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Case Studies in Translation and Interpreting


Explaining the role of translators and interpreters is key to the ATA PR Committee’s campaign to reach potential clients. The Committee’s Writers Group has tackled the goal with a series of articles that illustrate what can happen when you do business in a language that is not your own.

These case studies have now been published in more than 100 print and digital newspapers, trade journals, and consumer magazines. Take a look below at three of the latest studies, then click here to read the rest of the series.
  • What Your Signage Says about You
    As a new business owner, Ben created a colorful, eye-catching sign which he translated for the Spanish-speaking community surrounding his store. It was a mystery then why there were so few customers. And that's when he discovered the downside of do-it-yourself translation. [more]
  • From Blunder to Wonder 
    In 2009, an international bank made a simple yet costly translation mistake when its catchphrase "Assume Nothing" was mistranslated as "Do Nothing." When it comes to repairing your reputation after a language blunder, there's no room for error. [more]
  • 5 Website Features That May Be Working Against You
    If the goal of your website is to sell services, products, or information, then the key to your success is keeping visitors on your site long enough to get interested. Don't let a translation plug-in sabotage your effort. [more]

April is National Volunteer Month

Members of the PR Writers Group are volunteers, as are the speakers at the Annual Conference, contributors to The ATA Chronicle, graders in ATA's Certification Program, members of the Board of Directors, Committee Chairs, and Division leaders—to name a few.

Outstanding volunteers have made ATA what it is today. We want to take this opportunity to thank them for their service to the Association.

Learn more about volunteering with this free webinar: Volunteering: Making Your Investment of Time Worthwhile.
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ATA Certification Exam Prep Workshop

Industry News


Latino Outreach or Google Translate? 2020 Presidential Candidates Bungle Spanish Websites
Politico (03/31/19) Rodriguez, Jesus

U.S. presidential contenders for the 2020 race have shown a desire to reach out to Latino voters with Spanish-language campaign websites. But good intentions aside, the translation errors found on most of these sites risk producing the opposite effect, prompting Spanish speakers to question how seriously the candidates are taking them if they can't even get the basic English-to-Spanish translation right.

Many White House hopefuls are posting Spanish content that bears striking similarities to the output generated by Google Translate, appearing to perform only minor cleanup before publishing the copy on their sites. While Google Translate can serve as a workable starting point, more often than not it needs a human hand to produce Spanish that would pass muster with a native speaker.

Almost every campaign site contains mistakes, ranging from minor typos to truly incomprehensible passages. The website of Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar addresses her mother using a masculine adjective. Senator Kamala Harris initially misused the word "gastar" (the Spanish verb "to waste"), writing that she had "wasted her life defending American democracy." And Julián Castro, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary, extolls the possibility of building an "América" that works for everyone, seemingly not realizing that he's making promises encompassing two continents (North and South America).

Until recently, the English landing page on Elizabeth Warren's site included a button that read "I'm not sure yet," meant to entice undecided voters to click and learn more about her campaign. But that phrase was initially translated as "En realidad, no estoy en, y he aquí por qué," which roughly means "In reality, I am not on, and have here for what." Some parts of the website have not been translated at all. "We're continuing to update our website, both the English and Spanish versions," says Kirsten Orthman, a spokesperson from the campaign. "We have Latinx staff working on this, and we're always working to expand our content and make it as strong as possible."

Though all candidate websites contain at least a few mistakes, the Spanish content on some sites is far superior. While Harris got off to a somewhat rocky start with her website, it is now virtually error-free, and she took the additional step of providing real-time interpreting at a campaign town hall in Nevada. Cory Booker has done similarly well, granting one of his first interviews to Univisión, speaking entirely in Spanish. "My Spanish isn't perfect, but I want to speak directly to the people," Booker told Univisión.

"The website is the front door to the campaign, and it's indicative," says Lisa Navarrete, an adviser at UnidosUS, the oldest Latino advocacy organization in the U.S. "If you're not investing in this, it will indicate to us that perhaps you're not taking the other parts of reaching out to the community as seriously."
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Video Remote Interpreting Effective for Court Users with Limited English Skills
Judicial Council of California Courts (03/15/19) Corren, Blaine

The Judicial Council of California Courts has approved recommendations for updating its language access plan for video remote interpreting (VRI) to include minimum technology guidelines to facilitate its use. The Council also voted to establish a new VRI program for the judicial branch. It includes the development of master contracts with the two approved VRI vendors who took part in a pilot project to assist courts interested in using VRI.

