Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A mouse pad for translators

While we were in England for the First Stridonium Conference, we took advantage of our trip to visit some really nice bookshops. In one of them we found a mouse pad (or mouse mat, if you prefer UK English) that is just perfect for translators:
Mouse pad for translators
While there are certainly other methods for inputting special characters (starting of course from using the correct keyboard for your target language), there are always occasions in which you have to type some accented character you don’t use often. To help you find the numeric code of a useful subset of such characters, this mouse pad is great, and certainly better than scotch-taping a list of codes to your monitor.

You can find the mouse pad online in the Linguascope website.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The First Stridonium Conference - Cambridge, 2014

We were recently enticed to visit Cambridge, England, by the interesting program of the first Stridonium Conference.
King's College - Cambridge
Anyway, the conference was a good excuse for visiting a bit of England that we had never visited before: we were especially keen on seeing both Oxford and Cambridge.
The event was held at the Møller Centre of Churchill College: a particularly pleasant environment for such a cozy conference, that was intended as a meeting of both translators and people from the world of business and foreign affairs.
There weren't many participants at this first Stridonium conference, but the group, though small, was diverse. There were translators, teachers of translation from several different universities, a few students, some translation company representatives, and people from the world of foreign affairs and business.
The presentations were all of excellent quality:
  • Andrew Wood, a solicitor specialized in advising Dutch companies that want to do business in Britain, or British companies that want to operate in the Netherlands, gave a presentation about the importance of being aware of different communication styles when conducting negotiations, as well as various potential problems when translating from a common-law country (such as England) to a civil law one, such as the Netherlands.
  • Susannah Poulton, culture and language adviser for UK Trade and Investment, mentioned the difficulties of providing advice to small companies that want to do business abroad, but that don't understand the necessity of planning any translation and language work well in advance, and asked for advice about how to persuade such small businesses that translation, and especially well-planned translation, is very important for succeeding abroad.
  • Charles Grant, a foreign policy expert, talked about the real possibility (worst case scenario) that Britain might leave the EU after 2017, following a referendum, and how that might actually finally trigger the secession of Scotland from the UK (and subsequent application of Scotland for EU membership).
  • Sir Colin Budd, a retired diplomat and former UK ambassador to the Netherlands, explained why language is key to effective diplomacy, the importance of knowing language and cultural nuances for both diplomats and translators, and how for diplomats (and of course for the translators that help them communicate), knowing, for example, how to be consciously ambiguous is sometimes essential.
  • Jeff Heasman, an expert in international business communications, addressed the danger of "Chinese whispers", that is, the danger of unintended bad communication due to the difficulty of understanding overly verbose or complicated documents, advocating instead the use of plain English.
  • Christina Guy spoke briefly on the importance of "getting language right", that is, not fall into some of the blunders that amuse translators and cost business real money.
  • The conference ended with a four-person panel (consisting of Mr. Wood, Ms Poulton, Jeff Heasman and myself), which fielded questions from the attendees on various aspects of international translation.
    The panel: Schiaffino, Wood, Heasman, Poulton
All in all, a pleasant conference, well organized and interesting, well worth going.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

I submitted my presentation proposal for ATA55

I have just submitted my presentation proposal for the 55th ATA Conference. If the ATA accepts my proposal, I'll give an advanced-level presentation on Xbench for Translation Management and Translation QA.

...and since Corinne McKay had the idea for a badge, and French/Hungarian>English translator Carolyn Yohn created one and made it available, I'll also proudly display it

Friday, March 07, 2014

Mafalda, Libertad and translation

I've always liked Quino's Mafalda: I think it's much better than Peanuts. One of my favorite strips has always been this, about translators...

 (click on the strip to open a larger version in a new window) 

For those who don't know Spanish:
Mafalda: "What's your mom typing?"
Libertad: "Translations of books, because what my dad makes only pays for the rent. My mum knows French. The French write books in French, my mom copies them the way we speak, and with what that brings in she buys noodles and stuff like that. There's this guy... wait, what's his name? Yanpol... Yanpol Belmondo... no, Yanpol... Sastre, is it?"
Mafalda: "Ah! Sartre?"
Libertad: "That one! The last chicken we ate was written by him!"
(Translation adapted from the one posted in Bob's Comics Reviews)

