Translation for the Wine Industry

It’s harvest time in California wine country! In fact, the 2021 grape harvest began early this year. I live in Sonoma County, and harvest time can be exciting. As fall colors begin to change and the air turns crisp, we see truckloads of grapes making their way down winding country roads. Floodlights light up vineyards at night so workers can see while picking grapes, and everyone is talking about the weather and how it may affect the fruit.

For the past couple of years, I’ve have the opportunity to provide translation services for the wine industry in Napa and Sonoma counties, as well as for a family-run winery in Spain. I’ve translated things like employee manuals and safety guides, especially for the Covid-19 workplace. I’ve also translated tasting notes and social media posts. Staying up to date on wine industry news and trends is important to me. Here in California, the industry is facing big challengesand big opportunities.

Some questions among vineyard and winery owners are: How do we adapt to a changing climate? How can large-scale operations work well with conservation groups and neighbors? What needs to happen to ensure worker safety? How is the customer base changing?

The “State of the Wine Industry Report 2021” from wine industry investor Silicon Valley Bank highlights recent trends in the U.S. wine industry. This year’s report discusses the importance of online sales, how wine marketing campaigns can appeal to millenials and other younger consumers (such as more diverse, multicultural messaging), and how local tourism will be key to business during this time when international travel has dipped.

“Fire season” is really a thing here in the West. Luckily, an oversupply of grapes helped to ease some of the pain caused by natural disasters like wildfires, and last year’s harvest quality was good. The report also discusses labor supply, which is limited and has increasing costs. Vineyards and wineries must try new ways to reach out and support new and potential employees.

Supporting agricultural workers in wine country has been front and center for labor groups and organizations such as the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation. For example, the SCGGF set up the “Farmworker Resiliency Fund” to help workers pay for housing and other needs after wildfires. Clear communication in Spanish is also a huge need for these operations. I can tell you stories of OSHA presentations where workers didn’t understand the content because presentations and materials were only in English. Not good!

For his article in North Bay Biz, author Tim Carl states: “Creating a work environment that is welcoming and accepting to all is not only the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense….Doing so means you and your organization have spent time thinking about how to engage those not normally in your sphere of experience. It also demonstrates you’ve been rethinking the very framework your company has used to engage with others in the past.”

You can access the full Silicon Valley Bank report here, and learn about support for vineyard and winery workers here. In the meantime, here’s hoping for a successful 2021 harvest.

Talking New Mexico

My husband and I were fortunate to spend most of our summer in New Mexico this year. We stayed in Santa Fe, Taos and the Albuquerque area, where my husband’s family lives. We also drove far north, which we usually don’t have the time to do, visiting the picturesque mountain town of Chama and the wilds of the Carson National Forest.

As a language person, I love seeing and hearing Spanish words used every day in New Mexico. Some people who visit New Mexico don’t necessarily know the Spanish words key to the local culture, so today I’ll share a few that I’ve learned about over the years. If you go to New Mexico, make sure to keep your eyes and ears open for these Spanish words!


National Geographic tells us that “(t)here are close to 700 functioning acequias in New Mexico, according to the state’s Acequia Commission, and a score more in Colorado. Many of these gravity-fed ditches that bring runoff from the mountains to the fields have been operating for three centuries, and some were likely dug long before that.” Local farmers and homeowners depend on these acequias to irrigate crops and gardens. If you have property with an acequia, you likely pay an annual fee to be part of the system in your neighborhood. Land with an acequia is like gold in these dry parts of the Southwest.

This acequia is in the village of Corrales, just north of Albuquerque.


On the subject of acequias, the mayordomo is an important person within a community with these irrigation ditches. This individual oversees the maintenance and fair use of the acequia. People often take turns in the role. The mayordomo interfaces with community members, property owners and local government to make sure everything runs smoothly, with fair use for everyone with water rights. A well-known account of a mayordomo in Northern New Mexico is chronicled in the book “Mayordomo” by Stanley Crawford.

This mayordomo is opening the sluice gate to let water into the main stream.


Without water, we wouldn’t have chile! Whether you prefer red or green, a typical meal in New Mexico isn’t complete without it. Note that it’s spelled “chile”, and not “chili,” which is the chili stew with beans, meat, and vegetables you’d get in neighboring Texas.

This chile is turning from green to red.


When it comes to art in New Mexico, you’ll find paintings, sculptures, music, theater…and one of the most traditional art forms is the carved wooden “santo”, or saint. Some santos are plain wood, and others are painted with brighter colors. Santos can be three dimensional statues or simple wooden wall hangings with a picture of a saint. The Harwood Museum in Taos has a gorgeous collection of santos by Patrociño Barela. His simple, deeply thoughtful works are considered to reflect the universal human condition.

This collection of santos is in a home.


