Connecting with translation and interpreting clients during a pandemic

COVID-19 has changed the way we connect. For public health reasons, networking events are no longer taking place in person. Since February 2020, people around the world have been recasting their connections. What used to be in person is now done remotely if possible.

What are we noticing?

I have been attending meetings with my local Chamber of Commerce, which has done quite a few things:

  • They switched their weekly live event (usually over 50 attendees every Friday) to a Zoom session every week.
  • They set up three trainings a week, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, for Chamber members to learn how to switch their business models to survive the new circumstances.
  • They moved as many networking meetings as possible to Zoom sessions, with the same schedule they had before.
  • They invited the Mayor for a Town Hall in English and another one in Spanish.
  • They are keeping members abreast of all developments, and set up tip jars, resources for starting up, and an amazing support service.

What have I learned through these sessions over the last three months?

  1. Be there. Show up and be involved with your community, no matter how your group meets. Yes, we are anxious to have coffee together, but can have at least this connection with some precautions.
  2. Go through your old, discarded list of contacts. As you look at it, you will remember some of the conversations you didn’t have the time to follow up on. Now is the time. Those people remember you too. Just send a couple of emails a week and see how it goes. Personally, I took all the cards I had collected and dropped them into an Access database. I am contacting a few of the people in that database a week.
  3. Take a few online trainings. Personally, I need at least 30 minutes between one online session and the next because meeting online is more intense than meeting face to face. I take those 30 minutes to take a couple of notes, maybe send a quick email, even stretch or have a cup of coffee. I like to start each session somewhat fresh.

How to participate in online events:

  • Focus on the content.
  • Participate in the chat. Then, select all the text in the chat (control-a), and copy it into a Word document so you can follow up on whatever you want to keep track on.
  • Keep in mind that in the chat you can send private messages. It is like passing secret notes in class and it is a lot of fun!
  • You are on candid camera, so pay attention to how you look. You are now part of the gallery show. You can, of course, turn your camera off or choose speaker view. Keep in mind that if you choose speaker view, the rest of the world can still see you so picking your nose is still a no-no! By the way, artificial backgrounds make your head look strange when you move at all.
  • In the chat, at least in the case of the Chamber of Commerce, the first thing we all do is write our name and email address so folks can get in touch with us later. Every online session is a networking session. That is how we collect cards today. Go for it! Add your phone and a short blurb about yourself. For example: Peter Pan, peterpan@youthful.com, keeping the world happy. Now we know who Peter Pan is, how to reach him, and what he does! Just remember, nobody likes an essay in that section…

There is a dizzying amount of online conferences, online networking sessions… Take advantage of a few of them. However, don’t forget to pick up the phone and call a friend, send a card to a client, call someone to ask how they are doing, write an email to your contacts and tell them how you are coping. Today, being human is expected. All calls start with “How are you doing?” and people actually want to know.

What do I want to keep from this era?

  • The flexibility in extending deadlines when my internet crashed, and everything took longer because of COVID. Nobody broke a sweat.
  • How nice everyone is, since everyone starts phone calls by asking how we are doing. I like being treated as a human being.
  • FaceTime stories with my two-year-old grandson every day! That lightens up my day.
  • The sense that we are in this together. The whole community is acting that way in so many ways. When one person is successful, the whole Chamber rejoices. When one interpreter gets quarantined because they were with someone who got COVID-19, everyone is sad. There is a huge sense of community.
  • The respect for people who are ill. “No, stay home, please.” It used to be, “Well, can’t you go interpret anyway?” (and probably catch whatever bug is floating around with a weakened immune system if you are not well, to add insult to injury.) Now, if only some interpreters didn’t have to pay a penalty for missing appointments… I would be even happier.

So, stay well. Take care of business every day. Remember, taking care of business includes:

  • Taking care of yourself. You are your most important asset. Never skip this.
  • Doing paid work, if that is on your schedule for the day.
  • Contacting sources of work. Always save some time for this!
  • Doing other things that will set you up to be a stronger professional. This should always be on your weekly schedule.

By the way, some say we will be interpreting remotely for the long haul and that remote meetings are the norm for the rest of our lives. As I interact with my neighbors at the Chamber, I am not so sure. We are tired of Zoom. We want to connect in person. We celebrate every meeting that moves from Zoom to in-person!

