Friday, May 20, 2016

Top 100 Language Lovers 2016: voting phase has started

The Top 100 Language Lovers 2016 voting phase has started, and both this blog and my Twitter account are among the candidates.

This is the ninth year that the competition has been organized. About Translation has been voted among the top 100 a couple of times in the past, but this is the first time that my Twitter account has been selected for voting

The competition is looking for the best 100 Language Lovers in the following five categories: Language Learning Blogs, Language Professionals Blogs, Language Facebook Pages, Language Twitter Accounts and Language YouTube Channels.

The voting phase lasts from May 19th to June 6th. During this period, everyone can vote for their favorite Language Lovers in the five social media categories. The final results will be based on the internal ranking criteria of and Lexiophiles (50 %) and user votes (50 %). The winners will be announced on June 9th.

Click below to go to the voting page for the Language Professional blogs:
Vote the Top 100 Language Professional Blogs 2016

Click below to go to the voting page for the Language Twitter accounts:
Vote the Top 100 Language Twitterer 2016

(Once you are on the voting page, select your favorite and click on the Vote button)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

How to increase your chances when contacting translation companies - from a translation agency’s point of view

This is a guest post by Aniello Attianese, in response to my post 15 tips on how to increase your chances when contacting translation companies. Aniello Attaniese is a Project Manager at Translation Services 24, a translation company in London specialized in legal and marketing translation services which works with a variety of clients, from UK SMEs to Large multinational organisations.

Reading one of Riccardo’s articles published back in 2014 about "15 tips on how to increase your chances when contacting translation companies", I simply couldn’t help but agree that some of the points he had made sound awfully familiar and accurate. Working for a translation agency myself (Translation Services 24), every day I personally come across translators who wish to join our team, and so they approach our agency in a number of different ways.

Certainly, our agency receives a number of well written and professional emails and those are the applications we pay close attention to. Nevertheless, we also receive applications which, simply put, do not meet our agency’s standards. Sadly, because the translator behind the email could be very talented and professional at what their actual job is, still, due to the number of applications we receive, it is simply impossible to contact each person and so naturally we need to eliminate some.

Referring to Riccardo’s post again, I’d like to talk about some of the tips he has mentioned and look at them from our agency’s point of view.
  1. Running an in-depth research and finding out more about who you’re about to email is definitely an important point and perhaps something that can influence your success rate greatly. As an agency, we clearly state on our website that the preferred way to contact us regarding any job opportunities is by filling out our online application form or emailing our HR department directly. Instead, we receive countless generic emails to our accounts’ email address. Although we sometimes review these applications anyway, they might not be prioritised over someone who actually took their time to find out more about our company and followed our guidelines. Therefore, it’s always important to, for example, visit agency’s website or social media profiles to gather more information prior to initial contact.
  2. When receiving applications from translators, it is always extremely helpful to us, as a translation agency, when any specific sector and relevant information beyond languages covered are mentioned in the application. Due to the number of applications we receive, we simply cannot contact each and every person who gets in touch with us. Including such information not only allows our project managers to update their databases regularly, but also increases translator’s chances of being contacted by us if a project within their niche of expertise arises.
  3. Creating straightforward and self-explanatory subjects for emails is really important. This can be especially true when emailing agency’s generic email address so that it is not treated it as spam. Nevertheless, our HR department opens every application email regardless.
  4. Perhaps similarly to any translation agency, we prefer to work with native speakers of the target language. We do however work with possibly 10-15 translators who translate not only into their mother tongue but also cover other languages pairs. This, nevertheless, is very rare and each of these translators has been working with us for at least 5 years, proving their accuracy time after time and started working with us as native language only translators too.
  5. When it comes to the CV itself, Riccardo was quite right advising to keep it simple and straight to the point. From talking to our HR managers, I know they prefer résumés that focus on languages, experience and specialities, rather than rates and irrelevant details. Also, it is extremely important to make sure your CV flawlessly written, without any errors, grammar mistakes etc. If there are mistakes in your CV, which you could proof read a number of times without a deadline and stress before sending it to us, what guarantees do we have that you won’t make even bigger mistakes working with us, which often can be to a tight deadline and under pressure?
  6. Of course, all the information you include in your CV must be true. In our translation agency, we do have a small team within our HR department whose main job is to strictly check references, qualifications etc. of any translator with whom we are potentially interested working with.
  7. Also, as Riccardo mentioned in his post, it is quite important to mention any relative and industry specific tools and software you can use as well as any professional organisations/institutes you are part of. This really helps us paint a picture of you and will allow our managers to contact you regarding jobs that are more suitable for you and your skill set. A great example of this can be the knowledge of Illustrator/Photoshop. If you also provide DTP services together with your translations, make sure to mention it!
I hope this article has given you a little more insight into what translation agencies similar to ours expect from their applicants and what is it that makes a real difference and can help you stand out from the crowd, and believe me, it’s crowded out there!

