Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Voyage to Antarctica: Translating the Environment

Ana Salotti will be presenting “Voyage to Antarctica: Translating the Environment” on Thursday, November 5th 2015, at 11:15am-12:15pm.

Did you know there is an official ocean in the world called the Southern Ocean? This ocean surrounds Antarctica, and is one of the most pristine, delicate and abundant marine environments in the world.

In this session, Ana will focus on the challenges of translating texts on marine conservation in the international and intergovernmental arena, and more specifically on the conservation of the icy ocean that surrounds Antarctica, the Southern Ocean. Attendees will learn about its resources, exploitation, and conservation efforts. 

The session will be built around two main goals: 1) to explain the technicalities that Ana has researched in her translation practice with this type of texts, and 2) to tell attendees about the realities of a translator working for intergovernmental organizations that deal with conservation of the Southern Ocean.

An overview will be given about the history of conservation efforts around the Southern Ocean and Antarctica, as the kickoff point to delve into what an ecosystem-based approach to management means in Antarctica, and why the Antarctic krill is king.

Ana will then briefly outline how the Antarctic ecosystem works, and how its resources are managed on an international scale. A quick guide to the main fishing gear and methods will be given, and technical concepts in marine conservation will be dealt with through the lens of international organizations. Some conservation measures will be exemplified in relation to albatrosses and petrels. 

Projeto Tamar Brazil ( Photobank (

Friday, October 23, 2015

Translating Patents for Evidence and PCT Filing

Webinar presentation by Martin Cross

Review by Alicja Yarborough, PhD

As a part of ATA’s webinar series on October 1, 2015, Martin Cross presented “Translating Patents for Evidence and PCT Filing,” an overview of the methodology that can be used for both evidence and PCT filing, as well as the differences between these purposes. The handout included a chapter of his book on the same topic.

Martin began the webinar with a short illustrative anecdote describing what happens and what can go wrong when a patent attorney needs to prove that an idea for an invention is new, but some possibly relevant literature is published in a foreign language and thus needs to be translated in its entirety to see if the idea is original. He emphasized how important it is to reproduce the actual meaning of an invention—and that this means it can be done only through a literal translation.

Producing a literal translation
  1. Reproduce the meaning. Patents are usually very technical so you must understand the text well to reproduce the right meaning. There is often ambiguity in implication; therefore, you need to have a certain degree of knowledge to understand the text. This does not mean that you must have a master’s degree in the subject matter, though of course that helps; it means that you need to be able to research very well.
  2. Reproduce sentence breaks and carriage returns. A lot of translators like to break longer sentences to the short ones because they feel that it will be easier for the reader. Do not do this! A judge at patent proceedings may sometimes reject a translation without even looking at the content only because the sentence breaks are not in the same place as in the source document. The sentence is the fundamental unit in law, and it needs to be respected. The solution for this is: if you have a long sentence and you feel that it is difficult to track, use semicolons in the places where you would use periods and you will get the same effect yet respect the sentence. Keep the carriage returns where they are in the original, too. The carriage returns sometimes have a meaning in patents so it is best just leaving them alone.
  3. Be consistent with vocabulary and phrasing. This advice is generally true for any translation, but it is even more important in patent translation due to the specific ways that people read and analyze the patent. If you call an element “a shaft” in one instance, you should not call the same element “a rod” or “an axle” in another part of the translation. That rule applies to phrasing also. If you have a phrase in one place that is translated as “a shaft for driving a flywheel”, do not translate it in another place as “a shaft by which the flywheel is driven.” Terminology needs to be consistent throughout the whole document.
  4. Maintain one-to-one correspondence between the source and the target. This is where literal translation for patents may be different from literal translation for localization, for example. In practice, one-to-one translation means that a translator will be able to go to the courtroom and draw a diagram on a whiteboard, underline words in the source text, and draw an arrow to where it is translated in the target. This exercise shows that everything in the source text is shown in the target text, and that everything that is in the target source was in the source text. Imagine yourself in the courtroom and wanting to see if everything corresponds one-to-one. How does one do that?

Here is an example of one-to-one correspondence.

In French:
“Je m’appelle Martin et je suis traducteur”.
One-to-one (or mechanistic) reproduction:
“I call myself Martin and I am translator”.

This is what people usually think about as literally translated, as some sort of mechanistic rendering. It is not a good translation, however, because it does not convey the meaning very well. In English it implies that I call myself Martin, but my name is actually something else. In French we do not use indefinite articles before nouns, but in English it looks sloppy, as if it has not been proofread.

