Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing

Translation or Transadaptation? What You Need to Understand When Creating Products for use in Another Language

March 17, 2021 Season 1 Episode 4
Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing
Translation or Transadaptation? What You Need to Understand When Creating Products for use in Another Language
Chapters
Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing
Translation or Transadaptation? What You Need to Understand When Creating Products for use in Another Language
Mar 17, 2021 Season 1 Episode 4
Transcript
Nicole Tomassi:

Welcome to Westchester Words, education, ed tech, and publishing. I'm Nicole Tomassi, and I'll be your host for today's episode. I'm joined by my colleague, Walter Henderson , who is the Senior Supervising Editor for English Language Teaching, Bilingual Education, World Languages and Translation here at Westchester Education Services. Today, we'll be talking about a few of the key considerations that publishers need to factor when they're planning projects that take content from one language to be translated into one or more other languages. We happen to be recording this on National Grammar Day here in the U.S., and I'm going to offer up an alliterative sentence here. Welcome to Westchester Words, Walter.

Walter Henderson:

Hi Nicole, thanks for inviting me to participate in this podcast on a topic which is very interesting to me. I do it every day, so , I'm very happy to speak with you about it and to anyone who is listening,

Nicole Tomassi:

And I'm very happy to have you here. So , when you and I were preparing for this discussion and figuring out what topic we were going to discuss, because there are many topics in the, in the realm of translation and world languages, you know, you brought up the term to me, transadaptation, which is not something I had heard of before. Can you explain for our listeners what transadaptation is and how it might be similar or different from translation?

Walter Henderson:

Well, most of the publishers and customers who come to us , they're in need of a translation. Sometimes the customer will express the need for a transadaptation when they really are still looking for a translation. A transadaptation is basically taking something, a text that has been translated into another language and then adapting it to the market, the end market, the users. For example, if we take an English language textbook and we translate it into Spanish, when we, if we decide that we want to transadapt it , we're going to do that for Spain, for example, as opposed to Mexico, that's transadaptation. When you take something, you translate it and then you adapt it even more for the end user because they come from a different country, because the type of language that they speak is a little bit different. You know, another example is Mandarin Chinese. If you have something translated from English into Mandarin Chinese, you might want to have it transadapted. And that would mean preparing that text for a market or for a user in mainland China or in Taiwan, for example, because these would be the differences in the types of languages that are used. So that is a transadaptation. So many people are kind of confused because it's sort of like this new jargon that's used in the translation industry. And I think it sounds a little bit better than translation, the word translation, it sounds a little bit more fancy, but , , there are two separate things. And most of the time, most translation projects are in need of a translation, first of all, then foremost, and then the transadaptation is something that comes after the translation. So it's nice to kind of clear that up because we do have a lot of people who talk about the transadaptation. So , at Westchester, what we like to do with any translation project is sit back and, and really analyze, you know, what we are going to do, plan out what we're going to do and determine if something along with the customer, if something needs to be transadapted or is a translation in itself, something that is good for the end product. Does that make sense?

Nicole Tomassi:

That makes good sense, and thank you for clearing that up. I think you just helped a lot of people with that explanation. So those were obviously some important things that a client needs to think about when they're taking on a company to do a translation or a transadaptation project for them. So, I'm wondering if you can tell me some other important considerations that a company needs to assess when they're assigning a project to a third party resource like Westchester to ensure that the final product is both accurate and culturally appropriate for the students and teachers who are going to be using it.

Walter Henderson:

Sure. I can think of a few things here.The question that the customer, the client, should ask themselves, are the same questions that we're going to ask them. And I think if both of us have those things in our, those queries in our minds, that we can clear a lot of things and make a very successful project. But number one is who's it for? Who's this translation for? Is it translation for teachers or students? How old are these students that we're translating the content for? Where do they live? Where are they from? For example , I can think of how an instance where this might be important if we're translating something into Spanish, And I'm always using Spanish as an example, but if we're translating something into Spanish, we need to know if the translated texts are going to be used for Spanish speaking children in the United States, rather than Spanish speaking children from another country that is natively Spanish speaking, because the reading levels are not going to be the same. So , that is the number one question , who is it for? We're going to ask that, I'm going to ask that, and the clients should ask themselves that because it really does help. Another question that is something that you cannot get away from is what am I having translated? You know, what is, what type of material is it? Is it nonfiction or is it fiction? This is very important because nonfiction sometimes is easier to translate. It's quicker to translate than fiction is, because in fiction, with fiction, we're reading, but we're reading with the writer's particular voice that is more sort of apparent. There's tone to consider, there's humor. There are more expressions, things of that nature, which are very difficult to translate because English, for example is different than Spanish. The jokes are not the same. People have a different sense of humor. I know I'm in France and speak French. And the jokes are not even the same. Some people would say that France lacks a sense of humor a lot of times, but , those things are really important. What type of, what it is that I'm having translated? So that's an important question. And then something that should also be considered as well, or at least the customer should think about these things beforehand, because we certainly will. We need to know, or we need to ask, how the translated content will affect my book, affect what I have right there. Is it going to be an exact match? Is the translated content going to affect the layout and the design of a page? Is my page count going to increase or decrease? Is it going to affect the art and the illustrations that are there? Because the end product can really change the whole look of a page because in English, a certain number of words express an idea. In Spanish, more words, express the same idea. And in Scandinavian languages, fewer words express the same idea that was conveyed in English. When we look at Arabic and we look at Chinese, we're talking about characters, we're talking about something that is written from right to left, up and down. So all of these things can affect the layout and the design of a page. So those are the things that, those are, there are many considerations, but I think that those are the top three that I often run into.

