Late last week, we woke up to an e-mail from a direct client who is the only person in more than a year who had not paid us for our services. The invoice was issued in February, and after several progressively more direct reminders, both via e-mail and voicemail, we were quite sure we would not be able to collect on this small sum. It was quite frustrating, especially because every time we open our Translation Office 3000 software, where we log every project and invoice, it would stare at us to remind us that we had not collected. We were getting ready to write the amount off at the end of the year (small claims court isn't worth it for such a small sum), but this payment came out of the blue. We won't speculate too much on what happened, but perhaps our invoice simply got lost in the shuffle. We are delighted to have received payment, and are off to the bank to deposit it!

What is the longest you have had to wait for payment? What steps did you have to take to get paid? We'd love to hear from our colleagues -- you can leave a comment below. 

Free Translation Price Calculator

This free translation price calculator, which you can easily install on igoogle, comes courtesy of our IT superhero and guardian angel, Thomas Gruber. We use Translation Office 3000 for our professional quotes, but sometimes we just want to get a quick rate without actually logging a not-yet-approved project. Thomas was tired of seeing us pull out our very uncool handheld calculators; so he programmed a tool for us. We are happy to share it with all our colleagues -- simply enter your rate, the lines/words, etc., and click on "calculate." We hope you like it as much as we do. Download it here.

Professional Development in your Pajamas

The American Translators Association recently announced a way to make getting professional development points even easier: finally, webinars are here. This is especially great for translators who live in remote areas or who simply want to get professional development at a very reasonable price without having to leave the comfort of their homes. This fall's line-up includes well-known Corinne McKay, author of "How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator" and a fantastic free session on October 5. Presented by ATA director Naomi Sutcliff de Moraes, it will teach you how to get the most out of your ATA membership. Finally, we are happy to announce that Judy's "Entrepreneurial Linguist" workshop will be debuting the series on September 23. Log on and learn! The cost is $35 for ATA members and $50 for non-members for the 60-minute sessions.

Deposition of the Week

Now that Judy is working very hard on her Nevada court interpreter certification, she's spending a lot of time in court and practicing simultaneous interpretation with the help of official test preparation kits and also just good old YouTube videos. We just found this hilarious video of a deposition by the president of a company accused of fraud who answers most questions with "I don't know." It is quite stunning how she can keep her composure and claim to have no knowledge of  -- well, pretty much anything. Her inability to identify an investor is particularly amusing.  Legal issues aside: it's easy to interpret! Enjoy.

Dictionary Blog

If you are a US-based linguist, then Freek Lankhof and his boutique business, InTrans Book Service, will hardly be unknown to you. Freek is a regular at translation events large and small, and his small business carries a fantastic selection of mainly German and Spanish translation resources. We have ordered from him for years, and it's always a pleasure to support fellow entrepreneurs rather than bigger websites. Freek is also a linguist in his own right, and he's offered us great advice throughout the years. We were recently debating which Spanish<->English medical dictionary to purchase, and were delighted to discover that Freek had written about precisely that topic on his new blog. Check it out here

The Great Typo Hunt

Let us start out by saying that we are not serious collectors of anything, but we do collect two things: sand and typos (the latter never get dusty). Let us elaborate: instead of buying random tchotchkes during beach vacations, we simply bring an empty water bottle or bag, scoop up some sand, and then display it in a nice glass on shelves in our homes. Our parents started this tradition more than 30 years ago with some sand from a Valparaíso (Chile) beach, and we have continued it. We also collect typos, and have hundreds of folders with typos that we have collected over the years, including pictures of horrific street signs and billboards, newspaper articles, press releases from Fortune 500 companies, and much, much more. Most non-linguists thought this was crazy/unimportant/geek/odd/off-putting, but we were having fun. We never thought to do anything with those typos besides collecting them and using them to point out how important language is. Honestly, we didn't think anyone cared. Boy, were we wrong: We are not famous, but at least someone else is. Can't wait to read the book!

On the Road

This past summer was filled with unforgettable adventures and experiences as we hit the road in Europe to share and exchange knowledge with colleagues in four countries, via two different workshops in two languages (English and German). As wonderful as it was, by the time the last workshop rolled around, we were ready to prop up our feet and to stop living out of a suitcase, and Dagy was tired of carrying the laptop and acting as pro bono assistant and much-needed travel coordinator.

Even though we don’t have to leave our own homes to make contacts in today’s interconnected online world , there is simply no substitute for meeting colleagues in person. Also, reading about Amsterdam (see picture) isn’t the same as actually going there, walking alongside the canals, buying your own tulips, eating a herring sandwich, and enjoying the picturesque scenery. Hence, in spite of sore back, blistery feet, delayed flights, and overcrowded trains: we would do it again in a heartbeat. Here is what we learned on the road in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria.

