Being Kind to Each Other

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As yet another great year comes to an end -- both in terms of business and personal lives -- we are grateful, as always, for all the lovely clients, friends, and colleagues in our lives. 

Unfortunately, we've noticed that oftentimes in our industry we can be quite harsh with one another, for no particular reason and without any apparent goal. You know what we are talking about: the unnecessary, oftentimes nasty exchanges on listservs, the snarky Twitter posts, the blog posts mocking new software that someone doesn't agree with and therefore chooses to ridicule. We think that this behavior, although it is thankfully relatively rare, is damaging to our industry as a whole. 

So we'd like to propose the following: for 2015, let's all make a New Year's resolution to simply be kind(er) to each other. We are all colleagues and friends, and we are infinitely stronger together than we are when we are divided. Let's honor the bond we all share: languages, and hopefully the respect we have for each other, even when we disagree. We think disagreeing is healthy and necessary, and it is an essential part of intellectual discourse, but there's no reason we can't do so nicely without offending anyone. We've both served on the boards of directors of T&I organizations long enough to know that all the disputes we have helped settle should probably never have happened in the first place -- and could probably have been resolved over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

So are you ready to join us? Next time you want to post something snarky about something a colleague has written, ask yourself: does this serve a purpose? Does this comment advance our industry? Or am I picking a fight just because? Is this comment valuable in the sense that it will spark good debate or is it hurtful and could potentially even be considered libel (we've seen lots of that)? Would I want to see what I wrote on the cover of a national newspaper tomorrow? Would I say this to the other party in person? 

Of course, we are very well aware that this is a wonderful industry, but it could benefit from more kindness. Let's make a commitment to be kind to every single colleague we deal with, especially in a public forum. If there's ever any conflict, we highly recommend resolving the situation one-on-one.

Will you join us? Here's to a happy, successful, and very kind 2015! Have we mentioned we heart all our friends and colleagues?

Interpreting: Keeping Calm Under Fire

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Court interpreters oftentimes have to deal with attorneys who can be quite aggressive (part of the job!) not only with the other party, but also with the interpreter if the latter does something that counsel doesn't like, even if it's correct. In her frequent assignments as a court interpreter, Judy occasionally runs into that challenge, and she tries to stay calm and collected while explaining the issue. However, let's face it: some attorneys can behave like playground bullies, especially when the stakes are high (full disclosure: Judy is married to an attorney, albeit a very mild-mannered one). Here's a report on how Judy recently handled a tricky situation that was resolved very quickly to everyone's satisfaction.

Judy was interpreting a relatively informal proceedings via video conference, which can be challenging, as the audio tends to be subpar. The defendant and his attorney were in one location, while Judy and a government official were at another location.

Defendant to attorney: ¿Tengo que contestar eso?
Judy: Do I have to answer that?
Attorney to Judy: Don't translate [sic] that.
Judy to attorney: I am sorry, counsel, but my code of ethics dictates that I interpret everything that's being said so everyone has the same access to the language as if everyone were fully bilingual. 
Government official: I agree. I need to hear what the defendant said.
Attorney: OK, no problem. Let me mute the sound on my end, talk to my client in private, and unmute the sound when I am ready.
Government official: That works!
Judy: Fantastic. Thank you, counsel.
Attorney: My pleasure.

Sometimes, it's really that easy. You speak up, calmly state your concern, and hope that everyone is reasonable. In this case, it worked out. What about you, dear colleagues? Have you had good experiences with resolving potentially difficult situations with attorneys or other parties?

The Standing Desk Experiment

We are very aware that sitting is widely considered the new smoking, and we are always looking for ways to reduce the amount of sitting that we do. We already take frequent breaks and work out every day, but it's hard to get around sitting while translating. Well, turns out it's not. While Dagy has had a custom-built (and relatively pricey) standing desk for many years that she uses relatively frequently (it's a separate structure next to her desk), Judy had never had one. Here's her report on her recent purchase.

Until I discovered Varidesk, I didn't like the prices we were seeing on standings desks (usually $2,500), and also didn't like the fact that I would have to replace my L-shaped desk that I like so much. We recently learned about Varidesk on Twitter (yay for Twitter!), and I finally pulled the trigger some 10 days ago. The desk cost $350, and the package arrived in a huge box in around 5 days. It only took 5 minutes to get things going. Basically, you plop it down on your desk, activate the lever (there are several settings for standing) to raise the desk, and you are all set. It couldn't be easier. The box was heavy (some 40 pounds, I think), but I managed to do set everything up myself.

I have now used the desk for just under a week, and have  actually never sat down during that entire time. I also picked up a $50 mat from Varidesk that makes standing for long periods of time very comfortable. The Varidesk app keeps track of how many calories you are burning and lets you pre-programmed standing and sitting times. You then get a pop-up telling you to sit down or stand. The calorie counter seems a bit off, as the app claims that I have burned 564 calorie in four hours of standing today (seems high to me). I feel healthier, although it does take some getting used to at times, as I'm just not used to standing for long periods of time.

