The Importance of Accuracy in Medical translations

Medicine

by Effie Salourou, Customer Operations Manager at Commit

Grammatical errors and inaccurate translations can jeopardize any company’s image and reputation, but when it comes to the medical industry, where inaccuracy may have direct effect on patients’ lives, quality and accuracy are not just important, they are imperative.

Medical translation is defined as the translation of technical, regulatory, clinical or marketing documentation, software or training curriculum for the pharmaceutical, medical device or healthcare fields. Most countries in the world require that documents and labelling associated with medical devices or pharmaceuticals be translated into the country’s national language to ensure the safety of the patients using them. You see, when the safety of a patient depends on understanding of directions, clear communication and the correct operation of medical devices, there is no room for errors and misunderstandings.

Because of this highly technical, sensitive and regulated nature of medical texts, there has been a need for translators and interpreters who not only have linguistic skills but are subject-matter experts in a specific medical field. These translators meet the industry’s strict scientific and linguistic criteria and produce translated content to guarantee that medical device software, documentation, and marketing texts will be understood without errors by all users, patients and physicians. The use of non-professional and non-expert translators could have particularly dire consequences on multiple levels: it could negatively impact the corporate image of a company, it could result in the clinical trial failure of a drug or a vaccine or in worst cases, it could put a patient’s life/health at risk.

To prove that, we are going to give you an example of how the wrong translation of a single word by a non-professional resulted in a medical malpractice compensation of $71 million.

Many of you might be familiar with the story of the 18-year old Willie Ramirez. Back in 1980, Willie was admitted to a Florida hospital in a comatose state. His family, who only spoke Spanish, described his condition to the paramedics as “intoxicado”. Translation was provided by a bilingual staff member who translated “intoxicado” as “intoxicated”. Among Cubans, “intoxicado” is kind of an umbrella term that means there’s something wrong with you because of something you ate or drank, a meaning closer to the term “poisoned”. A professional translator or interpreter would have known that despite the similarity of the two words, the Spanish word is NOT equivalent to the English word “intoxicated”, that implies alcohol or drug use. His family believed he was suffering from food poisoning, while he was actually suffering from an intracerebral hemorrhage. The doctors believed he was suffering from an intentional drug overdose, which can lead to some of the symptoms he displayed. Because of the delay in his treatment, Ramirez was left quadriplegic.

OK, this example might be extreme, but it shows how important it is for the translator/interpreter to fully understand medical terminology in both languages.  It is imperative that the translations are as precise as possible so that the patient receives the proper care. In each medical translation project, the linguist should make sure that:

  • he/she fully understands the source text and the medical terminology used,
  • all instructions and directions are communicated correctly,
  • all content is properly localized to the target language and culture,

because when it comes to medical translations and human safety, one single word can make a great difference.

Essentials for translation into Spanish markets

January_2015_bici

by Effie Salourou, Customer Operations Manager at Commit

Approximately 406 million people speak Spanish as a native language, making it second only to Mandarin in terms of its number of native speakers worldwide. It also has 60 million speakers as a second language, and 20 million students as a foreign language.

According to 2006 census data, 44.3 million people of the U.S. population were Hispanic or Latin American by origin; 38.3 million people, 13 percent, of the population speak Spanish at home.

Also, Spanish is by far the most widely taught second language in the country, and with over 50 million total speakers, the United States is now the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world after Mexico.

Spanish might be one language with a strong basic common core supported by a common cultural and literary tradition, but there are many differences between the various linguistic regions in the Spanish-speaking world.

In a broad sense, Spanish can be grouped into:

Peninsular Spanish:

  • Castilian (This term applies to the official Spanish language, spoken in northern and central Spain)
  • Andalusian (This dialect, spoken in southern Spain, is the second-most popular in the country after Castilian)
  • Canarian (Canary Islands)
  • There we should also mention that there are 4 other official languages spoken in Spain: Catalan, Basque, Galician and Aranese.

