Tuesday, July 19, 2016
ATA57 S&TD Guest Speaker – Dr. Carl Haber, Seeing Voices: Using Light to Restore and Preserve Early Recorded Sound
The Science and Technology Division is delighted to have Guest Speaker Dr. Carl Haber confirmed for ATA57 in San Francisco. Dr. Haber’s two-part presentation, “Seeing Voices: Using Light to Restore and Preserve Early Recorded Sound,” will discuss his use of techniques developed for particle physics research to scan and preserve some of the earliest known sound recordings, including Alexander Graham Bell’s restored voice (1885) and Native American voices from the early 20th century.
Sound was first recorded and reproduced by Thomas Edison in 1877. Until about the 1950s, most recordings were made on mechanical media such as wax, foil, shellac, lacquer, and plastic. Some of these older recordings contain material of great historical interest that may be in obsolete formats and are damaged, decaying, or considered too delicate to play. Among these delicate recordings are 2,700 unique wax cylinder recordings of the voices of California Native Americans, now housed at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Haber and his team use a series of techniques based on non-contact optical metrology and image processing to bring these voices back to life. These techniques, as well as studies of some of the earliest known sound recordings, are the focus of Dr. Haber’s presentation and will be illustrated with sounds and images.
The presentation is divided into two parts, both of which are preliminarily scheduled for the morning of Saturday, November 5, 2016. Part one will focus on the techniques, while part two will focus on the audio recordings themselves. We expect that especially the second part of the presentation series will be of great interest not only to members of ATA’s Science and Technology Division, but also to ATA members interested in linguistics, anthropology, history, and language preservation.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
It has been said that no one but the author reads a document as carefully as the translator does. What if that same detailed consideration were applied to a piece of business correspondence that a freelance translator might receive and read every day, for example an e-mail message from a regular customer? That analysis is taken here as an opportunity to discuss some of the attitudes and habits that technical translators should cultivate.
The names in the “message” below are fictitious, but its content and tone are typical. “Stanislaus Tweek” is a composite of several of my regular patent-attorney customers, and “Huber & Meyer” stands for a German patent law firm that represents German companies and inventors, and must work through a U.S. attorney in order to apply for a U.S. patent. “Prior art” is that which is already “known” in the strictly patent-related sense, i.e. the universe of existing knowledge to which a patentable invention must constitute a novel addition. “Declaration” refers to a translator’s formal statement of accuracy, discussed in more detail below.
Confirming our conversation of earlier today, please find attached the German text of another Jos. Schmidt GmbH electronic motor control system patent from Huber & Meyer in Munich. Please prepare an English translation of this text and e-mail it to Herr Meyer for review no later than June 21. My thanks again for accommodating the short deadline.
I have enclosed two prior-art documents that are referenced in the specification, for whatever terminological assistance they may provide. Please note that we will require a Translator’s Declaration for this application.
Tincker, Fiddel & Tweek, LLP
Intellectual Property Law
Dear Nick: ... Best regards, Stan
The forms of address in Mr. Tweek’s message are significant. He and I are on a first-name basis after working together for several years; we have met and we exchange Christmas cards. The relationship is cordial, even friendly, but still businesslike.
We can be friendly because we know what to expect from one another:
Although he can have someone else translate his patents more cheaply – and has done so when I have been unavailable – he still calls me first because he knows that I will give him a translation of the highest possible quality; deliver it on time; and be adaptable and flexible in terms of deadline, subject matter, consultation and review, and preferred style and terminology.
I in turn know that he will allow me the longest possible deadline consistent with his own time constraints; provide whatever terminology support he can; shield me from the complexities of the patent system and the whims of German attorneys; and pay my invoices promptly.
These mutual understandings are the foundation of how I define a “good customer.” This particular relationship goes further, however:
e-mail it to Herr Meyer for review
Herr Meyer is the attorney at Huber & Meyer who actually writes the German applications that I translate. I am asked to send my translations to him so that he can make sure I am using the client’s preferred terminology and suggest other minor procedural adjustments. He and I have learned to adapt to one another’s idiosyncrasies and preferences, and to Mr. Tweek’s as well.
A few years ago, after disagreeing vigorously with some of Herr Meyer’s proposed changes that, in my opinion, went well beyond what the original German text actually said, I contacted Mr. Tweek and asked him to clarify the responsibilities, roles and obligations of the three parties involved. His response was, in part (emphasis mine):
You and I and Herr Meyer are all working for the ultimate client, Schmidt GmbH, and our primary responsibility is to exercise our professional judgment in such a way that Schmidt GmbH obtains US patents which will stand up in court.
