LinkedIn Translation Fiasco Makes the NYT

Our friend Jill Sommer sent us a note that the paper of record, the New York Times, just published an article about the fact that LinkedIn recently sent an e-mail to thousands of translators, essentially asking if they would help translate LinkedIn for free. This has been covered very widely in translation blogs and forums, and we certainly support the majority's viewpoint that professional translation services should not be available for free. It's disappointing to see that a major player like LinkedIn fails to take our profession seriously enough to compensate professional linguists for their services. We wonder if LinkedIn also sent an e-mail to attorneys, asking them to review some documents for free?

Read the NYT's excellent coverage, including a comment by Matthew Bennett, who started a LinkedIn groupd that hotly debated this issue, here.

Marketing Tip of the Week

One of our favorite marketing ideas of the year did not start out as one. When we bought a new laptop for Judy, we quickly realized that while it was a great deal ($499), it had a very glossy black surface, which nicely showed every fingerprint. Why the surface can't be matte is beyond us, but we digress. In an effort to solve the fingerprint-issue, we consulted our IT guru, technology guardian angel, and general genius, Tom Gruber. He suggested we buy a large sticker for the laptop and sent us to

The site offers inexpensive stickers, technically called laptop skins, completely tailored to your laptop's dimensions (you can even enter your make and model), which leads us to believe that most folks use this space as a marketing tool rather than a fingerprint-cover. Hence, rather than order a picture of, say, Judy's dog, we ordered a sticker that features the Twin Translations logo. It fit like a glove and cost around $30, shipping included.

The marketing effect:
  • While sitting in the Lufthansa business class lounge at LAX (thanks, Dad!), Judy was working on her laptop (see picture). Later, during the flight, she got approached by someone from the lounge who inquired about translation services and they talked at length.
  • While sitting in a coffeeshop with the laptop in Vegas, a very nice manager from IBM came over and asked what kind of company Twin Translations was. She asked for a card and said she needed translation services. Wow!
The bottom line: this is a good investment, especially if you work away from your house once in a while. It's a conversation starter as well, and you never know who you will meet. We'd love to know if you decided to get a sticker as well and what your experiences have been.

It's a Scam: Daimond Translations

Unfortunately, scams are becoming more and more prevalent in our industry. This morning, we received the following from a Gmail address; which lead us to hit the delete button immediately. However, we were curious and googled the sender's company name, and sure enough, there were widespread reports of scams.

We currently need German to Spanish Translators.If you"re interested
to work with us please contact us by e-mail as soon as possible.
If you get this e-mail as well, please don't reply to it. As a matter of principle, we don't reply to non-serious inquiries coming from non-professional e-mail addresses, so this was an easy decision for us. This new trend in the profession is quite alarming to us, but it's fantastic that we have forums where we can communicate these happenings to others. Our colleague Jill Sommer just reported on a similar scam (perhaps the same individuals are behind it?) last week on her blog.

Good News: Optimism in the Industry

We would like to share some economic data that we received from the folks at GALA (Globalization and Localization Association). They recently completed their third quarterly survey among their members, and have sent us the results. While the realities of these challenging economic times have affected all of us in one way or another, it is nice to hear that the outlook is generally quite positive. Here are some highlights from the study:

A full 78 percent of respondents said they had been impacted by the downturn in the last three months (Feb – April), a marked increase from 57 percent who indicated they had been impacted in the previous February survey. Far fewer in North America felt a direct impact (55 percent) than Europe (83 percent) and Asia (85 percent).

However, the outlook is not nearly as grim. A full 30 percent of respondents anticipate an actual increase in demand in the next three months—way up from eight percent in the previous survey. And many more respondents are optimistic about the future (44 percent) than are not (15 percent).

Other findings include:

* More than 82 percent of respondents have not cut workforce as a result of the financial crisis. There have been other reactions by many LSPs, including reductions in overtime and outsourcing, wage reductions and salary freezes.
* More than half of respondents (53 percent) report lower revenue compared to three months ago.
* Forty-four percent of respondents are optimistic about the next 6 to 12 months, while 15 percent are not optimistic and 41 percent are unsure.
* Similar to the first quarter, more than half of respondents have not had any projects or contracts canceled due to the economic situation. But there is a lot more downward pressure on price and some projects have been delayed.

The Password Keeper: Free and Open Source Software

Not too long ago, it was still relatively simple to remember all your passwords for use online. These days, this is becoming increasingly more difficult. Between computer access data, multiple e-mail addresses, social profiles, Internet banking, postings everywhere from Craigs List to — not to forget our PizzaHut password and all our blogging access data, we certainly can’t keep up. You don’t have to be an IT expert to know that you probably shouldn’t be using your dog’s name as a password for every account and keep it written down in the back of your day planner. We are certainly convinced that complicated passwords (with letters, special symbols, lower case mixed with upper case, etc.) are essential in today’s online data security. The question is: how do you remember all of them?

