Sunday, December 18, 2011

Skills To Become a Freelance Translator

Skills To Become a Freelance Translator  Advice & TipsLanguage: Command over the 'source' language as well as the 'destination' language is essential to a translator. Knowledge of grammar and syntax is also essential. Idioms and phrases in one language often do not have a direct parallel in another language. The translator therefore requires sufficient knowledge to be able to use substitute phrases that will still convey the meaning and intent of the original work.

Technical Knowledge: This is essential for domain or technical literature. Often technical terms in one language do not have an equivalent in another language. Most notable in this area are computer terms that are in English or legal terms that appear in Latin. Domain knowledge will help the translator to explain a concept or term in a precise manner without compromising on its meaning.

To Become a Successful Freelance Translator

Practical/Work experience in a translation firm will give you valuable experience in the kind of work that may come your way. In a translation firm, your work is likely to be supervised by an experienced translator who will be responsible for any minor mistakes you may make. This will also give you confidence in your ability.

Working for a professional translation firm will also help you gauge your level of expertise against what is in demand. The experience will give you insight into the kind of jobs that are available (the remuneration offered for a professional job, the time frames demanded, the level of acceptable quality).

It will also help you establish a reputation in the translation business and help you establish contacts among those who require translations. Working for a short while as a volunteer trainee or an intern may also be a viable option in case you are not able to get a paid 'traineeship'. Just look at it as an extension of your translation course.

Sign a Part-Time Contract: Once you have gained a little practical translation experience, you may want to sign a part-time contract. A number of translation agencies prefer this route, as they do not have a guaranteed regular volume of translation work that comes in. Working on a part-time basis also gives you a minimum income and at the same time also leaves you free to search for your own translation contracts that you do on your own terms.

Identify Translation Agencies: These agencies will give you 'quality' translations to do and will also be regular about paying you and honoring your other employment terms. Most translation agencies receive translation assignments for different languages. Therefore, they prefer to pay a retainer to different translators with different language and technical skills so that the are able to meet the requirements of their customers.
Surf the Net: The Internet has shrunk the size of the world leveled the playing field. Identify multinational firms that are likely to have translation requirements for which you have the requisite skills and experience.

Try and approach them directly on the Internet, as the translation fee you earn as a direct translator will be much higher than what you would earn on retainer or through a translation firm. However, be sure to deal only with companies with a sound reputation, or you could easily end up not receiving payment at all. Before you take on the assignment, try and sign a legally enforceable agreement with them so that your interests are safeguarded.

A career as a translator is not easy to establish, but once established it is an ideal career to use for freelance work. Time spent on an internship and time spent building up your reputation and your clientele will pay off in the long run.

Source: Become a
Author: Tony Jacowski

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Top 7 Questions Clients Ask While Hiring A Translator

  1. What are the languages you work with?
  2. How fast can you complete a translation project?
  3. How much do you charge for a translation work?
  4. Can you translate legal and technical documents?
  5. Can you provide a certified translation?
  6. Can you assure the contents of my documents will remain confidential and private?
  7. Do you use any translation software? Is it reliable?
These answers can be very helpful when applying for a translation job.

1. What are the languages you work with?

Translators around the world will usually be translating the most common and usual languages paired with English. For a more specific and accurate translation result, look for the translators who are actually specialized in their language pairs according to their geographic location. Keep in mind that there is a considerable variation on the same language spoken between two different countries.

2. How fast can a translation job be done?

This should be determined by the subject matter to be translated, language, the length and complexity of a document, and the capability of a translator to provide a fast job without compromising its integrity. A translator will usually take about 3 to 4 days to translate between 10 - 20 pages into any of the most common languages. A professional translator, will also do his best to accommodate a client’s wish of a fast translation delivery according to both; the client and the translator’s schedule.

3. How much do you charge for a translation work?

Translation works is commonly charged by word counting, number of pages to be translated, or even have a flat rate for small translation projects. If a determined translation job requires special attention or additional research, these charges will also be included in the amount of time used to complete the translation.

4. Can you translate legal and technical documents?

Only officially authorized translators have the right of performing legal documents translation and bureaucratic related documents such as scholarly writings and other regulations. A legal or technical translator must be familiar with the language and functions of the U.S. judicial system, as well as other countries' legal systems, so make sure you’re hiring a governmental recognized professional translator to provide such job.

5. Can you provide a certified translation?

Most professional and certified translators can provide a qualified translation. They will also be able to provide their professional information at the bottom of the document and you will need to get it notarized in order to validate its contents. Legal and technical translations can only be done by a legally recognized translator.

6. Can you assure the contents of my documents will remain confidential and private?

Translator’s privacy and client’s confidentiality comes first. They should make the effort to keep all documents and personal information from being disclosed to a third party. A privacy agreement will demonstrate to the client a complete respect and professionalism in keeping the privacy and discretion of any document available to the public, unless otherwise advised.

7. Do you use any translation software? Is it reliable?

Translators for the most part are not affectionate of post-editing machine translation. It can make their work even harder and time consuming than translating directly from an original text. It could also be considered partially reliable. It’s always best if a professional translator that uses this method combines his human translation to the process for a more accurate result.

Source: Become a
Author: Vanessa Greenway,
CTP Associate

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Subtitling and Dubbing Dialogues for Foreign Films

Subtitling and dubbing dialogue are vital skills. Get them wrong and you could mangle a classic scene.

Not even a dub could save The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo from falling prey to one of Hollywood's raids on foreign language films. Just as Insomnia, The Ring and even True Lies were respun with English-speaking actors, so the Swedish-language film version of Stieg Larsson's novel is being repackaged for a worldwide audience as movie-makers hope to better the US gross of $10.1m and the paltry £1.5m it made in the UK.

The English-language remake has already caused something of a stir, with fans believing Neils Arden Oplev's original to be a definitive screen adaptation. They say giving English speakers the option of watching with either subtitles or dubbing has made the film accessible enough.

Certainly dubbing is rather unusual. UK and US audiences tend to be shown foreign films with subtitles and dubbing is generally left for movies and television series aimed at children. The reason being that, as audiences grow older, they prefer to hear a film's original language which gives a sense of place and adds to the atmosphere of a film.

There have been notable exceptions – spaghetti Westerns had international casts that would act in their own languages so studios would dub Italian voices into English and vice versa – but even when English-language dubbing is available, such as with the Mandarin film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, movies tend to be subtitled when shown in cinemas or broadcast on television in the UK.

"There is clearly an established market for subtitled foreign-language films, and research by theatrical distributors has concluded that the audience responds better to films in their original language," says Sue Deeks, head of programme acquisition at the BBC, who has brought foreign-language hits such as The Killing and Spiral to UK audiences.

"If a film is released commercially in a dubbed format we would certainly consider transmitting it in that version, but in our experience, while dubbing has undoubtedly improved over the years, audiences still prefer to experience the authentic voice and language of the actors and the real flavour of the culture or country they are from."

