Middlebury College Questions: Answered

One of our colleagues, Prof. Karin Hanta, recently contacted us to see if we would be willing to participate in an interview project in her translation studies class at prestigious liberal arts school Middlebury College in Vermont. Of course, we were happy to do so, and decided to post our answers here for the benefit of other students who might have similar questions. Here's our Q&A with Middlebury freshman Greta Olivares, who grew up bilingually -- just like we did.

Question: How did you get into translation?
Growing up bilingually, we always thought we would work with languages. When we were 12, we decided, while riding the school bus in Mexico City, that we would once own a company called "Jenner+Jenner Cross-Cultural Consulting." Turns out we own a company very similar to that now. We started translating in college.  Judy was the editor of a bilingual newspaper for high school students with a circulation of 30,000, where she translated extensively. Dagy started our European company in 2002. At the same time, Judy received an offer to run the Spanish translation department at a large travel website, and took the job to get through the first year of entrepreneurship. The job was so great that she ended up staying much longer than we both wanted, but we've finally been able to run our business full-time together since 2008. From 2002 until 2008, Dagy worked  full-time, while Judy worked on our business part-time.

Question: How did you chose your other languages (English and French)? How are you able to maintain an equal mastery over all of them?

The languages chose us. English was the third language that was being taught in our school, the German School Alexander von Humboldt in Mexico City, and we were lucky enough to spend many summers in the US when we were teenagers. In additon, our mom has a graduate degree in English literature, and our dad did a lot of business in the US, so English was a natural fit. As for French, when Dagy decided to pursue a degree in languages, she wanted to challenge herself and chose to add a fourth language. She spent a semester in Tours, France, and makes frequent trips to France to keep her language skills current. Judy does not speak a word of French (well, maybe two or three). We keep our language skill fresh by traveling and reading extensively. Travel is probably our main business expense, and we immersed ourselves in the Spanish language again last year by working from South America (Chile and Argentina) for more than a month. Dagy spends at least a month in the US every  year working on her American idioms, and Judy speaks German during her annual trips to Austria. When we speak to each other, we mainly speak Spanish, but mix in some German and English -- sometimes in the same sentence. It's our twin language! We read at least 50 books a year in our three (or four) languages, listen to satellite radio in all our languages and speak our languages as much as we can. Judy lives in the American Southwest, so she speaks a lot of Spanish during the normal course of her day. And for the record: while Dagy's French is very good, it's not at the same level as her other three languages. 

Question: What is a normal translation process for you?
We both acquire clients at roughly the same rate and tackle every translation project as a team. We have a pretty well-developed five-step quality assurance process, and we don't deliver any project, even if it's just a paragraph, without having put it through the QA process. We communicate well throughout the translation process and have many lively discussions about tricky linguistic issues. 

Question: Do you find that one is better for one part of the translation process it and the other is better for another part?
While we are identical twins, there are a few differences. Dagy is the better researcher and has more patience with terminology lists. Judy is better at client acquisition, since she's more outgoing and truly enjoys meeting with people. Dagy is better at writing short e-mails to clients and is a master at managing our client relationships. Dagy is also better at looking out for our business interests, while Judy has a tendency to say "yes" to more things. Dagy is the faster translator, and Judy has a bit more patience when it comes to dealing with challenging customers, which are few and far in between.

Question: Which of the services that you offer do you enjoy the most?
Whew, you had to ask a difficult question. We are translators at heart, but we are really enjoying interpreting -- conference interpreting for Dagy and court and escort interpreting for Judy. We also have a lot of fun with our copywriting projects, and we really love the fact that no day is ever the same.

Iraqi Interpreters: Petition

A few weeks ago, we started following Linda Wesson of Clovis, CA on Twitter. Her tweets all centered around one thing: the difficulties of Iraqi interpreters. We are always interested in anything related to interpreters, and we requested more information from Linda. After doing some research, we feel that there are many layers to this that we haven't fully understood yet, but Linda has started a petition to get protection for Iraqi interpreters who are receiving death threats for their role in the conflict. The Americans have largely left, but their interpreters are in a very vulnerable position. At this point, we are still mulling over this issue, but wanted to share the details with our colleagues around the world. 

