New Markets in an Ancient Land – Localizing in Persian

15 12 2016

Nearly 80 million people inhabit Iran, the second largest country in the Middle East, and years of trade restrictions have limited that enormous consumer population’s connection to international products. Businesses in the west hoped for an explosion of trade after the nuclear-program-related trade sanctions of 2012 were lifted shiraz-1481595_1280in early 2016, but that has not yet happened. Apparently, logistical and diplomatic work remains to be done to secure trust and compromises about policies, the current resistance arising more from the government of the U.S., than that of Europe or Iran.

 

In spite of the hitches, Persian localization is accessible, and much more approachable than it was ten years ago, before some large-scale localization work was done by mega-companies such as Google and Microsoft. The frontier has been softened by the development of new, effective tools for translation into Persian, larger software glossaries, an increased number of available language and subject matter experts, and the like.

There are three modern strains of Persian, Iran’s being called by both Persian and Farsi. Since the Muslim conquest of Persia in 651 AD, the word “Farsi” began to be used in documents, because the word “pars” – for “Persian” – contains a “p” and Arabic does not provide a corresponding character or sound. That term “Farsi” was officially adopted to describe the Persian language by English nations in 1935, for political reasons, and it is often used in the west, but Persian refers more accurately to the language of Iran versus the Persian of Islamic/Arabic influences.* The two other modern strains of Persian are Dari, spoken in Afghanistan, and Tajiki, of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the latter of which uses the Cyrillic alphabet; but speakers of all three Persian variations can understand each other without significant obstacles.

Obstacles to localization, on the other hand, abound, for many of the usual reasons: religion, culture, consumer history, limited native on-site expertise, and unusual language features. Consider the simple fact that Persian reads from right to left, and therefore a customer reading advertising text who comes upon the left-to-right reading name of a European or American company has to switch directions when reaching the English interruption. Directional processes affected by the placement of tabs and action buttons must also be considered. The entire orientation of a page is going to be different.

Since the ninth century, Arabic has influenced Persian – the scripts are quite close, for example – but there are still notable differences that will show up as errors in translation software that is checking for Arabic alphabet accuracy. For example, Perso-Arabic individual letters have up to four different, slightly altered forms, depending on their location within the word, and therefore the automatic joining of letters (when prefixes are involved, for instance) is not always desirable. Because computer programs are set up to join the letters of distinct words in a cursive string, a nonprinting character called ZWNJ (zero-width non-joiner) must be used to override automatic joining and ensure breaks where they need to be.

There is passionate national feeling for Persian in Iran – it is an ancient language that has been evolving in a country with a seven thousand-year-old architectural presence on the planet. English is spoken more commonly than it once was in Iran, and it has a presence in major Iranian cities, but that presence is still a limited one. Even young consumers, who may be fluent in English, prefer localized websites. It’s a country where per capita income has been for the most part steadily rising for decades until the trade sanctions of 2012. Now that those have been lifted, there seems to be every reason to hope that the Iranian consumer market will soon be a strong one.

As one of the top fifty language service providers in the world, Skrivanek has extensive experience localizing all types of content for the Iranian market, and we are happy to discuss your needs any time.

 J. McShulskis

 

* “Persian NOT Farsi,” by Shapour Suren-Pahlav, 2007, Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies, http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Languages/persian_not_farsi.htm





The Beauty and Challenge of “Untranslatable” Words

19 10 2016

Every language is a psychological portrait of a culture. Thus the tricky nature of localization from any language to another: exactly what is being implied or missed in the word choices made during translation? Expert language professionals and native speakers are essential to nuanced accuracy.

definition-390785_1920But even professional translators face the challenge of finding equivalents for words that capture a concept in one language, but are not available in a succinct form in another. Idioms and slang reach into the crevices between more conventional ideas, but there are also well-established words that reflect more deeply rooted, unique aspects of the cultures that generated them.