How we stay in touch might change based on the circumstances. We are still people and work with people we know, like and trust.

Stay connected. Be human.

Starting at square one as a translator or interpreter: What does it take?

From time to time we at The Savvy Newcomer receive questions from our readers that make for great blog post topics. This is one of them! Here’s a question from one of our readers who’s just starting to pursue an interest in languages and wants to know how to get started.

Q: Is there any advice you could give for someone who is starting out at square one, wanting to learn another language, with the end goal of interpreting? This may be a wild question, but I have always had an interest in other languages, and cultures, so interpreting and translation work are very attractive vocations to me. How would you recommend someone starting to make that career shift?  And do you happen to know what languages are in demand, or the most useful to know?  Are there any language schools you would recommend?

A: Thanks for asking! The Savvy Newcomer has a couple of posts that may be of interest (How to become a translator or interpreter, Translation/interpreting schools, Interview with student interpreters) but it sounds like you need a bit more direction on the front end as you consider learning a language and go about getting started.

One of the key requirements is a very strong language background. Interpreting and translation, based on quite a few testing results I have seen, require skills beyond the minimum requirements of Advanced High on the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) scale.

To reach that level, people usually have to get far beyond what can be accomplished in the institutional setting in the US. It generally involves at least a year in a foreign country, immersed in the language, not spending their time with the other US students who are there doing immersion programs but going to local choirs, doing some kind of local volunteer work, etc. beyond their academic work to get into the community.

However, even a very high ACTFL score is not a guarantee of translational action skills (the ability to convert the message from one language to another, whether orally or in writing). Interpreting and translation both require congruency judgment, which is an extra skill on top of that. It goes beyond being a walking dictionary. Asking any of us translators what a word means would leave us flummoxed. However, when we are given a problem to solve in context, our brains start clicking and we can be helpful.

Language proficiency is an essential prerequisite. Without language proficiency, there is not much basis for cultural understanding, according to the ILR (Interagency Language Roundtable) guidelines, and culture is part of the written code. For example, Americans have a tendency to sign a business letter “Pete”, but that would never fly in Argentina. It would be “Mr. Peter Brown,” and the letter would be in the formal usted (you). Anything else would just not go. So you need to understand the culture it is going to as well.

Interpreting and translating, though they purport to leave the person who does the language transfer invisible and not change the message at all, by necessity have to make these minimal adjustments so the message reaches the audience the way the original speaker or writer intended it to get there. Otherwise, it is disrespectful to the speaker or writer. We understand that and generally are doing what I would call “transcreation very light” invisibly. Clients do not like translations where this does not happen.

For example, if a client were to accidentally write “the ocean is full of fresh water,” they would call me out if I translated it that way. They would say I made a mistake in my translation. So I translate it as “the ocean is full of salt water.” I also send them a note, saying I translated it this way, and if they want it to say “fresh water” I can put it back but I would like them to be aware of the issue in the source text.

Of course, this does not apply to some translations submitted to the court as evidence. But even then, we translate so the courts can understand the writing. We typically do not reproduce grammatical mistakes to make the text illegible. It’s very hard to do, and we run the risk of overdoing it and making it a caricature… and getting sued.

So translation is more complicated than it looks. We have to consider a lot of things when you look under the hood, and we carry a lot of responsibility in the language transfer. We take it seriously. These are the opinions I’ve formed from years of experience and from conversations about these topics with my clients.

Readers, what questions do you have about getting started?

Image source: Pixabay

Validating Translation Skills – The Oregon Example

As many states and entities seek to define standards for the translation and interpreting profession, the State of Oregon serves as a great example of a robust set of standards. In order to prepare to meet these standards, many take translation courses. Such courses can serve as proof to clients who require proof of having taken translation training or as an opportunity to practice taking an exam and verifying their skills.

How does the Oregon Department of Administrative Services (DAS) verify translation skills?

According to the 2019 translation Price Agreement issued by the Department of Administrative Services, these are the top ways to demonstrate translation skills:

Top preference:

Next:

  • Washington State DSHS Document Translator Certification
  • Score of at least 10 on the ALTA Translation Assessment
  • Certification for translation services in Canada
  • ILR 2+ on the Interagency Language Roundtable Exam
  • Four-year academic degree in translation from a US or international university
  • Certificate of completion from a formal translation training program of 40 to 99 hours

See the complete list of credentials accepted by the State of Oregon.

