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/

Savvy Technical Translators: What do They Have that You Need?

Savvy Technical TranslatorsWhen you come into the translation business, you usually know deep down if you have what it takes to be a technical translator. As a basic starting point, you need good technical instincts in the field you are interested in. That may come from a prior career, a course of study, a family business, or a hobby that you are managing to turn into a money-maker.

Hearing tales of the often amazing series of events that bring us to the point of beginning a career in translation are part of what makes us such a fun bunch of people. But once you are here, ready to begin, know your limits. Don’t translate chemistry if you don’t know silicon from silicone. Don’t translate automotive texts if you don’t know how an internal combustion engine works. You will fall flat on your face. Ask anyone who’s been doing this for a while. We all have a story about “that job we should never have accepted.”

Good technical translation produces precise, concise, and clear texts

“Precise” is usually covered by the terms you choose, so that takes us to two of the skills that you need to make it as a top-notch technical translator. One of those is subject-matter expertise: the other is strong terminology research skills. “Concise” and “clear” texts are produced from superb technical writing. When you combine these three skills, you can be a great technical translator.

New technical translators usually come in two “varieties.” The first is translators with credentials in translation, perhaps including technical translation, but with little hands-on work experience in any technical field. They usually come with a “Desperately Seeking Specialization” vibe. The second will usually have had a career in commerce or industry and come to translation later in life.

The former group often has stronger terminology research and writing skills. The latter group usually has strong subject matter expertise but can’t necessarily write well in their target language, or, and here I speak from personal experience, their proofreading skills might not be where they need to be.

Subject matter expertise

What really defines it? At the high end, you’ll hear people refer to the 10 year or 10,000 hour rule made popular by Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, which says that no one can be an expert until they have spent 10 years working in a field. That’s a somewhat depressing concept for many technical translators wishing to build up expertise in a new field.

At the other extreme, you’ll find people who consider themselves an expert after they have translated 10,000 words on some subject or other. That’s a recipe for disaster (well, at the very least, quality complaints). Unsurprisingly, perhaps, I think the answer lies somewhere in-between. Yes, if you have 10 years’ experience you’ll have a head start and many customers will view you favorably.

But that doesn’t mean you are a brilliant translator and don’t have a great deal to learn. You should work on your writing. And people without hands-on experience can build up a body of expertise in a field over time. A long time, mind you, not a few weeks’ worth of work. The best and fastest way I know to build up this expertise is to have your work edited by somebody who knows what they’re talking about. Shake off your pride and ask people to track changes in your work. Feedback produces growth.

What about terminology?

Being able to research and pin down terminology in context successfully is the only way to produce reliable technical translations. Doing that quickly helps productivity and increases your hourly gross income. Over time you’ll know the key resources for your field and know how to use collocations to find out how people actually say it today. But any translator with Internet access and decent dictionaries can look up translations for technical terms. There’s nothing that can help you properly parse concepts that you do not truly understand. That brings us back to subject matter expertise. Sorry to harp on, but that’s the strongest prerequisite for success, in my mind.

The third skill, technical writing style, is less talked about routinely, but I have written and spoken about it, for instance here. Technical writing is a skill that can be learned and a fundamental part of the technical translator’s skill set. Don’t think that only commercial and marketing translators need to write well.

Make clarity a point of pride. Do one proofreading pass for numbers and units of measure alone, so that no errors of that nature ever creep in to your work. Use a suitable style guide so that you always format units of measure correctly and know whether to hyphenate a term of the art. Use document-specific style sheets to help you be consistent.

So start with good instincts, but don’t be that technical translator who “just translates what’s there.” Make the product a better piece of writing than the original, unless the purpose precludes that. Invest in yourself. Learn about cars or colloids, computer chips or contact lenses. Don’t leave great writing for artsy translations.

Be savvy: Know that your career will be much more successful if you treat technical translation with the respect it deserves, you start with high standards and you raise them with every new customer. May you prosper!

