After many months of teamwork, the Avid Media Composer 101 courseware is now available in a translated and localized version for Latin America & Spain. As a result, many Avid MC101 students in those areas can now benefit from having this courseware in their own language. My friend Rub©n Abruña of iLevel and I had the honor of receiving this contract from Avid in 2009. The first draft of our translation/localization was initially used in September 2009 at an Avid training event in Santiago, Chile, South America, both to teach a group of new students, as well as to generate feedback from certified Avid instructors from the region. In this article, you’ll see the behind the scenes of this project, which combined our knowledge of the techie video terms in each language, as well as that of the regionalisms and political debates that surround this type of a project.
Avid’s request for qualifications
Before this project, I had done technical translations/localizations for several pro video and computing companies, including Apple, Datavideo, Digital Processing Systems (DPS), Encoda Systems, Grass Valley, JVC Professional, S4BB (developer of Blackberry software), SGO (manufacturer of Jaleo & Natural Studio), Snell & Wilcox, and SoftNI (leading developer of subtitling and closed-captioning software). However, this was the first time I was requested so much background information… but I didn’t mind at all supplying it! Avid really didn’t want to know if I was a certified translator (although I am). Avid was mainly interested in knowing what other video/IT translation/localizations I had done in the past, and after seeing my translation/localization r©sum©, became aware that I have been an activist in the issues surrounding the language of Cervantes.
Avid knew -presumably from past experience or perhaps plain logic- that it is not only important to hire a good translator in general, but also one who is very familiar with the special terminology used. Our industry is full of anecdotes where good translators who are not video specialists were hired, and end up translating terms like deck (as in video tape recorder) as patio and several other similar examples, i.e. direct and inappropriate translations of terms like interface and key. Of course I am a video specialist, as is Rub©n Abruña of iLevel. However, my specific video editing experience up until now has really been with non-Avid editors, including Final Cut Pro, Premiere, the system that was originally known as dpsVelocity (then Leitch, now Harris), and back in the “linear” days, Videomedia’s Oz and VLC-32. However, that’s exactly where Rub©n Abruña’s forte is! Rub©n is a certified instructor for both Avid and Apple, not to mention having received several awards for his edits. Although NLE terms are generally similar among manufacturers, there are many reasons why it is so important to be intimately familiar with the software when translating such a book, as you will see ahead in the “Specific challenges” section of this article.
General challenges which apply to almost any international translation/localization of IT or video material
Having done this type of project before, I know the challenges involved, no matter what the manufacturer is. Some of them include :
- Discovering errors in the original English, which were overlooked by the original authors until they hit the discerning eyes of a translator.
- Being aware of -and making the best compromise with- terms which vary from country to country, i.e. the word for speaker, the word for tripod, and believe it or not, the word for camera operator. Normally, the best compromise means the most widely understood term, which is not necessarily the most popular one. For that reason, we often have to be diplomatic when we point out -for example- that the Mexican term for tripod is certainly correct (tripi©), but not used in other areas. However, any Mexican will certainly understand the standard term trípode, although it may not sound so natural to her/him. (Unlike advertising, internationally sold software and reference materials are rarely localized by country.)
- Being consistent with computer terms, to ensure a smooth user experience. Just as Apple and Microsoft have standardized terms in English, such as Copy, Folder, Paste, Quit, and Save, they have done the same things in the different localized versions of their operating systems. Software developers have the obligation to respect these terms in their software, for the sake of a consistent user experience. Fortunately, I am aware of the standard equivalent terms used in MacOS X and in Windows. However, sometimes some Castilian-speaking users who are only used to using MacOS X or Windows in English are not aware of these standard terms, and they sometimes innocently reject them, because of lack of familiarity. Due to different factors, there are certain Latin American countries (i.e. Venezuela) with a higher percentage of users who have the English version of the operating systems and other staple applications which tend to form the user’s familiarity of computer terms. When some of the committee members make criticisms to a translation, it is often necessary for us to prove that the term we suggested is indeed coherent with those established by Apple’s and Microsoft standards, even though those members may have been accustomed to saying them in English, or in English with a Castilian suffix.
- Going way beyond the simple need to translate words, when a courseware makes keyboard references and references to operating system preferences, since we need to account for demographics. There is a certain percentage of the users in this region who will be using the Latin American keyboard, others the Spanish (Spain) keyboard, and others the USA keyboard. Moreover, some users will be using the Castilian operating system, and others, the English one. We need to be sure to cover all of those options in the localized version of the courseware.
