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Is there such a thing as Universal Spanish in translation?

Although we know that producing translations that are localized as specifically as possible depending on the particular locale of your intended audience(s) can be fruitful, many people find it may not be realistic to have their project localized for all of the different varieties of Spanish spoken in different locales. In 2010, Spanish was ranked number two in terms of the number of native speakers worldwide, falling second only to Mandarin. There are many different countries with Spanish speakers, and oftentimes, a company may want to release its product to an audience that spans across several of these different locales.

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While each area has a different dialect, and therefore could require specific changes in the final localized product, it is not always within a company’s budget to go through this process for every locale. So, one might pose the question, “Is there a universal Spanish I can use? Something everyone will understand?” The answer to this is both “yes” and “no” and may also depend on the text itself.

Even though there may not be an official “Universal Spanish” dialect, there are certainly terms and phrases that are considered more "neutral" without the influence of local jargon or slang. The Real Academia Española, for example, strives to provide terms that are recognized by speakers of various dialects and does well to provide the standard definitions of words, as well as their various possible colloquial meanings, which may vary by country or region. For this reason, it is a good resource and starting point to localize a translated text into a Spanish that is somewhat universal.

However, it is still noteworthy to mention that the translators and editors of your content are influenced by their own respective countries and locales, which can inadvertently impact a word choice for even the most skilled linguist. They can work together to provide the most neutral Spanish possible, and a skilled team will provide a great rendition of the text with terms that are understood as widely as possible. There is always the potential that someone will read a translated word or phrase and not immediately recognize it as one they would use in their own dialect, but typically, context allows one to perceive the intended meaning.

In short, it is definitely possible to translate a text and localize it for a more universal Spanish overall. However, in doing so, there is no guarantee that the language team will not choose a term or phrase that is more commonly used in one area over another, despite its general neutrality. If you know that your target audience is specific to a few locales, it is best to let your translation project manager know so that he or she can ensure the finalized product is best suited for your needs. It may be the case that your text is better suited to a specific area, rather than trying to remain universal.

So, what languages can you handle?

Accessible Translation Solutions (ATS) handles a wide array of languages, and this selection of languages is ever-growing. For our most current and up-to-date list of offered languages, please see our List of Languages. If the language you are looking for is not listed here, that does not mean we are unable to provide the service, however. This list of languages is constantly growing depending on our clients’ needs, so we recommend contacting us even if you don’t see the language you need listed.

Our list of languages that we currently offer displays all languages for which we already have a team (or several teams) of linguists we’ve assessed, worked with, and approved to offer quality translation and/or interpreting services for you. Although we have linguists already approved for these language pairs, we will ensure that the best linguists we can provide are assigned to your project. If our current available linguists do not have experience working in the field your project falls into, we will be glad to use our available resources to recruit a team who will be best-suited to perform the work on your project, whenever possible. For example, if your document is a rental agreement, and our linguists with expertise in legal documents are unavailable, we will then recruit another team to ensure the best possible translation.

This is also true for the languages not currently listed on our page. If the language you are working from or into is not listed on our page, please contact us and let us know the details of your project. We will then be able to begin recruiting a team for your project type. We do all of the recruitment and assessment of linguists so that you don’t have to, and so that you can feel comfortable knowing that the right team of linguists is working to provide you with the best service possible. Our Project Management Team will also oversee the project from start to finish, handling all linguist communication, file passes, and quality control. This way, by the time you receive the translated files, you can be sure they have been handled not only a professional team of linguists, but also a quality control check to ensure your files are ready for use in your target language. No matter which language your document would need to be translated from or into, Accessible Translation Solutions is willing and glad to assist with the best team of linguists for your project.

Why do I need to provide language access to patients, clients and customers?

Being able to communicate effectively in the language of your patients, clients, or customers is extremely important for your relationship and essential to your brand's success. If you receive federal funding, providing adequate language access options also protects you from violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. This includes providing language access to individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEPs). Your company's customers will also feel more attracted to your brand if advertising and customer service options are provided in the language in which they are most comfortable.