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

15 tips on how to increase your chances when contacting translation companies

Our tiny translation company does not advertise for translators, since we do most work internally or with the help of a small group of trusted colleagues. Yet, every day I receive on average a dozen messages from translators offering their services for various language combinations. Unfortunately, most of these messages are written in a way that ensures they end in the junk mail folder.
Here are some tips you might find useful to increase your chances of success:
  1. Research your prospects.
    Find out who they are and to whom your message should be addressed. If you are sending your message without specifying to whom it is addressed, your message will be treated as spam. If most of your prospects are translation companies, find out if they prefer new translators to contact them by email: many translation companies prefer candidates to fill a form on their website. If that is their preferred way to collect information from freelancers, usually contacting them by email instead is a waste of time.
  2. Find out what kind of translations they do.
    You need to know what specializations they need from their translators. This will help you craft a more targeted and more successful message: for a translation company it is much more interesting to receive a message that says “I’m an English into Italian translator with a degree in mechanical engineering and over ten years’ experience translating maintenance manuals for naval turbines” than a generic “I translate from English French, German and Portuguese into Italian”.
  3. Keep the Subject of your message brief and to the point.
    A good subject, for example, could be “English > Italian translator with 10 years of experience, specialized in mechanical engineering”. That is better than, for example “Spanish Freelance Translator/Proofreader” , and much better than “Searching better opportunity at your respective company” (an actual subject line from a misguided translator.)
  4. Write your message very carefully.
    If you are writing in a language that is not your native one, I recommend you have a native speaker edit it. Remember: the purpose of your message is to entice your prospect in opening your résumé.
  5. Don’t say that you translate from your native language into a foreign one.
    Doing so ensure you will be treated as an amateur. If you are one of those rare people who are native speakers of more than one language (true bilingual), do say so, but be prepared to say how exactly you came to be a true bilingual (“I traveled and studied in X country” won’t do, but “My mother is English, my father Italian, each only speaks to me in their native language, and, while living in Italy, I studied from first grade through high school in an international school where most classes were taught in English” might.)
  6. Write your name and language pair in the heading of your résumé.
    For example, “Mario Rossi, English into Italian translator”.
  7. Keep your résumé brief.
    No more than one page if you don’t have extensive experience, no more than two in all other instances.
  8. Don’t include your rates in your email message or in your résumé. Talking about rates comes later.
  9. Don't include your references.
    Providing them, if asked, comes later.
  10. Make sure your résumé is written flawlessly.
    Again, if it is not in your native language, consider having it edited by a native speaker.
  11. Localize your résumé for your target market.
    For instance a résumé for a French prospect should include your photo, but a résumé for an American company should not.
  12. Make sure your résumé contains all the necessary information, but no irrelevant details. If you have minimal experience, it’s OK to include in your résumé information about other kind of work, but, as soon as you do gain some translation experience, remove the extraneous information.
  13. Make sure that all the information you provide in your message and in your résumé is verifiable.
  14. What you should include in your résumé: Your working language pairs, how best to contact you, your translation experience, other relevant work experience, education, expertise with specific software programs (for example, CAT tools or DTP programs: don’t include in the list of programs that you know how to use Word or Excel – it is assumed that everybody knows how to handle them), and platform (PC or Mac.)
  15. What you should not include in your résumé: personal information such as your age or marital status (normally: see above – if a résumé for your target market usually does include such information, use your best judgment about whether to include that information or not). Also not to be included: your hobbies and personal interests. An exception to this is if your hobbies contribute to your specialization. So “I am a passionate skier, and I have competed at international level. This experience has helped me when I translated technical manuals for Rossignol” is OK, while “I like reading and classical music” is not.
Finally, very important:
Remember: it’s you who decides what your rates are, not the translation companies. Conversely, translation companies are free to accept your rates, reject them, or try to get you to lower them.

P.S. to New commenting policy – Anonymous spammers

After publishing the new commenting policy a few days ago, the spammers have really stepped up their pointless efforts: About Translation is now receiving several dozen comments a day from “Anonymous”. All these comments go directly to spam (and deservedly so).

Unfortunately this means that when you leave a comment here, if you do it anonymously, it is most most unlikely that I’ll retrieve it from the spam folder and publish it.

If you have something interesting to say, please do so under your own name, or (if you really must), use some alias.

I’m sorry: I also preferred this blog when comments were published immediately. This is no longer possible, thanks to the stupidity and greed of these anonymous trolls.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

New commenting policy

It used to be that, in order to have a more immediate discussion, you could leave commenting open on a blog.

Then spam comments begun to appear. At first they were an infrequent, minor nuisance, and a bit of clean-up once in a while was enough for keeping a blog clean.

Spam comments grew in frequency, which lead many bloggers to impose stricter moderation policies.

In this blog I started by leaving all comments open, but after a few years I had to impose moderation on all comments older than a certain date. Still, I tried to keep open commenting for the most recent posts.

