Only Translating to One’s Mother Tongue : Compulsory Rule or Free Choice ?

Languages are the cornerstone of translators since they all use several of them for work. On this topic, the French Society of Translators (SFT) asserts that all translators must translate towards their mother tongue, not the other way around. But why is that ?

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The advantages

Each language being inherently linked to its country’s culture, it seems normal that a native speaker can easily adapt a foreign language concept into their mother tongue. They are aware of all the cultural subtleties and stylistic nuances, so that they can transmit the original message more accurately.

Moreover, they can instantly gather expressions and wording from the richness of the vocabulary, , because these all belong to them from the moment they were born.

That is the reason why translation agencies always recommend customers to employ translators working in their native language. The SFT is again inflexible on this point :

“Translators who do not follow this basic rule will be more likely to overlook other criteria which are essential to the translation’s quality. If you want an international image, approximation is not allowed. In many cultures, people disapprove of their language being altered. Ask for a translator whose mother tongue is the same as the required target language.”

Is mastering one’s native language enough for a translator ?

The answer is assuredly negative. Translation is not only about transposing a text from one language to another. There are various factors to this process, namely the understanding of the original text.

Indeed, working towards one’s mother tongue does not guarantee that there will not be any mistakes from a rough reading of the original document. Translators must be skilled in all their working languages. If they are poorly skilled in foreign languages, they won’t be able to convey the original message accurately.

What happens in everyday life ?

When translators make their way into the job market, they must pick their working languages. Most translators generally choose to work towards their native language. Yet, others choose to expand the number of their working languages. In spite of the SFT and some translation agencies’ opinion, this decision does not follow any particular rule. It depends on the will and the professional coherence of each translator.

Francesca Laganella

Translated by Sarah Deville

Source : http ://

Gender Beyond Languages

As inclusive writing sparks debates all across France, let us talk about gender when it comes to linguistics. Brace yourself for a journey through the unknown of our languages and our subconscious.

I will try to answer the three following questions : how do we attribute gender ? Does gender shift the way we think ? What are the current consequences ?

As inclusive writing sparks debates all across France, let us talk about gender when it comes to linguistics. Brace yourself for a journey through the unknown of our languages and our subconscious.

I will try to answer the three following questions : how do we attribute gender ? Does gender shift the way we think ? What are the current consequences ?

First, let us go back to the basics : what is gender ? It can be twofold : it can either be biological or grammatical. We will focus on grammatical gender, which consists in the categorization of words according to their gender. Most of the time, it is masculine or feminine but it can also be neutral. In some languages -like French- the grammatical gender matches the biological gender, when it is known. For example, in French, the word “girl” is feminine, just like the individual it describes. However, that will not be the case in other languages such as German, in which the word “girl” will be neutral : “das Mädchen”.

Some languages, like English or Scandinavian languages, won’t attribute a gender to words at all. They instead classify words according to two categories : animated beings and inanimate beings. Finally, some other languages have their own specific way of attributing gender to words : in Papua New Guinea, in the Alamblak language, objects which are long, big and thin are considered as masculine. You might wonder, what impact do these linguistic specificities have ?

If I say “bridge”, which adjectives come to mind ? Let me guess : is it “strong”, “robust”, “big” ? However, if I ask the same question to German-speaking natives, their answer will be something else entirely : “beautiful”, “fragile”, “delicate”. A study was conducted in 2002 on German and Spanish-speaking natives. The word “key”, which is feminine in Spanish, reminded them of concepts such as smallness and complexity. In German, the same word is masculine. When asked the same question, German natives answered that it made them think of “metal” and “cold”. According to our mother tongue and whether words are attributed a gender or not, the way we perceive objects changes.

Similarly to German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and many other languages, French has a habit of attributing gender to words. Here is a more concrete example : in a study, Russian natives were asked to personify the days of the week. According to them, feminine days were women and masculine days were men, in the same way we would probably give a masculine name to our favorite teddy bear if we were asked to name it. What was most surprising was that they were unable to explain why they had made this choice when asked. However, it needs to be reminded that English or Scandinavian natives will not think the same way at all !

From this slight difference in our language comes another in the way we see things and the world around us. Another study conducted by Jennifer L. Prewitt-Freilino goes even further. She managed to establish a correlation between attributing gender to words in a specific language and the place women have in the country in which this language is spoken. In a first experiment, students were tasked first with reading a shot text in English, in French and in Spanish. Then they had to answer a few questions.

The results showed that the students answered in a more sexist manner when the language in which they read the text attributed gender. Prewitt-Freilino and her colleagues dug deeper and consulted the Gender Gap Index from the World Economic Forum. This index lists inequalities between men and women in various sectors. They have found that 54 % of countries which are included in the index used gender in their language whereas only 19.4 % of countries featured a neutral language. However, since nothing is ever that clear cut, Prewitt-Freilino’s results showed that natives from countries whose language was neutral tended to choose the masculine gender by default. Tough time for feminism.

