Friday, September 10, 2010

PLG helps Heartland reach Spanish-speaking Business Owners

At a Chicago area trade show, a Heartland Payment Systems representative had raised its concerns to PLG over avoiding translation mistakes in such a fast-paced industry. After having a discussion about ways that PLG can meet Heartland’s translation goals in an accurate and timely fashion – PLG and Heartland were on their way to become long-term business partners. Precision Language and Graphics is now the main translation provider for Heartland Payment Systems and has helped the company’s efforts in reaching Spanish-speaking business owners in the United States. 

About Heartland Payment Systems
Heartland Payment Systems, Inc. (NYSE: HPY), the fifth largest payments processor in the United States, delivers credit/debit/prepaid card processing, gift marketing and loyalty programs, payroll, check management and related business solutions to more than 250,000 business locations nationwide. For more information, please visit

For more information about PLG’s marketing translation services, visit our website at

Chevy No Go: Fact or Myth?

You've heard the story. GM introduced its car the "Chevy Nova" to Latin America and sales did poorly because, according to the story, Nova means "it doesn't go" in Spanish. It is said that after GM changed the name to Caribe, sales of the automobile did well.

This story continues to be heard through the classrooms of marketing and advertising classes, and even by some marketing and translation agencies. But in Spanish, the actual translation for "it doesn't go" should be No va. They are close, but not the same. Notice the space between the two words.They are also pronounced differently.

A European version also exists. It was said that Vauxhaull (also owned by GM) introduced a Nova of its own and sales did poorly in Spain.

Both of these stories are myths. Sales of the Chevy and Vauxhaull Nova actually did well in both Spain and Latin America. While there are many cases such as these that are indeed a fact (such as KFC translating their slogan to Chinese as "eat your fingers off",) this is simply not one of them.

For ways on how to avoid marketing embarrassments, read our article: Understanding culture to avoid marketing translation embarrassments.

Understanding culture to avoid marketing translation embarrassments

You’ve heard the stories: a prominent automobile manufacturer names a car for the Latin American market as “no go” and a popular fast-food chain translates their slogan as “eat your fingers off.” While the former is just a myth, it has happened that major marketing teams have provided embarrassing and incorrect translations that have cost thousands, even millions, of dollars to fix.

How can you avoid these mistakes? First, as with any marketing project, it is crucial that you get to know your intended demographic as best as possible. In cross-cultural marketing, this may mean acquainting yourself with the beliefs, social norms and taboos, and history and current events concerning the target audience. Second, educate your translation team about that audience if there is something particularly unique that could benefit the end translation. When translating, one of the most important considerations is context—more context will always result in better translations.

With this information, it should be easier to determine how best to reach the intended audience. It is very possible that a literal translation from the original English will not make sense in the target language. According to Shaina Bauman, a project coordinator at PLG, “it is important to remember that this kind of project involves not only the translation of words but also ideas. A literal word-for-word translation is not necessarily going to be effective when viewed from a different cultural viewpoint.”

Figures of speech are often used in marketing slogans and catchy phrases in advertisements and commercials. Metaphors, however; don’t usually translate very well as they are very specific to one culture. The Colombian pop-singer Shakira often translates her music from Spanish to English to appeal to an English-speaking fan base. Yet, these translations don’t always quite convey the original meaning. For example, the chorus of Shakira’s song “My Hips Don’t Lie” is a literal translation of “Mis caderas no mienten.” She is implying that because her hips are moving, she is enjoying the music. In Spanish, this would be commonly understood figuratively.  English-speakers, however, may be less familiar with the metaphor without further explanation.

While we will give Shakira a pass for poetic license, it is of paramount importance that those who are trying to sell products and services in other cultures have some basic understanding of those cultures. Those who spend extra time in research and providing translators as much context as possible about the product and the ideas associated with the product will go a long way in assuring that their cross-cultural marketing efforts will not be in vain.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

9 Tips for a Better Label Translation Project Flow

A few of PLG’s translation project coordinators came together and compiled a few guidelines for better managing larger-scale projects that involve multiple languages. While some of these guidelines are specific to label translation, many can be generally applied to any type of translation work.

