Explain it to me

This is a more comprehensive list of terms used in my profession with a brief explanation to help you navigate your conversations with vendors.

Warning: the definitions below may contain a smattering of irony and humor. Reader discretion is advised.

Back translation: a faulty quality control that focus too much on the return trip foreign language words make to the English village.

Buzzwords: English words that have the annoying habit of flying around our heads.

CAT tool: software program that supposedly enhances a translator’s productivity. Fortunately, no litterbox is required.

Cultural expertise: the ability to discuss foreign dishes, flags, accents, customs without ever setting foot on the geographic location the expert is talking about.

Déjà Vu: a computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool created in Spain, which draws double takes for its simplicity and design superior to the competition. Sadly, it has become abandonware as of this writing (2022).

Editor: sometimes a fellow translator who loves to critique the work of his colleague but is loath to let others critique his own.

Effectiveness: the degree of success a translation helps to achieve in your business.

English: a very popular Anglo-Saxon language with Germanic roots that everybody in the world speaks and understands. Except that it’s not true.

FIGS: an acronym for French, Italian, German and Spanish. Some of these are Romance languages, but the acronym is popular to indicate sometimes the first foreign languages documentation is to be translated into.

memoQ: an up-and-coming Déjà Vu replacement with more bells and whistles than a Victorian locomotive. Unlike Atril’s product, it has adopted a savvy subscription model to ensure users timely updates and support.

Neologism: a newly created word by guys who don’t bother with dictionaries.

Marketingspeak: the esoteric language of salespeople, the high priests of products and services.

Productivity: the answer to how many thousand words can a translator cram into his/her schedule for a lower rate.

Project manager: an underpaid and sometimes undertrained individual with an understanding of foreign languages. Loves competitive rates (i.e., $0.01-$0.04/word), listens to Kate Perry and Bruno Mars on their iPod while working on an Excel sheet and has an addiction for speedy deadlines.

Reviewer: a bilingual person from sales, marketing or help desk employed by the customer. He’s usually asked to perform linguistic services above his pay rate.

Romance languages: a handful of European languages invented for the sole purpose to woo women. They are also useful to sell American products. They are (the languages) French, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian and Spanish. See FIGS above.

Spanish: yo hablo español but you don’t. The world’s fourth language in importance, spoken in 21 countries, including the U.S. Native tongue of many celebrities, including Penélope Cruz, Charlie Sheen, George W. Bush and the Taco Bell chihuahua. About 400 million people in the world speak it and read it. I am just waiting to see what you are going to do to join them.

Trados (pronounced ‘TRAH – dos): an expensive German invention that successfully conspired against wordprocessors. Its new owner, SDL International, experiences frequent schadenfreude by forcing translators to perform simple tasks with a minimum of 6-8 clicks of the mouse.

Translation: the craft and science of taking meanings from text elements and stripping off the word cover to assemble a [foreign language] cover over it. The procedure of mining meanings through the wordface (see wordface below) to achieve clarity, precision and sometimes elegance in the translated text. Of course, you don’t know that because you are unable to read the text in that foreign language.

Translation memory: a special file that saves time by remembering every phrase the translator typed in the foreign language. Unfortunately, it also remembers errors and stores both good and bad translations.

Translation quality: a debunked pseudoscience whose primary goal is to count and categorize typos and errors that the reviewer despises and the customer has no clue about.

Translation ROI: contrary to popular belief, it’s not an Irish outlaw, but how much bang you get for your buck spent on translation. Or so the marketing and sales people keep saying.

Translation team: an euphemism for a group of translators and editors, strangers to each other, that is assembled in a hurry by the project manager.

Translator: an invisible writer whose only virtue is to write in a language that you do not understand.

User: the individual who will fall for marketing persuasions and sales pitches in order to be adopted into the happy family we call captive audience. CEOs, salespeople and marketing pros relish talk about the user like the unicorn they’ve never seen, especially the user in foreign markets.

User experience: a recent field of study and practice linked to graphic design and user interface design. It covers any assumptions made by project managers, translators, CEOs, engineers and others about what the user likes or dislikes about a translation or user interface without having ever met an actual user.

Vendor manager: a translation company staff member tasked with saying no to dozens of resumés daily.

Word count: a mathematical technique that pretends to measure the width and depth of a text.

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