Introduction to Multilingual Typesetting (DTP)
Translation and typesetting: A short look at the practical and cultural problems of multilingual typesetting.
Translation and typesetting: A short look at the practical and cultural problems of multilingual typesetting.
Have you ever thought about how your beautifully designed campaign will be affected when translated into another language? How will the translated text fit into the layout, and will it compromise the design? This is what multilingual typesetting addresses — ensuring that your print or digital campaigns still look great and work effectively when translated into another language.
The following post provides an overview of the world of multilingual typesetting. If you have any questions, please let us know.
Before you start designing the document, take the target language(s) into account. For example, languages such as Korean and Arabic don’t have capital letters, so script-specific features like dropped caps in the design won’t transfer into these languages. In some languages, such as Chinese, the norm is to fully justify paragraphs (no left or right alignment) so take this into account when setting the look and feel for your publication.
Colours can also be a tricky issue. While we’re not recommending avoiding colours altogether, they must be used judiciously and with some sensitivity. Different colours can have different connotations across cultures — for instance, using the interesting and useful chart at http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/colours-in-cultures, we can see that while gold signifies money and wealth in many countries, in Japan, it’s blue. Differences like these can make or break the success of your design.
Different languages use different amounts of space when translated. For example, French and Spanish translations often become 10-20% longer than English. Chinese on the other hand may be shorter than English but it takes more space vertically because characters need to be large enough to read. Then there’s German, where compound nouns could do with a page of their own – just compare a simple English term ‘speed limits’ against German equivalent of ‘Geschwindigkeitsbeschränkungen’, which takes almost three times as much space as the English. If that wasn’t already tricky enough, consider languages like Urdu where the text not only expands in length but also in height because you need to allow more spacing between lines (called leading) for the intricate Nastaleeq-style script.
Tip: Leave as much white space as possible to allow for language expansion and don’t make text boxes too small!
Check that the fonts you are planning to use support the language that is being typeset. There are different fonts for different languages, so you’d need to have a different font for Simplified Chinese and for Traditional Chinese as they use different character sets. Remember also that italics (cursive) and bold are sometimes frowned upon in different languages as they can create legibility problems, or are simply not used.
In most cases your typesetter would need to find a font that has a similar feel to the fonts chosen in the English source document but it may be possible to locate a different version of the font. For example, if your company font is Frutiger and you wish to use this font in a translation, you’d need to have a licence for the CE version for Central European languages (such as Polish, Czech or Slovak) or the CYR version for the Cyrillic script (for languages such as Russian or Bulgarian). There is even an Naskh version of Frutiger for Arabic.
There are free alternatives online as well, and most Microsoft Office fonts can be downloaded with the Language pack for each language free of charge.
Use Unicode fonts where possible and remember that even Unicode support doesn’t guarantee that font works perfectly on every software.
Tip: Let your translation service provider know any font preferences to avoid costly rework and always have a native speaker linguist check the work after a font change.
Don’t forget that some writing systems are right-to-left (RTL) – for example Arabic, Hebrew and Farsi. For these languages, care must be taken not just in handling the characters and spacing, but also how the translated text will fit into your artwork for RTL markets, as the layout and images are flipped into a mirror image of the original English document.
Text is not the only consideration. Images and graphics can’t always be flipped, especially those containing text or symbols. Look out for clocks too; we’ve seen a few examples of poor RTL typesetting with a clock showing the time back to front!
See our post on right-to-left typesetting here.
Consider if the images used in the English leaflet are suitable for use in the target market. For example, an image showing a cityscape shot in the UK might not be right for a local market in the UAE – a cityscape of Dubai or Abu Dhabi might be more appropriate.
Also, consider the target culture and customs. In some Asian countries, it is rude to point with a toe or give a business card with the left hand, so avoid pictures of such actions that could cause offence. Your translation service provider should advise as part of the project.
Tip: To help your typesetter, supply them with original graphics in editable format so that they can be localized with ease — ideally, .ai or .eps format.
There are language-specific rules for typesetting in each language, so ensure your translation service provider is up to speed with the rules for each language. Anyone can copy text to InDesign but if they don’t know the typesetting rules for that language, they could leave your document looking unprofessional or incorrect.
For example, in Polish typesetting, single letters such as ‘i’ and ‘z’ cannot be left on their own at the end of a line. Similarly, in Japanese there are a few dozen characters that are never used to start a line, such as ー, ァ or ィ.
We’ll be publishing a blog entry on typesetting Asian languages later on in the year – watch this space!
Experienced multilingual typesetters and expert translators will make the best team!
If you have any questions about multilingual typesetting, or have a project you need a quote or advice on, please contact our team. Call +44 (0) 1483 577 750 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Translation and typesetting: A more in depth look at Typesetting in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and other right to left languages.
The results from our 2018 Feedback Survey are finally in!
Arabic is probably the most widely translated right-to-left (RTL) language (the other major ones include Urdu, Hebrew, Farsi and Kurdish), Arabic is an official language in 26 countries and spoken by over 420 million people, so it should be no surprise if your international clients require translation and right-to-left typesetting at some point.
As we shared in our recent blog post on multilingual typesetting, handling right-to-left typesetting can add a few extra hurdles to the process. It’s not just a simple question of translating text into Arabic, inserting it into your design and clicking “align right”. Without the right software setup, your text could appear backwards, jumbled, or even corrupted.
Here, we share a few tips to consider before sending your text for translation into Arabic.
Your translation service provider will reverse your publication to create a mirror image of your original leaflet. This means that the spine of the booklet will be on the right-hand side, columns will run from right-to-left and images will be moved to the opposite side of each page to produce a mirror image of the layout and text direction.
Tip: If you require elements to stay exactly as they are in the English – for example, the position of logos on the cover to match your branding guidelines – let your translation service provider know so that they can take this into account before reversing the design.
Arabic is written from right-to-left using Naskh style script. If your original document is created using a specialist font, it may not support right-to-left languages and therefore must be replaced with an Arabic font — licences for this may need to be purchased separately.
Many commonly used fonts such as Helvetica Neue and Frutiger have Arabic equivalents – but as with every font in Latin script, they all have a different feel depending on the font chosen.
