New ISO Standard for Translation Services in Place

26 05 2015

ISO 17100:2015 was published on May 1, 2015, and the content looks a lot like its predecessor, EN 15038:2006.

ISO 17100The core of the standard is established via definitions of various translation processes: translation, revision, review, proofreading, and final verification are delineated, as they were in EN 15038. Advancing slightly beyond EN 15038, ISO 17100 also requires routine practices for handling client feedback. Unfortunately there is no attempt to set quality metrics: a missed chance, according to some, as quality standards would strongly support translation industry excellence.

Another criticism of the new standard is that it does not address such influential new industry elements as crowdsourcing, Agile/on-demand and cloud functions, linguistic QA methodologies, Machine Translation (MT) and post-editing for MT. A GALA blog references data* predicting that the global machine translation market will grow nearly 25% by 2019; and yet the ISO 17100:2015 abstract specifies that “the use of raw output from machine translation plus post-editing” is outside of its scope. Happily, the upcoming ISO 18587 is intended to deal with MT and related issues; it is currently “under development” with no release date projected yet.

ISO standards are intended to provide transparency within a recognized set of controls from start to finish for all parties to any translation job, thus guaranteeing high quality and creating trust. Language Service Providers (LSPs) will have the option to: declare conformity with the standards without any external review, register without any external review, or meet specifications and be certified by accredited certifiers.

Skrivanek Group is among those LSPs who are already in compliance with 17100 specifications, and will achieve certification promptly.

  J. McShulskis



QA Tools Enable Unparalleled Accuracy

25 02 2015

Before translation agencies present final drafts to their clients, Quality Assurance (QA) tasks are performed – some by human beings alone, some by humans with the assistance of QA software.

Quality Assurance ToolsActivities such as proofreading and double-checking terminology with clients are QA methods that contribute to the linguistic excellence of the final draft and cannot be replaced by automation. But there are numerous problems that QA software is adept at highlighting for translators, eliminating hours and hours of human scanning and comparison, and improving accuracy where tedium can lead to errors.

The most commonly used QA tools have varying capabilities, but features often include the detection of:

  • inconsistently translated phrases
  • word/phrase translations that don’t match up with glossary definitions
  • untranslatable words or phrases
  • missing segments
  • punctuation and spacing differences
  • numbers and symbols that don’t match-up

The following QA tools are some of the more common: ApSIC Xbench (which is free), Wordfast Quality Check feature, D.O.G. ErrorSpy, Verifika, Yamagata QA Distiller, and SDL Trados Terminology Verifier and QA Checker. These vary in user-friendliness, effectiveness, and complexity.

To give you an idea of the parameters of QA software capabilities, every mistake is detected by comparison with software databases built into the program or those glossaries and translation memories that you create within it. Limitations exist in these programs’ ability to ‘understand’ different grammatical rules between the source and target texts; nor are they able to compensate for a misunderstanding the translator incorporated into the text, nor spot a poorly written phrase. But they have become indispensible to professional translation agencies, especially for large projects.

  J. McShulskis

A Hidden International Language

25 11 2014

Into the universal realm of the Unicode, the symbols for a weightlifter, a spiderweb and the Mona Lisa have now been accepted. These are three of the more than 250 emoji considered significant enough that their computer encoding is being officially standardized for use by Apple, Google, Microsoft and others.

new_emojisThese three join hundreds of emoji facial expressions, hand gestures, food items, weather and plant elements, on and on, used to replace or augment words.The non-profit Unicode Consortium regulates embedded computer code for every character in every living language, and is “the foundation for all modern software” according to their official website ( Begun by Xerox and Apple leaders in 1987 as an “international/multilingual text character encoding system,” today Unicode sets officially recognized computer code standards in coordination with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Changing the standardized code for any symbol – even if that code accidentally includes a misspelling – is not possible once it is in use, because stability of past programming with present and future programming is Unicode’s fundamental reason for existence. However, adding symbols is an ongoing process: ancient scripts for example, or new currency symbols, and the ever-increasing number of popular emoji.

The formal petitioning process for the acceptance of new symbols is lengthy and complex. The first criterion is that new characters must be in widespread use as textual elements (for a glimpse of the most-used emoji, check out a real time tally of their Twitter use at When that is established, petitioners are asked to engage in discussion via Unicode forums and email exchanges to refine (or eliminate) their proposals.

Such discussions may well include cultural, political, and social concerns (see for example, “What about diversity?” at under FAQ), involving issues like the color of your symbol or its origins. One Unicode emoji petition argued: “Of the more than 800 emojis, the only two resembling people of color are a guy who looks vaguely Asian and another in a turban. There’s a white boy, girl, man, woman, elderly man, elderly woman, blond boy, blonde girl, and, we’re pretty sure, Princess Peach. But when it comes to faces outside of yellow smileys, there’s a staggering lack of minority representation.”

Juxtaposition of computer code standardization with a conversation including yellow smiley faces in a tally of racially diverse symbols seems impossibly odd. But this is, after all, the formative stage of a sort of international language, and human beings are incurably attached to the significance of their symbols.

The Unicode 7.0.0 symbols added this year and 8.0.0 symbols in the process of adaptation are described and listed at
What do they mean to Americans? What do they mean to Swedes or Peruvians? How is the use of such symbols changing our conversations?


