On June 2 of last year, the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA), the Association of Language Interpreters of Greater New York (ALIGNY), and the New York Circle of Translators (NYCT) held a forum under the title, “Translation and Interpreting: from Bilingualism to Professionalism.” The response to the symposium, in which I had the pleasure to take part, was far more enthusiastic than we had anticipated. More than twice as many people attempted to sign up than we were able to accommodate. I think that this initial response, in addition to the follow-up feedback from the audience and presenters, speaks to the dramatically growing momentum for raising standards in our professions of interpreting and translating.
One of the presenters, Eric Candle of the IMIA, discussed the national medical interpreter training and certification, which has progressively become more lengthy and rigorous. Similarly, court interpreter certification in New York State and elsewhere has advanced by leaps and bounds since its beginnings in the 1970s and ’80s. The ATA translator certification exam has improved and gained acceptance as a universal standard. An ATA interpreter certification exam is in the works. Translator and interpreter training programs are popping up at an unprecedented rate.
Professor María Cornelio spoke on the Spanish Major Concentration in Translation and Interpretation at Hunter College which she directs. María Barros, of the Spanish Translation Service at the UN, discussed the question of whether the translation practice at the UN could serve as a model for the industry. Jean Campbell, of the Sherman & Sterling law firm, presented on professional standards in legal translation. In conclusion, I moderated a panel composed of Prof. María Cornelio, María Barros, Jean Campbell, Eric Candle, Ricardo Fernández (staff court interpreter at Manhattan Criminal Court), and Lionel Bajaña (supervisory interpreter at Bronx Criminal Court).
Despite the undeniable gains in professionalization, I think it is clear that much more work needs to be done and that we cannot be complacent. One challenge is the lack of resources to train and remunerate translators and interpreters. If the standard for translators is written translations that are nearly 100 percent accurate and read as if originally written in the target language, then this implies an extremely high level of prior education and experience. Likewise, if the standard for legal interpreting is that the limited English proficient (LEP) individual must understand the English-language proceedings in his or her own language as well as a native English speaker would, then the interpreter’s level of prior education and experience must be extremely high.
There are, of course, many thoroughly professional practicing translators and interpreters, but the onerous weight on their backs caused by scarce educational opportunities, inadequate remuneration, and unacceptable working conditions are bad for everyone. If translators and interpreters are to exercise the same level of competence as good doctors, lawyers, or accountants do, more money will need to be invested in their education and salaries. If linguists are not well remunerated, it is impossible to justify an investment in this career path—and then all of society will suffer.
Primary and secondary education programs need to offer better curricula in language training. Higher education also is an obvious essential in the training of translators and interpreters. But higher education is exorbitant in this country and our industry will not be able to tackle this larger problem on its own. Needless to say, bad translation and bad interpreting can lead to unspeakable calamity; in diplomatic catastrophes, wrongful convictions, medical malpractice, catastrophic financial loss, or in any other matter where miscommunication arises between people who speak different languages. For instance, some have attributed the bombing of Hiroshima and, separately, the escalation of the arms race in the 1950s to misinterpretations.
Another challenge that at least some of us face is that our work and training will not always be exposing us to every type of document we will translate or every type of proceeding we interpret in our subsequent career. There is always plenty of potential for something new that at times will make photocopy translation or interpreting (which is the aspired standard of perfection in legal translation and interpreting) an illusory goal. This especially applies to languages of lesser diffusion, such as Wolof, Tibetan, or Kaqchikel, to name a few of thousands. These translators and interpreters may find that their ability to accumulate preparatory training and experience is more limited due to the lesser availability of training and assignments. Yet I would submit that, as monumental as the task is of effectively providing language services, we are obligated to invest our energies in it. Too much is at stake not to: life, safety, and liberty, in addition to the potential for catastrophic financial loss.
Your reading this article is a sign that you are interested in change. I think the place to start a movement towards full professionalization is within and among our professional organizations: the New York Circle of Translators, the International Medical Interpreters Association, the Association of Language Interpreters of Greater New York, the American Translators Association, or the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, among others nationally and internationally. Your contributions and creativity to come up with solutions and implement them are sorely needed. We can continue to hold fora, such as the symposium, to educate ourselves, our clients, and society at large. In fact, the consensus among the organizers after last year’s event was that it would be very useful to make the forum an ongoing annual event.
