Are Arabic and Spanish related?

These past few days a fascinating video was circulating on the internet. (No… it wasn’t a cat video this time!)

In the video you could see a couple holding up some signs with Arabic and Spanish words and pronouncing each word one by one wowing viewers with the fact that they were almost the same!

We could see and hear aceite (oil in Spanish) and الزيت (az-zayt, or oil in Arabic), azúcar (sugar in Spanish) and السكر (a-sukar, or sugar in Arabic) and so forth, you get the idea.

The similarities were uncanny.

Does this mean then that Spanish and Arabic are related?

Well, not really. These words are similar merely because of the influence Arabic had on Spanish due to the presence of Moors in the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages and these eerily similar words were borrowed from Arabic by Spanish speakers.

As languages do not exist in isolation, there are many examples of these so-called loanwords in other languages, as well. Think tea in English borrowed from the Hokkien 茶 (tê), robot from the Czech word robot or emoji from the Japanese 絵文字 (emoji).

Despite having these very similar words, we cannot really say that these languages are related to English: they all belong to different language families. Hokkien is Sino-Tibetan, Czech is Balto-Slavic and Japanese is Japonic.

So, if not having similar vocabulary, what means that a language is related to another one?

Just like in the case of human families, the answer is: a common ancestor.

For example, in the case of Germanic languages (such as English, Dutch and well… German) there was once a common ancestor that “sired” these languages: this is now referred to as the Proto-Germanic language. Historical linguists theorise that this language was spoken after 500 BC, so a pretty long time ago.

To determine whether two languages stem from the same proto-language, linguists look at a number of things, such as:

  • similarities within the most basic, everyday vocabulary, such as words related to familial connections, agriculture or animal husbandry
  • the structure or the grammar of the languages or if the grammatical constructions used by the two languages are in some way similar
  • irregularities in a language which often come from older versions of the same language – if they are similar to another language, it might be a good indication that the two languages are related
  • systematic differences are also a fairly reliable sign, for example if two languages have similar words that always differ in a specific sound

If we go back to the example of Germanic languages, most people can easily tell that these languages are related, even without a degree in linguistics. There are many similarities amongst words, the grammatical constructions are not unlike and often it’s easy to guess what a sentence in German or Dutch means, even if we don’t speak the language.

However, sometimes it is not so easy to tell which language family a language belongs to or there doesn’t seem to have a good reason for it to belong to the family linguists say it belongs to. Take Hungarian, for example, a Uralic language sitting in a sea of Indo-European languages. How did that come about? And what about Basque that doesn’t fit into any category and so linguists call it a “language isolate”?

These are all very exciting questions for linguists – and we hope you’ve found our article interesting, as well. If you’d like to learn more about how we can decide if two languages are related, watch this video here: How do we determine what languages are related?

And if you’ve had enough of linguistics for today, watch this cute CAT video with Maru and Miri, the world-famous Japanese cats!

Language of the Month: Ukrainian

FACT SHEET

украї́нська мо́ва
Language family: East Slavic (part of the Indo-European family)
Number of speakers: 40 million native speakers
Writing system: Cyrillic
Official language in: Ukraine
Recognised minority language in: Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia

HISTORY OF THE LANGUAGE

The history of the modern Ukrainian language goes back over a thousand years to a language called Old East Slavic. This language was spoken in the 10‒15th centuries in the medieval monarchy of Kievan Rus that stretched from the Black Sea in the South all the way to the White Sea in the North.

Throughout the centuries, various regional languages started to emerge in the state, including Ukrainian and Belarusian, which is one of the closest relatives of Ukrainian. (Although both languages were affected by various other languages over the years, there is still a degree of intelligibility between them today.)

Throughout its turbulent history, Ukrainian was greatly influenced by Polish and it shows some effects of the Tatar and Turkish languages, as well.

Up until the 18th century, Ukrainian was a mostly spoken vernacular. However, the wave of Romantic nationality that spread across Europe also reached what’s Ukraine today and played an important part in creating modern Ukrainian, with Ivan Kotliarevsky writer, poet and playwright being in the forefront of the movement. He published his mock epic, “Eneyida” in 1798, which is considered the first literary work published in modern Ukrainian.

