Archive for the ‘The world of translation’ Category

Mariné is a freelance Spanish translator based in NYC. She started with a bachelor in biology in Puerto Rico. She then studied general psychology and media communication. She never studied translation but helped editing and translating a book for one of her teachers and got really into it. She moved to New York to work as a Spanish project manager in the translation industry before becoming a freelancer.

Do you think that not having a formal translation degree is sometimes missing?

Definitely. When I decided to go on my own as a translator, I looked into certifying myself and I am now a certified member of the ATA (American Translators Association). It is important because it gives clients a sense of security when they look at your resume. Some clients only ask for certified members so it is better to have one.

When I came to NYC I learnt everything about the translation industry and it helped me understand how it worked: CAT tools (Computer-Assisted translation), guidelines, localization meaning not only translating but really paying attention to which country and target you are translating for. So many details that I would have not take into much account before because I did not have proper training in translations.

It may be a remnant of my biology days but the translations I enjoyed the most are the medical ones. I translate a lot in this area: healthcare, research papers. I really enjoy it.

What is your translation routine?

I have to admit that only in very few instances I read the document entirely. I do a lot of research throughout the translation, I have a lot of technical dictionaries, digital copies of course otherwise it would be impossible to carry them around! The most expensive tool I have is this industrial mammoth I use for a client in Bangalore. It cost me $600 but I managed to do a lot of translations from that one time cost.

I also do a lot of glossaries (it is easy to do with Wordfast), especially for medical subjects in which everything has to be consistent from one translation to the other. I also check the TM (Translation Memory) to be sure that everything is up to date.

I use mainly Wordfast, SDLX and then Trados. I rarely use PO Edit, which is a freeware. It is an investment but because of the amount of work, they pay off and I can deduct them from my taxes as a working tool!

Do you think that you could translate books, literary documents?

I never had the opportunity, I think I could, I have friends in this industry, they told me that it is not arid materials, you still need to do researches obviously but there is more editing, you can choose your own verbiage, your own words. If I had the opportunity and the time, I would totally go for it.

Is there anything that you translated, that you feel really proud of? 

The job I had the most fun with was the translation of a video game called Section 8, a sci-fi video game released in the US, France, Spain and some other countries. I would translate it into Spanish for the US and someone would edit it into Spanish for Spain afterwards. Everything was so interesting. It took us 5 months and I was sick of it at some point, it was really a fulltime job but it was really fulfilling, I got to play the demo for testing purposes, How much fun could that be? Yeah, I am testing a video game; lets check this translation while I am killing that monster.  I think that’s the translation I am the most proud of.

How does that work to find jobs? Are you looking or do agencies contact you directly? Any active searching?

I am in a couple of forums (ProZ for example) where I pay annual fees; I am also a member of the ATA. I have clients who send me regular amounts of work, like in Spain or in India. NYC-based agencies send me a mix of DTP proof, testings, and proofreadings…  I do lot of different things which I like, it is nicely balanced. I don’t have time (and I said this as a good thing) to do a lot of searching on those forums.

How do you sensibilize the clients about the amount of work? Educate them?

Today, we really have to educate the client about what is translation and how it works. In my Project Manager days, we would get ridiculous requests of huge amount of words to translate in one day. They sometimes do not understand that even if it is small, if it is technical, you would need someone specialized in this area, you cannot translate technical stuff out of thin air, and you need a specialist! And of course, they sometimes want the translation for yesterday and they are trying to pay as less as possible. Or on the contrary, they say that they can pay you rush fees but you cannot do things magically, after all you only have one brain and one pair of arms!

I also sometimes have to explain the differences of language flavors. Each Spanish-speaking country would have a different one. There are 400 millions of Spanish-speaking people in the world and that is a lot of people! Companies are trying to get to everyone but a translation will always be geared towards one country depending on the translator. For example, if I translate for people in Puerto Rico, Spanish people/Spaniards will understand the bulk of it but not everything especially if it is colloquial. You have to make the client understand that you have to filtrate people and adjust according to the country. We are not outshining the others but you have to be realistic. If you think more Americans will go on your website, you ask for a US Spanish and not a Spanish for Spain.

For technical translation, it is a bit different as it is quite universal even though sometimes it can differ like Pneumonia or pulmonia… even medical terms can have differences depending if it is formal or not.

What do you like so much about translation?

I feel like I am helping to build bridges, to help communicating. I would have missed so many good books if they had not been translated into English and Spanish. There is really something beautiful about helping people communicate.