A hospital, for example, should always have on-site or on-call interpreters available for LEP individuals. This will help eliminate medical emergencies or poor care caused by the individual's inability to communicate effectively with health care providers. It is extremely important that both doctor and patient understand each other completely to avoid these potentially grave errors. The same holds true in legal settings. Miscommunication between parties can be the difference between improper sentencing and an innocent person being set free. Communication in their native language also ensures that each party understands all legal implications associated with an action, protecting everyone involved.

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Not only does closing the language barrier protect you from violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it also goes a long way in improving your brand image. If you are able to provide advertisements in the native language of your intended audience, these customers will be more likely to feel appreciated and attracted to your company. If you provide customer service options in other languages (either via a live bilingual operator or telephonic interpretation option), these customers will continue to feel appreciated and are more likely to interact with you if needed. This communication can help ensure their needs are met so they remain loyal customers for you.

If you find that you would like to provide language access for any target demographic, we will be glad to assist with the steps along the way. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or for a free quote.

Global Business Etiquette for Your Brand

If your company is based in the United States, you are likely familiar with business etiquette here in North America. It would be normal for you to arrive on time (or better… early!) and shake someone’s hand when you greet them during a business meeting, for example, or to even invite fellow associates out for dinner to both discuss the agenda and socialize with your colleagues.

If you’ve never given thought to globalization and expanding your business to an international market, it is likely you have never really put much thought into how business etiquette may differ in other countries and how adapting to these differences could vastly impact your ability to perform well in a global market.

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Translating and/or localizing your product and services are a great step to entering the global market. You can read more about the importance of localizing your product here. However, localization isn’t the only step in moving your business forward in a foreign culture. It’s probable that you will need to work directly with other business associates in that country for a successful launch, so learning a little about proper business etiquette there can really go a long way. Your meetings could be face-to-face, via email, video chat, or over the phone. If you are trying to launch your brand in multiple countries, it will be important to familiarize yourself with each of the areas. It is not necessary to learn each and every custom in every location, but it will help if you have a basic understanding of how business etiquette works in each one.

If you are holding a business meeting in Mexico, for instance, it would not be uncommon for the meeting to begin a little late, and for your colleagues to engage in an embrace as a greeting, instead of a handshake, once a perceived friendship is established. Conversely, if you are conducting business in Germany, arriving late is considered rude and business meetings are very formal (always shake hands and greet someone as Herr [Mister] last name even when you know them well).

In China, it can be inappropriate to begin your meeting by discussing the deal you want to close directly. This may be considered rude, and you may come home without the deal you had hoped for. Instead, it is more appropriate to develop a relationship with your business partner and avoid interrupting him/her at all costs! When handing your business card to someone in China, or receiving one from a potential business partner, do so with both hands. This is considered a sign of respect.

We recently had a client request the translation of his business card into Japanese. This is also a sign of respect for the Japanese speaker who receives the card. We did remind the client that he should add the country code to the beginning of his telephone number and to avoid using the extra toll-free 800 number, as it would not work outside of the United States. Remember, it's important to make it easy for your potential clients to reach you!

Since there is no global standard of business etiquette, we recommend always researching the area you’re travelling to (or speaking with) to ensure you are abiding by that country’s customs and standards. This shows respect for your business associates abroad and makes a good impression on them for your products and services. Being prepared shows that you are dedicated to doing business in that area and will greatly improve your chance of success when launching your localized product or service.

Is there such a thing as Universal Spanish in translation?

Although we know that producing translations that are localized as specifically as possible depending on the particular locale of your intended audience(s) can be fruitful, many people find it may not be realistic to have their project localized for all of the different varieties of Spanish spoken in different locales. In 2010, Spanish was ranked number two in terms of number of native speakers worldwide, falling second only to Mandarin. There are many different countries with Spanish speakers, and oftentimes, a company may want to release its product to an audience that spans across many of these different locales. While each area has a different dialect and therefore could require specific changes in the finalized, localized product, it is not always within someone’s budget to go through this process each time for every locale, and therefore, may pose the question, “Is there a universal Spanish I can use? Something everyone will understand?” The answer to this is both “yes” and “no” and may also depend on the text.