In the soviet era (1922-1991), Ukraine – or the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic as it was known then – was part of the Soviet Union. In these decades the status of the Ukrainian language was ever-changing, starting from a short era of Ukrainianisation in the beginning to its use being persecuted in the later years.

In the last 30 years a revival of the language could be observed and there is a thriving, rich literary culture in the country.

USEFUL PHRASES

Hello! Вітаю (Vitayu)
My name is… Мене звати… (Mene zvati…)
Yes Так (tak)
No Ні (ni)
Please Будь ласка (bud laska)
Thank you Дякую (d’akuju)

WHAT DO THE LINGUISTS SAY?

With regards to its pronunciation, unsurprisingly, Ukrainian sounds very similar to other Slavic languages like Polish and Belarusian. But how could you recognise it if you are not familiar with this language family?

According to Elena, one of our translators working with Ukrainian, “to someone who has never heard any Slavic language, Ukrainian would sound melodious, expressive and rich in intonation.”

To Andriy’s ears, Ukrainian is “rather euphonic, with a balanced number of fricative, sibilant and obstruent consonants” (think a good mix of sounds like p, t, f, s, sh).

If you’d like to give pronouncing Ukrainian a try yourself, check out this website: Ukrainian Alphabet: Full Guide With Examples & Pronunciation. You may also find some other useful resources on this website for learning Ukrainian.

As Elena says, a learner of Ukrainian has mastered the Cyrillic alphabet, the next step is to memorise all the different case endings. Conjugation and various cases might pose a bit of a challenge for English speakers wishing to learn the language. Luba and Andriy agree with her, they both cite conjugation as one of the main differences between English and Ukrainian. For example, nouns have 7 different cases and are also conjugated for different numbers (singular and plural). Verbs are not that straight-forward either, as there are 4 tenses, 2 voices, 3 persons and the two numbers.

AND that’s not all! Ukrainian also has three grammatical genders: masculine, feminine and neuter which all have different endings.

Apart from providing us with some grammatical guidance, we’ve also asked Elena, Luba and Andriy to recommend us some great pieces of Ukrainian literature to introduce us a bit more to the language and culture of the country.

If you haven’t heard Ukrainian before, have a look (or rather listen) at Serhiy Zhadan’s poem, “Птах” (“Bird”) that is a retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark. Some consider this contemporary poem to be an alternative anthem of Ukraine. (Unfortunately, there is no English translation of the poem yet, however, listening to the words in Ukrainian is quite captivating, even if you don’t speak the language.)

Andriy’s favourite line is by Taras Shevchenko: “Учітесь, читайте, і чужому научайтеся, і свого не цурайтеся” which could be translated as “Learn and read, learn from others and do not shun your own”.

Luba’s favourite poem is “Любіть Україну” (“Love Ukraine”) by Volodymyr Sosiura which you can read it in English by clicking here.

If you are interested in learning more about Ukrainian culture and literature, you may also want to check out a British academic and translator, Uilleam Blacker’s Twitter page.

You say translation, I say localisation.

There are so many different services with fancy names that the language industry offers: localisation, globalisation, transcreation…

Are all of these really different? What sets them apart from good old translation?

This short article will help you navigate the differences and similarities amongst these foreign-sounding terms.

TRANSLATION

Let’s start with the most well-known service of them all: translation.

Everyone knows what translation refers to, right? It means taking a written source text in one language and getting the same text written in another language in the end.

A legal document might need translation, patient information leaflets, police records… Accuracy is key; the most important thing is that a reader of the text in one language gets the same information as a reader in another language.

Easy-peasy!

Well, hold your horses!

What about texts that are full of cultural references that would be lost on audiences in other languages? What if we need a text that is suitable for everyone across the globe? And what if a straightforward translation won’t do because you need a catchy slogan?

Then you might need localisation, globalisation or transcreation.

Let’s see them one by one.

LOCALISATION

If you need your cultural references adapted from the source culture and if you need your target audience to be able to apply what they read to their own experiences, you’ll need localisation.

Examples of localisation include adapting measurements and units or even some ingredients in a cookery book. Or changing characters’ names in a children’s book, so that kids can pronounce them without any difficulties. Or transcribing names that are written in different alphabets according to the target language’s rules. Sometimes even place names need to be adapted. (Did you know, for example, that London is Londres in French, Portuguese and Spanish?)

