Have you ever turned on a movie and suddenly realized the language was French or German and contained subtitles or dubbing? You may ask yourself, “Do I continue to watch knowing that I know it is going to take extra effort to read the subtitles or to ignore the slightly off lip sync motions?” If so, you are not the only one. Producers and directors are always working on ways to make sure audiences around the world can understand and connect with what is unfolding in their stories.
There’s little doubt that the film industry is leading the way with entertainment translation. But what works best when it comes to being viewer-friendly in foreign markets—subtitles or dubbing? Here are some factors film and television producers consider when choosing between the two.
Subtitles – Pros and Cons
Subtitling is a great choice when English proficiency is high and/or the country is smaller in size. In an article published by Language Trainers, “According to the 2013 EF English Proficiency Index, … the top three [English proficient] countries, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands, … use subtitles instead of dubs for everything except for children’s programs.”
Pros of Subtitling
1. Relatively Low Cost: Subtitling can be up to 15 times less expensive which makes it a great option for smaller countries or countries with multiple official languages such as Belgium and Bosnia.
2. Improved plot delivery: Because the director doesn’t need to worry about synchronizing dialogue to the actor’s mouths, words can be added or edited. The director can add culturally relevant words, so the audience remains engaged in the plot.
3. Improved creative authenticity: Viewers not only watch and hear what is taking place on screen, they also can read the text and listen for voice inflection that provides the correct emotional context.
Cons of Subtitling
1. Character limit. Generally, subtitle text is two lines long, totaling around 64 characters in length, (including spaces) or 6 seconds of screen time. This means when it comes to lengthy dialog, some of the meaning may be lost as text is edited down to fit.
2. Difficulty Keeping Up. The usage of subtitling can slow down a film watcher. Fast-paced thrillers can be difficult to keep up with, especially if there is action and quick movements. You may be a fast reader, but you will also be reading through emotion as well as information.
Dubbing – Pros and Cons
Dubbing is often used in larger countries with one universal language, such as France, Germany, Italy, and Spain and/or where English proficiency is moderate to low. Dubbing is so popular in some countries, such as Germany, they actually have a separate awards ceremony for voice dubbing actors.
1. Appealing to a main-stream audience: Hearing your native language makes it easier to absorb the plot, align with the emotions, and increases the likelihood that you will follow the movie to the end.
2. Great for localizing material: Actors and producers can interject localized references and humor into the movie dialogue so that it resonates with the target audience. This is a powerful tool!
1. Delayed voices: Time delays between the actor’s voice and actions on screen can be distracting and lessen the acceptance of the film. The content and translation may even be seen as less authentic.
2. A confused audience: Dubbing can create some confusion. For example, in German films the same actor will regularly dub particular actors’ voices in every movie, which keeps it consistent for faithful audiences. But what happens when both American actors appear in a film together? A new voice must be introduced for a favorite actor, which causes audience confusion. Furthermore, in some countries such as Poland, one actor speaks the parts of every character for a movie. It’s easy to see how that might get confusing if you’re not paying close attention.
Staying true to the cultural, political, and ideological preferences of a country will always be valued by the target audience. This is why it is important for producers and directors to weigh the positives and the negatives of both methods.
Bonus Clip: Watching movies is fun, and it’s even better when you use this to support your desire to learn a second language! Movies provide the context where you can hear or read the real language and learn how words and phrases are used in certain settings.
TrueLanguage is full of life-long language learners. Our localized translators have added value to both audiences and to filmmakers’ bottom lines through thoughtful translation in 120 different languages. With Atlanta fast becoming known as “The Hollywood of the South” we look forward to partnering with filmmakers for global box office success!
Maybe you are a savvy businessperson who knows how to market and operate a successful business on a global stage. Maybe you are new to the idea of partnering with companies in foreign countries. Either way, when you send your valuable, and sometimes confidential documents off for translation, you want to get them back quickly and without breaking your budget. More importantly, you want them to correctly reflect your mission, the culture of the audience, and the intent of your company’s message.
It sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are seven document translation tips to simplify the process while turning a good translation into a great translation.