Today, a lot of what I do is for profit but I sometimes do things just for free, to help and it is extremely rewarding to have people thanking me and saying that thanks to my translation, they were able to understand what the topic was about.

People say that a job you love is a job that you are willing to do for free and that’s how I know that I am really in the right place doing what I love.

Thank you Mariné!


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I may be passionate about translation; I never got into the theory. My school (ISIT) gives us a various amount of history of translation, traductology, etc but even if I am the curious kind I always found them extremely annoying. When someone gave me the book “Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything”, you can understand that I was not really thrilled.

I could not be more wrong! I could not put the book down until I was done reading it.

The author, David Bellos is a Comparative literature teacher at Princeton University and an experienced translator. He did the award-winning translation of George Pérec’s books. David Bellos does not pretend to “tell you how to translate or how I translate” contrary to most translations books trying to explain what is translation and how to learn it.

He takes a close interest to literary translation, automatic translation, the comic book series Asterix, interpretation or subtitles using entertaining and captivating anecdotes. What was the use of the first dictionaries? Why is Russian language lacking a word for blue? How to translate what a fig is in a language that has no idea what a fig is? Is English hegemony a treat to other languages? In a book bursting with examples, some are food for thoughts and make yourself ask questions that would not have crossed your mind in the first place.

Language lovers will of course love this book, translators as well but also any curious person keen to learn and understand more the world they live in. I am more into novels but I loved “Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything” and I hope you will love it as well!

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We have selected some images, videos and recent articles that we liked and we’re sure you’ll be interested in!

About languages :

The Art of Mastering Many Languages

You think that learning one language is hard enough and lets not even mention two! Learn more about people that have mastered up to 90 different langues (and why you and I will never go this far).

(in English)



 Amazing Map of All of America’s Dialects

In one state, accents can be very different, what about the whole country? Thousands of different ways to pronounce a single word in just one map!

(in English)



Bilingual babies

Yup, babies have a brain and yes the earlier they can learn different languages the better! Learn more about babies that grow up in a bicultural environment and how the mechanism works.

(in English)



About intercultural issues:


What does it mean to be polite?

To understand where does the word “polite” come from and why everything that is “polite” or “rude” can be explained by our cultural history.

(in English)




Jean Dujardin’s “F” word at the Oscars

Why Jean Dujardin “f” word during the Oscar ceremony can shock the United States (and cost a great deal of money to American channels as well).

(in French)

How are French people perceived abroad?

Find out more about the main French stereotypes from French baguette to unshaved armpits and strikes. Somehow, they do not seem to agree.

(in French)


About automatic translation:



Instantaneous translation progress

True story: an app that would translate right away a phone conversation or two people talking in the same room!

(in French)



Tips for translators:

A great insight into today automatic translation: definition, origins, possibilities vs reality, differences between AT systems, profitability, obstacles, expectations…

(in Spanish)



and to end with a flourish, a funny video on different types of Spanish all over the world :


And an extra:

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An interview with Marie-Agnès Latourte, head of the Intercultural Communication and Translation (CIT) Master’s at ISIT. ISIT alumni, professor and translator.

CIT & Learn: What makes the CIT Master’s so special?

The CIT Master’s, like any other Master’s is constantly evolving – especially compared to other translation degrees. We introduced intercultural communication classes in 4th year to complete the translation skills that our students have (in both languages and technical writing). For six years, we carried out a market study and we realized that ISIT’s initial name (Higher Institute of Interpreting and Translation) was reductive and deadlocked so we changed it to Higher Institute of Intercultural Management and Communication. However, ISIT remains a translation and interpreting school, even if our classes are more diverse.

We pay particular attention to companies’ and graduates’ feedback. Between 30% and 50% of our students end up working in the field of translation. We wanted them to have other skills to be able to work in other sectors and to make them true project managers through the PRA and PRE projects. Sometimes, it is hard to see the point but they develop actual methods which are really useful in their business life. The PRE (Research project within a company), which is a peculiarity of the CIT Master’s, help students to fit in the company as they develop a project with their tutor or other colleagues in order to meet one of the company’s need. They become indispensible and are sometimes hire at the end of their internship.

CIT & Learn: Because of the current job crisis, schools must be particularly worried about their students’ employability. What makes CIT students desirable to recruiters?

