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Iowa Translators Persist Despite English-Only Voting Laws

Translation

As the 2020 election approaches, translators in Iowa are working against prohibitive laws to translate and distribute informational materials to multilingual communities across the state.

Iowa’s “English-only” law dates to 1918 after World War I, when Governor William Harding signed the Babel Proclamation into law, which made English the only language legally permitted in the state. Although it was repealed only five months after Harding signed it, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack revived the English-only legislation in signing the Iowa English Language Reaffirmation Act into law. The act states that all official documents “on behalf of, or representing the state and all of its political subdivisions shall be in the English language.”

According to Yale Law and Policy Review, lawmakers said the act was meant to encourage assimilation to Iowa culture, and Vilsack said the law would encourage people to learn English. However, the Review outlined the eventual outcome that led to widespread disenfranchisement, stating, “As a result, eligible voters in Iowa who did not understand English were prevented from registering to vote in state and national elections.”

Some county auditors tried to respond to the problem by translating voter forms or providing multilingual how-to videos. In retaliation, Republican US Representative Steve King sued the Iowa secretary of state in 2007 for violating the law, arguing that if someone were a US citizen, they must prove English proficiency, eliminating the need for translation, according to King.

Despite the resistance from some lawmakers, however, many translators and voter-advocacy groups persist in translating voting materials to better serve Iowa’s non-English speaking communities. Iowa-based translator Iris Tun makes videos translating information from English to both Burmese and Karen, two of the languages spoken in Myanmar. EMBARC Iowa airs the informational videos in multiple languages. Tun also translates voter registration forms at her church for free.

“Even though they become a citizen, they got citizenship, they’re really scared because a lot of people, they talk about voters, if you do something wrong, you make a mistake, the police come and get you and you can go to jail,” Tun said.

Jan Flora and Terry Potter of A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS), who translate voter forms into Spanish and distribute them to other organizations throughout the state, also expressed concern, especially going into an election during the pandemic. “In this COVID year, since it’s so complicated, and things have become so messy, what we’re trying to do is, first of all, make sure people are encouraged to register,” Potter said. “And then ultimately, that they vote whichever way they’re most comfortable with.”

“One of the terms that I found difficult to translate was the word ballot. In some dictionaries it has balota, but my experience in Latin America has said to me that didn’t ring true,” Flora said. “So we ended up with papeleta de voto, which is interpreted as a small piece of paper.”

Sue Lloyd, the county auditor for Buena Vista County, mentioned her county was notified in December 2016 of the federal requirement Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, which stipulates “The law covers those localities where there are more than 10,000 or over 5 percent of the total voting age citizens in a single political subdivision…who are members of a single language minority group, have depressed literacy rates, and do not speak English very well.”

“I think there’s interest because I’ve been contacted by some other counties asking about the forms and what I’ve been told. And I tell them that we’re the only ones that can accept those forms for Iowa,” Lloyd said.

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Journalist at MultiLingual Magazine | + posts

Jonathan Pyner is a poet, freelance writer, and translator. He has worked as an educator for nearly a decade in the US and Taiwan, and he recently completed a master’s of fine arts in creative writing.

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Hungarian Translator Keeping Expats Informed

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Even for those learning a new language, consuming news content requires a high level of understanding. One Hungarian translator has volunteered efforts to deliver timely pandemic information to Hungary’s immigrant communities.

As people around the world await new pieces of information about COVID-19, many expatriates have struggled to stay current with local decisions and mandates. One Hungarian translator, however, has made a concerted effort throughout the crisis to disseminate the most recent information to immigrant communities in Hungary.

Setting up a Facebook group for his international network, István Fülöp, the founder of TrM Translations, began posting unofficial highlights of what officials had said regarding the pandemic, attaching links for additional information. The group started small, but word spread, and hundreds tuned in multiple times per day to catch up with important updates.

A month into his voluntary effort, Fülöp began trying out machine translations (MT), asking users to comment on the effectiveness of the MT. Some users pointed out that translating from and into languages like French and Italian could produce fairly effect MT, but languages like Hungarian, with its rules and exceptions to the rules, created a bigger challenge.

Despite the low-quality results Hungarian has yielded in Fülöp’s MT efforts, users have noticed that the MT has made steady improvements, depending on the nature of the text. Overall, for the purposes of this group, Fülöp’s MT helped many expats deal with the constant inflow of new information.