The recommendations are the result of a pilot project that tested the effectiveness of VRI for certain court proceedings in three superior courts in California. The report on the pilot project found that VRI equipment can allow meaningful participation by limited-English-proficient (LEP) court users and increase access to qualified interpreters when in-person interpreters are unavailable.

The San Diego State University (SDSU) Research Foundation evaluated the six-month pilot project. SDSU gathered short surveys completed by bench officers, LEP court users, interpreters, and courtroom staff after each VRI event from the three pilot courts. SDSU also administered an online survey after the project's completion to capture overall impressions from the pilot stakeholders. Specifically, SDSU reported that 95% of judicial officers indicated that VRI allowed for effective communication between the LEP court user and the courtroom. In addition, 78% of the LEP court users who received the VRI service were "very satisfied" with the quality of the interpreting.

"The goal is not, nor has it ever been, to replace in-person court interpreting, which is always preferred," says California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, former chair of the Language Access Plan Implementation Task Force, who was in charge of overseeing the pilot project. "The goal is to increase access to qualified interpreters when onsite interpreting is not readily available."

California is only one part of a growing trend. According to a survey conducted by the National Center for State Courts, over 90% of courts in the U.S. are now using telephone interpreting, and just over half are using some form of video conferencing or VRI to help meet language access needs.
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How Netflix Could Transform the Way We Learn Languages
The Guardian (03/02/19) Tapper, James

Amid concerns over the decrease in students studying languages in secondary schools, developers of a new online app hope to turn the Netflix streaming service into a sofa-based language lab that will make learning fun.

Language Learning with Netflix (LLN) allows viewers to watch programs with subtitles both in the original language and English, and pauses automatically to allow users to absorb what they just heard. So far, LLN has been downloaded by more than 30,000 people since its launch in December.

David Wilkinson and Ognjen Apic, the developers behind LLN, began the project as a hobby a few years ago. Wilkinson, who was born in Zimbabwe to English parents, began making his own learning materials seven years ago while studying Indonesian and Persian. "I spent a lot of the time studying languages on my own, but I made mistakes and wasted a lot of time with methods that weren't effective." Wilkinson trained as a mechanical engineer before setting up a business selling bilingual books. He started working on a precursor to LLN about three years ago. He discovered that Apic, a Serbian linguist, was doing the same thing, so they decided to team up. They picked Netflix because it offers such a wide range of shows in other languages.

Wilkinson and Apic say LLN helps users improve their comprehension of the language they are trying to learn by allowing them to view two translations simultaneously—a machine translation that tends to be literal, and an official version made by a translator. "We want to encourage people to use good habits," Wilkinson says. "At an early stage, students should listen to other languages as much as possible."

Some linguists have hailed LLN as a dynamic way of harnessing the educational potential of Netflix, which offers programs in 26 languages in 190 countries and aims to have 100 non-English-language series in production by the end of this year. Katharina von Ruckteschell-Katte, director of the Goethe-Institut in London, says making language more fun by using tools like LLN could help. "If I had all these possibilities when I was young and learning French, Spanish, and English, I would have really loved it," she says. "We at the Goethe-Institut, and all institutions that teach languages, have this fear that the robots will take over in the future, but I think it's the other way around," she says. "We will still be teaching German, but we have to learn how to teach it together with these instruments."

Apps such as Memrise, Babbel, and Duolingo are increasing in popularity. "We know people already watch foreign-language Netflix shows with subtitles to improve their listening comprehension," says Sam Dalsimer, head of public relations for Duolingo. "The LLN extension is a cool feature to enhance that experience," he says. "It seems primarily geared toward learners who have already acquired a decent baseline of vocabulary and grammar, and it would be a great complement to learning with Duolingo."

