Jun 30, 2003

Chinese takes more brainpower. Speaking Chinese may take more brainpower than speaking English, a study suggests. (BBC)


Jun 24, 2003

Translator Group Buying

Well, a girl has got to make a living...Get your Trados 6.0 through this affiliate link and earn Karmic KudoZ from the Enigmatic Mermaid.

I've tried to fix the character set problem with the help of the Ultimate Blogalizer. We're supposed to be Unicode now, but don't be surprised if it still looks like alphabet soup of a different variety.

I'm finally, officially on semi-vacations. This means that the big vacation will start around July 03 or so, when the Mermie and I will board an airplane to the US to visit her father. It's a pity to leave Brazil and my Hairy Hungarian, especially when the weather has been so beautiful and the loving so lovable. But it's part of the mom deal, I guess.

Tomorrow, the HH and I are heading to Sao Francisco Xavier for two days of frolicking in the mountains. If given enough booze I am pretty sure my Bavarian will break into yodelaying...


Jun 19, 2003


Jun 15, 2003

Alhos por bugalhos. "Anunciados como superproduçoes, documentários estrangeiros exibidos por canais pagos no Brasil sao comprometidos por falhas de tradução e dublagens mal feitas". (Read more)

Side note: Blogger has upgraded its publishing system and support for special characters is now fubar. How culturally sensitive of Blogger.


Jun 14, 2003

Smoking Out Your Brain. Here's an interesting example of an interpreting pitfall, cleverly avoided by my booth mate this week. Just to clarify: sometimes the words involved aren't difficult at all, but because they fall simultaneously in a zone of false phonetic and true logical contiguity, the chance for mistakes is high.

The speaker was talking about retailing and gave an example of how cigarrete packs can be contained in cartons and cartons may be contained in cases and cases contain both of the preceding units. She went back and forth, twisted and turned around to explain how the retailing information system retrieves information about the number of packs, cartons and cases that have been sold in a store depending on how they are bundled. I think it went on for about two minutes, but it felt much longer, and this is why:

The linguistic equivalence of this set of words in Portuguese is as follows:

pack= maço
carton= pacote
case= caixa

Since pack and pacote sound alike and carton and pack are being used in a logical sequence, there is a temporary short-circuit in the interpreter's mind. Bear in mind that this all takes place in a split second and that there is no room for mistakes, because if you say that there are "10 pacotes em um pacote" you're obviously going to blow it big time. Everytime the word pack is said, a mental alert flag is raised. You must step back and disentangle the linguistic crossover while at the same time maintaing the logical lines straight. It's quite tricky.

You may be wondering, is there a workaround for this? This is what my colleague did: she wrote down the equivalences above on a sheet of paper and interpreted with her eyes glued to that aide-mémoire.


Jun 12, 2003

More Paulo Rónai in Translation. Tom Moore has been doing a fantastic job of translating Paulo Rónai's articles and essays into English. The latest translations published at Mostly Music (with a fair deal of translation!) are:

Menade bal, Püki Bal

The Hungarian and His Dog

Banana Peels


Jun 11, 2003

Translation Today. Prentiss is going to like this one: a journal for Indian language translations and translation discourse. Inaugural (and final, it seems) issue available at the site.


Notes from Risk Analysis in Translation Process. Anthony Pym's talk was interesting. He opened with a disconcerting but very true statement:

"Not much of translation theory is really helpful to translators"

According to Pym, all translations have zones of low risk and high risk. In the zones of low risk, the translator usually works fast, in the zones of high risk, the translation process is slowed down: thinking is required because depending on the choice made by the translator there is a possibility of not fulfilling the purpose of the translation, as defined in the Skopos Theory. Translation risk is based on a failure condition, part of the text is highly inductive to translator putting her foot in her mouth, i.e., failing to deliver the skopos. If the skopos calls for precision, translator must be accurate which sometimes entails adding information not included in the original. If skopos calls for gist, translator may generalize and collapse part of the information contained in the original. All translators are familiar with this: you stumble on a part of the text that doesn't contain crucial information but presents a translation problem (terminology for example). If there is trust between you and your client, it's safe and perhaps preferable to generalize or use a descriptive solution. Bottomline: if working on a low risk area of the text, don't go out of your way to translate a term or sentence.

