Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Benefits of Shopping at Local Businesses

This year, in addition to the regular Black Friday deals, major emphasis was placed on a fairly new shopping holiday known as Small Business Saturday. The event, created by American Express, was first celebrated in 2010 to encourage consumers to shop locally with small businesses on occasion, rather than allocating all their holiday shopping money to “big box retail” stores or e-commerce on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The hype surrounding shopping local is not entirely unfounded. There are benefits to shopping at locally-owned businesses. By shopping at locally-owned businesses, jobs are created and there is more tax revenue, which provides a boost for the national and local economies while lowering the unemployment rate.  There have been many studies showing that spending your money with a local business has more of an economic impact than shopping with nonlocal companies. Many local business owners create a circle of money exchange by using local lawyers, accountants, etc. as a way to “pay back” the local community, whereas large chain stores tend to outsource their work. The belief is that if the money is kept within the community, then the community benefits. The local community also reaps the benefits of locally-owned businesses paying local taxes. Locally-owned businesses are also much more likely to donate to local organizations, schools, charities and other community groups.
When shopping in a local mom-and-pop-style shop, the focus is on the customer, because small businesses have more invested in the relationship with consumers. Over the past fiscal year, Precision Language & Graphics has seen a drastic increase in local sales. Some companies in the Chicagoland area, such as Kyowa Hakko Chemical Americas, TableCraft, Hydraforce, Koshin Americas and many others, have reached out to us for linguistic support. PLG was more than happy to supplement their multilingual needs while providing the more personal experience they were looking for. These companies all received personal visits from members of the PLG team where we were able to build a relationship prior to even starting a project for them. The personal touch that local businesses provide to their products or services is simply immeasurable.

To learn more about the local businesses that have worked with PLG and read about their thoughts on working with a locally-owned business, check out this month’s project highlight at

Christmas Time in Strasbourg, France

Many Europeans and people all over the world flock to the city of Strasbourg, France to witness what Christmas is like for this Eastern French city of 440,000 people. From November 26 to December 31st, the whole city goes up in lights and Christmas decorations, and merchants around the city put up outdoor kiosks throughout the city. It is the largest and oldest in France, dating back to the middle ages. In the local Alsatian dialect, based off of the German language, it is called the "Klausenmärik" or the "Saint Nicholas Market".

The possession of Strasbourg has gone back and forth between the French and the German so the mixture of both cultures can be most evidently seen in this city. Both German and French architecture decorate the city, and both languages are often spoken throughout. The Christmas tree, which became popular during the middle ages, has its roots in Alsace. It consisted of a fir tree covered with apples that represented the tree of paradise. Eventually, the custom of the fir tree conquered other regions of the world, including the United States. Small fir trees can be seen illuminated throughout the city, hanging off the walls or on window balconies.

As I walked through the city of Strasbourg, I could smell the aromas of "pain d'épices," a spiced bread pastry most associated with Christmas in Eastern France, or "vin chaud," spiced Christmas wine. The combination of both was intoxicating. If you are still hungry, "choucroute," an Alsatian specialty that involves dressing Sauerkraut with sausages, is probably your best option.

After a long day of shopping for local gems, the best way to finish off the day is by heading over to the center of the city to see the largest Christmas tree in Europe, towering over the roofs of Place Kerber. Enjoy looking at the tree while eating some "marrons chauds" (roasted chestnuts) and listening to some local Alsatian music played live in the square.

Project Highlight: PLG Goes Local in 2011

PLG’s local-client list has grown exponentially over the past year. It is truly a pleasure working with our neighbors, mainly because of the opportunity for personal interaction. We value each and every one of our clients, but there is a special bond that is formed when establishing a face-to-face rapport. All of our local clients have received personal visits from members of our PLG team, and we love that they can count on us as a supplier and colleague.

PLG has international clients, including: Walmart, Michaels Stores, Sears and K-Mart. Yet, our focus for the coming year is to continue fueling our local clientele’s global communication efforts. Some of our local clients include HydraForce, Inc. (Lincolnshire), Koshin America Corp. (Schaumburg), Sugino Corp. (Itasca), TableCraft Products Company (Gurnee) and TAO Trading, Inc. (Chicago), to name a few.

Below you will find some kind words that our local clients have shared in regards to their experience with PLG:

“I truly appreciate your great service and the excellent work provided by PLG.”

“Anytime discussion of translations comes up, I automatically think of PLG.”

“Thanks again for your help with this. You can’t imagine how helpful it is to have a translation service so close and convenient.”

“Thank you so much for your attention to our project. We appreciate the extra mile you have gone!”

“You have a customer for life!”

