Translating Aotearoa


Tip of the month

Communication is key

As in any relationship, communication between you and us is quite important. You would let your partner or a friend know that you’re late, wouldn’t you? Well it’s the same with us. If for some reason, you don’t think you’ll be able to meet a deadline, please let us know as soon as possible. We might be able to talk with our client and extend the deadline. If that’s impossible, we will need to reassign the job to another linguist.

Our administrators and project managers are nice people – well at least most of them – and understand that life may come in the way. And that’s fine, as long as we’re told and can plan accordingly.

On that note… Has your availability changed? Are you going on holiday? Have your contact details changed? How do you prefer to be contacted? Via emails or text messages, over the phone, or all of the above? Having up-to-date information will help us ensure our operations run smoothly, and prevent any unnecessary glitches.

But communication isn’t only about work. We would be happy to know more about you. You are more than welcome to let us know if you’d like to add a piece of news in the Office section of this newsletter, and you can send us any contributions too. We are also going to migrate to a blog, a platform which will hopefully make it easier for you to react to what we write.

So stay tuned for more information in the very near future… and keep us posted!


Portrait v. landscape

Screenshot of the page orientation option in Microsoft WordAs you know, the Translation Service requires that all official translations that you do for us are in portrait format. The reason for this is that these translations are printed on our letterhead, which is itself in portrait format.

This may cause you headaches, as not all original documents are issued in portrait format. In fact, most academic and other certificates are issued with a landscape page orientation. This is not so much of an issue when the amount of text is fairly small. But at times, you will need to reproduce a table with a lot of content (that’s when you might have needed to reach for a box of Panadol until now). TTS does not really have a standard policy for such cases, but you have two options:

  • You can either split the table in two or more parts, and clearly mark which columns are which; or
  • You can reduce the size of the font. From a general perspective, Arial 11 is our preferred font, but we are open to some size flexibility, as long as Arial 11 remains the main font of the translation.

As always, when you are stuck with an issue, feel free to write us an email if you need some advice or clarification.


The diacritics conundrum

You have probably heard or read before that English uses the 26 letters of the alphabet, and that’s it – no funny accents, weird letters, or odd diacritics. But is that really true? What about the café where you met your fiancée and had an à la carte lunch?

All borrowed words, I hear you say. English has indeed appropriated many words from other languages, and those tend to slowly but surely lose their accents as they become completely anglicised. For instance, the occurrence of resume without the accent is gradually overtaking that of résumé. Some words have lost their diacritics completely: the Swiss Müesli became muesli, and the Spanish cañón became canyon. Sometimes the accent has been kept to avoid any confusion, such as rosé and rose, pate and pâté.Image stating: It's a diacritical thing

This flexibility around the use of diacritics in English may be the cause of major headaches for translators, as there isn’t one single policy that applies to all cases. Below are some points that may help you:

  • If a place name has an anglicised written form that is commonly used in English, then dropping the diacritics is acceptable. For example, should one write Vietnam, Viet Nam or Viêt Nam, or even Việt Nam? The spelling will vary according to the target audience: in the general media, Vietnam is the most commonly used spelling, while Viet Nam is the one used by UN agencies and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
  • The same rule applies to personal names: the current French president’s name is spelled François Hollande in the British media, and Francois Hollande in the American media. Although this hurts my French sensitivity, either option is fine.
  • What if the person is not famous, or the place does not have an anglicised name? Common use should guide you. While English is fairly open to the use of the circumflex accent (^), the grave accent (`), the acute accent (´), the tilde (~), and to a lesser extent, of the umlaut (¨) and the cedilla (¸), it is worth noting that those are used in languages spoken in areas close to the British isles, which may indicate a certain familiarity with them. The same cannot be said of other diacritical marks used in Slavic, Scandinavian or Vietnamese languages. It is up to you to decide what is most appropriate, bearing in mind that names should be written in the form preferred by their owners.

As always, let us know if you have any questions, and we’ll try our best to help you.


Do you translate phone numbers?

Our free phone number is 0800 TRANSLATE (or 0800 872 675). Now, imagine that you have to translate our website or our brochure. What do you do with this number? Should we translate it? Should we keep ‘0800 TRANSLATE’?

The answer isn’t as straight-forward as one may expect. In France for example, it is very uncommon to use words in phone numbers, so as a professional translator I would recommend using ‘0800 872 675’. That said, it may be fine to use a word for other languages, but don’t just translate ‘TRANSLATE’. Your aim is to make sure that the reader dials the right number. So you can either keep ‘TRANSLATE’ or find a meaningful word in the target language that reproduces the same number. For instance, ‘0800 TRADUIRE’ (in French) or ‘0800 ÜBERSETZEN’ (in German) wouldn’t work as the former equates to 0800 872 387 and the latter to 0800 823 773.

