Friday, May 25, 2012

Agencies rating lists, some rules about commenting

About four years ago I wrote a long post on Agency rating lists. I had almost forgotten that post, but today someone left a comment to the post:

Hello, great post - I´m just struggling with an agency in New York - [Redacted] - hands off!! Two invoices overdue for 66 and 16 days trying to cut 50% of last invoice arguing the end client is requiring this due to repetitions. None of this was in the contract, the low rate was general, for all text of a mega project (including legal and IT parts). The text is online for over a month now, we are a team of around 10 translators struggling for our money. Absolutely incredible. This agency is an outsourcer [Redacted] called agency and has no seriousness at all, being herself a translator and teacher for translation... !!!

I have not published this comment, and quoted here with the relevant names redacted. On the one hand, I have no reason to believe the angry translator who left the post is not telling the truth about her particular experience. On the other hand, I've checked this agency both on Payment Practices and on the Blue Board - and in both places the agency in question enjoys an excellent reputation.

If the translator who left the original comment reads this post, I encourage her to leave her comments in the appropriate fora, such on the Blue Board, on Payment Practices or on the other agency rating lists - some of them do investigate non-payment claims, and might be able to help.

This is also a good occasion to set some rules on comments  about other translation companies: this blog is not the venue for it - please go and add your comments on Payment Practices, the Blue board, TCR or any of the other payment practices lists. Since I have no means of investigating claims of non-payment, leaving such comments published here could damage the reputations of perfectly legitimate companies. If the claim is true, this still is not the place for it: most other translators, when researching the reputation of translation companies, do not look here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Searching for definitions?

We always need to find definitions for terms we encounter in our translations. One way to do so is to enter our search term in quotes, and add the word "definition" before launching our search in Google (or other search engine). This is a good technique that usually helps to find more formal definitions, for example from certain on-line dictionaries (as well as from other sources). Adding the word "definition" to a search, however, is not the only option to help you find the definition of some term.

A often useful way to find hidden definitions is to search for a specific pattern such as "a [your search term] is a" as a complete string, for example "an hydraulic pump is a". The results found by such searches often come from the body of documents, instead of dictionary entries, and sometimes are even more useful to help you understand what your term means than regular dictionary definitions.

Similar pattern searches can also help: for example "a [your search term] is used for", "the purpose of [your search term] is", and so on. You can refine such searches by, for example, limit them to a specific domain, or perhaps to a specific region. Your results may vary depending on the search engine you use.

This technique can be adapted to most languages, for example "Un [your search term] es un" in Spanish, or "Una [your search term] è una" in Italian.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Questions from an aspiring translator (or interpreter)

I've just received the following message, and since I think that it might be of interest for other aspiring translators, I'm positing here my answers to this person who is considering translation (or interpretation) as a future profession:

I'm interested in interpretation and translation. I was looking on your website and wondered if you could take a few moments to answer some questions:

Q. How realistic is it to expect to make a living with interpretation/translation? 

A. Perfectly realistic. I've been working full time in translation since 1985 (so, 27 years now - how time flies!). My wife also, after a career as an engineer, switched to translation and has been a full time translation for the past fourteen years. I know many people with successful full-time careers as translators or interpreters. Bear in mind, though, that my view may be skewed, as I tend to associate mostly with other translators, and I might have lost track of other people who started out as translators (or interpreters), but then abandoned the field.

Q. Is it difficult to find full time employment in either field?

A. Yes. Most translators who work as translators (or interpreters who work as interpreters), do so as freelancers. There still are, however, some companies who have a translation department with staff translators, and of course many translators and interpreters are employed by international organizations, most notably the European Union (and other European organizations).

Q. Do opportunities and pay increase with education (such as obtaining a Masters or PhD) in either field?

A. Yes, though it also depends on which subject the Master or PhD was earned in. Bear in mind that a PhD is mostly useful if you are pursuing an academic career.

Q. Would combining a degree in interpretation/translation with a major in another program be beneficial to my success?

A. It certainly would - a key to success in translation (and interpretation) is knowing what you are translating

Q. If you could go back in time, would you still go into interpretation/translation?

A. Sure: it's been a very rewarding career.

Q. Would you recommend this field to someone just starting out?

A. Yes... but with two provisos:

  1. Translation (and allied fields) are increasingly dependent on technology (computer assisted translation tools, etc.). This career is no longer suitable for technophobes (if it ever was).  
  2. Since most work opportunities are as freelancers (and I don't see this changing any time soon, if at all), you need to be the kind of person who is able to work on your own. You also need to learn what "being in business" really entails (but see my book recommendations below).

Q. Is there any other information that you think a prospective student should know about the fields?

A. I can highly recommend three books, to start with: How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, by Corinne McKay, The Entrepreneurial Linguist, by Judy and Dagmar Jenner, and The Prosperous Translator, by Chris Durban.

A final consideration, perhaps unrelated to your questions: many people seem to think this is a career suitable for part-timers. I strongly believe that, in most language combinations, this is definitely not so – becoming a good translator or interpreter requires a very significant investment in time and study.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

An update on the Microsoft Glossaries

I've written previously about the Microsoft Glossaries, and how the freely downloadable set of glossaries was  superseded by the Microsoft Language Portal.

The glossaries are still available for download (as "UI translations"), but only to paying MSDN or Microsoft TechNet subscribers.

Some Microsoft technology, however, is available for download from the Microsoft Language Portal: you can download, in TBX format, the Microsoft Terminology Collection in various languages. The number of terms included for each language differs due to the varying levels of localization (for Italian there are 18,520 terms) - it is however, a useful set of terms for anybody working on the translation of software files (at least, for Windows).

You can use the tbx files directly with such a tool as Xbench, or you can import them in most terminology tools.

Another useful thing to download from the Microsoft Language Portal is the style guides for the languages you work with - the one style guide not available for download is the English Style Guide (sold by O'Reilly as the Microsoft Manual of Style).