Machine Translation and Human Translation

The Differences Between Machine Translation and Human Translation

The Differences between Machine Translation and Human Translation

Written by Alexandru Tanase

When requesting translation services from one language to another to bring your business to new countries and generate growth, you may wonder: what is the difference between machine translation and human translation? With so many translation tools based on artificial intelligence out there, do you really need a human translator? The short answer is yes, human translation is always the best option, since machines are not able to replicate the knowledge, expertise, cultural competence, linguistic skills, and know-how of a human being.

Machine Translation and Human Translation


Despite all the undergoing research carried out to produce better machine translation results, machine translation does not have the capacity to take into account any specific or general context. Therefore, it often introduces inaccuracies and ambiguities that did not exist in the source language. You can end up with low-quality translations, which can really impact your credibility, reputation, and professionalism. A human translator understands the local culture, linguistic nuances, dialects, context, cultural, and local expressions. As a result, human professional translators can provide much more accurate and high-quality translation services.


Machine translation tends to be either free or inexpensive. However, due to its lack of accuracy, you will eventually end up paying much more than intended and hiring a human professional translator. The reality is that human translation quality is currently unmatched and the only possible way to bring value and quality to your documents, applications, or web pages. When it comes to making this one-time investment, in the end, you pay for the value that you get, and it can be a waste of time and money to invest in machine translation that ends up being incomprehensible or nonsensical for your target audience.

Tone and voice

Human translation can be adapted to the tone and voice of your audience. Machine translation cannot know or understand your audience, so it cannot adjust the formality, style, or technicality of a text. Machine translation cannot reflect the voice, brand, or personality of your organization or company in another language. Professional human translators are trained and equipped with the tools to understand your message, values and uniqueness, and convey them appropriately to your audiences.

Industry terminology

Machine translation tends to produce an incorrect and inconsistent use of terminology and expressions. For instance, Google Translate mixes formal and informal structures, changes the context, uses ungrammatical sentences, and creates confusing statements. That is because machines can only resort to a limited database of words to produce literal translations, without ever considering the context or the bigger picture: are we talking to a senior CEO or a child? Are we addressing men or women? A human translator knows all of this information, and is therefore able to deliver real translations for real people, while also using industry terminology correctly and sticking to the context at hand.


It is highly recommended to work with a human translator from the start instead of trying any type of machine translation services and then dealing with those consequences. The truth is that nothing compares to working with a human translator when it comes to content quality, ease of reading, and appropriateness in communication. AI-based translation is currently defective, and in the end, you will still need to invest in a professional translator to help you improve the quality of your translations. Human translation surpasses machine translation by a long shot and it is the best option to produce high-quality content in another language!

At Argentum Translations, we use a translation process with three different human professionals who will give you the best quality available. You can learn more about it in this article about our translation process or watch our video to see how we work. Contact us at today for a quote!

Professional Translators

Professional Translations: Being Bilingual Is not Enough

Written by Alexandru Tanase

Professional Translations: Being Bilingual Is not Enough

When a business wants to expand its services, it can be difficult to cater to new target clients without the right translation services. That is why it is extremely important to hire reliable, professional translators. The truth is that being bilingual is not enough. Whether you are working with foreign business partners or clients, professionalism is key, so certified, dependable experts that can help translate everything accurately and without errors, additions, and omissions are a must.

You can rely on certified translators

In order to receive a certification, translators need to go through a long, challenging process to prove that their work quality is second to none. Usually, a bilingual candidate needs to study 4 to 5 years to get  a translation degree and master the grammar, punctuation, and syntax of both languages. Professional translators also need to be excellent readers, analysts, writers, researchers, terminologists, linguists, and tech users. A certification shows that a translator is a true professional, one that has proven to deliver an incredible precision, value, and quality for the money.

Maintaining a consistent quality and style

A certified translation will always maintain the same, high quality throughout the entire content, file, document, or website. That is because a certified expert will always double-check, use professional tools, and ensure that the work quality is flawless, accurate, and complete before turning it in. That is not the case with many uncertified translators or bilingual students.

Being bilingual is not enough

Some people may think that, by being bilingual, a person is automatically qualified to provide translation services. However, if you are looking for reliable, high-quality services, that is not the case. Working with a certified professional assures you the person in question has all the qualifications necessary to translate for a variety of industries (being proficient when handling medical, IT, scientific, legal, or technical content) exceeding your clients’ expectations.