As the client, you can refer to these guidelines when evaluating projects with any translation agency.

Source picture: Alto Paraíso de Goiás, Brazil. Jean Carneiro.

1. Clear and concise communication is a great start. During the initial request (whether by e-mail/phone/fax/etc), clients should identify a project name or job number, delivery date and all the languages to be translated or typeset. Any additional requirements should be requested early on in the job phase. Having all the necessary information at the outset can set the project into motion more quickly and the translation agency’s project managers are able to handle the job much more efficiently.

2.  Clarify all conversions and local settings. You may need to convert dimensions from U.S. standard to metric. Make sure you and your translation agency understand this. Also, your U.S. toll free number may not work abroad. Provide alternate information to your translation agency if necessary.

3. Specify a language dialect if necessary. Are your French labels going to be read by customers in Quebec rather than France? Or is your target market Taiwan rather than mainland China? Then you may want to indicate this to the translation agency. A good translation agency will assign a native speaker of the target language/country to the project so that your translations will not only be correct, but also culturally authentic.

4. Educate the translation agency about your products. You may want to provide other materials, including brochures/flyers, instruction manuals, previous translations and even videos to educate the translation agency about your products and services. With more context, translators are able to produce higher-quality, more specific translations.

5. Provide a glossary if you have one. Glossaries are beneficial when terms are particularly unique to your industry and you want to ensure that the translations are consistent within your own company or industry. If you have translated your labels before, your previous translator may have created a glossary of the most commonly translated terms that appear in your packaging. If not, you can request this from your translator/translation agency.

6. Choose a translation agency that utilizes translation memory (T.M.) There are times that a translation agency will use a different translator to translate your labels. This is fine, as translators are often working on a few projects at once and may not be available. If this case arises, a good translation agency will provide a translation memory file to the newly assigned translator working on your project. This ensures that you receive consistent translations every time.

7. Allow extra time if possible. Be wary of translation agencies that promise a quick delivery that would normally take longer, as a good translation agency will communicate to you if the deadline is not able to be met. A proficient translator takes time to research and proofread in order to avoid careless mistakes and produce quality translations. Some translation agencies may offer an expedited delivery, but do not choose this option if you don't necessarily have to. Prepare in advance to avoid rush projects.

8. Take advantage of in-house typesetting/DTP layout services. Placing language in an artwork file can be problematic if the person doing the layout is not familiar with the language or software. This is especially true with languages that use non-Latin characters. It may be easy to find a good language professional or a good typesetter, but it is rare to find someone who is proficient at both. A good translation agency often has staff that is familiar with both the language and the compatible desktop publishing software.

9. Be clear on the delivery time and method. If you followed the first step of effective communication, then delivery of your project will be a breeze. Perhaps you had instructed the translation agency to upload the final project to your FTP server by a certain date or time or maybe you need the finished project mailed to you on a CD-ROM. Provide this information early in order to avoid delays and a last-minute delivery.

We hope that you are able to apply these tips to your next label translation project.

Precision Language and Graphics is a multilingual translation agency that specializes in packaging translation. For more information about our label/packaging translation services, please visit

PLG exceeds Holiday Packaging Translation Expectations

In one of their busiest seasons yet, Precision Language and Graphics and affiliated design agencies combined strength to produce more than 2,000 bilingual labels. Over the course of three months, they worked within tight deadlines to ensure that many of these products will be on store shelves in time for the upcoming holiday season.
Holiday Packaging Translation Highlights:
• Translation of more than 2,000 labels over the course of three months for seasonal items, in addition to non-holiday related products, for a wide range of US based retailers and manufacturers
• Product packaging includes labels for holiday décor, recipes and nutrition labels, kitchenware, tools and hardware, home furnishings and cosmetics
• Turnaround times between 2 and 48 hours
• Most popular languages include Spanish, French, Chinese and Japanese
• Additional typesetting/DTP and layout services for certain items
• Post DTP Proofreading and Review
After a few months of hard work, PLG and its clients were satisfied with what they’d accomplished. Diana R., Senior Packaging Manager with Wal-Mart*, one of the customers of PLG’s, commended these efforts, saying that "PLG’s ability to deliver was put to the test and the results have been exceptional…We recognize that what was asked of you was beyond the norm and a simple thank you is not enough.”

