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

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

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

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 Though glossaries of slang, a rapidly evolving form of language, are only useful for so long before they become outdated, I found it really valuable to discuss the current gang, prison, and street slang and to connect with fellow linguists who experience some of the same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

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

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

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

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

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

Tapping into the Expertise I needed: My Experience as an ATA Mentee

Have you ever wondered what the ATA Mentoring Program entails, who joins, and what they get out of the experience? With the application deadline for this year’s program approaching, I’d like to share my experience in the hopes that it may help shed some light on the questions that people interested in the program might have.

Why I joined the ATA Mentoring Program

My full-time, in-house translation experiences in Luxembourg and Houston were wonderful opportunities for me to hone my French and Spanish translation skills and work alongside very detailed and incredibly knowledgeable colleagues. As I recently made the switch to working for myself, I felt a bit like a fish out of water. I was confident the ATA Mentoring Program would be a wonderful opportunity for me to learn from a generous member’s experience and wisdom. I needed a trusted resource to bounce ideas off of, and I was really looking forward to receiving solid, personal advice from someone who had been in my shoes before, building her ownT&I business.

There was so much to learn about expanding my horizons beyond Houston, working with clients around the world, juggling a larger number of clients with very different work procedures and expectations, attracting and satisfying private clients, and getting my foot in the door at agencies far, far away.

My Mentor

I was so thankful and humbled when the committee wrote to introduce me to my mentor, past ATA President Dorothee Racette. From our first conversation, it was clear (and no surprise considering her accomplishments) that when Dorothee signs up for something, she delivers. We got started immediately and there has been no lull from her since.

Dorothee is an ATA-Certified Translator and productivity coach. She knows the industry inside and out and is warm, easy to talk to, and has a lot of insight to share. The experience of learning beside Dorothee has been far better than I could have imagined when I sent my application in last February.

How does it work?

Dorothee’s tested method, which originated from her training as a coach, is something I can hands down recommend to other mentor/mentee pairs in future years. From the get-go, Dorothee explained her expectations of me, inquired about my immediate and long-term goals for our time together, created a schedule we could follow, and started a file in Google Docs we could share. We talk on the phone every two weeks for about 30-45 minutes about a particular, pre-designated topic. Should something come up between sessions, I am free to e-mail her, but I find we are able to cover a lot in those structured calls. The shared Google Docs file is where we keep track of the topic for our next call and any assignments I am expected to do. It’s also where I list the questions I have for our next call. She is then able to use this document to prepare for our chat.

A few topics we have covered so far this year are: how I can follow in her footsteps in developing a medical specialization, what I can learn from her path to ATA leadership, how I can more effectively use the power of dictation software, my preparation for and debriefing of my first ATA Conference, as well as specific, detailed questions about working with agency and private clients, setting goals for the next year, and more. Whenever I think of a new topic, I can just open Google Drive and write it down, and then come back to it for future calls. It has been a great tool to keep us on task, and to make sure I don’t miss the opportunity to get Dorothee’s expert opinion on something I might otherwise forget.

Dorothee’s advice for new mentor/mentee pairs is to set a regular schedule and to confirm the next conversation at the end of each call. She has found that the “call me when you need me approach” can be ineffective because either the mentee may be too shy to intrude on the mentor’s time, or the mentee may call too often at inopportune times.

Results

Under Dorothee’s mentorship, I have better focused my marketing efforts and brought on a number of new clients who I truly enjoy working with and feel appreciate the value of my work. Dorothee has given me a judgement-free space to learn the ins and outs of working for myself, thinking long-term, and respecting myself and my skill set, all of which have helped me grow my business.

Applying

This year’s Mentoring Program will run from April 2019 through March 2020. Applications must be received by March 4th, and applicants will be notified of their results by April 15th. Any and all ATA members are welcome to apply. Whether you have a long-term goal you’d like guidance on, are trying to develop a new specialization, even after years in the industry, or you find yourself in a transitional phase of your career, there isn’t one mold you need to fit into. What you need for success is commitment, dedication, clear goals, and follow-through.