As autumn carries us toward the end of another year, let’s look, for example, at a few words that convey experiences of the human mind in states of transition.

“Saudade” is a Portuguese word that poet/translator Carolyn Forche says describes “a vague and persistent desire for something that cannot be, a time other than the present time, a turning toward the past or future, a sadness and yearning beyond sorrow, the pain which whispers through every happiness.” And yet the book of Portuguese poems by Claribel Alegria that Forche translated, “Saudade”, was entitled “Sorrow” in English. There was apparently no closer, efficient English equivalent than a word that paints only a single aspect of the complex Portuguese word.

The Japanese word, “aware” means “the bittersweetness of a brief and fading moment of transcendent beauty.”*

“Fernweh” is a German word that captures the peculiar sensation of homesickness for a place you have never actually been.

The Korean word, “Won”, refers to the unwillingness of an individual to relinquish an illusion they have.

Vladimir Nabakov defines the Russian word “toska” this way: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody or something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”

“Lítost” is a Czech word for a state of agony caused by the sudden awareness of one’s own misery.

Discovering these words that pin down rich psychological phenomena, it seems clear that the human translator is indispensable to the process of carrying complex meanings accurately from one culture to another. Skrivanek specializes in sophisticated translation of the most difficult texts and language combinations, and when necessary, we call on subject matter experts for clarification of obscure concepts. Carefully selected translation teams provide the kind of multi-faceted talent and experience capable of resolving even the most troubling language questions.

Please share with us the “untranslatable” words – from English or any other language – that you have come across!

J. McShulskis

*Anjana Iyer, 30 Untranslatable Words from Other Languages (illustrations)

 

 

 





Skrivanek will be at tcworld 2016 – Tekom Annual Conference, Stuttgart November 8th-10th 2016

18 10 2016

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Skrivanek’s Project Management Team Leader Jan Hirš will be representing the company at the tcworld conference in Stuttgart at the beginning of November. Jan has been working for various LSPs for almost 10 years and  has extensive experience in all aspects of the translation business. Most recently he has been appointed head of Skrivanek’s  International Project Management Center and Localization department providing language services to major companies and organizations worldwide.

 

If you would like to contact Jan prior to the event:

Phone: +420 739 391 791

Email: jan.hirs@skrivanek.com

 

See you in  Stuttgart!

L.Radova





Thinking Global from the Beginning

11 10 2016

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European “Eunicorns” have a globalization advantage: out of necessity, they globalize much earlier than successful North American startup companies. Markets in France, Spain, Sweden and other European countries are so much smaller than the English-speaking block, that entrepreneurs think beyond their own borders from day one. Then, when expansion to new markets is the best next step, their mindsets are flexible, translation resources in place, and geographical scalability already prepared for.

But why should a start-up in North America, the UK or Australia think beyond the enormous English-speaking market until much further down the road? For one thing, two-thirds of their customers lie outside that market, by some estimates. And since investors like to see long-term thinking, the question of where a company will be selling in five or ten years is immediately relevant.

An additional advantage is that some potential markets are also less competitive than those an English-speaking company may be most accustomed to selling to, because of fewer similar products. As an example, Arabic markets are often neglected by English-speaking companies, and yet they account for nearly 5% of the world’s internet users*. An early move to localize for such a market could be strategically brilliant.

Thinking globally before you “have to” could save not only money, but protect you from failed efforts and wasted time when you do start to move in that direction. If from the start you are planning with a global market in mind, you will use concepts, logos, and branding, that are simple and direct, and therefore easy to localize. Knowing and working from the essence of what your product offers your customers, you can choose keywords and phrases that don’t have to be abandoned later because they are only relevant to, for instance, an American audience.

Another important localization piece that can be provided for early on: any software you use should be able to support international character sets (Unicode), with user-visible text and images separate from executable code, and a capacity for text expansion.

