth any corporation’s time to ensure they use a high quality translation service and to make sure they switch to a better company if they are not satisfied with their current vendor. To be a truly international corporation, a business has to have international fluency between its different geographical locations and professional, high-quality, and error-free translation services are the best way to ensure this smoothness.

Companies that take this advice to heart and make sure they partner with a dedicated translation service, like weLanguages (www.welanguages.com), will be significantly happier in the long run.

10 Myths About Corporate Translations

The field of corporate translation has become increasingly important for large corporations across the world as successful and profitable business has become synonymous with international business.

However, there is still an abundance of misconceptions and inaccuracies surrounding corporate translations. Here are our top ten myths of corporate translation:

1. Machine translation services are useless and have no value for large United States corporations.

Truth: Appropriate use of machine translation can act as a helpful aid to people translating. It can help fix simple errors in professional translator’s writings if used well.

2. Machine translations are just as good as human translators and are a better value.

Truth: Important corporate and business information needs the human elements of nuance and contextual reference to be fully translated. Relying on a machine is a foolish move that can lead to big trouble in certain topics such as ethics violations with foreign workers.

3. All translating services are the same, give or take.

Truth: Make sure the company you use has the necessary expertise, reputation, and qualifications to successfully represent your business through corporate translation.

4. There are no guarantees that you can get consistently accurate translations online.

Truth: The right company can distinguish themselves with effective quality control methods to ensure the best corporate translation results every time.

5. Interpreting and translating are interchangeable words.

Truth: Interpreting refers to oral interpretation, the spoken word, typically seen in meetings, conferences, and court depositions for example. Translating is a written document being translated into another language.

6. There is only one type of interpreter available.

Truth: An important distinction in interpretation is between consecutive interpreters (the interpreter speaks during the pauses) and a simultaneous interpreter (the interpreter speaks at the same time as the native language speaker).

7. It is difficult to find out how accurate the corporate translation I received is.

Truth: only hire an agency that has a proven track record. One way you can be sure they will do a good job for you is to find out who their clients are. If established, reputable companies trust the agency, you probably can too.

8. Our thick employee handbook will surely take months to be translated.

Truth: Full translation of a 50-page document can be expedited to under 10 business days and the normal completion time is around 10-15 business days.

9. It is not necessary to have a translating service for our US-based business.

Truth: The US has the fifth highest Spanish speaking population in the world. It behooves any US based company with Hispanic employees to translate their HR materials.

10. Corporate translations for non-Spanish and non-Chinese clients are impossible to find.

Truth: weLanguages offers over 30 different languages ranging from Amharic to Zulu!

Latin American Cultural Differences

Though many outsiders of Latin American countries perceive many of them to be basically the same, they are, in fact, quite different from not only the U.S., but also from their neighboring countries. With over two dozen different countries, it should be expected that language, appearance, celebrations, and architecture, can and is different.

Cuba • On a decidedly different note, the Cuban government is still not recognized by the United States and all business and law specifically prohibits private commerce with the island by Americans. Culturally, it takes a lot to roil a Cuban but once done, reconciliation is just as difficult.

Argentina • The South American continent is home to Argentina, the most Spanish inspired culture. Argentineans make over 70% less money than Americans, but in turn, spend over 80% less on health care. Honor and respect can be expected in day-to-day life in the home, community, and business, and include making eye contact, greeting with a handshake from eldest to youngest, and when leaving, saying good-bye to each person individually.

Brazil • Unlike Americans who live to work, Brazilians work to live, putting their family, outside work life, and vacations first. Americans often don’t use all of their paid time off, whereas Brazilians appreciate and use all of their vacation time. The “time is money” concept does not apply in their laid back mind set and lunches can often run 2-3 hours long… something American’s surely wish for!

Venezuela • Similar to Brazilians, Venezuelans are generally unpunctual because in general, they do not really stress over time, unlike Americans who generally go by the “if you’re not early, you’re late” motto. In America, time represents something to be used wisely, whereas in Venezuela, it is meant to be enjoyed and not something to worry over.

