The Monterey Institute: A Translator’s Tale

The purpose of this post is to help you answer the question: Is it worth it for me to get a degree in translation? By degree, I mean a formal, one- or two-year academic program that teaches the theory and practice of translation. Clearly, the answer to the question will depend on the individual and their circumstances. To help you decide, I will describe my experiences at the two-year master’s degree program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California (MIIS), way back in the late eighties.

Two caveats come with this post. First and foremost, as I’ve just said, I attended the institute back in the Jurassic Period, when it was still known as the Monterey Institute. I’m sure the school has changed its curriculum and its entire program to some degree. Yet I still think it will be valid for me to talk about the teaching methods, the organization of the program, and the benefits I derived from attending.

The second caveat is that you should not assume I believe that a specialized degree in translation is the only way to go. A fair number of us have arrived at the destination of professional translation through many a winding turn and side road. I am certain that plenty of excellent translators out there never attended such a program. For me, however, the experience proved essential.

When I was at the Monterey Institute, the translation and interpretation program was divided into two years of two semesters each. Candidates had to pass a screening process that included demonstrating fluency in at least one other language, their B language. Your A language is your native language (not necessarily English), a third language is your C language, and so on.

The first year was devoted to honing English skills through exercises that taught us how to analyze a text, and introducing us to the various methods of interpretation: sight translation, consecutive interpreting, and simultaneous interpreting. We also learned how to translate. Translators who learn on the job can certainly figure out an approach to their craft, but I am grateful that I had experts teaching me exactly how to read a text, how many passes to go through to produce a final translation, and what each pass should consist of.

At the end of the first year, I opted for the translation-only track. Classes consisted of small groups of six or seven students; we would go around in a circle reading aloud one section of a translation we had prepared in advance as homework. One class was technical translation into and out of the foreign language; the other was general texts in the same two directions. “Technical” texts included anything from an article on local area networks to a description of the Chernobyl disaster. “General” texts tended toward international affairs and politics because many of the teachers worked for the European Union. They were practicing translators and interpreters, able to give us critical exposure to real-life skills and methods.

Meeting in small groups meant everyone had to participate, and everyone was able to receive feedback from professionals. Working into our B and C languages provided useful insights into why those languages use the styles they do, and how to go about molding them to fit the usage norms of our native languages. I think it would be difficult or impossible to reproduce these aspects of the program on your own.

The Monterey Institute teaches students to be generalists, on the theory that if you know how to research a topic and how to translate, the specializations will come as you build your career. This training contrasts with that of translators who have received degrees in a specialized field such as law or biology, most likely in their native language, and then learned how to translate as they went along. Ideally, a student would have both types of education, in a much longer academic program combining undergraduate and graduate studies. But life is rarely ideal. A college education requires a great deal of time and money. My own view is that while a master’s degree in translation is not essential to becoming a translator, a bachelor’s degree certainly is. Four years of undergraduate work provide the exposure to the wide breadth of basic knowledge that translators need to understand the texts they are translating.

Another benefit of the Monterey program is what I think of as the network effect. Because of the professional connections with the EU and Brussels, graduates often moved to Brussels with their degrees to begin work. When a friend from my class and I did the same, we had three instant contacts in the city to show us the ropes. As with any college program, you get to know a group of people, and they become potential job connections, along with the school’s alumni.

A graduate degree program is not feasible for everyone. I was fortunate to have attended the Monterey Institute; I learned lessons and gained experiences that I never would have otherwise. Luckily for all of us, a plethora of online and in-person training programs and courses also exists to help us perfect our craft.

Image credit: Pixabay

Author bio

After graduating from the Monterey Institute, Diana Rhudick worked briefly in Brussels as a translator before returning to the States to teach and start her freelance career. Following a short stint as a translation agency project manager, she began her own translation and editing business.

Currently, she divides her time between her freelance work and project management for a boutique translation company.

Translation or Transcreation?

This post was originally published on the Gaucha Translations blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Whether we provide a translation or a transcreation, at Gaucha Translations we always keep the end users of the translation in mind. Will this document be useful to them? Will it be useful to the people they interact with? Will it cause misunderstandings along the way? I, Helen Eby always ask clients questions based on the following issues. I don’t necessarily bother to label the products one way or another. They usually all show up as translations on the invoices.

We discussed this issue when we drafted the Standard Guide for Quality Assurance in Translation issued by ASTM released in 2014 (ASTM F2575-14). ASTM was previously known as the American Standards for Testing and Materials. I was the Technical Contact for that publication.

In my understanding, based on ASTM F2575-14, a straight translation would be what we do with a document such as a birth certificate, in which we translate each section exactly the way it is in the source document, for submission to an authority. There is almost no room for adaptation.

A transcreation, according to ASTM F2575-14, is akin to adapting a marketing campaign for the US to Argentina. This would involve not only the text, but also images and many other aspects of the presentation.

