How to refresh your translation career in the fall

How to refresh your translation careerFall always brings memories of “back to school”, or even “back to business”. Summer vacations over, now it’s time to get back to work. Put the pedal to the metal. Get the nose to the grindstone. Refresh your translation career. But how?

There are many language refresher tips and tools for polyglots. If you want a real challenge, I would suggest looking at translation and interpretation careers in the United Nations (UN) system. Beyond the personal satisfaction of contributing to making a better world, a UN translation career is one of the most profitable careers for polyglots.

If you do not want to work for the United Nations, I still recommend taking the UN language competency exam (LCE) just to make yourself more marketable in your translation job.

I recently sat for the first part of the infamous LCE. Surprisingly, taking the exam was not nearly as hard as figuring out how to register for it!

Here are some simple facts to help you through the process. The official United Nations LCE website has all of the information, though ironically not presented clearly.

1. Check your credentials

The six official UN languages are: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. You must have “a perfect command of one of these languages and excellent knowledge of at least one other.” The exception is German, for which the UN has a small unit in NYC. German speakers need only one other official UN language.

To be clear: to sit for most LCE options, you need mother tongue in one of the six, PLUS another two. For example, you are French mother tongue with perfect command of Spanish and excellent knowledge of Russian.

2. Decide on what kind of exam you want to take

There are exams for translation and interpretation. There are also exams custom made for copywriters and editors, as well as other specific skill sets. Make sure to read though the options and select your exam(s) carefully based on your desired translation career.

3. Check the exam schedule

The LCE website updates exam dates, the first part of which are taken on-line.

The website is not updated regularly, nor does it offer a notification service. I suggest checking it every day if you are serious about bringing your translation career up to the next level.

4. Apply to take the exam

Similar to a job application, you must apply to the exam to gain a virtual seat. Do not underestimate how long it will take you to complete this application! Make it stand out!

The LCE website walks you through the steps to set up your online profile and application.

5. Preparing for the exam

If you search the internet hard enough, there are examples of the LCE individual components on-line. The website prepares you only in that it stipulates what kind of texts will be presented. So far in 2017, it has either been “legal” or “economic” texts, all related to international development documents.

While the LCE website says it is not necessary, I would highly recommend studying the UN style guide and manuals beforehand. These are all available on-line.

Like any boost to your translation career, I recommend immersing yourself in the languages you choose.

In this case, not just any media or company will do. Focus on United Nations documents and films and find yourself a language meet-up with humanitarian professionals in it. You will need to be familiar with humanitarian terminology and constructs if you want to make it through!

6. Taking the first part of the exam

Treat the LCE like any major exam or presentation in your life.

I found the exam exhausting and a bit grueling, even if I love translation! You are under time restrictions and of course mental pressure. Lucky for me I was in a time zone only four hours ahead of NYC. You may end up having to take the exam in the wee hours of the night.

Get good rest the night before. Make sure you have access to plenty of water and healthy food to quickly eat on breaks between the exam sections.

Last words of advice: be ready with the email address where you need to immediately report any technical glitches. I was working on a very slow internet speed, I recommend not doing that! All technical information is sent beforehand in terms of what you need.

7. Results

Perhaps needless-to-say, but the United Nations system can be quite slow. Check back on the LCE website for test results, and be prepared to wait. Refreshing your translation career this way will be slow.

I took the exam on 8 April 2017 and as of 26 August 2017, still no results. Meanwhile, other exams have been graded and are onto the second parts. This part of the LCE system remains a mystery.

If I pass, I move onto the second phase of the exam. From what I can gather, that happens in person in a location I do not choose. The only thing I am sure of, you have to pay your own way to get there!

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

Translation Error Raises Stakes in Real Estate Legal Battle Between Katy Perry and California Nuns

katy perryA translation error plays a key role in an ongoing legal battle between pop singer Katy Perry and a group of nuns, the Los Angeles order of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At issue is the $15 million sale of the order’s villa-style convent in California.

It’s not every day that a mistranslation of a Latin document has such high stakes real estate and legal repercussions — but in this case, a protracted legal battle hinges on the translation of a Vatican decree that was used to convince a judge to clear the sale of the luxury property.

The property in question is a stunning convent villa near Los Feliz, a prime piece of real estate — but the question who controls the property is still up in the air. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles was planning to sell the complex to Perry for $15 million, but newly filed court papers on behalf of two nuns state that the Vatican was still examining the sister’s claim to the villa.

“Katy Perry and others will learn: you don’t mess with these nuns,” said Margaret Cone, an attorney for the nuns.

A hearing has been scheduled for June 20.


Translation News Roundup, May 6

Aaaaaand — we’re back, with the most interesting news stories from the world of translation. Here’s what’s been going on:

Google Translate turns 10 years old

Does this make you feel old? The search giant’s translation platform has been around for ten years, boasting 500 million users and translating 100 billion words a day. During the last decade, the service has grown from support for two language to 103, and it can now translate text in photographs, facilitate live conversations, and supports offline translation.

The service has the most heavy users in Brazil, and the most common translations are between English and Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese and Indonesian.



Translation from the High Valyrian for Game of Thrones fans

Melisandre Game of Thrones

One language Google Translate doesn’t yet support is High Valyrian from HBO’s hit TV series Game of Thrones, based on George R. R. Martin‘s series of novels, A Song of Ice and Fire. Luckily for fans of the show, the Internet has taken it upon itself to provide its own English translation of important passages from the show, such as as the Red Priestress Melisandre’s prayer on the most recent episode, in which — well, if you haven’t seen it yet, we won’t spoil it…

After one intrepid Reddit user had attempted his own translation, the creator of the language, David J. Peterson, offered his official version. If you’re studying Valyerian, here is the translation of Melisandre’s prayer:

Zȳhys ōñoso jehikagon Āeksiot epi, se gīs hen sȳndrorro jemagon.
“We ask the Lord to shine his light, and lead a soul out of darkness.”

Zȳhys perzys stepagon Āeksio Ōño jorepi, se morghūltas lȳs qēlītsos sikagon.
“We beg the Lord to share his fire, and light a candle that has gone out.”

Hen sȳndrorro, ōños. Hen ñuqīr, perzys. Hen morghot, glaeson.
“From darkness, light. From ashes, fire. From death, life.”

Translations from Spanish and Portuguese Win Best Translated Book Awards

herreraYuri Herrera’s novel Signs Preceding the End of the World, about a young woman crossing the Mexican border into the US, and Angélica Freitas’s collection of poems Rilke Shake have won the ninth annual Best Translated Book Awards last Wednesday in New York.

The four winning authors and translators will receive $5,000 cash prizes thanks to funding from the Amazon Literary Partnership program. Lisa Dillman translated Herrera’s book from Spanish into English and Hilary Kaplan translated Freitas’s from Portuguese into English.

See the University of Rochester’s Three Percent blog and The Guardian for more.