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From one interpreter to another: sometimes you just have to back yourself

By Kieta Philp

When I first studied to be an interpreter, we were taught to 'be invisible'. We were the person in black, meant to stay in our 'box', and our sole function was to bridge the communication gap between deaf people and hearing people. Of course, it wasn’t long into my school career that I found there was far more to it than that.

It is difficult to remain detached or emotionless when you have a legislated and genuine duty of care for the students. In my role at Shenton College, I am responsible for the organisation of interpreters and note takers. As stressful as organising 20 professionals can be, there is one area of the job that is particularly challenging: the judgement calls.

Part of my role is to provide a sounding board for staff to discuss certain dilemmas, ethical or otherwise, they have come across in the course of their duties. Obviously protecting the confidentiality of our students, their families, our teachers and interpreters is at the forefront of each discussion we hold. It is, however, important that everybody in our school community has an outlet to discuss the various issues that they encounter along the way.

Examples of issues that may arise could be: a teacher showing a video without captions, various distractions while in the classroom, a student that does not look at their interpreter, a teacher that is too lenient or too hard on a student…the list goes on and I am sure interpreters in educational environments have all been in situations like this before.

At Shenton College, we discuss and debrief these issues in weekly team meetings, making use of the team environment we work in. Amongst our team we are fortunate to have a wealth of diverse knowledge and life experiences, which we draw upon to try to come to a solution.

This enables us to give the best experience we can to our students before they leave to make their mark on the world. This is also beneficial to staff as a way to de-stress and additionally learn methods, as a team, to deal with any situations we may have to face through the school year.

Often though, given the many different scenarios and time constraints that we find ourselves in, sometimes we need to make an individual judgement call. We are all human, and sometimes we will make mistakes but I believe that when you are faced with the daunting prospect of having to make a judgement call, you simply have to back yourself.

Do what you think is right, and then seek support afterwards by following up with a colleague or fellow ASLIA member. We have all been trained in ethics and it is important we trust in our training. We need to remember that there is plenty of support out there for interpreters. We are all in this together and should never feel we are alone.

Kieta has been interpreting on a full-time basis in secondary education for the past six years. She holds a Diploma of Interpreting and a Diploma of Auslan from Central TAFE and is accredited by NAATI at the paraprofessional level. In addition to this, she undertakes casual community interpreting work. Kieta has travelled extensively, providing her with experiences and knowledge of other cultures and races. This article was originally published in the ASLIA e-update and is reproduced with permission.

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FIT Translation Prizes and Awards

FIT (Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs or the International Federation of Translators) is an international grouping of associations of translators, interpreters and terminologists. More than 100 professional associations and training institutes are affiliated, representing more than 80,000 translators in 55 countries.

One of the most important and widely recognized functions FIT fulfils for its member associations is the awarding of FIT prizes and awards at FIT World Congresses.

Being selected by an international jury to receive a FIT prize or award signifies recognition of the ‘best of the best’ by one’s peers around the world.

Here is a list of the FIT prizes that will be awarded at the 2017 FIT Congress in Brisbane:

NAATI encourages AUSIT and NZSTI members to take this opportunity to nominate outstanding members of their associations for the FIT prizes as recognition of their work and accomplishments. Associations are entitled to nominate one candidate per prize.

You may download the necessary documents here. The submission deadline is 10 January 2017.

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Translating smoothly from Chinese to English

By Binyao Wei

Based on my own professional experience, I find it relatively easy to correctly translate the original text into the target language. However, I found that, when I was beginning my career, it was difficult to produce smooth work.

Below are some summarized tips to mitigate this difficulty. I hope this helps in your work!

1. Correct it before improving it

Correct translation may not be smooth, but smooth translation must be correct. I strongly recommend that every word contained in the work should be examined carefully. This includes any error, any incorrect word selection, any grammar mistake etc. It is important to remember that accuracy is always the most important rule in translating.

2. Dig it deeper

Chinese grammar is quite flexible, ‘grammar tense’ is typically reflected through ‘adverbial’ or ‘auxiliary verbs’. In my opinion, Chinese is made up of different vocabulary arrays to show its meaning, which is different from English. English is expressed through changes of verbs.

For example, 我该去学习了。‘了’ normally implies past tense. However, the appropriate translation is ‘I should go to study’, which is obviously future tense. Thus, I would say Chinese grammar does not have a ‘tense’, but an ‘aspect’.

Aspect can be simply understood as a reflection of the status of the discussed contents, the meaning of which cannot be simply grasped from one or two words. ‘Tense’ implies the timing of the discussed contents to differentiate the past from future tenses, based on the current time.

3. Reorganise the structure

The language structures of Chinese and English are quite different. Chinese has a shorter sentence structure, while English sentenced tend to be longer.

Meaning in Chinese is expressed directly through words and short sentences that combine these words. However, in English, as long as the sentence structure is free from errors, various sentences can be integrated into a longer one.

For example: 因为贫困,又缺乏有经验的老师,住在农村的孩子几乎没有读过大学,而这个问题由于通讯工具落后,显得日益严重。

When translating this sentence, it is useful to consider English conjunctions, propositions, infinitive verbs and participles. The English translation of the sentence, using one full stop is as follows -

The issue of those children living in rural areas barely go to university due to poverty and lack of experienced teachers is increasingly worsened by the disadvantaged information media.