That being said, have a wonderful holiday, and we hope to hear from you soon!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Project Highlight: Thirvin International Localizes Their Business Name

A Precision Language & Graphics, Inc. client has firsthand experience with translating a company name for use in the Chinese market. Thirvin International, formerly known as East West Wine Company, actually chose to change their English company name in order to have a stronger impact on the Chinese market. After learning that the company name East West Wine would not translate well into Chinese, the executives at Thirvin spent some time trying to think of a name that was not used in commerce anywhere in the world and that would translate well into Chinese. They eventually came up with the name Thirvin, which is short for “thirsty for wine”. The Chinese name, 石玟 (pron.: shiwen), breaks down to mean “stone” () and “pattern of jade” (). This name sounds elegant and powerful and is also easily pronounced in Chinese.

PLG has worked conjointly with Thirvin to overcome any language barriers while operating in Mainland China. Services have ranged from translation of business cards, to translation of product lists… and even a product name. Stateside is a particular name for a very specific line of wine that needs to be localized for the Chinese market. In order to translate the name effectively, Thirvin International was required to explain the meaning of the name. Kim Miller, Chief Marketing Officer for Thirvin International, explained the meaning of Stateside, “[Stateside] is wine that comes from the United States. It’s meant to convey pride and honor [for] the land from which it originates.” Wines produced by Thirvin International are intended to express powerful elegance.

The translation itself has yet to be completed. If you can imagine, creating a transliteration of a name that carries a very specific connotation can be a great challenge. In the process PLG has presented Stateside translations, while Thirvin has collaborated with their China team for feedback. After working together on a few threads of emails and conference calls, the task is almost completed. When attempting to translate business or product names, one should keep in mind that it is no small task. There needs to be a willing effort from both parties to create, rather than identify, a translation.

Thirvin international’s tagline is “California Wine for Every Occasion.” In working directly with the team, it becomes evident that they wholeheartedly believe this. They strive to provide award winning, world-class California wine to Mainland China. The Chinese marketplace has recently seen a surge in wine consumption, and Thirvin aims to please every palate. For more information on Thirvin International, please visit their website at

For more information on PLG’s marketing oriented translations, please visit us at

Happy drinking! 

Translation Warranty, Liability and Loss Prevention: An Industry Overview

A subject of confusion regarding translation projects is liability; who is ultimately liable should an error go to print? It is important for anyone planning to have a translation done to understand liability, should an unexpected blunder occur.
One way to avoid liability arguments and/or lawsuits is to be sure that there is a liability statement in the work contract. This is especially important for projects that carry a high liability. If your translator does not state his or her liability limitations, then you should remember to ask. Many translators and language service providers include a liability statement on their work orders or have a link to a webpage stating their liability limitations. If the translator has liability information but you did not ask, you may ultimately be held responsible and required to live up to their terms.
Certain translators or language service providers choose to be insured with liability insurance specific to the translation industry, which is called Error and Omission (E&O). If a translator or language service provider has liability insurance, they will be protected and able to compensate for damages as dictated by the proper claim process. This provides an extra layer of protection to the translation users.
Remember, translation is a human derived service, and even the highest quality translators could err. Liability discussions should not be a scary thing, but they are important in order to protect yourself from damages in the unlikely event that a critical error is made.
To view Precision Language & Graphics, Inc.’s limited liability policy, please visit PLG is a bonded and insured firm, through Underwriters at Lloyd's of London.

Translation vs. Transliteration: Adapting a Business Name for the Foreign Marketplace

Many companies choose to enter the Chinese market because China is a global superpower. An important note for such companies to remember is that the company name is often converted into Chinese, and this can be very challenging. Because company names and taglines are created by professionals to have specific appeal, direct translation does not always have the intended effect.

There are many examples of bad translations or literal translations that have the wrong meaning. A couple famous examples include Pepsi and KFC. When Pepsi created the tagline “Come Alive: You’re in the Pepsi Generation,” the straight translation into Chinese took on a very different meaning with “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead.” KFC had a similar problem when their tagline, “Finger-lickin’ Good,” was translated as “Eat Your Fingers Off.”

To avoid such errors, it is recommended to use a transliteration instead of a direct translation. Transliteration is the process of converting a sound from the source language (e.g., English) with a corresponding character in the target language (e.g., Chinese). Although this process appears to be a simple phonetic conversion, it differs in that it converts a sound to a character. This helps avoid the problems caused by similar sounds in Chinese having very different meanings. For example, the word “gao” in Cantonese can mean dog, nine or penis depending on the tone. Phonetic conversion caused problems for Coca-Cola when the phonetic conversion of their name translated as “Bite the wax tadpole”. When this was noticed, Coca-Cola decided to use transliteration to come up with “ko-kou-ko-le” which still sounds similar to the English name while retaining a meaning that makes sense, “happiness in the mouth”.

