How is the T&I industry laid out?

This post is the first in a series of five posts written in response to questions we at The Savvy Newcomer have received, sometimes from people within the translation world, but also from bilingual friends and family who are interested in translation and interpreting (T&I). Our hope is that this series will serve as a guide for people who are considering a career in T&I and want to know where to begin.

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How is the T&I industry laid out?

As a preface, I can think of numerous times since I began working as a translator that friends and family have come to me with questions about my work. Do I actually have a job? Do people pay me to do it? Who do I work for? The questions are not always this blatant, but I can often sense the underlying question of how the translation and interpreting industry really works, and whether it is a viable career for someone who knows a second language. In short, the answer is yes!

The question of how our industry is laid out is usually one that people do not ask straight-out, but it is the first topic I address in my response. It is crucial to have this foundational knowledge before you consider becoming a translator or an interpreter so you can decide if you—your lifestyle, your skills, your background—will make a good fit for the industry, and vice versa.

Translation vs. interpreting

The first distinction to make is the difference between translation and interpreting. Check out the infographic below to get an idea (credit: lucomics.com). Translation is written; when you translate, you receive a document in one language and translate it into another language—usually on a computer, but sometimes by hand. Interpreting is spoken; interpreters work in person, by phone, or by video, interpreting words spoken in real time by conveying the same message out loud in a second language so that another person or other people can understand what was said.

Translation and interpreting require very different skills; translators are strong writers with a good grasp of writing conventions in their target language. They need to be able to properly understand the source language to create a suitable translation. Interpreters, on the other hand, should have a strong command of speaking skills in both languages and must be able to produce coherent and accurate renditions of what is being said as it is said.

What is a language pair?

The combination of languages in which a translator or interpreter provides services is called their “language pair.” Translators usually work from one language into another; for example, I work from Spanish into English (Spanish>English), which means that my clients send me documents in Spanish and I deliver translated documents in English. It is a good rule of thumb to remember that translators usually work into their native language. This is because most of us are naturally better writers in our native tongue, so we work from our second language into our first. Interpreters, alternatively, may work with both languages at the same level; for example, if an interpreter is hired to help a doctor communicate with her patient, the interpreter will need to speak both languages so both parties are understood. In this case, we would say that the interpreter’s language pair is Spanish-English, since he is not working into one language or the other. As a side note, some interpreters offer their services at conferences where the speaker or presenter speaks in one language and some or all attendees need to hear the presentation in their own language (this is called conference interpreting). If, for example, a group of marine biologists from Mexico attends a conference in Miami, their interpreter would be working from Spanish>English, and would most likely provide the interpretation simultaneously through a headset while the speaker is speaking.

Who do you work for?

This is one of the questions I hear most often. A high percentage of translators and interpreters are freelancers, which means we work for ourselves! Our clients may be translation agencies or direct clients from other companies that require our services. Most T&I professionals work for clients all across the world, which makes for an interesting workday! Some full-time employment opportunities exist for translators and interpreters, but much of the industry is built on an independent contractor model. There are pros and cons to working for yourself:

Pros Cons
Flexible schedule Unstable income
The more you work, the more you earn Loneliness
Work varies and can be very interesting No employer benefits

What does it take?

To become a skilled and successful translator or interpreter, it is important to be self-motivated! Especially if you are going to become a freelancer, you want to be sure that you have the fortitude to set your own schedule, manage your time, and keep growing your business. It is also essential to have strong language skills in two or more languages. It is important to recognize that being bilingual does not automatically make someone a translator or interpreter! Knowing two languages is crucial, but it is important to have training or experience that teaches you the ins and outs of translating or interpreting: the pitfalls you may encounter, best practices, and the code of ethics by which you must live and work. Bilingual individuals who are not cut out to be translators or interpreters and want to use their bilingual skills in other capacities can find great career opportunities as language teachers, bilingual medical or legal providers, language project managers, and so forth. In fact, bilingual individuals can play a key role in just about any profession imaginable.

We hope this helps to answer some of the initial questions you may have about translation and interpreting! Stay tuned for the next installment: “Starting from Scratch.”

Header image: Pixabay

Pursuing the Translation Dream: What to Know Before the Phone Rings

Have you ever asked yourself if you have what it takes to be a translator? You probably know it takes more than being bilingual, but did you know there is more to it than being a good translator? If you are curious to know what it takes to build a successful translation career, you may be pleased to learn of this hidden gem offered by the ATA: A Self-Evaluation Questionnaire for Translators. This comprehensive “checklist” for newcomers to the field is a juicy resource that answers the question of what it really takes to be a translator.

Let’s be honest: I would posit that few, if any, successful translators got to where they are today by methodically checking off boxes on a similar list. One example is Pilar Saslow, who writes in another article about what she learned from her follies: The Top Three Things I Wish Somebody Told Me When I First Started As a Freelance Translator. Entry into the profession is rarely a smooth and linear process. However, I do not doubt that many seasoned translators would have loved to have had such a list when they were starting out.

This post kicks off a new Savvy Newcomer series that will highlight questions from the ATA checklist for new translators. In each post, we will delve into several questions and offer additional insights. In today’s post, we explore the first section: “Professional Preparation (What I need to know before the phone rings).”

Am I willing to invest time, money, and physical and emotional energy to build a career?