Making sure the content is culturally correct

Translating is more than just finding the most appropriate wording in a target language. You also want to ensure that the translation fits cultural norms, standards, and conventions. A certified translator immerses themselves not only into the language, but also the specific local culture and dialect of each country and community. Therefore, cultural competence is essential when selecting a translation services provider.

Accessing industry-specific knowledge/expertise

Aside from just choosing the right words in the target language, a certified translator will also provide industry-specific knowledge. Most of the time, certified translators are actually specialized in a subject matter and a certain field. As experts, they can avoid both conceptual and linguistic errors.


Hiring a professional, certified translator is the best way to have direct access to the best translation services out there. It is very important to ensure that all your translations are accurate, professional, and effective. This is why at Argentum Translations we require all of our linguists to be certified or have degrees in the translation field. You can read more about this in this interview by the Chamber of Commerce to get to know us better!

Our team at Argentum Translations is here to provide you with the best language services in more than 50 languages. Learn more about our company by reading our reviews. With our help, you can gain access to some of the best certified translators and professionals with decades of experience in various industries since we only work with translators that hold a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in Translation, or who are certified by the American Translators Association. If you are looking for dependable, fast, and efficient translations, contact us today, and we guarantee you will have an extraordinary experience with every project!

Breaks Down Language Barriers

Argentum Translations Breaks Down Language Barriers in the Fight Against COVID-19

Almost one year after the World Health Organization identified the coronavirus pandemic as a public health emergency, Argentum Translations keeps joining efforts to break down language barriers and keep our Hispanic community safe and involved in Asheville, North Carolina. Keeping our entire community informed and together is the only way we can fight the pandemic and slow the spread of the coronavirus. We will be volunteering as Spanish Interpreters with the Western Interpreter Network (WIN) in a few vaccination events around the area in the coming weeks, as we keep translating public health content and patient information on a regular basis to keep supporting global health organizations and local efforts in their fight against COVID-19.

Cynthia and Paula Penovi from Argentum Translations strive to see their community access COVID-19 information in a language and format that they understand. That is why they have coordinated their company’s efforts to translate urgent and essential coronavirus information for their local community and the whole Hispanic population around the United States. For instance, they have helped local healthcare organizations and departments translate the 3 Ws (Wear, Wait and Wash) in a way that would resonate with the Hispanic community: las 3 “M” (mascarilla puesta, mantener distancia y manos limpias).


Pictures courtesy of JMPRO TV, a grassroots media company that covers pressing issues affecting the Hispanic community in Western North Carolina.

Learn more with this note about the last vaccination event targeted at our local Hispanic community and our work as Spanish Interpreters, by Enlace Latino NC (Spanish).

Enlace Latino NC is an independent nonprofit news organization in Spanish that covers politics, government, immigration, and community affairs in North Carolina.

WIN is a program of the WCMS Foundation with the purpose of breaking language barriers to improve access to care and reduce health disparities.

One of our values is our deep commitment to improving the lives of our community members, and we are very proud and excited to continue to work towards this goal with all these amazing companies and organizations!

Translations and Community Involvement

2020 Recap: Pro-Bono Translations and Community Involvement


Join us for a brief recap of what our year looked like in terms of pro-bono and volunteer work!


This year, Argentum Translations provided pro-bono translations to two amazing organizations in North Carolina: Our VOICE and MANNA FoodBank. Learn more about our fight against sexual violence and hunger in North Carolina and how you can help below.


Our VOICE is a non-profit crisis intervention and prevention agency that serves victims of sexual violence in North Carolina. Their mission is to build a community that is free of sexual violence and serve all individuals affected by sexual assault and abuse, through counseling, advocacy, and education.  Learn more about how you can get involved here:


MANNA FoodBank is a private, not-for-profit service organization that links the food industry whose mission is to involve, educate and unite people in the work of ending hunger in Western North Carolina. Individual donors help ensure that MANNA can be there for the more than 100,000 people facing an empty plate in WNC every year. You can help by donating here:


Argentum Translations provided these organizations with language services in Spanish, increasing community access to their resources. We managed to do so by partnering with Instituto Superior Lenguas Vivas from Misiones, Argentina. We offered a translation internship as a requirement for translation students to graduate. In this internship, we worked together to strengthen students’ translation, proofreading, research, and terminology skills, as well as enhance their educational background, put their training into practice and help them gain valuable work experience.


