Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Visitors from other lands/Visiteurs du monde

As the number of hits on this blog increases, I am constantly amazed by the variety and the global character of the visits. This morning, for example, I had a visit from the city of Chennai, formerly Madras, in India.

My knowledge of Madras being strictly limited to the madras shirts that were popular a few years ago, I did a quick Internet search and found that Madras is now called Chennai and that it is a thriving 6-million strong city on the eastern coast of India, just north of the island of Sri Lanka (Ceylon).

Pour ceux de mes lecteurs qui ne connaissent pas mon site de recherche de visites (Sitemeter), je voudrai juste mentionner le détail que chaque rapport me donne. Ainsi, en plus du nom du fournisseur de services internet (ISP) du visiteur, je peux également apprendre son pays et sa ville d’origine. Indiqués aussi sont le temps de la visite, la durée de la visite, ainsi que les sites qui précédaient le mien ou qui le suivaient (Visit entry page, Visit exit page). Toutes ces données sont également disponibles sous forme de graphique ou de tableau.

Récemment, j’ai reconnu des collègues qui avaient consulté mes messages par l’adresse de leur fournisseur. À juger par la multitude d’articles sur les blogues, c’est surtout les liaisons qui existent entre eux qui importent. Ainsi, l’auteur d’un blogue mentionne dans son message la page (ou l’article) d’un autre « blogueur » et y joint un lien. Ces liens forment une véritable toile d’araignée de gens qui écrivent et lisent les blogues. Faites-en l’essai avec mon nom, suivi du terme blogue. Vous serez surpris.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

How well do you know your customers?

The magazine Enterprise carries in the January 2007 issue an interesting article by Lior Yitzhaky, entitled ” How well do you know your customers” . Here is an excerpt:

“A number of years back, during my first week working in the head office of a national retailer, I was asked to produce a distribution that would allocate a special buy of bread makers to every store in the country. .. The analysis revealed that every store in the country had sold out of the bread makers with the exception of stores located in the province of Quebec. In fact, the stores in Quebec had not sold a single bread maker. While the usual suspicions of the stores not receiving the inventory – or not displaying it – were made, the reason for the discrepancy was very different. Further analysis revealed that due to the cultural differences in Quebec, they were unlikely to buy bread makers at all. You see, the culture in Quebec emphasizes home cooking and many Quebecers bake their own bread at home. The bread maker is considered a sort of insult and people would be embarrassed to have one in their home. What affected me the most from the above situation was not the realization that Quebecers did not like bread makers, but the fact that many employees at this retailer knew of the issue and yet failed to take actions that could enhance their performance. A simple misallocation such as this, lead to loss of sales, alienation of customers and unproductive inventory.”

I do not believe the employees felt that it was their call to question the decision of the head office. In our day of specialization, the product manager who ordered this item did not look at the cultural significance of the item and the possible reaction of customers to it. This falls into the same category as the Mist Stick hair curler, which an American company tried to sell in Germany, not realizing that the word Mist means “manure” in German. Or the intention of General Motors of selling the Buick Lacrosse sedan in Quebec until it was pointed out to them that lacrosse happened to be a swearword

A translator can often help a customer in pointing out these discrepancies and avoid embarrassment. In my own experience, that is what happened when a customer needed a bilingual chocolate cake package and thought that the approach would fly.

Has your translator offered this sort of help to you?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Schubert for two/Schubert pour violon et guitare

La musique classique est, chez nous, celle que nous écoutons sans nous lasser. Dans toutes ses formes, elle rafraîchit, elle réjouit et remplit le cœur. Lors de notre pèlerinage annuel dans notre magasin favori de disques classiques, l’Atelier Grigorian quelques jours après Noël, un disque de musique de violon et de guitare nous avait charmés. Cela faisait longtemps que je cherchais une musique calme, réservée, pour écouter pendant un repas. Nous sommes tombés sur le CD intitulé Schubert For Two, avec Gil Shaham et Göran Söllscher, de Deustche Gramaphon.

J'ai heureusement pu trouver sur Internet, un lien au CD en question . Je pense que cette approche est meilleure que d'essayer de copier un passage.

I visited the Blogger site and found some material on Posting audio clips. There are some explanations but I would have hoped to read a more detailed explanation. Uploading photographs was rather easy. I can now either use my own pictures or those that are available on the Internet.

The music piece available on the link above will give you an idea. The selections and arrangements of Schubert’s music are very well done (to my ear) and provide just the kind of music a quiet tête à tête requires. I would almost say that it would make a nice Valentine’s present.

The recording was made at the Glen Gould Studio, in Toronto, and is numbered 4715682.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Our business is folding (?!?!)

As I was driving on the Highway 401 in Toronto this morning, a panel truck passed me which bore on its side the company name (or tag line?):

Our business is folding

with underneath, a picture of a multifolded piece of paper.

My translator’s mind started to speculate what one have to do to create a French equivalent. If the motto is always used with the illustration, the meaning is quite clear; one could say:

Le pliage, c’est notre affaire! (Folding is our business!)

If, on the other hand, it is a company name which is not always accompanied by the graphics, the English becomes more difficult to understand. Imagine the receptionist answering your call and saying: “Our business is folding”, Jennifer speaking.”

It is the other meaning of folding which bothers me – is this business closing its doors?

