The Translator Requests a Clarification: Tracking the conversation

By Helen Eby (@EbyGaucha)
Reblogged from Gaucha Translations blog with permission from the author

The Translator Requests a ClarificationTranslators and interpreters face a common problem: lack of clarity in the source message. Interpreters have a standard formula for addressing this: “the interpreter requests clarification”. Although translators deal with the same issue, a standard formula is missing. We deal with acronyms that are company-specific, missing terms, etc. and clarify them with clients over email. In the middle of email chains, however, it is easy to lose track of the changes and of our role. We need a better, more rigorous, method of recording these conversations.

When translating a document such as a contract, a patient handout, or a website, it is important to record conversations about changes to the source text. To do this effectively, I began keeping a change log to serve as a record. I have used this type of table very effectively with my clients on a number of occasions, and an example is shown below. Please note, however, that some text has been changed to protect client confidentiality.

Source text Translator’s comment Client’s comment
In the next twelve we will celebrate all employees’ birthdays. In the next twelve months we will celebrate all employees’ birthdays. [The client must have meant “months”. We must say that.]
Email sent to client February 30, 2016
Please modify source text as follows:
In the next twelve months we will celebrate all employees’ birthdays.
Response received February 31, 2016
Client request: Please include all these changes in the source document. Thank you for your attention to detail.
Please mark them with track changes for me to accept them. This will help us with future clients.

As shown in this change log, these changes are often accepted as permanent improvements to the source text. In this way, the client gets two services in one: a copy editor of the source text and a translator, while keeping the roles transparent.

A translation, after all, is the client’s message in a new language, and changes need to be implemented with transparency and thoughtfulness, mindful of both linguacultures. At Gaucha Translations, we follow a process outlined in this document, and clients know that we treat their message with the utmost respect and advocate for the target audience to be able to understand their message clearly, at a glance, if at all possible.

Header image credit: kaboompics

Capacity management tips for freelance translators

By Oleg Semerikov (@TranslatFamily)
Reblogged from 
LinkedIn with permission from the author (incl. the image)

Capacity management tips for freelance translatorsSo your translation business is going well. You’ve got a reliable set of customers who you like and work well with, and projects are coming in on a regular basis. You’re living the freelancer’s dream of steady self-employment. And then one morning, you look at your to-do list and do a double take. You have to do how much work today?

Finding yourself over capacity is something that happens to every freelancer occasionally. It’s a bit of a mixed blessing, to say the least. On the one hand, you know you have work – and therefore money – coming in. But on the other, it can be difficult to look on the bright side when you’re forced to keep working late into the night, fretting about missing deadlines or making mistakes because you’re in a rush. So, in hopes of helping you deal with the problem next time it comes up, we’re here to offer a few handy tips on how to manage your capacity and maybe even de-stress a little.

Although our very first tip is to clear your current workload before settling down to read this article, we hope those of you with a few minutes to spare will read on and enjoy!

Don’t panic!

Yes, we know that’s the last thing a panicking person actually wants to hear. Yes, we know that on-time delivery is a key part of quality customer service – but it’s going to be OK. Trust us. You’re a professional, which means you have the expertise and the skills needed to handle this problem. And even if you do overshoot the deadline slightly, it’s not the end of the world – and we’ll discuss how to handle that situation later in this article.

At the moment when you realise you’ve taken on too much work, it can seem like a disaster, but there’s no sense wasting time by beating yourself up over it. The best thing you can do is make yourself a hot drink, sit down and put those translating skills to work.

Don’t compromise on quality

If the deadline crunch is looming and it’s looking like you can’t get everything done in time, it can be very tempting to rush through a translation, sacrificing quality to get it done quickly. That’s almost never the correct decision. After all, a translation’s life cycle doesn’t end when you deliver it; it still has to be usable by the customer.

A better solution would be to keep the customer in the loop. Apologise, notify them of the delay, and give them a revised estimate of when the document will be ready – and do this as soon as you can, so that they can make a decision about how to handle the situation on their end.

Ideally, of course, you don’t want to let it get to that stage at all. So what can you do to avoid missing deadlines in the first place?

Know your capacity

Observe your own working processes over a period of days and weeks, and keep track of how quickly you’re able to turn a translation around. Measure your results in terms of words per hour or day. Chances are, you’ll start to see a pattern emerging which will allow you to determine how quickly you actually work. Needless to say, this is a much better approach than just guessing, or assuming that a customer’s suggested deadline is feasible without checking it for yourself. Measuring your actual output rate will make it easier for you to provide quotes and estimate how long a given translation will take to complete, which will come in very handy when negotiating rates and deadlines.

Keep an organised calendar

Make a list of everything you’re working on. Write down every job you’ve been given, when it was assigned to you, when it’s due, and how large it is. Then, based on your translation-speed calculations, allocate a block of time in your calendar for working on it. This could be a paper calendar hanging on the wall, but a digital one is even better for updating details, moving projects around, and finding items with a simple search. These days, there are plenty of software products that can help with this. Most modern email software includes calendar functionality, including the reliable old standby Microsoft Outlook, or alternatively you could use a free cloud-based solution like Google Calendar.

However you choose to organise your work, keeping it all together in one place will help you plan ahead and understand how much spare capacity you have for other jobs that come in.

Don’t be afraid to say no

If too much work does come in and you simply don’t have the time to handle it all, don’t be afraid to turn the occasional job down. Most agencies would rather that you be honest with them and tell them when you don’t have time to handle a specific project, instead of accepting it now and having to delay delivery later. Think of it the same way as you would if you were offered a job you couldn’t take because it was outside your field of specialisation: saying no is sometimes a sign of professionalism, and worthy of respect. Besides, if they really want you, specifically, to take the job, then they may be able to offer you an extended deadline. It never hurts to ask!

In the end, it all boils down to a simple rule: think ahead. If you’re aware of your responsibilities and able to plan your work beyond your next few hours and days, you shouldn’t have to deal with these kinds of problems very often – if ever. But tips like these may help even if you’re already the fastest, most organised translator on Planet Earth. After all, one of the great benefits of being a freelancer is your flexibility: if you feel like earning a little extra money, you can always put in a few extra hours here and there. Planning your work ahead of time lets you manage those extra hours, as well, keeping stress levels down and productivity up. And your customers receive the translations they need, exactly when they need them – so everybody wins!

Author bio

Oleg SemerikovOleg Semerikov started as an English to Russian freelance translator ten years ago. Nowadays, he runs his own company, Translators Family, a boutique translation agency specialising in Russian, Ukrainian and Polish, with expertise in English, German, and other European languages. Many long-term customers of Oleg as a freelancer became the permanent customers of his agency. Translators Family on social media: FacebookTwitterGoogle+ 

Nouveaux traducteurs : 10 conseils pour bien démarrer

By Gaëlle Gagné (@trematweet)
Reblogged from Le Blog de Trëma with permission from the author (incl. the image)

Nouveaux traducteurs 10 conseils pour bien démarrerIl y a quelques semaines, j’ai répondu avec plaisir à l’invitation d’une de mes professeurs de l’ÉSIT qui m’avait conviée à un de ses cours afin que je partage mon expérience avec les étudiants de la promotion 2016. La plupart envisagent d’exercer en tant que traducteurs et interprètes indépendants dès leur sortie de l’école et étaient avides de conseils pratiques pour bien démarrer.

Voici les 10 recommandations que je leur ai faites :

1. Préparez votre lancement

Avant de vous lancer tête baissée dans la création d’une entreprise, prenez le temps de réfléchir à ce que représente cet important choix de vie. Être indépendant offre une très grande liberté et, en général, une meilleure rémunération que l’emploi de traducteur salarié (sauf si vous êtes recruté par une organisation internationale, mais c’est un cas à part). Vous bénéficierez également d’une expérience plus variée qui vous permettra de choisir véritablement votre domaine de spécialisation. Toutefois, ces avantages ne doivent pas masquer un certain nombre de contraintes : en tant que créateur et gestionnaire d’une entreprise, vous aurez à réaliser de nombreuses tâches qui ne sont pas directement liées à votre domaine d’étude (prospecter, facturer, établir et maintenir une comptabilité, gérer vos relations clients, etc.). Êtes-vous prêt à y consacrer une part importante de votre temps ? Certains d’entre vous pourraient se sentir isolés en travaillant seuls à la maison. Sans compter que vos revenus seront, au moins dans un premier temps, aléatoires, ce qui peut susciter un stress important en période creuse. Bref, regardez la réalité en face, au besoin en demandant à des traducteurs expérimentés de vous décrire leur quotidien sans fard, afin d’éviter toute désillusion.