Chile • Appearance is not taken as seriously in Chile like it is in America. Generally, expensive hand bags, accessories, and clothing are not widely sought after, clothing is fairly inexpensive, and fashion trends are not a concern. Greeting with a kiss is common, Christianity is widely practiced, and because of this, homosexuality is not accepted and divorce is looked down upon.

Asian Cultural Differences

As any student of languages can tell you, there are a variety of ways that the cultures of the Far East and the West differ. These differences manifest themselves in various ways including how one greets another person, how business is conducted and how much physical contact is allowed. While the nuances of every Asian culture would take an entire book to explain, here are some of the basics for seven of the most popular Asian destinations:

China – Social relationships are highly formalized and involve a very ritualized sense of reciprocal obligation. For the unwary, gift-giving can be quite confusing so obtain the services of a local before presenting anyone with a gift. Direct confrontation is also considered poor etiquette and negotiations will usually last far longer than a Westerner expects.

Taiwan – Although rooted in Chinese culture, Taiwan is far more westernized. Still, there are some distinct cultural differences from the West. In particular, handshakes are rare except among friends. Instead a slight nod of the head when introduced by a third party – yes, that’s the etiquette – is all that is required. Finger pointing is a no-no as is touching anyone’s head. Lastly, be restrained in your actions and you will offend no one – loud and boisterous behavior is considered uncommonly rude.

Japan – The simple act of handing or receiving a business card in the Land of the Rising Sun is fraught with the possibility of insult. If handed a card, you must study it for at least two minutes and remark upon its qualities or you will be guilty of rudeness. On the other hand, once the business day – usually a very long one – is concluded, you will be expected to be entertained by your hosts for many more hours of drinking and singing.

Thailand – Bhumibol Adulyadej, king of Thailand, is very respected. Concerning this subject, it is probably best to bypass this topic so a harmless statement is not mistakenly taken out of context. The people of Thailand are otherwise generally friendly, outgoing people. It is custom to enter a home only after removing your shoes, to return a friendly gesture, such as smiling, and also never to touch someone’s head.

Philippines – While Filipinos can be fairly obtuse when speaking, they are much more physically oriented in person – at least for members of the same sex. Do not be alarmed if a Filipino man whom you have just met puts his arm around you and guides you to your seat. Also, refrain from pointing at a person as it is considered rude. Filipinos are far more cognizant of eye contact and a simple nod will get their attention.

South Korea- Like many Asian cultures, bowing is a common way to show respect. Being introduced to a group of people, meeting someone for the first time, and leaving a room or gathering should all be accompanied with a bow. It is also important to remember that in South Korea, eye contact is seen as a threat and/or challenge and should be avoided.

Indonesia – Propriety is considered sacred in the Muslim country. Always be on time, never use your left hand to receive a gift or touch another person and always greet people with the word “Selamat.” The country is also quite crowded so physical contact is to be expected and one’s personal space will be far smaller and may make the unprepared Westerner uncomfortable.

The top 5 worst translation mistakes in history

Working in an environment of multilingual employees presents unique challenges that can be difficult to anticipate. Problem solving can be one of the most difficult aspects, but also the most rewarding. Being able to help overcome issues that stem from different cultures and languages at work is something that all employees need to learn, but it is particularly important for managers.

When confronted with a problem at work, regardless of what that problem is, the employee or manager should take the time to fully understand what the problem is before trying to resolve it. Even when employees all speak a common language, their understanding of a second or third language will be influenced by their culture. For example, an employee may come from a culture where people are very direct. To some this approach may seem to be critical or offensive. The best approach to take when there are multilingual employees is not to be easily offended. Strive to see the problem from multiple angles, and it will be easier to understand how an employee or manager arrived at a certain point of view.

When working with multilingual employees, think of several different ways to provide instructions. Take the time to make sure that everyone is on the same page, and projects will go faster and more smoothly.

It is easy to think that because multilingual employees can generally speak one language that they can understand any information presented to them. One of the biggest problems facing multilingual employees is that native speakers of the language often forget the limitations of having to constantly think in a second language at work. At the end of a presentation or meeting, take the time to address questions and concerns. Allowing employees the opportunity to get clarification will help avoid problems.

