Webinar presenter David Jemielity
January 2014 marked a milestone—NCTA’s first webinar! This new chapter in NCTA’s history was kicked off by David Jemielity, Senior English Translator and Head of Translations at Banque Cantonale Vaudoise in Switzerland.
BY SARAH LLEWELLYN
I first came across David Jemielity at the ATA conference in Denver, where he was the Distinguished Speaker for the French Language Division, delivering two terrific presentations on how to make financial translations sound less like… translations. When I asked him last year if he would be willing to adapt his presentations into a webinar for us, I was thrilled when he said yes. His presentation had never been offered as a webinar, so we also had a world first! → continue reading
By Jonathan Goldberg
We have of course all been exposed to various—if not many!—examples of the differences between British and American vocabulary, but can we ever get enough? The answer, thankfully, is “no.” So let’s explore some bathroom … well, terminology, if not exactly humor (with help from the French and Spanish).
This word, most commonly used in the United States, is a euphemism for lavatory, because it eschews any mention of toilet activities performed there. Lavatory, meaning a place where one washes (as well as the apparatus itself), is itself a euphemism, as is W.C., which is short for water closet. Both of these terms are more prevalent in Britain than is restroom.
Bathroom is another word used in the U.S. to mean a restroom, toilet, lavatory, or W.C. Other synonyms in American English, although far less frequently used, include lav, john, loo, and can. Spanish displays the same modesty in the expression cuarto de baño, literally bathroom (or simply baño). In some Spanish-speaking countries, the term W.C. is adopted as is from the English, although pronounced differently. But Spanish has three other words used to indicate public toilets. One is servicios, meaning services, obviously a euphemism. Another is aseos, which without the s has a variety of meanings in Spanish, including cleanliness. The third is lavabo, from the word lavar, meaning to wash.
The common denominator of all these low-key words is that they suggest only the bodily cleaning-up activities performed after the toilet has been used for its primary purpose. The English word toilet is derived from the French toilette. Originally, the French word meant “a cloth on which items used for grooming are placed,” vaguely similar to the present-day (British) English toilet or toilet-bag—“a waterproof travel bag for holding toiletries (soap, toothpaste, etc.).” Later, the French cabinet de toilette came to mean the room in which one washed, from whence its present-day meaning of a W.C., or restroom. British English has adopted the word toilet to mean also the act of dressing and preparing oneself, as in “he made his morning toilet and went to breakfast.”
In the U.S., one stands in line; for example, waiting to use the restroom at a sporting event. (Although in New York, one stands on line.) In Britain—and indeed in English-speaking countries where British English is in use—one waits in a queue. Queue is, in fact, used in the U.S. in this sense, but only in the field of information processing, to mean “an ordered list of tasks to be performed or messages to be transmitted.”
French has the same word, queue (pronounced differently). This has at least two meanings. The first is that of a line or queue, identical to the British use. (In French you don’t stand in line, you make the line—faire la queue). The second meaning is “tail”—as of an animal. The visual similarity between a line of people and the tail of an animal is clear.
A further use of queue, “a braid of hair at the back of the head” (albeit a somewhat arcane definition) also bears that visual association. The Spanish word for queue (line of people) is cola. As in French, this has the additional meaning of “tail.” However, the word tail in English is used not only to denote the wiggly protrusion of animals but also (among other interpretations) the tail end of an animal or object—such as the tail of an airplane.In the latter respect, the meaning is similar to that in French and in the Spanish of some Spanish-speaking countries, because queue and cola are both used in those two senses of tail. (The Spanish word cola has the additional sense of glue. Cola also exists in English, as in the brand names Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, having acquired the meaning of a carbonated soft drink, but it has its origin in the fact that Coca-Cola was originally composed of an extract from the kola nut, as well as from the leaf of Peruvian coca. Kola is also a language spoken south of Lake Chad, in Africa.
Many Americans might be unfamiliar with the term knickers, commonly used in England to mean women’s panties. Paradoxically, the word from which it is derived, knickerbockers, has its origin in New York. (The New York Knicks basketball team takes its name from this word.)