A portal is a covered porch, with the overhang usually supported by large wooden beams. It’s a classic feature of most New Mexican homes, even if the home is a modern one. It’s the place to be on a hot day with your lemonade or beer!

This building in Santa Fe has a portál along the front.

Are there any words you’ve wondered about during a trip to New Mexico? Let me know and I’ll answer your questions!

Images courtesy of Yes Magazine, the Santa Fe New Mexican, Archaeology Southwest, KUNM and On the Luce.

What I’m Working On

Summer greetings to you!

I took a look at what types of translation projects I’ve worked on during the first half of 2021: January through June. Here is how it’s shaking out:

Two trends are clear. The first trend I notice is that a lot of education- and health-related projects came in over the past six months. This was a direct result of Covid-19 because many schools and medical/health providers increased their communication during the pandemic. The second trend I see is that arts-related translation is certainly down…as is travel-related translation, which only makes up a small part of that “Other” category. Not a surprise there! It will be interesting to see if the numbers change in the second half of 2021.

Hope you’re enjoying summer, wherever it finds you.

“My School Needs a Translator!”

Schools and school districts need translators and interpreters to work with students and families throughout the year. In fact, this is a requirement according to U.S. state and federal laws. That’s why we hear teachers and administrators say: “My school needs a translator!” As a former classroom teacher in K-12 schools and, more recently, for adult ESL classes, I love working with schools to provide language access. This may be translating written materials or interpreting at meetings or on phone calls.

Most large school districts have full- or part-time translators/interpreters on staff, but many smaller districts do not. For example, rural schools, charter schools and private schools usually don’t have someone in this position. The role oftentimes falls upon whichever staff members are bilingual. This can be problematic for three reasons. First, your bilingual staff member may feel this is yet another task being added to their already-long list of duties, thus causing resentment. Second, some bilingual speakers are not necessary strong translators or writers. Third, your school could be missing out on having someone who is specifically trained in translation and interpretation techniques—methods and ethics that will help strengthen relationships between parents, teachers, students and administrators.

So many things can be translated for your students and families: back-to-school night guides, letters to parents and guardians, report cards, class websites, curriculum guides and more. Interpreting is often needed for parent-teacher conferences, student learning assessments and IEP meetings. Once you know what your needs are, make sure to tell your translator or interpreter what you want students or parents/guardians to get out of the material or meeting. If a written document is to be translated, tell your translator what the reader’s overall reading level is; this will help the translator to choose appropriate vocabulary and style for the document.

For more guidance and resources about providing language services in your school or district, I highly recommend visiting this website: U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights: Resources for Students, Parents and Education Officials.

What is Localization?

Translation and localization often go hand-in-hand. Translation from one language into another is a clear concept, but localization can be confusing. I think this is because localization is often an unseen part of the translation process, and good translators incorporate localization into nearly every project. Proper localization makes a translation really shine.

Localization is the process of adapting a message to a specific language variant or locale. It ensures that content appears to have been originally written in the target language. For example, a document translated into English may then go through a separate localization process in which the document will be edited for U.K., U.S., Canadian and other English-language readers. (Think “boot” and other words with widely different meanings.)

Some of the most common items changed during localization are:

  • Time format: AM/PM format vs. 24-hour “military time”
  • Date format: For example, the day is always listed first in Spanish, but second in English. Therefore, “4 de mayo de 2021” would be translated as “May 4, 2021”.
  • Number format: Commas and periods are used differently based on country or language variant: 2,044 vs. 2.044. Both of these can mean “two thousand forty-four” depending on the locale.
  • Tone: The default tone of many Spanish-language communications is the formal “Usted”. However, many English-language communications are less formal, and there is no different pronoun used to denote a formal vs. informal tone in English.
  • Pictures and Names: If images are part of a text, there may need to be some changes to those images in order to remain culturally sensitive. Similarly, a title or name might need to be altered for clarity or understanding.
  • Formatting: This includes details like punctuation placement.
  • Capitalization: Capitalization rules can be different depending on the language or language variant.

Software localization is a huge part of the translation industry, and you can read more about that here. That’s not my speciality, but I do a lot of localization in general—both formally and informally. It’s the surefire way to avoid any confusion, and it makes a translation easier and more enjoyable to read!


Last year I wrote about one of my favorite Spanish words, estrenar. Another favorite is tocayo:

Tocayo: Namesake

I don’t feel that the English translation of this word really does justice to the Spanish meaning or sentiment. In Spanish-speaking countries, and especially in Mexico, tocayo is a heartfelt word to refer to someone who shares your same name.

For example, if you know someone with the same name and want to ask how they’re doing, you would say, “¿Cómo está mi tocayo?” This isn’t too common in English, with the exception of perhaps a more formal situation. In English, you might read in a history book that someone’s “son and namesake inherited the throne”. It’s more old-fashioned.

Here are more examples of how to use the word tocayo:

Image courtesy of SmackBangDesigns.

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