GLOBALISATION

While localisation means adapting the source text to a specific audience, globalisation means exactly the opposite: during globalisation, the language expert makes sure that the text can be understood in its entirety by anyone, regardless of cultural background.

This might include removing references to local brands, doing away with obscure idioms or providing both imperial and metric measurements.

TRANSCREATION

Perhaps the most mystifying word of all, transcreation is the most fun (if you ask translators working in marketing). It means taking a source text – most often a slogan or creative copy used for marketing purposes – and turning it into a magical copy in another language that will evoke the same feelings and achieve the same results as the original.

Forget word-by-word translation. Transcreation is copywriting at its finest.

BRING THEM ALL TOGETHER!

Of course, in many cases, the lines between these services are blurred. You might need a bit of transcreationist creativity in an otherwise straightforward translation and you might prefer having certain things in your corporate document localised as well.

Here at First Edition, we believe in providing a tailor-made service to our clients, so don’t worry if your project doesn’t fit neatly into any of these categories. Just get in touch with us and let us know what you had in mind – we will be happy to find the best solution for you!

If you have any questions, drop us a line at translations@firstedit.co.uk, and one of our friendly Project Managers will guide you through it.

Next level project management

Modern times need modern solutions.

And as our business changed and grew over the years, we started to feel that our in-house translation project management system could do with some streamlining to meet the demands of our fast-paced work.

We needed a system to help our busy Project Managers keep track of their projects and daily tasks, keep client and translator information up-to-date and make our Accounts Department’s job easier, too.

After looking far and wide for the perfect system, we decided to partner with LBS Suite, as their TBMS or translation business management system could provide everything we needed.

LBS Suite integrates seamlessly with our other systems, such as our email client, our accounting software and even Trados, our office’s preferred computer-assisted translations software.

Through these integrations and other functionalities, it allows for automation at the different steps of projects which is a great help in a buzzingly busy work environment where every minute counts!

However, as we pride ourselves in providing a tailor-made, customised service to our clients and adding a bit of a personal touch in our communication with our translators, we were happy that LBS Suite also supports customisation. This way we can make sure everything is just as we, our clients and translators like it.

Moreover, we are following stringent processes when selecting our suppliers for our ISO-17100 compliant projects, and we needed a reliable solution for this. Luckily, the LBS team was ready to help us with this!

“We have developed few customised features for First Edition, but one of the most important was extending the criteria of supplier search accordingly to ISO compliance,” says Anna Kozubek, LBS’s Operational Manager. “First Edition is extremely careful when selecting suppliers for their projects in order to meet the strict requirements of their clients and the ISO certification. LBS Suite already included important criteria to differentiate suppliers, such as customisable statuses, possibility of assigning suppliers to a client, quality ranking or supplier recommendation.”

“For First Edition,” Anna continues, “we went beyond that and we added the criteria of ISO compliance and Qualifications. In this way, you can save customisable information about qualifications of every supplier (certifications, diploma etc) and use it as a filter in your supplier selection. Also, you can specify for each service and language combination if your supplier is ISO compliant-criteria which has to be respected for certain type of projects. This filter is directly applied in your project and let you select more precisely your resources.”

This all sounds pretty exciting, doesn’t it? But what does our team say?

Karima, from our Editorial Team: “LBS Suite really helps keep things organised in my mind and I like the workflow feature (where the same services are automatically uploaded onto the project) as this saves time. Also, invoicing is as easy as pie!”

Svetlana, from our Commercial Team: “LBS Suite keeps track of all my projects. The various email pre-sets save times as they mean I can send work, quotes, acknowledgements and reminders at the click of a button.”

If you have any questions about our new system or would like to know more about it, just send us an email at translations@firstedit.co.uk and our team will be more than happy to answer!

If you’d like more information about First Edition Translations or to request a no-obligation quote for your translation project, please visit our website or just drop us an email.

Happy Holidays And A Wonderful New Year!

We hope you can all get some well-deserved rest over the end-of-the-year festive period, and can start 2022 with your batteries fully charged!

Our team will be taking a short break at the end of this month, so please note that our offices will be closed between 24th December 2021 and 3rd January 2022.

We will be back at our desks looking forward to working with you in the new year on 4th January.

