Anatomy of an ATA Conference

By Jennifer Guernsey
Reblogged from the ATA Chronicle (February 2015) with permission from the author

 ATA 57th Annual Conference

After hearing colleagues raise interesting questions regarding ATA’s Annual Conference, I decided it might be helpful to gather and publish information regarding how decisions are made concerning the selection of the conference venue and sessions. David Rumsey, ATA president-elect and conference organizer, kindly agreed to answer my myriad questions.

Conference Site Selection
How do we identify and select a conference site?

Conference locations are typically selected four to five years in advance. We generally have one to two years for ATA’s Board to evaluate potential locations and then select one of them as the host venue for the conference.

There are several factors that go into selecting a conference site. ATA typically tries to rotate the conference between the East Coast, central U.S., and the West Coast so that the conference will be relatively close to all of the membership at some point. We work with a conference specialist, Experient, to help us identify cities and hotels that can meet our needs. Since it is difficult for a single association to negotiate directly with the conference hotels, Experient helps us in the negotiation process by working directly with the hotel.

Experient looks for locations based on our cycle and then provides a list of prospective hotels. The Board discusses the options and arranges to visit one of the hotels in conjunction with one of the Board meetings. The prospective hotels provide free or discounted accommodations and/or meals for us while we are having the Board meeting and checking out the hotel, which saves the Association money on food and lodging costs. Of the four Board meetings per year, one or two of them are held in potential conference locations.

The biggest hurdle is finding a hotel that can accommodate all of the sessions. The room rate is always a major factor. ATA is in a challenging position because our group is too small for a convention center and often too large for many hotels. The hotel needs to provide 15-20 meeting rooms of various sizes. It also needs to have a venue for the exhibitors, a location for the certification exam sittings, and large areas for the meeting of all members, the closing dance, general mingling, etc. Providing meeting space for 175+ sessions of varying size can be very difficult for many hotels and locations.

In addition to having a conference hotel that will work for us, the host city needs to have easy flight connections. We also look for a host city that has a local ATA chapter to provide logistical support. Finally, we look for cities that have a lot of food and entertainment options and are attractive destinations for the membership.

ATA Annual Conferences are generally held in large, relatively expensive cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, etc. Have we considered holding conferences in cities with potentially lower hotel costs, such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Omaha, or Memphis?

First, we do consider all types of potential locations for conferences. The larger cities you mention are relatively rare. In the past 15 years, we have only held the conference in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles once. We have not been in Miami since 1985. However, we have found that larger, more popular locations generally attract more attendees. And greater attendance often means more session proposals from which to choose. We have held the conference in many less costly cities in the past (e.g., Nashville, St. Louis, Phoenix, and San Antonio), and we have typically had lower attendance.

Smaller cities, like the ones you mention, also have several complicating issues with them. They often are not easily accessible by air and, more importantly, the hotels in those locations are often unable to provide the meeting space and facilities we need. Portland, Oregon, comes to mind as one of the places that was recently considered but did not have a hotel that could meet our needs.

Can you describe the financial arrangements we make with the hotels? What do we pay for specifically, and what is included as part of an overall package?

We typically negotiate a deal through our representative at Experient, where the hotel will provide the meeting space, seating, etc., free of charge in exchange for ATA filling a minimum number of rooms (i.e., the “room block”). We pay for pretty much everything else. ATA covers all of the audiovisual equipment and the food and beverages during the meals and coffee breaks. We pay for the labor costs associated with the audiovisual equipment, the registration area, etc. If we do not fill our room block, we can be charged an attrition fee, which is based on a negotiated formula (e.g., percent of profit per unoccupied reserved room). The penalties can vary depending on the hotel.

Have we considered holding the conference in a venue that is not a hotel?

We have discussed holding the conference in other venues, including convention centers and universities. We are typically too small for a convention center. In order to make a conference in a convention center affordable, attendance needs to be in the range of 5,000+ attendees. A good conference for us includes roughly half that many attendees. At a convention center, we would be responsible for paying for all of the space as well as all of the chairs, tables, podiums, lighting, and labor costs that a conference hotel typically covers. The cost for the conference registration fees would skyrocket. People would also be responsible for arranging their own accommodations, which would not necessarily provide any cost savings or might be much farther away from the convention center. There would also be no focal point for the after-hours activities and socializing.

Hosting at universities has been discussed, but most universities and colleges are in session when we host our conference. University settings are also relatively inflexible in terms of providing the right mix of large and small spaces for 175+ sessions and other activities. Attendees might have to walk to different buildings to attend sessions. Arranging food and beverages for 2,000 attendees in those venues would be very difficult as well. Hotel accommodations might be quite a distance from the university, and again, there would be no focal point for the after-hours activities.

Selection of Conference Sessions
What considerations determine whether a particular session is included or excluded from the conference lineup?

Each proposed session is reviewed by the leadership of a related division or committee and by the conference organizer and ATA Headquarters staff. The division leadership provides feedback as to whether the session would be of interest. Headquarters provides feedback on the quality of the speaker based on past evaluations. The conference organizer makes the final decision to either accept, reject, or place a session on hold.

About how many sessions were proposed for the Chicago conference, and how many session slots did we have available?

We had over 400 session proposals and fewer than 180 slots. This meant that more than half of the sessions had to be rejected. It was a very difficult selection process.

When you have to decide between sessions that offer both good topics and good speakers, how do you choose?