To learn more about Instituto Superior Lenguas Vivas, visit their website at


One of our values is our deep commitment to improving the lives of our community members, and we are very proud and excited to continue to work towards this goal next year!




Translation Process

Our Translation Process Explained

Written by Cynthia Penovi

What happens when you order a translation?


Translation is a highly-intellectual process that involves extensive linguistic knowledge, cultural competence, outstanding writing skills, and a contrastive text and genre analytical assessment. This is why, in order to ensure that a translation conveys your message accurately and faithfully, we use a three-step process where three different professional linguists handle your translation and make sure it has the highest quality possible. The three steps are translation, edition, and quality assurance.

When you contact us, we will ask you to send us all the content that you need to translate, with any relevant reference files or style guides. We will analyze the content to understand your goals, needs, and expectations. We will also provide you with information about our services and answer any questions you might have. We will ask you for any additional information we may need, and you will be provided with a quote and a turnaround time.

Once the project is confirmed, the content is then translated into the required language by a first linguist. After that, the file is thoroughly edited by a second linguist to fix any issues related to grammar, meaning, terminology, readability, cultural adequacy, punctuation, compliance with instructions and specific requirements, etc. A third linguist will then make a rigorous final quality assurance assessment to make sure the resulting translation is in perfect condition for you and your target audience. If the content needs to be formatted using graphic design software and images with text need to be recreated in another language, an additional step called desktop publishing (DTP) is added in order to make sure graphics, fonts, artwork, and images are properly designed for your translation project.

You can also request the creation of a glossary with your preferred terminology for all the translation team to implement, which can be built upon and updated to increase consistency and coherence in the project. If you have specific requirements for the translation, a style guide can be elaborated so that all of your guidelines are properly followed.


Translation process Argentum Translations

Our Three-Step Translation Process Explained


How do we select the linguists who will be handling each task?

As certified translators with BAs and MAs, we are especially concerned with delivering high-quality services. We collaborate with a wide network of reliable and professional translators, proofreaders, and editors who work in different fields and with different languages across the globe. Our team consists of linguists who are native speakers and have degrees, certifications and credentials in the industry, which are recognized in their native countries. When we receive a translation project, the team assigned to it is carefully selected based on the translators’ language, expertise in the subject matter, years of experience translating such content, academic background, relevant degrees, and specializations. Our linguists go through an extensive screening process to determine if they meet the necessary requirements for a project.

Do you need to translate a file? Send it to to get started!

Importance of SEO Translation

The Importance of SEO Translation

Written by Paula Penovi
ATA-Certified Translator and Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI-Spanish)


What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

If you are a business owner, you know SEO is meant to help companies attract new customers by increasing their website traffic, making it more visible to the users of a web search engine, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. In today’s world, showing up on the front page of Google can be a deciding factor for your business. Marketing specialists use all kinds of strategies and techniques to obtain a high-ranking placement in the search results of a page by optimizing their online content and using the right keywords.

Producing quality content for your website

Google always tries to direct the customer to the best results that will serve their needs, so it tends to avoid spammy and mediocre content full of links and keyword stuffing. When producing content for your website, doing your keyword research up-front is crucial so that you can include it throughout all your texts to rank well. However, the use of keywords needs to be strategic and all about semantics, since jamming them into your text as much as you can will do little to improve your rankings.

Multilingual SEO, translation and localization

Considering that SEO optimization is such a fine art based on fresh and rich content and the tactical use of keywords, you would be right to assume that the literal translation of content and keywords will not rank as well in a different language and culture. A poorly executed translation may destroy all the original successful content you worked so hard to achieve. That is why it is important to pick experts in SEO translation who work to boost your website’s position on search engine results in international markets. When localizing your website and doing multilingual SEO (adapting your content to a specific market and culture), a professional translator will pick the most relevant keywords in terms of high-search volume and low complexity, and therefore it is mandatory that they have extensive knowledge on translation, cultural mediation and sociolinguistics.