Une fois convaincu que la vie de freelance est faite pour vous, effectuez une petite étude de marché pour identifier les différents types de clients, les domaines de spécialisation porteurs, les revenus que vous pouvez espérer, etc. Les associations professionnelles sont de précieuses alliées à ce stade pour vous donner l’occasion de rencontrer des collègues en exercice et pour les rapports qu’elles publient régulièrement sur l’état de la profession. En plus du marché, étudiez également l’environnement juridique (formes d’entreprises, obligations légales, aides à la création, etc.) pour être à même de prendre les bonnes décisions au regard de votre situation.

Avant même de commencer à démarcher des clients potentiels, soignez votre présentation : rédigez un CV et créez des profils sur les réseaux sociaux professionnels (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Viadeo…), car vos prospects ne manqueront pas de vous « googliser » pour savoir à qui ils ont affaire. Dans même, si vous ne disposez pas dans un premier temps d’un site web professionnel, assurez-vous au moins d’avoir une adresse e-mail dédiée (nanou94@yahoo.com ou barbaraetlucas@gmail.com nuisent à votre crédibilité professionnelle) et une signature automatique précisant vos langues de travail et redirigeant vos contacts vers des pages leur permettant de se renseigner sur vous. Enfin, faites imprimer des cartes de visite que vous aurez toujours sur vous, car on ne sait jamais quand on pourrait rencontrer une personne à la recherche d’un traducteur !

2. Fixez votre tarif avant de prospecter

Pour éviter d’être prix au dépourvu quand vos efforts de prospection vous placeront enfin en position de négocier avec un client potentiel, réfléchissez dès maintenant au tarif que vous demanderez. L’étude de marché que vous aurez réalisée (voir conseil n° 1) vous aidera dans cette démarche qui doit s’appuyer à la fois sur ce qui se pratique dans la réalité (consultez les tarifs moyens par combinaison de langue présentés dans l’étude tarifaire de la SFT) et vos propres besoins (attention, comme je vous l’ai déjà expliqué votre temps ne sera pas uniquement consacré à la traduction, donc toute heure travaillée n’est pas forcément rémunérée).

Quoi qu’il en soit, NE BRADEZ PAS VOS SERVICES EN ESPÉRANT TROUVER DES CLIENTS ! Être un peu plus cher est paradoxalement plus vendeur pour des clients en quête de qualité (les meilleurs). Sans compter que si vous pratiquez des tarifs trop bas, vous passerez tout votre temps à traduire pour gagner peu, sans pouvoir consacrer le temps nécessaire à la recherche de contrats plus rémunérateurs.

3. Trouvez des clients

Sachez que si vous avez du mal à trouver des clients, ces derniers ont autant de difficultés à trouver des traducteurs. Acquérir une plus grande visibilité doit donc être votre priorité. Pour cela, ne négligez aucune piste : informez la Terre entière (votre grand-mère, la boulangère, votre banquier, vos copines de yoga, etc.) que vous êtes traducteur. Vous aurez certainement droit aux questions habituelles : « vous traduisez des livres ? Combien de langues parlez-vous ?… » et aux réflexions légèrement apitoyées : « cela doit être dur, non, d’être seul à la maison toute la journée ? », mais en informant patiemment vos auditeurs vous saisirez l’opportunité de vous faire l’ambassadeur de notre beau métier et, surtout, de devenir LE traducteur professionnel du carnet d’adresses de tous ces braves gens prêts à transmettre généreusement (et gratuitement) vos coordonnées dès qu’ils entendront parler d’un besoin de traduction.

Le réseautage est un autre élément essentiel de votre stratégie de prospection : maintenez des liens avec vos anciens collègues et employeurs et tenez-les informés de l’évolution de votre carrière, devenez membre d’une, ou plusieurs, associations professionnelles, notamment de votre association d’anciens élèves, afin de vous appuyer sur leurs réseaux. Contrairement à ce que pensent certains, les autres traducteurs ne sont pas vos concurrents, mais des partenaires potentiels. S’ils vous connaissent, ils pourront éventuellement faire appel à vous pour décrocher un gros contrat ou vous proposer de sous-traiter une partie de leur activité lorsqu’ils seront débordés. Alors, sortez de chez vous et allez à leur rencontre !

Méfiez-vous des plateformes de mise en relation, type Upwork (née de la fusion de oDesk et elance), Freelancer, Trouve-moi un freelance, etc. Ces sites proposent de mettre en relation des entreprises avec des travailleurs indépendants, mais lorsque les offres de projet sont affichées, ils fonctionnent en fait comme des enchères inversées organisant une course aux tarifs les plus bas.

Enfin, quel que soit votre état de famine, n’acceptez JAMAIS un contrat sans vous renseigner préalablement sur votre client potentiel. Entre les déplorables pratiques de certaines agences et les très nombreuses arnaques aux traducteurs sur Internet, les écueils sont nombreux. ne vous réjouissez pas trop vite, prêt à accepter n’importe quoi pour décrocher un contrat : commencez par rechercher une partie du texte à traduire sur Google (les arnaqueurs ne sont pas créatifs et envoient souvent le même texte des milliers de fois dans l’espoir de duper les traducteurs indépendants) et consultez les avis de vos pairs sur Payment Practices, le Blue Board de ProZ, etc. Je reviendrai sur ce vaste sujet dans un prochain billet, promis !

4. donnez-vous du temps

Tous les traducteurs qui sont passés par là avant vous vous le diront : se constituer une clientèle prend environ un an. Patience est donc le maître-mot, mais prévoir une petite somme pour survivre en attendant ne fait pas de mal ! Ne vous découragez pas. Vos efforts finiront par payer, probablement au moment où vous vous y attendrez le moins. Un de mes tout premiers clients directs m’a été adressé par une amie française installée à Londres qui avait été sollicitée à la sortie de l’école par une maman, directrice marketing d’une PME, pour traduire le site web de sa société (avis aux clients potentiels : cette histoire aurait pu mal tourner si mon amie n’avait pas une « vraie » traductrice dans son carnet d’adresses !)

5. Commencez par les agences

Pour décrocher plus rapidement vos premiers contrats, frappez aux portes des agences de traduction. Ces intermédiaires ont le mérite de vous faciliter la recherche de clients, ce qui a un coût bien sûr (vos prestations seront généralement moins bien rémunérées que si vous facturiez directement un client), mais offre une expérience très formatrice. En effet, les agences sont en mesure de vous fournir des missions variées et, à condition de bien les choisir, contribueront à accroître votre rigueur par la révision attentive de votre travail.

Pour identifier les meilleures, fiez-vous une fois encore à vos collègues (certains forums comme ProZ ou le Translator’s Cafe compilent les commentaires de traducteurs) et exercez votre bon sens pour ne pas faire les frais de pratiques douteuses. Par exemple, considérez que vous n’avez pas à subir de pressions pour baisser votre tarif : puisque vous ne l’avez pas fixé au hasard, il doit donc simplement être accepté ou refusé. Méfiez-vous également des fausses promesses de type « facturez moins cher maintenant pour travailler plus à l’avenir » et n’acceptez jamais d’être payé à condition que le client final ait lui-même réglé sa facture (c’est tout simplement illégal). Dans le même esprit, plutôt que d’effectuer à titre gracieux moult tests de traduction, proposez des extraits de votre travail présentant la source en regard de la cible (après tout, on ne demande pas une consultation d’essai à un médecin ou un test de créativité à un graphiste !). Enfin, même si la question peut être débattue, je trouve les rabais pour « fuzzy matches » abusifs, car rien ne garantit la qualité des segments enregistrés dans la mémoire de traduction que vous devrez utiliser et dont vous aurez, de toute façon, à adapter le contenu.

Pour résumer, votre relation avec une agence est une entente commerciale entre deux entreprises, les termes de votre collaboration sont donc librement négociables. Même si certaines abusent de leur position dominante pour faire pression sur des professionnels DONT ELLES ONT BESOIN POUR EXISTER, vous n’êtes pas tenu de tout accepter sous prétexte de décrocher un contrat.

6. Faites preuve de professionnalisme

Il ressort du point précédent que vous devez absolument vous considérer comme un professionnel et vous présenter en tant que tel. Dans cet objectif, rédigez des conditions générales de vente qui serviront de base à vos négociations commerciales et établiront dès le départ les modalités de paiement et les obligations de chacune des parties.