Latin American Spanish:

  • Mexican (The variety with the most speakers is Mexican Spanish. It is spoken by more than 20% of the world’s Spanish speakers)
  • Caribbean (Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, northern Colombia and Caribbean Mexico).
  • Andean-Pacific (Peru, Ecuador, western Bolivia, Colombia and western Venezuela).
  • Rio de la Plata (Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay)
  • Chilean
  • Central American (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala)

The main differences between these dialects occur in three areas:

  • pronunciation
  • grammar and
  • vocabulary

Pronunciation

Pronunciation might not be important to translation but it is crucial for media, film, video dubbing. For example, early imported sound films were dubbed into one version for the entire Spanish-speaking market. Currently, films not originally in Spanish (usually Hollywood productions) are dubbed separately into two accents: one for Spain and other for Latin America (using a Mexican or Puerto Rican accent without regionalisms). Some high-budget productions, however, such as the Harry Potter film series, have had dubs in three or more of the major accents.

We come across 2 major linguistic phenomena when it comes to the pronunciation of Spanish.

  1. El seseo – This is the difference between the maintenance or the loss of distinction in the phonemes /θ/ and /s/
  2. El yeísmo – the maintenance or loss of distinction between phonemes represented orthographically by ll (elle) and y (ye)

Grammar

Virtually all dialects of Spanish make the distinction between a formal and a familiar register in the second-person singular, and thus have two different pronouns meaning “you”: usted in the formal, and either tú or vos is the familiar (and each of these three pronouns has its associated verb forms), with the choice of tú or vos varying from one dialect to another. Tú is used in Castillian Spanish, vos is used in Latin American Spanish.

Vocabulary

The difference between Spanish dialects is mostly visible in the vocabulary.

Spanish is rich in regional terms to refer to an urban bus: you may hear colectivo in Argentina and Venezuela, ómnibus in Perú and Uruguay, micro in Chile, camión in Mexico and parts of Central America and guagua in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, but every Spanish speaker knows what an autobús is.

Many dialects, such as Mexican Spanish have borrowed words from indigenous languages of the Americas, such as the Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. Among these words are many names for food, plants and animals, clothes, and household objects, such as the following:

Word English translation
camote sweet potato
pipián stew
chapulín grasshopper
huipil blouse

Also, American Spanish tends to borrow words directly from English often leaving the spelling of the word intact. For example, when referring to a computer in Latin America, they speak of la computadora while in Spain it’s el ordenador.

In addition to loan words, there are a number of Spanish words that have developed distinct senses in different regional dialects. The everyday Spanish word coger (‘to take’) are considered extremely rude in parts of Latin America, where the meaning of coger is also “to have sex”.

Mutual comprehension

Nevertheless, the different dialects and accents do not block cross-understanding. There is a kind of neutral, standard Spanish (also called International Spanish) which is used and understood by all educated Spanish speakers and ensures that people throughout the Spanish-speaking world can communicate with each other as easily as people from Britain and the United States can. This standard tends to disregard local grammatical, phonetic and lexical peculiarities and preserves certain verb tenses considered “bookish” or archaic in most other dialects. Standard Spanish is the preferred form in formal settings, and is considered indispensable in academic and literary writing and the media. Standard Spanish could work with highly cultural or academic texts but it is not suitable for marketing and advertising texts.

The problem is that it is not an actual language and it is generally addressed to an educated audience.

Entering Spanish Markets

So, what should the client do when it comes to translating content for Spanish markets?

-First of all, it is useful to know where the translation will be used in order to adapt terminology to a specific variant, whenever that is possible. If it is not possible, then it is advised to look for the most neutral option, which could be the Mexican variant. Then the client should determine who the target audience is going to be and what is the actual purpose of the translation.

-Also, it is important that the client (or the translation company in charge!) uses local resources for the translation, people that speak the dialect in question and preferably people living in the specific area where the dialect is spoken.

-Another important point is the internationalization of the source text. In case the source file needs to be localized into various languages, it would be very helpful to use a simpler source for the translation, a source text that is easier to adapt to other languages.

My nephew knows English, why can’t he do the translation?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

by Eleftheria Tigka, Vendor Manager at Commit

A common misconception, when it comes to translation, is that people who speak a foreign language can translate any text of any level, and provide results comparable to the ones produced by a translator. It is true that to the uninitiated, there should be no difficulty in transposing thoughts, ideas, and facts into other languages.

However, this is not the case. Translation is not about replacing source language text with target language text, thus devaluating and neglecting the source text. After all, translation becomes all the more prerequisite in the modern world, and the concept of leaving translation to amateurs is more and more of a challenge.