In England, women’s underwear is probably more typically designated today by the more chic French word lingerie, originally used to mean anything made of linen but now well ensconced in English as women’s underwear. The word bra is a short form of brassière, imported into English and still used in French. But the common French word is soutien-gorge, meaning literally a throat-holder, devised presumably by someone with a poor knowledge of female anatomy. (Brassière should not be confused with brazier, meaning “a container for holding hot coals,” or brasserie, a restaurant serving alcohol—although certain men might be excited by all of these concepts.)
There are many words in Spanish meaning bra, depending on the country of use. Sujetador—literally a subjugator—sounds daunting enough to make any woman want to burn her bra. Sostén, literally a support, also stays well clear of mentioning that part of a woman’s body which the bra serves to keep in place. Vive la modestie! As for men’s wear, knickers was originally used to denote men’s as well as women’s underwear, but the expressions in vogue today are shorts (boxers and briefs) in America and underpants in England.
This article appeared in an abridged form in the Dec. 2004/Jan. 2005 issue of Toga, the newsletter of the Plato Society of UCLA (www.uclaextension.edu/plato). NCTA is grateful to the Plato Society for granting us its permission to reprint.
By Danièle Heinen
A new opportunity, half a continent away; an exciting job, an exotic locale, a chance to make a difference for a company relatively new to the intricacies of translation. What could be better? Well, read the story of our intrepid reporter, NCTA member Danièle Heinen, to find out exactly what could have been better.
I guess I could mimic Lauren Bacall who recalled “How I went to Africa to shoot the African Queen and nearly lost my mind” and say, “How I went to Brisbane, Australia to create and run a translation department and nearly lost my mind!”
In February of 2005, a long-standing client of mine referred me to the position of translation manager for a Canadian-based mining company located in Brisbane, Australia. Inco, at the time the world’s second-largest producer of nickel, was constructing a nickel mine and processing plant on the island of New Caledonia, a French overseas territory that holds about 30% of the world’s nickel reserves.
With the Project Engineering Office in English-speaking Brisbane and the mine facilities in French-speaking New Caledonia, the need for translation services—even more, for a structure for translation services—was obvious. Business practices in New Caledonia follow a variety of customs and regulations, most of which are European or French in origin, and which therefore require documents in French, including work permits and visas. On the other side, the requests for translations into English came from managing engineers in Brisbane responsible for the various portions of the project; these engineers were mostly monolingual English speakers, and it was often only at the last minute that they realized a translation was needed—on topics that ranged from mechanical to electric to fire protection and more—which then compounded the urgency. Most of these engineers, obviously, had no idea of what translation entailed.
Translation? What’s that?
Prior to my arrival, the translation requests were handled by a competent, yet already overworked administrative assistant who acted as translation coordinator within the Contract and Procurement Department. Although she had no experience with translation and did not know French, she nonetheless developed a useful translation request form and tracking worksheet. Still, hers was purely a processing role. The local translation vendors were two French women who lacked translation training, and yet who were asked to handle virtually any subject and work in both directions.
The quality of the locally delivered translations was variable and unreliable; there were also spelling and grammar mistakes, and accents missing: a case of “I didn’t know I could reconfigure my keyboard under Windows,” and blaming the Microsoft Word spellchecker. Termium was unknown, while the GDT and the use of an electronic bilingual dictionary was known by one translator only.
Reviews, both technical and linguistic, were done by the requesting department, provided there was a bilingual (French or Canadian) engineer in the department. The translations came back with a number of terminology queries, but reviewers lacked time, and so coped as best as they could, amending the translations themselves.
A low level of support
Process problems were compounded as the technical documents went through a review cycle within the Engineering Department, where the translation requests would often be made at different steps of the process without anyone noticing that there might be only the equivalent of five to six pages of changes from one revision to the next; the entire set of documents was retranslated, sometimes by a different vendor.
In addition, the source and the target documents would sometimes be amended separately; to deal with this, a bilingual document format, with English on the left and French on the right, was designed to ensure matched text. The lack of secretarial staff that could read French, however, worked against the best intentions of this system. Problems with converting text from PDF documents further complicated things.