For more information about PLG’s Label/Packaging Translation Services, please visit

*Since 2007, PLG has been translating labels and packaging from English to Spanish and English to French as an approved translation vendor for 3700 Wal-Mart Stores in the U.S. and more than 300 stores in Canada. After a rigorous selection process, PLG was also selected to provide label translation services to Michaels Stores in 2008.

Monday, July 12, 2010

World Cup Round-Up: Language Stats

Though the final match between Spain and the Netherlands is over and the month long international soccer tournament has come to an end, World Cup spirit is still very much alive here at PLG. In this section, we've collected some interesting language related facts pertinent to the World Cup:

• South Africa, this Cup's host, has 11 official languages, including Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans and English.

• Spain, the World Cup winner, has four official languages: Castellano (Spanish), Euskera, Catalán and Gallego. Spanish is spoken nationally while the other three are spoken regionally. During Franco’s regime (1939-1975) the use of regional languages was highly discouraged but have since experienced a strong resurgence.

• Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands (the 2nd place finishers), with Frisian enjoying co-official status in the province of Friesland. Most Dutch citizens also speak English, as it is a mandatory part of secondary education, and many also speak German and/or French.

• Language ties with the Netherlands—Afrikaans, the native language of 13.3 % of South Africa’s population, is a language derived from the Dutch brought over by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century.

• The match between Argentina and Mexico on June 27 was televised in the U.S. on the network Univision and watched by a record-breaking 9.36 million people - making it the most watched Spanish-language program in the United States.

• Pharmacies in South Africa prepared for the arrival of thousands of tourists by setting their computers up to use Babel Fish, Yahoo’s online translation program.

• English proficiency is required for World Cup referees. Brazilian refs were quoted to have studied English swear words prior to June 12’s match between England and the United States (foul language is grounds for a player’s ejection from a game).

• Though England’s out, there’s still something to cheer about: English Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his family have ties to both teams in the World Cup final. Clegg’s mother is Dutch and his wife, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, is Spanish. The Deputy Prime minister cheered for the Oranje Elftal (Orange Eleven) while his wife and sons threw their support behind La Roja.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Boycotting Arizona May Hurt Translation Industry

Despite the controversy in Arizona these days, there is no doubt that the state has a rich history in culture, immigration and language. According to 2000 U.S. census data, 25.9 percent of the population speaks a language other than English; primarily Spanish, Navajo, and other Native American languages, but also German, Chinese, French, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Italian and Korean.  Many of these these speakers are equally bilingual in English and another language, serving as translators and interpreters for businesses in the state and organizations around the country. Boycotting services from Arizona could potentially hurt the translation and interpretation industry in the state, and the businesses who use them.

According to the Arizona Department of Commerce, there were 1,293 active translators and language interpreters in Arizona in 2006. These figures are only expected to climb, with 1,573 by 2016, as demand for language needs in government, education, and business increases. More than 80 translators in Arizona are recognized by the American Translators Association (ATA). Translators and interpreters recognized by the ATA are often preferred by businesses, multi-national corporations, and NGOs in the U.S. and around the world.