In summary: I am very happy with my purchase and would definitely recommend it to all colleagues, especially at the very attractive price point of $350 -- and that's the most expensive model. I purchased the PRO Plus model, which fits two screens (I have two screens, but also have neck problems, so I usually use just one). The cheapest model is $275, and the entire thing is high-quality, sturdy and very well made.

We don't think we will ever go back to regular desks, and we believe our health will thank us. With my new standing desk, it's really easy to switch between standing and sitting, and we will probably do some combination thereof. For now, my new standing desk is so exciting that I have yet to sit down, but I will also admit to working a bit less during the holiday season. I have yet to test standing for a 10-hour workday.

I'd be delighted to answer any questions you might have about my standing desk. And we would also love to hear about your experiences with a standing desk!

Meet TM-Town and Its Creator

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dias.
Here at Translation Times, we are always on the lookout for new technologies that might benefit us and our friends and colleagues. Every once in a while, a new idea comes up that is very, very promising. Here's one that seems quite revolutionary: TM-Town. Just like many industry professionals, we are quite convinced that translators won't be replaced by technology, but rather, that the most successful translators in the future will be the ones who embrace technology. Full disclosure: TM-Town's creator, Kevin Dias, had previously taken advantage of Judy's consulting services, but other than that, we have no other ties to the company. We just think it's a great idea. Here's a preview: it's a translation enablement platform. But rather than writing about what we think TM-Town is, we figured we'd bring you the information from the founder himself.  Here's our interview with American developer Kevin Dias, who is based in Tokyo, Japan.

Translation Times: It looks like you are not a translator. How did you get involved in a project for translators? What’s your background?

Kevin: I'm a developer, and I love web development in particular. I have a friend who is a translator, and when I saw the way he was working, I began to imagine some things I could build to help him in his work. Once I got into the field I became fascinated with the possibilities for blending web development with emerging language processing technologies. It is a very interesting field.

What exactly is TM-Town? Can you give us a quick summary?

TM-Town is a place for translators to store, manage, leverage and optionally share their prior work. For those interested in establishing new relationships, it is also a place for clients and translators to be matched on the basis of that prior work. I am using the term "translation enablement platform" to describe this.

Are you a small company? Or is it just you? Who is behind TM-Town?
For now, it is just me. I received a small outside investment from a person who noticed my prior project, Transdraft. That has allowed me to work on TM-Town on a full-time basis for the past six months.

Who do you see as your competitors?
I am not aware of anyone providing a "translation enablement platform" of the sort that I have developed. One aspect of TM-Town is providing tools for translators to manage their linguistic assets. In this regard, I view TM-Town as a “Dropbox for Translators”. As many translators currently use Dropbox or Google Drive to manage their translation files, this is one form of competition. Another aspect of TM-Town is the job-matching platform. In this regard I think TM-Town is very unique in that it is the first service of this kind to match based on an analysis of the document to be translated against the prior work of translators to find the most suitable subject-matter expert for the job.

Are there any downsides to using TM-Town?
A person who is not comfortable with the idea of uploading prior work to the "cloud" may not find TM-Town suitable. Beyond that, the site is free to try so I would invite your readers to find out for themselves. If anything needs to be improved, I am ready to do it!

How many clients are currently signed up? How do you plan on continuing growing the client base?
Aside from some informal personal invitations that I sent to select people, I started promoting TM-Town just last week. I am pleased that about eighty translators have registered so far. I plan to begin promoting the site to clients in 2015.

Thanks for your time, Kevin!

Read more about the innovative ways translations are priced here. Learn more about TM-Town.

Our Top 5 Stress Busters

Business has been really, really good, and we are very grateful. However, with lots of business comes lots of work, and with that comes some stress. We admit it: one of us has been a bit overworked and grouchy (hint: it's not Dagy), and as we try to follow our own advice, we figured we'd compile a few easy stress busters here for this Friday post.

  1. Take a nap. Sure, a nap won't solve the problem about all the things you still have on your plate, but it will probably make you feel better. We come from a long line of nappers, and we can do quick naps of 30 minutes or so and feel refreshed. If you need a two-hour nap, this might not work for you as it will probably stress you out more.
  2. Go for a walk. Clearing our head always helps. We grab the doggie and go for a walk around the block, which only takes five minutes.
  3. Call a member of the complaint club. When we are frustrated and overworked, we try not to voice our frustrations online. Rather, we place a call to a trusted member of our so-called complaint club, which is comprised of dear friends and family members. We usually vent our frustrations (which largely revolve around lack of time) for 10 minutes or so, which helps put things in perspective.
  4. Have a cup of tea. We've spent enough time in England to know that having a cup of tea solves most problems, including stress, so sometimes we do that. If all else fails, we have a lovely piece of Austrian chocolate to go with our Earl Grey tea. We've also been drinking a lot of ginger tea lately. We've experienced with grating fresh ginger, which is instantly invigorating.
  5. Yoga. We are as inflexible as the next translators, but we are working on it. If we only have 10 minutes to decompress, we will do a few easy yoga poses, including laying down on our backs with our legs up a wall. Downward dog, tree, child's pose and others are also fantastic poses for a quick refresher.
What about you, dear friends and colleagues? Do you have any quick stress busters that you would like to share? We'd love to read about them in the comments section.