Culturally competent translators to best serve your needs

In conclusion, there are many factors involved in creating effective multilingual SEO content to reach an international audience, including the norms and rules of each language and culture, the register and target market, humor, icons and symbols, cultural and religious values, special characters, etc. Keyword research and analysis also play a major role in discovering keywords that already bring traffic to your website and your competitors’ in different countries. Finding the right linguist for this task will certainly help your business reach a wider audience and take your business to the next level.

Let us help you with that task!

Contact us for a free quote.


Argentum Translations promotes language diversity

Chamber of Commerce: Argentum Translations promotes language diversity

Original article published on the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s website on September 11, 2019. Find it here.


In this week’s spotlight, twin sisters Cynthia and Paula Penovi share the story of Argentum Translations, a minority and women-owned family business that provides translation and language services for business.


Tell us about your business and the role you play in it.

Our names are Cynthia and Paula Penovi and we are identical twin sisters who started our journey as translators around 10 years ago in Argentina. We are the co-owners of Argentum Translations, a minority and women-owned family business that provides translation and language services for businesses. Our company was born as an initiative to break down language barriers for our community and build strong linguistic and cultural bridges so that everybody can communicate as if they spoke the same language and shared the same culture.

We have always had a passion for languages and, after obtaining our bachelor’s degrees in Technical, Scientific and Literary Translation and visiting the US on several occasions, we ended up combining our diverse expertise and qualifications in a translation agency in the Asheville area. The highly-specialized requirements of our translation assignments inspired us to pursue master’s degrees related to the field: Cynthia has just finished her master’s in Art and Communication, while Paula got certified by the American Translators Association (ATA) and is getting ready to defend her thesis in Medical and Healthcare Translation in October.

We provide a broad range of translation services to and from more than 50 languages, and we have worked with content from many fields, including school textbooks, software user guides, applications, clinical trials, marketing campaigns, you name it! We also provide localization services (adapting your message to the cultural standards of an audience in terms of codes, graphics, style, humor and more), transcreation services (a blend of translation and creative writing, mostly used for marketing and advertising purposes), editing and proofreading, subtitling and dubbing services, and desktop-publishing services (using graphic design software to give translations the format and layout of the original content). We work with medical, legal, marketing, IT, technical, financial and educational content, and we serve businesses, non-profit organizations and institutions looking to communicate with the local non-English speaking communities or take their products and services abroad.

How did you get your idea or concept for the business? How did you decide on a name?

We had been toying with the idea since we were really young. Our mother is an English teacher and our brother is a certified translator too, so we grew up in an environment highly influenced by academic language learning. Once we moved to the United States, we noticed a general demand for high-quality language services due to the overall lack of translation academic programs and professionalization in the industry, along with the need to provide equal opportunities and access to the ever-growing non-English speaking population. This is a big contrast to what we experienced in Argentina, where English proficiency is highly prioritized and academic translation studies are very well-established.

We aim to fill this need in the US with a company whose name reminded us of our roots and what our country stands for in the Hispanic world: “Argentina” is derived from the Latin “argentum” (“silvery”), and the name “Argentina” was used by Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors in the 16th century, in reference to the Río de la Plata (meaning “River of Silver”). We chose the colors gray (a neutral, balanced and sophisticated color) and turquoise (associated with wise, creative and refreshing qualities) to reflect our values, which are professionalism, high-quality and expertise, combined with an approachable, modern and flexible image.

What makes your business unique in its field?

Leaving aside the fact that we are identical twins running a family business together, the main thing that makes us different is our absolute requirement that all the linguists we work with be certified or have degrees in the field. We believe in high-quality work supported by academic training and continuing education, and since translation is an intellectual process that requires specialized knowledge, being bilingual is not enough. You don’t become an attorney by simply watching Law & Order, or an accountant just because you are good at math and know how to handle spreadsheets. Well-executed translations can mean the difference between life and death, freedom and jail time, great customer service or a bad public reputation. Our methodology distinguishes us from other local companies because we use three linguists for each project (a translator, a proofreader and a quality specialist) to structure our translation workflow in a way that guarantees high quality.

In addition to this, we are experts in the latest translation technology solutions in the field, which allows us to provide more accurate translations, capability for larger projects (an average of 50,000 words per week), increased speed and turnaround times, and the guarantee of coherence and consistency within a project. Moreover, we can provide our clients with the possibility to reuse previous translations, discounts for repeated segments, glossaries and other perks. We can also work with graphic design software such as Adobe Illustrator and InDesign to recreate the original format and layout of our documents.

