Category Archives: Translation Agency

Translation and Globalization

It is generally assumed that the English language has gained prominence in the world as the result of globalization and that since English is presumably the business language, most people in the world – both clients and suppliers – speak and understand English.

Furthermore, it is being believed by an increasing number of people and corporations in North America that since most people in the world speak and understand English, there is less need for translations.

This geocentric view is an oversimplification of realities.

While it is correct that the internet affords corporations access to a global audience, globalization and the multiplication of free-trade agreements have dramatically increased competition.

Far from threatening the translation industry, globalization and the increased competition it entails is enhancing the need for translations.

In our increasingly competitive environment, clients around the world have become more demanding in terms of quality and personalized services. Nobody would dispute the fact the clients – be it in Asia or Latin America – would naturally be more inclined to buy a product on line if the website is written in their language. One surprising effect of globalization and the accompanying universality of Internet is that according to Aberdeen Group (a tech-tech research company in the US), while 77% on Internet users were native English speakers in 1997, that proportion has dwindled to just 32 % today. In other words, 2/3 of Internet users are native in another language than English!

Those starting figures enhance the increasing role and importance of translations.

Figures as to the number of people native in a particular language vary widely, but there it is undisputed that there are more Mandarin and Spanish native speakers in the world than native English speakers. Furthermore, Spanish is the official language in 21 countries where as only 6 have English as the official language. This speaks not only to the pre-eminence of Spanish over English in absolute terms, but also to regional disparities in both languages.

If a corporation wants to go international, not only should it feature more than English on its website, but also avoid selecting a language according to the size of its native speakers. Instead it would be wiser to target a specific country or a range of countries instead….countries where the products are likely to be most successful.

What is exactly a “Word”?

Call any translation agency. Chances are you will be told that they charge X cents a word.

We all have a pretty good any of what a word is. We use the sound “word” everyday and speak words from the moment we get up in the morning to the extent that few people have ever wondered what a word exactly is.

Since, like any other translation bureau, Express International Translation Inc. charges by the word, it would not be superfluous to ask oneself what a word exactly is.

Simple? No. Open the Tenth Edition of the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, which is my English dictionary of reference, to “word”. You get an embarrassingly long list of definitions from of varying complexity ranging from “something that is said” to “any segment of written or printed discourse ordinarily appearing between spaces or between a space and a punctuation mark” (got that?)

More simply put, a word is a standalone that designates an action (verb), a condition (adjective), an acronym or something concrete or abstract. Furthermore, to each action or thing, be it concrete or abstract, corresponds one or more words (synonyms).

Does this necessarily mean that every word has a meaning? No. Articles (“the” “a”) are standalones but have no meaning.

Other words that lose their meaning lose that meaning when adjoined to another word. We all know what “ice” is; it is frozen water. We know what cream is. However, ice-cream is neither ice, nor cream.

Ice cream is a case in point for another reason? It has one meaning – that delicious summer treat – but is written is two words. So, it counts as two words. But I can also write it as one word: ice-cream.

To complicate matters a little more, a word in the translation industry is slightly at variance with what linguist call a word because the industry counts numerals as words. Take for example a birth date such 18/08/1957 (a date of birth). We count it as a word because the translator would have to type it in the target document or even “translate” it if the document is meant for a country where the month usually precedes the day like it is often the case in North America (in which case we would have 08/18/1957. Also, “1” standing alone would be considered a word as well as a googol (a googol is a very large number consisting of 100 digits or more).