In the cases of languages for which the American Translators Association does not offer a certification, preference is given to those who can demonstrate verifiable translation competency or interpreting competency (as defined in the document linked above through, among other things, exams, fluency tests, degrees in another language), language proficiency, paid translation experience, active membership in a professional language organization, academic higher education degree from an institution of higher education, diploma of completion in secondary education, or diploma of completion in primary education.We believe that the State of Oregon may have taken this approach for the following reasons:

Why does DAS offer so many choices?

  • Not all language combinations are tested by ATA.
  • The government has a responsibility to be vendor neutral and accept more than one way to verify skills.
  • The government is also accepting interpreting credentials, since it is assumed for interpreters to be highly literate in both their working languages. Interpreters often supplement their interpreting income by doing translation.

Image source: Pixabay

Translating for Pharma

What is a translation?

A translation is, essentially, a new document for a new audience, since it is written to reflect the meaning of the source document as faithfully as possible in a new language. This new language could express things in different ways, which will be evident if a professional translates the material back to the original language without seeing the original document (known as back translation).

Translation as teamwork

Translation is always a partnership between all the participants in the process. As the Technical Contact for the ASTM Standard for Translation published in 2014, Helen prepared this work order and uses it to outline clear parameters for all projects or those who request translations (requesters, in this document).

Preliminary questions
  1. Who is the audience? Spanish monolingual speakers, bilingual native speakers of the target language with limited proficiency in the original language, speakers fluent in both languages? Health care professionals, patients, distributors, or regulators? In what country will the translated text be used? Should country-specific terminology be used?
  2. How will the requester handle questions? How long should it take to get an answer? Is it likely the customer will know the answer, or will they have to find someone else in their organization to provide the information?
  3. Is complete delivery when the translation is finalized acceptable? Understand that document 3 on the same topic may shed light on what was not clear in document 1. Partial deliveries complicate communication between translators, editors, project managers, and the requester. They often slow the process down and undermine quality.
  4. What style guide will be used? Does the requester have a style guide, or would they like to receive the one the translation team used to guide their decisions?
  5. Does the requester have a terminology database or previous translations available for reference that should be used for consistency? If the requester has resources, the translator should work with them. Otherwise, it could be important to find out if there are important terminology preferences ahead of time.
  6. How involved does the requester want to be in the translation? Will the translation be evaluated by the requester? If so, having an ongoing conversation with that person through the project can be useful.
  7. Does the requester want a translation of the translated document back into English (a back translation)? Be sure to set realistic expectations. The back translation will always have different wording from the original text while reflecting the same concepts. This is a required step in some fields.
Suggested steps for translation success
  1. Be watchful for ambiguities in the source document. Any discrepancies and contradictions in the source document need to be flagged and brought to the requester’s attention for clarification. Otherwise, the translator may solve these discrepancies in ways that are inconsistent with the requester’s expectations.
  2. Be careful with the use of translation tools. Small differences between one phrase and a similar one can go unnoticed as we accept repetitions in our rush to meet a deadline, especially dealing with sections that do not appear to have technical content. Requesters will check the material that is easiest for them to check: numbers, addresses, names. Step 5 can help mitigate these issues.
  3. Document terminology research. Keep a checklist of terminology issues to watch out for and follow it. Be very careful with terms that might be false cognates or close cognates.
  4. If the document is ultimately intended for use by patients and doctors who speak Spanish, rather than for the regulators who will be approving it, the terms chosen should be terms with which monolingual Spanish speakers are comfortable and will identify. These might not be the same terms used in US government websites. Translators should be prepared to defend linguistic decisions with research and logic. Sometimes requesters ask questions to verify that translators are applying professional best practices.
  5. Be very careful with additions or omissions, even if they are minor clarifications. The review tab of Word has a Read Aloud feature. It can be used to read the translation while following along on the original document to check for accuracy. Anything that might require clarification for the requester can go in the style guide.
  6. At the end, do a search for the terminology issues flagged and recheck all of them. Delaying delivery a little is better than delivering a text with avoidable problems.
How to ask for clarification

“Where it says xxx, on page 1, as a translator I wonder whether you would like it to say yyy or zzz.”

