Friday, April 30, 2010

Idiomizer: a wiki for idiom translation

I recently received an announcement about Idiomizer, a new wiki site that collects idioms in many languages and their translations into other languages.

According to the announcement,
IDIOMIZER is a translation
reference for idiomatic exchange across languages, absolutely vital
because different cultures use different phrases to impart the same
meaning. One of its many powerful features is the ability to view
multiple languages simultaneously.
IDIOMIZER seeks the input of translators, linguists
and language lovers worldwide in making the site a useful and enjoyable
tool and we encourage you to register and add to our idioms.
Registration is required, but free. Once you have registered, you can search through the idioms, add new idioms, add translations and definitions, and generally contribute to the site.

Perhaps this is not “absolutely vital”, but it should prove a useful addition to many a translator's toolbox.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The launch of Translation Workspace (" can start working for free")

What first comes to mind when someone tells you that “you can start working for free”?

My first thought was “start working but not get paid for it”. I know, Lionbridge didn't mean it that way in Monday's promo offer for Translation Workspace. They meant that you can start using their new translation platform without paying for it (but only until the end of June).

Given, however, that you will have to pay for Translation Workspace to continue translating for Lionbridge (doing work that you used to be able to do with the clunky, but free, Logoport), the first interpretation contains at least a grain of truth.

Lionbridge claims that you will be able to use the new system for other translation projects, no longer for Lionbridge jobs only. Since most professional translators already own one or more translation memory programs, having to pay for an unwanted extra tool is an unappetizing prospect.

I doubt that many translation companies will switch from other CAT tools to Translation Workspace: apart from technical considerations (why move to a tool that uses the MS Word interface, when most other CAT programs are moving away from it?), Jost Zetzshe mentions another issue in his latest Tool Kit:
I foresee a huge problem once Lionbridge starts talking to other LSPs, who are of course direct competitors. I imagine a response something like this: “They want me to give them a month-by-month rundown of how much I translate?”.
Since the monthly payments depend on the number of words handled, Lionbridge would know how many words each translation company runs through the new platform.

The same for freelancers, of course. Would you tell your customers what percentage of your turnover they represent? Think how such information could be used against you: if Lionbridge knew that most of your work is with them, they would be in a better position to play hardball when negotiating rates or demanding discounts.
For more about Translation Workspace, see my previous post: Lionbridge’s Translation Workspace: my thoughts.

I begun writing this post Monday morning, after receiving Lionbridge’s promo offer for Translation Workspace. In the evening, I took part in the CTA “Thought Swap”, where some other questions were raised about Workspace. I have now added below some of these questions, with my ideas about their answers:
  • Is the data safe? Won’t we risk Lionbridge having access to the memories we use for other customers? From what I hear, such concerns are unfounded: the servers in which the data is stored are under third-party control, and Lionbridge will not have access to other users’ private memories and data.
  • Is this an attempt by Lionbridge to monopolize the translation market? Even such a large player as Lionbridge has not a big enough market share to monopolize the market. According to Common Sense Advisory “Ranking of Top 30 Language Services Companies”, in 2009 Lionbridge was the second largest translation company in the world by revenue. The market share of the thirty largest translation companies combined,  however, was only about a quarter of the global market. Our industry is still very fragmented, and no player is able to monopolize it. Translation Workbench is certainly aimed at improving Lionbridge’s position. Whether it will succeed, is an open question.
  • Are they going to use the data to feed machine translation? No way of knowing for sure, of course. Many translation companies (and other companies as well: see Google) are mining the data they own to build up translation memories and feed them to statistical MT systems. This is going to continue and increase in the future. I believe that translator will have to adapt to this and learn to use MT as a tool (just like we did with TM earlier).
  • What about LSPs (or freelancers) who work mainly for Lionbridge: won’t they be forced to adopt Translation Workspace? Companies and people who rely for most of their income from a sole customer are in a much weaker position when trying to resist that customer’s demands.
  • Will we have to pay for the words we translate in Translation Workspace for Lionbridge? (That is, will the words translated for Lionbridge be applied against the subscription?) No. According to all Lionbridge’s material on Translation Workspace, work done for Lionbridge will not count against the words purchased with the subscription.
  • What about words translated for Lionbridge, but indirectly (for example, an LSP accepts a project from Lionbridge, and then assigns it to freelancers): will these be applied against the words paid for? Probably not. The LSP should be able to assign the work to its freelancers in a way that does not otherwise affect their TW tenancy. It might depend on how the projects are set up, though.

Please note: all of the above is my own opinion and interpretation, based on the information I have. It does not reflect or represent in any way Lionbridge's official position. I am not affiliated with Lionbridge, and have no access to any Lionbridge insider or confidential information.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New book on the business of freelance translation

Judy and Dagmar Jenner have just published “The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation”.

Judy gave a presentation on her “business-school approach” to freelancing some time ago, at a CTA session, and I was impressed how helpful her approach was. The book is available both as a paperback and as a downloadable e-book. I just ordered my copy, and plan to review the book here, as soon as I have a chance to read it.

Congratulations to Judy and Dagmar!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Watercooler is going to change its home

You may have noticed the link to Watercooler is no longer displayed on the right. Andrew Bell is planning to move it from its present location as Ning network to some other service (this because of the changes that are happening at Ning).

In the meantime, the link to would no longer work. For the time being Watercooler can be accessed at the following address:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A great resource for translators

I don't remember if I mentioned it before, but if you work in translation and want to stay up to date with what is happening technically in our field, what new tools are coming, what are the best tools for our job, and what is the best way to use the tools you already have, a great resource is Jost Zetzsche's The Tool Kit, a computer newsletter for translation professionals.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Time estimating for dummies

A brief glance through the message board of most translators’ portals will find dozens of messages like this one:

I'm a beginner, can anyone tell me how many pages usually a translator should asked to translate a day?

