The Mentor’s Bounty: How Mentoring Enriches both Mentor and Mentee

During the 59th ATA Conference in New Orleans, a colleague asked me, “What was the motivation that drove a group of translators to create an audiovisual division in the ATA?” I sat for a minute, pondering. “Many different factors motivated each of us,” I said. He then asked, “Well, what do you think was the single most important thing?”

I replied without hesitation, “We want to help the next generation of audiovisual translators succeed.” And I think the most effective tool to achieve this goal is through mentoring. In this maiden edition of our newsletter, I wanted to briefly explore the meaning of the term “mentor,” as well as the benefits and responsibilities of being one.

Meaning

In the epic poem The Odyssey, by Homer, Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who stayed in Ithaca in charge of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus. Athena appears to Telemachus disguised as Mentor, and acts as his adviser. The common noun meaning “wise adviser” was first recorded in English in 1750, going back through Latin to the Greek character name¹.

Benefits

The benefits for the mentees are evident: It empowers them with essential information, feedback and support, and helps them build confidence and grow, both personally and professionally.

But are there any benefits for the mentor? Yes. There are benefits beyond “it looks really good in your résumé.” It improves your leadership and communication skills. You gain a renewed sense of pride in your profession. You get to share your experiences with a kindred spirit, somebody hungry to hear them, which is very satisfying. Most gratifying of all is to help a colleague succeed.

It will also teach you a few things. When your mentee says, “We do that differently now,” and shows you a more efficient route to doing the same task, you will be amazed. When you are explaining things to a novice, it makes you stop and take a look at how and why you do things, and helps you see everything through fresh eyes and revitalized interest. You will learn while you teach!

Responsibilities

While the mentee has responsibilities― to be open to constructive criticism, to learn and to do homework, to be willing to correct course, etc.― the mentor has greater responsibilities. Our mentee will adopt our way of doing things, both the good and the bad, so we have to be careful when we teach and never lose sight of ethics and values.

We must set a higher standard for ourselves, because we will be leading by example. We must remember our mentee looks up to us and our opinions and advice will carry a heavier weight than normal.

For me, as a mentor, the task is not to carry anyone up the mountain. It’s not even to hold their hand during the climb. For me, it’s preparing them for the climb: letting them know what kind of gear they will need, what kind of terrain lies ahead, if they will find inclement weather, what type of obstacles will be waiting for them, and teaching them how to sort them.

You can be a mentor

But who has time nowadays, with the pressures of work, family and daily life in general, you say? We all do. We all have to. In most cases, this commitment will only require a handful of hours a month from the mentor, but it will have a great impact in the mentee’s life.

All of us could spare that kind of time to give back, right? That’s why mentoring programs are so important. Nevertheless, the need for mentors is great. And the new generation needs you. Yes, you, the translator who is reading this post.

It so happens that the ATA has a mentoring program! You can look at the guidelines in the ATA website and watch the free webinar, here: https://www.atanet.org/careers/mentoring.php

References:

  1. “Etymology of ‘Mentor.’” English 591, Doctoral Colloquium, University of California, Santa Barbara. (October 8, 2004). http://oldsite.english.ucsb.edu/faculty/ayliu/courses/english591/2004-2005/materials/mentor-etymology.html
  2. Hart, E. Wayne. “Seven Ways to Be an Effective Mentor.” Forbes (June 30, 2010). https://www.forbes.com/2010/06/30/mentor-coach-executivetraining-leadership-managing-ccl.html#174fa4603fd3
  3. Smith, Jacquelyn. “How to Become a Great Mentor.” Forbes (May 17, 2013). https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/05/17/how-tobecome-a-great-mentor/#7f4243694f59

Image source: Pexels

Reblogged from the ATA Audiovisual Division newsletter, 1st edition, with permission

Author bio

Deborah Wexler was born and raised in Mexico City and immigrated to the United States in 1999, where she settled in Los Angeles. She is an ATA-certified English-to-Spanish translator and editor with over 20 years of experience, specializing in audiovisual translation and Spanish orthography. She has translated over 6,000 program hours for television, VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, streaming media, and the big screen. She works for a media processing company that provides translation services for Hollywood features and series, and independent and art-house films and documentaries. She is also a freelance audiovisual translator and quality control specialist. She is a frequent speaker at international conferences, and she is an educator that has mentored and trained many translators wanting to get into the subtitling field.