Even though there may not be an official “Universal Spanish” language dialect, there are certainly terms and phrases that are considered a more neutral version of the language, without the influence of local jargon or slang. The Real Academia Española, for example, strives to provide terms that are recognized by speakers of various dialects and does well to provide the standard definitions of words, as well as their various possible colloquial meanings, which may vary by country or region. For this reason, it is a good resource and starting point for a linguist who may wish to localize a translated text into a Spanish that is somewhat universal.

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However, it is still noteworthy to mention that the linguists performing both translation and proofreading or editing of your content are influenced by their own respective countries and locales, which can inadvertently impact a word choice for even the most skilled linguist. The team will work together to provide the most neutral Spanish possible, and a skilled team will provide a great rendition of the text with terms that are mostly universal. There is always a possibility that someone will read a translated word or phrase and still interpret in it a context that may not have been originally intended.

In short, it is definitely possible to translate a text and localize it for a more universal Spanish overall. However, in doing so, there is no guarantee that the language team will not choose a term or phrase that is more commonly used in one area over another, despite its general neutrality. If you know the target audience is specific to a few locales, it is best to let the project manager know so that he or she can ensure the finalized product is best suited for your needs. It may be the case that your text is better suited to a specific area, rather than trying to remain universal.

Should you Localize your Smartphone Applications?

If your company has recently launched a Smartphone app, or even if you’ve had an app that’s been out for quite some time, you may be wondering if it would be worth your while to localize that app. Localization, in this sense, basically entails adapting your product to another market or set of markets. This could mean language translation, but it could also mean adapting some of the images or audio files within the app, or even the marketing materials you use to promote it. All of this would fall under localization.

If you’ve ever heard the saying, “There’s an app for that,” then you may have an understanding of just how important apps have become in our society. People use them for just about everything. Having a Smartphone application puts your business, quite literally, in the palm of someone’s hand. If developed well, it’s convenient for the consumer to use and helps build brand loyalty and trust by delivering the information they need quickly and easily via their phone or other handheld device, just as they need or want it.

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Users are most likely to be drawn to an app designed for their native languages. If your business markets itself toward different demographics, then it is important that these demographics be represented in all facets of your business, including in the use of your Smartphone app. In fact, according to a 2012 report from Distimo, The Impact of App Translations, a study of 200 iPhone apps that launched in different native languages saw a 128% increase in downloads the week following that launch, and a 26% increase in revenue from these downloads. Applications localized into Chinese, Japanese, and Korean saw the most growth from this update.

Although the US/English app market is still the most dominant market to date, other markets are growing at an impressive rate (namely the Japanese and South Korean markets, but there is also quite a bit of growth in countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China. Since a user feels most secure reading something in his or her own native tongue, the potential to actively engage and reach these users through a properly localized app can increase exponentially. If a user is interested in your brand and has a basic understanding of English, he may download your non-localized application. However, if he cannot decipher the language of the app well enough to make purchases, he may become hesitant to use it on a long-term basis, like he would an app in his own language. This can easily cause one to delete the app and disengage with a brand entirely.

Users value content in their native tongue, and the above statistics help demonstrate the impact that localizing a Smartphone application can have both on your business’ visibility, as well as on your potential revenue. If you are actively working to expand into other markets and demographics, then Smartphone application localization is definitely something worth investigating.