We wish you a wonderful festive period and a happy, healthy, successful 2022!

The Team at First Edition Translations

Are you digging it?

I really give his pike, the pure fain, but the guy has been fluttering so much lately on Instan, he’s really printing himself. All right, now I’m stepping, pick axe!

No… we didn’t go mad, we just used machine translation for translating a couple of slang-laden sentences from Hungarian. Well, actually… If we did that, we really might have gone mad!

While machines can handle more straightforward texts and prepare them for a human translator for post-editing, there is really no point in using machine translation for more creative texts, including copy full of idioms, set phrases or, as we’ve seen here, slang.

Translating slang correctly is a more complicated matter and requires a huge amount of creativity machines simply lack.

First of all, there are different types of slang.

Slang is defined as “an informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinages, arbitrarily changed words, and extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech” and while we often think of it as words used by teens, there are other slang types out there, like army slang, slang used by various occupational groups, argot (a kind of secret language used to exclude others), sports slang, text speech/internet slang (think LOL and l8r), etc.

Anyone attempting to translate slang needs a high level of linguistic and cultural awareness to decipher the source text. Slang is one of the fastest changing area of a language’s vocabulary, so the translator really needs to be in the know to be able to understand it. (Just think about it: do you always understand your teenage kids or professionals from another industry talking amongst themselves?)

The translator will also need to find matching expressions in the target language. Needless to say, there is no point in translating slang literally! They don’t only need to get the meaning of slang expressions, that’s only half the job. Translators working with these types of texts need to find equivalent words. Slang is (sub-)culture specific and sometimes it is a tough task even for an experienced translation veteran to produce a text in the target language that reads just as great – and also, just as easily understood by the target group! – as the source text.

What does this all mean for clients who wish to have their content translated?

Depending on the purpose of the text, it might be better to stay away from obscure slang words in copies that are written specifically for translation and it’s perhaps more advisable to use other expressions with a similar meaning. This way misunderstandings or the use of forced equivalencies can be minimised.

Another good tactic could be providing a small glossary of the lesser known slang expressions used in the text that could help translators get the right meaning. Once they understand the source text in its entirety, they can focus on finding the best translations for those tricky expressions.

We hope you found this short article informative but if you have any further questions about translating creative texts or slang expressions, do not hesitate to get in touch via translations@firstedit.co.uk, our team will be more than happy to help!

Oh, and before you go, would you like to know what the machine translated Hungarian text really says?

Here is the original: Nagyon adom a csukáját, az tiszta fain, de a pasi annyit flekszel mostanában az Instán, nagyon nyomatja magát. Na jól van, most lépek, csákány!
And here is what it really means: I’m really digging his kicks, they are on point but the dude’s flexing so much on Insta, he is plugging himself too much. Ok, leaving now, laters!

You are welcome.

Summer time is smoothie time!

Although we are not as spoiled for good weather here in the UK as some of us would prefer, we still get our fair share of summery weather, too. And when it’s boiling outside and we can hardly concentrate on our screen, there is nothing better than a cold, refreshing, fruit-packed smoothie.

You can put literally anything in a smoothie and make it sweet or tangy — options for personalisation are endless! However, sometimes it is difficult to make a decision when you are overwhelmed by choices, so some info from one of First Edition’s latest projects (which was part of a monthly magazine translation endeavour for Monsieur Cuisine via the German publisher NGV) might come in handy.

In this article, which we translated from German, you can find some great tips and tricks to make the most of your smoothie for a vitamin-filled drink. You can learn about the best ingredients to add to your morning or afternoon drink.

And if you are still not sold on the idea of trying a smoothie this summer, you might be convinced if you look at the benefits listed in the article:

  1. Smoothies are always quick to make: all it takes is a blender and some fresh fruit and veg. It’s ready in a matter of seconds. These days, you can also buy freshly made smoothies here, there and everywhere.
  2. You can have them anytime, anywhere: whether you’re on the train, at work, at a picnic or on the beach, a smoothie makes the perfect thing to take along with you.
  3. Good food: if you’re making your smoothies yourself, you always know exactly what’s in them. And that will mostly be unprocessed foods. A smoothie often makes a much healthier alternative to snacks or even meals.
  4. Less waste: You might have a banana with a few brown spots, a slightly limp lettuce or an overly ripe avocado, but they can all go into your smoothie without impairing the taste whatsoever. Smoothies are great for using up leftovers, so you don’t end up with masses of food waste.
  5. Simply healthy: with the right ingredients, a smoothie can be a true elixir of health. It can detoxify your body, replace whole meals and supply you with energy, vitamins and lots more nutrients.

