Tuesday, November 15

Translation and the Meaning of Everything

In his new book, Is That a Fish in Your Ear?, David Bellos explores the history, the future and the art of translation. David Bellos is the director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University, where he is also a professor of French and comparative literature. In his book and recent interview on NPR Bellos declares that “the practice of translation rests on two presuppositions. The first is that we are all different: we speak different tongues, and see the world in ways that are deeply influenced by the particular features of the tongue that we speak. The second is that we are all the same—that we can share the same broad and narrow kinds of feelings, information, understandings, and so forth. Without both of these suppositions, translation could not exist. Nor could anything we would like to call social life. Translation is another name for the human condition.” Bellos posits that translation is something that all humans do, whether it be through the act of reading or conversation, we are extracting and interpreting meaning. Of course this act becomes more complex when we translate into a second language and seek a culturally and linguistically appropriate equivalent.

When asked what it is that people want translation to be, Bellos responds that “People, for various cultural reasons and reasons of education and so forth, often have the idea that a translation to be a translation has to be the same as the original that it's translating.” Bellos disagrees with this argument as all expressions even when restated in the same language will vary. “They vary historically. They vary in the specific language patterns that you're dealing. They vary depending on the kind of text or object that you're translating.” Instead of seeking the same expression in the target language, Bellos states that the art of translation seeks likeness or a good match. This brought to mind the Spanish translation of Shakespeare’s infamous quote “To be or not to be. That is the question.” I’ve often seen this translated as “Ser o no ser, he ahí la pregunta,” which conveys the message but I couldn’t help but to feel that something was lost in translation. After researching this phrase, I stumbled upon Tomás Segovia’s ingenious translation "Ser o no ser, de eso se trata," In this inarguably rich equivalent, the recently deceased poet and translator avoids a literal approach and in my opinion focuses on the spirit of the message. (Click here to read more about Tomás Segovia) I believe this is what Bellos is referring to when arguing for a good match, instead of focusing so much on sameness.

Please take a moment and listen to the interview and after reading the book, share your thoughts.

This Interview is Copyright of 2011 National Public Radio®.

Friday, March 19

Put Your Best Face Forward

With unemployment at an all time high, many professionals, including interpreters and translators, are discouraged by the overwhelming number of job seekers and the scarcity of job opportunities. During this time of economic uncertainty, it is important to put your best face forward and finesse your resume to make you stand out from the rest.

Employers and recruiters receive hundreds of resumes per day and do not have time to completely review all submissions. Upon receiving your resume or application, they will quickly skim through it and make a snap judgment about your qualifications. If they see spelling mistakes or unrelated job titles or skills the likelihood is very high that they will make an immediate assumption that you do not meet the requirements for the job you want.

Remember, a resume has one main purpose: to get you an interview. If you want to land an interview, your resume must convey the most relevant information in a clear, concise, intelligible, and organized fashion. In order to avoid a premature rejection, I’ve compiled the following tips which will help you land the interpreting job you seek.

Tips for successful resumes

* A resume is not about your previous jobs; it is about you and how well you performed in those jobs. So instead of simply listing your responsibilities (i.e. interpreting), include on-the-job accomplishments.

* Learning how to analyze the keywords that employers provide in the job descriptions is an essential element in creating powerful resumes. For example, if a Medical Interpreter job description states they want someone familiar with interpreting protocols and standards, you should state that you are a CHIA, NCIHC, or IMIA member and whether you have attended one of the CHIA Standards workshops.

* Tailor every resume to each job you apply for. A generic resume deserves a generic response, “the circular file.”

* Proofread and spell-check before submitting. Interpreters and Translators are language professionals, as such, if you don’t know how to use the written word, it will be assumed that you are not up to par for the job.

* Maintain a consistent format throughout your resume (If you start off with 11/2009, don’t write Nov. 09 later)

* Computer skills are a requirement for any job, including interpreters. You will most likely have to record interpreting or translation assignments into a database or you will have to use a word-processing application to draft your translations. It is imperative that you list the computer applications you are familiar with and your level of proficiency.

* Neither overstate nor understated qualifications. If you are not proficient in a second or third language, don’t claim to be. One semester of French does not make someone proficient.