Nicole Tomassi:

Okay. And that's very helpful, certainly for me, and I'm sure for our listeners as well. So , kind of, you know, going along on that thought track, could you share a few assumptions that companies may have when they're trying to determine the needs for a language project and why they might need to think differently about those ideas?

Walter Henderson:

Sure. A thing that comes up, quite frequently, and I understand why, and we're used to dealing with things like this , on a pretty frequent basis. One of the assumptions that comes up , is that, you know, the lower price, the lower the prices per word , the more economical the translation project will be. And I think a lot of customers are used to perhaps Googling and I'm thinking about, you know, they'll get like a translation quote and that's always sort of given in a few cents per word, or what have you, if it's a difficult language, it's a higher price per word. But that is an assumption because sometimes when we calculate things by word, it's not necessarily the most effective, because that's not always how translation is done. We don't translate word by word or word for word, we translate holistically . We translate a piece. So sometimes translating content by page is much, much more cost-effective than translating by word. Because by word , there are many words that are going to be repeated. You know even in writing and speaking, English has a huge sort of , there's a lot of vocabulary, but there are certain words that we use repeatedly. So , it's not always the best approach to use because again, translation is not word for word, It's more of a concept. It's more of a piece that is being translated, especially with educational content. And so that's one assumption that I'd really like to mention, and I have mentioned. So does that make sense, Nicole, does it make , sense?

Nicole Tomassi:

Yes it does. Can you share a couple of other assumptions that you tend to come across more often?

Walter Henderson:

Yes. I mean, it's , they're all sort of tied together, but there is this assumption , which is quite strange actually, when we think about it, that that translation work is quite easy. There's an assumption that any native speaker of language can translate. You know, if they speak English and they speak another language and they can translate, but translation is not a natural skill, that's not how we think and speak and see things as human beings. It is a field that requires many, many years of study, hard work. And , you know, it's a skill that is carefully developed. So it is not an easy thing at all. And it is important to use native speakers, but it's important to use native speakers who are translators and skilled translators. So for any project at Westchester that we have, we are looking for native speakers to translate. We do have native speakers who are translating, but we have native speakers who are skilled in the art of translation because it is not easy. So that's another assumption. And one that also is often overlooked is the assumption that you can just do a translation for another group of people without paying too much attention to cultural sensitivities. This is easily ignored if you will, because you're asking someone to translate for you because you cannot do that yourself. So how would you be aware of all of those sort of cultural things , that may come into play? And I would encourage any customer, any publisher to ask this question, are there any cultural sensitivities that I should be aware of or concerned about? Will you be addressing these things in the translated content? I think this is a very important question because when we translate something into another language, we have to make sure that nothing is offensive. What is funny to an English speaker may not be funny to a speaker of Arabic or someone who speaks French or German, or what have you. I mean, some things can quite innocently be potentially offensive. So those are the kinds of things that we routinely review in any sort of translation project. And it's also the type of thing that a customer should be aware of and should ask about. And we should have the answers for that as well.

Nicole Tomassi:

And I trust since we have trained professionals who do this, that they will bring up those kinds of concerns if they come across it during the course of the project.

Walter Henderson:

Exactly, exactly. There's the , you know, everyone has their things, but this one for me personally, is very, very important. And I always think about, if I can sort of add this little bit, I always think about this quite an old story. I don't know if you remember, maybe I shouldn't say old, because I remember this as well, but you remember the car that was called a Nova. Do you remember that?

Nicole Tomassi:

I'm probably going to age myself a little bit, but yes, I do. In fact , my brother's first car was a, it was a beast. It was a tank, you know, the Chevy Nova, I think it was like a 72. So wow. Tell me the story

Walter Henderson:

It was sporty and everything, and quite popular. Well, and this is more, this is not translating a textbook or anything like this, but this is more sort of tied into marketing. Well, they tried to sell that car in Latin America and South America without really being aware of language differences, if you will. So nothing was translated if you will. I mean, nothing was translated. So they sold the car as a, you know , a Nova. Except that Nova in Spanish means doesn't work. Customers were not attracted to a car that basically, you know,

Nicole Tomassi:

doesn't go.

Walter Henderson:

I mean I think a long time ago, that's when we started becoming aware of the importance of translating or not translating, and what something might mean in another language and how you really need to, this is why translation is not easy. You really need to look at so many different things to end up with the best product for your users actually.

Nicole Tomassi:

Well, I think that was a really great story to share, even though it probably gave away that we're, you know, we're young at heart, let's put it like that. But that was a great story to kind of illustrate how something that seems perfectly fine in one language when you put it into another, it can have a totally opposite meaning . Walter, I want to thank you so much for joining me today to provide a better understanding for our listeners about some of the factors that they should consider for their language projects. And for our listeners, if you're interested in learning more about how Walter and his team of professional translation experts can work with your company to develop your language based content, please visit our website at westchestereducationservices.com. I want to thank you for listening to today's episode of Westchester Words and invite you to follow us on your favorite podcasting platform so that you can be notified about new episodes when they become available. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts or comments about today's discussion and tell us what content you'd like Westchester to cover in future episodes by emailing us at [email protected], that's E D S V C S.com. Join us next time when I'll be talking with Cev Bryerman of Publishers Weekly and Tyler M. Carey of Westchester Publishing Services. Until then stay safe, be well and stay tuned.