The Whys and Hows of Translation Style Guides. A Case Study.

This post was originally published on the Financial Translation Hub blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Last week, a marketing manager of a global investment company called me. He was referred to me by a colleague. They are launching the company’s website in Italy and had it translated into Italian by a global translation company. However, they were not convinced of the Italian translation and asked me for an opinion and for a review.

I started reading the translations. I could not find big mistakes, such as grammar or spelling. The main issue was that the text sounded too much like a translation. Sometimes I could not even understand the Italian without reading the English source. This lead to various misinterpretations. Moreover, it was translated literally, and Website menus and buttons were too long for the Internet layout.

It was evident that nobody visited the English website before or during the translation process. You could understand it from naïve mistakes, where charts were confused with tables, buttons mistaken for menus, and the translated metaphors had nothing to do with the image shown online.

Translators were not informed (and probably did not ask) about the intended destination, the target reader, the “ideal” client of the website. Who was going to read and visit it? Institutional or retail investors? Should the language be easy to understand for everybody, or specifically directed to investment professionals. What is the brand “tone”, formal or informal?

A 20 minute call with the client’s local team was enough to understand their expectations and draft a very short “style guide” for an effective translation into Italian: words not to be translated, reference materials, a description of the market they wanted to reach in order to launch their products in Italy. A professional translator can start from such information to hone the language for the purpose.

When talking about style guides or manuals of style, you may think they are too academic, while a simple short guide for effective writing is a valuable reference for translators and does not need to be too complicated. You can combine this guide with glossaries and reference material to do a better job, a translation that does not sound like a translated text, but as an original document improving the quality of the message, increasing the audience engagement, and even cutting costs.

WHY… a style guide?

A set of rules, a guidebook on client’s preferences and expectations improves consistency of language and tone, helps conveying the right message, based on the company’s brand.

From the client’s view, it increases efficiency speeding up processes (including internal review and approval), and it reduces costs because activities are not duplicated.

Most importantly, focusing on personas, e.g. the client’s ideal reader and visitor, and destination market, you can improve the quality and efficacy of the message, using the right language, and optimising localisation.

From the translator’s perspective, she can speed up research (of terms, references, etc.), while the reviewer saves time because he does’t need to ask things twice, if there is a list of standards and references.

WHAT… is a style guide?

It does not need to be complicated, but a short set of standards, highlighting the client’s expectation and preferences.

A short description of the company, its products or services, and its goals are of great help:

  • purpose and destination of the translation (sales material, press release, website)
  • target market (Italy, industry, competitors)
  • target audience (institutional investors, retail investors, professionals, young people, financial education)
  • the object of communication: brand reputation, marketing, sale
  • preferred tone of voice: formal, informal

A style guide should also specify:

  • the language or style to be used, for example long or short sentences, the translator should be more faithful to the source or depart a bit more from the original to favour interpretation instead of a literal translation.
  • words to be avoided or “problem words” that the client does not use they are in a competitor’s commercial. If there is not a glossary, the translator may prepare one for reference.
  • words not to be translated (e.g. job positions, English terms commonly used in financial jargon)
  • use of abbreviations, capitalisation, measures, currencies [Financial Translation is a Balancing Act as I wrote here].
  • any formatting rules, typographical conventions or variety of language (in the case of English or Spanish, this is specifically important).

Reference documents may also be included in the guide, together with the visuals, images, pictures that will be published with the texts. This is especially useful in case of metaphors, which may be very different in a foreign language.

WHO… writes the style guide?

A client buying translation services may not be aware of the importance of such guidelines, but he should have an important role in drafting the guide, supplying coherent reference material as well as explanations and information. Of course, clients should have a clear view of the message they want to convey.

The professional translator and reviewer should ask the right questions to collect the necessary information for a better translation, fit for the purpose.

WHEN… do you write a style guide?

You can write a style guide at any time, but it is a good idea to start developing one at the start of the project or at the beginning of the relationship with a new client.

The professional translator will update it over time, when the client provides suggestions or revisions with the final version of the translated document, revised by its local sales team, or when issues arises that need standardised processes, or words to be avoided in the future.

