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Subtitling Motion Pictures: Techniques and Technologies

November 8th, 2012 | by LTD | 1 Comment

Session LT-5 at ATA 2012
Presenter: Alain Martinossi
Reviewed by: Alexis Rhyner

Watching a subtitled film as a professional linguist is akin to a classically trained pianist listening a symphony, or a world-renowned author reading a novel. The art of transferring the dialogue across languages and cultures is often more intriguing than the plot itself. As a linguist, it seems impossible to watch a foreign film without closely inspecting each and every line of dialogue, waiting on edge to proclaim, “That’s not what she said!” Several questions typically follow this statement, including how could that translation even be considered for that source? Did they not hire a professional? How did that line pass the editing process? Upon delving further into the wonderful world of subtitling via Alain Martinossi’s presentation at the American Translator Association’s 53rd annual conference at San Diego, we see that many constraints impact a translator and subtitler’s work with film. Alain’s engaging presentation offered a rare peek into the world of subtitling from the perspective of a seasoned professional as he provided insight into the skills outside of the linguistic realm, outlined the process from start to finish, and rendered it all in an easy to understand, humorous at times, and informative snapshot into the highly specialized sub-set of our industry.

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RSS Feed For Twitter

November 29th, 2011 | by MiW | No Comments

Twitter used to have an RSS button for tweets. I was looking for it tonight and could not find it anymore. After much searching, I found this solution:


This is your Twitter RSS feed – when you replace xxxxx with your Twitter name.

Feed icon

Why is this important? You may want to feed the tweets of a Twitter account to your blog or website, and the easiest way (other than using, for example, WordPress widgets) is via RSS. I know that RSS is seen by many as yesterday’s technology. Still, RSS feeds are easy to handle and can be used in a variety of situations. The retweeting of LTD website posts on the LTD Twitter account is an example for RSS-driven functionality. Since many of the more “modern” methods acutally build on RSS, it will probably not go away anytime soon.

In case you do not know how RSS feeds work, there is a short description on this website from way back in April 2007.

License To Translate

November 12th, 2011 | by MiW | 1 Comment

Until I moved to Virginia in the ’90s, I was blissfully unaware of just how many vanity plates or personalized license plates there were.

The Commonwealth of Virginia seemed to teem with vanity plates, from the infamous H2OG8 of Gordon Liddy to this one on the left, which cleverly uses text already printed on a special license plate. In preparation for this post, I found out that Virginia indeed has the highest U.S. vanity plate penetration rate with 16.19% in 2007.

In the translator community, there are colleagues who advertise their profession or language on their license plates. I have started to collect photos of such plates, and if you have a personalized plate that fits this collection or know of someone who does, please contact the webmaster so that we can expand this gallery.

Below is the first round of license plates. Note that states may have different rules about selecting numbers and characters. My thanks to the owners who made the photos available. You can click on the thumbnail to see a larger version of the photo.

[via German Language Division]


October 18th, 2011 | by LTD | No Comments



The First 2011 Fall semester presentation will be on Saturday, Oct 22, 2011 at 11 am at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Conference Room, Department of English (7th Floor) 619 West 54th Street (between 11th and 12th Avenues) New York, NY 10019

Miguel A. Jiménez-Crespo, Rutgers University
The “Language of Translation” in an Internet Era

For over three decades, Translation Scholars have researched the specific features of the “language of translation”, mostly since the emergence of Descriptive Corpus-Based Translation Studies (Baker 1993). The differentiated nature of translated language has led several scholars to coin terms for this feature such as “third code” (wley, 1984), or “hybrid language” (Trosborg 2000). This variety of language is considered to have specific linguistic, pragmatic and discursive features that deserved to be studied in its own right (Baker 1995). The emergence of the Internet has meant that users interact daily with web texts translated from English into other languages. That is the case of Google, Facebook, Twitter or most online email services. Are we fully aware of how often we interact with translated digital texts? Do we realize that these texts are inherently different from spontaneously produced texts? Users not only interact with this new hybrid language, but they contribute to its creation through volunteer translation communities in the WWW. This is referred to as “crowdsourced translation”, in which websites or media content are translated collaboratively by many non-professional translators.