Although the number of dubbed foreign productions in the UK is low, the reverse is the case in some other countries. In Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, Hungary, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Slovakia, China, Iran, Russian-speaking countries and Francophones in Quebec, dubbing is so commonplace that some voice artists are even assigned to specific actors.

Dominique Paturel has replaced Michael Caine's London twang with French in 40 of his films, starting with The Ipcress File in 1965, and he is well-known in his own right.

Some want greater recognition. German voice artist Marcus Off, who regularly dubs actors such as Ralph Fiennes, Sean Penn and Michael Sheen, felt so under-appreciated in his work dubbing Johnny Depp in the German release of Pirates of the Caribbean that he sued Disney. Off wanted €180,000 – 10 times what he was paid for the work, claiming that his voice had been key to the film's success in Germany.

"Often the production companies retain the same voice talent to ensure continuity unless the talent is sick or demands more remuneration," says voice actor Mohd Sheikh, who works for the dubbing company Media Movers. "Dubbing is a tricky art. Emoting with more focus on matching the lips can be an arduous task."

The decision over whether to dub or subtitle sometimes goes beyond creative preferences. Foreign languages were banned in Mussolini's fascist Italy so films were dubbed into Italian. Since the early 1960s, foreign language films have been prevented from being dubbed into the Kannada language in India to protect the domestic film industry.

Dubbing was also prohibited in Portugal in 1948, again for protection, but subtitling was allowed. Films were also censored so that some sensitive words – such as communism or colonialism – were replaced.
Dubbing does not always follow take original dialogue and translating it literally into another language as with Japan's cult television hit Monkey, for instance. Actor Eric Thompson took the French animation The Magic Roundabout (Le Manège enchanté) and narrated it using the visuals alone, discarding Serge Danot's original scripts, which would have cost the BBC more money.

This is common in Germany, which has more foreign movie dubbing studios than anywhere else in the world. The Persuaders television series added humorous elements to the original English version and it is not unusual for sexually explicit gags to make their way into German dubs.

"Germany has a lot of such readaptions," says Sameer Bhardwaj, a foreign language dubbing consultant. "Intellectuals tend to go on internet forums saying how the jokes are badly translated or the entire story and concept has changed but most viewers never knew about the original language, joke or concept and them it's always a new dish to be tried and appreciated."

There are many examples of bad dubs and not necessarily regarding foreign language conversions. Films re-dubbed for television often have swear-words removed ("That guy's a serious asshole" in Robocop was replaced with the softer "airhead"). The characters of Honey Rider, Blofeld, Goldfinger and Marc-Ange Draco in the James Bond movies were dubbed by British actors.

Some dubs are performed to make them more attractive in particular countries. In Shrek 2, Doris, the ugly stepsister, was voiced by Jonathan Ross in the UK and Larry King in America. Miramax, the distributors of Trainspotting, feared that American audiences would find the Edinburgh vernacular incomprehensible, so asked its British producers to dub parts of it.

"Dubbing in general is a regional thing," says Jane Crowther, acting editor of Total Film. "While we don't have a history of it in the UK, other regions systematically dub English language films, television and games into their native tongue, making celebrities of the voice actors who exclusively dub the stars and tweaking the material to reflect the sense of humour and culture of the country. It's expected and accepted."

Hollywood movies are dubbed for around 90 per cent of non-English-language territories, according to Variety. It has put pressure on the thriving dubbing studios especially given blockbuster films are dubbed into more than 30 languages. In India alone, a film such as Spider-Man 3 can be dubbed into as many as four languages: Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Bhojpuri. Constant production tweaks to movies and late shipping puts causes greater stress.

How much work is involved depends on the type of dub. "Some prefer voice-over dubbing instead of lip-sync dubbing," says Ken Lorber, CEO of dubbing studio The Kitchen. "This where the original dialogue is lowered but still maintained under the voiced over dialogue. Others prefer a lector approach whereby a narrator describes what is being said in a story description, spoken over the original dialogue. This is common in Russia and some eastern European countries."

Studios have increasingly turned to technology. Media Movers and The Kitchen have software which can automatically sync dubbed tracks. "At best, dubbing is an imperfect art," says Lorber. "Regardless of the efforts, transferring dialogue from one language to another will always yield lip sync issues, as different languages require different lip movements to form each word. What is critical is that when an actor on screen begins to speak, the dubbed words begin to be spoken."

Christoph Bregler, associate professor of Computer Science at New York University, has worked on a system called Video Rewrite which hopes to solve the lip-movement issues. It changes the on-screen lip and facial movements of actors depending on the dub. The original actor looks as if they are saying the dubbed version.

"I grew up in Germany and was used to seeing all the Woody Allen movies in German," says Bregler. "When I moved to the US 21 years ago, I was surprised how Woody Allen really spoke. Video Rewrite aims to have a more perfect dubbing so it has wider acceptance."

Human intervention is still vital. "Lip syncing is difficult and time consuming," says Nikolay Ivanov, CEO of Bulgaria-based Graffiti Studios. "There are software programs that semi-automate the process but the final touch is always human. A bad dub is able to ruin even the greatest content. Bad translation, bad casting, poor quality control – these all lead to a bad dub.

"Things are changing, though. Although offering both subtitling and dubbing is double expensive, modern technology is enabling that to become cheaper." The message from the dubbers is clear, read our lips, we're only getting better.

How dubbing works

Typically a dubbing studio will view an entire film. A project manager will review the material, the translation department will find the best translator and the artistic director will be made responsible for the production process.

Once the script has been written – it is adapted and timed for the recording process – auditions are held for dubbing actors. Studios like The Kitchen uses technology to record each actor individually with the artists viewing the original video on screen and listening to the foreign dialogue via headphones ("Sometimes the dubbed lines need to be rewritten in order to achieve this in a session if the timing is off," says voice actor Trish Basanyi).

The artists are able to see and hear the dialogue surrounding their segment in order to get into character and once the recordings have been made, they are sent to be lip synced and reviewed. Care has to be taken to create the ambiances of the voice quality too, ensuring, for example, that a character in a gym sounds doesn't sound as if he's in a small office.

Author: David Crookes
Source: The Independent

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How Google Translate Works

Using software originally developed in the 1980s by researchers at IBM, Google has created an automatic translation tool that is unlike all others. It is not based on the intellectual presuppositions of early machine translation efforts – it isn't an algorithm designed only to extract the meaning of an expression from its syntax and vocabulary.

In fact, at bottom, it doesn't deal with meaning at all. Instead of taking a linguistic expression as something that requires decoding, Google Translate (GT) takes it as something that has probably been said before.

It uses vast computing power to scour the internet in the blink of an eye, looking for the expression in some text that exists alongside its paired translation.

