The pitfalls of machine translation for large-scale projects

Whether translators like it or not, machine translation is here to stay, and it is becoming a popular solution for companies with large, repetitive translation projects that they will keep adding documents to.

A machine translation engine automatically translates sentences into another language, while a translator or editor may post-edit the text to make sure that it is translated correctly and makes sense. Some engines “learn” from previous translations that the translator has made, and can incorporate those solutions into similar sentences that it finds in future documents.

In theory, this speeds up the translation process (the translator’s role is more editing than actual translating, since they are working with the sentence that the MT has made) and generally reduces the company’s translation costs.

But sometimes, this is all too good to be true. Although this method can speed up large translation projects, if too many corners are cut then it can lead to subpar work and some embarrassing mistakes once the translation is published.

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Localisation done right: Translating the world of Animal Crossing

Title image: The cover for the Japanese version of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and the English version.

Even if you’re not into video games, you may have heard of Animal Crossing over the past year. With the Coronavirus pandemic, countries going in and out of lockdowns and what feels like a constant barrage of bad news, people have jumped at the chance to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Nintendo’s newest release of the now 20-year-old franchise, which offers a little bit of wholesome escapism as you build a life on a desert island alongside your animal neighbours.

Having sunk quite a few hours into the game myself (and not being familiar with the previous editions), I was delighted to discover all the tiny details in the game – and, as my translator brain never truly switches off, I was interested to see how the game was able to be adapted into so many other languages, encompass aspects from several different cultures, and yet still stay true to its Japanese origins. Here are a few examples!

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Thinking about the future: My impressions of CIOL 2020

BMA House, London

On 6 and 7 March 2020, I attended the Chartered Institute of Linguists’ first two-day conference at BMA House in London. It was a very fruitful couple of days with a wide range of subjects: some very topical, such as Brexit and Interpreting at the Olympic Games, and some more practical, such as digital marketing and specialising in fields like public service interpreting.

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3 things I learned at Warwick Translates Summer School

Source: Mike1024

Last month I attended the Warwick Translates Summer School at the University of Warwick, a series of literary translation workshops and talks led by leading professional translators and publishers. As I hadn’t been to a translation event in quite some time and this one was especially geared towards literary translation, I was quite excited. My enthusiasm clearly showed as I tried to cram in three modules over the 5 days: French translation, Spanish translation, and Theatre translation.

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Why are there two French versions of the Les Misérables musical?

Translating

Last week, I watched Les Misérables on stage for the first time ever. I know – I worked in a theatre for 9 years, but this particular show had passed me by. Partly because I live over 200 miles away from the West End so I mostly rely on shows touring to my part of the world, but also because my existing knowledge of the show painted it as a depressing tragedy, so I wasn’t exactly in a rush to see it.

But there’s a reason why it’s one of the longest-running musicals in the world: despite the sad events throughout, I found the performances incredible and it was hard not to get swept up with those iconic songs. Ever the linguaphile, the next day I looked up the original French soundtrack on YouTube to see how it compared with the English.

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Certified Translations for UK authorities: Frequently Asked Questions

French Dictionary with legal document 2.1

Getting a certified translation of a personal document such as a birth or marriage certificate can seem like a minefield – and if you’re applying for a UK visa or passport, you want to get it right first time to avoid wasting time or money.

But there is surprisingly little information online about what your translated document should include, how it should look, and what kinds of things are acceptable. You may receive some information with your application, but the most helpful official information can only be found on these two web pages.

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3 translations into English that have suffered translation loss

Translations into English translation loss - cover

Humanity has been translating words from one language into another for thousands of years – from inscriptions in stone to religious texts, from books to films, and even songs.

But as any translator will tell you, sometimes it’s just impossible to copy everything into another language and expect it to have the same effect; some real creativity and ingenuity is needed to adapt the text to the new audience. Occasionally, the best solution is to leave some aspects behind in the original language, omitting certain parts in order for it to make sense – and be well received – in the new language. This is called translation loss.

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What to do if you’re not happy with a translation you’ve commissioned

You may not have to throw away your translation

On my blog, I like to talk about how to get the best possible translation for your money and reach the happiest ending for either you or your business – but unfortunately, sometimes things may not go as planned, either for the translator or for the person requesting the translation. I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never received questions about a translation I’ve done – although thankfully, these have never been full-on complaints, just clarifications 😉

Still, if you’ve hired a translator to translate your website or business documents, but something feels a bit off…how do you fix it?

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Got a bilingual colleague? Don’t use them for business translations

Bilingual employee translating company documents

In my previous job, there was a Dutch guy and a French woman (and me) and we were always called upon to do quick translations for our teams. The company we worked for was in that funny position where there wasn’t enough demand for there to be a full-time in-house translator, but the need for small or urgent translations still arose from time to time – for things like invoice queries, training materials, and certain emails.

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