The new year brought some new challenges. We were approached by a company that wanted the user manuals for its information product translated into Swahili, Uzbek, Turkish, and Korean. Each language presented a different challenge.
HOW DO YOU SAY “JUNK MAIL” IN SWAHILI?
We had a few pages of source text littered with information technology terms and the task was to render that into Swahili so a Bantu speaker in Kenya, Tanzania, or the Democratic Republic of Congo could understand. There was no way we could do it until one of our translators from Uganda pointed us to this research paper from Göteborg University. The paper convinced us it was possible to translate a text on modern technology in Swahili. Inspiration was all we needed.
We studied some of the work done at Baraza la Kiswahili la Taifa and Chama cha Kiswahili cha Taifa. Within two days we had a text telling Kenyan and Tanzanian users how to protect their computer from an anguko la seva (computer crash) and how to stay away from barua taka (junk mail).
UZBEK AND TURKISH ARE THEY DIFFERENT?
Turkish and Uzbek are members of the Turkic language family; and to some extent mutually intelligible. As Lydia Kiesling found out, you will have an easy time learning Uzbek if you speak Turkish. She was able to communicate with Uzbeks relying solely on her mastery of Turkish. You can read her experiences in The New York Times.
While nice for Lydia, this relationship almost produced a customer relationship nightmare for us. The text Overseas DTP translators produced in Turkish and Uzbek had some natural similarities; some words were identical. That made our client suspect sloppy work. We had to spend several hours convincing him the similarities are because of the languages’ relationship; they were not a product for cost-cutting measure.
WAYS TO BE RESPECTFUL IN KOREAN
While the challenges we faced with Swahili, Uzbek, and Turkish were lexical; Korean presented an altogether new challenge: register. Korean doesn’t differentiate between gender like Romance languages and it doesn’t have the definite article, unlike English and German. But its verbs transform with register. Verbs are declined differently when you are being respectful from when the intention is to display scorn. We didn’t know which register to use and the company’s manager was reticent. But like all troubles it passed.
Overseas DTP is fortunate to have been blessed with a Korean language expert on its team. He did the job so well that we have already received another translation project from the company.
A CHALLENGING START
This is a challenging start to 2017; in a positive way. We look forward to new difficult projects in the coming months. In case you have something legal, technical, or difficult text that needs translation, share it with us. We will love to have you as a partner.