1. Choose the right translation partner.
The first tip for successful translations is to choose the right translation partner. As you begin to look for the best fit for your company and its translation needs, consider the scope of your projects. The company you choose will rely on you to be up front and honest about your expectations and needs. Knowing these will ensure the right translation company is chosen.
This company needs to have wisdom, international depth, experience, and a reputation for quality and customer service. They also should employ specialized translators, local to your target market, to ensure your documents are accurate and look as good in the target language as they do in their original language.
2. Be consistent.
Despite all the hype placed on machine translation, the best and the most accurate translations come from human translators. But there’s no need to translate the same phrases over and over again.
To make the most of translation, be consistent in your terminology, wherever possible within your original document. Establish an official glossary for the terms that are important for your business, and work with your translation provider to duplicate this glossary in your target language (or languages). Keeping your specialized terms homogenous across all your documents maximizes the benefits of using translation services, increases speed and efficiency in the translation process, and helps to keep costs reasonable.
3. Keep language simple (when possible).
Keep your language as simple as possible, avoiding overly complicated sentences, jargon, regionalisms and even humor. These are notoriously difficult to translate accurately.
Sometimes, as with legal documents, complexity and industry-specific jargon is needed. Marketing documents may rely on wordplay and humor. This is when experienced, linguists will save the day. Specialized translators with direct connections to your target market will know how to translate your humor, or even replace it with something better suited to the local audience, ensuring your translated documents leave readers smiling for the right reasons.
4. Don’t rely on Google Translate for essential documents.
Speed and price are important but when it comes to translation, they are not everything. In fact, if your translation is culturally inaccurate, these two things will not mean much. The old adage is true: you get what you pay for and value means more than fast and cheap. If you turn to free tools like Google Translate for your translations, you are probably not getting much in the way of value. Plus, you run the risk of reader confusion, damage to your brand, and possible legal consequences.
5. Use a design that’s easy to adapt.
Design may not be the first thing you consider, but it is highly important to any translated work. When documents are translated into other languages, the text often expands or contracts (depending on the language pair).
For example, when translating from English to Spanish, it’s not unusual for the text to grow by 15% to 30%. While translations from English into Japanese and even Korean often take up less horizontal space even though these two languages have more complex characters.
No matter how the original document is designed or what language pair you’ve requested, a design team that understands the culture you are addressing makes a difference. And if you know your original document will be converted into other languages, you can save time and money if you think ahead and design thoughtfully.
How do you minimize the amount of re-designing that your document translation project requires? Keeping your message simple along with an uncomplicated, clean layout with enough white space will require fewer adjustments. And be aware of target languages that flow in directions other than left-to-right – some Asian and Middle Eastern languages read right-to-left or top-to-bottom. Designing with this in mind can save you a later headache when your translations come in.
6. Build a style guide.
Designers do this on a regular basis. Creating a style guide for your documents takes work, but it pays off by delivering a seamless and efficient document translation process.
Also, style guides keep translated documents consistent and reduce the amount of time-consuming guesswork required of your translators. With a style guide on file, you can easily follow the outline assuring a greater accuracy. Plus, the translation team will have the resources needed to get the translation right the first time. This means less time spent on rework and faster translation times at a lower cost.
7. Ensure documents are finalized.
When authoring your documents, ask your colleagues for input. Make sure you have included their corrections and edits. Ask several people to review your documents prior to sending them for translation. This helps to ensure accuracy, comprehensibility, and completeness.
Translation project managers I know say that a project manager’s role “officially” begins upon final quote approval from the client. This is why it’s always best to thoroughly edit your documents before starting the translation process.
It’s easy to intuitively identify when a document or a speech has been poorly translated. Poor translations come across as jagged or disconnected. Often, the original message has been misunderstood or misrepresented. Typically, personality and individuality have been removed so that the communication feels flat and lifeless. These translation missteps are easy to detect. But how do we identify a successful translation?
Every translation is an interpretative act, but it also is a creative one. It is not a static process but one that is vibrant and moving as the language unfolds.