Well, if the topic is good and the speaker is good, the decision is easy–accept the proposal! But then if all of the slots are taken, we try to vary the speakers and topics as best we can. It is a nerve-wracking exercise!

Do you have a specific number of sessions allocated to each division or subject area?

No, not necessarily. Our primary concern is to offer good sessions. We do not necessarily accept a poor session just because a track does not have anything in it. It is better to have no sessions in a particular track/division slot than to accept a poor session. It reflects poorly on the division and the Association. Accepting a poor session might also mean a good session gets rejected.

Are different considerations applied to the inclusion or exclusion of a preconference seminar?

There are slightly different considerations for the preconference seminars since attendees are paying considerable fees to attend them. The quality of the speaker is often very important. The topic may be very interesting, but if the speaker cannot present the material properly, the session may not be well received. As for all of the conference sessions and seminars, we typically look for sessions that have a clear focus and practical benefit to the attendees; where people feel that they gained a particular skill or information. We like the preconference seminars to be relatively hands-on.

Selection and Funding of Distinguished Speakers
How is funding allocated for distinguished speakers?

There is a set structure for the distinguished speakers in terms of covering registration, hotel, and travel. It is proportional to the amount of time the speaker is presenting at the conference. Typically, we ask distinguished speakers to present two one-hour sessions or one three-hour preconference seminar. The honoraria that are provided are intended to help defray the costs of attending the session but may not necessarily cover all of the speaker’s expenses.

If I am not mistaken, distinguished speakers used to receive full coverage of their travel plus a small honorarium. Why was this changed?

The old system was very difficult to manage financially. Speakers had their airfare covered, but there was no cap on the cost of the ticket (and therefore no incentive to look for cheaper tickets), and speakers often would not request compensation until well after the conference, which made bookkeeping difficult. With distinguished speakers coming from over 25 divisions and committees, it became unsustainable. A new system was implemented where distinguished speakers are offered a conference fee waiver, one to four nights in the conference hotel, plus an honorarium to help cover the cost of airfare or other incidentals based on their location and the number of sessions they offer. The idea is not to have distinguished speakers make money off the conference, but to share their expertise as professional colleagues.

Presumably there is a limited pool of money available to fund distinguished speakers. If the number of speaker requests exceeds the available funds, how do you determine which speakers to fund and which to deny?

We generally budget for at least one distinguished speaker in each division. However, we do not always accept the proposal from the suggested distinguished speaker, not for financial reasons, but usually because their proposed session is not particularly strong or relevant.

2016 ATA Conference page
How to Write a Winning ATA Conference Proposal (Free Webinar)

Author bio
Jennifer Guernsey is a Russian>English translator specializing in medicine and pharmaceuticals. She has a degree in Russian language and literature from the University of Michigan. She began her career by translating technical monographs and patents while working Russian-related “day jobs” involving Soviet refugee processing and, later, biological defense. After more than 25 years in the translation field, her specialization has narrowed to medical and pharmaceutical translation. She also assists life scientists at area universities with editing and grant proposal preparation. Contact: mailto:jenguernsey@gmail.com.

6 Ways to Foster a Strong Relationship with your Project Manager and Earn More Work

6 Ways to Foster a Strong Relationship with your Project ManagerAs a freelance translator, some of your projects will come from language service providers (LSPs) as opposed to direct clients. If you attend the ATA Conference, you’ll meet almost as many LSP representatives as fellow translators, looking to hire their next batch of vendors. Many of those representatives will be project managers (PMs). PMs often decide whom to hire for a project, and whether to continue working with the translator after the project ends.

Responsibilities and internal structures vary from company to company, but most PMs have the same set of fundamental responsibilities. They work with translation-buyers to determine the scope, projected budget, and client needs for a given project. They contact translators and make sure that projects are completed to client specifications. PMs save translation buyers the hassle of locating good translators themselves, while translators spend less time locating direct clients and more time translating.

As a freelancer, it’s important to establish a continuous stream of work. Since many PMs enjoy great discretion in whom they assign work to, how can you ensure you’ll get the job and keep it?

As a PM myself, I’m so glad you asked. After consulting with colleagues and reflecting on past projects, I’ve listed six ways to foster strong relationships with your PMs and earn more work.

  1. Be responsive. When a PM sends an assignment, confirm your availability immediately. Every project is a race against time, and your responsiveness is key. If a client sends changes or cancels a project that’s already started, the faster you respond to a PM, the more time you save everyone.
  2. Be communicative. The first point’s close cousin. Keep your PM up to-date on anything that might affect the quality, cost, or delivery of your project. Is there some issue with the document that will affect its delivery or final quality? Let your PM know immediately. The faster and more forthcoming you are when a problem presents itself, the easier finding a solution will be, and you’ll have helped not only your PM, but the end client too.
  3. Do your homework. This has two parts. First, it means to research the content and terminology of the document you are translating. Putting in the work to learn the industry-standard translation of a term or the correct spelling of a name shows attention to detail and commitment to your work. Second, never be afraid to ask questions. If you are not sure whether a term should be left in the original language, or what it means, there’s no shame in asking. It doesn’t make you seem ignorant or incompetent. On the contrary, you’ll come off as much more competent and thoughtful than the translator who guesses.
  4. Accept reasonable deadlines, and then meet them. It goes without saying that you should always deliver on time. Knowing the amount of time it takes to complete a project to the best of your abilities ensures that you stick to this rule. Remember, you’re being paid in part for the quality of your work. Unless explicitly told otherwise, you should never sacrifice quality on the altar of turnaround. If you know you cannot meet a deadline, say so, or even propose an extension.
  5. Step in. In translation, rush requests are common. A translator who steps in with little advance warning is helping out both the PM and the client. A PM may also be having a hard time finding a translator to take on a challenging assignment, and your strengths may match that challenge in particular. Challenge yourself,.
  6. Know when to turn work down. Finally, never be afraid to say no to a project, just do it promptly. If you can’t take the project, I need to know as quickly as possible so I lose no time in finding someone else. If a project is outside your area of expertise, I’ll know what I can and cannot send you, saving us both time. Never accept a project that you cannot complete to a good standard. I, or your editor, or the client, will notice.