Par ailleurs, mettez un point d’honneur à respecter scrupuleusement les délais et les consignes. Au moindre doute, faites des recherches et si vous ne parvenez pas à trouver vous-même la réponse, posez des questions à votre donneur d’ordre. Personne ne lit un document plus attentivement qu’un traducteur, vous êtes donc un atout précieux pour l’auteur et un filet de sécurité avant la publication de son texte. Signalez respectueusement toute coquille ou maladresse, en étant conscient d’offrir de la valeur ajoutée tout en contribuant à asseoir votre réputation professionnelle. En outre, relisez toujours attentivement votre travail, même s’il doit être révisé par un tiers.

7. faites-vous recommander dès vos premiers clients

Lorsque vous renvoyez votre traduction, ou peu de temps après, sollicitez l’avis de vos clients sur votre prestation. Leurs témoignages constituent un outil précieux pour améliorer la qualité de votre travail et convaincre d’autres agences ou clients directs de vous faire confiance. Même si peu de traducteurs parviennent à s’y astreindre dans les faits, vous devriez prospecter continuellement pour maintenir un niveau d’activité régulier. En effet, un important donneur d’ordre peut à tout moment renoncer à un projet ou faire appel à un autre prestataire, mieux vaut donc répartir le risque de perte financière en maintenant un portefeuille de clients (sans compter que travailler pour un seul donneur d’ordre peut être considéré par l’URSSAF comme une forme de salariat déguisé, lourd de conséquences). Afin d’augmenter vos chances de recueillir ces précieux avis, privilégiez une approche directe en simplifiant au maximum la tâche des personnes sollicitées. Vous pouvez par exemple envoyer une demande de recommandation via LinkedIn ou créer un questionnaire rapide à l’aide d’applications de sondage gratuites comme Survey Monkey.

Les périodes creuses sont propices au développement de votre activité : profitez-en pour vous former dans vos domaines de spécialité, acquérir de nouvelles connaissances ou aller à la rencontre de traducteurs. Si vous avez recours à la formation, sachez qu’il est possible de vous faire rembourser tout ou partie des frais engagés par le Fonds interprofessionnel de la formation des professions libérales (FIFPL) (code NAF : 7430 ZS).

8. Ne vous spécialisez pas immédiatement (mais ne tardez pas trop non plus)

Les traducteurs ne sont pas omnipotents et sont même bien meilleurs lorsqu’ils se concentrent sur un certains types de textes. En réduisant le nombre de sujets que vous accepterez de traiter, vous limiterez certes la taille du marché ciblé, mais aurez accès à des contrats plus rémunérateurs, confiés uniquement à des professionnels expérimentés. Pour être viable, une spécialisation doit rester relativement vaste pour faire face à d’éventuels retournements de situation économique dans un secteur d’activité (traduction juridique, technique, financière, marketing, etc.), mais peut aussi être très étroite pour vous positionner sur un marché de niche (vous devenez alors LE traducteur spécialisé dans la culture d’orchidées ou les techniques de soin bucco-dentaire). Pour guider votre choix, interrogez-vous sur ce qui vous plaît et ce que vous traduisez le mieux. Une fois que vous aurez opté pour un domaine, vous pourrez alors consacrer du temps à parfaire vos connaissances et votre savoir-faire, afin de produire des traductions de qualité qui passeront pour avoir été rédigées par un professionnel du domaine.

9. Une fois spécialisé, adressez-vous directement aux clients

Maintenant que vous avez cerné le marché à développer (le domaine d’activité dans lequel vous vous êtes spécialisé), vous êtes prêt à vous adresser aux entreprises qui pourraient avoir besoin d’un traducteur qualifié. En contournant les agences, vous gagnez un accès direct aux donneurs d’ordre et augmentez généralement vos perspectives de rémunération.

Sachez toutefois que cette approche a aussi son lot d’exigences : les clients directs sont souvent moins informés de la nature du travail des traducteurs et ont besoin d’être « éduqués » en ce sens pour la mise en place d’une collaboration fructueuse. Expliquez succinctement votre démarche en indiquant qu’il vous faudra être au fait des spécificités de leur entreprise et de leur stratégie, précisez les délais à prendre en compte, demandez à ce qu’on vous transmette les coordonnées d’une personne-ressource à qui vous pourrez éventuellement vous adresser pour clarifier certains points et insistez sur la nécessité d’une relecture par un tiers (en interne ou en externe, organisée par vous).

Vous devrez sans doute consacrer plus de temps à la « gestion client », mais cet investissement se révélera vite judicieux pour la mise en place d’une relation de confiance dans la durée. De plus en plus d’entreprises préfèrent avoir affaire à des traducteurs indépendants qui connaissent leurs spécificités et leurs enjeux, plutôt qu’à des agences qui se révèlent souvent incapables de leur fournir des prestations de qualité constante. Pour les fidéliser, soyez prêts à en faire un peu plus (les rencontrer en personne, faire de la veille sur leurs marchés dans votre langue cible, être disponible dans les temps forts de leur activité, etc.) et à gagner en visibilité (identité visuelle, présence sur le web, participation à des salons, etc.) pour mieux vous intégrer dans leurs équipes.

10. ne restez pas seul face à vos interrogations

Au fil de votre parcours d’entrepreneur, vous vous sentirez parfois seul et démuni face à certaines questions. Dans ces moments de doute, n’hésitez pas à vous appuyer sur des réseaux (d’entrepreneurs, d’anciens élèves, de traducteurs, etc.) qui rassemblent des professionnels ayant rencontré les mêmes difficultés avant vous et à même de comprendre votre situation. La vie de freelance, n’est pas un désert solitaire : c’est même une excellente opportunité de partage pour qui sait s’ouvrir aux autres. Alors, n’hésitez pas, rejoignez une ou plusieurs associations professionnelles et, lorsque vous serez à votre tour lancé, rendez aux suivants tout ce dont vous aurez su si bien profiter…

Bon vent !

Interview – Robyn Dean on Ethics: Metaphors or Values?

Robyn Dean

Robyn Dean

Reblogged from the ATA Interpreters Division blog with permission from the author (incl. the image)

In preparation for the ATA conference, Marsel de Souza interviewed Robyn Dean, the Interpreters Division’s guest speaker at the ATA 57th Annual Conference in San Francisco. This interview focuses on the following sessions and much more:

  • Returning to Ethics: A Meta-Ethical Analysis of Community Interpreters’ Codes and Standards of Practice
  • Critiquing and Deconstructing Metaphors: A Normative Ethical Framework for Community Interpreters

She will also be participating in a panel on interpreting ethics:

  • You Did What? Making Sense of Conflicting Codes of Ethics, Part I and II.

The details on these sessions can be found at this link.

Read about the interview’s key concepts in the following abstract. Read the full transcript below

Robyn does not see a conflict between the ethical codes in interpreting. Instead, she believes that the diverse sources of information interpreters use to make decisions on ethical issues can cause confusion.

Sociolinguistic perspective Ethicist perspective
Explains behaviors with metaphors. Interpreters are:
• bridges
• conduits
• members of teams
Metaphors describe behavior without judgment and evaluation.
This perspective uses:
• values
• principles
• consequences of an action
• rules
These constructs are used to evaluate that behavior in light of the values that the setting and our profession offer as important.

Metaphors are really limited in their helpfulness. We should be asking “what are community interpreters responsible for?”

For years, our field has held to the value of “allowing service users to interact with each other in the most natural form that they can, without interruption or interference.”

The team member metaphor seems to be advancing the idea that the values of the setting matter to interpreters in light of their decision making. We have to consider the consequences of forfeiting one value that is important to us as a professional for another value that is also important to us. This is part of what Robyn will explore at greater length in San Francisco.

One thing Robyn found as she did her PhD research is that interpreters can’t speak the ethical language of the people they’re often collaborating with. Poorly constructed ethical thought (such as through the devices of metaphor) stunted interpreters’ ability to think critically about, reason through, and evaluate decisions.

The ethical decision making framework Robyn will discuss in San Francisco includes the concepts of conflicting values and professional principles as well as how to include the values of the setting in our decision-making. This framework also incorporates questions about responsibility for professional values and consequences of behavior.

Robyn has written about observation-supervision, a technique based on what medical professionals call problem-based learning. She can refer readers to articles on observation-supervision, which she has developed with a team. Scenarios are certainly helpful in some regards, but they’re also very static, they fail to present sufficient information for discussion, and people make assumptions about things that may or may not be true.