Fair trade is another crucial goal of our company, since many of our contractors are located in developing countries. We strive to promote greater equity by paying fair rates to our colleagues in a world in which the real value of translation is gaining recognition but it is still hard to quantify in money. We understand translation as a very specialized craft that requires years of training and expertise, and we aim to support our fellow global linguists with better trading conditions than other big international translation agencies. We are committed to working with professionals only, with competitive compensation commensurate with their abilities. Last but not least, we care about our local community and are engaged participants who try to give back as much as possible. Western North Carolina is full of amazing people, and our vision is to promote language access to help residents grow, gain equal access to services and resources, and use their full potential so that they can contribute as much as possible to the society. This is one of the reasons we are offering pro-bono translation services to nonprofits in the area, with our most recent project consisting of translating 10,000 words into Spanish for Pisgah Legal Services.

How many employees do you have? And what qualities do you look for when hiring?

One of the greatest aspects of running a translation business is that we can do it from anywhere in the world. We don’t have a need for employees because we work with a large network of reliable colleagues from all over the world who provide high-quality language services in their native languages. Our team is made up of linguists with MAs, BAs, credentials and certifications in translation that are relevant in their location and language pair. All of our linguists need to have over 3 years of experience working in the translation field and using specific translation tools and technology solutions. We also work with doctors, lawyers and other specialists for concept and terminology review when necessary, and collaborate with marketing specialists and graphic and web designers to meet formatting and localization requirements.

Why did you decide to join the Chamber?

We knew we would become members of the Chamber sooner or later because building relationships is a crucial aspect to running a business and there is no better place to build a powerful professional network than at the Chamber of the Year! Our commitment to working with our fellow business owners and expanding our diverse local economy were our main drivers to start taking advantage of all the initiatives promoted by the Chamber. They do an amazing job at empowering local companies by organizing networking events and offering resources and learning opportunities. At the moment, we are proud to be the only language and translation services provider among the 1,700 members of the Chamber and to be listed in their directory, which is a great space for visibility. We were surprised to find that there are not many translation agencies in this area and, because of this, we ourselves have been working with the Carolina Association of Translators and Interpreters (CATI) to build networks of professional translators and interpreters in an attempt to professionalize the industry and promote its recognition. We definitely appreciate all the spaces that the Chamber provides to help us make our profession more visible, such as this newsletter.

What is your favorite part about doing business in the Asheville area?

The Asheville area is a very unique, diverse and different place to do business; what is not to like? We can provide translation services from anywhere in the world, but we decided to build our company here because there is something very special about the community in this place.

It is very inspiring how small businesses are the foundation of the economy in this area and there is a huge importance placed on shopping local. Every time we go to a networking event, we are greeted with a lot of warmth and love. Our fellow Ashevillians really care about supporting each other, and they are becoming more and more committed to promoting language diversity and multilingual spaces for the rest of the community.

We also love the commitment to patient care in Asheville. We feel very strongly about helping underserved Limited English Proficiency (LEP) residents get access to health care and navigate the school system. It is incredible that we have one of the top 15 best health systems in the country here, Mission Health, where Paula worked as a Certified Medical Interpreter for a few years.

Moreover, we have the Appalachian Mountains, the thriving art scene and the amazing weather, which are all part of the Asheville charm!

targeting the Hispanic population

Why should you be targeting the Hispanic population?

Compiled by Cynthia Penovi

This article is mainly a compilation of extracts from the 59-page analysis by Tamara Cabrera titled The Translation and Interpreting Industry in the United States. For more information and a complete list of references, read her analysis here.


  • Your business will grow and distinguish itself from the competition.
    According to a survey of Fortune 500 companies by Common Sense Advisory –a global think tank that performs research on international communication trends–, companies that translate their online material were found to be 1.5 times more likely to experience an increase in revenue. When you become able to speak to more of these users, you gain the competitive advantage.


