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If you or your kids are big Dr. Seuss fans, then you know The Lorax arrived in theaters last week. You may not know that Danny DeVito, one of the stars of the animated film, is also lending his voice to the Italian, Spanish, German and Russian versions.
Mr. DeVito doesn't speak these languages, so he worked with voiceover actors (the people who would normally be doing the recordings themselves) and other experts in the various languages to learn lines and practice pronunciation for each one.
This is an unorthodox approach to movie dubbing. As with interpreting, native speakers are considered the best bet when it comes to delivering voiceovers. Intonation, timing, pizzazz, and the myriad other components that make for a well-done acting job are infinitely easier to accomplish in a language you speak with total comfort. These factors are even more vital in an acting situation than an interpreting one, since entertainment, as well as information, are key.
While TBD hasn't had any famous movie stars in our office recently, we do know a thing or two about dubbing and subtitling. It has to be done just right to engage, not distract, the viewers. TBD recently completed a translation and recording of 36 scripts into Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Spanish for the City of Monterey to enhance the experience of visitors from all over the world.
From your perspectives as translators, interpreters, or even moviegoers, what do you think about this approach to voiceovers? Would knowing that George Clooney was playing the lead character in another language make you more likely to see a film in Russian or Italian, for example? Will this prove to be a viable approach for movies to come? We'd love to hear your thoughts on this new method.
Valentine’s Day tends to bring out strong emotions: generally, you really like it or dislike it, for any of a whole range of reasons.
Nobody's even sure how Valentine's Day originated. Consequently, unlike most other holidays, nobody quite knows why we celebrate it. There are many theories, but few known facts. Other holidays may have strange traditions, like eating 3 days' worth of food in an hour on Thanksgiving, but at least we know what all the fuss is about.
We were pleased with Adam Wooten's recent article offering anecdotes and suggestions on holiday-related concerns, which can help anyone with international dealings to avoid potential cross-cultural pitfalls. After all, who wants to turn pink from embarrassment or have their colleagues go red in the face with vexation because their customs weren't taken into account?
Translation by Design (TBD) is well aware that knowing what holidays are observed (and how) in different parts of the world is important for anyone with associates, clients or contractors in other countries. TBD’s translation and cross cultural experts use resources such as these to ensure that all your international negotiations and business dealings have sweet outcomes - whether it's Valentine's Day or not.
Since we can't send you a cross-cultural expert to help navigate this tricky holiday, allow us to at least suggest that, since nobody knows why we commemorate it, who's to say how we should celebrate? We hope this broader interpretation of the holiday helps you turn it into your best Valentine’s Day yet!
Adam Wooten, a translation expert, wrote an article recently about many debunked marketing myths based on poor translations. For example, the "Nova" car name error that supposedly resulted in poor sales in Latin America never actually took place.
Even urban legends can serve as cautionary tales of what businesses must look out for when expanding into new markets to avoid becoming the brunt of jokes. Just because these particular gaffes didn't happen doesn't mean they couldn't have.
Many of the real life blunders that take place are blamed on the translators, but they're not the only ones responsible. What should companies do to ensure that their translated marketing materials accomplish their purposes? A few tips include:
- Simplify the original document, eliminating slang and idioms that could be misinterpreted or hard to match in the target language. Remember, different countries use different slang, so you're better off going with universally-understood language.
- Proofread! Errors may make potential customers doubt your professionalism as a business. An expert (if not several) should review the document to be sure it won't be misunderstood. Revisers should have native-level understanding of the language and culture. A good translation company will review its own translations before sending them to you. See September 16's blog for more on TBD's approach to translation quality control. Any time and resources you spend on double-checking before publishing or posting will be totally worth it.
- Think Teamwork: The translation team is part of your team. Be open with them about what you expect, and ready to answer their questions. Communication during translation ensures good communication in your marketing publications.
Learning from others' marketing debacles (real or imagined) can help you achieve the marketing success you seek.