The corpus it can scan includes all the paper put out since 1957 by the EU in two dozen languages, everything the UN and its agencies have ever done in writing in six official languages, and huge amounts of other material, from the records of international tribunals to company reports and all the articles and books in bilingual form that have been put up on the web by individuals, libraries, booksellers, authors and academic departments.

Drawing on the already established patterns of matches between these millions of paired documents, Google Translate uses statistical methods to pick out the most probable acceptable version of what's been submitted to it.

Much of the time, it works. It's quite stunning. And it is largely responsible for the new mood of optimism about the prospects for "fully automated high-quality machine translation".

Google Translate could not work without a very large pre-existing corpus of translations. It is built upon the millions of hours of labour of human translators who produced the texts that GT scours.

Google's own promotional video doesn't dwell on this at all. At present it offers two-way translation between 58 languages, that is 3,306 separate translation services, more than have ever existed in all human history to date.

Most of these translation relations – Icelandic to Farsi, Yiddish to Vietnamese, and dozens more – are the newborn offspring of Google Translate: there is no history of translation between them, and therefore no paired texts, on the web or anywhere else. Google's presentation of its service points out that given the huge variations between languages in the amount of material its program can scan to find solutions, translation quality varies according to the language pair involved.

What it does not highlight is that GT is as much the prisoner of global flows in translation as we all are. Its admirably smart probabilistic computational system can only offer 3,306 translation directions by using the same device as has always assisted intercultural communication: pivots, or intermediary languages.

It's not because Google is based in California that English is the main pivot. If you use statistical methods to compute the most likely match between languages that have never been matched directly before, you must use the pivot that can provide matches with both target and source.

A good number of English-language detective novels, for example, have probably been translated into both Icelandic and Farsi. They thus provide ample material for finding matches between sentences in the two foreign languages; whereas Persian classics translated into Icelandic are surely far fewer, even including those works that have themselves made the journey by way of a pivot such as French or German. This means that John Grisham makes a bigger contribution to the quality of GT's Icelandic-Farsi translation device than Rumi or Halldór Laxness ever will. And the real wizardry of Harry Potter may well lie in his hidden power to support translation from Hebrew into Chinese. GT-generated translations themselves go up on the web and become part of the corpus that GT scans, producing a feedback loop that reinforces the probability that the original GT translation was acceptable. But it also feeds on human translators, since it always asks users to suggest a better translation than the one it provides – a loop pulling in the opposite direction, towards greater refinement. It's an extraordinarily clever device. I've used it myself to check I had understood a Swedish sentence more or less correctly, for example, and it is used automatically as a webpage translator whenever you use a search engine.

Of course, it may also produce nonsense. However, the kind of nonsense a translation machine produces is usually less dangerous than human-sourced bloopers. You can usually see instantly when GT has failed to get it right, because the output makes no sense, and so you disregard it. (This is why you should never use GT to translate into a language you do not know very well. Use it only to translate into a language in which you are sure you can recognise nonsense.)

Human translators, on the other hand, produce characteristically fluent and meaningful output, and you really can't tell if they are wrong unless you also understand the source – in which case you don't need the translation at all.

If you remain attached to the idea that a language really does consist of words and rules and that meaning has a computable relationship to them (a fantasy that many philosophers still cling to), then GT is not a translation device. It's just a trick performed by an electronic bulldozer allowed to steal other people's work. But if you have a more open mind, GT suggests something else.

Conference interpreters can often guess ahead of what a speaker is saying because speakers at international conferences repeatedly use the same formulaic expressions. Similarly, an experienced translator working in a familiar domain knows without thinking that certain chunks of text have standard translations that he or she can slot in.

Translators don't reinvent hot water every day. They behave more like GT – scanning their own memories in double-quick time for the most probable solution to the issue at hand. GT's basic mode of operation is much more like professional translation than is the slow descent into the "great basement" of pure meaning that early mechanical translation developers imagined.

GT is also a splendidly cheeky response to one of the great myths of modern language studies. It was claimed, and for decades it was barely disputed, that what was so special about a natural language was that its underlying structure allowed an infinite number of different sentences to be generated by a finite set of words and rules.

A few wits pointed out that this was no different from a British motor car plant, capable of producing an infinite number of vehicles each one of which had something different wrong with it – but the objection didn't make much impact outside Oxford.

GT deals with translation on the basis not that every sentence is different, but that anything submitted to it has probably been said before. Whatever a language may be in principle, in practice it is used most commonly to say the same things over and over again. There is a good reason for that. In the great basement that is the foundation of all human activities, including language behaviour, we find not anything as abstract as "pure meaning", but common human needs and desires.

All languages serve those same needs, and serve them equally well. If we do say the same things over and over again, it is because we encounter the same needs, feel the same fears, desires and sensations at every turn. The skills of translators and the basic design of GT are, in their different ways, parallel reflections of our common humanity.

Author: David Bellos
Source: The Independent

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How Foreign-Language Internet Strategies Boost Sales

Social media, lead generation, PPC campaigns -- it seems digital marketing has turned into the be-all and end-all of B2C communication and brand awareness. Companies have openly embraced digital marketing solutions in a mad race to reach, win and -- most important -- keep costumers in the highly competitive arena of e-commerce.

But how about the challenges in trying to reach that coveted top Google search spot? Although English has long been the lingua franca of the Web, it has now reached a point of saturation. It is becoming incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to compete with those billions of optimized Web pages vying for consumer attention.
While businesses are engaging on all e-marketing fronts, there's a largely untapped opportunity that the vast majority have failed to embrace: foreign-language Internet. Due to less competition for keywords and domain names, and less content overall, the multilingual Web offers unparalleled opportunities to bolster sales in overseas markets easily and affordably.
With the exponential rise of non-English searches and the massive growth of emerging economies, savvy businesses could reap significant benefits by targeting far-flung markets in a linguistically and culturally sensitive way.
Companies shrewd enough to tap into this opportunity have experienced significant ROIs. Such has been American restaurant consulting and hospitality management company OnSite Consulting, which launched six language versions of their site in late 2010 and experienced significant foreign market growth: 20% of their revenue now comes from abroad.
Facts that substantiate the need for companies to address consumers in their mother tongue keep emerging, and hammer home the point that the road to better sales runs through the foreign-language Internet:

  • 82% of European consumers are less likely to buy online if the site is not in their native tongue (Eurobarometer survey).
  • 72.4% of global consumers are more likely to buy a product if the information is available in their own language (Common Sense Advisory).
  • The English language currently only accounts for 31% of all online use, and more than half of all searches are in languages other than English.
  • Today, 42% of all Internet users are in Asia, while almost one-quarter are in Europe and just over 10% are in Latin America.
  • Foreign languages have experienced exponential growth in online usage in the past decade -- with Chinese now officially the second-most-prominent-language on the Web. Arabic has increased by a whopping 2500%, while English has only risen by 204%
The recession holding Europe and North America in its grip may be a bad time for business expansion at home. But not if you dare to look far enough. There are flourishing markets unscathed by the crisis. It's no secret that the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are experiencing a spending boom, with consumerism growing at a rapid pace. What is more, an estimated billion people in the BRIC countries will be using computers by 2015 -- another reason why businesses should consider focusing their foreign digital marketing efforts on these countries.