Header image credit: Picjumbo
Header image edited with Canva

Author bio

Karen M. Tkaczyk

Karen Tkaczyk was the 2011-2015 Administrator of ATA’s Science and Technology Division. She is an ATA-certified French>English freelance translator. Her translation work is focused on chemistry and its industrial applications. She has an MChem in chemistry with French from the University of Manchester, UK, and a diploma in French, a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Cambridge, UK. Initially, she worked in the pharmaceutical industry in Europe. After relocating to the U.S. in 1999, she worked in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. She established her translation practice in 2005. She lives in Colorado with her family. Contact: karen@mcmillantranslation.com, @ChemXlator.

Collaborating with Other Translators

Lund Translation Team by David Friedman

hand-523231_1280I wanted to find a way to collaborate closely with other translators ever since the early days of my translation career, because I thought it would open up more opportunities and would be more fun than going it alone.  This is the reason I have experimented with different forms of collaboration, strategies, methods and groups of people since 2011.

At first all we had was a group of four independent freelance translators with a joint website and monthly meetings to try to find a way to appeal to direct clients together. But we struggled to figure out where we should focus our efforts. This went on for a little while as an experiment with different people joining and leaving the team until I heard about an incubator program called LIFT at Lunds Nyföretagarcentrum (Lund Center for New Businesses) at Ideon Science Park in Lund, Sweden. The program was aimed at services companies with unique ideas aiming for rapid growth within two years. I was accepted into the program and that was the turning point when Lund Translation Team in its current form was born.

We were given access to regular business counseling, a free crash course in entrepreneurship, quarterly meetings with an advisory board consisting of hand-picked professionals volunteering their time to give us advice, and subsidized office space with affordable rent. Instead of just sharing one-time costs for our business expenses such as website and business cards as before, we set fixed monthly membership fees to cover the recurring rent of the office and leave a small surplus for our joint marketing activities. Setting this fixed fee separated the wheat from the chaff, and resulted in only those of us who were serious about investing money, time, and energy into building a successful translation business with direct clients remaining.

So what is Lund Translation Team today? Lund Translation Team is not a separate legal entity, but a joint brand shared by multiple freelance translators, each with their own sole proprietorships and accounting. We share joint marketing costs, spread the brand name by using it in our marketing  and market each other’s services together as a whole. Everyone still invoices separately and charges clients for the work they do individually. We have one office in Lund and one in Ängelholm, about an hour apart in the same region of southern Sweden. The whole team meets in person twice a month, once in each location, and is in daily electronic contact. The monthly fees are paid to the treasurer who then pays for all the team’s joint expenses.

Within the team we cover about six major European languages into Swedish, as well as English and Swedish to Chinese and Swedish and German to English. We work with a few select external partners as well, mainly to cover more European languages. We decided to put a clearer focus on the specialization of each of our members recently to show what makes each of us unique (e.g. I now call myself the team’s financial communications translation expert).

We still have a lot of work to do, but I feel we are really going in the right direction now and our networking is slowly paying off and bringing in more direct clients. I have found an amazing group of people to collaborate with and I find it very rewarding. From sharing tips on quoting, pitching and other business practices to helping each other with terms, sentences, CAT tools and all kinds of work-related issues. It is very rewarding socially too, with a steady stream of laughter coming from our office on meeting days.

I don’t think there is a single right or wrong form of collaboration between translators, but I am convinced that there is a lot to gain by working together in some way. Here are some ways translators can collaborate:

–          A pair of translators revising each other’s work on a regular basis

–          Translators referring jobs they don’t have time for or languages and fields they don’t do

–          Translators in different countries partnering up to reach each other’s markets

–          Local translators partnering up to share office space and/or to target local clients together

And here are some of the benefits of working together:

–          Make office space and marketing materials more affordable through cost-sharing

–          Expand your networking reach

–          Attract direct clients who need more than one language

–          Get advice and feedback on all kinds of translation and business challenges

–          Forge strong professional and social relationships

–          Have someone to cover for you when you are sick, on vacation or underestimated a job

How would you like to collaborate with other translators? Or what experiences do you already have? Don’t forget that the ATA and the other national translator associations are very valuable resources for getting to know potential collaborators. The more involved you get, the more people you meet and the better you get to know them. So what are you waiting for? Reach out to a fellow translator today!