Robyn would argue that our profession should consider modifying the certification process, borrowing from what many other practice professions do. Performance tests can be coupled with other evaluation opportunities, such as portfolios, for certification. Performance tests that are just one-off tests only do so much to measure a person’s effectiveness. Portfolios are another way of getting access to the effectiveness of an individual’s skill set. Going back to the idea of supervision, if a new practitioner passes their minimum competencies, then the interpreter would be allowed to practice under the supervision of a certified practitioner. If we adopted such a design, then  interpreters who have passed a proficiency exam would work under the supervision of others and would have to regularly engage in supervision or reflective practice sessions. Then, after a certain number of hours of work under supervision, the interpreter would be able to apply for certification, which would allow them to work independently.

Robyn Dean has been a nationally certified American Sign Language interpreter for over 25 years specializing in health care. She has over 20 publications, all of which focus on the theoretical and pedagogical frameworks used to advance the practice of community interpreters. She is currently an assistant professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she is the lead instructor for the Institute’s postgraduate degree in health care interpreting. She also teaches courses for postgraduate degrees designed for sign language interpreters in Europe.

Interviewer: Marsel de Souza, Interpreters Division Assistant Administrator

Abstract editor: Helen Eby, Interpreters Division Leadership Council member

Robyn Dean on Ethics: Metaphors or Values?

Marsel de Souza: You will be delivering a number of talks at the ATA Conference San Francisco. You will be discussing conflicting codes of ethics in a two-part presentation. What can interpreters do to navigate this multitude of codes successfully?

Robyn Dean: Thanks for allowing me the time to talk with you – I am happy that we are having the opportunity to expand on some of these topics in advance of the conference.

What I would characterize as the conflict of ethical codes is not so much that ethical codes themselves conflict. Rather, I think it is that where interpreters get ethical material – that is, guidance or information about what they should or should not be doing in a given setting or context in Community Interpreting (CI) – can be confusing. And this material can come in different formats. The main goal for my two presentations is really to help interpreters understand material on ethics that’s coming from different places and formats. The people who have contributed to CI and ethical thought have been sociologists and sociolinguists; it’s important to note that the devices sociologists use are different than what ethicists use. What can be confusing is that when sociolinguists write about CI, they tend to use devices in their field, such as metaphors, to explain behaviors – “interpreters are like bridges,” “interpreters are like conduits,” “interpreters are like members of the team.” People start using metaphors as a way of describing in a very broad sense what an interpreter’s behavior has appeared to be when it was observed. Ethicists, however, would not suggest that metaphors be used as a way of guiding and evaluating the right action or the ethical behavior. You use constructs such as values, principles, consequences of action, and even rules. These are the devices used for evaluating a behavior, not just describing behavior. In other words, metaphors describe behavior without judgment and evaluation but these other constructs are used to evaluate that behavior in light of the values that the setting and our profession offer as important.

What I think interpreters find confusing, whether it is material from ethical codes, standards of practice, commonly used books in the field, is the mixing up of terminology and devices between these two different approaches. Describing behavior and evaluating behavior require the use of very different devices. So what my talk will hopefully do is help interpreters make that translation – pun intended – between the ethical material that perhaps sociologists and sociolinguists have been deriving and talking about over the years (usually through metaphors) and try and put it within the context of ethical thought – how you evaluate decisions, not just how you describe decisions. In my talk, I am going to set forth the framework about how to begin to do that within our profession.

MdS: You described the evolution of metaphors to refer to interpreters. In the beginning, there was the “helper” and “conduit” metaphor, and it seems to me that the current term is the “team member.” Is this the current state of play?

RD: I would argue that this has a lot of power in the sign language interpreting world and in the spoken language interpreting world as well, yes.

MdS: Do you think that this is a satisfactory metaphor right now? Or do you think that we will be eventually shifting to a more appropriate metaphor? What is the next step in this evolution?

RD: Metaphors are really limited in their helpfulness. I don’t think metaphors should be used – though they have been used – as a way of documenting the history and development of CI. But of course, I’m coming specifically from the sign language interpreting (SLI) field. A series of metaphors has been used to document the change in ethical thought within the field over several decades. I would say is that in order to go forward we have to stop that – [laughs] – and instead begin to articulate these thoughts through ethical constructs. We should be asking, “What are community interpreters responsible for?” If indeed interpreters are working like members of the team when they work in community settings, then they seem to be saying that interpreters have some responsibility to the values of the setting they walk into. In essence, I think this is what this team member metaphor is trying to convey.

What do people really mean when they say, “the interpreter was acting as a member of the team”? It’s hard to identify the actual behavior, because metaphors are intended to be “meta” of above. Did it mean that the interpreter reached in and helped the surgeon remove the cancerous tumor? Probably not! It probably meant that the interpreter was behaving in a way that revealed the values of the setting, perhaps in ways that might have conflicted with the values traditionally associated with interpreting.

For example, if an interpreter has the value in one hand from interpreting that says to us “allow service users to interact with each other in the most natural form that they can, without interruption or interference” – that’s been one of the values in our field for years. The metaphor we have used to refer to that concept has been “interpreters are conduits”, “we’re merely bridges”, “we’re the voice box of others” – that’s the way people come to talk about that. But if we translate that from a sociological realm into a values-based realm it’s referred to – I would argue – as allowing people to engage with each other in a natural way that discourages interference from the interpreter. That’s a typical value we have as community interpreters. But sometimes that value can come into conflict with other values of the setting. I’ll use sign language as an example: it is not unusual for deaf people when they are ‘listening’ or watching the interpreter to nod their head. IN this instance, nodding their head does not mean ‘yes’, it means ‘I’m with you’ or ‘I understand what you’re saying.’

If a doctor were engaging that deaf individual in a conversation about informed consent – “do you want this treatment?,” “this is what this treatment’s going to look like,” “here’s what this alternative treatment would look like,” etc. – and if the deaf person were nodding their head, the doctor might reasonably assume that the deaf person was agreeing to whatever treatment was being proposed. So one very well known value in the medical setting is informed consent. If I, as the interpreter, don’t have the sense that this deaf individual is necessarily agreeing with the doctor but merely understanding the doctor, and at the same time the doctor is assuming agreement, then the value to allow people to behave as they naturally would without interference is forfeited. Another value, the value of informed consent trumps this value in terms of immediate importance. Now, in light of the team member metaphor, one could argue that I am responding to the values of the setting, in this case medicine.

This becomes generalizable to the values inherent in community settings. The team member metaphor and its use in the field seems to be advancing the idea that the values of the setting matter to interpreters in light of their decision-making. That is a quick example of the ways in which we can understand the ‘team member’ metaphor, which I will go into greater detail during my presentations. I will also expand beyond this metaphor to talk more generally about how practitioners of CI can adapt these devices from the field of sociolinguists to the field of ethics. In the field of professional ethics, it is very common to explore value conflict or what Aristotle referred to as ‘Incommensurable Values’; it is a natural component of decision-making. We have to consider the consequences of forfeiting one value that is important to us as a professional for another value that is also important to us. This is part what I will explore at greater length in San Francisco.

As a direct response to your question of “where we go from here?” I will suggest that we stop using metaphors as a way of talking about professional ethics and instead we identify as practice professionals. In other words, as practice professionals, we understand the unique contextual factors that are necessary for being able to make good and effective and ethical practice decisions.

MdS: It seems to me that as we evolve through the metaphor spectrum we don’t really have a clear-cut distinction between one metaphor and the previous one. It seems to me that in many situations without any culturally critical aspects involved, you can have the interpreter as a conduit, but they may need to put on the team member cap depending on what comes up, so you would have a kind of combination of metaphors.

RD: Yes. I agree with that, it’s confusing. But in part, it is confusing because of the way you have explained it – through metaphor – putting on one cap versus another. Imagine if we were talking to a clinician and we were describing our behaviors to them in these ways. They would have no clue as to what we were saying, “Sometimes I’m a conduit and sometimes I’m a member of the team.” However, what they would understand is value conflict. For example, “Sometimes I prioritize values such as this, and sometimes I have to prioritize values that come from the setting such as informed consent, patient safety, patient education, etc.” So I don’t disagree with your characterization of constantly changing caps in the spirit of describing behaviors. That’s what we’re doing from a sociolinguist’s standpoint. How do we begin to talk about those things differently – as they do in the field of professional ethics? One thing I found in my PhD research is that interpreters can’t speak the ethical language of the people they’re often collaborating with, and that’s a problem. And the other problem I found is that poorly constructed ethical thought (such as through the devices of metaphor) stunted interpreters ability to think critically about, reason through, and evaluate decisions. If I am talking about values that are forfeited versus values that are prioritized, then that makes me both aware of and responsible for one of the values in a given decision that is forfeited. That sets me up to now wonder if there is anything I can do to mitigate those negative consequences. But if I talk in terms of ‘Which cap am I going to wear? The conduit hat or the team member hat?’ There’s no opportunity for me to ask ‘Was that a good decision or what were the negative consequences of that decision?’ If I am merely understanding my behaviors as moving between caps, when is there an opportunity to say ‘I shouldn’t have done that’ or ‘Maybe I should have done that’, whereas value conflict automatically forces you to move into the place of ‘So what are the consequences of forfeiting that value?’