Other emerging markets where there's less competition on the Web include the CIVETS countries -- Columbia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa. But beware -- as more and more businesses are realizing the potential of BRIC and CIVETS markets, competition for keywords and online presence is likely to grow.

After all, recession needn't be an obstacle to business expansion. As the semantics of the Chinese word for crisis (meaning both danger and opportunity) aptly demonstrates, businesses should overcome the fear of breaking into new markets and realize the only way to reap the benefits presented by the emerging markets is to fearlessly dip their toes in the multilingual Internet.

Source: MediaPost Communications
Author: Christian Arno

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Rise of the Virtual Office

As the definition of the workplace changes, dramatic increases in productivity could be ahead

The idea that the office is a specific place where our professional lives "happen" is becoming less universal, and less important. These days many knowledge workers can be productive anywhere, thanks to smarter, more numerous mobile devices, faster network access, and a growing number of online collaboration tools. Telecommuting is no longer merely something that the phone company is trying to sell you. And wherever "the office" may be, wider and better use of social networks, data analytics, and smart technologies such as voice recognition could be poised to increase productivity dramatically—meaning that both real and virtual offices may have fewer people in them.

But while the physical office is changing, certain connotations of the word "office" are not. I can think of two others —"hierarchical organization" and "place for human interaction"—and there's no indication that these are becoming any less important. Even the most progressive high-tech companies retain many of the organizational trappings of their industrial-age predecessors: full-time managers, org charts, job descriptions, and so on. And since humans remain social animals, conventional gathering places will remain important in business. These spaces—whether they be conventional offices, temporary ones, or conference facilities—must be made conducive to collaboration. They must also become physically healthy places to spend hours of time, since sedentary work has emerged as a significant health threat.

As the office expands beyond its conventional boundaries, key challenges must be met, including the privacy and security issues posed by a distributed global workforce of people who work digitally and use multiple devices. New tools like cloud-based office productivity apps must be made not only user-friendly but resistant to attacks and data loss. And workers will need better tools—including improved voice-recognition software, e-mail-organizing technologies, and intelligent agents that help handle complex tasks once reserved for specialists—to streamline work processes, make sense of the overwhelming volumes of data besieging them, and improve productivity.

To date, IT-driven productivity gains within the office have been somewhat modest, at least compared with those seen in manufacturing. In 1989 the U.S. manufacturing sector employed 18 million people; by 2009 that figure had declined to 11.8 million. But though the workforce shrank 34 percent, the value added by U.S. manufacturers—that is, the value of their output minus the cost of raw materials purchased—surged 75 percent, to 1.78 trillion.  We've definitely observed white-collar productivity improvement as well, especially since the mid-1990s, but it hasn't been as big.

That may soon change. Consider that people already routinely deal with computers rather than office workers when they make an airline reservation, buy products and arrange for delivery, or troubleshoot a problem with a product they own. If a task involves simple and predictable forms of communication without much nuance or emotion, computers can do just fine, leaving humans to handle an ever-dwindling number of exceptions to the usual procedures or questions.

More far-out advances in artificial intelligence could push productivity even further. Voice recognition, speech synthesis, and automatic translation have improved significantly. And we've seen that computers can now accurately understand and reply to questions: IBM's Watson supercomputer beat human competitors at Jeopardy! earlier this year. Skeptics will point out that futurists have been promising an AI-driven revolution in knowledge work for decades. But by now even the skeptics are finding phone numbers with the help of computer-based operators. When the productivity enhancements from these innovations are tallied, I predict that they will be striking.

On top of this, software and social tools can boost the productivity of the remaining human office workers. For example, a customer-service rep who deals with technical questions can work with just one customer at a time on the phone, but it's easy to handle two or more customers simultaneously if the medium is instant messaging. Whole office-based industries may become vastly more efficient; the legal profession, for one, may be in the early stages of a deep transformation, especially since the prices clients are willing to pay are going through the floor. A new breed of legal outsourcing offers much cheaper ways to accomplish certain tasks: contract lawyers and digital tools scan documents during discovery processes, for example. Intelligent software will only get better at finding associations in those documents and mining meaning from it all.

Source: Technology Review
Author: Andrew Mcafee

Recognizing voices depends on language ability

Study finds that for people with dyslexia, it’s much harder to identify who is speaking

Distinguishing between other people's voices may seem like a trivial task. However, if those people are speaking a language you don't understand, it becomes much harder. That's because you rely on individuals' differences in pronunciation to help identify them. If you don't understand the words they are saying, you don't pick up on those differences.

That ability to process the relationship between sounds and their meanings, also known as phonology, is believed to be impaired in people with dyslexia. Therefore, neuroscientists at MIT theorized that people with dyslexia would find it much more difficult to identify speakers of their native language than non-dyslexic people.

In a study appearing in Science on July 29, the researchers found just that. People with dyslexia had a much harder time recognizing voices than non-dyslexics. In fact, they fared just as poorly as they (and non-dyslexics) did when listening to speakers of a foreign language.

The finding bolsters the theory that impaired phonology processing is a critical aspect of dyslexia, and sheds light on how human voice recognition differs from that of other animals, says John Gabrieli, MIT's Grover Hermann Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Cognitive Neuroscience and senior author of the Science paper.

"Recognizing one person from another, in humans, seems to be very dependent on human language capability," says Gabrieli, who is part of MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and also a principal investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

Verbal cues

The lead author of the study, MIT graduate student Tyler Perrachione, earned his undergraduate and master's degrees at Northwestern University, where he was involved in studies showing that it is easier to recognize voices of people speaking your own language.

"Everybody's speech is a little bit different, and that's a big cue to who you are," he says. "When you're listening to somebody talk, it's not just properties of their vocal cords or how sound resonates in their oral cavity that distinguishes them, but also the way they pronounce the words."

After Perrachione arrived at MIT, he and Gabrieli decided to try to link this research with evidence showing that phonological processing is impaired in people with dyslexia. They tested subjects in identifying people speaking their native language (English), then Chinese.

When listening to English, the non-dyslexic subjects were correct nearly 70 percent of the time, but performed at only 50 percent when trying to distinguish Chinese speakers. Dyslexic individuals performed at 50 percent for both English and Chinese speakers.

"It's a beautiful study, in the sense that it's so simple," says Shirley Fecteau, a visiting assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and research chair in cognitive neuroplasticity at Laval University in Quebec. "It really seems like a very clear effect on voice recognition in people with dyslexia."

