#ATA59 Session & Book Review: The Business of Translation

When I attended the ATA59 conference in NOLA, many colleagues encouraged me to attend a session about a topic outside my specialty. So, I browsed the booklet trying to choose a session about a topic that I’d like to know more about. I chose the Business of Translation” session listed under Language Services Companies and Independent Contractors, and I’m glad I did. The speakers, Renato Beninatto and Tucker Johnson, were informative and funny. Renato told his story of going from freelance translator to project manager, to finally owning his own business. So, in a presentation on the business of translation, he was speaking from experience.

At the end of the session, the colleague who was sitting next to me asked the first question: “How can I get a copy of your book?” The presenters immediately said, “We’ll give you a free copy. Here it is, it’s yours!” The audience didn’t expect the response, so we laughed and told our colleague to get it signed, which he eventually did. I took the book from my lucky colleague and quickly skimmed it, then decided to get myself a copy. I ended up reading it on the plane back to New York after the conference. After finishing it, I’ve decided to write a summary so I can encourage others to read it.

The General Theory of the Translation Company provides information on the business of translation. It addresses a few main elements that are market influencers within the field of translation, as well as seven support activities and core functions such as providing accurate translations in a timely manner (terms defined below). It touches on the enduring factors and changing elements that will impact the field of translation. Market influencers are basically the forces within the translation business that bring risk and opportunity. One example of a market influencer is the number of translators who open a business with minimum costs. Support activities are activities that create a framework to minimize risks and maximize opportunities to empower core functions. Core functions are the functions that add value to a translation business. Adding value here refers to creating economic value that customers are willing to pay for.

The book then talks about five forces that were introduced by Michael E. Porter to analyze competition within any business market. The five forces are competitive rivalry, the bargaining power of suppliers, the bargaining power of customers, the threat of new entrants and the threat of substitutes, products, and sources (reading material, documents, or paperwork). One advantage within the translation business is that it does not require much cost and is not tied to many government regulations. Anyone can start a translation business by having a computer, a website, and a PayPal account. Most people do own a laptop or a computer today, and creating websites and accounts is no longer a huge challenge. The field of translation grows proportionately to the growth of content.

The book elaborates on how translation businesses face competition due to the simple requirements needed to start up. How, then, do clients differentiate between a good service and an average one? Here, the book highlights the need to have an advantage that will drive one’s business to the forefront over competitors. This angle, which addresses service quality, goes under the competitive rivalry for a translation business.

Next, there’s the bargaining power of suppliers, which needs to be addressed by anyone planning to excel in the field. One needs to know how cheaply they are willing to offer their services without compromising quality. At the same time, one needs to ensure that there is breakeven or profit within the business that will allow it to thrive. Thus, it is crucial for those who want to start a translation business to understand the dynamics within conducting a translation business itself. If they are going to be employed with a translation company, then they might want to consider the benefits of working independently compared to being employed.

Also, there is the threat of new entrants: new businesses and new experts appear in the translation business on an almost daily basis. The book discusses how such challenges can be addressed and how one can stay in the translation industry despite the competition.

The reality for each translation expert may be different based on the country or city where they are located. Thus, the book serves as a framework that offers translators important tips for conducting business. New entrants may have trouble securing business offers without a track record. Hence, they must work hard to gain clients, who may prefer to go to translation experts, who are well established. However, if new entrants can offer additional perks, such as lower prices or faster turnover, then they can gain clients quickly. Here, the need to balance the various factors, such as quality, time, and service offered, will determine whether a translator will be successful in a competitive environment.

The book then proceeds to detail the seven support activities that are important for any translation business. These consist of management, structure, finance, culture, human resources, technology, and quality assurance. Of course, individuals are free to arrange their business as they see fit, but the guidance in this book serves as a helpful framework. The book stresses the importance of financial margins, and focuses on net margin. Just like any other business, the goal in the translation business is to make a profit. This means making a surplus after charging clients and paying suppliers. The book also addresses how changing technology will impact the translation process. Translators need to realize the importance of continuously updating their businesses and knowledge with the latest technology so that they can provide their clients with the best services.