I’m sure many of you have other tips that have worked for you. We’d love to hear them in the comments! Remember, the ideal translation is a collaboration between you and your project manager. I’ve literally heard colleagues spontaneously exclaim that they love working with some of our translators. You can’t buy that kind of publicity, but you can earn it by doing great work.

Header image credit: Picjumbo

Author bio

Dan McCartney

Dan McCartney is a freelance French and Spanish to English translator based in Chicago. Before translating, he worked as a consultant, instructor, and freelance math problem writer.

German Immersion Strategies for Expatriates and Other Deutsch-Fans

By Marion Rhodes

german-immersion-strategiesBeing aware of linguistic trends is crucial for translators. To avoid language atrophy, those of us who have traded our native home country for a foreign country home need to find ways to continually immerse ourselves in our mother tongue.

A German expatriate myself, I have to make a conscious effort to keep up with the evolution of my native language, which is being shaped by immigration and pop culture. Luckily, the Internet and modern technology offer plenty of opportunities for reading, watching and listening to German – and many other languages, for that matter – on a daily basis.

With the help of my colleagues in the ATA’s German Language Division, I have collected an exhaustive list of resources to share with my fellow expatriates at this year’s ATA Conference in San Francisco. My presentation, German Immersion Strategies for Expatriates and Other Deutsch-Fans, will explore some of the main influences on the German language and offer helpful ideas on how to stay immersed in the German language when you’re living outside a German-speaking country.

Considering the fact that a fifth of the German population has a migration background, meaning they are either immigrants themselves or descendants of immigrants, it is not surprising that everyday speech is changing. In a 2010 study, 84% of Germans said they had noticed significant changes in the German language, such as new words or a tendency to use simplified grammar. Without regular exposure to newspapers and magazines, TV shows, advertisements, radio banter, and of course conversations with other native speakers, expatriates are no longer exposed to such developments.

This is particularly problematic for marketing and PR translators or those of us who specialize in transcreation. Good marketing and advertising copy is designed to evoke emotions, and recreating that effect for a different country requires familiarity with idiomatic expressions and tone of voice used by various target groups in the local market. Marketers and copywriters need to connect with their audiences at eye level, talk the way they talk and use the words they use. So if you’re translating an ad campaign targeting Generation Z consumers, you’d better be up to date on your youth lingo. Likewise, if you are translating a B2B website, you should know which Anglicisms and neologisms improve your copy – and when you’re overdoing it.

My presentation will demonstrate the fluidity of modern German with examples that highlight the importance of staying in touch with its linguistic development. Drawing on my own experience and the input from my colleagues, I will share immersion strategies to keep your native language alive and fresh even if it is no longer your primary language. Whether you are looking for ways to watch German TV abroad, need help connecting with other German speakers in your area or are interested in the best podcasts to keep up your German skills, you are sure to walk away with some useful tips that can help improve the native style of your translations.

Header image credit: Pexels

Author bio

marion-rhodesMarion Rhodes is an English-German translator and copywriter specializing in PR & marketing communications and transcreation. A native of Germany, she has lived in the United States for more than 15 years and currently resides in San Diego County, California. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska and is finishing her master’s degree in integrated marketing communications at West Virginia University this fall. In April, she was elected president of the Colorado Translators Association, for which she previously served as social media coordinator.

What is a Certified Translation?

By Caitilin Walsh
Reblogged from The ATA Compass blog with permission from the author

What is a Certified TranslationIn the United States a certified translation consists of the following three parts:

1) The source-language (original) text

2) The target-language (translated) text

3) A statement signed by the translator or translation company representative, with his or her signature notarized by a Notary Public, attesting that the translator or translation company representative believes the target-language text to be an accurate and complete translation of the source-language text. Sometimes this statement bears the title “Certificate of Accuracy” or “Statement that Two Documents Have the Same Meaning.” ATA-certified translators can attach their certification stamp to the notarized statement.

Please note that any translator and any translation company representatives, regardless of credentials, may “certify” a translation in this way. A translator does not need to be “certified” in order to provide a “certified translation.” It is also important to realize that the Notary Public seal assures only that the signature is that of the person who presented him or herself to the notary; The Notary Public is not attesting to the accuracy of the translation.

What is a certified translator?

In contrast to many other countries, in the United States there is no federal or state licensing or certification for translators. There are some credentials available to translators working in some language pairs in this country, but they do not carry the same weight–in the marketplace or in the translation community–as federal licensing or certification in other countries.

The American Translators Association offers translator certification in various language pairs. ATA-certified translators are required to specify the language pairs and directions in which they are certified. For example, a translator certified in German to English is not necessarily certified in English to German.

