Read This: Slaves Of the Internet, Unite!

For the record: We paid for this image. 
This past Sunday, we did what we always do on Sundays: We read the print edition of the paper of record, The New York Times. Yes, we are old school like that and really like getting ink on our paper. And the paper smells great, too, but we digress.

One article on the cover page of the Sunday Review caught our attention, and we wanted to share it with all of you, dear readers. Today is Halloween, so we will tackle the spooky subject of not getting paid for your work. Turns out writer Tim Kreider also has a few things to say about the subject, and as a writer for the NYT, he writes infinitely more eloquently than we do. The bottom line is: giving away your work for free stinks. And it means others don't value it. If they did value it, they would pay you for it. So don't give it away for free. This article as been quite popular, and to date, there are more than 650 comments on the online version. 

Here's the link to the brilliant article (we recommend you subscribe to the NYT, but we believe the first few articles a month are free). The author concludes his article with a smart piece of advice that he's willing to share with everyone. Actually, it's a nifty e-mail template that you can use to respond to people who want your work for free. Since the author intended this to be freely shared, we are copying it here:

Here, for public use, is my very own template for a response to people who offer to let me write something for them for nothing:
Thanks very much for your compliments on my [writing/illustration/whatever thing you do]. I’m flattered by your invitation to [do whatever it is they want you to do for nothing]. But [thing you do] is work, it takes time, it’s how I make my living, and in this economy I can’t afford to do it for free. I’m sorry to decline, but thanks again, sincerely, for your kind words about my work.

It's nice to see that translators aren't the only ones who get asked to do free work. We knew it's quite common with writers and illustrators as well, and it's great to read such on on-point essay about this important topic. What do you think, dear readers? How do you handle these tricky situations? We'd love to hear from you. 

A New Tool: TranslatorPay

Earlier this month, we saw a quick Tweet by our friend Eve Bodeux of Bodeux International. She mentioned TranslatorPay as a new tool for translators to get paid internationally without having to incur significant bank fees (which we are not very fond of). We were intrigued and decided to have a look at the website. We have a long history of doing international bank transfers and PayPal transfers (both receiving and sending), and just like most people, we are quite stunned by the high costs and by the fact that transfers, especially bank transfers, can take so long despite the fact that we live in the 21st century.

Let's talk about money.
First things first: TranslatorPay, an online money transfer system, was created by two high-profile colleagues in the industry: Dr. Paul Sulzberger and Jessica Rather. We have not met either one of them personally, but they have excellent reputations in the industry, which immediately put us at ease. The idea behind TranslatorPay is that translators should be able to get paid the full amount of the translations that they invoice rather than the invoice amount minus some (usually quite opaque) bank fee. Of course, we rather like this idea. The way it works is that the translator registers (for free), uploads his or her banking information (which some might be a bit reluctant to do), persuades the client to pay via TranslatorPay (this might be a bit of a challenge), and there you have it: the translator gets paid the full amount within one to three days. The company lists the following reasons for using their service, and these are very strong and convincing arguments.

This service is very certainly worth exploring. We haven't used it ourselves, but wanted to help spread the word about it. Have you used it, dear colleagues? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Mysterious Ways

This week, we've been thinking about the fact that business opportunities can really present themselves anywhere, and that has certainly been true for us. Here are a few examples of how business has worked in mysterious ways for us:

  • Dagy just issued a price quote to a long-time customer in Vienna. We briefly talked about the project, and then reminisced about the fact that she met this client in her Pilates class. Really.
  • Just over a week ago, we met a potential client at a pub (yes, a pub) at Heathrow airport in London. He was on his way back from India, where he had just been trying to find a translation vendor for his own client. This meeting was quite serendipitous indeed, as the potential client just happened to sit next to us at a bar, said hello, and asked what we did for a living. 
  • A few years ago, Judy's beloved Prius got hit by another car in the parking lot of a grocery store. As she waited for the insurance people to show up, she started chatting with the other driver (a very nice lady), who happened to work for IBM and was looking for translators. The project didn't work out, but we thought the way we met was pretty cool.
  • We met one of our favorite clients at a baby shower that Judy attended a few years ago. 
  • Another long-term client of ours is Dagy's former yoga instructor from Vienna (yes, we like to work out).
What about you, dear colleagues? What's the strangest place you have met a potential customer? We think it's important to be prepared to talk intelligently about your small business at all times, be it at a bar, a baby shower, a grocery store, or a happy hour. We don't mean that one should constantly be shoving business cards in people's faces, but we do think it's important to be prepared. You know what that means: don't leave your house without business cards.

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

The Results: Federal Court Interpreting Exam

After three months of waiting, Judy knows the result of the oral portion of the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination (FCICE), which she took in Denver in mid-July. Read below for her take on it.