One handy tip from Mentoring Committee Chair, Kyle Vraa, is that it is more helpful if applicants talk more about what they want to accomplish in the future than what they have done in the past. He recommends keeping discussion of the past to 25% of the essay, while devoting the rest of the essay to future goals. The Mentoring Committee selects participants through a competitive application process. Most mentoring pairs work in different languages, although that is not always the case. Kyle explains that factors such as your field of specialization (or intended new field of specialization), professional goals, and interpersonal compatibility are taken into account when matching pairs.

The ATA Mentoring Program webpage has a lot of information that can help you decide if the program is right for you, along with detailed instructions on how to apply.

Thank you

An incredible thank you is in order for the ATA member mentors and the Mentoring Committee members who so graciously offer their time to volunteer and help other members. This program would not be possible without your dedication and willingness to speak openly about your experiences. Thank you to everyone who has made this program possible.

Author bio

Jessica Hartstein is an ATA-Certified Translator (Spanish>English, French>English) and a Texas Master Licensed Court Interpreter (Spanish-English). She holds an MA in Conference Interpreting and Translation Studies from the University of Leeds and graduated Cum Laude with a BA from Rice University. Prior to working freelance, she held full-time, in-house translation positions at a marketing firm in Luxembourg and an oil and gas engineering company in Houston. Jessica specializes in legal, medical, asylum, and oil and gas translation and interpreting projects. She has been fortunate to have lived abroad in Spain, China, Japan, England, and Luxembourg. E-mail: jessica@jessicahartstein.com, Website: http://www.jessicahartstein.com/

Escaping lockdown

Reblogged from SJB Translations’ blog, with permission (incl. the image)

How (and how not) to cope with big projects

A couple of weeks ago I won my freedom, or at least that’s what it felt like. I finally completed a series of big translation and revision projects that had kept me in what amounted to professional lockdown for more that two months. I’m now once again able to take on the projects I want without worrying about where I’m going to find the time to do them. I don’t have the pressure of knowing I still have thousands and thousands of words to translate and revise by a week on Thursday. And it feels great.

It was certainly a very unusual way to start the year. I’m used to January being a bit of a struggle, with things gradually picking up into February and March. 2018, though, has been different. It actually started last November with a phone call. Was I interested in translating a book? Well, as it turned out to be a historical study right up my street, of course I was. So I found myself one morning in Barcelona’s atmospheric Ateneu meeting the author and the publisher of the book.

“This has always been a place for conspiracies,” said the publisher, looking round the lounge where we sat with our coffees. “They still go on in here even today.” My eyes followed his gaze around the leather armchairs and into the dark corners of the room. I could well believe it, especially in the feverish political context of last autumn in Catalonia. But the only conspiracy we were hatching was for me to translate the best part of 100,000 words, one of the biggest jobs I’ve ever tackled. I had plenty of time to do it, and the deadline wasn’t rigid, but it triggered a series of events that led to my becoming “trapped”.

My big mistake was to fill up all the “gap days” I’d negotiated when agreeing the deadline for the history book so that I’d also be able to take on a little other work every week. The problem was that almost immediately along came a client demanding to pay in advance for a job that would fill more or less all this time I’d set aside. I felt I couldn’t say no, and the lockdown began so I was more or less forced to turn everything else away for two months.

Then another client popped up to remind me that I’d promised to revise his book, which was almost as long as the one I was translating. This wasn’t so much a last straw to break the translator’s back as an enormous tree trunk. I resisted. I even went as far as to sound out some colleagues about the possibility of them doing the job for my client and I told him it would be out of the question for me to do the job by the deadline he had given me but that I could arrange for an alternative. But it was no good, he wouldn’t budge: it had to be me. At this point I discovered that his deadline was more flexible than I had thought, so I gave him the earliest possible date I could, more than a month later than the one he had initially told me, and astonishingly he accepted. Now I was saved, but the lockdown had been extended by almost two weeks. It was going to be a long winter, especially as I was rapidly developing symptoms of the flu and somewhere into all this I had to fit in a trip to England to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday.