You clearly cannot certify, as an accurate translation, wording which you believe introduces forbidden “new matter.” If an infringer did manage to invalidate a Schmidt patent on the basis of an inaccurate translation of the text, this could destroy protection of one or more products from competition. People could lose jobs.
We must therefore continue to exercise our respective professional judgments while maintaining a cooperative spirit, since we are all on the “Schmidt team” together.
Because I communicate directly both with Herr Meyer (who originates the texts and who in turn is acting on behalf of Schmidt GmbH, which is ultimately affected by the quality of my work) and with Mr. Tweek (whose reason for wanting the best possible translation is to maximize his success in obtaining US patents for Schmidt GmbH so he can retain them as a client), I am no longer simply a “service provider” but one of the participants in a cooperative endeavor. Each participant derives the same advantage from working together as effectively as possible: we retain our respective customers, earn their respect, and enhance our professional reputations.
I therefore function as part of an explicitly defined “team,” each member of which makes a specific contribution that is acknowledged and respected by the others. This requires that each team member not only possess the appropriate expertise, but also have the confidence to assert it. That in turn requires experience: my triangular relationship with Messrs. Tweek and Meyer is not one in which I could have functioned successfully at the very beginning of my translation career.
Please prepare an English translation of this text
The American Translators Association’s Code of Business Practices refers to a translator as a “bridge for ideas from one language to another and one culture to another...” A real bridge, however, is inorganic and immobile, a static, non-living structure. Translators are none of the above: we are alive and active. What we really do, as the Latin root of “translate” implies, is to act as carriers across bridges.
But what do we carry? Translators might seem to carry written words, as interpreters carry spoken words, but our ultimate purpose is always to convey what the words themselves are carrying: ideas, concepts, meanings, and thoughts.
Words and language, after all, are just containers: they are conventions and agreements among groups of people that certain noises (spoken language) and squiggles (written language) have certain meanings.
The translator must look at one set of squiggles, understand what they mean, and express that meaning as another set of squiggles. It might appear that the squiggles are the end product of translation (since words are often the unit by which we get paid). But the real product, the reason for making all the squiggles, is what they mean; and the quality of a translation is determined by how well the translator turns source symbols into meaning (= comprehension) and back into target symbols (= expression). The symbols are merely vehicles for moving meaning from the author’s mind through the translator’s to the reader’s.
Consider the Chinese ideogram 水. If you cannot read Chinese, it is indeed merely a squiggle. Even a transcription into the Roman alphabet (“shui”) of that ideogram’s pronunciation in Mandarin Chinese is meaningless without a knowledge of the spoken language.
With appropriate dictionaries we can accurately translate 水 into English as “water”; and it might seem that our work is then finished. And so we are, if our work is performed only on the level of noises and squiggles. But water’s real existence goes far beyond the spoken and written conventions of different human languages; if we really want to understand water, we need to walk along a beach, turn on a faucet, or step in a puddle.
A true understanding of anything can therefore be gained only by direct experience of it – the sound and feel of water, how one gear meshes with another, the size of the Grand Canyon. True understanding then leads to correct internalization of the meaning of a source-language text, which can then can be expressed accurately in the target language.
This is why technical translators love factory tours: they are an opportunity to see real things and real processes that we would otherwise never directly experience.
My thanks again for accommodating the short deadline.
The older I get, the more keenly I realize that accurate, high-quality translation of complex technical material is an intellectually and physically demanding activity.
I have found that in the long run, it is better to turn down work and devote appropriate attention to what I have, than to produce less than the best possible quality just in order to generate more volume. The alternative is a vicious circle:
Too much work = fatigue = inattention = mistakes = poor quality = loss of reputation, customer confidence and repeat business = ... not enough work.
Time management therefore means not only meeting deadlines, but also understanding one’s limitations and capabilities and how they affect quality.
we will require a Translator’s Declaration
Here is the gist of the Translator’s Declaration (also called a Verification) that I use. My thanks go to Jan Clayberg and Olaf Bexhoeft for providing me, fifteen years ago, with a copy of their battle-tested Declaration that I have used successfully ever since:
I, Nicholas Hartmann, translator ... declare that I am well acquainted with the English and German languages and that the appended document is a true and faithful translation of:
All statements made herein are to my own knowledge true, and all statements made on information and belief are believed to be true; and further, these statements are made with the knowledge that willful false statements and the like so made are punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both, under Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code, and that such willful false statements may jeopardize the validity of the document.