There is no such thing as a career that does not require investment. However, most “traditional” careers follow a well-tread path towards success, whether that means obtaining a degree, earning a license, or getting hired at a company. On the contrary, most translators are self-employed, and this independence comes with added responsibilities, including self-motivation. A career in translation requires an ongoing commitment beyond the act of translating alone. But if you love the art itself, you will probably not hesitate to invest the time, money, and energy it takes to build a translation career. Alina Cincan elaborates on the first steps towards investing in your career in her post How (Not) to Be a Professional Translator and 6 Tips to Help You Become One.

Do I know the difference between an employee and an independent contractor in terms of tax law?

Not only are most translators self-employed; the majority are also independent contractors. Independent contractors provide services based on a verbal or written contract (hence the name) with another entity that is not their employer. Unlike the relationship between employer and employee, where the employer pays a portion of the employee’s taxes (in the US, usually 50%), independent contractors are responsible for paying the full amount of taxes owed each year.

Furthermore, it is the independent contractor’s responsibility to keep track of all payments received in exchange for work and to declare and pay taxes on this amount annually or quarterly. This means putting aside approximately 30% of all taxable earnings (i.e., after deductions such as costs, depreciation, etc.) If you live in the US, you can find more information on taxes for independent contractors via the Internal Revenue Service (IRS): Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center. Our own Jamie Hartz also offers tips on paying taxes in this review of The Money Book.

Is my resume up to date and appropriate?

If you plan to offer services as a translator, it is important to have a resume dedicated solely to translation. You may want to include experience in relevant subject areas, but the job you held at the local pet shop years ago probably does not qualify.

Once you have your ideal translation resume, make sure not to let it collect dust. There is nothing like getting a resume request from a prospective client and letting the email languish while you scramble to get your resume in order. Taking the time to update your resume periodically will save you the headache later, and might even land you the client.

Find more tips in Marta Stelmaszak’s guide to translator CVs.

Am I able to give a reasonably accurate word count (in source and/or target languages) and turnaround estimate relatively quickly after I have seen the document?

Some things you simply cannot know until you know them, and word count and turnaround estimates sometimes fall into this category. However, one way to gain control is by tracking word counts and time spent on each project.

Use a tool like Toggl to determine how long it takes you to complete an assignment based on project or document type. You can also keep track of word output per hour to get an idea of how long it takes you to translate certain documents. Once you have your numbers, continue to expect the unexpected and give yourself a buffer so you are able to submit your projects on time.

Have I prearranged quality control measures to guarantee a top-notch product (such as time to mull over my draft, proofing tools, time to proofread, a third reading by a colleague with source- or target-language background, a subject area expert to consult, etc.)?

Never underestimate the importance of quality control. Like many translators, I consider myself a perfectionist, but experience has taught me that even perfectionists make mistakes. There are some things only a second pair of eyes will catch, like the misspelling of epidural (“epdiural”) that I once accidentally added to my dictionary in Word, causing spell check to overlook the typo. Whenever possible, it is invaluable to have a subject-matter expert on hand (whose fees you can budget into your quote) and to allow for ample time to mull over your draft.

Now that we have taken a closer look at things to keep in mind when first deciding to pursue a career in translation, it is time to prepare for what to do when your first clients start trickling in. Stay tuned for the next post in the series: “What to Do When the Phone Rings” (or when the first email arrives, in today’s business world!). Can’t wait for more inspiration? Check out this post by Corinne McKay with tips for new translators and interpreters.

Image source: pixabay

Resources to Help Ensure Translation Payment

Resources to Help Ensure Translation PaymentOne of the questions that many newer translators ask is “How do I find good clients?” This question is often closely followed by a second: “How do I know they’re good?” To address this topic, specifically regarding scams and non-payment by translation clients, Ted Wozniak recently presented a session at the ATA conference titled “Ensuring Payment Before, During, and After the Project” which included an overview of the many actions translators can take in order to minimize the risk of not being paid for their services.

This list contains a variety of online resources that freelancers can use to vet potential clients, report non-payers and scammers, and get/share information about translation payment issues in general.

Online Resources

“Nigerian check scam alerts”
A free database of names and email addresses of assumed “Nigerian check scams” directed specifically at translators and interpreters.
www.paymentpractices.net/Scams.aspx

Blue Board – Proz
21,432 total outsourcers, searchable by name or country, as of 21 November 2016. Not all listings have scores. The LWA (likelihood of working again) is a subjective score from 1 to 5 that is entered by service provider. While there are numerous rules governing Blue Board postings, there are no rules or guidelines on how to rate an outsourcer, e.g. what constitutes a 1 or a 5.
www.proz.com/blueboard/

Hall of Fame & Shame – TranslatorsCafe
Reserved for paying members ($110/year) or to ATA certified translators who have their certification verified by TC for $25. 6,196 registered site members have access to this forum. The Hall of Fame & Shame forum contains 12,647 rating records for 2,525 agencies of the total of 7,094 agency profiles and 6,949 rating records for service providers. Caveat – When “praising” an outsourcer you do not have to confirm that you have actually worked for them, but that you would work for them again. Conversely, when “complaining”, you must affirm that you would not work for them again. No “neutral” or third-party comments allowed.
www.translatorscafe.com

Payment Practices
The “grandfather” of all payment issues lists, founded as a Yahoo Groups list in 1999. The database is searchable by a variety of parameters and contains 11,749 outsourcers, 8,717 responses (direct experience) and 3,398 comments (non-payment related information or summary of reports from other lists) on those outsourcers. The annual subscription fee is $19.99/€19.99. A free 7-day trial is available, as is a discounted rate for ATA members.
www.paymentpractices.net