Another point to bear in mind is the location of the reader. New Zealand free phone numbers are only available if you call from New Zealand. You might need to add a note stating ‘from within New Zealand’ and maybe draw the attention of your client to the need to insert a number for overseas callers, starting with ‘+64’. You might also need to include the country code: say for example that you are translating a legal document issued in Germany. It is printed on letterhead paper and contains all the lawyer’s contact details. Your client is located in New Zealand. Do you need to translate the contact details in such a way that they are meaningful to your client and that he or she can use them? If so, you would probably need to include country codes in the phone numbers, and maybe add ‘Germany’ to the address.

Contact details, including phone numbers, are often overlooked or quickly translated, and not much thought is given to them. But they are an integral part of a translation and as such, they require the same critical approach as any other element of the original text.

Feel free to ask us questions if anything is unclear, or share your tips and tricks with other TTS translators.


To capitalise, or not to capitalise

The English language, or rather, English speakers love their uppercase letters. Usage of capital letters is evolving rapidly, and differs from one region to another, but from a general point of view, it The alphabet in lower case and upper caseis fair to say that uppercase letters are proliferating in English texts. Does that necessarily mean that you should keep them in your translation?

The mere fact that I am asking the question probably gives the answer away… The use you make of uppercase letters in your translations should be guided by the way they are used in the target language only. For example, some language commissions or national printing offices have issued specific typographical rules that anyone wishing to publish a text should follow. You can also do a search in Google – for example, the search ‘uppercase letters + rules’ returned this page which gives a set of guidelines on using capital letters in English. Another solution is to look at what a leading and respected newspaper published in the target language does, and follow its lead. If you wanted to find out about the way capital letters are used in Spain, you could have a look at El País for instance; for Argentina, La Nación or Clarín could be useful resources.

The crux of the matter is that you should assess the need for uppercase letters in your translations critically. Don’t simply reproduce them because they are in the original!

Leave a comment to ask us questions if anything is unclear, or to share your tips and tricks with other TTS translators.


The square brackets conundrum

Many of you find our use of square brackets a bit confusing, and rightly so. We’ve had a short discussion about this issue and this is the outcome.Image of square bracketsWhen should we use square brackets? First of all, it depends on the type of translation. We only use them in official translations – either selective or full – that are printed on our letterhead paper. If you are doing a translation that is not going to be printed on our letterhead paper, e.g. brochures, web content etc., then you should not use square brackets at all.

When you do need to use them, it is mostly for place names, or for information that isn’t stated (‘[not stated]’ in selective translations). If the document states a village or city and bears the stamp of a state, then include the name of that state as well – without square brackets. For instance, most Punjabi birth certificates will state a village and will bear the logo of the Punjabi state. This is sufficient information to insert ‘Punjab, India’ without square brackets. However, if a birth certificate doesn’t bear that stamp, but you know from your research that the village or city is located in Punjab, India, then you’ll need to put that information between square brackets.

In official full translations, you might need to use them for stamps (in that case, the formatting for this is ‘[stamp: xxx]’), signatures (‘[signed]’), logos (‘[logo]’), and other useful information (e.g. ‘[page 2]’, ‘[Translated from French]’, and so on). Do not use them for anything else! If ‘and’ isn’t stated in the source text, but would be good in the translation, don’t insert it between square brackets.

Just remember to use square brackets wisely.

Leave a comment to ask us questions if anything is unclear, or share your tips and tricks with other TTS translators.

How to insert an automatically updated date field

Following June’s tip of the month, some of you have asked how one inserts an automatically updated date in the heading of all full translations (if you don’t know what this is about, read June’s post).

The answer? Click ‘Insert’, then ‘Date and Time…’. Make sure that the language is set as English, select the ‘xx August 2013’ format, select the ‘Update automatically’ checkbox, and click ‘OK’.

Leave a comment to ask us questions if anything is unclear, or share your tips and tricks with other TTS translators.

Returning translations

It’s easy and straight forward: when returning a translation, just go back to the email you originally received from us, hit the reply button, and send us your translation. This way, it will go back to the right person, with all the details we need.

Leave a comment to ask us questions if anything is unclear, or share your tips and tricks with other TTS translators.

Formatting full translations

Many of you carry out full translations for us, from English into a foreign language or the other way around. If they are to be issued on our letterhead (eg. diplomas, birth certificates, powers of attorney etc.), please make sure to use our preferred font, i.e. Arial size 11, and to insert the following heading preceded by 8 line breaks:

Translation <job number, eg. 2209/3>

Issued in Wellington, New Zealand on 3 June 2013

[Translated from <language>]*

*If the translation is from English into a foreign language, please translate that line accordingly. For instance, for a translation into French, the line would be: [Traduit de l’anglais].

Leave a comment to ask us questions if anything is unclear, or share your tips and tricks with other TTS translators.

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