Standard Microsoft fonts such as Times, Arial and Calibri will work fine with Arabic as long as you have Arabic support enabled on your system.
Although Arabic text is read from right to left, the figures are read from left to right, even if they are in the middle of a paragraph. If your document is not set up properly, you may end up with mixed-up numbers that could have serious ramifications — for example, a medicine dosage written as 51 ml instead of 15 ml.
Right phone number: 0203 112 334
Wrong phone number: 224 211 0203
Just to make matters more confusing, the digits we use in English are called Arabic digits, and digits that look like Arabic digits are called Hindi digits. You also have the third option of Farsi digits.
Tip: Make sure to double check the figures on the final product to be safe!
If you haven’t had any previous experience of right-to-left typesetting it probably sounds like a daunting task. We’d say that it’s an exciting journey of discovery, learning about different writing styles and exploring the intricacies of typesetting, but that’s just us!
We appreciate that you might not have time to become an expert overnight, especially if you only have occasional right-to-left typesetting needs, so keep these tips in mind as you prepare your documents, and then let us handle the tricky bits!
Demystifying Braille for World Sight Day
You might be familiar with Japanese fusion restaurants, blending Japanese dishes with food from other areas of the world, but did you know that Japanese writing is a fusion of different scripts? Of course, most languages and writing systems have evolved from different influences; but Japanese has innovated by combining three different writing systems together […]
Some interesting facts about Sign Language from a beginner’s experience.
As 12th October is World Sight Day, we thought we would devote this blog post to the subject of braille.
The most amazing thing about braille is our perception of it. This was well observed by the artist Scott Wayne Indiana who put braille stickers on public buildings around the city of Portland in 2007. If it were a script most understood, it would have been seen as graffiti and removed. Instead it was largely ignored. Perhaps it wasn’t noticed. Perhaps assumptions were made that it was an official notice. Food for thought.
You probably know something about braille. It’s one of humanity’s most inspired and progressive inventions – a code which changes letters into dots. When printed, the dots are raised and can thus be read by touch by the visually impaired. Its brilliance is its simplicity.
However, as humans we like to make things slightly more complicated for ourselves. The problem with braille is that it is large. It needs to be large so fingers can feel the bumps accurately. However, this means that when it is printed, a page of computer processed text can easily run to three pages of braille. In the modern world, this rampant slaughter of trees is a bit of an environmental faux pas.
Secondly – if there’s one thing that unifies humanity it will be the realisation that humans are intrinsically built lazy (or built to be as efficient as possible, depending on your world view): you know that thing you do when you are reading and you don’t really look at all the letters/words in the sentence…you just kind of skim through it? Well, visually impaired people do that too. But with their fingers. Painstakingly reading every single letter just gets tedious.
The solution? Contracted braille. Braille readers got bored of all the long words and commonly used words and even pairs of letters and replaced them with contractions. So, for example, the braille symbol for ‘b’ ⠃is also the symbol for ‘but’. The braille symbol for ‘c’ ⠉ is also the symbol for ‘can’. Hence,
You like him
⠽⠕⠥ ⠇⠊⠅⠑ ⠓⠊⠍
Contracted braille (literally: “Y l hm”):
After that it starts to get more complicated. For instance there are contractions for the letter pairings “be” “ea” and “ar”. Which ones do you use to make the word “bear”? There’s a contraction for “th” – you can use it in “think” but you can’t use it in “pothole”. There’s a contraction for “mother”… but you can’t use it in “chemotherapy”. Why? It’s all based on the pronunciation of the word. And this is where you need a native braille user and some professional grade equipment.
Braille in other languages
Each language and country has its own braille system. There are increased layers of complication depending on the size of alphabets, accents, etc. Some countries use contracted braille and some don’t. Some countries have agreed a standard – Unified English Braille (UEB) is a unified code for seven English speaking nations so that everyone uses the same contractions. Others are working on it. Interestingly, a universal convention with braille is to write it from left to right, even in languages such as Arabic where the underlying language is written from right to left.
The best thing about braille
Due to advances in technology braille can now be produced cheaply and quickly, reducing barriers for the visually impaired in a way that was previously just not possible. If you want to make your world accessible to the visually impaired, you might be surprised how easy it is.
You might be familiar with Japanese fusion restaurants, blending Japanese dishes with food from other areas of the world, but did you know that Japanese writing is a fusion of different scripts?
Of course, most languages and writing systems have evolved from different influences; but Japanese has innovated by combining three different writing systems together that are easily identifiable as distinct scripts. Well, easy to identify if you’re a Japanese translator or linguist…
It’s a bit like a roast beef and Yorkshire pudding sushi roll (sounds dreadful but it does exist); a combination of different elements in one dish that still keep their own identities.
You probably don’t really need to know the ins and outs of the Japanese writing system unless you’re learning to read and write it. However, we know how curious our clients are and how they love to learn about the quirks and idiosyncrasies of different languages! So for your benefit here’s a quick guide to Japanese writing.
Imagine reading a document that uses three different alphabets throughout. That’s what reading Japanese is like, but those alphabets, or scripts, are not confined to 26 letters each, but contain several thousand in one script, and 46 basic forms in the other two.
While there are basic rules for using each script, there are also plenty of exceptions (of course!), and some words have multiple pronunciations depending on the context. So the following is far from a crash course in Japanese – far too complicated – but hopefully provides enough for you to answer a question on the language if it comes up on University Challenge.
The basic scripts are:
Kanji (漢字) – these are the logographic symbols borrowed from Chinese. The Daikanwa Jiten – Japan’s most prestigious character dictionary – lists over 50,000 kanji, however a knowledge of around 3,000 is sufficient to read a modern newspaper.
Kanji are chiefly used for nouns, and the stems of verbs, adjectives and adverbs.
Hiragana (平仮名) – in the past Japanese was written using only kanji, with some being used for their pronunciation and some being used for their meaning. This system proved somewhat unwieldy, and hiragana characters evolved from kanji as a way of writing Japanese phonetically. Hiragana are chiefly used to write grammatical particles, and the endings of verbs, adjectives and adverbs.