To meet the education demands of the translation sector, universities have increased their language instruction offering. Arizona State University now offers degrees in Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish. But some universities abroad have cancelled their exchange programs with Arizona state schools due to the controversial immigration law. Cultural exchange is integral to any language-related program.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon (D), who opposes the Arizona immigration law, has called for an end to the boycotts and has blamed the media for the divisive battle. "Unfortunately, it's added another dimension to splitting the community over this debate," Gordon addressed the media earlier last month. The city of Los Angeles and many smaller cities and groups have begun to stop doing business with the state while many others are threatening to start doing so. "We were just starting to see recovery...I just plead with everybody not to be boycotting Arizona and Phoenix. It hurts everybody".

Perhaps the boycotting of Arizona may send a message to politicians, but is not in the best interests of the translation industry in Arizona and the businesses around the country who need such services.

Monday, June 7, 2010

From Flemish to Finnish, Learn Essential Phrases in 36 Languages!

You may be traveling abroad this summer, and if you're like the most of us, you have very little time to learn a whole new language. Before my trip to Amsterdam last March, I sought the "Dutch Essentials" iPhone app to learn a few words of Dutch. The only word I can still remember is Proost (Cheers!), but it was still nice to have some extra words in my pocket in case I needed them. Perhaps our native Dutch translator could teach me a bit more.

The BBC Languages has provided a nice web site where you can print a "Quick Fix" guide of phrase essentials for 36 languages, including Dutch. You can even download an audio file that you can carry around on your iPod or iPhone while you're traveling. Visit the BBC Languages "Quick Fix" site at

Now if you're one of the other ones that has the time to learn a whole new language, the BBC also offers complete interactive tutorials with audio and video courses in Spanish, French and a few other languages, all for free. As a Spanish tutor, I would often recommend Mi Vida Loca, which is highly interactive and is more like actually visiting Spain than reading from a book. It's a great deal considering how expensive language learning software can be. Visit the BBC's Mi Vida Loca at:

For the BBC Languages complete guide, visit

Raudel is a translation project coordinator for French and Spanish at Precision Language & Graphics.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Google offers language services to indigenous populations

Pictured: Smiling children at Cobá, Quintana Roo, Mexico .

Google Mexico has recently announced that it will include Mayan and Nahuatl, two of Mexico’s most widely spoken native languages, to its “Google Traductor” (Google Translate) services. Nahuatl, part of the Uto-Aztecan language family, is spoken by 1.5 Nahua people, mostly from Central Mexico, El Salvador, and immigrants in the United States and Canada. Mayan languages, though diverse, are spoken by 6 million indigenous Maya in the region. Up to 1.2 million speak the Yucatecan dialect in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula alone. While many natives speak Spanish and some are assimilated into mainstream Mexican society, there continues to be a major social and economic gap, especially for those who live in the remote Mexican jungle. Adding these languages to the Google Translate feature may be a recognition of populations who speak them and a small step in bridging the gap.

Pictured: "El Castillo", Pyramid of Kukulcan in Chichén Itzá, Mexico

In the past, the internet has often been used as a tool for promoting indigenous people’s rights around the world. The most notable example is the peaceful Zapatista uprising where indigenous groups from the state of Chiapas protested against the Mexican government, particularly calling for agrarian reform. The group went online to urge the international community to support their struggle against inequality in Mexico. The world heard, yet inequality is still a major problem for indigenous peoples of Mexico. However, the internet continues to be a valuable tool in many ways.

Central America is susceptible to many natural disasters such as mudslides and hurricanes, and emergency responders need to act quickly and communicate with the native-speaking populations. While machine translation does not effectively replace a human translator, it may be the only option during an emergency situation when one is not promptly available. Google Translate had added Haitian Creole earlier this year in the hopes to help earthquake emergency responders communicate with the Haitian Creole speakers. Microsoft’s Bing Translator had also added Haitian Creole to its list of languages offered. Easy access to Nahuatl and Mayan translations may be critical in similar situations.

Try translating from English to Haitian Creole for yourself here:|ht|

How else do you think machine translation could help? What problems do you think can arise from the use of machine translation? You may want to read our article on the problems from the use of machine translation in the healthcare field:

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