Get out the vote 2018

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. In 2017 they began to also release candidate statements by podcast.

For 2018, this is the timeline:

Become a voting member.

By September 24, 2018 (preferably well in advance): become a voting member through the Active Membership review process. ATA certified translators become members as of the date of their certification. Other members can become voting members through this process. According to Corinne McKay, “If you are approved by September 24, 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. “

http://www.atanet.org/membership/memb_review_online.php

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)

http://www.atanet.org/chronicle-online/featured/ata-2018-elections-candidate-statements/

http://www.atanet.org/resources/podcasts.php

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.

c) Read about the proposed bylaw changes for 2018

http://www.atanet.org/governance/election2018_candidates_announced.php

Get out and vote!

a) Attend the ATA conference Thursday October 25, 2018 at 9:30am 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

Bad Business Practices for Freelancers

We often hear about what a good freelancer should be like. But somewhere in between good advice, we let a bad decision slip in. Having a clear idea of what not to do is just as important as knowing what you should do.

Below is a list of bad choices taken from real-life scenarios of the freelance world.

Accept too much work.

Pretty soon, people will start to say one of these things:

  • Oh, when Joe has too much work he works late hours and rushes the work out with no review. You just can’t trust him.
  • When Joe is too busy he starts to subcontract to lower-priced colleagues and doesn’t check their work. You never know whether you are going to get his good work or something else.
  • When Mary is overbooked, she sends unqualified people to interpret in her place. My agency lost a contract because of that already!

Don’t answer emails.

Whether it is from established clients or—even worse—a prospective client, nothing screams “unreliable” like ignoring an email, or answering a few days later without a decent explanation.

Don’t meet deadlines.

Need we say more?

Be late to appointments.

You should arrive early to ask orientation questions, get familiar with the venue, maybe check the speaker’s PowerPoint, so nobody is worried about their communication. When everyone else is on time, waiting for you… this will be your last job.

Overpromise and underdeliver.

We have heard of some agencies that say they always send certified interpreters, but the doctors notice that the interpreters don’t always understand their English. Another translation company said its work always went through a reviewer, but delivered substandard work.

Don’t keep your clients posted on how your work is progressing with a long project, or if you need to slide a deadline because of a natural disaster, or a family situation (yes, these things do happen). Clients would often be quite understanding if you spoke up, or would tell you that this deadline just can’t be changed, so you could find another way to meet it…

Things always have to be done your way, because the translator knows best.

The client is the expert on how the readers respond to the text, so you have to listen to your client and find a reasonable way to deal with the issues at hand.

Don’t show any interest in helping your client’s mission move forward.

Your translations are, after all, intended to help your client’s mission move forward. It is your job to see how you can partner with the client to help with language access in as many ways as possible. They may not have considered some issues.

Don’t explain how you set your deadlines.

Explaining the rationale for your deadlines helps your client see that you are respecting the work you do, and you are not a mindless machine.

Don’t offer improvements on the source text when appropriate.

If there is typo in the copy, they want to know so they can improve it. If there is an ambiguous phrase, they would like to clarify it in the next edition. This does not make you their copy editor, but we do catch a few issues as we translate. We should point them out.

Don’t explain your translation choices.

Sometimes a translation choice may not appear obvious to some bilingual speakers. Explaining it helps your client understand the process of translation better.

Don’t ask questions about your work.

If you never have any questions, your client can’t see much difference between working with you and an automated service.

Have you heard of any of these issues? This is not an exhaustive list. We would love to hear some stories in the comments.

Image source: Pixabay

How Interpreting Principles Have Influenced My Translation Practices

As a translator, I find that the principles I have learned in interpreting serve me every day. I am a certified translator, a certified court interpreter, and a certified medical interpreter. These professions, in my opinion, have a lot in common. Practicing in both professions for over 30 years has broadened my perspective. Having applied the ethics of both professions has prepared me to interact in unique conversations and help some regulators in my home state of Oregon make more informed decisions.