Have you ever been to a foreign country and been unable to decipher the labels on cans or bottles? I have spent absurd amounts of time looking for hair products in foreign stores because I wasn't sure if the bottle actually contained shampoo or conditioner or some other substance. I also remember finding "raisin" juice in a Canadian grocery store and feeling disgusted until I realized that the other side said “grape juice”. (Products in Canada are labeled on one side in English and on the other in French).
The Huffington Post assembled a slide show of absurd labels and instructions, many of which resulted from bad translations. (Warning: a couple are not quite G-rated). Like most bad translations, these are really funny, but that's obviously not what the companies were going for.
So, why do so many poor translations slide through the cracks and onto the labels of everyday products? Translating labels is, admittedly, a complicated process, but not an impossible one. Translation by Design focuses on every little detail to make sure the client is completely satisfied.
First, TBD makes sure that the translator assigned to a particular product label knows the field. Then there are several factors to consider, such as: What parts of the label should be translated? Do we need to change the measurements from English to metric? Should the name of the product be translated? Will the translation offend any members of the target culture?
Given how much is at stake in terms of people's safety, as well as their likelihood of taking the product seriously, it’s a pity that more companies don’t adopt a similar philosophy on label translation quality. Although that would leave us with less to laugh about...
For many people, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the term "conference interpreter" is linguists in booths at the United Nations, interpreting the words of the world's leaders. So, on the eve of the 66th United Nations General Assembly Plenary, we felt this was an opportune moment to shine some light on the history of conference interpreting.
The United Nations site gives a brief but informative overview of simultaneous interpreting. (The page also has an interpreting history quiz, for those of you who are already experts and want to prove it).
Interpreting, in some form or other, has existed for millennia, but the specific form conference interpreting generally takes today, performed by simultaneous interpreters in soundproof booths, is less than a century old. The Nuremberg war crime trials made the technology and method famous, though the technology, patented in the mid-1920s, had already been in use for over a decade.
Since World War II, simultaneous interpreting has gradually (though not completely) replaced consecutive interpreting in many settings. Currently, the UN still represents an important place, though hardly the only one, where conference interpreters are hard at work. The UN has only 6 official languages, while the European Union holds debates in over 20 languages.
Conference interpreters also work in the private sector: Translation by Design's conference interpreters have worked in the scientific, pharmaceuticals, financial investment, high tech industry fields, among others. TBD is headquartered just down the road from the Monterey Institute of International Studies (one of the only universities to offer an MA in Conference Interpreting), and is proud that its conference interpreting team includes both MIIS graduates and professors.
The conference interpreting field is still young. It will be fascinating to see what developments will emerge over the next century.
A recent article in Technorati noted that U.S. localization companies have a greater share of the market in website localization than European ones. This seems surprising, since the average European knows more languages than a typical American. Why, then, are U.S. companies making such strides in this sector? We have a few ideas. What are yours?
- The U.S.'s relative linguistic isolation could actually be an advantage. Because most Americans can only understand websites in English, they appreciate better than people from a multilingual culture the need to have the content available in other people's native tongues.
- Many foreign speakers live or study in the United States, giving them a deep understanding of U.S. culture as well as that of their native land. Such individuals are ideal candidates for adapting American content to websites for natives of their homelands.
- Americans are known for being down-to-earth, driven businesspeople. They know a chance to streamline when they see it. Website localization is one of the most cost-effective ways to reach more customers.
- U.S.-based companies are expanding into the global market at a rapid pace, and may be most comfortable having their content localized by U.S.-based language service providers.
Do you think the trend will continue? Will the United States, long thought to have such homogenous, inward-looking citizens, continue to take over a market to which Europe seems so suited? Perhaps Americans have long been more willing to engage with foreign markets more than people generally assume - and website localization has provided the perfect opportunity.
Cross-cultural training is a rapidly-expanding field. Companies and organizations sending employees abroad need help to prepare their executives for cultural differences in the international business environment which can derail positive working situations.