The correct translation is: “My name is Martin and I am a translator.”

The above is a literal translation using two techniques. The first is conservation of lexemes and second is equivalent phrasing. In patent translation, conservation of lexemes is used 95% of time. This is your plan A. For the remainder, it does not work. So then you go to plan B, which is equivalent phrasing. Conservation of lexemes is much easier to defend if you have to verify that your translation is in fact literal.

Lexemes and Function Words
Lexemes are basic units of meaning. Function words are grammatical glue that holds the lexemes together. Lexemes include nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and numerals (for the purpose of patent translation). Function words are everything else; i.e., articles, pronouns, prepositions, postpositions (English word ago), conjunctions, auxiliary words, interjections, and particles and case markers in some languages. If the word is just grammatical, it is a function word. It does not have inherent meaning but rather connects words that have meaning: e.g., the, a, her, it, they, that, of, on, under, before, thereafter, thereby, and, but, for, so, unless, because, is, may, can, should, will, to, even, there.

Knowing this, we can adopt a methodology for literal translation where we have a one-to-one relationship between the source and the target texts. We do not introduce new lexemes and do not leave out any lexemes that are in the source text. However, we may use as much grammatical glue, the function words, as we like to produce grammatical sentences in the target text.

Example: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” Let’s pretend that this sentence is translated from or to another language. How we can preserve lexemes?
“Over the lazy dog jumped the quick brown fox.” This structure has the same meaning and the same lexemes, and the function words are the same, but we are not limited to them.
“The lazy dog was jumped over by the quick brown fox.” This has the same meaning even though we have different function words.
“The fox, which was quick and brown, jumped over the dog, which was lazy.” This has the same lexemes and the same meaning, but different order of function words. It still counts as one-to-one correspondence and a literal translation.
“The fox did jump, and did so over the dog, the fox being both quick and brown, while the dog was lazy.

In the last example, we have strayed from the style and the tone of the original sentence. This one is very wordy and sounds somewhat different. When you translate a patent it is best to stay as close as possible to the style and the tone of the original.

This demonstrates how much flexibility we have in literal translation, maintaining one-to-one correspondence with the lexemes in the source text.

Word and Phrase Order
For the nitrogen source, ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride and the like can be used.” (in Japanese)
√ “Ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride and the like can be used as the nitrogen source.” (in native English a one-to-one literal translation)
X “The nitrogen source can be chosen from ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride and the like.” (not a literal translation)

The meaning is the same, but an attorney from the opposing side may ask you, “Where is the word ‘chosen’?” You may say that it is not there in Japanese, so you added it for clarity’s sake. The attorney could then challenge you by asking what else you inserted for clarity’s sake and how we can now tell that you are reproducing the source. It is the less secure way of translating.

When to Use Equivalent Phrasing
  • When the equivalent is very well established (usually but not always, when the equivalent is listed in the dictionary). When called upon in the court you can just pull out the dictionary. Additionally, if there is something clearly established by convention and you can show that.
  • When using source lexemes would lead to undue confusion, or create a highly unnatural style.

Established Equivalents:
For example, the French “l’homme du métier”, has the literal translation “man of the trade”; but this would not be understood in English. The correct English—“those skilled in the art”—is an established equivalent and would be understood by the target audience.

Another example is the Japanese heading: “Scope of Patent Claims”. In English, this should be “Claims”—a well-established phrase.

These are very clear examples of when we do not need to stick to the lexemes in the source language.

Translation for PCT Filing
All of these requirements are the same as in the case of evidence filing. The attorney may make a special amendment if he wishes it to be easier to read or to be consistent with current US patent practice.

The only difference is that we provide translator’s notes (no annotations and nothing in square brackets).

When translating for a PCT filing, favor more clarity of expression, smoothly flowing target text over strict conservation of lexemes. People just want to see what is says. Be sure that translation is for filing; not all PCT applications are for filing, so be sure to ask. If it is old (more than 30 months), then it is most likely not for filing.

Cross also discussed how to certify a translation, and who may do so. At the end of the webinar, there was a Q&A session led by Karen Tkaczyk, who also has extensive experience in translating patents. Great questions were asked and Cross gave clear answers. Any patent translator from beginner to intermediate will find the webinar recording valuable.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Tapani Ronni will be presenting “Vaccines: Past, Present, and Future” (ST-5, Friday 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm).

