Archive for August, 2011

Advertising Translation Part#1

In this blog post, I will publish the first part of my previous research: Advertising Translation. I always believed  that  MNCs should work with translators while adapting some other ads, produced in another country. I will publish my work part by part. What do you think about advertising translation?

With the improvements in technology, the trade policies of governments and global market competition, a number of multinational corporations (MNCs) have turned to international advertising. As the name implies, international advertising is the conveyance of a same advertising message to different countries. International advertising is the core of global marketing. The most debated question in international advertising is how to transfer the same message across cultures. The role of language and translation is of vital importance while transferring an advertising message across countries. Perceived as finding the equivalences of every single word between two different languages, the translation process is too often ignored in a multi-cultural business context. As a result, the managers of MNCs employ wrong advertising strategies by thinking only in business terms. However, each target culture should be treated individually. With the purpose of creating the intended effect, advertising translation is supposed to be based on adapting every single element of the campaign. In this paper, three different ways of transferring the advertising message will be examined within the domain of the translational studies. The first approach employed by managers is globalization. This approach ignores all the cultural and economical differences between countries. On the other hand, the standardization approach supports the translation of certain aspects of advertising campaigns. Adaptation is the final solution to those differences between countries because this approach defends the necessity of creating a culture-specific message in each country.

Müge YILDIRIM, Bogazici University- Translation and Interpreting Studies, Spring 2010.

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Google Launches Paid Web Translation for Businesses


In my opinion, Google opens a new era; an era which will be full of translation mistakes. It launches its automated translation service, Translate API v1. With this service, the web pages and applications will use this translation service for free. Moreover, the European Patent Office announces that Translate API can be used for patent translations into many widely used languages. It is machine translation after all. Sometimes, even us cannot understand little culturel nuances, I wonder how an automated translation software can make all these differences. David Meyer has published a blog post about this software on He explains how it works and what the revenues are. If you are interested in the rest of the article, you can always click the link at the bottom. I will quote some parts below:

“The Google Translate API provides a programmatic interface to access Google’s latest machine translation technology,” Jeff Chin (Google Translate product manager) wrote. This API supports translations between 50+ languages (more than 2,500 language pairs) and is made possible by Google’s cloud infrastructure and large-scale machine learning algorithms.

Those using the commercial version of the API will pay $20 (£12) per million characters of text translated. Chin estimated this would mean around $0.05 per page, assuming the page contains 500 words. There is a limit of 50 million characters per month.

For the rest of the article, click here.

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Does Translation Make the Source Text Richer or Poorer?


Last week was very busy, I moved, I visited my parents and many more. I thought that I deserved a full-cream Starbucks coffee. I have been going there for years but only last week discovered something. There is always a caution about the heat of the coffee. The Turkish translation attracted my attention. In English, the original caution is: “Careful, the beverage you’re about to enjoy is extremely hot”. However, in Turkish translation it says: “Dikkat! İçeceğiniz çok sıcaktır” which literally means: “Attention! Your beverage is very hot”. I think there is a very big gap between “Careful, the beverage you’re about to enjoy is extremely hot” and “Attention! Your beverage is very hot”. The Turkish translation makes the original statement poorer. It just reduces the meaning to a simple caution sentence. There are hundres of good translation alternatives out there. This raises the question: Does translation make the source text richer or poorer? I think the answer is ‘both’.

Considering the poem translation it makes it poorer like 90-95%. It is not just my opinion. Even in my literary translation classes, many of the classmates or assistans was thinking like that. In poem translation, you definetely change the meaning from time to time if you want to keep all the rhymes and syllable numbers.Furthermore, the unique word choice of the poets fades away. It is not possible to find little cultural nuances in translated poems. The translated poem may also sound good but it never feels the same as the original.

When it comes to comic translation or animation movie dubbing, it is more likely to say that translation makes the source text more understandable for the target audience. Hence, translation makes it richer. Especially in cartoons and animation movies, I always prefer the translated version because I find them more familiar to my culture.

As you can see, keeping cultural nuances is important in poem translation because poet is a distinctive genre of literature. Even the punctuations carry some meaning. However, in my opinion, it is not the same for cartoon or animation translation. Here the key factor is successful transformation of the culturel elements for target audience.

It is annoying paying attention even to minor details while enjoying a cup of high-calorie, extremely delicious coffee 🙂

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It was ‘I’, Now It Is ‘Me’!

