Uncategorized

Why improving your pronunciation is more important than you thought when learning a new language…
(by Jack Brian Robinson)

Introduction

About a month into living in Italy I was sitting down for breakfast with a new group of friends when one of them asked (in Italian, of course) what everybody wanted for dinner that night. “Carne” I responded, meat. At least, that’s what I thought I said. My friends burst out laughing, while I looked at them perplexed. “We don’t eat that here,” they chuckled. I smiled but inside I was completely confused. They explained that due to my inability to properly pronounce the “r”, it sounded like I’d said “cane”, which means “dog”. I laughed along with them, but deep down I was quite embarrassed. How about improving your pronunciation?

You see, though I’d studied Italian for many years before moving here, I put no effort into practicing the pronunciation. I told myself something along the lines of: “learning a language from scratch is hard enough already. I don’t care what I sound like!” but, as I discovered in this moment (which was, thankfully, very soon into moving here) it wasn’t really a matter of sounding good, it was about being comprehensible.

Improve your pronunciation not to be misunderstood

My Feelings about Improving Your Pronunciation

Now, let me tell you, as a native British guy, mastering the Italian trilled “r” is quite the task. And I’ll be honest, I’ve never really got it fully, nor do I think I ever will. But, I found a few tricks along the way and now, at the very least, my friends understand that I want meat and not dog for dinner. You see, someone who is learning a new language ought to give the same level of importance to pronunciation as they do to both grammar and vocabulary. The most fundamental thing, of course, is being understood, but that’s not the only reason you should care about it.

As we know, people can also be quite insensitive from time-to-time, and as a foreigner in a foreign country attempting to speak a second language, it’s not uncommon to hear people repeating what you said while mimicking your strong accent. They don’t mean anything by it (most of the time), and they no doubt find it charming, but it can hurt to hear someone, even light-heartedly making fun of something you’ve dedicated so much time and effort to.

It’s a feeling I know well and one I want to help prevent you from experiencing. I’ve compiled together 3 tips that have helped me to improve my pronunciation in my second language. I guarantee, if you put in the time and follow them carefully, you’ll have people complimenting you, rather than making jokes at your expense.

Improving Your Pronunciation with The Mirror Trick

This is quite a simple concept, but it can potentially be one of the most effective if done regularly. The idea is simple: pronunciation, like singing, is a matter of having correct technique. By being able to visualize exactly what movements your mouth is making as you’re attempting a particular word or sound, your chances for success improve significantly.

Speaking, acting, singing, even conducting an orchestra: each of these activities requires technique and… apparently a mirror! It’s a good reminder we do need to work on ourselves.

(Emanuele, Italian)

On a few occasions while (essentially) talking to myself in the mirror, the perfect pronunciation has happened by accident. As I was watching my mouth movements, I was able to recreate it more easily. It’s a simple thing, and it can feel a little silly, but try to do this for 5 minutes every other day. I promise you it will have a great effect on your overall pronunciation.

Improve your pronunciation with a mirror

Repetition and Projection

This step is the reason that my fellow citizens here in this small southern Italian city likely think that I’m insane. As I ride my bike back and forth to work I can be heard by every person and car I pass, loudly repeating Italian words that I find particularly tricky to pronounce. “Torre, torre, torre, to-rrrrrrr-e”, “disseminare, disseminare, dis-semin-are”, and so on. I do this every day during my commute from home to work and back and it really helps me tackle those tricky syllables and sounds.

Our emotional state plays a huge part in how well we’ll be able to learn a new skill. It’s really important not to let ourselves get discouraged when we find challenges in a second language. This helps improving your pronunciation.

(Kerol, Brazilian)

Projection is also something that is often overlooked by people. Speaking a new language can leave someone feeling shy and self-conscious, and when one is in that state it’s more than likely that they’ll be mumbling, rather than projecting and annunciating as well as possible. Practice putting a bit of force behind your voice too and I bet you’ll surprise yourself!

Voice Messages & Better Pronunciation

Italy and many other European countries have a wonderful obsession with sending voice messages to each-other, rather than writing lengthy, time-consuming messages. It’s convenient, sure, but it also has other benefits. I understand that this doesn’t come very naturally to many people. I encourage you to fall in love with sending voice messages as often as possible in your second language. When sending a voice message, not only are you are improving your pronunciation, but you’re also making a snapshot of your practice that can be utilized later on.

In Italian schools there is this silly practice to make students memorize every dialogue of the book by listening to the audio track. I, instead, ask my students to record themselves as they read them. Then grade their pronunciation and write down the words they are not sure about. I found out this way they become more concious about their mistakes and are more likely to remember the right way to pronounce a particular word.

