The Year In Translation News – 2010

2010 is history now. It has become a tradition to compile different year-end lists for the Old Year. Lists of "best companies to work for," "best places to live in," "top 10 highest paid CEOs," "top 10 political turkeys," "the year's 10 worst toys," "top 50 songs," etc.

I've compiled my own list. A list of top translation news for 2010. I don’t intend to publish the most important translation news from the past year. I've simply selected stories that I feel are interesting.

So, what translation news made my top 5 for 2010?


The community of linguists helped earthquake-stricken Haiti.

A devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010. An international community gathered to help rebuild the country. Translators and interpreters didn't stood apart either. In particular, Carnegie Mellon University's Language Technologies Institute (LTI) publicly released spoken and textual data they've compiled on Haitian Creole to hasten development of translation tools desperately needed by doctors, nurses and other relief workers in Haiti.

ALTA Language Services recorded a free Haitian Creole Emergency Medical Phrase Pronunciation Guide.

Translators Without Borders provided free translation for Haitian organizations.

Google translate, Google's free online language translation service, included Haitian Creole into its list of supported languages.


One of the most notable stories of love and war in Thai literature has been translated into English for the first time.

The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen is a classic love triangle. It is about a beautiful woman, a heroic but poor man who loves her, and another, richer suitor. The story of their uneasy relations ends in tragedy when the king condemns the woman to death for failing to choose between the two men.

The tale has originated in Thailand several centuries ago and is still very popular in the country. Even children learn excerpts from it at school. The
first full 1,000-page English translation of this folk tale will enable the English-speaking audience to become familiar with this famous Thai literary work.


My top translation blooper of 2010 - An "exercise yard" is definitely better than an "execution yard."

Lincoln Prison in England outsourced translation of a pamphlet for its Russian inmates informing them of prison facilities. In particular, the pamphlet included information about an "execution yard." However, the "execution yard" was mistranslation of "exercise yard." Luckily, a member of prison staff detected and corrected the mistranslation at the proof stage.

This would be funny if it weren't so sad.


A dangerous malpractice of automated translations of medicine labels.

Not infrequently, Spanish-speaking patients read misleading information printed on medicine labels provided to them at U.S. pharmacies. This happens as a result of erroneous English into Spanish translations made by the pharmacies. The majority of the pharmacies use either automated translation software or lay staff members to make such translations.

Translation errors in medicine can have disastrous consequences and therefore must be avoided by all means.


Driven by the ubiquity of demand for language translation tools, translation applications for mobile phones exploded in 2010.

Word Lens, the new iPhone application, instantly translates words viewed through the phone's camera. No need to type anything. No need to be on the Internet or to have a phone connection.

The application must be very helpful for tourists. However, in my opinion, it is virtually useless for the majority of other users of translations because it produces automated word-for-word translation. Such method of translation gives poor results on complex sentences. In addition, it can handle only two languages - Spanish and English - so far.

You can use this application successfully to translate only very simple and short signs and inscriptions and only in English and Spanish. See for yourself.

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