Guida di stile per traduzioni finanziarie

In my experience as a translator and reviewer, I drafted many style guides and read instructions prepared by other companies. Based on my experience, the structure of the guide is important. It should not be too long or confused, otherwise nobody will use it. It should be short and sweet, to the point, containing only the necessary information with a structure. Recently, I received a guide containing a long list of terms not to be used, or examples of sentences corrected by a revisor, with no clear intention or direction, referring to a very differtent type of document. Useless.

I collected a series of interesting posts on this subject, with many examples and suggestions to be applied during the next call with a potential client.

I hope you will find them useful!

On Style Guides and Client Glossaries:

Uncovering New Opportunities: Genealogical Translation as a Specialty

Genealogy is in the news these days with the popularity of services like 23andMe—and that has implications for professional translators. At the most basic level, genealogy is the study of family history. Yet, it is a wide-ranging field that includes everything from the hobbyist trying to identify their fifth great-grandparents to the professional genealogist helping a probate court locate the heirs to an estate to a lineage society specialist completing an application to the Sons of the American Revolution. By the field’s very nature, it’s common for genealogists to find themselves in need of the assistance of a translator.

But not just any translator. Like the subspecialties of legal, medical or business translation, genealogical translation requires specialized skills. What those skills will be depend somewhat on the project for which the translator is being employed.

Forensic Genealogy

                The website of one forensic genealogist defines forensic genealogy as “genealogical research, analysis, and reporting in cases with legal implications.” Forensic genealogy can include everything from the identification of missing heirs in a probate case to determination of ownership on oil rights (see examples and more information here). Translation can come into play when the case crosses a country’s borders, as the documents that indicate relationships may be in a different language than that of a court.

Because their translations—if not the translators themselves—are likely to appear before the court, the translators working with forensic genealogists are expected to have a good understanding of legal translation. Their translation must be in a format that will be acceptable to the court hearing the case. They additionally must be prepared to answer any questions that arise about their work, both to the forensic genealogist and to the court. Due to the nature of court hearings, anecdotal evidence suggests ATA-certified or otherwise credentialed translators are preferred.

While an understanding of legal translation is required for those translators working with forensic genealogists, a grasp on the evolution of their source language is also beneficial. The majority of forensic genealogy cases concern recent events, but not all. The translator must be comfortable identifying and working with terminology that was used a century ago but may not be in a modern dictionary. A misunderstood word risks dramatically impacting the hiring genealogist’s case.

Traditional genealogy

                Never truly named, traditional genealogy is the study of family history using artifacts, documents, and oral histories. It can take many forms, depending on the client’s goals. An individual wishing to join a lineage society may need to document birth, death and marriage according to the society’s standards. Someone else may simply want to learn as much as possible about their sixth great-grandfather, even though they lived in another country whose records are kept in a language they do not speak. These genealogists may find themselves in need of a translator to meet the society’s requirements or to overcome a brick wall.

As Google Translate has gained a strong foothold among genealogists, translators are rarely hired until desperation sets in—and it’s discovered that the translator may have skills a translation software program cannot provide. Translators working with traditional genealogists must be prepared to develop several unique skill sets. First and foremost, they must be able to read older handwritten documents in their country’s source language. In 2016, the Association of Professional Genealogists published an article in their Quarterly entitled “Why I love Google Translate.” In it, the article’s author encourages the use of Google Translate to enter unfamiliar texts, including those in cursive. Realistically, someone who does not read the source language may be able to copy a printed document. They are far less likely to be able to accurately copy a handwritten document. Most genealogists know this and will seek help when they cannot pick out the individual letters of a document. Second, translators must become familiar with older versions of their source language. The documents a genealogist will provide to a translator will rarely be from the twentieth or twenty-first century—and may be as old as the mid-seventeenth. It’s not uncommon to find words in these documents that are no longer in the modern dictionary. After all, how often is a French-speaker asked to translate “este” in today’s world? A translator with the ability to read older forms of the language and handwritten documents will find themselves in the perfect position to assist genealogists who have otherwise given up all hope.

Now what?

