Common Errors Found in the English>Spanish Certification Exam

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

ATA certification continues to be a sought-after credential. As a way to prepare for this demanding exam, ATA has been offering practice tests for many years, which are real exam passages that have been “retired.” In addition to the practice test, ATA has been offering exam preparation workshops taught by ATA exam graders to help candidates better understand how to prepare for the exam. In the past three years, ATA has offered regional workshops in Boston, Alexandria, Houston, and Mexico City. These workshops are also offered at ATA’s Annual Conference, including this year in Palm Springs.

The three-hour workshop for Spanish<>English includes an analysis of the different error categories and a practice test that registered participants are invited to complete and submit prior to the workshop. The graded practice tests are returned during the workshop and used as the basis for discussion of the passage. Here are some of the most common errors made by candidates in the English>Spanish combination.

Mimicking English Syntax: Many candidates mimic the English syntax without stopping to consider that Spanish sentences often have to be organized differently. English is a more concise language than Spanish, and sometimes it’s necessary to change word order in a translation, or to provide a verb or an article that is not present in English. Common errors include the absence of definite and indefinite articles, the mimicking of the passive voice, and the use of prepositions that don’t reflect Spanish usage.

False Friends: These are English words that resemble Spanish words in their spelling, but have a different, sometimes opposite, meaning. As their name indicates, these words are very untrustworthy. Many candidates tend to choose the word that looks like the English for their translation, and, in so doing, make a transfer error. The more an English word resembles a Spanish one, the more necessary it is to verify that the meaning is the one that we need in the target language. Always confirm this using a monolingual dictionary.

Incorrect Use of Present Continuous Tense and Gerund/Present Participle: This is one aspect of grammar that’s very different in English and Spanish. Most of the time, in Spanish we cannot imitate the use of the present continuous tense or gerund/present participle. In fact, this is an aspect of Spanish grammar that requires study and practice. Just because you see a verb ending in –ing in English doesn’t mean you can replicate it in Spanish. Candidates lose a lot of points because they don’t understand the correct use of the present continuous tense and gerund/present participle in Spanish.

Mechanical Errors: These are what we call “controllable” errors. Mechanical errors are those evident to a Spanish reader without having to compare the text to the English original. Such errors include punctuation, capitalization, spelling, diacritical marks, grammar, and syntax. I say they are “controllable” because ATA’s certification exam is an open-book exam. It is therefore possible, and encouraged, for candidates to consult dictionaries, grammar books, and style manuals during the exam. As graders, we’ve found a number of candidates who fail due to mechanical errors. In other words, the candidate transfers the meaning well from English into Spanish, but makes too many mechanical errors.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you’re planning to take the certification exam in the English>Spanish combination, a practice test is the place to start. Brush up on your Spanish grammar and consult some style manuals to guide you in avoiding mechanical errors. And if you’re able, attend one of the regional workshops that are being offered a few times a year in different parts of the country and at ATA’s Annual Conference in the fall.


Mercedes De la Rosa-Sherman, CT has been a professional translator for over 30 years. An ATA-certified English>Spanish translator and a member of ATA’s Certification Committee, she has been a grader for ATA’s English>Spanish certification exam for over 10 years. She is also a state and federally certified court interpreter. She has a master’s degree in medical translation. Contact: delarosasherman@gmail.com.

Freelance Translator Survey 2020

“Interesting & fun to complete”, “Most comprehensive and interesting survey so far”, “Loved it!”, “Very thorough and thought-provoking” are just a few of the comments left by people who completed this survey for translators https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/freelance-translator-survey-2020, a survey that took two months to put together, a survey designed by translators for translators.

The idea started to take shape a couple of months ago, after seeing several discussions in various translation groups I am a member of. There are a number of studies/surveys carried out in our field, some specifically aimed at members of certain associations, others focused on specific areas (e.g.CAT tools) or geographic location, but I wanted to do something a bit more comprehensive, open to freelance translators from anywhere around the world and covering as many aspects of our profession as possible.