Antonia Lloyd-Jones, a professional translator who translates Polish to English, said in a recent interview, “A good translation is imperceptible. It reads as if it were written in the language into which it has been translated.
“Within the text, the translator is invisible. Great translation removes the barrier imposed by an unfamiliar language and allows the writer to communicate directly with the foreign reader.
“It also captures the voice and music of the original as the writer intended it to be heard and reproduces it in a way that is audible to the new, foreign reader. It is sensitive to the meaning, effects and intentions of the original, but also to the best ways to render them in the target language.”
A well-executed translation is as distinctive in a second language as the author’s voice is in the original language. It captures the spirit of a text without slavishly following it to the letter. It captures the energy, voice, and style of the source document and replicates them correctly so that the targeted culture understands and is motivated to action.
If your company is new to translation, the following tips can guide you to achieving the best translation.
1. Avoid machine translation. Humans still have the edge over machines. The Human vs. Artificial Intelligence Translation Challenge organized by the International Interpretation and Translation Association (IITA) and Sejong University delivered a resounding victory for human translators. While machine translation has come a long way, the ability of the human brain to convert text from one language to another outstrips the capability of computers.
2. Select your translation company in advance. Last-minute decisions result in greater stress, increased costs, and lower quality. Do your research and find a translation company that fits your needs before you are pressed for time with a project. Then, once you begin a project, you’ll have the best company in place.
3. Make sure your translation team understands your style. Your company’s brand has a distinct voice and tone. Your translators should be able to represent your style throughout the translation process. Communicating your brand correctly will put your company on the road to success.
4. Include localization. This is really no longer an option. The best translation of a foreign language is done by native translators—people who actually know, understand, and live or have lived within your target area. These local translators will represent your company well because they are familiar with the nuances of the local culture and vernacular. The ability to communicate correctly on the world’s stage is imperative. Doing it right will save your company money, preserve your reputation, and increase your marketing ability.
5. Plan your translation schedule in advance. Many companies translate one document only to discover that they need further translations. Planning is key to consistency and success. It also teaches you how to avoid last minute panics and the additional expenses. The best translation work is done when a translator knows the scope of the work and can creatively approach the entire project in a calm and professional way.
Today, we do business and live life on an international stage. Linguists know something that many are just now understanding: learning new languages, desiring to understand new cultures actually brings us together.
At True Language, we know language unites people. Just by seeking to understand the differences of those we meet globally says, “I want to get to know you better.”
Experiencing cultural traditions of others opens your mind to knowledge and new understandings that broaden your horizons for life. So, make plans to travel to destinations around our globe that are colorful, fun, unique and certainly culturally different. A great way to experience another culture is through a festival. Several hundred festivals take place all over the world every month – there are plenty to choose from!
Getting people together is at the heart of what we love to do. The following is a short list of some notable cultural festivals of the world—there is something for everyone!
1. Holi, The Festival of Colors — India
A Hindu celebration of the triumph of good over evil and the arrival of spring, Hindus and non-Hindus alike celebrate Holi around the middle of March by dancing, playing music, having spirited water fights, and covering each other with brightly colored powders called gulal. Holi is also a time of clearing the air, setting the stage for a positive year of growth, and giving your emotions a reset. Grudges are dropped, differences are patched up, fences are mended, debts are paid or forgiven, old friendships are renewed, and new friendships are started. Which all makes sense, since it’s probably tough to stay angry, sad, or otherwise negative when everyone in sight is wet and covered in weird colors.
If you’d like to throw some gulal next year, but can’t manage a flight to India, cities all over the United States throw their own Festivals of Colors, too – the Holi celebration at Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah is said to be the largest one in the world.
2. Dia de los Muertos — Mexico
This is less of an active festival, more of a meaningful holiday dedicated to honoring the memory of those who have passed; in English it’s known as the Day of the Dead. It’s a public holiday in Mexico, but if you live in any area with a significant Mexican population you may be able to observe it. The Day of the Dead falls on November 2nd, two days after Halloween and one day after All Saints Day. On those two days, the spirits come and visit the living – on the last day, it’s our job as the living to visit them. Colorful altars called ofrendas are put up in private homes to commemorate lost loved ones, and elaborate floral arrangements are placed in graveyards. Offerings of food, drink, and flowers are left for the spirits to enjoy, including bright orange marigolds (the traditional flower of the dead) and the famous sugar skulls called calaveras.