Katakana (片仮名) – these symbols are again derived from kanji. They were created by extracting components from kanji that had the desired phonetic value. In fact, katakana roughly translates as ‘partial script’. It was developed as another way of speeding up the writing process, and annotating kanji. Katakana are chiefly used for non-Chinese, foreign loanwords, and for mimetic words that imitate sounds (onomatopoeia).
To complicate matters further, Japanese writing also combines the Latin alphabet (usually in the form of acronyms), Arabic numerals, and uses some Greek characters for mathematical symbols and units of measure. Truly a fusion of different influences.
Furthermore, Japanese can be written horizontally and vertically, and both may be used within the same document or page of text. When written horizontally, modern Japanese usually reads from left to right. When written vertically, right to left.
If you’re wondering whether your translated text should be set vertically or horizontally, as a rule of thumb vertical is used for traditional Japanese writing, novels, as well as most other non-technical books; horizontal for business documents, everyday writing, and scientific or technical content.
Often a combination of both vertical and horizontal is used for space efficiency – for example, in newspapers and magazines. However, it is also used for visual impact in order to make headings and quotes stand out.
A roast beef and Yorkshire pudding sushi roll may sound like a fusion disaster; fortunately Japanese writing systems are a fusion success – albeit a significant challenge for anyone learning the language!
Got any more questions about Japanese? Get in touch with the team if you need any support with Japanese translations (or any other language). Call +44 (0)1483 577 750 or email email@example.com
For more fascinating facts about Japanese translations, click here.
A few years ago I took up sign language… not through any real need, more the start of a lifelong experiment in beginning to explore whether the use of symbols and signs could be a more effective and cheaper method of communication than the translation of words. Also I work with Finns, who are able to sit for extended periods of time with their best friends and family in utter, complete silence and I wondered if it was possible they might be up to something.
Sadly I only got as far as NVQ level 1 before a distinct lack of spare time meant I had to call it a day – but in that short space I’ve never enjoyed learning a language so much and thoroughly recommend it to everyone. So here are 5 interesting facts about sign language to make you sign up for a course:
1) Learning sign language is an experience in itself. You can’t really work with books so the best way to learn it is by copying. Lessons normally work with the teacher telling a story and you repeat it. It’s like the old storytelling methods round the campfire where wisdom is passed from one to another… and it’s utterly compelling.
2) Signs for the same thing can differ by region… or even person.
3) Some signs are just fascinating and brilliantly logical. For example the sign for “experience” mimics something falling out of your brain onto paper.
4) Context is king. Some signs are as simple as spelling out the first letter of the word – but you have to watch the shape being made with the mouth and figure out the word by context. For instance the sign for “Mother” and “Monday” are the same.
5) Sign language has its own fascinating grammar. It incorporates word order, facial expressions and uses physical positions around the signer to demonstrate certain aspects of grammar. Word order is different too – notably interrogatives appear last, so “What’s your name?” would be rendered in BSL as “you name what?”.
If you are interested in learning BSL, www.signature.org.uk is a great place to start.
Author: Giles Poole
Today is the UN’s Chinese Language Day – a day which is chosen to coincide with “Guyu” in the Chinese calendar. Guyu is celebrated in honour of the Chinese folk hero Cangjie, who is said to have created Chinese characters thousands of years ago, so we thought this was a prime opportunity to explain a little about how Chinese characters work in today’s computer-driven world.
Need your translation in a hurry? This blog post looks at short and long-term strategies to remove bottlenecks from the translation process.
Part of our unique words in different languages series: Spanish
Today is the UN’s Chinese Language Day – a day which is chosen to coincide with “Guyu” in the Chinese calendar. Guyu is celebrated in honour of the Chinese folk hero Cangjie, who is said to have created Chinese characters thousands of years ago, so we thought this was a prime opportunity to explain a little about how Chinese characters work in today’s computer-driven world.
Chinese is complicated. There are over 200 spoken dialects and each character in the Chinese “Hanzi” writing system is made up of a number of different strokes, sometimes as many as 64. Luckily, written Chinese doesn’t vary greatly, but the largest Chinese dictionaries contain around 56,000 different characters. Knowledge of 3,000–4,000 characters is apparently enough to “get by”. Even 3,000 characters is daunting compared to the English alphabet of a mere 26 letters.
This presents some interesting challenges when it comes to typing in Chinese when you have a keyboard that only has 26 keys. So how do Chinese writers achieve this? The answers are varied and ingenious!
Fortunately, there are not as many ways of typing Chinese text as there are spoken dialects, but there are still several different methods commonly used, which all adds to the fun. In mainland China there are two dominant ones: Pinyin and Wubi.
To use Pinyin, computer users type the transliteration of a word on a standard QWERTY keyboard in Roman characters. The computer then converts the Pinyin spelling into the correct Chinese character on the screen.
This method is generally more accessible to non-native Chinese speakers who may find it easier to rely on Roman letters and a phonetic approach. However, it does mean learning the transliteration of Chinese words, and, with many similar-sounding words (Chinese is a tonal language), it can be tricky to choose the correct one.
Selecting the intended word can slow down the typing process considerably. Once a word has been typed in Pinyin, the computer will suggest words matching this pronunciation in a pop-up window. The correct word can then be selected by using the number keys or the mouse.
Most common Pinyin input software also has a predictive text function and will suggest characters based on context and common usage. Users can also create a custom dictionary of their own frequently used characters and phrases that can help increase typing speeds. On average, though, most users will struggle to get above a rate of 50 characters per minute using the Pinyin input method.
If you want quicker typing speeds, the Wubi method is the solution. This divides the keyboard into 5 key areas and creates its own shorthand. Most characters can be written with no more than 4 keystrokes and expert typists can get up to 160 characters a minute.
The standard QWERTY keyboard is used but with additional labels on each key. These correspond to different pen strokes, and the user types out the Chinese character by selecting the right sequence of keystrokes.
This input method is quicker as it allows experienced users to acquire muscle memory – just as QWERTY touch typists do. However, there is a price to pay for speed—learning Wubi is much harder than learning Pinyin.
Ah, yes. Zhuyin is a Chinese input method widely used in Taiwan, and it’s often used for teaching Mandarin overseas.