There are a few simple ways to avoid such gaffes. The key thing to remember is to use a native Chinese speaker to do your translation. Using a native speaker also helps to avoid potential problems that stem from local slang. Double-check the translation by having a second translator do a back-translation to check the English meaning of the Chinese business name and/or tagline. If your company name and/or tagline carry a specific meaning that may not be clear, it is crucial to convey the meaning to the translator so that they may try to keep a similar connotation with the translation.

Image source:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The BBC Gets Bashed, Thanks to Subtitling Blunders

                Deaf BBC viewers are frequently noticing some comical errors in the corporation’s subtitles/captions. The errors are so common that there is a website dedicated to recording them so that people can have a good laugh. Some of the slips include calling the leader of the Church of England the “arch bi***” of Canturbury, requesting “a moment’s violence” during the Queen Mother’s funeral, and describing pigs that enjoy nibbling on “wellies” (boots) as pigs that enjoy nibbling on “willies”.

                A number of groups are critiquing the BBC for the increasing number of mistakes and believe that the network should raise its subtitling and captioning standards. The captioning process usually involves a person viewing the program while speaking into a microphone that is connected to a computer. The computer then uses speech recognition to change the spoken words into captions for the hard of hearing. Speech recognition software is not perfect, and this is where the majority of the errors come into play. Such errors can occur on any network that is providing captioning; the reason that the BBC is under harsher criticism than other networks is because the BBC is the only broadcaster in the world to subtitle all of its programs.
                Despite the statements from a BBC spokesman that they “endeavor to ensure it is as accurate as possible,” they continue to receive regular complaints and demands to monitor the quality to reduce the number of mistakes.

If you would like to view some fun, intentionally incorrect dubbing, visit:

The Art of Audiovisual Translation: Fully Integrated Dubbing

           Translation is not only the process of converting written text into a different language. A client may also need audiovisual translation in many mediums, including audio dubbing. Dubbing is the post-production replacement of voices or sounds on a video after the original filming has been completed. It is used by translators to replace the spoken language of a video with a foreign language. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, foreign language dubbing is not the same as voice-over translation. A voice-over translation involves playing both the original language and the translation at the same time; the original language is heard quietly in the background with the translation played over the top. Voice-overs are typically used in documentaries.
                Although dubbing is used for films and other large-scale projects, it can also be used on a smaller scale for international marketing or other foreign communication purposes. But why would you choose to essentially recreate a video by dubbing it when you can just add subtitles to the original instead? The biggest reason for that would be because subtitles distract the viewers. They cannot focus on the images in the video because they are reading the subtitles at the bottom of the screen instead. This can be especially problematic in a technical video or a “how-to” kind of video where the images are crucial to the demonstrations.  While subtitles are a form of localization, dubbing allows for a more cohesive final product in which viewers can immerse themselves in the content as a whole, rather than dividing their attention.
                Dubbing quality can vary depending on your approach. It can range from using a colleague and home computer to utilizing professional-grade voice talent and an equally-qualified recording studio. Not only are there rules specific to the translation aspect of a dubbed video (e.g., the translation should have the same number of syllables as the original, and the language should be clear and concise), the entire process of dubbing a video is highly complex and includes many steps and rules.  It is important to understand the entire process of audiovisual translation to create an accurate and effective localized video. Using professional services that fully comprehend the dubbing process and rules can greatly improve the quality of the final product.
                If you are interested in having a video dubbed by a professional, like PLG, there are some guidelines to streamline the process:
·         Provide the translation vendor with the video transcript, making sure to inform them that the translation is to be used in a dubbed video
·         Discuss the target region with your dubbing provider so that they can match up the voice talent that best suits your video
·         Provide your vendor with the original video files and a separate music file for any background music
·         If possible, have the translation agency work directly with your vendor for the original video. This allows for a clear communication path should any technical issues or questions arise
                Precision Language & Graphics, Inc. is an expert in audiovisual translation; you can learn more about one of our recent dubbing projects by checking out this month’s project highlight at

Project Highlight: The Brew Express Dubbing Experience

         Le café, c’est super !  

                       The PLG Feature Article this month is focusing its attention on the art of audiovisual translation, through audio dubbing. This October Project Highlight showcases Brew Express® and their increased use of Canadian French materials, one of which was an audio dubbing project.