Monday, May 09, 2016

WordWeb Pro: dictionary and multi-search application

A few posts ago, in my article on Reverso Context, I mentioned several multi-search applications from which Reverso could be called. One of these, the one I use the most, is WordWeb Pro.

WordWeb Pro is chiefly a dictionary: in its free version (more about that, and its unusual licensing terms, later) it comes with a large English language dictionary that offers synonyms, antonyms, other useful features such as subordinate and superordinate categories, the ability to restrict searches to a specific grammatical category and to search, from within the program, also Wikipedia and Wiktionary.

WordWeb Pro
WordWeb Pro
The Pro version adds optional dictionaries, for example the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Chambers Thesaurus, the New Oxford American Dictionary and several others (but you have to buy them separately). It also allows adding your own glossaries, adding terms and definitions to the main dictionary, and adding searches from many online dictionary and search engines. I've added, for example, the Microsoft Language Portal, Google Advance Search, Linguee, Reverso Context, the WordReference EN-IT and several other specialized monolingual and bilingual dictionaries.

WordWeb Pro's tabs—with the dictionaries and searches I use
WordWeb Pro's tabs—with the dictionaries and searches I use
The full list of features is too long for a short article, but they include:
  • Thesaurus and dictionary for Windows 
  • Customizable hotkey, which allows instant look up from almost any program 
  • Restricting the search for synonyms and antonyms by part of speech
  • Full text search (so you can search within the definitions)
  • Adding your own glossaries 
  • Using various patterns and wildcards in searches (useful when you are looking for a word but you aren’t sure how to spell it) 
  • X-Ref button to extend the search to other dictionaries installed on the computer 
  • Adding new words or sets of words with their definitions and usage examples to the dictionary 
  • Importing and exporting the added terms to common spreadsheet-format files 
  • Bookmarks (for example, to remember past searches: useful to keep track of which words and terms most often give you problems) 
  • Replace button to substitute a synonym in a document you are editing 
  • Possibility of using the tool without the need to be online (for the installed dictionaries only: you need to be online to use the web search).
I use WordWeb in two different ways: to quickly search its main dictionary and thesaurus, and as a multi-search tool that allows me searching several dictionaries and websites all at the same time.

To add a new search site to WordWeb Pro, follow this procedure:
  1. Go to the Options menu
  2. Select Dictionary tabs...
    The Dictionary tabs window opens
  3. In the Dictionary tabs Window, click the New button
    The Web reference window opens
  4. Give a name to the new web reference (the new search), and add its URL (web address), using “%s” as a placeholder for the search term.
So, for example, to add Google, you put Google as the name of the search engine and as the search strings.

How to add a new search engine in WordWeb Pro
How to add a new search engine in WordWeb Pro
The best way to find where to put your placeholder in the URL is to perform a search and then examine the URL of the retrieved page to see where the search string goes. So, for example, to see which URL I needed to add, I searched for the word “test” in Google. Google converted that to the URL and I then replaced “test” with the placeholder “%s” in that URL, to get the search string to use in WordWeb.

WordWeb Pro allows adding dozens of search engines but the number of tabs provided is limited to twenty-one or so—you can, however, select and deselect the ones you have added depending on which sites you need to search.