Translation Scammers
Listing of various scammers (Nigerian check scams, CV theft, etc.) Not for reporting payment issues. http://www.translator-scammers.com/

Translation Ethics
Basically dead since 2014 but still has some good advice.
http://translationethics.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html#.VP2p1-HQO9Y

Mailing Lists

Betaalmoraal (Dutch)
400 members.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/betaalmoraal/info

The TCR List (Translator Client Review List)
http://www.webelists.com/cgi/lyris.pl?site=tcr&id=634874789

the-checklist (Italian)
1,020 members, 20 messages/month.
https://it.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/the-checklist/info

TradPayeur (French)
531 members. Not very active (31 messages so far in 2016, only 21 in all of 2015).
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/tradpayeur/info

Translation Agencies Payment Practices
Online message group, 190 topics (not very active 12 messages in 2015, 7 so far in 2016).
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/transpayment

Translation Agency Payment
1,155 members, 3 messages/month.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/translationagencypayment/info

translation-agencies
Any issues connected with translation agencies, not just payment. 1,174 members, on life support; 2 message in 2016, 0 in 2015. Topics seem to go in fits and starts.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/translation-agencies/info

TranslationPaymentsWhoWhenWhat
630 members. On life support. 12 messages in 2015, 17 messages in 2016.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/translation-agencies/info

Untrustworthy Translation Agencies
The full list of 700+ outsourcers (as of 31 Aug 2010) can be obtained by becoming a member (€96/year as of 1/2014). This info has not been updated since 2014 so its extent and usefulness are unknown. www.translationdirectory.com/non-payers.htm

WPPF
1,997 members, 47 messages/month.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/WPPF/info

Zahlungspraxis (German)
2,586 members, 25,168 messages, about 100/month.
https://de.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/zahlungspraxis/info

Inactive Lists

The groups and lists below are inactive or moribund; you should ignore them if they show up in your search.

Práticas Comerciais de Tradução (Portuguese)
124 members, 5 messages/month. Dead.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/pp_brasil/info

Translators-RedAlert-Hotline
57 members, Dead.
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/Translators-RedAlert-Hotline/

transpaybulletin
All spam. No legitimate mail since 2007.
http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/transpaybulletin/

Transref
480 members, no activity since May 2010.
http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/transref

Other resources

EU Directive 2000/35/EC
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2000:200:0035:0038:en:PDF

ATA Business Practices list
(NOT for payment issues)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ata_business_practices/

FIT Europe
Information on debt collection procedures in various countries. Go to site, then click on What We Do > Completed Projects > Debt Collection Procedures.
http://www.fit-europe.org/
http://www.fit-europe.org/en/what-we-do/completed-projects/debt-collection-procedures

LinkedIn Groups

Unacceptable Translation Rates Naming & Shaming Group
Translation Agency Business Practices
Translation Agencies – Good, Bad and Cheap

We hope this list of resources will be of help next time you are vetting a new client! If you have resources to add to this list, please comment below.

Header image credit: StockSnap

Resources courtesy of Ted Wozniak

Ted R. WozniakTed R. Wozniak holds bachelor’s degrees in accounting and German and is a graduate of the German Basic Course at the Defense Language Institute. Before becoming a freelance translator, he was an accountant, stockbroker, Army liaison officer in Germany, and an interrogation instructor at the U.S. Army Intelligence School. After pursuing graduate studies in Germanics, he became a freelance German > English translator, specializing in finance, accounting and taxation. He is also the president of Payment Practices, Inc., an online database of translation-company payment practices, a former mentor at the Graham School, University of Chicago German to English financial translation program, a former instructor in the New York University German to English financial translation course, isthe current Treasurer of the American Translators Association, and owner/moderator of Finanztrans, a mailing list for German financial translators. He resides in New Orleans, LA.

What Happens When Translators Go on Autopilot

Personally, I do not believe specialized human translators who actively use their brains will ever be replaced by machines. But if you put your brain on autopilot and work like a machine, then you could be at risk of becoming some kind of zombie cyborg competing with full-fledged machines! Here are some common problems I have seen in myself and other translators when we go on autopilot and do not think about what we are doing.

When you put your brain on autopilot in my favorite sport

Do you see the similarities in this hilarious video? This is what a translator who accidentally quoted too short a deadline while on autopilot looks like trying to catch up!

When I put my brain on autopilot and blindly trust the GPS

Have you ever done this? I feel so stupid when I show up late to a meeting or event because I blindly trusted my GPS and was too lazy to spend two minutes actively using my brain to think about where I was going! I type an address on the GPS, don’t look at the map at all, and press go, whether in the car or on foot. Sometimes something goes terribly wrong. I get confused. I have to pull over and frantically look at the map. Other times, if I just slow down, take a deep breath, and use my brain actively, I can study the route I will be taking for two minutes and I’m good to go. Even though the GPS is on, I know where I am and where I am going, and I am not as prone to getting lost.

This is exactly what I propose you do in your translation business to avoid going on autopilot: Stop yourself. Slow down for a moment. Don’t act without thinking. Take a deep breath. Use your brain actively. Examine the context, situation, and conditions around you more closely. And then, after you have all the information you need to make an informed decision, put in a conscious effort, know where you are, and know where you are going.

Quoting a price on autopilot

X number of words equals price Y—done.”