                       Precision Language & Graphics, Inc. has worked conjointly with Brew Express® to integrate Canadian French translations into Brew Express®’ marketing plan. Brew Express®’ presence in Canada is not recent, but due to an increased demand from the consumer and supplier level, it has become essential to integrate Canadian French materials. PLG has supported Brew Express® by translating several instruction manuals into Canadian French and, more recently, by completing a Canadian French video dubbing project. The project started with the translation of the video script into Canadian French, then moved onto the voice over recording of the script. The final stages of the project included video engineering to replace the existing English sound file with the Canadian French counterpart. All-in-all, the project was a success, and it has been a pleasure working with Brew Express® to fuel their global communication efforts.

                       Brew Express® is a leader in the coffee maker industry, who provides their consumers with an aesthetically pleasing and incredibly efficient appliance. Brew Express® coffee systems connect directly with your water line to eliminate the filling process. They offer an elegant, built-in or countertop model, which has gotten a plethora of positive reviews. Brew Express® offers in-home installation, which enhances their already superior customer service. For more information on Brew Express®, visit their website at                     

                       For more information on PLG’s translation, voiceover, dubbing or subtitling services, please visit 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rediscovering the Portuguese Language

As the Brazilian economy flourishes, the demand for Portuguese translations has increased. Do an image search for cities like Sao Paulo, Curituba, or Bello Horizonte and you will see that they rival many of the largest Asian or American cities. A few months back, we had written an article about the expanding Brazilian economy. With a population reaching 200 million, Brazil is certainly the most important Portuguese-speaking country [Read: The Bridge to Brazil: Portuguese Translations]. The economy of Portugual has also become an integral part of the European Union. In this month’s article, we want to go further and discuss the intricacies of the Portuguese language and what you need to know to help you choose a Portuguese translation service.

One of the romance languages that originated in the northwestern region of the Iberian Peninsula, the Portuguese language spread to the south with the help of the Reconquista and to other parts of the world through Portuguese colonialism in Asia, Africa and South America. Speakers of the Portuguese languages are considered “Lusophones,” and compromise a total of 272.9 million speakers, making Portuguese the 5th most spoken in the world and the most spoken in the Southern Hemisphere.

Because of their proximity in origin, Portuguese is a sister language of Spanish. A Portuguese speaker may be able to understand a Spanish speaker and vice versa. It is important to note that while Portuguese and Spanish may be mutually intelligible to a degree, they are not the same language. Considerable differences make Spanish and Portuguese unique and must be treated as separate languages. It cannot be expected that a Portuguese speaker will understand Spanish. When translating for the South American market, two separate translations in Spanish and Portuguese are certainly needed.

It is also important to understand some of the key differences between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese. When intercontinental language dialects are compared, they often cite the differences between British English and American English, yet linguists believe that the differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese are far greater. Brazilian Portuguese has been largely influenced by African and Amerindian languages. While most of the grammar and lexicon rules remain the same, there is a great degree of differences in vocabulary for food, flora and fauna, and other terms that pertain to the local Brazilian culture. The Brazilian language is diverse within itself, having regional differences within the country. The dominance of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, in both economic and cultural aspects, has made the dialect of this southeastern region the most recognizable.

What does this mean for translation? It means that for a good translation, it must be identified for which population the translations are intended. It is perfectly acceptable to request a native speaking translator that is either fluent in European or Brazilian Portuguese, or one that originates from the Southeastern portion of Brazil for example. Most translation agencies that offer Portuguese translations would offer both choices, but please make sure to clarify to the translation agency which variety you would need. A European Portuguese translator may not be your best choice for a translation intended for the Brazilian market and vice versa. It may be more likely that you need a Brazilian Portuguese translation, as the population and economic stronghold of Brazil far exceeds that of Portugal’s. Yet if you want to focus on the European market, going with a European Portuguese translator is your best choice. A translation agency can help you find a Portuguese translator that understands your market and your industry.
Precision Language and Graphics offers Portuguese Translation services, for both the European and Brazilian markets. For more information about our Portuguese Translation Services, or questions about the Portuguese language, please visit

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chinese Language Questions for your Next Chinese Translation Project

During the past few months, we have been issuing a series of newsletter articles that answer the some of the most common questions about certain languages, and these have included Spanish, French and Portuguese. This month, we are covering the most frequently asked questions about the Chinese language. Answers to these questions can help with your next Chinese translation project and increase your overall knowledge of one of the world’s most economically important languages.

How many Chinese speakers are there in the world?
Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, with an estimated 1.3 billion native speakers (includes all varieties). And these numbers are only increasing. It is estimated that by the year 2050, there will be 1.5 native billion speakers of the Chinese language, and these are conservative estimates.