The risky parts of a translation are not necessarily difficult. My example: front matter on a manual, customer support phone number. If you're translating the manual for a Brazilian audience, this phone number has to be the local phone number. If you don't provide it, the reader will not be able to get in touch with customer support and the skopos will not be reached. Moreover, this leads to an important point to remember:

"Translation always requires more information than that's on the text"

How to get more information? There is the obvious: dictionaries, glossaries, discussion lists, experts etc. Anthony Pym favors parallel texts as a reference source. In addition to this, the client should be used as an information source. Some of the information that will help determine the skopos, for example, age group of readership, type of publication, is indeed only available to the client. Terminological queries should only be directed to the client only after all other information sources have been exhausted. (I don't really agree with this. In my experience, the earlier the client gets involved in clarification of issues in the source text, the better the results. Some of my agencies distribute regular Q&As files throughout the translation and editing phases, with questions being asked by translators and answered by the end client.)

To manage risk in the translation process, the best strategy is adhering to a job specification, as proposed to Daniel Goudec (not sure if this is the correct spelling). Goudec argues that technical translation is the easiest thing in the world, provided translator, client and agency have mutual agreement on the job specification. Goudec also says that the translation workflow should be distributed as follows: 60% of time for pre-translation, that is defining the job specification, 20% of time for translation and 20% of time for editing (which leaves no time for quality assurance, which in my view requires another 10%).

Here's a checklist for defining your job specification, that is things that should be provided by the client.

Starting materials
- Material (all files received?)
- Images and graphics (must be received to avoid translation risk)
- Client glossaries (received? include creation of glossary in specification?)
- Previous translations (received? useful for reference)
- Phone number of in-country experts (touchy issue)
- Style guide (not mentioned by Pym, but highly desirable)

Function ( or questions you should always ask your client)

- What is this translation for? Information? Publicity? Confidential?
- Who is the reader ? Expert? Layman?
- Level required (quality has a price, sometimes client only needs gist translation of 200 pages and will come back saying 'This five pages are interesting. Please have them translated decently)
- How many revisions do you need? (Editing, proofreading, expert revision?)
High Risk = High Pay

- Deadline
- File format (the mermaid notes: file format may be different, for example, client wants Frame Maker or a fully functional dynamic website, but translator my work on s-tagged . RTF files or Catalyst or what have you)
- Payment terms
- Additional costs estimate (Any faxing or fedexing involved?)

Finally, print everything out, put a translation services contract on top and have it signed by client and translator.

Additional notes:

Risk usually arises when there is a rich point, as defined by Michael H. Agar, points where cultures make contact but equivalence is hard to find. For example Tu/Vous, du/Sie, in different cultures usage differs and it takes years for a non-native speaker to realize when one or the other is required.

The translator's reaction to risk often consists of adopting an avoidance strategy, which may be ok, according to the skopos.

In cases where the original skopos is to indicate alterity (think for example of a Discovery Channel documentary about foreign lands or a book about exotic music instruments), it's best not to translate the exotic term, for example, candomblé, cavaquinho, entrudo etc. Translation of such terms, such as for example shrovetide for entrudo, if the context is Brazil or Portugal, would actually be detrimental to the skopos.

The localization industry is far more advanced than translation industry in assessing risks and establishing risk management procedures. (Absolutely right, most of what Pym said just makes part of my everyday routine as a localizer. I rarely work on a project that doesn't have an extremely detailed instructions sheet and many times, a scope file).

Objections to the exposé above:

- The general expectation on Western culture is that translators should translate everything they can, leaving no parts of the text out. Image of translator often evokes distrust, adopting this model could accentuate this further.
- In other cultures, clients are not pro-active, so job specification may not work at all.
- Only works if there is trust between translator and client. Doesn't take into account competing vendors' quality assessments and other low blows commonly used among agencies/translators to steal each other's clients.



Jun 9, 2003

A Língua Portuguesa. A brief historical overview.


Words that don't have a one-to-one translation. An interesting thread at ProZ, although to me it's pretty obvious that you can always reach a compromise by paraphrasing or using descriptive translations.

A few excerpts:

In Finnish language we have some sauna related words which, I assume, don't have a direct equivalent in any other language.

"löyly" = the heat wave you get when you throw water on the hot stones in the sauna

"vasta" or "vihta" (depending which part of Finland you come from) = the bunch of birch twigs (incl. the leaves) used for slapping against the naked body in order to increase the "löyly" sensation and to purify the body and the soul.

In Greek we have the word Meraki. It is a great word but is hard to describe in English. It is a way of doing something (a mix of love and style and enjoyment). It is a feeling. So if you do something with meraki,(from making a salad to decorating) it means that you have given something of yourself when doing it (positive of course)!