Yet I think it bears emphasis that educating the general public is crucially important since the public will have to invest in our services in order for us to progress. This would necessarily include recognizing and remunerating the many outstanding professionals already practicing in line with the value of the service they are providing. If the highest standards currently being practiced are to become the rule rather than the exception, the public has to understand that better medical translations, better diplomatic interpreting, and better social services translation and interpreting will make us all more prosperous. If a legal interpreter breaches his or her confidentiality requirement, unduly steps into the role of lawyer, or omits content from his or her rendering of a proceeding, the potentially negative consequences are incalculable. We will also have to educate government officials who are in a position to implement far-reaching changes.
In short, more rigorous and affordable training and better remuneration are indispensable to continued professionalism and further professionalization of our industry and the rendering of service that our clients need and deserve.
Written by Leonard Morin Leonard Morin is a staff interpreter at Manhattan Criminal Court. He previously practiced as a full-time translator (since 2004) and interpreter (since 2006). Leonard interprets Spanish and Dutch and translates chiefly legal and cartography-related documents from Dutch, Spanish, and German into English. He earned a propedeuse degree in law in the Netherlands and graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Latin American Studies. Leonard has earned translation and interpreting certificates and won academic prizes for his Spanish and German. He previously served as president of the New York Circle of Translators.
So many factors impact our work as translators and interpreters. Small things like spotty internet connection to larger issues such as political mandates regarding language access, but what about the myriad of organizations and associations that deals with our industry. Below follows an interview with Allison Ferch, Director of Communications and Engagement, of the Globalization and Localization Association or GALA for short.
Could you explain the role of GALA in the translation and localization industry?
GALA is a trade association for the translation and localization industry. As a non-profit membership organization we offer a non-biased platform for information-sharing, collaboration, training, and professional development. We actively promote translation, localization, and interpreting as essential elements of global business and our outreach educates the general business community about the enormous benefits that the language enterprise brings to global business. In a nutshell, our role is to elevate the translation and localization industry, both in terms of internal maturity and sophistication, as well as how it is perceived by the global business community.
Has GALA achieved its’ original goals? What is GALA doing to meet its’ original purpose or has GALA increased the roles and agenda it had established upon inception?
GALA’s mission and vision have evolved since its inception. The association was originally formed by a group of language service provider (LSP) companies in order to address the unique needs of LSPs. Through a series of changes to the bylaws that happened gradually over a period of 10 years, GALA has now expanded its membership and its goals to meet the needs of all localization professionals, whether they work for vendor companies like LSPs or for enterprises in different sectors. GALA’S current mission is to support our members and the language industry by creating communities, championing standards, sharing knowledge, and advancing technology. Our vision is to be the voice for the language industry and the resource for the language enterprise.
GALA is primarily for agencies and large companies, but these employ translators who need to know what is trending in the industry.
-What have you heard from agencies or large companies about the industry?
-Technology is definitely a popular topic among professionals whether they’re on the buy-side or the vendor side of the industry. Machine translation (and post editing), audiovisual translation and subtitling, and video-remote interpreting will all be featured at our upcoming annual conference. Business owners continue to investigate new business models as alternatives to the per-word pricing model, and we also hear discussion about the “disintermediation” of the industry whereby clients request direct access to linguists and resources like translation memories. Finally, we hear of changing project lifecycles with an emphasis on smaller projects with faster turnaround times – often driven by Agile software development cycles.
-What types of changes are being implemented?
-Many translation and localization agencies are working on specialization, either in the sectors they serve or the type of services they offer. As they move into more consultative roles, they are able to move away from the price-per-word model. We see more emphasis on data-driven decisions from the client side as they seek to justify investments in language services and prove ROI to their upper management. And we see adaptations in project management to cope with the demands of Agile development with its smaller word counts and faster turn-around times.
GALA serves an international membership, however how does GALA interact with members on the local level?
