Friday, September 30, 2011

Happy International Translation Day!

Every day is a translation day here – but since today is “International Translation Day”, I’d like to share with you two images you might like:


We found these painted tiles several years ago, I don’t remember if it was in Assisi or in Urbino. They were in a ceramics shop, together with similar tiles for many other professions and crafts. As soon as we saw them we decided to get a pair, and they have hung outside our office ever since.

I especially like that both translators are reading with a smile on their faces… perhaps, they are happy to use a quill (no blue screen of death for them!), and work at a more sedate pace.

Happy St. Jerome’s Day, everyone!

Friday, September 23, 2011

SDL Trados 2011

I’ve just downloaded an advanced pre-release version of Studio 2011 – although there is almost no point in installing it now, with the actual release date so close.

I’ve also received a list of the major new or improved features from Studio 2009. I’m certainly looking forward to checking out the track-changes feature, and the improved filter bar. For most languages the ability to use MS Word’s spell checker will be a big improvement over HunSpell.

Trados 2011 will finally be able to translate bilingual doc files (i.e., files created with Workbench 2007 and earlier). Bear in mind, however, that, unlike Studio 2009, Trados 2007 will not be bundled in with Studio 2011: this means that with Studio 2011 alone you won’t be able to create Trados 2007-style MS Word bilingual files – for that you’ll still need a standalone Trados 2007 installation. It will still be possible to purchase Trados 2007 as an extra with Studio 2011 – but from what I understand, you’ll have to pay extra. So, if you plan to buy Studio 2011, it might be a good idea to buy Studio 2009 now, before Studio 2011 is released: that way you’ll have Trados 2007 at no extra cost, and you’ll be able to upgrade to 2011 for free soon afterwards (do check with SDL for details, though).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Introduction to SDL Trados Studio

On Saturday, October 8, from 1:30 to 4:30 PM, at the Westminster College Hill library, the Colorado Translators Association will offer an SDL Trados Studio training session. The four of us who are going to present met yesterday in a very productive planning discussion. We have a very information-packed outline, and are now busy working on the actual presentations.

This three-hour session is meant for users of all levels, provided they have a basic understanding of what a translation memory is. We'll be looking at the translation workflow in Studio 2009: learn how to prepare files for translation, how to upgrade memories, how to create simple and complex projects, how to set up profiles, how to translate and edit and (the icing on the cake) we also will see how to use some useful features such as QA, Autotext and Autosuggest. Finally, we'll get a glimpse into the future, with some of the new features in the upcoming Studio 2011. The presenters will be CTA members Anna Kuzminsky, Anouschka Zecha, Riccardo Schiaffino and Margherita De Togni.

Registration is already open (see for details). We have space for 20 people and are anticipating this session will sell out, so if you are paying by check, please e-mail Corinne McKay at to let her know that your check is on the way.

Cost: $40 for CTA members, $50 for non-members, limited to 20 participants.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The ATA conference is fast approaching

There are several sessions that look interesting at this year’s ATA Conference. The Italian division, in particular, will be very active, with two presentations on literary translation by special guest Tim Parks and a couple of interesting sessions on English to Italian legal translation.

You can find a list of all the scheduled sessions from the Conference’s preliminary program.

I’ll have a very busy Saturday at the conference, with two presentations within just a few hours:

  • Blogging 101 (presented with Corinne McKay), Saturday 11:30 AM (session IC-10)
  • Xbench: A Free Tool for Terminology and Quality Assurance, Saturday 2:30 PM (session LT-9)

If you are interested, older versions of both presentations are available from this blog (see the tabs above). I won’t post the most up to date version until after the conference.

If you are going to the 52nd ATA Conference (Boston, October 26-30), but are unsure what to do (because it’s the first time for you), Jill Sommer has just posted a very useful QA session.

See you in Boston!

Monday, September 05, 2011

What's wrong with the passive

From a grammatical point of view, there is nothing wrong with the passive, of course. And there are many instances in which the passive is the best choice. But in other instances it is frowned upon as it can lead to an amorphous and obfuscating language in which nobody is ever clearly responsible for anything.

or, putting it in a more active way:

The passive is useful, in its proper place, but several proponents of a clear style (such as George Orwell) advise against overindulging in it, as it can lead to a style better suited to hide information than to reveal it.

The difference, in short, between

"the buck stops here"


"errors were made"


I wrote the above to answer someone on another forum; he was asking why MS Word’s grammar checker always flagged the passive voice.

As with so many other “writing rules”, the suggestion not to use the passive voice when the active one would do should be taken with a pinch of salt. I use the passive when necessary, of course, but I also find that trying to change passives into actives helps me tighten up my writing.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Nobody can demand a discount from a freelancer

I reprint here something I wrote in a long comment thread in Jill Sommer’s Musings from and Overworked Translator. The comment is about whether CAT tools are convenient for translators, when they make it easier for translation companies to “demand” discounts. I’m reposting it here as I believe it might be of general interest.

By "nobody can demand a discount from a freelancer" I mean that we are always free not to work with certain customers, if we believe the conditions they insist on are not convenient for us. Of course, they also are free not to use our services, if they consider it not convenient for them.

We sometimes grant discounts for fuzzy or 100% matches, when we think it is still convenient for us to do so. For other customers we invoice the full text, no matter how many matches. And we are prepared not to work any longer with certain customers when it is no longer in our interest.

A VP from a certain major translation company last November announced that a "compulsory" 5% discount would be applied on all translator invoices for the next few months. Those of us, however, who declined to grant the so-called "compulsory" discount continued to be paid at our usual rates.

Of course that means that one should be ready to ditch a customer who makes unacceptable demands. We were able to resist the "compulsory" discount because that customer represented for us less than 15% of turnover – we might have had to swallow and grant the discount if they had represented 80% of our total invoices.

But I believe it is up to us to manage customers: If we want to have more freedom in accepting or rejecting conditions, we also need to be careful not to have too much of our income come from too few customers.

One of our first customers a few years ago asked us for a 20% discount across the board. In exchange they would "guarantee" more work. We decided not to work with that customer any longer, even though up to that point we had invoiced them several thousands (or dozens of thousands) dollars a year. Again, we had managed, through foresight (and a bit of luck), never to have that customer represent more than about 20% of our turnover – that was what gave us the freedom to decide not to work any longer with them.