As if the existing process at the mining company were not difficult enough, the translation scene in Australia posed further obstacles. Translation and interpretation in Australia is mostly linked to immigration and medical concerns, not mining and engineering. AUSIT, the Australian translators association, includes members whose primary profession is not necessarily translation. NAATI, the national translation certification body, has three levels of certification, and very few translators working from English to French had reached the advanced level listed on the NAATI website; understandable, perhaps, as this was a paid listing. Finally, French is not the lead foreign language in Australia.
Where to start? During my first trip to the country, I made a number of recommendations on procedures, looked at resumes, and interviewed people. I found one excellent professional translator with a translation degree from an institution in Belgium (but who could only work part-time), and set out to find freelance translators in the various technical fields that the project covered. In terms of tools, I decided that a translation memory tool would be in order, and also made lists of dictionaries in both paper and electronic format to order for in-house use.
Back in Canada before returning to Australia the second time for the duration of my commitment, I put a call out to ATA’s French Language Division and to NCTA to look for certified translators with technical knowledge. I also contacted professional colleagues from Canada and Europe (the time difference would be much easier to deal with from Brisbane). I also found a lone French Canadian translator who had been working in Brisbane—and who had connections with New Caledonia and mining for some years—and was very knowledgeable about various translation tools. My final team incorporated members from California, Canada, Australia, and France: a truly international effort!
Seeds of change
Once in Australia for good, I implemented SDLX with the use of both Elite and Professional licenses and encouraged the freelancers to use SDLX Lite to start with; some already used WordFast or Trados so we swapped TMs in TMX format. As I was far from knowledgeable about all the intricacies of SDLX (which resulted in a few nightmares!) I enlisted the help of the local translator I had found who already knew SDLX, and trained the newly hired inhouse translator/reviewer and the translator working on our HR documents. In turn, we offered training for the local freelancers.
My colleague put herself to the task of developing a TermBase, starting with an excellent glossary put together independently by some of the Canadian and French engineers. We also installed various electronic dictionaries and a French spell and grammar checker as standard tools for inhouse use. We also researched and purchased various software programs to deal with the PDF issues, all the while arguing for the need for native source files.
Administratively, we redesigned the translation request form and tracking spreadsheet, allocated a sequential number for each request, insisted on the need to nominate a native speaker for each translation request to review the translation from a technical point of view, and initiated searches for possible existing translations before assigning any work. Those searches—and the building of libraries from what we found—turned out to be extremely time-consuming, as there was no reliable archiving system of the matching source and target files. Eventually we started building translation memories, which were still quite rough because there was no manpower to do much review of the texts we decided to process. We deemed a number of them unusable and had to discard them.
The final tally
There were other issues: procedures that someone else had to establish and implement as I had my plate full; the impossibility of planning the workload as there never was an estimate of the number of documents that would require translation; the inability to find another professionally trained inhouse full-time translator (our normal working week was 45 hours); the need to deal with new types of documents for translation, as often is the case when a new translation department is established; and more into-English translation than had been expected, which created the need to find more translators in other fields and in a different language direction.
Above all, the main challenge and frustration came from having to constantly educate our internal clients as to the translation process, explaining that we were, like the engineers, university trained, and that a mistranslated document could pose huge risks.
Like Lauren Bacall, I almost lost my mind. But I survived, and the new system we put in place is now humming along—thanks mostly to my first colleague and the good people who have followed.
Still, having learned a bit, I’m ready for another assignment.
By Yves Avérous
In my language direction, English to French, the first word that comes to mind when I am asked about untranslatable words or expressions is serendipity. And, in fact, I’m apparently not the only one: in June, 2004, a British translation company voted serendipity one of the ten most difficult words in the English language to translate. But the problem in French, as it turns out, is less about finding an equivalent concept than it is about finding as beautiful a word! (Although the word form has lately been imported into French as sérendipicité or sérendipité, these are not accepted, or even known, usages.)