How to Be A Problem Solver with Multilingual Employees

Working in an environment of multilingual employees presents unique challenges that can be difficult to anticipate. Problem solving can be one of the most difficult aspects, but also the most rewarding. Being able to help overcome issues that stem from different cultures and languages at work is something that all employees need to learn, but it is particularly important for managers.

When confronted with a problem at work, regardless of what that problem is, the employee or manager should take the time to fully understand what the problem is before trying to resolve it. Even when employees all speak a common language, their understanding of a second or third language will be influenced by their culture. For example, an employee may come from a culture where people are very direct. To some this approach may seem to be critical or offensive. The best approach to take when there are multilingual employees is not to be easily offended. Strive to see the problem from multiple angles, and it will be easier to understand how an employee or manager arrived at a certain point of view.

When working with multilingual employees, think of several different ways to provide instructions. Take the time to make sure that everyone is on the same page, and projects will go faster and more smoothly.

It is easy to think that because multilingual employees can generally speak one language that they can understand any information presented to them. One of the biggest problems facing multilingual employees is that native speakers of the language often forget the limitations of having to constantly think in a second language at work. At the end of a presentation or meeting, take the time to address questions and concerns. Allowing employees the opportunity to get clarification will help avoid problems.

What is the Perfect Formula for eLearning?

“What is the Perfect Formula for an eLearning program that targets employees who speak different languages?”

These days, most companies no longer deal with localized employees, many work remotely in different parts of the world. The internet has made it possible for even the smallest company to handle customers and employees all over the world. Having an international client base means that employees need to be able to communicate with clients who might not speak the same language. eLearning has proven to be a very effective way to help employees develop the necessary language skills.

This form of eLearning is a relatively new concept in the business world and everyone is still in the process of trying to figure out what the most successful formula is.

Developers and business owners continue to explore the world of eLearning. In the decade or so that eLearning has been used to help with international business and a diverse employee base, there are some things that seem to lead to higher completion rates.

Using a program that leads to HR certification is a very good idea. Knowing that they’ll have another certification that they can use to help them get promotions and bigger paychecks motivates participating employees to devote more time and effort to the program, increasing the odds of them completing it.

While it’s true that programs that rely on taped tutorials cost less, it’s the programs that have been set up so participants get face to face time and even individual counseling from the instructor in their own language that have a higher success rate.

Employers need to look for programs that don’t have a ones size fits all mentality. Different people respond differently to different teaching styles. eLearning programs that can be adapted to accommodate each student’s individual needs and native language should be sought out.

There are many eLearning programs currently being marketed to the corporate world. It’s in each business owner’s best interest to choose the one that has a history of high completion rates and one that has options in many languages. If you already have an effective eLearning program in English and would like to translate it into different languages, look no further. eLanguages, Inc. is an established and experienced language translation service ready to help you.

5 Tips for Training Coordinators with Multilingual Needs

Translating training and eLearning material is never easy, irrespective of the language or the target market. Training coordinators therefore need proper preparation if they are to create ethical and highly successful translation materials. Here are 5 great tips to help avoid common translation pitfalls when working on eLearning courses, computer-based translation manuals, and handbooks.

1- CREATE CONTENT THAT IS TRANSLATION FRIENDLY

Content includes text, voice and images – both static and motion. Thinking about your translation while creating the material is a great way of planning for the actual translation. For example, talent coordinators should use bulleted lists as opposed to lengthy paragraphs. They should also avoid idiomatic expressions and slangs. Where there are lengthy noun expressions, it is better to break up such content.

Coordinators should also minimize the number of screenshots and are advised to be careful with metaphorical images such as dollar symbols for money or pictures of gestures. Images should also be culturally neutral.

2- USE OF UNICODE FOR ALL APPLICATIONS

All files containing localizable content must support the languages of the target languages. All HTML and XML files can for instance be declared to use the UTF-8 set of characters. Failure to do this usually results in the text being displayed as question-marked diamonds.