Same-Day Payment

This holiday season, we are grateful for our clients, and of course, we are also grateful for our lovely colleagues and friends who are our subcontractors. We didn't start out working with subcontractors, but our fantastic clients send us so much great work that we have enough to share with our colleagues, and we work in teams on many of our biggest accounts. We've worked with the same colleagues for a long time, and we've had (almost nothing but) great experiences. Unfortunately, we are not accepting applications -- we know where to find you if we want to add you to the list!

One of our favorite ways to show our appreciation is to pay our subcontractors the same day they invoice us whenever possible. Yes, you read that right: the same day, sometimes even within a few minutes if the colleague is set up to receive online payments. Here's our thinking: if a small business doesn't have enough money in the bank to hire subcontractors and to be good for the money even if the end client doesn't pay, that business probably shouldn't be hiring subcontractors, period. That's why we are so puzzled by the common complaint by others that large companies (think Fortune 500 translation agencies) are late in their payments because "the end client hasn't paid." That's truly unacceptable to us, and we never do that to our contractors. In fact, we pay each and every contractor before we've even issued the final invoice to our customers. We think it's the right thing to do. And as a small business, we want to keep the professionals who make us successful happy.

So, we'd like to conclude this post by saying that we are very, very grateful to you (you know who you are). We wouldn't be successful if it weren't for you, and you deserve every penny -- on time and early. 

Fun Memory Exercise

Today we'd like to continue our tradition of quick posts with very simple tips that are easy to implement. As all of us are in the middle of the holiday season, we figured we'd keep it short. This blog post should take you no more than three minutes to read.

Interpreters are constantly working on their memory, as having great memory is key, especially for consecutive interpreting. We keep our memory sharp with all sorts of exercises, and one of our favorite ones is also quite fun, but it's actually harder than it looks. 

Here's how it works: next time you go to the movies, keep track of the previews that are shown before the actual movie starts. Here in the United States it's usually five previews, but it can be up to eight. Don't write anything down (as that's sort of cheating!) and try to remember all previews in the right sequence until the end of the movie. Can you do it? We usually accomplish it by remembering keywords ("stupid movie based on a cartoon" or "lovely movie based on a best-selling novel" or "horror movie for teenagers") and traditionally do quite well on this. It's become a sport, and anyone who comes to the movies with us gets drawn into this, like it or not!

What do you think about this memory exercise, dear friends and colleagues? If you have other exercises to share, please do so by leaving a comment below.

Quick Interpreting Tip

As our lovely readers and colleagues in the US get ready for Thanksgiving (in the rest of the world, it's just another Thursday), we wanted to share a quick interpreting tip that comes in very handy during practice.

Take a speech from your favorite source (Speechpool, TED, etc.), interpret it simultaneously (consecutive works, too), and record it using a recording software (we use Audacity). We think it's key to record your practice sessions, so it's good to get into the habit of doing so. After doing the recording, try to turn off the memory you have of the source recording and just listen to the target recording. Ask yourself: 

  • Does this recording make sense? 
  • Would I understand this if I didn't speak the source language? 
  • Can I summarize the content of this recording? 
Ideally, once in a while, you'd give the recording to a friend who truly doesn't speak the source language, have him/her listen to it, and have the person to answer the questions we've listed above. In simul interpreting, that is exactly the case - the person(s) you are interpreting for doesn't speak the source language, which is why they need an interpreter. However, so often when we grade exams, the recordings and live performances are disjointed, incoherent and oftentimes consist of fragments rather than entire sentences. Once in a while, if we had not heard the source recording, we would not be able to make sense of the interpretation, which of course is defeating the purpose of having an interpreter to enable communication. 

So next time you listen to your interpreting recording, take off your multilingual hat and listen pretending you only speak the target language. This simple and easy trick has helped us identify weaknesses in our own recordings, such as bad syntax, idioms that didn't quite make sense, etc.

We hope you enjoy this quick tip, dear colleagues! We'd love to hear other tips as well.

Following Instructions

Today's brief post is about something very simple that can make you very popular with clients: following their instructions. This should be easy enough, but the reality is that some client instructions are relatively complex (some can be several pages long), and can be hard to follow. However, you can really set yourself apart from your colleagues by doing a very thorough job at following these instructions. 