I asked translators and interpreters what their biggest website challenge was; what I learned is that it’s not website-related at all

In the fall of 2018 I ran a survey to see what are the biggest website-related challenges of freelance translators and interpreters. In addition to four closed questions, there was one open-ended question.

Responses to that question show that the biggest challenge is not copy, design, or even SEO. It’s strategy.

Here are the responses and my answers to them. If you are struggling with similar problems, I hope this will help!

Response 1: “Applying all the SEO and copywriting tips I read and hear from experts”

I hear you. There are so many tips and so little time to implement them (more on that later). Start with this question: “Why do I want to implement all of the SEO and copywriting tips?” In other words, what is your business goal? More clients?

You could be doing any of these tasks:

  • Implementing all of the SEO tips to make your website more visible (more on that later)
  • Start targeting your ideal clients on LinkedIn
  • Perfecting your cold email skills
  • Sending sales emails
  • Actively asking for referrals

You can do all this once you know what you are trying to achieve and who you are targeting. Based on that, decide what exactly you are going to do—in, say, the next six months.

Voilà! Now you have a plan, and can focus only on those tips that are relevant to your plan.

Response 2: “Figuring out which fields to specialize in and how many fields is appropriate. I don’t want to pick too narrow of a niche but also don’t want to be too generalized.”

Chris Durban on @TranslationTalk (enough said):

Response 3: “Pressure from people around me (including from other industries) to make my website into something it’s not, e.g. a blog, a subscriber magnet, “content””

Ah. I have the perfect article from the amazing Margo Aaron from you. And this one specifically about blogging. But let’s go back to the T&I industry…

Chris Durban says:

Angela Benoit says:

Back to your website: what is it for? Is it doing what you want it to do? If yes, then if it ain’t wrong, why fix it? If no, what can you do?

Response 4: “I don’t want to sound fake by marketing my services because I’m a beginner.”

My suggestion is to have a one-page mini-CV website for agencies if you think that you’re not ready to take on direct clients. You could also postpone working on a website until you are more confident in your skills. Writing copy about yourself is super-hard, and it can feel icky and wrong (and trigger an existential crisis – or is it just me?)

It doesn’t have to.

Talk to fellow translators in your niche or your mentor (if you’re part of the ATA Mentoring Program). Maybe they can help you find a way to talk about your experience and services that will not be all Saul Goodman. The Copywriter Club has an amazing podcast episode with Tanya Geisler about the imposter complex and its evil twin, the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Response 5: “SEO, I don’t know enough about it”

OK, this is one of my favorite things to hate. Why, oh why, are so many translators focused on SEO? Below is a screenshot of what Ubersuggest, a SEO research tool, shows for “translator Spanish”. Where are people going? That’s right, dictionaries and MT.

https://app.neilpatel.com/en/ubersuggest/overview?keyword=spanish+translator&country=us

This is what Ubersuggest shows for “localization Spanish” How many estimated visits? That’s right, just six. Per month.

https://app.neilpatel.com/en/ubersuggest/overview?keyword=spanish%20localization&country=us

So, you can try to rank for high-volume words… even though it looks like people are not doing web searches for actual human translators. You can focus on long-tail search queries and hope that those six website visitors will all decide to work with you. Or you can focus on other ways of getting clients, from blogging (in case Margo Aaron did not persuade you that this whole thing sucks) to being excellent at what you do (and perhaps gently nudging clients to refer you to their business partners) to whatever else might work for you—and, more importantly, for your target audience.

Response 6: “Being perceived as a professional (content, images, design, colours), but at the same time being me and being attractive to potential customers”

On having a professional look, check out WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix. Just pick a template. Done. (Also, you do not need a logo.)

On being you: Abbey Woodcock has an amazing tutorial book titled” What They Hear When You Write: Find and Perfect Your Unique Writing Voice” (includes worksheets).

