Translating "Rogue One"

Diego Luna as Cassian Andor in Rogue One

Oftentimes, when I think of a dubbed film, visions of a Bruce Lee movie come to mind…the actor’s mouth moves, but the voice does not correspond with the movement. However, almost five decades later, technology and globalization have pushed the dubbing industry to new heights. NPR’s short clip, Dubbing Rogue One, by Latino USA details just how difficult and intricate a task film dubbing is today and how it hinges on the translation.

When it comes to the translation phase of the dubbing project, the difficulty lies in finding the right words not just to convey the proper meaning of the English words, but also to match the actor’s lip movements to make it appear as if the actor is actually speaking in the foreign language. This task is further complicated with high-profile films such as Rogue One when their confidentiality levels are so high that the linguist is not allowed to see the film for fear of leaks getting out. This hinders the linguist from gleaning visual context. Unable to see a scene and unsure what it’s about can lead the linguist to incorrectly translate a line since a word can have many different meanings depending on the context. To add to these hurdles, the linguist must also keep in mind the linguistic differences within the Spanish language.  

Another important issue is the fact that while Spanish is spoken in many different countries, this doesn’t mean that the Spanish is the same all around. In other words, a word may mean one thing in one Spanish-speaking country while in another, that same word may mean something completely different. Therefore, oftentimes different words and different slang are used to convey the same meaning. In these instances, the linguist must find the most neutral word that will not only convey the proper meaning, but also match the actor’s lip movements. 

Imagine if this much care was omitted during the translation/dubbing of Rogue One. Imagine if this much care had been given to the Bruce Lee films. 

If your message matters, your translation matters. Contact us for expert support with your media translation and localization projects. Call us or email

"My parents worked at the World Trade Center on 9/11."

*The Oculus and One World Trade Center

In early August, 46 floors above the memorial pools and the white spires of the dove-like Oculus, Jeremy stepped into the all glass conference room in One World Trade Center. His bright smile, courteous manner and shining sky blue eyes instantly won over the four of us in the room. Jeremy was the epitome of excellence in guest service. It was 9:07am. He was early.

We were completing set-up for our cultural training seminar for the members of the guest services team at the new Westfield World Trade Center. Soon the largest retail space in NYC would open and the concierge team would begin welcoming the estimated 400,000 shoppers and travelers passing through the center each day.

Translation By Design's role was to equip the team with the knowledge and skills to provide a culturally sensitive guest service experience for visitors whose customs, communication styles, and customer service expectations differ from ours.

*Peter helps the team overcome their frustrations when assisting a guest visiting from China.

As we began the seminar, we asked everyone to introduce themselves. When it was Jeremy’s turn to speak, we were captivated.

"My parents worked on the upper floors at the World Trade Center when the towers were attacked on 9/11." 

Our hearts sank, anticipating what he would say next.

“But unlike so many other families who lost loved ones, I didn’t. My parents changed to the evening shift three days before the attacks. That's why I am so proud to be here today. The rebuilding of ground zero is a sign of the resilience of the City and the spirit of our community. It means so much to be working here, representing my family, this company, our country, and to be welcoming people from all over the world. 90 countries lost citizens on 9/11. I want to do just as good a job welcoming guests from those countries as I do guests from mine. I am really looking forward to this training today.”

*An image from the training material

Everything about that day was inspiring. From the architecture of the Oculus, to Westfield’s commitment to welcoming guests from other cultures, to the attitude of their concierge team members, and stories like Jeremy’s.

Congratulations go to the entire Westfield team on the successful opening on August 16th. It was humbling to be in the presence of your efforts as the heart of New York City is reborn. 


*The view inside the Oculus during the opening celebration. 

The day was filled with heartfelt performances and memorials honoring those who were lost and their families. 

*John Legend closing the ceremony with a solo performance on the piano


“I’ve lived in New York for a very long time. I was here back in 2001. We know what the city went through. But we’re stronger than all of that. We’re strong enough to recover together, to love each other…”- John Legend

Translation By Design was honored to play a small role.

Thank you.


Spanish Language Interpreting for Presidential Candidate Rally

We dropped everything after that call...

The phone rang late that afternoon. A campaign staffer, frazzled and exhausted from weeks on the road, explained their unique opportunity. The presidential candidate would be arriving the next morning for a rally in the agricultural hub of Salinas, California. An undocumented farm worker was willing to take the stage to give voice to the concerns facing her, her family, and thousands like her that have come to find work in the US. The problem: The worker's voice is Spanish. In order for her message to have maximum meaning for the hundreds gathered, her voice needed to be heard in English as well. The campaign needed an interpreter.
We sprang into action, motivated by this courageous person, not by the politics.

