Teacher’s Top Ten: Business Practices

One of the main reasons we encourage students to join ATA is to take advantage of the wellspring of knowledge surrounding best practices—the kind that make working for yourself a smooth ride rather than one riddled with potholes.

Over the years, I have assembled a collection of ATA materials that I share with students and mentees alike. Because when we present ourselves as professionals, we all benefit.

Here then are my top ten professional business practices resources:

10. Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Project This blog post gets you started building a checklist that you should consult when communicating with a client about a potential project. I had a checklist next to my phone for years until I committed it to memory.

09. Translation Certificate vs. Certification This one pairs nicely with What is a Certified Translation. If you’re still confused about the difference between a certificate, certification and a certified translation after reading this, go back and read them again.

08. “Hot” Specializations Past President Corinne McKay takes on the question of specializing in her ATA Chronicle column.

07. Transitioning from Classroom to Career in Translation A free ATA webinar from someone who made the transition herself, packed with practical information.

06. Tips For Navigating Your First ATA Conference A rite of passage for many students, the ATA Conference is a transformational experience that for many marks the beginning of their professional career. Because it’s an investment, it’s a good idea to come prepared, which is what this free ATA webinar does.

05. Preparing to take the ATA Certification Exam While it’s intended to be a mid-career exam, many talented students will sit for the exam after a few years. Watching this free ATA webinar will give you an idea of whether you are ready to take the exam, and how to prepare for it if you are ready to take the plunge.

04. ATA Compensation Survey (the Executive Summary is free, and the full report is available to members) One of the hardest issues T&I practitioners wrestle with is how much to charge. The ATA compensation survey provides a context for understanding what colleagues are charging. The full survey breaks things down by language and geography, and is also useful for influencing policy makers. Be sure to spend some quality time with it before you get to number 3:

03. Is This Still Worth It? A classic article by veteran translator Jonathan Hine that walks you through the full process of setting your rates. Bonus hint: look on the ATA website for the US CalPro Worksheet, a spreadsheet file that does the math for you.

02. ATA Guide to a Translation Services Agreement and ATA Guide to an Interpreting Services Agreement Free, editable downloads of modular contract language that you can include and customize to meet your own needs and situation.

And the number one resource I want every student of translation and interpreting to have:

01. The ATA Code of Ethics and Professional Practice and Commentary Far from being a dry, lifeless legal document, the ATA CEPP embodies our professionalism. The accompanying commentary is a living document that illustrates the concepts with easy-to-grasp situations. Since you signed on to uphold it when you joined ATA, you should probably be very familiar with it—and bookmark it.

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About the author: Caitilin Walsh is an ATA-Certified French-English translator who delights in producing publication-quality translations for the computer industry and food lovers alike. A graduate of Willamette University (OR) and the Université de Strasbourg (France), and a past-President of the American Translators Association, she currently chairs the ATA Education & Pedagogy Committee. She brings her strong opinions on professionalism as an instructor of Ethics and Business Practices at the Translation and Interpreting Institute at Bellevue College, Chair of the T&I Advisory Committee for the Puget Sound Skills Center (both in Washington State), the ALC Bridge Committee, and the Executive Board of the Joint National Committee for Language (JNCL-NCLIS). When not at her computer, she can be found pursuing creative endeavors from orchestra to the kitchen. She can be emailed at cwalsh@nwlink.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @caitilinwalsh.

Common Errors Found in the English>Spanish Certification Exam

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

ATA certification continues to be a sought-after credential. As a way to prepare for this demanding exam, ATA has been offering practice tests for many years, which are real exam passages that have been “retired.” In addition to the practice test, ATA has been offering exam preparation workshops taught by ATA exam graders to help candidates better understand how to prepare for the exam. In the past three years, ATA has offered regional workshops in Boston, Alexandria, Houston, and Mexico City. These workshops are also offered at ATA’s Annual Conference, including this year in Palm Springs.

The three-hour workshop for Spanish<>English includes an analysis of the different error categories and a practice test that registered participants are invited to complete and submit prior to the workshop. The graded practice tests are returned during the workshop and used as the basis for discussion of the passage. Here are some of the most common errors made by candidates in the English>Spanish combination.

Mimicking English Syntax: Many candidates mimic the English syntax without stopping to consider that Spanish sentences often have to be organized differently. English is a more concise language than Spanish, and sometimes it’s necessary to change word order in a translation, or to provide a verb or an article that is not present in English. Common errors include the absence of definite and indefinite articles, the mimicking of the passive voice, and the use of prepositions that don’t reflect Spanish usage.

