Around 30,000 people are gathering in Glasgow at this very moment for the 26th United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP26).

From 31 October to 12 November, 120 heads of state are expected to attend and some of them have already taken the floor in the first few days to raise awareness of the urgency of the climate situation and find solutions.

Politicians, activists and citizens from all over the world are listening carefully to what is happening in Glasgow.

What commitments will be made?

More than 80 countries are committing to reducing methane emissions by 30% by 2030. Although absent from the conference, India wants to be carbon neutral by 2070, announced the Indian Prime Minister.

More than 100 leaders, representing 85% of the world’s forests, are pledging to halt deforestation by 2030.

These commitments are only the beginning of a list that will continue to grow in the face of the climate emergency.

But how can these ambitions and commitments be translated?

Climate is a global concern, most countries are involved, which implies a large number of language combinations. There are as many countries participating in COP26 as there are languages to be translated. Every speech must be understood by everyone. While many speak English, translating speeches from Indian or Nigerian into Chinese or Swedish, for example, is less common.

This is where the need for professional interpreters and translators comes in.

Global warming, carbon neutrality and deforestation are sensitive and complex issues. The physical presence of interpreters who can master the vocabulary of climate and environmental issues, as well as diplomatic and geopolitical jargon, is indispensable. Translators and interpreters are the ones who will be responsible for passing messages between countries and for negotiating, and they play a vital role.

Who are these interpreters and how are they organised?

At international meetings, there are always professional and specialised interpreters. They are members of the United Nations and are responsible for the official interpreting at COP26. They participate in technical negotiations, conferences, etc.

For the conferences to run smoothly, they are meticulously prepared in advance with an order of appearance for the speakers: for example, on 2 November, the presidents spoke in a precise order so that the interpreters from each country could prepare themselves. Speakers were given a time limit of 3 minutes to speak. Statements and speeches were sent to the interpreters about 30 minutes before each speech.

Some of the conferences and meetings are held online. This was the case for the Queen of England, who was unable to attend this COP26, and who made her statement live via video conference. However, these online conferences can become an obstacle to understanding each other in international negotiations of this magnitude.

Once ended, COP26 will allow countries to negotiate and agree on key issues to fight global warming and save our planet. The main challenge for countries is to limit global warming to 1.5° by the end of the century. The language challenge for interpreters will also be over.

What is the role of translators?

Agreements will be drafted and it is the translators who will have to translate these agreements and official documents into the languages of the signatory countries.

Just as for interpreters, this COP26 is also a linguistic challenge for translators

In the face of this urgency, let’s hope that interpreters and translators will pass on the right messages to the leaders so that they too can take up their climate challenge!

The long-awaited summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin shook up the news this week. After 36 years, the two great world powers met in Geneva and debated for more than 3 hours on various subjects such as the US presidential elections, hacking and cyber security operations, nuclear arms control, the Ukraine issue without forgetting the Navalny case and now the Protassevitch case.

One American, the other Russian, one might ask how the two presidents managed to understand each other?

A major challenge.

In order to ensure perfect and fluid communication between the two great powers, interpreters are indispensable. But this is not as easy as it sounds. In addition to their ability to «listen and speak at the same time» in two different languages, they have to be extremely concentrated for long periods of time.

In keeping with diplomatic protocol, each leader travels with his or her own interpreters working for the White House or the Kremlin. In addition, UNIGE interpreters also worked for the delegations and for Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS).

Words that can be misinterpreted.

During this meeting, Joe Biden repeated the words of the ABC News journalist and reproached Putin for being a «killer» by assuring that he would pay the price for his actions. Because of the translation, this sentence could have been misinterpreted by Putin. This is why the mistranslation of such words can worsen important international relations.

Translation at the heart of the agreements.

In order for everyone to adhere to the different issues discussed during the meeting, it was essential to translate the agreements into writing. This translation task had to be accomplished with great delicacy and subtlety by professional translators who are experts in this field.

Switzerland is extremely fortunate to be recognised for its multilingual profile and its neutrality in international decision-making. A Biden-Putin meeting in the US or Russia was out of the question. Relations between the two are too bad for either of them to accept an invitation. According to Guy Parmelin, «it is Switzerland’s role to interfere between the great and the good of the world.

This is how the profession of translator/interpreter is valued and indispensable in this magnificent country and how the two icons of world power knew that such a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland would be a success.

Translation problems can appear in many forms: lexical-semantic, grammatical, syntactic, rhetorical, pragmatic or cultural. Among the many issues, we have selected a few to help you understand the degree of difficulty our translators face.