The finding suggests that people with dyslexia may have even more trouble following a speaker than they may realize, Gabrieli says. This adds to the growing evidence that dyslexia is not simply a visual disorder.

"There was a big shift in the 1980s from understanding dyslexia as a visual problem to understanding it as a language problem," Gabrieli says. "Dyslexia may not be one thing. It may be a variety of ways in which you end up struggling to learn to read. But the single best understood one is a weakness in the processing of language sounds."

Friend versus foe

Recognizing other members of one's species by their voices is critical for humans and other social animals. "You want to know who is a friend and who is a foe, you want to know who your partner is," Perrachione says. "If you're cooperating with someone for food, you want to know who that person is."

However, it appears that humans and animals perform that task in different ways. Animals can identify other members of their own species by the sounds they make, but that ability is innate and based on the sounds themselves, rather than the meaning of those sounds.

"We notice individual differences in this learned feature of our communication, which is the words that we use, and that's what really distinguishes human communication from animal communication," Perrachione says.

The researchers believe their work may also offer insight into the performance of computerized voice-recognition systems. Voice-recognition programs with access to dictionary meanings of words might do a better job of understanding different speakers than systems that only identify sounds, Perrachione says.

The researchers are now using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine which parts of the brain are most active in dyslexics and non-dyslexics as they try to identify voices.

Source: MIT News
Author: Anne Trafton

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Future of Translation and Interpretation

Interpretation enables people who speak different languages to understand each other. An interpreter is someone who is able to translate text or spoken words from one language to another. The world has become more diverse and globalized. The need for translators as well as translation services has, consequently, risen. Luckily, the way professionals offer these services is constantly evolving.

Onsite interpreting is delivered a number of ways, one of which involves the interpreter translating after a live speaker pauses. The translation is performed gradually and requires the speaker to take breaks during which the translation is performed for an audience or group. Consecutive interpretation is more effective in certain interpreting contexts, though it is often difficult to determine what interpretation method will be be best for a given situtation. Consecutive interpreters must have the memory skills to accurately summarize portions of a speech after they've been uttered. While the consecutive speech translation does not require verbatim translation, it calls for an ability to capture the most significant messages and ideas of the speakers in the target language.

One might say that simultaneous interpretation skills are even harder to develop and deploy. Simultaneous interpretation specialists often train by trying to perform live translation services of a TV or radio show. Interpreters work inside a booth with a basic mixer they can control, including an input channel, output channel, volume control and mute button. Also provided are chairs, microphones and some kind of cooling system. The best simultaneous translators confer with the speakers prior to their presentation. On some occasions, they have access to the document from which the speaker is reading, beforehand. Speakers who are being translated try to create delays in the delivery of their speeches to facilitate translation. Though the speaker's words or meaning may, at times, not be clear, the translator has to keep the translation moving forward by not fixating on any particular word or phrase and making their speech as a whole tangible to those listening.

Telephone interpretation is another form of simultaneous interpretation. It is employed in an array of situations. Health care and government as well as law enforcement agencies are common users. It is increasingly used by corporations, however, who have customers across broad markets where multiple languages are spoken by their customers. Telephone interpretation using Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) or Video Relay Service (VRS) technology is an option suitable for the deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech-impaired. Interpretation via telephone is the realm of of the translation industry that shows the most room for growth and where demand is anticipated to most expand, in light of the fact that communications between parties are remote or distance communications.

There are 6,909 languages spoken in the world today. While English is being adopted as the common tongue, many worldwide do not choose to use or don't know English and use another language for conferences, speeches and other communications instead. The more obscure a language is, the more likelihood there is for a live or phone translation service needed. Hopefully, as countries across non-western areas of the world -- where languages other than English and more culturally dominant languages are spoken -- emerge economically, the type of demand for translation services will change and expand in interesting ways.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Emerging Markets and the Economics of Internationalization

Internationalization, abbreviated as i18n (for the 18 letters between “I” and “n”), is the means of adapting computer software for different locales.

Often, requirements for entering new markets include localization, a process that compensates for regional differences in a product, and translation. Companies at times overlook internationalization, which best prepares a product for localization by flagging potential locale issues. These are all major considerations a business needs to consider when looking to expand to a global market.

As the world economy becomes more global, it is important for business to understand how to stay on top. Companies are always looking for ways to stay competitive in an environment that isn't always fair and has recently become open to countries like China, India and Brazil. 

Projections show that the US GDP (currently the highest GDP in the world) will fall to third by the year 2050 behind emerging powerhouses China and India (the US is projected to fall behind China in terms of GDP as early as 2018). Brazil is projected as a distant 4th, but coming on strong. Granted the numbers are projecting 40 years out, and such things are volatile, but the idea remains in principle.

According to a presentation in March by Nitish Singh, Assistant Professor of International Business at Saint Louis University, China and India are producing 500,000 scientists and engineers per year. Obviously, this gives greater opportunity for domestic companies to outsource their software development projects, but it also means that there is an educated market emerging for domestic companies to sell to.

Domestic markets are no longer en vogue for American companies, they need to think global. On the other side of the coin, with growing international companies also comes higher value for international currency and subsequent lower value for domestic currency.

In much the same way, but to a lesser extent, that US consumers will buy stuff in Mexico due to the favorable exchange rate, buyers in China and India will be more inclined to buy American products due the depreciated exchange rate of the dollar. You could call it the light at the end of the tunnel in what has been a tough domestic economy in recent years. For a more in depth look at how international markets are emerging, read Philip Guarino's article on Elementi Consulting's site.


Author: Spencer Thomas

A Guide To Interpreters And Translators

Interpreters and translators facilitate the cross-cultural communication necessary in today’s society by converting one language into another. However, these language specialists do more than simply translate words-they relay concepts and ideas between languages. They must thoroughly understand the subject matter in which they work in order to accurately convey information from one language into another. In addition, they must be sensitive to the cultures associated with their languages of expertise.

Although some people do both, interpreting and translation are different professions. Interpreting Services deal with spoken words, translators with written words. Each task requires a distinct set of skills and aptitudes, and most people are better suited for one or the other. While interpreters often interpret into and from both languages, translators generally translate only into their native language.

Interpreters convert one spoken language into another-or, in the case of sign-language interpreters, between spoken communication and sign language. Interpreting requires that one pay attention carefully, understand what is communicated in both languages, and express thoughts and ideas clearly. Strong research and analytical skills, mental dexterity, and an exceptional memory also are important.

Sign-language interpreters facilitate communication between people who are deaf or hard of hearing and people who can hear. Sign-language interpreters must be fluent in English and in American Sign Language (ASL), which combines signing, finger spelling, and specific body language. Most sign-language interpreters either interpret, aiding communication between English and ASL, or transliterate, facilitating communication between English and contact signing-a form of signing that uses a more English language-based word order.

