Translation Times Turns Four

Time sure does fly. It seems like yesterday that we were debating whether the world really needed another translation (and interpreting) blog, and  here we are. We've had a lot of fun throughout the years, and it's been a pleasure to share the (useful) stuff that we know with colleagues, clients and friends.

We've never (at least not yet) run out of ideas to share, and it's been really enjoyable to start thinking like bloggers and to keep our blog in mind when learning new information. We are always asking ourselves: would this be useful for our readers? How can we present it in a concise, easy-to-read way? Granted, it's quite a bit of work, but it's worth it.

Here's a brief overview of the Translation Times adventure:
  • 4 years (launched in September 2008)
  • 389 posts (some not published yet)
  • 312,218  page views
  • Winner, Top Languages Professional Blog, 2011
  • Most popular blog posts:  The True Spirit of Christmas: Helping a Colleague Recover (3,581 page views), Your Courtroom Ally (2,991 page views) and What Interpreters Really Do (1,683 page views)
  • Spam comments by people who want to promote their own products: too many too count
  • Hours spent writing posts and managing the blog: roughly 1-2 hours/week
  • Size of our team: 3. Thomas Gruber is our tech guru and he's constantly finding and testing new software for us to share with our readers
  • Companies who ask to do guest posts under the pretense of selling their services: too many to count
  • Most important achievement: raising $11,000 for a colleague in need with the help of all our readers. We'd like to once again thank you, from the bottom of our hearts!
We look forward to many more years of blogging. Will you help us celebrate? Leave a comment if you like our blog! Is there anything else you would like us to write about? We are happy to oblige. Just let us know. 

Found in Translation: Win a Signed Copy!

There's no doubt that Found in Translation, written by our friends Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche, is the most anticipated language-related book of the year (perhaps we are a bit biased). We are delighted to announce that we will be raffling off the very first signed copy of the book! Unfortunately, we were not able to get it autographed by both authors, as they live on opposite coasts, so you will have to do with Nataly's signature. We were also able to get a quick Q&A with Nataly, which we hope you will enjoy. Read on for our chat with her and don't forget to have a look at the trivia questions at the bottom so you can win the signed copy! This contest closes on Tuesday, September 25, 2012.

Translation Times: What inspired you to write this book?
Nataly Kelly: Translation and interpreting are the inspiration for this book. The fact is, these fields enable the entire world to communicate. That’s why we actually dedicate the book to translators and interpreters.  Too many people are unaware of how expansive and diverse the translation field really is.  Even translators and interpreters are not always aware of the many ways their work influences the world!  This book aims to change that.

Nataly Kelly.
TT: How did you come up with the title, Found in Translation?
NK: Our editor gets all the credit for it!  We didn’t think of that title ourselves. One thing we learned in this process is that our view of a good title has nothing in common with what mainstream readers consider a good title!  Because we are so used to seeing titles in the news like “Lost in Translation” and “Found in Translation,” at first we had reservations about it.  However, I’ve heard from so many people who aren’t in the translation field that they think the title is very clever.  Since the readers we’re hoping to reach are people who normally don’t read “translation books,” that’s a good sign.

TT: You’re writing the book with a major publisher, Penguin.  How did that happen?
NK: Well, I basically wrote to the editor and pitched her the book idea.  She liked it and asked to see a proposal and sample chapter. The book originally began several years before as a slightly different concept, with a book idea I developed called From Our Lips to Your Ears: How Interpreters Are Changing the World. I had not had any luck finding a publisher, but later expanded the concept to include translation too. My editor, Marian Lizzi at Perigee Books (a division of Penguin) was smart enough to jump on a good idea when she saw one!  It was a joy to work with her and her team.  She was so enthusiastic about the concept and the book throughout the entire process.