Why did it take so long? Well, it involved several stages: after the initial brainstorming and research (to make sure it’s different from other surveys), I consulted a number of colleagues to see what sort of data translators really want to know and tried to include as many of those as possible. Sadly, that was impossible, as it would have made the survey twice as long. However, I am planning to look at some of these areas in more detail later, with additional surveys. To ensure the questions are not biased or leading, we also got a researcher on board to help with the flow and design. The initial draft went through several rounds of amends after being tested by a number of colleagues (who were generous and donated their time to help with this and to whom I am really grateful). The version you can now see live is version 11 🙂

Why should you consider filling this in? There are several reasons:

  • The findings will be published on https://inboxtranslation.com/resources/research/, therefore available to anyone interested
  • You are contributing to important and valuable research that will help you reflect on the way you are working as a translator
  • For each complete response, we will donate £1 (up to £250) to a charity of your choice
  • If you always wanted to know more about your fellow translators, you can suggest questions/topics we will consider for future surveys
  • The more people take part, and the more varied their background, location and experience, the more reliable the data obtained is, so please feel free to share the survey with fellow freelance translators

I, for one, am really excited to see the results! So please take the survey and help me help YOU!

Author bio

In her 15 years as a translation professional, Alina Cincan has been wearing many hats: Chartered Linguist (Language Specialist), translator, project manager, ECD (Expert Coffee Drinker), international conference speaker and author. Her #1 passion? Languages! She speaks six languages with various degrees of fluency. Some of her articles were published in translation journals and magazines, such as Traduire in France, MDÜ Magazine in Germany, La Linterna del Traductor in Spain, the ITI Bulletin in the UK and De Taalkundige/Le Linguiste In Belgium. More about her experience and work can be read here.

Free Training: Getting Started as a Freelance Translator

A four-week online course for beginning translators in any language combination, who want to launch and run a successful freelance business. Also for “experienced beginners” whose primary goal is to find more work.

Because a lot of people have a lot of time on their hands right now, I’m offering a free session of Getting Started as a Freelance Translator. We’ll have two live sessions per week (recordings provided if you can’t attend live) and a Slack group for discussion and questions. Participants in this session will not receive individual feedback on assignments, (you’ll still receive the assignments, but not individual feedback), but hey, it’s free! If you’ve been thinking of launching a freelance translation business, or if you’re a beginning translator looking for more or better work, come join us! Everyone welcome: all language combinations, students, anyone at all.

Instructor: Corinne McKay, CT. An ATA-certified French to English translator and Colorado-certified French court interpreter, Corinne has 16+ years of experience as a full-time freelancer and has taught the Getting Started as a Freelance Translator course since 2006. Corinne holds a Master’s degree in French Literature from Boston College, and specializes in international development, corporate communications, and non-fiction book translation. Her book How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator has sold over 12,000 copies and has become–now in its third edition–a go-to reference for the translation and interpreting professions.

Next session: March 30-April 30, 2020.

Live sessions: Video lectures at 12:30 PM New York time on Mondays (March 30, April 6, April 13, April 20), question and answer sessions on at 12:30 PM on Fridays (April 3, 10, 17, and 24). Recordings provided if you can’t attend live.

Description:This course was exactly what I needed – it offered a structured, bite-sized and realistic approach to topics every potential full-time freelancer needs to consider. Corinne’s honest and unbiased feedback helped me to focus on my goals and plan the next steps in my freelance career .”

“I was surprised and delighted at how practical this course was. Corinne is extremely generous in sharing her insights, suggestions and tips, and this was very important to me as a relatively novice translator. I always got the feeling I could ask any question, no matter what, and Corinne would provide a thoughtful and thorough answer. This course is a must for beginner translators.”

If you’re a beginning translator looking for the nuts and bolts of how to launch and run a successful freelance business, Getting Started as a Freelance Translator will get you there! You’ll create a translation-targeted resume and cover e-mail, a billable hours and rates sheet, and a marketing plan for your translation business. Most importantly, you’ll finish the course with increased confidence in your freelance business skills.

Format: This is a special, free session of this course. Everyone will have access to the weekly video lectures and question and answer sessions (recordings provided), and we’ll have a Slack group for discussion. You’ll receive a weekly homework assignment with sample answers, but you will not receive individual feedback on the assignments.

Here’s the link if you want to sign up, and we’ll go live on March 30.

