Translating animal sounds

If you think that animals sound the same across the globe, think again.

Did you know that in German, frogs sayjpegIn German, horses say -wiehiehie-In German, roosters say 'kikeriki'

Leave us a comment with your favourite animal translations!


Oxford to Deptford – by Mattia Cattaruzza, Yestrans Relationship Manager


I left Oxford in July with my degree in hand and my head held high – I had survived the experience, enjoyed myself along the way, and I was about to take the next step in my life. My head wasn’t held high for too long, though. The next day my bubble had been burst, and the sense of achievement from the previous day had been partially replaced by emptiness, loneliness and uncertainty – feelings shared by many a university graduate, I imagine.

Maybe I somehow thought that my degree would be handed to me together with a couple of job offers and some useful test results telling me which future I would be most suited to. It didn’t. In fact, to everyone’s surprise, we weren’t handed anything at all. The official piece of paper came through the post some weeks later, and that was that. So what next? Along with countless others, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. All I knew was that I wanted to use my languages and interact with other people on a daily basis. During my year abroad I tried teaching, which was a fun job while it lasted, but in the long term, it wasn’t for me.

During one of many browsing sessions in search of my future at the start of 2015, I had found Luke Trinder, Yestrans director and former member of my Oxford college (Lincoln), and he kindly talked to me about the translation industry and how he got into translation, eventually setting up and running his own successful business. The business was doing very well, but Luke felt there were problems with the fragmented translation industry and believed that, with someone’s help, he could simplify how clients interacted with translation providers and create a more personalised approach to this relationship.

Intrigued by the idea of improving and potentially changing how translation services are provided, I kept in contact with Luke, mulling this potential job over, pushing it slightly to the back of my mind during my exams but never quite letting it out of my sight. After my exams I spoke with Luke a few times, and we decided that September would be a good time to start.

Since my first day, things have progressed quickly. At the start I was heavily involved in the translation and proofreading, of which there are substantial amounts as summer fades into autumn, and Luke gave me ongoing training in building strong relationships with clients at the same time – this would eventually become my main role within the business. Once I had been given the appropriate training, it was time for me to get started on building those new client relationships and familiarise German-speaking businesses with Yestrans.

It has been a very stimulating experience so far – stressful at times, and at others a little dull (legal and medical texts, you know who you are), but for the most part it has been enjoyable and rewarding, and I am continually building ever-stronger relationships with our clients. I speak German on a daily basis – a big plus side to this job for me – and I hope to be travelling to German-speaking Europe in the not-too-distant future in order to continue strengthening the Yestrans brand abroad.

By Mattia Cattaruzza, Yestrans Relationship Manager



A Day in the Life

Luke, founder of Yestrans, lifts the lid on what it’s like to run a translation agency and talks about a typical day at Yestrans.

I walk to our office which is in the Albany in Deptford, an amazing community and arts space. I love being based here and the fact that our office rent supports the work that happens at the centre. The Albany recently got some new resident chickens which have been rescued from a battery farm and they’re a cheery addition to the building.

Luke Trinder, founder of Yestrans

Luke Trinder, founder of Yestrans, with some of the chickens at The Albany

Having said hello to the chickens, my first task of the day is usually to allocate new translation jobs to our German to English translators. We work with a team who are experts in their individual fields including specialists in legal, medical, marketing and financial translation. I still do a lot of hands-on translation myself but it’s a great feeling to have such a solid team to work with as well.

Every translation we deliver to our clients is really thoroughly proofed. We use the ‘four eyes’ principle as it’s called in Germany, which basically means that all copy is proofed by at least one other colleague. We also do monolingual review, which is when we review the English version of the text on its own to make sure it reads well and makes complete sense to a native English speaker. Taz, my business partner, often does this as she’s based in the office with me and it’s good to be able to discuss any amends to the copy.

Once I’ve caught up on job allocation and proofing, I usually have time to do some translation work myself. This week we’ve been working with about six key clients and jobs have really varied. I’ve translated an environmental impact report and am now working on website copy for a large German visitor attraction which wants to appeal to the UK and USA visitor markets.

I take a break at lunch time and sometimes eat in the Albany café or maybe go to a local café like London Velo which does amazing coffee – this keeps me going through the afternoon.