TT:How did you end up working with our mutual friend and translation technology guru Jost Zetzsche?
Jost Zetzsche.
NK: Even though we knew each other by our reputations, Jost and I had never even spoken before, until one day, he called me to ask me a question for his newsletter, the Translator’s Tool Box. We had a great call. Then, in a later conversation, he said, “We should write a book together!”  It seemed like a crazy idea in some ways.  However, since I had a book concept that I’d been wanting to write for several years, and I had already been thinking of writing it with another person, I said, “I actually have an idea for a book we could write together. Let me get back to you.”  After discussing it with some of my colleagues, I called him back and told him about the concept. He was very enthusiastic about it, and agreed to be involved.  I am grateful for the timing of his suggestion to work on a book, because timing is everything!  And in this case, the timing was perfect.

TT: What did you like most about working with him?
NK: Jost is extremely spontaneous. I’ll never forget when we went to interview Peter Less, an interpreter who worked at the Nuremberg Trials.  As a young man, Peter’s entire family was murdered at Auschwitz, yet he had to interpret for many of the masterminds of the Holocaust. While we were asking him questions, Peter’s daughter Nettie was politely bringing us coffee and Stollen, which we had bought for Peter in the Christmas market in Chicago. As we were asking Peter about how hard things must have been after he moved to the United States, Jost suddenly turned to Nettie and said, “What about you?  What was this experience like for you growing up?” I nearly spilled my coffee! I was so focused on Peter, whom I respect so much, that I had tuned out everyone else.  Nettie’s perspective gave us a more complete picture, and that is thanks to Jost.
TT: That's such a Jost thing to say! Brilliant outcome!

The finished product. 
TT: How long did it take to write the book?
NK: From the time we signed our contract with Penguin and the deadline for our manuscript, we had just a little over six months to write the book.  However, several of the stories that appear in the book had already been written before that, because they were part of the sample chapter I had written for From Our Lips to Your Ears, an early concept for the book, which intended to show how interpreters are shaping our world.  In fact, the very first story that appears in the book, which shares my experience interpreting for a 9-1-1 call, was written back in 2007. There is a story about an interpreter for NASA, and she had agreed five years ago for her story to be told in the book. Once we had the contract with Penguin, she was one of the first people I contacted, to ask if we could include her story. Of course, the vast majority of the stories had to be written from scratch. There are about 90 stories in total in the book.

TT: Can you describe the writing process?
NK: It won’t sound very glamorous, but in my experience, writing a book requires project management skills.  The first thing I did was to create a timeline and milestones for how many words needed to be written by what dates, and I added in time for weaving the chapters together and editing.  I created a spreadsheet to track all the stories and word counts, so that at any given time, we could easily see how many words we had written, how many stories we needed, and how much more was needed.  Jost and I discussed how many stories we could each commit to writing. We needed to write about four stories per week over a 22-week period in order to make our deadline. Whenever we would draft a story, we would send to the other person for review and feedback.

TT: How did you decide which stories to write?
Judy reading the manuscript by the pool.
NK: For most of the stories, we needed to actually talk to people. What’s it like to translate Harlequin romance novels?  How does a translator end up completely specialized in wine-related translation? What really goes on when you interpret for the UN General Assembly? We ended up doing a large number of interviews in order to answer these questions. Generally, we would start by picking a subject area and then searching for people who might have interesting stories to tell about translation in those particular areas. We decided to include some stories that were based on our own experiences with translation and interpreting. However, we didn’t want to just tell our own stories. We wanted the book to be reflective of a much broader cross-section of the industry.

TT: How did you ensure that the stories would strike a similar chord?
NK: Well, we knew that the style had to be consistently accessible and jargon-free.  But beyond that, we wanted each story to make an impression on the reader. The point of the book is that translation affects people’s lives. We did not want to be preachy, so rather than overtly say this, we tried to illustrate this to the reader in each and every story.  We also wanted to capture all kinds of different emotions in the stories in order to make the reader feel a personal connection to translation. So, the first story in the book is a bit of a nail-biter, but there are others designed to make you laugh, feel compassion, or perhaps even a bit of outrage in some cases. David Crystal, who wrote the foreword for our book, described it best, I think.  He mentioned that, by the end of this book, the reader discovers that what we find in translation is ourselves. That is precisely the point of the book. Translation is not some distant activity that is far-removed from everyday life.  It affects everything we do – even the air we breathe!  Just ask the translators who work on projects for the Environmental Protection Agency. Their website is available in six languages!