(Lucrezia, Italian)

Human beings are innately very self-critical creatures, and this is what we’ll be using to our advantage during this step. Don’t just send voice messages in your second language and forget about them: STUDY THEM! You’ll hate it, but nothing shines a spotlight on your pronunciation errors more than hearing them for yourself. “I didn’t know I pronounced that word like that…” you’ll think to yourself. And by having this self-awareness, not only will you be more conscious of the mistakes you make, but you’ll be more motivated to correct them too.

Improve your pronunciation with vocal messages

Final Reflections on Improving Your Pronunciation

No matter which language you’re learning, you’re bound to encounter a “sound” that is just completely unnatural to you and that requires more attention. For me, it’s the trilled Italian “r”. For the Italians themselves it’s the English (or rather, German, from a pronunciation perspective) “h”, as well as our “th”.

In Italian, the “h” is also called the “mute consonant” since we never pronounce it. That’s why, when we speak English, we tend to randomly add “h” sounds. However, in Italian, “o” and “ho” are completely different words… silly letters

(Emanuele, Italian)

Famously, native Russian speakers also have a really hard time with English pronunciation, for the Russian language only has a quarter of the vowels that English does. Just as for English natives, many Russian sounds such as their D (Д) cause a lot of bother. The more subtle they are, the harder still!

So, which languages are you learning, and which sounds give you the most trouble? Let us know in the comments below!

Conclusion

The importance of improving your pronunciation can easily be disregarded. I hope this short guide has helped to convince you to give it a little more consideration throughout your language learning journey. Now, go talk to yourself in the mirror, shout foreign words down the street and cringe at the sound of your own voice. In bocca al lupo!

Best Translators Online Learn Second Language

How I went from novice to professional translator and interpreter in just 5 years…
(by Jack Brian Robinson)

About me

I had always wanted to learn a second language but (not for lack of trying) I could never seem to get there. Spanish, German, French, even Latin. I had convinced myself that I was just “one of those people” who would never be able to learn a second language. That was until I made the decision to move to Italy around 5 years ago. From that moment on, knowing that I’d have some serious hurdles ahead if I wasn’t prepared, I finally began putting everything I had into it. I sacrificed my time, I invested my money and I slowly whittled away at the part of myself that was terrified of making “mistakes” until eventually, once I landed here in late 2018, I already had enough of a solid foundation to begin conversing even within the first month.

In this article I’ll share with you what I consider to be the 5 most important steps towards truly mastering your second language.

Grammar

It seems a little obvious, but mastering the fundamentals of grammar often gets overlooked, especially by English-speaking language learners. I’m not suggesting that you learn every grammar tense, conjugation and combination before attempting to speak, but foreign languages are notorious for having a strong emphasis on grammar and the basics are essential.

Tip:

For technical grammar topics I would opt for a traditional textbook over language-learning Apps. Having all the explanations laid out plainly and concisely with several examples will help you digest them quicker. Remember: memorizing is useful but nothing trumps true comprehension.

Start by understanding and memorizing the simple present, past and future of the 5-10 most common verbs to begin with. Then in combination with the next step, you’ll have enough to start having basic conversations. Which brings us to:

Vocabulary

This is where your language-learning Apps come in. Those such as Duolingo and Memrise should be used, not for learning your target language per-se, but for introducing you to and boosting your vocabulary. These apps are really good at giving you the most commonly used words and having you repeat them enough times to make them stick.

All big fan of Duolingo in my family. I completed the Czech course, and am half way with German. It’s so handy, unlike the dozens of dictionaries I used to collect when I was younger 🙂

(Emanuele, Italian)
Tip:

Regardless of your method, try to focus on the 500-1000 most used words in your target language. The word “chicken” will be more useful to you in your everyday life than “pipe”. But then again, it all depends on why you’re learning the language. If it’s just for work-related reasons and you’re a plumber, then the inverse will of course be true!

I’m a fan of the Pareto Principle and we can apply it to languages as well: roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes (the “vital few”). It illustrates that studying “hard” might not yield the same results if you’re not studying “smart”.

(David, Brazilian)

Music

What is the one thing almost all human beings have in common? A love for music! I say almost all because I actually met a person once who didn’t like music and I still can’t accept that… Alas! The majority of us are all alike in our love for music. Sure, we have our own particular tastes but a true music lover will find something good in anything (so long as it’s actually good, of course). 