It would be difficult. We explained the challenge of finding a qualified linguist at this late hour. The staffer said, "It's fine. Worst-case we’ll get someone who is bilingual."

We agreed. Using someone who isn't a trained interpreter for a situation like this is a worst-case scenario. We weren't going to let that happen. 

Late into the night, after hours on the phone, we were able to find a Spanish interpreter who could take leave from her assignment in court the next morning to be at the rally. The interpreter would make it possible for this undocumented worker's voice to reach the ears of the English audience with the same meaning and emotion in the worker's native Spanish...the same meaning and emotion in her heart.

As the worker told her story and her hope for a brighter future, the Spanish speakers in the audience cheered. As the interpreter translated, the English speakers understood, joined-in, and together their cheering shook the auditorium.

The Beauty of Literary Translation

The third book in the "Another" series by Japanese author, Yukito Ayatsuji. We just received our advanced copies of the English translation we provided for Yen Press. The book is available for pre-order in hardcover via Amazon and other book retailers. 


It's no secret. We love languages.

The beauty and art of the script.

The sound of the words spoken or sung.

The complexities of the meanings and metaphors in different cultures.

Our work is particularly rewarding when we are able to contribute translation for creative projects, such as marketing translation and literary translation. It’s a fascinating exercise, moving a creative person's work (their meaning, thier vision, thier dream) from one language and culture into another, because it goes beyond translation.

Metaphor, idioms, slang and hidden meaning pervade creative works and most times there is no cultural equivalent for them in the new language.

In Spanish there is saying a saying, “Salir en un ojo de la cara.”

It literally means, “To take an eye from my face.” Not only does it sound like something horrible from a book you probably wouldn’t want to read, but the translation is also incorrect. What it actually means is, “That is really expensive.”

However using that translation, while correct, would lose the spice and flow the original author wanted in her writing. A good literary translator that is fluent in both English and Spanish cultures would replace the phrase with something like, “That costs an arm and a leg.”

Literary translation is so challenging because the translator is so often tasked with finding more than the right meaning, but the right metaphor. The right voice. The right mental image that conveys the author’s creativity in a culturally relevant way for this new audience.

One of the greatest examples of the importance of literary translation is that of the story of Don Quixote de la Mancha. Originally written in Spanish, one of the best lines from the book is:

“Demasiada cordura puede ser la peor de las locuras, ver la vida como es y no como debería de ser.”

Had lines like this one from Don Quixote been given to someone who was simply bilingual we might not know the man from La Mancha. A straightforward translation of the line above would follow something like:

“Too much good sense can be the worst of follies, to see life how it is and not how it should be.”

Instead, a literary translator gave us this:

“Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”

The difference, makes all the difference.

Contact us today for a free consultation regarding your literary translation or other multilingual creative project. Call 831-655-9588 or email

Chakra The Invincible - The Next Edition of Comics Uniting Nations to be Translated

Translation by Design is humbled and thrilled to be a part of Comics Uniting Nations' next project. This Global Goals edition of "Chakra the Invincible," from Stan Lee's Graphic India, will be translated into 6 languages with help from our linguists and graphic localization team. Download the English version of the comic by clicking the image above. Learn more here about Comic's United Nations and the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

More Than Just Spanish, Finding Interpreters for Indigenous Mexican Languages

(Image from the Florentine Codex, a 2400 page document from the 16th centry that included the first romanization of the Nahuatl language, known informally as Aztec and spoken today by 1.5 million people in central Mexico.)

In Mexico there are 11 language families, 68 indigenous languages, and 364 linguistic variants. When individuals from Mexico come to the United States to find work or a better opportunity for their families they aren’t just speaking Spanish. Speakers of languages like Triqui and Mixteco often do not speak any Spanish making their time here in the U.S. challenging. In the following stories from the California Report and National Public Radio you can learn a bit more about the difficulties facing speakers of indigenous Mexican languages, their employers and hospitals where they are provided medical care without understanding what treatment they are being provided.