False Friends: These are English words that resemble Spanish words in their spelling, but have a different, sometimes opposite, meaning. As their name indicates, these words are very untrustworthy. Many candidates tend to choose the word that looks like the English for their translation, and, in so doing, make a transfer error. The more an English word resembles a Spanish one, the more necessary it is to verify that the meaning is the one that we need in the target language. Always confirm this using a monolingual dictionary.

Incorrect Use of Present Continuous Tense and Gerund/Present Participle: This is one aspect of grammar that’s very different in English and Spanish. Most of the time, in Spanish we cannot imitate the use of the present continuous tense or gerund/present participle. In fact, this is an aspect of Spanish grammar that requires study and practice. Just because you see a verb ending in –ing in English doesn’t mean you can replicate it in Spanish. Candidates lose a lot of points because they don’t understand the correct use of the present continuous tense and gerund/present participle in Spanish.

Mechanical Errors: These are what we call “controllable” errors. Mechanical errors are those evident to a Spanish reader without having to compare the text to the English original. Such errors include punctuation, capitalization, spelling, diacritical marks, grammar, and syntax. I say they are “controllable” because ATA’s certification exam is an open-book exam. It is therefore possible, and encouraged, for candidates to consult dictionaries, grammar books, and style manuals during the exam. As graders, we’ve found a number of candidates who fail due to mechanical errors. In other words, the candidate transfers the meaning well from English into Spanish, but makes too many mechanical errors.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you’re planning to take the certification exam in the English>Spanish combination, a practice test is the place to start. Brush up on your Spanish grammar and consult some style manuals to guide you in avoiding mechanical errors. And if you’re able, attend one of the regional workshops that are being offered a few times a year in different parts of the country and at ATA’s Annual Conference in the fall.


Mercedes De la Rosa-Sherman, CT has been a professional translator for over 30 years. An ATA-certified English>Spanish translator and a member of ATA’s Certification Committee, she has been a grader for ATA’s English>Spanish certification exam for over 10 years. She is also a state and federally certified court interpreter. She has a master’s degree in medical translation. Contact: delarosasherman@gmail.com.

My personal style guide for the ATA translation exam into Spanish

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

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

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

Image source: Pixabay

Ergonomics for ATA’s Certification Exam: Unspoken Advice with Untold Benefits

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

Shortly after I took the computerized version of ATA’s certification exam in 2017, I received an e-mail from one of the proctors—whom I had thanked for stepping up to proctor at the last minute—in which she commented on the contrast between my “ergonomic” setup and the hunched posture of my fellow test takers. It would make for a great ad, she mused.

I had to laugh. I didn’t go into the exam with ergonomics in mind, but having seen the difference a few ergonomic upgrades to my home office earlier that year had made in my focus and overall well-being, it seemed like a no-brainer to apply the same principles to ensure my comfort and efficiency during the exam.

It may have seemed silly to focus on the details of a workstation I would only use for three hours, but the proctor was right: it ended up making all the difference, not only in terms of comfort, but more importantly, in terms of efficiency and state of mind. If you’re anything like me, sitting up straight and looking directly ahead fosters greater confidence and alertness than does being stooped over a mess of pages and books. Perhaps there’s something to be said after all for social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s widely discussed research on the impact of body position on our confidence and, in turn, our chances of success.1

While ergonomics wasn’t at the forefront of my mind going into the exam, it’s now the first thing I mention when colleagues ask for advice on how to prepare. There’s plenty of guidance out there on the theoretical side of the assessment, but how often do we hear about the importance of a comfortable and efficient workspace?

By sharing some of what worked for me on exam day, I hope to encourage others to discover the difference that straightening up and finding comfort and confidence can make, both during the exam and in our everyday work.

Use a stand to keep your computer screen at eye level and a page holder to prop up the text.

Ergonomics: It’s About More than Comfort

Before we get into the details, let’s consider why ergonomics matters. In short, it goes well beyond physical comfort.

First, what is ergonomics? The authors of an article in the January/February 2017 issue of The ATA Chronicle point out that the concept encompasses more than “office chairs, keyboards, and computer mice.”2 As cited in that article, the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) defines ergonomics as being concerned with the optimization of “human well-being and overall system performance”3—that is, it’s about a lot more than a comfortable office chair.

