World Youth Skills Day (Journée mondiale des compétences des jeunes) – 15 July 2021

I take my hat off to all the parents who helped (or are still juggling) their kids through pandemic remote learning. I have a 3 year old so I didn’t have personal experience of this, but the statistics are sobering: UNESCO estimates that schools were either fully or partially closed for more than 30 weeks between March 2020 and May 2021 in half the countries of the world. In late June, 19 countries still had full school closures, affecting nearly 157 million learners, with an additional 768 million more learners affected by partial school closures.

July 15 is World Youth Skills Day and is an opportunity to highlight the need to reimagine youth skills post-pandemic. Rising youth unemployment is a one of the biggest problems facing the global economy, both in developed and developing countries. If you have children, or even if you don’t, I think you’d agree that fostering the acquisition of skills by youth to enhance their ability to make informed life and work choices and empower them to gain access to changing labour markets is an important conversation to have. I want my son to have skills such as problem solving, adaptability, critical thinking, communication and resilience that he needs to navigate the world he will inherit (and the Covid debt he will be paying off!). What do you think are the most important skills our kids need to thrive and survive into the future?

World Water Day

As I write, rain has been constantly drizzling outside, on a grey old afternoon. I’m thankful for the sustenance it brings to my garden and to my supply of clean drinking water.
Water is essential to life. Yet, living and growing up in Australia, I’ve seen the devastation of drought, the inconvenience of water restrictions but also the irony of the devastation of flooding to drought wrought areas. Water and easy access to it is something we take so much for granted, yet people in all kinds of places around the world are struggling to access the quantity and quality of water they need for drinking, cooking, bathing, handwashing, and growing their food.

Today is World Water Day, when the United Nations officially recognises the issue of water scarcity. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 6 aims to ensure the availability and management of water and sanitation for all, including an end to open defecation, by 2030.

So let’s give a thought to all those 844 million people globally who lack access to clean water. Without clean, easily accessible water, families and communities are locked in poverty for generations. Children drop out of school and parents struggle to make a living.

According to the Global Water Partnership, water is increasingly central to the green economy transition. Water is embedded in all aspects of development – food security, health, and poverty reduction – and in sustaining economic growth in agriculture, industry, and energy generation.

In order to support the transition to a greener economy there needs to be a focus on the socio-economic opportunities that proper water management provides for development, whilst also safeguarding freshwater ecosystems. In my work on pro bono translations for Translators without Borders, it is positive to see NGOs ensuring there are emergency water management plans in place, but there is still more to be done to create sustainable access to water.

With water management initiatives comes new terminology and acronyms to learn, such as WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene). It’s also exciting to see key 4IR technologies (Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and Big Data, Blockchain, Drones and Remote Sensing, and Virtual and Augmented Reality) being applied in the WASH sector globally. This report on the application of these technologies in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region is an inspiring read, and hats off to the translators who have made it available in Spanish.

What water-related initiative has inspired you this World Water Day?

Storytelling to promote sustainability

I recently listed to an episode of the Advancing Sustainable Solutions podcast called Storytelling for Sustainability and, as a translator, the perspective of how we can use stories to inspire and connect emotionally resonated with me. I regularly work with clients who use stories, either through blogs, articles, videos or their websites – to connect. Using a narrative to communicate can more powerfully capture the reader or listener’s attention and cut through the information overwhelm we all face today.

So what makes a good story?

Think of any timeless story or movie classic. It more than likely has a Setting, Characters, a Plot, a Conflict and a Resolution. More recently, Jeff Leinaweaver, author of Storytelling for Sustainability: Deepening the Case for Change argues that a sixth characteristic of storytelling should be taken into account – Memory. How we recall our past affects how we perceive and configure the different components of a story.

Taking a storytelling approach rather than just presenting the facts can be a powerful tool to transition to a more sustainable future. Stories have a way of sparking emotional understanding that facts don’t. Facts on their own are not necessarily inspiring but wrapping facts in an engaging and compelling way can inspire action, activate more of our brain and create connection.

Understanding what climate neutral cities might look like

In his role helping Swedish cities become carbon neutral, Per Grankvist, Chief Storyteller of Viable Cities says storytelling can enable people to change their behaviour, allow them engage, to envision and make sense of a different future. It is a way of seeing what is possible. For example, showing people how life would be different in a low carbon world can give people hope. He also advises that sustainability stories need to be told in a local context. Storytelling can help communicate knowledge about climate change, but these stories cannot necessarily be universally translated, they need to speak to the emotions and connections people have with their own cities.