" Kreng Jai " In Thai
I'm not sure whether there is any equal word in English. But I once heard one westerner say " I can't find this word in my language " or sth .
When your friend offer to make you a cup of tea. This feeling "Kreng Jai" might happen in your mind. Not because you don't want a cup of tea. But you feel that your friend don't need to spend their effort for your own affair.

I just thought of this Dutch word. Uitwaaien is a verb meaning "walking in the wind for fun". I can't think of an equivalent verb in our neighbouring countries.

This other thread is also quite intriguing: interpreting in a psychiatric setting. It must be a trippy experience, I tell you.


Jun 8, 2003

Not Peter Greenway's greatest movie. But I quite enjoyed it. 8 and 1/2 women is cool, and shows Peter Greenway's at his most Godardesque while trying to be Fellinian. Vivian Wu is great as the Japanese interpreter, but I find the most amazing of these women to be Giaconda, the perpetually pregnant femina.


Brazil goes the "coussin d'air gonflable" way in language matters. Somebody please translate this into English for me, I am too distraught.

"O Senado aprovou nesta terça-feira (27) projeto de lei que trata da proteção, promoção, defesa e uso da língua portuguesa e estabelece que o poder público fica obrigado a incentivar o ensino do idioma por meio de verbas orçamentárias e com a colaboração da comunidade. Como houve emendas, a proposta retornará à Câmara dos Deputados.

Pela decisão do Plenário, deve ser obrigatório o uso da língua portuguesa em documentos da administração pública direta, indireta e das fundações destinados ao conhecimento público. As palavras e expressões em língua estrangeira atualmente em uso nos documentos públicos deverão ser substituídos por palavras ou expressões equivalentes em língua portuguesa no prazo de um ano."

(Read more)

What my personal take on this? I'm totally against it. Building a legal fence around a language is ilogical, xenophobic and impossible. English wouldn't have the rich vocabulary it has if it didn't accept gladly so many words from other languages.

By the way, this draft bill was proposed by the same infamous leftist politician that appears to be making behind the scenes moves to regulate the profession of translators in Brazil. This controversial proposal set the translators lists alight last month, established a deep rift between technical and literary translators, caused a group of friends and I to begin discussing the foundation of a Associação Paulista de Tradutores and left my nerves too frayed for blogging.


Jun 6, 2003

This Pretty Little Thing called Software. This word list is kind of cute, especially if you want to compare translations for different locales, say PT Brazilian and PT European, and don't want to go through the trouble of downloading the complete set of Microsoft localization glossaries in another language. It came through GlossPost, which has been a source of renewed excitment for me. I never knew there was an online Russian - Spanish dictionary of economic terms, for example.

What is better than the arrival of Friday evening? The arrival of Friday evening when you've just added the last period to a 35k-word, painfully complex translation.


Jun 5, 2003

Habemus Laptop. Guess what? After almost a year in the repair shop waiting for a new keyboard I decided to take my laptop home, reformat it and make do with an attached keyboard. No sooner had we reformatted it the keyboard started working again. My computer guy says it was probably a virus, not the Mermaid Jr.'s water squirting practices.

I've been terribly busy for the last month or so, making an indecent amount of money, by my standards, that is. Sorry folks, blogging is on hold. Next week I will have more time to blog my silly stories of the exciting translation world. Speaking of which, have you already checked Transblawg? It's a blog specializing in English-German legal translation, by Margaret Marks.

I also loved these African barber shop signs found at Solipsistic.

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Anthony Pym in Brazil. Write it down in your datebooks.

Anthony Pym, autor de Pour une éthique du traducteur, Method in Translation History, Negotiating the Frontier, Translators and Intercultures in Hispanic History e muitos artigos acadêmicos, dará as seguintes palestras em São Paulo na próxima semana:

3a feira 10 de junho, 10h, PUC, CEAL (Laboratório de Línguas), Andar Térreo, Prédio Novo. PUC-SP, Rua Monte Alegre 984
Risk analysis in translation processes

3a feira 10 de junho, 14h, Sala 102, Prédio de Letras, Av Prof. Luciano Gualberto 403 USP
A non-Lockean approach to translation

4a feira 10 de junho, 14h, Sala 107 , Prédio de Letras, Av Prof. Luciano Gualberto 403 USP
Indeterminism and the role of intercultures in translation