Like Mardi Gras, the Day of the Dead has an unmistakable look, style, and color scheme; you’re probably familiar with it thanks to movies like Pixar’s Coco. Feel free to enjoy and appreciate the art of it – just make sure to respect the spirit of it, too.
3. The Festival of San Fermín — Spain
This is a weeklong festival held every July in Pamplona, Spain, in honor of the area’s patron saint, San Fermín. You may not be familiar with the saint, but you’ve probably heard of his festival’s most famous event: the encierro, or the Running of the Bulls, when crowds of tourists allow themselves to be chased through the streets by a crowd of very large, highly agitated bulls. Why would they do such a thing? It began centuries ago as an act of showing off by local children, combined with some aggressive bull-herding techniques. Whenever bullfights were scheduled, the men transporting them had to move them through the center of town to the bullring, and used fear tactics to hurry them along; neighborhood kids would prove their bravery by jumping in and out in front of the stampeding herd without being hurt.
It didn’t take long for this fate-tempting activity to become popular with daring people (mostly men) with something to prove. Bull-runs would happen in any town with its own bullring, but it’s the encierro at Pamplona that has become famous worldwide, due in part to its being immortalized by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises. If you decide to run with the bulls, be warned: even with medical attention on hand, bull-runners get themselves injured (if not killed) every year.
4. La Tomatina — Spain
Not up to running from the bulls? If you happen to be in the Valencian town of Buñol the last Wednesday of August, you can try to grab a ham… just look out for flying tomatoes! The city’s tomato-throwing festival has been going on since 1945; it’s not certain how or why this tradition began, but it’s still going strong today. Massive truckloads of ripe tomatoes are brought to the town square, homes and storefronts are covered in plastic, and thousands of people wait for the signal to start the food fight. Technically the mayhem isn’t supposed to begin until someone climbs up the Palojabon (a greased pole two stories high) and retrieves the delicious Spanish ham from the top. However, that’s a tough thing to do, so usually the sound of a shot get things going. For one hour only, participants pelt each other wildly with tomatoes, until the whole scene is a red, sticky, pulpy mess; at the sound of a second shot the great tomato-ing stops, the streets are hosed down, and everyone goes home happier (and redder) than before.
5. Oktoberfest — Germany
The carnival heard round the world, Oktoberfest is Germany’s most famous gathering of locals and tourists alike. What began as a Bavarian royal wedding blow-out in 1810 is celebrated today wherever beer is drunk. The original, ongoing festival is an enormous affair with horse races, carnival rides, live music, and keg after keg of good German Bier; for restaurateurs and brewers, the festival is a spectacular yearly showcase for their new wares. But even far away from home base in Munich, Oktoberfest is an excuse for anyone (of legal age) to raise a stein, savor some bratwurst, and share in the German cultural experience.
6. Krampusnacht — Austria and Germany
The Christmas season begins early in the Alpine region of central Europe. On Nikolaustag, or December 6th, St. Nicholas rewards all the good little children on December 6th, leaving small gifts and treats in their shoes. Meanwhile, the bad little children might get a visit from someone else! Krampus is a frightening figure indeed, usually pictured with horns, hooves, a tail, and a very long tongue. He and St. Nicholas are a team – Nick gives presents to the good kids, and Krampus scares the bad ones into doing better next year (or else he’ll take them away in a bag and eat them up).
Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night, is the night before Nikolaustag. On this night, many communities will have a Krampuslauf (or Krampus run), in which young men put on their scariest Krampus masks and costumes and parade through town, giving bystanders a good-natured scare or two. Some of these costumes are quite elaborate, with moving parts, pyrotechnics, and monstrous sound effects. Don’t worry, though, there are parade watchers on hand to make sure no children are actually eaten. Usually.