The Translator’s Declaration is a formal statement that I have the knowledge and qualifications to do the job I have taken on, and that I take responsibility for what I have done. It is where the translator literally signs on the dotted line to verify accuracy.
There are implied penalties for negligence and incompetence: for example, “willful false statements may jeopardize the validity of the document,” thereby possibly invalidating the patent and once again causing people to lose their jobs.
But the Declaration’s choice of words is interesting: “well acquainted with” (not “an omniscient and unchallengeable expert in”); “to my own knowledge true”; “statements made on information and belief are believed to be true.”
The Declaration does not impose a requirement for perfection. It does, however, put into legal language the obligations that every translator should already feel: to acquire and maintain knowledge of both the languages and the subject matter of every translation; to apply that knowledge with unfailing care; and to do everything necessary to ensure accuracy. In other words, to act like a professional.
another Jos. Schmidt GmbH electronic motor control system patent
It is curious that in the Translator’s Declaration, I am not required to affirm that I know anything about the subject matter of my translation. While such knowledge is obviously mandatory, the manner in which technical translators acquire it seems to be very heterogeneous.
In my own case, for example, my three degrees in an obscure corner of the humanities might seem poor preparation for the translation of German electronics patents. But higher education does teach some useful habits of mind: research skills, intellectual rigor, the existence and function of specialized language, the fundamental importance of experimentation and the scientific method, and how to write clearly. I was also fortunate to have inherited from my father – a photojournalist and industrial photographer – his fascination with technology as an expression of human creativity, and to have accompanied him as he photographed production plants, laboratories, aircraft hangars, architectural monuments, machine parts, and much more.
Other technical translators have come to their careers through very different but similarly indirect routes, but I believe that the details of training and background are merely secondary. What all successful and contented technical translators share is not a particular course of study but certain fundamental personality traits: we are insatiably curious about the real world, both natural and man-made; our curiosity is wide-ranging, even all-encompassing; and we firmly believe there is no such thing as useless information.
The appeal and excitement of a life in technical translation are that it requires (and rewards) an omnivorous approach to knowledge: you drive hundreds of miles out of your way to look at a bridge, or take the long way round to whatever you need at the hardware store, or read owner’s manuals for things you don’t even own. What makes you a good technical translator is therefore not what you get taught while you’re in school, but how much you want to keep learning for the rest of your life.
for whatever terminological assistance they may provide
The title of this essay is taken from the Chinese saying
“The beginning of wisdom is to call a thing by its right name,”
and terminology is obviously an important aspect of technical translation. But how do we decide what the “right name” is?
Very often, it depends on what a lot of other right names are: in a particular industry or trade, within a particular document or set of documents, or even as preferred by a particular engineer or patent attorney.
For example, a recent project required me to translate three French patents relating to a firearm mechanism: all three dealt with much the same subject matter, and had to be consistent with one another and with a previous (mediocre) translation that had already been submitted to the Patent Office.
Those involved were the translator (me), another translator functioning as editor and as representative of the translation partnership that was my direct customer, the patent attorney who was their customer, and the engineers at the company applying for the patent. Because of the large number of interested parties and the need to conform to previously defined terminology, this one set of documents ended up tying all of us into some truly Gordian terminological knots.
Let’s start with the apparently simple concept of locking or immobilizing a movable part (French terms are in italics, English terms in boldface):
We begin with immobiliser, which we effortlessly translate as immobilize. Based on desserrer = unlock, we then rashly assume that serrer = lock. Wrong: bloquer = lock, because following exhaustive discussions between the attorney and the engineers, we were told that “none of the other options – jam, inhibit, block, trap, park, secure, freeze – seems to capture the idea here as well as ‘lock’.” So serrer = interlock.
On to verrouiller. Bolt seems obvious but that English word has a specific meaning in firearms; a better general term would be lock, but bloquer already occupies that terminological space. So we select clamp. A dispositif de verrouillage is then a clamping device; a douille de verrouillage should therefore be a clamping sleeve, but turns out in fact to be just a sleeve, because the same reference number is used in one of the documents for a plain old douille, whereas a lexically identical douille with a different reference number is actually a cartridge case.