In between these two extremes there lies a broad spectrum of items that require discussion and my clients sometimes call transcreation:

  • When translating a radio advertisement and it must be read in 30 seconds but the translated text reads in 90, we should meet with the client to decide what key concepts should stay and what concepts should go. As we discuss the issue, we might come up with a third way to express things that solves some of the problems.
  • When we translate posters, we should consider space issues. In the United States, translating the names of swimming lessons at a recreation facility might also cause confusion at the front desk. Will the receptionist be able to sign the person up if we translate “Sharks”? If not, we might choose to translate the descriptions but leave the names of the lessons in English.
  • When translating programs in a library brochure, we might check to see if they are offered in Spanish. If a Spanish-speaker attends, will they be able to participate? If not, maybe we should ask about adding a line that says, “these sessions are in English.”

The ASTM F2575-14 Standard Guide for Quality Assurance in Translation covers this issue in section 8.4.3.4.1 to 8.4.3.4.3. It assumes this will be the subject of a conversation between the translator and the client when it says:

The requester should indicate whether the target text should retain traces of the source language and culture, or whether it should disguise the fact that it is a translated text. Approaches range from close adherence to the source text (for example, for a university transcript) to significant adaptation to the target culture (for example, for a software interface).

A generalized translation requires another type of content correspondence. It avoids region-specific expressions that could cause confusion and attempts to produce target content that can be used in various areas and around the world.

Customization for a specific locale, in addition to disguising the fact that the content is a translation, involves the adaptation of non-textual material, such as converting amounts in euros to dollars for a US audience and selecting appropriate colors. In some cases, such as marketing materials, this approach is appropriately taken to an extreme and is called transcreation; the marketing approach for a French audience may be substantially different from that for an Australian one.

Image source: Pixabay

A Must-Attend ATA Conference Event: Buddies Welcome Newbies

Whether it’s your first conference or your fortieth, all attendees to the 60th Annual American Translators Association Conference in Palm Springs, CA are invited to attend “Buddies Welcome Newbies,” a time for first-timers and veterans alike to mix and mingle, breaking the ice and getting to know a familiar face before conference sessions get under way.

Why should I attend?

Showing up to a Welcome Reception on Wednesday in a room containing 1500 strangers is terrifying; we want to take the stress out of your first contact with fellow conference attendees. By becoming a Buddy or a Newbie you’ll be able to make one-on-one conversation with colleagues who are just as apprehensive as you are about all the activities and professional interactions that await them in the three days to follow.

Those who have attended two or more ATA conferences are encouraged to return as Buddies so they can help ease the transition for incoming Newbies; we know you remember how daunting it was when you first attended the conference, and how rewarding it can be to make someone else feel at home! Buddies may receive 2 CEPs for participating.

I’m interested. Tell me more…

No registration is necessary to participate in Buddies Welcome Newbies, although if you check the appropriate box on your conference registration form we’ll send you more detailed information by email the week leading up to the event. Buddies and Newbies will be paired up at the introductory event, which will entail a short presentation about networking, a few activities to break the ice, and helpful resources and time for you to get to know your Buddy or Newbie.

Buddies Welcome Newbies

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 from 4:45 to 5:30pm (right before the Welcome Reception!)

What will be expected of me?

Each Buddy-Newbie pair is encouraged to attend one session and go to one meal together. You can even make it a group event and include other Newbies and Buddies in your group—the more the merrier. We ask that you agree on a mode of communication at the session Wednesday and stick to your commitment; we hate to hear stories of Buddies who never respond to messages or Newbies who choose not to take advantage of their Buddy’s expertise!

Is that all?

One more thing! At the end of the conference, on Saturday October 26 at 12:30pm, there will be a wrap-up session for Buddies and Newbies wishing to debrief about their experiences and set goals going forward. You’ll find this to be a great time to collaborate with fellow attendees and hear some of their suggestions about how to make the most of your conference experience.

If you’ve already registered for the conference and forgot to check the “Buddy” or “Newbie” box but would like to receive email updates, just let us know by emailing atasavvynewcomer@atanet.org.

We look forward to seeing you in Palm Springs!

Networking 101 for freelancers

Every freelance professional knows the drill. You enter a door to some event space and there’s a desk with name tags on it. “Hi! My name is ________.” You take a black marker and write your name on the small blank canvas. You peel off the nametag and stick it to your shirt. And yes, it will fall off several times during the next two hours. A smiling young woman or man behind the desk says “hi!” and points you to a food table.

You grab a beer or a glass of wine and look around. People are clustered in circles of four or five. Most of these people are young writers and editors, or maybe designers or videographers. You walk up to the edge of a circle of chatting people and lean your head into the ongoing conversation. A woman or man smiles at you, takes one step to the side and lets you enter the circle. You nod, introducing yourself and shaking hands all around.