In conclusion, the book focuses on how one can conduct a successful translation business by considering factors that can impact the business in both the short and long term. It may not be relatable to every single translator out there, but the book serves as a good guide for translators around the globe regardless of their business environment. In the end, a business is a business, and one needs to be familiar with challenges and obstacles before venturing into the business of translation.

Author bio

Amal Alaboud is a PhD candidate in the Translation Research and Instruction Program at the State University of New York at Binghamton. She holds an MA in Arabic/English Translation from the University of Salford in the UK. Her research interests include literary translation, translation project management, and volunteer translation. Currently, she is a project coordinator at TransPerfect in New York.

ATA’s Virtual Conference Is Back

Did you miss out on ATA’s 59th Annual Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana? Or maybe you attended but weren’t able to make it to as many sessions as you would have liked. Don’t fear! The ATA Virtual Conference is here and back for its second round.

What is the Virtual Conference?

The 2018 Virtual Conference is a collection of 50 sessions given at ATA59 in New Orleans, Louisiana. There are sessions for both translators and interpreters, covering a wide range of topics in law, medicine, science, technology, and more. All 50 sessions are available on-demand, and the recordings are accompanied by the speakers’ original PowerPoint presentations in video format. You can view the full list of sessions offered here.

This year’s Virtual Conference comes with extra perks for ATA-certified translators, as its sessions are approved for Continuing Education Points. You will earn one point for each hour viewed, up to a maximum of 10 points.

How Much Does It Cost?

3-day attendees of ATA59 have free access to the Virtual Conference. To access the sessions, go to the Virtual Conference webpage. ATA members can also access the Virtual Conference by logging into the “Members Only” area of the ATA website. All 3-day attendees were sent their usernames and passwords in an email with the subject line “ATA59 Virtual Conference is Now Available!” Search your email to find your username and password there. If you cannot find your login credentials, please contact ATA at webmaster@atanet.org.

If you did not attend the conference and would like to purchase access, go to the Virtual Conference webpage and click on “Purchase It Now.” The Virtual Conference costs $79 for ATA members and $129 for non-members. You can watch four free sample sessions on the Virtual Conference website.

The 2017 Virtual Conference is also available for purchase for the same price. Go to the 2017 Virtual Conference website for more information.

How Did ATA Decide Which Sessions to Include?

Presenters did not apply to participate in the Virtual Conference. Just as last year, ATA was limited to recording in just 4-5 rooms at a time. Their strategy was to pick the 4-5 rooms that contained session topics with the widest appeal for translators and interpreters. Therefore, the session topic and the room where the session was given were the only two items used to determine what was included in the Virtual Conference. Presenters whose sessions were chosen to be included in the Virtual Conference received no form of compensation.

What Can We Expect for ATA60?

ATA’s 60th Annual Conference will be held in Palm Springs, California from October 23-26, 2019. ATA expects to receive approximately 1,600 attendees from more than 60 countries and at this time has not determined whether or not the Virtual Conference will be offered again.

Would you like to speak at ATA60? Presentation proposals are now being accepted. Each proposal must be submitted as a Conference Session, but you may also request to be considered to offer an AST (Advanced Skills Training) Course. Proposals must be received by March 1, 2019. For more information and to submit your proposal, go to the Call for Speakers.

About the author

Molly YurickMolly Yurick is a Spanish to English translator specialized in the tourism, hospitality and airline industries. In the past she has worked as a medical interpreter in Minnesota and as a cultural ambassador for the Ministry of Education in Spain. She has a B.A. in Spanish and Global Studies and a Certificate in Medical Interpreting from the University of Minnesota. She is currently living in northern Spain. You can visit her website at: http://yuricktranslations.com/

Ergonomics for ATA’s Certification Exam: Unspoken Advice with Untold Benefits

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

Shortly after I took the computerized version of ATA’s certification exam in 2017, I received an e-mail from one of the proctors—whom I had thanked for stepping up to proctor at the last minute—in which she commented on the contrast between my “ergonomic” setup and the hunched posture of my fellow test takers. It would make for a great ad, she mused.