Response 7: “Time. Because I have so little.”

Ouch. I hear you. Maybe this could help:

How to Set Effective Goals for your Freelance Business

Time Block Your Weeks

Theme Your Week: A Schedule Hack for Maximizing Productivity

Response 8: “Figuring out how to present my varied specializations to my equally varied targets, since those fields are pretty different from one another.”

Could there be a unifying idea, maybe personality-related, that can tie those fields together to be presented on a home page? If not, why not create separate websites?

Response 9: “The biggest challenge is to present myself in a way that would attract a client.”

Do you know your ideal clients well? Can you ask your existing clients what attracted them to you? Start by trying to gather information from your ideal clients and go from there.

Conclusion

The poll is still live here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeL-OSjKrKBayX6-9vhmhncYZVSdSp8350lazXbq4Fyle2rlw/viewform?usp=sf_link. If you have different challenges, and want to share them, I’m up for take two!

Have a different opinion on how to tackle the challenges? Leave your ideas in the comments!

Author bio

Ekaterina Howard is a bilingual copywriter helping companies optimize their localized Russian copy for their Russian-speaking target markets at yourcopyinrussian.com. She also publishes tips on how T&I businesses can make their website more persuasive and relevant to their prospective clients. You can read them at pinwheeltrans.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katya_howard.

Translation Slams: Can You Benefit without Working in the Source Language?

Reflections on the ATA59 Spanish-to-English Translation Slam

Translation slams are a powerful tool for translators to hone their craft and learn from each other. If you’re not familiar with the concept of a translation slam or would like to read some other fascinating reviews, please see Chris Durban’s “Post #5 — Word geeks in the hot seat” and Tim Gutteridge’s “Ingredients for a perfect translation slam.” I’ll dispense with an explanation of the format since that information is readily available in these links.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every translation slam I’ve attended. However, I previously thought I would only be able to follow those where I work with both the source and target languages. But the Spanish-to-English translation slam at ATA59 proved me wrong.

It seemed like I was one of only about two or three people who did not have both Spanish and English as working languages in a packed room of around 100 people. But I was determined not to let that stop me from enjoying a translation slam and supporting two of my Savvy teammates.

Three slammers

All of the other translation slams I’ve witnessed or read about had two slammers and one moderator. This one had three slammers, and I thought that added quite an interesting dimension. One thing that fascinated me was that all three translations had their moments. At first, I started to inadvertently form an opinion about which one I liked best, only to realize later that I liked one of the other versions better for certain terms, sentences, and passages. All three translators generally reached a consensus in their discussion on what was most effective. This impressed on me their willingness to seek the best possible translation ahead of their own egos or competitiveness.

A relatively long narrative source text that showcased strengths and weaknesses

The source text was around 700 words in length. This is slightly longer than other translation slams I’ve read about, and sure enough, they did not quite make it to the end. However, one advantage of it being slightly long was that it helped provide a range of opportunities for all three translations to display their strengths and weaknesses. As mentioned, I liked one better initially, whereas another showed its strength closer to the end. A shorter source text may not have allowed for this sort of range.

Complementary skill sets

The slam was moderated by Savvy’s Jamie Hartz. She did a good job of maintaining a constructive tone and balancing commentary from each of the slammers and from the audience. I’d say that is the most important role of a moderator, apart from all the prep work.

The three slammers were Cathy Bahr, Savvy’s Emily Safrin, and Sarah Symons Glegorio. It was fascinating to see how their skill sets and approaches complemented each other. Cathy showed skill in holistically recasting paragraphs and sentences to break free from the source text. On the other hand, Emily’s attention to detail and Sarah’s legal translation background resulted in a stronger focus on mastering individual phrases and words, finding natural English equivalents for tricky Spanish wording. When you put it all together, these macro- and micro-focused approaches make for a winning combination that would lend itself well to a translator-reviser pairing.