This presentation reviews the current state of research into the “language of translation”, and projects it towards the future in the light of the Internet revolution. Issues such as the impact of universals of translation, translation memories, machine translation and non-professional crowdsourcing models will be explored as they contribute in unpredictable ways to language change. The presentation will end with a case study that shows that the Facebook translation crowdsourcing model can lead to texts that better match the expectations of target linguistic communities.

The Changing Face of Translation

May 8th, 2011 | by LTD | No Comments

(from L-R) Carmen Vargas, Leonard Morin, Sergio Valdeon,
Emily Tell having dinner after the presentation

Author: Emily Tell


Jon Ritzdorf, adjunct instructor at NYU and globalization architect, gave a lively and engaging presentation at the monthly meeting of the New York Circle of Translators on Monday, February 28th, at the ANSI in New York City before an audience of multilingual professionals at diverse stages of the translation profession.

Jon opened the presentation by addressing the “clash of realities” between technology and translation. To illustrate the fact that technology can’t be stopped and is taking over every industry, he pointed out the number of internet users in China today as compared to 10 years ago, as cited in the blog, Global by Design.

He emphasized the need for translators to upgrade their skills and adapt to evolving technology, so that they can stay competitive in the market and be ahead of the curve entering the next decade. He then posed the following questions to the audience:

  • How are you going to make your service model last into the next decade?
  • How current are you in your specialization, technologically speaking? If you specialize in the financial industry have you worked with XRLB files? If in the legal industry, are you familiar with XML files?

Jon compared translators working in the field for 20 – 30 years to younger translators and concluded that the former group is facing more challenges because of lack of preparation. The younger group is willing to adapt to new technologies, try new areas, offer a wider range of services, and work for less money.

I think that this trend places translators of all ages and skills in a difficult position: If we are going to invest our time and resources in learning new tech skills, we should be compensated at respectable rates that correspond to those skills. However, this trend toward CAT tools gives clients – languages agencies and direct clients – an excuse to demand that translators work essentially for free, at least when it comes to repetitions (term designated for words that are repeated throughout a document). Clients fail to realize that although a word has already been translated and doesn’t require further translation, we still have to edit the translation and should be compensated for those repetitions. We also have to be aware of the different terms clients use to differentiate between words that are translated for the first time and words that have already been translated and are repeated throughout the text. I have more experience with Trados than with any other CAT tool and have always referred to those classes of words as unmatched words and repetitions. However, recently I was offered a project in which the project manager referred to them as new words and old words, even though the CAT tool required for the project was Trados.

We also have to carefully evaluate projects on many levels—financially, technologically, and in regard to specialization and deadline—in order to determine whether they are even worth our time. Sometimes declining a job or not being offered a job has little to do with whether or not we possess the tech skills. The internal dynamics of the client’s organization, their payment terms (or lack thereof), their tech experience/knowledge/capacity and our own experience in the industry are all factors which may dissuade us from accepting a job, even if it is financially lucrative. Also, the working relationship (communication, availability to answer questions and clarify doubts) is important. Clients may prefer to work with translators who are easy to work with, whether or not they have the tech skills or charge more.

I believe that translators need to adapt to technology within their own timeframe and budget, and pursue reasonable objectives that make sense to them personally. Otherwise, the process can be overwhelming and not worth the expense. We also need the support and guidance of colleagues, clients and organizations in the industry in light of our freelance lifestyle, because the lack of a traditional office environment, job training and interaction with co-workers on a daily basis can have an isolating effect. We are our own bosses and are responsible for our own training. So while we do need to adapt to the changing face of translation, it is not as easy and automatic as one might be led to believe upon hearing Jon’s presentation.

Trend #1 – CAT TOOLS

OJ & Lyndon – Emily’s CATS

The first and most widely prevalent trend among translators and big businesses is the move towards Computer Assisted Translation tools, better known as CAT tools. CAT tools are essentially computer programs that act as a database for storing source words, phrases and other segments together with their corresponding translation. When the database or CAT tool is used during a translation, it detects whether a segment has been previously translated and automatically inserts the stored translation into the current text. This saves the translator time that might otherwise be spent in searching for the translation.

While certain CAT tools are more popular than others, Jon basically recommended learning several tools. These can be set up via operations like “sandboxing,” “virtual computing,” and “partitioning drives,” which make your one computer act and perform like multiple computers . Once you learn one tool, you can learn them all, because internally they essentially function in the same way.