We are oftentimes clients ourselves, as we frequently outsource work to our superstar colleagues, and naturally, we tend to work with linguists (always the same people; not accepting applications!) who are not only extraordinary translators and communicators, but are also great at following the instructions we pass along from the client. Some of these instructions can be quite cumbersome (don't translate the text in red; all headlines need to be font 13 and not 12, etc.), but we pay our contractors well, and hence expect them to follow instructions carefully. We've oftentimes heard from our clients that they like working with us because we make 100% sure all client wishes and requirements are always met, the first time.

Doing so has absolutely nothing to do with translation itself, but it's all about customer service. Even though some customer requirements might be quite elaborate (we do charge an extra fee if additional work is needed), we are here to make our clients happy. Without clients, we've got nothing. While it's completely fine to occasionally feel frustrated by client instructions/requirements, we also need to keep in mind that our businesses exist because we have clients.

What about you, dear colleagues? Have you run into unreasonable customer requirements? How do you handle them? We would love to hear from you!

Print It Out!

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Today's quick tip to improve any translation is a seemingly simple one, yet it's a step that's oftentimes forgotten: printing out the final translation to proofread it on paper. Yes, we are tree-huggers and don't like paper as much as the next environmentalist, but for our careers' sake, we print out every single translation we work on, sometimes multiple times. That said, we print on recycled paper (readily available at most office supply stores) and also print on both sides of the paper. We then shred everything and recycle the shredded bits.

We don't know why, but it's truly amazing that the human eye catches many mistakes on paper that it doesn't on screen, and skipping the step of proofing our work on paper would definitely decrease the quality of our translations. We usually sit down with the printed out target text, without the source text, move away from the computer, and grab a red pen. We have caught many typos and factual errors this way. In addition, printing out our work is also essential to make sure the formatting is entirely correct.

Happy printing and translating! What about you, dear colleagues? Does this simple technique work for you?

Where to Find Us: ATA Conference in Chicago

It's our favorite time of the year! Well, we like the holiday season as well, but the annual American Translators Association conference, which wil be held in Chicago this year, is one of the best weeks of the years for us. We get to spend it together and we have the chance to share a fantastic four days of conference with all our friends, colleagues, subcontractors, and clients. We cannot wait! Come tomorrow morning, we will both be on a plane. Dagy will be coming in from Vienna, while Judy is making the shorter trip from Las Vegas.

We truly enjoy spending time with our friends and colleagues, but with 175 sessions, dinners, lunches, networking events, and a busy exhibit hall, it's sometimes hard to meet up. We therefore wanted to give you an overview of where we will be in case you want to meet up and say hi -- we'd very much enjoy it!

  1. Buddies Welcome Newbies (Wednesday, November 5, 5:15 to 6 p.m.): We know how hard it is to attend this big conference for the first time, so we have volunteered to be buddies for a newbie. 
  2. Welcome reception (Wednesday, November 5, 6 to 7 p.m.): It is amazing how much fun you can pack into an hour! We always really look forward to seeing everyone for the first time at this event.
  3. "Quote This! 7 Essential Elements of a Language Services Price Quote": Judy will be giving this session (IC-13) on Saturday, November 8, 2014, at 10 a.m. Things usually get really busy before and after the session, but we'd love for you to come attend it! Judy's sessions are usually held in one of the bigger rooms with plenty of seating for everyone.
  4. "German Orthography for Experienced Linguists" (presented in German; G-5) on Friday, November 7, 2014, at 2:30 p.m. Every year, we present one German-language session and usually have a lot of fun. While the topic can be dry, we strive to make it entertaining. If German is one of your working languages, you might enjoy this session!
  5. InTrans Book Service booth: Our favorite bookseller, Freek Lankhof, will be on his farewell tour (yes, we will cry), and we plan on spending as much time as possible at his booth (6/7 in the exhibit hall). We are also doing a book signing on Friday from 3:45 to 4:45. Stop by and see us! We will be signing copies of our popular The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation book, which will be available for sale from Freek.
  6. The Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association (NITA) table. All ATA chapters and affiliate groups usually have tables (location to be announced) with information about the organizations, and since Judy is the immediate past president of NITA, she will be helping staff the table. It's the ideal place to find us in between sessions!
  7. Spanish Language Division dinner (Friday evening) and German Language Division dinner (Thursday evening): We will be attending both events! 
  8. The lobby bar: There's nothing quite like sharing a glass of wine with friends and colleagues. Look for us in the bar. We should be easy to spot, as we are usually the only set of twins.
We look forward to seeing you there!

The Best Part...

CRIT USA is now open.
As our dear readers may know, we love our jobs and pretty much everything about our profession. However, there are always aspects of our business that are more fun (or less fun; such as paperwork) than others. Without doubt, one of our favorite parts of the job is visiting and spending time with our incredible customers in person. We have met many of them, while others we just know via e-mail and phone. It's usually a fantastic experience to finally meet clients in person, and we've traveled quite extensively to do so. Sometimes we combine a vacation trip with a visit to a client's headquarters, but this week, it was all business as Judy headed to San Antonio for the grand opening of the Children's Rehabilitation Institute of Teletón (Teletón is a Mexican non-profit organization that operates children's rehabilitation centers). The opening marked the first CRIT center in the United States (there are more than 20 in Mexico).