Whereas Pinyin uses Roman letters to spell out Chinese characters, Zhuyin replaces syllables with symbols – essentially creating a unique alphabet. Like Pinyin, Zhuyin is based on the Mandarin pronunciation.
As with Pinyin and Wubi, standard keyboards are used, but for Zhuyin, the phonetic characters are derived from ancient Chinese characters.
As touch-screen technology becomes more ubiquitous, electronic writing tablets are widely used with input software to enable users to input characters without learning the complexities of the other systems.
Writers can use a stylus to simply draw the Chinese character on a tablet. The computer software recognises the characters based on the combination of pen strokes and converts it. The downside? It takes ages to do some characters…hence this method isn’t widely used. Also – if your handwriting/drawing is anything like mine, there’s a massive risk of producing something resembling spaghetti. Another good reason we only work with professional, native Chinese translators.
Got any more questions? Get in touch with the team if you need any support with Chinese translations (or any other language). Call +44 (0)1483 577 750 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more fascinating facts about Chinese translations, click here.
With Google Translate at our fingertips, it’s easy to assume that translation is a near-instant process. Unfortunately, despite recent developments in the world of computer aided translation (CAT) tools, translation is still largely an intellectual process carried out by skilled human brains. With the right tools, translation can be done more quickly without sacrificing accuracy, but there are still physical constraints that mean humans still produce only about 2000-3000 words per day of newly translated text. Automating the process with the right (CAT) tools for the job, while removing bottlenecks that can slow the process down will set your project up for success.
While high-quality, fully independent automatic translation is still firmly in the realm of science fiction, automating some parts of the translation process can speed up translation times and reduce costs, so it’s worth asking what tools your translation service provider has at their disposal. Online project management tools can automate workflows to save time on a constant flow of emails and file saving. Machine translation (MT) tools can process huge volumes of text almost instantly – but results will depend on how well you have prepared the text beforehand, as well as the type of text. Machine translation output will require post-editing by human translators familiar with working with this technology. If your provider is using MT expect them to be familiar with the requirements of ISO 18587, the (draft) ISO standard for post-editing of machine translation output.
Translation memory tools (TM) can reduce the amount of text for translation by eliminating duplicate phrases and sentences and by instantly finding text that has been previously translated for you. It also gives translators an easy way to check which terms have been used in your projects before, saving valuable time on terminology research and/or a terminology approval process.
A good translation service provider can look at every project and help you figure out the best tool or combination of tools to use.
As soon as you know you require material translated, start talking to translation service providers. There’s a lot we can do! We can help you plan authoring strategies and a course of action to streamline and save money. We can research and create terminology glossaries in advance so that this doesn’t eat into translation time, and get your approval on terms before the translators start working.
Share your timeline with us so we can pencil your project in and ensure we have the resources needed. It may be a long way off, and your schedule may change, but preparing in advance makes it easier to accommodate changes and tight deadlines.
Where possible, try to keep your translation service provider in the loop about any changes – both in terms of deadlines and the size and nature of the project.
Having engaged a translation service provider, it’s a good idea to talk to us about guidelines on optimising your source text for translation. A lot depends on the type of text you are writing; machine translation can be great for lists, simple instructions or “chat”, while other types of text might be better suited for using a translation memory. For both tools differing authoring strategies are needed to get the best out of them. For some creative texts, like adverts, automated tools may not be helpful at all. For more information, see our leaflet: “How to save money on translation costs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”.
Writing for translation also includes involves making sure you try to avoid slang and idioms. You also need to be aware of anything from cultural sensitivities to gender norms and use of colour – but as it’s virtually impossible to be fully knowledgeable about every possible potential cultural impact, we’d advise on these as well.
Lastly, it may seem like an obvious point, but it’s also worth ensuring that your text is definitely a final version and ready to be translated. A source file that’s been proofread so it’s grammatically correct and free of typos will save you time in the long run. It’s also worth remembering the multiplier effect here; a small change is easy enough to make in the source text, but if that change then has to be implemented in five languages, that means involving five translators and five proofreaders, as well as the project manager quality checking five files. It all stacks up!
Most translation service providers can handle source text delivered in any format – Word, Autocad, InDesign, Json, XML. However, it is a good idea to check before to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Otherwise it could slow the translation process down if content needs to be converted before processing and or require additional formatting once translated.
The perfect scenario is that you deliver the source text in your original source files, it’s translated and then returned to you in exactly the same file format. Editable documents are always better than images (PDFs, JPEGs), and results will be faster (and likely cheaper).
Nice and simple this one. If you have tens or hundreds or thousands of documents to translate, tell us which ones, or which languages, are priority and…err…we’ll prioritise them.
With the tips above you can hand over translation projects to your provider knowing that you’ve done your bit. Then it’s all down to their super-heroic abilities to meet your tight deadlines…
The main rule? If you have text you need translated – call or email us now!
Every language has words that have no direct equivalent in English, and Spanish is no exception. As one of the world’s main languages, with a long history, multiple influences (in particular Arabic and Latin) and speakers all over the world, it’s no surprise that Spanish has some terms and concepts that give a fascinating insight into the language and culture. Sometimes they’re neologisms brought into the language by a technological advance and sometimes they are culturally bound and unique to the specific country. Other times they’re just interesting or make us laugh and it is with this in mind we’ve decided to list a few of our favourites:
Literally meaning “overtable”, this term refers to the time spent talking while sitting at the table after a meal. A common Spanish pastime.
If a bank holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday (in Spain, bank holidays aren’t always on Mondays or Fridays, as they are in the UK), it’s a common practice to take the day between the bank holiday and the weekend – literally speaking, the “bridge” between.
Mostly used for flamenco dancers and singers, “duende”, which literally means “elf” or “goblin” is used to refer to a natural, mysterious charm shown by some artists that defies explanation.
This verb means to use something for the first time, or to debut it – the premiere of a film in Spanish is called the “estreno”, coming from this word.
Literally meaning “Sunday-maker” a dominguero is a person who normally goes out on Sundays and bank holidays. Generally, domingueros go to the countryside or beach to barbeque or picnic. Think “Sunday driver” in English.
Derived from from “frío” (Spanish for cold), this refers to a person who is very sensitive to cold.
Literally meaning to peacock oneself, this one is used to say that someone is showing off or parading around, like a peacock flaunting its feathers.