Please note that there are many languages for which there is no type of certification or screening available in this country. There are many excellent, experienced translators and interpreters who are not certified.

In the United States it is not necessary to be certified or licensed in order to provide a certified translation for official use, unless the entity receiving the translation specifies that the translation must be done by an ATA-certified translator.

Header image credit: Unsplash
Header image edited with Canva

A Slammin’ Good Time at #ata57

ATA 57th Annual ConferenceFor all our camaraderie, we translators rarely have the opportunity to get a glimpse of each other’s work. But at this year’s ATA conference, two translators will display their efforts for all the world to see. Watch French-to-English translators Jenn Mercer and Andie Ho go head-to-head in a Translation Slam at the American Translators Conference in San Francisco on Saturday, November 5 at 2 p.m. Both of them will translate the same text but only unveil their masterpieces to each other and the public for the very first time, live and on screen, at the conference. French to English translator Eve Bodeux, FLD Administrator, will serve as moderator.

This battle for the ages is for novices and veterans alike. Come see linguistic techniques, philosophical approaches, writing styles, and word choices compared and contrasted. Witness how experienced translators face lexical challenges and handle feedback and criticism.

And, just like our own game show, audience members can play along at home! FLD members will receive the text several weeks before the conference so they can try their own hand at tackling the text. It’s a doozy, full of clever word play and on a much-talked-about topic in worldwide news.

Who will reign supreme? Find out this November. Let’s get ready to rumble!

Eve Lindemuth Bodeux is the administrator of ATA’s French Language Division. She has been active in the language services industry since 1994. A French>English translator, her company, Bodeux International LLC, offers multilingual localization, translation, and project management services. She is the author of the book Maintaining Your Second Language: Practical and Productive Strategies for Translators, Teachers, Interpreters, and Other Language Lovers.

Andie Ho is a French>English translator with more than 20 years of experience in the food industry. She is an alumna of Kent State’s graduate translation program and began her career as a project manager before moving into translation full-time. Her background includes a bachelor’s degree in French, a minor in mathematics, a performance at Carnegie Hall, and a stint at a criminal forensics laboratory—all of which influences her translation work today.

Jenn Mercer is the assistant administrator of ATA’s French Language Division. A French>English translator, she has been translating professionally since 2008, specializing in legal, business, and financial translation. She is a past director of the Carolina Association of Translators and Interpreters (an ATA chapter). She has bachelor’s degrees in English (with a concentration in creative writing) and French from North Carolina State University, and a certificate in French>English translation from New York University. She has been published in The ATA Chronicle and has presented at ATA conferences twice before on acronym translation strategies and advanced search techniques.

5 pitfalls to avoid in your freelance translator web copy

by David Friedman

5 pitfalls to avoid in your freelance translator web copyImagine you are your own ideal client and you stumble across your translation website. Would you be able to find out everything you need to know from the website quickly and easily? Are the benefits clear enough to answer questions like, “What’s in it for me?” or, “What makes this translator different from all the other translators out there?” I’d like to share some thoughts and insights about pitfalls I have sought to avoid while working on my own website which I hope can help you attract the interest of more clients with your website.

Please bear in mind that this advice may not be universally applicable depending on your language combination and market. My new website is still under construction, I am not a copywriter and I do not offer services to fellow translators.

Unclear specialization

Don’t: List 15 different fields in no particular order and don’t mix up text types (corporate communications, technical documentation, legal documents, etc.) and industries (real estate, IT, construction etc.)
Do: Pick something clear and concise people will remember you by. It should be short enough to fit into a tagline and clear enough for people to instantly know what you are good at. Combine text types and industries as well instead of one or the other, e.g. “I translate technical documentation for the automotive industry,” or, “I translate corporate communications for the IT industry.”
Get over: Being afraid you will miss out on work that does not fit 100% perfectly into the way you have formulated your specialization or for an industry you have not listed. If anything, you appear more credible, because people are more likely to believe you are among the best at one or two things than 15. This credibility also builds trust, making it more likely people will ask for your honest opinion on whether you can do a good job on another kind of text or make a referral. (In that case, it is important that you are honest and realistic about what you would in fact be well suited for and when the client would be better served by a referral!) Honing in on a specific industry also helps you decide which conferences to attend, which associations to join, which CPD activities to participate in and where to focus your marketing.

Failing to mention the benefits of your location

Don’t: Put yourself in competition with the whole world unnecessarily.
Do: Tell clients how your location benefits them, such as allowing overnight delivery from New Zealand, or availability to meet in person for a free consultation. It’s hard to be the first choice for your language combination and specialization in the whole world, but it’s not hard to be among the best locally, or use your location to stand out from the competition in other ways.
Get over: Assuming your location is a handicap if you don’t live in a big city in your source language country. Find benefits such as leveraging different time zones or being perfectly positioned for adaptation to the target market.

Failing to leverage your native variety of your target language

Don’t: Compete with everyone else in the world who translates into your language.
Do: Offer translations into your native language variety and texts adapted for international audiences. For example, you could offer translations into Argentine Spanish and into international Spanish. You have just positioned yourself ahead of and distinguished yourself from all the other Spanish translators in the world who translate into a different variety of Spanish for clients targeting the Argentine market, while simultaneously catering to clients who are more interested in a neutral variety not targeting one specific market.
Get over: Assuming you will lose out on projects that aren’t in your variety of your target language.
Hint: Don’t presume to master other varieties of your target language on your own! If you are American, collaborate with an editor from the UK if your clients want international English so you can work together to avoid both Americanisms and Briticisms and make the text as accessible as possible to a wide audience.