You Need a Specialized Translator! And Here’s Why…

If you’ve ever seen a translator’s resume, you may have noticed that he or she has a section dedicated to specializations.  It may seem like a long list of specializations means that the translator is extremely qualified for just about any job out there. After all, if this person specializes in just about every field, it seems like a sure fit for your project. However, the opposite may actually be true. While this person may be an experienced translator in a good many fields, it is highly unlikely that he or she is a specialist in all of them. To be a specialist, by definition, is to be one who is devoted to a particular branch of study or research. A shorter list of specializations may often indicate that the linguist has been able to devote more time to these areas, and is therefore well versed in the terminology and complexities of the fields. Whatever your translation needs, it is important to choose a linguist who truly specializes in the field your project falls under, so as to ensure the best quality work. In language, there is a sizeable difference between general, day-to-day speech and specialized vernaculars. It is entirely possible to speak two different languages, but not fully understand the jargon you would hear in the Information Technology (IT) field, even in your own native language. If someone does not have a firm grasp of these terms in his or her native language, there is a great risk of translation error when trying to understand the term in another. Someone with a degree in IT who has also spent 10 years in the workforce working on computers and systems will have a much stronger grasp of concepts and terms within that field than someone who studied chemistry and has worked in a laboratory, for example. If your company is looking for a linguist who is well versed in the terminology your IT specialists would normally use, it makes much more sense to choose the person with a background similar to your needs, provided that he or she also shows a high level of competency in the translation field (experience, references, etc.).

ATS can also assist you with Desktop Publishing services to bring your translation to life with images, graphics and layout.

On the same note, if your goal is to translate several academic studies in various fields for your local university, you will not likely want the same linguist who translated a paper in the chemistry field to translate an engineering paper, or a paper about modern prose. Each of these subjects will require a translator who is competent in the specialized lingo of each subject. In addition, it is important to maintain the original tone of the document or article when translating. If the original reads as if it were written for professional biochemists with plenty of time spent in the field, the translation must also read this way. The jargon and terms used must be along the same lines. The article would lose its integrity within the academic community if it read as thought it were written for students taking an entry-level science course.

While the thought of finding a linguist who specializes in your particular field may seem overwhelming or daunting, we have already done this work for you. Gathering resumes and vetting qualified linguists who specialize in a vast array of fields, it is likely that we already have someone perfectly suited for your particular project. And if we don’t, we have the resources to quickly and efficiently recruit someone who is, removing the pressure from you. Allow us to help you succeed at what you do best by counting on us for what we do best.

Google Translate Steps up Its Game – Is It Enough?

While Google is no stranger to the translation application game, its newest updates help ensure that it remains at the top of the list for offered features and usability. Google Translate was updated very recently with two new features: it translates street signs and other images just by pointing your phone’s camera at the image (this feature is even available without a mobile data connection), and its conversation mode was updated to include automatic language detection, improving the flow of conversation between the individuals using it.

These features are not completely new to the application, but both have made significant improvements. In previous versions, the image translation software needed an Internet/data connection, and required the user to upload an actual photo of the image or sign. Google is now using Word Lens technology to instantly translate it just by pointing your camera at the image, no Internet connection or photo storage required. This feature is available in seven languages, but Google hopes to expand this list soon. Currently available: English ↔ French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. For users who do not have an international data plan, this is especially convenient, allowing the user to retrieve the translations in real time without running up data roaming charges on the phone bill. Google Translate’s conversation feature is also improving. Previous versions required the users to manually select the language between each use. However, this version automatically detects the spoken language during the conversation, which improves the fluidity of the conversation. Participants are now able to speak more freely with limited interruptions/delays from the application. This feature is currently available in 38 languages, with plans to add more. While Google Translate’s updates are certainly impressive, don’t expect it to replace human translation anytime soon. Reviewers agree that the application is certainly moving in the right direction, but it is not without error. Conor Dougherty with the New York Times agrees that it works fairly well, but that having to transfer the phone between two people speaking can be somewhat awkward, and says that it works best when the speakers use short, jargon-free sentences. Paul Reigler from the Frequent Business Traveler mentions that the app is easy to use and got the main message across, but indicated that the translations themselves were “reasonably accurate, although often not something a native speaker would have said”. While it seems as though Google’s updates are taking on-the-fly machine translation to the next level with its Word Lens technology and improved conversation features, professional translations should still be done by professional, human translators. While travelling abroad, however, Google Translate may certainly help you get around the city by translating maps and road signs and assisting you with asking a local for directions. It certainly seems worth the download, but take each automatic translation with a grain of salt!