  • Hispanics are the fastest growing population in the U.S.
    According to a Pew Research Center analysis of the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, between 1970 and 2014 the Hispanic population grew 592%, expanding from 9.1 million to 53 million (Krogstad 2014). According to the most recent US Census data, by April 2015, there were 57 million U.S. Hispanics out of a total population of 321 million Americans (Krogstad 2016), accounting for a 17% of the total population. The Pew Research Center forecasts that the Hispanic population will grow to 106 million out of 398 million, and to 119 million by 2060 (Passel and Cohn 2008) This projected shift would raise the number of Hispanics from 17.8% to over a quarter of the total U.S. population by 2020, then up to 26.6% by 2050 and then up to 31% by 2060 (Krogstad and López 2014).


          Numbers of Spanish Speakers in the U.S. Pew Research Center and U. S. Census Bureau:

Hispanics in US up to 2050


  • Hispanics are the largest minority in the U.S.
    Hispanics are the largest minority in the US, outnumbering African-Americans (45 million). According to Nielsen, a global information and measurement company: “If U.S. Hispanics were a country, (…) they would be the 24th largest nation in the world after Italy larger than Spain and more than twice the size of Australia” (Pardo and Dreas 2011: 1).


  • The U.S. is now the world’s second largest Spanish-speaking country (ibid.; Fernández Vítores 2016).
    This puts the U.S. ahead of Colombia (48 million) and Spain (46 million) and second only to Mexico (121 million).


  • Spanish is the most spoken non-English language in the U.S., with more than 41 million native speakers plus 11 million who are bilingual.


  • Hispanics rank the highest among the LEP population.
    “LEP” stands for “Limited English Proficiency”, and this term refers to any person above the age of 5 who reported speaking English less than very well, as classified by the Census Bureau. As of 2013, 16.2 million LEP people spoke Spanish, out of 25.1 million total approximately.


  • Laws are changing in favor of language access for Hispanics and the LEP population.
    Hispanics have become the main recipients of the translation and interpreting services implemented as result of the enforcement of Language Access legislation (namely (i) the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (ii) the LEP Executive Order and (iii) the LEP Guidances 2002).


  • The Hispanic buying power alone makes the Hispanic market within the U.S. one of the most important World Economies.
    U.S. Hispanics’ disposable income has sextupled between 1990 and 2014, reaching an estimated $1.25 trillion in 2014. This makes up approximately a 10% of total U.S. buying power. As of 2014, the buying power of U.S. Hispanics was 1.3 trillion dollars higher than that of other minorities (African-American, $1.1 trillion and Asians $770 billion) (López et al. ibid.). As suggested by Pardo and Dreas (2011: 1): “If U.S. Hispanics were a country, they would rank as the 12th largest economy in the world.”


  • Hispanics are the population of the future and the community you will be serving.
    According to The Economist (2015: 2) Hispanics are making America much younger. In fact, the median age of whites is 42, African-Americans 32, Hispanics 28, and American-born Hispanics 18. While white and non-white women have been having fewer children since 2011, Hispanic women’s fertility maintains an average of 2.4 children, expected to replenish the supply of future workers.


  • Hispanics are the entrepreneurs of the future –and your future business partners.
    The number of Hispanic-owned companies has been steadily growing since 2002. Estimates from the 2007 Survey of Business Owners conducted by Geoscape, a leading business intelligence firm that operates within the framework of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, shows that from 2002 to 2007 the number of Hispanic-owned firms increased by 44%. This figure is more than double the 15% increase in the number of non-Hispanic companies. Between 2007 and 2015, the growth rate has increased to a 57% as a result of the increased activity in entrepreneurship among Hispanics, a gain of over 407 million dollars (Melgoza and Palomares 2015: 3).

          Number of Hispanic-Owned Businesses in the U.S. Source: Melgoza and Palomares (2015: 1):

number of hispanic owned businesses


  • Language plays a key role in Hispanic culture and identity.
    U.S. companies are spending money researching effective techniques to tap on this market (Hoag 2015). If in 2003 companies such as Procter&Gamble or AT&T spent $3.4 billion on Hispanic campaigns, by 2013 that figure had almost tripled to $8.3 billion, far outpacing the general market’s increase. According to the second-quarter 2012 Nielsen Report titled State of the Hispanic Consumer: The Hispanic Market Imperative (Nielsen 2012), Hispanic consumers are 30% more likely to recall an ad if it was presented in Spanish. Furthermore, 71% of Hispanics are more likely to buy a product if it is advertised in Spanish. Suggested reasons for this effect are that Spanish ads create a deeper personal connection to Hispanic consumers, and Hispanics are less likely to time shift Spanish-language programming (Taylor et al. 2012). This explains why U.S. companies are increasingly interested in adapting their products to the Hispanic consumer, both linguistically and culturally. The demographic growth of U.S. Hispanics and the high retention rate of Spanish in households have contributed to the growth of the Spanish Language in the U.S. Unlike other immigrant groups, Hispanics believe it is highly important to preserve the language and the culture. As a result, they tend to preserve the language and the culture far beyond other groups, such as European migrants. A study developed in 2013 found that by third generation, only a small number of Europeans maintains bilingualism (Steinmetz et al. 2015: 17.). In contrast, the percentage of Hispanic households that spoke Spanish remained consistently at about 75% from 1980 to 2010 (Hugo López and González-Barrera 2013).