This brief review of vaccines is aimed at medical and scientific translators. While everybody is welcome to attend the talk, some familiarity with basic life science concepts will help in understanding the concepts in this talk.

A vaccine is any biological preparation that enhances immune response in order to either prevent or treat a disease. Historically vaccines have been manufactured using killed or weakened (attenuated) microbes, and combinations thereof. Recent advances in biochemistry and molecular biology have made it possible to generate vaccines from protein subunits, nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), and genetically engineered virus particles.

While vaccines have had an enormous positive impact on public health, many challenges remain, due to the high variability of some pathogens and the fact that some microbes don’t have obvious antigenic structures suitable for vaccine development. On the positive side, many infectious diseases, such as polio, are nowadays kept in check with pediatric vaccination programs. Two diseases, smallpox and rinderpest (a cattle disease) have even been eradicated from Earth. However, urgent and important public health challenges remain to be addressed. In this talk I will give three examples: HIV/AIDS, ebola, and tuberculosis.

Genomic data together with novel vector engineering should allow for more efficient and targeted vaccine development in the future. The talk will conclude with some examples of cutting edge technologies in vaccine development. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies: Illegal Money or a New Global Payment Option?

Most translators and interpreters, as well as everybody doing international business, know them well: high bank charges, sometimes coupled with exorbitant exchange fees, endless, complicated forms, long clearance times etc. Then there is the archaic way of paying via check. Given that this is the 21st century, one might think that there should be better, cheaper, faster ways for transferring money from person A to person B. There are, of course, Paypal and similar services, which however also involve non-negligible fees, and their newer relatives Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and the like. Neither of the aforementioned options is truly global. However, there are some new players on the global payment market: Bitcoin, or more generally, cryptocurrencies.

Aside from a somewhat “dark” reputation as a means to finance illegal activities, Bitcoin is surrounded by a certain shroud of mystery, since the common explanation of Bitcoin as a “peer-to-peer currency” is neither particularly transparent nor particularly descriptive. So, what IS Bitcoin? Carola F. Berger will elaborate on this question in her presentation ST-6 in the Science and Technology track on Saturday at 11:15 AM – 12:15 PM at ATA’s 56th conference in Miami. In the following you will find a short preview.

Why is it so complicated to transfer money electronically from account A to account B?

All monetary transactions involve the following steps:
  1. Check that the sender actually possesses the required amount of money.
  2. Deduct the amount to send from the sender’s account.
  3. Transmit the specified amount of money to the recipient.
  4. Update the recipient’s balance with the transmitted amount.
It is obvious that a cash transaction accomplishes this without problems through the exchange of (very special) sheets of paper or pieces of metal that represent a specific monetary value.

The electronic equivalent is necessarily more complex, since electronic transmissions always transfer only copies of files and since it is possible to transmit several copies (nearly) simultaneously. Electronic “cash” could therefore be copied and transmitted in arbitrary amounts, creating money out of nothing but electrons. Therefore, traditional electronic monetary transactions—such as ACH, wire transfer, PayPal, etc.—always involve one or more trusted intermediaries (and fees for the intermediaries’ services). The Bitcoin protocol, however, accomplishes electronic monetary transmissions WITHOUT such a trusted intermediary, by employing a peer-to-peer network and various cryptographic techniques—thus the term “cryptocurrency.”

The talk will explain the concept of peer-to-peer transactions and the Bitcoin protocol. It will become clear that the idea behind Bitcoin, the Bitcoin protocol, has the potential to disrupt several industries besides the banking sector. Therefore, venture capitalists are very interested in cryptocurrency R&D, because this disruptive technology can also be used for applications such as smart contracts or even completely decentralized elections. Unfortunately, while the disruptive potential of the idea behind cryptocurrencies is undisputed, the regulatory status of cryptocurrencies is still developing in most countries of the world. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether cryptocurrencies can really grow into a viable option for legal global monetary transactions.

The presentation will give a basic introduction into the aforementioned ideas and concepts such as the block chain, peer-to-peer transactions, cryptocurrency mining, etc. No advanced mathematical or cryptographical knowledge is needed. And there will be chocolate!

If you are unable to attend the talk, you are unfortunately going to miss out on the chocolate, but you can read a series of blog posts on the topic here:

About the presenter:

Carola F. Berger is an ATA-certified English into German translator with a PhD in physics and a Master’s degree in engineering physics. She specializes in the translation of technical, scientific, and IT-related texts including patents, leveraging her scientific and engineering background from her previous research career. She is also an avid lifelong learner and recently completed an online course on digital currencies by the University of Nicosia, which earned her the distinction of being among the first holders of an academic certificate of any kind that was published on the block chain as proof of existence. In addition, she loves chocolate!