In the past, GALA’s tagline was “Communicate locally, succeed globally” and though we no longer use that in marketing materials, we do still believe it. In spite of having member companies in more than 50 countries, we do interact with members regionally and locally. Our Partner Program is one way that we do this. Through a series of partnerships with regional associations, we extend our reach and are able to get involved in events and programs that otherwise would not be accessible to us and our members. We also co-organize local networking events in cities around the world. These events are always open to all industry professionals and provide a fun and easy way for people to connect with their peers. Finally, we encourage and support the development of local or regional user groups such as the Seattle Localization Group (SLUG) which plans quarterly meet-ups with speakers and networking.
The March meeting which featured Gabriela Lemoine, the CEO of Hispano Language Advisory, was well attended.
Ms. Lemoine gave a presentation on Transcreation and Translation for Marketing. This was the same presentation that she gave at last year’s ATA conference which was so well received that it was scheduled twice. NYCT members who missed the conference were fortunate to be able to catch her presentation at the meeting.
The presentation started with a look at four videos of the same advertiser in different countries. Besides the language changes there were other subtle and not so subtle differences in the various commercial spots. Ms. Lemoine explained why the spots were tweaked and how they were all successful in their respective countries while still retaining the same branding.
Examples were discussed from companies such as McDonald’s Coca-Cola and Puma. A breakfast commercial from McDonald’s was shown that while a hit here in the United States would have no meaning in some Latin American countries simply because the breakfast foods presented in the commercial were not typical breakfast foods for the countries discussed. Simple things can make a significant impact or not.
There were some campaigns that worked well, some that didn’t work at all and others that were able to be adapted and fixed midstream and turned into a successful campaign.
Ms. Lemoine reminded the audience that the purpose of marketing copy is to persuade or to sell. It must get the viewer to have a reaction and make a move. The source text must equal the target cultural response.
All translators working in transcreation should be excellent writers in the target language. Being a translator is not enough; the culture of the target audience needs to be understood inside and out. A background in marketing is helpful but not having one does not impede a translator from specializing in the field.
She then touched upon ISO standards and took questions from the audience about pay scales, obtaining work in the specialization and working with either direct clients or agencies.
This information comes from member associations of FIT and is reprinted from Translatio.
Austrian Associations succeed in Raising Awareness on the Difference Between Translators and Interpreters
In a joint effort, the German-speaking professional associations loosely organised within the framework of what is called “Bremer Runde”, which meets several times a year to discuss issues of common interest, addressed the subject of the frequent though mistaken use of the terms “translator/translation” and “interpreter/interpretation” in the German
In Austria, five independent professional associations work together under the umbrella of the “Translationsplattform” (www.translationsplattform.at), in particular to attract more attention and to give more weight to their arguments when reaching out jointly to the public or to specific stakeholders.
Acting upon the discussions within “Bremer Runde”, the Austrian associations got together to draft and send out letters to the media and to the editors of “Österreichisches Wörterbuch” (a standard monolingual German-language
dictionary that is widely used in Austrian schools). The letters clearly outlined the differences between the activities performed by translators and interpreters and proposed definitions to be added to the dictionary. They were accompanied
by a joint press release on the topic.
The Austrian associations were very pleased with the media echo their efforts received. The response of the dictionary editors is especially worth mentioning, as they welcomed the valuable input and easy-to-understand presentation of the terms in question and promised to take account of the suggestions in the next edition of the dictionary.
Dagmar Sanjath, Secretary General of UNIVERSITAS Austria, Interpreters and
UNI 11591:2015 – Italy has its own national standard to certify translators and interpreters
Three years in the making, the new UNI standard has finally been given the green light by UNI (Italian Organization for Standardization) on September 10, 2015. It was proposed by AITI and
written in collaboration with AIDAC, AIIC, Assointerpreti, ANITI, AssiITIG and TradInFounder under the supervision of esteemed professors from the Università di Bologna, DIT Forlì, Trieste and Fondazione Universitaria San Pellegrino.
The new standard provides requirements for the knowledge, skills and competence expected from individual TSPs and ISPs in accordance with the CEN GUIDE 14:2010 (“Common policy guidance for
addressing standardisation on qualification of professions and personnel”) and the European Qualification Framework (EQF).