Still, Fülöp noted, “A clear risk of using machine translation is that while the sentences generated are meaningful, sometimes the information they convey is the exact opposite of what the original text says, or there might be significant omissions.”

“Working on this news gisting service helped me keep my mind off things by keeping me busy,” said Fülöp. “It helped me stay up-to-date without giving me time to dwell on the bad news. The group helped me streamline our new service of human-edited machine translation, a budget solution to translate larger volumes of text quickly with reasonable quality while keeping our clients’ costs low.”

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TranslateMe Launches Translation Validation Pipeline

Translation

The pipeline will allow TranslateMe to utilize machine translation, but with a validation network of human translators that works on a token-based system.

TranslateMe recently announced its plans to launch its network marketplace to improve its translation services. The launch comes as TranslateMe upgrades its platform by adding a validation pipeline for its telegram proof of concept and its contributors.

Combining machine translation to drive down translation costs with the validation of the contributor pipeline, TranslateMe expects to raise the quality of translation of all content through the validation pipeline, claiming that the translation portal will provide near-perfect translation.

“This will be a real service and use case for TMN. The final step will be to move our validation pipeline into a smart contract,” said TranslateMe in a statement. “This will secure and manage proof of translation. Proof of translation will be used to ensure the contributors claimed value is authenticated by our smart contract. Contributors will earn for fixing errors in machine-translated sentences, voters will be rewarded for validating the best suggestion, and finally staking nodes will be rewarded for distributing validation data.”

Translators can participate as validators on the marketplace and be rewarded in TranslateMe’s NEP-5 TMN token. The company will write its validation process, which it calls “Proof of Translation,” into a smart contract that handles voting logic and token reward distribution. The validators will be able to suggest improvements and review each other’s edits, voting on the most accurate before the job is completed. Eventually, the company hopes to expand the token system to 140 countries.

“Essentially we will be creating a smart contract that will link an input sentence with a validation step of multiple contributors and a final result of a perfect translation,” TranslateMe noted. “The entire contract could be included on any translation platform as a better approach to outsourcing or any system that needs high-quality translation results without the hassle of verifying work or working with actual translators. The utility payment value for this process will be TMN.”

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Egyptian Translation Center New Rules Draw Criticism

Translation

The new guidelines released by the Egyptian National Center for Translation will stifle freedom of thought and restrict access to texts that go against Egyptian religious and social values.

In an announcement that has shaken the Egyptian translation community, the National Center for Translation, a nonprofit state-run organization in Egypt, has established a strict new set of guidelines for the books it will accept for translation into Arabic. In the statement, the Center made clear that any books proposed for translation will not be accepted if they oppose religion, social values, morals, and customs.

The announcement has drawn widespread criticism from the translation community, who fear the new rules could severely limit meaningful cultural engagement through literary texts.

“The new guidelines will limit, for example, the translation of deep philosophical books dealing with complex human issues, some of which we like to discuss and others we do not,” said Mohammed al-Baali, director of Sefsafa Publishing House and one of the collaborators with the National Center in previous projects. “The translator has no right to interfere in the text he works on at the pretext that it conflicts with the values and morals of the society to which it is transmitted,” he added, explaining that translators need to leave aside their personal, religious and societal convictions while working.

The restrictions at the National Center for Translation started becoming apparent four years ago, after it translated a book issued by a French publishing house titled Al-Tahrir’s Egypt: The Birth of the Revolution, with a preface by the Egyptian writer Alaa Al-Aswany.

Later, a decision was made to stop the book’s sale, according to a source from the center, who asked to remain anonymous. The source said that a TV presenter had attacked the book as a “threat to national security,” which caused sharp criticism of the center and resulted in the ouster of a former director.

“We need laws that support the translation and publishing movement in a way that supports the cultural movement in the region instead of imposing restrictions on moral pretexts that plunge us into useless discussions,” said Amir Zaki, winner of the fifth edition of the Rifa’s Al-Tahtawi Award for Translation’s youth category, which the National Center for Translation announces annually. Zaki also runs a blog that publishes translated texts, book reviews, and academic articles related to translation issues.

Along with Zaki, other translators have also created alternative spaces to publish translations without the influence of official institutions.

“Translation is to read others, is to search for the new, the different and the shocking,” said poet, novelist, and translator Ahmed Al-Shafei, who has translated more than 20 books and whose translation blog has gained momentum recently due to the diversity of texts it publishes. “It is to introduce other voices; it is the start of an argument. So, if we turn it into translating what is consistent with our convictions, ideas and vision of the world, then what will be translated — if anything — is of less importance.”