3- DO NOT EMBED TEXT IN GRAPHICS OR SCRIPTS

Text placed in graphics cannot be extracted. To get the text back, the source file must be re-created with the text recovered as a separate layer. The translator won’t be able to edit the content if it’s delivered in a static image unless he/she gets the actual source file to translate directly into it.

Embedding localizable content in codes like VBScript and JavaScript may require the localizer to develop special parsers for identifying and filtering the text.

These procedures are both technical and time consuming.

4- BEWARE OF EXPANDING TEXT

Translated content is in most cases longer than the English equivalent. This can pose a huge problem if the text container is not flexible. Training supervisors are encouraged to check codes and text design to ensure there is enough space to accommodate longer text. Horizontal menus and menus are examples of issue prone areas.

5- AVOID OR MINIMIZE CONTENT INTEGRATION

Where it becomes necessary to integrate content created using different tools, technologies and formats, caution should be practiced. Trainers should always remember that content that is difficult to create is even harder to localize and translate.

How to Create eLearning Courses for a Multilingual Audience

To articulate a multilingual eLearning course successfully, it is necessary to think about how every aspect of the course will translate and be understood by your target audience. The following tips will enable a smooth transition when translating eLearning courses into various languages.

LANGUAGE

Language is obviously the most important factor in multilingual courses, and a simple translation is not as easy as it first appears; for instance, the same languages may have significant differences in expressions, pronunciation, and even basic vocabulary differences depending of the country.

To overcome this problem, the eLearning developer should choose either a dialect understood by the majority of the target audience or use a neutral version of the language as is the recommended case for most Spanish translations since there are so many different Spanish speaking countries. In some cases, it may be necessary to release content in two versions of the same language, such as Portuguese for Portugal and Portuguese for Brazil even though the differences may be very subtle.

CULTURE

There are huge differences in symbolism and taboos over different cultures — even a simple thing like the connotations surrounding a certain color may change from country to country. To avoid misunderstandings, the eLearning developer should avoid examples and pictures that obviously relate to a particular country and keep symbolism to a minimum.

Another cultural consideration is learning style. There are two opposing instructional approaches: deductive and inductive. In deductive learning, the instructor introduces and explains the concepts, and students then complete tasks to practice. Inductive learning, on the other hand, is a student-centered approach that uses the technique of “noticing,” where learners receive examples showing them how a concept is used. Depending on their culture, learners will be more comfortable with one or the other.

LAYOUT

Some languages use more words than others to express the same idea, a factor that is important to bear in mind when planning the layout for text. A Spanish translation of eLearning content, for example, is likely to have around 20% more words than the original English.

Above all, it is important to test the final eLearning course in Spanish and other languages to a sample group before releasing it to the target audience. The feedback gained from a number of learners in different countries is essential for gauging the course’s potential for success.

Difficulties Faced in Legal Document Translation

THE PROBLEM WITH LOSS OF MEANING

One of the most pernicious problems in translation is how translating text from one language into another language can lead to a loss of meaning. In some cases, this is because a literal translation many times omits the nuance, while in other cases, the translation has not been “localized” for the correct market, meaning, it has not taken into account the target audience, it’s more generic. Regardless of its ultimate cause, loss of meaning is a problem that promises to persist so long as text continues to be in need of translation.

HOW THE PROBLEM ESCALATES WITH THE TRANSLATION OF LEGAL DOCUMENTS

Loss of meaning becomes even more serious with business document translation involving passages of a legal nature. In part, this is because even small changes in the meaning of business document translation can exert significant influence over the users’ decision-making. However, part of the problem also lies in the fact that there is so much more room for error.

It is important to note that comprehension of legal jargon in even one legal system is not a common skill. For a translator to be able to produce accurate translations, said individual must be able to comprehend the legal system behind the text and then somehow reproduce the meaning using terms belonging to the legal system with which the user is familiar. Failure on one end can cause serious problems involving significant sums, not to mention the fact that business document translation involving legal matters often carries time constraints.

HOW TO COMBAT THE PROBLEM

In the end, there is no simple solution to the loss of meaning that comes with translation in general, in particular legal texts. Skill and experience are very important to avoid these pitfalls, but translation of legal matters is one of the most demanding tasks in regards to both.