Music can be so helpful in language learning as we’re taking something we love already and combining it with something we must learn to love. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to go on a YouTube spree until you find an artist or style of music in your target language that you love. Trust me, it will make learning your desired language so much more of a pleasure than a chore!

Tip:

Once you’ve found a song or an artist that you like, try to memorize the lyrics to some songs. After which you could compare the lyrics to your native language to learn from. Depending on your level you could even attempt to translate them for yourself first!

When I was very young and I first started learning English I would write down what the words in a song sounded like, so I could learn how to sing them, and then later I would look up the actual lyrics and connect those two things to figure out what words sounded like what. That helped me learn a lot of new words and a lot of pronunciation, and they would stick in my brain because these were songs I really loved.

(Kerol, Brazilian)

Film/TV

In the same vein as music, finding a TV show or film that you love in your target language is so helpful for language learning. Language teachers call this “passive learning” and, though it might not feel like you’re learning much, you’re actually developing one of the most important aspects: the sound and cadence of the language itself. This is in addition to being presented with new and existing vocabulary in a native setting which is truly priceless.

I am a huge movie fan, and I have watched movies since I was a kid. I think that helped me to learn English from an early stage.

(Sérgio, Portuguese)
Tip:

If you can’t find a show in your desired language that interests you, pick an existing show you know really well and start watching the “dubbed” version. We’ve all seen numerous repeats of shows such as “Friends” and “How I Met Your Mother” by now that we can almost recite entire episodes back-to-back. Hearing how these dialogues sound in your desired language will help you in multiple, unimaginable ways.

Conversation

This is the aspect of language learning which I would consider most important. Nothing can substitute the immersive setting of having a conversation in your desired language, especially with a native speaker. Not all of us have the benefits of living in the country of our target language, but we are lucky enough to live in an age in which we can converse with strangers over thousands of miles. If you can’t find a language partner locally, free Apps such as HelloTalk and Tandem will help you to find native speakers who are interested in learning your language and are interested in an exchange.

Few years back, I joined an international guild in a mobile game where they communicate real time with everyone online in English language; which is my second language; and it does improve my skill in conversing and writing. So having conversation is really an important aspect if you want to improve your second language.

(Yuni, Malay)
Tip:

Use whatever means you have at your disposal to find a dedicated language partner and try to have short conversations on a regular basis. Suggest to your language partner talking for 15-30 minutes in your native language, then do the same in theirs.

If you have the means available, try to find a teacher to meet once a week who can track your progress and point you in the right direction.

Conclusion

Language learning is hard, I won’t pretend otherwise, but I believe with enough hard work and dedication that anybody, any age can learn a second language. Now, get to it! In bocca al lupo!

To find Jack in our list of professional translators, just click on our Languages and then on English.

Have you ever wondered about the translations you’ve received? How can translators ensure accuracy? How do you know, as a client, that it is a good or better yet the best translation? We summarised some key points to provide some insight into that question. If you are looking to have something translated but are not sure how to choose a translator, here are some things you want to consider.

What makes a translation a good translation?

The outcome of a good translation is a document that doesn’t sound like a translation. We deliver an original document, written in the target language. We don’t believe in word-by-word translation.

That’s why we require our translators to be fluent in the source language and highly skilled in their native tongue. Good professionals can understand, feel and recreate the same meaning, style, tone and nuances in the target language within a reasonable time.

How do you achieve that?

What we suggest to all translators is to read a sentence or a full paragraph, feel it and rewrite it in the target language. We all speak the source language fluently and we are all native speakers of the target language, so this process flows very naturally.

We need to understand the source language rules, such as structures, punctuation, use of pronouns. Then we need to forget the rules of the source language, once we recreate our text in the second language. It needs to be correct in the target language.

Do you use any software or machine translation?

No, no, no! We all use dictionaries, websites, and all kinds of references to help us understand and check our work. We don’t use machine, AI or any software can compare to a well prepared, experienced and focussed professional.

We have zero tolerance for the use of machine translation and we thoroughly test our candidates to make sure they work manually.

How do you approach a new project?

What makes BTO different is how we work as a team, not just in managing the group, but also in the translation process itself. When you have a large document, such as a novel, you find two different approaches.

There are those who try to find the best individual to assign the task to. The best professionals often ask for higher fees and take all the necessary time to deliver. Then you have teams, where each professional handles a portion of the project , making the process smoother and quicker.

Both approaches have pros and cons. Finding the (one) best individual translator is not always easy and you end up having two eyes and one brain (only) on the job, at a high rate. The risk is very high. On the other hand, splitting a job into smaller tasks puts translators in the position of not having the whole project in mind, other than their part.