Why You Should Never Offer a “Free Quote” On Your Website (Or Elsewhere)

This post was originally published on Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo’s blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional translator or a newbie who’s just getting your feet wet, your website should be the place where clients go to find out more about your services and to find out how they can work with you. Not only that, but it should make them want to work with you. There are a lot of ways to convince a client to reach out for an inquiry about your services. But one way that I recommend you never utilize on your website (or anywhere else for that matter) is by mentioning a “free quote”. Some people use mentions of free quotes as a button to click, or a tab at the top of the web page in the navigation bar, or on a form that clients can fill out and submit. Wait a minute. Doesn’t everyone do that these days? Well, not everyone. But a very large number of people do. Want to know a little secret? I did the same thing! Then why in the world am I suggesting you not do this?

Here are my top five reasons to never mention requests for a free quote on your website (or elsewhere).

1. When you offer a free quote, you are bringing attention to pricing. Front and center. You are inevitably going to attract price shoppers. Are they your ideal clients? Do you want to be discussing pricing over quality? I’m guessing you don’t. Then remove the “free quote” bit as a way to draw people in. You do not want to devalue anything that you do, so avoid the word “free” all together.

If you choose to remove mentions of free quotes from your website, I am willing to bet that you will start attracting fewer price shoppers and more serious clients. Give it a try! Remember, everything in business is an experiment.

2. You are stating the obvious. Of course the quotes you send clients are probably free. I say this because I don’t know of any translators who charge for to provide quotes to clients. So, they’re likely expected to be free anyway. When you change the verbiage on your site from offering a “free quote” to something like “contact us”, “contact me”, “send John an email”, “request a consultation” or something like that, you remove any thought you might have instilled with the word “free”. Price shoppers will be less likely to contact you, and you will be more likely to receive requests with serious inquiries.

3. By avoiding any mentions of free quotes, you allow site visitors to focus on what’s more important than the price: the value you bring to them and to their business or organization. When you focus on defining your value proposition for your ideal client and making that as clear as possible, people will want to work with you. The quote itself will be merely a formality.

4. You get to choose the direction the conversation goes. When you avoid discussing free quotes on your website, you also attract fewer of those “I need this yesterday!” clients. If your site gives off more of a “let’s have a conversation” vibe, those pesky clients who want something done for nothing, or who have an unreasonable timeline, will look elsewhere. Who wants to work with clients like that anyway?

If you plan to work with direct clients, you should be setting most of the parameters. When do you have an opening to work on a new project? How long will it take? What will it cost the client? You are not an order taker. So, have a real conversation with your client and talk pricing last, after you’ve had a chance to “wow” them.

5. By not leading people to ask for a price right off the bat, you allow yourself to customize your service sales. While you may charge the same price to all of your technical English to German translation clients, you have the opportunity to actually price your work based on the value you bring to the table. This means that you do not have to set prices from price sheets you have on file. Instead, you can factor in the value you bring to each project as part of the background information you need in order to provide the quote in the first place. The “value factor” should be considered just as much as other factors you consider when providing a quote (number of words or hours a project will take, technicality of the language used, delivery time, etc.). If this is a concept that interests you, then check out Blair Enns’ YouTube video on the differences between customized and productized services and how they impact your business approach, pricing and profit margins.

Now, remember that I told you that we found we were sending the wrong message by including the “free quote” verbiage on my business’ website? Well, in the process of pivoting that message, we also came up with some great ways to deal with price shoppers when they do contact us. I’ve turned those ways to deal into a list of tips.

Tips for dealing with price shoppers when you prefer to market your services based on value.

○ When a lead starts off the conversation asking about the cost, say, “Is price the only factor in your decision to hire a professional?” Then pause. Allow the person to respond, and if it seems that price is their deal breaker, you can choose to take them on as a client or direct them somewhere else accordingly.

○ If you direct them somewhere else, warn them that you cannot vouch for the quality of the service they will receive. Sometimes they will see that you were right and will come back to you.

○ Let them know that you’re not the only one promoting high quality over cheap translations. Here is a great article to share with those clients who are clearly making decisions based on price, written by my late dear friend and colleague, Stephanie Tramdack Cash: “The High Cost of Cheap Translation“.

○ Let them know that you already have paying clients who you work with at your current prices who see the value in the quality of your work. This shows them that others are willing to pay for your services and it lets them know you don’t depend on their job or project for your survival. You are a professional. Portray yourself as one. Don’t back down on your prices just because someone says you’re too expensive for their budget. That’s actually a good thing, as it tells you that this person or business is not your ideal client.