The same problem occurs with axe du canon, which is the barrel axis, suggesting that every instance of axe is therefore an axis. Unfortunately some of them are physical elements rather than geometrical constructs and are therefore pins.
All these components move within something called a bâti, which the dictionary defines as a frame; but carcasse is already defined as “frame = the basic unit of a firearm that houses the firing and breech mechanisms and to which the barrel and stock are attached, aka receiver, although Client (12/20/04) says that frame is a superordinate term to receiver,” a road down which we will not travel.
Let’s move on to boîtier, which cannot be a frame and which we define as a housing. A boîtier de culasse is (thank God) a breech housing, so is culasse then breech? Sorry, it’s a bolt (remember verrouiller?), which according to the client is the same as a breech block, being “the part that closes on the end of the barrel opposite where the bullet exits.”
Our joy at finding that tête de culasse is in fact bolt head is tempered by the discovery that culasse mobile is a mobile breech, because “according to the client the bolt is the same as breech block, except that for culasse mobile Termium gives breech bolt or even breech block or, when no rotary motion is performed, closure is usually referred to as a breechblock,” another road down which we will not go.
All this is fired by a mécanisme de détente, which we render as trigger mechanism. The result is that for déclenchement we then cannot use the obvious triggering, and must instead use release. Although déclenchement et/ou arrêt is translated in the prior US filing (the paradigm to which we must conform) as triggering or blocking, by special dispensation we are allowed to call it release and/or stoppage. “Stoppage” sounds funny, but as soon as we consider “locking” or “blocking” as an alternative we are hit on the back of the head by three boomerangs labeled serrer, deserrer, and bloquer...
This went on for almost two months, through dozens of monolingual, multilingual, and pictorial dictionaries, downloaded PDF files containing parts lists for Finnish sporting rifles, e-mails, 40-minute telephone calls, a constantly expanding and mutating glossary, consultations with engineers, and so on. It came within eight hours of being a multi-year project.
The “right name” is therefore whatever is right in a particular applicable context. The next time I encounter any of these terms in French I may not be able to use the same English equivalents even if they do refer to firearms, because a different document may be affected by different antecedents, contexts, and preferences.
Summary and conclusions
What is therefore the real meaning that a technical translator should extract from a message like the one we have been discussing? What are the real instructions being given? What must the recipient understand in order to act on it appropriately?
I believe there are six fundamental things that all translators, especially those dealing with technical material, must understand:
a. The nature of translation and the translator: that spoken and written languages are merely symbols and sets of assumptions referring only indirectly to real things, and that the real things are what is important and must be comprehended.
b. The translator’s interaction with clients, editors, and ultimate customers: a translator, no matter where he or she is physically located, cannot ever work successfully in isolation.
c. Time management: knowing how much can be accomplished while maintaining high quality, which is the foundation of a long-term approach to a professional career.
d. How to acquire and refine subject expertise within one’s own psychological and emotional context: if you don’t know DNA from RNA but circuit diagrams are your favorite bedtime reading, then say No to the biomedical jobs and expand your knowledge of electrical engineering. Whatever you do, you must love it; otherwise translation is just a job, and there are easier jobs.
e. Our responsibilities to:
- our customers, not only because they pay us but because we have accepted obligations with regard to delivery deadlines, accuracy, appropriateness, and quality;
- our colleagues: we have a professional and moral obligation to help other translators learn and advance, to take pride in what we do, and to let the rest of the world know about it;
- the public: the work we do affects our customers, and their customers, and eventually those customers’ employees and stockholders. Translators must be aware of being participants in society and in the national and world economy;
f. How to collect, manage, and evaluate terminology: the words we use must be appropriate and up-to-date and must reflect, whenever possible, direct contact with what lies behind the terminology. Once you have stood inside a waste incineration plant and experienced its smell and heat, or spun a roller bearing, or looked carefully at a suspension bridge, you can bring true understanding to your translations of texts on those subjects.
So perhaps “the beginning of wisdom is to call a thing by its right name,” but it is only the beginning.
# # #
Nicholas Hartmann has worked as an independent technical and scientific translator since 1984, serving customers in the United States and Europe. For more information, please visit www.nhartmann.com.