What are the different dialects of Chinese and where are they spoken?
There are numerous dialects spoken in China, but the two main dialects with the largest economic power are Mandarin and Cantonese. Mandarin Chinese alone is spoken by 836 million native speakers. There are about 71 million speakers of Cantonese worldwide (numbers may vary depending on the source). While they share the same writing system, the two dialects are not mutually intelligible. Cantonese speaking people call this situation “the chicken talking to the duck” because they cannot understand each other when they speak.

In what countries is Chinese spoken?
It is spoken by people in the People's Republic of China (China), Republic of China (Taiwan), Singapore, and by sizable minorities in Malaysia, the United States, the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, Mauritius and Peru. It is the third most common language spoken in the United States after Spanish, with more than 2 million speakers (mostly Cantonese but increasingly Mandarin). Cantonese is mainly spoken in Hong Kong, Macau and the Cantong province in mainland China whereas Mandarin is spoken in the rest of the mainland, with the exception of the southeast coastal areas where other dialects are found.

Where is Simplified and Traditional Chinese used?
There is often confusion between the definitions of Mandarin/Cantonese/Simplified and Traditional Chinese. Mandarin and Cantonese are dialects, non-mutually intelligible when spoken, yet simplified and traditional Chinese are writing systems that two different countries have adopted (China and Taiwan respectively). China had promoted the use of Simplified characters for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s to increase literacy rates throughout China. Simplified Chinese also serves as a cultural and political role for China, differentiating itself from Taiwan as they became political adversaries. Simplified Chinese, however, was never adopted by the government of Taiwan as they decided to stick to the traditional type, due to the respect for it’s rich culture and historical significance. Yet most recently, simplified Chinese has had an increasing role in Taiwan because of China’s economic influence. It must be noted that there are dissimilarities in Mandarin Chinese spoken in Taiwan and China. Many words and phrases have taken on new meanings over the years. There are also differences in tone and pronunciation. Some words simply do not exist in the other country.

Are there any new developments in the Chinese language?

There have been recent attempts between the Chinese and Taiwanese governments to collaborate to form a first-ever join dictionary that will cover the different ways of writing and speaking Chinese. The dictionary will be free and accessible throughout the internet. Because of China’s increased political and economic power, the Taiwanese have begun to use simplified characters because they are easier to write and also facilitate communication with China. The Chinese dictionary is meant to serve as a bridge between the two writing systems, in order to improve communication and the overall relationship between the two countries. – Source: "China and Taiwan 'First Joint Dictionary'", BBC News, 2011

The internet has been playing a large role in helping the language further develop and be accessible to others. Bing has developed an extensive Chinese language dictionary which you can visit at

What does this all mean for someone looking for a Chinese translation?
Having the correct translation is important for success in the Chinese-speaking market. If your translations are intended for Mainland China, then hiring a translator capable of translating from English to Simplified Chinese is important. The same goes for Taiwan, where a translator familiar with traditional characters should be used. If translating for the Chinese population in the United States for example, caution should be used because the majority of Chinese speakers are from Hong Kong who speak Cantonese, although increasingly the population is becoming more Mandarin. Because the population is generally older, Cantonese speakers in the United States still write in traditional Chinese, as opposed to the Cantonese living in Hong Kong that write Simplified Chinese. Due to the complexities of the language, it is often difficult to find an appropriate translator. This is where a translation agency that specializes on Chinese translations can help. A translation agency may be able to help you determine what language you should use for your target market or even help you identify what you target market should be.

It is wise to carry Chinese business cards when you travel for business in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. For more information about our Chinese business card translation services, please visit

It is estimated that only about 16% of the Chinese mainland speaks various levels of English. Translating your document will undoubtedly increase your abilities to reach a larger portion of the Chinese speaking population. PLG has been offering Chinese translation and typesetting services since its inception in 1994. For more information about our Chinese translation services, please visit

Friday, July 22, 2011

Most Beautiful French Loan Words

It is not news that many people think that French is the most beautiful language in the world. The French take great pride in their language and that is why Anglophones love borrowing it from time to time. Below are a few (ok, so maybe many) loan words that our PLG staff found beautiful (no translation needed). Are there anymore that you would like to add?

Déjà vu
Fleur de lis
À la carte
Bon appétit
Film noir
Bon voyage
C’est la vie
À propos
Crème de la crème
Double entendre
Faux pas
Hors d’œuvre
Mardi gras
Nouveau riche
Nom de plume
Répondez s’il vous plaît (RSVP)

And a special request by one of our staff members to post a video of Bradley Cooper speaking French:

Translating for European French vs. Canadian French

A question when looking for French translations that often arises is what kind of translator should you use to translate your materials. Understanding the history and some nuances of the language may be able to help.