We were delighted that Judy had been invited to the grand opening, which took place on October 30 at the brand-new building. The more than 1,000 guests were treated to entertainment by impressive musicians, including Aleks Syntek and Aida Cuevas. Both Univision and Televisa are major partners of Teletón and CRIT, so many well-known anchors, television executives and media moguls were in attendance, including Emilio Azcárraga, the president of Televisa. Actess and activist Eva Longoria, whose brother has special needs, also spoke at the opening ceremony. During the event, two additional pledges of $1 million were announced.

CRIT USA is a first of its kind in the sense that it offers rehabilitation treatment (on an outpatient basis) to 600 children and their families a year, independntly of their ability to pay for these services. The outpatient facility is truly impressive, with many high-tech robotics to give underprivileged children with neuromusculoskeletal access to the rehabilitation treatment they need -- and no expense was spared when it comes to equipment and services. It might be quite unprecendented here in the US: the center offers treatment until certain pre-established goals are met -- and not treatment until the insurance company doesn't approve treatment anymore. The top-notch medical staff is complemented by a variety of comprehensive care services, including a multisensory room, a life skills room, and a custom-built pool for hydroptherapy. The entire center is decorated in bright and cheerful colors and doesn't look like a medical facility at all.

Our business, Twin Translations, helped CRIT USA and Teletón with the translation of many patient materials, internal documents, PowerPoint presentations, subtitling of movies, and much more (Spanish into English). We also worked on a portion of the website and hope to continue doing so. Meeting CRIT USA's CEO, Ricardo Guzman Hefferán, was a pleasure. It's great to put the name with a face and to be part of this incredible effort to establish the first CRIT in the US (in dollars, it was $17 million to build it).  The festivities ended with confetti, projected fireworks and mariachi music, to be followed by a tour of the brand-new facilities.

What about you, dear colleagues? Have you enjoyed meeting some of your customers in person?

Quick Translation Tip

We recently decided to introduce regular short blog posts that center on just one short piece of advice that can be implemented quickly and that takes less than three minutes to read.

Today's post is a simple and effective way to improve any translation.

Once you get to your second draft (printed), read every target sentence individually again. Don't look at the source text and don't worry about specialized terminology. Just read it and ask yourself: does this make sense?

Is the population of the UK really 641 million? (No; it's 64.1 million.) Is Yellowstone National Park in California? (No; but Yosemite National park is.) Is Red Bull an Australian company? (It's an Austrian company.) Our point here is: read for obvious errors that aren't linguistic but rather fact-based (easy to research and/or double-check) or somehow related to logic. Sometimes we focus so much on specialized terminology that we misspell names, places, numbers, and just commit general errors that you would easily catch if you remove the translator lens and just review the sentence as an outside reader would.  Read it again and ask yourself: does this make sense?

We've committed many of these mistakes ourselves and usually catch them on our second draft. We hope you like this quick translation tip - we'd also love to hear yours. Just leave a comment below.

Our Number One Rule for Interpreting Practice

We both have the pleasure of teaching interpreting at the University of Vienna (Dagy, in-person) and at the University of California-San Diego Extension (Judy, online) and while we share what we know with others, we are also always constant students of our craft and practice and learn every day. We don't have too many hard rules for when we practice interpreting, but we have one that we came up with long ago that we try to stick with no matter what. Now, without further ado, here's our number one rule for practicing interpreting:

Stick with it. When you hit "play" on a recording (YouTube video, Speechpool video, any audio file) or listen to a TV show or radio show that you have chosen to interpret, just do it, even if it seems terribly hard. Soldier on. Try to stick it out, even if you falter early on, and try to recover. Just go on, even if the first sentence was terrible. That's how things will be in real life: you just have to go on, and learning how to do that early on, when the stakes are low, meaning you are sitting at home in front of your computer, is a very important lesson. Trust us, it can be painful -- we've been there too. As a matter of fact, Judy just listened to a recording she did a few weeks ago where the first 30 seconds were really quick terrible, but she did recover and went on to give a strong performance for the next 20 minutes. Be tough on yourself with this rule, and just keep on going once you've started interpreting. The worst that can happen is that you are not too happy with your performance, but the beautiful thing: it's only practice. And don't forget to record yourself.

What about you, dear colleagues and interpreter trainers? Do you have one favorite rule for interpreting practice that you'd like to share? We'd love to hear from you.

Open Thread: What's the Nicest Thing....

This month, we are in full client appreciation mode, but come to think of it, we are in client appreciation mode every month! We realize that without clients, we have nothing, and it never ceases to amaze us how great and lovely they are. We think it's important to never lose sight of that: as professional services providers, we are here to make our clients happy and to make them look good, and in turn, they pay us and keep us in business. We couldn't be more grateful, and we are quite sure that most of you feel the same way about your clients.