While there is a well-established market for German genealogical translation, that of other languages is still growing. Many genealogists—including forensic genealogists—may not know help exists, let alone where to hire it. For those interested in building a market in this subspecialty, the best first step is to raise awareness of your existence. Reach out to genealogy groups covering regions or ethnicities that speak your language. Speak at national genealogy conferences. As more awareness of genealogical translation builds, the market will follow.

References:

Pam Vestal, “Why I Love Google Translate,” The Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly Volume XXXI (2): 85.

“Forensic Genealogy,” Stone House Historical Research (https://www.stonehouseresearch.com/forensic/: accessed 8 June 2019).

“Forensic Genealogy.” Sunny Jane Morton, “5 Questions with Forensic Genealogist Leslie Lawson,” FamilyTreeMagazine (https://www.familytreemagazine.com/premium/5-questions-forensic-genealogist/ : accessed 8 June 2019).

Image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Bryna O’Sullivan is a Connecticut based French-to-English genealogical translator and proprietor of Charter Oak Genealogy.

El encargo de traducción: ¿qué preguntar antes de aceptar?

This post was originally published on the En la luna de Babel blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Últimamente he trabajado con varios clientes nuevos (empresas, agencias y particulares) y buscando en la red cómo enfocaban este asunto otros compañeros, di con un listado de Tomedes, que reproduzco aquí con su permiso y amplio con algunos apuntes de mi cosecha:

PREGUNTAS PARA EL CLIENTE

Empecemos por lo básico: las preguntas que debes hacer al cliente que necesita la traducción.

  1. ¿Cuántas palabras tiene el documento?
  2. ¿Cuál es el plazo?
  3. ¿Cuál es el tema? ¿Es muy especializado o técnico?
  4. ¿Es documento escrito o es un archivo de audio? En este último caso, ¿se nos pide también transcripción?
  5. ¿En qué formato está? ¿Es un Word, un PDF, un fax escaneado (sí, aún existen)?

Esta información es impepinable, si queremos verlo así. Es importante saber qué vamos a traducir y por cuánto. Y en cuanto a las palabras, cuando nos envíen el documento para traducir (o para verlo solo si estamos en proceso de elaboración de presupuesto), cerciorémonos de que la cantidad de palabras es correcta. A todos se nos puede pasar, incluso al gestor de proyectos o al cliente directo, así que es importante comprobar que todo esté bien desde un principio.

Tampoco está de más preguntar:

6. En el caso de una traducción de marketing o una web: ¿requieren localización o solamente traducción? Si es un texto publicitario, ¿necesitan transcreación?

7. ¿El proyecto va a necesitar una edición o maquetación posterior (desktop publishing  o dtp)?

Cuanto más sepamos del encargo desde un principio, mejor informados estaremos del trabajo que nos espera y lo que vamos a tardar en hacerlo. El tiempo es dinero. No es lo mismo un texto plano sin más, que tener que controlar aspectos de diseño que van a requerir más tiempo una vez terminada la traducción.

question-mark

ASPECTOS ECONÓMICOS

Hay que ser muy claros con los elementos económicos del proyecto también antes de empezar. Se debe acordar un honorario o tarifa, además del método de pago y el plazo de cobro. En cuanto al honorario, que quede claro si es por texto origen o texto meta. También podemos plantearnos lo siguiente:

  1. ¿Es un trabajo urgente?
  2. ¿Es una traducción jurada o va a requerir un certificado de algún tipo?

En ambos casos hay que cobrar algo más, sobre todo por las horas extras en el caso de los encargos urgentes. Por eso la comunicación es esencial y todo debe quedar atado antes de ponerse a traducir. Hay que explicarle al cliente si va a haber cargos extra para que este dé el visto bueno antes de empezar.

calculation

NUESTRO PAN, NUESTRO HORARIO

Como no somos maquinitas sino personas, no está de más plantearse lo siguiente:

  1. ¿La tarifa es aceptable para nosotros? Tal vez este cliente “imponga” un precio. De ser así, preguntémonos si de verdad es justo para nosotros. Recalco para nosotros, porque aunque hay que ser conscientes de los precios de mercado para no perjudicar al sector y a nosotros mismos, cada uno tiene sus circunstancias. Hay quien considera que 0,05 para un folleto general es poco y no baja nunca de 0,07, pero para otro puede ser una tarifa más que aceptable por el trabajo que va a conllevar.
  2. ¿Podemos cumplir el plazo y aun así tener tiempo para comer, dormir y tener vida social?
  3. ¿Con este encargo podemos conseguir más trabajo de este cliente?