7. Yi Peng and Loi Krathong — Thailand
The skies of Chiang Mai are set aglow as thousands of lanterns are released throughout the city during the Yi Peng Lantern Festival on the evening of the full moon on the 12th month (usually in November). Yi Peng aligns with another floating festival, Loi Krathong, in which participants place offerings of coins, candles, incense, and flowers into baskets and float them down the river, sending all negativity and anger away with them.
Chiang Mai is the best place in Thailand to observe these two festivals together, and see the sky and water filled with lights. Yi Peng’s sky lanterns are a more recent phenomenon, though, and they’re not welcome everywhere; fire hazards and risks to air traffic have led some cities to regulate them or ban them outright. So if you’re traveling in Thailand on Yi Peng, check with the law before you light one up!
8. Mardi Gras — New Orleans, Louisiana
Mardi Gras season begins right at the end of the Christmas season with the bacchanalian celebrations of Twelfth Night on January 6th and continues right on through the month, building up to the chaotic citywide celebration on Fat Tuesday, right before Ash Wednesday. This is the last chance to break loose, be irreverent, party down, and use up all the rich foodstuffs and liquor you’re supposed to avoid during the forty days and nights of Lent. It’s rooted in tradition and the gathering of family and friends. You can find Mardi Gras celebrated any place in the world with a strong Catholic history (see below)… with the Crescent City’s storied reputation for excellent eating, bottomless drinking, often-topless partying, and other forms of glorious excess, it’s no wonder the New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition is the most notorious version in the world. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
9. Carnival Rio de Janeiro — Brazil
Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival is the same celebration as Mardi Gras in theory, but dwarfs it in scale – in fact, it’s the largest in the world, with as many as two million people crowding the streets of Rio for every day it runs. Carnival starts the Friday before Lent, filling the intervening days with music, costumes, chaos of the best kind, and above all, dancing. Brazil is the land of the samba, and more than two hundred samba groups come together from across the country at Carnival to show their neighbors how it’s done. Many of the events are for ticket holders only, but there’s so much overflow of music and excitement into the streets, you can join in the madness just by stepping outside.
10. Carnaval de Québec — Quebec City, Canada
Partying before Lent isn’t strictly for hot climates – in the capital of French Canada, the mascot of the festivities is a snowman, Bonhomme Carnaval, and if the partiers are wearing more and thicker clothing, they’re no less happy to be there. Carnaval means days and nights of snow-boarding, ice-skating, sledding, dancing (outdoors, in the snow, because Canadians don’t fear the winter), free food and drink for everyone, and a French-style masquerade ball. If you’d like to let it all hang out before Lent, but tropical humidity isn’t your thing, head north!
A global product or service needs to present itself well to a variety of audiences around the world, and the way it achieves that presentation is through its content. If the content on your company’s website is available in only one language, it’s safe to say your messaging will miss its mark with audiences who do speak other languages. And languages are not uniform. A single translation may not be suitable for variants existing within a language.
Translation is only the first step in reaching global audiences where they live. Our expert linguists take your content further than that, by going beyond translation to localization.
Translation vs. Localization
The difference between translations and localization is important to note. Translation is strictly a linguistic process. For example, a translator takes a marketing piece, such as a corporate brochure, and transfers the content from a source language into a target language, respecting grammar rules and syntax.
Localization takes that concept to the next level by adapting the content to its local audience, using phrases and verbiage that resonate with their local tastes and conventions. It is an important step to take with all of your marketing assets such as websites, mobile apps, software, video games, multimedia content and voiceovers
For instance, the need for localization becomes apparent when your company opts to translate a marketing piece into Spanish. That’s a good idea… but Spanish for where, exactly? Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, most markets in South and Central America, and many potential clients in the United States and the Caribbean all speak Spanish, but they certainly don’t all speak it the same way. Think of the differences between the ways English is spoken in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States; each country has its own phrasing, flavor, and vocabulary – natural to them, and distinct from the others. And if you try to apply a single variant to all markets, you can bet they’ll notice.
