Translation Vine Blog


Posted by on Sep 30, 2014 in Translation Vine | 0 comments

September 30th is International Translation Day. Began in 1953, this day of recognition is celebrated on the feast of St. Jerome, who is considered the patron saint of translators, principally for his work translating the Bible into Latin. On this day celebrating our time-honored and increasingly essential profession, we’d like to take a moment and say THANK YOU to all our valued clients and colleagues. We very much appreciate your continued support. Happy Translation Day!

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Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Translation Vine | 0 comments

One of the most difficult questions our Chinese translators run into is “Do you speak Chinese?” This is like asking someone, “Do you speak European?” Spoken Chinese There is no one “Chinese” language. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has several official languages and an even larger number of widely spoken mutually unintelligible dialects, such as Wu (Shanghainese dialect), Min (Hokkien), Hakka, Hunanese, Tibetan, etc. However, in the international business scenario, the most important languages are Mandarin and Cantonese, and for most people, Chinese and Mandarin have become synonymous. The language that is known the world over as Mandarin Chinese is called “Putonghua” (common language) in the PRC, and “Guoyu” (national language) in Taiwan. Mandarin is the official language of the PRC, Taiwan and Singapore and is spoken extensively in Malaysia, making it the most widely spoken language, with over 900 million native speakers. Cantonese is the other widely known and popular Chinese language, spoken in Hong Kong, Macau, Guangdong and several other regions in the south of the PRC. Written Chinese An often confusing note to consider is that when talking about “Chinese” it is essential to differentiate between the written and the spoken languages. All the dialects and languages of a region often share the same script, and while two people having very different dialects might not understand each other while speaking, they would be able to easily read and understand the same newspaper! The Chinese writing system is a wonderful concept, focusing on conceptual elements or ideograms that are mostly independent of the phonetic components that make up the spoken language. The main advantage of an ideographic writing system is that it can be interpreted identically across various languages. However, over time the writing system has evolved into a complex mix of phonetic and ideographic elements that requires a lot of rote learning and makes even basic literacy a challenging task for learners. As mentioned, Chinese speakers of a region or country might share the same script; however, when they cross the border, they might find it difficult to read the local news — even if the locals speak the same dialect! Although the Chinese written language has remained relatively unchanged since the 5th century AD, its complexity has made it difficult to master, especially for foreigners. In order to provide a script that is easier to write and quicker to learn, the government of the PRC created Simplified Chinese in the last century. The previous script, which is now known as Traditional Chinese, has been completely replaced in the PRC, and the new script, Simplified Chinese, is standard usage even in Singapore and Malaysia. However, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan still use Traditional Chinese, and this can make communication across borders a challenging task. Phonetics For non-native Chinese speakers, one of the most difficult elements of learning any Chinese dialect is that the written language is not phonetic. It is difficult to tell how a word should be pronounced based on how it is written. This is why a great tool, especially for foreign learners, is the “Pinyin” (literally, “how it sounds”) script, which uses Latin characters to represent phonetically the sounds of the Chinese languages. (At the risk of confusing the reader any further, Pinyin is the official phonetic script of the PRC and...

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Posted by on Oct 29, 2013 in Translation Vine | 0 comments

Whether you call it Romanization or transliteration, finding a way to accurately represent foreign names in English is quite a challenging task, especially if those names happen to be written in a different script. The aim is not to transliterate letter for letter, but to find a spelling that can represent the foreign sound as closely as possible while maintaining readability. This is easier said than done, and mistakes made hundreds of years ago continue to persist today. Chinese names were a huge challenge for Europeans, and the first visitors blundered colossally by romanizing Chinese names in the most confusing way possible. Do the names Nanking, Peking etc. ring a bell? Today they are written as Nanjing and Beijing and continue to be pronounced incorrectly. Tsingtao and Qingdao both refer to the same city whose name can perhaps be represented best as “Ching-Dao”. For South Koreans, not only is there a lack of consensus on the name of their second-largest city Pusan (or Busan), but people with the same last name in Korean find it written in many differet ways in English such as Lee, Rhee, Yi, etc. Arabic names pose another big challenge. This is compounded by the fact that Arabic itself is pronounced differently in different areas of the Arab world. The best example for this was the deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. ABC news has listed all the possible combinations for transcribing his name – a total of 112! Fans of the comedy show “The Big Bang Theory” would have noticed the name of the Indian character Rajesh or “Raj”. The “J” in this name should be pronounced like the English J but everyone prefers instead the French “je” sound. In this case, perhaps a better transliteration for an American audience would be “Rodge”, but that would sacrifice the name’s obvious cultural identity for auditory benefits. Speaking of the letter J, perhaps the greatest example of how incorrect transliteration modifies names can be seen is the case of Jesus. It all started with the Greeks, who transliterated the name Yeshu as Ιεσους (Iesous). Two factors contributed to this – firstly, Greek doesn’t have a “sh” sound, and secondly, practically all Greek male names ended with a sigma (“s”). The name was then replicated in Latin as “Iesus” or “Jesus”. “J” in Latin was just a stylized way of writing “I”! From Latin, the “J” branched out into the various Germanic and Romance languages, each having its own interpretation of how to pronounce it. And so we ended up with effectively as many versions of the name Jesus as there are languages! Perhaps the Rajs and Gaddafis of the world can take consolation in the fact that not even the divine are safe from transliteration...

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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Translation Vine | 0 comments

Translation Vine has launched its presence onto the world’s largest social network: Facebook. With this new outlet, our agency hopes to open a new channel of communication with our existing and prospective customers, and to provide a platform for all amateurs and professionals interested in translation and linguistics to share ideas, thoughts and the latest developments in the field. Through this new medium, the company’s linguists and translation experts will be sharing tips, articles and insights into the world of languages and how they interact with each other. Translation Vine‘s Facebook page is live as of today and can be reached here. Please feel free to stop by and “Like” us today!...

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