Thursday, July 31, 2008

"File received, thank you!"

Sometime it's the small things that make a difference. Such as a translation company always sending an acknowledgment whenever we send them back the translated files.

That way we don't have to worry whether the files have actually been received, or know that there is a problem only the day after the deadline, when the PM sends us a message asking where the files that we were supposed to send yesterday (and that we did send yesterday) are.

Of course, that cuts both ways: we also should acknowledge messages and files as they arrive, and not let the PM wonder whether we actually got what they sent us or not.

Should we haggle like Levantines?

I was recently contacted by a translation company with a good reputation. They asked us for the usual information, including our rates and our résumés, and asked that we do a free translation test.

Since the test was of reasonable length, I agreed, and scheduled it for next week.

Today they called me asking for urgent help with the translation of a short document. I'm already overbooked, but I wanted to start on the right foot with a new customer, so I agreed to help.

They then proceeded to beg for a discount: could I do it for our minimum rate, instead of the price that would result from our word rate? The difference was minimal (about 5 dollars), but I declined, and refused the job.

We may have lost the chance at a new customer, but I prefer that to the prospect of haggling every time we receive a project.

Our customers should remember this is a professional service, not a fish market. If they don't, it is up to us to remind them.


They wrote again today, without reference to our phone call and messages yesterday, thanking us for our availability and asking a 15% discount from our rates. Declined again, of course.

Top 100 Language Blogs

LexioPhiles has published a list of the "Top 100 Language Blogs". The top of the list is dominated by blogs about learning languages (especially English), but there is a fair number of translation blogs.

About Translation chips in at number 42.

Other translation blogs of note on the list: Über Setzer Logbuch (23), yndigo (34), fidus interpres (43), Translation Blog (52), Blogging Translator (53), Musings from an overworked translator (69), Brave New Words (78), “la parole exportée” (87), Freelance Chinese Translator (90), and Thoughts On Translation (100).

Check out the other blogs as well: they cover a broad range of subject from linguistics to grammar and from ancient languages to "exploring the effects of Web 2.0 on the English language".

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rush Jobs

Corinne McKay has an excellent post on "How to do an acceptable job on a rush job".

I would add a few things:

  1. Set a rush rate with your customers, and demand it for rush jobs. When you set a rush rate, also remember to define what a rush job is for you, for example:
    "Rush/weekend rate: from +30% to +50% of base rate, depending on the project. Rush: projects that require the translation of more than 2,500 words, or the editing of more than 7,500 words, or the proofreading of more than 10,000 words in a day. Weekend: projects that require a substantial part of the work to be done on Saturday, Sunday or other holidays."
  2. The importance of QA is greater on rush jobs - the quality is already going to be lower because of the time constraints, and the chance of making errors increase when we work faster. All the more reason to devote the necessary time to QA.

  3. If you are translating with a CAT program, use a Translation QA tool (XBench is a good one, and is free; you can find a list of other QA tools in this post from Translation Quality Blog). A QA tool helps catching such errors as untranslated and inconsistent segments. The latter are particularly slippery: in the flux of fast translation you may accept a fuzzy match without changing the translation, but you do not notice that a small word completely changes the meaning of the sentence. A QA tools is also very useful to catch inconsistent numbers and measurements, and wrong terminology (if you have a key terms glossary).

  4. Both in your source segments and in your target ones, search for those words which, by themselves, are liable to completely change the meaning of a sentence. It is just too easy to forget (or add) a short word such as "not" and completely change the meaning. After all, "Do not pay attention to him" and "Do pay attention to him" look remarkably similar, when you are in a hurry (especially when you see them as suggested matches in a CAT tool).

On a lighter note: if you can listen to music while translating, put on your earphones (to help your concentration), and some fast music. If you enjoy classical music, the William Tell overture helps establishing a fast typing rhythm. When you are in a tearing hurry, Khachaturian's Saber Dance from the ballet Gayaneh is just the ticket.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How to win back discontented Trados users

Today I received a phone call from an SDL representative: he had seen that I had accessed the SDL site (to download an updated copy of WorldServer Desktop Workbench), and tried to sell me some new service or product.

Unfortunately for my caller, I had just loaded a new termbase in MultiTerm, so some of the glaring shortcomings of SDL technologies were fresh in my mind. The phone call, far from a successful sales pitch, soon became a diatribe against some of Trados' long-standing problems.

I then received a follow-up e-mail:
"...[I] am sorry you feel discontent with our products. I would like to win back your commitment to our technology, just let me know in what direction we can possibly do that."

My answer summarized some of the more pressing (and annoying) problems with Trados and MultiTerm:

  1. MS Word interface: fix the formatting problems - it is unacceptable that Trados consistently messes up the formatting of even simple MS Word documents. Other TM products that also use MS Word as an interface (for example, Wordfast) experience far fewer formatting problems with MS Word (or none at all).
    Please note:
    • advising translators to use TagEditor instead is a cop out, and, at best, only a partial solution,
    • saying that the MS Word document should be formatted some other way, that styles should be applied in some other more controlled manner, or similar advice is useless for translators: we translate the document we get, not the document we wish we would get.

  2. Concordance search: a translator should be able to search not only on the source language, but also on the target.
  3. TagEditor: recommending the use of TagEditor for the translation of MS Word documents would be more acceptable if TagEditor were a richer text editor. For starters, it should offer more powerful search functions (at least the equivalent of MS Word wildcard searches; better still, full regular expressions).
  4. MultiTerm: a more user-friendly and less counterintuitive interface and process would help.
  5. Artificial limitations to the freelance edition of Trados. Two translators who acquire two different freelance licenses should be able to run them on the same home network, without the need to purchase a more expensive version of the program.
What are the things that bug you most as regard Trados, MultiTerm and the other SDL products? What would you add to my list (or remove from it)?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Maxthon: a browser for translators?

Most Internet users probably only use one browser: Internet Explorer or Firefox on Windows or Safari and the Mac.

There are other browsers, however: Opera has been around for years and has a faithful following, and although Netscape bit the dust earlier this year, Safari is now available for Windows, too.

A less-known browser that might interest translators is Maxthon. It is offered in two Windows version (1.6, which is more stable, and 2.1, which is niftier), and has a functionality I have not found in any other browser: the possibility to display two different pages side by side.

I am often asked to test localized web pages. Using other browsers I have to switch from one tab to another (or in older browsers such as IE 6, from one instance of the browser to another).

With Maxthon, however, I can display two pages side by side in the same application Window (see for example, this screenshot of Beppe Grillo's blog in English and Italian).

Other uses could be displaying side by side two different online dictionaries or reference sites.

Maxthon is free to download and use (although paying customers get preferential technical assistance), and so far I've found it fast and reliable.


Several commenters have pointed out that there are ways to split the screen in Firefox and other browsers as well. So far I've not been able to find a way to do it in Opera, but in Firefox it is as simple as adding the SplitBrowser add-on (thanks to Torsten).

Another browser that offers split screen capability is Avant, which also claims to be "the fastest browser on Earth". I have not, however, tested it, as yet.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Blog comment spam

I've just deleted a bunch of spam comments from some anonymous user who wanted to use this site to scatter links to whatever services they provided. This is something which happens from time to time.

A hint to other would-be spammers: if you have something interesting, and would like me to link to it, the way to do it is NOT to put the same comment to a number of my posts. I leave the comments open, but I monitor them, and reserve the right to delete any comment if I think it is spam, (or for other reasons, such as offensive language).

If you have something interesting, and would like me to link to it, I may do it if you send me a message to aboutranslation {at}