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5 min read


Multilingual Translations: Key concepts and terms

When the Pangeanic team are out of the company, and someone around us wants to know exactly what we do, not everyone understands us easily. This reflects the fact that society in general is unaware of the translation industry and multilingual services. In fact, the industry is unknown to many and the vast majority of the population tends to confuse concepts that should be clear, such as translation and interpreting, and hence their professions, translator and interpreter. At Pangeanic, for instance, we do not offer interpreting services. While a good portion of the employees have worked as conference interpreters, interpreters for the community (in hospitals, courts, for the police, etc.), the company focuses particularly on the provision of technical and specialized translation. That is, we address the needs of corporate and institutional customers with large volumes of documents and content of technical nature or belonging to a specialized knowledge area. At the same time, this may include the translation of user manuals for computer software, pharmaceutical leaflets or a website, several catalogs and brochures of an entity in the process of internationalization. In this regard, we consider ourselves language and culture consultants, who listen, analyze and respond to the needs of our customers, whether they know exactly or not if they want to translate, adapt, into what language and in which timeframe.   For certain types of content and depending on the goals our customers pursue, we will not only be dealing with translation as correct transfer of meaning from one language to another, but also with localizing or adapting what has to be brought over to the target market, from a cultural and functional perspective. This type of activity, localization, draws on translation, of course, as an essential and indispensable step. But localizing product-related documents at international level or localizing a company website into 20 languages, and maintaining it, requires a deep cultural knowledge of the societies and markets that we are targeting.   We have a validated network of native translators in the target languages, of course, with the right qualifications of our industry in terms of college degrees, training courses, demonstrable knowledge of tools that are specific to our industry and, of course, references endorsing their excellence in a technical or specialized field. In localization, one should be especially sensitive to key socio-cultural aspects, for example, how to discern the semiotic load of a given color, animal, symbol or gesture in the 15 target markets in which our client wishes to sell. Therefore, when localizing a website into multiple languages and markets, we have to work closely with product or service marketing specialists in the geographic areas of interest.   The weight of a given market for the service or product you offer may determine, for example, the variant of English (British, American) or Spanish (Mexican, European or from Spain, Southern Cone or international) in which we produce our catalogs , web content or even the dialogues on a mobile application. In many cases, these decisions are not made by the translation agency or the freelance translator, but are specified by the software or product internationalization team, the sales and marketing specialists in the company, etc. Nevertheless, a dialog among all parties involved in these processes should prevail. The localization blunders that large global enterprises, eager to rapidly make profit in "exotic" countries, have made as a result of not listening or taking hte time to consult with local market specialists, are not a one-off case. They have launched products whose names meant something ridiculous, inappropriate or even obscene in one of the target markets. Therefore, the company's reputation is the one that has been compromised, not the translators', who perhaps were commissioned the translation without any context or enough background information about the internationalization project that was going on.   In addition to translating and localizing, we at Pangeanic develop customized machine translation technology, i.e. for our customers who have large volumes of content to translate. Think of an automotive company, or a consumer electronics and renewable energies one, with a wide range of technical manuals, instruction guides, product brochures, annual sales reports, etc. to be translated every year or in certain periodic cycles, for example, quarterly, or occasionally, e.g. a campaign launch. Can the company in question afford translating all this large volume again and again however powerful it is?   First of all, it's worth noting that Pangeanic does not charge customers the same for a content update translation as for a translation from scratch, whose original text does not contain any match with a previously translated text. To discover this, analysis techniques are applied in translation databases according to language pair, specialized field, customer, and even product / service and year. Such bilingual databases are called translation memories. Technologically speaking, these memories systems do not represent an advanced technology but are highly practical for translators and translation project managers and a fair play to the client, whom we tell that they will not pay the same for a new sentence as for a sentence with some or full similarity to another that has been translated before.   But as we said above, Pangeanic also develops machine translation solutions. What does that mean? Well, as always we like to do, we have gone a step further. From the translation memories of a client of the importance of Sony we have created in-domain machine translation engines for them, around the consumer electronics domain and subdomains such as product marketing, web content, technical manuals..., to translate more for less. Production cycles of multilingual content were getting ever shorter while there was a considerable amount of dormant existing data, not to mention the ever-present need to reduce costs.   For those not so acquainted with machine translation (MT), this is a technology that keeps on raising more interest than reluctancy in our industry. Even young translators that are well trained and have a more open-minded attitude to embrace new work dynamics get interested in it. The reason is clear. If the engines are developed out of data that is truly representative of the field or domain to which our coming translation projects shall belong, they become a "friend" tool worth allying with every day to translate between 30% and 70% more than usual.   Although we are paid less for post-editing, i.e. revising and enhancing automatically translated text rather than translating, than for a conventional translation, you get a greater benefit due to the high amount of translated content you achieve. Also, if the translator works regularly with the agency or on their own with these translation engines, they notice that the post-editing effort decreases over time as engines get better.   We are not referring here to general engines, that tend to be online, like Bing or Google Translator, but to PangeaMT customized solutions, where the confidentiality of customer data is more than guaranteed and whereby translators can manage their own and bilingual data and post-edited files, and engines, updating them and making new ones within the same language pair. They may well be mixing data from different subdomains and training a new engine will, e.g. I'll pick and mix bilingual data from marketing and auto mechanics engines to translate this tender to obtain a single car dealership in Latin America.   The possibilities of service in the translation industry are increasing over time following customers' needs, the ever growing need to translate, thereby reaching new markets and cultures, and an ever more ubiquitous technology capable of accelerating and improving processes. As in any industry that boasts, strict quality standards are applied. They become standard working methods and generate customer confidence as well as job functions that did not exist as such decades ago, such as terminologist, quality controller, post-editor, etc.   Whether you are a freelance translator or a client prospect, who feels curious about the concepts and functioning of our industry and Pangeanic, in particular, we recommend you visit this Knowledge Center section on our website. We will be adding more enlightening and worth reading articles, which we hope that you'll find of interest.