“This text gives two names for the same illness, in the following contexts (list them). What would you like us to do in the translation to maintain consistency with the different names, since one appears to be scientific and the other appears to be colloquial? Here is one suggestion: ________________. The organization appears to have two addresses. Is this correct? Please confirm.”

Problems when there is no flexibility

Sometimes the translator and reviewer are asked to include a particular preferred term and the back translator is asked to make sure a particular English term is used to match that term in the back translation. In those cases, it is important to verify that the English and Spanish terms truly are accurate translations of each other.

There should be some flexibility in translation. The meaning should be there, but the words in the back translation should be expected to be somewhat different than the words in the original document, though they will convey the same message. Translating the English document into a foreign language so that the back translation yields an exactly identical result will produce a document that is rigid and potentially unreadable for the non-English speaking audience and could defeat the purpose of providing language access.

Translation is not about the words. It is about what the words are about.

A flowchart of the translation process
Step Translator Requester
Together, determine:

  • Audience
  • Style guide
  • Terminology resources
  • How to answer questions
  • Deadline for complete delivery
  • Participation of requester in project
  • Need for back translation
Initial decisions:

·         Terminology analysis

·         Decisions regarding tools to use

·         Ambiguities in the source document

·         How to develop a style guide

·         What goes on the checklist?

·         Always keep the intended audience of the translation in mind.

1 Translator delivers the bilingual text in two-column format in a Microsoft Word document.
2 Reviewer edits the translation with track changes on and makes comments. These comments and changes are recorded and approved by the translator.
3 Back translator translates translation back to source language.
4 Back translation comes back. The translator and reviewer verify that the translation approved by the reviewer matches the source text.
5 Specialists from the pharma legal team review the back translation and make comments regarding nuances they found that might be different from their source text. This could include mistakes, negligible linguistic differences that must be explained to the requester, or wording that needs to be translated in a specific way for legal reasons. It may be helpful to ask your requester to flag or categorize changes based on the severity and nature of the change. Does the requester consider it wrong or do they simply prefer that the word be written out rather than expressed in an acronym? Are they changing this for legal reasons, or because they don’t understand why it isn’t identical between the original and back translation?
6 Update style guide
7 The back translator, translator, and reviewer work together to make the requested changes and ensure they are executed in a unified manner across all translation documentation.
8 The new version is submitted to the requester for approval
9 The new version is submitted in two versions: a clean version and a two-column table comparing the back translation and the original text.
10 The requester agrees on the translation
11 The translator certifies the translation with the ATA seal. Both the translator and the reviewer certify the accuracy of the translated document. This should be done at the end, so the requester understands that it is unacceptable to change the document once it is certified. The certification is only valid for the version approved by the certifying translator.
Qualifications ATA certified translators. The ATA certification exam has a 12% pass rate in Spanish.

Subject matter expertise in medical and science topics.

The reader of the document should have verified language proficiency in the language of the document, to avoid the risk of making suggestions that could corrupt the integrity of the translation if implemented.

Review this document on language proficiency of bilingual employees for further information on language proficiency. There are language proficiency tests in reading available through www.languagetesting.com

Sample certification text

I, [translator name], ATA certified translator, certify that:

I performed the translation into Spanish of the document called [document name]

To the best of my knowledge, that translation is an accurate rendition of the original document written in English.

I am a competent translator and have been certified by the American Translators Association as a Spanish to English in [month] of [year] and as an English to Spanish translator in [month] of [year].

Date (Signature) [seals]

Sample analysis of terminology for gradient of severity of adverse drug reactions
Mild or moderate adverse drug reactions do not necessarily mean that people must stop taking a drug, especially if no suitable alternative is available. However, doctors are likely to reevaluate the dose, frequency of use (number of doses a day), and timing of doses (for example, before or after meals; in the morning or at bedtime). Other drugs may be used to control the adverse drug reaction (for example, a stool softener to relieve constipation). Leve

No es necesario ningún tratamiento.