We recently started thinking about the nicest thing a client has ever done for us. We'd love to hear your #1 client interaction/memory/nice thing. We had many nice things to choose from, but without further ado, here's ours....

Our favorite client moment happened when a lovely long-term client approached us and gave us a permanent raise on our rate, and it was THEIR idea. They told us that our work was invaluable and that they wanted to pay us more than they had before. We were quite stunned, as that was a first, and initially told them we felt very well compensated, but the client insisted, and we gladly accepted. Now we make sure to show our appreciation by sending small gifts to our client as often as we can while continuing to make them look good with their customers. It's a win/win, and everyone's happy!

What about you, dear friends and colleagues? We'd love to hear your stories, and here's to being in the lucky position of working for ourselves. Here's to our clients!

The Humility Factor

Much has been written about what makes entrepreneurs successful, and in recent years, many books have also been written about success factors in the languages industry. We have also done quite a bit of writing about what one should do to succeed in our fantastic industry. Of course, while there are no secrets (which we would gladly share if they existed), there are many factors that contribute to one’s success. There are the basics, such as top-notch language skills and outstanding writing skills for translators, business skills, and a pleasant speaking voice and stamina for interpreters, among hundreds of other factors, both large and small. However, we’ve recently started noticing that not too much has been said about the importance of being humble. Allow us to elaborate.

We think being humble and recognizing one’s limitations and shortcomings can be a significant success factor. It keeps you honest and grounded, and if you are humble enough (and smart enough) to understand that you cannot take on a translation on say, quantum physics, it will serve you well because you won’t deliver a terrible translation. It will also serve you well because hopefully you will be humble enough to recommend a brilliant colleague who happens to have a doctorate in physics from.  The colleague will probably be happy to get the business, and the client should also be happy that you didn’t decide to wing it and instead sent her to the expert. In addition, humility is good because it helps you build a good reputation as an insightful analyst of your skills rather than show-off. We started thinking about this, and turns out that some of the translators and interpreters we admire the most are also the first ones to say that they don’t know something. Now, I don’t think there is much about legal interpreting that our court interpreting heroes Holly Mikkelson and Esther Navarro-Hall do not know, but we really like how they rarely speak in absolute terms and always allow some room for better ideas and other approaches. We have also noticed that the most experienced linguists are the ones who know exactly what they are good at and what they are not, while some newcomers tend to overrate their own abilities, which is a dangerous thing. It’s important to have confidence, but that confidence must be backed up by skills.

Humility has served us well in our years as a court and conference interpreters. Judy gladly confesses that she was initially terrified of the new interpreting territory in court, but that fear and that humility motivated her to acquire vocabulary at a fast pace. It’s not normal not to be humbled by what experienced court interpreters know, and of course you will be a better interpreter five years in than you are on day one. We have been flabbergasted by newcomers who insist that they know everything and that there is nothing they can learn from experienced interpreters (or translators, for that matter). 

These newbies are of course wrong, and going around saying you know everything certainly won’t endear you to your colleagues. Our best advice to newbies and to my students is to be a sponge and to follow around an experienced interpreter if they allow it (be sure to buy lunch!). This endeavor is a bit more difficult on the translation side, but the ATA listservs are a great opportunity to get advice from the best in the business, especially if you are new to translation. However, it’s important to keep one’s ego in in check and eat some humble pie if necessary – for instance, when an experienced colleague disagrees with your own crack at translating a particular sentence. Rather than getting defensive, take this valuable advice as what it is: a gift, and then, 10 years from now, you can pay it forward. However, regardless of how long we have been in the business: we are continuously humbled by all the things our colleagues know and by how much we still have to learn.  We will never know everything, and that’s a great gift for our brains and for our career. 

What do you think, dear colleagues? We'd love to hear your feedback.

Win a Book: Happy International Translation Day!

Yes, we love September 30th -- happy International Translation (and Interpreting) Day to all our friends and colleagues around the world! Last week, we helped UNIVERSITAS Austria Interpreters' and Translators' Association celebrate both our big day and their 60th anniversary in style in Vienna, complete with a reception at Vienna's legendary city hall, a one-day conference at the University of Vienna, and a memorable event at Europe House (co-sponsored by the European Union) with a fantastic keynote speech by industry expert and VP of SmartlingNataly Kelly, who flew in from Boston for the event. Speaking of Nataly Kelly: as you know, she co-authored a fantastic book on our industry with Jost Zetzsche, which has been selling quite well and is meant for the general market. The book is called Found in Translation, and Nataly donated several books to Translation Times earlier this year.

Now, to celebrate International Translation Day, we'd like to raffle off a copy of the book. The first person to correctly identify where the pictures on this blog post were taken will win the book. They were both taken in the same city. We are not looking just for the country or continent, but the name of the city where these two pictures were taken. We will pay for postage to send the book to you, regardless of whether you live in Santiago de Chile or Sydney.