I’ll usually receive a few emails from our translators throughout the day. Most of the team works remotely but I’m always around to help with any questions – in fact I love it when translators ask me questions. It’s much, much better when translators collaborate and talk when they get stuck on something. Sometimes you might not be sure which term to use, or you want a second opinion on an ambiguous translation, and it’s always best to get a second opinion.

We’ll be having a keen intern working with us soon so I’m getting ready for his arrival and preparing his projects. He’ll be sharing the office with me and Taz and will get to do everything from liaising with our clients in Germany through to learning about invoicing and business admin.

Throughout the course of the day, I send completed translations to clients and catch up with emails about new projects, and my day generally finishes with an afternoon deadline or sending translations to our colleagues in different time zones if deadlines are tight. Sometimes I’ll stay late in the office and sometimes I’ll take some work home with me. I don’t work late every night though; often Taz and I will drop in to somewhere local like The Job Centre – a bar on Deptford High Street – on the way out.

I’d love to hear about where you work from and what your day involves – let me know in the comments if you’re based somewhere unusual or if you’re translating anything particularly interesting.  I’m always looking for new coffee and lunch recommendations in Deptford too!

Why good translators ask questions

Question markCuriosity has always been a virtue when it comes to translation. After all, it’s a profession that attracts many a talented linguist with an inquisitive mind motivated by the daily challenge of finding le mot juste. To find the right words for each translation, translators work with a range of terminology resources, such as dictionaries, glossaries and text corpora. They also research the subject matter of the texts they translate through various channels such as the Internet, books and journals. Yet, despite these resources, there are times when a translator might need to ask you questions about the text that he or she is translating for you – and that’s usually a good sign. Here are a few reasons why.

It could be that the text you are having translated contains terminology unique to your organisation. Acronyms are a case in point. Common acronyms, such as GDP, FIFO and IPO, rarely present a problem. But, if your text contains acronyms that are used exclusively within your organisation, chances are that the translator will need to ask what these mean in order to come up with appropriate ways of translating them.

If your organisation operates in a niche area, it’s likely there will be a number of highly specialised terms and concepts relating to your work. Before deciding how best to translate these for the benefit of your target readership, the translator might need to clarify the exact meaning of certain terms and concepts in the context of your organisation’s activities. By taking this approach, potential misunderstandings can be avoided.

Sometimes, a translator will also want to get in touch if there are various viable options for translating a key term. For example, the German term “Fracht” can be translated into English as “freight” or “cargo”. When handling, say, the translation of a corporate brochure for a logistics company, a translator might want to ask which option the client prefers.

Another possibility could be that the text to be translated appears to contain a mistake, such as a typo or a missing word. Where this is the case, a reliable translator will check what the author actually meant to say rather than hazard a guess in the translation.

In a nutshell, a good translator will carefully read your text, and, if something isn’t clear, he or she will ask. Translators earn their living by communicating messages from one language into another as effectively as possible but, ultimately, no one knows what you want to say better than you do. That’s why it’s definitely worth making yourself – or, if necessary, someone else in your organisation – available to answer questions from the translator while your text is being translated. By asking questions to clarify any relevant points in your text, a translator can ensure that the message conveyed by the translation is precisely the message you want to get across to your audience.

Curious to learn more about the virtues of asking – and answering – questions? Ask us!

Community translation; crowdsourced quality, or cheap and nasty?

CrowdsourceAnyone who has started shopping around for translation services is likely to have encountered crowdsourcing as an option: a new approach that has come about largely as a result of the internet. Best described as obtaining labour from a large number of people, usually for free or almost-free, it is an idea with obvious attractions. Wikipedia’s community-based information service is an obvious success story, and those in favour of the method say that crowdsourcing is a little like peer review, insofar as a large number of operators will effectively police each other’s accuracy, and ultimately get the best result. If you are sourcing from a good crowd, you are likely to have some very proficient speakers of the target language in there, and maybe even some truly bilingual people, so you could assume that the cream will rise to the top.