We had been taught that war-time interpreters, who risk their lives to do their jobs, wear masks to keep their identities a secret and to protect their lives after the conflict is over. Apparently, this wasn't done in Iraq. We'd love to learn more about why that happened, but have not been able to find more information. Allegedly, the US had promised visas (so-called "Special Immigrant Visas") to Iraqi interpreters (and other contractors) who are experiencing ongoing serious threat because of their collaboration with the American government. The reality now is that interpreters have to wait for years to get their visas processed while their lives are in danger. There are many things wrong with this equation, but this is a very complex issue, and clearly, we don't know enough. Many people risk their lives in war zones, and we presume these brave interpreters did so voluntarily, and if they were promised immigrant visas, then the US should certainly follow through on that promise. It appears that the process is taking much longer than expected, which is really turning into a life/death issue for  many interpreters. Linda has started a petition that you may sign here if you are so inclined. Linda has no connection to the world of T&I -- she is just passionate about this particular issue and is working very hard to spread the word. Have a look at her blog here

The Los Angeles Times has published an article about the struggles Iraqi interpreters face. You can read it here. In addition, Human Rights First wrote about this last year. 

So you think you had a tough day interpreting in court or at a challenging conference? Take it with a grain of salt: at least you are not receiving death threats.

We'd love to hear your thoughts, dear colleagues!

Jobs: Senior Spanish Content Editor

While this job is not in translation per se, we think it would be a great position for one of our Spanish-speaking colleagues. The job description is eerily similar to Judy's previous job at a travel website (although her position included heading the translation team), and it sounds quite interesting. If you are a native Spanish speaker, have extensive online writing experience and are a whiz at working with content management systems, then this six-month position might be a fit for you. It can either be in New York City or Miami.

We have no connection to the poster of this position -- actually, the company name is hidden -- but we heard about this position from a friend of Judy's and wanted to share it with our readers. For more information, please click here

Call for Proposals: ATA Annual Conference

It seems that the fall conference season just ended, but time flies: the American Translators Association is already hard at work gearing up for the October 24 -27 conference to be held in sunny San Diego, California. We will both be there, and as usual, Judy will be submitting a proposal or two -- she's presented at the last three annual conferences. We'd love to see many first-time speakers, so if you have something interesting to share, don't be intimidated -- the conference is fantastic and it's a great opportunity to increase recognition in the industry. With the exception of pre-conference seminars, speakers do not get compensated for their presentations, but the main speaker of each session (you can present as a group if you would like) will receive $100 off their conference registration.

The deadline to submit the very short proposal is March 12. Click here to submit your proposal. See you in San Diego?

Giveaway: Another $100 in Google AdWords

We recently received another free Google AdWords certificate, and as usual, it can only be used by new users, which excludes us. Hence, we are delighted to give away another one to one of our dear readers. You just have to answer one question (see below).

A quick overview of Google AdWords: after signing up for a free Google account or using an existing one, you can register for the adwords service. Detailed online tutorials show you how to buy keywords that you can use to help promote your website via the sponsored links on the margins of the Google search results pages. You will select a few terms related to your business, then determine what you want your daily budget to be (you can easily cap it $100 and not spend a cent beyond that) and the amount you would like to pay every time someone clicks. Once customers search for one of the terms you have purchased, such as "Farsi translator Brisbane," your ads may appear next to the search results. Read more about Google AdWords here. Getting started is quite simple and straightforward. 

Some rules:
  1. You must be a freelance translator or interpreter and have a website to participate. Please include the link in your comment.
  2. Google is giving away this certificate for new customers only. If you already buying Google AdWords, the system won't let you use this new customer coupon. Sorry; Google said so.
  3. The certificate expires at the end of March, 2012.
  4. We will e-mail the access code to the winning person.

And the question is....who is who in this picture? It was taken in Death Valley, CA a few weeks ago. You  have a 50/50 chance of getting it right. The first person to get it right will win the prize. Good luck!

Open Thread: Tricky Editing Project

Happy 2012, everyone! We wanted to share an interesting business case from our practice with our dear readers and would love to get your opinions. As usual, since we are talking about a real client, we have changed all the identifying details. 

A few months ago, a new client came to us with an editing project. We requested his documents to determine whether he would need proofreading, editing or a new translation. It did not take us very long to determine that what he really needed was a new German translation -- he had done this one himself, and he's a high-end personal chef, not a translator. We gently told him that a new translation would be his best bet for his business. He was not offended in the least, but he did bring up an excellent point, one we had actually not heard before. He did not want his website to be "too perfect" in terms of the German language, as he's not fluent. He did not want to set the expectation that his German is better than it actually is.  As a personal chef,  he would have to interact with every new client, and he obviously did not want to mislead them into thinking he was a native German speaker (he's not). What an interesting dilemma, we thought. We pondered this for a while, and then offered him our (cheaper) proofreading service, specifying that we would just fix the most obvious grammar and syntax mistakes, while leaving the style issues alone -- again, he *wanted* quite a few mistakes in the text. It was an unorthodox proposal, but anything to make the client happy (and no, our names are not on his website). 