If you don't want to pay for WordWeb Pro, you can use WordWeb Free to evaluate the program (minus the Pro features), but if you continue using the free version instead of upgrading to Pro, the requirements to be eligible are fairly peculiar (and eco-friendly): WordWeb Free may be used indefinitely only by people who take no more than two commercial flights (and only one return flight) in any 12-month period—to restrict the free version to people who limit their carbon footprint.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

An update to my Reverso Context review

I've received a message from Théo Hoffenberg of Reverso, with some additional information about Reverso Context:
Hello Riccardo,

Thanks a lot for your review of Reverso Context. I would like to give you some additional comments or info, which you can use if you wish.

It’s true that it’s similar in approach to Linguee, and by the way, we had this design and plan five years before Linguee, but we wanted to have enough corpora and computing power to launch it at the level we aimed at.

It’s true also that Linguee has more languages and language combinations, but we’ll also expand and try focus on the main markets first, because we go much deeper for each language combination.

What is unique about Reverso Context
  • Main translations on top are computed by our algorithms and shows you the alignment. This requires a lot of engineering, linguistic and computing time to make the alignment as good as possible;
  • You can pronounce full examples, which is nice for learning;
  • You can save examples in your phrasebook (online and on the app too, and soon synchronized);
  • You have both spoken language (real-life) and official documents (more formal / technical) like EU, UN … and other tools have one or the other;
  • There is intelligent conjugation and definitions dictionaries linked for several languages;
  • It’s integrated in Reverso ecosystem with collaborative dictionary, full-text translation, conjugation, spelling, etc. 
Hope this info is useful to you. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need more info / insight.


Théo H.
I included Théo's message also as an update at the bottom of my review of the tool (Reverso Context, an app for language learners that can also help translators).

Friday, April 29, 2016

ChangeTracker website redesigned

Technolex Translation Studio, a provider of language services, has redesigned the website for ChangeTracker, an application for tracking editorial corrections in translations.

I wrote about Change Tracker in a previous post (New utility to keep track of changes in bilingual files). I'm glad there there are signs of new development for this useful utility!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

6th Annual Conference of the Colorado Translators Association

Last weekend we attended the 6th Annual Conference of the Colorado Translators Association. I enjoyed the conference: all the sessions I went to were interesting, useful, and well presented. I saw again friends and colleagues I’ve known for years, and met new people. Two of my current students were at the conference; I think they found it worthwhile. I also saw students from earlier courses, now well launched on their translation careers.

Three interesting books were on sale at the conference: Eve Lindemuth Bodeux’s Maintaining Your Second Language (“practical and productive strategies for translators, teachers, interpreters and other language lovers”); Tess Whitty’s The Marketing Cookbook for Translators (“foolproof recipes for a thriving freelancer career”); and the 3rd edition of Corinne McKay’s How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator.

Eve, Tess and Corinne with their books
Eve, Tess and Corinne with their books
The first session we attended on Saturday was “Future-Proofing Your Translation Business”, the keynote on marketing given by Tess Whitty on strategies for a thriving career as a freelancer. Tess spoke of protecting and improving our business assets (especially our translation skills), investing in continuing education, time management, mind-sets to avoid (for example atelophobia, the fear of not being good enough), and goal settings: 95% of people don’t write down the goals they set for themselves. The remaining 5% are those who do reach their goals.

The second session was “Inside the Mind of a Project Manager: Common Questions and Concerns”, a presentation on how to work better with beleaguered project managers, delivered with verve by Andie Ho. Andie spoke of the care and feed of PMs (i.e., how to keep them happy). She mentioned such common-sense things as making sure we keep communication channels open, being honest about our abilities, and not being afraid of asking intelligent questions. No platitudes such as “there is no such a thing as a dumb question” from Andie: her rule of thumb is that if you can find the answer within two minutes with a simple Google search, then, yes, the question was dumb and wasted the PM’s time. Final thoughts from Andie’s presentation: “PM are not out there to get youare you out to get your PM?”

The next presentation was “Creating a Compatible Customer Base within the Language Services Industry”, by Karen Tkaczyk, on how to get a better class of clients. The main takeaway for everyone here was that the “ideal customer” doesn’t exist, and that we should aim instead at assembling an ideal basket of good customers.