But in the bearpit that the internet can be, it is more often the case that he who shouts loudest will best be heard, and so the most obvious answer will always gain more traction than something more refined. A true native speaker will be keenly aware of nuances in tone and language; they will know that a professional services agency should speak differently from an all-night venue advertising Happy Hour. An enthusiastic amateur, however, will most likely be taking a baldly literal approach, using the most basic tools that the target language offers (to them).

There are more arguments, both for and against crowdsourced translations, and no doubt there are companies and individuals who are happy to go down this route. And there are wannabe translators and hobby linguists who will take up the opportunities offered with relish. But is it worth the risk?

In the role where your translation choices have a financial impact, it can be easy to start by looking only at cost, and not at value; the appeal of getting something for nothing can be too much to resist. Are your customer communications worth nothing at all? As you would expect, the language specialists at Yestrans believe passionately that communication should be fluent, natural and personal.

We want to understand how you talk to your customers, and we want to address them the same way in other languages. For them, we want to be reliable, consistent and reassuring. For our clients, we want to be professional, trustworthy and collaborative. You don’t get that from a crowd!

How MOOCs can benefit translators – and translation buyers too

Academic capIf asked which attributes are typically expected of translators, most people would probably say that outstanding language skills are a must. And, of course, they’d be right – professional translators dedicate many years to perfecting their proficiency in at least one foreign language as well as their command of their native language. But translators also have to be knowledgeable about the various subjects associated with the texts they translate. This means they need excellent research skills and a willingness to learn new material relevant to their areas of specialisation. It’s precisely because of this occupational need to combine linguistic prowess and subject-specific knowledge that MOOCs, the latest development in e-learning, are such a welcome opportunity for translators. But what is a MOOC?

MOOCs – or massive open online courses – enable anyone with an internet connection to take courses in subjects ranging from computing to medicine. Usually free of charge, MOOCs are offered by universities from all over the world, including institutions such as Harvard, Yale, MIT and Stanford. The courses are delivered in conjunction with external providers such as Coursera, edX, iversity and FutureLearn. This is great news for translators looking to keep up to date with the latest developments in their areas of specialisation or even develop new specialisms through independent study. For example, a translator who focuses on IT or software localisation might choose to take, say, a software engineering course on edX to become more familiar with the latest thinking in that field. The even better news for translators is that it’s often possible to find a number of MOOCs on a particular subject in different languages. For example, Coursera currently has a French MOOC on finance by HEC Paris and another course on finance by the University of Michigan in English.

The exponential growth in the number of MOOCs over the past few years has given translators a great way of keeping up with the latest ideas and terminology in their areas of specialisation. What’s more, they can do so at minimal cost and in multiple languages too. But MOOCs don’t just benefit translators. Translation buyers can now look forward to having their texts translated by professional linguists who, at the click of a mouse, can access the latest thinking in a huge variety of subject areas with tuition provided by experts from the world’s leading universities.

Have you ever taken a MOOC? Tell us about your experience!

How do you know if a translation is accurate?

RightYou’ve sent a text off for translation, received the final version back from the translator or agency, so it’s just time to hit publish or print, and then to sit back and wait for responses to roll in…

At this point, if you’re unlucky, the first indication that something has gone wrong may be when a reader points out a fault with the translated text. It shouldn’t ever have to come to this, so here are a few options for checking the accuracy of your translated text.

1) Obvious as it sounds, the first thing you should do is find a native speaker (if you aren’t one yourself) to read through the text carefully. Not all translation mistakes are mistranslations; it can be the case that a translated text is technically accurate, but sounds odd, or reads clumsily. This is particularly true for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, so don’t forget to take a good hard look at translated texts.

2) Proofreading by another translator will weed out errors, if there are any. Yestrans offers proofreading services as an optional extra or standalone service; get in touch if you’d like a quote. Our basic service always includes thorough proofreading by the translator, but we would always recommend proofreading by a second translator for the best quality.

3) Back-translation is the process of reworking an already translated document, back into the original language. Obviously this method could effectively double your costs (in time as well as money!), but in some situations it is the right way to go. The output is never likely to be identical to the original document, but the meaning should clearly be the same. If you find yourself in need of a back-translation, let us know.

Have you had any amusing or awful experiences with mistakes in translation? What do you wish you had done differently?