1. Doing preliminary research

Before starting a translation, translators begin by getting to grips with the broad outlines of the document through initial reading and preliminary research on the subject.

2. Have specialist knowledge

For a quality translation, translators are specialised in specific fields and are used to playing with terminology. Translation requires rigour, and above all, a perfect command of one’s mother tongue and field of activity.

3. Working in collaboration with the client

We are aware that our translators need help and precise instructions from our clients. This is why we ask for reference documents whenever possible, so that the final translation is satisfactory.

4. Be available and responsive

Being available is also part of the challenge for a translator. Translation projects cannot be anticipated. The same applies to translators who cannot prepare in advance without having the document. Reactive, linguists are ready to start a translation or proofreading job.

5. Meeting deadlines

Meeting deadlines and time pressure cannot be overlooked as major challenges for our translators. Indeed, they must be fast, because some requests must be processed in a short period of time. In other words, they have to be able to deliver a first-class translation within a few days.

6. Proving yourself every day on every project

Every project is a new translation, but also a new story. We give our translators the chance to prove themselves with each translation. Translations are graded on the basis of client feedback and this encourages our translators to constantly improve their quality.

7. Challenging your work

One of the other challenges facing our translators is to question their work. It is important to be able to re-examine your work and to listen to your client. Translation is not a solitary mission and an exact science, but a collaboration.

 

It is a constant challenge to try to convey the meaning of the source language in the target language as naturally and accurately as possible. Whether it is a question of understanding the culture, speaking the language, or knowing the expressions specific to a country, this union between peoples accompanies our evolution, and this, beyond the borders.

ISO 17100 certification was created to guarantee the organisation and the level of requirements expected during a translation. It demonstrates a service provider’s ability to produce a certain quality and to respect procedures during all stages of a translation.

A translation agency specialising in the legal field is committed to positioning a team of translators specialising in this field. The success of each translation project also depends on the close cooperation between the client and the service provider. Strict quality procedures are followed.

In order to be ISO 17100 compliant, the service provider must also use a data protection system and comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Our translation process includes the following steps:

  • Project preparation

Your contact persons have experience in the field of translation and ensure that your individual requirements for each project are met.

  • Production process

We work with our specialist linguists who translate exclusively into their native language. They have significant experience in the field of translation and are specialised in medical, technical, legal, financial and communication fields.

  • Project follow-up

The translation is worked on until our clients are completely satisfied. Our translators are based in Switzerland in order to be familiar with cultural specificities but also in the four corners of the world.

  • Security and information

Your data is stored in our secure Salesforce information system.

Working with an ISO-certified service provider that respects the Swiss legal framework makes a difference.

SwissTranslate is proud to have obtained ISO 17100 certification, a guarantee of the quality of our work and our service.

The entire team remains at your disposal and will be delighted to accompany you on your next translation project.

There is an expansion of languages in the face of internationalisation. The translation of documents is becoming an essential practice for communicating and transmitting information; in this article, we will give you more details on the pricing of this service.

At SwissTranslate, we seek to respect your communication style, while following your usual terminology.

Our translation agency defines the budget for your documents according to the following criteria: language, technicality of the subject matter, desired delivery time, size of the file and type of translation.

The cost of your translation will initially depend on the source language and the language into which you wish to translate your document. In Switzerland, European languages are the most commonly requested, followed by Asian, Nordic and Oriental languages.

The technical nature of the translation will also have an impact on the cost. Each type of text and each field has its own specificities and precise terminology to be respected. Our translators are specialised in specific fields and work only into their native language.

As far as delivery times are concerned, our translators are capable of translating an average of 2,500 words per day. Given the number of words, you can estimate when you will receive your translation. However, if you would like your text to be translated within 24 or even 48 to 72 hours, this is entirely possible.

The volume must also be taken into account in the cost of the translation and different units of measurement are considered: the number of words, the number of lines and the number of pages.

In addition, our ISO 17100 and ISO 9001 certifications allow us to distinguish ourselves in terms of the quality of our translations, the skills of our professionals, and the efficiency of our processes.

The entire SwissTranslate team is looking forward to assisting you with your translation needs!

How was this language adapted from German?

Several languages are spoken in Switzerland, making it a multilingual country. One of these languages is Swiss German, a language that combines the various dialects of German. This specificity is found in other regions of the world, for example in countries where Arabic is spoken. The «original» Arabic is nowadays mainly known as Literary Arabic, and in some countries (e.g. the Maghreb) dialects of Literary Arabic are spoken. Understanding between speakers of these different variants of Arabic can therefore become difficult. But is this also the case with Swiss German?