ISIT students have specific and unique skills that they develop through internships and projects. They are versatile (they do not know only how to translate!) and easily understand the instructions they are given. Some of our students end up working in highly technical and complex working environments (Orange, Geodis, EDF, etc.). Recruiters usually like our students’ professional background: their internships and apprenticeship are much-valued. Lots of their soft skills are also appreciated: their behavior, curiosity, respect as well as intercultural skills (i.e. they know how to adapt to other cultures and people and know how to listen).

Cit & Learn: In addition to redefining classes, what is ISIT doing to help students find jobs?

First, we implemented an employability policy in which we try to involve students. We make students do internships in their 1st year, which is something new. Depending on the level of study, internships are longer or have to be done abroad. For five years, we have been working to have better relationships with the APEC (French Association for the Employment of Executives): members come to raise awareness among our students about professional careers and ways to find jobs. We also set up simulated job interviews for fourth and fifth year students with actual human resources managers who have a neutral and objective opinion on them.

We also highlight our apprenticeship programs, which is something entirely new for the Intercultural Management Master’s. Of course, there is a lot students do not see: relationships with companies (business breakfasts with potential tutors or alumni). We also encourage students to take a year off: more and more leave school to work for a year either in France or abroad. We also visit the companies our apprentices are working in: it is essential to develop a human contact between the school and their work environment.

When drawing up CVs, we realize that internships, apprenticeships and sometimes their translation thesis are essential: they are true professional skills which attract recruiters.

CIT & Learn: To you, what is the essential balance between “theoretical” and “practical” classes in order to help students find jobs?

It is an interesting question but as a linguist, the word “balance” does not seem really appropriate to me. Let’s look at a definition: “Equality of strengths between two opposing elements or the state of stability and harmony resulting” which seems more adapted. We are not looking for a power relationship: it is true that our programs are constantly evolving which is something usually unsettling for our students but, to quote Marie Mériaud-Brischoux, our headmaster, “If we do not go forward, we go backwards”. I would rather talk about complementarity. Theoretical and practical classes complete one another. Our apprentices quickly realize that: their work within their companies allow them to understand better technical classes such as XML or SQL.

CIT & Learn: What makes ISIT the perfect place to understand interculturality? What are its strengths? Do you precise examples to give us? Do you witness intercultural situations when you set up partnerships with foreign universities?

First, our professors are a perfect example of interculturality: they speak various languages, come from different cultures and as such, have different teaching methods. We also welcome lots of Erasmus and METS students. All of this makes us realize that there are different approaches to translate: languages truly reflect cultures and personalities. To quote Michel Boutaud: “a language is the beginning of a new life”. Another one his sentences, which I really like, is “learning a new language is getting a new soul”. We learn and discover a lot: it is essential to get closer to culture in its wider sense.

I went to London to set up a European partnership with the University of Westminster as part of a Long Live Term Program (two years) for the PIT program (Promoting Intercultural Competence in Translation) with Italians, Polish, English, Norwegians, etc. to introduce intercultural skills in the academic programs (which we are already doing at ISIT): we had an interesting conversation about the way we understand the word “framework”. English understand it as an open word, more like guidelines whereas Polish or Norwegians see it as something much more fixed and settled.

Frédérique de Graeve (head of the Intercultural Management Master’s): I can add an example: one of our former student used to work at  XXX and was in charge of setting up a transfer of competencies in HR to Romania: she had to go there on a regular basis to train people and facilitate the transfer. The problem was that Romanians (because of the Communist regime), did not recognize her authority: to them, there is only one chief and he had to go there himself so that they realize all the changes and training cessions to be set up.

Marie-Agnès Latourte: It is essential to understand the codes of the country we are working with in to efficient and carry out a project.

CIT & Learn: In the work environment, how it is a strength to have an intercultural expertise?

It brings a better understanding of the methods used to work in concrete projects. It helps to anticipate the reactions of the people we are working with (mails, negotiations, answers, etc. : Koreans for instance do not talk during a meeting and wait for the end to give their opinions and remarks).

Let’s take the example of an advertising campaign that Coca-Cola develop in the Persian Gulf: they did not focus enough on the countries’ communication habits. They chose the desert, which is something relevant to Arabic countries but forgot that in these countries, people read from right to left! The message was read completely backwards. As linguist, we always have to wonder how our message is going to be received.

Le message que voulait faire passer Coca Cola : boire du Coca redonne de l'énergie !
What Coca Cola wanted…

At the top, the message that Coca-Cola wanted to disseminate. At the bottom, the way it was received.