It took an extremely refined Earl of England, Horace Walpole, to coin a noun so flourished and evocative. And discovering this word for the first time was for me—as I suspect it might be even for native English speakers—itself serendipitous, a “happy discovery” or “happy coincidence.”
Serendipity has no direct equivalent in French, but there is more than one popular expression to translate this happy turn of fate. “Ça tombe à pic,” “quel heureux hasard,” or even the optimistic saying “le hasard fait bien les choses.”
Here is a word with the quality of never being boring; it conjures up the most exciting and extravagant stories. Even the sound of it stirs the imagination: “serene,” “Serengeti,” “dippity-doo,” “des petits sereins” (little birds) … and all sorts of pleasing notions. Serendipity, in fact, comes from a quite beautiful proper name in itself: “Serendip,” an old name for the island of Sri Lanka, also known as Ceylon. And it is a legendary tale, “The Three Princes of Serendip,” which so enthralled Walpole that it inspired him to create our untranslatable word!
The connection? Ceylon was fashionable at the time of the writing of the tale, and riddle-solving in the literary salons of elegant Venice even more so. What made the three princes of Serendip successful was their great sense of observation and deductive reasoning, which led to Walpole’s notion of “a gift for discovery by accident and sagacity while in pursuit of something else.”
The original definition of serendipity is indeed “discovery by accident,” but in a very neutral, not necessarily happy, way. When, for example, Alexander Fleming noticed as he was cleaning his laboratory that penicillin mold had contaminated one of his experiments, the discovery of this wonder drug could certainly be said to have been a “serendipitous” event.
These days, one of the best ways to make serendipitous discoveries is to browse the Internet with the help of a search engine such as Google or Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. Using either of these tools one can, and often does, stumble upon unexpected (and sometimes unexpectedly happy) discoveries. (A caveat—because Wikipedia is written by its readers in a collaborative effort, not all that is published there is to be taken as gospel. Perhaps that’s why the French version of the serendipity article is titled “Sérendipité”!)
Wikipedia will, however, reward you with an article by Robert Boyle on “The Three Princes of Serendip,” which brings to light the amazing voyage of the tale from its introduction to a Western audience in 1557 by Venetian publisher Michele Tramezzino to its ultimate role almost 200 years later in inspiring the famous word. It was in 1754 that Lord Walpole acknowledged in a correspondence to his friend Horace Mann the receipt of a painting, painstakingly obtained, as serendipitous.
The final words on the subject belong to author John Barth who, in The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor (1991), wrote a beautiful evocation of serendipity: “You don’t reach Serendip by plotting a course for it. You have to set out in good faith for somewhere else and lose your bearings, serendipitously.”
By Olivia E. Sears
As part of an ongoing series of literary translation workshops, NCTA and the Center for the Art of Translation jointly sponsored on June 4th a French Literary Translation workshop moderated by noted local translator Zack Rogow. In this half-day workshop, Zack led an intimate group of translators through the ins and outs of literary translation, touching on both poetry and prose translation, as well as rights acquisitions and book proposals. Zack himself has worked in both commercial and literary translation, and has won several awards for his translations of great French writers (including André Breton, George Sand, and Colette). He is the new editor and artistic director of the Center’s journal of translation, TWO LINES.
The workshop began with a general introduction to the translation of poetry. Zack focused on several translations of a French sonnet, Arthur Rimbaud’s “Ma Bohème (Fantaisie).” By comparing three different English translations of the poem, Zack delved into the difficulties of translating the Petrarchan sonnet form into English: is it worth trying to achieve the same meter, or replicate the rhyme? This discussion led to an overview of the literary translator’s priorities. Zack suggested that the translator should decide which of these priorities is paramount when confronting a text: is the top priority to capture the spirit of the poem, or the literal meaning of the poem, or the music and form of the poem? To demonstrate his point, Zack broke the participants into small groups, each of which had to argue over these priorities and try to come up with a balanced translation of Rimbaud’s poem “O saisons, ô châteaux.” The results of these translations-by-committee were extremely diverse and quite amusing.