That’s why we at BTO chose a solution which has the best of both worlds. Finding the best professionals, and creating a project process which involves more than just one, but with very specific tasks. Each of our colleagues still considers the whole project, from a specific point of view.

A Good Translation – The Best Translators Online

What does the project flow in BestTranslators look like?

We assign each project to a main translator. The translator delivers the project in parts for a first Quality Check. This is a quick evaluation that we often entrust to external professionals. No individual is perfect, that’s why it’s risky assigning a project to one single person.

The document then goes to the proofreader, who processes what could have been left out by the translator. At this stage, we fix typos, if any, implement better wording and all the improvements that are necessary to make the document ready to publish. The proofreader sends us back a second rating for the translation. This means that our translators are assessed twice for each project.

Finally, the work of the proofreader is assessed in a second, independent Quality Check. This way, the project has been processed and checked by a minimum of four professionals, with three different evaluations on translation and proofreading.

It seems like a lengthy process, how do you manage deadlines?

Good quality takes time, but having different layers and levels of editing and checking actually helps make the process quicker. This is because of how our brain works. If you had to write ten pages, read back and find mistakes, knowing that no one else is going to help you, you would take a lot of time, since you’d need to be 100% sure of the outcome.

This is another negative consequence of pretending a single individual can process a translation with a perfect outcome. On the other hand, knowing you have at least another editor (the proofreader) and a network of Quality Checks and Feedbacks allows you to work more smoothly and in much less time.

We know the translation is not going to be perfect after the first step – even though we still expect a quality rating of at least 80% – but it is going to get there, and in less time.

Why choose Best Translators Online over another Translation Agency?

We prefer to consider ourselves a network of professionals, not an agency. That’s why we show our faces, as a sign of honest, human and clear commitment to achieve the best quality at a fair price.

Quality + humanity, clear processes + fair rates, independent assessments + Code of Conduct + professional commitment = Best Translators Online

The best translation of a game is a very specific challenge. Game localisation involves much more than just language. You need intuition in understanding the game mood and environment, accuracy in spotting the places where to perform the translation. You also deal with code strings, cells which require a short text, expressions which reflect a specific wording.

Translation or localisation?

For most games, finding the best translation would be enough to help the player enjoy the gaming experience. More and more games, however, aim to create a special story, e.g. a Medieval setting, with names and characters taken from mythology, history or fantasy. This is where the Best Translators Online make the extra effort in localisation, adapting names and stories to the audience of specific countries or languages.

Let’s see some of the specific challenges of game localisation with an example, Runefall, by Tamalaki Games. This game is full of text, dialogues, instructions, rewards and gameplay tricks, adding up to over 15,000 words and with constant updates.

What is different with Runefall?

Runefall is an innovative Medieval match-3 adventure game that pairs the classic matching with exploration and discovery, item collection, quests, town building, and more!

Traverse HUGE environments, collect resources, overcome obstacles, and upgrade the town of Rivermoor. It is localised in more than 15 languages so far, with a mix of old English, puns, flexible user interface, variables, and coded text made this game localisation more intriguing.

What are the challenges of game localisation?

A very common feature of game localisation is having to deal with variables: “{0} and {1} are not in the same row”. In this case, {0} and {1} are tiles, objects, but they could be numbers, names, etc. Note that the position of the variables will also change based on the grammar of the target language.

Colour markers and code markers are another challenge to be aware of. Cells like the following are quite common: “We’ll each need a &lt;color=#FF8000&gt;lantern&lt;/color&gt;“. The & markers are characters such as “<” or “>” and they enclose markers, such as “color” which are not to be translated. In the whole line above, the only word to consider is “lantern”.

Our comments on game localisation

Here are some of the translators who worked on this wonderful project. You can find all our professional translators in the Languages page.

Sérgio (Portuguese): “Being a fan of all kinds of games from the Medieval period, for me, it was quite easy and interesting to translate some parts of Runefall into Portuguese, which will certainly help all Portuguese-speaking players to get the most out of this game.”

Javad (Danish): “Runefall has its own story which might give a good sense in English. However, when the story has to be translated to Danish a great understanding of the game and storylines were needed in order to live up to the creativity of the game.”

Diana (German): “Runefall required a special type of finesse: rendering medieval flair with contemporary language.”

Nuala (Dutch): “Runefall is a one-of-a-kind game, it’s very fun and the translations are very interesting because of the context.”

Zuzanna (Polish): “Working on Runefall was an interesting experience, enriched by the uncommon vocabulary and the game’s originality.”

Where can I play Runefall?

Runefall is available on Apple Store or on Google Play.