This essay was published, with very minor editorial emendations, in the April 2006 issue of the ATA Chronicle, the bimonthly magazine of the American Translators Association.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
By Molly Yurick
Re-posted from The Savvy Newcomer blog with permission from the author
Re-posted from The Savvy Newcomer blog with permission from the author
As a new ATA member in 2015, I received my first edition of The Chronicle and was intrigued by the article about Jenny Stillo, the winner of the 2013–2014 School Outreach Contest. At the time, I was in my sixth year working for the Spanish Ministry of Education as a cultural ambassador, which involved visiting students of English in public schools across Spain. The combination of the chance to win a free registration to the conference in Miami and the opportunity to teach students about my passion and (at the time) part-time job was what inspired me to participate in the program.
My Preparation Process and Presentation
I started by checking out the resources provided on the School Outreach Program’s website (http://www.atanet.org/ata_school/) to see the content of past participants’ presentations and how they made themselves stand out with their winning pictures.
I then decided to make my own presentation from scratch. I started by introducing what interpretation and translation are, who linguists work for (agencies, direct clients, the UN), and what they specialize in. I also touched on life-changing “translation fails,” for example a boy who tragically became a paraplegic due to the misinterpretation of a medical term and an international bank that lost millions. I ended the session with two interactive activities. (You can check out my presentation on the School Outreach website: www.atanet.org/ata_school/level_middle.php.)
The first activity was based on a very real-life situation for these kids. Language students all over the world love to use Google Translate to do their homework, and I wanted to show them that they could do a better job than their computers could. I started by showing them a picture of a mistranslation, a sign that said “Exit Only” in English and “Éxito Aquí” in Spanish (“Success Here” in English) — they all laughed and wondered how anyone could ever translate so poorly. I then asked them if they thought Google Translate could do a better job… and the majority of them thought it could. I showed them that Google’s translation of “Exit Only” was “Única Salida” (“Only Exit” in English), and they decided that although it is not perfect, it worked better than the original translation. I followed this same process with a number of funny photos. The last step of this activity was asking them to come up with their own, correct translation for each less-than-perfect one. I have to say that they did a fabulous job. At first they made the common mistake of translating too literally, but they quickly got the hang of it. I think they were pleasantly surprised that they, 13-year-old English-language learners, could write better in English than the all-powerful Google.
The second activity was what brought about the winning photo. This class had a particularly large number of immigrant students from around the world and I had each of them translate “My name is…” into their native language on a colorful, comic-book-style speech bubble. In the photo you can see Russian, Arabic, French, Romanian, Spanish, Asturian (the local dialect), and English (that would be me). I had all the kids pose and hold their speech bubble up to their mouth, making for a happy and bright picture. The most rewarding part was that there were three students who didn’t know how to write in their mother tongue. That night, they asked their parents how to write out the sentence and were excited to show off their native languages in class the next day. One boy even brought in the entire Arabic alphabet copied by hand and spent the next school day writing all his friend’s names from right to left. Everyone was impressed, he was proud, and I was so happy to see it.
The culmination of it all happened right as I was walking out the door. One student came up to me, tapped me on the shoulder, and confessed: “Molly, I’m definitely going to think about becoming a translator.” Success!
Why participate in the School Outreach Program and Contest?
Let’s be honest: lots of kids dislike their language classes, and I think it’s because they think they’re useless. Kids don’t see or hear much about other languages in their daily lives, especially in America. Making an entertaining, interactive presentation where they can see the consequences of mistranslations, a possible career for their future, and the fun in it all, is extremely rewarding. Through this program, we can change the way they think about language and make them see that it isn’t just another subject in school — that language is a powerful tool that is becoming more and more important every day.
The other benefit to participating is monetary. If you win the photography contest, you get a free registration to next year’s conference! Not only that, but it really gets your name out there and you get to meet a lot of great people along the way. From my point of view, it’s all benefits. I even had the nice surprise of having my photo on the cover of The Chronicle.
Recycling my Presentation
I had such a great experience that I decided to repeat my presentation when I was home in Minnesota for a visit this winter. I talked with a classroom of adult ESL students in the Adult Academic Program in my local school district.
The experience was an absolute blast! The classroom was filled with immigrants and refugees from all over the world and they were so interactive and excited to have me there. They were mostly surprised to learn the difference between translation/interpreting and asked tons of questions (How much can you make? What if you make a big mistake? How can we study? Who can we work for?). At the end, I opened it up for discussion and many of the students told me stories about their bad experiences with interpreters. One man shared that he volunteered when he was at the doctor's office and could see there were Spanish-speaking patients waiting for their interpreter, who never showed up. He said he volunteered for five hours to help people communicate with their doctor.