False assumptions about what clients care about

Don’t: Assume they care a whole a lot about your life story.
Do: Focus on how your services benefit them.
Get over: Yourself! You aren’t applying for a job. You’re showing clients how they can benefit from your services. Focus on benefits as opposed to features. People are naturally self-centered and want to know what’s in it for them.

Relying too little or too much on others for your website

Don’t: Write, translate and design your website all by yourself without any help whatsoever. And don’t hire professionals to do these things with too little input from you.
Do: Decide what you want to say, use your own voice and style. Then bring in as much professional help as is necessary depending on your own strengths and weaknesses.
Get over: Assuming the wording on your website is not important. People looking for translators are inclined to judge them by the quality of the writing and translations on their websites. After all, our way with words is our calling card.

I’m currently reading Ca$hvertising by Drew Eric Whitman, which has given me a lot of great ideas and inspiration. I especially enjoy his no-nonsense approach to advertising. He basically says that, if you have a truly useful product or service that benefits people, you should feel no shame in pulling out every trick in the consumer psychology book to sell it. It’s a whole different story if you are a fraud using tricks to peddle snake oil. Check it out for yourself if you are interested in getting better at advertising your translation services or translating marketing materials for clients.

Let me know in the comments if you found anything useful, have anything to add, or have a different opinion.

Header image credit: kaboompics

Death by a Thousand Cuts

By Juan Lizama
Reblogged from the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters blog with permission from the author

ATA certification examIt is not the complex syntax, long sentences or technical passages that dash the hopes of most candidates seeking to pass the American Translators Association (ATA) certification exam.

According to ATA exam graders Holly Mikkelson and Paul Coltrin, it is the many one- and two-point errors throughout the exam that add up to a failing grade. “One of my colleagues calls it ‘death by a thousand cuts’,” Mikkelson said.

Mikkelson and Coltrin recently agreed to review translations into English and Spanish of past ATA exams done by a group of Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters members studying for the exam. The group of about a dozen members meets online on a weekly basis to discuss translation assignments, different resources and strategies for translation. They also correct each other’s work using the ATA list of mistakes and the ATA grading scale. Mikkelson reviewed the Spanish to English translations and their corresponding peer reviews, and Coltrin reviewed the English to Spanish ones. Each of them presented their findings to the group in separate online sessions.

The ATA currently offers exams in 29 language pairs. According to the recent March-April issue of the ATA Chronicle magazine, the overall passing rate for foreign languages into English was 15.81% between 2004 and 2014.  Meanwhile, the overall passing rate for English into foreign languages was 14.11% for the same period.

The vast majority of translations that are out there in the real world, which in some cases are mediocre, fall short in the sense that they are “a word by word rendering of the source text, slavish of the patterns of the source text,” Coltrin said. “People often say that [a document] ‘smells like a translation’,” Coltrin said in Spanish, quickly switching to English. “And that’s not a compliment when they say that. If it has a strong feel of a translation, it’s probably not a good translation.”

“It’s perfectly fine for the translator to take freedoms in a translation as long as it preserves the meaning and flows nicely,” Coltrin said. “It’s not just desirable to make the translation smooth and functional,” he said. “It is our obligation.” Mikkelson echoed Coltrin’s comments, adding that not using common sense and not reading the whole passage before starting the translation has led exam takers to mistranslate parts of the source text.

“They can be prepositions, grammatical mistakes, misspellings that in and of themselves are not serious, but they add up,” Mikkelson said. “Those [errors] may be from carelessness, failure to proofread. They have a ‘yes’ instead of a ‘no’, ‘black’ instead of ‘white’.” ATA graders use guidelines in the form of a flowchart with a scale of zero to 16 points per error. A score of 17 and under is a passing grade. The mechanical errors, those having to do with the misuse of the target language have a maximum of four points per error. On the second column are errors that can impact content, language use and understanding of a sentence, paragraph, and even the entire text. These errors can be zero to sixteen points.

“I’ve never seen a sixteen-point error,” Mikkelson said. “Even eight-point errors are rare.” One of the many concrete examples Mikkelson highlighted from the group’s Spanish to English translations was the use of “earth” in a passage about agriculture, instead of using “land” or “soil”. This type of error distorts the meaning because the reader might think the sentence is referring to the planet as a whole. “This would be a two-point error because it would cause confusion,” she said. “But it doesn’t take out a whole paragraph and the text is still useful.”

Mikkelson advised the group to be careful with the little quirks of English in adverbs such as either…or and neither…nor. Using them with “without” or “not” would make them a double negative. There’s also a reversal of the subject and the verb with the use of these adverbs. “So you say, ‘neither did he do this’, instead of, ‘neither he did this’; or, ‘only then did I realize, rather than, ‘only then I did realize’,” she said.

Coltrin warned about falling for the traps within the passages, such as punctuation marks. He referred specifically to how the use of the dash in English is so different from its use in Spanish. “Make no mistake,” he said, “when we choose passages, we like putting that type of challenge in there because it definitely helps us to differentiate between people that really have a strong awareness of Spanish writing conventions and how they are different from English and test takers who don’t have that awareness.”