It outlines eight professional profiles:
conference interpreter, legal interpreter,
healthcare/medical interpreter, business interpreter, technical-scientific translator,
audio-visual script translator and dialogue writer, legal translator, and language localisation professional.
The UNI 11591:2015 was recently presented during
a road-show in Genoa, Rome, Venice, Florence,
Turin, Trento, Trieste, Ancona, and Bologna with a large audience of professionals in attendance. Plans to be in Naples and Sicily in early 2016 are
Third-party certification for translators and interpreters is likely to be available next year, once the certification schemes are drafted in compliance with ISO 17024. A milestone in the global translation and interpretation industry, the UNI 11591:2015 provides guidance for the qualification of professional translators and interpreters on the market and their clients.
Reprinted from the ATA Chronicle’s June 2012 issue with gracious permission from the author and the editor
Language is ever evolving and never static, and interpreters must strive constantly to expand and refine their linguistic knowledge. As such, they must incorporate ways to practice language skills into their daily lives. Many of us have used paper flashcards to help facilitate language acquisition at some point in our career. It is a simple method: on one side of the card we write a term in our first language (L1), and on the reverse we write the same term in our second language (L2). Oral flashcards take the concept of practicing forward and backward translation a step further by turning it into a listening and speaking activity. As we shall see, this technique is particularly valuable to interpreters.
Why Oral Flashcards?
Creating a study method that works for you is key to successful and sustained vocabulary practice and development. Oral flashcards are productive tools for learning new terms or practicing less commonly used ones because the exercise mimics
what interpreters actually do on the job by drawing on auditory and vocal skills far more effectively than traditional paper flashcards. They can also be created easily. Instead of writing on a card, you create an audio recording of the terms you wish to practice. The process involves just a few steps:
• Prepare a list of terms or phrases you want to learn and group them by topic. Familiarize yourself with the terms so that you can pronounce them smoothly when recording. Each recording should be no longer than five minutes. This will facilitate locating terms quickly for review and will keep digital audio files smaller.
• Record yourself saying each term in L1, leave a brief interval to allow yourself time to respond during practice sessions, and then say the term’s equivalent in L2. You should
also make a second recording from L2 to L1, since it is important to create oral flashcards that move in both directions to strengthen backward and forward translation. There are a variety of methods with which to create oral flashcards.
Digital Recorders: These devices are an inexpensive option. Some recorders give you the ability to create multiple files containing word lists, but you will be unable to customize the list names since they will appear simply as numbers on the recorder’s display. This is a disadvantage because you will be unable to scroll through and find specific lists quickly or switch the order of your lists. Some digital recorders come with software that allows you to upload recordings as mp3 files to the computer, where you can rename the list files so they are easy to locate and differentiate. From there, you can burn a CD or transfer the files to an iPod, mp3 player, or smartphone. Although
digital recorders with this capability cost more, it is worth the extra investment to have the flexibility they offer.
Podcasts: You can create podcasts with programs such as Audacity, PodProducer, and WildVoice Studio, which can then be transferred to an iPod or mp3 player or else played directly from your computer. Again, these have the benefit of allowing you to customize the names of your lists so they can be identified and located easily.
GarageBand for Mac: If you are a Mac user, the GarageBand application, which comes standard as part of the iLife suite, provides a user friendly option. GarageBand allows you to select “Create New Podcast Episode” from the main menu. Users can indicate whether their recording is of a male or female voice, which improves quality. Editing features include the ability to change the timing of your recording, split tracks, move portions of a track, and insert new portions of recorded material into an existing track. The recording quality is good and it is easy to export files directly to iTunes and upload them to an iPod, iPhone, or burn them to a CD.
Windows Sound Recorder for PC: PC users might be interested in Windows Sound Recorder. This application, which comes standard on PCs, is user-friendly and allows you the benefit of recording directly to your desktop. This is an especially good option for those new to recording on anything other than a digital or standard tape recorder, since it requires no additional investment. The only requirement is that you have a sound card and an inexpensive microphone.
