Multilingual Food Glossary

One of our colleagues from the American Translators Association, Kristina Moeller, just shared a link to an interesting four-language online food dictionary (French, Spanish, German, English -- just up our alley). We quickly tested it with a few fancy food terms, and it appears to be quite accurate. As with every online resource, this is simply a glossary and not a painstakingly compiled dictionary, so take the results with a grain of salt. This is a good place to start if you do translations in the area of hospitality, travel, restaurants, etc., which we do quite a bit. Enjoy and let us know if you find the glossary to be solid! Visit the Gourmetpedia here.

Nifty Online Tool to Frame Digital Pictures

Our web guru, Tom Gruber, is always on the lookout for new useful software that we can use and share with our colleagues. This free online tool, still in beta testing, is delightfully simple and effective. Try Clip Your Photos Framer --nothing to download, install, or learn. Simply upload an image and make it look professional/interesting/edgy/artsy (your choice) by adding one of a dozen or so digital "frames." This will beautify your image and make it ideal for use in company presentations, marketing materials, PowerPoint presentations, etc. We tried one of our images, and in ten seconds produced the framed image to the left. We are partial to simple, useful, and free tools, and this one certainly fits the bill. Have you used it?

Report From the Front Lines of Interpretation

Fresh from a delicate interpretation assignment involving some private family and legal matters, Judy has been thinking about the interpreter training she has received and how it works in the real world. We wanted to share some of our thoughts about this particular situation, which shows that while we certainly have to uphold our ethical principles and our code of conduct, sometimes minor adjustments need to be made in order to achieve the best possible communication result.

  1. Third person versus first person: It's widely known -- and taught -- that interpretation needs to be done in the first person, unless special circumstances dictate otherwise. In this difficult conversation between an adult and his elderly family member who suffers from dementia and has trouble following complex conversations, Judy decided to opt for the third-person summary style of interpreting. It felt awkward, at first, to move away from the classic interpreting mode in community settings, but it was a good decision: communication went relatively smoothly.
  2. Taking sides: As interpreters, it's essential to be impartial and to not take sides, as compelling as they may be. Both sides had very good points, felt very strongly about certain issues, and everyone's heart was in the right place. It was difficult at times, but Judy managed to stick to her interpreter role. An interpreter is not an advocate.
  3. Enforcing frequent pauses: Ideally, our clients and their parties would speak slowly and make frequent pauses to make the intepretation process easy, and they would speak one at a time. Unfortunately, when things get heated, both parties tend to talk at the same time. The traditional hand signals for pausing were not working for Judy in this conversation, so she had to use the "please stop so I may interpret" phrase. While hand signals are the preferred way to ask a party to slow down, sometimes you have to ask verbally. It worked in this case.
  4. Taking notes: It was very helpful that one party had prepared written notes that he was reading off to his family member to help him ensure he wouldn't forget anything. He read them slowly, which enabled Judy to take good notes and use those as a basis for the interpretation for the other party, who was speaking freely. While good memory is essential for being a good interpreter, good note-taking skills are vital, too.
It's been another highly interesting interpretation project. As challenging as it was, it taught us to adjust to complex situations and to do what we've been hired to do: to serve as a conduit.

Translator Profile: Abigail Dahlberg, the "Trash Girl"

In our second translator profile (read the first one, about BJ Epstein and her process of getting a PhD in translation studies here), we are delighted to interview our wonderful colleague Abigail Dahlberg, a German->English translator specialized in waste management. Abigail hails from the UK and lives and works in Kansas City.

Translation Times: Is it OK if we call you the Trash Girl? We think that’s a fabulous, edgy term.
Abigail Dahlberg: Of course, you can! A client once suggested that I develop a superhero cartoon character called Trash Girl, but I have not quite found the time for that yet.
TT: How did you find your specialization?
AD: I think there was a certain element of happenstance involved. After I finished my degree in translation and interpreting, I realised that my next career step should be to move to Germany and find an in-house position. I ended up living in the Black Forest area and applied for every translation position I could find within a 50-mile radius. I was ultimately offered a job as an in-house translator and journalist for a trade journal specialising in recycling and waste management issues. As part of my job I attended countless trade fairs and conferences throughout Europe on subjects as varied as battery, electronics and packaging waste recycling, and also went on tours of different kinds of waste treatment facilities in several countries.

TT: What’s the most interesting thing about your specialization?

AD: For me, I think it is the wide range of texts and topics that I handle even within such a narrow speciality: One day I might be translating a report about the state of Germany's ferrous scrap market and the next be working on a press release or a contract for a waste management firm. It is also interesting to watch new terminology develop as concepts and technologies that exist in Germany are exported to other countries.

TT: What’s the most challenging assignment you have worked on lately?

AD: The most difficult text that I have translated in a while came across my desk a couple of weeks ago with a section containing lots of stocks and bonds terminology. Luckily my husband is fluent in German and works for a bond fund so he was able to lend me a hand. It is always good to have a group of people who you can contact with specialist terminological questions, even better if they live in your home!

TT: What would your advice to newcomers be who are trying to break into your field?

