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A day in your life without translations


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If someone would ask you to imagine a day in your life without translations, you’d rather be confused than imaginative. A day without translations? You’re not a translator, not even a linguist, nor a writer. Most likely. Even if you are, what does it have to do with translations? A day without translations is a day like any other, isn’t it? Are there any differences, honestly?

Just start by looking at your phone, or the tablet you are reading this article on. Although the article is in English, you are enjoying it on a machine that was built in a factory in Asia. Its “maternal” language is therefore either Chinese or Korean. Until reaching your doorstep, luckily for your mental well-being, the device was translated into English for much easier use.

The same goes with your television, serving you your news and entertainment every single day. Asian by birth, the TV has reached your living room with the menu translated into the most common languages on earth. You set it up in your language and never have to worry about deciphering Chinese characters. The same goes for most of your smart home devices.

Translations lead us to wondrous places

Let’s assume you want to go on a little trip over the weekend. As you’d usually do, you log on to your favourite booking app first. There are many to choose from when it comes to hotels and apartments, yet for this trip, you’ve decided on Airbnb. Once you’re on the app or the website, it detects your location and translates the entire thing into your native language by default.

In order to solve these translations, Airbnb hired the people at Translated, a mammoth translation agency based in Rome, to instantly translate their content into over 60 languages. Although we don’t really know the entire cost of the project, which implies machine learning and advanced translation algorithms, the regular translation would’ve taken over 300.000 years.

Considering the number of languages required and the word count to be translated, Multilingual has called the transaction the largest and most expensive in the entire history of translations. Thanks to the brilliant team behind Translated, people from across the globe can make themselves understood in front of their clients or hosts, without having to learn new languages.

Translations provide a healthier life

Although we’d wish nothing but trips and peace on a regular basis, life doesn’t work that way for the majority of us. Sometimes, we need medical attention in order to go through the hurdles of poor health. In the medical world, translations can save and prolong human life considerably. Unfortunately, there are instances in which translators do their jobs poorly.

This aspect can seriously harm an individual and their life. For example, “intoxicated” has countless explanations as a word depending on the country where it’s being used. In Romania, it means that you’ve inhaled smoke and are feeling sick. In the US or England, it means that you’re on drugs or other substances. In Spain, “intoxicado” means you’ve been poisoned.

Another example is medical analysis reports, which can be mistakenly translated. This is the last thing you want when you’re sick. When ObamaCare came into public view, the medical insurance accessible to many Americans, the government was criticized for the way its website was translated into Spanish. The translation read like what they call “Spanglish”.

For 53 million Hispanic Americans, just trying to read the website was nearly impossible. Most of them were fine but for those unlucky few who needed medical insurance fast, and couldn’t get it because of the translation, that caused them serious distress. It’s safe to say that medical translations should always be handled by experts in the field, not just regular linguists.

Translations turn local ideas into global phenomenon

Let us take this imagination exercise to its end with a simple task. Imagine every single product you’ve worked or interacted with today with menus, buttons, instructions or anything else related to content in the language of its production country. The TV in Korean. Phone in Chinese. Children’s toys, Japanese. Stove, German. The list goes on and on but you get the gist.

How are these products reaching you in your native language? Through globalization and localization. These translation processes turn any user manual, menu, button, or any other element of content into an easy-to-read one. For this to happen, translation agencies use native translators, usually with experience in the field, to ensure fidelity with the source language.

For example, if we are to translate the user manual for a lawn mower, we will look for a translator with technical experience. Just knowing the language is not enough, simply because these translations are technical and therefore need maximum care. Another thing is the way the translated message will be received once in a country, as it can differ from the Korean version.

For this, we use localization, a process that edits the technical translation from a brute state into an easy-to-understand message. All speakers of the source language will understand the text. Globalization translates the text from one source language to any other on earth. Localization individualizes the translation, with a native, for 100% faithful playback of the message.

A single misused word, or a punctuation mark that’s misplaced, can make the difference between success and failure.

—read the article in Romanian by clicking here