TT: How did you decide on the story groupings and chapters?
NK: This was relatively easy.  Just open up any newspaper, and most of the sections are reflected in our book:  Politics, Sports, Entertainment, Business, Technology, Religion, and so on.  We didn’t use the newspaper to come up with those categories, but we started out thinking that the book had to cover the areas of life itself that people actually care to read about.  Earlier on, we had more than double the number of chapters.  However, our editor wisely suggested that we group the stories differently.  The way we ended up presenting the stories has a logic behind it.  We start out with topics that are truly life-affecting, like rescuing victims of the earthquake in Haiti, protecting human beings from outbreaks, and other things that truly affect human lives. Later in the book, we move into lighter topics, like entertainment, food, and love. But we don’t shy away from tough topics either, like conflict, politics, and religion.

TT: What did you think when you first held a copy of the book in your hands?
NK: My first thought was, “I cannot wait for translators and interpreters everywhere to see this!” It is, after all, a celebration of the profession as a whole.  However, I really cannot wait for everyone else to see this book too, so that translators and interpreters, and the field at large, will finally get some well-deserved attention. My mission was not just to write a book, but to create awareness, so I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Now, here are the trivia questions. The first person to answer at least two of these questions correctly will win the prize....a signed copy of Found in Translation, shipped directly to you by the author!
1) How tall is Jost? Hint: it's 6-something.
2) What is Nataly's alma mater? Hint: it's an American university.
3) What is Jost's dog's name? Hint: Judy's dog has the same name. Copycats?
4) What's Nataly's favorite variety of Spanish? No hint here.
5) Who is Jost's alter ego? No hint here, either. 

Please leave a comment below. There can only be one winner, so if you are online on a Friday afternoon, you might be in luck!

Thanking Peter Less: The Nuremberg Trials Interpreter

A few days ago, we received a note from our friend and colleague Nataly Kelly, co-author of the forthcoming Found in Translation. She had some news about the person who's shaped Judy's interpreting career the most: Peter Less, who was one of the interpreters at the Nuremberg Trials, where he interpreted for the very people who murdered his entire family.

Peter Less. 
It's time for us to tell Peter how much he's meant to us and to the profession. In just a few days, more than 70 colleagues from 20 countries have said thanks to Peter. Read on for details. 

Here's Nataly's note. 

Peter Less has served as an incredible source of inspiration to interpreters and translators, and to the world. As a Holocaust survivor who interpreted at the Nuremberg Trials, he shaped the course of history.

Now, let us all take a moment to thank him.
I had the fortune of meeting Peter last December at his home in Chicago. I have remained in touch, and hope to see him again in early October.

​Peter is 91 years old. With permission from Peter's daughter, I can share that his health has been in decline over the past few months, and he has now entered hospice care. We do not have much time left to tell him how much we care, and how grateful we are for his presence in this world and the legacy he has left behind.

Many suffer in life, but our tribulations are put in perspective when we consider what someone like Peter endured, moving beyond the horrific murders of his entire family at Auschwitz as a very young man, going on to bravely serve in the interest of humanity at the Nuremberg Trials, and later devoting his entire career to helping others.

Having met Peter in person, I can honestly say he is one of the humblest, sweetest, and most gracious people I ever had the fortune to know.I will be assembling an album for Peter containing any letters, words of gratitude, and even a simple "thank you," to deliver to him to show him how much translators and interpreters everywhere appreciate him and his legacy.

Even if all you do is say "thank you" (in whichever languages you wish, which I am sure will delight him) along with your name, that is enough.
But I do ask you to pass this message along to anyone and everyone else who might wish to thank him. 

