Lifting the Veil on the Mysterious World of Translation

All too often, a client finds themselves in need of a translation, only to be faced with a confusing and often-misunderstood translation industry, lots of enigmatic acronyms, and unhelpful sales people. At American Language Services, we understand that the industry may need to be explained in simple terms for a first-timer. Each of our well-trained staff is ready to help you understand the language service you need.

Let’s say you have a Traditional Chinese document you need translated into English. On the surface, it’s amazing that a skilled translator can make two languages that are so different say the same thing. Chinese characters are a logographic language, which means that each character represents a meaningful part of a word. For example, if we break up the term logographic, [logo-graph-ic], we can see that these parts contain meaning that is understandable to us, but a ‘g’ or ‘l’ by itself does not. Thus, it could be represented by a mere three characters in a logographic language rather than the eleven it takes in ours. The downside to this efficiency is that many more characters are required to represent every possible combination of sounds; to be functional in written Chinese requires knowledge of thousands of characters.

English (and all other languages that use the Latin script), by contrast, is a segmental language. All of our sounds are represented individually in the alphabet. Obviously, when converting between the two, it is not simply a matter of a character turning into a character, or a word turning into a word. We use internationally established conversion rates and state-of-the-art translation software to estimate a final word count and bill accordingly.

Does the term translation software make you feel skeptical? After all, we’ve all plugged something in to Google Translate and gotten gibberish back. While it’s true that computers cannot provide meaningful or accurate translations on their own, they can be a great help when utilized by a qualified human translator. American Language Services will never employ machine-only translation.

Consider the following benefit: using computer-assisted-translation, a skilled translator can create Translation Memory that allows them to quickly translate a repeated phrase. For example a Spanish translator could tell their Translation Memory to translate “No hay medicina que cure lo que cura la felicidad,” as “There´s no medicine that cures what happiness cannot,” each time. When judiciously employed by an expert translator, these time-saving tricks can get you your translation faster and more accurately.

We hope that this has been revealing. We always want our clients to make informed decisions, and to understand the complex process that allows us to deliver them top-notch translations with both alacrity and care.

American Language Services is a proud provider of translation, interpretation, transcription and media services to private industry, government at all levels, and educational and non-profit organizations. Our thousands of linguists around the world and teams of dedicated professionals are ready to serve.

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