What to Look for in a Language Service Company
Selling your product or service in a foreign country means more than overcoming language barriers. A highly effective language service company will work with a team of professional linguists with direct connections and experience in your targeted regions. This team will ensure your content is respectful of local culture, local expectations and local laws for each market.
Audiences listen when you speak their native language. Localization of your content gains the trust and respect of your target audience while helping your company maintain its unique voice across many cultural differences.
When you bring in experts to localize your content, the local public—wherever they are in the world—feels as if you built the content especially for them. This can mean all the difference when they are choosing your product or service over your competitors.
When it comes to doing business overseas, you need to make sure what you are writing, saying, and promoting is culturally adapted and localized. There was a time when companies thought they could skip the all-important step of localizing for the target culture. If global success is your goal, it’s important to know that this is no longer the case.
Accuracy checks are as important as the content itself in corporate translation. The business face of our world has changed. We are a global community and there are considerations that we do today that we never took into account as recently as 10 years ago. One of the ways you can keep your content strategically positioned for your target audience is through the process of in-country review.
In-country review is a step in the translation process where a native speaker and subject matter expert, living in the region or country where the translations will be used, reviews the content to make sure the language and terminology used are appropriate for that region and that industry.
Certain terms may be more common, current, or accurate than others, and the in-country reviewer can verify the translation, while suggesting terms that they think will better describe your product or service to the desired audience.
Why is this step good practice?
In-country review is the client’s opportunity to incorporate preferences in terminology or style, to reflect the industry, products, services, and company culture with the greatest fidelity. By involving a stakeholder in your target county, you are assuring that your content is more likely to be understood and embraced by that country.
Who should perform the review?
It is always best to engage an in-country company employee, representative, affiliate, subsidiary or distributor to carry out this review. Anyone who is native to the target language and familiar with the product or service could be a good candidate perform the review – the reviewer does not need to be a trained linguist, but an expert in the company’s field with excellent language skills.
If you don’t have someone who can do this, then you have two options: You bypass this review—which is not advised—or you can work with a global translation service. Professional translation providers can’t match the subject matter expertise of a resource from your internal talent pool; however, they can help you find and train a team member to perform your review.
Most companies are not large enough to support an internal translation and localization department. Whether it be for technical documents or in-house memos, your best bet is to partner with a language services company (LSC) like TrueLanguage that has extensive experience in business translation services.
They will put this experience to work to appropriately translate your documents for any local language you need. A good LSC will provide you the option to conduct an in-country review in the final stages of the translation process. Always take it! You’ll rest better knowing that your content is clearly understood and accepted.
TrueLanguage is a global leader in business and technical translation services with multiple resources to help you choose guidelines for your in-country reviewers. We can even help you decide on what you need to communicate to get your expectations to the reviewer, thereby improving your product’s time to market. Request a FREE quote today or call us now at 1-888-926-9245
If you were to do a bit of research on habits and methods of communication in 2019 as opposed to 1999, or even 2009, it’s safe to bet you would learn that people today are communicating with each other in writing more than at any point in history. This is true across the global language spectrum, and technology is a significant reason why. Within the space of five minutes, and on a device like the one everyone reading this has in their purse or in a pocket (or, very possibly, in their hands right now, reading this on it), any person can write a text message, make a tweet, post to social media, craft an email, take notes, dictate to Siri or Cortana, create a task list… and maybe make a phone call, if they’re the type of person who still uses a phone for its original purpose.
That’s a huge amount of written text being generated. Anyone today whose job involves a computer likely spends more time reading, typing, corresponding, and reviewing documents than the generation before them did. And that’s just the communication required to keep the average business moving.
At TrueLanguage, communication is our business. So, you can imagine the sheer volume of words that crosses our eyeballs every day.
All this is to say: we’re always thinking about language, how to help our clients use language to their advantage, what might be useful for them to know as they craft communications for us to take to the global stage. We often have big ideas for topics. Language is a massive subject, after all.
And sometimes we’ll turn up something pretty small that turns out to merit further discussion. Let’s address one of those.