(To share this e-mail on social media, please use this link, which contains the full text of this message:!peter/chzx)
Because time is of the essence, please submit your words for Peter by no later than Tuesday, September 25th.
For more information about Peter and his incredible story, please read
Lunch with a Legend -- originally published in the ATA Chronicle​ (
And, please watch this interview with Peter, about his experience as a Holocaust survivor, from the Shoah Foundation (
Thank you.

Nataly Kelly

Free Webinar: Current Topics on Translation

Wake Forest University
We just received an e-mail from our friends at the Department of Romance Languages at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, which also has a great translation program. In honor of International Translation Day, they are offering a free webinar with fantastic speakers -- we like! To register, click here

The webinar will be held on September 29 and features the following topics:
  • Legal and Social Status of Translators in Colombia
  • CAT With Open Source Tools
  • Restricted Choices in Specialized Translation or Just Choices? Classroom Experiences
  • Heterogeneous Term Sources for Translation
Wake Forest also made an attractive flyer for the event, but Blogger doesn't let us post PDFs. Forgive us for this less-than-pretty format, but here is the information from the flyer (copied and pasted):

International Virtual Seminar
Free registration!

An invitation of:
MA in Interpreting and Translation Studies
Department of Romance Languages
Wake Forest University
Sept. 29th, 2012
9:00-12:00 m.

Legal and Social Status of Translators in Colombia
Gabriel Quiroz, University of Antioquia

CAT with Open Source Tools
Pedro Patiño, Norwegian School of Economics, NHH

Restricted Choices in Specialized Translation or Just Choices? Classroom Experiences
Tamara Cabrera, Wake Forest University

Heterogeneous Term Sources for Translation
Diego Burgos, Wake Forest University


ATA Conference: Next Month!

At the Denver conference in 2010.
October marks one of our favorite months, including one of our very favorite weeks of the year: the ATA conference in gorgeous San Diego, California! We have the chance to hang out with all our wonderful friends and colleagues, get to learn a lot and enjoy each other's company, too! This year, just like in 2012, the ATA has invited the presidents and leaders of translator and interpreter associations from other countries (those associations do the same when they have annual conferences). Dagy has the pleasure of serving as secretary general of UNIVERSITAS Austria Interpreters' and Translators' Association and is delighted to accept the ATA's invitation to represent Austria at the 53rd Annual Conference. We will be presenting a German-language session on "Austriacism for Beginners" -- join us if you are interested! The session code is G-5 and it will be held on Friday from 11:30 until 12:30 pm. In addition, Judy will present her popular workshop "10 Habits of Highly Successful Interpreters and Translators," which will be on Friday from 3:45 to 5 pm (session code IC-7).

Now, if you've never been to an ATA conference: where do you start? It's a huge event,  but attendees are usually very approachable and you should be able to meet new people relatively quickly. The best way to prepare for the conference is to attend the free webinar presented by our friend and colleague Jill Sommer:  Tips for Navigating Your First ATA Conference on September 11. She also gives this session on the very first day of the conference,  but by taking the free webinar ahead of time, you will save time and effort -- and you will know what to expect. Register here. We look forward to seeing you at the conference! We can usually be found at the InTrans books booth, spending time at the NITA table, joining our friends for lunch, dinner and receptions and yes, perhaps at the hotel bar.

What to Expect at a Deposition: Part 2

The first part of this two-part post was published August. We hope you enjoyed it, dear readers! As promised, please read on for the second and final installment for some procedural insight into civil depositions and information about how they work from the point of view of a court interpreter. This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, and I (Judy) might come back with a third column at some point in the future.