 J. McShulskis


Oceans Apart – the Portuguese of Portugal and Brazil

23 06 2014

“Brasileiro” is the word European Portuguese speakers use for the version of Portuguese that is spoken in Brazil. In fact, the two languages are so much different that transl ators may re-write a document from scratch into the desired Portuguese, rather than translating it from one to the other.

These two main branches diverge in spelling, phraseology, sentence structure, accents, infinitive and gerund use, object pronouns, and even vocabulary, such as the use of “voce” vs. “tu” for “you”. Why? To start with, there are oceans – of time, space, history, and culture, as well as water – between South America and Europe. And while Brazil is surrounded by Spanish-speaking countries, Portugal has been influenced by Italian, French, and other European languages, in addition to Spanish.

Portuguese translationsWith a population of about 200 million people (versus Portugal’s 10.5 million) Brazil is by far the largest Portuguese-speaking country, mainstreaming its language into the global Portuguese community with such exports as their “novelas” – soap operas—in the way that Hollywood spread American English in the 20th century.

Brazil’s World Cup this year and Olympics in 2016 will no doubt establish “brasileiro” even more widely as a standard in the global community. If you have plans to attend either, and possess a familiarity with European Portuguese (EP), you will want to remember to watch for surprises. The EP phrase for “bathroom”, for instance – casa de banho – is replaced by one banheiro. And if a policeman wants to see your identity card, he or she will ask for your “cedula” not your “bilhete”.

Efforts at official standardization have been made and continue. Since the 1980s, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) has been working toward the development and implementation of a unified orthography, addresses spelling variances, if not the other issues. The result has been the Orthographic Agreement of 1990, and while discussions and controversy have accompanied this agreement, it was finally signed into law in 2008 in Portugal with the cushion of a six-year transitional period, and in Brazil it was adopted in 2009.

J. McShulskis

Traditional or Simplified? On Mainland China, Simplify.

3 02 2014

The population of mainland China is well over one billion now*, and millions of people in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong and widespread overseas communities also speak Chinese. But this single language is represented by two different written languages, “Traditional” Chinese, and “Simplified.”

Chinese TranslationAdopted in 1949 in order to increase literacy and ease communication with the outside world, Simplified Chinese is comprised of about 2,000 characters which are stripped-down, more geometrical forms of the Traditional characters, and the total number used is also reduced. Taught in schools and used throughout mainland China and Singapore, these characters are either commonly used abbreviations of the Traditional, portions of Traditional characters, or compacted characters that phonetically resemble the originals. Some of the Simplified characters represent several different Traditional ones.

A practical and political problem with Simplified Chinese is that it is not used in Malaysia, Taiwan, Macau or Hong Kong. For this reason, as well as aesthetic and scholarly inclinations, there are Chinese speakers who oppose Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese is often still chosen for communication that seeks emotional impact, such as slogans, signs, advertising, and artwork. But for most text intended for an audience in mainland China or Singapore, Simplified Chinese is the language to use.

This is not a new issue raised by a more global and industrial society; simplified versions of Chinese have existed for over 2,000 years, and criticism of the complex, abstract Traditional Chinese has ranged from declaring it the “writing of ox-demons and snake-gods”** to blaming it for the country’s economic problems.

Both versions have, however, been integrated into modern life, as evidenced by the development of computer code for each: GB for Simplified, and Big5 for Traditional. As it happens with languages – all of which carry forgotten histories in their forms as they morph to our needs – some of those computer-encoded characters descend from Oracle Bone Script used more than 3,000 years ago to divine answers about weather, hunting, warfare, and the best days to hold sacred ceremonies.

*2010 census: 1,339,724,852
**FuSinian, a leader of the May Fourth Movement

J. McShulskis

Read more on Skrivanek’s Chinese Translations here



Which country hosts the largest number of living languages?

25 11 2013

It is estimated that nearly 7,000 languages are still alive on Earth today. In the United States about 330 languages are spoken or signed, with over half of those labeled as indigenous; English claims the most speakers, Spanish the second. In India there are an estimated 780 languages, and in China there are 129.

But these are huge countries with populations in the hundreds of millions (China’s passed 1.3 billion in 2013). Surprisingly, the country with the most living languages on the planet is one with just 3.9 million people. An island off the north coast of Australia, Papua-New Guinea’s population speaks 832 different languages!

Distribution of the remaining thousands of languages suggests fascinating histories of human choices and dynamics over millenia. For instance, the ongoing linguistic research project Ethnologue reports that while 230 living languages exist in Europe, there are 2,197 in Asia.

Often many of these are related; so what is the difference between a distinct “language” and a “dialect”? It turns out that this is a somewhat controversial subject involving not only linguistic features, but also political and social considerations. Tangled “families” of languages exist with branches across borders and time, and disagreements about labels continue. Yet from a biologist’s point of view, human languages are strikingly alike, according to a report by the Linguistic Society of America, with fundamental shared features that are completely unique among the communication systems of every other living organism on the planet.

J. McShulskis

Coca Cola’s mixing of French and English

24 09 2013

Coca Cola’s mixing of French and English leeds to chaos:

Coke cancels campaign after French gets lost in translation
by The Canadian Press on Thursday, September 19, 2013 3:15pm –

EDMONTON – Coca-Cola has cancelled a Canadian promotion that paired randomly generated English and French words inside bottle caps after an Edmonton woman got one that said “You Retard.”