My takeaways

I felt that this translation slam did a good job of exemplifying the challenges translators face. Ambiguities in the source text and other wording that was difficult to interpret sometimes resulted in translations that played it safe and stuck too close to the source. On the other hand, there were some translation choices that did get away from the source, but still missed the mark in terms of the intended meaning as best approximated by the collective wisdom of the moderator, the other slammers, and the audience.

It seemed as if the only way to really master some of these passages would be to consult with the author of the source text and combine the writing, research, and reading skills, and unique approaches of all three slammers. In lieu of the source-text author, there were at least native speakers of the source language in the audience who were able to help.

To me, this reaffirms the value of working with a reviser, especially one with a complementary skill set, and of engaging the client in dialogue.

Yes you can!

Although I do have a basic understanding of Spanish (having studied it a long time ago) that helped me understand the source text, I would still assert that I would have been just fine if I hadn’t understood a word of the source language. The comparison of the three translations into my native language was easy to follow. I could judge what read better in the target language and grasp the more straightforward aspects of the source language by comparing the three translations. I was also able to understand the more complex issues, because they came up in discussion.

Another example of a session I attended with a source language I don’t work with is was that of Claudio Cambon, entitled “Being a Faithful Cheat! Betraying Source Texts to Provide Better Legal Translations” about how to get away from the source in Italian-to-English legal translations. My knowledge of Italian is far more limited than my knowledge of Spanish, but that didn’t matter. The presenter shared a word-for-word translation on the screen and then showed how he would completely rewrite it. This made it easy to follow and learn from the step-by-step improvements to the English and enabled me to understand approximately what the source text said.

In conclusion, I would encourage you to look out for future translation slam opportunities. Don’t shy away from participating if you get the chance, because it appears to be very rewarding. And don’t rule out sitting in the audience just because you don’t master the source language. If you at least master the target language, you should be able to get something out of it.

By the way, I’m currently preparing to moderate a translation slam for the first time, with a twist: a text I wrote in English will be translated into Swedish, my source language, and I’ll moderate to provide the author’s perspective and answer questions. Do you have any advice or thoughts for me to consider in this exciting endeavor?

Why provide a forensic transcription translation?

Because of the risks involved, I recommended that instead of this we do a forensic transcription translation (FTT). As an on-site expert witness of the translation or interpreting of an audio or video product, or as an on-site simultaneous or consecutive interpreter of an audio recording or a video, I would not have the tools available for a proper analysis. Interpreting is “the process of first fully understanding, analyzing, and processing a spoken or signed message and then faithfully rendering it into another spoken or signed language. Interpreting is different from translation, which results in the creation of a written target text.”[2]

“The FTT professional must be willing to take the stand…”

According to the Oregon Judicial Department Best Practices for Working with an Interpreter[3], having an interpreter provide interpretation of a recording is not recommended for many reasons. The following is a sample of some of the reasons.

  • From an access to justice perspective, it is necessary to provide a full version that includes both the transcription and the translation to both parties, thus complying with the same rules for evidentiary written materials submitted in a non-English language.
  • The interpreter is required to be a neutral party in the proceedings, but the person providing interpretation on the recordings is an expert witness on the evidence presented. This removes the interpreter’s neutrality in the case.
  • Interpreters are required to interpret without explanation. In a transcription-translation, explanatory notes are provided.
  • The on-site interpreter is able to clear up slang/code terms by asking direct questions. When dealing with a video or sound recording, the FTT professional needs time to research the term.

Resources available

As FTT professionals, we have the following resources available, which are essential for our work:

  • Transcription software, which starts and stops the recording very accurately and allows us to loop a short section. It also allows us to adjust the speed of speech without altering the recording for better accuracy in transcription.
  • Access to a wide variety of dictionaries, including dictionaries of slang and regionalisms used in every Spanish-speaking country in the world.
  • The ability to review our product before turning it in since it will be scrutinized by others. Translation always involves the ability to review our work.

The most updated best practice is clearly explained in Fundamentals in Court Interpreting[4], quoted below.

Use a four-column format in which:

  • the first column (on the left) contains the line number;
  • the second column contains the speaker labels;
  • the third column contains the verbatim transcription of all utterances spoken in the source language as well as relevant contextual information, i.e., legend symbols; and
  • the fourth column contains the English translation.