AD: My number one tip for newcomers trying to hone out a spot in any niche market, not just environmental translation, is to find a topic that you are interested in and then read everything you can get your hands on to build up your level of knowledge. Subscribe to trade journals in your source and target language and find courses online or in your area to develop your skills. Attend conferences and trade fairs to meet companies that might need your services and market yourself aggressively online (e.g. start a blog, join LinkedIn or Twitter) and locally through active involvement in your local translators association.

TT: Did your passion for this field develop organically or was this always something you were interested in?

AD: While I would not describe myself as passionate about waste, I have always been interested in environmental issues. As I have become more involved in this field, my dedication to reducing our impact has grown although I am far from being an activist. In our household we try and do all that we can to minimise the amount of waste that we set out in black bin bags at the kerb each week. Yet I am aware that our family's carbon footprint is massive simply by virtue of the number of transatlantic flights that we take each year.

TT: What direction do you think is the future for your general field?

AD: I think that the future for environmental translators is definitely bright as people become more aware of environmental issues and companies and governments take action to minimise their environmental impact. When it comes to growth areas, I think a great deal depends on your language pair. For translators working into US English, green technologies should be a fairly safe bet. Renewable energies are certainly an area to watch closely regardless of your language pair. Translators working with languages spoken in Africa and the Middle East might also want to consider specialising in water provision, sanitation and wastewater treatment.

TT: Who are your clients?
AD: I would estimate that 90 to 95 per cent of my business comes from direct clients located in Germany. My single largest customer is the publishing company where my career started. I also work for German waste management companies and government agencies. Moreover I still provide translation services to a select few companies outside my area of speciality, notably publishing firms, that I have worked with since shortly after starting my freelance business in 2005. Translation agencies only account for a very small share of my income at present.
Thanks for speaking with Translation Times, Abigail!

Royal Academy of Spain Publishes New Language Rules

The Royal Academy of Spain (RAE), which is the ultimate authority on the Spanish language, has recently finished one of its most ambitious projects to date: the publication of more than 4,000 pages of grammar rules, aiming to unify the Spanish language from Madrid to Tierra del Fuego. For the first time, the Spain-based institution has included details about the pecularities used spoken in all parts of Latin America. To achieve this, RAE worked with its dozens of sister organizations on the other side of the Atlantic for more than 11 years.

Academics analyzed and studied more than 3,000 works of literature to come up with their final work, hoping to unify the language and its rules for the 400 million people who speak Spanish around the globe. The full book is in three volumes and is quite, well, extensive, at roughly 4,000 pages (King Juan Carlos has been given a book -- this will keep him busy throughout 2011). Abbreviated versions will be available for everyday use. Read the full BBC article here.

Translation Industry Featured in Wall Street Journal Online

This morning, we were very excited to see that the Wall Street Journal's online edition had published a short profile about the translation and interpretation industry that has been several months in the making. Judy, who is profiled in the article, gave an in-depth interview to the WSJ, and while some of the information she discussed -- professional development, translator associations, difference between working for direct clients or agencies -- were not addressed, we are still very happy that our industry is getting some much-needed coverage. You can read the full article here. Thanks to our friends at GALA, the Globalization and Localization Association, who made this article with the WSJ happen and recommended Judy to be featured in the article. Unfortunately, GALA did not get mentioned in the article.

This makes two high-profile translation articles in a month: remember Abigail Dahlberg's front-page Los Angeles times piece?

Value, not Price: A True Story

We've been lucky enough to receive lots of positive feedback from our wonderful direct customers, which we are always thrilled to get. We frequently talk to our colleagues about how direct clients need to feel that they are getting good value and that they oftentimes focus less on price. After all, if they can hire a contractor who gets done exactly what they need in the timeframe they need it, whether that service costs $x or $x plus 20% is oftentimes not that relevant.

Case in point: a few days ago, one of our favorite customers called us. She mentioned that she'd just recommended us to a fellow small business owner. She said that we provide amazing translations and that they are a great value! We've heard a lot about our business, but we usually don't have customers volunteering to pay more, which is exactly what she said, verbatim. She instructed us to charge her a bit more, since she's getting great value and is happy to pay more. We are still speechless and very, very grateful for the sign of trust. Has that ever happened to you? It's certainly a first for us, but it goes to show that it really is all about value, and that customers are willing to pay for it.

Offline Data Security: Get a Shredder

As linguists who work with oftentimes highly confidential documents, we go to great lenghts to ensure the documents' online security, from encryption to secure e-mailing to back-up data, etc. However, it's the offline part of data security that's sometimes not taken as seriously. By this we mean the actual hard copies of the documents that you print out to proof the translation. We are firm believers that the only way to really correctly edit a translation is on paper: for some reason, your eyes catch mistakes on paper that they don't catch on the screen. We print out at least three drafts of each translation, which leaves us a with quite a bit of paper that's confidential. What to do with it?

Throwing it in the trash or putting it into the recycling bin won't work, so get yourself an automatic shredder that you can put next to your desk. We are really like our workhorse, the Fellowes DM12C shredder, which we got at a great price at the membership-only (and worth every penny) Costco. We highly recommend making this small investment in your customers' data security -- the old-fashioned way.
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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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