However, not everyone is convinced. "You can't learn a language like this," says Mickael Pointecouteau, course manager at the Alliance Française in London. "You need a real teacher to speak to and practice listening," he says. "LLN is a bit passive and focuses only on one skill."

Wilkinson and Apic have ambitions to branch out to cover other platforms such as Amazon Video, but are currently fine-tuning LLN. They are adding an option to transliterate Japanese and Mandarin into Romanized subtitles and working on shows dubbed into different languages.
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Louisiana Area Businesses Encouraged to Just Say 'Oui' to Keeping French Language Alive
The Acadiana Advocate (03/23/19) Gagliano, Katie

The Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) wants businesses in the Lafayette area to incorporate and promote the French language in their establishments.

CODOFIL launched its Oui! initiative in March as part of Francophonie Week. Oui! is an online database of businesses that have a French-language presence--anything from French-speaking staff to French signage. There are currently 81 businesses listed on the database statewide. Each listing includes a description of the French services offered, such as whether a fluent staff member is present on certain days or if French pamphlets or menus are available.

"Working with local businesses has been like a treasure hunt," says Maggie Perkins, CODOFIL's community development specialist who leads the Oui! initiative. "Many managers and owners have French speakers on staff, but didn't realize it could be a benefit in the workplace." In fact, speaking French or offering French services at businesses can be an economic boost, she says. "Many tourists from Canada, Belgium, and French-speaking Africa come to visit the region and appreciate being able to use their own language when visiting America," she says. "Promoting the area's dialect is good for the culture and can be good for business."

"French being visible shows it's still here and vibrant, and it's our way of trying to combat the misconception that French is dead or dying in Louisiana," says Matt Mick, CODOFIL's communications director. Mick explains that many French speakers in Louisiana reverted to using the language exclusively in the home after the stigmatization of French in the 1900s, when an Americanization wave swept the country. "It created the perception, which still lingers today, that French has disappeared from Louisiana's culture," he says. "People still speak French and CODOFIL wants to encourage its use in public. Identifying businesses with French elements is good for showing people new ways to use the language locally," Mick says.

Perkins says the next phase of the initiative is to encourage new businesses to explore the benefits of utilizing French in the workplace. Perkins will be a guest speaker at the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission's April meeting to promote the Oui! initiative.
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New Mexico Lawmakers Pledge Over $1.2 Million for Code Talker Museum
Santa Fe New Mexican (NM) (03/08/19) Nott, Robert

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and state senators have pledged more than $1.2 million to build the Navajo Code Talkers Museum and Visitors Center. The museum will honor about 400 Navajo servicemen who used their language skills to pave the way for the invasion of the Japanese-controlled islands in World War II.

"If we don't tell this story, it will be lost, and this is a story that we cannot lose," says Lujan Grisham.

The code talkers were a group of Navajos who used their difficult-to-learn language to form an indecipherable code that played a vital role in the Allied victory in World War II. The language the code talkers learned was used to send information on tactics, troop movements, and orders over the radio and phone during the war. The Japanese could not decipher the code, which was a key factor in American military victories at Iwo Jima, Saipan, and other major battles in the Pacific.

The syntax and linguistics of the Navajo language are particularly tricky for non-Navajo, and it's an exclusively oral language. Because of this, the U.S. Marines recruited and trained 29 Navajos starting in 1942. Those recruits invented and memorized more than 200 new Navajo words for military terms. In simulated battles, Navajo code proved much faster than the encrypting machines in use at the time. In August 1942, 15 code talkers joined the Marines for combat duty amid the assault on Guadalcanal. More than 350 people had learned the code by the end of the war. None of the original 29 code talkers who invented the language are still alive.

"I want to thank the New Mexico legislature for giving us the money to start the construction of the museum," says Senator John Pinto, 94, one of the last living code talkers. "The Navajo helped the U.S. defeat the enemy in World War II because the enemy never understood the Navajo language that was broadcast," he says. "A lot of code talkers got killed in the South Pacific."

Former Navajo Nation Tribal Chairman Peter MacDonald, who also served as a code talker, says the greatest contribution the code talkers made was to "save thousands of lives in the war." MacDonald says that the code talkers had the advantage of speed, as they could translate a message from the code into English in about 30 seconds or less, while traditional decoding methods could take up to 30 minutes. "People want to know, 'What did you do during the war?'" McDonald notes. "Our kids want to know, and the only way to have our legacy carry on is to have a museum."