Which of these movie titles looks wrong?
- The Godfather
- The Birds
- The silence of the lambs
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Now, which of these lines from those movies looks wrong?
- “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
- “There’s Nothing Wrong With Those Chickens, Mitch.”
- “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”
- “One does not simply walk into Mordor.”
If you didn’t already know, this illustrates the difference between title case and sentence case.
The reason silence of the lambs looks weird is because title case is what we expect to see in, among other places, movie titles. Likewise, movie line number 2 doesn’t look like spoken dialogue due to all those capital letters – it ought to be in sentence case. Capital letters make all the difference here.
In the English language, a phrase in sentence case will capitalize only:
- the first letter of the phrase
- the first letter of any proper name (person, place, product, etc.)
Meanwhile, in title case, all words begin with a capital letter except for conjunctions, the most basic prepositions like “to” and “in,” and short indefinite articles. So, North by Northwest is correct, but An Affair To Remember is not.
What else is it that makes a sentence written in title case look wrong? Capital letters are more tiring to read, more stressful. No one’s likely to break a sweat reading an email, but an excess of capital letters breaks concentration and makes it difficult to maintain the flow of reading. Capital letters in English suggest that something is special, or worthy of urgent attention, and you can’t pay urgent attention to every word without getting fed up after a couple of lines. Conversely, the capitalization of title case gives a movie title/book title/job title or position the gravitas it needs. As seen above, title case makes the difference between a) a bunch of baby sheep being quiet and b) the time Agent Starling met Hannibal Lecter.
Now, why does this even matter for translation? Because languages other than English have their own rules for capitalization, and the distinction between sentence case and title case may be different, or even non-existent (it seems nobody loves title case as much as Americans do). To English-only eyes, German seems filled with extra capital letters, and it’s for good reason – since German word order is more complicated than that of other Western European languages, every single noun (proper or not) gets a capital letter, which makes it much easier to navigate a sentence. The French language doesn’t like capital letters nearly as much as English; French titles are written in what looks like sentence case to English readers. And those are two languages that are otherwise pretty closely related to English. The further one gets into various global regions, languages, and writing systems, the greater the differences will be.
And that’s why it’s so important for your localization projects to be handled by native-language resources at the stages of translation, proofreading, and (especially) in-country review. It’s possible for an American to gain native-level fluency in a foreign language through study, yet this doesn’t allow for the kind of cultural knowledge that comes from extended and complete cultural immersion.
If you’ve written a short letter to introduce yourself to new stakeholders in Paris, for instance, you might think a little thing like capitalization pales in importance next to the content of your message in translation. And you’ve got a friend who did a French minor for her bachelor’s degree, so she’s fine to translate it, right? Does it even matter if she capitalizes something she shouldn’t, or uses the wrong quotation marks?
Consider it this way – your foreign audience only knows you through your communications. Until you’ve built up and deepened the relationship, what and how you write to them is your sole connection, and will be fundamental to how they perceive you. As a guest in their culture, respect for that culture includes respect for their language… and respect given leads to respect earned.
So, mind your capitals, check your spelling, strike the right tone – and don’t worry, TrueLanguage can help.
The short answer is yes! The study of foreign languages is extremely beneficial for everyone. Sure, there are the obvious benefits of connectivity and preservation of language, but there’s more. Learning another language is linked to cognitive acceleration and creativity and a slew of other benefits including:
- Enhanced problem-solving skills
- Better memory
- Improved multi-tasking skills
- Enhanced decision making
Language learning exercises your brain and expands your understanding. It increases your awareness and appreciation for how others live, work, and play. Plus, learning a second language makes you more employable.
Linguists say that you will only master a language if you truly enjoy it! Here are 10 languages you can have fun learning, and which you can also put to good use:
English is omnipresent. It is the primary language of the internet and computer technology. More than 375 million people are native English speakers, and as many as 1.5 billion use it each day. The United Kingdom and Canada have English as an official language, and it’s the de facto primary language for the United States—all are listed on the world’s 10 biggest economies.