Hold the phone! Is the text within your grasp? Do you have the subject matter knowledge and expertise required to translate it? How complex is it? Is it a list of words or running text? Approximately how long has it taken you to complete similar projects? How long do you think it will take you this time? How much do you aim to make per hour? How important is the text to the client? What do you think it is worth to them and what do you think they are willing to pay for it?

Quoting a deadline on autopilot

“4,000 words? Delivery on Friday (two days)—done”

Hold your horses! What if the client doesn’t accept your quote until Thursday? Isn’t it better, then, to quote X number of business days following confirmation? Your daily output will not necessarily always be the same for all types of texts. Think about how long this specific project will take you. Double check your calendar to see if you will have enough time. Think about and find out how urgent it really is for the client before you bend over backwards unnecessarily.

Translating a term on autopilot

“Source language term X equals target language term Y—done.”

Wait a second! If you put yourself in the shoes of the specific target group, do you understand what this term means? Have you checked whether it corresponds to standard terminology used by native speakers in the relevant industry?

Translating a sentence on autopilot

“I translated the words—done.”

But is the sentence effective in communicating the intended meaning optimizing any calls to action? Is the information clear and easy to understand? Has the sentence structure been adapted to target language conventions?

Translating a document on autopilot

“I translated each sentence—done.”

Did you adapt the punctuation and check how the text flows as a whole? Did you check it in its final layout, beyond the CAT tool’s sentence-by-sentence structure? Examine it as a whole and see if there is any room for improvement once you get a better feel for the overall context and the role each part plays in the whole.

Sending and forgetting on autopilot

“I finished a project, now on to the next one.”

Hold up! How will you ever improve if you don’t know or care what happens to a text after you deliver it? And you could be missing out on opportunities to contribute to higher quality and a better reputation. Don’t just send and forget. Forward any questions and concerns you might have. Flag anything you aren’t sure about. Leave alternative suggestions where applicable. Ask to see edits, offer to review any in-house changes the client makes (I don’t mean for free, but be proactive). Ask the client if they are satisfied. Ask how the target group responded to it.

Running your business on autopilot

“When I receive a project, I take it. Then I rest until the next one comes. Done.”

Listen up! A business on autopilot is only focused on the present. A sustainable business model where you use your brain actively is focused on long-term improvement. If you want to command higher rates in the future, find better clients, and consistently grow your business over time, you have to set aside some time now to invest in the future. This works the same as the other points above: Stop. Take a deep breath. Analyze your current situation. Analyze the market. Figure out where you are and where you are going. Take action. Invest in strengthening your specialization. Invest in networking with potential clients within your area of specialization. Update your website. Be strategic about where, when, and how you do all this. That’s using your brain actively to run your business as opposed to running it on autopilot!

I hope you found this helpful. God knows I have done these things myself in the past and I kick myself every time! But awareness is the first step. One of the biggest problems is when you do these things unconsciously. And, of course, keep in mind that my comments about translating a term, sentence, and document, and on sending and forgetting, are largely based on my own experience with translations of corporate communications for direct clients. Nevertheless, I would venture to suggest that all of these points are highly relevant for translation agency projects as well. Sometimes it’s easier to spot autopilot behavior in others, but that doesn’t mean you have to be the bad guy. Colleagues collaborating on a project can benefit from reminding each other, playing a constructive role, and keeping each other on their toes.

What do you think? Have you kicked yourself after going into autopilot? Or facepalmed when you notice someone else doing it? Was there anything that helped you steer clear of cruise control? Please share in the comments!

Header image: Pixabay

Translation Certificate vs. Certification

By Helen Eby and Daniela Guanipa

“I have a certificate, therefore I’m certified.” Wrong!

So, you completed a certificate in translation from institution XYZ, you were given a nice diploma of completion, and surely, you are now a happily “certified” translator, who can go on and certify translations, list yourself as a certified translator in professional databases, and so on, correct? Well… Not so fast.

While a certificate in translation or interpreting will demonstrate you are seriously interested in the profession and taking all the right steps to learn everything you can about this new endeavor, it does not attest to your mastery of skills at a professional level in the T&I field.

Having a diploma from a certificate program indicates you have completed a program of study on a specific subject. You might have studied translation or interpreting at large, or a more specific field, such as medical translation or legal interpreting. Most of these programs are open to both newcomers and experienced professionals. When you list your certificate, you may want to specify what kind of certificate it is, such as:

  • NYU Certificate in Translation from language Y to language Z (you may want to state the number of courses taken and your GPA)
  • 60-hour Medical Interpreting Training approved by the Oregon Health Authority by XXX provider.

On the other hand, a certification is a competency-based assessment designed to evaluate mastery of certain skills. This assessment is usually done by means of a proctored examination. For example, ATA certification evaluates mastery of translation skills in specific language pairs; court interpreting certification evaluates mastery of sight translation, consecutive interpreting and simultaneous interpreting at specific speeds for specific durations at a certain performance benchmark. Certification also usually requires that you stay current with the profession by means of continuing education and continued practice in the field. These principles are acknowledged as Standards 19 to 21 of the Standards for the Accreditation for Certification Programs, issued by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

When you are certified, you should be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • Are you a certified translator? Interpreter? Or both?
  • What did your certification process entail?
  • Which certifying authority or organization granted the certification?
  • In which language(s) or language combination(s) are you certified?
  • Are there any limitations to your certification?
  • How much experience do you have interpreting/translating?
  • Are you required to maintain your certification with experience or continuing education?

These questions come from a resource prepared by the Federal government which clearly defines what being a certified interpreter or translator entails. We recommend that you distribute this resource broadly!