For example, in March 2016 I made a chart comparing medical and court interpreting ethics for the Worker’s Compensation Division of Oregon (WCD) to help them understand the ethics of interpreters in these two fields. The WCD rules said anybody could interpret. They were not aware that we had certification processes and that certified interpreters did, indeed, follow a code of ethics, which are applied by the certifying organizations. The WCD had studied the issue carefully before the national medical-interpreting certification exams had been implemented, and they were unaware of the changes. Since we wanted them to work with professionals and value them, they needed to know what we brought to the table. They were especially appreciative of the commitment certified interpreters have made to confidentiality, impartiality, and accuracy.

The core values of ethics for medical and court interpreting are different, but they both apply to translation in many cases. For example, in both it is important to be culturally sensitive. In translation, this is especially important when preparing documents for public-relations departments or advertising. The goal is that the non-English speakers be placed in the same position as similarly situated persons for whom there is no such barrier. This always applies in translation, but in a legal document it would mean that we change and adapt as little as possible, while still making the text readable.

Confidentiality is common to both interpreting codes of ethics mentioned above. As translators, we are also expected to keep all materials that we work with confidential and not take advantage of the information that we acquire through translation. In court interpreting, that goes so far as to include a specific restriction on public comment. As translators, we sign NDAs that require the same level of confidentiality. Even without an NDA, translators are expected to share information only on a “need-to-know” basis: with people who are working on the project and are equally committed to confidentiality.

Both medical and court interpreting require that we be accurate in our rendition of the message in the target language. We are expected not to explain, alter, omit, or add anything to the message. Depending on the purpose of our work, we might have a conversation with our clients if we need to stray from these guidelines.

All codes require that the interpreter be impartial. As translators, we must be careful not to change the nuance of the text. The author chose certain adjectives and nouns that carry a particular shade of meaning to show his bias. We need to make sure our translation reflects the same tone, nuance and bias of the source text. Additionally, we need to translate in a way that t carries the voice of the author and is easily understood in the target language.

All interpreting codes require that we act professionally. That means answering emails promptly, meeting commitments, keeping deadlines, and charging what was on the estimate. When issues that will delay the project come up, professionals communicate that as soon as possible. They also take pride in the quality of their work, so it is quite appropriate to tell our clients exactly why we are great.

All the applicable codes include professional development. As a matter of fact, this is a common thread in all professions, and nurses, teachers and doctors, for example, also have to submit continuing-education credits to maintain their credentials.

Court interpreters are expected to represent their qualifications honestly. They should not accept assignments they are not qualified for. This is an important principle for everyone to follow.

Court interpreters are also expected to report impediments to their performance. As translators, we too should be able to tell our clients when a deadline is too tight to deliver appropriate quality, or whether any other impediment could affect our work. For example, we might ask for additional documents on the same subject translated by the client so we can adopt similar terminology to avoid confusing their readers. I often ask language companies to share with me how the reviewers have modified my documents so I know how to come closer to their expectations the next time. I do not always get what I ask for, but I keep trying.

Beyond ethics, interpreters and translators also have overlapping skills. One of the skills evaluated in interpreting certification exams is sight translation. This skill is helping me a lot now that I have a rotator-cuff injury and an arthritic thumb, and I am dictating a lot of my translations into Dragon, a voice-recognition program. Interpreters often sight translate forms for patients in medical offices and write, in English, the patient’s verbal response. Since the end product is written, this is listed as audio translation in the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) skill descriptions.

Due to the “live” nature of their work, interpreters are in close communication with those who benefit from their services. They get instant feedback on whether their message was understood or not. As a translator, I benefit from my interpreting experience. I know my target readers because I have spent time with them. In addition, I am starting a Spanish-language book club at my local library so we can stay connected with the language at a different level. We start in September, after almost a year of planning. My Venezuelan, Mexican and Colombian friends are thrilled.

Interpreters are in close contact with the language-access needs of the community. As translators, we can learn from them and partner with them to meet those needs on the translation side. As we hear about problems, we can offer our services in the organizations where our interpreter colleagues say the forms are wrong or they do not send letters in the language of the Limited English Proficient (LEP) person. We can also offer to fix the incorrect language on the signs on the walls. Without talking to our interpreter colleagues, we would never know what services are needed!