What Coca Cola got…

CIT & Learn: Throughout the years, ISIT and its programs changed to adapt to the modern world, which is faster and much more multicultural. What can you tell us about that?

If we look back to a couple years ago, we might want to talk about a revolution rather than an evolution, particularly for the CIT Master’s. We tried to adapt to companies’ and interculturality experts’ demands. There were less and less vacant positions for translators (less translation departments within companies, lower prices, etc.). We could not train 100 translators a year knowing that only 10 of them would find a job. Nowadays, this tendency is changing, particularly thanks to international organizations in which lots of translators are retiring. They are setting up huge recruiting campaigns. And let’s not forget that our Master’s went from 4 to 5 years.

In addition, we tried to develop networks with companies (apprenticeships for example) but also with schools and universities (FESIC, METS, SFT, CGE, FIT, CIUTI etc.): we open the school to the world by promoting exchanges. This year, we opened an international department headed by Marina Burke.


ISIT website 



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– “No Strings attached” posters from Quebec, France and United States –

You may not know this but in France and in Quebec, not all movie titles are translated. Sometimes, English ones are replaced with other English titles.

Many sarcastic French bloggers have been listing translated titles that appear to be… say, quite interesting:

  • Made in Dagenham > We Want Sex Equality
  • Not another teen movie > Sex Academy
  • Paradise Alley > La Taverne de l’enfer

And it is actually worse in Quebec! On the other side of the ocean, French language protection can lead to some funny results if you speak French:

  • Pulp Fiction > Fiction pulpeuse…
  • Waiting to Exhale > Vénus dans la Vierge…
  • Chicken Run > Poulets en fuite…
  • Legally Blonde 2 > Blonde et Légale 2…
  • Ghost > Mon fantôme d’amour…
  • Scary Movie > Film de peur

Canadian are not the only ones, Spanish people are quite good at it as well but for now, let’s focus on American and British movies in France.
Some bloggers have spotted some general tendencies such as using the word “sex” or “American” to make it sound cooler, or using the word “mort” (death) or “enfer” (hell) to make it sound profound, or removing “the” to avoid pronunciation issues… but we can go into this deeper: who decides what? Are there official rules?

Renaming a movie is a very common thing used by all motion picture distributors. They sometimes use surveys (e.g. for “The Reader”) or translation contests (e.g. Tarantino’s “DeathProof”, translated to “Boulevard de la Mort”). This process can take up to several months!

According to a study published in 2010 on the French website Slate.fr, “57% of 200 Americans movies released in France between 2009 and 2010 by the main movie studios have been translated in French and 43% had an English title: 35% kept their original one and 8% had a new English one.
Although there are no specific rules about renaming titles, some main trends can be highlighted, although they include  exceptions:

  1.  Children movies’ titles are translated.
  2. Titles that do not mean anything to French people are translated or renamed: “No Strings Attached” became “Sex Friends” which is easier to understand in French with the plot being more obvious.
  3. When too complicated to pronounce or to remember, English titles are translated or changed.
  4. Character movies are not retitled.
  5. Movies adapted from a French book are not retitled.

As the poster, the trailer and the advertising campaign, the title is part of the main marketing strategy that is based on cultural values. Its target and image are decided just as its positioning. The intercultural process is an integral part of each of those steps.
Here, “intercultural” implies national cultures only, as movies are released on a national basis.

There are three main rules for movie titles: sound, connotations, references.

  • Sound:
              American poster                                     French poster

“Chevalier et Jour” does not sound great in French. Exotism (English above all) once more prevails and as the word “knight” could have not been understood either, it was removed along with the pun.

  • Connotations :

              American poster                                French poster

As the author of the study writes, “it would have been more logical to use the French book title Le Liseur but the team in charge of choosing the movie title feared that it might sound too intellectual and would not convey the dramatic tension. A testing organization showed a poster to 500 people with the title “The Reader” and another one with “Le Liseur”. They realized that people prefered the first one over the second.”
  • References :

              American poster                                          French poster
Get Him to the Greek” was renamed American Trip in France. The same author reports that “”The Greek” was a direct reference to the Los Angeles theater and would not have meant anything to a French audience. It was necessary to rename it but using another English title with the word “American”, they tried to make it sound “cooler” and the word “Trip” reminded of the success movie “The Hungover” which was released in France under the title “Very Bad Trip” in 2009.”

Renaming a movie is not a game in order to find the craziest title ever but it is an emblematic process of intercultural communication.

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