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Translator’s health continued

oral_translationWe’ve spoken about writing translators, now let’s move on to oral ones. Due to the particularities of their job, oral translators are free of many aforementioned problems, sedentary lifestyle isn’t their thing because they have to travel a lot; the “mouse syndrome” and all other radiculitis usually pass them by as well. However, instead of all that, an oral translator is under many other risks.

Due to a massive strain on the voice, it’s susceptible to laryngitis (sore throat) and sore voice chords (up to the point of voice loss), as a result of constant noise interruptions (for example, in cases of translation at an industrial site), hearing is also damaged, and due to physical and psychological strains, the entire organism is suffering. When working with delegations and other officials, one needs to drink quite often (this has been confirmed) which has a harmful influence on liver and kidneys. So the main advice for an oral translator is to: mind his throat (if anything’s even slightly wrong, stock up on soothers, steamers, hot tea with honey), to not get colds, look after themselves, and drink in moderation.

Interpreters are a whole different story. No other type of translator is strained physically and intellectually to this extent. When you remember the history of interpreting, you get goosebumps. Apparently, Soviet translators had to be taken away to the hospitals from the Nuremberg process (first case of massive international interpretation during the trial of Nazi elite in 1945): they had to work for several hours without a single break or shifts. Even nowadays, various mental health problems aren’t a rarity amongst interpreters even if the schedule is regular (the norm for such complex work is 3-4 hours a day). An interpreter has to be able to minimize the stress, stay calm in force majeure situations, and also always look after his or her mental state.

As a conclusion, I’d like to wish all colleagues all the health in the world, effectiveness and productivity, and longevity.

Translator’s health

translator_healthToday, I’d like to raise a subject as current and significant as translator’s health. Of course, each profession has its advantages and disadvantages, as well as professional risks. Of course, potential health risks exist in any activity (even inactivity! 🙂 ) but there is a weak spot everywhere. Let’s have a think about how we, as translators, can ensure our safety and stay healthy without any adverse effects on high performance rates.

Let’s start with the fact that every morning we wake up, stretch, wash up, have breakfast and… the start of the working day divides translators into two camps: translators that work for organizations get ready for work and freelancers stay at home. Sometimes, you can be so jealous of a freelancer! If they want, they can have a shower in the middle of a working day; if they feel like it, they can take a walk, get distracted at any time; they can take a short break at any moment, stretch or work out, but there are no fitness hours in the office… But to be fair, there’s not much to be jealous of. At the end of the day, we all spend most of the day behind a computer (unless you’re doing oral translations, but that’s a different story), but members of staff are forced to get to work (which implies exercising, fresh air and gaining appetite) by virtue of their working hours, whereas an overworked freelancer can sit in a stuffy room for up to two days staring at the screen and hitting the keyboard. Sounds familiar? Let’s make a conclusion: exercising, physical activity and fresh air are very good for you if you’re sitting down all day.

Let’s move on: working behind a computer puts our eyes in danger (worsening vision and computer eye syndrome), limbs (e.g. computer mouse syndrome or, to use a scientific term, carpal tunnel syndrome), skeleton (scoliosis and radiculitis), nervous system and mental state (stress, increased fatigue, insomnia, depressions, etc.) but everybody knows about all that. By the way, it’s recommended that you take a break every 2-3 hours of working behind a computer and get proper sleep in order to restore nervous system (go to bed before 23.00). It’s also a well-known fact that sitting down all day causes vasoneurosis and has a negative effect on immune system. To prevent that, we can recommend active vacations, sports, herbal concoctions, healthy diet and a well-planned working day.

Speaking of timetables – a well-structured timetable of a staff translator is in general much better for the organism: a lunch break regulates dietary regimen, a set working day ensures time off in the evening, plus weekends and vacation days. Freelancers, however, are often devoid of weekends (clients do love to send work over the weekend!), stay up late with urgent orders and forget to eat when the body demands it. Good time management and following a schedule are absolutely necessary when you’re a translator. Being a workaholic and overworking won’t help anyone: the Japanese, notorious for being like that, even have a word – “karosi” which means dying from work-related exhaustion. So, in order for karosi not to happen, translators must have excellent time off!

