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Archive for January, 2011

The Growing Popularity of the Spanish Language

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

A new study shows that there are more American college students in Spanish courses than any other foreign language.

The survey published by the U.S. Modern Language Association (MLA) shows that despite the anti-immigrant movement of recent years and the increase in the number of university students who enroll in Arabic, Chinese and Korean courses, Spanish remains by far the most studied language in universities.

Spanish is still the No. 1 foreign language. Nearly 50% of university enrollment for foreign language courses focuses on Spanish lessons.

About 850,000 students are enrolled in Spanish courses, followed by 210,000 in French, 198,000 in German, 74,000 in Japanese and 61,000 in Chinese.

Everything indicates that this trend will continue, for reasons that go beyond the existence of a huge U.S. Hispanic population. Students of all ethnic groups choose Spanish as a language because it opens up employment opportunities. Furthermore, in a time of budget cuts it is more likely that universities remove language courses with less assistance, but preserve the Spanish language.

In the U.S., about 34 million people speak Spanish, including 3.5 million who are Hispanic, according to the Census Bureau. That makes the United States the major Spanish-speaking country of the world.

But will the trend continue? Will new generations keep using their language in times when several states are considering anti-immigration measures and when the financial crisis is slowing the flow of Latin American immigration?

There is reason to think so. A nationwide survey conducted by Bendixen and Amandi, a public research firm, reveals that 89% of young foreign-born and 59% U.S.-born Hispanics speak English and Spanish.

It is a new phenomenon. Unlike what happened decades ago when parents would ask their children not to speak Spanish because they believed that they would progress more if they only spoke English, now Mexican immigrants want their children to be bilingual.

Besides bilingualism is now considered an advantage for employment. Also, technology keeps the immigrants and their children closer to their home countries. Technology has been a key factor; thanks to the Internet the U.S. is becoming more of a multi-ethnic society.

Hispanics already constitute the largest minority in the United States, and the technology will help the Spanish force in the country grow in the near future.


Shortage of Court Interpreters

Friday, January 21st, 2011

There are approximately 2,500 certified court interpreters in the United States, of which only 500 translate from languages other than Spanish, stated Isabel Framer, President of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT), in an article for El Universo.

The need for certified court interpreters in a foreign language has doubled in the last decade. All states are facing an acute shortage of court interpreters, according to professionals working in the field. The demand for these services appeared suddenly and took everyone by surprise, said Wanda Romberger, Director of judicial interpretation at the National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Virginia.

Professionals in the legal field are also concerned and trying to find a solution to this problem, consequence of the rapid diversification of the population. State court processes and immigration are at the root of this problem. All immigrants have a constitutional right to receive equal treatment in a court of law, regardless of their mother tongue.

There is a multistate partnership founded in 1995, dedicated to dealing with issues of interpreters’ certification and related problems, which confirm the growing demand for this type of translators. The effort to address these problems began in 1995 with four states and the focus was on the Spanish language. There are now 40 states and the association manages tests in 16 languages, with pressure to diversify further.

This is a field that still has much to offer for translators who live in the United States, especially for Latino translators.


Spanish Translation in the United States

Friday, January 14th, 2011

It is fair to say that Spanish translation is the U.S. is divided equally between the domestic and international market. These markets each have their own idiosyncrasies that represent only one aspect of the language problem in the United States.

U.S. based translations face a very different situation from that experienced by markets in other Spanish speaking countries. On the one hand is the domestic market, where the target audience is highly heterogeneous, submerged in bilingual media and at times with low educational level. This is a population that innocently uses Spanglish. On the other hand is the international one, in which translations can be aimed at any of the 22 countries of the Hispanic world, or to all countries equally.

The U.S. market makes the translation process more difficult for the translator and the translation company. Typically, translations into Spanish need to have very specific guidelines or the translation can be plagued with differences. Translators from different backgrounds tend to use different terms and forms of expression. Reason why it is so important to keep in mind that Spanish speakers often react strongly to the use of words that are not common in their countries. Of course all this has a solution: if translators work with a glossary and a style manual, customers will ultimately receive a satisfactory translation.

However, the Spanish language is basically the same for all countries. The most noticeable differences between the various forms of expression in Spanish are at the level of speech. The lower the educational level of the speaker, the more pronounced is the difference of expression. But no matter what dialect is used, if it is written in good basic Spanish, any Spanish speaker will understand it.

Having said that, it is important to recognize the idiosyncrasies of the market. For example, when translating for a U.S. audience, numerals should be the same as in English. That is, one dollar and fifty cents is written one point fifty and not one comma fifty. The reason for this is obvious: U.S. Spanish speakers live in a world that expresses decimal points with a period and not a comma as in their countries of origin. Changing it would be extremely confusing and may even cause lawsuits. Moreover, some Latin American countries are increasingly adopting the decimal separator. For example: Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Puerto Rico.


The most troubling aspect of the U.S. market is Spanglish. In short, it is the use of English words and, in many cases, combined with an English syntax. Requests to translate in Spanglish already exist in the market. This is obviously for marketing purposes to reach to a potential buyer and sell a product. However, Spanglish is not a dialect and its use should not be encouraged. Promoting Spanglish can have unpredictable consequences for the evolution, or rather the involution of Spanish or Hispanic heritage in the United States.


Christmas Latino

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

The traditional American Christmas is usually celebrated until December 25, which is the official day of celebration. Children wake up as early, even when the day before was a struggle to get out of bed, and run to the Christmas tree to see what gifts Santa brought them. Adults try to sleep a late, but it’s impossible. The day is followed by a late lunch or an early dinner and watching sports on television or playing games in the patio.

Many Latino-Americans continue these traditions as they assimilate the culture and get used to their new country. But Latinos closer to their roots tend to consider the 24th just as important as the 25th, or even more so for being the birthday of Jesus. Immigrants adapt these customs with their own, and each family mergers new traditions with those of the country of origin. Far from their home and missing their old ways, they do everything possible to incorporate them by introducing their foods and traditions any way they can, and to make it as close as possible to how it was before, at home, while trying to keep alive the memory of their homeland.

For many in the United States, Christmas is synonymous with gifts, parties and last minute visits to the malls. However, for Latinos this is the time of year where the holiday spirit and New Year atmosphere is what is most important. The majority of Latinos are Catholic, so family and sharing with others becomes very important especially during the holidays celebrations.

Celebrations usually start on December 1, or in some cases the day after Thanksgiving, lasting until January 6, the day of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day). It is a time for sharing,  when the family comes closer together, something very common among Latino families that are usually very big and who try not to separate, especially during the holidays. Thanks to this spirit of unity, many Latinos try to spread their traditions in the areas in which they live and to their neighbors, sometimes making a mixture of the traditions of many countries.

Merry Christmas to all Latinos in the world, especially for those living in the United States and trying to make this union produces something better for all people by spreading their customs and promote family unity.


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