This also reflects the important human dimension of a translator’s work; understanding context and localising content so that it speaks to the heart of the target audience and elicits a response. A machine may be able to translate numbers and facts but only a human translator can convey the meaning of stories in a way that truly resonates with others.

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4 tips for effective marketing translations

Are you thinking of expanding internationally or entering a new market? One of the first things you are likely to do is to have your marketing materials translated. So how do you get your message and call to action across effectively in a different language?

  1. Choose a translator specialised in marketing

Take the time to find a translator who is experienced in marketing and who understands your business. Think about it. You wouldn’t want a financial translator translating your highly creative marketing copy, you can give them a call to translate your annual report but not your website or brochure. Translating marketing documents requires creativity, cultural competency and an ability to convey ideas whilst at the same time retaining meaning and eliciting a desired emotional response.

  1. Make sure your company name and tagline are appropriate

Your company name, slogan, logo or tagline all feature prominently on your website and marketing materials. I’m sure you’re familiar with some of the more well-known marketing translation fails such as ‘Come alive with Pepsi’ which was rendered in Chinese as ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead’. Beware: a brand name or slogan doesn’t always translate well into other languages and cultures. Getting it right the first time around avoids costly corrective action and damaging your reputation.

  1. Provide style guides and glossaries for your marketing materials

Recurring words or phrases are important to your company’s identity and were originally created to make your marketing content memorable and compelling. It’s therefore important to communicate these to help your translator keep these same qualities and style for materials in another language. Your goal should be to maintain brand coherence as much as possible within any cultural limitations.

  1. Educate translators about your brand

The more informed translators are about your brand, the more accurate and effective their work will be. The translator’s role as a linguist is to take on board your brand voice and personality. They do this in order to convey these to your target audience in such a way that the message really speaks to them personally. It’s important for you to be able to present your company’s unique value to your desired target audience through culturally relevant communication.

In summary, when you are looking to translate your marketing materials for a new market, it’s important to choose a specialised translator, check the cultural relevance of your brand name and tagline, provide or develop a style guide and educate translators about your brand. Putting these recommendations in place will go a long way to ensuring that your translated marketing content retains its original compelling message and stand-out qualities.

Effective marketing translation tips

3 reasons why you should translate your website

If your product or service is only promoted in one language on your website, non-native speakers of that language may have difficulty understanding it fully. The nuanced features and benefits of your product or service may go unnoticed, resulting in reduced engagement with your brand. For many companies, time and budget limitations can be obstacles to not getting a website translated. Too many companies rely on English being the so-called “language of business”. Don’t forget that SEO can only work in another market if your content is translated.

Can’t read, won’t buy

According to  Common Sense Advisory, 72% of consumers spend most of their time online on websites in their own language. Even though many people around the world understand English to some extent, it is estimated that half of these do not have a good enough command of English to successfully navigate a website. 55% of respondents only buy from websites where information is presented in their own language. As a result there is a reduction in browsing rates for English sites, non-consideration of a product or service and a limited desire to buy. Put simply, people prefer to purchase from a site that is in their native language.

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What makes Australian English and American English different?

So you’re going global and need a translation into English but you have to choose between Australian or British and American English. This will of course be dependent on your audience and where you are selling your product or service. I’m going to focus here on Australian English as I live in Australia! Let’s have a look at the main linguistic differences between the two.

The 4 main differences are:

  • Spelling
  • Dates and times
  • Vocabulary
  • Punctuation

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Purpose in Practice: what do you want to do with your translation?

What is translation purpose? Most common definitions would agree that the purpose of translation is to “convey the original tone and intent of a message, taking into account cultural and regional differences between source and target languages” (Globalization and Localization Association), but how does this reflect the relationship between translator and client in practice?

“Skopos” is a Greek word for “aim” or “purpose” that was introduced into translation theory in the 1970s by Hans Vermeer. This went on to become the technical term for translation purpose and the act of translating for that purpose. It refers to the understanding that each text is produced for a given purpose and as such should be translated in a way that enables it to function in the situation in which it is used, with the people who want to use and in the way they intend it to function. Translators create texts for clients who may be around the corner, in the same city or on the other side of the world, but these clients are not always good at communicating with translators in terms of explaining what they want or need when asking for a translation (sometimes they don’t actually know themselves!).

So in terms of translation purpose, the most important and basic question it seems is: what is it that you want to do with your translation? The second most important aspect to consider is how will a translator help you achieve your purpose?