Canadian French (also known locally as Quebecois) is a French dialect mainly spoken in Canada’s province of Quebec, and European French is an umbrella category for the dialects of French spoken in France, Belgium and Switzerland.

The differences between Canadian French and European French are believed to be greater than those found between American and British English, mainly because the early Canadian French settlers did not speak Parisian French, which has now become the norm in France. Canadian French is a language frozen in time, being more closely related to the language spoken throughout France in the 15th and 16th centuries. Because of these major differences, often it is recommended that a separate translation into Canadian French and European French is requested if it is a viable option.

There are also other socio-cultural and political factors that have contributed to the large differences in the language. French Canadians are often bilingual yet Americanisms and Anglicisms are less often found in Canadian French than in European French. Because English is perceived to be a threat in a country with an English-speaking majority and a powerful English-speaking neighbor, French Canadians feel like they have to protect and preserve their language. Canadian French faces more regulations than European French, as seen from their enactment of the Office québécois de la langue française (Quebec Board of the French Language), whose initial mission was to “align on international French, promote good Canadianisms and fight Anglicisms”.

The differences may differ depending on the subject matter. A technical translation would have fewer differences than a subtitle translation for a movie, yet this does not mean that technical translations would be easily understood in each region. Below are some differences found in the IT industry, for example:

Canadian French
European French
server proxy
Serveur mandataire
Serveur proxy
e-mail, mél

Other differences include capitalization style (no accents are needed in capitalized letters in European French) and syntax, including the use of prepositions.

A decision to have a separate translation, however, is not always a viable option. It would not make sense to provide bilingual packaging that is intended for both France and Canada in both European French and Canadian French. If there was ever a decision to be made on what “type” of French was needed for a translation intended for both regions, European French may be a safer bet. Because European French culture and language is exported throughout the world, French Canadians may have a better understanding of European culture than vice-versa. Yet doing so may risk offending or alienating some French Canadians, as they may feel like European French had preferential treatment. A translator with a background in both translating for European French and Canadian French would best be able to "soften" the language to make it the most marketable for each region.

Ultimately, the more geographically targeted your translated materials are, the more effective your translations will be in capturing your audience. It might seem like a great idea to use a French that was more "universal" to capture more audiences, but cultural nuances may be sacrificed. Some companies, such as IBM, have found it worthwhile to translate their materials in Canadian French, French spoken in Belgium, Switzerland and France, yet some companies do not have this option because of costs or because of bilingual packaging. Yet when choosing a translation service, please make sure to indicate what region of the French-speaking world you are interested in reaching. Doing so will help the translation agency assign a translator that may be able to help with this cultural dilemma.

Precision Language and Graphics offers Translation Services in more than 40 languages, including French for Canada and Europe. For more information about our French translation services, please visit our page at or contact a PLG representative at (847) 413-1688 or Toll Free: (800) 760-1688.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Spanish dialect should you translate into for use in the United States?

Many of our customers want to know what “type” of Spanish they should translate for use in the United States, particularly because of the diversity of Spanish speakers living in the United States. With good market research and choosing a right translator, you may be able to maximize the amount of information that your U.S. Spanish-speaking customers understand. This article is intended to help you choose the type of Spanish best suited for your customers.

The map below shows the concentration of Spanish speakers in the U.S. (the darker the blue, the higher the percentage). Note that the largest concentration of Spanish speakers is found in the Southwest, due to the historical connections with Mexico and more recent waves of immigration. The most common Spanish dialects, including Mexican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican, reflect the Spanish-speaking groups living in U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, Miami, and New York respectively. A good generalization is that your material should be translated into Mexican Spanish if your intended market is the Western and Midwestern sections of the U.S., but not on the East Coast where there are sizable Puerto Rican and Cuban communities.

Spanish Speakers in the United States
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Yet linguists often like to categorize Spanish into larger umbrellas, which may help marketers target a larger community of Spanish speakers:
  • Central American Spanish – Particularly Mexico, for use in Central America or where large Central American populations reside
  • European Spanish, Peninsular or Iberian Spanish - For use in Spain, most specifically the Spanish spoken in the area in and around Madrid
  • South American Spanish – may include the dialects of the Rio de la Plata basin, known as rioplatense
  • Caribbean Spanish - spoken in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and along the Caribbean coasts of Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, and in major U.S. coastal cities such as Miami and New York
  • Latin American Spanish – a much larger umbrella category to refer to the Spanish spoken in all of Latin America and in the United States
With all these choices, it may be difficult to choose the right type of Spanish. Yet translators, who understand that material is intended for a wider audience, will avoid using colloquialisms in their translation. For example, a common term in Peninsular Spanish that is not used in Latin American Spanish is "ordenador", the word used for computer. The more anglicized term "computadora" is more common throughout Latin America. A Spanish speaker from Spain however; would understand the word “computadora” but not vice-versa. Similarly, the word for grass in Mexico is commonly understood as zacate but using césped would be equally understood and is more universal. When translating for the United States, it is important to convey what regions of the country you are trying to target. If you have a hard time choosing the right dialect or Spanish type, a translator should then be able to make the best decision for you.

