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.


Transperfect: Has The Delaware Court Been Compromised?

TransPerfectIn a post on from April 12 entitled “Has The Delaware Court Been Compromised?” Charlie Taylor raises serious concerns about a lawsuit ruling on the sale of the $600 million dollar translation company TransPerfect. Taylor alleges impropriety by Delaware Chief Chancellor Andrew Bouchard that could result in dissolution of the company.

TransPerfect, the world’s largest privately held provider of language and technology solutions for global business, just reported a first quarter revenue total of over $120 million, setting a new record for its Q1 earnings.

The case currently before the Delaware Chancery Court was filed by Elizabeth Elting, one of the owners who is looking to sell her half of the business. Elting’s co-owner Phillip Shawe “wants to buy her out and keep growing the business, but Elting will not agree,” writes Taylor.

Transperfect court rulingTaylor raises the alarm because he fears 4,000 American jobs are at risk because of Judge Bouchard’s handling of the case. According to Taylor, the custodian installed by Bouchard, Robert Pincus, is a friend of Bouchard’s. Pincus did not share a detailed letter from 75 senior TransPerfect staff members, in which they plead with Pincus and Judge Bouchard to not sell the company away from current management and expressed confidence in Phillip Shawe.

The employees also offered to put up $200 million of their own money to buy out plaintiff Elizabeth Elting.

In his post, Taylor points out that Judge Bouchard recently appeared on a panel at New Orleans’ Tulane University together with the plaintiff’s attorney — raising the question of impropriety, since the TransPerfect case is still open.  

Judge Bouchard’s Chancery Court is expected to rule on the TransPerfect case on April 27.

Translation News Roundup, 11/18


Today, we’re rounding up some translation news from around the web — some serious, some weird, some funny. If you have any interesting recent stories about the world of translation to add, please don’t hesitate to leave a link in the comments!

  • The world is mourning the victims of the brutal terrorist attacks in Paris. Occasion for the Evening Standard to give some background on — and the translation of — the French national anthem, Marseillaise. “Originally written as a marching song, the lyrics can only be described as bloodthirsty.”
  • Remember the elegant luxury suite Bill Murray stayed in in Sofia Coppola’s 2003  movie Lost in Translation? Well, you can stay there, for $550 and up. RocketNews has photos from the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The next time you find yourself lost in Japan, you know where to go.
  • How would you translate Harry Potter’s “pensieve”? Why is Alice in Wonderland’s “Mad Hatter” the “Marble Mason” in Japanese?  The Upcoming gathers a few oddities from the history of literary translation.
  • “Taste the Translation” is by far the funniest translation-related ad we’ve seen in a while. Elan Languages cleverly compares the translations of a sushi recipe by having a real cook prepare — and real people eat — the output from its own service and that of Google Translate. The upshot: Google is less than edible. Watch the video below.

How Translation Project Management is like Air Traffic Control

10720103175_bfeced04bd_zI was on a flight from New York to Dakar, Senegal, working on translating a pitch for a German TV series, when it hit me that translation project management and air travel share a lot of striking similarities.

Both air travel and translation are functions of globalization: the first in a physical sense, literally bringing people together and making distances between countries and continents shrink, the second through bridging linguistic divides, connecting individuals and businesses by translating and localizing their content and communications.

The more I thought about it (I had plenty of time: the flight from JFK to Dakar’s Léopold Sédar Senghor airport takes 8 hours), the clearer the parallels became. Let’s look at it step by step:

Ready for Take-Off: Translation Project Preparation vs. Pre-Flight Routines

Translation projects and commercial airline flights can’t be launched on a whim. Both need meticulous, careful preparation to make sure they come off without a hitch.

The first thing any flight requires is a flight plan. The two crucial considerations are fuel calculations to ensure the plane can reach its destination in the most cost-effective way and the best choice of a route by selecting airways and waypoints that comply with air traffic safety regulations and ensure a successful and efficient flight.