Coltrin advises to take advantage of the practice tests ATA offers for a fee. “Sometimes, people waltz in to take the exam, unprepared, and then they are surprised that they didn’t pass,” he said. “Later, they ask for a review of the exam, which is much more expensive.” They could have gotten that feedback beforehand with the much less expensive practice test, which can be a good tool to prepare.

Coltrin commended the OSTI study group for their approach to preparing not only for taking the exam, but also as a way to become better translators. Mikkelson said that translation is also a great way for interpreters to improve their delivery in the target language. And the response to the burning question from group of whether they have a chance of passing the exam—which only one member dared to ask Mikkelson—was: “I did see some good translations there,” she said. “There were definitely some passing translations among the batch. Good luck to everybody.”

Author bio
Juan LizamaJuan Lizama is a native of El Salvador, currently employed as a staff Medical Interpreter and Translator at OHSU Hospital in Portland, OR. He is preparing to take the English to Spanish ATA Certification Exam. He has a Bachelor degree in Mass Communications and Spanish, and newspaper journalism background.

What to ask your client before starting a translation

By Oleg Semerikov (@TranslatFamily)
Reblogged from the Translators Family blog with permission from the author (incl. the image)

What to ask your client before starting a translationEvery translation job is different – that goes without saying. Every client has their own set of requirements, and every job presents its own unique challenges. What can translators do to ensure a project goes smoothly from start to finish? Well, one of the best and most straightforward things you can do is to ask the client some questions.

It’s a good rule of thumb that you should never be shy to ask questions about a job. If you’re new to the translation industry, you might worry that asking questions is a sign of inexperience or insufficient training – but it’s not at all. In fact, many clients like to be asked smart questions: it shows that the translator is a professional who cares about getting the job right. And, as we said right at the start, every job is different. It doesn’t hurt to double-check details if something is unclear. As we’ll see, you might even spot something important that hadn’t occurred to the client.

Some caution is understandable, of course, and even necessary. It’s possible to go over the top and bombard the client with hundreds of questions that you could easily have answered for yourself. But it’s easy enough to apply some common sense to the matter and avoid wasting your client’s time. A short checklist like this can be helpful:

  • Is the issue something I’ve encountered before?
  • Can I look up the answer to the question online, or elsewhere?
  • Has the client provided any reference material that might answer the question (or is it available on their website, for example)?
  • Is there a single, clear course of action that I should take?

What is the target audience?

This is a potentially huge question that can significantly impact the way you handle a translation. If you’re translating a marketing brochure that provides a first look at a new product, for example, you want to make sure you introduce new ideas and terms clearly and simply, so nobody gets left behind. But if you’re translating some technical documentation for engineers to read, on the other hand, you wouldn’t want to patronise them and waste time explaining things they already know.

You can sometimes answer this question by considering the style in which the text is written in the source language, and the manner in which it’s presented (covering things like layout, content, or the probable context in which it’ll be read). But if you’re uncertain, and you think it’s likely to affect the decisions you make, get in touch with the client and ask them for advice.

What format will the file be output in?

Sometimes the answer is as simple as looking at the source file type – but sometimes it isn’t. Businesses may first produce content using a word processor with a view towards transferring it to web design or DTP software later – and, if you’re qualified and confident, you can potentially add value to your translation by saving them the time and effort of doing so. Alternatively, you might receive a package from an agency to be translated in a CAT tool like Trados and then exported to Word or some other format. If you don’t ask, you might not find out the answer until it’s too late and you find you’ve created additional unnecessary work for yourself.

Which language variant should I use?

There is no single, universal version of any language – as we’ve discussed before. Make sure you know which one the client expects. If you’re translating into English, should that be British or American English – or some other variant entirely? If you’re working into German, should that be for the German, Swiss or Austrian market? This question also ties into matters of style and tone – it’s worth finding out how colloquial you’re allowed to be, or even whether you can introduce a little of a local dialect if your text is targeting a very small, specific geographical area. This also therefore goes back to our first question of who the client’s target audience might be, and emphasises just how important it can be to resolve issues like this before you put pen to paper (or, in our age, fingers to keyboard).

How should I handle localisation issues?

Unlike the previous question, this one is less about linguistic issues like spelling and grammar, and more about practical and cultural considerations. It may require you to work with the client to find a balance between their desires and the expectations of the local target audience – and you’re very well-placed to do this. One of the many reasons native-speaker translators are so valuable is that they know their local market better than anyone else – its conventions, its standards, current trends and peculiarities. If the client is entering this market for the first time, it can be worth discussing how much they want to adapt their existing marketing strategy to meet it. They may choose to adjust their tone of voice to prove their local awareness to the market, or they may decide to use their “foreign” nature as a unique selling point – think of the way American software companies market their services in the cheery, casual tone we associate with Silicon Valley. Or the calm, understated focus on engineering prowess that we see from some German car manufacturers. Whatever decision your client makes, it’s a conversation worth having.

And even if the client has already provided a comprehensive style manual and a complete glossary for handling local terminology – we can dream, can’t we? – you may still come across smaller localisation issues, such as prices quoted in an unexpected currency, or a date and time given with no indication of the time zone. In cases like this, you’ll definitely want to check in with the client and ask them how they want to handle the situation.

Naturally, there will be plenty of other issues that come up over the course of your career in translation – many of which you won’t be able to predict before you see them. But if you feel comfortable asking your client the right questions, they’ll usually be happy to answer them. You’ll find ways to cross these bridges as you come to them, and your work will improve as a result. That’s a win for everyone – for you, for the customer, and ultimately for your bottom line.

