A Question of Grammar

By way of introduction: Dagy serves on the national board of directors of the Austrian equivalent of the American Translators Association (ATA), and is running into an interesting problem in the naming of the organization.
The Austrian Translators' and Interpreters' Association, formerly known as Österreichischer Übersetzer- und Dolmetscherverband UNIVERSITAS, is being renamed Universitas Austria – Berufsverband für Dolmetschen und Übersetzen – Interpreters' and Translators' Association (yes, all that; it's quite a mouthful).
While I won't get into the choice our members voted for, I do want to discuss a question of grammar. The Association's new name is to include an English translation (see above). While I think the use of the apostrophe is grammatically correct because we're dealing with a genitive plural, some associations in English-speaking countries do not use the apostrophe, first and foremost the American Translators Association. Then there are others who do, such as the Irish Translators' and Interpreters' Association. Judy is also a new member of another organization without an apostrophe: NITA (Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association).
So now we both wonder: which one is the correct version? What is the grammatical explanation for omitting the apostrophe? Is there one? Does it just look better? Please join the discussion by posting your comments below. We would love to hear fellow translators' and language professionals' opinions (please note our nice use of the apostrophe here) on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Bible for Freelance Translators

Surely many of you have heard of French->English translator, frequent American Translators Association (ATA) presenter and technology guru Corinne McKay. A big cornerstone of Corinne’s work is her fantastic self-published book “How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator”, for which she is currently writing the second edition. Full disclosure: Corinne is not only one of the most talented and most involved translators we know, but she’s also a good friend of Judy’s, who is often in awe of Corinne’s seemingly endless enthusiasm, expertise, and insight.
Whether you are just getting started in translation or are hoping to take your practice to the next level, Corinne’s book is a concise, easy-to-read, well-organized, and beautifully written manual on how to make it in the translation world. The chapters, which include overviews of the translation business, starting and growing your own business, home office setup, business growth, etc., contain lots of helpful information. Tips and suggestions range from important technology-related information (how to back-up your data on your computer, how to receive online faxes), to things you wouldn’t have thought of on your own (get a separate ringtone on your existing phone so you can identify the business call), to very essential aspects such as information on corporate identities, (which I found to be most helpful), tax planning, rates, invoicing, accounting, potential pitfalls, terms of service, etc. “10 ways to please a client” is also a good and important read for all of us. Under the book’s resource section, there’s a myriad of useful information on translation associations, U.S. government agencies that hire translators, etc.
As Corinne is very well versed in translation technologies, and specifically, open-source software, her chapters on translation home office technology, translation memory software, and non-Western characters set are a must-read. Judy learned from the author’s presentation at the 2005 ATA Conference in Seattle that it’s quite a necessity to get a second monitor for her computer to facilitate research and translation work. Who knew – all you need is a second video card. We had never thought about it before – and that’s where Corinne comes in with great ideas. To get your own copy, visit Corinne’s site.

The Translation Sample Dilemma

So far, we've been fortunate enough to work with direct clients only, steering clear of agencies. However, some potential direct clients seem to have adapted a controversial approach commonly used by agencies: sample translations. While nobody would think about asking a lawyer or a CPA for free work with the goal of verifying his or her qualifications, it is common practice with translators. Why is that?

We believe that part of the reason is our profession's low prestige (we might discuss this issue in the future). Be that as it may, while we usually decline to do a free sample translation, we offer to send the potential clients previous translations in the area of expertise that they are looking for. But hey, we do make occasional exceptions, especially when we are really interested in a project or if we feel that the client is just about to hire us if we just did the darn sample translation.

We draw the line at half a page, which does not stop potential clients (among others, the Austrian Umweltbundesamt, a public authority) from asking for several pages translated at no charge. While we do believe in accommodating our clients, we have no intention of becoming the Mother Teresa of translation. Why should we? After all, we are trying to run a business here.

To spend or not to spend?

A few days ago, I was telling a friend and business associate about my decision to join my twin in working full-time on our translation business and leave the corporate world behind.

The first question my friend asked me was whether I had an advertising and marketing budget. I was taken aback by this a bit -- what budget? As most of us who are self-employed and run very small businesses, our budgets are limited, to say the very least. In the beginning, we are keeping our so-called budget for the U.S. to a minimum to include:
  • American Translators Association (ATA) membership
  • Going to the ATA conference in Orlando in November
  • Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association membership
  • Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce membership, which includes an ad in their directory
  • Some local networking organizations
  • Creating company profiles to send out to potential customers (free, only my time)
  • Creating profiles on translator websites (free, only my time)
  • Some other random expenses
Other than that, that's it. We will mostly focus on search engine optimization, as that's largely free. Are we missing something? We have heard from several of you before saying your marketing strategies are pretty similar to ours. So what's your take? Do we need a marketing budget? My friend made me feel a bit silly for not having one, but I think I am on the right track. Dagy found an interesting option from Vistaprint. I am sure most of you are familiar with their services (free or inexpensive business cards, etc.), but we came across a free decal that you can order to place on your car, or minivan, or window, or scooter (I guess won't work that well on a bike). The first one is free, and you only pay shipping. Of course, Vistaprint offers a seemingly endless array of special offers during the checkout process, so it takes a few minutes to decline them all, but it's worth it (unless you are translating 10,000 words today, which I am not). The best part we got out of this offer was a coupon for $25 in Google ad words. I can't quite envision what it would actually look like on my Prius, but I figured it's worth a try. Marketing/advertising budget for today: $4.53.

¡Viva Hidalgo! ¡Viva Morelos! ¡Viva México!

We are delighted to see that today even the mighty Google is paying tribute to the most important Mexican celebration of the year: Mexican Independence Day (Día de la independencia mexicana), which is celebrated tonight. Google's logo is decorated in the colors of the Mexican flag and features the bell that Miguel Hidalgo rang for the first time in the early morning hours on September 16, 1810, signaling the beginning of a new era. It was a monumental day in the modern history of Mexico, and it's celebrated in grand style throughout North America.

For Las Vegas, this means thousands and thousands of Mexican visitors who have been coming to Vegas for decades for the festivities. And it makes sense, as the top Mexican entertainers are performing : Luis Miguel at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Alejandro Fernández at Mandalay Bay, legendary comedian Polo Polo at the House of Blues, and a few others.

Presidente Felipe Calderón will take to the balcony of the Zócalo (the main plaza in Mexico City) tonight to do the traditional grito de Dolores, shouting the famous words to tens of several hundred thousand people filling the Zócalo: ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! Those same
grito will be heard at every party, on every plaza in the smallest of towns, and from many rooftops, including ours. No translation needed.

Does the world need another translation blog?

Short answer: probably not. However, we are undeterred as we think that there are not enough translation blogs in cyberspace that are written by twins.

Yes, we really are twins. Identical. We love languages; several of them: Spanish, German, French and well, English. For simplicity's sake, we will be posting in English, perhaps with the occasional entry in another language. We also collect grammar and translation mistakes, and Dagy has a German bad translations blog for that. We also love literature in our four languages, and Dagy, a prolific blogger, shares her take on fiction on her German-language literature blog.
Judy lives in Las Vegas, NV and is not a showgirl or a cocktail waitress, but as you might have guessed, a translator. Dagy lives in Vienna, Austria, and has run her translation business for six years. Together we now run our small business, aptly named Twin Translations.
We hope that this translation blog becomes a forum for fellow translators and language enthusiasts. We will be sharing (hopefully) insightful things about the translation business, our work, our experiences, ask others to share information, or sometimes just post interesting tidbits of information that could be of interest for fellow translators and non-translators alike.
Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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