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BIG Acquires ISI Language Solutions

Language Industry News and Events, Mergers and Acquisitions, Translation

ISI Language Solutions will offer BIG specialization in healthcare and insurance translation and localization solutions.

In an already-busy season for acquisitions, Atlanta-based BIG Language Solutions (BIG) has announced the acquisition of healthcare and insurance specialist ISI Language Solutions, a provider of industry specific language access and localization solutions, for an undisclosed sum. ISI Language Solutions provides services like translation and localization, onsite interpreting, over-the-phone interpreting, video remote interpreting, alternative formats (large print, Braille, audio), multimedia localization, and linguistic quality assurance technologies.

Advised by Nimdzi in the acquisition, ISI had been listed on the Nimdzi Top 100 largest language service providers in the world several years in a row. Nimdzi Insights M&A advisor Jonathan Otis said, “Nimdzi has enjoyed working with ISI on many projects over the years, culminating with this successful transaction. We think ISI fits well with BIG and will thrive with the additional resources now available.”

BIG was founded by CEO Jeff Brink in partnership with MSouth Equity Partners, an Atlanta-based private equity firm, in order to assemble a portfolio of high-performing and complementary language service providers, of which ProTranslating was the first. Brink heard about ISI via boutique advisory firm JSquare Conseil, which advised on Acolad’s Telelingua and HL Trad deals.

The acquisition fits well with BIG’s regulated-industry growth strategy, which involves investing in technology and growth, according to Brink.

ISI was founded in 1982 by George Rimalower — the son of Holocaust survivors who fled Nazi Germany. ISI owners Emilie Villeneuve and Michael Bearden were long-term employees for ISI before purchasing it from Rimalower in 2012. Villeneuve, who began as an assistant, stepped into the role of CEO at the time, while Bearden, who started as a project manager, became president.

As part of BIG’s acquisition of ISI, around 70 ISI employees will join the BIG and ProTranslating organizations. In the COVID-19 environment, nearly all of the due diligence and advising were conducted remotely, via video conferencing and daily calls — and in the end, the remote work paid off.

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European Commission Campaign Promotes Translation

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From health services to entertainment, translation impacts an inexhaustive list of industries. The European Commission has created the #DiscoverTranslation campaign to inform audiences of the vital role translation plays in our society.

The European Commission announced the launch of #DiscoverTranslation, a campaign aimed at emphasizing the pivotal role the translation industry plays in the global economy. Releasing an informational statement this week, the European Commission provides a brief report on how a world without translation would function.

“Without translation, the world would be a duller, poorer and more unequal place, both economically and culturally, where only the ´happy few´ with a knowledge of other languages would have access to goods, information and culture from other countries,” the statement opens. “Translation has oiled the wheels of human interaction and helped [civilizations] evolve for thousands of years. Even today, could you imagine a world without online services, news from other countries, or subtitles for your [favorite] TV series? No translation, no fun!”

It goes on to describe cross-cultural relationships in which translation plays a key role in mediation, including international trade, legal proceedings, and new technologies.

“Before buying stuff or booking a trip abroad, many people want information so they can compare them,” it states. “If they can’t find this information in their language, they might go and shop somewhere else: research has shown that 75% of consumers prefer to buy products in their native language. And 60% rarely or never buy from English-only websites. Without translation, online shopping would be limited to national markets.”

The mission of the campaign states the goal to “promote the translation profession to audiences outside the language industry.” With that in mind, the statement looks at many of the ways the larger population can take translation for granted. Many important industries are listed on the document for their reliance on translation to function effectively.

“[Translation keeps] us healthy by avoiding potential allergens in food/chemicals/medicines, all listed in the ingredients/composition,” the list begins. “[It enables] economic interaction across borders—from marketing and sales to political and scientific cooperation, helping investors make informed decisions, enforcing legal rights and obligations.”

Also among the list, news in foreign languages, emergency communications, and cross-cultural entertainment and arts all utilize translation to reach global and multi-regional audiences. While it is not an exhaustive list, it gives readers some foundational information regarding how translation is more ubiquitous in our lives than we might expect.

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Linguist Protection Bill Updated after Coalition Efforts

Interpretation, Translation

Founder of the Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California Lorena Ortiz Schneider provided a breakdown of the final language of California’s AB 2257 linguist protection bill.