I had to laugh. I didn’t go into the exam with ergonomics in mind, but having seen the difference a few ergonomic upgrades to my home office earlier that year had made in my focus and overall well-being, it seemed like a no-brainer to apply the same principles to ensure my comfort and efficiency during the exam.

It may have seemed silly to focus on the details of a workstation I would only use for three hours, but the proctor was right: it ended up making all the difference, not only in terms of comfort, but more importantly, in terms of efficiency and state of mind. If you’re anything like me, sitting up straight and looking directly ahead fosters greater confidence and alertness than does being stooped over a mess of pages and books. Perhaps there’s something to be said after all for social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s widely discussed research on the impact of body position on our confidence and, in turn, our chances of success.1

While ergonomics wasn’t at the forefront of my mind going into the exam, it’s now the first thing I mention when colleagues ask for advice on how to prepare. There’s plenty of guidance out there on the theoretical side of the assessment, but how often do we hear about the importance of a comfortable and efficient workspace?

By sharing some of what worked for me on exam day, I hope to encourage others to discover the difference that straightening up and finding comfort and confidence can make, both during the exam and in our everyday work.

Use a stand to keep your computer screen at eye level and a page holder to prop up the text.

Ergonomics: It’s About More than Comfort

Before we get into the details, let’s consider why ergonomics matters. In short, it goes well beyond physical comfort.

First, what is ergonomics? The authors of an article in the January/February 2017 issue of The ATA Chronicle point out that the concept encompasses more than “office chairs, keyboards, and computer mice.”2 As cited in that article, the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) defines ergonomics as being concerned with the optimization of “human well-being and overall system performance”3—that is, it’s about a lot more than a comfortable office chair.

In fact, one of the three branches defined by IEA is “cognitive ergonomics,” which is concerned with mental workload, human reliability, and the interaction between humans and computers. We’ll come back to this later.

For now, let’s look at recommendations for improving efficiency and performance through one of the more obvious branches: physical ergonomics.

Laptop Height: My number one recommendation is to ensure that your computer screen is at eye level. Most of us set our laptops directly on the desk in front of us, forcing us to angle our necks downward to see the screen—a posture that has been shown to exert a detrimental amount of strain on the neck over time.4

If you work with a laptop on a regular basis, you might consider investing in a laptop stand, which will serve you well not only on exam day, but also in your everyday work. There are many to choose from, but it’s worth procuring one that you can easily carry with you to the exam or when working away from home. I use the Roost Stand,5 a favorite among digital nomads for its transportability: it collapses into a baton that’s just over a foot long and it weighs a feathery 5.5 ounces. It’s also height adjustable. (See photo at left.)

If you’re in a pinch on exam day or you aren’t sold on investing in a new gadget, you could just as well set your laptop on a large book or two—dictionaries work wonderfully.

Do keep in mind that you’ll need an external keyboard and mouse for either of these setups. There are affordable options out there, and I consider it a worthwhile investment, price notwithstanding.

Page Holder: Unlike the source texts in a translator’s daily work, which are almost invariably in digital format, exam passages are on paper and cannot be typed into the computer.

So what to do? Ideally, for the same reasons discussed above, the source text should be positioned at eye level. For this purpose, I used a small, dome-shaped page holder during the exam to prop up the source texts. (See photo above.) I purchased mine on www.etsy.com, but you can find one at just about any major office-supply retailer by searching for a “page-up holder.” Most are priced at under $10. You may need to set the holder on top of a dictionary to match your screen height.

Not only will this relieve neck pressure, it’ll save you time and trouble when glancing from sheet to screen.