Similarly, once a translation project has been commissioned, the project manager has to create a project plan that guarantees the successful completion according to the client’s specifications. The right translators for the required language pair(s) have to be found. Deadlines and project milestones need to be identified. Estimates have to be calculated in much the same way a flight planner calculates the minimum necessary fuel load to guarantee a safe flight.

Now the client can send the files (and the ground crew can board the aircraft) — but even with the passengers in place, the plane/project isn’t quite ready to get off the ground yet.

Before take-off, the captain goes down his pre-flight checklist and mechanics will conduct one or more “walk-arounds” — the so-called physical external check, looking for impact damage, fuel, oil or hydraulic leaks, or blocked ports.

Before a translation project can get off the ground, the project manager also conducts a number of mission-critical checks. Depending on the file format the source texts arrive in, text has to be prepared, segmented, and aligned. Terms have to be extracted and researched, glossaries and term databases created. Translators may need special instructions about file formats, naming conventions, or special project terminology.

In both cases, launching the flight/project without taking all necessary precautions can be fatal.

Cruising Altitude: Executing the Translation Project and In-Flight Monitoring

Once our translation project/transatlantic flight has  taken off, it enters a new phase. The role of the translation project manager, which is to say, the air traffic controller in charge of the flight, changes. With all the appropriate planning and preparation completed, they are now more concerned with monitoring and controlling during the flight/translation itself.

In a modern aircraft, flight management systems handle a wide variety of in-flight tasks — to the point where they don’t even any longer carry flight engineers or navigators

It’s tempting to compare the so-called “auto pilot” to modern CAT (computer aided translation) tools. And while translation memories and machine translation can make any translation project easier, they can never replace human translators — much like you wouldn’t send a commercial civilian airliner on its way without a pilot and a computerized flight management system alone.

During the duration of the flight, en-route air traffic controllers monitor the flight and stay in radio and radar contact with the aircraft. They can direct the route, instruct it to climb or descend, provide information about weather conditions and handle unexpected events, such as emergencies or unscheduled traffic.

During this stage in the project, translation project managers often feel like they are sitting in an air traffic control tower as well. Like John Cusack in the 1999 comedy Pushing Tin, they have to multitask to the extreme, dealing with changes in project scope, translators no-shows or delays, additional files, delayed deliverables and time-zone management without succumbing to the stress inherent in juggling incoming and outgoing files in countless languages and formats at all times of day and night.

Whether it’s turbulence or corrupted files without proper backups, this stage of the project/flight is about dealing with unexpected complications while keeping the clients/passengers as happy as possible and bringing the flight/translation in for a smooth, on-time landing. Often, this involves having the cabin crew go around one more time with appeasing smiles and free alcoholic beverages while the flight goes for another “go around” in a holding pattern and the final document is sent for one more round of proof reading.

A Safe Landing

18227917006_a55104f2f3_zAs my flight landed on schedule in Dakar, I was grateful once again for the smooth cooperation between flight attendants, in-flight and ground crews to assure a safe and pleasant trip. These days, we take air travel almost for granted, forgetting how much work, attention, and care goes into even the most routine flight.

In the same way, the smooth, on-time delivery of a translation project owes much to meticulous planning, translating, and proofreading that often goes unnoticed by the client. As the plane descends on its final approach and local air traffic controllers take over, translation project managers run final consistency checks, missing word detection, grammar checks and test advanced file formats for compliance.

When everything goes well and the project arrives safely and on time, we barely notice any turbulence and perhaps even took a little nap that keeps the worst effects of jet lag at bay. On our way to claim our luggage, we thank the crew who waves and says, “we hope you choose to fly with us again in the future.”

Like any airline, a good translation agency aims to build a long-term relationship with its valued customers, project by well-executed project. The only thing missing are platinum “frequent translator” accounts that grant clients access to a VIP lounge while we prepare their next project for take-off.


Microsoft’s New Translator App Challenges Google

Microsoft Translate smartwatch appNo doubt, the future is here: with the release of Microsoft Translator for iOS, Android, Apple Watch and Android Wear smartwatches, you can now talk into the little magical device on your wrist and have it translate whatever you said into another language.