Our IT guru, programming genius and internet guardian angel, also known as Dagmar’s boyfriend, recommended we look into the completely free (open source) software called Keepass. Once downloaded, you can store all your access data and passwords for hundreds of accounts and profiles. All these are protected with a master password (which you should go to great lengths to remember). After you enter the master password, you will be able to see all your other stored access data, which is highly encrypted in accordance with the latest technology. For a master password, a recommendation is to pick an easy-to-remember word, but typing the corresponding letter to the left of it. For instance, “Andi” will become “Smfo”. For history buffs, passwords composed of historical figures and dates are a good choice, such as “Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770”, which could become “17LvB70”.

Seller Sets the Price

In almost all professional transactions (we are not talking about Morrocan spice markets or Mexican tianguis here), the seller sets the price, and it's a fact that contributes to the relatively smooth operation of the economy. In our business, the buyer frequently tries to set the price by saying: "Our budget for this translation project is $20o," to which we suggest a polite reply along the lines of "Thank you for that information. My price is XYZ."

Our friend Amybeth Hale, who pens the excellent Research Goddess blog, just told us about this fantastic video. This is what happens when the buyer tries to set the price. Would the marketplace still work? Enjoy!

Translation and the Catskills

Through our colleague Corinne McKay we just heard about a fantastic workshop that she is helping organize in the Catskills this August. It's mainly geared towards French<->English translators, but all other languages are welcome as well. The conference will be held August 21-23 in Maplecrest, NY (roughly three hours north of NYC). The main focus of the event will be writing skills in the target language and how freelance translators can succeed in their field. The line-up of presenters is top-notch and includes Chris Durban, Grant Hamilton and Ros Schwartz for French to English and Dominique Jonkers and François Lavallée for English to French. The small size of the conference and the gorgeous surroundings will make for quality time with fellow translators.

This might be a great alternative for those who are unable to make it to the ATA's 50th Annual Conference in New York City at the end of October.

For more information, please visit their site.

Mocking the Spanish Language in Vegas

For many years, I ran the Spanish-language version of a travel website, and one of my (sometimes painful) jobs was reviewing Vegas shows. There really are many more bad shows than good shows in Vegas. After 14 years in town and more than 300 shows, I've seen some really, really bad ones. My least favorite include the ones that play on racial stereotypes while not being funny and that showcase people who don't have much talent. The show I saw this week, Criss Angel Believe at the Luxor falls in all categories.

I will spare you the painful details about the hype, hubris, demented bunnies, goth-like dancers, and fake-corpse chewing creatures as well as the amateur-like execution of basic magic tricks (doves from a hat, anyone?) and get to the point: cultural insensitivity.

Some of Criss Angel's sidekicks are clearly Hispanic. When Criss, who has a terrible sense of comedic timing, asks the main sidekick, whom he refers to as "maestro" to do something, the maestro answers in Spanish. That part is actually quite hilarious, as the maestro throws in some fantastic profanities at the resident black-leather-wearing magician. This is where it goes downhill: Criss Angel says that he wants to speak Spanish now that he's been learning it, so he instructs the maestro to open the damn "box-o" and the "lid-o" and to take off the "lock-o". Fellow magiciain David Copperfield does something similar, but he shows that he appreciates the importance of the Spanish language in this country and doesn't mock it. He asks for the translation of "lock" and then shows off his Spanish counting skills "uno, dos, tres, dos-dos." Criss Angel, on the other hand, comes across as a culturally insensitive entertainer who enjoys making fun of Hispanics. Addressing language and race is always a tricky subject, it can work well if you truly are funny, show some respect for the subject you are making fun of and are geniuine-- all of which Criss Angel lacks.

Just like many people who were at the show, I was pretty dumbfounded. This is a Cirque du Soleil show, which is one of the powerhouses of high-end productions on the Strip and creators of some of my favorite shows in town. As is widely known, Cirque is a French Canadian company and is composed mostly of international performers. Why would the talented team at Cirque allow Criss Angel to be so culturally insensitive?

Statistically speaking, nearly 20% of the audience in that showroom was Spanish-speaking., and just like I, the ones I heard from weren't amused. Adding an "o" to every English word does not make it Spanish, just like adding "-akos" to everything doesn't make it Greek (hint: Criss Angel is of Greek descent).

Professional Development in Guadalajara, Mexico

The Mexican Translators' Association, the Organización Mexicana de Traductores, recently announced its thirteenth annual conference to be held in gorgeous Guadalajara, Mexico, on November 28 and 29. While their is a strong focus on the Spanish language (in the English combination as well as with other languages), all other combinations are welcome. The conference will feature a solid lineup of speakers and professional development opportunities and will focus on bilingualism, Spanglish, cultural identity and linguistics, as well as translation and interpretation in specific fields, among many others.

The conference will be held as part of the prestigious International Guadalajara Book Fair (Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara), which is the world's second-largest international book fair and the most important Spanish-language book fair in the world.

While this conference will be during Thanksgiving weekend, it's a great opportunity to visit gorgeous Guadalajara with its old-school Mexican charm and balmy weather. Why not have turkey with the family and hop on a plane on Friday evening instead of shoveling snow all weekend? For more information, please visit the organization's website (Spanish only).
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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