And here is the story, picked up nationally by NPR:


Contact Translation By Design for document translation and Indigenous Mexican Language Interpreters for the following languages:

Nahuatl, Yucatec Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec, Mayo, Yaqui, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Chol, Totonac, Purépecha, Otomi, Mazahua, Mazatec, Chinantec, Mixe, Zoque, Popoluca, Popoloca language, Me'phaa, Wixarika, Naayerite, Tepehuán, Warihio, Raramuri, Seri, Chontal Maya, Chontal, Huave, Pame, Teenek, Kickapoo, Kiliwa, Paipai, Cucapá, Amuzgo, Triqui, Lacandon Maya, Mam Maya, Jakaltek, Matlatzinca, Tepehua, Chichimeca Jonaz, Pima Bajo, Ngiwa, Ixcatec, Ayapanec, and other indigenous Mexican languages

Inter-Cultural Awareness Trainer, Peter Fordos, Delivers "China Ready" Training


Peter Fordos and Duncan Young explain to California tourism and hospitality professionals the keys to ensuring Chinese tourists feel welcome during their visits. With the numbers of Chinese tourists visiting the United States expected to quadruple by 2023, forward thinking tourism professionals seek to understand the needs and wants of Chinese visitors to help their businesses and destinations gain a competitive advantage by creating a welcoming, culturally sensitive experience. 


Key takeaways included:

Culture: Remember “Face”, “Guanxi” and hierarchy; address the oldest ­first; give and receive money, keycards, business cards, receipts with two hands; number 8 is very lucky, number 4 is very unlucky; red, orange, yellow are good, avoid black and white; most popular travel times are summer, Chinese New Year (January-February) and National Day (October 1).

Comforts: Free Wi-Fi, Chinese tea and teakettle, slippers, noodle cups, Chinese TV channels, Chinese magazines/newspapers, toothpaste/brush; prefer warm or hot water, chopsticks, Chinese hot sauce, “dim sum” or family style tapas and include pictures of the dish if possible.

Credit Card: Accept Union Pay. If you accept Discover Card you already accept UnionPay. Elevon Merchant Services is the other option for processing. Put a sticker in your window. Offering specials or gifts with purchases made with UnionPay is one of the most effective ways to target the Chinese consumer.

Communication: Translate welcome material, important policies, room-service menu, product/store information, attraction guides, at least one page on website. WeChat and Weibo are the top social media platforms and having a page there will increase your awareness. Online review sites are also a key source of information for Chinese who are planning a trip.

If your business or organization is interested in China Cultural Training or other team building and executive development trainings please contact us at 831-655-9588 or by emailing

New Global Goals, New Social Logo for Translation By Design

With the launch of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals last Friday, September 25th, Translation By Design has redisigned our LinkedIn and Facebook logos to help raise awareness of the Global Goals.

For many months Translation By Design has been working on a Comic Translation project in coordination with Reading With Pictures, The World's Largest Lesson, and UNICEF to help bring the 17 Global Goals to millions of children around the world in 11 different languages.


China Ready Training for MCCVB Featured on KSBW News

The place where languages, cultures and commerce intersect, is where you find Translation by Design (TBD) supporting an array of businesses from global financial institutions and law firms, to international tourism destinations like Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. On July 30th, TBD conducted a cross-cultural training program in Carmel for members of the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau to help them better understand the opportunity and cultural needs of Chinese tourists. Chinese tourism revenue to California is expected to quadruple by 2023. This "China Ready" training is meant to help Monterey County gain a competitive advantage over other destinations vying for Chinese tourists. Click the image above to view coverage of the MCCVB "China Ready" effort covered by KSBW.

China Ready Tourism Training for Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau


Today, 60 hoteliers, restauranteurs, retailers, and tourist attraction operators gathered in Carmel-by-the-Sea to learn:

Why China? Why Monterey? Why Now?

These business representatives are members of the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the organization that hired our cross-cultural training team, to provide a "China Ready" training to attract and welcome this growing tourism market.

The stats about China that got their attention:

• Population of 1.4 billion people, is already CA’s top overseas market

• Rapidly growing middle class, disposable incomes and desire to travel

• California is their #1 destination in USA (45% market share)
• The Central Coast is the #1 region of interest to Chinese
• They are shifting away from tours to independent travel
• They spent most per traveler in California than any other nationality
By 2023 the number of tourists visiting us from China is expected to quadruple
The objective of the training is to help Monterey County Tourism and Hospitality businesses:
1. Attract Chinese tourists while they are in the process of planning a vacation to the USA (or before)
2. Welcome the Chinese tourists, once they are here, by providing culturally sensative service
3. Create moments they will treasure and share with their friends, families and followers on social media
The goal of the MCCVB is to turn Monterey into a welcoming place where Chinese tourists will want to spend more time...and money.
For MCCVB members that missed the training we will be delivering a second "China Ready" seminar in Monterey on Friday, September 18th. 

If you are unable to attend, or are a business that would like to learn more, please feel free to review the slide deck here (or by clicking the image below). If you would like to discuss how we could help your business do a better job attracting and welcoming Chinese tourists please call us or email


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