“Automating Termbase Creation”, by Sameh Ragab (who came to Boulder all the way from Egypt just for the conference), was a must-go presentation for anyone interested in translation tools. Sameh answered the question “Why is terminology important?” by saying that good terminology helps make our translations more clear, consistent and easier to review, thus achieving faster turnaround. Good terminology increases brand value, both for clients and for us. I’m looking forward to reading Sameh’s presentation on the CTA’s website: he promised he would include references to all the enticing programs he described.

Sameh Ragab, outgoing CTA President Thaïs Lips, myself and Andie Ho
Sameh Ragab, outgoing CTA President Thaïs Lips, myself and Andie Ho
Our last presentation on Saturday was “Vetting ClientsHow to Use Payment Practices and Other Sources to Prevent Late or Non-Payment”, by Ted Wozniak: a good description of how to use Ted’s Payment Practices site (and other resources) to avoid poor payers.

On Sunday we took part in two workshops: “Create Focus and Simplify Your Marketing Efforts with a Marketing Plan for Your Translation Business”, by Tess Whitty, and “It’s All About Style: Creating Consistent Documents for Clients” on how to create a style sheet to improve consistency, by Alice Levine. This session on creating a style sheet was an eye-opener, for me: I didn’t know that the best way to create a style sheet is not while translating, writing, or editing, but as a separate step, when all your attention goes to deciding what should go on the style sheet. After the exercises we did during the workshop, now I see why: it’s important, and deserves full, undivided concentration.

The setting, once again at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the foothills above Boulder, contributed stunning views and a beautiful mountain environment just outside the conference.

Sketch of NCAR from afar
Sketch of NCAR from afar
Thank you to the CTA’s organizing committee for a job well done!

P.S. I haven't mentioned the presentations that I didn't get to, but if anybody who has attended them would like to send me a brief recap of what was said there, I'd be happy to add to this post.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Quick Tips: when Studio cannot create your target file

You know that sinking feeling when you have completed a carefully crafted translation in Studio, spell-checked and self-edited it, then run it through QA (using Studio's internal QA function and/or Xbench) - only to discover that when you try to export your target translation, Studio refuses to create it, saying there is something wrong with your MS Word file?

It is only at that moment that you remember you should have round-tripped the source file first thing, before translating it, to see if it would convert back cleanly.

If this happens to you, don't panic: there is (usually) a quick solution.
  1. First, just to be sure, save everything: your translation with its memory.
  2. Then create a new project. Add to it a copy of the memory you used, and the original file (or files) you had to translate.
  3. The project should pretranslate your file for you. There may be a few segments left untranslated (if you split or joined them). Don't do anything to them yet.
  4. Try exporting the target file. If the program succeeds, go back to the (new) project, complete any missing segment (joining and/or splitting them as necessary), and export your target file. If the program manages to do that, you are done.
Most likely, however, #4 here above will fail with the same error message you got the first time round. At this point there are still things you can try:
  1. Open your source MS Word file, and save it in two different formats. If your source was a *doc file (MS Word 2003 or earlier format), save it as both an *.rtf file and as a *.docx (MS Word 2007 or later format). If it was a *.docx file, save it as both *.doc and *.rtf--and if it was an *.rtf file, save it as both *.doc and *.docx file.
  2. Add the two new versions of the file to your new project. Pre-translate them. Try to save them as target. Most likely one of the two versions will save cleanly as target. If it does, you are done--you have a clean target file, and, if you need, you can then save it in the format needed by your client. 
If none of the new files saves correctly as target, you are out of luck and of quick solutions. If you have a support agreement with SDL, now is the time to open a ticket. If you don't, start looking on the SDL knowledge base and elsewhere online for more specific solutions.

This quick trick may not work always, but it works often enough that it should be in your bag of SDL Trados Studio tricks.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

How localization engineers could help translators

When you translate software strings from English into another language, you sometimes wish you had more information available.

Often localization engineers, the people who prepare strings for translation, work for a software company that then outsources the translation to an agency. The localization engineer in company A talks with a project manager in agency B, who, in turn, deals with various freelancers (or even single-language vendors). The chain of intermediaries can quickly get too long. Answers to questions sent up the chain take forever, and suggestions or remarks by translators are lost on their way to the client.

Localization engineers usually have great technical skills. However, since they don’t translate themselves, they sometimes don't know what would help translators and what would hinder them.