Some interpreters specialize in oral interpreting for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and lip-read instead of sign. Other specialties include tactile signing, which is interpreting for people who are blind as well as deaf by making manual signs into their hands, using cued speech, and signing exact English.

In contrast to the immediacy of simultaneous interpreting, consecutive interpreting begins only after the speaker has verbalized a group of words or sentences. Consecutive interpreters often take notes while listening to the speakers, so they must develop some type of note-taking or shorthand system. This form of interpreting is used most often for person-to-person communication, during which the interpreter is positioned near both parties.

Translators convert written materials from one language into another. They must have excellent writing and analytical ability, and because the translations that they produce must be accurate, they also need good editing skills.

Friday, May 20, 2011

How On Earth Do I Choose the Right Translation Company?

A translation service helps people by accurately translating documents into their language of choice. Because of various constraints, you may have to search for the best in terms of price, quality, speed, technology and experience. Remember that not all companies are equal, so be sure to check every aspect before sending off your hard-earned cash.


Searching for the right translation company can be tough. You want to make sure that you’re getting an accurate translation for a fair price, so make sure you call around to multiple translation companies. This will give you a base price of what you can expect to pay. Remember to ask them about any deals or promotions they have going on (if you have a bigger order, or multiple orders, they may offer you a discount). Ask for a breakdown of all their fees. It’s best to know the charges up front.


When you are comparing quotes you have to ask about the additional services that are offered and their track record. Also ask to see a few examples of their work. What you are looking for is how well the speech and accuracy of the words come together. Also, ask  how their translators are selected – this can be a big factor in their quality of work. A company should require their translators to take a proficiency test and have a number of years speaking or translating the language before they are hired.


One category that is valued by everyone is the speed of the company’s turnaround time on projects. In most cases, a translator can do about 2,000 words per day, and if there is a larger document, a number of translators can work together to get it done quickly. Speed is another way of checking the company’s quality and service. Slow turn around times should not be tolerated unless the company has a short list of workers. If quick output is crucial for you, then make sure to ask if you have to pay rush charges to get your order on time.


Inquire about the technology they are using to translate your article. There is a software called TMS or translation memory software that will help a translator speed up the translation process, however, not all companies use TMS. This service also prevents the repeat use of words that have already been translated.


Finally, the most important element is knowing how long the translation company has been in business. Some of the companies that have been around for decades are usually the best ones – and they can also be the most expensive. If you are checking quotes, you will see that there are a lot of companies that have been translating for years, but a new company might have a better offer. Look through the website and talk to a representative to  gain insight into their experience level. Some companies give a money back guarantee or a free trial so you can test their services before you pay.

Author: Margo Smith
Source: Classes &

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

25 Things Translators Should Never Do

Despite the title, many of the don’ts apply more to agencies and their staff. Some to individual translators. And some to any service related job.

  1. Never forget to thank the client for requesting a quote (even if you don’t get the assignment).
  2. Never assume a new client has used translation services before, or the converse. Some customers are new to the experience, and some are savvier than you’d imagine.
  3. Never leave a request for information without a response. If you were on vacation/your computer crashed/you’re thinking of a career change, respond to all inquiries no matter how late. “I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. I hope everything worked out alright,” confirms your reputation as a professional.
  4. Never try to impress a client by using industry jargon or acronyms. TRADOS often means little to those in the outside world. In emails and conversations, always use the full explanation of a term the first time it is mentioned.
  5. Never tell a client, “That turnaround time is not possible.” Instead try, “Here’s what I can do in that time,” or offer to start delivering parts of the project within the deadline. Chances are good that your client’s deadline isn’t wholly within their control. Instead of relaying to their manager that you said the deadline isn’t possible, they will pick up the phone and call another provider.
  6. On the other hand, never promise a deadline you know you can’t meet. You wouldn’t want a plumber promising to fix your only toilet within a few hours knowing he can’t do it until three days later.
  7. If a deadline seems tight, do not forget to inquire why it is so. If your client needs to quickly review a document for content, you may be able to deliver a translation “For Informational Purposes Only” by their deadline, and follow up with an edited version shortly after.
  8. Never respond to a request for services with an emphasis on how busy you already are with other assignments. You might succeed in showing how in demand you are, but you will likely make them think twice about calling again. Thank the caller for their consideration and drop them a note when your workload lightens up.
  9. Never hesitate to be truthful when necessary. “You may need to use another vendor for that assignment,” shows sincere concern for your client’s project and will encourage them to contact you again. This applies to individual translators — who are more accustomed to the practice of referring colleagues — and to agencies too. Offer a lead if you are able.
  10. Never let your client hear you denigrate other translators or agencies. Although it is important to get today’s assignment, it is vital to leave a positive impression if you want the client to recommend your services to others.
  11. Never miss the chance to show respect for your client’s knowledge of their industry. Focusing primarily on your knowledge of translation may indirectly belittle their input.
  12. Never assume you already know everything you need to know about your language pair(s) or specialty(ies). Translation is one of those professions where you can continue to learn and grow if you remain open-minded.
  13. Never make excuses for your rate; you are offering a professional service. Do the homework to make sure your rates are within industry standards.
  14. Never increase your rate based solely on your perception of the client’s wealth or budget. Their budget is subject to change from month to month, and you might unwittingly price yourself out of a long-term relationship.
  15. Don’t be too rigid about turnaround times or pricing. After an initial quote, there are often ways to negotiate your services to save the client money. Ask the client to prioritize price, schedule, and quality, and offer to work around those priorities.
  16. Never offer a firm quote without looking at the WHOLE source text.
  17. Never forget to ask a client for a style preference or style sheet on especially long or ongoing assignments. It is your job to know that these exist.
  18. Never wait to look at the source text. Examine it as soon as possible even if you are in the middle of another assignment. Two hours before the deadline is too late to ask for a more legible copy.
  19. Never assume your client has thoroughly examined the source text. You may discover text already in the target language, which is good news; or you may discover text in a third language, which is not.
  20. Never contact the client the first time you come across a discrepancy in the source file. The answer you seek may lie somewhere later on in the file.
  21. Never barrage your client with petty questions, like “Which do you prefer, “AM” or “A.M.”? Have your own default in-house style guide. If you want to check the client’s preference for small stylistic issues, send a note with the finished translation leaving the client the option of not responding. For example, “I used ‘AM’ in the translation. Let me know if you’d like me to change it.” Although you may be finished with the project, it’s probable that your client is not and does not have time to discuss such matters.
  22. Never let the client intimidate you into changing a translation you know is correct. Offer to consult a colleague regarding the proposed changes.
  23. As a translator, never charge for reviewing your own translation. It’s a given. As an agency, be clear about what your price includes in terms of editing, proofreading and other QC procedures.
  24. Never forget to ask the client to confirm receipt of the delivered translation.
  25. Never forget that human translation is an organic product. Be open to reviewing completed translations, be willing to admit mistakes, and be prepared to defend yourself with solid resources beyond, “I’ve been doing this a long time.” You may have been doing it wrong for a long time.
Source: Yndigo Translations

Top Tips for Successful Multilingual SEO

You built a very attractive website for your services, now what? Is that enough?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is neither an option nor a "luxury" for websites. SEO is an absolutely essential step which every website needs before going "live." SEO optimization is even more critical when you have websites in multiple languages. Multilingual websites can thrive or fail based on how well they are optimized for SEO in their global, target-language markets. 

