Our industry is truly one built on trust and transparency which are also part of our core values; thus, both are a focus in everything we do at Global Accent. As such, I wanted to share a little about our "secret sauce" and why it has become the recipe for us to ensure our clients' ongoing success.
We often get questions like, “if you don’t know the language yourself, how can you guarantee the quality of a translation?” and “How do you figure out how long a translation is going to take (and can it be quicker 😊)?” Today, we are going to answer those questions (and a few more) by diving into our standard project process.
In the translation industry, there is a common process called TEP (translate-edit-proofread). This is the foundation of our process as well, although we have modified and added to it as necessary in order to meet our clients’ specific needs. For quality assurance, the key is to work with the right linguists. Having the right people in place is a KEY component of building the trust that makes this all work seamlessly.
In our process, the first step is to analyze the files with our CAT software, Trados, to set everything up for success. Trados analyzes the file for repetitions and matches with past projects for that client. This way, we can ensure that our clients don’t pay full price for text that had been previously translated or that is repeated! Trados also does a lot of additional small things that help QA and this can be a full topic of its own, but it is important to point out that Trados helps improve our human translations in many ways.
Once we have used Trados to determine the scope of the project and prepare the files for our linguists, it’s time to find our translator. We have all of our experienced linguists’ specialties and backgrounds available within our PM software to quickly and easily find the perfect fit for each project. Once we have our translator, we look for our editor. We also connect our translator and editor for a project, because we believe it helps foster a collaborative atmosphere and a better final product. Not every agency does this but it is a critical component to ensure the highest quality final output. Once the file has been translated and edited, it goes back to the initial translator for final proofing. At that point, the translator sends us their final file and we perform a final internal QA and get back to the team with any final questions. Then we finalize the file via Trados once again, and our project is complete.
So, to go back to our initial questions above, we approach quality via people and process. If you have the right people in place, then you are already most of the way there. A good translator will ask the right questions to improve the source text, the translation, and the project overall. They help with cultural issues and questions without even being explicitly asked. While they are still working to complete the project on time and on budget, they are also thinking about these issues outside the specific task of translation to improve the final product overall. We have been developing the “people” side of our process for over 15 years and I am proud to say we work with some of the best linguists in our industry. When you mix in our thorough QA process described above, it creates an ideal final product for our clients.
As for timing, this is also something that has developed over the course of our many years working with translation projects. We have a standard amount of words (or characters) per day for each language that we find gives the linguists enough time to provide an optimal product. We then have a similar determination for editing time, and we have standard expectations for our project admin tasks and final QA. As many of our clients know, we do offer rush and weekend options – these are carefully calibrated to prioritize timing without pushing our linguists to the point that the chance of error increases significantly. As with any thought-intensive task, the less time you have, the higher the risk of error. So these rush projects are calculated risks and we have found that between our PM team and our top-of-the-line linguists, we can still keep risk of linguistic error low and quality high, despite the constraints. We are always transparent and collaborative with our clients so that we can customize our service to meet their needs.
I hope this helps provide a little perspective into what we’re doing and why we’re doing it! Our clients' success is the pinnacle of our success and is at the heart of everything we do. If you have questions about our process, want to learn more, or have a project you’d like to discuss, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected], or our team at [email protected].
As the lunar new year approaches, Chinese speakers worldwide prepare their homes for festivities and wrap up their new year shopping. On New Year’s Eve, spring couplets are hung around door frames, a Chinese tradition that poeticizes the aspiration for the year to come.
The year 2022 marks the year of the tiger; the third year of the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle. Those born in the year of the tiger are said to be powerful individuals with authoritative qualities; they are brave, self-assured, and competitive.
Celebrations stretch from bustling cities such as Beijing and Hong Kong to small villages in rural and mountainous regions of China. Fireworks sprinkle the skies above both mainland China and the eastern island of Taiwan. In the United States, those who cannot visit home perhaps utilize technologies like Zoom to reunite with their families for the Spring Festival.
As one envisions these traditions, language must not be left out. As preparations are made for an arriving spring, what language is spoken? Well, Chinese of course. One might even be so inclined to narrow it down to Mandarin or Cantonese.
In actuality, the earlier term “Chinese speaker” is one of ambiguity. We can deduce that statistically speaking, the language is most likely Mandarin, the most spoken language in the world, with nearly one billion speakers. However, when working with Chinese speakers and adapting content for translation, it is better not to leave such decisions to an educated guess.
Linguistically speaking, Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family; geographically, these languages stretch from Northeast India, Burma, Bangladesh, and Northern Thailand, across most of China; They then stretch to the Korean border and down into Taiwan and Hainan Island.
