Posts

The Spanish-Language Rule Book Gets a Much-Needed Update

Spanish is spoken all over the world. It is the official national language in 21 countries, but in each of those countries, it sounds just a little bit different.

For example, according to Wikipedia, in Spain, butter is called mantequilla. In Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, it is called manteca. Coche means car in Spain and Mexico, but almost everywhere else Spanish is spoken, it means “baby stroller.” There are also variations in which verb forms are used when.

Historically, the Spanish Royal Academy has determined what “proper” Spanish sounds like, but since they only focused on the language as it was spoken in Spain, their guidelines were out-of-step with the way Spanish is spoken by the majority of the world’s Spanish speakers. That’s why the Spanish Royal Academy’s new guide, the Nueva Gramática, is so important.

To write the  Nueva Gramátic, Spanish-speaking scholars spent more than 11 years looking at how people speak Spanish in every country where it is commonly spoken. The result is a 3,000 page, 2 volume guide that describes Spanish in all of its many regional variations. Since the last grammar guide was released in 1931, this represents a much-needed update.

According to the Latin American Tribune, in a presentation ceremony for the new book, the Spanish King Juan Carlos called the work “an historic service to the unity of Spanish and, overall, to better cohesion among the Hispanic peoples.”

The director of the Spanish Royal Academy, Victor García de la Concha “comes from the people and seeks the people. Here are all the voices, all the ways of speaking forming a great polyphony. Within the lines of scientific analysis a discourse of humanity circulates throughout (its) 4,000 pages.”

US Healthcare Website Lost in Translation?

Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the United States, so the US government has made a concerted effort to include Spanish speakers in the roll-out of the country’s new healthcare laws. However, their outreach efforts have come under criticism a number of times.  The most recent example is CuidadoDeSalud.gov, the Spanish-language version of Healthcare.gov, an official website where Americans can view and purchase insurance plans available under the Affordable Care Act.

According to a recent Associated Press Story, the website was full of translation errors. The AP called the translation “Spanglish” and said  “the translations were so clunky and full of grammatical mistakes that critics say they must have been computer-generated — the name of the site itself can literally be read “for the caution of health.” Read more

More UK Students Studying Spanish 

Spanish is set to overtake French as the most dominant foreign language studied in UK schools, according to the head of the AQA exam board.

Andrew Hall, AQA’s chief executive, made the prediction based on this year’s GCSE statistics, in which a record number of students sat for Spanish GCSEs, even as foreign language entries declined overall. Approximately 93,000 students took the Spanish exam this year, 2,000 more than last year. Meanwhile, the number of French entries declined from from 177,288 to 168,042 and the number of German entries declined from 62,932 to 59,891.

Why is Spanish making gains even as other languages fall? Some educators are calling it the “Messi effect,” crediting the popularity of Argentinian football player Lionel Messi, but that’s far from the whole story. 

As Andrew Hall told The Telegraph, learning Spanish is increasingly being seen as a smart career move for students:

“It is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. I went to factories in California where people had to have Spanish as a fluent second language. I think more and people are speaking Spanish. I think students recognise that it is a very important language to have.”

In The Independent, Pearson vice-president Lesley Davis referenced the “Messi effect,” but also underlined the importance of Spanish to UK businesses:

“We know it’s becoming an increasingly important language for business with our recent Pearson/CBI Skills Survey showing that half of employers want Spanish speakers. Young people are also more exposed now to Spanish culture from music to food to high-profile Spanish speaking personalities.”

Meanwhile, Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told TESConnect that more students were choosing to “work smarter, not harder” by choosing Spanish, which is considered one of the easier foreign languages to learn:

“It’s very similar to our language in many ways,” he said. “It’s quite a straightforward structure. They find French more difficult, particularly because of the accent and so on. A lot of schools have found it’s a very popular subject.”

Photo Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by mikecogh

Learn a Language

The Top Languages to Learn in 2018

Fancy learning a new language this year? As one of the UK’s leading translation service providers, we’re in just the right place to give some tips on the most useful ones to pick. Whether you’re still a student or you’re just looking for a way to improve your career outlook, we’ve selected the top languages to learn in 2018.

1. Mandarin

Guanhua

The official language of China, Mandarin is already the most widely spoken language in the world. Per Wikipedia, 955 million people, 14.4% of the world’s population, claim it as their native tongue.