For more information about our Spanish translation services, please visit our page at or contact a PLG representative at (847) 413-1688 or Toll Free: (800) 760-1688.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rise of the Machines: Computers Predicted to be as Smart as Human Translators by 2029

Last month, we discussed how machine translation can be aptly used for certain purposes such as brief business interactions and research, and also covered the problems that this technology faces. We wanted to bring back the issue of machine translation because it has become a controversial topic that has been recently making the media airwaves. Ray Kurzweil, a bestselling author known for his numerous predictions on artificial intelligence (AI), has predicted that machines will reach human intelligence, including human-quality translations by the year 2029. Kurzweil backs his argument by referring to Moore’s Law, which states that technological advances will continue to improve exponentially up to the year 2020 or later. These technological advances will include the use of nanotechnology for commercial purposes and curing diseases. While these predictions seem a bit far-fetched, don’t be so quick to dismiss these statements made by Kurzweil. In 1990, he had predicted a future explosive growth of the internet would be a key force in helping to dissolve authoritarian governments due to the increased flow of information, particularly the Soviet Union.

Yet other translation industry experts disagree that computers will ever become as intelligent as humans. Crista Busse, program manager at Precision Language and Graphics believes that computers will never reach the same level of intelligence as humans. “Emotion has a lot to do with intelligence and computers will never be able to develop emotion,” Crista says. While computers are able to solve complex problems with structured algorithms, computers will never be able to tap into the complexity of human emotion and language, she shared. “Ever-evolving cultural context is also something that computers may not fully understand or catch up to with humans, no matter how much data they have in their system,” Crista added.

But what if these predictions come true and computers are indeed able to conquer human intelligence, what is the fate of the translation industry and the companies who use them? Will companies cease to hire translators and replace them with super computers that can do the job? These questions can be answered with a bit of history. During the industrial revolution, it was believed that machinery would replace the need for manual labor – but manufacturing continues to be an industry that employs millions of people. The key, as many industry experts believe, is for human translators to adapt to these technological changes. Computers have become a natural part of us in such a short period of time and perhaps in 2029 we will depend on each other more than we’re used to. Human translators, with their ability to comprehend human emotions, and the computer, with its ability to handle a large amount of information – may be able to output more powerful translations in the future.

And while some people continue to feel threatened by a computer takeover, it is important to realize that technological booms have benefited humans in a vast variety of ways, including medicine and food production output. Instead, we should use our abilities and the resources available to harness increased computer intelligence and learn from it as opposed to shunning the technology. In 2029, it may be more likely that humans may have outsmarted the computer by making it forever useless without humans by their side.

PLG Welcomes Crista Busse to the Team

In early June, PLG welcomed Crista Busse to our team as a program manager. Crista has always been interested in languages. She received her B.A. in French from Northern Illinois University last year, and has also studied Spanish, Italian and German. Crista's multilingual knowledge allows her to manage large multilingual projects. She hopes to use her linguistic interest to eventually get a Doctorate degree and study psycholinguistics. Crista loves to travel, and has visited 12 different countries on 4 continents. She hopes to someday visit every continent. Prior to joining us at PLG, she lived in Langres, France (Champagne region) where she taught English to high school students and had a chance to enjoy some Champagne. If you have any language related questions, or would just like to discuss French wine and history, feel free to give her a call. We are happy to add Crista to our team.

We also have a new page on our website where you can get to know a little more about everyone here at PLG. You can find the page at

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

An Economic Barometer? PLG sees Continued Growth in Business Card Translations

Precision Language & Graphics, Inc. is a full-service translation agency, and one of the fastest growing segments is the Business Card Translations. In the first 5 months of 2011, PLG has translated over 500 business cards for varying clients across the globe. Some of these clients have ranged from business executives, engineers, entrepreneurs and teachers who will be volunteering abroad.