In fact, one of the three branches defined by IEA is “cognitive ergonomics,” which is concerned with mental workload, human reliability, and the interaction between humans and computers. We’ll come back to this later.

For now, let’s look at recommendations for improving efficiency and performance through one of the more obvious branches: physical ergonomics.

Laptop Height: My number one recommendation is to ensure that your computer screen is at eye level. Most of us set our laptops directly on the desk in front of us, forcing us to angle our necks downward to see the screen—a posture that has been shown to exert a detrimental amount of strain on the neck over time.4

If you work with a laptop on a regular basis, you might consider investing in a laptop stand, which will serve you well not only on exam day, but also in your everyday work. There are many to choose from, but it’s worth procuring one that you can easily carry with you to the exam or when working away from home. I use the Roost Stand,5 a favorite among digital nomads for its transportability: it collapses into a baton that’s just over a foot long and it weighs a feathery 5.5 ounces. It’s also height adjustable. (See photo at left.)

If you’re in a pinch on exam day or you aren’t sold on investing in a new gadget, you could just as well set your laptop on a large book or two—dictionaries work wonderfully.

Do keep in mind that you’ll need an external keyboard and mouse for either of these setups. There are affordable options out there, and I consider it a worthwhile investment, price notwithstanding.

Page Holder: Unlike the source texts in a translator’s daily work, which are almost invariably in digital format, exam passages are on paper and cannot be typed into the computer.

So what to do? Ideally, for the same reasons discussed above, the source text should be positioned at eye level. For this purpose, I used a small, dome-shaped page holder during the exam to prop up the source texts. (See photo above.) I purchased mine on www.etsy.com, but you can find one at just about any major office-supply retailer by searching for a “page-up holder.” Most are priced at under $10. You may need to set the holder on top of a dictionary to match your screen height.

Not only will this relieve neck pressure, it’ll save you time and trouble when glancing from sheet to screen.

Earplugs: Consider bringing earplugs to the exam to block out noise. Chances are you’ll be absorbed in your work, but you never know when the clickety-clack of a keyboard or the hum of a fluorescent light will distract you. Here’s where cognitive ergonomics come in: decreasing distraction lightens cognitive load, allowing you to focus on the task at hand.

Review Techniques: Speaking of cognitive ergonomics, the exam involves the demanding cognitive task of not only translating, but also reviewing, two dense texts in the span of three short hours. This means no opportunity to review with fresh eyes, which is a crucial step in actual practice. And without a computer-assisted translation tool or other application to help break the text into segments, the task becomes even more prone to errors. The accidental omission of a word or an entire line of text can be hugely detrimental. The good news is that these errors can be avoided by employing some simple review techniques.

One of these is to enlarge your font size: try increasing it 300% by using the zoom feature on your word processor (i.e., WordPad or TextEdit, the two applications permitted for use on the exam), or by increasing the font size to 72 points. This will help you catch errors you may otherwise overlook after staring at your translation for so long.

Another tip for getting a fresh perspective: change the typeface itself.

Finally, try reading the completed text “aloud” in your head, or reading it backwards—two old copy-editor’s tricks.

Miscellaneous: With the big ones out of the way, here are a few final pieces of advice to optimize ergonomics during the exam and help you focus on your work:

  • Keep your feet flat on the floor, if possible. You may be able to choose from different chairs the day of the exam, but don’t count on it.
  • Make sure your elbows are at a right angle when typing. Consider bringing a pillow to sit on for this purpose.
  • Have water on hand (drink it).
  • Take at least one stretch break. Do a forward bend and gently stretch your arms, legs, and neck to get your blood flowing before returning to the task with fresh eyes.

Final Word

As the authors of the aforementioned article in The ATA Chronicle propose, taking ergonomics into account “will allow translators to do what they do best instead of wasting time and energy dealing with non-ergonomic conditions, interfaces, and tools.” What better opportunity to conserve time and energy than during the rigorous three-hour ATA certification exam?

I may have been amused by the proctor’s comment about my setup, but it cost me nothing to implement these simple principles, and the benefits of certification are already evident just one year later.

Notes
  1. Cuddy, Amy. “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.” TEDGlobal Video (June 2012), http://bit.ly/Cuddy-body-language.
  2. O’Brien, Sharon, and Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow. “Why Ergonomics Matters to Professional Translators.” The ATA Chronicle (January/February 2017), 12, http://bit.ly/Chronicle-ergonomics.
  3. “Definition and Domains of Ergonomics” (International Ergonomics Association), www.iea.cc/whats.
  4. Bever, Lindsey. “‘Text Neck’ Is Becoming An ‘Epidemic’ and Could Wreck Your Spine,” The Washington Post (November 20, 2014), http://bit.ly/Bever-text-neck.
  5. Roost, www.therooststand.com.