It should be remembered that this study has also shone light on neutral languages that are very sexist, in Iran for example. Exceptions exist. If anything, this study will -hopefully- encourage us to reconsider the words we use every day. It acts as a wake-up call and perhaps, it will lead to shifts in our languages in the future.

Anaëlle Edon

Translated by Céline Echilley

Translation : A Gateway to Multiculturalism

Translation has always been a way to communicate for people from different cultures and with different backgrounds. However, translation is not only useful to this purpose : it also creates a relationship between cultures in a cosmopolitan world. Indeed, it is the translator’s responsibility to make the transition from one culture to another while enriching his translation with reference points and context, thus giving it a high quality and relevance.


The Translator : A Cultural Agent

In this practice, the translator is seen as a cultural agent since he is a mediator between cultures. Indeed, it is up to him to transcribe the cultural references as best as possible by adapting them and using detours when they are impossible to translate into the target language.

For this exercise, the cultural agent must consider the social practices and norms, national identities or institutions, the customs and practices of each country, power relations as well as the policies that influence translation in one way or another.

Thus, the translator establishes an important link between the two languages in order to defend cultural diversity. It is therefore essential because, without translation, we would be thrown into a world filled with misunderstanding, fear of the “other” and conflicts.

Translation of Terms with a High Cultural Content

It is not only a matter of translating words, but rather translating concepts specific to civilizations have their own way of thinking. These “culture-bound terms” are very difficult to translate since it is a question of preserving their identity while keeping in mind that it will not necessarily be possible to preserve the whole concept.

These terms most often illustrate : a different material culture such as architecture, clothing, gastronomy, units of measurement ; a well-defined sociocultural system such as religion, customs, school and administrative systems, politics and the military field. This type of content is generally found in the legal and humanity fields.

How will our cultural agent then translate this kind of text ? He will have to make a choice among the following four options : borrowing, literal translation-which could also be called loan translation- cultural equivalence and periphrasis, otherwise referred to as explanatory translation. Each of these processes has its own specificities and must be chosen according to the target audience, the field of the text along with its style.

Therefore, the translator will have to face a dilemma often encountered with this type of content, which is none other than making a choice between translating and explaining. Whatever his choice maybe, he should have thought about it at length, since the slightest error could lead to a misunderstanding of the text and thus the transition between the two cultures will not be able to work properly.

Ellenita Gomez

Translated by Arthur Chevallier-Letort

What is the Best Way to Learn a Language ?

Being a multilingual speaker requires a lot of work. Indeed, learning a language is difficult, but it is even more difficult to put it into practice in real life. Yes, practising your knowledge of languages in a written class exercise is very different from applying this knowledge in conversation outside of school. For instance, as far as I am concerned, I find it easier to write than to hold a conversation in a foreign language. I think that many of us can relate to that. This begs the question, what are the best ways to improve our language skills or should I say our way of interacting with people in foreign languages ?


The truth is, there are several solutions available to us, but it is important to know that, depending on the person, some solutions will be more effective or even more appropriate than others. It is essential to find the key solution(s). If you are learning foreign languages, I suppose you have often heard that the key solution to improving your linguistic skills is a full immersion in a country, haven’t you ? However, not everyone can afford to do that because it can be very expensive, and yet, there are many other solutions. The other issue is : is it also possible to improve your language skills without spending a lot of money ? The answer is yes ! There are indeed other solutions, such as watching films in their original or subtitled versions, reading books in foreign languages, participating in international exhibitions. These exhibitions are, first of all, a good way to meet people from different parts of the world, but also to practise the language and to use the vocabulary you have learned in a specific context.

To learn effectively, it is important to distinguish between learning a language and assimilating a language. Surely, learning by heart without any context, without any application, will result in the almost systematic forgetting of any words you have just learned. Learning within a context, however, will make it easier to remember a word even after several years. This is what we call assimilation of a language. A word can have several meanings depending on the context and dealing with this word in a specific context makes it easier to understand and remember. That is why having discussions in another language is a radical way to remember and improve.

So, the only advice I can give you is to vary your learning resources, not only because there are many of them, but also because it allows you to know which one is most appropriate for you. Read, listen to the radio, watch movies in foreign languages, simply learn and practise !


Translated by Arthur Chevallier-Letort

Source : http ://

Which Subtitle Language is best for Your YouTube Videos ?