Moreover, active voice is preferred in Chinese, whilst English tends to adopt the passive voice. Some typical examples of English passive voice include, ‘as can be seen from the fact…’, ‘it is commonly acknowledged that…’, etc. Common structures like these can be considered to enhance the fluency of the translation.

I hope that these tips are quite useful for translation beginners to improve the work. It is a long way to produce smooth translation, but a good beginning is always the best.

Binyao Wei is a professional Chinese to English and English to Chinese translator. He gained his NAATI accreditation in 2015 and has since translated over 60 000 words. Translating is a passion for Binyao who hopes to use his skills in other professions.

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Voice-over or subtitling, which is best?

By Susanne Creak

Did you know that Nicole Kidman is fluent in Italian and Russell Crowe’s French is of excellent command? Not really but it seems like it when you watch dubbed Hollywood movies in countries like France, Germany and Italy.

In Holland and Scandinavia on the other hand, our Aussie actors speak English and viewers can understand them through subtitles. It certainly gives people in those countries a head start in mastering the English language and explains why they seem much better at it than the French

In Australia, we often see foreign movies, documentaries or TV series use subtitles. In news, short clips or magazine-style programs however, we find that either voice-overs or subtitles are used. Most of us have a personal preference on one or the other, and both options have their advantages and disadvantages.

What about English videos though that are directed at foreign language audiences? Content such as corporate marketing videos, training programs, webinars, or specific videos for travellers or migrants… which format is best?

Today I want to talk about the key points to consider when choosing between voice-over and subtitles for your foreign language videos.

Subtitling explained

In a subtitled video, the audience hears the original language, and written translations appear at the bottom of the screen. The existing audio stays untouched and viewers get to hear the original tone and inflections of the narrator, interviewees and actors. This provides them with a more authentic experience of the original film.

Subtitling use and limitations

Subtitles are typically kept to a maximum of two lines’ length and appear on the screen in synch with the audio and long enough for the viewer to be able to read them whilst they still take in the picture.

It is these limitations in line length and the available number of characters and presumed reading speed of the audience that pose a challenge to subtitlers, particularly when translating from English.

In many languages, full translations are longer and can’t fit into a short window of a few seconds. This means that the subtitler has to make adaptations without compromising on conveying the original meaning or key message.

Professional subtitlers know how to do this by dropping unnecessarily repeated and filler words, or by restructuring whole sentences to make them shorter and eliminating irrelevant bits of information.

For this, they can find themselves criticised by bilinguals who complain that a word may not have been translated, or a sentence not have been translated accurately. However, the key task of the professional subtitler has to be to get the message across, and to do this in the available time.

Even if subtitles are done professionally they can be somewhat distracting to the viewer and make them lose focus on the other happenings on screen. So, if a video has a lot of strong visual messages, then a voice-over might be the better way to go.

Subtitling advantages

One key advantage of subtitling is the lower production cost, as no voice talents, audio studio or recording engineer are required. Furthermore, subtitles are a great way to offer translated video content online and in a variety of language options through popular video sharing platforms like YouTube and Vimeo.

Voice-overs explained

A voice-over is recorded in the target language from a translated version of the original script. The viewer of the video gets to listen to audio content in their own language. The translations here, too, often require adaptation to be suitable for the recording; how much, depends on the language, the complexity of the video, and on whether the audio has to be exactly synchronised to visual content on the screen.

Many people prefer voice-overs to subtitles because there is no distracting text on their screen, they can follow the information better when they hear it rather than read it and will not miss an entire sentence or two by looking away momentarily. Plus, when there is more than one speaker or character, the use of different voices enables viewers to distinguish the speakers and understand dialogues more easily.

Voice-over use and limitations

Options exist when it comes to the type of voice-over. The so-called “Down and Under” or “UN-style” type is when the original speaker’s voice is played at a lower level in the background, and the voice-over is clearly audible over the top. This is quite commonly used in news and magazine-style programs with one speaker.

Corporate or instructional videos often use a “phrase-sync” voice-over, where the translated transcript is carefully time-coded to match the original timing of the voice and vision. The original narrator cannot be heard, but some original sound effects, e.g. musical elements, can possibly be mixed in.

In “lip-synched dubbing”, the recorded spoken text is most accurately timed to the vision and lip movements. Ambient background sound is maintained, and viewers have the impression that the text is actually spoken by the actors that can be seen on screen.

So, what to use?

When deciding on how to bring your video to foreign language audiences, you will need to think about:

  • Which content are you conveying? Your video may be a corporate video explaining technical content on a particular product, service or technology.
  • How are you planning to distribute/publish your video? DVDs can provide for both subtitle and voice-overs with menu options to select the language, written or spoken. Video sharing platforms allow for the addition of multiple languages in a cost effective manner.
  • How complex is your video? Your video may contain graphics and on-screen text that also requires translation. In this instance, subtitles will make the video too text heavy.
  • Who is your target audience? Viewers of a business video will usually be more open to reading subtitles than consumers to whom you are advertising, or people who are being given announcements, advice or support.

Ultimately, when deciding on a format for your next foreign language video, put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. With your video content in mind, determine the option that you think they would prefer, gives them the best understanding of the information and you the desired result for your investment.

Susanne Creak is the General Manager at 2M Language Services. Susanne is a trained subtitler, NAATI accredited translator for German into English and English into German and in charge of all voice-over and subtitling projects at 2M. The original blog post can be found here

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