As reported in a previous MultiLingual News article on August 10, California’s AB 2257 Linguist Protection is an attempt to loosen a previous gig economy clean-up bill. It was authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who also championed AB 5, the general workers-rights gig economy bill that went into effect January 1 of this year. AB 5 states that most workers are employees, and as employees, they should be afforded labor protections such as minimum wage laws, sick leave, and unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits — benefits that do not apply to independent contractors. However, actual independent contractors were alarmed by the bill. Interpreters and translators in California were unhappy with AB 5, saying it had devastating effects on their ability to work in the state.

As a result, hundreds of California translators and interpreters formed an unprecedented coalition to educate their lawmakers on the topic. Since fall 2019, before AB 5 even went into effect, they asked legislators to understand that imposing employee status on interpreters and translators is disastrous. AB 2257 is the third piece of linguist protection legislation to go forward seeking a remedy for this.

Lorena Ortiz Schneider, founder of the Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California (CoPTIC), offered a breakdown of the legislation over the weekend to her colleagues. “The terms of AB 2257 are set. The relief bill addressing dozens of professions and trades, and omitting some, will pass both chambers and proceed to the governor for signing. As an urgency measure, it will take immediate effect,” she wrote in a letter. “Practicing translators and interpreters in California and language companies that contract them gained significant safe harbors for operation in the bill. All stakeholders need to assess the protections for linguists earned in the legislation.”

Read the final terms of AB 2257 here.

The series of protections includes an exemption for translators under “Professional Services,” which allows them to contract as Sole Proprietors, rather than a business entity like a corporation. Language companies with “significant translation portfolios” will also receive an exemption for translators, although the exemption will not extend to interpreters under article 2, “due to the stipulation that requires services to be provided directly to the hiring business (language company) and not to the customers of the hiring business.”

However, the terms establish that interpreters can work as “Sole Proprietors in a relationship with a Referral Agency on condition that they are certified or registered in a language and domain with an available certification or registration. If there is no certification or registration in the language, then there is no restriction.”

Other forms of protection the bill includes are single-engagement events, localization consulting, and translation and interpretation trainers.

“The Coalition will continue to educate all stakeholders on satisfying the conditions for exemption in the coming weeks,” Lorena Ortiz Schneider wrote in the letter. “Once again, we extend our deepest appreciation to each and every one of you for joining CoPTIC in this monumental effort. You should all be proud of this accomplishment!”

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Stamp Released to Honor Communist Manifesto Translation

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Part of an effort by President Xi Jinping to revitalize Marxist theories, China has released a commemorative stamp in honor of the first person to translate The Communist Manifesto into Chinese, Chen Wangdao.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first Chinese translation of The Communist Manifesto, China released a commemorative stamp last weekend in Shanghai and Yiwu marking the anniversary.

In Shanghai, the ceremony was held at the former residence of Chen Wangdao, the first person to translate the complete Communist Manifesto into Chinese, originally written by Karl Marx in 1848. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Chen served as president of the university from 1949-1977. Fudan University Shanghai renovated the residence of Chen into a museum in 2018 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birthday.

Created by Chinese stamp designer Li Chen, the 50x30mm stamp has a face value of 1.2 Chinese Yuan, or about 17 cents USD, and will be issued in a total of 7.5 million copies. The stamp contains a portrait of Chen writing with his right hand and holding with his left a zongzi — a traditional glutinous rice dumpling — soaked in ink.

The story of this stamp tracks a parable that surrounds Chen’s original impetus for writing. As Chen sat consumed in his translation work of The Communist Manifesto, the story goes, Chen’s mother placed a zongzi with a bowl of brown sugar on his desk. When she asked him if he had enough sugar, he answered it was sweet enough. However, when she returned to the room, she saw Chen’s lips covered in ink. It is said that the sweetness came from Chen’s pleasure in translating such a revolutionary work.

The stamp also includes covers of two editions of the Chinese version of The Communist Manifesto, and a photograph of Chen’s former residence in Shanghai on Guofu Road.

The release of the stamp follows news last month of an original first edition copy of Chen’s translation of The Communist Manifesto found at the Library of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Only one of 1,000 copies released, library curators noted the signature red cover with a photo of Karl Marx, as well as a miswrite of the title translation. The original publishing house went on to print 17 more editions of the translation.

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Diligence by linguists in California pays dividends in relief bill

Interpretation, Translation

An updated AB 2257, which benefits California interpreters and translators, is approved.