Header image source: Pixabay

The Certification Toolbox: Get Ready!

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

Late fall and early winter are traditionally a slow time for ATA’s Certification Program, since no exam sittings are scheduled between ATA’s Annual Conference and the beginning of the new exam year in March. Certification graders take advantage of this respite to select new exam passages, fine-tune grading standards, and tend to other housekeeping tasks.

This period is also a good opportunity for prospective certification candidates to get ready to take the exam in 2017 by exploring ATA’s toolbox of exam preparation resources. Here’s an overview.

Practice Test

It can’t be said enough: completing a practice test and studying the results is one of the best ways to prepare for the exam. ATA practice tests are retired exam passages that the candidate translates at home and returns to ATA Headquarters. Practice tests are evaluated by graders in the same way as the actual exams. However, unlike the actual exam, the candidate receives a marked copy, showing each error with a brief explanation as needed. This is a terrific way for prospective candidates to see what sort of text they could encounter, how the grading standards are applied, and what skills they might need to work on to pass the exam. Best of all, practice tests will be available online in 2017.

New Media

ATA is committed to employing new media for preparing candidates for the certification exam. The latest example is a webinar given in September by Michèle Hansen and Holly Mikkelson. If you missed it, you can purchase a recording from ATA’s website: http://www.atanet.org/webinars. Stay tuned for other new media approaches to candidate preparation!

Website

Translators interested in certification often overlook the valuable information readily available on ATA’s website. The Certification Exam Overview and the Frequently Asked Questions are a good place to start. (See links at the end of this column.) If you’re contemplating sitting for the exam, be sure to check out these essential resources.

Prep sessions

This year’s Annual Conference in San Francisco included workshops to prepare candidates for the certification exam in four languages: Spanish, French, Japanese, and Italian. These in-depth sessions, moderated by certification graders, are extremely popular and considered highly useful by prospective candidates. Watch for them at next year’s conference in Washington, DC—but also think about asking your local chapter or affiliate to schedule a session at your local or regional conference in 2017.

Into-English Grading Standards

One overlooked and important resource for candidates is the Into-English Grading Standards (IEGS). This document, downloadable from ATA’s website, sets forth standards applied by all ATA graders of foreign-into-English language pairs when assessing a variety of issues, such as proper punctuation, nonparallel constructions, and split infinitives. It’s a must for exam candidates translating into English, and is especially useful at computerized sittings, since candidates can access the searchable PDF version on their computers.

Independent Practice

If you don’t translate material on general subjects on a regular basis, and/or you have not done timed tests lately, independent practice should be part of your personal exam preparation toolbox. A simple way to hone both skills—working with expository texts and working quickly—is to search the Internet for texts that resemble the practice test in your language pair. Good sources are articles from online publications written for a general (but educated) audience. Download articles that interest you, copy them into Word files, and set aside time to practice translating parts of them into your target language. If you’re very busy (as most of us are!), just start with one paragraph at a time, minimizing your use of reference tools (print and online dictionaries). After a few practice sessions, you’ll likely see your speed and facility improve.

Translation Instructions

The final tool is not something candidates can prepare for in advance, but it’s still an important part of the exam: paying close attention to the translation instructions that accompany each passage, specifying the source of the text, the reason it is being translated, the audience addressed by the translation, and the medium in which it will appear. This opening statement, which precedes each exam text and, in fact, should be considered part of the overall passage, gives the candidate important information about how to approach the translation task, especially with regard to style and register, but even in such basic regards as terminology and usage.

So, grab your toolbox and put it to good use! 

Links to Information about the Certification Exam

ATA Webinars on Demand
“A Guide to ATA Certification”
www.atanet.org/webinars

Certification Exam Overview
www.atanet.org/certification/aboutexams_overview.php

ATA Certification Into-English Grading Standards
www.atanet.org/certification/Into_English_Grading_2013.pdf

ATA Certification Program: Frequently Asked Questions
www.atanet.org/certification/certification_FAQ.php


Image source: Pixabay

David Stephenson serves as chair of ATA’s Certification Committee. Contact: david.translator@gmail.com.