Moderate adverse reactions include:

·         Rashes (especially if they are extensive and persistent)

·         Visual disturbances (especially in people who wear corrective lenses)

·         Muscle tremor

·         Difficulty with urination (a common effect of many drugs in older men)

·         Any perceptible change in mood or mental function

·         Certain changes in blood components, such as a temporary, reversible decrease in the white blood cell count or in blood levels of some substances, such as glucose

Also, reactions that are usually described as mild are considered moderate if the person experiencing them considers them distinctly annoying, distressing, or intolerable

Moderado

Es precisa una modificación del tratamiento (p. ej., modificación de la dosis, adición de otro fármaco), pero la interrupción de la administración del fármaco no es imprescindible; puede ser necesario prolongar la internación o aplicar un tratamiento específico.

Severe adverse drug reactions

Severe reactions include those that may be life threatening (such as liver failure, abnormal heart rhythms, certain types of allergic reactions), that result in persistent or significant disability or hospitalization, and that cause a birth defect. Severe reactions are relatively rare. Doctors use every possible means to control a severe adverse drug reaction.

Grave

La reacción adversa a fármacos pone en peligro la vida del paciente y exige interrumpir la administración del fármaco e aplicar un tratamiento específico.

Lethal adverse drug reactions

 

Lethal reactions are those in which a drug reaction directly or indirectly caused death. These reactions are typically severe reactions that were not detected in time or did not respond to treatment

Mortal

Una reacción adversa a fármacos puede contribuir directa o indirectamente a la muerte del paciente.

Source for this table: English and Spanish Merck Manuals for Home Health. Note this opening sentence from the English article:

There is no universal scale for describing or measuring the severity of an adverse drug reaction. Assessment is largely subjective.

The column on the right was taken from the professional version of the Spanish Merck manual.

In practice, a requester’s document may not match this list. Therefore, translators must do a terminology analysis of the complete list of reactions listed in the document to put the reactions on the gradient list and develop an appropriate terminology list for that document, to avoid confusion.

Resources for translation

Resources not to use

  • US Government websites. The US Government has a policy of contracting the lowest cost technically acceptable bidder, which yields unreliable translation results.
  • Wikipedia is a tertiary source, not a primary source. Researchers are not allowed to quote it as a primary source in research papers. It is a great place to get a basic idea and then keep researching.
  • Linguee. This is basically a quick check of how something has been translated in various contexts. It can yield unreliable results.

Resources to use

  • The Merck Manual, which is available online in many languages in two versions: for professionals and for patients. These versions are not direct translations of each other in the different languages. They are carefully written and edited in each language to be used as a direct resource for people in those language cultures. These resources have been discussed with members of the American Medical Writers Association in charge of writing medical documents in Spanish, and one (an Argentine MD who has been a translator and is now in charge of the medical documentation for an organization like this pharma group) says there is no better resource than the Merck.
  • Word Magic, an app available for the iPhone and iPad. Its translations do not just come, as many do, as a bilingual glossary, but also with synonyms, sentences, and other useful information for context. The medical, business, legal, slang, and general versions are constantly updated.
  • The Jablonsky dictionary of acronyms and abbreviations.
  • Vox Médico.
  • Other specialized resources written for medical professionals.
  • Diario Médico, a newsletter for doctors from Spain.

Style guides

Regarding style guides, although the Real Academia Española is highly regarded, Deusto has published a style guide that is an adaptation of the Chicago Manual of Style in Spanish: Manual de estilo Chicago Deusto, edición adaptada al español. This is used by many translators who work in technical fields and is consistent with the 2010 updates of the Real Academia Española.

This is a highly regarded resource, which we use as a primary resource in most translations. It provides helpful references for the editor at all stages of the editing process in one volume, which makes it particularly useful.

One reason for using the Deusto is that there are several RAE publications, making it difficult to follow the thread of what guidelines have been followed in each of the many publications that RAE has published on the same topic in the last few years. However, El buen uso del español is one of the most practical ones and is available on Kindle. On the other hand, it often seems to contradict some of the guidelines in the larger references, such as the Nueva Gramática and the Ortografía. As translators, we make decisions regarding style based on the document and the needs of the requester. Editors develop style guides for each setting, and so do we.