For an American or UK start-up with limited localization resources, one safe, lower budget way to initiate global readiness could be to localize from American to UK English (or vice versa). Of course the languages are so close as to be interchangeable, to a large extent. It is easy to find UK variations that are accepted and understood by Americans, or Australian phrasing that does not deter purchases by UK buyers.

But the differences that do exist – spelling, phrasing, humor, cultural references — can be addressed and resolved. An internal structure for doing so can be developed within your company, including the development of a working relationship with a strong LSP such as Skrivanek. Then the interface for more complex localization will be in place, the process practiced and the glitches worked out.

J. McShulskis

*internetworldstats.com

 





Advancing Skrivanek’s Proofreading Expertise

3 10 2016

Committed to continuous professional development of its language service team members, Skrivanek offered specialized training for its proofreaders this year. Led by Dr. Tomas Svoboda, PhD, these sessions were held at the Institute of Translation Sciences at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague.

Proofreading is a mandatory componentspeakers-414560_1920
of translation, according to EN 15038 European standard and the ISO 17100 standard, which specifically delineate allthe required steps of the translation process. These include translation, check (revision by the translator), revision (proofreader), review (if required), proofreading (another proofreader, if included in the order), and final verification (by the project manager).

At Skrivanek, close attention is paid to these standards, but nuanced understanding of content is equally important at every stage, including proofreading, and this was a major topic dealt with in the training. Dr. Svoboda is a translator, interpreter, proofreader, editor, and an instructor of foreign languages and translation seminar teacher at Charles University, and he brought a rich perspective to his participants.

Issues unique to proofreading provided material for the bulk of the training, with Dr. Svoboda suggesting special strategy ideas, from the use of automated translation tools, to methods of focus on the material. High-level refinements that are critical to precision were analyzed, including controversial linguistic phenomena and differences in typographic requirements in different languages (such as apostrophes, accents, numbers, dates, quotation marks, etc.).

One of the most interesting discussions concerned the importance of deeply understanding the purpose of a document before undertaking its translation. Is the text for internal use, legislation, marketing? The style and level of quality are dictated by the purpose, and therefore thorough understanding is necessary in order to offer the correct final product at the appropriate price.

Fundamental project processes were thoroughly discussed as well; for instance, the essential preliminary step of gathering from the client as much background information as possible. This includes related reference materials, specific internal conventions and terminology that are used in the document(s), translation memory for use with CAT tools, and other supporting materials. Skrivanek’s policies emphasize client involvement at every stage of the translation process, in order to ensure the highest possible level of clarity and quality, and this training of our proofreaders strengthens our ability to accomplish this goal at that key step in QA.

Only 3% of all proofreading candidates that apply to Skrivanek are able to pass through our demanding selection process. It was these top-notch proofreaders who attained even higher levels of skill through our 2016 Prague training.

 J. McShulskis

 

 





Will Brexit Weaken the Presence of English in Europe?

18 07 2016

The European Union currently has 24 official languages, one language chosen by each of the 28 member countries. All enjoy equal status, a founding belief being that every citizen has a right to know what is going on in their name and to play an active part if they wish to.

English was chosen by just one country: the United Kingdom. Ireland chose Gaelic, and Malta chose Maltese, in spite of the fact that English is in everyday use in both of those countries. The existing structure of the EU dictates that if the UK leaves the EU, so does English as a member language.

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One of the practical consequences of that for the UK and other English-speaking nations that trade with the EU, would be that EU documents would not be produced in English by the internal EU translation entity, DG Translation. All translation would have to be done by the foreign, English-speaking companies or governments, at their own expense. Another consequence is that English is currently one of the three EU “working languages” used to apply for EU Patents, among many other processes, giving English-speaking researchers and corporations an edge over competitors who don’t work in English, French or German (the other two working languages), and that advantage would be lost.

The three working languages account for about 70 percent of material that is translated in the EU, according to Europa.eu, the EU’s official website. The other 30 percent is comprised of legislation and major policy documents, which are translated into all 24 official languages.

