February 15, 2019

A History of Romanizing Chinese

All languages continually undergo adjustments to better suit their contexts. Often, changes are made as a product of the tension between the opposing desires for simplification and tradition. Various deliberative bodies around the globe have undertaken spelling reformations for their languages, one example being German orthography reform of 1996, but none compare in scope to the effort made by Chinese scholars in the earlier twentieth century. The reformation and simplification of Chinese script has a long history. Archaic attempts at romanizing Chinese were attempted in the early 17th century by Jesuit monks, but this resulted in an insular and illegible […]
February 1, 2019

The Mother of Mexico

The history of interpreting stretches back millenia. The oldest known depiction of an interpreter was etched inside the tomb of Horemhab at Saqqara, ancient Memphis, just outside Cairo. It dates from about 1330 BCE. The frieze depicts Horemhab facing left and right, conveying the pharaoh’s message to Syrian and Libyan delegations. Horemhab was a commoner who began serving in King Tutankhamun’s court as a royal spokesman, diplomat and envoy; and would ultimately reign as the final pharaoh of Ancient Egypt’s 18th dynasty. Approximately two thousand, eight hundred years later and twelve thousand kilometers away, another interpreter would emerge and in […]
January 25, 2019

Betraying the Best

On Friday, January 10, 2019, 48-year-old Mohasif Motawakil, a former interpreter for the U.S. military in Afghanistan was arrested at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, placed in detention and threatened with deportation back to Kabul. Motawakil had obtained a Special Immigrant Visa through a program passed by Congress in 2009, the Afghan Allies Protection Act. Motawakil was eligible after assisting military operators from 2012 to 2013, but Customs and Border Protection kept him in custody for a week over concerns that some medical records had been faked. He had arrived with his wife and five children, and while […]
January 17, 2019

Gross’ Honor

Last week, The Washington Post reported that Presidential asset Trump absconded with his interpreter’s notes after meeting with his handler, Vladimir Putin at the Hamburg G20. If true, this is correctly understood as an unprecedented breach in protocol and a violation of the Presidential Records Act. The noble individual at the center of this diplomatic disaster was Marina Gross, the only other American in the room, who has worked as a translator and interpreter for the State Department for at least a decade. Presidential interpreters often bring years of diplomatic experience to a summit and are required by the Office […]
April 4, 2018

Why Non-native English Speakers Have Trouble with ‘The’, ‘A’ and ‘An’.

This blog article is about articles, grammatically speaking. It is an analysis of that little word preceding ‘analysis’, ‘an’, and I am certain it is indefinite. The English article system presents many problems for non-native speakers of English, particularly when they do not have the equivalent structure in their first language. Learning their proper use is considered to be one of the most complicated aspects of the English language. For example, as a native speaker, I instinctively knew to use ‘an’ rather than ‘a’, in the second sentence because ‘analysis’ begins with a vowel sound. This is done in speech […]
March 24, 2018

A.I. On The Mind

Across the United States today English to Spanish and Spanish to English are the dominant language pairs in business translation. Experienced translators are kept busy working on Employee Manuals, Benefit Guides, Settlement Documents, product labels and Workplace Safety Manuals. But lately, Artificial Intelligence (AI) assisted machine translation is being promoted as being the next best alternative in getting the job done. Machine translation, which has been around since just after World War II, is getting better and better with each iteration, and in the end may prove to be the breakthrough that we all, in this industry, fear. But, fear […]
March 9, 2018

Prepositions are notoriously tricky to get right for non-native translators when going into English.

According to the on-line Oxford Dictionary: “A preposition is a word governing, and usually preceding, a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element in the clause, as in ‘the man on the platform’, ‘she arrived after dinner’, ‘what did you do it for?’.” On, after and for are the prepositions in these phrases and fairly straight forward for the average English speaker; however, for a Spanish speaker, when going from Spanish to English it is a mine field. The origin of the word itself gives a strong clue to what it does in a sentence. […]
February 27, 2018

Translation agencies: When price is more important than quality

A recent article in the January/February issue of the ATA Chronicle* written by John M Milan discusses the “Economics of Language Services” and more specifically why freelancers find it difficult to raise their rates. The article zeroes in on the several points: value, scarcity, marginal utility, supply and demand, consumer perception and competitive markets to mention most but not all of the topics. Mr. Milan appears to have a good grasp of economics but fails to point out that often freelance translators are not able to raise their rates because they lack significant volume. In today’s world anyone, anywhere can […]
May 23, 2017

How to Choose a Translation Agency

In the translation industry, a translation agency is useful for freelance translators for a number of reasons. There are many translations agencies out there and searching for the best one can be a difficult task. Here are a few things to consider during your quest to choose the best translation agency: Tell the agency what you expect and find out what they expect. For example, let the agency know, as a translator, you expect to be paid on time. Any reputable translation agency respects and abides by the rule of paying translators and interpreters on time. Any agency that balks […]