Software: Free downloads or recording software are also available, such as Audacity (for PC, Mac, and Linux at http:// audacity.sourceforge.net/download) and Free Sound Recorder for PC (http://cnet.co/Free-Sound). If you want something with more capacity, you can purchase a number of software programs. Prices vary, so do your research and find the one that best fits your needs and preferences (see reviews at
Smartphone Apps: Many smartphones come preloaded with a voice recorder. You simply record onto your phone and play it back whenever you want to practice. There are also downloadable apps for purchase that allow for voice recording. For example, I have used QuickVoice on my iPhone for voice recording (www.quickvoice. com/quickvoice).
Tape Recorder: Finally, there is nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned tape recorder, if this is what you feel most comfortable using. A disadvantage will be searching for your lists or locating them using a counter. In addition to helping us learn and practice, an added bonus of oral flashcards is that they are considerably more portable and accessible than a notebook or a stack of traditional paper flashcards. It is much easier to schedule time to practice and study vocabulary into our daily routine when it can be done while walking the dog, running on the treadmill, vacuuming, or cooking dinner. Repetition fulfills important functions in normal, everyday speech. The effectiveness of oral flashcards goes beyond mere convenience. This approach to term acquisition also
takes advantage of certain neurological theories associated with how we learn and retain information, some of which are discussed below.
Learning in Chunks
Research in second language acquisition has shown that attempting to learn a language word by word will not result in the internalization of that language’s overall linguistic structure, and instead can contribute to fossilization because a speaker is unable to create original utterances with the language. Communicative approaches to language learning thus emphasize the importance of meaningful input: hearing the language used realistically and in context so that learners can begin to incorporate it into their ever developing internal understanding of how the language works. Similarly, these approaches stress the importance of learning meaningful chunks of language in context.
According to David Wood, coordinator of the program for the Certificate in the Teaching of English as a Second Language at Carleton University’s School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, these chunks are linguistic formulas or, “fixed strings …
of words that have a range of functions and uses in speech production and communication and seem to be cognitively stored and retrieved by speakers as if they were single words.”1 Many first phrases spoken by those just beginning to learn a language (e.g., “What’s your name?” or “How are you?”) are common examples of chunks. Similarly, the doublets and triplets common to legal language can be described as chunks (e.g., “give, devise, and bequeath”). Because these word strings follow a set pattern, speakers can remember and use them without variation. By learning the meaning of a chunk, we are able to communicate without having to think
through the nuts and bolts of its construction.
For example, Spanish learners can easily express likes and dislikes using Me gusta / No me gusta long before they understand indirect object pronouns. Such formulaic sequences play an important role in language acquisition. Chunking aids in the internalization of language and contributes to fluency by increasing the amount of
speech produced without a pause. 2
In other words, we communicate meaning rather than simply string individual words together. Novice language learners, for example, can have a completely legitimate conversation using nothing but chunks such as “Hello, how are you? What’s your name? Where are you from? Where do you live? What’s your phone number? Nice to meet you. I’ll see you later,” and so on. Speech patterns and tendencies to use formulaic sequences are such that we become aware of them both consciously and subconsciously. Never was this clearer to me than the time I had a student raise his hand and ask what I was always looking for when I said Vamos a ver (“Let’s see”) as I consulted the list of activities for the day. This type of awareness, as Wood points out, helps, “establish a pattern recognition unit, which is then strengthened by frequent input, eventually leading to single-step memory access … [and] … automatization or retrieval in a single-step process of remembering”3
Thus, we do not have to think of each individual word or form in a chunk; rather, the entire
string is accessed and produced as one unit. Using these chunks or even a series of them allows time for us to attend to other utterances that demand more attention and are not formulaic. For example, a novice language learner does not consciously have to think about the meaning of “My name is…” and can instead pay attention to the information that follows.
Without a doubt, repetition is essential to learning chunks of information. It is not enough simply to listen to something; we need to reproduce the sounds and train our vocal chords to form them. Repetition in language learning has sometimes gotten a bad rap because of its association with the behaviorist audio lingual approach of the 1950s and 1960s. Lee James and Bill VanPatten, both internationally recognized scholars in the field of second language acquisition, note that audio lingualism, which is based on
theories of behaviorism, was originally, “[d]eveloped at military schools (where one did not question authority) … [and it] … explicitly cast the instructor as drill leader.”4 The end goal of this approach is to create good habits in language learners and eliminate bad ones. Therefore, audio lingual learning activities emphasize patterned drills. Central to this approach are compact language drills (CDLs) in which learners repeat what an instructor says.