In the German-speaking part of Switzerland, people do not speak German, but Swiss German. How has the language evolved and what are its characteristics? Why is it that French-speaking Switzerland does not speak a language like «French Swiss»?

Historically, it was the Alamans who introduced the Germanic language to Switzerland. This language gradually developed into what we know as Swiss German. This language grew steadily over the years and was spoken more and more. From the 1980s onwards, it became increasingly important and is now one of Switzerland’s four national languages (along with French, Italian and Romansh).

Swiss German is very close to German, as the two languages are similar in many ways, but this does not mean that understanding it is child’s play for everyone. In fact, a Swiss German speaker will be able to understand what the German speaker is saying with greater ease than the other way round. This can be explained by the fact that Swiss Germans often have a better overall understanding of the German language because they have learned it at school, which is not necessarily the case for a German.

Here are some examples to illustrate the differences between these two languages:

German Swiss German (Zurich) French
IHR IR YOU
VIEL MALS VIEL MAL A LOT
FRAU FRAOU WOMAN

 

Today, Swiss German is spoken throughout German-speaking Switzerland, but the relationship with German is «complicated»; not everyone understands it within Switzerland itself.

Indeed, Swiss Germans generally have an excellent knowledge of the German language, whereas in French-speaking Switzerland, it is German that pupils learn at school. As a result, they may have a lot of trouble with Swiss German, as they are not very familiar with the language.

This close relationship between the two languages is also felt in the field of translation. The differences can be complex and these 2 languages are obviously considered as 2 different languages, as for one sentence the translation into German or Swiss German can be very different. These are not mistakes, of course, but a wrong choice of target language can lead to misunderstanding by the target audience.

It is therefore important to know the target audience for your translation in order to know which German you want to use.

Did you know that translation has been used since Mesopotamia?

Indeed, the Sumerian poem The Epic of Gilgamesh was translated into Asian languages in as far back as the 2nd millennium BC.  Roman poets later translated Ancient Greek texts, adapting them to create literary works.

Then the internet came along, forging the growth and expansion of translation around the world. The web has revolutionised the way we gain access to different countries, making translation an essential tool for global communication.

The digital transformation and the rapid rise in international trading has made translation an indispensable part of our lives.

Practically all the products and devices we use feature translation, such as user manuals and user interfaces.

How many times have you clicked off a website because the content wasn’t in your language and you didn’t understand? How many times have you complained about user and assembly manuals that just didn’t make sense in your language?

Translation needs have evolved over the years and are certainly more prevalent than in Ancient Greek times. Today we are facing yet another revolution: artificial intelligence, whose arrival is connecting more and more of the devices we use on a daily basis (fridges, smartphones, alarms, etc.).

They say that machines will soon outdo humans, but is this also true for translation?

In our multilingual world where exchanges are increasingly frequent, translation becomes key not only for the economy, but also for companies and, more generally, the evolution of our civilisation.

If we about the evolution of technology and how it changed our daily life, in the last 10 years, it is easy to think about a future where technology is involved in all our actions.

But does this access to infinite knowledge discourages us from learning, or is it an opportunity to learn in a more efficient way?

Let’s take a simple example that most of us encountered at one point: trying to learn a new language. When I first started learning English, I had a dictionary, a grammar book, and maybe, if lucky, some DVDs with movies in English. Whereas, nowadays Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are tools that can be used to facilitate language learning. For instance, Google’s headphones offer real-time translation from Google Translate.

There is no doubt that technology can facilitate language learning by offering innovative solutions and tools. However, many are still doubtful about automated translation or interpretation for one simple reason: human and cultural elements of language are characterized by such small nuances that AI cannot grasp them. In his book “Head in the Cloud”, W. Poundstone argues that even though we live in a time where we have more information than ever, we are actually narrowing our knowledge bases and we are often misinformed (2016).

Language is not like mathematics: it is constantly evolving along with culture and society. After all, language is not only based on vocabulary items or grammar systems, but it also characterized by situational awareness, cultural knowledge, social context, and human interactions.

Technology can and should provide innovative tools and means to enhance language learning and translation, but it should not try to replace the real-life experience of learning a language. Furthermore, technology can help translators and enhance their work by providing smart solutions and tools for translators while keeping a human-centric approach.

Is technology making our lives easier? The answer is YES. But does “easier” mean “better”? Not always. The point is, technology can facilitate and enhance our actions, but we should not drift away from a human-centered worldview and we should keep in mind that a machine won’t ever be able to replace the emotional nature, cultural knowledge and sensitivity of a human being.

The health crisis generated by Covid-19: an unprecedented event that took the world by surprise.

