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Google Translate Causes Vaccine Mishap

Language in Business, Language in the News, Localization Basics, Personalization and Design, Translation, Translation Technology, Uncategorized

Last week, MultiLingual reported on a Virginia Department of Health website translation error that incorrectly told Spanish speakers they don’t need coronavirus vaccines. New information from Richmond, Virginia newspaper The Virginian-Pilot now reveals how this error came to be.

“The Virginia Department of Health’s main sources for translating critical covid-19 and vaccine information are three marketing agencies that don’t list translation services on their websites and Google Translate,” Sabrina Moreno reports, pointing out that both translation reliability experts and Google itself caution medical providers not to use the free online tool for medical translations. Google translated “the vaccine is not required” as “the vaccine is not necessary” on the Department of Health’s frequently asked questions website.

In the United States, Hispanics have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus with higher death and hospitalization rates than white Americans. Ensuring this group has access to covid-19 vaccines is of particular importance in Virginia where — as of January 13th — Latinos only accounted for 9 percent of those receiving a dose despite making up 21 percent of the commonwealth’s covid-19 hospitalizations.

“Immigrant advocates and certified translators said the state’s failure to prioritize adequate translation showed Virginia’s lack of investment in populations already facing a trust gap in the health care system and language barriers that have historically limited access to medical care,” writes Moreno.

Luis Oyola, director of organizing for Legal Aid Justice Center in Richmond, says he’s been warning the state of what Moreno calls “the desperate need for translated and culturally competent materials” since March. “The government is reaping what they sowed,” Oyola told The Virginian-Pilot

The government, however, continues to stand beside its mistranslation. “Many Spanish speakers do read this form as it was intended — namely, to make clear the vaccine is not mandatory and therefore will not be forced on anyone,” director of communications Maria Reppas told local television station ABC 8News.

Nearly 1.4 million Virginians speak a language other than English at home. More than half of these people speak Spanish.

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Terena Bell is an independent journalist who writes for The Atlantic, Washington Post, Fast Company and others. She is former CEO of In Every Language.

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Localization & Race: Disney’s Dubbing Controversy

freelancing, Geopolitics, Language in the News, Localization, Localization Culture, Localization Strategy, Multimedia Translation, Personalization and Design, Uncategorized

Disney/Pixar’s localization of the movie Soul has generated some race-related controversy, according to The Independent. Released in 41 different countries, the film is about a Black jazz player who tries to reunite his body and his soul after the two accidentally split apart. It’s only the fourth animated movie in the history of American cinema to feature a Black character in the leading role.

The film hasn’t gone without criticism in the United States, where cultural news sites like Gizmodo, Screen Rant, and Insider have pointed out that Soul seems to lean into Black stereotypes. In its original English version, the film uses a white actor to voice the main, Black character’s soul — something Gizmodo and others claim removes Black agency.

In Denmark and Germany, white actors voice the character’s body as well, sparking the Danish controversy. (If German cinema-goers are upset, the media is yet to report it.) “A number of activists and scholars suggested that [the] casting was an example of structural racism,” reports The Independent. Nikolaj Lie Kaas — the voice actor who received the lead Danish part — said, “My position with regards to any job is very simple. Let the man or woman who can perform the work in the best possible way get the job.”

The language industry, however, has long considered non-qualification related factors in “who gets the job.” In interpreting especially, US providers often pair limited-English proficients (LEP) with interpreters of the same gender for assignments, based on language and topic. If an LEP has been raped, for example, crisis centers may require a same gender interpreter as a way to help minimize trauma. For religious reasons, female Arabic and Somali speakers also may require female interpreters for medical visits. In these instances, a man very well may be the best interpreter in town, but other factors must be considered in awarding the job. That said, film localization is a different field and appears to adhere to different standards in at least some cases.

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.

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Weekly Shorts | January 15, 2021

Business News, Geopolitics, Interpretation, Language in the News, Language Industry News and Events, Localization, Multimedia Translation, Personalization and Design, Technology, Terminology, Translation, Uncategorized, Weekly Shorts

Translation error says Spanish speakers don’t need vaccine

A localization error on the Virginia Department of Health’s website told Spanish speakers they don’t need coronavirus vaccines, according to Norfolk, Virginia newspaper The Virginian-Pilot. Medical students at George Mason University discovered the mistake, which may have stemmed from unclear source text: “Before the faulty translation, the English passage simply meant the vaccine wasn’t mandatory,” the paper reports.

TransPerfect opens Istanbul office

New York-based translation company TransPerfect has opened a new outpost in Istanbul, Turkey. N Can Okay will oversee the office, dealing primarily with talent recruitment, according to a company release.

Neural interpretation from TikTok?

ByteDance, the parent company of international social media platform TikTok, has gotten in the interpreting game, releasing an open source tool named NeurST: Neural Speech Translation Toolkit. Note this is a misnomer, as the tech does not translate written language — rather interprets verbal speech. Full code is available on collaboration portal GitHub.