- Being aware – and diplomatically making corrections- when Argentine subcontractors (apparently due to Italian influence) neglect to conjugate verbs in subjunctive mode when standard Castilian would… especially in clauses that begin with the word cuando (when) and refer to events that haven’t happened yet. For example: “When you run the program for the first time, you will see a registration page,” the verb run needs to be in subjunctive mode.
Specific challenges for this project
Among the specific challenges for this MC101 project was the fact that Avid wanted us to translate and localize the courseware, but did not want us -or anyone else- to translate and localize the Media Composer software itself. As a result. the translation of the courseware requires constant reference to menu and dialog box terms that sadly remain in English. We’ve found that the least of all evils is to define the menu or dialog box term once at the beginning of each chapter (called Module in Avid’s courseware) in parentheses, and then simply make future references to those terms in English, and capitalized. (Although a general practice is to write all foreign terms in italics, it would simply be way too frequent in this type of situation of menu items that are mentioned so often.)
A historical perspective of the language’s evolution helps to determine how and when to Castilianize terms
Some users of any language are under a very mistaken understanding that new terms are born in the dictionary, and that it is sacrilegious to use any term that does not yet appear there. That could not be further from the truth. The purpose of the dictionary is to use as a reference for spelling and meaning of existing words, not to prevent the creation of new ones. The fact is that almost all new terminology is born in practical use, and then admitted into the dictionary as a second step. In the case of Castilian, one or more members of the Royal Academy observes the usage and then eventually a decision is made to admit the new term. This often happens years later. For centuries, foreign terms have been incorporated into the Castilian language while respecting what I call the Castilian códec. This códec guarantees that any reader will properly pronounce any word, even if that reader has never seen it before. It’s as consistent as -let’s say- any other audio códec, like AAC (M4A), AIFF, MP3, or Wave. As long as the encoding is done properly, the decoded sound will be predictable. In the case of Castilian, that códec is the phonetic system used to encode the sound into letters of the alphabet. In the process of getting finalization of any courseware with any manufacturer, it is often necessary to present and prove this point. In the case of Avid, we were dealing with many different certified trainers who are located throughout Latin America and Spain. Since we did not have the advantage of even a live teleconference with many of them, in this case, I found it necessary to create a narrated audio-visual presentation to make the point. The presentation included many historical linguistic examples, together with some very recent ones, and statistics which document the popularity of my Castilianized terms as measured by Google usage counts. Fortunately, the presentation was a complete success, and achieved its goals!
Sidebar: Why the language must be properly called Castilian, not “Spanish”
Unfortunately, many people mistakenly think that the most widely spoken language in Spain and Latin America should be called “Spanish”. There are historical reasons for this mistake, and the main culprit was the ex-Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco (1892-1975). The fact is that there are several officially-recognized languages spoken in Spain, including Castilian, Catalán, Euskera (Basque), and Galician. Franco’s mission (which fortunately failed) was to wipe out all languages spoken in Spain except for Castilian, and call the remaining language “Spanish”. Franco even sent his soldiers to Catalonia with the mission to burn all books printed in Catalán in bonfires in the streets. Fortunately, they didn’t find all of those books! After Franco’s fall, the new Spanish Constitution corrected that cruel act by making several clear statements in Article 3:
- Castilian is the official language of the State. All Spaniards have the obligation to know it, and the right to use it.
- The other Spanish languages shall also be official in their respective autonomous communities, according to their statutes.
- The richness of Spain’s diverse linguistic modalities represents our national heritage and shall be the object of special protection.
Fortunately, many of the other Spanish languages continue to thrive to this day, with podcasts, radio and TV stations, current books, and daily newspapers in many of them. It is both inaccurate and degrading to call the Castilian language “Spanish”. It would be as crazy as calling the English language “United Kingdomish”, or -in the era of the Soviet Union- like a Russian saying “I speak Soviet”. In the United Kingdom, speakers of Cornish, Gaelic, Irish, Scots, Scottish, Ulster, or Welsh would be quite offended if people from London said: “I speak UK-ish”.
The Constitutions of many Latin American countries -including Colombia, Perú, and Venezuela- also properly state that the official language of the country is Castilian. Although M©xico’s Constitution doesn’t mention an official language, the ex-Mexican President Vicente Fox has been quoted as saying: “With Castilian, we can cross 20 international borders without losing the message”. ¡Bravo, don Vicente!
Allan T©pper’s articles and seminars
Get a full index of Allan T©pper’s articles and upcoming seminars at AllanTepper.com. Listen to his podcast TecnoTur, together with Tanya Castañeda, Rub©n Abruña, and Liliana Marín, free via iTunes or at
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