The growth in business card translations has been substantial, so it is interesting to take a look at the language leaders which represent this market. The top 4 languages for business card translations in the months of April and May are listed below:

1) Chinese: 48%
2) Korean: 11%
3) Arabic: 10%
4) A two way tie between Japanese and French, at 6%

A steady growth has also been seen for Spanish, Portuguese and Hebrew.
Even more interesting is breaking down the factors which have impacted the heightened request rate for each of these languages. China has experienced an incredible amount of economic growth over the past decade, so it is no surprise that American companies would prepare themselves to enter the market with translated information. While significant increases have been seen for Chinese business cards, Japanese business cards have leveled off this year. Six months ago, Japanese would have been a strong contender for first or second, but it is believed that the recent natural disasters have played a role in the decrease of requests.

Businesses are continuing to prepare for continued international expansion. If the world economy continues to recover, PLG is expected to see a continued growth in requests for Business Cards in these languages.

PLG awarded a new Amazon Kindle to a lucky business card owner this month. Read more about this lucky winner:

Amazon Kindle Winner: Mark from The Debt Exchange

From The Debt Exchange, Inc. (The Debt X)

In the month of April, Precision Language & Graphics, Inc. ran a sweepstakes to award a lucky business card translation customer with an all new Wi-Fi Amazon Kindle! This sweepstakes was a way to express our gratitude to our business card translation clients. We conducted a random drawing of all of our business card translations over the month of April, to see who the timely candidate would be. As seen in our “An Economic Barometer? PLG sees Continued Growth in Business Card Translations” article, business card translations have been on a steady rise. The international business climate has taken a turn for the better, and as a result, so have our business card translations.

The lucky winner of our sweepstakes is Mark, from the Debt Exchange, Inc. It has been a pleasure to fuel his international commerce, and an even greater joy to present him with this gift. In reference to winning the Amazon Kindle Sweepstakes, Mark said, “Thanks for the excellent translation -- great turnaround, flexibility and responsiveness at a fair price. Will definitely recommend PLG to friends.”

Well, you are very welcome, Mark! We look forward to providing continued multilingual support to all of our clients. Who knows who the next lucky winner will be, and even more enticing will be what the promotion will be!

Machine Translation May Help - When Implemented Properly

Machine Translation, also known as computer translation, has gone through a roller coaster of a popularity curve. It has been hailed as a breakthrough in the translation industry, all while acquiring a negative reputation for resulting in embarrassing mistakes. While Machine Translation has made significant progress in the past 10 years, most translators and translation agencies continue to shun the technology. Leading industry experts however, including those from the American Translator’s Association (ATA), have encouraged translation agencies to adopt machine translation as a tool that can be utilized for practical purposes.

A recent survey conducted by the ATA, found that 90% of American translators believe that machine translation has practical uses in business. Yet translators and agencies still have difficulty in convincing their customers that machine translation is a viable option that can save time and costs, and these concerns are certainly understandable. Machine translation is not perfect, and below are some pros and cons of the controversial technology:

Machine Translation is good for:
  • Translating casual interactions such as emails, tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn. The U.S. government is also known to use Machine Translation to get a “gist” of important social issues being reported in Arabic-language media. This allows them to focus on certain issues so a professional translator can further focus on translating highly pertinent material.
  • When timing clearly overweighs accuracy: translation of large volumes of text or short phrases for spontaneous two-way communication 
  • Understanding highly specialized and highly repeated documents such as patent and scholarly research 
  • Very short life span materials such as news, review of a restaurant, and weather reports 
Yet the industry’s consensus is that machine translation is NOT capable in accurately translating:
  • Highly decorated language, such as romance copy for marketing materials
  • Frequently used documents such as operating manuals or maintenance instructions
  • Documents with a high liability: HR procedures, legal contracts, product packaging and labels
While weighing in the pros and cons, it is no doubt that Machine Translation can produce unexpected results when not used properly, which is why it is recommended that certain guidelines should be followed when utilizing Machine Translation. Machine translation should never be used by someone who is not fluent in the source and target language. Non-fluent speakers may not fully understand the nuances of the language that a fluent speaker will understand and could result in awkward to incorrect translation.

A translator however; is able to modify the machine translation and make it purposely useful. Colloquialisms for example, will often be translated incorrectly via machine translation. However; non-fluent speakers may find machine translation purposeful in non professional communication. Yet it is advisable that before the communication begins, it is understood that machine translation is being used so that the person you are communicating with will understand if they encounter language errors coming from you.

Ultimately, it is best to consult a translation professional when in doubt. While most translation agencies do not utilize Machine Translation, it is certainly appropriate to weigh in this option. Machine translation may very well indeed be beneficial to your business if used appropriately, particularly when used in every day communication.

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