Tamara Cabrera’s analysis is enlightening and very useful to understand the current trends in the U.S. and why it would be beneficial to invest in translation services, no matter what your industry is. The Hispanic population has become a key market, and professional translators are the only experts with the necessary cultural and linguistic background to reach this community effectively.


False Friends: the Adoption of Foreign Terminology in English<>Spanish Medical Translation and Interpretation

Written by Paula Penovi
ATA-Certified Translator and Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI-Spanish)

As a linguist working at a hospital, it is not uncommon to notice languages merge and blend into each other, adopting foreign terms and structures and converging into a complex hybrid language. As we all know, communication is critical to ensure successful healthcare. Lexical borrowings, calques and literal translations that may sound natural to the untrained ear could end up leading away from the meaning that was originally conveyed, while contributing to the impoverishment and erosion of the target language.

That is why today I am going to share some insight into four of the most common false friends that I have encountered in the medical setting, their polysemy and some lexical equivalents and alternatives. False friends (also known as false cognates) are words that look very similar and appear to be translation equivalents, but which actually have different meanings in different languages.

Since we are focusing on some of the most frequent terms that an interpreter or translator will encounter on an everyday basis, the first place must go to ‘condition,’ when it is translated as condición. Quoting Dr. Fernando Navarro, whenever this word is used to refer to a defective state of health, it can be translated as enfermedad (skin condition = enfermedad cutánea), proceso (pathologic conditions = procesos patológicos), dolencia, afección (surgical condition = afección quirúrgica), trastorno or cuadro clínico. Whenever it refers to the particular state that something or someone is in, it can be translated as estado (critical condition = en estado crítico) or situación (stable condition = en situación estable), and sometimes the interpreter or translator has to use their best judgement and choose a translation based on the context, as in the case of ‘clinical condition’ (cuadro clínico, estado clínico or situación clínica).

Another word that I hear mistranslated a lot is ‘severe.’ It is not uncommon to find severo used as an equivalent, term which in Spanish means ‘strict, tough, harsh in treatment or punishment’ and is only used to describe the character of a person. In English, it can have many different meanings: grave (severe condition = en estado grave), intenso (severe pain = dolor intenso, agudo), fuerte (a severe blow to the head = un fuerte golpe en la cabeza) or extenso (severe psoriasis = soriasis extensa). It goes without saying that sometimes only the context can define the most accurate translation for this term: for example, ‘he had a severe loss of blood’ could be translated as ‘perdió mucha sangre’.


In 1980, a patient was taken to a hospital in a coma and his family used the word intoxicado to refer to his condition, since they thought his symptoms were caused by something he had eaten. This word was mistranslated as ‘intoxicated’ during the encounter, and in consequence the doctor immediately made a misdiagnosis of drug overdose, causing the patient to become quadriplegic at age 18. There is a lot to say about this false friend, but we can start with the fact that, in Spanish, intoxicado refers to food poisoning (intoxicación alimentaria, toxinfección alimentaria), while in English ‘intoxicated’ is related to the effect of alcohol or drugs. During regular medical encounters, the word ‘poisoning’ will most likely refer to intoxicación instead of envenenamiento (malicious poisoning). For instance, accidental poisoning would usually be translated as intoxicación involuntaria and acetaminophen poisoning as intoxicación por paracetamol. While intoxicación might seem to be the best equivalent in this setting, when using a more technical language, translators and interpreters will have to resort to a word ending in ‘–ismo’ in Spanish: cheese poisoning (tirotoxismo), fish poisoning (ictiotoxismo), lead poisoning (saturnismo) and blood poisoning (toxemia or septicemia), among others.