Got a favourite Spanish word to share with us? Leave a comment below and let’s see if we can find some new words to add!
ISO standards in translation services – why you should look for ISO 17100 certified translation suppliers.
Before you go frittering your money away, take a look at this intro to saving money on translation costs.
How many words for snow? We take a quick look at the complications of Finnish translation and why Finnish has lots of words for pretty much everything.
When choosing a translation partner, you’ll be looking for reassurance that you have selected a safe pair of hands. It can be a nerve-wracking job to find the right provider, especially if you don’t have in-house native speakers to check that translations are accurate.
That’s why providers like ourselves make a big song and dance about our accreditations and certifications. In the absence of a recommendation from a trusted colleague or peer, these stamps of approval and badges of honour are the next best thing.
Although the translation industry is unregulated, we do have our own professional organisations. They include amongst others, the Association of Translation Companies (ATC), the Institute of Translating and Interpreting (ITI), and the American Translators Association (ATA) in the US.
As well as professional bodies, we also have our own ISO standard. ISO 17100 may not sound very glamorous but it’s ours!
This international standard ensures that accredited translation services providers work to approved quality management systems. It also ensures that those involved in a translation project – project managers, translators, revisers, proofreaders and reviewers – are qualified and meet specific criteria.
This means you can have greater trust in the process; an independent auditor has certified that our translations are translated by subject experts, revised by subject experts and checked by us. Additionally, the qualifications and expertise of our suppliers has been independently checked and verified.
The processes that come under scrutiny include:
You may also notice that many translation providers have ISO 9001, another quality management standard. This is not a unique standard for the translation industry and is mainly about management systems, rather than setting out minimum quality standards for translation, but it’s definitely one to add to your list of ‘must haves’.
This is because it’s relevant to the service industry and how our quality management systems are aligned with your needs. It focuses on ensuring we understand our customers’ requirements and our services and products are designed to meet them. ISO 9001 also looks for continuous improvement, which means that we are constantly looking for ways to deliver a better service for our clients.
Guess what? We’ve got both ISO 17100 and ISO 9001 so you can tick those off your list if you’re comparing different providers. We’ve also got ISO 14001, which helps us manage the environmental impact of our business and we’ll soon be working towards ISO 18587 (the quality standard for the post editing of machine translation) when the draft is approved.
So we’re kind of ISO-ed up to the hilt here at Geo Languages. These Quality Assurance standards are important, so however dull they may sound, they ensure that our services are optimised for quality. Quality in translation terms means accuracy and consistency, and this is essential for any successful translation project.
If you want to know more about our quality management system and how we ensure high quality translations for clients across a wide range of sectors, please get in touch.
Value. What does it mean? Is it getting up at 4 am to queue for a new television in the annual Black Friday circus? Probably not. We’re here to tell you there is another, much simpler way to get value from your translation service without resorting to extreme measures.
Here at Geo Language Services we often get asked how companies can reduce the cost of their translation projects and still ensure high quality, accurate translations. Increasingly, we get asked whether Google Translate can do the job.
Unmanaged, free, instant machine translation like Google Translate may seem like the perfect solution, but if you’ve ever typed ‘Google translate blunders’ into a search engine you’ll know it’s not the case. There’s a high cost to pay if you end up with inaccurate translations.
So how can you ensure quality, accurate translations and reduce costs? Here, we share our top 5 tips for getting that much-wanted value.
We all know that time costs money (though real life teaches us that much depends on your level of interest). One of the main reasons that a translation project can become protracted and start to cost more money is that things aren’t clear from the start. Misunderstandings, numerous queries and lots of ‘toing and froing’ between translators, agencies and clients can mean that timelines slip, deadlines could get missed and costs could rise.
One of the ways we help our clients is by taking a really comprehensive brief right from the start. This way we can all be sure that we understand the objectives for the project and that all factors have been addressed. In my experience this can throw up questions for the client that they hadn’t thought about before, and these questions can also save money in the long term, so forgive us if we ask lots of questions – it’s because we care.
It goes without saying that your source text should be the final version, signed off by all relevant parties and ready for translation. Changes made further down the line will slow down the process and may have cost implications.
However, another important factor before handing over your source text is whether it’s optimised for translation. Are there words and phrases that are going to create problems further down the line? Metaphors, idioms and cultural references are not straightforward to translate – some will be impossible to translate. Instead these should be written in a clear and concise way that anyone can understand whatever their language or culture.
Also – check for consistency. Are you using the same terms and phrases consistently throughout your text? If you are, the translation provider will be able to use a translation memory to speed up the process, and this has cost benefits for you.
If your text is intended for use in an MT system you may also need to agree some pre-editing rules with your translation service provider on anything from sentence length to tense used.
In our humble opinion machine translation (MT) like Google Translate is not the definitive answer to your translation woes, but it does have its place when in the hands of translation agencies with experience in the post-editing of machine translation output. Indeed, post-editing is now so mainstream in translation agencies that there is now an ISO standard (ISO 18587) governing expectations of light/full post editing of machine translation, but this is a subject for another blog post.
Translation memory (TM) is another, highly proven technology that allows us to deliver great cost savings to our clients. Essentially it’s a database of everything we translate for you. It speeds up the translation process by checking the database for full and part matches with previously translated text, and it means we don’t have to translate text from scratch if we can find an appropriate match.
For you, our clients, translation memory saves you money because you aren’t paying for retranslation of the same text. It also allows us to translate content more quickly. On the quality level it also gives us several advantages: it helps to ensure consistency of terms and phrases used across your documents (especially important for large or ongoing projects), and most TM tools have customisable QA functions which enable us to programme them to automatically flag up anything from missing full stops to inconsistent terminology.
At the risk of sounding like an obvious logical fallacy, another way of reducing costs is actually to get more done. Think about the big picture when outsourcing your translation project. What other supporting documents or marketing assets will need translating? Are there links between different pieces of content that would require more translation – such as a PDF linked to a translated webpage, cover letters to support a direct mail campaign, an automatic email reply translated to handle any queries?
Economies of scale mean that translation service providers are able to deliver a large project more quickly and at a lower price than if you broke that project into lots of different individual jobs.