Mobile translation

mobile_translationAll of us, one time or another, faced the need to translate an unfamiliar word, sentence or even a whole text “on the go”. For example, you want to quickly translate a sign on a shop or a public transport timetable during a business trip. Let’s figure out what special devices and programs can do that more quickly, more conveniently and more effectively.

I don’t think there is any point in looking into all the diverse software and hardware tools of mobile translation as such, so let’s try to highlight the main solutions that can be useful to consumers:

Option #1, the obvious: pocket translator

Pocket translators are a whole class of portable devices which come into mind when the phrase “mobile translation” is mentioned. These devices cost quite a bit of money and despite that, they’re posed as “irreplaceable assistants of any tourist”, but what about practicality? Rather large size (wouldn’t fit into any pocket!), not very convenient menu navigation, small buttons – all of the above doesn’t sell a pocket translator too well. There are, of course, premium class models equipped with the functions of currency and measuring units conversion and even learning software, but all of their advantages won’t help overcome the main drawback – uncomfortable buttons: while you’re typing in a phrase or a piece of text with the help of the mini keyboard, a lot of time would pass by.
Option #2, advanced: portable translator scanner
This options seems to be perfect for tech geeks and fans of various unusual gadgets. A translator scanner is slightly larger than a big memory stick or a USB drive which is pretty convenient. Low price of the device is also a significant advantage. However, it fails on the practicality side. Limited room for application is the biggest drawback. In order to recognize and translate a printed text, you need to scan it with a sensor. It’s much simpler and more convenient to do so, whether at home or in the office, with a computer and a scanner connected to a text recognition program – when you’re traveling, all the unfamiliar signs typically can’t be scanned (signs, timetables, tableau, etc.); also, this device cannot recognize a handwritten text.

Option, #3, accessible: netbook

Netbooks are primarily good because they’re essentially tiny computers. I.e. these devices provide the full range of modern translation tools: dictionary programs and electronic translators, and most importantly, Internet access. Wi-Fi is everywhere in Europe and the US. Couldn’t find the right word in a dictionary? Have a seat at the nearest café and Google it. Netbook’s small size allows for it to be carried even in a handbag and be taken everywhere with you. Drawbacks: having to constantly be worried about charging the battery and a small keyboard. Nevertheless, right now it’s the most popular and practical solution for consumer mobile translation.
Option #4, forward: smartphone
Smartphones and communicators are perhaps the leading portable devices right now, and this includes the advancement of translation tools. Mobile giants are constantly announcing brand new advancements in this field. Don’t think that in order to translate a text unfamiliar to you, you would have to type it up on a touchscreen – concepts of “extra reality” are being developed right now. The Google Goggles system allows to simply set the camera on your Android Phone on the required text and receive all the necessary information from the Internet; if it’s, for example, a name of a shop or a restaurant, you would get the opening times and discount systems. Similar solutions are offered by Apple for its iPhone. Unfortunately, extra reality systems aren’t adapted for Russian, but that’s only a question of time. In a few years, we wouldn’t have to pack “heavy ammunition” for business trips, such as netbooks and pocket translators – it would be enough to set a phone camera on any object in any corner of the earth in order to get detailed information about it in your mother tongue.

Fiction: a world without translation

translator3Humanity would be devoid of so many opportunities if translation didn’t exist.
Let’s try to imagine a world without translation and translators. What sort of opportunities would we miss out on?

Let’s consider the subjects that are truly global. Translation is, of course, one of the pillars holding up all the international and intercultural communications.
Of course, we’ve all been told about it at the introduction session in freshman year of university, and hundreds of posts, articles and even essays have been written on the subject… Nonetheless, let’s try and illustrate the seriousness of translation and imagine the world we’d be living in if people were, for some reason, unable to communicate an idea from one language into another.
1. Impossibility of communication. Any communication and understanding reached with people who speak a language different from your mother tongue would’ve been impossible. Virtual communication would’ve also taken a hit. The Internet wouldn’t be a single network of communication and information search, but would be divided into sectors of virtual environment.