Lujan Grisham says the museum will help "restore cultural pride" to Native American students, especially Navajos. Pinto and MacDonald estimated that only eight Navajo code talkers are still living.

Architects interested in participating have already drafted preliminary plans and drawings. Lujan Grisham says the $1 million in startup funds is proof that New Mexico is committed to seeing the project through. "Leadership of both parties decided to help with the museum," says Senator Mimi Stewart. "The Code Talker Museum is something all of us should be proud of. It's an important project, and this is an easy way to be part of something bigger."
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Change in Diets May Have Changed How We Speak
National Geographic (DC) (03/14/19) Greshko, Michael

In a new study published in Science, a team of linguists at the University of Zurich used biomechanics and linguistic evidence to argue that the rise of agriculture thousands of years ago increased the odds that populations would start to use sounds such as "f" and "v." If confirmed, the study would be among the first to show that a culturally induced change in human biology altered the arc of global languages.

"The idea is that agriculture introduced a range of softer foods into human diets, which altered how humans' teeth and jaws wore down with age in ways that made certain sounds slightly easier to produce," says Damián Blasi, the lead author of the study. Blasi and his colleagues stress that changes in tooth wear didn't guarantee changes in language, nor did they replace any other forces. Instead, they argue that the shift in tooth wear improved the likelihood of the emergence of certain sounds.

Some scientists in other fields, such as experts in tooth wear, are open to the idea. "Tooth wear is a common pattern with deep evolutionary roots," say Marcia Ponce de León and Christoph Zollikofer, paleoanthropologists at the University of Zurich. "Who could have imagined that, after millions of years of evolution, it will have implications for human language diversity?" "This is probably the most convincing study yet showing how biological constraints on language change could themselves change over time due to cultural changes," says Tecumseh Fitch, an expert on bioacoustics at the University of Vienna.

But many linguists remain skeptical out of a broader concern about tracing differences in languages back to differences in biology. Based on the world's large variety of languages and dialects, most linguists now think that we all broadly share the same biological tools and sound-making abilities for spoken languages. "We really need to know that the small, average differences observed in studies like this aren't swamped by the ordinary diversity within a community," says Adam Albright, a linguist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

As scholars continue to debate, Blasi's team has ideas for where to go next. They say their methods could help better reconstruct how ancient written languages were spoken aloud. "I hope our study will trigger a wider discussion on the fact that at least some aspects of language and speech need to be treated as we treat other complex human behaviors, laying between biology and culture," says Blasi.
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ATA News


Leverage Your Skills: Managing the Stages of Your Small Business

When you start a new business, your focus is all about what to do first. But what happens once you're on your way? You’re ready for stage two of your freelance business!

In this webinar, presenter Dorothee Racette will take you through the five stages in the life of a business, each defined by a shift in your priorities and changes in the way you work. She’ll show you how to use the experience and skills you’ve gained to optimize your business decisions, effectively manage your client portfolio, and make the most of your earning potential at each stage.

At the end of this webinar, you’ll walk away with a fresh and practical approach to planning the next stage of your business.

Presenter: Dorothee Racette
Date: May 9, 2019
Time: 12 noon U.S. Eastern Daylight Time
Duration: 60 minutes
Level: Intermediate
CE Point(s): 1 ATA-approved

Click to learn more and register!

About the presenter

Dorothee Racette, CT is an ATA-certified translator in German>English and English>German. After holding a number of ATA leadership positions, including serving as ATA president, she completed intensive training with the International Coach Federation and began her own executive coaching business. She now divides her time between translating and coaching.
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ATA Member Discounts on Software

High quality translation and a fast turnaround time—translation software tools have never been more valuable. To assist you in finding the best prices, ATA has negotiated the following discounts for members.