You can certify a translation whether you are certified or you have a certificate. Just make sure you state your qualifications accurately in your translator’s statement. The following is the recommended statement from the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), in its publication titled Guide to Translation of Legal Matters, page 12:

“I, ______________, certified by the (state name) Administrative Office of the Courts for Spanish-English court interpreting and accredited by the American Translators Association for Spanish to English translation, do hereby declare that the attached birth certificate, identified with serial number ___________, is a true and correct translation of the Spanish original.”

The Institute for Credentialing Excellence has a great chart that compares Certificates with Certification.

Misrepresentation of credentials is a serious issue from the point of view of the ATA Code of Ethics, canon 3:

“…to represent our qualifications, capabilities, and responsibilities honestly and to work always within them”

Certified professionals are bound by a code of ethics. This is not so with non-certified professionals. However, misrepresentation of credentials earns you mistrust with your clients and colleagues. Here are some examples of resume padding and their potential consequences. In writing this article we discovered that resume padding has become a fairly common practice and here are some alarming statistics about it. Your clients and colleagues will not be pleased if they discover you have overstated your qualifications. Misrepresentation of credentials is also a deceptive advertising practice; the Better Business Bureau Code of Advertising is a good guide to learn more about this topic. It’s important to be mindful of the fact that your ATA profile is the only resume many of your clients see.

Professional certifications are publicly verifiable in most cases, so your clients and colleagues could double-check any certifications you list. If they have expired because you have not maintained them, it is best to keep your profiles and email signatures updated.

In this post, we have made reference to United States sources. However, the principles of certification expiration and the difference between certification, certificate, etc., apply in other countries as well.When stating your credentials, it is best to identify the certifying body and the country in which you obtained your qualification, as well as the expiration date, to avoid confusion.

Remember: Your ATA profile, your LinkedIn profile and your Facebook page are your public resumes. Your reputation for reliability is based on these public profiles. Make sure they represent you accurately! In a world where resume padding is so prevalent, people double-check your public profiles as a matter of due diligence.

Image credit: Pixabay

NAJIT Scholar Program – May 19-21, 2017

Posted with NAJIT’s permission

NAJIT logoOur team at The Savvy Newcomer caught wind of a great opportunity for students and recent graduates – check out the information below to learn more!

What is the NAJIT Scholar Program?

The Scholars program of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) selects up to five scholars currently enrolled in or who have graduated from translation and interpretation programs in North America in 2016 and 2017 to attend NAJIT’s 38th Annual Educational Conference. The Conference will be held from May 19-21, 2017. Full details can be found on the main conference page.

Who is eligible to apply?

Spoken Language or Visual Language (American Sign Language) Translating or Interpreting (T&I) students and 2016 graduates of a T&I program from an academic institution may apply for one of the 2017 NAJIT Scholars Awards.  There is no limit to the number of applications any given T&I Program may submit for consideration. Previous recipients of this Scholarship are not eligible to reapply. Active members of NAJIT are not eligible to apply for this Award unless they can verify their T&I student status.

What do I receive with the NAJIT Scholar Award?

Each successful applicant under this program, the 2017 “NAJIT Scholar Award,” shall receive the following:

  • Complimentary registration for NAJIT’s 38th Annual Educational Conference
  • A stipend of $500 (in the form of a check to be presented at the conference) to help the NAJIT Scholars meet lodging or travel expenses, or to be used any way the Scholar deems fit
  • Complimentary registration for one full day pre-conference workshop or two half-day pre-conference workshops
  • Complimentary student membership in NAJIT for one full year, including a one-year subscription to NAJIT’s publication, Proteus

Note: Transportation, lodging arrangements, and costs associated with travel are the sole responsibility of the NAJIT Scholar. The NAJIT Scholar will need to cover three nights in the conference hotel. A discounted hotel rate is available for reservations made prior to April 17th, 2017 (Make your reservation early as space is limited). NAJIT will assist the Scholars in making roommate arrangements if possible, but cannot guarantee that a suitable roommate will be available. Conference events that are included in the NAJIT Scholars Award are: the Friday evening Scholars’ Reception, continental breakfasts on Saturday/Sunday, the Saturday group luncheon for the Annual Business Meeting, and the Saturday evening reception.

In the event a Scholar is unable to attend the conference and utilize NAJIT’s Scholarship, the $500 stipend shall be forfeited. The registration fees waived under the scholarship have no cash value.

Scholarship applications must be submitted by March 13, 2017.

Questions? Email Susan Cruz at mailto:admin@najit.org

The Chair of the NAJIT Board of Directors will notify all Scholarship Recipients of the results immediately after the judges’ decision. No later than March 27, 2017.

Please review the full 2017 NAJIT Scholar Program Policies and Procedures for complete details. See more info at: https://najit.org/conference-scholar-program/

ATA Written and Keyboarded exams: A personal account

by Helen Eby

ATA Written and Keyboarded examsI prepared for the ATA Translation Certification exam with my Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters (OSTI) colleagues. The exam has an overall pass rate of under 20%, which varies by language pair and exam year. We took our preparation seriously.

On the ATA exam, every point counts against you. ATA has published a list of errors they check against and a rubric that explains how they assign points to each error. To pass, you cannot accumulate more than 17 points. If you do, you fail! In our OSTI study program, we spent 25 online sessions plus a couple of in-person meetings working on how to internalize these rubrics. This made us all better translators and interpreters.