Last but not least, I would like to discuss one of my personal favorites, a Gallicism widely used both in English and Spanish: the term ‘control.’ Even though it seems easy to avoid translating this term literally in cases such as ‘birth control’ (regulación de la natalidad, reducción de la natalidad, anticoncepción) or ‘centers for disease control’ (centros de epidemiología), we tend to be unoriginal when faced with verbal phrases and collocations that come up all the time during medical encounters. For instance, we tend to stay in our comfort zone and resort to this word when translating phrases such as ‘controlar una hemorragia’ (detener, restañar), ‘controlar la tensión arterial’ (medir, vigilar, estabilizar, normalizar), ‘control de la temperatura corporal’ (regulación), ‘controlar los efectos de una sobredosis’ (neutralizar), ‘controlar una anemia’ (corregir); the list could go on forever. In this regard, Dr. Fernando Navarro presents an exhaustive list of alternative translations for this term in his dictionary, and I believe it would be interesting to mention a few to shed light on the variety of linguistic choices the Spanish language has to offer: getting/to get a situation under control (dominar una situación), control of an epidemic (contención de una epidemia), disease control (lucha contra las enfermedades), control visit (consulta de revisión), food control laboratory (laboratorio de bromatología), self-control (autodominio), temperature control (termorregulación), case-control study (estudio de casos y testigos).

After exploring all these equivalents, one wonders why it is so easy to forget the richness and beauty of our native language and to embrace this constant influx of foreign terminology. Only professional translators and interpreters can at all times recognize this dilution of language and make the most accurate choice in the right context. Continuing education plays a key role in helping us celebrate our own lexical items and structures, value them and avoid these frequent and deep-rooted mistranslations. This is only one of the reasons why there needs to be an emphasis on certified translators and interpreters in the medical field. If you are seeking translation or interpreting services, make sure you choose your language professionals wisely. In the long run, the costs of professional services are likely to be far less than the costs of the clinical error claims that may arise from these incidents in a healthcare setting.



Diccionario de dudas y dificultades de traducción del inglés médico, by Fernando A. Navarro
In The Hospital, A Bad Translation Can Destroy A Life, by Kristan Foden-Vencil
Language, Culture, And Medical Tragedy: The Case Of Willie Ramirez, by Gail Price-Wise
Medical English and Spanish cognates: identification and classification, by Lourdes Divasson and Isabel León
Severe: A False Friend, by G. Blasco-Morente, C. Garrido-Colmenero, J. Tercedor-Sánchez and M. Tercedor-Sánchez
Cambridge Dictionary
Online dictionary by Merriam-Webster
The Royal Spanish Academy’s Dictionary

Right-to-Left Languages

Right-to-Left Languages and the Importance of Professional Localization

Written by Cynthia Penovi

When we want to read a text in English, our eyes naturally move from left to right and top to bottom. It is such a norm for us that we do not even question the directionality of a text. This is because English uses the Latin writing system, and languages that employ that script are left-to-right (LTR) languages. Other popular LRT writing scripts are Cyrillic and Modern Greek.

However, not all scripts share the same writing direction. In fact, there are several languages based on writing systems with a different directionality (or both!). For instance, Farsi speakers read texts horizontally and from right to left, while Chinese and Japanese speakers can produce vertical right-to-left content. Some languages can be written in more than one writing system, and the script chosen can vary according to factors such as geography, politics, age, religion and demographics. Among the most popular right-to-left scripts, we can find Arabic, Hebrew and Urdu. This means that any material produced for those target markets will not only require translation, but it will also need to undergo an extensive localization process to ensure natural text flow for consumers.

The problem with direction is not only limited to text. It applies to the entire layout of a document, including its pictures and numbering. In almost all cases, pages will need to be mirrored (flipped horizontally) to match the requirements of RTL languages, and everything that is located on the right portion of a page will have to be placed on the left side instead. There are exceptions, of course. In Arabic, barcodes are displayed from left to right, and the directionality of numbers and figures does not change either.



What does this mean for our translation needs? It means that it is essential to find a language services provider that can truly professionally localize our content and provide us with multilingual desktop publishing to tackle these issues. Effective localization services will help you improve customer satisfaction, meet cultural standards, fit local target requirements and enter new markets successfully.