But I set to work, and really I can’t complain about the progress of the various projects. The work was interesting, I managed to keep my discipline and do it by more or less when I said I would, and the clients behaved exquisitely and paid their invoices almost immediately. There was simply no way I could have turned them down. But I also feel I didn’t always deal with the big projects especially well. So for anyone who is suddenly faced with a 100,000-word project here are some tips I learned, or was forcefully reminded of:

  1. Negotiate a generous deadline. Here, I was fortunate that my clients were willing to be flexible, but perhaps I could have pushed things even further and eased my situation by asking for another couple of weeks.
  2. Negotiate a good rate and never give discounts just because a project is big. I was happy with what I was earning from both these jobs and neither author asked for a reduction, but it is very important not to give one. Big projects bring their own particular problems, particularly concerning our ability to maintain consistency in all areas of the translation. That means anyone agreeing to work cheaply on a big project is highly likely to end up producing shoddy work and also liable to lose money on the project, compared with what they might have made on smaller pieces of work.
  3. Negotiate payment in installments. If you’re working on the same job for a period of several weeks or months you won’t want to wait until the end to be paid. In this case, I asked for three equal payments, one in advance (because it was a big job and I’d never worked for the client before), one in the middle of the work and one at the end. This worked well and the client turned out to be one of the prompted payers I’ve ever come across.
  4. Don’t panic. Seeing you’ve got 100,000 words to translate is daunting, no matter what the deadline. It’s easy to panic, but it’s something you need to avoid. Divide it by the number of working days or weeks you have available to do it and it suddenly seems much more manageable. Then all you you need to do is work in the same way as you always do and it WILL get done.
  5. Be disciplined. One of the big dangers on a large project is getting behind. Somehow, because the work is set out in front of you day after day, there’s a tendency to let things slip. If that happens, you not only end up missing the deadline, you lose money, because you probably wouldn’t have let things slide with short jobs and tighter deadlines.
  6. Learn to say no. I definitely should have done more of this. With hindsight, filling the “gap days” I’d managed to negotiated with another big job was a bad mistake, however enticing it might have seemed. Some work also came in that I couldn’t say no to, from regular direct clients and I had to make time to do this too, which meant working some weekends. For me, this is one of the most stressful aspects of being in the lockdown situation. It got to the stage where I hated looking in my inbox for fear of finding a mail from someone asking me to do another job. Not feeling like that any more is a huge relief.
  7. Refer work to colleagues. Some would say outsource, but I don’t like doing that because in those circumstances I would feel responsible for the work delivered. The last thing I need when I’m busy is the stress of having to project manage and revise other people’s work, even if I know them well. On the other hand, referring clients to colleagues who perhaps need the work and allowing them to deal directly with the client is an absolute pleasure and sometimes a necessity.
  8. Put off the unnecessary. While I had these big projects I’m afraid all non-essential e-mails went unanswered and all requests for forms to be filled in were unheeded. I also cancelled all marketing, not so much for reasons as time, as for fear that it might succeed. Despite the fact that one of the principles of marketing is that it should be consistent, even when you’re busy, in this case the last thing I wanted was for a new customer to suddenly appear.
  9. Don’t neglect your health or family. Despite the fact I had all that work to do, I did manage to continue my regular visits to the swimming pool and spend time with my wife and son. When I’d done my quota of work for the day, I forced myself to stop thinking of everything still to be done on the project. I tried to get ahead if possible without working unreasonable hours, but nightshifts weren’t going to solve anything on a project of that size.
  10. Remember there’s life and work after the big project. There comes a point, with a week or so to go, where it becomes possible to start saying “yes” to offers of work again, but sometimes the word “no” becomes so ingrained that you continue to turn projects down when it’s not really necessary. That’s a mistake, because you don’t want to suddenly go from frantically busy to having nothing to do.