Some comments from study group members who took the exam in Bend, Oregon:

“I found the test to be very challenging even with our preparations. You can tell they intentionally set the bar very high! Although I can’t pinpoint seeing any specific tripwire on the test that we tackled in our group, it’s clear that our hard work left me much more prepared than I would have been otherwise.” Emily Safrin

“I feel the same way; I found the exam more difficult than the different practice tests I worked on through the study group. Even though I work on a different language pair, the group discussions about the English source texts helped me regarding terminology or tricky sentences.” Myriam Grandchamp

Personally, I was encouraged. I had good scores on my practice tests. I was taking the exam in both directions (Spanish<>English) and had taken two tests in each of my language pairs. For my Spanish to English practice test, I had a score of 12 on one text and 12 on the second text. For my English to Spanish practice test, I had a score of 13 on one text and 11 on the second one I took. Better yet, I knew that my colleagues were also well prepared. Some had decided to take the exam in 2017 and some were taking it this year. We had a good understanding of what we were facing.

Keyboarded exam, September 11, 2016

Keyboarded exams are a new development for ATA. Test-takers are allowed to bring their own computers to the site, but have to save the translation onto a USB provided by ATA, not onto their hard drives. The guidelines for the computerized exam are listed here. See this link for a list of approved and banned websites.

I took the keyboarded exam from English into Spanish in Philadelphia. I had spent the previous day at the Delaware Valley Translators Association (DVTA) conference, enjoying being at an event where I had no responsibilities, being just one of the crowd. There, Tony Guerra, the DVTA president, reminded us that certified translators earn an average of $10,000 more per year than non-certified translators. The pressure was on! But I was relaxed.

Before the exam, I had done some things that helped me focus on good writing. I had just attended the Editorial Freelancers Association conference in New York, which focused on copy editing. I also spent a lot of time reading good literature on my iPad the week before.

Instead of carrying a load of dictionaries from the West Coast, I used the bookmarks on the OSTI resources page and on the Mosqueteras site, a blog focused on good Spanish writing, as my references. That was why we had been setting them up over the year! I also had a few of my favorite quick reference hard copy books.

What did I do during the keyboarded exam?

  1. I started by reading the text, just like I do with every single translation I work on.
  2. I looked for challenges, both in terms of words and in terms of sentence structure. I made a chart of how I would solve those on a sheet of paper before I got started. I actually spent about 45 minutes doing that research on each text before I started writing.
  3. Then I translated the mandatory text. Of course, I found extra things to research, and I changed my mind about a few of the solutions, but my research helped a lot.
  4. I took a break to clear my head. I moved on to the draft of the second translation and repeated steps 1 to 3 with the next text. I had to choose between texts B and C, which were different specialties.
  5. Then I took another break. I colored with some markers I had taken, so I could somehow separate from the translation task.
  6. Then I reviewed the two texts, in order.
  7. Another break. Then I reviewed both texts again.

What did I find in the review process?

I noticed that my typing was bad. I was fixing typos right up until the end of the three hours! Not having spell check affected my ability to type well.

We had to work in WordPad, which does not have a spell check, but I could check terms in online dictionaries. So I did! In some cases, that led me to a better solution.

I used the online resources available effectively. It was certainly nice to not have to travel with a suitcase full of books! However, having a few hard copy books was very helpful.

I also took creative breaks by coloring and doing pushups against the wall on my way back from the bathroom. This helped clear my head from the translation and look at it with fresh eyes. The proctors who observed me coloring told me they had never seen that before. (For online exams, there is one proctor for every five test-takers, to keep an eye on what is on the computer screens.)

Written exam, September 25, 2016

I took the written exam from Spanish to English in Bend, Oregon. Here, I was taking the exam with my friends. It was fun! I walked in with my suitcase full of dictionaries. Because of my practice test results, I felt confident. Regardless, I spent some time the night before reading good literature, so my brain would be tuned into good English and Spanish.

My translation process was similar to the one I had experimented with in Philadelphia. It was fresh in my mind, since I had taken the exam two weeks before. The breaks helped.

In this exam, I didn’t have to worry about typos. I just had to worry about my handwriting. Honestly, it’s just as bad! And I scratched my paper up so much that I really missed the option of doing a cut and paste so the grader could read a clean document. I have attended some sessions where we have been told to not fret over handing over a clean document. They would rather have us focus on just finishing the job. So I did.

Results

While I waited for the results, it was helpful to remind myself that I am just as good a translator today as I was yesterday. In November I learned that I passed the Spanish to English certification exam and did not pass the English to Spanish certification exam. I also recently passed an exam administered by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, so I am now a Washington State certified English to Spanish Document Translator (see this link for more information).

As my study group focused on cracking the certification code, we were focusing on the details of what makes a translation better. Now that I am certified, as I do my regular work as a translator and reviewer of other people’s work, I feel that we should use the ATA list of errors and the flowchart for error point decisions to help us grow and to provide better peer review. Thank you, ATA, for providing a great framework for professional growth! I plan to keep using it.

Header image credit: tookapic

Writing for the Web

By Helen Eby

Writing for the WebLast August, I went to New York City for the Editorial Freelancers Association Conference, and one of the topics was editing for the web. That topic is not only important to editors – it is also highly relevant to translators and many other professions. We write content every day, and we have to find ways to make our content stick out among the wealth of other content that appears online all the time. Here are some of the main points that I picked up from Erin Brenner’s presentation, Editing for the Web. I have also included information I learned in other workshops.