Throughout the presentation, I encouraged all of them to continue with their English studies to work towards a career in interpreting. You should have seen their faces! I think that for many immigrants and refugees, a "real job" seems out of reach. They looked so entirely hopeful that they could make a career for themselves in this field while helping their fellow community members at the same time.
I encourage you to educate others about our great field by participating in the School Outreach Program. Whether you visit a classroom of children or adults, you will quickly see how rewarding the experience can be. If you’re interested in participating in the photography contest, you must submit a photo and description of your presentation by the deadline on July 18, 2016.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
This article is re-posted with thanks to The Savvy Newcomer blog.
When you come into the translation business, you usually know deep down if you have what it takes to be a technical translator. As a basic starting point, you need good technical instincts in the field you are interested in. That may come from a prior career, a course of study, a family business, or a hobby that you are managing to turn into a money-maker.
Hearing tales of the often amazing series of events that bring us to the point of beginning a career in translation are part of what makes us such a fun bunch of people. But once you are here, ready to begin, . Don’t translate chemistry if you don’t know silicon from silicone. Don’t translate automotive texts if you don’t know how an internal combustion engine works. You will fall flat on your face. Ask anyone who’s been doing this for a while. We all have a story about “that job we should never have accepted.”
“Precise” is usually covered by the terms you choose, so that takes us to two of the skills that you need to make it as a top-notch technical translator. One of those is subject-matter expertise: the other is strong terminology research skills. “Concise” and “clear” texts are produced from superb technical writing. When you combine these three skills, you can be a great technical translator.
New technical translators usually come in two “varieties.” The first is translators with credentials in translation, perhaps including technical translation, but with little hands-on work experience in any technical field. They usually come with a “Desperately Seeking Specialization” vibe. The second will usually have had a career in commerce or industry and come to translation later in life.
The former group often has stronger terminology research and writing skills. The latter group usually has strong subject matter expertise but can’t necessarily write well in their target language, or, and here I speak from personal experience, their proofreading skills might not be where they need to be.
What really defines it? At the high end, you’ll hear people refer to the 10 year or 10,000 hour rule made popular by Malcolm Gladwell’s book , which says that no one can be an expert until they have spent 10 years working in a field. That’s a somewhat depressing concept for many technical translators wishing to build up expertise in a new field.
At the other extreme, you’ll find people who consider themselves an expert after they have translated 10,000 words on some subject or other. That’s a recipe for disaster (well, at the very least, quality complaints). Unsurprisingly, perhaps, I think the answer lies somewhere in-between. Yes, if you have 10 years’ experience you’ll have a head start and many customers will view you favorably.
But that doesn’t mean you are a brilliant translator and don’t have a great deal to learn. You should work on your writing. And people without hands-on experience can build up a body of expertise in a field over time. A long time, mind you, not a few weeks’ worth of work. The best and fastest way I know to build up this expertise is to have your work edited by somebody who knows what they’re talking about. Shake off your pride and ask people to track changes in your work. .
Being able to research and pin down terminology in context successfully is the only way to produce reliable technical translations. Doing that quickly helps productivity and increases your hourly gross income. Over time you’ll know the key resources for your field and know how to use collocations to find out how people actually say it today. But any translator with Internet access and decent dictionaries can look up translations for technical terms. There’s nothing that can help you properly parse concepts that you do not truly understand. That brings us back to subject matter expertise. Sorry to harp on, but that’s the , in my mind.
The third skill, , is less talked about routinely, but I have written and spoken about it, for instance . Technical writing is a skill that can be learned and a fundamental part of the technical translator’s skill set. Don’t think that only commercial and marketing translators need to write well.
Make clarity a point of pride. Do one proofreading pass for numbers and units of measure alone, so that no errors of that nature ever creep in to your work. Use a so that you always format units of measure correctly and know whether to hyphenate a term of the art. Use document-specific style sheets to help you be consistent.
So start with good instincts, but don’t be that technical translator who “just translates what’s there.” Make the product a better piece of writing than the original, unless the purpose precludes that. Invest in yourself. Learn about cars or colloids, computer chips or contact lenses. Don’t leave great writing for artsy translations.
: Know that your career will be much more successful if you treat technical translation with the respect it deserves, you start with high standards and you raise them with every new customer. May you prosper!
Monday, December 21, 2015
ATA 56 Session Review: How to Read and Translate Risk and Safety Vernacular Phrases in Technical Texts
Review by Martina Burkert
At the 2015 ATA Annual Conference in Miami, the Science and Technology Division offered several excellent sessions. One of them was Matthew Schlecht’s presentation on Risk and Safety Phrases in Technical Texts.