Localization engineers (and project managers) could help translators improve the quality of the localized software by a few simple actions:

  • Provide an easy way for translators to send their queries and remarks;
  • Provide explanations and definitions;
  • Indicate how much space is available for each translated string;
  • Provide a glossary of required and forbidden terminology;
  • Give translators the whole translation memory (not only an extract): a complete translation memory allows translators to perform context searches, and helps ensure translation is consistent;
  • Provide screenshots, or make resources available to see the strings in context;
  • Do not provide the strings in alphabetical order (as I often see): that may look more orderly, but also deprives translators of much needed context.

This is just a partial list: a few thoughts that came to mind while working on a badly organized project, a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What happens to your marketing efforts...

...if you don't take the time to research your prospects.

As a translation company, we keep receiving large amounts of very generic e-mails from translators, all addressed to "Dear Sir or Madam" and variations on the same theme, including "Dear Ladies and Gentlemen", "Hello Dear" (?), "Good Day", "Hi there", "Hello", Hello Sir/Madam", and so on.

The following is just a part of today's crop:
A simple rule in Outlook ensure that all such message end up in the junk e-mail folder, thus negating these translators' marketing efforts.

If you are looking for new clients, take the time to research your prospects, and customize your marketing for each of your prospects. You'll have much greater success.

If, on the other hand, you insist in sending out generic e-mails in bulk, remember, there is a term for that: it's called "spam" and it is actually forbidden in many countries.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Advice to younger translators

I find myself at times writing about what younger translators, who are just entering our profession, should or should not do... about tools, about rates, about professional practices. In my mind I see this as sound advice backed up by years of experience. Others might disagree and see mine as the outdated and out-of-touch opinions of someone too old to understand what it is like entering our profession today.

When I begun translating professionally, our world was different: our market was local, limited to the city or town where we lived. Our tools were primitive: my first translations were all written on a typewriter: word processors and PCs arrived only a few years later for me. Our choices of reference materials were limited to the dictionaries we had painstakingly collected ourselves, or, if we were lucky enough to live in a big city, to the books available in the local libraries. There was no Internet, and fax machines were innovations that enticed enterprising translators with the mirage of offering their services to more distant agencies (but to send a fax out of town you had to pay exorbitant long-distance phone charges).

Now we live in a work of computer aided translation, translation management systems, and our clients (and competitors) span the entire globe.

But I believe that the very fact of having witnessed such changes in our profession gives me insight in what beginning translators should do to enter the market.

Just a few suggestions:

  • Be professional in the way you approach prospects. 
  • Learn about our profession: this doesn't simply mean learn well another language, nor does it mean learn how to translate. It means learn more about business practices in the translation world, more about professional associations, more about the new wonderful resources available from our computer screens - from the wealth of reference, to such things as lists of translation companies and how they are rated by other translators. 
  • Learn the technical side of our profession: learn about the tools available to translators, and about those that translation clients use. 
  • Learn to specialize: becoming a real specialist in a few selected fields will increase your chances of becoming an in-demand translator. 
  • Learn to keep professionally up to date. 
  • Learn to improve the way you write in your native language: translation is writing, and you should perfect your skills as a writer. 
  • Learn to improve the way you write in the language you clients or prospects use: translation is communication, and you must lean how to communicate effectively with your network of prospects, clients and colleagues. 
  • Especially when you are complaining about something, learn to decant your messages. You may be right in complaining, but a complaint written in anger and fired off too quickly could further damage your relationship with a client, prospect or colleague. Important messages should be written, then left aside for some time, reexamined with a cooler head, and only then, if it still looks like a good idea, sent. 
  • Find a way to receive sound advice: advice about your translation, by other (more experienced) translators, but also advice about your communications. As translators we work alone, and to communicate only remotely, through email, text messages and so on. It is easy to write something that is then misinterpreted or misunderstood by your recipient: what you wrote thinking it would elicit a smile may easily cause offense. If you can, have your important communications be read and vetted by a more unbiased pair of eyes. 
  • Learn that it is not important to boast of your accomplishment, but rather to inquire how you can help your prospect solve a problem. Be an aid, a problem solver, not a know-it-all that likes to show off his talents or accomplishments.