Nieman Lab predicts non-English news

American journalism think tank The Nieman Lab anticipates the United States will see more non-English news content in 2021 as both translated and in-language reporting increase. “Additionally, we foresee more substantive and equitable partnerships developing between mainstream and ethnic media organizations,” write Stefanie Murray and Anthony Advincula.

ATA accepting conference proposals

The American Translators Association has issued its call for presentation proposals for the association’s October 27-30, 2021 conference. The event will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota with virtual attendance options. Proposals are accepted through March 1.

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.

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Vaccine Saves Language and Lives, NPR Reports

Geopolitics, Language, Language in the News, Travel and Culture

Getting vaccinated against covid-19 may do more than save your life. It could also save your language. That’s what Cherokee schoolteacher Meda Nix told National Public Radio (NPR) in an interview last week.

A member of the Cherokee Nation — a sovereign tribal government within the geographic boundaries of the United States — Nix grew up in an English and Cherokee speaking home, then studied Cherokee later as an adult. She is one of only around 2500 people who speak the language fluently today.

Native Americans — including the Cherokee — have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the US Center for Disease Control, contracting the disease at a rate 3.5 times higher than white Americans. The Cherokee Nation specifically has seen more than 11,000 coronavirus cases and 63 deaths. At least 20 of those who passed were Cherokee speakers, per NPR.

Initially, Nix had not planned on being vaccinated. Then tribal leaders held a Zoom call with covid-19 specialists, urging Cherokees to step up — not just for their lives but for their culture.

Cherokee is a member of the Iroquoian language family. Its writing system does not use an alphabet. Rather, 85 distinct characters represent the sounds used for speaking the language with one character assigned to each discrete syllable found in a word. For this and other reasons, the US Secretary of State considers Cherokee to be a Class IV language. Language classifications refer to the average amount of time required for English speakers to achieve proficiency when studying full time. At 88 weeks, Class IV languages are the most difficult group.

Nix teaches Cherokee to fifth graders, starting with vocabulary she learned from her mother about the natural world — such as the names for trees and birds. NPR reports that “by preserving her language, she is really preserving ‘everything. Our culture. Our beliefs. Our ways.'”

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Terena Bell is an independent journalist who writes for The Atlantic, Washington Post, Fast Company and others. She is former CEO of In Every Language.

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Weekly Shorts | January 8, 2021

Interpretation, Language in the News, Weekly Shorts

Baltimore Sun profiles medical interpreter

As covid vaccines begin to be distributed across the United States, more non-language professionals are learning to appreciate the role medical interpreters play. In Baltimore, Maryland, newspaper Baltimore Sun profiled Elsa Aguilar Bustos, who interprets for Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Reporter Stephanie Garcia writes, “When the pandemic began, the hospital was pushing for interpreters to work from home, as a way to minimize exposure and accommodate for the lack of personal protective equipment. Bustos said that was out of the question for her,” working the 11 pm to 8 am shift where she interpreted for as many as ten Spanish-speaking patients at a time.

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.

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Beijing subway to standardize English translations

Business News, Language, Language in the News, Personalization and Design, Terminology, Translation, Travel and Culture, Uncategorized

If you’re heading to Beijing you may have to put up with conflicting subway station names — at least for a while. According to news site China Daily, the city has “adopted a new set of English translation methods for the capital’s rail transit stations.” Basically what this means is that the municipal transport commission authority is gradually changing the way stop names are localized into English — both on maps and signs. Trick is, the changes aren’t happening across all materials at once: “Different English translations for a same station may exist over a period of time as the replacement of the signs will be carried out gradually and orderly,” China Daily reports. Early maps with the new names are already available. Distribution began late last year. The signage translation work will start in 2021.

The city’s goal is to provide new stop names that not only reflect the geographic location of a place but its cultural implications — and in a way that enlightens foreign travelers. Subway stop names that previously used pinyin — an adaptation method that uses letters from the Roman alphabet to spell out Chinese words based on sound — will be changed to new names that use the Chinese phonetic alphabet. The first word of each stop name will also be capitalized now with all subsequent letters in lower case. Locations will also be marked by compass direction, using abbreviations like “(N)” for north or “(W)” for west. Well-known subway stops — such as those named after places of historic interest — will not change. For example, 颐和园 and 国家图书馆 will remain Summer Palace and National Library — their already globally-accepted English language translations.

In 2014, a revamp of Hong Kong’s subway translations resulted in The Wall Street Journal mocking Beijing’s by using Baidu’s free online translation portal to derive the paper’s own localization of stop names.

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.

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Belgian Translation Error Could Result in Travel Fines

Geopolitics, Language in the News, Technology, Translation, Uncategorized

English-speaking visitors to Belgium may have arrived under a misunderstood set of coronavirus-related travel rules, according to national newspaper The Brussels Times.

“According to the English version of the official info-coronavirus.be website,” journalists Maïthé Chini and Jules Johnston reported on January 4th, “travelers must complete the form ‘within 48 hours of [their] arrival in Belgium.'” Trick is, that information is not correct. In its original French, Dutch and German — the country’s three official languages — the government states Passenger Locator Forms (PLF) must be completed before people arrive — not after.