Esto último puede ser importante. Tal vez por necesidades del cliente, este proyecto nos haga trabajar hasta tarde un par o tres de días, pero si a la larga puede darnos más trabajo, encargos regulares, tal vez el sacrificio valga la pena. O no. Quizá pensemos que ceder a ciertos plazos poco realistas puede sentar un precedente peligroso y decidamos explicárselo al cliente (de lo que hablamos cuando hablamos de “educar”) o bien no aceptar el trabajo. Una vez más, debemos ser claros con nosotros mismos para ver si podemos encajar este encargo en nuestra planificación y poder equilibrarlo con lo demás, ya sean otros proyectos o, sobre todo, con nuestra vida.

puj-e-1601x-3-video_still12042015-318x210

OTRAS CONSIDERACIONES

Hay más cosas que debemos tener en cuenta, dependiendo de la carga de trabajo… y el estado de nuestras cuentas.

¿Me interesa el tema de la traducción o me voy a aburrir como una ostra? Aunque nos aburra, tal vez nos interese aceptar el encargo porque vamos descargados de trabajo, porque nos interesa mantener al cliente o porque lo necesitamos económicamente. Pero en ese caso, seamos conscientes de lo que nos va a suponer.

Cuando se puede escoger –y ahora hablo a título personal–, prefiero una novela a unos presupuestos anuales o un manual técnico. Si por lo que sea, necesito el encargo, me armo de valor y me lo tomo con filosofía. Por desgracia no siempre podemos escoger, pero sí es un factor que debemos plantearnos. ¿Acaso no trabajamos más motivados cuando algo nos gusta?

También hay que pensar en quién es el cliente y si está recomendado. Puede que esto no tenga tanto peso a la hora de aceptar el encargo, pero contribuye al nivel de confianza y seguridad al trabajar.

En este tema que nos ocupa hoy, vale la pena también prestar especial atención a estos diez consejos de Tess Whitty:

  1. No aceptes un proyecto que sepas que no vas a poder hacer. No tengas miedo a rechazar algo que sabes objetivamente que no puedes cumplir o que no puedes hacer sin que se resienta la calidad. Si aún quieres aceptarlo, puedes buscar a algún compañero que te lo revise o puedes encontrarle un sustituto al cliente y facilitarle así la gestión. Seguro que te lo agradecerá.
  2. No aceptes trabajos con plazos imposibles. No lo dudes y negocia. A veces con un recargo por urgencia se descubre que la traducción no era tan urgente. Como con todo, la comunicación es clave.
  3. No dudes en preguntar. Seamos sinceros, no lo sabemos todo. Pregunta al cliente cualquier cosa que no tengas clara o pídele textos paralelos o antiguas traducciones (si el cliente es una agencia, por ejemplo). Preguntar no es demostrar ignorancia sino profesionalidad. No dejes las dudas para el final o para el mismo correo de entrega, cuando no haya margen para solventarlas.
  4. No aceptes un trabajo sin haber visto el texto antes. Puede que no siempre sea posible (me ha pasado con alguna novela), pero lo mejor es ver el documento antes de aceptar para calcular mejor el tiempo, para comprobar que es de una temática que controlamos y, en definitiva, para ver si es factible.
  5. No aceptes un trabajo sin saber quién es el cliente. En el caso de clientes directos es más difícil (que no imposible), pero si es una agencia que no conoces, lo mejor es buscar su página web o mirar en algunos foros (BlueBoard de ProZ, algunos grupos de facebook). Y aunque el correo sirve como confirmación de un trabajo de traducción, es aconsejable tener siempre una orden de compra o PO (purchase order) en la que consten las tres P básicas del proyecto: palabras, precio y plazo.
  6. No empieces a trabajar hasta que no hayas acordado un precio. A nadie le gustan las sorpresas en la factura, así que sé muy claro con lo que vas a cobrar, haya extras o no. Y trata de barrer para casa, claro. Para este proyecto tan pequeño, ¿no es mejor aplicar una tarifa mínima? Para esta revisión, ¿por qué no cobras por hora?
  7. Piensa en lo que escribes antes de enviarlo al ciberespacio. Hay muchos foros y páginas ahora en las que un traductor puede desahogarse, pero seamos sensatos. Un mensaje airado en las redes sociales puede terminar en manos del cliente. Piensa bien antes de escribir, deja pasar un rato y verás que, en frío, no es todo tan grave como parecía. Y lo mismo al hablar directamente con los clientes: respiremos y luego escribamos… más tranquilos. Con amabilidad se va a todos lados. En serio.
  8. Véndete bien. No te centres en lo que no sabes o en la poca experiencia que tienes. Céntrate en tus puntos fuertes, en lo que has traducido ya, en lo bueno que puedes aportar. Y eso también se aplica a la tarifa. Cobra lo justo. Un precio bajo también significa menor rentabilidad para ti.
  9. Guarda toda la información y correspondencia. Es importante guardar los correos, contratos y otros documentos de cada cliente, sobre todo para tenerlos de referencia. Para esto va muy bien un disco duro externo que pueda almacenar esa información que no usamos en el día a día.
  10. Lee todas las cláusulas antes de firmar un contrato. Básico para no llevarnos sorpresas luego. A veces son contratos estándar cuyas disposiciones no se aplican, pero, una vez más, en caso de duda, consúltalo con el cliente.