* What if you are a student and don't have any interpreting experience? GET SOME! Find a place that will let you do some volunteer work. Consider volunteering at a local hospital, clinic, school, non-profit organization or get involved with your local Interpreting organization.

Wednesday, October 21

Interpreting for Latinos in the United States

Latinos are the fastest-growing minority group in the U.S., in fact, in 2008 California alone was home to 13.5 million Latinos. By 2050, the U.S. Latino population is expected to make up 29% of the U.S. population. Despite the fact that Latinos represent a sizable percentage of the population, many individuals continue to have the false notion that we are a homogeneous group. Although I am Mexican-American and have lived in Mexico and Spain, I continuously encounter new knowledge affirming the rich diversity of the Latino population that I serve. As healthcare interpreters, we should not limit ourselves to a solely linguistic understanding of the population we are serving. Language is a reflection of culture, and hence without an in-depth understanding of the culture, it would be impossible to interpret accurately.

Latinos share a geographic and linguistic heritage, however by simply analyzing the ten largest U.S. Latino population groups (Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Salvadorans, Dominicans, Guatemalans, Colombians, Hondurans, Ecuadoreans and Peruvians) we can see that Latinos vary in reference to country of origin, citizenship, and degree of acculturation due to differences in immigration history and cultural background. Latinos also vary in educational attainment, income, and political ideologies. Sociolinguistics has shown us that these previously mentioned social variables influence our usage of language, for this reason interpreters should be sensitive to these differences and not make generalizations about Latino's educational attainment or language fluency.

Another common misconception is that Latinos are of the same "race." Contrary to what many think, Latino is not a race, neither is it a particular ethnic group. So then, who are we? What do we look like? We are white, black, Asian, indigenous, and mestizo. In general, Latinos represent a mix of racial and ethnic lines from 22 different countries of origin who share a geographic, historic, and linguistic tie to Latin America and Spain. Latinos are multireligious, multiethnic, and multiracial. As such we are Catholic, Christian, Mormon, Muslim, and Jewish and we speak a variety of Spanish dialects, Portuguese, and indigenous languages. I have witnessed many healthcare providers assume that patients are limited-English proficient or Catholic simply because of their Hispanic surname or because they "look" Latino. When serving Latinos in the healthcare setting, it is best to clarify whether they in fact need an interpreter and ask if they have a religious preference, instead of assuming and possibly causing offense. Religious diversity is especially important because for some Latinos, spiritual beliefs and medicine are often intertwined with the usage of healers and other folk medicine.

Considering such a rich diversity, it is easy to understand why the umbrella classifications Hispanic and Latino established by the Office of Management and Budget continue to be a source of contention. While both Latino and Hispanic are generally acceptable, some people have a strong preference, others don't like either term and instead prefer their country of origin or the political term Chicano. Furthermore many second and third generation Latinos regard themselves as simply “American”. A 2006 survey by the Pew Hispanic Center found that 48% of Latino adults generally describe themselves by their country of origin first; 26% generally use the terms Latino or Hispanic first; and 24% generally call themselves American on first reference. As for a preference between “Hispanic” and “Latino”, a 2008 Center survey found that 36% of respondents prefer the term “Hispanic,” 21% prefer the term “Latino” and the rest have no preference. Although there is a lack of consensus, we should respect those preferences as much as possible in referring to individuals and groups.

Regardless if you are Latino or not, if you are serving the Spanish-speaking population as a healthcare provider or interpreter, the best way to meet the medical or linguistic needs of Latinos is by understanding the culture first. On October 21st and 22nd, CNN will be airing a special report titled Latino In America, which will provide much insight and controversy about what it means to be Latino in America. If you would like to continue this conversation, feel free to post a comment.

Sunday, July 19

Crowd-sourcing: Is it cheap labor or a glimpse of what's to come?

Businesses are always looking for ways to cut costs, one of the latest methods is crowd-sourcing. This phenomenon is rising in popularity, but what does it mean? In a nutshell, businesses are soliciting everyday people to use their spare time to create content and solve problems for free. Some of these businesses include social networking websites that were developed in the Internet age of collaborative user-centered technologies. Now we find well-intended amateurs and hobbyists doing the work of professionals.

Crowd-sourcing has affected all industries, including translation and localization. Social networking sites like Hi5 and Facebook allow their active user community to contribute translations of metadata and their user interface.