I will make this short and sweet: I did not pass. It was close, but I still failed, and it's certainly very disappointing. I scored a 76%, and I needed 80% to pass. This was my first time taking this notoriously difficult exam, and here are my thoughts on the results and on the exam in general:

  • Contrary to the rumors that constantly circulate about this exam, it's quite fair -- at least it felt like it. I'd heard from many other people that they'd leave the exam feeling quite confident, but when they results come in, they get 60%. I'd say the same was true for me. I blogged about my actual exam experience here, and I felt quite relaxed and good about my performance. Obviously, I was wrong.
  • There have been many, many administrative challenges with the FCICE, and getting the results was no exception. The website crashed under the weight of candidates trying to access their scores, although I don't think it's more than 500 people or so. What kind of website cannot handle 500 people logging into it? It's a but puzzling. 
  • The FCICE goes to great lengths to make the process transparent, and they issue a detailed examinee handbook (see picture), which is quite helpful. However, some parts of the process are entirely opaque. For instance, candidates have no idea who the graders are. The exam is graded based on scoring units, which seems quite fair. On the other hand, when you get the result letter (online), there's a little disclaimer saying that the "test is not meant to be a diagnostic tool." What is it, then? In addition, examinees do not get a breakdown of their scores by sections (the exam has several different components), making it impossible to identify one's area of weakness. I find this truly incomprehensible -- if each individual section was scored, why wouldn't the committee tell the candidate those individual scores so they can improve on their weakest area? 
  • Many friends and colleagues have asked me if I plan on taking the exam again in 2015 (that's a long time away), and I've considered it. However, since I don't really know where things went wrong for me, it's a challenge to change my study plan. While I will certainly admit that I could have studied much more than I did, I took several courses, including one at the venerable Monterey Institute of International Studies and a useful online class at the Southern California School of Interpretation. I passed four mock exams, and never scored below 90 on the mocks that gave me an actual numerical score (I was honestly surprised by the high scores). 
  • I really don't want to join the legion of exam takers who have long alleged that the exam is ________ (fill in the blank: unbiased, unfair, etc.), but the experience does give me some food for thought indeed. I have no way of knowing where I did poorly, and clearly, my strong performance in mock exams was no indicator of future performance. So were the mock exams at MIIS and SCSI completely off? Or did I just have a bad day at the actual exam? I didn't really think that I had a bad day. Quite the contrary: I felt well prepared, calm, collected, and ready to take the exam, so I did. And I failed it. It's humbling indeed.
  • For better or for worse, state-certified court interpreters (I am certified in both California and in Nevada, at the master level in the latter) don't really need the federal certification to interpret in federal court, which also seems a bit off. Why go to all this exam trouble if the federal courts are full of state-certified interpreters? Of course this means that I might very well have the chance to interpret in federal court as well with my current certifications, but I'd still like to have USCCI (United States Certified Court Interpreter) after my name. 
  • Of all the people I know, which includes my MIIS colleagues, friends from Google Groups, and my study group in Vegas, I only know of three people who passed the exam. I am very, very happy for them, and the pass rate for the exam is indeed is very low (as far as we know). No data about pass rates is ever released, so I truly have no idea how many people have taken the exam and how many passed it.
In summary: I thoroughly enjoyed the study process, the challenge, and meeting many fantastic new colleagues and friends along the way. It's a pity that I didn't pass, but I bet I will try again. However, I have heard from several very talented colleagues that their scores actually do down rather than up after multiple attempts, which doesn't quite make sense. I am humbled by my result, and somewhat motivated to try again - although I am not sure how to change my study plan, but I will figure it out.

How did you do on the exam, dear colleagues? Are you willing to share your score and your experiences? I decided long ago to make this process very public 

The Translation Tribe

We've both been on the road quite a bit lately -- actually, we have been traveling to workshops and conferences in Europe together, which has been truly fantastic. During our workshops (we do some jointly, and many individually) we like to emphasize how important it is to have great working relationships with your colleagues. These professionals are your friends, your support team, your cheerleading team (if you need them), your linguistic consulting group (think listservs and industry boards), problem-solvers and very oftentimes your friends. Colleagues and friends help you out when you get sick and cannot complete a translation, serve as contractors if you need them, refer work to you, recommend you, help you, etc. We have always invested time into building our relationships with fantastic friends and colleagues around the world, and for the first time during a workshop in London, Judy came up with a catchy term: the translation tribe.
Part of the translation tribe at the Proz conference in Recife, Brazil.
Unfortunately, many times we see some unnecessary fighting and needless disagreements between members of our tribe, be it in person or online. It's certainly true that it's impossible to get along well with everyone, and that there will always be people with whom you cannot agree, and it's fine to disagree. However, rather than weakening each other's position, we think it's crucial to strengthen and build each other up by the power of this international translation tribe. 