As translators, there is a lot we can learn from our interpreter colleagues. The next time you have an opportunity, swing by one of their ethics trainings. You will discover you are participating in a lively discussion! Reading interpreting codes of ethics can also add perspective to our work as translators. Do not rule it out as you seek guidance in your translation career.

Image source: Pixabay

My Business Is Better Because I Have E&O

I had heard many people say Errors and Omissions (E&O) policies were not necessary for translators. I went along with that… until a direct client required it. In the medical field, it is common for direct clients to require a one million dollar E and policy limit. When I signed the policy, my insurance agent walked me through the do’s and don’ts. Now I’ll walk you through my thoughts on what is and what is not covered.

What does it cover?

My damages and defense costs, up to a limit, incurred from claims as a result of a wrongful act in performing insured services (translation) for others.

What does it NOT cover?

Bodily injury or property damage. That’s fine. I’m a translator. This means that someone tripping in my office is not covered. There is a separate insurance policy for that. If I am driving to an appointment and I hurt someone while driving, that would be bodilyinjury. My E and O does not cover that. If my laptop falls on someone’s iPhone at a training session and damages it, that would be property damage covered by a separate insurance policy. It is called Business Liability Insurance, commonly known as Trip and Fall insurance. Most businesses have this.

Infringement of intellectual property. So… I don’t want to be a party to plagiarism. I pay for all my software. I do not post other people’s ideas as my own on my blog.

Unfair competition or any other violation of antitrust laws. I need to be aware of antitrust laws so I don’t violate them. The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice have information on the subject. Some clear-cut examples are plain arrangements among competing individuals or businesses to fix prices, divide markets, or rig bids. These are carefully defined in documents in the links provided.

Discrimination prohibited by federal law. As a freelancer, I do not have employees. Therefore, this does not apply to me. If I ever have employees (not likely), I will have to abide by the same rules as any other employer.

Gain or profit I am not entitled to. In other words, I make what my invoice says and no more. I don’t upsell, take advantage of the knowledge to trade stock… etc.

Any liability I make myself responsible for in a contract. If I say I will be responsible for x, then the insurance company won’t keep me from being responsible for x.

Violations of securities and blue skies laws. In other words, I have to be above board in my financial dealings.

Bankruptcy. I had better keep paying my bills… That is good business.

Breach of contract.

  • If I say the translation will be ready by May 1, and on May 15 I have not contacted my client about it… I am in breach of contract.
  • If I promised a reviewed translation and I deliver a Google Translate version, I am in breach of contract. In one contract, I specified that any disputes regarding the quality of my work would have to be settled by an ATA grader in my language pair. This kept things nice and clean. I state that I am only responsible for the text I deliver, and if the client changes a single word, I am no longer responsible for the document.
  • I could have said that I would keep the information confidential, but since I know people in the engineering field, I go and tell them about a new development. That would be violating an NDA – breach of contract.

Any act a jury or arbitrator finds dishonest, fraudulent, etc.Be honest. If I submit a machine translation instead of a quality translation to meet the deadline, that might be considered dishonest, since I tell clients that the translation will be done by a certified translator and reviewed by another certified translator.

In short, E&O covers me for errors and omissions that happen inadvertently, provided that I made a reasonable effort to prevent them. It does not cover me for lazy work, breach of contract or dishonesty. It does not give me cover to be lazy from that point on. Clients expect me to have it because they know that any human has a margin of error in any work we do. Perfection at all times is simply not possible. It gives my clients peace of mind.

One client who hired me for a medical website translation had this conversation withme:

  • Do you have a one-million-dollar policy limit?
  • You don’t really think that’s going to be necessary, right?
  • If something goes wrong, the damage is going to be much greater than the price of your translation. We don’t expect you to be able to cover it. That is why we want you to have insurance.

I made sure I had coverage and increased my insurance coverage.

