Bilingva Translation and Interpreting


I wanted to let you know that we are very impressed

with Bilingva and the services you have provided to our group. I was referred to your company by a previous employee and was very happy with the results. Bilingva translated one of our clinical study consent forms into both Russian and Spanish. You were extremely helpful in giving us an estimate right away and getting the work done very quickly. The process was smooth and was done almost completely via email. The finished product was emailed to me in both PDF and Word versions. Recently, we had to make updates to the consent form and you were able to give me an estimate for these changes. Thanks again for everything – we will continue to use your translation services in the future.

Amanda Romani
Clinical Research Coordinator
UCSF Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center

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An interesting story came out on NPR today about attempts to use modern digital technology to keep the dying languages alive. There are over 7,000 spoken languages in the world, many of them are dialects spoken by a very limited cultural group. With the assimilation of these groups, the number of the native speakers of the language dwindles dramatically. Experts estimate that by the start of the next century only about half of the currently spoken dialects will survive.

That is probably an inevitable change - languages have their own life span, and while some are born (algorithmic languages, for example, have experienced a tremendous growth in the recent decades), others die. Sometimes, people attempt to keep ancient languages alive, and these efforts could be successful: Welsh, Basque, Catalan, Hebrew or Yiddish are all prime examples of these efforts.

According to the NPR story, members of the Native American Siletz tribe in Oregon attempted to preserve their unique language by working with a group of National Geographic Fellows to record 14,000 words and phrases in their native tongue. The word translations are now available online, along with lesson plans, as part of a so-called "talking dictionary" hosted by Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Similar efforts have been attempted by other tribes and ethnic groups: for example, Microsoft Windows and Office have been translated into the language of Inuits.

It seems, however, that although this would work to preserve the history of the language, it will do little for keeping it alive. Nothing can replace the actual live conversations between language speakers. The reason Welsh, Catalan or Yiddish were restored from extinction is that a critical mass of speakers was accumulated, whether through government efforts or through grassroots campaigns. Without this component, digital dictionaries and YouTube language lessons will remain just that - an educational material for the language gone.

You can read the full NPR story here.

Translating Computer Terminology

Computer terminology slang is perhaps one of the hardest to translate right. Not because of the difficulties in translating the words per se - there are dictionaries and glossaries for that - but because you have to understand clearly what audience the resulting translation is geared to.

Computer terminology is, for the most part, generated in English language, and is then widely adopted into other languages, wherein the words are adjusted using the rules of the adoptive language. So, the English root of the word is still clearly recognizable, but its target translation has become a used term in its own right. At the same time, there may exist an official equivalent word or an acronym in the native language that is sanctioned to be used in documents such as purchase orders, invoices, government contracts and other documents that can be subject to an official scrutiny or audit.

Now we have a dilemma: should we use a widely adopted slang term for the translation, or an official, less used acronym. The slang term would fit well with the technical crowd in documents related to the latest developments in the computer world, such as blog posts, magazine articles, newspaper stories and such. The use of an official acronym or native equivalent would stand out in the text as an out-of-place, inflexible, even obscure reference to certain readers who are not familiar with the official technical nomenclature used by the government.

On the other hand, the use of slang would be inappropriate for documents such as technical documentation, specifications, proposals in response to government RFPs, and many others, where, no matter how obtuse or archaic, the only sanctioned term to use is the one from the official glossaries.

Another problem with computer slang is that it tends to constantly change. The world of technology moves at an amazing pace, and so does the language. What was considered the norm just a few years ago would now evoke a puzzled look and a double-take from a reader or a listener. Translators have to stay on top of the jargon in order to produce translations that use relevant terminology and are easily understood by the target audience.

When doing technical translations it is always advisable to work with a translator, not only specializing in the field, but also living in the country of the translation destination, since even a native translator living abroad may not be up-to-date on the recent language trends in a specific country. A consultation from a native expert working in the particular field is also incredibly useful.

The story of a Winchester

Consider, for example, hard drives - a necessary component for many computers. Back in the days when they were developed at IBM, they had a nickname "Winchester", thanks to the internal spec calling for 30 Mbs of storage on each of the two platters they were to be manufactured with. 30-30 is a well-known Winchester rifle, and the nickname stayed. Later, it got adopted beyond the IBM's labs and became an everyday term for HDD acronym in the United States. Later it gradually became obsolete in the US and Western Europe, however gained a new life in the computer slang in Russia, as the influx of computer equipment flooded the Russian market.

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At the same time, Russian computer industry had its own acronym for hard drives, which it insisted on using. The acronym is very hard to pronounce, and is a very illustrative example of a bureaucratic approach to naming conventions. "НЖМД" acronym - "Hard Magnetic Disk Drive" was used in technical, educational and legal documents, yet "Winchester" was steadily gaining ground, and soon "НЖМД" was retired everywhere except for government bidding contracts.