Since its inception, YouTube has become a powerful communication tool used by both individuals and professionals. It has enabled many users to earn money by making videos full-time. Maybe you also want to get started ? You must bear in mind many different criteria to be a successful YouTuber and video subtitling is one of them. While videographers generally target an audience that speaks their language, bear in mind that on average, two-thirds the length of a video’s viewing session is generated by a user living in a different country. So how can you adapt your YouTube videos for an international audience ?


Since a few years ago, Youtube has offered the possibility to enable automatic captions on your YouTube videos. They are often used to increase the accessibility of your videos and can sometimes be very useful in understanding the overall meaning of a video. Automatic captions are available for the following languages : Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. They are generated thanks to speech recognition technology and machine learning algorithms, but the quality is not necessarily always perfect.

This is practical for individuals who do not speak the same language as their viewers, but you also have to think of the deaf and hard of hearing for whom these subtitles are helpful. These automated machines do not always accurately transcribe what is said in the video. Some people might, therefore, be unable to enjoy the entire content and the quality of the video. This can reduce the popularity of a videographer and represents a particular risk to a company’s image should their video contain errors in the captions.

If you want your videos to have good quality subtitles without seeking the services of translation professionals, you can manually add them or allow members of the YouTube community to contribute to the translation or the transcription of your content. When the content is submitted by the community, you can check, modify, publish, report or reject it. Users can also check the proposed subtitles, which will be automatically published once they have been revised enough.

The best solution, especially if you publish commercial content, is to pay for a professional transcription or translation. YouTube suggests a list of providers. You can compare rates and order translations and transcripts from them. Once the transcription or translation is complete, you are notified by email and the translations are automatically added to your videos.

Avatar Anne-Claire Nourian

Source : http ://




Translated by Sonia Ahamada

Tips for Launching a Career as a Translator

Although the field of translation is diversified and requires a good sense of rigor, some junior translators sometimes do not have enough experience to carry out a project by themselves. With the help of some tips and advice, you will be able to improve your skills from both a personal and professional point of view.


Tip 1 : Improve Your Linguistic Skills

First of all, whether you studied foreign languages or something else, knowledge of multiple languages are now very prevalent and learning them allows greater access to the job market. The English language, the most popular language in the world, is nowadays essential when it comes to international communication. That is why mastering one or several languages is crucial especially for a translator.

To acquire more knowledge, you can firstly immerse yourself in the culture of the language of your choosing by reading books, watching movies or listening to music. If you have any passions or hobbies, use them. For instance, play video games in a foreign language to progress in an active and fun way. If you are into series, get into captioning them.

You can resort to other things, such as linguistic tandems, media (television news, radio) or you can simply travel abroad to learn about the country’s culture.

Tip 2 : Do Volunteer Work

To combine the personal and the professional sphere, working as a volunteer translator is a substantial asset in terms of improving your skills. Indeed, translators, whether they are a beginner or pursuing their career, can acquire more skills by working in the field of translation for companies or associations for free in order to overcome their lack of references and experience. Whether it is translating, subtitling or for any other areas, this experience can be useful and is very much appreciated on a resume. Afterward, the translator can use this to create a portfolio.

The world-renowned TED organization, which provides hundreds of video conferences, launched a translation project in May 2009. Thanks to subtitling, these videos reach a wider number of people around the world. Through these videos, you can kill two birds with one stone by acquiring more knowledge in audiovisual translation while helping other people.

Moreover, you can offer your services to other companies and organizations. Favor organizations such as non-governmental organizations (NGO) because they are more likely to accept free translators.

Tip 3 : Develop Your Brand Name and Network

Nowadays, the digital era is expanding all around the world. Consequently, a junior translator has no choice but to create their own simple and easy-to-use website. This professional website is used to highlight their linguistic or translating skills, their qualities, some recommendations from previous companies or organizations, etc. Putting an online contact form for a potential client is also recommended.

In addition to the website, a junior translator has to think beforehand about their field of specialization and the status which they want to work under : freelancer, employee, etc. It’s advised that you reflect on all the answers to the questions that may be asked. Furthermore, professionals are present at information fairs (for students or vocational guidance) so keep yourself informed about the dates of these events.

Lastly, use online professional social media such as LinkedIn, Viadeo or Xing. These various media allow you, for instance, to fill out your online resume, to extend your professional network, but also, to find a job and sometimes in a foreign country.

Best of luck to you !

Avatar Christelle Dilling

Source : http ://




Translated by Arthur Chevallier-Letort

Reading : Another Way of Learning a Language

Reading books and newspapers is a good way to learn, improve your knowledge and keep yourself informed of what is happening around the world. Reading in a foreign language is a good method to learn how to speak fluently.

To ensure that your reading is really efficient, you don’t have to force yourself to read one of the classics, but read a book that matches your interest and your language level.