Although your translation company may have mastered best practices for multilingual SEO, you will need a sound strategy for SEO in your source as well as target languages. SEO is a key component in your overall Global Search Engine Marketing strategy.

The Internet now is stuffed with billions of web pages and millions of great websites that provide useful information and interesting experiences for online users to navigate. In the fairly recent past, many web-marketers spent a lot of money on "User Experience" and copywriting to drive users to their web pages but neglected to spend very much effort on Search Engine Optimization.  Successful multilingual SEO starts with good content in your source language.

Don't search for the perfect SEO recipe

There is no perfect recipe for SEO analysis. It will always be a unique experience, based on the website, the market, the brand, the competitors and the problems being worked on, as well as the technology in question. Therefore, instead of thinking of every possible component that could be a factor for SEO, think of the top factors that will have the greatest impact SEO for your website in all target as well as source languages.

Top factors to achieve success with SEO

  • URL structure: Let's think of your website structure and URLs as the basic map plan for search engines to find every single piece of content you host on your website. The URLs represent the primary value for SEO. Look carefully here and represent your URLs in the most direct and accessible way possible. Every URL should be visible and search engine-friendly.
  • Website Crawl: How efficiently can your website be crawled? This includes ensuring that URLs are structured cleanly. It is even more important to ensure that your website is accessible for website crawl without overuse of JavaScript, AJAX, Flash, and other barriers.
  • Loading Speed: How fast is your website? Website performance is especially important, because search engines like fast websites; they "value time."
  • Website Navigation: Crawl paths are the important pathways given to search engines.  Do you have smart navigation placed on your websites? Do you have Google sitemap? Bing sitemap? This is a very important consideration.
  • Content: Always focus on refreshing and updating your website content. Search engines place high value on fresh content. Display your blog and news feeds on your home page to keep it auto-updated. Also make sure that your unique content gets sorted above all the other content.
  • Meta data: Meta data is now an important part of technical SEO, with the rise of rel=canonical.
  • Robots.txt: It's important to consider what robots exclusion is taking place on a site with Meta robots and robots.txt best practices.
  • HTML is still the King: Your website content needs to always be indexed. The best route to success with that is providing accessible content in ways that search engines demand. If you use flash and interactive content, (which will not be indexed), you can always limit it to just embedded components working side-by-side with indexed text content.  You may try HTML5 as well.
  • Title: <Title> tags are one of the strongest factors when it comes to on-page optimization. Title tags will show as the header for your indexed page on the result page. So it is not only about the keywords you index in that title, it is also the first thing the user sees to help him make a decision about visiting your link or not.  Use a combination of copywriting and search engine optimization for each title you have on your website. Naturally, this combination will be critical for multilingual SEO on your target-language websites, where you translation company can provide assistance.
  • Backlinks: Although a great deal of time and effort are required, we believe that companies should invest time and money in building backlinks for their websites. After a great deal of investigation with a lot of auto submission software and tools, GPI still believes that organic search and "white hat" techniques are the most effective way to build backlinks.
  • Google Analytics: Analyze your website traffic resources and top content. Monitor your statistics and visitors. By charting successful campaigns and trends, you can carry your success into more portions of your website. SEO cannot succeed without constant monitoring and analysis.

SEO rewards are worth the effort

Focusing on these top factors in SEO, over time you will achieve measureable success. Although you will probably not reach your goals "over night," effective SEO will have a demonstrable effect on your website visits and revenues. This is multiplied by the number of target language websites you may have, with which your translation company can provide assistance. With the world as your market, you want to ensure that your website content is attracting all potential customers in the language they can best understand.

Source: Globalization Partners International

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How Translation Is Changing the World

In today's interconnected world, is language really still a barrier? The answer is yes, but not for long.

The world's population is projected to reach seven billion by the end of 2011. Nearly two billion of these individuals have internet access. The majority of online users (80 percent) speak just ten languages, but there are 6,912 known living human languages.

Only 2,261 have a writing system. So, video and audio communication are essential to enable people from all parts of the world to communicate in real time.

The printing press, radio, and television were each important milestones in expanding the scope of global communication. But the internet gives people access to information in all three of the forms they prefer (audio, video, and text), making it the only communication platform capable of reaching people in all of the languages they speak. Before the internet, conquering Babel was simply a dream -- now, it's an attainable goal.

The internet also may help slow down language loss. Speakers of less common languages are often marginalized from the larger societies their communities inhabit. As a result, they assimilate and learn the language of a dominant class or social group. Parents often encourage their children to embrace society's most dominant language, viewing it as a key that will unlock important economic and social benefits that would otherwise be unattainable. As a result, younger generations abandon their mother tongues, often viewing them as inferior.

But programs like the National Geographic's Enduring Voices Project -- conducted in collaboration with the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages -- seek to preserve endangered languages by recording them and sharing them with the world through their own YouTube channel. Thanks to this project, people across the globe can hear two young men rap in Hruso (also called Aka or Angka). Hruso is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by 4,000 people in Arunachal Pradesh, India. A video that shows a gentleman counting in Foi (also called Foe or Mubi), makes it clear why video content is essential. Viewers hear him pronounce the numbers in his language, which is spoken by 2,800 people in Papua New Guinea, but they can also see how he uses his body to count. Just imagine how a miserably a textbook would fail to convey the same information.

Companies like Microsoft and Google have also been working to increase the number of languages in which their customers can receive and share information. As Carla Hurd, who oversees Microsoft's Local Language Program, points out, "There are languages we've encountered where the terms we need to translate simply don't exist, so we end up working with the local communities on terminology development. This ensures that they tell us how they'd like to see the terms translated -- not vice versa." Hurd's program enables speakers of 59 different languages -- including Assamese (India), Basque (Spain), Igbo (Nigeria), and Inuktitut (Canada) -- to use Microsoft's products.

No single organization in the world is doing as much to demolish the Tower of Babel as Google. The company's flagship product, Google Search, is available today in 136 languages. Google Translate, the company's automatic translation tool, enables users to instantly translate content between 57 different languages. While there's a long way to go to reach all 6,912 languages, the company has made no secret of its goal to remove the language barrier. It operates a vast online translation community, using volunteer translators who want to see more information available in their native tongues.