Next we turned to prose translation with a look at several different works in French: the first chapter of the satirical Micromégas by François-Marie Arouet Voltaire; a page from Colette’s Les Vrilles de la vigne; and an excerpt from André Breton’s Nadja. We discussed the tone of each piece, the form, and the voice, all aspects of the original work that must be considered prior to embarking on a translation.
The last part of the workshop focused on practical questions for the literary translator. First and foremost, how should a translator choose a project? Because literary translation doesn’t pay well, Zack urged participants to seek out authors whose style they have an affinity for and to choose a text they love. Retranslations can be rewarding, especially if there is a book a translator feels is important but that has fallen out of attention or was poorly translated. It is essential that translators revisit even classic texts periodically, particularly works with dialogue, which changes substantially over time. A new translation can help us see a text in a new light.
To close, Zack briefly discussed rights and contracts—including consulting the sample contracts created by the PEN American Center—and urged translators to push for their name to appear on the title page and the cover of the book. All in all, the participants left the workshop with renewed excitement about their craft. The Center hopes to continue the collaboration with NCTA and discuss possibilities for a variety of future workshops.
By Anna Schlegel
NCTA Corporate Member Loq-Man Translations was founded in 1995 by Tarek Dachraoui and his colleague Natalie Mann. The agency provides expertise in all languages, with a special emphasis on Arabic, French, and English, offering translation, interpretation, localization, technical editing, copywriting, page design, production support, ongoing quality control, and consulting. A native of Tunisia, Tarek holds a B.A. in English Literature, a B.A. in Linguistics and an M.A. in Translation and interpreting from the Institut Bourguiba in Tunis, Tunisia.
Where did you grow up?
TAREK DACHRAOUI: I was born and raised in and around Tunis, in a multilingual and multicultural environment in which Arabic, French, and Italian were “de rigueur.” After high school I spent a year as an exchange student in the U.S. in a small, remote, and snowy town in upstate New York. A career in linguistics and languages seemed most natural to me, and once back in Tunisia I pursued my language studies. After a quick stop at the Ecole Superieure d’Interpretes et de Traducteurs in Paris, I headed to Moscow for a year to learn Russian, with the incredible thought that I might one day be able to read Dostoyevsky in the original (of course, that never worked). I then lived in Rome for four years, where I worked at a European Economic Commission agency coordinating different programs between the Italian government, the FAO, and different regional organizations.
How did you start your business?
I hate cubicles and ties. Starting my own business seemed the most logical thing to do when I moved to the Bay Area!
Have you seen an increase of work due to the political developments of these past couple of years?
We have definitely seen an increase in demand for our services based on recent political developments. As one might guess, there is currently a very high demand for quality translations from Arabic into English and vice versa. We have been working with federal agencies and local governments as well as the private sector.
Where is your work, and your translator pool, based?
Our office is based in Richmond, and we try as much as possible to employ local translators. However, our network extends beyond the state and the country. We regularly get job orders from outside the U.S., and so we work with translators and interpreters in Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, as well. Of course, the jobs are assigned in connection with the project and the destination of the finished product. For the last four to five years, we have been providing our services in France, the UK, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Finland, among others. We just finished a large job that is going to Spain.
Describe the translator that you love to work with.
Quality and time are of the essence for every competitive business, and translation is no different when it comes to these considerations. We want to work with translators who can deliver what they promise; who don’t get in over their heads with high volumes of work or subject content that they aren’t comfortable with.
We want our translators and interpreters to be naturally inquisitive; who keep up-to-date about current events, and who read the news and specialized magazines and reviews. Not people who feel they “know it all,” and who are never wrong. We believe that translation is an art – it is a professional art, and as such, it is demands constant learning.
We are always very responsive to our translators’needs. We help them extensively; we provide glossaries when we have them, and set reasonable deadlines. We want our translators to feel comfortable while working with us and in doing their work.
What are the challenges of the Arabic language in the US market?