As a result, repetition is sometimes cast aside because it conjures up the image of rote drills. Nevertheless, repetition fulfills important functions in normal, everyday speech. We need only think of how children parrot everything they hear when learning to speak to know that repetition serves as a building block of language learning and, later, original creation with the language. This is a result of a component of working memory known as the phonological loop, which deals with spoken and written language. In an article in Psychological Review, Alan Baddeley, Susan Gathercole, and Costanza Papagno explain that the phonological loop, “comprises both a phonological store, which holds information in phonological form, and a rehearsal process, which serves to maintain decaying representations in the phonological store.”5 Similar to using chunks, repetition allows us to produce easy to remember formulaic utterances while giving our minds time to craft what follows.6
Second language speakers have to know both content and form to create utterances within a language. Novice language learners tend to remember words in L2 by binding them to their L1 translation; in other words, they do not see a new L2 term as having meaning in and of itself, but rather through its link to the word in L1.7 In an article discussing language representation and processing in fluent bilinguals in Neuropsychologia, Shekeila Palmer, Johanna van Hoof, and Jelena Havelka explain that with increased proficiency, speakers of a second language develop, “an asymmetrically connected linguistic system in which the two lexicons are linked both directly at the lexical level, and indirectly via independent links between each lexicon and the conceptual store.” 8 That is, we make connections both on a word-for-word and a meaning-for-meaning level. As many of us know from experience, the consequence of this asymmetrical system is that backward translation going from L2 to L1 is faster than forward translation because it tends to be lexical, or at the word level. In contrast, forward translation tends to be based more on meaning and concepts. 9
The concept of listening to a recording also ties into how the brain processes auditory stimuli. Music and memory are uniquely linked. Music often accompanies our memories, and those memories of music come back very accurately. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, has found in his work with patients that, “musical perception, musical sensibility, musical emotion, and musical memory can survive long after other forms of memory have disappeared.” 10
As linguists, we can capitalize on our musical intelligence and the strength of musical memories. If you listen to anyone for very long, you will pick up on the unique rhythmic qualities of his or her individual speech. We can likewise tap into our own musicality the
unique rhythms and sounds of our individual way of speaking to help us remember by following the beat of our speech patterns. Self-repetition of words and phrases plants a rhythmic memory in your brain of the way you produce those words and phrases. Practicing our vocabulary by listening to audio recordings of ourselves repeating terms allows us to draw on the rhythm of speech (and not so much on the linguistical aspects) to retrieve and recall content.
For example, whether you consider yourself a musician or not, you likely have experienced something known as an earworm at some point in your life. Earworms are those snippets of music that get stuck and replay through our minds, often with maddening consistency. When we remember, neurons fire in the same pattern as when we first perceived the object or event we remember. In the case of earworms, it
appears that the pattern is firing repeatedly much like a scratch on a vinyl record or CD.11 As studies of music and the brain indicate, musical memories often outlast other memories since they are stored differently. Tapping into your own musicality by using oral flashcards to learn, practice, and remember is like having a backup rhythmic copy of the concrete.
As country singer Trisha Yearwood sings, “The song remembers when.”12 Oliver Sacks likewise quotes one of his correspondents: “Every memory of my childhood has a soundtrack to it.”13 Many of us would agree with both observations regarding the power of musical memory.
Understanding How We Learn
Taken together, these understandings of the architecture of our linguistic system suggest that oral flashcards are an effective strategy to help us enhance our vocabularies and improve our skills as interpreters. Because we, as linguists, need to be able to move back and forth fluidly between languages, our practice of new terms should challenge us. Our practice of new terms should challenge us to exercise every aspect of the brain’s capacity to learn and adapt to linguistic patterns.
By using repetition to strengthen our proficiency in a language, and by becoming familiar with the musicality of our individual pronunciation, we will become more aware of how these language patterns can affect our performance.