2. Impossibility of travel. Without translation, people simply wouldn’t have been able to travel or go abroad for any other reason. Even if you’re a real sociophobe and definitely don’t need to converse with representatives of other nations (for example if you’re only interested in sightseeing), you simply wouldn’t have been able to get a visa or purchase a tour.
3. Impossibility of intercultural enrichment. People simply wouldn’t know anything about what was happening in their neighbourhood countries and would’ve considered their residents to be “wildlings”. Entertainment would also has been scarce”: try to remember the last time you watched a Russian film or a TV series, or played a Russian computer game. We also would’ve never learned about Dumas, Shakespeare or Salinger!

4. Impossibility of enriching global intellectual resources.
Science would be developing much slower, people wouldn’t have been able to share discoveries with each other. People who aren’t academics wouldn’t be having a good time either – we’re so used to using Wikipedia and other kinds of reference sites; 90% of information that they contain is translated text. Humanity’s overall level of intelligence would’ve taken a massive dive.

5. Impossibility of peaceful coexistence. As a result of isolated development of science within each nation, a superpower that has scientists who invented the most destructive weapon (forget about peace agreements – country leaders wouldn’t be able to understand each other).
6. Impossibility of international trade. Countries that speak different languages wouldn’t be able to engage in trading with each other which would in turn lead to impossibility of creating a single global market. Even worse – in a world where trading relationships between countries are impossible, the main source of development would be military crusades, which makes the whole picture even more depressing.
7. Impossibility of using products from different countries. This point is directly related to the previous one. Technology, news publications, entertainment, wardrobe, food and drink produced by other countries – anything, really! – we’d never have seen any of that. Each country would’ve been surrounded by its own iron curtain.

Many other points can be made, but they would all be the result of the ones listed above. In other words, without the ability to translate text, the world would simply not be able to exist – people would either destroy each other or simply die out quietly as a result of a lengthy standstill and lack of development of civilization. For the purposes of survival, humanity would have to invent some sort of a universal language that each resident of the Earth would know or… use the services of Bilingua translation agency that offers good rates and high quality of translated text. We’re all for World Peace!

Of deadlines and quality

quality translationLet’s discuss how long a high quality translation takes…
I think each translator has at some point come across a client who needed a translation reeeeally urgently! For example – “I’ll wait here, you work with such texts every day don’t you, you probably have some templates. 15 minutes enough time?” Sounds familiar? But if a translation of a typical document, for example, a certificate, is a simple job for an experienced translator, the real “fun” begins when large projects and impossible deadlines are involved!

Rumor has it, one Finnish translator only had 3 (!!!) weeks to translate a new, 480 pages long JK Rowling novel! And this happened despite the fact that in Finland, like everywhere else in the world, the accepted standard translation volume is around 2,000 words per day or 8 pages with 1,800 characters including spaces.

Let’s say that this person volunteers for the important mission of text editing… But even in that case, he would need to gather a team of experienced literary translators, make a decision as to the translation of names, ensure that the characters hadn’t changed their names by the end of the novel, and edit the text stylistics so that the writing manner remained unchanged from chapter to chapter. And this is despite the fact that the widely accepted text editing norm is 16 pages a day – only twice as quick as the average translation speed.
This raises the issue of translators’ work norms. What norms of translation speed and quality exist in different countries?

Almost all sources agree on the amount: 6-8 standard pages per day (1 page=1,800 characters including spaces), in cases of complex specialized subject (medical documents, academic articles, etc.) – the amount of pages can be shortened to 5-7. In the majority of European countries, as well as the United States, the volume of translation work is calculated based on words, not characters. I.e. the standard volume for American translators is 2,000 words per day.
The situation is different with exotic languages, e.g. Chinese or Japanese. They’re becoming increasingly popular in Russia and European countries, but the norms still vary from translator to translator. The approximate numbers make up some 1,000-2,000 characters per working day, depending on the subject, taking into account that a single translation page for these languages contains 330 signs.

Regarding international translation standards, they don’t standardize an aspect like working speed per se (standard EN 15038, ASTM F2575-06). According to the data collected by the UN, the translation norm starts at 5 pages per day. In addition to this, the time required for proofreading and editing must be added.
Speed can be increased, of course, by various translation memory programs and automated translation tools which, once again, doesn’t guarantee the quality of the end result.

