My personal style guide for the ATA translation exam into Spanish

This post was originally published on the Gaucha Translations blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Based on the comments from a failed exam. I am writing this to help others not fail the same way!

  1. Include necessary clarifying information to reduce ambiguity. (register former inmates/registrar para votar a los que habían sido…) (spread the word to thousands… /informarles la decisión a decenas de miles…) Keep it to a minimum. The translation should stand on its own. Sometimes a cultural point needs to be made or an explanation given, but the passages are carefully selected so that does NOT have to be done.
  2. Make sure caps and punctuation follow Spanish rules. Double check RAE resources in case of doubt. (el partido demócrata: capitalize. Es nombre propio. Partido Demócrata)
  3. Get your quote marks in the Spanish order! Dijo, “Esto no me gusta un comino”. (las comillas van antes de las comas y los puntos en castellano, al revés que en inglés.
  4. Words in the RAE dictionary count for sure. Word creation counts, even using Spanish morphology rules, but they have to follow accepted Spanish morphology rules, and words shouldn’t be created when other words already exist in the dictionaries of reference. (former prisoners/excarcelados: corrected to exreclusos, antiguos reos).
  5. Maintain the register.
  6. Use proper Spanish syntax. (reconoce es posible: reconoce que es posible)
  7. Word Reference is a good starting terminology resource. Verify its terms with a second source.
  8. Don’t get more creative than necessary. Often a literal translation is the best. (might soften their image/que posiblemente matice su imagen:corrected to suavice)
  9. Check the monolingual dictionary, but not just for the meaning of a word. Check it for usage: is it transitive? How does it fit in a sentence? (spread the word to thousands… /informarles a miles… : informarles la decisión a decenas de miles…) informar is a transitive verb.
  10. Don’t stutter! (presos en las prisiones)
  11. Spelling! (libertado condicional: libertad condicional)
  12. Faux ami (non violent drug offenses/ofensas no violentas: delitos no violentos) Las ofensas son algo totalmente distinto en castellano.
  13. Printed resources are another reliable choice. Having printed resources also keeps you from going back and forth from your document to another screen, which is hard with the laptop. My favorites:
    • Alcaraz-Varó legal and business (those are two separate dictionaries), but the Merl Bilingual Law Dictionary by Cuauthemoc Gallegos actually had the best answers in all cases and was easier to sort through the answers. The Business Spanish Dictionary, by Peter Collin Publishing is equivalent to the Merl in my opinion. For the general texts, we shouldn’t need anything in greater depth than these dictionaries. Cabanellas is great, but they are unidirectional volumes, so you have to buy both volumes to have both directions.
    • CLAVE (monolingual Spanish), DELE (Diccionario de la Lengua Española – latest version of the RAE dictionary): take them both.
    • Webster’s New World International Spanish Dictionary. I like this dictionary because it includes a lot of technical terminology, so most technical terms we run into are likely to be here.
    • El buen uso del español. This book has a two-page spread on the main issues of Spanish grammar and spelling. It was published by RAE in 2013, after all the new Gramática and Ortografía works of 2010 were completed, with the intention of being a quick reference.
    • Ortografía escolar de la lengua española. Published by RAE for students in 2013 as a quick reference.
    • The American Heritage College Dictionary (English monolingual)
  14. Remember, the general text can have a lot of specialist content in it. Don’t count on general texts not including technical vocabulary. Be ready for basic technical vocabulary. What you won’t have to do is deal with formulaic technical texts.
  15. Good book for learning Spanish writing: Curso de Redacción – Teoría y Practica, by Gonzalo Martín Vivaldi
  16. Now, go and beat it! May this experience help you!

Image source: Pixabay

Look Out(!) for these Red Flags in Client Communications

Over the years I’ve received a lot of spam emails from would-be “clients” requesting my services. Here are just a few of the red flags I look for to determine whether an email is from a legitimate client or a scammer.

Ambiguous requests

“Hello, I’m contacting you in regard to an English content document worth 11,633 words (44 Pages). I need this document translated into [your language here]. I would like to know if you are interested and available to get this done for me. Please get back to me as soon as you can. Thank you.”