Readers are looking for what they need, right away! Therefore, we have to provide text that meets those needs and leads them toward meeting their goals efficiently.

Our goals are the same as always:

  • Give the audience information. They are trying to satisfy a need.
  • Make the audience comfortable. They won’t stay on a site that is not respectful and attractive!

However, writing online also comes with some limitations:

  • We read slower online.
  • 80% of readers’ time is spent before scrolling down on a page.
  • Readers generally spend no more than two minutes on a site.

How can we help our readers use their time advantageously? How can we make our message as clear and effective as possible? Erin focused on looking at our content from the point of view of the reader, not the author.

How should we format our material to engage our audience?

White space helps guide us to what is important. When a page is too cluttered, it becomes difficult to read, and people are likely to gloss over it. What tools can we use to organize our writing more effectively?

  • Specific, clear headings
  • Short paragraphs, and paragraphs of varying lengths
  • Tables
  • Bulleted lists
  • Block quotes
  • Bold and italics

It can often be helpful to take a look at the final online version and see how the text lines up there before an article is published.

Titles and Headings: Keep them clear

We need to make headlines and subheads specific and clear. The key words from the article should be in the title. Keep titles down to 50 characters or less, including spaces. Ask yourself: If I were searching for an article about this topic, what words would I use? Then, put those words together.

This helps in two ways:

  • Readers know what they are getting.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) can be improved.

Paragraphs: Break them up, keep them short

Online, it works better to write in short paragraphs. We need the white space, so find shifts to break up paragraphs. Write the most important information at the start of the paragraph, because people might skip the rest. Focus on uncluttering your text at all cost. When in doubt, just delete it. This is called Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF).

The following are some changes we would make in text for online media.

Print media example Online media version
A decision to buy. A buying decision.
The impact of the content. The content’s impact.
I am able to. I can.
Present progressive (I am coming). Present tense (I come).
Passive voice is OK for science texts. Lean towards the active voice.

Tables

As shown in the table above, we can use tables to highlight comparisons side by side. This can be much more effective than paragraphs or lists, since it puts information not just in a vertical organization (as in lists) or a linear organization (as in paragraphs) but in a two-dimensional format, making some information much clearer.

Bulleted Lists

You can use lists to make information clear and scannable. However, bear in mind the following:

  • Keep each item short.
  • Reserve numbered lists for sequential items. Otherwise, just use bullets.
  • Avoid embedding lists within lists, or items will seem off topic.

Block Quotes

When to use block quotes is determined differently online and in print. In print, we make a quote a block quote if it is more than 3 or 4 sentences long. However, when writing online, important quotes are always made block quotes. Also, examples are always block quotes.

Bold, Italic, and Underlining: How should we use them?

Use bold to emphasize:

  • Key words and key ideas
  • Introductions to the bullet list
  • New terms
  • Short examples

Be consistent about bold type. Do not overdo it. Beware of using color in bold because of people with visual impairments.

Italics are hard to read online. However, they are used instead of underlining. Do not underline! Online, underlining means links. Double underlining is a link to an advertisement.

What are the results?

As we engage our readers with clear, BLUF text, they will trust us to serve them again. That is what we want: to be able to continue a long conversation with our readers. After all, online interaction is a conversation they start and we respond to, serving them first and foremost. As I read in a shoe store bathroom wall this week:

A sale is nothing you pursue: it’s what happens to you while you are immersed in serving your customer.

Enjoy serving your readers!

For further reading:
Wikipedia’s Manual of Style
BuzzFeed Style Guide
Redish, Janice. Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content That Works, 2nd. Ed. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Morgan Kaufmann, 2014. Print.

Header image credit: Picjumbo
Header image edited with Canva

5 pitfalls to avoid in your freelance translator web copy

by David Friedman

5 pitfalls to avoid in your freelance translator web copyImagine you are your own ideal client and you stumble across your translation website. Would you be able to find out everything you need to know from the website quickly and easily? Are the benefits clear enough to answer questions like, “What’s in it for me?” or, “What makes this translator different from all the other translators out there?” I’d like to share some thoughts and insights about pitfalls I have sought to avoid while working on my own website which I hope can help you attract the interest of more clients with your website.

Please bear in mind that this advice may not be universally applicable depending on your language combination and market. My new website is still under construction, I am not a copywriter and I do not offer services to fellow translators.

Unclear specialization

Don’t: List 15 different fields in no particular order and don’t mix up text types (corporate communications, technical documentation, legal documents, etc.) and industries (real estate, IT, construction etc.)
Do: Pick something clear and concise people will remember you by. It should be short enough to fit into a tagline and clear enough for people to instantly know what you are good at. Combine text types and industries as well instead of one or the other, e.g. “I translate technical documentation for the automotive industry,” or, “I translate corporate communications for the IT industry.”
Get over: Being afraid you will miss out on work that does not fit 100% perfectly into the way you have formulated your specialization or for an industry you have not listed. If anything, you appear more credible, because people are more likely to believe you are among the best at one or two things than 15. This credibility also builds trust, making it more likely people will ask for your honest opinion on whether you can do a good job on another kind of text or make a referral. (In that case, it is important that you are honest and realistic about what you would in fact be well suited for and when the client would be better served by a referral!) Honing in on a specific industry also helps you decide which conferences to attend, which associations to join, which CPD activities to participate in and where to focus your marketing.