E and O insurance gives our clients peace of mind. Think of it this way. If someone was going to cut down a 130-foot tree in the front yard next to your home and told you “I am awesome, so I have no insurance,” what would you do? Well… this is a true story, and I got very nervous when that happened. I had two small children sleeping in the house. I got them out, and we watched the tree fall from a safe place. I wrote down the guy’s license plate number so I could call the police if anything went wrong. Is that how you want your clients to treat you? I don’t. This fellow did not have the money to replace my house or pay for the damage that tree could do to it. It missed the fence across the street by a few inches. All the neighbors were watching the proceedings very closely.

That is not the way to build trust. People work with people they know, like and trust. I build trust with my clients.

Image source: Pixabay

Book review: The Subversive Copyeditor

I first became aware of the work Carol Fisher Saller does when she spoke at the American Copy Editors Society conference in Portland, Oregon, and presented on her book, The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago.

I finally read her book in January of 2018. I should have done so sooner. There are so many things we can learn from this book as translators. I am combining what I learned from her book with my own experience in the real world in this post. This post covers the highlights. I hope to give you a taste for more!

In the inside jacket, she is very straightforward about the purpose of this book. It is not for us to learn how to copy edit, but to give us some ideas as we negotiate good relationships with those we work with and ourselves. Many of the tips she gives apply to translators just as much as they do to copy editors.

Part One: Relationships with those who hire us.

Being correct about a particular turn of phrase is not worth a big argument. Instead of focusing on who is right, it is better to see what will reach the readers of the document most effectively. However, inaccuracies and inconsistencies are distracting and reflect poorly on the author. We should take care of those.

We should follow three guiding principles: carefulness, transparency, and flexibility. These remind me of the interpreting guidelines of transparency and accuracy. Interpreters convey everything that is said accurately, ask for clarifications and repetitions as needed, and are transparent so both parties know everything that is happening in the room. In the same way, as translators we should approach the text with utmost carefulness. We should also be very transparent when we make editorial decisions regarding the text by putting comments in so the requester can understand our choices. To be flexible with a translation, of course, we need to know exactly what the text is going to be used for, so it is important to ask questions.

Editing is a gift. Our translations should be edited, since most published material is edited. We should treat our editors with kindness, and learn from the comments our editor colleagues make.

Part Two: Practical issues.

Delegate or automate repetitive tasks, so we can focus on what we do best. For example, someone else might be able to set up a table in Word, check all the numbers in a set of tables, or do other repetitive chores that don’t require translation skills. That person can also check that the references are properly numbered, that the citation reference numbers match, etc. Delegating frees us up to do what we do best.

Though we may work with translation environment tools, our word processor is still our primary translation tool. It is where we do many of our final edits, write letters to clients, and do much of our work. We need to know our word processor inside and out. We should explore every feature it has, because they can help to automate certain tasks and improve our writing in many ways. Carol says having word processors and electronic tools for editing has not changed editing schedules in the last 25 years. It still takes just as long to edit a 10 page text as it did before. These tools do not make us deliver sooner. Instead, they enable us to do many things we were not able to do before, such as verifying consistency, checking for acronym use, checking double spaces, and searching for overuse of the term ‘that’.

We have to plan in order to keep our deadlines. We must organize our day, set aside distractions, set pad in our schedules, set priorities. When we have to slip a deadline, just say “something outside my control came up and I will be one day late.” It is much better to take the initiative instead of receiving an email from the client asking about it.

Sometimes we have to work quickly to meet a difficult deadline. However, that also means we will not be able to follow through with all of our quality assurance steps and we don’t produce very good quality when we are sleepy. I always let my clients know about these compromises and they are usually willing to extend the deadline or accept lower quality work knowingly. This happens in every profession. We shouldn’t make a habit of it.

We have to keep track of our income and send reminders to people who haven’t paid. In my experience, the accounting department is often missing some piece of information and they have forgotten to tell me. Other times, they had not realized the bill was due, and the check comes the next day! In all the years I have worked as a translator, I have had very few non-payers. How to sniff those out is a subject for another post.

Don’t forget to have a life away from work. Without a life, we won’t be able to give our work the best we could bring to it. We will be exhausted.

Carol Fisher Saller. The Subversive Copy Editor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.