Well, sort of.

The app, a challenger to the Google Translate app that’s been offering speech-to-speech and on-the-fly text translation for a while now, is reasonably accurate. But by now, everyone knows not to expect too much from machine translation — for every surprisingly accurate result, there are still too many garbled misunderstandings or out-of-context translations.

But how does the new kid on the block stack up against Google’s app, which has just recently added 20 new languages to it’s also very sci-fi instant visual translation feature?

Android Police answers this question with an in-depth comparison between the two apps. In short, Microsoft Translator offers a prettier interface and the smartwatch versions, but lacks many other features that the more mature Google app has been offering for long time now: offline use, live conversation mode, more comfortable copying of results, and the visual/camera translation.

As far as accuracy is concerned, the jury is still out. We’d love to hear from you about your experiences with both apps — how do they stack up in your language pair? Let us know in the comments.

Taking the Guess Work out of Translation Rates

To many clients, the way translators and translation agencies calculate their rates must seem akin to Black Magic: you’re supposed to fill out a web form to “get a free quote”, and if you’re lucky, before long, you’ll get a number back. How the translation agency arrived at that number often remains a mystery. Is there a logic to it, or did they simply multiply your zip code with the phase of the moon and divide it by Pi?

It’s no wonder many clients are put off by the lack of transparency when it comes to the rates for quality translations and rather try their luck with machine translation or a sketchy low-price service — with predictably sub-par results.

How Translation Rates Are Calculated

A professional translation agency will take a number of factors in consideration when quoting rates — and the phases of the moon have nothing to do with it.

Language Pair

Translation projects are usually quoted by the word, and the source and target languages are key for the calculation of the rate. Certain language pairs are much more common and affordable than others. Supply and demand as well as the cost of living in the respective countries factors into the price. The translation community offers a list of average rates based on information volunteered by their users. Rates per word can vary wildly, from about $0.14/word for common pairs up to twice that much for more rare or difficult languages such as Icelandic or Swiss German.

Level of Specialization

The second most important factor in calculation translation rates for any given text is, simply put, the level of difficulty. A relatively commonplace text that relies on a familiar vocabulary and short sentences easily grasped by a general audience will be quoted at a lower rate than a highly specialized document that requires a lot of research or knowledge of specific jargon or context. Technical translations, medical or legal documents take more effort to get right and accordingly command higher rates.

Turnaround Time

640px-Project-triangle.svg“Gut Ding will Weile haben” is a German proverb that translates to “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” A quality translation can take as much time as it took to create the source text. Still, translators everywhere are all too familiar with clients who consider this process an afterthought — if they consider it at all. More often then not, this results in turnaround times that require long nights or weekends. It should go without saying that rush jobs at a high quality level will raise the price tag on your project. As the famous diagram says: you can have it “fast”, “good”, or “cheap” — but you have to pick two of the three. Make sure you plan for a realistic delivery time, or get ready to pay extra.

Repeat Projects and Translation Memories

I mentioned earlier that more specialized texts can require a good deal of research from the translator to understand the context of a specific text and make sure technical jargon is used correctly. Cultural considerations and localization may also take extra time and effort. The upside of this process is that once this work has been done, subsequent texts in a similar vein can be translated more efficiently. Translators who keep working on a long-term, ongoing project can increasingly rely on translation memories and project glossaries, which cuts down on effort and price.

Other Considerations

Professional proofreading should be included in any translation quote, but a number of other factors can affect the price of your translation: are the files in a peculiar format that requires extra effort? PowerPoint presentations, XML document or InDesign layouts may add to your total. Audio transcriptions, software internationalization, the translation of web apps and other specialized services are almost sure to incur surcharges.

As you can see, there is no Black Magic involved in the calculation of translation service rates — but the factors involved can be as varied and as complex as language itself. That’s why a reputable translation agency won’t give you “one price fits all” quote without taking a closer look at your project and its specific requirements.