MdS: You mentioned the word ‘ethics’ a few times. You said that community interpreters and sign language interpreters are constantly faced with decisions they have to make based on values and this involves ethics. In one of your sessions in SF you will be discussing an ethical framework. Can you give us an overview of this framework?

RD: What I’ve said thus far is an introduction to that framework; this idea of value conflict and professional values as well as the values of the setting being included in our decision-making. The other part of the framework are questions about consequences of behavior and responsibility for professional values. One important aspect of decision-making noted by ethicist James Rest was that it’s not that practitioners make poor decisions; it’s that they fail to understand the situation accurately to be able to find a fitting response. He referred to this as a professional’s ‘moral sensitivity’. What he suggested practitioners often lack is a developed sense of ‘moral sensitivity.’ I would agree with him and argue that interpreters are to be blamed per se, but it is the nature of community interpreting – we are called in to be a guest in everybody else’s home – to use a metaphor [laughs].

As a result, there are lots of things that are true about that setting and that we should be able to consider as important to our work without even knowing they exist because we’re not as familiar with them. Obviously, interpreter training would advance interpreters’ ability to identify those salient factors. So part of the ethical framework I’ll be talking about refers to the importance of understanding those contextual factors, being able to talk about them in theoretically-based ways, but then to be able to move into this idea of ‘How do we understand the consequences of our decisions in light of this context and how do we follow through on our responsibility to the values?’

An additional important aspect that I will talk about in terms of this ethical framework is the importance of interpreters to be willing to quickly respond to resulting demands that emerge out of values that get forfeited.

MdS: Let’s talk about education. Last year the ID conducted a survey of members covering multiple topics. One of the questions was about ways of helping our members develop. A significant number of respondents mentioned education and certification programs. Given the dilemmas and challenges you described, what advice would you give if you were to assist in the design of an effective CI training program?

RD: I’ve already done this to some degree and I have written about a technique based on what medical professionals call ‘problem-based learning,’ and the technique that we’ve developed – and we can refer readers to articles on this topic – is referred to as ‘observation-supervision.’ In addition to all the important lectures and didactic materials that are made available to interpreting students, I would argue that experiential learning, getting direct access to community settings they will eventually work in. By observation, I do not necessarily mean observing interpreters but actually just listening to the native language of the country – in our case, English – listening to two English speakers in that particular service setting and getting access to that. We’ve done that in both medical and mental health – these are my two areas of expertise. As an educational approach, we send interpreters to follow clinicians in psychiatry in with their English-speaking patients. What the interpreter observers are expected to do is collect material through completing a form that identified the important factors about that practice setting, about the interaction, about the individuals, etc. Then with that completed form, with that information, they join group meetings of maybe 8 to 10 other practicing interpreters who are also doing observations. All have the chance to present the material that they have observed, while maintaining confidentiality. Then, as the instructor leading these sessions, we use this practice material in a hypothetical nature, like ‘What if that patient or defendant or employee had been deaf…how would you handle this? What kinds of decisions did you make, and where in this situation would you have taken action?’ This way, we begin to develop interpreters’ abilities in essence to be better at ethical sensitivity and ethical judgment, — to be better able to know what typical service settings look like and how to begin to behave effectively in those before they start working in them. I would argue that more experiential learning opportunities would be very helpful for interpreters in that regard. This type of educational approach we write about repeatedly is called different things, such as case conferencing…

MdS: …reflective practice.

RD: Exactly. And all those techniques are intended to allow the interpreter to use the practice setting material – whether it’s because they’ve interpreted or because they’ve observed it – as a way of starting from the conversation. One of the problems with using ethical dilemmas and scenarios is that they don’t allow the interpreter to pick up on – by way of experiencing it – the really good nuance that you only get by being there. Scenarios are certainly helpful in some regards, but they are also very static, they fail to present sufficient information for discussion, and people make assumptions about things that may or may not be true. I’ve written about this problem with using ethical dilemmas as a tool in another article that I’m happy to share with readers.

MdS: You are a Certified American Sign Language Interpreter. Again, one thing that many respondents to the survey mentioned was certification opportunities. Can you speak a few words about this Certification?

RD: Sure. Our national organization in the U.S. is the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). RID has been certifying interpreters since the 1960s and 1970s. We’ve had several iterations of our certification test. The test is designed as most tests are – as a performance-based test passing interpreters at minimum competencies. That is, if you pass, RID is not necessarily saying that you are therefore able to work in any service setting or you’re necessarily going to be good in a particular setting – they’re merely saying that you meet the level of minimum competencies expected from a certified interpreter. If readers are interested in how we conceive of a certification, I think it is important to recognize this idea of minimum competencies.

The other thing I would argue that our profession does not do well and I would encourage other professionals to consider, again, borrowing from many other practice professions, is that performance tests can also be coupled with other evaluation opportunities, such as portfolios. Performance tests that are just one-off tests only do so much to measure a person’s effectiveness. Portfolios are another way of getting access to the effectiveness of an individual’s skill set.

The other component that I would like to see happen in certification is related to this idea of supervision. That is, if a new practitioner passes their minimum competencies, then the interpreter would be allowed to practice under the supervision of a certified practitioner. If we adopted such a design, then newly certified interpreters would work under the supervision of others and would have to regularly engage in supervision or reflective practice sessions. Then, after a certain number of hours of work under supervision the interpreter would be able to apply to be certified, which just means to work independently. What can help to assure quality is not just through a performance test, which, of course has value, but it doesn’t answer whether or not interpreters are good at dealing with and navigating – especially in community settings – the social and setting-specific practices within that setting.

Our national organization is one of the very first in the world to have established an ethical code and certification for CI. The problem with being the first is that you don’t always do it the best, so I would suggest that people learn from that. Right now, we have the competency performance test and we also have a component where you’re given a series of three, four, or five scenarios and are asked to say what’s the ethical thing to do. Again, I find that not to be very reflective of people’s good critical thinking skills and therefore should not be used as a component of the test, but instead, looking to other professions, use this idea of supervised practice as a hurdle a practitioner would have to get over in order to practice independently. So it would be good as a quality assurance process.

MdS: I think we’ve come to the end of this very instructive and insightful conversation. Thank you very much, Robyn.

Anatomy of an ATA Conference

By Jennifer Guernsey
Reblogged from the ATA Chronicle (February 2015) with permission from the author

 ATA 57th Annual Conference

After hearing colleagues raise interesting questions regarding ATA’s Annual Conference, I decided it might be helpful to gather and publish information regarding how decisions are made concerning the selection of the conference venue and sessions. David Rumsey, ATA president-elect and conference organizer, kindly agreed to answer my myriad questions.

Conference Site Selection
How do we identify and select a conference site?

Conference locations are typically selected four to five years in advance. We generally have one to two years for ATA’s Board to evaluate potential locations and then select one of them as the host venue for the conference.

There are several factors that go into selecting a conference site. ATA typically tries to rotate the conference between the East Coast, central U.S., and the West Coast so that the conference will be relatively close to all of the membership at some point. We work with a conference specialist, Experient, to help us identify cities and hotels that can meet our needs. Since it is difficult for a single association to negotiate directly with the conference hotels, Experient helps us in the negotiation process by working directly with the hotel.

Experient looks for locations based on our cycle and then provides a list of prospective hotels. The Board discusses the options and arranges to visit one of the hotels in conjunction with one of the Board meetings. The prospective hotels provide free or discounted accommodations and/or meals for us while we are having the Board meeting and checking out the hotel, which saves the Association money on food and lodging costs. Of the four Board meetings per year, one or two of them are held in potential conference locations.

The biggest hurdle is finding a hotel that can accommodate all of the sessions. The room rate is always a major factor. ATA is in a challenging position because our group is too small for a convention center and often too large for many hotels. The hotel needs to provide 15-20 meeting rooms of various sizes. It also needs to have a venue for the exhibitors, a location for the certification exam sittings, and large areas for the meeting of all members, the closing dance, general mingling, etc. Providing meeting space for 175+ sessions of varying size can be very difficult for many hotels and locations.