○ Lastly, explain to him or her the processes you have in place to produce a professional and valuable translation. Some clients price shop because they are simply unaware of what it takes to be a professional translator and what systems and workflows, training and education are needed to perform a professional job. Take a moment to educate these people and move on with your day.

While educating clients on hiring professionals for their translation and interpreting needs can be frustrating at times, there are ways to attract your ideal clients and avoid those who are less than ideal. Adjusting your messaging on your website, and any other marketing materials or profiles you have, is a great place to start.

Author bio

Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions (ATS), a boutique translation company based in Southern California. She is also a Spanish and Portuguese to English translator, specializing in medicine and life sciences. Madalena’s interest in online marketing and copywriting has led her to write and teach about the benefits of using informational content online to attract and retain clients. After seeing the advantages of intentional and strategic marketing in her own business, Madalena now teaches those same skills to other freelance language professionals. She blogs and teaches courses on topics related to marketing your freelance translation business by deliberately building and shaping your online presence. For more information, visit www.madalenazampaulo.com.

What makes a good agency?

This post was originally published in the July-August 2009 edition of the ITI Bulletin. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Herbert Eppel offers advice for ensuring the relationship between freelance translator and client remains harmonious, productive and pleasant for both sides

In the 15 years since I started diversifying into translation I have worked with around 100 different clients and have encountered dozens of others, many of them translation agencies. Based on this experience it is worth reflecting on what distinguishes these agencies in terms of their interaction with the translator.

Initial contact

Let’s start with the initial contact. It is good practice for translation agencies seeking new freelance suppliers to spend some time researching individual translators’ backgrounds – eg from their respective websites or from online directories such as the main ITI Directory, the Scottish Network Directory at http://www.itiscotland.org.uk, or the new ITI German Network Directory at http://www.itigermannetwork. org.uk – and then send out personalised invitations that are relevant to the circumstances. A less desirable approach is to send out impersonal mass mailings.

Application forms

Some agencies adopt a rather informal approach, while others use more or less complex translator information forms as a basis for their supplier databases. Before asking translators to complete lengthy forms, it is a good idea to negotiate a mutually satisfactory rate as a basis for future collaboration.

Free test translations

The issue of free test translations has been discussed at some length in various forums over the years. In my view, while anyone is entitled to request a test translation, professional translators should not be expected to provide these free of charge. In other words, test translations should be treated just like any other job. In this context, anyone who has not seen it yet and can understand German will no doubt find the ‘Gratisschnitzel’ article published by the Austrian translators’ association Universitas quite entertaining. It can be found on page 4 of the document available from http://www.universitas.org/download.html?FILE_ID=112.

Confidentiality agreements

As members of professional institutions such as ITI, professional translators sign up to a code of conduct that includes confidentiality clauses. I am not a legal expert, but lengthy and complex additional confidentiality agreements as requested by some agencies would therefore seem rather unnecessary.

Deadlines

In certain circumstances, urgent deadlines requiring a translator to work outside normal office hours are unavoidable. While many freelance translators tend to work irregular hours and may well be quite happy to adjust their schedule to accommodate urgent assignments, out-of-hours or weekend work should not be taken for granted. A good agency is a freelancer’s ally, and should be prepared to negotiate appropriate surcharges with the end-client where appropriate.

Auxiliary tasks

As the job title suggests, a translator’s main task is translation. Handling of auxiliary tasks such as PDF extraction or layout refinements in complex file formats such as PowerPoint should not be taken for granted. In this respect, a statement published by a well-known translation memory software provider back in 2002 speaks for itself: ‘Pricing is not just set on a per word basis when complex file types are involved. If you are translating in file types other than Word-like web pages, or desktop publishing formats, you will want to charge file maintenance fees to compensate you for the extra skill required to manage and translate within such file types. Typically, a 10%-20% surcharge (depending on project complexity) is customary.’

Discounts

Some clients ask for discounts on the grounds that a job is particularly large. I would suggest that such a priori discounts are inappropriate, because: a) a commitment to undertake a large job within a standard timescale may well prevent a translator from taking on work from other clients in the meantime; and b) it could be argued that translators who can offer the additional project management skills and resources required for handling such projects should in fact be rewarded, rather than penalised.

