Languages of Spain's separatist regions: Basque and Catalan

Sep 29, 2017

Over the course of history, languages and their evolution have proven to be an accelerator of brawls between nations, as language happens to be the one common denominator for different groups inhabiting the same area that we actually call a nation. Language is an identification mark of affiliation and there are still languages in Europe that bear the nation-building agenda, even in 2017. Examples of such languages are those of Basque and Catalan, the Spain's rebellious regions.

Basque language

Basque is a language spoken by people in a geographic area in northeastern Spain stretching into parts of southwestern France. Over the past centuries, this region has contracted. Recently, as a result of the Basque nationalistic movement, the language has made a slight comeback. Basque is, in fact, a rather interesting language, as it is an isolated language and is not even remotely similar to any known existing language in the world. Presumably, Basque happens to be one of the few pre-Indo-European languages, the only one remaining in use in Western Europe.

Several dialects of Basque exist, however, the main dialect is Euskara Batua, a standard introduced in the 1960s that is generally taught in Basque schools. Basque is spoken by a little less than one million people. The language has co-official status in the Basque regions of Spain, but has no official status in the French regions.

During the era of Francoist Spain, the language was reluctantly tolerated in the Basque regions that supported the uprising of Franco, yet frowned-upon in those regions where the uprising gained little support.



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Catalan language

Catalan is a Romance language with somewhere between 9 and 10 million speakers, but not necessarily native. It is the official language of Andorra and enjoys co-official status in a few Spanish communities, mainly on Spain's east coast, among others in Valencia, where it is called Valencian, or in the Balearic Islands. Similar to Spanish, Catalan also originates from Vulgar Latin. It reached its golden era in medieval times, particularly the Low Middle Ages, when it spread through the Mediterranean. It was used as an official language even in Sicily (until the 15th century) and Sardinia (until the 17th century), while the city of Alghero in Sardinia still tends to use Catalan until the present day.

The decline of Catalan, that in fact still continues, can be traced back to a specific historical event, the union of Castille and Aragon crowns in 1479, which caused an increasing influence of Spanish in the region. Yet another blow came in 1659, when the northern parts of the Catalonia region was ceded to France. Not only did the language come under the influence of French, it was even drastically prohibited from public use, with efforts to revive Catalan literature coming no sooner than in the half of 19th century.

The language was banned in use yet again during the Francoist era and has been recognized as an official language only after Spain's transition to democracy.

Nowadays, there are efforts to revive the language, among others by the French General Council of Pyrénées-Orientales (who introduced Catalan as one of the official languages of the department), to further promote it in public life and education. This seems to be necessary, as statistical research showed a quite dramatic decline of the population in the Catalan region that self-identifies primarily with Catalan (from 44.3% in 2003 to only 36.4% in 2013), which is believed to be caused by immigration, mainly from Arabic-speaking countries. A share of Catalonia's annual budget is poured into promoting the use of Catalan and integration of newcomers. Another issue is that the Catalan-speakers are actually becoming extinct and outside Catalonia itself the language is being replaced by the stronger national languages such as Spanish, French and Italian.


Catalan uses the Latin alphabet and uses acute accents (é, í, ó, ú) as well as grave accents (à, è, ò).


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ISO 18587: What it means for translation providers

Sep 8, 2017

Quality is one of the most crucial factors within the translation industry. Responsible providers not only know that high translation quality is an ongoing sales pitch, but that the perception of quality throughout the entire industry is important for all players involved.

The evolution of machine translation (MT) is a game-changer in how the industry itself (and subsequently the public) considers the quality of translation services, and what is a translation service as such in the wake of machines assisting with translation.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) together with translation industry professionals have addressed the development by issuing two translation-related international standards, namely:

So, what is new with ISO 18587 and what should translation providers and clients alike pay attention to?

Translators and reviewers become post-editors

The norm deals chiefly with the term "post-editing" and focuses on "post-editors" instead of translators. In a strict sense, whenever input text passes through an initial CAT tool check or any computer-assisted pre-translation analysis or content processing, it becomes machine output.

Defining full post-editing vs. light post-editing

Moreover, the ISO 18587 standard distinguishes between “full post-editing” as a product comparable to a product of human translation in the final result, and “light post-editing” that provides results of "merely comprehensible text without any attempt to be similar to human translation" (as defined in Annex B of the norm). Obviously, in terms of the current perception of "quality" within today's translation industry, only full post-editing meets the quality standards as it delivers a professionally impeccable result.

However, as long as “the final text is not intended for publication”, the norm clearly states what requirements need to be met to establish light-post editing that could, in fact, be turned into a service. It's up to discussion whether this approach of post-editing output quality will be feasible in the near future.

Post-editors need the same qualifications as translators

In ISO 18578, post-editors are considered translation professionals in the exact same sense as in ISO 17100, therefore an LSP needs to provide evidence that its post-editors either:

  • obtained a linguistic degree that has required significant translation training from a recognized organization, or
  • hold a degree from a field other than translation, while the subject can prove two years of professional experience in translation or post-editing, or
  • can prove an experience of 5 years of full-time translation or post-editing

Training of post-editors for machine output required

As translators transform into post-editors in this type of service, and because machines are heavily involved in the translation process, editing of MT output requires special knowledge of CAT tools and an understanding of how translation and terminology management systems interact with MT and MT systems. Post-editors need to be thoroughly trained to use the post-editing tools, recognize common MT errors, assess whether it makes sense to even edit the MT output in terms of effort and time spent and to become familiar with the difference between the full and light post-editing processes and the eventual outcome.

To maintain a high regard for the players in the translation industry, and especially for the companies that rely on the use of translation memories and other translation resources and workflows including MT, we would highly recommend getting familiar with the ISO 18587 standard and also consider their third-party translation suppliers' quality approach in the context of post-editing MT output.

All translation services by idioma are performed in compliance with ISO 9001:2016 (, ISO 17100:2015 (, as well as ISO 18587:2017 ( RI004) standards.