Source: Monsieur Cuisine Magazine, translated from German by FE’s team

Now that we have finished this fun and informative translation at First Edition, we are certainly not sitting on the fence any more about the benefits of smoothies!

Our Project Manager, Melanie, who was looking after this project, enjoyed managing this fun German to English translation: “This was another nice little translation project for Monsieur Cuisine, which was especially delightful as I regularly enjoy a smoothie myself for my morning breakfast. I enjoyed reading the text and learning more about smoothies!”

Erika, NGV’s Editor responsible for the Monsieur Cuisine projects has been satisfied with the translations and project management First Edition offer, and not just for this particular article:

“Thank you, Melanie and team, for translating the magazine texts every month! It’s great to know that we can always count on you to keep the Monsieur Cuisine world alive with your translations.”

Erika B., Editor at NGV’s International Editing Department

Do you have any questions about smoothies? (After all, we are now semi-experts!) Or do you have another, translation-related enquiry?

Get in touch with us via email at translations@firstedit.co.uk, and our friendly project managers will be more than happy to help you!

Post-editing machine translation with a human touch

Nowadays machine translation is all the rage in the localisation industry. It has been for a while now; we actually first wrote about it back in 2011 – to warn people against its use! Then the subject matter has popped up from time to time on our blog, and as machines slowly started to produce more and more passable outputs, our views have gradually shifted from our initial rejection to acceptance.

Machine translation has come a long way since it first appeared in commercial settings: in many of the most popular language combinations the raw output of machine translation provides a good base that actually aids the work of human translators and helps them enhance their productivity and efficiency.

For this reason, First Edition Translations now offer PEMT, which is Translatorese for post-editing machine translation.

PEMT might be right choice for repetitive texts, medical and technical documentations where there is a huge body of text available to initially train the dedicated, subject-specific translation engine and the same or similar phrases and terms appear again and again across various documents. The more specific “training” the machine gets, the better the raw output. (For this reason alone we do not recommend using any free, generic machine translation services for your documents. And then we shouldn’t forget about all those pesky confidentiality issues with those either!)

Our job at First Edition starts with the raw text that we receive from our clients. We offer full PEMT which means that the final result reads no different from a human-translated text. Our translators and post-editing experts go through the whole text, compare it against the original, make sure it is accurate, they check for grammar and spelling issues and tidy up the style, too. It is similar to the work of a regular reviewer, however, as machines tend to make different mistakes than humans, our PEMT experts must be even more vigilant and they need to keep an eye out for any unusual errors. They need to make sure that the translation is accurate, it uses the approved industry-specific terminology and it is compliant with the latest templates and regulations, as compliance can make or break a medical or technical document. And naturally, our editors always ensure that it reads as if it was written by a living, breathing human.

Are you interested in requesting PEMT from First Edition Translations? Get in touch with us via translations@firstedit.co.uk and ask one of our team!

A (translation) miracle at carnival

a (translation) miracle at carnivalTake an Italian children’s book author, a mysterious mask, a project manager, a translator and an editor, add a bit of Venetian magic to the mix and wham! – you are in the middle of one of First Edition Translation’s most intriguing projects of the past few months: localising the Italian edition of A Miracle at Carnival for English readers.

The setting for the story is enchanted Venice where Olivia, the daughter of a traditional mask-maker is tasked to deliver a mask to an enigmatic Contessa who lives on a neighbouring island. Throughout her journey, Olivia meets stranger than strange characters… Just like Olivia on her mission, we also went on a quest where we met several exciting editorial translation challenges along the way… and chatted with the team behind bringing this project to life. Continue reading A (translation) miracle at carnival

Karima’s first three months

This is your second time with First Edition as you first started with us in 2011 and have been “away” for 8 years. Is it a different experience now? Has anything changed compared to the first time?

Eight years, three children, a global pandemic and remote working – not to mention the new management – mean that my second stint at FE is certainly different to the first! Continue reading Karima’s first three months