Hasta aquí los consejillos de hoy. ¿Hay algo que consideréis esencial al aceptar un encargo? Estaré encantada de leeros.

Header image source: Pixabay

Get out the vote 2019

ATA members should vote!

We get the leaders we vote for. ATA is fortunate to have an all-volunteer Board of Directors that dedicate their time and energy to directing and bettering our organization. These directors and other specific positions are elected at an annual meeting of voting members during the annual conference each year.

In September, ATA always gives voters the information to carry out our duty to vote with intelligence. In the past, ATA has published candidate statements. Since 2017, they also release candidate statements by podcast.

For 2019, this is the timeline:

Become a voting member.

Become a voting member by September 22, 2019 (preferably well in advance): There are several ways to do this:

  1. Through Active Membership Review
  2. By becoming an ATA Certified Translator (CT): CTs become voting members as of their date of certification (after passing the ATA certification exam)
  3. By becoming an ATA Credentialed Interpreter (CI): CIs become voting members as of the approval of their CI designation (after having their non-ATA interpreter credentials verified by fulfilling these requirements)

According to ATA President Corinne McKay, “If you are approved [by the deadline], you can vote in the October election. This process is free and takes literally five minutes. Also, remember that you do not have to attend the conference in order to vote; if you have voting status in ATA, you can vote by electronic proxy and everyone will receive that information before the conference.”

Become an informed voter.

a) Read the candidate statements published in the Chronicle in September and/or listen to the podcast containing the candidates’ statements (released in early October).

b) You can also find other supporting information to help you make your decision, such as the ATA profile of each candidate, what they have done in ATA or local chapters, or a LinkedIn profile… There is so much we can do now that the possibilities are endless. You can also email the candidates directly with questions.

Get out and vote!

a) Attend the election at the ATA Conference on Thursday, October 24, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. and vote, OR

b) Sign up to vote by proxy/mail

If you care about the future of our organization—and our profession—voting is one way to change things for the better. Let’s support democracy at ATA!

Image source: Pixabay

How to set a budget for your freelance business

This post was originally published on the Thoughts On Translation blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Setting a budget for your freelance business is important, because:

-Many freelancers have no idea how much they need to earn in order to achieve the same level of financial security as someone with a traditional job.
-As a freelancer, you probably need to earn more than you think in order to reach your financial goals.
-You need to know how many billable hours per week you need in order to reach your target income.
-If your rates right now are too low, you need to at least acknowledge that and make a plan to do better in the future (rather than working, working, and working, and then wondering why your bank account empties so fast).