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Tips on choosing translators for a new market

Translators and translation are key if you are exporting or importing to a new market. Maybe your business has a great product and you have identified a niche in a new foreign market. You may have invested in setting up a website in English and spent a great amount of time and money developing it with web design experts and copywriters. Now after all this effort, you will need to adapt your website and translate it for a new market. You may also need to translate instructions or other content for your target market.

Professional translators

Where do you start?

One option is to hire a translator directly as most translators work as freelance contractors. The other option is to hire a translation agency which acts as an intermediary, so you won’t be in direct contact with the translator. The second option is preferable for most projects as you will save time and money and a great translator who partners with your business can add real value and help you meet your goals.  Most translators in Australia are accredited by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). This guarantees a certain level of professionalism in a language pair. It is however difficult to know who will be your perfect translation partner.

Here are a few tips:

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Book review: Found in Translation

Found in Translation: How Translation Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche

A book dedicated to translators, gasp! Is this book here to publicly recognise that it is because of us the world communicates? It would seem so. Jost Zetzche, a German translator who has written a doctorate on translation in history and Nataly Kelly, a Spanish interpreter and scholar in sociolinguistics, paint a vivid canvas of just how many aspects of everyday life are profoundly affected by translation. Well researched and presented, Found in Translation reveals the extent to which the products we use and the freedoms and pleasures we enjoy are made possible by translation. Above and beyond world politics and global business, the book is divided into chapters that cover areas as diverse as space travel, legal cases, battlefields, fashion, medicine, terrorism, marketing, the European Union, Ikea, Dr Seuss, the Simpsons, Twitter, Shakespeare, cinema, sport, religion, love, porn, the airline industry, food and more. Each chapter is interspersed with highlighted text boxes that provide examples of funny diplomatic and marketing mistranslations, linguistic facts or quirky stories such as being able to access the ATM in Latin at the Vatican. Continue reading “Book review: Found in Translation”

Priceless words

Translating for free! Gasp!

I know that many translators out there might balk at the idea of doing a translation “for free” in what is already a highly competitive marketplace that can all too often be driven by price not true value. But even in translation some things are priceless. Much more than Mastercard. Pro-bono translation is one of these invaluable things. It struck me the other day whilst doing some work for Translators Without Borders (TWB), yes for “free” for an NGO working to fight malnutrition in Chad in Africa, that despite our globalised, virtual and connected world there are still very real physical borders experienced by people living in Africa in particular. People who are struggling to access even the most basic needs including food, let alone quality healthcare services. Most countries in the Sahel region in Africa, experience a severe rate of overall malnutrition which was around 30% at the start of the 2000s is now around 40% (Bureau d’Appui Santé et Environnement). For me, this aspect of my work, this jolt back to another’s reality, lifts my eyes above my laptop screen in my comfortable home office to the world at large. Even though people might think that translators bridge cultures all the time in their work, the reality is that often we can fall into the trap of just translating and not reflecting on the impact of our work. Continue reading “Priceless words”

How to mitigate text, trade and technology risks in translation

Risk in translation

I am a translator. I translate texts from one language to another. Sounds easy doesn’t it?

But to get from one language to another, or from source text (ST) to target text (TT), requires a translator to go through a process.

Firstly, this involves the translator making a number of choices about how to interpret the ST. Secondly, it requires the translator to use resources and to apply technical skills in order to thirdly, re-express the message in the TT. From this description, we can conclude therefore that translation is a decision making process. Any kind of process has inherent risk. The Business Dictionary defines inherent risk as “The probability of loss arising out of circumstances or existing in an environment, in the absence of any action to control or modify the circumstances.” In translation, we could say that risk equates to the possibility of not fulfilling the translation’s purpose as proposed by translation theorist Anthony Pym in his 2010 paper Text and risk in translation. I think that this is only a partial view of what we could consider as risk in translation.

Within the decision making process of translation, I see three sets of risks to be managed and minimised. Text, technology and trade risks.

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Translating happiness

Today, March 20, is the UN International Day of Happiness. I don’t know about you but I have always thought of happiness as a relatively abstract concept, but as an individual one.  I acknowledge that its synonyms – contentment, satisfaction, jollity (seriously we don’t use this word enough!) or enjoyment – are easily understandable. As I did some reading, however, I began to wonder about the UN definition of gross global happiness. Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General stated that the world

“needs a new economic paradigm that recognises the parity between the three pillars of sustainable development, social, economic and environmental well-being are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness”.

I’m all for measuring gross domestic product but gross global happiness…is this a step too far? As a translator, I’m happy when I’m translating because it makes me happy that I can gift someone with the possibility of reading a text in their own language. As Mandela so eloquently said,

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart”.

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