Recently I attended a workshop where Ghassan Haddad, Director of Localization of Facebook, presented on the success of their crowd-sourcing approach. One of the appeals of crowd-sourcing is the speed of translation. He stated that nearly 100% of the French Facebook content was translated overnight. The Spanish and German sites were translated in one week.

He further elaborated that while many translations are questionable, volunteers are able to vote on their preferred verbiage, and since this is a site for the people, why not tailor it according to their needs? For quality assurance, Facebook employs language experts who review the translations offered by the volunteer translators. Haddad stated that the cost savings vary because investment in technology offsets some of the savings attained by getting "free" translations. Their main cost advantages are achieved through unsupported languages, process automation, and the ability to prioritize text.

Currently LinkedIn, the online professional networking site, finds itself in the hot-seat because Nico Posner, product manager, surveyed its users to see whether they would consider translating the site for free. Many translators frowned upon this request because this is a for-profit site requesting professional services for free. Some translators found it demeaning and consider it exploitation, nonetheless there were translators who were more than willing to participate.

As a professional translator and interpreter, I do not believe businesses should implement crowd-sourcing to replace the work of professionals. However I am interested in understanding how this phenomenon has and will continue to impact our profession. Crowd-sourcing is not the apocalypse of the translation profession. Like all things in life, change is inevitable and the Internet has changed many professions. Take librarianship for example, the field continues to thrive despite having Google at our disposal. Google and the Internet provide access to information like libraries, however unlike librarians, Google does not know how to distinguish reputable and credible resources from non-authoritative work, nor can Google collaborate with you in your research quest.

Can crowd-sourcing help businesses and translators? Yes, after a professional translator has completed their target translation, crowd-sourcing should be used as an additional tool to ensure that products and websites are tailored to meet the needs of their market. It should not be the first thing that businesses turn to. CAT tools, automatic translation, and crowd-sourcing will change the way we do some business, but none can replace the professional translator's cognitive ability to analyze the syntax, orthography, register, synonyms, colloquialisms, and idioms of multiple languages and culture.

Sunday, May 31

Social Networking And Professional Development for Translators/Interpreters

President Obama is doing it. The White House is too. Why not you? Social networking is a cultural phenomenon stretching across the globe. Tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are enabling forms of communication, collaboration, and learning never seen before. One way to use social networks is for your own professional development. They can be a great way to connect with colleagues or to find new people who share your interests.

Using these tools, you can keep in touch with colleagues and establish more professional contacts. Networking can also help you build your online reputation and find a new job or establish business contacts. Also, the internet brings individuals from all around the world together on social networking sites. This means that although you are in the United States, you could establish an online contact with someone in Spain or Russia. Some of the tools that the California Healthcare Intepreting Association (CHIA) is currently using include:

LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site with members from around the world, representing 170 industries and 200 countries. You can find, be introduced to, and collaborate with qualified professionals that you need to work with to accomplish your goals. Job seekers can review the profile of hiring managers and discover new employment opportunities. CHIA has created a group on LinkedIn as a way of promoting the professional development of our membership. Click here to create a profile and request to join CHIA on LinkedIn.

Facebook has taken hold as undisputable leader amongst social networking sites. CHIA now offers a Facebook group for our members to keep up-to-date with CHIA events and interpreting related news. This is an opportunity to combine your personal and professional interests on one site. Click Here to find CHIA on Facebook!

CHIA is now on YouTube, the leader in online video sharing. CHIA has been accepted into YouTube's non-profit program and has developed a YouTube Channel named InterpretersTube. You can either register or search our videos for free. We offer clips of our annual educational conferences and regional educational seminars. Click here to check out CHIA's InterpretersTube.

Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read other users' updates known as tweets. So get the latest interpreting news by following CHIA on Twitter. Simply join twitter and look up our Twitter profile named CHIAInterpreter and start tweeting. Click here to find CHIA on Twitter

Social networking can offer many benefits, however the Internet can be a dangerous place to post personal information. All of the previously mentioned social networks provide the ability to set profiles to private. Additionally they have the ability to report and block users. So join CHIA and the rest of your colleagues and let’s stay up-to-date on the latest technological innovations.

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