In addition to having a conference hotel that will work for us, the host city needs to have easy flight connections. We also look for a host city that has a local ATA chapter to provide logistical support. Finally, we look for cities that have a lot of food and entertainment options and are attractive destinations for the membership.

ATA Annual Conferences are generally held in large, relatively expensive cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, etc. Have we considered holding conferences in cities with potentially lower hotel costs, such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Omaha, or Memphis?

First, we do consider all types of potential locations for conferences. The larger cities you mention are relatively rare. In the past 15 years, we have only held the conference in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles once. We have not been in Miami since 1985. However, we have found that larger, more popular locations generally attract more attendees. And greater attendance often means more session proposals from which to choose. We have held the conference in many less costly cities in the past (e.g., Nashville, St. Louis, Phoenix, and San Antonio), and we have typically had lower attendance.

Smaller cities, like the ones you mention, also have several complicating issues with them. They often are not easily accessible by air and, more importantly, the hotels in those locations are often unable to provide the meeting space and facilities we need. Portland, Oregon, comes to mind as one of the places that was recently considered but did not have a hotel that could meet our needs.

Can you describe the financial arrangements we make with the hotels? What do we pay for specifically, and what is included as part of an overall package?

We typically negotiate a deal through our representative at Experient, where the hotel will provide the meeting space, seating, etc., free of charge in exchange for ATA filling a minimum number of rooms (i.e., the “room block”). We pay for pretty much everything else. ATA covers all of the audiovisual equipment and the food and beverages during the meals and coffee breaks. We pay for the labor costs associated with the audiovisual equipment, the registration area, etc. If we do not fill our room block, we can be charged an attrition fee, which is based on a negotiated formula (e.g., percent of profit per unoccupied reserved room). The penalties can vary depending on the hotel.

Have we considered holding the conference in a venue that is not a hotel?

We have discussed holding the conference in other venues, including convention centers and universities. We are typically too small for a convention center. In order to make a conference in a convention center affordable, attendance needs to be in the range of 5,000+ attendees. A good conference for us includes roughly half that many attendees. At a convention center, we would be responsible for paying for all of the space as well as all of the chairs, tables, podiums, lighting, and labor costs that a conference hotel typically covers. The cost for the conference registration fees would skyrocket. People would also be responsible for arranging their own accommodations, which would not necessarily provide any cost savings or might be much farther away from the convention center. There would also be no focal point for the after-hours activities and socializing.

Hosting at universities has been discussed, but most universities and colleges are in session when we host our conference. University settings are also relatively inflexible in terms of providing the right mix of large and small spaces for 175+ sessions and other activities. Attendees might have to walk to different buildings to attend sessions. Arranging food and beverages for 2,000 attendees in those venues would be very difficult as well. Hotel accommodations might be quite a distance from the university, and again, there would be no focal point for the after-hours activities.

Selection of Conference Sessions
What considerations determine whether a particular session is included or excluded from the conference lineup?

Each proposed session is reviewed by the leadership of a related division or committee and by the conference organizer and ATA Headquarters staff. The division leadership provides feedback as to whether the session would be of interest. Headquarters provides feedback on the quality of the speaker based on past evaluations. The conference organizer makes the final decision to either accept, reject, or place a session on hold.

About how many sessions were proposed for the Chicago conference, and how many session slots did we have available?

We had over 400 session proposals and fewer than 180 slots. This meant that more than half of the sessions had to be rejected. It was a very difficult selection process.

When you have to decide between sessions that offer both good topics and good speakers, how do you choose?

Well, if the topic is good and the speaker is good, the decision is easy–accept the proposal! But then if all of the slots are taken, we try to vary the speakers and topics as best we can. It is a nerve-wracking exercise!

Do you have a specific number of sessions allocated to each division or subject area?

No, not necessarily. Our primary concern is to offer good sessions. We do not necessarily accept a poor session just because a track does not have anything in it. It is better to have no sessions in a particular track/division slot than to accept a poor session. It reflects poorly on the division and the Association. Accepting a poor session might also mean a good session gets rejected.

Are different considerations applied to the inclusion or exclusion of a preconference seminar?

There are slightly different considerations for the preconference seminars since attendees are paying considerable fees to attend them. The quality of the speaker is often very important. The topic may be very interesting, but if the speaker cannot present the material properly, the session may not be well received. As for all of the conference sessions and seminars, we typically look for sessions that have a clear focus and practical benefit to the attendees; where people feel that they gained a particular skill or information. We like the preconference seminars to be relatively hands-on.

Selection and Funding of Distinguished Speakers
How is funding allocated for distinguished speakers?

There is a set structure for the distinguished speakers in terms of covering registration, hotel, and travel. It is proportional to the amount of time the speaker is presenting at the conference. Typically, we ask distinguished speakers to present two one-hour sessions or one three-hour preconference seminar. The honoraria that are provided are intended to help defray the costs of attending the session but may not necessarily cover all of the speaker’s expenses.

If I am not mistaken, distinguished speakers used to receive full coverage of their travel plus a small honorarium. Why was this changed?

The old system was very difficult to manage financially. Speakers had their airfare covered, but there was no cap on the cost of the ticket (and therefore no incentive to look for cheaper tickets), and speakers often would not request compensation until well after the conference, which made bookkeeping difficult. With distinguished speakers coming from over 25 divisions and committees, it became unsustainable. A new system was implemented where distinguished speakers are offered a conference fee waiver, one to four nights in the conference hotel, plus an honorarium to help cover the cost of airfare or other incidentals based on their location and the number of sessions they offer. The idea is not to have distinguished speakers make money off the conference, but to share their expertise as professional colleagues.

Presumably there is a limited pool of money available to fund distinguished speakers. If the number of speaker requests exceeds the available funds, how do you determine which speakers to fund and which to deny?

We generally budget for at least one distinguished speaker in each division. However, we do not always accept the proposal from the suggested distinguished speaker, not for financial reasons, but usually because their proposed session is not particularly strong or relevant.

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Author bio
Jennifer Guernsey is a Russian>English translator specializing in medicine and pharmaceuticals. She has a degree in Russian language and literature from the University of Michigan. She began her career by translating technical monographs and patents while working Russian-related “day jobs” involving Soviet refugee processing and, later, biological defense. After more than 25 years in the translation field, her specialization has narrowed to medical and pharmaceutical translation. She also assists life scientists at area universities with editing and grant proposal preparation. Contact: mailto:jenguernsey@gmail.com.

What is a Certified Translation?

By Caitilin Walsh
Reblogged from The ATA Compass blog with permission from the author

What is a Certified TranslationIn the United States a certified translation consists of the following three parts:

1) The source-language (original) text

2) The target-language (translated) text

3) A statement signed by the translator or translation company representative, with his or her signature notarized by a Notary Public, attesting that the translator or translation company representative believes the target-language text to be an accurate and complete translation of the source-language text. Sometimes this statement bears the title “Certificate of Accuracy” or “Statement that Two Documents Have the Same Meaning.” ATA-certified translators can attach their certification stamp to the notarized statement.

Please note that any translator and any translation company representatives, regardless of credentials, may “certify” a translation in this way. A translator does not need to be “certified” in order to provide a “certified translation.” It is also important to realize that the Notary Public seal assures only that the signature is that of the person who presented him or herself to the notary; The Notary Public is not attesting to the accuracy of the translation.

What is a certified translator?

In contrast to many other countries, in the United States there is no federal or state licensing or certification for translators. There are some credentials available to translators working in some language pairs in this country, but they do not carry the same weight–in the marketplace or in the translation community–as federal licensing or certification in other countries.

The American Translators Association offers translator certification in various language pairs. ATA-certified translators are required to specify the language pairs and directions in which they are certified. For example, a translator certified in German to English is not necessarily certified in English to German.

Please note that there are many languages for which there is no type of certification or screening available in this country. There are many excellent, experienced translators and interpreters who are not certified.

In the United States it is not necessary to be certified or licensed in order to provide a certified translation for official use, unless the entity receiving the translation specifies that the translation must be done by an ATA-certified translator.

Header image credit: Unsplash
Header image edited with Canva

Death by a Thousand Cuts

By Juan Lizama
Reblogged from the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters blog with permission from the author

ATA certification examIt is not the complex syntax, long sentences or technical passages that dash the hopes of most candidates seeking to pass the American Translators Association (ATA) certification exam.