R & S Phrases
R-phrases (short for Risk Phrases) and S-phrases (short for Safety Phrases) describe risk and safety aspects of dangerous substances and preparations in 1–13 words. They are associated with identifying letter-number codes and occur in chemical documentation like product labels, shipping manifests, MSDS/SDS/PSDS sheets, manufacturing instructions and batch records, as well as related legislation and regulations.
H &P Statements
H-statements (short for Hazard Statements) and P-statements (short for Precautionary Statements) are newer standardized phrases describing the hazards of chemical substances and mixtures and giving advice about the correct handling. With the implementation of a Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) R & S phrases are being replaced by H & P statements.
What translators need to know
R & S phrases as well as H & P statements are defined in the relevant regulations of different legislatures and were formulated by standardization bodies of the respective countries. Rather than attempting a literal translation, translators must use the equivalents for the target country even when they do not seem to match the source text exactly.
Translating from Japanese into English, for example, the appropriate translation for Risk Phrase No 33 (R33) is ‘Danger of cumulative effects’ while the source text could literally be translated as ‘Repeated accumulation is hazardous’.
In some cases there are significant differences between countries speaking the same language, one example being Mexico and Spain.
R & S phrases and H & P statements belong in a TM or another readily available resource file for translators working with technical (and especially chemical) texts.
However, finding the right target equivalent can be challenging. R & S phrases have developed over almost 50 years with numerous amendments, and transitioning to the H & P statements of the GHS system is an ongoing process since 2008.
Understanding the history of hazard communication can help guide translation as well as maintain awareness of future changes.
Before the EU and EU
In 1957 the European Steel Community consisting of France, the former West Germany, Italy and the Benelux Union compiled a list of commercial chemical substances and a set of phrases describing the risks and safety measures to include with packaging of these substances in four languages (DE, FR, IT, NL).
In 1967 the Dangerous Substances Directive 67/548/EEC “on the approximation of laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances” was promulgated by the European Economic Community in five languages (DE, EN, FR, IT, NL).
This directive was amended numerous times, including 2001 (EU Directive 2001/59/EC) with updated standard phrases lists and a consolidated list in 11 EU languages (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV).
By 2006 (Directive 2006/102/EC) 22 European languages (BG, CS, DA, DE, EL, EN, ES, ET, FI, FR, HU, IT, LT, LV, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, SV) were included.
The directive lists names of elements and substance classes in Annex I, some associated with a chemical hazard symbol and/or R & S phrases.
Annex II shows the respective danger symbols (pictograms), Annex III contains all risk phrases, and Annex IV all safety phrases.
Meanwhile nations outside the EU generated R & S phrases for their own use.
In 1992 the development of the UN-based Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) began with the goal of facilitating international chemical substance trade. It contains 17 physical hazard categories, 10 health hazard categories and 2 environmental hazard categories (aquatic toxicity and ozone layer). The first version was released in 2003 with updates following every two years.
In the Globally Harmonized System, the R & S phrases are replaced by Hazard Statements and Precautionary Statements (H & P statements), initially published in 6 official UN languages (AR, EN, ES, FR, RU, ZH).
UN GHS Adoption
Adoption of the GHS system is voluntary and deadlines differ by country. For the US, the final adoption date was June 1, 2015.
The European Union implemented GHS through the CLP (Classification, Labeling and Packaging) Regulation (Directive 2008/112/EC) from 2008 where some R-phrases not correlating with GHS have been added as EU-H statements. The EU CLP version was published in 24 EU languages.
Translators encountering standard phrases for the Mexican market must be especially vigilant. Since 2011 Mexico has been using the voluntary standard NMX-R-019-SCFI-2011. In October of 2015 its national implementation of the UN GHS was published, providing a transition period of three years during which current standards can continue to be used.
Matthew provided a list of valuable resources, e.g. ChemSub Online, MSDS Hyperglossary, and Keminaco.
Lists of standard phrases and links to other languages can be found in several Wikipedia articles. For the latest version of H & P statements for EU countries the CLP Regulation is a reliable source.
Friday, December 11, 2015
Reviewed by Mery Molenaar
On this beautiful November morning in Miami, Florida, I am heading to the conference hotel to attend the second day of the ATA conference. I am excited that there are several science-related presentations on the schedule. Since I often translate user manuals for medical instrumentation, I am especially looking forward to today’s talk by Dr. Joanne Archambault about risk analysis for medical devices.