It is also important to be open to learning the tool that your client uses, as it will increase your chances of being hired for more jobs. Your client may even provide you with their tool of choice for free, in addition to training. Be sure to ask!

Jon went on to provide a little bit of background on the key CAT players.

Key player 1: Trados
The history of Trados, an early CAT tool can be traced back to 1993. At that time, it was created as a plug-in for MS Word because MS Word was the first editor translators were using.

Key player 2: SDL
SDL’s original product was SDLX, a CAT tool and competitor of Trados. In 2006, SDL bought out Trados, which at the time owned 95% of the market share. SDL discontinued SDLX (2007 was the last version) and launched SDL Trados Studio 2009. Agencies don’t want to use the “new Trados,” because it’s too complicated and no one wants to upgrade. In addition, SDL is a translation agency and is seen as a competitor of its clients.

Other Key Players: Déjà vu, Memo Q, Wordfast, Omega T
With SDL losing market share, currently it is the most exciting time ever for CAT tools. Several players have emerged on the scene to compete with SDL: Déjà vu, Memo Q, Wordfast, Omega T and Across, tools that are less expensive and in some cases free.


According to Jon, machine translation or MT is the best thing to happen to translators! The reason? Anyone can go online, throw anything into Google Translate for example, post it and get instant feedback on the poor quality. They then realize and understand the value of human translators and are willing to pay for professional translations.

Is MT useful in light of the questionable quality? It is useful in the following situations: reading an article, translating posts on Facebook and Twitter, data-mining and translating random sentences used in the correct contexts with the correct level of expectations.

Jon Ritzdorf presenting on the Changing Faces of Translation

Jon went on to refer to Laurie Gerber’s presentation, “What Do You Tell your Clients When They Propose MT,” given at the 50th Annual ATA conference, on October 30, 2009. Laurie encourages translators to find out what the perceived value is for their clients who want to use MT. For example, is the translation for information only? Is it a 200,000 word legal text? Will it be disseminated to the public? Based on the client’s answer, translators should adapt to the client’s needs, be flexible and learn how to use MT. Since the goal of MT is to reduce translation costs, clients need to use it, but anything of high value such as a diplomatic speech shouldn’t be touched by MT.

As a result of MT, new positions have emerged, such as quality control managers and Post-MT editors. These positions may not be highly compensated, but they at least present an opportunity for translators.

Jon’s final point with regard to MT was to keep ahead of trends in your specialization. For example, MT has killed certain sub-specializations like automobile industry translation, which is an area of manufacturing and industrial translation. However, there are emerging areas such as high-speed rail and renewable energy. These haven’t been touched yet by MT, because human translators first have to create a multilingual corpus from which MT functions.


Localization is defined as the translation of web content and websites, which have formats above and beyond simple Word documents. It is not enough to know how to translate MS Word, Power Point and Excel files! Here are some examples of new formats to learn:

  • Web formats: HTML aka the language of the web.
  • XML: the “lingua franca” for everything. “X” in .docx stands for “XML.” Ebooks will be done in XML.
  • Search Engine keywords. People buy keywords to serve them up in SE marketing results. When a client wants to take a product global they need to have keywords translated so that a global user will find their product. Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns need both translation and adaptation to be locally relevant. Translators can ask clients if they do keyword marketing and then charge per keyword.


Because more and more people are creating their own videos and posting them to YouTube, Jon sees subtitling of educational videos as an emerging trend for translators.


Social media monitoring and management is the fifth and final trend presented by Jon. It is a booming topic that can greatly benefit translators seeking new opportunities to hone their craft. For example, if a French company does an English marketing campaign and has a Facebook page in English, translators can charge to monitor the posts, read through everything to eliminate slander, translate quotes and report positive feedback in a Word document. Translators can also translate Twitter and Facebook feed for clients.

No doubt the shift in technology in recent years has changed the face of translation. However, it doesn’t have to be “adapt or die.” Instead, translators can incorporate new technologies into their practice at a pace that best suits them. From newly emerging CAT tools to Twitter, navigating this new arena can be overwhelming. Though approaching it with optimism and enthusiasm will encourage translators to take a breath and just jump in!

Text-to-Speech Tools

April 25th, 2011 | by LTD | No Comments

Check out the article Naomi J. Sutcliffe de Moraes wrote in 2008 on Text-to-Speech tools which can be used for proofing translations! They can also read numbers for you out loud from the translation while you read the original.