Friday, October 9, 2015

56th Annual Conference Session Preview

The Turbine Engine: An Introduction to Modern Aircraft Propulsion Systems (ST-2)

The turbofan engines slung under the wings of a commercial airliner are highly engineered mechanisms developed over decades of research costing tens of billions of dollars. They are also manufactured by the thousand, and the aircraft that they propel can be seen almost anywhere on Earth. No other commonly encountered human product is both so sophisticated and so ubiquitous.

This presentation explains why. Beginning with the gas mixture that serves as lift medium, working fluid, and combustion support for aircraft (usually called "air"), it moves on to Newton's Third Law of Motion as it relates to rowboats and the Space Shuttle, dissects the anatomy of a modern airliner, explains why the "four forces" aren't really forces but behave as if they were, and asserts that "simplication" is a genuine word. Two essential concepts—the airfoil and the fluid coupling—are discussed in detail, leading to the central topic: the aircraft turbine engine, how it works, and why it has become an everyday means of transportation for over 3 billion people every year.

But that's not all: attendees will learn about airboats, rockets, electric helicopters, and bypass ratios, and discover the meaning of "time on wing," what that sound is right after the plane lands, and why a 747 is like a shopping cart. Hundreds of illustrations accompany the presentation, and an actual fluid coupling using actual airfoils will be demonstrated using common household items. Questions from attendees will be welcomed.


Nicholas Hartmann began working full-time as an independent technical and scientific translator in 1984, and now specializes in translating patents and related documents for corporate clients and law firms in the US and Europe. He is a Past President of ATA and has also served the Association as President-elect and conference organizer, Director, and Secretary; administrator of the Science and Technology Division (version 1.0); chair of the Client Education Committee, Governance and Communications Committee, and Science and Technology Information Committee; co-chair of the Business Practices Education Committee; and member of the Terminology Committee and The ATA Chronicle Editorial Board. Dr. Hartmann holds ATA certification in French–English, German–English and Italian–English, and still carries the FAA Private Pilot license he earned 25 years ago. For more information visit

Monday, October 5, 2015

Looking forward to ATA56

Here is the first in our series of previews for sessions to be presented at the 56th Annual Conference (November 4–7, 2015, in Miami, Florida).

A Lucrative Sideline: Editing Non-Native English Scientific Writing

As we wind down on Saturday afternoon in Miami, come and join me to ponder a sideline that scientific and technical translators might want to consider. I am not suggesting that I couldn’t make my entire income from translation, but I feel this sideline builds upon my skill set and I enjoy it. Attend if you think you might enjoy it too.
I have always edited academic articles written by non-native English chemistry graduate students and professors. I got into it because I'm a highly specialized technical translator with training in a hard science. In translation, I work mainly with chemistry and texts related to the chemical industry. I have received non-native editing work on and off throughout the 10 years I've been a freelance translator. It has come to me from my profile, from professors I've met at chemistry networking events, from editing agencies, and from word-of-mouth from translation colleagues who live in France. In the last year or two the volume picked up quite a lot with authors in earth and life science so I developed a process to make it satisfying and lucrative for me.
This session will include
  • what sets this work apart from translation or from editing texts written by native speakers
  • how to price this work
  • how to justify changes
  • how to handle authors’ egos and build the customer relationship
  • what an efficient editing process might look like
  • how to edit 

(Saturday, 3:30pm-4:30pm; All Levels; Presented in: English)

“The manuscript is poorly written and has too many grammatical and syntax errors. The results are very interesting from a practical standpoint, but the paper needs thorough revision to make it suitable for publication in The Journal of Astounding Scientific Developments.” Enter the native English-speaking editor. This session will describe what sets this work apart from translation or from editing texts written by native speakers, how to price it, and how to justify changes and handle authors’ egos when returning revised texts. We will conclude with a summary of what an efficient editing process might look like. 

Karen Tkaczyk is the administrator of ATA's Science and Technology Division and the chair of ATA's Divisions Committee. She is an ATA-certified French>English freelance translator. Her translation work is entirely focused on chemistry and its industrial applications. She has an MChem in chemistry with French from the University of Manchester, a diploma in French, and a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Cambridge. She worked in the pharmaceutical industry in Europe and, after relocating to the U.S. in 1999, in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. She established her translation practice in 2005.