Failing to mention the benefits of your location

Don’t: Put yourself in competition with the whole world unnecessarily.
Do: Tell clients how your location benefits them, such as allowing overnight delivery from New Zealand, or availability to meet in person for a free consultation. It’s hard to be the first choice for your language combination and specialization in the whole world, but it’s not hard to be among the best locally, or use your location to stand out from the competition in other ways.
Get over: Assuming your location is a handicap if you don’t live in a big city in your source language country. Find benefits such as leveraging different time zones or being perfectly positioned for adaptation to the target market.

Failing to leverage your native variety of your target language

Don’t: Compete with everyone else in the world who translates into your language.
Do: Offer translations into your native language variety and texts adapted for international audiences. For example, you could offer translations into Argentine Spanish and into international Spanish. You have just positioned yourself ahead of and distinguished yourself from all the other Spanish translators in the world who translate into a different variety of Spanish for clients targeting the Argentine market, while simultaneously catering to clients who are more interested in a neutral variety not targeting one specific market.
Get over: Assuming you will lose out on projects that aren’t in your variety of your target language.
Hint: Don’t presume to master other varieties of your target language on your own! If you are American, collaborate with an editor from the UK if your clients want international English so you can work together to avoid both Americanisms and Briticisms and make the text as accessible as possible to a wide audience.

False assumptions about what clients care about

Don’t: Assume they care a whole a lot about your life story.
Do: Focus on how your services benefit them.
Get over: Yourself! You aren’t applying for a job. You’re showing clients how they can benefit from your services. Focus on benefits as opposed to features. People are naturally self-centered and want to know what’s in it for them.

Relying too little or too much on others for your website

Don’t: Write, translate and design your website all by yourself without any help whatsoever. And don’t hire professionals to do these things with too little input from you.
Do: Decide what you want to say, use your own voice and style. Then bring in as much professional help as is necessary depending on your own strengths and weaknesses.
Get over: Assuming the wording on your website is not important. People looking for translators are inclined to judge them by the quality of the writing and translations on their websites. After all, our way with words is our calling card.

I’m currently reading Ca$hvertising by Drew Eric Whitman, which has given me a lot of great ideas and inspiration. I especially enjoy his no-nonsense approach to advertising. He basically says that, if you have a truly useful product or service that benefits people, you should feel no shame in pulling out every trick in the consumer psychology book to sell it. It’s a whole different story if you are a fraud using tricks to peddle snake oil. Check it out for yourself if you are interested in getting better at advertising your translation services or translating marketing materials for clients.

Let me know in the comments if you found anything useful, have anything to add, or have a different opinion.

Header image credit: kaboompics

How to Have a Super First Year in the ATA: Small Resources that Add Up to Big Benefits

Welcome to the third article in the series How to Have a Super First Year in the ATA. This time, I’ll be talking about all the small resources offered by the ATA that add up to big benefits towards the end of your first year.

List Yourself in the ATA Directory

Make yourself findable! Direct clients and agencies alike use the online ATA directory to find professional translators like you. Take the time to complete your profile fully. Include your language combinations, specializations, CAT tools, where you live… even the currencies you accept! Write a descriptive summary and upload your updated résumé. The best way to differentiate yourself is by becoming certified, but if that’s not on your to-do list, becoming a Voting Member is another way to make your profile stand out among the list of translators. (https://www.atanet.org/membership/membershipdirectory.php)

Become a Voting Member

Voting membership opens doors to your participation in the association—from voting in elections to serving as a member of a committee. ATA active or corresponding membership, that is, voting membership, is available to associate members who either pass the ATA certification exam or go through Active Membership Review. For readers who are not ATA certified, the application form to become a voting member is available here: (http://www.atanet.org/membership/memb_review_online.php)

Join a Division

There are currently 20 ATA divisions ranging from language to specialization divisions. Your ATA dues include membership in any or all of its divisions, so you can join as many as you’d like. Many have their own newsletter and/or listserv and host a networking event at the ATA conference. (http://www.atanet.org/divisions/about_divisions.php)

Business Practices Listserv

This listserv is all about creating community, networking and getting advice from your colleagues. You can ask questions, post answers, make suggestions and recommendations, or simply read the digest of what everyone else is talking about. From tax regulations to tips on how to deal with an abusive agency, the listserv is a great resource for any translator. Become a member of the business practices listserv here: (http://www.atanet.org/business_practices/bp_listserv.php)

Attend Your First ATA Conference

ATA 57This year’s annual conference, ATA57, will be held in San Francisco, California from November 2-5, 2016. Over 1,800 translators and interpreters will attend the conference, so your chances of networking and creating meaningful connections are pretty high! Not only that, but you’ll have the option to attend over 160 educational sessions. I went to my first conference last year and have nothing but good things to say about it. My next article in this series will be all about the ATA conference, so be sure to check back for a full recap of my first-timer experience in a couple of months. You can learn more about ATA57 here: (https://www.atanet.org/conf/2016/)

ATA provides you with a number of opportunities to make the most of your membership. All I can do is encourage you to invest some time and take advantage of every single one of these great resources. It’s what helped me feel like I form a part of a larger community of like-minded professionals.

About the author

Molly YurickMolly Yurick is a Spanish to English translator specialized in the tourism, hospitality and airline industries. In the past she has worked as a medical interpreter in Minnesota and as a cultural ambassador for the Ministry of Education in Spain. She has a B.A. in Spanish and Global Studies and a Certificate in Medical Interpreting from the University of Minnesota. She is currently living in northern Spain. You can visit her website at: http://yuricktranslations.com/