Since my highschool days, I have always been confused about the usage of ‘I’ and ‘me’ when they are used as nouns. In grammer tests, there are always both options: It is I and It is me. Although ‘It is I’ does not quiet well and correct to me, I would choose this option for the sake of grammer. However, in any movies or TV series, I have hardly heard this usage. You just naturally say ‘It is me’. So, what should we do? Even though we know the correct usage, should we continue saying ‘It is me’ or should we accept the flexibility of English and replace it with ‘It is me’? I have read an article via ‘La Rassegna del traduttore’ on Facebook. On a blog called Sesquiotica, this issue is dealt with in a very funny and interesting way. I will post some points that interest me but you can always read the whole article by clicking the link at the bottom:

“There’s an old joke: St. Peter hears a knock at the Pearly Gates. He says, “Who goes there?” A voice replies, “It is I.” St. Peter says, “Go away! We don’t need any more English teachers.”

For who other than a hard-core grammatical prescriptivist would say “It is I?” And would even the driest English teacher (not that that many are that dry anymore), arriving with others (I was about to type “friends,” but it’s hard to think that such a person could have any left), say “It is we”? Or, on the other side, answering the door, say “It is they”? I have seen “It is he,” it’s true, but…

But no one in normal English speaks that way. Not even the well-respected, highly educated people. So we’re all wrong, then? What’s with this, anyway?

There are some problems with this reasoning. First of all, when you draw up the rules for a language, it helps if they actually describe what the language actually does, as opposed to enforcing practices that are quite different from what established usage is.

Second, language is not math. Or, more precisely (since one may construct a mathematical language), English is not math.

Third, English is not Latin. Many of prescriptivists’ ideas, such as this one, are derived from and/or supported by appeals to Latin grammar. ”

For the whole article, click here.

Translations of city names

Last week, we had a discussion on our Facebook page. We wanted to know how we should translate the city names into English. Should we use only English characters or should  leave  as they are?

In my opinion, we should use English characters if we want to get some healthy feedback. I would put a footnote and write the original name at the bottom of the page. If this is not possible- let’s say it is a brochure- I would use English characters only. I am opposed to the complete translation of the city names. For the sake of pronounciation ease, in many languages the important city names are changed. For example London. In Turkish, it is ‘Londra’ and in French it is ‘Londres’. We should use this as ‘London’ because it is all consisted of Latin letters and it is easy to read. There is no confusion. However, in other languages there are many different city names. For example Moscow. The original spelling is ‘москва’. It is impossible to spell for Latin alphabet users. Here, we need a complete translation of the alphabets. In Turkish, it is ‘Moskova’. Considering the English version, either English or Turkish is not loyal to the original name.

There is a third category which needs half-translation. In countries using Latin alphabet, there may be accents, umlauts, cedillas etc. I think all these ‘minor’ differences should be left out while translating. For example: Istanbul. The original spelling is İstanbul. This difference is so little that we can easily ignore it and write as Istanbul. However, in the cases of ‘Şırnak’ or ‘Çanakkale’, we should make some more changes. In Turkish, ‘ş’ gives the ‘sh’ sound, so we can write the name of this city as Shirnak’; ‘ç’ gives the ‘ch’ sound, so we can write the name of this city as ‘Chanakkale’.

We should think the target language and their language, pronouncation habits. After all, our aim is to give the closest pronouncation and as translators, we should have the linguistic knowledge to do that.

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P.S. There is a special term for the alphabet translation but  it just does not come to my mind right now. Sorry about that.

New Definition of Translation

For years, in my translation classes, I have learned one thing: Translation is not looking up the dictionary. There are many variables other than this: context, target culture, source culture, target audience etc. However, last night, I have decided that translation is literally looking up the dictionary. Yes. If anyone wants me to define “translation”, I would say: Translation is looking up the dictionary and choosing the right equivalent of a given word considering all the variables. In time, as translators, we learn how to look up the dictionary. We learn to choose the exact match from hundres of options.

It is nonsense thinking a translator without a dictionary in hand. I do not mean that we should look up each and every single word; however, translating a long text involves some research and thinking. Two weeks ago, I was in an internship interview. The manager came and gave me a paper. There was a short text (500-600 characters) about marketing and statistics. It is a subject with which I am not familier. She said I had 20 minutes- without a dictionary. At that moment I made my mind; I would not accept the internship even if they accepted me. This is like singing without knowing the melody exactly. You have lyrics but you do not know how to combine them in a harmony.

I just wanted to share what I have been thinking since last night. Have a nice day fellow translators!

What Do the Languages Mean to Humanity?

In this video, Mark Pagel talks about the emergence of the languages. Why do we use languages? How do we communicate? Let’s listen all the answer of these question from an expert in TED Conference 2011.


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