Earplugs: Consider bringing earplugs to the exam to block out noise. Chances are you’ll be absorbed in your work, but you never know when the clickety-clack of a keyboard or the hum of a fluorescent light will distract you. Here’s where cognitive ergonomics come in: decreasing distraction lightens cognitive load, allowing you to focus on the task at hand.

Review Techniques: Speaking of cognitive ergonomics, the exam involves the demanding cognitive task of not only translating, but also reviewing, two dense texts in the span of three short hours. This means no opportunity to review with fresh eyes, which is a crucial step in actual practice. And without a computer-assisted translation tool or other application to help break the text into segments, the task becomes even more prone to errors. The accidental omission of a word or an entire line of text can be hugely detrimental. The good news is that these errors can be avoided by employing some simple review techniques.

One of these is to enlarge your font size: try increasing it 300% by using the zoom feature on your word processor (i.e., WordPad or TextEdit, the two applications permitted for use on the exam), or by increasing the font size to 72 points. This will help you catch errors you may otherwise overlook after staring at your translation for so long.

Another tip for getting a fresh perspective: change the typeface itself.

Finally, try reading the completed text “aloud” in your head, or reading it backwards—two old copy-editor’s tricks.

Miscellaneous: With the big ones out of the way, here are a few final pieces of advice to optimize ergonomics during the exam and help you focus on your work:

  • Keep your feet flat on the floor, if possible. You may be able to choose from different chairs the day of the exam, but don’t count on it.
  • Make sure your elbows are at a right angle when typing. Consider bringing a pillow to sit on for this purpose.
  • Have water on hand (drink it).
  • Take at least one stretch break. Do a forward bend and gently stretch your arms, legs, and neck to get your blood flowing before returning to the task with fresh eyes.

Final Word

As the authors of the aforementioned article in The ATA Chronicle propose, taking ergonomics into account “will allow translators to do what they do best instead of wasting time and energy dealing with non-ergonomic conditions, interfaces, and tools.” What better opportunity to conserve time and energy than during the rigorous three-hour ATA certification exam?

I may have been amused by the proctor’s comment about my setup, but it cost me nothing to implement these simple principles, and the benefits of certification are already evident just one year later.

Notes
  1. Cuddy, Amy. “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.” TEDGlobal Video (June 2012), http://bit.ly/Cuddy-body-language.
  2. O’Brien, Sharon, and Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow. “Why Ergonomics Matters to Professional Translators.” The ATA Chronicle (January/February 2017), 12, http://bit.ly/Chronicle-ergonomics.
  3. “Definition and Domains of Ergonomics” (International Ergonomics Association), www.iea.cc/whats.
  4. Bever, Lindsey. “‘Text Neck’ Is Becoming An ‘Epidemic’ and Could Wreck Your Spine,” The Washington Post (November 20, 2014), http://bit.ly/Bever-text-neck.
  5. Roost, www.therooststand.com.

Header image source: Pixabay

Presentation Proposal Resources for #ATA60 in Palm Springs

ATA speakers bring a broad variety of topics and perspectives to the conference. This is what makes it interesting! When you present as a team, you can discuss the topic in depth with your colleagues for months and give participants a broader perspective.

Proposals are currently being accepted for the 60th ATA Annual Conference in Palm Springs and the submission deadline is March 1. Over 150 sessions are offered, but the conference planning team typically receives three times as many proposals as they can accept. Therefore, it’s a good idea to take care when preparing your proposal. Here are a few quick steps for your proposal:

  1. We have heard that past performance is no guarantee of future results, but it doesn’t hurt to review the last few years of accepted proposals to get a better idea of what has worked.
  1. Draft your proposal. Check out How to Write a Winning ATA Conference Proposal, a webinar by Corinne McKay that guides you through the process. However, you might also ask someone who has presented in the last few years to review your proposal and give you some ideas. They might ask for your feedback on theirs as well!
  2. Follow the criteria in the call for speakers carefully. You will be judged on each one of them. Press continue to begin the process of submitting your proposal.
  3. After March 1, sit back and wait! We look forward to a strong selection of presentations at ATA60.