But spam comments now have grown to the point that even for the most recent posts it is necessary to moderate all comments. I’m sorry for this, but I now have to direct all comments through the moderation queue.

I’ll try to post all legitimate comments as soon as possible, but some will end up being delayed – especially if they are written when I’m not at the computer.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Stridonium: an internet community for professional translators

Guest post by Christina Guy

After my guest post of last week, Riccardo asked me to provide a brief description of Stridonium. I'm often asked about the name. It's called Stridonium after the birthplace of Jerome, the patron saint of translators.

Stridonium was set up five years ago with the help of colleagues who were interested in creating a private internet community for professional translators. As you can see from the site’s home page on the site, we aimed to create a place where seasoned professionals and dedicated newcomers could meet to exchange views, seek advice and ultimately to help further the interests of – and hopefully raise standards in – the translation industry.

Basically, we wanted to provide a venue for professional translators to interact in a collegial spirit of give and take, with no advertising and no attempts to sell products or services to members (and no moderators). The decision to make Stridonium a private forum was a conscious one, so that members’ posts lie beyond the reach of Google and other search engines (although because the private nature of the site forbids direct viewing by non-members, we did produce a presentation to give language professionals who are interested in joining Stridonium an insight into the community). It was also a conscious decision to apply relatively strict membership criteria.

Over time, the site has also become a platform for organising a limited number of specialist workshops and lectures and of course the "Business in Communication" conference in March this year. Also for this year, we have organised three lectures by Stuart Bugg (for lawyers, legal editors and specialist legal translators) and we're looking forward to lectures in the autumn given by Jeff Heasman and Mark Childress. We always apply to the ATA and the Dutch translators’ association NGTV for continuing professional development points.

And our latest project (still in its infancy) is to offer the services of our translators individually or in teams. More about that after the conference!

--- O ---

Chartered Linguist Christina Guy is a Dutch to English legal translator and interpreter based in The Netherlands. As a native of the UK with long experience in providing language services in the legal, commercial and diplomatic sectors, she is a passionate advocate of efficient quality. Several years ago, she and other committed language specialists established the translators' forum Stridonium .

Saturday, February 01, 2014

The unintended poetry of spam comments

Certain spam comments, though essentially meaningless, attain a certain poetic quality. See for example this comment to an earlier post of mine:

No matter:
If some one searches for his essential thing,
He wants that to be available in detail,
Thus that thing
Is maintained over here.

This has a certain haiku-like feeling, and even a tangential connection to the post it purports to comment (Simple regular expressions for SDL Trados Studio filters).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Stridonium 2014 Conference

Guest Post by Christina Guy

First of all, thanks to Riccardo for inviting me to write a guest post about the Stridonium conference in Cambridge this year.

For readers who aren’t familiar with Stridonium, it was set up in 2009 as a venue for professional language specialists. Originally a private site for professional exchange and support for translators, it is now exploring alternatives to further the interests and raise the standards of the translation sector.

Most of the Stridonium site is open to members only, but you can get more information by visiting our Home Page, or our Mission Statement.

The Stridonium 2014 Conference

Communicating in Business – Getting Language Right

Stridonium will host this conference on 24 March 2014 at the Møller Centre in Cambridge.

The aim of the Stridonium conference is to engage with businesses. It will emphasise to an audience of businessmen and language specialists the importance of getting language right and – maybe more importantly – point out the pitfalls of getting it wrong.

When corporations spend so much time, money and effort on texts in their own language, isn't it only logical that they be as meticulous about the quality of communication in other languages?

Unfortunately, as many of us know, that doesn't always follow. Translation in particular is too often an afterthought or an “add-on”, with everything from marketing texts to crucial legal documents being bundled off unceremoniously by a hapless secretary to the first translation agency she can find on Google.

So this conference will help businesses and at the same time raise the profile of quality services as a distinct segment within the language industry. It will emphasise the benefits of giving language higher priority, getting the right language specialists on board and making them a more integral part of the team and the process. With more and more companies trading across borders, this message has never been more important.
Stridonium's initiative has the support of some high-calibre speakers with backgrounds in politics, business and diplomacy, including:

All of our speakers will draw on their wide knowledge and a wealth of anecdotal experience to illustrate the importance of using the right words – and the consequences of using the wrong ones.

They will explain the benefits of:
  • setting company-wide language policy
  • effective legal and business communication
  • using the right language for effective advertising campaigns
  • avoiding cultural pitfalls
  • saving money by buying wisely
In the last afternoon session we will wrap up by offering businesses practical information on how to procure language services, what to look for and where to look.

To register for the conference, click here.