Following this advice will help avoid the worst of the stress inevitably associated of accepting a large project. However, it probably won’t prevent the huge sigh of relief when it’s all over.

EU recruiting translators and proofreaders on fixed-term contracts


A few weeks ago, the European Union opened a process to recruit translators and proofreaders on fixed-term contracts to work within the EU institutions, primarily at its offices in Brussels and Luxembourg.

Translators must be able to translate from two different official EU languages into one other EU language; under the current rules, the first of these two source languages must be French, German or (where the target language is not English) English. The second source language may be any other EU language.

The EU’s official languages are Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish.

This recruitment process is open-ended: candidates may register their interest, and may be called for testing and subsequently offered a position, at any time. Applicants must be citizens of an EU member state.

To make an application please see the following links for further information and instructions:

Translators: https://epso.europa.eu/job-opportunities/cast/3492/description_en

Proofreaders: https://epso.europa.eu/job-opportunities/cast/3493/description_en

(Note in particular the documents Call for Expressions of Interest and Addendum to the call for expressions of interest – 4)

Please note that applicants for translator positions should indicate their target language (Language 1) and first source language (Language 2) in the ‘Registration Data’ tab of the application form. The form must be filled out in Language 2. The second source language (Language 3), and knowledge of any other languages, whether EU official languages or not, should be indicated under the ‘My Profile’ > ‘Language Skills’ tab.

Please address ALL enquiries regarding this recruitment process through the following link: https://epso.europa.eu/help_en

Please circulate this information widely.

This recruitment exercise for translators on fixed-term contracts, known as ‘CAST Permanent’, is distinct from the EU’s mechanism for taking on staff translators on indefinite contracts. That is done through periodic competitive examinations, open only to EU citizens. Such competitions are usually launched in the summer months. Further information is available in the attached document and here:

https://epso.europa.eu/career-profiles/languages_en

In addition, the EU’s institutions sometimes recruit freelance translation capacity, where the individuals carrying out translation work need not be based in Brussels or Luxembourg. For further information see the attached file and the following links:

https://epso.europa.eu/help/faq/2035_en

https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/tenders/tender-opportunities-department/translation-tenders-and-contracts_en

The EU also offers paid translation traineeships (internships) for periods up to five months. A quota of traineeship places is set aside for non-EU citizens. For information see the attached document and this link:

https://epso.europa.eu/job-opportunities/traineeships_en

Image source: Pixabay

Paul Kaye
Twitter: @PaulKayeEUlangs
European Commission

Language Officer
European Commission Representation in the UK
Europe House
32 Smith Square
London SW1P 3EU

+44 (0)20 7973 1968
paul.kaye@ec.europa.eu

**Would you like to receive news and event invitations from Europe House related to languages and translation? Ask me to put you on our mailing list**

American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) Conference 2018 Review

What does a medical translator and interpreter have to learn from medical writers? Especially if you write in Spanish, and the conference is for people who write in English. I went to the AMWA conference curious, and came back changed, having learned so much that I am going back for sure. Oh, and it was so much fun!

As a medical translator and interpreter, I am a member of organizations where people who write medical documents participate. The American Medical Writers Association is one of them. Attending conferences and talking with people who write the documents I translate helps me understand context, and it helps me prepare my translations so they will undergo minimal changes when the medical editors receive them.

Why am I interested in medical interpreting and translation? I just can’t help it. My grandfather founded the first union hospital in Argentina and left some of his tools behind in the attic. When I was a child, I played with them and wanted to be a doctor like him, so I could also help others. Right after graduating from high school, I spent two years in medical school at the University of Buenos Aires. I then moved on to a different field, but never lost my passion for medical and scientific topics. I told that story a few times at this conference, and many people loved it! So after the ATA conference in New Orleans, I just had to go right over to DC, stay with a friend and go to the AMWA conference to hang out with medical geeks. It was irresistible.