This language family consists of the Sinitic languages (for political reasons these are known as the Chinese “dialects”) and the Tibeto-Burman languages. The term Sinitic indicates the linguistic perspective that Chinese “dialects” are distinct languages that are often mutually unintelligible when spoken. Of the Sinitic languages, Mandarin is most widely spoken, having been established as the official language of China in the 1930s and since this decision there has been a push to standardize Mandarin in Chinese speaking communities. Other Sinitic languages include Jin, Wu, Hui, Gan, Xiang, Min, Hakka, Yue (Cantonese), and Ping. There are many linguistic differences among these languages. These include number of tones and the phonemic inventory (type of sounds the language contains).
Refer to table 1 to compare Mandarin to Cantonese. While identical in written form, Cantonse has a slight difference when used verbally. The character 是 is changed to 係 when used in speech. The two sentences not only attach different strings of sounds to each character, but also utilize different tones. Mandarin uses four tones to distinguish between different meanings. In contrast, Cantonese utilizes nine. While Pinyin is now incorporated into the teaching of Mandarin, most Cantonese speakers do not learn through a roman letter system.
Some regions like the Northwest are of great linguistic interest, given that the geography leads to language admixture and replacement, and sometimes leads languages to extinction. Mountain ranges and rivers can divide and isolate areas; a language spoken in a quiet mountain town will evolve quite differently than that spoken in a large city, like Beijing. Chinese spoken in the city has evolved and will continue to evolve at its own pace and via its own path. It is continuously changing and becoming more complex due to its exposure to people of different origins including their linguistic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. However, most Chinese speaking communities are already unified though a common simplified script.
The written Chinese script unites the speakers of different Sinitic languages, in most regions. There are also two distinct Chinese writing systems used today: traditional and simplified. Today, traditional characters continue to be used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macao, as well as Chinese communities outside of China (such as the United States). Simplified characters are used in mainland China, Singapore, and Malaysia.
The history of the normalization of Chinese characters is a fascinating concept linguistically, politically, and culturally. Although there were previous efforts to simplify the language, it was under the leadership of revolutionary communist leader and founder of the People’s Republic of China, former president Mao Zedong, that the language was majorly changed.
Throughout the first few decades of the 20th century, efforts to simplify more Chinese characters never came to fruition. It wasn’t until after World War II and the Civil War in China that simplifying the Chinese writing system became a priority for the Chinese Government. In 1954 the Committee for Chinese Language Reform (later renamed the National Language Commission) began to oversee the normalization of Chinese characters.
By 1964 the “Complete List of Simplified Characters” was originally published, then republished in 1986. This contains a total of 2,235 simplified characters. Following over half a century, Chinese was simplified throughout mainland China. Today normalized Chinese characters are divided into two categories: inherited characters and simplified characters. Inherited characters being those accepted before the 20th century and simplified being those characters replaced by simple forms.
A major part of the simplification process is owed to the invention of pinyin. Zhou Youguang was a part of the team that invented pinyin, a system that turns Chinese characters into words using letters from the Roman alphabet. The invention not only was essential to increase literacy rates in China, but also to adapt to an ever-changing society, making inventions like the typewriter and fax machine, as well as inventions of the late 20th and early 21st century like the laptop and smartphone accessible for the writing system.
When the Communist Party took over in China in 1949, Zhou decided to return home and was persuaded to join the committee responsible for normalizing characters. The simplification of Chinese became a priority in order to spread communist propaganda throughout China; the invention of pinyin from 26 letters aided the Chinese government in their mission to indoctrinate China through raised literacy rates. Before Zhou began his work, 85% of Chinese people could not read or write. As of 2018, 96.8% of people in China are literate. See table 1 for simplified, traditional, and pinyin comparison.
Ultimately, having a better understanding of Sinitic languages, their linguistic history and evolutions, the geographic borders, and the political history tied to both simplified and traditional Chinese will aid any company when assessing their translation needs. As we head into 2022, the year of the water tiger, an element marking agility and eloquence in our lives, we hope to provide knowledge that leads to more efficient translation processes. This is predicted to be a year that generally will build strength and restore energy after a draining 2021.
Happy New Year!
Lunar New Year: https://thewoksoflife.com/chinese-year-of-the-tiger/
Sinitic Languages: https://studycli.org/learn-chinese/languages-in-china/
Chinese simplification: https://www.thinkchina.sg/how-tree-chinese-writing-united-dialects-culture-and-people-through-millennia