A translator is a professional, a mediator between cultures, not just an interlinguistic service provider.

The role of the translator, as such, puts him or her in the rare and privileged position of not only translating but also localizing the message conveyed and communicated. After all, and despite the equivalence suggested by bilingual dictionaries, it is known that people do not say precisely the same things in different languages.

Therefore, it is of paramount importance that a translator undergoes translation studies, that define and strengthen his or her linguistic capacities and provide intercultural awareness, making translation an academic discipline and a professional field. No modern translation studies curriculum can deny the importance of Cultural translation and Cultural studies. And it should become clear that the activity of translation has been widely practiced throughout history, nevertheless, it is lately that its scientific boundaries have been set.

Furthermore, a translator should be fully aware of his or her role as a mediator. A translator does more than conveying the message of the source text. He or she is a scientist, providing localization in a global world. He or she is at the same time an artist, weaving the text, helping the different cultures to approach one another, avoiding word-for-word translation, and preserving all the information provided, taking into consideration its context.

So, no, even though my nephew knows English, he cannot do the translation, because he is no translator. And although the translation is a technical act, an acquired skill, it is also something far and beyond than rewriting. As societies develop, languages also develop over time. Words change their significance and it is the job of a translator to capture and to render that, bringing significance into every context.

Internet Summit 2014 – Key Takeaways

Internet Summit

Last week Commit attended Internet Summit, a Digital Marketing strategies and education oriented Conference in Raleigh, NC. Internet Summit is the largest digital strategies and best practices forum in the Southeast, created to educate and promote forward thinking and thought leadership on Digital Marketing topics.

With speakers from Apple, Yahoo! Tech, Twitter, Google and more, there was so much to learn from the Content Marketing, Social Media, Analytics and Emerging Technologies world.

Here’s a look at some of the key takeaways from the Internet Summit 2014 :

“57% of the buying process is already done before you speak to your buyer. Buyers are learning on their own and delaying their contact with suppliers until late in the purchase.” – Jodi Wearn, Silverpop

“71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals.” – McGavock Edwards, IMRE

“Email is dead. Why? Killed by spam. Replaced by social media. Not relevant for younger audiences. Ineffective for retailers. Not ideal for team communication.” – Michael Barber, COHN

“Only 2% of cold calls result in an appointment, 3% of emails result in a click. Your new sales rep is Google and your website!” – Jeff Perkins, PGi

Social Game Plan (Jodi Wearn, Silverpop):

  1. Pick your top 2 social networks and FOCUS
  2. Assign resources to monitor and promote
  3. Leverage hashtags wherever possible
  4. Actively blog

Five ways to create more profitable content (Chris Moody, Oracle):

  1. Brainstorm with staff
  2. Interview your colleagues
  3. Have a Blogathon
  4. Stop trying to hit home runs
  5. Turn your email into content

“Think mobile FIRST! 80% of people delete an email if it doesn’t look good on their mobile device!” – Jodi Wearn, Silverpop

“The average consumer unlocks their phone 110 times a day” – Robin Wheeler, Twitter

“What motivates you to do your best? Being personally excited and motivated internally.” – Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder

“The “Internet of Things” is where technology is going. Every item in your home will be connected to the Internet. Your printer will be able to order its own paper. Your car will drive itself. Autonomous everything.” – David Pogue, Yahoo

Commit had a great time at the conference and learned a great deal about digital marketing and social media from the experts. We came back feeling inspired from these fascinating presentations and we are now looking forward to start implementing all this new knowledge and strategies we acquired!

Subtitling vs Dubbing + List of preferred method per country

Nov-2014_header

by Effie Salourou, Customer Operations Manager at Commit

Adapting multimedia content for another country is a complex procedure that involves a lot more than simply translating the language. One of the most important decisions one has to make is between subtitling and dubbing.

Subtitling is the process of providing a film, video or program with subtitles. Subtitles are derived from either a transcript or screenplay of the dialog or commentary in films, television programs or video games and are usually displayed at the bottom of the screen.

Dubbing, in filmmaking and video production, is a post-production process in which additional or supplementary recordings are “mixed” with original production sound to create the finished soundtrack.

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.