Image source: Pixabay

Author bios

by Helen Eby and Carlie Sitzman

Carlie Sitzman graduated from Weber State University with a BA in German and an AAS in Technical Drafting in 2009, at which time it was clear that best way to make her passion for language and fascination with technology into a career was to become a translator. In 2011 she moved to Germany where she simultaneously freelanced and earned her MA in Intercultural German Studies from the Universität Bayreuth. She now translates from offices in Wilmington, Delaware and will be celebrating her ten-year anniversary in the industry this year. www.sitzmanaetranslations.com

 

Promoting the Craftsmanship of our Profession

1944. Wartime France. No fabric. The norm had been 100. They were down to an index of 26. There was not even enough material to make socks! Paris, the world’s fashion capital, had lost hope of reviving its precious haute couture.

American photojournalist Lee Miller came to France as a war correspondent. She connected with Edmonde Charles-Rouxe, a French war correspondent. As they were occupied with war reporting she revealed her true purpose. A group was secretly planning an exhibition of haute couture in Paris that was expected to have tremendous impact, and she wanted Charles-Rouxe to be involved. A month later, Paris flocked to see a display of miniature dolls created by the great artists of haute couture, put on display for their pleasure. The French Resistance was even involved in bringing haute-couture back to Paris with British support!

The exhibition was so successful that it continued until after the war was over. To promote the exhibition abroad at that time, a French government official wrote to the Ambassador of France in Britain: “France has little, alas to export, but she has her appreciation of beautiful things and the skill of her couture houses. “In 1946, it went to New York and San Francisco, where the mannequins were left languishing in the basement of San Francisco’s City of Paris department store. In 1990, the mannequins were transferred to Maryhill Museum of Art. Haute couture had always been the domain of Paris. During the war, New York had survived without the inspiration Paris provided. Paris was back in its rightful place!

Who was part of this movement to show the world the capital of the fashion industry had survived the war? Some 60 couturiers worked together. Among them, Nina Ricci, Christian Dior, and others.

What made it successful?

They worked together. 60 couturiers who normally were competitors set aside their rivalries to reestablish their national industry.

They did the unexpected. Too hard to make shoes for these dolls? Then we will! Bags? That too! The dolls, measuring one-third the size of human scale, even had specially made jewels and lingerie. All difficulties became challenges to show off their skill in a friendly and fierce competition.

They did it despite hardship. This was done while the average Parisian could only eat 1400 calories per day!

They contributed selflessly.The artists donated their services; the couture houses contributed labor and material and made a contribution for each costume provided for the exhibition. All the proceeds went to a central organization: L’Entraide Francaise, set up for the Theatre de la Mode.

They went where their market was: Barcelona, London, Vienna, then New York, and San Francisco. They made themselves known.

Their work was excellent. It was truly artistic, enough that in 1952 the Maryhill Museum of Art acquired the collection from San Francisco and set about restoring it. In 1990, the museum did an extensive restoration.

What can we learn from them as translators and interpreters?

Just as the Theatre de la Mode artists made specially sized shoes for their costumes, we can focus on the details our clients care about and no computer can replicate.

Work together. Teamwork is important, and there is enough work for all of us. We can promote our profession without being concerned about competition because each of us has different strengths and skills to contribute.

Working with the allied professions makes us better. The artists worked with sculptors, editors, and publicists. We can partner with desktop publishers, web designers, publicists, and professionals in the copy editing field.

They worked as a professional association. Today, we have several professional associations to support us. ATA, for example, stands ready to help members set up partnerships to promote the profession.

Do the unexpected. Taking a risk can be beneficial. We still know Nina Ricci today. Christian Dior was not famous at that time, but today it is a well-known brand.

Chip in. The proceeds of the artists’ cooperative effort went to a common fund. That helped set aside any rivalries. When we do volunteer work for an association, we are not promoting our own brand, but the profession.

Keep quality a priority. Will our work stand the test of time?

Today, the collection is featured in art collections around the world (see here and here). Will our translations be read and mentioned in the future?

Author: Helen Eby

Contributing Editor: Paula Irisity

For further reading: Theatre de la Mode: Fashion Dolls: The Survival of Haute Couture, by Charles-Roux, Edmonde et al, 2002, published by Maryhill Museum of Art, Palmer/Pletsch Publishing: Portland, OR, ISBN 0-935278-57-7

https://www.maryhillmuseum.org/inside/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/theatre-de-la-mode