According to ATA exam graders Holly Mikkelson and Paul Coltrin, it is the many one- and two-point errors throughout the exam that add up to a failing grade. “One of my colleagues calls it ‘death by a thousand cuts’,” Mikkelson said.

Mikkelson and Coltrin recently agreed to review translations into English and Spanish of past ATA exams done by a group of Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters members studying for the exam. The group of about a dozen members meets online on a weekly basis to discuss translation assignments, different resources and strategies for translation. They also correct each other’s work using the ATA list of mistakes and the ATA grading scale. Mikkelson reviewed the Spanish to English translations and their corresponding peer reviews, and Coltrin reviewed the English to Spanish ones. Each of them presented their findings to the group in separate online sessions.

The ATA currently offers exams in 29 language pairs. According to the recent March-April issue of the ATA Chronicle magazine, the overall passing rate for foreign languages into English was 15.81% between 2004 and 2014.  Meanwhile, the overall passing rate for English into foreign languages was 14.11% for the same period.

The vast majority of translations that are out there in the real world, which in some cases are mediocre, fall short in the sense that they are “a word by word rendering of the source text, slavish of the patterns of the source text,” Coltrin said. “People often say that [a document] ‘smells like a translation’,” Coltrin said in Spanish, quickly switching to English. “And that’s not a compliment when they say that. If it has a strong feel of a translation, it’s probably not a good translation.”

“It’s perfectly fine for the translator to take freedoms in a translation as long as it preserves the meaning and flows nicely,” Coltrin said. “It’s not just desirable to make the translation smooth and functional,” he said. “It is our obligation.” Mikkelson echoed Coltrin’s comments, adding that not using common sense and not reading the whole passage before starting the translation has led exam takers to mistranslate parts of the source text.

“They can be prepositions, grammatical mistakes, misspellings that in and of themselves are not serious, but they add up,” Mikkelson said. “Those [errors] may be from carelessness, failure to proofread. They have a ‘yes’ instead of a ‘no’, ‘black’ instead of ‘white’.” ATA graders use guidelines in the form of a flowchart with a scale of zero to 16 points per error. A score of 17 and under is a passing grade. The mechanical errors, those having to do with the misuse of the target language have a maximum of four points per error. On the second column are errors that can impact content, language use and understanding of a sentence, paragraph, and even the entire text. These errors can be zero to sixteen points.

“I’ve never seen a sixteen-point error,” Mikkelson said. “Even eight-point errors are rare.” One of the many concrete examples Mikkelson highlighted from the group’s Spanish to English translations was the use of “earth” in a passage about agriculture, instead of using “land” or “soil”. This type of error distorts the meaning because the reader might think the sentence is referring to the planet as a whole. “This would be a two-point error because it would cause confusion,” she said. “But it doesn’t take out a whole paragraph and the text is still useful.”

Mikkelson advised the group to be careful with the little quirks of English in adverbs such as either…or and neither…nor. Using them with “without” or “not” would make them a double negative. There’s also a reversal of the subject and the verb with the use of these adverbs. “So you say, ‘neither did he do this’, instead of, ‘neither he did this’; or, ‘only then did I realize, rather than, ‘only then I did realize’,” she said.

Coltrin warned about falling for the traps within the passages, such as punctuation marks. He referred specifically to how the use of the dash in English is so different from its use in Spanish. “Make no mistake,” he said, “when we choose passages, we like putting that type of challenge in there because it definitely helps us to differentiate between people that really have a strong awareness of Spanish writing conventions and how they are different from English and test takers who don’t have that awareness.”

Coltrin advises to take advantage of the practice tests ATA offers for a fee. “Sometimes, people waltz in to take the exam, unprepared, and then they are surprised that they didn’t pass,” he said. “Later, they ask for a review of the exam, which is much more expensive.” They could have gotten that feedback beforehand with the much less expensive practice test, which can be a good tool to prepare.

Coltrin commended the OSTI study group for their approach to preparing not only for taking the exam, but also as a way to become better translators. Mikkelson said that translation is also a great way for interpreters to improve their delivery in the target language. And the response to the burning question from group of whether they have a chance of passing the exam—which only one member dared to ask Mikkelson—was: “I did see some good translations there,” she said. “There were definitely some passing translations among the batch. Good luck to everybody.”

Author bio
Juan LizamaJuan Lizama is a native of El Salvador, currently employed as a staff Medical Interpreter and Translator at OHSU Hospital in Portland, OR. He is preparing to take the English to Spanish ATA Certification Exam. He has a Bachelor degree in Mass Communications and Spanish, and newspaper journalism background.

What to ask your client before starting a translation

By Oleg Semerikov (@TranslatFamily)
Reblogged from the Translators Family blog with permission from the author (incl. the image)

What to ask your client before starting a translationEvery translation job is different – that goes without saying. Every client has their own set of requirements, and every job presents its own unique challenges. What can translators do to ensure a project goes smoothly from start to finish? Well, one of the best and most straightforward things you can do is to ask the client some questions.

It’s a good rule of thumb that you should never be shy to ask questions about a job. If you’re new to the translation industry, you might worry that asking questions is a sign of inexperience or insufficient training – but it’s not at all. In fact, many clients like to be asked smart questions: it shows that the translator is a professional who cares about getting the job right. And, as we said right at the start, every job is different. It doesn’t hurt to double-check details if something is unclear. As we’ll see, you might even spot something important that hadn’t occurred to the client.

Some caution is understandable, of course, and even necessary. It’s possible to go over the top and bombard the client with hundreds of questions that you could easily have answered for yourself. But it’s easy enough to apply some common sense to the matter and avoid wasting your client’s time. A short checklist like this can be helpful:

  • Is the issue something I’ve encountered before?
  • Can I look up the answer to the question online, or elsewhere?
  • Has the client provided any reference material that might answer the question (or is it available on their website, for example)?
  • Is there a single, clear course of action that I should take?

What is the target audience?

This is a potentially huge question that can significantly impact the way you handle a translation. If you’re translating a marketing brochure that provides a first look at a new product, for example, you want to make sure you introduce new ideas and terms clearly and simply, so nobody gets left behind. But if you’re translating some technical documentation for engineers to read, on the other hand, you wouldn’t want to patronise them and waste time explaining things they already know.

You can sometimes answer this question by considering the style in which the text is written in the source language, and the manner in which it’s presented (covering things like layout, content, or the probable context in which it’ll be read). But if you’re uncertain, and you think it’s likely to affect the decisions you make, get in touch with the client and ask them for advice.

What format will the file be output in?

Sometimes the answer is as simple as looking at the source file type – but sometimes it isn’t. Businesses may first produce content using a word processor with a view towards transferring it to web design or DTP software later – and, if you’re qualified and confident, you can potentially add value to your translation by saving them the time and effort of doing so. Alternatively, you might receive a package from an agency to be translated in a CAT tool like Trados and then exported to Word or some other format. If you don’t ask, you might not find out the answer until it’s too late and you find you’ve created additional unnecessary work for yourself.

Which language variant should I use?

There is no single, universal version of any language – as we’ve discussed before. Make sure you know which one the client expects. If you’re translating into English, should that be British or American English – or some other variant entirely? If you’re working into German, should that be for the German, Swiss or Austrian market? This question also ties into matters of style and tone – it’s worth finding out how colloquial you’re allowed to be, or even whether you can introduce a little of a local dialect if your text is targeting a very small, specific geographical area. This also therefore goes back to our first question of who the client’s target audience might be, and emphasises just how important it can be to resolve issues like this before you put pen to paper (or, in our age, fingers to keyboard).

How should I handle localisation issues?

Unlike the previous question, this one is less about linguistic issues like spelling and grammar, and more about practical and cultural considerations. It may require you to work with the client to find a balance between their desires and the expectations of the local target audience – and you’re very well-placed to do this. One of the many reasons native-speaker translators are so valuable is that they know their local market better than anyone else – its conventions, its standards, current trends and peculiarities. If the client is entering this market for the first time, it can be worth discussing how much they want to adapt their existing marketing strategy to meet it. They may choose to adjust their tone of voice to prove their local awareness to the market, or they may decide to use their “foreign” nature as a unique selling point – think of the way American software companies market their services in the cheery, casual tone we associate with Silicon Valley. Or the calm, understated focus on engineering prowess that we see from some German car manufacturers. Whatever decision your client makes, it’s a conversation worth having.

And even if the client has already provided a comprehensive style manual and a complete glossary for handling local terminology – we can dream, can’t we? – you may still come across smaller localisation issues, such as prices quoted in an unexpected currency, or a date and time given with no indication of the time zone. In cases like this, you’ll definitely want to check in with the client and ask them how they want to handle the situation.