A few years passed, and the term "Winchester" itself was getting phased out in favor of more technical yet simple direct translation of "Hard Drive" into Russian - "жесткий диск". Even more so, as the number of computer engineers fluently reading and speaking English has increased dramatically, the term "Hard Drive" has been transcribed into Cyrillic letters - "хард драйв" - and is now used freely within the engineering community. The use of the term assumes a certain level of qualification from the parties involved, and is permissible for use during interpreting. Still, for translation, we would recommend to stick to the translation "жесткий диск" for clarity.

The official acronym "НЖМД" survives to this day, and is advisable to use in the official documents related to governmental purchases, bids, technical specifications and such.

We thought this was a funny and poignant take on interpreter's job!

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Planning for translation

The first step towards website translation and localization begins long before the first page of the new website goes up. Decisions about possible translation and localization need to be made during the planning stage, since they can influence your choice of platform and language to create your future website. All pros and cons of a CMS system vs. plain HTML pages, custom scripts vs. static pages need to be considered roughly during the same time as the wireframes are created.

From the localization standpoint, CMS systems offer the most versatility and ease of use both for you, the client, as well as for us - your translation provider. All website text is neatly packaged in so called resource files, which can be easily exchanged, changes can be made without accessing the website itself, quickly uploaded back to the website and go live within minutes of you receiving the translation. However, CMS systems are complex to maintain and deploy. If your website consists of just a few static pages, it would be a lot easier to keep several copies of these pages, each holding text in a specific language, and serve them to the user using some kind of a switch method.

Localizing static HTML

We'll discuss the aspects of localizing static HTML pages first, and address server-side scripts and CMS systems in later blog entries. Let's say, you have a fairly small website, which you need to translate in just a few languages. For example, your content will be served in English and Spanish. The easiest thing to do would be to maintain several directories on the server, named using standard localization convention. For example:

{codecitation style="brush: xml;"} your_domain_name/ index.html about.html es/ index.html about.html {/codecitation}

Your English-language files will be placed in the root directory for the particular domain, while any additional languages will be contained in separate directories. Keep the links between the pages related, so that when you switch to another language, all the links will point to the files within the same directory. Not only you save yourself the headache of maintaing double the number of links you normally have, you can easily deploy additional languages as needed.

Now you need to have the contents translated. This is where we come in. If you thought about the possibility of translation before you laid out your HTML, and kept the text separately from the HTML markup, you now could send us just this text. We will translate it into the languages you need and send back to you for placement into HTML templates.

Don't have the text separately? No worries! Send us HTML files, and we'll edit them directly. We have the tools (and we'll talk about them in the future blog entries) to edit text without stripping out tags, so that you get the same markup back, and translated pages ready for upload.


All done? Not quite. If you used any graphics that contains text - buttons, banners, images - chances are, you need to localize them as well. This is a little trickier: the process is mostly manual, so we need to have access to all the images; we go through the images, translate the contents, and send you back a table with columns which contain the original text and all translations, so that you could match the translation to the original, and recreate your website collateral in the graphics editor of your choice.

Final review

Quality control with localization is essential. Now that you've uploaded translated web pages and graphics on the website, our translators can review that the translated text was transferred correctly: no accent marks lost, no incorrect hyphenations present, the symbols are located where they are supposed to be. After the check is complete, your translated website is ready to go live!

See also:

  • Step 2: localizing static HTML pages
  • One of the most commonly asked questions we get from clients is: "Why do I need two conference interpreters for one language for the event?"

    Simultaneous interpreting is a very challenging task: you need to listen to what the speaker is saying, process the speech, analyze sentence structure, translate it into another language and say back. Couple that with the fact, that some people speak with an accent, others tend to muffle words, speak at a very fast pace or, sometimes cannot form a coherent sentence - and all of this has to be understood by an interpreter and translated into another language within seconds.

    For this reason, conference interpreters work in shifts, typically between fifteen to twenty minutes each. The brain is most productive during this period of time, and it processes speech at its peak. While one interpreter is working, the other follows the notes, checks dictionaries or simply gives the brain a chance to relax. As each shift is getting close to its end, the second interpreter prepares to take over and starts to spot the first interpreter. At a convenient moment (speaker makes a pause, or speakers change), the second interpreter switches his microphone on and begins interpreting, while the first one goes on a break.

    The more difficult the subject is, or the harder the presenter is to understand, the interpreters need to switch more often. It is not uncommon (and is a norm in some countries) to have three, not two interpreters working in the same booth, in the same language.

    When you need to interpret into more than one language, additional interpreting booths are set up for additional teams of interpreters.