Some of the details I noticed here:

  • No deadline
  • Nothing about the topic
  • No mention about why you would be the right linguist for the job
  • It comes from a Gmail account or some other free domain

Trying to get personal / Grammatical errors

“I hope that you are enjoying the best of health and this message meet you well.

I would like to know if you are interested and available, I got your contact from an online Directory of Translators and Interpreters.”

Note the writing errors:

  • Sentences are separated by periods instead of commas
  • Poor subject-verb agreement; “this sentence meets you well” would have been correct

Inaccurate claims about your profile

“Your portfolio published on [your association here]…”

We don’t put portfolios on our association websites! We have profile listings that describe our skills and specialties. That’s an immediate red flag.

Math about the experience of their staff

Sometimes a client will try to convince you they are great by saying they are “managed by highly erudite professionals with over [xx] years of combined experience.” We don’t know how many professionals are on the management team, so if their combined experience adds up to 50 years but there are only 20 people, this doesn’t mean much.

Unusual contracting procedures

Some clients will claim to offer a certain amount of pay per month, and will report with a 1099-k structure. That means that they are not the ones sending you the 1099; whoever processes the electronic payments is. That would be PayPal, QuickBooks, or whoever they work with. You have to receive either 200 payments or $20,000 through that system to get a report through them. In other words, they do not do their own 1099 reports.

Phone number and address

When in doubt, I call the phone number listed in the potential client’s email. If I get a Google phone message, this raises a red flag. A Google message is unusual for a language company, especially if it does not identify the company the email supposedly came from.

You can also look up their listed address on Google Maps. Occasionally it is at a Dollar Tree, a barber, or a storage unit site—I have seen all three of these! As soon as I ask why they operate from that type of address, the emails stop coming.

Better Business Bureau rating

If a company reaching out to me has a poor rating on the Better Business Bureau website, that’s a red flag too. The company isn’t worth working with if they are known to be delinquent in payment to their contractors. If a company has one star out of five, beware!

Unsolicited prepayments

Some clients will try to send me a check before I have started the job, without me asking them to do so or agreeing on a price. Once, I got the translation… and a check in the mail for an amount I had not negotiated. We had not negotiated any price at all! Then I got persistent emails asking whether I cashed the check instead of asking whether I had any questions about the translation. This is a red flag, too!

I went to the bank and discovered it was a fake account from a fake bank. The bank destroyed the check. I never cash a check before finishing my assignment; first I have to negotiate the deal, then complete the assignment, then receive payment.

When something looks off, it probably is. If you think something is questionable, it probably is. Standard business practices exist because they prevent problems. It is always helpful to find colleagues to check with when you have questions, though. Local chapters and national professional associations such as ATA are excellent resources.

Image source: Pixabay

Presentation Proposal Resources for #ATA60 in Palm Springs

ATA speakers bring a broad variety of topics and perspectives to the conference. This is what makes it interesting! When you present as a team, you can discuss the topic in depth with your colleagues for months and give participants a broader perspective.

Proposals are currently being accepted for the 60th ATA Annual Conference in Palm Springs and the submission deadline is March 1. Over 150 sessions are offered, but the conference planning team typically receives three times as many proposals as they can accept. Therefore, it’s a good idea to take care when preparing your proposal. Here are a few quick steps for your proposal:

  1. We have heard that past performance is no guarantee of future results, but it doesn’t hurt to review the last few years of accepted proposals to get a better idea of what has worked.
  1. Draft your proposal. Check out How to Write a Winning ATA Conference Proposal, a webinar by Corinne McKay that guides you through the process. However, you might also ask someone who has presented in the last few years to review your proposal and give you some ideas. They might ask for your feedback on theirs as well!
  2. Follow the criteria in the call for speakers carefully. You will be judged on each one of them. Press continue to begin the process of submitting your proposal.
  3. After March 1, sit back and wait! We look forward to a strong selection of presentations at ATA60.

See you in Palm Springs!

Image source: Pixabay

American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) Conference 2018 Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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