Naturally, there will be plenty of other issues that come up over the course of your career in translation – many of which you won’t be able to predict before you see them. But if you feel comfortable asking your client the right questions, they’ll usually be happy to answer them. You’ll find ways to cross these bridges as you come to them, and your work will improve as a result. That’s a win for everyone – for you, for the customer, and ultimately for your bottom line.

Review of the ALC 2015 Industry Survey©

By Helen Eby
Reblogged from the ATA Interpreters Division blog with permission from the author (incl. the image)

Review of the ALC 2015 Industry Survey©Founded in 2002, the Association of Language Companies (ALC) is a US-based trade association representing businesses that provide translation, interpretation, localization, and other language services. Its goal is to deliver timely information to its members to generate more sales, increase profits, and raise awareness of the language industry. The ALC 2015 Industry Survey© is a key benefit distributed free to all its members who participate in the survey and at a reduced rate for members who elect not to participate. Non-members who did not participate in the survey can purchase it for $350. Information from the ALC 2015 Industry Survey is provided in this article with the permission of the Association of Language Companies. ALC has three membership categories: Language Service Companies in the US, outside the US, and Vendors to Language Companies. This review focuses on the results for US-based language companies.

Most companies (81%) provide services in more than five languages. According to the US Small Business Administration (SBA), Translation and Interpreting Services are a subsector of Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services. The language services industry is undoubtedly dominated by very small businesses, since only 8% of respondents report having more than 51 employees, of which between 15-20% telecommute at least 20 hours per week.

When looking at the different areas of interpreting/translation, healthcare (29%), legal (19%) and government (19%) represent the bulk of the revenue for language services mostly in translation (55%) and interpreting (42%). US-based language companies report having a median of 120 independent contractors with the vast majority of the work (89%) done by freelance interpreters/translators. In contrast, only 55% of editing is done by freelancers.

Language companies are focusing their resources on providing real quality. Despite all the hype and controversy, machine translation (MT) (including human post-edited MT, of which 90% is done by employees), represents a negligible source of income (4%). A breakdown of the revenue shows that while translating documents represents 79% of the income, desktop publishing (12%), localization (9%), and project management (5%) do not generate quite as much. Happily, 90% of respondents have their translations edited by a second translator-linguist and 32% are reviewed by a monolingual reviewer. This shows that language companies are adding real value to this industry by taking a team approach to translation consistent with the ASTM F2575-14 translation standard.

Despite all the advances in remote interpreting, onsite continues to generate 72% of the revenue and telephone only 20%. Video remote interpreting and equipment rental account for the remaining 8%. There is unfortunately no breakdown between pre-scheduled and on demand remote interpreting. This would be very useful data since they rely on very different business models.

Surprisingly, only 15% of those surveyed report having ISO certification, though 90% saw improved internal efficiency when certified. Though the ALC survey does not specify which ISO standard these companies are certified to, it most likely refers to the ISO 9000 family of quality management systems standards. These standards are designed to help organizations ensure that they meet the needs of customers and other stakeholders while meeting statutory and regulatory requirements related to a product. Over one million organizations worldwide are ISO 9001 certified by a third party, making this ISO one of the most widely used management tools in the world today.

There are, however, language industry-specific ISO standards (ISO TC37). According to a 2012 Canadian survey, only 12% of English respondents and 7% of French respondents actually use ISO TC37 standards. The most widely used ones in Canada are those related to terminology:

  • ISO 30042 Systems to manage terminology, knowledge and content – TermBase eXchange (TBX)
  • ISO 704 Terminology Work: Principles and Methods
  • ISO 639 Language Code List Series
  • ISO 12620 Data Category Registry

The high reliance of the language services industry on independent contractors coupled with the very small size of these companies underscores the high level of interdependence between companies and freelancers as well as the precariousness of the interpreting and translation professions. Unsurprisingly, the survey reveals that some of the top challenges language companies face in the US and Europe are pricing pressure and finding qualified interpreters/translators. These challenges are shared by freelance interpreters/translators and are an area ripe for joint advocacy. They also build a stronger case for sponsoring more interpreter/translator basic training and continuing education tailored to the needs the companies have.

6-Step Strategy to Translators’ Visibility

By Carlos Djomo (@carlosdjomo)
Reblogged from the Adventures in Technical Translation blog with permission from the author (incl. the image)

6-Step Strategy to Translators’ VisibilityMany budding translators usually struggle to get into the professional world. They always admit that the transition from school to the field is far from being easy, although they believe they may have mastered the art of translation. Maybe it is “simply” a matter of approach. Indeed, one may be as good as St Jerome and still not be able to find their way into the professional circles. The 6-step approach outlined below can help several beginning translators break into the fantastic world of extraordinary linguists.

1. Get online

In today’s world viewed as a global village (or marketplace), people from different places can meet through this magical space called the Internet. Although “getting” online is now part of many people’s daily routine, we need to emphasise on certain key points: how do people know you are a translator? How do they get in touch with you and request your services? Why should they trust you? How do they pay you? Complex questions, simpler answers… First, launch a website or blog, displaying relevant information (diplomas, certifications, internships, strengths, values, contact information, value proposition). Then, make this virtual vitrine easy to find. Create a profile on translation platforms (Proz, TranslatorsCafe, TranslationDirectory, etc.) and update it frequently, adding the most valuable information that will make you more “trustworthy” as a translator.

2. Socialize

Create a profile on the major social media platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) and link them to your website/blog (this will help your site ranking). Be proactive on these social media (post, share, comment, reply), leveraging the best features that characterise each of them:

  • LinkedIn: professional connections, large-scope networking, industry news
  • Facebook: large number of contacts, viral pattern
  • Twitter: fast connection, easy interactivity, real-time updates

3. Interact

It is good to have updated online profiles displaying your most advantageous points, but it is more effective to drag people to these profiles and let them spread the word about your skills. Draw a list of leading bloggers in the industry (Catherine Christaki, Paul Sulzberger, Corinne McKay, Marta Stelmaszak, Tess Whitty, Paul Filkin, the Jenner Sisters, just to name a few) and follow them. Suggest topics, comment on articles, and/or ask for clarification. Most of the time, article authors reply to their readers’ comments and share a bit of their expertise. Remember to include a link to your website in the comment form (but not affiliate links) or sign in to the said blog with any of your social media account. But make sure your comments are interesting and to the point, otherwise they will be deleted by the website administrator (especially when they look more like spams).

4. Get Experience

This sounds like a Gospel truth: experience matters. Translation is no exception to the rule. Because translation and related sciences are powerful business catalysts, business owners like their projects to be handled by experienced linguists. Most of them are reluctant to entrusting their multilingual print ad campaigns or web documentation to newly-graduated translators. So, newbies are always frustrated and wonder how they could become experienced if they are never given a chance to show what they are capable of. If this is your case, consider the various possibilities below:

  • Volunteer as a translator to NGOs and similar organisations (the UNV programme is perfect for this).
  • Apply to translation companies (especially because most of them get your translations reviewed by in-house revisers).
  • Request testimonials for any successful tasks completed and include them into your portfolio (both Proz and LinkedIn offer such a feature).
  • Handle any project as a new challenge and work hard to complete it successfully.
  • Keep on applying for new opportunities even if you have several permanent clients.
  • Manage your “famine” period as an occasion to refine your marketing strategy (check out Nicole Y. Adams’ The Little Book of Social Media Marketing for Translators) and carry out continuous professional development (CPD) activities.

5. Build Reputation

Have a look at the industry. Since you started out in the profession, what problems seem to have remained unsolved? Whenever you discover pitfalls of specific software, practices that still prove ineffective, or ways and means to boost productivity among your profession, write them down as personal notes. Use these as the basis for guest posts, podcasts, or practical guides. Share tips through a variety of media/platforms (including Slideshare, Scribd or Prezi) and link your files back to your website/blog. Make all your productions interconnected and easily accessible. Share them among your email and social media contacts and let them spread the word.

6. Assess Yourself

Always self-assess your progress and, by so doing, be as sincere as possible. From the starting point, have you gone that far? (Don’t stop building capacity) What have you learned along the way? (Keep sharing your knowledge) What mistakes have you made and how can you avoid them in the future? (Refine your procedures and strategies) Give back to the community (Be humanist). Support a cause and let others benefit from your expertise, wealth or both.

Sure, there may be other ways of boosting a translator’s visibility. Feel free to share your own experience through comments.