In my online courses, I use a worksheet called “deciding what to charge.” John Milan and I also used this worksheet in our session at the 2018 ATA conference (which got very positive reviews, so hopefully we’ll present it again!). Here, I’ll give you a simplified version of how to do the calculations on that sheet.

Start with: the amount of money you want in your bank account every month, to pay your non-business living expenses such as rent or mortgage, utilities, food, entertainment, and so on. That’s your desired/required net monthly salary.

Next: to that, add every expense that you incur for your business. If the expense is not paid monthly (i.e. professional association dues), divide it into a monthly amount and enter that. Your expenses may include some or all of the following, plus anything else that you pay that is not listed here:

-Taxes: (20-50%, depending on your tax bracket and your country)
-Retirement account contribution
-Paid vacation/sick time allocation (money that you put into a business savings account so that you can pay yourself when you take time off)
-Professional association dues
-Professional development (conferences, webinars, classes, individual coaching, etc.)
-Subscription-based web services (cloud backups, PDF conversion service, LinkedIn Premium, etc.)
-Office rent
-Computer hardware and software (new purchases and/or upgrades)
-Work-related child care (if applicable; and don’t forget in that in the US, you may be able to deduct summer day camp for kids under 13)
-Work-related travel
-Communications (internet, cell phone, Skype minutes, etc.)

Add it all up, and that’s your required or desired monthly gross income. Warning: as discussed above, this will be a big number. Perhaps bigger than you want to admit; but the first step is to get a grand total. If you’re feeling energetic, do this for three income levels: the minimum you can live off, the amount that gives you the similar level of financial security to someone with a traditional job, and something in between.

Next (not done yet!), multiply that number/those numbers by 12, to get your required or desired yearly gross income. Write that down.

Now we’ll convert that to your required hourly rate.

Take 52 weeks, and subtract the number of weeks you think you will not work (vacation, sick time, time off to take care of family members, etc). Divide your yearly gross income as calculated above, by your number of working weeks. That gives you your required income per week. For example if your required/desired gross income is $90,000 and you’re going to work 48 weeks per year, your required income per week is $1,875 per week.

Next, determine how many hours per week you realistically think you can/want to bill. Non-billable time is a big variable. For beginners, non-billable time often involves time that you would like to be working, but you don’t have paying work. For experienced translators, it’s more likely to involve non-billable but necessary tasks such as accounting, marketing, professional development, research, client communications, etc. As a side note, when other freelancers ask me, “How do you find the time to work on marketing or other non-translation tasks?” my answer is “By not having to bill 40 hours a week.”

I’d advise doing this calculation for perhaps 25, 30, and 35 billable hours per week: take your required weekly income (your equivalent of the $1,875 listed above), and divide that by your number of billable hours, to determine your required hourly rate. For example at 25 billable hours per week, our $90,000 translator would need to earn $75 per billable hour to generate $1,875 in a week.

The fun continues because most translators aren’t paid by the hour. If you are, great: you’re done, other than asking whether your existing clients will pay your required hourly rate. If you get paid by the word or the project, then you need to further calculate how fast (or slowly) you translate. For example to generate $75 an hour, you could translate 500 words at 15 cents, or 250 words at 30 cents, or 800 words at 9.3 cents (these are not recommended rates or translation speeds, just examples). Translation speed is a huge factor in your income, and one that a lot of translators overlook: if you are someone who translates 250 words an hour, you need to charge a lot more than someone who translates 600 words an hour.

At the end of all this, you should at least have a better sense of whether the numbers for your freelance business add up the way you want them to; and if you’re not making enough money, why you’re not.

  • Perhaps you have tons of work, but it’s pervasively low-paying.
  • Perhaps your rates are fine, but you need more work.
  • Perhaps you translate very slowly.
  • Either way, these calculations should help you base your pricing decisions on objective data, rather than on fear and vague speculation about “what the market will bear.”

In closing, a huge thank you to Jonathan Hine, who presented the pricing presentation at the ATA conference for many years before passing the baton to me and John, and whose booklet “I Am Worth It!” goes into greater depth on the calculation methods I’ve mentioned here!

Image source: Pixabay