New! Atril Déjà Vu
30% discount on DVX3 Professional and Workgroup licenses
Click to request discount

New! Memsource
Extra month on Team subscription
Click to request discount

New! PerfectIt
30% discount on single license
Click to request discount

SDL Trados
35% discount on SDL Trados Studio 2019 Freelance
Click to request discount

Wordfast
15% discount on Wordfast Classic, Pro, and Studio
Click to request discount

Attention Interpreters! What software or hardware would help you in your work? Let us know. Email ata-hq@atanet.org.
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Last Call to Register

ATA Certification Exam Prep Workshop
April 12, 2019 | Alexandria, Virginia


ATA Certification is a credential that that can raise your profile and attract new clients—invaluable in a competitive marketplace.

What else does ATA certification give you?
  • Confirmation of professional level translation skills
  • Potential for increased compensation and new business
  • Greater visibility in the ATA Directory of Translators and Interpreters
  • Recognition of a commitment to the profession and its ethical practices
How do you get ready for the exam?
One way is to attend ATA’s Certification Exam Prep Workshop on April 12 in Alexandria, Virginia. Sessions will cover how exams are graded, mistakes frequently made by test-takers, and tips to avoid common pitfalls. Previous exam passages will be used as examples; exam graders will conduct the sessions. Limited seating.

Don't miss this opportunity to ask questions and get answers from experienced graders. Click for details and registration!

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ATA Board of Directors Meeting: April 13-14

The ATA Board of Directors will meet April 13-14 in Alexandria, Virginia. All ATA members are welcome and encouraged to attend.

What does the Board do? What happens at a Board meeting? Listen to Episode 3 of The ATA Podcastt to find out.
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National Security Agency Foreign Language Careers

Meet Us in Palm Springs!

Clear blue skies. Star-filled nights. Palm trees in the desert. And a mountainside almost close enough to touch. Palm Springs is different.

See for yourself! Make plans now to attend ATA’s 60th Annual Conference in Palm Springs. (October 23-26)

Begin by booking your room at the Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel. A limited number of rooms have been reserved at a discount for ATA60 attendees. Learn more and book now!

Watch for the Conference Preliminary Program and registration details with the July/August issue of The ATA Chronicle.
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In the March/April Issue of The ATA Chronicle

ATA at Lenguas 2019 in Mexico City
In late January of this year, just as the U.S. was being hit by extremely low temperatures, ATA Spokesperson Judy Jenner headed to sunny Mexico City to represent ATA at Lenguas 2019, organized by InterpretAmerica and Mexico’s Italia Morayta Foundation. (Judy Jenner)

Educational Interpreting 101: It’s a Lot Harder than It Looks
As school districts across the nation struggle to fulfill language access requirements and the needs of their diverse multilingual families, our profession needs to step up, make space, and provide concrete resources for educational interpreters. (Natalia Abarca, Katharine Allen)

How to Leverage Testimonials When Marketing Your Business
Providing client testimonials is an effective way to market our businesses, but you have to be smart about how you request and use testimonials so that one client’s words can influence the decision-making of another. (Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo)

The “Shall” Conundrum: When Use Becomes Abuse
As drafters and translators, how do we know when we’re abusing “shall”? There are at least three very clear and simple cases of abuse that the author sees in dual language or translated contracts almost every day. (Paula Arturo)

Passives Voices Peace: Reconsidering the Passive Voice in Your Writing
The guardians of the active voice might do well to revisit their disapproval of the passive voice as weak, evasive, or convoluted. (Romina Marazzato Sparano)

Access to The ATA Chronicle's searchable archives is available online! And don't forget to check out the latest issue of the Chronicle Online.
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News summaries © copyright 2019 SmithBucklin

April 1, 2019

In This Issue

T&I Case Studies
Natn'l Volunteer Month
Webinar: Business Stages
ATA Member Discounts
Last Call to Register
Board Meeting
Meet Us in Palm Springs
The ATA Chronicle



Read This!



ATA Webinars

Managing the Stages of Your Small Business
May 9
12 noon ET
Register now!


Calendar of Events

Board of Directors Meeting
April 13-14, 2019
Alexandria, Virginia

ATA Certification Workshop
April 12, 2019
Alexandria, Virginia
Register now

ATA Certification Exam
Upcoming schedule

See ATA's Online Calendar for translation & interpreting events around the world.

 

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