There is often a play on words in marketing and advertising, which may be be quite successful in one language and one culture but which cannot be duplicated in another.

Translation is all context and that means not only language but culture, social milieu and country. Things which would be successful here can be a disaster in Europe and vice versa. It is like the story of the Mist Stick hair curler, which, in German, became the manure stick (since one meaning of mist in German is manure!)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Machine translating a heading/Traduction machine d’un titre

The following heading appeared on an Internet business website:

US factory orders jump

Using machine translation, the French equivalent by the LDS engine was as follows:
1) Les ordres d'usine d'États-Unis sautent

Using the Altavista translation engine, the following was provided :
2) Saut d'ordres d'usine des USA

Two vocabulary mistakes first of all :

1) the French word for order (meaning a promise to buy) is called commande.

2) Whereas in English jump may mean a) to spring clear of the ground, to leap; b) to rise suddenly; c) to rise suddenly in amount, price, etc., the verb sauter means to jump(a), to blow up or to fry. So the French can be read as United States orders blow up (?!)

To express the idea of a sudden increase implied in the verb jump, we could say augmentent soudainement. The syntax or word order and grammar in translation #1 are not correct: we could say instead

Les commandes des usines

since these are orders from many factories, not just one, and to show the country where this takes places, we would say

Les commandes des usines aux États-Unis.

So putting everything together, we would get

Les commandes des usines aux États-Unis augment soudainement.

One notices that sentence #2 just changed the word order and substituted orders jump with jump in orders. Otherwise, still the same ordrer/commande error as well as the jump/augmentent error.

Moral of the story: beware of machine translation if no native speaker is handy to touch up the results. You might offend the reader and lose a customer – is it worth it?

Monday, January 22, 2007

La plupart des glaciers auront disparu des Alpes d'ici 2050/Most European glaciers to disappear by 2050.

Un article dans la Cyberpresse relate les derniers constats des scientifiques à Vienne que les glaciers d’Europe pourront bien disparaître d’ici 2050.

In western Austria’s Alpine province of Tyrol, glaciers have been shrinking by about three percent a year, meaning their mass decreases annually by roughly a metre.

The only European glacier that I saw up close is la Mer de Glace, near the Haute-Savoie city of Chamonix. The summer camp that I went to for several years while a young boy always use to have an excursion to the Mer de Glace.

L’excursion se faisait en autocar et prenait toute une journée de notre camp qui se trouvait à Publier, sur la rive sud du Lac Leman (Lac de Genève). Google Images abonde de photographies de la Mer de Glace, dont j’ai tiré l’image ci-contre. Pour les adeptes de Google Earth, je vous recommande une visite virtuelle à Publier et sur les bords du Lac Leman.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Update on Sitemeter/Mise à jour sur Sitemeter

A technical glitch prevented me from viewing the statistics on my blog for a while and it was with great joy that I was able to view them again today.

Numbers have gone up but so has the mix of countries:

United States, Canada, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brazil, Chile, China, Serbia, Finland, Indonesia, Italy, Latvia, Morocco, Malaysia, Philippines, Romania and Turkey.

Vingt trois pays en tout – je n’aurais jamais pensé que mes lecteurs viendraient d’un si grand nombre de pays! Merci de vos visites – je continue dans la même voie et je serais enchanté de voir commentaires (qui peuvent se faire de façon anonyme, si vous le voulez).

Dementia/Speaking two tongues

The Globe and Mail carried today a very interesting article on the relationship between being bilingual and dementia.

Canadian researchers have linked multilingualism to the delay in the onset of dementia. While the sample of people tested was relatively small (184), it still points to a very interesting phenomenon.

The findings extend previous research that has appeared to show the benefits of crossword puzzles and other mental workouts.”

I am not a medical person, but have been multilingual most of my life, with two predominating languages: French and English. Over the years, I have found that my fondness for multilingual communications has increased (or certainly not diminished) and that I seem to thrive on the mental challenges it poses. I also happen to love crossword puzzles and other mental workouts.

Who would have thought that being bilingual would be good for your health?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Assorted Protector Pads/Tampons protecteurs assortis

Picked up a US package of assorted pads (transparent, rubber, felt, etc) in a store the other day and noticed the somewhat strange French translation:

Pads are ideal for mounting on the bottom of objects that sit (1) on desks and tabletops. They also help prevent slipping and sliding of objects on smooth (2) surfaces.

The French reads as follows:

Les coussinets sont excellents sous les objets qui s'assoient sur les bureaux et les dessus de table. Ils aident en plus à prévenir le glissement des objets sur les surfaces douces.

What the author meant by sit is probably « objects that rest « on desks. Inanimate things to do not sit anywhere. This may be considered colloquial but it certainly has no place in informational copy on a package. The French ends up by saying object that take a seat on desks (??).

One method a translator may use to determine the exact meaning of a word is to replace it by its antonym (i.e. opposite) to see if the meaning is completely changed. The opposite of smooth in this case is rough, bumpy. Unfortunately, the word doux (douces in feminine plural) actually means sweet, soft, mild, gentle, pleasant but not the opposite of rough. It is the word “lisse” that is the right word (it could also be used in the expression bald tires – pneus lisses).

Why small mistakes are such a big deal? They compromise the seller’s credibility. The customer may think that the error happened because the seller DOES NOT CARE! He will therefore look elsewhere when buying another product from that same producer.

That’s not customer retention!