Continue reading Reading  : Another Way of Learning a Language

Imaginary languages and translation

You have probably already heard Klingon, Na’vi, Dothraki or even one of the elvish languages imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien in a movie or a TV series. However, what you may not know is that these languages, exclusively created to be used in fictions, have been meticulously developed by passionate and specialized linguists. Even though they are based upon their own syntax, grammar and spelling rules, these fictional languages are actually extremely complex and rich, sometimes even more than actual natural languages, such as English, German or French. 


Nevertheless, these created languages that can be heard in many well-known movies and TV series have become more and more popular and many communities of keen fans take pleasure in learning every subtlety of these languages. Therefore, you are now able to find lessons on the internet to learn how to speak Valyrian or Parseltongue. In the same way as modern languages, it includes tutorials and videos aimed at helping enthusiast learners to assimilate the basics of the languages used in their favorite book, film or series.

The interest in imaginary languages and their rich vocabulary has led people to write books and create websites which offer translation into natural languages such as English or French. There are now franco-klingon online bilingual dictionaries such as the platform, the Imaginary Languages Dictionary, by P.Albani and B.Buonarroti in a printed book, or even online translation machine proposed by the Russian search engine Yandex, which provides immediate automatic translation from French to Sindarin, the elvish language from the Lord of the Rings.

Hence, some companies like Sémantis offer the possibility to translate into these uncommon languages as they are more and more popular and present in the media. Moreover, translation demands from these languages are growing. Would it be possible to learn Dothraki as a third language ?

Camille Mouchel

Translated by Gildas Mergny

Source : http ://

Why Translating Your Website into Other Languages Is Important

Launching a website into several languages is a key strategy to expand your presence on the international stage and to enhance your visibility for a larger public. However, you have to keep in mind that when localizing a website, what you are targeting is a country and not a language. Nowadays, handling the localization of your website is a less complicated task and it is much cheaper than before. There are many translation agencies which are capable of offering an efficient multilingual website. In-house localization can also be done for free thanks especially to countless tools such as online translation software which facilitate the translation of your website.


Obviously, the choice of languages will vary based on the target audience just like the number of languages depends on the size of the company that runs the website. Larger companies tend to offer their websites in more languages (on average, 14 different languages) than smaller companies. The research company Common Sens Advisory estimates that within a few years, a website should be available in no less than 20 languages in order to enjoy the advantage of a strong worldwide position.

Perks of Multilingualism

Websites are visited by people from every corner of the world, regardless of the language the website is available in. This is one of the main reasons that drive the localization of websites.

Moreover, most European internet users speak several languages. Yet, this does not mean they are willing to purchase items on a website that does not offer a version in their native language. A study showed that there is some connection between the language spoken by the consumer and their willingness to make a purchase, something which should not be taken lightly.

In fact, internet users feel more secure when buying on websites that provide a version in their own language due to problems of comprehension. A survey carried out by the European Commission in 2011 revealed that nine out of every ten internet users browse in their native language when they have the option to do so. Some results of the survey are presented in the article Europe : Most Used Languages on the Internet. Thus, if websites offered a version in their native language, this would build a relationship of trust with the buyer, hence the importance of multilingualism.

A multilingual website allows you to assert your notoriety among international clients and attain their loyalty. Expanding your website to include several languages is a way to conquer potential clients regardless of their country of origin, without having to make huge financial or time investments. It is therefore a profitable and a must-have marketing tool given that it has been proved that adding a second language to your website has a positive impact on profits.

Furthermore, it highlights the interest shown by the companies towards their clients by offering a website which is tailored to their language needs and the fact that they are a step ahead of their competitors who provide a small range of languages, if any. Indeed, a multilingual website will be capable of meeting the needs of an international clientele before competitors, which is a significant advantage.

Ultimately, localizing a website can now be done incredibly quickly and at very little cost. These different points, as mentioned, underline the importance of developing a website’s reach throughout the world. The only thing left to do is to choose the appropriate languages and watch your profits substantially increase.

Written and Translated by Sonia AHAMADA

Article source : http ://

Interpreters and Translators – Their Critical Role in the Face of the Migrant Crisis

At the core of the migrant crisis, the demand for volunteer translators and interpreters with rare language pairs is considerable. Among the asylum seekers who arrive in Greece, 80 % are Syrians or Afghans and speak Arabic or Farsi respectively. Within the group of Syrians, who usually come from a middle class background, at least one person speaks English. Afghan asylum seekers, for their part, often come from the countryside, and do not know how to communicate in any language other than their own. The remaining 20 % do not speak any of these two languages : the organization Translators Without Borders (TWB) receives demands for Kurdish, Urdu, Dari, Pashto, Tigrinya and even French. These are languages which are simply not spoken by the volunteers in the field. Continue reading Interpreters and Translators – Their Critical Role in the Face of the Migrant Crisis