Document Translation (with an accent!?)

by desa on April 3, 2012

We had another conversation here in the office about whether Document Translators have it easier than Interpreters? Is the translation side less stressful because you’re not “live” with other people looking on. Or is it that in this day of 24-hour document translation projects, the stress level of getting it done accurately and quickly makes document translation more high stakes. We did an online search to garner opinions (or ammunition ;) and I discovered this US News and World Report article (pictured) through the American Translators Association website that says regional dialects are becoming stronger in the United States, suggesting interpretors’ jobs may be getting harder. Why this trend? It’s not entirely clear, William Labov, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, told the reporter. One possibility, he says, is that “dialect differences have become associated with political differences, so that the Blue States/Red States division comes close to the boundary between the Northern and Midland dialects.”
It would be interesting to investigate whether this is true in other parts of the world where political divisions are becoming more distinct. It would also be interesting to investigate whether regional words or whole dialects are also gaining ground. That would surely represent a challenge for interpreters that would also be shared by document translation specialists.
Another consideration for why Americans are becoming increasingly accented might be the shift among immigrant communities from a more melting-pot approach to Americanizing—where they adopt the food, language and culture of whatever region they settle in—to the mosaic approach, where they add being American to whatever they already consider themselves creating more of a hybrid existence. Perhaps the increasing numbers of new accents in their communities has resulted in Americans being prouder of their own accents. As someone who has always been puzzled by accent elimination (why would you want to change something so fundamental about yourself?), it’s a trend I welcome.
According to linguistics professor Labov children first mimic the accents of their parents then that of their peers, with accents usually staying the same after age 18. I would imagine that this is true of all cultures.
But one more thought. With exploding numbers of Asians and Africans gaining entry to the global marketplace and giving their numerous dialects more prominence on the world stage, won’t both document translation and interpreting continuously become more complex, I dare say more interesting? Especially with the clock always ticking.

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