The messages may differ slightly, asking for words or lines instead of pages, but they are all essentially the same: “I don’t know what I’m doing: how long will it take?”

If you are a real beginner, you may really not know, but asking others is not going to help you either, even when other translators provide an answer: knowing that others translate 2,000 words a day on average, doesn’t mean you’ll also translate at that speed.

As a beginner, you need to learn how to estimate how long you’ll take to do a job:

  • If you don’t have already a word count for the job you are going to do, first count how long the text to translate is. If it is a hardcopy or pdf job, a rough estimate (to the nearest 100 words) is good enough.
  • Then time yourself carefully, starting from the moment you begin a job and until you deliver it to your customer.
  • Include in the time you count all the time you spend on the job (including time spent researching the assignment, translating it, proofing it and entering it in your accounting system).
  • Also include in the time count any short breaks you would normally take. It is tempting to stop the watch any time you go to the bathroom or answer the phone, but it would be wrong: if these are normal activities, you need to include them in your time reckoning.
  • Do not include in the time count any time spent on other translations you might be doing in addition to the job you are timing, and do not include really major interruptions that would not normally happen.

At the end of the job, a simple division will tell you your hourly speed: if the job was 1,800 words and it took you 6.5 hours to complete, your speed was 1,800 / 6.5 = 277 words per hour. Now from your hourly speed you can calculate your daily speed for that job: 277 * 8 = 2,216 words / day.

Continue to do this until you have a good idea what your speed is under different conditions: different kinds of assignments, using different tools, and so on. Repeat this exercise from time to time, to make sure your statistics are still valid, and repeat it again any time a major change happens in your routine or in the tools you use.

And, please, don’t fool yourself that if you normally can translate 2,200 words a day, you can accept that tempting 8,000-word assignment due tomorrow, if only you can stay awake long enough: you may be able to get away with it, some times. Disaster will strike in other occasions (and customers will remember).

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A grammar exercise for translators

Here below is an article I recently wrote for the translation class I teach at Denver University. I would like to know what other translators think about the worth of exercises such as the one described below. Specifically, what do you think the advantages and drawbacks of an exercise like this can be for a student of translation?

Studying grammar to uncover translation problems

Too often students of translation (this is especially true of self-taught translators) concentrate on words alone: students learn word meanings as if they were labels, unconsciously trying to match them to the words in their native language. Grammar, frequently, is neglected: the student thinks of it as something he had to learn while learning a language, perhaps, but that now he already knows (or so he assumes).
Studying grammar, however, is important throughout the study of translation, and even beyond, when the translator is already a working professional.
One exercise I think is important and interesting is to study the examples given in grammar books and see how they should be translated to convey their meaning best. Usually there will be several correct solutions, although often none perfectly so.
Take a book on the English verb, or the section of a grammar book devoted to verbs. My first example is taken from Meaning and the English Verb, a slim textbook by Geoffrey Leech I had for a course in text linguistics I followed at the University of Genoa.
The way you can do the exercise is this: you read a statement about the use of a verbal tense...
8. The simple present is suitable for employment in the expression of 'eternal truths' [...] "The Atlantic Ocean separates the New World from the Old."
Simple enough, apparently. In Italian also we can use the present tense: "L'Oceano Atlantico separa il Vecchio Mondo dal Nuovo". But here already we can think of other ways such a sentence could be written in Italian. Perhaps we can use of the passive voice: "Il Vecchio e il Nuovo Mondo sono separati dall'Oceano Atlantico". Too heavy? Maybe "Il Nuovo Mondo è separato dal Vecchio dall'Oceano Atlantico". This also seems worse than our first try.
Back to the simple present, at least for now. Let's go to the next example, and see how it can be translated best.
This is from Rafael Seco's Manual de gramática española:
El presente expresa una acción no terminada que se ejecuta en el momento de la palabra. Entiéndase bien que el presente no debe estimarse como un instante fugaz, sino como un plazo de tiempo más o menos largo, en el cual está comprendido el momento en que se habla. Así puede decirse en presente: "Pedro estudia para abogado". No es que Pedro, en el preciso instante en que se habla, esté trabajando en sus estudios, sino que este trabajo lo viene realizando durante cierto período de tiempo dentro del cual está comprendido el instante en que se enuncia el verbo.
How best do we translate this simple sentence in English? Does the simple present work here, or is the present continuous better? If so, why, or why not?
I think you can see how doing often such an exercise may be invaluable for really learning how best to express a language's nuances in a different language.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Merlin-Translation: unthinking plagiarists

In my previous post I told of how is stealing posts wholesale from this and from other blogs.
It now appears that not only they are thieves, but stupid ones to boot:
As you can see from the screenshot, they also reposted my warning against them!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Warning to translation bloggers: your blog may have been pirated

And, sorry, no, this is not an April Fool's joke.

It is said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Wholesale plagiarism, on the other hand, is stealing.

It appears that has lifted in full and reposted without any attribution many articles from this blog (all the most recent ones for sure, but I've not had time to check the older articles), as well as articles from other blogs (a very quick perusal showed articles from the blog of Language Translation, Inc. and from Transubstantiation; I'm sure that a more thorough search would find many more stolen articles.

I invite other translation bloggers to check the site and see if their material also has been stolen. If it has, I suggest a joint action to compel Merlin-Translations to take down the infringing material.

A big thank you to Jill Sommer, who first spotted this scam and warned me.