Subtitling lets you listen to the original actors’ voices and allows for an extremely accurate translation. It renders the show accessible to viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing, people who cannot understand the spoken dialogue or who have accent recognition problems. Listening to the original language can also help you improve your language skills. By watching and listening to videos in English, foreigners are more likely to improve their ear for the language, their grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. In addition, it’s a lot less expensive.

Nevertheless, subtitles may distract you from the film action and some of the feeling may be lost when read in the written form.

On the other hand, dubbing a program means that the audience doesn’t have to read the text while watching the video. For many viewers, hearing the dialogue in their native language lets them focus on the action and immerse themselves in the media.

But, dubbing is a costly, time-consuming and difficult process. It evolves a lot more than just rendering the words into another language. Most of the time, editors try to synchronize what is being said to match the lip movements of the character. To do so, they often have to change the translation or the word order in the target language for a better fit.

There has been a lot of debate why some countries prefer to watch dubbed films rather than original films with subtitles. Some say that people with an interest in foreign cultures prefer subtitles, while dubbing is the pick for those with nationalist interests.

Another opinion is that the preference for dubbing or subtitles is indicative of the wealth of the country where the film is being shown, as dubbing is more frequently used in rich countries.

So what should you take into consideration when thinking about adapting multimedia content for another country?

The genre and the purpose of the program. Is the program informative? Does it seek to entertain? For example, a documentary or corporate video might benefit more from the preciseness of subtitles, but many artistic productions would not welcome their use on screen.

The target country. Most countries have a preferred method of language adaptation. In Spain for example, almost all foreign-language material is dubbed and this method is preferred over subtitling in most contexts. On the other hand, Greece has traditionally used subtitles in most multimedia content and the audience is accustomed to reading the subtitles while watching videos.

The budget. This can be the most important factor when deciding the preferred method. The cost for subtitling can be up to 15 times less than dubbing, so no matter what the other pros and cons are, this is an aspect that cannot be ignored.

To help you with this task, Commit has composed a list of the preferred methods used per country and you can find it here.

 

ELIA Networking Days Tuscany – in review

7097_1482923848648367_2417546588354282182_n

Another ELIA ND event is over – unfortunately – because it seems that all attendees would rather stay in the Tuscany area and relax with amazing food and wine under a gorgeous weather. But – returning to reality – we all have to get back to our regular lives and, of course, continue to run our localization business. Speaking of, let’s round up what we took back with us from this extraordinary event:

1. As mentioned before, dozens of (red) wine bottles that we are sure will help us relax after (or during?) our hard-days work.

2. Lots of interesting thoughts about our industry future:

  • During the “Wired/Tired/Expired” session by Michael Oettli, attendees were divided in teams and had to discuss and report back the trends/tools/processes in our industry that are obsolete (Expired), just barely making it (Tired) and are in for the future (Wired). We were surprised by the common ground reported back: Our industry is changing fast and LSPs need to adapt to new models, processes, technologies, but – most of all – attitudes towards client relationships.
  • In the “LSP-Client Collaboration as a Growth Startegy for LSP’s” session, David Kanek and Robert Etches talked about the importance of involving the client in the translation process and suggested that we should all embrace changes in our industry. They also mentioned how we can use crowd-sourcing to cut down costs and  pointed out that even banks have fans! Their main point: We sell solutions, not words!
  • During the “Perfect Tools” session, led by Christian Schwendy and Patrick Bajon, in addition to all the nice technology tweaks that all the teams reported they would like to see (including a client bank money extractor tool), we were introduced to the Six Hats theory that can prove very useful in our every day business. We will certainly put it into action in our company!
  • In the “Why is MT about speed” session, Eef Blommaart  pointed out that we can provide “Fast”, “Good” & “Cheap” services, all at the same time by using machine translation.

3. Some practical tips from sessions to apply to our daily businesses:

  • Robert Ganzerli presented tips and tricks for preparing a budget in our (uncertain) industry. Main points: Use historical data and involve everyone in the thought process.
  • Maria Kania-Tasjak advised us on which RFPs are made for loving and which we should avoid. Hint: Look carefully at the RFP questions – there lies the client’s problem!
  • Anne-Marie Colliander-Lind stressed out the importance of having a written social media strategy and showed us how far 100 euros can take you in social media marketing.
  • Henk Boxma presented an interesting case study regarding screenshot localization and described the solution he developed to generate one screenshot for all target languages simultaneously.