The scope of Google's language-related work is expansive, but it also engages in more focused, timely projects. For example, the company recently engaged more than 1,800 multilingual professionals to convert more than half a million words of online health-related text into Arabic, Hindi, and Swahili through a pilot project called Google Health Speaks. Jennifer Haroon, who oversees the project, explains, "To demonstrate our commitment to increasing health information online in local languages, we paid professional translators to translate and review a portion of the articles."

Why is translation so important? Information is power, but the amount of information that is currently inaccessible to the world population is mind-boggling. Much like scientists who discover more each day about the mysteries of the human brain, translation enables us to tap into more of our collective repository of human knowledge.

Our thirst for information will never be fully quenched unless we can access all of the information that we might want to obtain -- no matter which language(s) we happen to speak, no matter who created the content, and no matter the form in which it's available. Until the world's content is accessible to all, the internet is not truly global.

The worldwide web must also be wordwise. Slowly but surely, we're getting there.


By Nataly KellyChief Research Officer, Common Sense Advisory

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Singing to Children May Help Development of Language Skills

Parents should sing to their children every day to avoid language problems developing in later life, according to a consultant. Too much emphasis in the early years is placed on reading, writing and numeracy, and not enough on the benefits of singing, according to Sally Goddard Blythe, a consultant in neuro-developmental education and director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology.

Singing traditional lullabies and nursery rhymes to babies and infants before they learn to speak, is "an essential precursor to later educational success and emotional wellbeing", argues Blythe in a book. "Song is a special type of speech. Lullabies, songs and rhymes of every culture carry the 'signature' melodies and inflections of a mother tongue, preparing a child's ear, voice and brain for language." Blythe says in her book, The Genius of Natural Childhood, to be published by Hawthorn Press, that traditional songs aid a child's ability to think in words. She also claims that listening to, and singing along with rhymes and songs uses and develops both sides of the brain. "Neuro-imaging has shown that music involves more than just centralised hotspots in the brain, occupying large swathes on both sides," she said.

Growing numbers of children enter nursery and school with inadequate language and communication skills, according to the National Literacy Trust, often because their parents have not helped them develop communication skills. Blythe believes that singing to and, later, with a child is the most effective way to transform their ability to communicate.

"Children's response to live music is different from recorded music," she said. "Babies are particularly responsive when the music comes directly from the parent. Singing along with a parent is for the development of reciprocal communication."

Beverley Hughes, the former children's minister who established a national curriculum to set down how babies are taught to speak in childcare from the age of three months, agreed that nursery rhymes can "boost child development".

Hughes cites research showing that music and rhyme increase a child's ability in spatial reasoning, which can enhance a child's mathematical and scientific abilities.
"Singing nursery rhymes with young children will get them off to a flying start," she said.

Daniel Dwase, editor of the online Child Development Guide, agreed that nursery rhymes set to music can aid a child's development. But, he added, teaching a child to dance is also important.

"Music assists in the development of a child's speech," he said. "Singing nursery rhymes and simple songs teaches children how language is constructed and assists with the acquisition of language. Singing songs with your child will also teach them about tone, beat and rhythm.

"Even better than just singing, though, is to teach songs with actions and encourage your child to dance along to the music, they will learn balance, co-ordination, body awareness and rhythm," he said.

Author: Amelia Hill

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Are Computers the Future of Translations?

Machine translation – using a computer to translate one human language into another – is the sci-fi dream that’s coming true. While the claim of translator droid C-3PO in the Star Wars films to be “fluent in six million forms of communication” can’t be matched by current computerised systems, Google Translate does already offers 57 core languages, giving over 3,000 possible language permutations.

So surely, it’s only a matter of time before human translators are out of a job?

Or maybe not. Existing machine translation systems are more about complementing human translation rather than replacing it, and here’s how they do so.

The Internet means an exponentially greater amount of content is being published than at any time previously in human history. There is more information out there than there has ever been. But accessing this information can be difficult. For example, less than two percent of all Internet content is currently available to the world’s 280 million Arabic speakers. Machine translation allows them to get at the other 98 percent.

In fact, anywhere that the utility of the information is more important than its presentation or nuances, machine translation performs an invaluable service.

To give a commercial example, in foreign-language versions of Microsoft’s technical support pages, some of the articles are machine-translated and others have been translated by humans. Users are asked whether the information solved their problem – and the proportion of yeses is identical for the machine and human-translated articles.

Likewise, mechanised translation facilitates communication. Every day, people around the world use it to translate emails to and from others with whom they have no language in common. That has to be a good thing.

The next step is to apply this to verbal communications. And sure enough, this January Google duly unveiled an “alpha” version of Google Translate’s “conversation mode.” Speak into a mobile device, and this will speak back a translation of what you have said in another language.

Yet for all the staggering advance in machine translation, no computerised system can achieve even the consistent grammatical accuracy of professional human translators, let alone their fluency or style. Why is this?

In recent years, automated efforts have increasingly focused on so-called statistical machine translation, the approach that underpins Google Translate. In Google’s own words, “it looks for patterns in hundreds of millions of documents, [and] by detecting patterns in documents that have already been translated by human translators, [it] can make intelligent guesses as to an appropriate translation.”

Essentially, it scans through millions of human-translated documents looking at each sentence/phrase/word, and then looks in the translations to see how the two languages’ words and phrases map to each other. This means it can be used for any combination of languages for which there is a large enough “corpus” or body of text. It also means new languages can be added in fairly short order; in response to last year’s Haitian earthquake, Google Translate added Haitian Creole to its list of languages in less than three weeks.

But it is entirely a data-driven process. The software is not trying to “understand” the words it is translating, let alone the nuances of social convention, cultural context and tone. And that is why for anything that is designed to engage the emotions, machine translation remains a long way from being a viable solution. Information, it seems, moves much more easily between languages than presentation.

This applies not just to literature and poetry, but to the creative translation, known as transcreation, that is needed to engage consumers in advertising and marketing communications.

For instance, it is important to remember that machine translation is typically a process initiated by the reader. Someone has already decided they are interested in the text, and that is why they are getting it translated.

But with advertising, this interest cannot be assumed, it must be created. In the era of information overload, audiences need a reason to bother with content. That reason might be humour, passion, intrigue or elegance of style, but it will almost certainly be something that is not machine-translatable.

As Wayne Bourland of Dell’s Global Localisation Team comments, “In a recent usability study conducted in Germany, Dell observed that buyers who needed to form an emotional connection as part of the purchasing process were both distracted and disappointed by translation errors.”

And of course, anything that requires creativity or originality is almost by definition not suitable for statistical based machine translation – because a system that only leverages past translations can never come up with something as creative and original as a human being.

Ultimately, good translation is a creative process. Machine translation is an incredibly powerful tool, but thinking it can replace human translators is like thinking an oven can replace a chef.

(opinion article by James Bradley, Head of English Copy at Mother Tongue Writers, the UK’s largest specialist adaptation and transcreation agency based in London and New York.)
Source: Responsesource