According to the Federal Office of Public Health, the number of new cases, hospitalisations and deaths in Switzerland is falling daily. However, the United States is currently the most affected country. Russia is also experiencing a sharp increase in infections. In addition, some countries that had managed to control the spread of the pandemic, such as Japan and Singapore, are now facing a second wave. In this time of global health crisis, risk communication plays a key role in preventing the spread of the pandemic as much as possible.

Risk communication

Risk communication, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is the real-time exchange of information, advice and opinions between experts, community leaders, policy makers and populations at risk.

Indeed, when a pandemic such as the current one occurs, effective risk communication enables people to learn the behaviours they need to adopt to protect themselves. It provides the authorities with the means to reduce misinformation and respond to the concerns of the population.  The illustration below is an example of risk communication in Switzerland.

Risk communication is essential, but it is not the whole story. In a global crisis situation, information sharing between countries and their institutions is an indispensable element.

Sharing information

The virus has spread from country to country as a result of infection. Thus, some countries were affected before others and, at a given moment, each country is going through a different stage of the wave of contamination. For example, when Italy experienced its peak of infections, Switzerland was still in the initial phase of the virus’ spread.

This time lag allowed the first affected countries to share information with countries not yet affected by the pandemic. Governments with clear information sharing were able to mobilise by communicating effectively about the risks.

Information sharing played a key role in managing the pandemic. It remains of major importance as countries look to the end of containment and the return to normal life. The success of this phase will depend on the implementation of the prevention guidelines issued by the authorities. These guidelines are based on all the information shared by the authorities in the different countries about the pandemic. Consistency in the terminology used in all communication will be essential to ensure effective information sharing.

Terminology

According to the encyclopaedia Universalis, terminology is the discipline that deals with scientific or technical vocabularies. Its aim is to study the way in which science and technology designate objects and phenomena.

When the first international organisations were founded, it was necessary to develop a multilingual terminology that would allow representatives of different countries to communicate clearly. The creation of multilingual glossaries allowed the establishment of a terminology that ensured concordance between the different languages. Each field obviously needs its own glossary and the current global health crisis is no exception.  In the early stages of the pandemic, information was only available in a limited number of languages, preventing entire populations from accessing vital information because they could not understand it. Translators Without Borders has therefore developed a glossary specific to the health crisis generated by Covid-19. This glossary contains twenty-three languages, including those in which information was not available.

https://glossaries.translatorswb.org/covid19/

What lessons can we learn from this situation?

We live in a globalised world, with countless multilingual exchanges. In the context of a global health crisis, information sharing can be a real life saver. The practice of information sharing includes clarity of terminology. Priority is given to the quality of translation and interpretation to prevent misunderstanding and misinformation.

Does learning a new language feel like a trip to an unknown country? If it does, it may be because you come from a monolingual environment. Foreign languages are part of our daily lives here in Switzerland. While mastering several languages may be highly valued in France, it is expected in a multilingual country. In this article, you will find out more about multilingual countries and the issues multilingualism raises.

Multilingual regions

Did you know that there are more multilingual than monolingual countries in the world? In fact, there are almost a hundred of them. The two countries where the most languages coexist are Papua New Guinea (four official languages and more than 850 indigenous dialects) and Mexico (Spanish may be its official language, but 290 languages are recognised as national languages).

Next comes Bolivia (37 languages), followed by Zimbabwe and Poland (with 16 languages each).

Let’s have a look at the Western World: in Spain, Castilian is the official federal language, but Basque, Occitan and Catalan are recognised in their respective regions. Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh.

On average Swiss people speak two foreign languages (in terms of European countries, only Luxembourg has a higher number of languages spoken with 3). Indeed, 71% of German-speaking Swiss people speak French and 67% speak English. Meanwhile 47% of French-speaking Swiss people speak German (or Swiss German) and 43% speak English.

The advantages and disadvantages of multilingualism

Mastering several languages has its advantages and disadvantages. The most obvious benefit is globalisation: speaking many languages makes interpersonal communication easier (lingua francas such as English are often very useful). What’s more, new studies have shown that a bilingual brain is faster and sharper than a monolingual brain and is also better at clarifying ambiguities and managing conflicts.

Multilingualism may be a real asset in some fields, but it has also its downsides. The European Union has almost 24 official languages, posing a real linguistic challenge. To face the challenges of intercultural dialogue, Europeans often use English as a lingua franca.

Perceiving multilingualism as a major issue of the twenty-first century, in some states, Public Education Bodies have opened bilingual classes, sometimes as early as kindergarten.  This is the case, for example, in California and Florida, where the majority language is no longer English, but Spanish.