When translation mistakes are funny, and when they are not

translations are sacred

“Translations are sacred”, from the film Okja

Accidental translation mistakes can sometimes be amusing, though much to the chagrin of the translator most likely. Except in the case of Netflix which has allowed intentional subtitle translation mistakes for the sake of a good joke.

The Summer 2017 Netflix hit film Okja has fun with translation mistakes and translation humor.

The film Okja is about a little girl’s love for a pig. Read more deeply, it is about the debate over genetic modification and the meat industry. Childhood love and health both being topics where one wants good translation, right?

“Translations are sacred”

Okja is a film bridging Korean and American cultures and languages – and characters. A translator in the film intentionally botches some live interpretation to mislead his criminal comrades. He later repents by brandishing a tattoo on his arm which reads, “translations are sacred”.

This character’s intentional translation mistakes led to plot hilarity and tongue-in-cheek translation humor. However, it also is a serious reminder of how crucial translation is in the context of our globalized relationships and business affairs.

Translations are funny

The film’s actual translators also made intentional translation mistakes, providing another type of hilarity and humor.

Netflix allowed subtitle translation mistakes in Okja for the sake of a good cultural joke. Of course, only someone fluent in Korean and English would understand.

A character simply says his name in Korean, but the English subtitle reads, “Try learning English. It opens new doors!” It is a Korean cultural joke about the pressures to learn English in Korea.

You may need to see the film and be bilingual in Korean and English to get the joke, but I find it enjoyable enough to know about it and know that Netflix went for this.

Learn more English

Okja’s translation mistakes and translation humor are funny, though they also drive home how important it is in our globalized world to understand one another.

For ordering food or navigating car shares, perhaps using real-time, automatic translation apps from Microsoft, Skype and Google can help bridge the world. (See the other Summer 2017 hit film “Weit” for a scene about this).

But for important issues like genetic modification, meat industry, criminality and love, better use professional translation.

What Makes a Language Sound Beautiful or Ugly?

SAARA what makes a language beautifulWe’ve all heard (or said) it: “Italian sounds so romantic!” – “French is the most beautiful language in the world!” – “German sounds ugly” etc.

Nobody summed it up quite as succinctly as Roman emperor Charles V when he declared: “I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse.”

Why is it that certain languages sound poetic and melodious while others grate on our nerves?

At The Guardian, Matthew Jenkin explains that sociolinguistics has so far not been able to find any intrinsic reason that certain languages should be objectively “more beautiful” than others. Instead, a language’s attractiveness seems to depend entirely on our own background.

Reasons why we find a language attractive

The attractiveness of a language depends on the perceived value of speaking it. For example, Chinese is increasingly considered valuable because of that country’s economic rise.

Our subjective impressions of a place also influence what we think of the language spoken there. Hearing Italian puts many of us in the mind of the canals of Venice or sunsets in Tuscany. Hence, Italian will automatically seem more “beautiful” to us.

That is easy with a popular destination in the world. But what about far-off places? Can TV and film transport us to other lands and make us fall in love with a language?

For example, what does the world think about Korean? Maybe the Olympic Winter Games 2018 being held in PyeongChang will influence our impression of the language. Maybe a certain Korean athlete will win the world’s hearts and soften us to the language’s sound.

Mother tongue determines love of certain languages

The closeness of a language’s sounds to one’s own mother tongue also influences our impression of it. For example, tonal distinctions used in Thai and Mandarin will sound unnatural and harsh to a native English speaker.

“There hasn’t been any research that has directly exploited the attractiveness of a language and didn’t eventually tie it back to the social evaluation of the speaking community,” Dr. Vineeta Chand of the University of Essex says in the Guardian. In other words: it’s all subjective.

And if you want an idea what your language sounds like to someone who doesn’t understand it, listen to this amazing video of a woman imitating a dozen languages without actually saying anything

Want to Start Learning a New Language? These are the Resources You’ll Really Need

Want to Start Learning a New Language These are the Resources You Need

https://www.pexels.com/photo/purple-blue-green-pink-orange-and-yellow-highlighter-159659/

One of the most common questions I’m asked as a translator is: “how do I start learning a language?” I completely understand why people often do not know where to begin — as there are tons of language learning resources out there that promote their products and learning systems as the quickest and/or most accurate way to becoming fluent in a language.