We spend lots of time and energy educating our clients about translation in general, and the Arabic language in particular. Many people are not aware that Arabs do not speak the same language they use to read or write. Arabs speak “colloquial Arabic,” which is not written and differs from one country to another. They use Modern Standard Arabic to write and read. However, it is a language taught in school and, of course, the higher your education is, the better you master the language.
There are also other technical aspects. Arabic is a bidirectional language. In bidirectional scripts, the text is written from right to left, while embedded numbers or segments of text in western scripts (Latin-based ones such as English or French) are written from left to right. Furthermore, languages that use the Arabic script have special ligature and shaping features which add a level of complexity in their display and printing that do not apply to other European and Asian languages. Because of these factors, most clients do not have a good understanding of how to support bidirectional languages. We spend lots of time explaining these special features to our clients and helping them set their operating systems and applications.
Interview by Michael Schubert
NCTA member Alison Anderson leads a triple life as a novelist, French-to-English literary translator, and employee of the French consulate in San Francisco. After growing up in the eastern United States, she moved to Switzerland as a teenager. There she earned a degree in French and Russian literature and later an M.A. from the University of Geneva School of Translation and Interpretation. Widely traveled, she has taught English in Greece and Croatia and also lived in France.
After two decades abroad, she returned to the United States, finally settling in the Bay Area in 1987. Her first novel, Hidden Latitudes, was published in 1996 and named a Best Book of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle. She is a recent NEA grant recipient for literary translations (works of Christian Bobin), and her published translations include Onitsha by JMG Le Clezio and a comprehensive history of the Surrealist movement. Alison’s latest novel, set in Mauritius, is entitled Darwin’s Wink and has just been published by St. Martin’s Press. Alison’s association with the NCTA goes back to 1988.
You’ve cited your travels as inspiration for your novels – specifically, your sailing trip to Mexico for your first novel, Hidden Latitudes, your trips to Mauritius for Darwin’s Wink, and your time in Greece for your novel-in-progress, The Road to the Island. Can you elaborate on how travel inspires you?
ALISON ANDERSON: Travel heightens the senses and attunes you to the exotic. It makes you more aware of the people who surround you, even if you don’t speak their language. Travel opens your imagination.
Are language and culture important plot elements in your fictional work?
Not in Hidden Latitudes, since it’s set on a desert island! They are more important in Darwin’s Wink, because Mauritius is a melting pot of many different cultures. I had to reflect these historic and cultural differences. The Road to the Island is more homogeneous, about a Greek-American woman who goes to Greece to research her family history.
Is your multilingualism and your experience as a translator always present in your thoughts as you write? Do you imagine how people of different cultures will understand your words or how translators will render them?
First of all, I came to writing through translation; it was the confidence I developed through manipulating other people’s words which gave me the strength to try it on my own. As far as incorporating my knowledge of languages into my own fiction, in The Road to the Island, I am aware in writing the dialogs that the people are actually speaking Greek and I imagine this dialog in Greek and “translate” it. The same was true for French in Darwin’s Wink. But I don’t imagine or worry about the job of some future translator when I am writing in English!
Tell us about your career as a translator.
I translate almost exclusively literature now. After I earned my M.A., I began doing general translation work. I tested for the United Nations, but they weren’t hiring. I did various other jobs before finding my way to literary translation. My first translation, of La place by Annie Ernaux, was not accepted by the publishers, but they thought enough of my work to steal my rendering of the title! (The British translation, which they ended up using, had been called Positions; it was published in America under my title, A Man’s Place). My next experiences were better: two books on sailing for Sheridan House. In a nice instance of serendipity, it was through them that I found the agent for my first novel. Since then I’ve translated a number of art books, several novels (I’m most proud of Onitsha, which is a beautiful autobiographical novel about Africa), and am currently working on two more novels, one a fictional biography of the great Egyptian singer Oum Kalthum.
Do your writing and translation careers compete with or complement each other?
Complement. Of course, they sometimes compete for time, but they complement each other in their methodology. I devote roughly equal amounts of time to both translating and writing, though that can vary depending on my specific projects. My travels, my knowledge of foreign languages, and my experience with different cultures have all helped my careers in both writing and translation.