People are engaged, energetically discussing the creative life and how to make connections with audiences. This being an event for writers and editors or designers, the conversation turns to clients and how we approach the process of telling stories and making designs for our clients. It’s fun to talk with friendly folks engaged in the same daily activities, with the same ups and downs, as you are.

Why network?

One of the main reasons to attend networking events is to help make connections with other creative professionals, the kind of people who can refer you to potential clients or hire you outright. You might also want to network as a way to manage the isolation and loneliness of being a freelancer. Community can be a great way to help your business and it can enable you to maintain good mental health too.

The foundation of good networking: Give before you get

You shouldn’t network with “getting” in mind. The best networkers give first, putting faith in karma and the psychological rule of reciprocity: When you do for others, they naturally seek to return the kindness. In my experience, you invariably get a much higher return than you’d ever expected when you help someone and don’t expect something in return.

I like to introduce people whenever I find there’s a match between what somebody wants to do (a freelancer seeking to write for a technology client, for example) and what somebody needs (an editor or marketing leader who’s looking for a technology writer). For me, networking is first about making connections for others. And yes, indirectly, I make connections for myself too, but that’s a secondary concern

I didn’t learn this “give first” style of networking on my own, but from people who recommended me to friends in need, and did so without expectation of return. Author Dorie Clark is a great example. She recommended me several years ago to the biggest writing client I have right now. She barely knew me then, but she created an opportunity for me by recommending me to this client. She also showed me that this is what great networkers do: help others first.

Prioritize a few “real” connections over multiple shallow ones

Networking, suggests Clark in her book, Stand Out Networking, isn’t about passing out business cards or adding names to some database or spreadsheet. When we network, we don’t need to be fake or bring our smooth, practiced elevator pitches. Keeping it (and ourselves) “real” is the best and only thing that works to turn acquaintances into deep relationships that help our businesses and lives.

What matters most at any networking event is the quality of the human interactions, not the quantity. You can spend your entire time talking to two people, and have the event be a smashing success. You can also walk around the room handing out fifty business cards and chatting with people for ten seconds each, and have absolutely zero impact. That’s a fail for sure.

In his must-read book on networking, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi says it best:

“Today’s most valuable currency is social capital, defined as the information, expertise, trust, and total value that exist in the relationships you have and social networks to which you belong.”

And the best way to build those crucial relationships, Ferrazzi repeatedly says, is by giving first.

The takeaway here is simple: When we help others and expect no immediate return, we do the most important thing any person or business can do. We build connections and deepen human relationships that sustain us as people and help grow our freelance businesses.

In the end, that’s what networking is about.

Image source: Pixabay

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is a freelance B2B Brand Storyteller who connects brands and customers through engaging stories. His clients include Sojourn Solutions, The Boston Globe’s BG Brand Lab, MITx, abas USA, and The National Center for the Middle Market. His website is http://www.chuckleddy.com/.

International Translation Day 2019 – A Day in the Life of a Translator or Interpreter

Have you heard? ATA is encouraging translators and interpreters to celebrate International Translation Day (ITD) in a BIG way this year! A United Nations resolution passed in 2017 recognizes ITD as the day to pay tribute to the work of language professionals, and to celebrate this huge step for our profession, ATA is celebrating big time on September 30, 2019. We just need your help to make it happen!

What’s the big deal?

How often do you meet people who don’t know what translators and interpreters do, or how many times have you cringed when you heard a translator referred to as an interpreter and vice versa? How often have you had to explain to friends or family members that yes, you do make a living as a translator or interpreter? How often do you encounter people in your community who are unaware of the role language services play in our world? Probably all too often!

What’s the plan?

On International Translation Day (September 30, 2019), ATA will unveil an informational video taking viewers through a day in the life of a translator or interpreter. The video will help you get the word out to both your professional andpersonal network—people who may not be familiar with what you do—about the importance of your profession and your role in it.

I’m in. What do I need to do?

  • Follow ATA on social media (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram) and share the video on your own social media accounts on September 30. You can also visit the ITD webpage on September 30, download the video and post it on your own social media accounts. In your post to social media, we’d love to see you tell us what a day in your life as a translator or interpreter looks like.
  • Find out if your local ATA Chapter or Affiliate will be hosting a gathering to celebrate translators and interpreters. If not, consider hosting one yourself!
  • Schedule a School Outreach presentation in honor of ITD. Now is the time to teach the next generation of translators and interpreters about our exciting and growing profession. Materials and inspiration can be found at the School Outreach website.

A Day in the Life of a Translator or Interpreter!

ATA is set to make International Translation Day 2019 all about showing the world what a typical day in the life of a translator or interpreter looks like. Raising awareness about translation and interpreting will help pave the way for a better future for our profession, and it can start right here in our own backyards. You can help! Mark your calendars, follow ATA on social media, and help spread the word by sharing the video on September 30, 2019!

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/