  • Most civil depositions can informally be divided into three parts in addition to the admonitions portion. Before any formal questions are asked, but after the parties (the deponent and the court interpreter) have been sworn in, the deposing counsel will go over a list of rules and procedures.
  • During the admonitions portion, the deposing attorney will remind the deponent that he/she needs to tell the truth, that the oath he/she took is the same as the one sworn in court, that lying constitutes perjury, etc. The deponent is then reminded to answer all questions verbally and to refrain from nodding, as that won’t show up in the transcript, which the court reporter will compile. The deponent has to acknowledge that he/she understands all these rules.
  • The first portion of all depositions revolves around getting a deponent’s background information. Issues that are discussed usually include full name (be sure to write these down for the court reporter), other names used, birth date, social security number (to which the other party occasionally objects), immigration status (objection!), work history, previous job responsibilities, current and previous addresses, educational background, etc. I am always amazed at the great detail that deponents are expected to give. Mostly, the deposing attorney is trying to establish a person’s identity, but in all honesty, I don’t remember what I had for lunch last Wednesday, not to mention my exact employment dates or zip codes from 10 years ago. You will get a lot of ‘’I don’t know” and “I don’t remember” responses here.
  • The second portion of any deposition usually has to do with the __________ (motor vehicle accident, slip-and-fall, etc.) in question. After you have done a few of these, you will begin to see a clear pattern of questions, and even highly experienced attorneys will sometimes have a prepared list of questions to make sure they don’t miss anything. For car accidents, there will be a lot of questions about speed, where were you, where were you going, in which direction, how many lanes are there, when did you first see the other car, did you have time to brace yourself, did you talk to the driver of the other car, did you call the ambulance, did the police come, what was the damage to your vehicle, how did you leave the scene of the accident, etc. Again, many deponents will not have the answers to these questions, and sometimes the deposing attorney will press the issue, making them seem a bit like pit bulls. It’s occasionally a bit painful to witness, and if the deposing attorney is too aggressive, the deponent’s attorney might object and claim that he or she is harassing the deponent.
  • The third and final part of most of the civil depositions I’ve done will focus on the deponent’s medical treatment, including doctors visited, dates of the visits, treatment received, frequency of treatment received, medications taken and/or prescribed, length of treatment and questions about whether the treatment has been effective. Deponents are notoriously vague in their answers to this section (as usually instructed by their counsel), but deposing attorneys have very specific questions. Oftentimes, deponents are asked to rate their pain on a scale from 1 to 10, which many are either reluctant or unable to do. This section can include some quite repetitive-sounding question. 
Do you feel ready to interpret at civil depositions? I hope you find them to be as rewarding as I do. We'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on civil depositions. Feel free to share what you know by leaving a comment. 

You Must Read This: Trip of the Tongue

Our wonderful friend Nataly Kelly recently sent me (Judy) a book that she knew I would love. It's a book on languages in America by language writer Elizabeth Little. It's cleverly titled Trip of the Tongue: Cross-Country Travels in Search of America's Languages. The author, who has studied many languages herself and has an impressive Harvard pedigree, set out on a road trip across America (we love road trips!) to discover our country's many languages and to find out how they are doing. It's a great and entertaining read. As opposed to many books on language, this one is not dry and academic -- quite the contrary. Although the author does share her impressive knowledge on the nitty-gritty of grammar details on say, indigenous languages, her insight is fascinating and her observations are part Kerouac and part hard-core linguistics geek. 

Her book is subdivided into chapters that each address a language (or several) in a particular state. The reader not only gets in-depth information on the state of the language in that state -- for instance, Basque in my home state of Nevada or Norwegian in North Dakota, where I recently went on vacation (really), but there's also some great history lessons to be had. Little is a compelling storyteller, and she mixes the highbrow and the lowbrow quite well. I was particularly interested in learning about creole languages in South Carolina and Louisiana. If you are looking for a great summer read that will make you feel smarter and will also entertain you, then this witty book on America's languages should be right up your ally. Thanks for the great gift, Nataly! Here's what National Public Radio had to stay about the book (they are much more eloquent than I am). Also, the book was featured on a segment of Public Radio International's The World by Patrick Cox. 

What's your favorite book on language, dear readers? We'd love to hear about your favorites. 
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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