Fortunately, the Belgian government corrected the mistake not long after The Brussels Times called to request comment. “It was a wrong translation of the text and it has now been corrected,” Yves Stevens, spokesperson for the country’s coronavirus crisis center, told the paper. It’s unclear, however, how many travelers entered the country before the correction was provided. Fines for those who do not complete the forms as instructed are €250 per person.

According to Reuters, Belgium has seen 650,011 covid-19 infections and 19,701 coronavirus-related deaths since the start of the global pandemic back in March. Travelers and residents are encouraged to use Coronalert, a contact tracing app available in English, French, Dutch and German for iPhone and Android. According to the frequently asked questions page of the Coronalert website, “The language of the app is automatically matched to the default language configured in your smartphone’s language settings. If your phone is set up in another language than these four, Coronalert will by default be installed in English.”

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.

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Gender Inclusive or Just Bad Hebrew?

Geopolitics, Language, Language in the News, Terminology, Uncategorized

It’s traditional for the United States House of Representatives to open each new session with a prayer, but that prayer typically doesn’t end with “a-women.”

On Sunday, January 3rd — right before the members of the 117th session were sworn in — Missouri representative Emanuel Cleaver used the interesting turn of phrase together with “amen,” saying “May the lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us peace — peace in our families, peace in this land and there I ask, oh lord, peace even in this chamber. We ask it in the name of the monotheistic god, Brahma, and god known by many names by many different faiths, amen and a-women.”

Since the swearing in, Cleaver’s usage has fallen under criticism from the international press with UK outlets The Independent and Daily Mail reporting.

In addition to serving in Congress, Cleaver is ordained as a minister in the United Methodist Church, a denomination of the Christian faith. Brahma, however, is a Hindu god.

The word amen itself derives from the Hebrew, meaning “certainty,” “truth,” or “verily.” In English, it is a declaration of affirmation typically used at the end of a prayer or used on its own as a form of agreement or sign of support. While Hebrew is a highly gendered language — in addition to number agreement, verbs also agree with subject noun gender — “amen” is non-gendered.

In other words, Cleaver’s usage is more politically than grammatically driven. January 1st, House speaker and fellow Democrat Nancy Pelosi proposed new rules for the body that require members use “gender-inclusive language,” citing examples such as “parent” instead of “mother” or “father” and “sibling” instead of “brother” or “sister.” These rules also require members to substitute verbs for gendered English nouns — “strike ‘’submit his or her resignation’ and insert ‘’resign’’’ — as well as use common nouns in place of pronouns: “Strike ‘’he or she serves’’ and insert ‘such Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner serves.’’’

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.

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ATA Asks CDC Include Interpreters in Vaccine Guidance

Interpretation, Language in the News, Uncategorized

The American Translators Association (ATA) has sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asking it “explicitly include on-site medical interpreters among the listed examples of health care personnel (HCP) eligible for Phase 1 [covid] vaccinations.” Right now, states are allowed to dictate their own vaccine roll-out plans while the CDC issues guidance. In North Carolina, at least one hospital staff interpreter has received the shot. In New York City, councilmember Mark Levine wrote an editorial urging “cleaning staff, translators, cafeteria workers and security guards” not be left out of local distribution plans. And in Massachusetts, hospital-based interpreters are mandated in phase one of the state’s rollout plan already.

The letter also asks the CDC consider on-site community interpreters — specifically those who work in schools, state and local government offices, and the courts — as “other essential workers.”

Twenty organizations co-signed the letter, including Association of Language Companies, Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters, National Health Law Program and non-industry associations such as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. The full text may be read on ATA’s website here.

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.

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North Carolina Interpreter Vaccinated

Interpretation, Language in the News, Technology, Uncategorized

Earlier today, MultiLingual asked an important question: Will interpreters receive covid vaccines? In North Carolina at least, we have our answer.

Spanish interpreter Jorge Gutierrez was among the first at University of North Carolina Medical Center to receive the Pfizer vaccine, which arrived at the Chapel Hill hospital Tuesday morning. The hospital received 2,925 doses; the vaccine requires two doses in order to be effective, which means 1,462 people can be treated. WTVD — the local ABC television news affiliate — reports 30 of these will go to UNC Medical Center employees. Gutierrez interprets primarily in the hospital’s medical intensive care unit (MICU).

“It’s a day full of hope,” he told the station.

As coronavirus spread, the language industry has been tempted to rely more heavily on telephone-based interpreting (OPI). But as Gutierrez told Chapel Hill radio station WCHL, coronavirus has given him a brand new appreciation for the level of care that only on-site medical interpreters can provide: “One of the things this [pandemic] has shown us is the importance of having someone who speaks your language helping you communicate at the bedside with providers. It’s something you cannot substitute that easily or complete with the telemedicine efforts we’ve seen happening here.”

Watch Gutierrez receiving his shot in this video at the 1:42 mark and read MultiLingual‘s prior coverage of interpreter vaccine access here.

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Terena Bell is an independent journalist who writes for The Atlantic, Washington Post, Fast Company and others. She is former CEO of In Every Language.

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