1. Wood, David. “Uses and Functions of Formulaic Sequences in Second Language Speech: An Exploration of the Foundations of Fluency.” The Canadian Modern Language Review (Volume 63, no. 1, 2006), 14.
2. Ibid., 13-33.
3. Ibid., 17.
4. Lee, James F., and Bill VanPatten. Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003), 7.
5. Baddeley, Alan, Susan Gathercole, and Costanza Papagno. “The Phono logical Loop as a Language
Learning Device.” Psychological Review (Volume 105, no. 1, 1998), 158.
6. Rydland, Veslemøy and Vibeke Grøver Aukrust. “Lexical Repetition in Second Language Learners’ Peer Play Interaction.” Language Learning (Volume 55, no. 2, 2005). 7. Palmer, Shekeila D., Johanna C. van Hoof, and Jelena Havelka. “Language Representation and Processing in Fluent Bilinguals: Electrophysiological Evidence for Asymmetric Mapping in Bilingual Memory.” Neuropsychologia (Volume 48, 2010), 1426-1437.
8. Ibid., 1426.
9. Ibid., 1426.
10. Sacks, Oliver. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (New York: Vintage, 2007), 373.
11. Levitin, Daniel J. This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession (New York: Dutton, 2006).
12. Prestwood, Hugh. “The Song Remembers When” [Recorded by Trish Yearwood]. On The Song Remembers When [CD]. Nashville: MCA, 1993.
13. Sacks. Musicophilia: Tales ofMusic and the Brain, 37.
As my internship at the New York Circle of Translators (NYCT) nears its end, it has been a great experience to be able to learn and grow in an environment full of others who share my interest in languages. My name is Hasia (Angela) Bronstein and I am an undergraduate student presently completing my Bachelor of Arts in Spanish/English Translation and Interpretation Studies at the City University of New York—Hunter College.
Ever since I can remember I have had a fascination with languages and human communication. Their unique phonetic compositions, distinct writing systems, and grammatical complexities fascinated me ever since I was a small child; how in one language we say “I miss you” and in another “I feel your absence”. I started learning Spanish when I was in sixth grade and it started out by happenchance as an error in my class schedule. My teacher insisted, “Stay a week and if you don’t like it you can drop it.” Learning languages soon became a pastime for me and I continued to study Spanish through high school. I now speak English, Spanish, Portuguese and Hebrew with some knowledge of French and I am now focusing my linguistic pursuits on Arabic. I continued to study Spanish through college. Like most college students, the focus of my major changed a few times starting out as an Applied Linguistics major and then a Romance Languages major I eventually transferred to Hunter College in the Spring of 2013 and decided to take my interest in languages towards a more focused career path majoring in Spanish/English Translation and Interpretation studies.
The program at Hunter is unique and still growing showing a great potential and is one of the only programs in the New York City area offering an undergraduate degree in Translation/Interpretation.
The degree is through the Spanish Department and consists of a wide array of courses which students must take in Spanish Grammar and Composition, Modern Literature and Translation theory and practice, Translation in the professions which focuses on a specific professional arena such as medical, legal or literary translation.
Classes in both consecutive and simultaneous interpretation are also offered. Course requirements are allied with the Hunter College English Department insuring that students have a strong basis and are well rounded in the culture, literature and structure of both language pairs.
I arrived as an intern at the New York Circle of Translators after meeting and discussing possible internship positions with my program director, Professor Maria Cornelio. Students seeking a BA in Spanish Translation/Interpretation must complete an internship.
The internship position is an opportunity for students to utilize the skills learned in class as well as to network and develop new skills from hands-on work experience. Professor Cornelio had invited students to attend a couple of events held by the New York Circle of Translators and I found them interesting and informative. While brainstorming with Professor Cornelio about possible internship positions, she suggested the option of interning with the NYCT and the rest is history!
My internship experience has been positive. While interning for the New York Circle of Translators I had the opportunity to attend events in which speakers and panelists discussed issues involved in the translation field and how to tackle the challenges involved in the fields of Transcreation and Subtitling. Other events included the NYCT Annual Networking Event which experienced great success in connecting translators and interpreters with Translation Agencies seeking to benefit from each member’s unique set of skills. I helped by making phone calls and spread sheets organizing member information and did my best to facilitate any difficulties involved in holding these events.