Adaptation versus Translation

By Brian Harris
Reblogged from Unprofessional Translation blog with permission from the author (including the image)

Adaptation versus TranslationA book I’ve been delving into (see Sources) and an article I’m composing myself both use the terms translation and adaptation. This obliges me to consider what the differences are between the two terms.

Amongst academics, the old study of translation has now been joined by a new branch, adaptation studies:

“In recent years, adaptation studies has established itself as a discipline in its own right, separate from translation studies. [But though] the bulk of its activity to date has been restricted to literature and film departments… it is, however, much more interdisciplinary.”

At a superficial level, it can be treated as a matter of English collocation. We generally see, for example, stage adaptation (or version, which is a synonym of adaptation) or screen adaptation, often without a change of language, rather than stage translation or screen translation. (I myself once acted in a stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice!) But of course there’s more behind the words.

To start with, adaptation certainly is the appropriate word when there’s a change of medium or genre, irrespective of language. Thus a screen adaptation is

“a cinematographic interpretation of a work from another art form – prose, drama, poetry, song or opera or ballet libretto.”

Whereas translation requires a change of language. So the final product can be both a translation and an adaptation: a tradaptation (yes, the word exists!). There are examples of it my article.

An enduring example of genre adaptation is Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, written in 1807 and still in print in several editions (see Sources).

“The book reduced the archaic English and complicated storyline of Shakespeare to a level that children could read and understand.”

It came to be regarded as a work of literature in itself, but of children’s literature.

However there’s still more that’s important, and the most important of all is that the concept of adaptation allows for changes in the content and style of the original that would be unacceptable in a translation; in other words for a much wider difference between the two that goes beyond the wording, and hence for a far more radical and unchained intervention by the translator/adapters. A glaring example of this is the adaptation of Aladdin for the British Christmas theatre For over two hundred years now, since 1788, Antoine Galland’s original French text (itself a translation from Arabic) has been variously translated and adapted for the stage, modern music and topical jokes added, transgender dressing introduced, etc. The pantomime is a mishmash parody of the original Middle Eastern folk tale.

In any case the boundary between translation and adaptation has shifted over the centuries. Chaucer recognised both of them in his famous 14th-century retraction at the end of The Canterbury Tales, where translacions contrasts with enditynges:

“Wherfore I biseke yow mekely, for the mercy Of God, that ye preye for me that crist have Mercy on me and foryeve me my giltes; and Namely of my translacions and enditynges of Worldly vanitees.”

Yet all his many borrowings from French, Italian, etc. are adaptations in the modern sense. Indeed Chaucer often combined several sources in his re-tellings. Not that the concept of close translation didn’t exist; but in Bible translation or legal documents, not literature. For his sake and for the sake of other adapters, we hope God forgave him.

Sources
Translation, Adaptation and Transformation. A collection of papers edited by Laurence Raw of Baskent University, Ankara. 240 pages. New York, etc.: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012. Paperback US$43.
Charles and Mary Lamb. Tales from Shakespeare. London, 1807. Still in print.
Brunilda Reichmann Lemos (Universidade Federal do Paraná). Some differences between Boccaccio’s and Chaucer’s Tales of Griselda. No date.
http://ojs.c3sl.ufpr.br/ojs/index.php/letras/article/viewFile/19378/12656.
Aladdin. Wikipedia. 2014.
My own article, Translation and Adaptation for the British Christmas Theatre, will be available shortly on my academia.edu page.

Image
A stage adaptation from Orwell. Source: http://www.exurbe.com.