What is the linguistic future of the EU? As the UK begins to execute its EU departure, opinions vary as to whether English might be kept on as a working language, and there are strong comments from EU commissioners both for and against. The process could take up to seven years, European Council President Donald Tusk has warned, and the question of language is only one of many – but it’s one that cuts deeply into the emotions of Europeans all over the map.

Skrivanek has been providing translation services to the European Commission, Translation Centre for the Bodies of EU, European Parliament etc. since 2003, and in that time has delivered over 1,000,000 pages in 14 languages, including English, covering a wide range of subject matter. We will be watching developments closely, and our clients both commercial and institutional can rest assured that we will track changes and new requirements in order to provide exactly what is needed.

J. McShulskis





What’s the Rush? – what you’re paying for when you pay rush fees

1 07 2016

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Trust fosters good relationships between LSPs and their clients, and that trust is built through the successful execution of projects. Project managers at LSPs work with their clients to set up timelines that everyone follows, and in turn the translation team gets translated text completed on time and delivered where it needs to be with the highest possible quality. Clients pay for this service in a timely manner, and trust grows.

But what if an unforeseen need arises and there is more or different text required by the client within the same time frame, or a quicker turnaround becomes essential? It certainly happens, and while sometimes an LSP can fit the extra work into its schedule without taking extraordinary measures, often enough there are urgent alterations required, so “rush fees” are common and necessary.

The rush fees that are usually charged in such cases might more accurately be called “inconvenience fees,” because what they compensate for is the rearrangement of schedules and plans. Rush fees aren’t surcharges tacked on to take advantage of heightened need; in fact they don’t result in extra profits for translators, but rather they’re an attempt by language service providers to recoup extra costs incurred.

This is because there are many elements involved with any translation job. When you ask for, say, overnight turnaround of 15,000 words from English into Chinese, you are not asking for something along the lines of an increased number of people to pack more boxes. The whole “LSP machine” has to be adjusted, and that machine is quite complex.

For instance, LSPs might have to ask their individual translators to process a stressful number of words per day (1,500 – 2,000 is considered an average per day output, sometimes lower, sometimes higher), and the likely scenario is that to do so, those individuals will have to work over weekends or late into the night. Specialists and translators may have to be kept on-call and paid retainer fees if it’s uncertain how many people will be needed to properly process the work on time. And translation jobs always consist of steps that must be completed in order.

Additionally, the “rush job” often interrupts other jobs in the queue and borrows resources that were supposed to be available for other clients (such as computer systems and automations). In other words, the organization required for the smooth and orderly processing of translation is shoved off to the side, and an “emergency room” type structure is put in place – for you.

Rush jobs probably shouldn’t be a regular occurrence, and if a company finds that they frequently have something Due Right Now that they haven’t arranged to have done, it would be wise to take a look at internal organization. It could be that strict, early deadlines for those departments creating content will save a lot of hassle and cash at the translation/localization phase. Other times problems arise because of last minute additions or changes by the client’s client, and that conflict might best be dealt with by educating those clients about the processes involved and the kind of obstacles and costs that untimely changes create.

Whatever the situation, potential delays that can cause rush requests should be watched for and communicated to your LSP. Sometimes a heads-up, warning them that part of the job might need to be rushed, will allow them to prepare in a way that doesn’t require emergency measures.

Workers in any other industry get overtime to compensate for such excess demands, so if a client is interested in building a trust-based relationship with their LSP, rush fees should be expected for quick turnaround requests. Translation is an intellectually demanding process that simply takes the time that it takes, and for high quality professionals, sacrificing quality through shortcuts isn’t an option.

Skrivanek’s project managers are the cream of the crop worldwide, and they’re acutely aware that rush jobs must be handled with the same attention and accuracy that any scheduled translation job receives. Procedures and alternate workflow structures have been developed to meet every scenario the global marketplace can generate.

 

For more details, please refer to our website: www.skrivanek.com.

J. McShulskis