Overall the NYCT and their events are like a family which serves to help one another by offering advice and support. They have an up and coming mentoring program which that seeks to provide one on one professional guidance by experienced members to those new to the fields of translation and interpretation. I am very grateful to be able to have served as an intern for the New York Circle of Translators and have great expectations for the future both for myself and for the NYCT.
Reprinted with gracious permission from the author and the Northwest Linguist.
“In the end, isn’t translation a matter of personal opinion?”
The question was thrown at me by an attorney for the other side who hoped what she was saying was true. If it were, and translations could only be evaluated in the same way we make decisions about fashion or flavors of ice-cream, then the one she had in her hand would be just as valid as the one that my client had submitted.
Obviously, the answer is, “No.” But the question the attorney put to me is an interesting one, and deserves a longer answer. For one thing, this wasn’t the first time I had heard it. The notion that translation is a nebulous art, ill-suited to clear rules or standards, is not uncommon, especially among those who have a little multilingual knowledge. That said, I have been working in technical and legal translation for more than a quarter of a century and, out-side of the very special context of a court room, where some people can be particularly disinclined to change their minds, I have never seen two translators remain in disagreement over the proper translation of a phrase for more than a few minutes. Invariably, a short discussion is enough to satisfy one of the translators that the other is right, and an evidence-based consensus is quickly achieved.
So where do non-translators (and even some novice translators) get the notion that there is no such thing as a wrong answer?
Part of it comes from the general idea that language itself is mysterious. It is, after all, amazing that so many of us manage to generate complex and flawless grammatical structures without even knowing the rules. (Be honest, gentle reader, if I were to ask you to give an example of the future subjunctive mood, would you be able to do so?) And then there is our awareness of the ambiguity that pervades our communication. If you have ever spent time with a teenager who has just learned how to tell “That’s what she said” jokes, you will know that there are very few short utterances that cannot be taken in two ways.
Another potential source of confusion is bilingual dictionaries. The entry for the French word “adhésif,” for example, is likely to include such English translations as, not only “adhesive” and “glue,” but also “sticker” and “seal.” If they are all listed in the dictionary, who is to say which one is correct?
Going further, even amateur translators will have come across situations in which the same idea can be expressed in two different ways. There is not much difference between saying that, “the cargo is carried by the vehicle” and saying that “the vehicle carries the cargo.” Both are possible, so isn’t the translator’s preference the ultimate arbitrator?
There are two fallacies at work here. The first lies in assuming that, because human choice is involved, the choice is inherently arbitrary. The second is imagining that, because more than one possible correct translation can be conceived, all translations must be correct.
In any form of complex communication, ambiguity in-creases as the sample length decreases. One bit could mean anything, and a handful of bytes in a data transmission is generally useless without knowing which packet it came from. So while it is true that an “elongate member,” mentioned by itself, might mean any number of things to a thirteen year old, when we hear that it is “eccentrically coupled to a rotary drive means,” the possible interpretations narrow significantly. Context, in short, determines which readings are right and which are clearly wrong.
It is also context that tells us which of the many terms in the bilingual dictionary will be appropriate. Even if “sticker” is one of the terms listed under the entry for “adhésif,” it is simply incorrect to translate “collés par un adhésif liquide” as “bonded by a liquid sticker.”
The question of how to select the most suitable phrasing is a little too complex to address in a blog post, but is covered in some detail in my chapter on literal translation in the ATA Patent Translator’s Handbook. Suffice it to say, there are rules and, while there may be more than one possible right answer, there are also unquestionably wrong answers. Forming an option is indeed part of the translation process, but not all options, or translations, are equal.
Martin Cross began his career in as an in-house editor of Japanese patent translations in Tokyo. Later, he lived for many years in Italy and France, where he translated from those languages into English. His articles have been published in the New York Law Journal, the Westlaw Journal, The ATA Chronicle and Intellectual Property Today. He is currently the president of Patent Translations Inc., where he continues to translate and to serve as an expert witness on translation. He spends much of his time editing translations and training translators and editors in the ins and outs of legal and patent translation.