The Routledge Handbook of Interpreting: A Multifaceted Resource

By Helen Eby

Routledge Handbook of InterpretingOne of my resources is The Routledge Handbook of Interpreting, edited by Holly Mikkelson and Renée Jourdenais. Its twenty-seven chapters cover a remarkably broad spectrum of topics relating to interpreting, with the following sections: historical perspectives, modes of interpreting, interpreting settings, and issues and debates. Each chapter is written by an expert in the field, sometimes two, each of whom has devoted careful research to the work.

For this review, I chose the chapters which I had seen discussed objectively the least in other settings. The book is meant to be read one chapter here or there, as a reference book. The chapters I referenced for this review focus on non-professional interpreters and quality.

In the professional listservs I participate in, members discuss issues that affect our profession. The issues of non-professional interpreters and quality are discussed there, but the participants often only give one side of the story. The discussion in these chapters, however, provided a fresh, unbiased look at these issues.

Chapter 26: Non-professional interpreters
As interpreters, we believe that some uses of non-professional interpreters put patients at risk. Situations like the following, from my professional experience, come to mind:

A young mother came to a medical appointment with her seven-year-old son ready to fill in as interpreter because his baby brother had a broken elbow. He had interpreted before. He was visibly relieved to be able to be a little boy and make paper airplanes with blank pages from my notepad. The adult daughter of another patient almost didn’t allow me to interpret for her father at a dialysis appointment. I had to reassure her that I was properly certified and would allow her to correct me as needed. She enjoyed her role as a daughter for the first time in many appointments.

When people depend on untrained interpreters for high-stakes appointments, there can be significant negative consequences. Logistically, professional interpreters simply cannot be everywhere at all times. Because of that, many of us started as non-professional interpreters before we became professionals, providing important services to our communities. For example, from 1986 to 1988 I interpreted for customs and immigrations officers, as well as in church settings, in almost all countries in Latin America. That was before I was ever trained.

In the section on non-professional interpreters, Aída Martínez-Gómez acknowledges this fact. Non-professional interpreters are, she says, “individuals with a certain degree of bilingual competence who perform interpreting tasks on an ad hoc basis without economic compensation or prior specific training” (Martínez-Gómez 2007, em. original). Interpreting started as a non-professional endeavor, and she brings this to light.

An honest, unbiased discussion of this issue is refreshing. This chapter does not advocate for non-professionals to be assigned responsibilities in areas of high risk, but simply acknowledges that we simply wouldn’t be able to get along without them. As a matter of fact, most of my interpreting students got their start by interpreting for friends and neighbors before they decided they wanted to take a class to learn how to do it “the right way.” Those interpreters are often very well prepared to learn how to be professionals, and are highly dedicated to excellence!

Chapter 23: Quality
In their discussion of quality, Ángela Collados Aís and Olalla García Becerra argue that there are so many ways to evaluate quality that it is very difficult to come to a consensus. Most measures of quality are dependent on what interpreting ethics are applied to the situation. The court setting is adversarial and highly scripted, as well as being recorded, so all court interpreting codes of ethics emphasize accuracy and impartiality, because what the interpreter says in English is the record. The medical setting is cooperative, so the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC) Code of Ethics includes advocacy, while accuracy is still extremely important.

While there is an ideal level of quality to which all interpreters should aspire, Collados Aís and García Becerra explain that there are factors preventing this level from being reached. We need to understand that. Quoting another study (Collados Aís et al. 2007, 215), they propose a categorization of quality, “establishing four blocks of priorities in expectations:

Block 1: sense consistency and cohesion
Block 2: completeness, terminology and fluency
Block 3: diction, style and grammatical usage
Block 4: intonation, voice and accent

“In other words, subjects attribute more a priori importance to factors related to content and message fidelity than those related to form.” (Collados Aís and García Becerra 2007, em. original)

Some barriers to quality are related to poor advance planning, such as not knowing what the appointment is about, not knowing how long it will last, or being in an environment in which the interpreter can’t see or hear clearly. Quality can’t be achieved unless interpreters know what is expected of them before the appointment. Unfortunately, this is often neglected.

In Summary
I reviewed these two chapters because they stood out to me with their fresh look at critical issues. If you read the book yourselves, you will find much more information. Additionally, at the end of each chapter there is a list of suggested reading and a substantial bibliography.

I carry the book on my Kindle and don’t expect to read it cover to cover. Then again, who knows? It is an excellent reference any time I have a question about an interpreting topic.

Thank you, Holly and Renée, for your excellent work putting this together! We, the interpreters, trainers, and policy makers of the interpreting world can’t thank you enough! Everyone should have this book on their shelf, in their Kindle, or somewhere.

References
Aída Martínez-Gómez. 2007. “Non-professional Interpreters.” In Mikkelson and Jourdenais, The Routledge Handbook of Interpreting, chap. 26.
Collados Aís, Ángela, E. Macarena Pradas Macías, Elisabeth Stévaux, and Olalla García Becerra (eds). 2007. Evaluación de la calidad en interpretación simultánea: parámetros de incidencia. Granada: Comares. (Qtd. in Collados Aís and García Becerra 2007, “Quality”.)
Collados Aís, Ángela and Olalla García Becerra. 2007. “Quality.” In Mikkelson and Jourdenais, The Routledge Handbook of Interpreting, chap. 23.
Mikkelson, Holly and Renée Jourdenais (eds). 2007. The Routledge Handbook of Interpreting. New York, NY: Routledge. Kindle edition.