Similarly, translators are often asked to accept a sliding discount scale that was originally suggested by the aforementioned TM software provider, but is by no means cast in stone. Such a scale takes into account internal repetitions, so-called 100% TM matches and TM matches with varying degrees of fuzziness. In my experience, fuzzy matches may well require more time to adapt to a new text than translating the relevant sentence from scratch, and therefore I do not offer ‘fuzzy discounts’. On the other hand, like probably most colleagues I do give discounts in some cases for repetitions and 100% matches.

At this point, however, I feel it is worth pointing out that the origin and quality of 100% matches is a crucial factor that often seems to get overlooked in the ‘great discount debate’. In other words, the 100% matches for which the client may expect a discount could have been based on poor previous translations undertaken by third parties, in which case any revision can be more time-consuming than a new translation.

An inquisitive translator is good news

The brochure Translation – getting it right, written by Chris Durban of ITI, is aimed at end-clients and is available to download from the ITI website, http://www.iti.org.uk. Part of the text says: ‘No one reads your texts more carefully than your translator. Along the way, he or she is likely to identify fuzzy bits – sections where clarification is needed. This is good news for you, since it will allow you to improve your original. … Ideally, translators strip down your sentences entirely before creating new ones in the target language. Good translators ask questions along the way.’

A good translation agency will try to convey this philosophy to the end-client, for the benefit of all parties involved. Similarly, the agency will automatically enquire about reference material in cases where such material is not provided by the end-client.

Feedback

Feedback on completed translation assignments is important and should be encouraged. In my experience, many agencies seem to adopt a kind of ‘no news is good news’ principle, which is fine in some ways, but even better is the occasional positive feedback.

Any agencies and indeed end-clients who might be lost for words in this respect could take some guidance from the Comments section of my website at http://www.HETranslation. co.uk. Constructive corrective feedback is also to be encouraged, of course. Less helpful are general statements such as ‘the client was not happy’, issued several months after a translation job was delivered. Not only is this detrimental to morale, but I also feel that in many cases, such generic criticism fails to stand up to closer scrutiny.

‘Faffometer’

It is worth introducing the concept of a ‘Faffometer’ for measuring the satisfaction level of the working relationship between agency and freelance translator. Sadly I cannot claim to have invented the term – it appears to have been introduced by Business Productivity Expert Mike Pagan, although he uses it in a slightly different – potentially also very useful – manner. For him it is an Excel spreadsheet divided into equal time periods in the working day, each of which is allocated a productive task, and where the least possible amount of time is spent ‘faffing about’. See his video newsletter at http://video. mikepagan.com/Newsletter/Faffometer (it is less than two minutes long) for more. I am still in the process of refining my own Faffometer.

At the high end of my Faffometer scale are agencies who tend to be reluctant to ask the end-client whether source texts can be made available in a format that can readily be processed with a CAT tool and, faced with IT challenges that may be beyond the capabilities of their project managers, expect translators to deal with auxiliary IT aspects such as extracting text from PDF files and preparing nicely formatted documents or presentations in the target language.

Ideal scenario

At the other end of the Faffometer scale is an agency I have been working for on a very regular basis for around 10 years, with a total job count approaching 2,000. This rather high figure is partly explained by the fact that all jobs, however small, are assigned a separate job number. While this may seem tiresome, it avoids can-you-please-just-translate-these-few-words-for-free scenarios. The agency invariably deals with any and all file format conversion and translation memory aspects and handles any and all pre- and post-processing tasks that may be required.

Specifically, all their texts (regardless of the format of the original source document) arrive in the form of specially formatted MS Word files, where any pre-processed text (eg 100% translation memory matches or internal repetitions) is clearly identified. Such text can simply be formatted as hidden and automatically ignored on import into TM tools such as Déjà Vu and MemoQ.

The attraction of this approach is that discount negotiations and sliding discount scales are never an issue, while the pre-processed text contained in the original file can be helpful for reference. In addition, the agency tends to make translation memory and glossary extracts from their in-house TM and terminology management systems available, always tries to obtain reference material from the end-client, and happily responds to terminology clarification requests.

Header image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Herbert Eppel is a chartered engineer. Originally from Heidelberg, he has been living and working in the UK since 1988. Herbert diversified into translation in around 1995, and is a member of several ITI networks.

He deals with texts from a wide range of technical and scientific subjects. For more, see http://www.HETranslation.co.uk.