Last – but not least – the infamous Bull’s Eye session was definitely one of the best in this series. Manal Amin and Tea Diettrich created the ‘el clasico’; two totally contrasting in style presentations that attracted similar comments from panel and audience alike.

Commit has enjoyed the event thoroughly from start to end (including the wine which wasn’t actually ending) and is looking forward to be part of the next ND to be held in Lyon, April 16-17, 2015. See you all there!

10+1 tips to prepare your software for the world!

Oct-2014_header


by Effie Salourou, Customer Operations Manager at Commit

Many companies seek to localize their online, desktop or client-server products for the worldwide market. But due to lack of appropriate preparation and planning, many localization attempts are met with frustration once the software is built: the encoding doesn’t look right, the text is corrupted, sentences are cut off and in general, the software does not work as initially designed.

Here are some tips to help you avoid these problems, save time and money and produce a quality product for the global market.

1. Analyze the situation and plan ahead

Many companies do not think about software localization until the last minute before a product release. Scheduling and planning should be made well in advance and it should take into account all the necessary steps of the process: translation, review, testing and regression in order to deliver a quality product.

2. Externalize all translatable content

Taking the text out of the code and placing it in resource files is the first step towards a properly internationalized application. Separating the text to be localized from the code helps to avoid code duplication issues and also lets translators and engineers work on updates at the same time. Furthermore, it removes the possibility of damaging code during translation.

3. Invest in a style guide and glossary

The style guide defines the style, terminology and conventions from the beginning and provides uniformity in style and formatting throughout your software and documentation. It improves the quality of your translations, minimizes inconsistencies, adds professionalism to your work and saves time and money.

4. Understand translation tools

Learning more information about how translation tools work will help you take maximum advantage of this technology. Translation Memory is a tool that stores all translations into a database in real-time as the translator works. This database stores “segments”, which can be sentences, paragraphs or sentence-like units (headings, titles or elements in a list) that have previously been translated, in order to aid translators. These segments can be reused when the same segment is repeated elsewhere in the project, or in updates. These tools greatly diminish the time and cost of translation.

5. Provide room for text expansion

Translated text in most languages takes up to 30 percent more space than the English text. Leave enough room on your layout for expansion or program dynamic UI expansion into your software. If there are strings that cannot exceed a certain size, you should include comments in the resource file for those items.

6. Use Unicode/UTF-8 encoding of strings

Make sure to always source your string tables or software resources in Unicode/UTF-8 encoding. These character sets are created to enable support of any written language worldwide. Having just one way to process text reduces development and support costs, helps to avoid extra conversion steps, improves time-to-market, and allows for one single version of source code.

7. Avoid concatenation and overuse of single strings

Most languages do not follow the English syntax and word order. Concatenated strings and strings that are used in multiple contexts end up having awkward grammatical constructions and gender agreement issues.

Concatenation only works when content is written for a specific language. Now, when it comes to localization, concatenation makes it difficult – even impossible in certain cases.

8. Internationalize dates/numbers etc.

This step is very important because it enables dates, numbers, and other region-specific data to appear in a familiar way to users all around the world. Such data may differ even between regions that speak the same language. For example, while the US use MM/DD/YYYY for date, UK use DD/MM/YYYY.

When writing code, engineers should always keep in mind that countries might use different date and time formats, they might use a different calendar system, they might be in a time zone with partial-hour offset, they might use different currency, they might have different phone number formats and they might use a different measurement system.

9. Provide comments in software resources

The use of comments in software resources can be very helpful for translators because knowing the context and use of certain strings can help them choose the right translation from the beginning. Most translation tools will let translators see these comments while translating.

10. Localize help (UA) and software (UI) at the same time

Many non-English users around the world have noticed when Help or a User guide prompts them to click on a button that it is worded differently in the software itself. Try to localize the user’s manual, online help files and graphical user interface (GUI) at the same time to ensure consistency.

10 + 1. Test your software

Testing the software before its release is an integral step in the translation process. It should be performed by trained localization QA professionals and it will help to expose possible technical issues related to UI sizing, text truncation, hard-coded strings, character corruption and over- translation. This final step also gives the linguist the chance to actually see his translation in full context, often resulting in necessary changes to the translation.