See you in Palm Springs!

Image source: Pixabay

ATA59 Conference Session Review: “Textspeak in the Courtroom,” Parts I and II

It can be a bit intimidating to attend a “Part I” session at conferences, knowing there is a lot of information to be absorbed. That said, “Textspeak in the Courtroom” was a two-part lecture I did not want to miss! As a Spanish translator and transcriber, I come in contact with textspeak and slang on a regular basis—not in the courtroom per se, but in transcripts, interviews, handwritten notes, and more. The speaker for this session was Ellen Wingo, a Spanish court interpreter, and her session abstract describing how slang can seem almost like Egyptian hieroglyphs drew me in. Her fascinating presentation had me captivated for over two hours as we learned about the various challenges linguists often face with slang and possible solutions.

The first half of the “Textspeak” session centered on abbreviations and slang, while the second half was on emojis. Both were very interesting topics that were made even more fascinating by the range of perspectives and experiences in the audience! We covered slang in both English and Spanish (and sometimes Spanglish) that court interpreters and transcribers see not only in text conversations (which may need to be sight-translated by interpreters) but also in handwritten notes, emails, and other forms of written media, since textspeak has permeated so many aspects of written language in today’s culture.

Ms. Wingo provided helpful glossaries of English and Spanish slang and offered ideas for equivalents. Though glossaries of slang, a rapidly evolving form of language, are only useful for so long before they become outdated, I found it really valuable to discuss the current gang, prison, and street slang and to connect with fellow linguists who experience some of the same challenges I do.

The emoji portion of this session was also of great interest to attendees. The speaker discussed how the more modern emojis (images a smartphone user selects and inserts within written text; like the ones in the image below) differ from an earlier iteration of textspeak wherein writers used “emoticons” (representations of objects or facial expressions using the regular keyboard and characters; e.g., “:)”) and addressed how modern emojis can pose challenges to interpreters and sight translation. Whether to even interpret or mention an emoji was discussed, since an interpreter’s understanding of the emoji may differ from the writer’s intention. Differences in smartphone platforms can also introduce confusion to the sight-translation process, since an Android device may portray a slightly different emoji than would an iPhone, leading to different interpretations of the message.

To me, the most enjoyable aspect of this session was the fact that the speaker used real-life examples of slang to demonstrate her points and involve the audience in the practice of decoding emojis and text messages. Several times throughout the two session blocks, she shared an example of either a cartoon with confusing language or an actual (redacted) text message and asked members of the audience to read the Spanish text—which was a challenge in itself since the textspeak was so strongly coded—and then offer a suggestion of how to sight-translate it into English.

These exercises brought out the wide variety of experiences and perspectives in the audience: some were acquainted with textspeak, meme language, and other aspects of pop culture, while others were seeing these new forms of speech and writing for the first time. I found it particularly interesting that some members of the audience were very familiar, for example, with pop culture references to the “I can has cheezburger” image below, while others were flummoxed by the popularity and widespread use of such an odd meme.

As far as audience involvement, attendees were invited to participate to the extent that we wanted to, and this was a perfect opportunity for us to ask questions and share our experiences without taking away from the speaker’s main points. I felt that Ms. Wingo struck an excellent balance of sharing her very useful knowledge and giving others the opportunity to share their own perspectives.

For my work in particular, the “Textspeak in the Courtroom” sessions were helpful in terms of understanding slang terms I’ve heard and read about on UrbanDictionary.com but never interacted with in real life, such as “chavala” (a rival gang member) or “palabrero” (a gang member who calls the shots). The session also provided me with new resources to check when I have questions, as the speaker provided handouts and websites for reference. Overall I really enjoyed attending this session and found the speaker’s wealth of knowledge and presentation style to be great assets to the ATA Conference.