Our new client cheerfully agreed and we proofed his texts for him using track changes. In the end, we probably did spend more time doing actual editing (which goes beyond proofing), because, well, it is just quite difficult to not fix something that's not correct. It goes against everything we've been taught and against what we usually do. We did, however, go to great lengths to make sure the text sounded like it was written or translated by someone who is not fluent in German. It was quite a challenge! At the end of the day, this might not have been a very lucrative project because we spent a lot of time on it, but the client was delighted with the end result. 

What do you think, dear readers? How would you have handled this request? We'd love to hear your ideas and thoughts. 

The Power of Social Media

Happy 2012 to our friends and readers from around the world! We hope you had a great start into the new year. We were able to celebrate together in southern California (with our respective partners). We rang in 2012 at a laid-back Irish Pub in Thousand Oaks, CA, playing darts and thinking about how great 2011 has been. And turns out that we are off to a great start in 2012. Here's the follow-up post on our fundraising efforts for  Álvaro Degives-Más. Many of you have asked about how it's going, so read on:

  • We started our little online fundraiser on this blog on December 28, 2011. We did not really have a goal in mind, but we were hoping for a few hundred dollars. We were quite wrong. We briefly considered doing a charity walk in Vegas to raise funds, but that would have required an investment, more time than we had, and a team of volunteers, which we did not have. We have a team of two -- Judy and Dagy -- and we are trying to train Luna the dog to help, but she recently failed her typing test.  We decided that social media would be our best bet. Luckily, we were right.
  • Within 8 days, we have raised $7,500. Our donations range from $5 to $1,000 -- yes, you read correctly. That donation came from a corporation. The largest individual donation was $475 (amazing!) from a very generous female translator who would prefer to remain anonymous. We have sent thank-you notes to each and every donor. Even our dad donated!
  • The donations have come in from more than 20 countries, including France, Spain, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, UK, Canada, Mexico, US, Israel, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, etc. 
  • Álvaro is expected to make a full recovery, but will have to take expensive medications such as Lipitor for the rest of his life. His blood pressure has been dangerously low (think 85 over 50), but it is increasing. They are currently trying to find an affordable ophthalmologist to look into restoring Trish's vision. They were also able to get glasses for both of them. Since they lost their car, a good friend of ours was able to drive them to the optometrist's (we would drive them, but Reno is 8 hours from Vegas by car). Álvaro's glasses were lost when the paramedics picked him up to rush him to the hospital, and without them, he can't see a thing. He should hopefully have them in a week. They had to special-order them because of the high prescription. 
  • Álvaro is hoping that the medical bills will be less than $100,000 (three days in intensive care, angioplasty, lab work, paramedics, etc.), but there's no way to tell yet. We are hoping for less than that, and obviously, we won't be able to raise that much, but with the money that we have collected, they will be able to afford the follow-up care and their medications.
  • We spoke to  Álvaro today -- he's been sleeping a lot, as he should - and he wants everyone to know that words simply cannot express how thankful they are. He said that you all have quite literally saved his life -- for the second time, as his life was saved in the hospital. We were delighted to give him the good news about the $1,000 donation.
  • Many European donors have expressed dismay about the American health care system and the lack of availability of affordable health care for the self-employed. We could not agree more, and we have been asked to write an entry on the subject. We are not experts in the matter, but we are working on getting a guest blog post from someone who is. We are both strong advocates of universal health care in the U.S., but that does not seem to be within reach.
  • Many have asked us who we were able to raise this much money. The "secret" was social media -- we leveraged our connections, e-mailed roughly 500 people, tweeted about the fundraiser more than 100 times, and posted on this blog. We also posted on listservs and message boards from around the world and spread the word via Facebook. Many years, we doubted whether Twitter would be an effective tool. We've been converts for a few years now, and judging by how quickly word has spread via Twitter, it's probably the best social media tool available.
  • In spite of the fees, we used a PayPal donation button to raise the funds. We did some investigating, and it seemed the best and easiest way to allow donations from around the world. 
  • We tried to get some media coverage, but have yet to be successful. Our (unrealistic) dream is for some big corporation to hear about this and to write a check. 
Thank you again, from the bottom of our hearts, for all the donations and the support. We feel like we've been given the greatest gift of all by getting a front-row look at the outpour of generosity, support and love from around the world.

Happy 2012. 
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