The demand for Mandarin speakers will only grow in the years to come, as China nudges the United States out of the top spot as the nation with the world’s largest GDP.  According to Bloomberg, as of November 06, 2017 the Chinese economy is projected to overtake the United States economy in 2028.

Meanwhile,  China is busy constructing a “New Silk Road” to connect the Chinese mainland with Europe, the rest of Asia, and emerging markets in Africa. 

Mandarin is also the second most popular language online. And according to Statista, while the US will probably remain the largest economy overall for a few years yet, by the end of 2018 China will be the largest digital economy in the world. 

When you look at the facts, it’s easy to see why the British Council ranked Mandarin as one of the most important languages for the future of the UK.  If you’re learning a new language this year and you’re up for a challenge, Mandarin is definitely one of the top languages to learn.

Want to learn more about the languages of China? See our beginner’s guide to Chinese translation services!

Read more

Newspaper Discovers Limits of Google Translate

In the United States, Spanish-speaking Latinos are a rapidly growing demographic. Naturally, some news organizations cater to them with Spanish-language editions, especially online.

However, according to Fox News, when the Hartford Courant decided to follow suit, they did not hire a translator, choosing instead to run all of their articles through Google Translate.

The results were about what you’d expect: embarrassing.

Former Hartford Courant columnist Bessy Reyna collected some of the most ridiculous examples of poor translation on her blog. Here are a couple of the juiciest nuggets of failure on display:

  • ”El hombre florero Over Head Smashed novia, policía dice” Literal translation: “The man flower vase Over Head Smashed Girlfriend, police said”
  • Este mujer Hartford acusado de apuñalar con el hombrepelador de patatas” which literally reads: “This woman Hartford Accused of stabbing the man with potato peeler.”

To address the criticism, the paper issued the following disclaimer:

“However, readers should be aware that due to limitations in the Google software some of the translations of the English headlines and articles don’t always translate accurately word-for-word into Spanish.”

Duh. On one level, it’s understandable that a local paper might not have the resources to devote to hiring a full-time Spanish translator. However, simply plugging all of their content into Google Translate appears to be counterproductive. According to Bessy Reyna, Latinos perceived the error-ridden translations as insulting, even offensive:

“Their reactions ranged from “This isn’t even Spanglish” to “Did you see the one today about Norwich? It’s to laugh and cry at the same time.” Others thought it was simply lack of respect and yet another way to humiliate the Latino community.”

The truth is, no matter what business you’re in, if you’re trying to communicate with customers in another language, there’s no substitute for a translator who knows both languages in and out. It’s impossible to put your best foot forward using Google Translate, or any other machine translation program for that matter!

Do you think newspapers should rely on Google Translate?

Translator Helps Deliver Baby

In Tucson, Arizona, a Language Line translator helped deliver a baby over the phone last weekend, according to this article in the Arizona Star. The baby’s family all spoke Spanish, so when the father-to-be called 911 to report that his wife was about to give birth, the language barrier made an already nerve-wracking situation even more complicated.

The dispatcher who received the call, James Charron, is not bilingual and doesn’t speak Spanish. He understood just enough to figure out what was going on, but not enough to communicate accurately with the family. Tucson’s emergency dispatch system relies on Language Line to translate for non-English speaking callers.

Through Language Line translator Paola Anderson, Charron was able to provide instructions to the baby’s father and father-in-law to help them deliver the child safely on their own.

During the ordeal, the woman and her family were not the only ones who were nervous. Anderson was nervous too, afraid that making a mistake in translation could have serious consequences. As she told the Arizona Star, “I thought a little mistake could have resulted in something bad.”

According to the report, the baby girl was born healthy. Both Charron and Anderson are proud to have helped bring her into the world.  “I feel like a godmother,”  Anderson told the Arizona Star.

This story underscores why it so important to have well-trained, knowledgeable interpreters. Especially in medical situations!

You Never Know When You'll Need to Translate

Students sometimes grumble about requirements that they take classes in a second language. “Why bother? When am I going to use this?” they ask.

The truth is that knowing how to speak a second language can come in handy at the most unexpected moments, even if you don’t become a world traveler or get a job as an interpreter. As often as not, the world comes to you.