As with so many things, it’s often a false economy to go for a cheap or one-size-fits-all solution instead of an experienced provider. The key benefit of using expert translation providers – and of course we modestly put ourselves in that category! – is that the end result will be a high quality, accurate translation, aligned with your objectives, local market and industry. We’ve invested a lot of time and effort making sure our translation processes are proficient and this is recognised in our ISO 17100 quality certification. ISO 17100 ensures that your translation is carried out by a native subject expert translator and reviewed by a second translator with equal or additional competence, then rigorously QA checked by our own trained in house team.
The cost of a poor translation is not just about putting mistranslations right. Damage to your reputation is not as easy to quantify, but often costlier. Having invested considerable sums in launching into a new market, consider what it might cost you if a bad translation backfires on your brand.
When you select a translation service provider, always check the following:
If you’re comparing different translation service providers, or are assessing your existing arrangements, take the above points into consideration. Comparing providers on price alone will not necessarily give you an accurate idea of whether you’re getting good value, but if you factor in these points, you’ll know you’re receiving the best for your money.
For a chat about your translation requirements, get in touch with our team! Call +44 (0)1483 577 750 or email email@example.com
Ever spent any time with us Finns? If you have, then you are no doubt aware of the joke that points at the stereotype of the introspective, introverted Finn:
Q: How do you know if a Finn likes you?
A. They stare at your shoes instead of their own.
Is it the cold weather that stops us talking? Social conditioning?
Who knows, but one thing is for certain, the Finnish language doesn’t help. While most European languages evolved to ditch case endings for nouns (current score: Latin 6/7, German 4, French/Spanish/English; 0) us Finns thought it was a great idea and decisively upped the ante to a massive 15 cases.
If the amount of noun endings wasn’t enough, we also have clictics, which are added to the nouns for emphasis or questioning, for example. The net result being that, technically speaking, Finnish has can have as many as 2253 noun forms for each noun (someone counted: http://www.ling.helsinki.fi/~fkarlsso/genkau2.html).
No wonder we top the education tables and simultaneously have very high suicide rates. Readers of Douglas Adams may well be reminded of the phrase “Here I am, brain the size of a planet….”
|genitive||school’s (e.g. school’s roof)||koulun||koulujen (kouluin)|
e.g. paint school)
e.g. paint the [whole] school)
|inessive||in the school||koulussa||kouluissa|
|elative||from the school (inside)||koulusta||kouluista|
|adessive||at the school||koululla||kouluilla|
|ablative||from the school (outside)||koululta||kouluilta|
|translative||[transform] into school
e.g. house was transformed into school
|comitative||with their school||–||kouluine-|
The Language of the Sea – a light-hearted look at how the seafaring world has helped to shape the English language, in honour of World Maritime Day
Market Research Translations – Ask the Right Questions!
To celebrate World Emoji Day we’ve set you a short puzzle on signs.
By and large, we’re very much on board with translation for the marine and shipping sector and it’s one of the mainstays of our business. It’s a modern, highly technical industry with very specialised vocabulary and where others have missed the boat or given the sector a wide berth, we’ve been lucky enough to work on all types of claims, technical reports about ships with hundreds of kilometres of structurally defective welding & gluing, wrecks and even chandlery for superyachts. Incidentally, did you know a chandler is the original word for a candle-maker – hence we have the word “chandelier” as a term for a fitting that held several candles together.
Essentially the world of shipping is insane. City-sized lumps of steel somehow floating merrily along. How? Every time I put a lump of steel in the bath, it sinks. Admittedly this isn’t often, but still none of it makes sense. Luckily, despite a brief sojourn into the naval cadets, I fathomed out that being a marine engineer was not the career for me and learned the ropes to become a linguist. However an innate curiosity of all things seafaring persists so, for World Maritime Day, we thought we’d push the boat out and do a little research to find some fun facts about seafaring terms that have crept into the English language.
Now it turns out this isn’t plain sailing. Some things are easy to validate – for instance the phrases “alone on a wide, wide sea”, “the albatross around my neck” and “water, water everywhere” are directly derived from Coleridge’s epic “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.
Other terms that have entered English from seafaring are harder to corroborate and claiming they have a nautical origin could possibly be seen as sailing a bit close to the wind. Stories about words in English borrowed from the maritime world are so chock-a-block that etymologists have posited the existence of a semi-fictional group called CANOE (Committee for Ascribing a Nautical Origin to Everything). The tide of opinion is, however, that the following are terms and metaphors we currently use that definitely have a seafaring origin:
Batten down the hatches – now used to mean “prepare to withstand a period of difficulty”, this metaphor literally refers to shutting the hatches on the ship if a storm is coming.
Loose cannon – literally means that a ship has a loose piece of artillery rolling around; the consequences of this are fairly obvious. We use it to refer to someone or something that is unpredictable or out of control. E.g. my boss is a bit of a loose cannon, he might fire me any day!
Flagship – used metaphorically to mean “most important”. It refers to the ship in a fleet that carried the flag. As this ship also carried the admiral, it was considered the most important in the fleet.
Taken aback – at sea, this phrase refers to a change in wind direction that causes a ship to face unexpectedly into the wind. In modern day English, we use it to express our surprise by an unexpected event. E.g. she was taken aback by the announcement of her promotion.
Touch and go – this has multiple origins but in a nautical context it refers to incidents where a ship might collide with another object but only suffers a glancing blow and therefore can continue without disaster. We use it to refer to events that could also go either way; both minor events and more serious. E.g. it was touch and go whether I would get the train on time.
High and dry – meaning “in difficulty” originates from when a ship has become stuck on land. It is both high up and “dry”.
So that’s just a few. Ignoring the 6 examples above, the more astute of you might have spotted a few more that we unapologetically crowbarred in to this post. We counted another 12 or so as the crow flies, so there’s some proof of how seafaring terms are so engrained into the English language that we barely notice them until the bitter end. Oh. That’s 14 now.
At Geo Language Services, we’re fans of market research. Always have been. Superior knowledge and a wealth of information right at your fingertips, if you know how to ask the right questions? Right up our street…
So we’ve decided to make it official. As of this month we’re members of the Market Research Society (MRS). Even though our MRS membership is fresh out of the box, we’ve spent years honing our market research translation and we know exactly what it takes to get your surveys ready for launch, your verbatims coded and the final reports on your research perfect. We’re up-to-date with the latest in industry standards and we’re geared up and ready to help with your next international market research project.