While the last people enter the room, Joanne welcomes us and starts out with her goal for today: to teach us about the risk management process used with medical devices. Joanne is a French to English translator who has worked as a project manager for the development of a novel medical device and directly with device manufacturers on translation projects, including risk analysis documents.
Why we should perform risk analysis
Clearly, all medical devices involve some degree of risk, so why do a risk analysis? First of all, it is required by law. It also offers manufacturers some protection from product liability and helps identify problems before the device is distributed. Furthermore, Joanne points out, it simply is the right thing to do.
The goal of risk analysis is not to completely eliminate the risk of a device, but to reduce the risks to acceptable levels that are “as low as reasonably possible.” This is not as easy as it seems, since a terminal cancer patient may accept a higher risk than, for example, a diabetes patient.
Risk analysis is performed during the design stage of a device before it is brought onto the market. Joanne briefly touches on the risk management standard for medical devices, ISO 14971, and the different standards in the US, Europe, and Japan, before moving on to an example.
Simulating the process
Here is how it works. The risk management process consists of several steps, including identifying and assessing risk, taking steps to reduce risk to an acceptable level, reporting, and finally gathering information during production and post-production. All this information is recorded in a risk management report.
Although clearly an expert in the field, Joanne is able to talk on a level that is accessible to a novice like me. She introduces a sample medical device to simulate the process and enlists input from the audience and help from Karen Tkaczyk, who volunteers to write the responses from the audience on a flip board, to complete the risk management spreadsheet.
Our fictional device is called “Silknee.” Silknee is a silk rope, available in different lengths, which is implanted in the knee to replace a torn knee ligament. The target market for the device is athletes with knee injuries.
The first step in the risk management process is risk analysis: what is the intended use of the device, what are the potential hazards, what is the harm done, how likely is this to happen, and what is the severity if this happens?
We already have defined the intended use of the device, so we quickly move on to identifying the hazards and determining potential hazardous situations.
What makes this session so much fun is Joanne’s ability to engage the audience. Together we brainstorm on possible potential hazards: the silk may break once implanted, it may not be sterile, the device may not be secured correctly, or a device of the wrong length may be implanted. The device may also be labeled or stored incorrectly. Joanne gives an example of a hazardous situation in which a box containing the device is delivered to a clinic here in Miami and left out in the hot sun. The exposure to high heat and humidity may cause the silk fibers to denature.
After each step, Joanne takes us back to the spreadsheet and shows us the next step in the process. We now need to determine the possible harm done in each of these hazardous situations. This can be physical injury or damage to the health of the patient, or damage to the environment. In case of the forgotten box in Miami, a patient could develop an allergic reaction due to the denatured silk or the device may fail once implanted.
To estimate the risk that a scenario like this actually happens, we determine the probability, or likelihood of occurrence, and the consequences, or severity of the harm. In short, Joanne explains, the risk can be estimated using a 3x3 matrix, with three probability levels (high, medium, low) and three severity levels (significant, moderate, negligible).
With this, we have only just completed step two of the risk management process. It becomes clear to me that risk management is a comprehensive and involved process. The information is now reviewed by the manufacturer and for each identified hazardous situation, the manufacturer decides if the risk is acceptable or whether measures should be taken to control or reduce the risk.
Let’s get back to our example: using the risk matrix, we determine that the risk of denatured silk due to high humidity and heat is not acceptable. The audience quickly offers some possible risk control measures: include a temperature indicator with the shipment, require temperature controlled packaging, include silica gel desiccant, or have warnings on the outside of the box.
All risks are now considered together to define the overall residual risk. The device can only be developed if the medical benefits of its intended use outweigh this overall residual risk. For our particular example, we conclude, after a warning about storage conditions has been included on the box, that the residual risk is acceptable.
The device is now ready for production, but the manufacturer will continue to collect and review information about this and similar devices during and after production as part of the risk management process.
I am leaving the session with a general understanding of how risk management activities are used to identify potential problems before they occur. Risk management is a creative process that involves identifying, evaluating and mitigating the impact a device can have on people and the environment. The goal is to make medical devices safer by incorporating risk analysis as a standard part of the design and development. Central to this process is the ISO 14971 standard. Risk management is an involved process that clearly benefits the patient as well as the manufacturer in the long run. Thank you, Joanne, for a very informative and engaging presentation.