The legend containing all symbols used in the FTT document should be conveniently available in the document to assist any client’s reading. The use of this format promotes readability and allows for efficient comparison of the discourse with other versions, should a challenge arise.

Chapter 40, section 8.2.1.c, “Using a Four-Column Format”

There is a three-column sample on page 7 of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) General Guidelines and Minimum Requirements for Transcript Translation in any Legal Setting[5], showing how to set up the columns, certify the translation, and develop a cover sheet. However, the standards have been updated since its publication and a four-column format is currently recommended.

Ideally, the same person does the transcription and the translation, and that person has interpreting and translation skills. NAJIT and other associations supported a description of transcriptionist/translator[6]. If the work of transcription and translation are separated, it is essential for the translator to have access to a digital copy of the transcription and a digital copy of the audio source to be able to incorporate metalinguistic data[7].

“…be questioned on every single utterance of the document, and attest to the accuracy of the translation in court.”

When the project is significantly large, it is often divided into sections for a team to produce the initial draft. All drafters produce full transcription-translations of their assigned sections and are under the same confidentiality and non-disclosure rules. Additionally, the team leader is responsible for performing a thorough review of the work of all drafters and is solely responsible for providing expert witness testimony in court regarding the final product.

The FTT professional must be willing to take the stand, be questioned on every single utterance of the document, and attest to the accuracy of the translation in court. FTT professionals often document their terminology research so as to be ready for these questions.

Because taking the stand involves having a very deep knowledge of the recording, translators and interpreters run a significant risk of being wrong if they evaluate a recording on the spot during a deposition or in court, instead of doing a full FTT.

According to the Oregon Courts, this would not provide proper access to justice and is not considered best practices for the use of an interpreter. See Appendix E, page 35 of Oregon Judicial Department Best Practices for Working with Interpreters[8].

[1] Salazar, Teresa C. and Segal, Gladys. 2006. Onsite Simultaneous Interpretation of a Sound File is Not Recommended. Accessed 06/23/2018. https://najit.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Onsite-Simultaneous-Interpre.pdf.

[2] ASTM International Designation F-2089-15 Standard Practice for Language Interpreting. West Conshohocken, PA.

[3] Oregon Judicial Department. 2016. Oregon Judicial Department Best Practices For Working with Interpreters. Accessed 06/23/2018. https://www.courts.oregon.gov/programs/interpreters/policies/Documents/OJD%20Best%20Practices%20for%20Working%20With%20Interpreters.pdf.

[4] Dueñas González, Roseann, Victoria F. Vásquez, and Holly Mikkelson. 2012. Fundamentals of Court Interpretation: Theory, Policy and Practice. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.

[5] National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators. 2003, revised 2009. General Guidelines and Minimum Requirements for Transcript Translation in any Legal Setting. Accessed 06 23, 2018. https://najit.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Guidelines-for-Transcript-Translation.pdf.

[6] 2015. T&I Descriptions. NAJIT. Accessed 06/23/2018. https://najit.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/TI-Descriptions.pdf.

[7] Dueñas González, Roseann, Victoria F. Vásquez, and Holly Mikkelson. 2012. Fundamentals of Court Interpretation: Theory, Policy and Practice. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.

[8] Oregon Judicial Department. 2016. Oregon Judicial Department Best Practices For Working with Interpreters. Accessed 06/23/2018. https://www.courts.oregon.gov/programs/interpreters/policies/Documents/OJD%20Best%20Practices%20for%20Working%20With%20Interpreters.pdf.


Teresa Salazar, MA, Translation and Interpretation, contributed to developing the content of this article.

[Helen Eby - 2018]Helen Eby is an ATA-certified translator (Spanish > English) and a certified DSHS Translator (English > Spanish) by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. She is also a Spanish state-certified (Oregon) court interpreter and a medical interpreter certified by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI), the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI) and the Oregon Health Authority. She has held volunteer positions in the ATA Spanish and Interpreting Divisions and in NAJIT, and is currently on the leadership team of the ATA Savvy Newcomer.