Entering the Big Game

How I started out only working for direct clients in my target language country, Sweden

Business networkingBackground
I decided to study to be a translator because I wanted the freedom of being self-employed along with the opportunity to do work I am passionate about. I also enjoy helping people from different cultures and backgrounds communicate with each other, so working with languages was a no-brainer for me.

I loved studying at the University of Gothenburg and enjoyed the conversations and discussions we had. However, we never really talked about setting up businesses, and how to market, pitch and sell your services.

As a result, I realized that everything I learned at the university was all well and good theoretically, but I was not at all prepared for the demands that come with being self-employed on the free market. This led me to that the world of academia and the world of business were parallel lines without a point of intersection, and made me wish that we had talked more about what it would be like to run your own business, networking and how to find your area of expertise and niche so you can market your business effectively. But I didn’t let that stop me. I was determined to find my place and find my own clients, and that is just what I eventually did.

Out of sight, out of mind
I decided pretty early on that I wanted to work for direct clients. What I didn’t know was how to find them. Therefore, I put on a jacket, brought a lot of business cards, went to several networking events and then joined a few of those networks. One of the networks I chose was Business Network International (BNI), which has both local and global roots.

The philosophy of BNI is built on the idea of “Givers Gain®”, which means that by giving business to others, you will get business in return. To join a BNI chapter, I paid a membership fee that I thought was rather expensive at the time for my new business. But I believe that you have to be prepared to invest real money if you want to see a real return on investment, and my return came in at tenfold the original investment within 18 months. The members of a BNI chapter increase their business through structured and professional breakfast or lunch meetings. The other dozens of people at those meetings are like your own personal sales force.

BNI has helped me develop long-term, meaningful relationships with other business professionals from several different industries. For example, I gained one of my best direct clients and collaborators through a BNI referral when a copywriter needed help with the translation of an article that was going to be rewritten for a Swedish hunting e-magazine. After that, they asked me to translate highly specific texts about hunting rifles, ammunition, and various scopes. I told them immediately that I do not hunt and I have never practiced target shooting, and therefore my knowledge is limited, but, I offered to give it a go if they agreed to assist me with the terminology using their industry expertise. They did, and I found that I was able to produce excellent results in collaboration with them and quickly get a feel for the industry-specific terms. This marked my entry into the Big Game as well as a truly fruitful partnership with a Swedish copywriter and an advertising agency.

Understanding what clients want
Willy Brandt once said: “If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen”, and I think he made a very good point. There is a general opinion in Sweden, and maybe abroad too, that Swedes are very good at English. We are in general contexts, but not so much when it comes to specific contexts such as understanding manuals, instructions or guidelines. If there is a choice of having them in Swedish, most Swedes, even Swedish translators, would probably prefer to read them in Swedish.

Since I work with direct clients, I have the opportunity to engage in direct dialogue and understand what they want, and I turn to my clients when it comes to terminology. They do not expect me to know the name of every bolt, pin, spring or gasket on the hunting rifles because they know they are the experts when it comes to hunting weapons, but they do rely on me to make sure all of the information is transferred from the source text to the target text and that the text is well written and properly adapted for its purpose.

Whenever I am asked to translate advertising or marketing texts, which perhaps is more like transcreation than translation, I often present more than one version. I also ask questions, leave comments and cooperate with a copywriter or a journalist, someone who is used to writing for a target group and adapting the language to the target audience. The result of us working together helps make the end product much better than if I had done it myself without their input and if they had done it themselves without my input. My knowledge and their knowledge combined is what produces superb results.

However, if clients have queries about certain words, sentences, or have questions about the translation, it is always good to be able to give a grammatical, syntactical or cultural explanation, as long as the explanation shows that you know what you are doing. Explanations for your translation choices are often what separate the wheat from the chaff and leave a good impression of you. Professional translators and premium clients know that it takes a skilled translator with a good eye to achieve good results, just like hairdressers, surgeons, or carpenters. In my experience, it is better to show your clients you have the knowledge rather than telling them. This has benefitted my business by leading to more projects and new clients.

No matter how much training you have or how much knowledge you have in a particular field, you need to be able to look at things from your client’s perspective. For my clients, it is perhaps not so much outstanding syntactic solutions that matter to them. It is more important that I can deliver a-translation that is well suited to its purpose, in tune with the client’s objectives, and on time.

Recently a few of my clients told me that the way I run my translation business is innovative and is a fresh approach to the industry. I asked what they meant by that and the answer was simple: They have met me, had lunch with me and they talk to me on the phone. This allows me to understand what they want and need on a completely different level and assures them we are on the same page. For me, there is nothing out of the ordinary about speaking to clients on the phone or in person, but perhaps it is slightly unusual for translators, especially in Sweden, and therefore it seemed new to my clients and they felt that the results were better than other more impersonal translation services they had used in the past.

Header image credit: Picjumbo

Author bio
Elisabeth SommarElisabeth Sommar is an English, German and Danish to Swedish translator specialized in technical and marketing texts. Her translations are mainly for hunting e-magazines, advertisements, and manuals for hunting rifles, shotguns and equipment for hunting and clay target shooting. In the past she has held various positions in the furniture production industry. Elisabeth has a master’s degree in translation from the University of Gothenburg and lives in western Sweden. You can connect with her on LinkedIn: se.linkedin.com/in/elisabeth-sommar