Interestingly, the conference actually started two months before the event itself. They sent me homework! I was registered for one of the three-hour workshops, and all the speakers assigned tasks in advance. It was due three weeks ahead of the conference. At the session, they handed out the corrected homework and discussed the assignments. The material was demanding and interesting, and the advance preparation helped us all engage with the session in depth.

About a month ahead of time the conference organizers were sending emails out to see what regional group we would go out to dinner with. They also had “dine-arounds,” an opportunity to try out different culinary options by checking the list of restaurants and leaders and signing up for where you wanted to dine.

For the regional groups, the leaders had the list of those who had registered, and didn’t leave until all were accounted for. They stood in the hotel foyer, held up their sign, and waited to take off. If you didn’t have a group, you just tagged along with someone else, or someone might grab you and say “Hey, come along with us.” For the dine-arounds, there were signup sheets at the registration early in the morning, and the same deal happened in the evening. Knowing they were waiting for you, it was a good idea to check in with the leader if you changed your mind! I loved these dinners.

The attendees were experts in the subjects they were writing about. They were not just writers. They didn’t just organize other people’s notes and research. They knew the subject and knew what questions to ask to make the document shine. Why? Because so many of them had terminal degrees in the field they were writing about. At times, members of the audience answered questions from other members of the audience because the speakers knew that was appropriate. I loved the collegial environment! The conversations continued in the hallways, where the exhibitors were. I made some good friends and expect to see them again.

All comments were welcome. It was totally OK to stand up and say, “This sounds great! If people actually wrote this way, we translators would have fewer questions for you and your translations would be done more quickly! Could you please pass the word along?” They thanked me, because they had not realized plain language would have that cause-and-effect.

The sessions honed in on some issues I had been thinking about for a while. Clear writing (many call it plain language) and connecting with your audience were threads that made their way into every presentation.

Whether discussing how to prepare a proposal for regulators to approve it or how to write a grant, the key points were the same.

  • Write clearly
  • Organize your material well
  • Assume the readers are in a hurry
  • Find out what the reader cares about and focus on that
  • Don’t assume the reader knows your subject
  • Assume that they will be evaluating things that are not on the checklist; they will!

There was a session on empathy—in our writing! Yes, we can be empathetic in our writing by not talking down to people and not trying to erase entire classes of people, but meeting our readers where they are, putting ourselves in their shoes and telling our readers how they would benefit from what we present to them. This, of course, implies knowing our audience. Those of us who do both interpreting and translation have a natural connection with our audience. Readers, how can we all develop this connection so our translations reach our audience better?

Then there’s miscommunication. It is such a problem. One speaker labeled it the “miscommunication epidemic,” and I had to agree. How many times have I had to go back and explain what I meant in an email, a phone call, a look? She dealt with the face-to face aspects of miscommunication, but in writing, our communication is 100% dependent on the printed or electronic material. Some tips that I took note of in this presentation and another one were:

  • Use the BLUF (bottom line up front) strategy
  • Say exactly what we mean
  • Send short emails about only one topic, with a subject line that summarizes the topic
  • Avoid jargon
  • Be explicit instead of assuming our readers will understand what we are assuming
  • Use story-telling techniques to make our points; people like to see how things apply to them, and nothing brings this out like a story

Going to conferences from the allied professions opens my mind to new ideas. In this case, medical writers and translators have a lot in common: we both write texts for our audiences. Knowing what they consider when they address their audience helps me as I try to maintain the register, keep the voice, reach the audience, and transfer the message to my target audience.

Sometimes documents are written directly in Spanish, where the client asks: “Could you please write something about ___________? Here are the basic topics we need you to cover, and here are the specs.” As a translator, I could easily be given that type of assignment. These conferences also prepare me to shine in that environment.

Finally, I often work with communications specialists. Having the experience of being at what is essentially a communications conference gives me the ability to understand their concerns and be able to speak to their needs in a language they understand more clearly.

I will continue to include conferences for writers and copy editors in my mix for a long time! They are fun and incredibly helpful for me as a professional.