I was reminded of this on a recent plane ride. Read more

Translation to Spanish, Holidays and Robbery

Travelling is great, it offers you the opportunity to see something else, explore a different country than yours, be open to another culture and overall try new things. Food, people, landscapes, habits, animals, nature, clothes…everything can be completely different from what you have experienced before. Landing in a new country is like landing on a new planet where some changes can affect you for the rest of your life, you even might want to stay there forever because you feel that you fit better in this new land than your home country. Who knows!?

However, for the majority of us, this is just a stopover in our daily life, break the habits for 1 week or 2 and escape the reality thanks to a change of scene. Leave the routine to come back fresher, relaxed and happy. I think we all need that from time to time and I’m definitely always up for a trip abroad. However, there are always few rules to keep in mind when travelling to a foreign land: get a medical insurance, check that you have all your ID and important documents with you, make sure you have enough money to survive over there (plus put some cash in your pocket in the local currency), buy a guide, book an hotel or a backpack, bring a dictionary and learn few basics in the local language if you can.

Last one is very important because if you want to be able to understand and be understood, it’s always handy to know few expressions in the language your hosts are speaking. What happens if you don’t? Well, let me tell you the story about a Spanish couple who was in holidays in France… Read more

Google Analytics gets Spanish Blog

Web giant Google have just launched a Spanish version of their analytics blog.

The blog covers a range of Google measurement tools including Google Analytics, Website Optimizer, Insights for Search, AdPlanner and others.

Both Googlers and Google Analytics Authorized Consultants (GAAC’s) who speak Spanish will use the blog to share basic tips and advanced web analytics techniques which will hopefully help the decision makers integrate data from these tools into their business strategies.

The blog has been named ‘Central de Conversiones’. Important posts from the English Google Analytics blog will be translated into Spanish and uploaded onto the new blog. There will also be original content created and share studies which will be specific to the Spanish speaking markets.

The English blog is very useful so this new blog should open Google Analytics to a much wider audiences.

Survival Spanish

Hola from Costa Rica! I’ve spent the past week here, and consequently I’ve had the opportunity to sharpen my embarrassingly rusty  Spanish skills. I was astonished at how much of the language came back to me — and also at how much was lost to time. If you’re traveling to a Spanish-speaking country, here’s a list of words and phrases you might want to memorize before you go, along with some that I wished I’d taken the time to relearn before my plane touched down in San Jose.

Pleasantries

  • “Por favor.” Please.
  • “Gracias.” Thank you.
  • “De nada” or “con gusto” You’re welcome.
  • “Buenas dias” or just “buenas”– “Good day,” used as a greeting.
  • “¿Como esta?” How are you?

Traveling/Directions

  • “¿Donde esta…?” Where is?  If what you’re asking about is plural, use “¿Donde estan?”
  • “Puente en mal estadio.” Bridge in poor condition.” We saw a lot of these signs on the way to our rural mountainside resort.
  • “El taxi.” Taxi.
  • “Gire a la derecha.” Turn right.
  • Gire a la izquierda.” Turn left. 
  • ” Un plano.” A map.
  • “¿Por favor, puedo usar los servicios sanitarios?”  Please, can I use your bathroom? (Also, muchas gracias to the wonderful Costa Rican woman who let a pregnant gringa she’d never met into her home to use her bathroom!)

Food/ Restaurants

  • “La propina” The tip. In Costa Rica, this is generally  included, though you may tip a little extra if the service was exceptional.
  • “La cuenta, por favor.” Check, please.
  • Soda : A restaurant serving inexpensive Costa Rican staples.
  • “¿Acepta usted tarjetas de crédito?” Do you accept credit cards?
  • “Quiero…” I want…

Language

  • “Habla ingles?” Do you speak English?
  • “Habla español?” Do you speak Spanish?
  • “Lo siento, solo hablo un poquito de español.” I’m sorry, I only speak a little Spanish.
  • “Hable despacio, por favor.” Speak more slowly, please.

Hotels

  • “Quisiera hacer una reservación/ Tengo una reservación.” I would like to make a reservation/I have a reservation.
  • “¿Podria llamarme un taxi, por favor?” Could you call me a taxi, please?
  • ¿Tiene el hotel acceso a Internet? Does the hotel have internet access?
  • “La llave.” Room key.
  • “El aire acondicionado en mi cuarto no está funcionando.” The air conditioner in my room isn’t working.

Can you think of any other essential travel phrases? Share them in the comments!

Photo Credit: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by LeafLanguages