So let's make a commitment to each other and to ourselves to treat our translation tribe with all the respect, professionalism and yes, love, it deserves -- even when we disagree. We are not saying, by any stretch of the imagination, that our industry doesn't get along, but we have noticed occasional negative interactions and tones, especially in the online space. However, we think it's important for all of us to have a positive, welcoming place (well, a virtual place) to go to with problems, challenges, and concerns: we should be able to turn to our translation tribe for help and support. 

We think about this quite frequently: that we would never have made it thus far in our careers without the love and support of mentors, more experienced translators, associations, volunteers, and endless hours of advice and support from our friends. We are extraordinarily grateful to be part of this great translation tribe, which is composed of thousands of individuals. Let's all take a moment and thank each other at some point for how far we've come as an industry. We still have a long way to go, but there's no doubt that we are stronger together. No translator is an island, and you truly cannot do it alone. And you don't have to: you've got your translation tribe!

What about you, dear readers? Do you feel like you are part of the translation tribe?

Free E-Book: The Translator Diaries

We are delighted to announce that our colleague Lloyd Bingham, a senior in-house translator in the UK, has put together a nifty free e-book that's just recently become available. It's a collection of great insight for beginning translators, gathered from many fantastic contributors, and we really like the format. It's divided into easy-to-read chunks, it's quite informative, and the lay-out is visually appealing.

The short chapters are also quite clever, as they focus on ever-important topics such as finding clients, determining your specialization, whether you should get a master's degree in translation, etc. It's refreshing to read short, to-the-point quotes from both industry leaders and younger translators: a great resource indeed. Well done, Lloyd!

The e-book is free and you can either read it online or download it to your computer from here:

Business Lunches: Etiquette Question

It's a lovely place indeed.
Taking our clients -- and potential clients -- to lunch is one of our favorite business activities. Who doesn't like a nice meal with lovely people? It's also a good way to get to know your clients, and clients don't have to invest too much of their time: just an hour or two. We've previously written about the art of the business lunch, and now it turns out that we have an etiquette question that we have yet to resolve. 

Ready to eat!
We just returned from a fantastic business trip to London, and we took one of our favorite clients to lunch at the venerable The Wolseley on Picadilly. It's a fancy and distinguished place, and as usual, we were a  bit early. Our client had been kind enough to make the reservation in her name. The restaurant was happy to seat us, because it was clear that we knew about the specific reservation and had the client's last name, but the question is: Should one get the table before the other person arrives? Or wait at the bar? Or wait in the waiting area? As the restaurant and bar area were quite crowded, we decided to go ahead and get the table. Also, we had not yet met our client in person, and we figured if we sat at the table it would be easy for our client to find us and recognize us (there weren't many identical twins there, but still -- it's a big place). On the other hand, the potential downside to waiting at the table is that it might make the client feel like she's late, even when she's not, and sometimes it's hard to stand up and say hello properly , especially if seated in a booth (makes for an awkward handshake/hug).

We are still not quite sure how to really solve this, and much depends on the situation, available space at the restaurant and a few other factors, but think we came up with a good option last week. As with so many things in business, the answer probably is: it depends. However, if there's some straightforward etiquette rule on this that we are unaware of, we'd love to hear it. That's why are posting this here. What do you think, dear colleagues? How would you handle this situation? Does it depend on whether you've met the client previously?

Humor: Seductive Tasty Pleasure in Santorini

Not great.
Today's post is just for fun, because life is short and it's good to laugh, even if the translations/slogans are scary. The picture on the left is a photo of a flyer that we received from a restaurant in Santorini, Greece. In spite of the fact that this restaurant is abusing the English language a bit, we ate there anyway, and we are happy to report that there's nothing fishy about this restaurant.
But the place is great indeed.

By reading the ad, one might think this place is adults-only, but no: it's a lovely , family-friendly place by the beach. We spent a fantastic afternoon there and had some tasty fish, appetizers, gyros, light white wine, and went swimming in the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean. Our day in Santorini was one of the many highlights of our recent Greek vacation, for which we are incredibly grateful. And we also collected lots of fun examples of Greeklish! OK, we just made that up. It is hard to tell if these masterpieces are translations from Greek or German or just simply poor writing by folks who probably shouldn't be doing any writing in English (especially not if 'it's printed by the thousands). We bet it's the latter, but we will never know. 

Sometimes you just have to take it all with a grain of salt, forget about language, and focus on enjoying an epic meal. And we are here to tell you that the talented folks at Atmosphere do know how to cook!

Happy Wednesday!
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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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