With 982 million native speakers, Chinese has the greatest number of users. Altogether 1.1 billion people use the Mandarin Chinese dialect. On the global economic stage, China is positioned to be the world’s leading economy by 2050, which means this language will become even more influential.
Spanish is the primary language of more than 20 countries, the majority in Latin America. There are around 330 million native speakers, and more than 420 million use it as a second language. In the U.S., around 35 million people speak Spanish at home.
Around 127 million people speak Japanese natively and one million more use it to some extent.
Japanese is a beautiful and rewarding language to know, though it is a challenge to learn — reading and writing Japanese requires knowledge of two phonetic writing systems and thousands of kanji characters.
Germany has remained Europe’s most dominant economy for decades, and its language is the most spoken on the European continent. There are 105 million native speakers, and 80 million around the globe speaking German as a second language.
As the native language of some of the world’s greatest writers and intellectuals, Russian is an excellent language for students of history, literature, and the humanities to know . More than 150 million people speak Russian as their primary language and an additional 110 million speak it on a non-native level.
France has the sixth largest economy in the world. French was once the primary language of diplomatic discourse, and retains its status as an official language in France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, and throughout much of Africa and the Caribbean. Today, 79 million native people speak this language in France. Globally this number increases to 370 million.
Arabic is the liturgical language of the entire Muslim civilization. It’s also the dominant language of the Middle East and an increasingly important language for global business, thanks to economic centers like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This makes Arabic one of the most important languages on the planet. More than 205 million people speak this language, and there are 100 million non-native speakers worldwide.
India has the seventh largest economy in the world; but by 2050, it is expected to be second. Hindi is the primary language of this country (out of more than 100 languages in all) and several surrounding countries. Its 450 million primary users and additional 200 million non-native speakers make Hindi the 4th most spoken language on Earth.
More than 215 million persons speak native Portuguese, while there are 235 million speakers in total. It’s the primary language in Portugal, Brazil, and seven other countries, and is often considered the major language of the Southern Hemisphere. This makes it one of the most important languages to know and understand.
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The English language owes its centuries of global dominance to the fact that it is the principal spoken language, if not always the official one, of some of the world’s most powerful nations—namely the US and the UK. English is a major lingua franca for the world, a language people who don’t share a first language can reliable fall back on. But this is changing.
China’s status as an economic superpower presents a challenge to this dominance. To do business internationally, play the latest video games, or keep up with trends in popular music, English knowledge is still the surest bet. But language as we know it is on the move. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say there are more people in China with English as a second language than there are Americans who speak it as their first.
And while you are likely reading this blog in English, with a couple of mouse clicks you can easily “translate it” into German, Japanese and a number of other languages. Computer translation and voice-recognition technology allow a person to speak their own language and hear what their interlocutor is saying in real time.
Computer translation is in part why the days of English as the world’s leading global language are numbered. But translation technology is not completely reliable yet.
In California, scientists for Gridspace are developing translation and voice-recognition technology that’s so good that you can’t recognize whether you’re talking to a human or a computer. But there will always be a need for translators to keep an eye on what the computers are doing.
Computers can’t capture feeling, emphasis and clear meaning. To be certain your words are translated correctly, you still need a human translation team to ensure these important elements of communication are captured.
And the concept of “standard” English language is being challenged with vernacular languages.
In India alone, you can find “Hinglish” (Hindi-English), “Benglish” (Bengali-English) and “Tanglish” (Tamil-English).
The same thing is happening among Hispanic-American communities in the United States; English combines with variants of Spanish as spoken across Central and South America to create vernacular “Spanglish.” Language is more than a means of communication. It is also an expression of identity, telling us something about a person’s sense of who they are. “Spanglish” may not be a target language for a translation project, but for a translator or interpreter — human or computer — working in Spanish or English, it’s essential to understand it. And for the moment, in that realm, a human being still beats a computer every time.
TrueLanguage, an ISO-Certified business translation agency specializing in business translation, technical, document, legal, localization translation services and more are experts at ensuring accurate localized translations that accomplish their intended goal.