Lingo Woman's Google tips for translators #2

Following on from my previous post on Google tips for translators, here's another handy hint:

Synonym (~)
Do you ever get the feeling you're missing out on useful results because the keyword(s) you're using can be expressed in several ways? Well, this is where the Google synonym operator comes in handy! If you add the ~ character before one of the terms in your search, Google will search for related words and synonyms for that keyword. Here's an example so you can see what I mean:

Search phrase: Trados help
Search results: Page after page of results containing the terms 'Trados' and 'help'. Not particularly helpful and quite a bit of trawling through would probably be required in order to find what you're after.

(Now using the synonym operator)
Search phrase: Trados ~help
Search results: Much more targeted results. You'll see support articles, manuals, tutorials, guides, FAQs, tip and tricks, etc. 

Helpful, huh? I'd say so...

Yours truly,
Lingo Woman

Lingo Woman's Google tips for translators #1

Translation can often require a great deal of research. There are, of course, a variety of information sources that may be used. The Internet is a particularly useful one.

Now I don't know about you, but I use Google for every translation I do. Until recently, my Google search was limited to simply typing in a phrase and wading through page after page of results to find the information I was after. That was until, however, I discovered some useful tips to help me streamline my Google results and therefore increase the efficiency of my searches. I am going to share these tips with you through a series of blogs. I hope they prove as useful to you as they have done to me. They have certainly saved me a great deal of time. Something which I am sure you will agree is of the essence in the translation world!

You may already know about some (or all) of these, but for those of you who don't, here we go with the first of the series. I find this one particularly useful and use it so much I wonder how I ever did a Google search without it...

Exact phrase (" ")
The exact phrase operator does exactly what it says on the tin; it will only bring up pages containing the exact phrase typed between the quotes, meaning you can filter out a great deal of unnecessary 'junk'. Here's an example so you can see what I mean:

Search phrase: freelance translation
Search results: 24,100,000 results containing any combination of the words 'freelance', 'translate', 'translation', 'translator' etc.

(Now using the exact phrase operator)
Search phrase: "freelance translation"
Search results: 191,000 results all containing the exact phrase 'freelance translation'.

Much more like it I think you will agree! 

Yours truly,
Lingo Woman

Back-translation. What's that then?

So what exactly is back-translation and how is the method used different from that used in 'normal' translation?

In a normal translation process, a document is translated by a translator and then reviewed by a second linguist (the editor). Both the translator and the editor work from the original source document. It is the job of the editor to look out for errors or missing text in the translation.

The process of back-translation, however, is very different. In this process, rather than involving an editor, a second translator translates the target document back to the language of the original source file, i.e. if the document is originally translated from French into English, the back-translator will translate from English into French. The second translator works from the translation only and never consults the original source file. The original source file and the back-translation are then compared (or reconciled) in order to validate the accuracy of the translation and check for missing text or other translation errors. It is important that the person carrying out the reconciliation is aware that the two versions will never be exactly the same. The aim is to look for major discrepancies between the two versions. If there are major discrepancies, the original translator must be consulted and the translation amended accordingly.

As far as the translator is concerned, it is important to be aware when working on a back-translation that the source document needs to be followed more closely than it would be when producing a 'normal', idiomatic and flowing translation. A back-translation is not supposed to be a polished text in the source language. Since the point of a back-translation is to flag up errors in the original translation, it is particularly important that the translator does not 'improve' errors or weak areas as they normally would. The sentences used in the back-translation may, however, follow the normal rules of the source language grammar.

So, translating and back-translating are very different. When translating, clear and natural forms are used; when back-translating, more literal forms are favoured as a method for showing up errors or discrepancies in the original translation.

Yours truly,
Lingo Woman

Can you learn a language in 8 weeks?!

Or, more precisely, can I learn a language in 8 weeks?! In preparation for my holiday to Portugal in just 8 weeks' time, I thought I might make things a little more interesting and set myself a mini challenge...to learn Portuguese! "Why?" you ask. Well, why not! Just for fun I guess.

So, what do you think?! Can it be done? I'm sure some of you out there have tried this already and have tips you could share. Any help would be appreciated! I've already drawn lots of inspiration from the fantastic blog Fluent in 3 months (go check it out!)

I should probably clarify exactly what it is I'm hoping to achieve. I'm not crazy enough to think that I might become fluent in just 8 weeks, but I'm aiming for what is referred to as 'basic fluency'. That is, to be able to hold a conversation in Portuguese and understand most of what is said to me (always helpful!).

Ok, so admittedly I already have a pretty good head start given that I already speak French, Italian and Spanish fluently, but every language has its own challenges. I've been told that Portuguese pronunciation can be a little tricky to master, so I guess this is going to be one of the biggest hurdles for me.

So what's the plan?

I plan to spend 2-3 hours per day working on learning Portuguese. I will be focusing on learning the basic grammatical structure, building up my vocabulary and getting as much listening and speaking practice as I possibly can.

Of course, I have a few tools ready to help me in my mission. I've purchased Hugo in 3 months: Portuguese. I've also signed up to a great website called Live Mocha, which combines grammar exercises, assignments, vocabulary building and, best of all, the chance to chat with native speakers of your chosen language. Exactly what I need! Other than that, I'm going to employ some of my favourite 'tried and tested' language learning methods, reading plenty of Portuguese articles online and listening to Portuguese music.