Clients’ position is fair: time is, as they say, money. However, in this case, they should understand that deadlines that are too tight can have an influence of the quality. And vice versa: the more time a professional has to translate, the better quality he can produce. Most translators are, after all, perfectionists who can spend hours looking for perfect lexical units, phrases, constructions… After all, despite the abundance of dictionaries and web resources, all the languages have a huge amount of untranslatable units that require a particular approach.

Translators have this joke formula: “speed, quality, cheapness”, where two aspects can be kept in and the third replaced with an antonym. I wouldn’t want to give such a sad description to a translator’s work, because each translator can find their golden ratio and work out the appropriate working style.

Video translation: what is it and what goes with it

video_translationGone are the 90s, the noughties, 2015 is upon us. Communication and data exchange technologies continue to confidently take us to the bright, info-based future… In particular, the Internet, which, some 10 years ago was an expensive and slow luxury, is now much cheaper and quicker, and the so-called “unlim” is available to everyone.
With the unlimited traffic, the amount of entertainment available online has increased in accordance, and video downloading and streaming is one example. Therefore, we’ll now talk about films and TV series, particularly foreign ones.

When a new film or a TV series comes out, our spoiled freeshare public usually asks two main questions: “Where do I download?” and “What translation?” Let’s leave the choice of the source of download up to the user, but I’d like to look more into translation, because there are so many of them, but very few actually deserve a second look.
When you’re watching a film or a TV series, whether new or old, not many think about the fact that when we’re watching their favourite characters we don’t actually hear them, because the voices and the words belong to translators and voiceover actors working in movie studios. And these people directly affect the impression you get from what you see and hear to an extent that it can even tip the scales of the motion picture’s success one way or another.

The fact is, there are many dubbing studios today – both amateur and professional – that do a full, multivoice dubbing and high quality translation of original script. Voiceovers a la “Volodarsky” have become “lukewarm” today and cause pleasant nostalgia, although when they were current, translation and voiceover quality has sometimes caused very unpleasant sensations.
Today, the choice of localization options is much wider. First of all, of course, the audience’s attention is directed towards localizations produced by large companies. Back in the 90s, the most popular ones were “Nevafilm”, “Selena International” and “Pythagoras” and many remember these versions in the credits. Part of “Mosfilm” company “Mosfilm Master” is currently a well-known voiceover studio.
Companies of such a level do professional translation and film voiceover ordered by distributors and even authors. First, translation itself is done, then actors are cast, voiceover itself is done, following which ordered alternative sounds are recorded and everything is put together. Obviously, this movie translation option is considered the best and in most cases, it is, although there are misses. It’s a matter of taste, of course… Some are dissatisfied with translation: humor is lost, lines are misrepresented, the punchlines of titles and names is lost; others are dissatisfied with voiceover itself completed by actors, and others just want authenticity.

In this case, “fansub” – subtitles done by professional amateurs – is the option opposite to professional voiceover. To be fair, most targets of fansub are TV series and cartoons, most likely because they are translated professionally much less frequently and if they are, fans usually make a face and demand subtitles. There is a certain logic in this – TV series’ voiceover is usually of a much worse quality than film voiceover, and therefore, subtitles are the best option for people familiar with the original language. You’ve got the original voiceover, as well as some help with understanding the content in particularly tricky moments.
Subtitles aren’t a bad option even in cases when the audience doesn’t know the original language (many love anime, few know Japanese), because the characters’ emotions would be received by the audience through voiceover actors, and the content – from subtitles. For many, particularly in cases of some little known series, this option is more than enough.

Although there are some amateurs who go the extra mile and make their own voiceovers. When such voiceovers are done by a skilled organization (for example, LostFilm), the end product is far from worse, and sometimes even better than the “official”, i.e. mainstream (if it is even shown) translation. In these cases, professional actors are also hired, and appropriate equipment is engaged.
TV series’ fans’ nightmare is “fandubbing” (voiceovers by fans) when voiceovers are done “in good faith, with no money involved”. In those cases, the awful quality of the “work” is clear: bad translation (even if translation is more or less OK, it’s fully invalidated by the remaining factors), awful voiceover, even the quality of video in these cases is suffering. The reasons for that include the banal lack of preparation and necessary equipment amongst persons conducting translation and dubbing. The examples of such “works” are everywhere – as they say, “nothing ruins a band like its fans”. In cases of TV series’ fans, the situation is the same.