As reported in a previous MultiLingual News article on August 10, California’s AB 2257 is an attempt to loosen a previous gig economy clean-up bill. It was authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who also championed AB 5, the general workers-rights gig economy bill that went into effect January 1 of this year. AB 5 states that most workers are employees, and as employees, they should be afforded labor protections such as minimum wage laws, sick leave, and unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits — benefits that do not apply to independent contractors. However, actual independent contractors were alarmed by the bill. Interpreters and translators in California were unhappy with AB 5, saying it had devastating effects on their ability to work in the state.

As a result, hundreds of California translators and interpreters formed a coalition to educate their lawmakers on the topic. Since fall 2019, before AB 5 even went into effect, they asked legislators to understand that imposing employee status on interpreters and translators is disastrous. Yesterday, their efforts proved successful.

Lorena Ortiz Schneider, founder of the Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California (CoPTIC), once again offered an update — this time, after the California state Senate Appropriations Committee approved an updated version of AB 2257 on August 20. A previous version of AB 2257 was problematic and unclear.

Breakdown from Lorena Ortiz Schneider

Does using our voice with our lawmakers make a difference? The months-long advocacy campaign by interpreters and translators in California shows the answer is yes, especially when working together in a large and nimble coalition, focused on an urgent objective.

On August 20, the state Senate Appropriations Committee approved and sent to the floor, on a unanimous 7-0 vote, a vastly improved version of AB 2257, authored by Lorena Gonzalez, the architect of AB 5. As amended, the bill comes close to fulfilling the Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California’s (CoPTIC) goal to protect the livelihoods of interpreters and translators in the state and preserve language access for millions of Californians.

The committee action came three days after the hearing at which more than 50 members of the Coalition weighed in with a flood of remote testimony, reflecting nearly every area of interpreting and translation and from every part of California. The committee members, five Democrats and two Republicans, had to absorb the wave of unified comments to oppose the bill unless amended. Callers swamped the committee phone lines and stretched on for half an hour.

The bill aims to clean up several problems with the sweeping worker misclassification law that took effect this year, AB 5. In January, multiple bills sought to clarify and rectify the law. In the end, with interruptions in the legislative session caused by COVID and a docket reduced due to the legislature’s diminished bandwidth, only one bill survived to accomplish all priorities of lawmakers: AB 2257.

The stakes were high for getting it right. The revised bill mostly does.

It explicitly recognizes individuals acting as sole proprietors, in three areas of exemption from the scope of AB 5 offered under the bill: for Professional Services; for Business to Business relationships; and for service providers through a Referral Agency.

It restores translators, and without restrictive conditions, under the exemption for Professional Services in the bill.

It exempts interpreters under the Referral Agency/ Service Provider relationship, where captioners for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included. For interpreters to qualify, the terms require that the interpreter be registered or certified in a language with an available credential offered by a list of certifying bodies, associations and government entities. Languages without an available certification are also exempt under this section. It also allows for credentialing by other state-approved bodies, including educational institutions.

The request of a reasonable grace period to the terms of the new requirements affecting interpreters is in order, to allow for compliance and to protect language access. The progress achieved in the substance of the bill would be undercut without a reasonable on-ramp for implementation.

In the final phase of the fight over AB 2257, CoPTIC made inroads for its goals of preserving language access and removing the unfounded presumption by some lawmakers, including the author of AB 5, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, that misclassification was a common problem among linguists in California. A memo released in early August by the Coalition fact-checked a frequent claim by Gonzalez, that 4,111 interpreters were found to be misclassified in the state since 2015. Careful analysis of data from the state’s Employment Development Department (EDD) revealed that the real number was less than 300, and encompassing both translators and interpreters, only about 6% of what the lawmaker claimed.

Appreciation for the major improvements in the bill extend from Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Labor Committee Chair Jerry Hill, who ends his long tenure in Sacramento this year. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Anthony Portantino, who represents cities with diverse immigrant populations, including Glendale and South Pasadena, made a priority of improving the bill and delivered on that goal.

The work of the Coalition can be a blueprint for efforts to earn respect and relief for professional linguists from well-intended but overly sweeping bills on worker misclassification in other states. At the federal level, legislation similar to AB 5, the PRO Act, could be a priority for Democrats if they regain a Senate majority, having already gained approval by the House of Representatives. The all-but-conclusive victory earned in California shows that advocacy driven by constituents can reshape policy for the better, but it takes grassroots organizing, teamwork, careful strategy, and bold advocacy in order to prevail.

 

 

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