So, what does it take to be a leader in this exciting field? I recently spoke with Peter Fordos, an intercultural expert who develops global leadership programs and designs cross-cultural trainings, to find out.
Peter says it was by sheer coincidence that he got involved in the cross-cultural training profession. Born in Czechoslovakia to a Hungarian family, in a region characterized by a mixture of ethnic groups under Communist control, he interacted with various cultures. This allowed him to gain a deeper understanding of different cultural points of view, and to understand that much could be done to make relations between different groups smoother.
After spending time in various Central and Eastern European countries, Peter moved to the United Kingdom to study, then worked for several years on a cruise ship. This gave him the opportunity to interact with people from all over the world and to learn firsthand what kinds of misunderstandings often arise when foreigners come in contact with one another.
After moving to the United States and taking a class in cross-cultural training, a light went on and Peter realized his life experiences had perfectly prepared him for this vocation. Over the past decade, Peter has consulted for Fortune 500 companies including Nestle, GM, Honeywell, Dell, Valero, 3M, and Audi, as well as trained the US Navy Seals.
Most of us don't have backgrounds nearly as fascinating as Peter's. Fortunately, you don't have to have lived on several continents, visited more than 50 countries and/or speak five languages to successfully collaborate with individuals from other cultures. However, you do need specialized training if you are to make the most of an international opportunity.
Peter explains that the growing interconnection between individuals all over the world continues to increase the need for this type of training. As Peter says, "Today, there are more people traveling and relocating than ever before. You can't stop globalization."
You may think that rare languages are the province of a few eccentric linguistics professors and that they have no relevance for anybody else, or that there's no more reason to study or preserve them than to learn Klingon.
When rare languages disappear (which is happening at a quick pace in our ever globalizing world) they take with them the culture and unique knowledge associated with them. As K. David Harrison, a linguistics professor, explained in an interview with The Economist, wisdom such as "the secrets of how to live sustainably in challenging environments like the Arctic or the Andean Altiplano" can be lost as languages vanish. In a world where sustainable living is becoming ever more of a priority, expert knowledge on the topic is not something to let slip away.
Another environmental concern on many people's minds, the melting of polar ice, might be aided by one rare language group, the Yupik people who live in the Arctic. Professor Harrison says, "Their climate science astounds with its precision, predictive power, and depth of observation. Modern climate scientists have much to learn from it."
Rare languages are one of Translation by Design's specialties. Translating these languages, many of which are in danger of becoming extinct, is one way in which their traditions and understanding can be preserved.
Harrison describes letting languages disappear as akin to destroying ancient historical buildings in order to build modern ones. "We should be similarly appalled when languages—monuments to human genius far more ancient and complex than anything we have built with our hands—erode."
The first book I remember reading was a bilingual title called Ferdinand (or Ferdinando) about a peaceful bull who, unlike all those around him, has no interest in bull fighting, but prefers to sit by himself and appreciate the sweet smell of flowers.
It's been at least a decade since I laid eyes on a copy of Ferdinand, but I still remember this book: it takes me back to my first grade class and to care-free Saturday mornings when I would climb into bed with my mother and read with her.
Children's books are powerful, both in what they teach and the memories children associate them. (They are not, as Strong Bad assumes, simple to write just because they are aimed at a young audience). I never gave much thought then to how the many books I read as a child came to be; I just really loved reading them.
Writing and editing children's books, especially bilingual titles, is actually a process that requires a great deal of effort and expertise. Translation by Design has experience in publishing, and with children's books in particular. The company applied that expertise, as well as its translation resources, to revamping a series of bilingual books for Raven Tree Press, which specializes in children's titles. In spite of a tight deadline, TBD reformatted and revised the books and got them ready for publishing.
Children's books merit the attention of professionals who love the genre and are experts in tailoring literature to children's needs. You never know which books will be the ones children will remember decades later.