It’s easy to assume that once you’ve decided on a set of questions for a survey, the hard part is over, and the questions can be literally translated to the target language and sent out into the world. Surely it’s as easy as translating word-by-word?
A lot of care and consideration goes into coming up with the wording of questions, making sure they’re free from bias, that open-ended questions allow room for informative responses and closed-ended ones are clear and unambiguous. The same attention is needed for the translated versions, with the added difficulty of making tricky decisions on tone and the nuance of the target language.
Using the simplest example, where English has only one option for “you”, many languages have both formal and informal options (like the outdated “thou” and “thee”, in English), so you might choose different wording for a survey for children and teens than you would for adults. Other languages, like Japanese, have even more levels of formality and it takes a skilled linguist to navigate the most appropriate way to translate. A focus group won’t be very effective if the tone of the questions makes the participants uncomfortable.
With the potential risk of wasting time and money on research that doesn’t pan out, you want to make sure you’ve got a translation service provider you know you can trust.
And that’s where we come in. With a network of over 3,000 translators, we’ve got linguists with in-house experience in top market research agencies and specialists in just about everything from Ad hoc to Z values, and everything in between. Add in our experienced project managers and shiny new Market Research Society membership, and you’ve got a market research translation dream team ready to tackle your next project.
You can find out more about our services and the team here, and if you’re ready to get the ball rolling on your next project, or just want to have a chat about market research translation, you can give us a call on +44 (0)1483 577 750, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To celebrate World Emoji Day we’ve set you a short puzzle on signs. Signs are everywhere and the study of signs (semiotics) is one of the most fascinating areas of linguistics.
Signs and symbols have been with us since early humans made their first attempts at communication and storytelling. Over millennia, as symbols developed and became more complex, the study of signs, semiotics, was created. We all interact with dozens of signs every day – from the red and blue markers on a tap signifying hot and cold water to an ambulance turning on its siren to let drivers know it’s coming past.
Plato and Aristotle discussed the significance of signs, and heavyweights like Saussure and Peirce are considered founders of semiotics. Umberto Eco chewed over the concept of semiotics in “The Name of the Rose” and Dan Brown spat it out in “The Da Vinci Code”.
Yes, this A-list of linguists and literati have long mulled over the relationships between human communication and meaning, trying to decide whether signs might be the key to finding a universal human language, the unlocking of the Tower of Babel and the ability to achieve an everlasting peace through clear communication.
And then came emojis.
Finally, everything became clear. To paraphrase Nietzsche; semiotics is dead. Semiotics remains dead. And we have killed it. How shall we comfort ourselves? Well, mostly happy faces and fart symbols. In fact, it seems semiotics is very much alive thanks to these.
A 2015 survey by Swiftkey (see more at https://blog.swiftkey.com/americans-love-skulls-brazilians-love-cats-swiftkey-emoji-meanings-report/) revealed some fascinating cultural differences around how we use emojis:
– French people use the heart symbol four times more than anyone else.
– Russian speakers use romance-themed emojis three times the average.
– Arabic speakers use more sun and heat-related emojis than any other language.
– 1.7% of emoji sent fell under the category “monkeys”. We don’t know why either.
What would Peirce and Saussure make of it? We have absolutely no idea, but to celebrate this brilliant advance in semiotics we’ve put together the quiz above. See if you can translate the three phrases above into English. Post your answers in the comments and if no-one gets it right we’ll put you out of your misery next week!
We’re brilliant. Don’t tell anyone.
As specialists in environmental translations we thought it only right for World Environment Day that we take a (very brief) look at some interesting research into how the environment influences language and linguistic development.
New to translation services? Or just naturally curious? This blog post takes a quick look at the most common questions about what we do.
We love our clients. We love their projects. We get excited by the range of things we get to be involved in. At the time of writing I’m working on developing a font in Chinese for the display of a bus, labelling a very special gin in Japanese and checking the Latin names of about 200 species found in Guinea for an environmental impact assessment. We don’t get bored here.
Now, normally we assume that this love is one way. All the good songs and poems are about unrequited love, after all. The moody pain of adolescence, how brilliant we are but no-one understands us etc. etc.
However, it, turns out we’ve completely misread the situation, so the marketing team are forcing us to write a self-congratulatory puff piece. So unfair.
Jokes slightly to one side; it is important to us to know what we’re doing well, what we could do better and if we’re meeting our clients’ needs. So, every year we send out a client satisfaction survey, and we wanted to share the results from this year’s:
We asked the following four key questions:
We received a great level of response from clients this year, and, now that we’ve crunched the numbers, we’re faux-humbled to share the results from our 2016-2017 client satisfaction survey:
We’re naturally delighted with these results, although slightly disappointed that our clients have seen through our thin veneer of nonchalance. We’ve given our team the necessary pat on the back, discussed ways we can continue to provide great service to our clients, and looked at how to improve our processes to make those numbers even better for next year.
If this has got you thinking what is missing in your life and how your translation projects should be making you happy, please give us a call on +44 (0)1483 577 750 or email email@example.com.
As specialists in environmental translations we thought it only right for World Environment Day that we take a (very brief) look at some interesting research into how the environment influences language and linguistic development. Here are three of the main ways that we are all, ultimately, impacted and shaped by our geography:
Recent research by Maddieson and Coupé indicates that climate, vegetation and topography may have a significant but slow impact on the sound of languages. Until recently it has been very difficult to study in humans, but similar “acoustic adaptation” has been shown to exist with birds – the same species of bird will adapt its song to be higher pitched if it lives in an urban environment than in a rural environment.
The work by Maddieson and Coupé has shown that similarities exist between languages from regions with similar climates, even if separated by thousands of miles. There was a clear pattern: languages in hotter, more forested regions (like South East Asia) used lower frequency sounds and fewer distinct consonants, with words tending to favour more vowel sounds and simple syllables. On the other hand, languages in colder, drier and more mountainous regions were more consonant heavy (Georgian, for example, which gives us the word mtsvrt’neli, meaning “trainer”). Humidity and dense vegetation interfere with sound so the assumption is that languages in such areas have somehow adapted over time to be more easily audible to compensate.