  • It only takes two very driven people to put on an entire conference. Last year at the ATA conference in New York City, two colleagues, English<->Dutch financial translators Annie Tadema and Astrid van der Veert, approached Judy after her presentation and asked if she had any plans for the following summer. Turns out the Dutch association is essentially dormant, so Annie and Astrid decided to organize an entire conference by themselves. Of all the events we attended, this one-day conference, where well-known Dutch translator and Web 2.0 expert Cora Bastiaansen also spoke, was our favorite. It was held in the stunning Centraal Museum in downtown Utrecht, just outside of Amsterdam. Lunch was served in the breathtaking museum gardens, and there was even a professional photographer to take profile pictures of each attendee.
  • Our colleagues are wonderful. A colleague in Germany got on her motorcycle and rode from Nürnberg to Munich in 90-degree heat to attend the Web 2.0 workshop. Another colleague, who lives in Slovakia, traveled all the way to Prague, the Czech Republic, to join us. Earlier this summer, a colleague in Chicago e-mailed Judy all kinds of information on eateries so she would be well fed before her presentation. In Innsbruck, students at the Institute of Translation Studies practiced their simultaneous interpreting skills into five languages and didn’t even complain when Judy briefly forgot her oath to speak slowly (sorry!).
  • Fellow linguists are thirsty for professional development. Judy spoke in charming Graz, in southern Austria, in mid-June. While the weather in Europe during our trip was generally average at best, in Graz it was brutally hot. Think 90 degrees, 80 percent humidity, and no air conditioning. If we hadn't been the speaker and the speaker's twin, we would have hit the lake with our floaties. However, only two out of 30 attendees did not show up. Everyone else was there with bells on – and smartly, many girls with bikinis under their summer dresses.
  • Getting lost can be fun. Finding the hotel in Munich (very close to the train station) should have been a breeze, but for some reason, it still took 30 minutes (so many corners, so many decisions). However, in the meantime, we located a charming café for breakfast, the nearest ATM, and scouted out the next morning’s running route (on which we got lost). We learned that we don’t always need to know where I am going.
  • Just like their American counterparts, professional associations in Europe are top-notch. The German association’s (BDÜ) Bavaria division is fantastic. They have their own very modern offices with a conference room and equipment. The Czech Association of Translators (JTP) in Prague is the co-owner of the Art Deco building where their offices (3 gorgeous rooms with high ceilings) are located. UNIVERSITAS Austria, the Austrian Interpreters’ and Translators’ Association, where Dagy serves on the board, has the best tcotchkes. My favorite is the door hangers that say “Quiet please! Translator at work!” (my dog ignores it and barks anyway).  UNIVERSITAS borrowed the idea from the very gracious BDÜ.
  • Food and wine tastes better when consumed outside in a big group. While learning from and with others during seminars is wonderful, sharing a meal and a glass of wine takes the new relationships to the next level. There’s nothing like breaking bread and getting to know each other in a comfy restaurant or beer garden on a balmy summer evening. 

Customer Service: The Paper Bag Lesson

A few weeks, our IT superhero and guardian angle, Tom Gruber, did something a bit out of character: he went shopping, and we came along (we are all  very much not into shopping). Tom wanted to hit "his" Tommy Hilfiger outlet store in Vegas, where we were all spending part of the summer together. Here's what we observed at the cash register when a tourist family was trying to pay. We don't know where the family was from (Italy, perhaps), but they clearly weren't native speakers and struggled a bit through the conversation. They had piled up a huge amount of items on the cash register. Here's the gist of the conversation:

Customer: Could we please have separate bags for some of these purchases? They are special gifts for friends and family back home.
Cashier: No, I am sorry, you may not. It is against our policy to give additional paper bags to our customers.
Customer: I am confused. I am buying several hundred dollars' worth of merchandise and all I want is a few extra bags so I can separate out the presents and make carrying easier.
Cashier: I am sorry, that is against our policy.
Customer: So you are saying you will have to fit everything I bought in ONE bag?
Cashier: Oh, no, we will give you several bags if your merchandise does not fit in one. I just cannot give you empty bags.
Customer: I am not asking for a discount; I just want a few extra paper bags!
Cashier: I am sorry, that's against our policy. Your total is $345.16. Cash or credit?

Our take: ouch. Is it worth alienating customers over a few paper bags, which cost peanuts? Of course not. If we had been the customers, we had just walked away from this transaction. However, these customers had gone to a great deal of trouble to find and select all their items, and they probably liked the prices. We don't blame this bad customer service on the cashier -- she's just following instructions -- but certainly on Tommy management. While we understand that you have to save costs in these difficult economic times, depriving paying customers of an additional paper bag doesn't seem to be the way to build customer loyalty, which is exactly what companies need to succeed these years. Our decision: we won't shop at Tommy Hilfiger if they can't even give a poor customer fro another country an extra paper bag. The lesson we can all learn: go the extra mile for your customers, paper bag and all. 
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.

Subscribe by email:


Twitter update

Site Info

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

Translation Times