Don’t tell me you’ve never seen them… “Become fluent in Spanish in just one month!” “Have your first fluent conversation in just 48 hours!” These money traps exist everywhere, and they should certainly be avoided.

My advice? Arm yourself with immersive resources. Setting your mind to learning a language is something that takes commitment and dedication. It is not enough to set aside thirty minutes a day if you want true fluency.

The language learnings resources I mention below are non-specific. Why? There are a number of reasons, including the fact that different resources exist for different languages, and that we all have different learning styles. Below are simply my suggestions for various resources that will help you learn a language by immersing yourself in it, whether learning for international work, travel, sports or other hobbies.

Literature

If your first instinct is to run to Amazon and find “[Language] for Dummies,” that’s okay. Textbooks and other written resources for language learning are excellent entry points for learning a language. Understand that these books are often not comprehensive — the reason that many language textbooks are specifically for classroom use is that the classroom time contributes to language fluency.

The main focus for in-home use should be gaining comfort with a language. These resources will help you acclimate yourself to the rules of a language and give you a guide to language learning flow, i.e. where to start, grammar structure, basic lessons.

Apps

Apps are a great idea if you want to learn languages quickly. That’s not to say an app can speed up the fluency process, but language learning apps like Duolingo can help you to familiarize yourself with common phrases rapidly. This helps to establish base words within your memory bank.

If you want to learn a language with a different character system (like Korean, for instance), memorizing the new alphabet involved can be an arduous task, but lessened by the use of apps. Apps can go wherever you go, making memorization much easier and also entertaining. Have a long wait in the doctor’s office? Pull out your app and get learning!

Flashcards

Apps for language learning try to be the digital version of old-school, paper flashcards, but they cannot replace them. Flashcards should definitely have a place in your language learning resource arsenal. Unlike apps that involve tapping and swiping, flashcards offer a more tactile form of learning that also includes a visual aide.

Flashcards are great for casual learning. Keep a stack next to your bed and study them a few times before you fall asleep. Also, it’s a common mistake to only use flashcards for vocabulary words. But flashcards are also great for memorizing grammar, sentence structure rules and other more conceptual ideas about a language.

Media

Last, but certainly not least, media is one of the most important resources you can utilize when it comes to language immersion and language learning. Sites like Netflix have a wide array of television and movie options from different countries. Find a selection that contains the language you want to learn and start watching!

Pronunciation, repeated words, phrase structures — this is important when it comes to adapting your brain to a language. When you immerse yourself in a language’s media, you’re more likely to achieve and retain fluency.

Language Learning Tips that DO NOT Work

There are a lot of blogs out there instructing you on how to best learn, speak and understand a language. I’m here to tell you that a lot of these blogs are wrong!

Below are a few language learning myths that are floating around out there. For each one, I explain why these tips or simply myths that are not conducive to language fluency.

“Focus on literal translation.”

We often think that in order to learn something completely, we have to focus on 100% accuracy. This makes sense in subjects like math where one number off can mean the difference between right and wrong. This isn’t true in language.

Literal translations are often jagged and don’t translate well. Fluency is about understanding what the context of the words mean, not their literal translation.

“Go at your own pace.”

It’s often said that learning is something we shouldn’t force on ourselves — that we should go at our own pace for our own benefit. Again, this doesn’t apply to learning languages.

When you go at your own pace, you run the risk of losing the language and eventually forgetting it entirely. You HAVE to be able to commit to daily learning time and immersive language methods.

“Language technicality is the most important part.”

In line with literal translations, language technicality isn’t nearly as important as language fluency. While it’s good to know the technical aspects of a language, they don’t mean much if you can’t converse fluidly. Many language students can rattle off what Spanish words mean and great French phrases, but this is about rote memorization — not actual conversational understanding.

“Stick to long-term goals.”

I often hear people say “I plan to learn Russian by the end of the year!” or some other variant with a different language. This isn’t how learning a language works. It’s important that you try your best, but it’s not conducive to education to stick to rigid goals.