One of the most obvious ways that the world around you guides the development of language is in some of the vocabulary you use. The influence by the climate is often easy to spot. It’s been said since the early 20th century that the Eskimo-Aleut languages include hundreds of words for snow, although today it’s generally accepted that they only have roughly as many root words referring to snow as English. Finnish is another language where extensive experience with winter has led to quite specific terminology (over 40 snow-related words by some counts), varying from very wet snow (loska), to snow found on the branch of a tree (tykky).
In Scotland, the same nuance appears, but with terminology relating to rain – from dreich (which means wet, dull, gloomy, dismal, and dreary) to stoating (raining so heavily that the drops of rain bounce off the ground). The Galician language, spoken in an autonomous region in the north of Spain with a similarly wet climate, includes over 70 words for rain.
Climate isn’t the only factor influencing our vocabulary. Local vegetation and animal life inevitably have similar influences on language. For example, different words develop for crops in different stages of development. In Dhivehi (the language spoken in the Maldives), there are 7 different words for coconut, and there are 47 Hawaiian words for banana. Many languages have different words for rice depending on whether it is cooked or uncooked, has been harvested or not, and so on. If this seems like an excessive level of detail, then consider the number of words you probably have for the various stages and forms of dairy product (from milk to cheese and everything in between), and the fact that some countries in the world eat no dairy – and so have no use for the distinction between clotted cream and crème fraiche.
Colour is another area where the environment you live in shapes your view of the world. The perception of colour is thought to have developed alongside other aspects of human evolution; starting with black and white, then red, with the other colours to follow. Some languages don’t have words for any colours, or even a word for the abstract concept of colour. Some cultures in hot climates see orange as a variant of red or yellow. Likewise, in some Celtic languages (e.g. Breton) there is a blurring between red and pink (ruz), and between grey, green and blue (glas) in Breton, Cornish, Welsh, Irish and Scots Gaelic. Is it because of the local weather? Possibly. But the African languages Xhosa and Zulu use -luhlaza for both blue and green and they experience a very different climate to that associated with Celtic languages. So possibly not.
How much our linguistic development is tied up with environmental factors isn’t totally clear. Sometimes people just see things differently, new words are introduced, or old ones disappear. The Greek philosopher Aristotle listed the seven primary colours as black, white, red, yellow, green, blue and violet (note the absence of orange and indigo). The word “orange” did not exist in English until the orange tree was brought to England in the 1500s – before then the colour was called “yellow-red” (and “geoluread” before that).
Inspired? Want to read more of our (very occasional) posts or find out more about our expertise in environmental translations, ESIAs and the like? You can subscribe here or view more information about us here. Alternatively get in touch with our team by calling +44 (0)1483 577 750 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re new to translation services, you may have a few questions. In this blog post we will attempt to answer the most common ones we get asked. However, if you’ve got a more interesting, more complicated, or more insightful question you need an answer for: please get in touch. Call +44 (0) 1483 577 750 or email email@example.com
Many prospective customers are not entirely sure what translation services actually entail. Are we interpreters, do we translate subtitles, or do we just translate documents? The answer is all of these and more…
Often you will see the word ‘localization’ used in conjunction with translations. This is, in some ways, a more accurate term for what we do across a whole range of disciplines. We take your content – be it a website, marketing material, a video, technical documents, a database etc. – and localize it for your target audience. Generally, this involves translating the written elements (scripts, subtitles, text content etc.) into your target language, but it’s a bit more in-depth than that.
Localization also looks at other factors, such as whether a literal translation of text works for your chosen market. It explores the most appropriate technical terminology and identifies the most suitable translations. It also ensures that content is culturally appropriate, including images and audio elements.
Broadly speaking, our translation services include the following: transcreation and copywriting, subtitles and voiceovers, multilingual desktop publishing, interpreting, transcription, technical and specialist translations and accessibility services (including sign language & Braille). If you want to explore these in more detail, click here.
Unless you have native speaking proofreaders or reviewers within your company, how will you know whether your translations are any good? It can be a problem, especially if you rely on free services like Google Translate.
The translation industry is not a regulated profession, so the onus is on you and us to check and demonstrate that we have robust Quality Assurance (QA) procedures in place.
The first step is to look for industry accreditations. Look for ISO 9001 (quality management systems) and the all-important ISO 17100 – the quality standard for the translation industry.
Next, speak to prospective translation agencies about their QA procedures. Find out how they vet and select linguists, how they manage translation projects, and what translation technology is used to improve accuracy – and how this is monitored and managed. As well as project managers and native-speaking linguists, your project may also involve reviewers and proofreaders, so get the lowdown on them too.
For more about Quality Assurance please contact us. It’s not the most exciting of subjects but one that is absolutely vital to the success of your translation projects.
Unfortunately, it’s not a straightforward answer. We don’t just make costs up, they tend to be a factor of:
All these complex variables are normally put into our translation supercomputer, analysed by an infinite number of multilingual elves and then we ping out a quote in a very short time. So it’s best to talk to us or email us for a quote.
The main thing is not to worry about the turnaround time. Just let us know when you need it and we’ll take care of the rest. We’ve handled projects of millions of words and returned them in a matter of weeks, including design and voice-over into 20 different languages.
There are ways we can speed up translations and ways you can help us turn around projects more quickly – see our post “5 Tips To Speed Up The Translation Process” to find out how.
If you’re ready to get started, we’ll need a brief from you.
The easiest way to do this is pick up the phone and have a chat with our team. We can then take down a detailed brief, ask relevant questions and make sure everyone’s on the same page. We’ll need to know what your project is, the industry it’s for, the languages you need it translated into, the target market, your timings etc.
We’ll also need to discuss the source text or content; the type of files involved, whether the text is ‘translation-ready’, and how you want the translation to be delivered. We aim to work with your preferred formats and in-house processes, so the more detail the better.
You can start this process straightaway by clicking on our Quick Quote link, or by calling us on +44 (0)1483 577 750.
Or if you have any more questions either comment below, phone or email