I'll let you know how it goes!

Yours truly,
Lingo Woman

Glossary creation

Glossaries are an essential tool for any translator. Every translation requires appropriate, subject-specific terminology and finding the necessary terminology involves thorough research. Working with glossaries will therefore save you time and help you achieve consistency across all your translations.

Glossaries require constant effort and are something you should be working on daily, adding new terms as you come across them. Of course, there are a number of ways in which you can compile a glossary. You can make it as simple or as complex as you wish. Just choose the method that works best for you!

In this post I am going to focus on my preferred method of glossary creation. Whether you are new to working with glossaries or simply want to improve the method you currently use, here is my simple step-by-step guide to creating bilingual glossaries in Microsoft Excel:
  • First you need to decide on the type of glossary you are going to create. Do you want to create a general glossary? Do you want to focus on one specific subject area? Do you want to make it client-specific? It doesn't really matter what you do, as long as the glossary suits its purpose and is of use to you during the translation process.
  • Generally, when creating an initial glossary, I take my source file and target file and spend some time going through the files to manually select the terminology I feel should be included. Once you have created this initial glossary, you can come back to it at any time when working on other projects and add new terms.
  • To compile the glossary in Excel, you need to create two columns. The first should contain your source term and the second the translation of the term in your chosen target language. You may find it useful to add a third column in which you provide a more detailed explanation of the term. I often include a small sentence as an example of the term's usage. Some clients will have a preferred translation for a specific term, even though there may be other options that are equally valid. If this is the case, this third column is the ideal place to add a note to this effect. I always do this and it has proved to be extremely useful in the past. 
  • Make sure to give each column a proper heading. This is something that will be very useful should you wish to import your Excel glossary into Multiterm later on (I'll go into detail about this in another post!)
  • Your glossary may contain any type of element, from abbreviations to full sentences if you wish. When adding an abbreviation to a glossary, I often find it useful to add a note in the third column indicating what the term is an abbreviation for, e.g. IPO (see Initial Public Offering).
  • Of course, a glossary is much simpler to use in alphabetical order. When creating my initial glossary, I add the terms in the order that I come across them in the document. I then let the computer do all the hard work for me! In case you do not already know how to do this, here's how to get Microsoft Excel to alphabetise your glossary terms:

Select all columns (not including the headers), then right-click and select 'sort', then select 'Sort A to Z'.
So there you have it. Glossary creation really is very simple. It may seem like hard work, but I can assure you it will be worth every minute in the long run!

Yours truly,
Lingo Woman


What’s in a name?

I was lucky enough to be involved a few weeks ago in a very interesting brand name analysis project. "What's that?" I hear you ask...

Well, any product name intended for international use will always have linguistic and cultural implications. Certain words, sounds or even letters may have an undesired meaning or connotation in another language or culture. Getting it wrong can quite simply spell disaster! Carrying out a brand name analysis using native speakers based in target audience countries can help companies to avoid such blunders. 

Anyway, the project got me thinking of the pitfalls faced by brand designers when marketing to international clients. I’m sure all of you out there have seen some howlers in your time, but here are a few of my favourite product name gaffes to lighten your Friday afternoon...

General Motors faced problems when it introduced its Chevrolet Nova into Latin America. “No va” in Spanish literally means “it doesn’t go”. Not the best way to advertise a car!

Speaking of unfortunately named cars, there’s the Toyota MR2 which caused quite a stir when it was introduced into France, but for all the wrong reasons. When pronounced in French, these letters produce the wonderful phrase ‘est merdeux’ meaning something along the lines of ‘it’s crappy’! Suffice to say, the car was soon marketed under a new name.

When Clairol introduced their ‘Mist Stick’ curling iron into Germany they were confused as to why the product didn’t fly off the shelves. Until, that is, they realised that ‘mist’ in fact means ‘manure’ in German. Can’t say I’d want to put a manure stick anywhere near my hair, can you?!

The cream liqueur ‘Irish Mist’ didn’t go down too well in Germany either. Anyone fancy a glass of Irish manure? No, didn’t think so...!

One food company introduced a new giant burrito which they named BURRADA. Big mistake! No...I mean literally, that’s what it means in Spanish, BIG MISTAKE! Didn’t think that one through, did they?!

One Finnish firm tried to sell a car windscreen de-icer in the United States by the name of ‘Super Piss’. Not a hugely popular product for obvious reasons...

Finally, one IKEA product sounds perfectly normal in Sweden. But you’d have thought that somebody in the marketing team would have realised that naming their new workbench ‘fartfull’ wasn’t such a smart move!

Just goes to show the importance of brand name analysis!

Yours truly,
LINGO WOMAN

Introducing Lingo Woman!

This is the beginning of a blog where linguistic skills matter, quality counts, and freelance translators or those in the language industry can share their thoughts and opinions. I hope to share with you the ups and downs of daily life as a freelance translator while at the same time providing you with valuable information to help you in all your linguistic endeavours. Whether you are a seasoned polyglot, a lover of languages and words or simply an aspiring linguist, I hope there will be something here for you. So, come and join me in my quest for linguistic perfection and comprehension! I hope you enjoy the ride...

Yours truly,

Lingo Woman