The Certification Toolbox: Get Ready!

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

Late fall and early winter are traditionally a slow time for ATA’s Certification Program, since no exam sittings are scheduled between ATA’s Annual Conference and the beginning of the new exam year in March. Certification graders take advantage of this respite to select new exam passages, fine-tune grading standards, and tend to other housekeeping tasks.

This period is also a good opportunity for prospective certification candidates to get ready to take the exam in 2017 by exploring ATA’s toolbox of exam preparation resources. Here’s an overview.

Practice Test

It can’t be said enough: completing a practice test and studying the results is one of the best ways to prepare for the exam. ATA practice tests are retired exam passages that the candidate translates at home and returns to ATA Headquarters. Practice tests are evaluated by graders in the same way as the actual exams. However, unlike the actual exam, the candidate receives a marked copy, showing each error with a brief explanation as needed. This is a terrific way for prospective candidates to see what sort of text they could encounter, how the grading standards are applied, and what skills they might need to work on to pass the exam. Best of all, practice tests will be available online in 2017.

New Media

ATA is committed to employing new media for preparing candidates for the certification exam. The latest example is a webinar given in September by Michèle Hansen and Holly Mikkelson. If you missed it, you can purchase a recording from ATA’s website: http://www.atanet.org/webinars. Stay tuned for other new media approaches to candidate preparation!

Website

Translators interested in certification often overlook the valuable information readily available on ATA’s website. The Certification Exam Overview and the Frequently Asked Questions are a good place to start. (See links at the end of this column.) If you’re contemplating sitting for the exam, be sure to check out these essential resources.

Prep sessions

This year’s Annual Conference in San Francisco included workshops to prepare candidates for the certification exam in four languages: Spanish, French, Japanese, and Italian. These in-depth sessions, moderated by certification graders, are extremely popular and considered highly useful by prospective candidates. Watch for them at next year’s conference in Washington, DC—but also think about asking your local chapter or affiliate to schedule a session at your local or regional conference in 2017.

Into-English Grading Standards

One overlooked and important resource for candidates is the Into-English Grading Standards (IEGS). This document, downloadable from ATA’s website, sets forth standards applied by all ATA graders of foreign-into-English language pairs when assessing a variety of issues, such as proper punctuation, nonparallel constructions, and split infinitives. It’s a must for exam candidates translating into English, and is especially useful at computerized sittings, since candidates can access the searchable PDF version on their computers.

Independent Practice

If you don’t translate material on general subjects on a regular basis, and/or you have not done timed tests lately, independent practice should be part of your personal exam preparation toolbox. A simple way to hone both skills—working with expository texts and working quickly—is to search the Internet for texts that resemble the practice test in your language pair. Good sources are articles from online publications written for a general (but educated) audience. Download articles that interest you, copy them into Word files, and set aside time to practice translating parts of them into your target language. If you’re very busy (as most of us are!), just start with one paragraph at a time, minimizing your use of reference tools (print and online dictionaries). After a few practice sessions, you’ll likely see your speed and facility improve.

Translation Instructions

The final tool is not something candidates can prepare for in advance, but it’s still an important part of the exam: paying close attention to the translation instructions that accompany each passage, specifying the source of the text, the reason it is being translated, the audience addressed by the translation, and the medium in which it will appear. This opening statement, which precedes each exam text and, in fact, should be considered part of the overall passage, gives the candidate important information about how to approach the translation task, especially with regard to style and register, but even in such basic regards as terminology and usage.

So, grab your toolbox and put it to good use! 

Links to Information about the Certification Exam

ATA Webinars on Demand
“A Guide to ATA Certification”
www.atanet.org/webinars

Certification Exam Overview
www.atanet.org/certification/aboutexams_overview.php

ATA Certification Into-English Grading Standards
www.atanet.org/certification/Into_English_Grading_2013.pdf

ATA Certification Program: Frequently Asked Questions
www.atanet.org/certification/certification_FAQ.php


Image source: Pixabay

David Stephenson serves as chair of ATA’s Certification Committee. Contact: david.translator@gmail.com.