Work every day and check where your fluency is at in regular intervals. Sometimes it takes longer than a year. And even if you FEEL fluent at the end of a year, that doesn’t mean you need to stop learning. Languages can be lost if you don’t use them: “Use it or lose it!”

“Focus on your weak spots.”

This tip may be great in other areas of learning, but it does not make sense in the context of linguistics. If you want to REALLY learn a language, you can’t treat it like you’re trying to get a good grade on an exam. If you focus too heavily on your weaker areas, you run the risk of ignoring other areas, leading to a collapse in fluency.

“You have to live and breathe the language!”

Is immersion good for learning languages? Of course. Do you have to become obsessed and run yourself ragged in order to become fluent? No.

Just like any other hobby, going overboard means you’re more likely to give up. You have to find the right balance between committing to daily memorization and exercises while also not pushing so yourself to the limit. Learning a language fast also usually means you have a good ability for memorization, NOT for actual fluency.

These are only a few of the tips I’ve found that I don’t agree with. Are there any language learning tips that you’ve found which are totally bogus?

The Languages That Will Net You the Most Profitable Translation Jobs


The Languages That Will Net You the Most Profitable Translation JobsSo you know a lot of languages and want to monetize your skill…that’s great! Now it’s time to figure out language profitability. That is, what languages will net you the most when it comes to translation jobs?

Language profitability

Figuring out what language will net you the highest paying translation jobs is difficult. Why? There are a lot of variables involved in determining language profitability.

One variable is location. If you live in Saudi Arabia, the most profitable translation jobs are probably not the same ones as in the USA. Location matters, both in terms of which languages and in which sectors are most highly prized. Therefore, it’s hard to pinpoint which languages are the most profitable across the board.

For the sake of this article, let’s say you live in a certain unnamed US city. What languages will make you the most money when it comes to translation work?

Japanese

Japan currently has a lot of trade deals with regards to technology and products coming in and out of the USA. In fact, the United States and Japan partner on many, many things. Therefore, companies from both countries are always looking for translators that can help them with all types of communications.

The good news is that while there is a high demand for Japanese translators, the competition is relatively low due to the complexity of the language. Therefore, Japan has a high language profitability in the USA.

Chinese

There’s a little more competition when it comes to Chinese translation jobs, mostly due to the fact that it’s the most widely spoken language in the world. Many Chinese citizens often snag these jobs because they learn another language as their second language. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for other translators in this market.

Also like Japan, China has a lot of reason to need English-to-Chinese translations and vice versa. There’s a lot of demand, quite a bit of competition and a lot of money involved.

German

German is considered to be a rare language in the United States. Despite there being a substantial German population within many states, it’s not a commonly spoken language. If you walk into a building and ask if anyone speaks German, there’s likely to be a low positive response. Especially compared to other languages like French or Spanish.

This is a circumstance in which there’s a large population with little outside fluency. Meaning, many companies are willing to pay top-dollar for German translators that can help sell products and services to an untapped market.

Swedish (and Other Nordic Languages)

Swedish, as well as other languages that exist in the Nordic region, is also gaining popularity among translators. Why? Because jobs dealing with Nordic languages pay well. The Nordic countries are quickly bringing in more and more Western influences to their major cities, which means they have to acclimate to Western languages.

The good thing about learning a language like Swedish is trans-language fluency. If you know Swedish, you’re more than halfway there to learning Norwegian and Danish. Learning any one of these languages and studying the other two lightly can net you three potential translation pools.

Arabic

Finally, countries in the Middle East are also looking to communicate more and more with countries that speak English. Larger companies are already on top of this, especially if they’re in the oil industry. Now, the little guys are looking to cash in on business deals with companies in the United States, too. Arabic isn’t a language commonly learned in the United States unless you’re specifically looking for work in the Middle East.

Remember that the above example is for the USA, and language profitability depends on your location. Therefore, if you live in England, the languages that will net you the most may be different. Be sure to ask your fellow translators working in similar locations or in similar sectors for advice. What languages have netted them the highest paying translation jobs?