Best of luck to all of you!

AUSIT Conference Down Under: November

Our friends at AUSIT (Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators) are hosting the Biennial National Conference (titled "Transition into the future") this upcoming November 1 and 2 in Brisbane, and it's shaping up to be a great event. AUSIT was kind enough to invite Judy to speak at this event, but unfortunately, it's just a few days before the American Translators Association Annual Conference in Chicago, where both of us are presenting workshops, so we will be there in spirit!

The conference location looks gorgeous, and the gala dinner will feature a mariachi group from Mexico and fantastic views of the Brisbane skyline. The conference lineup is promising as well, and the workshops include a full day pre-conference session on MemoQ on October 31. We've never been to Australia or New Zealand, and it's certainly true that most translator events focus on the US and on Europe, but let's not forget about these lovely events in Australia and Asia. We've never met anyone who didn't enjoy a trip to Australia, and while it's a long flight from Europe, this event might just very well be worth it. AUSIT has produced a funky video, which you can view here. 

We hope to make it to Australia for the 2017 FIT Congress!

The 3 Best Things

There's no doubt that being an entrepreneur in the languages industry comes with many joys and challenges. We oftentimes talk about the challenges, as it's important for newcomers to know which they are, but today we want to focus on the joys. We absolutely love working for ourselves and wouldn't have it any other way. Now, in no particular order of importance, are three things we love about our small translation and interpretation business. These are things that go beyond the fact that we love languages and really enjoy solving linguistic puzzles.

  • Freedom. We have the freedom to decide who our clients will be. We don't have any obligation to work on projects that don't offer the right terms (think payment, deadline, etc.) and we are independent contractors to all our fantastic clients. We have the freedom to turn down work and the freedom to choose our clients, which is fantastic. We also have the freedom to work as little or as much as we'd like. We usually do work quite a lot, but we love it.
  • No boss. We are our own bosses, and we are tougher on ourselves than any boss we've ever had. However, it's incredibly liberating to not have to ask for vacation days, raises, sit through boring meetings, etc. It's empowering to be in charge of our own destiny and to make the decisions we believe are right for our company. We don't always make the right ones, but we are willing to assume the risks and the consequences of our decisions.
  • Location independence. We both travel a lot for both business and pleasure, and routinely run our businesses from Europe, Latin America, South America, the US, etc. We usually discourage newcomers from getting too attached to the notion that being a freelance translator means you will sit on remote beaches with a laptop, as that's just not the long-term reality of any professional business, but it certainly is true that translation doesn't tie you to one place. The only aspect of our business that suffers when we travel is the interpreting side. 

We love many other parts of our business,  but if we had to pick three, we'd probably stick with these. What about you, dear colleagues? We'd be most interested in knowing what you enjoy the most about our profession.

Professional Suicide

The internet is a great thing, but it comes with many dangers, and too often we've heard of and read about professionals committing what amounts to professional suicide online. We aren't just referring to professionals in our line of work, but in any other. 

This can come in a variety of shapes and forms, including leaking confidential information, writing mean things about clients, colleagues, and vendors, spreading rumors, etc. It can seem very easy to vent on Twitter, Facebook, listservs, LinkedIn groups or any other public (or even protected) forum, but our short piece of advice here is: don't do it. Resist the temptation to make anything public that you might regret later. We don't want to scare you at all, but here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to netiquette. Remember that your reputation is one of the only things you have. Let's delve into some more specifics here:

  • It is completely normal to be mad/annoyed/incredibly ticked off once in a while. It happens to us, too. However, as tempting as it may be, the internet is not the place to air your grievances, especially if you are going to be naming names. There are, as always, no black and white rules, but while we think it's of course completely acceptable to tweet that you are exhausted and not having a great day, we'd say it's not acceptable to say you are exhausted because annoying client XYZ won't stop bombarding you with e-mails. Without clients, you have nothing, so be careful what you say about them. We generally don't ever have anything negative to say about our lovely clients, but if and when we do, we discuss this in person with each other or our inside circle.
  • Use the newspaper rule. If it could potentially make you unhappy to see anything you are about to type in next morning's newspaper, then don't do it. If you hesitate about whether you should post something, don't do it.
  • Think twice before sending an angry e-mail. Invasion of privacy and computer hacking issues aside, e-mail can be viewed as a somewhat private form of communication. However, e-mails can be forwarded and shared, and while it's tempting to fire off a snarky response to an e-mail, we suggest thinking twice before hitting the send button. Better yet: have someone you trust read your e-mail to make sure it's acceptable. While it's entirely possible that the person who sent you the e-mail is rude and unreasonable, you don't need to respond the same way. Being nice is always better.
  • Stay away from gossip. We don't see any good reason to gossip about others. Nothing good ever comes out of talking badly about others. A good rule would be: if you don't have anything good to say about someone, just be quiet and try to surround yourself with positive people.
  • The beauty and danger of listservs. We truly love the listservs of the many professional associations we belong to, but they can also be a minefield. E-mail certainly isn't the best form of communication, especially when there's conflict, so we avoid getting into any sort of argument via e-mail. These lists are meant to be a positive place to exchange ideas and to solve linguistic puzzles, and everyone tends to be very, very helpful. However, once in a while 1,000+ people have to witness a personal spat between two members, and that's not a great idea. There's never any reason to air any grievances on a forum that thousands of people can read. Our tip: if you have a dispute with a colleague, take him or her to coffee and talk about it privately. If you don't live in the same city, set up a phone call. It's sad to see that some users have to get banned from listservs because they cannot stick to the netiquette rules, and unfortunately, others remember very clearly who they are.
  • Go for a walk. Again, we all get angry and annoyed. Customers and even colleagues can be unreasonable and treat you poorly, which is a fact of life. Before you make your next move, clear your head, go for a walk and ask yourself: "Will this matter a year from now?" It probably won't. Pet a friendly dog while you are out on that walk and remind yourself that no matter how tough business can be, working for yourself is truly marvelous.
What about you, dear colleagues? Do you have any other recommendations on this important topic? What's the behavior that should be avoided? We look forward to your comments.

Just Pay Me!

Sooner or later, every professional linguist will be confronted with a customer who doesn't pay for services rendered. While this is highly annoying, it's important to remember that it's usually not personal, but it sure does feel personal when you aren't compensated for your hard work, doesn't it? Now, just like most of our colleagues, we have been very lucky that in more than a decade in business, as we've only had a few non-payers. 

Photo by Judy.
We've had this great payment record because we ask for payment in advance when we work with non-corporate clients, only work with people we trust, and make sure that we have addresses and contact information for all new customers in case a dispute arises. In addition, every customer has to sign a contract agreeing to our price and terms, and that document would come in really handy if we had to go to court. In addition, in the rare case that we work with an agency for an interpreting case, we check their rating on the invaluable Payment Practices website. In spite of all these precautions, once in a while a customer hasn't paid, and here are some of the steps we've taken to remedy the situation.

  • Our payment terms are usually net 30, and if payment has not arrived after 45 days or so, we send a kind follow-up e-mail in very nice terms. Sometimes the check is in the mail (whether that's true or not) and sometimes something has slipped through the cracks, which can happen. If the customer did not have the intention of paying us promptly, this e-mail serves as a nice reminder that we are very much on top of our accounts receivable. In those cases, the situation is usually remedied very quickly.
  • If we don't hear back after that first e-mail or the customer is not too responsive, we call a few days later and/or e-mail and calmly remind the customer that we had a signed agreement, that services have been rendered and that we would like to get paid for our services in accordance with said agreement. If we don't get the response we need via e-mail or phone, we send a certified letter that the customer has to sign for and include the overdue invoice.
  • If there is still no appropriate response after several e-mails, phone calls and the certified letter or if we get an excuse along the lines of "the check was lost in the mail" and more than 90 days or so have passed, we send another letter saying that we need to resolve the matter by X day before getting a third party involved. We've only had to use that strategy a few times, and it's worked.
  • If all else fails, we take the matter to a collection agency (the ATA partners with RMS; we once referred an account to them that they did not manage to collect, so there was no fee) or, if the client is in the same jurisdiction as we are, another option is to take the client to small claims court. With a signed contract in hand, the case should be relatively clear, but even if you win, it's up to you and not the court to collect the outstanding amount. We've never taken anyone to small claims court, but in Europe, one of our clients filed for bankruptcy and we have a collection agency representing us in the bankruptcy proceedings. We are basically a low-level creditor to the company, and the odds of collecting are low, but it's worth the try.
  • On a few occasions, and if the client is in the same city, we have asked someone we trust to go the client's office and kindly tell them that they would wait until the check is issued. This is uncomfortable for all parties and usually yields the intended result: payment.

What about you, dear colleagues? How have you resolved non-payment issues? And how do they make you feel? As much as we know non-payment is not personal, it's still tough to deal with. We'd love to hear your comments and ideas. 

Fall Conference Schedule: Michigan

We are delighted to announce that Judy will be one of the two keynote speakers at the  MiTiN 2014 Regional Conference on Interpreting and Translation (Michigan Translators/Interpreters Network) on Saturday, October 2. She is quite honored to join Lori Thicke, founder of Lexworks and, most notably, the lovely Translators Without Border, which we proudly support through donations. In addition to her keynote titled "10 Habits of Highly Successful Interpreters and Translators," Judy is also giving a workshop titled "Pricing Strategies for Language Professionals." The motto of the 5th Annual MiTiN conference is "Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone," which should make for very interesting sessions. The MiTiN conference committee has been working very hard to put on this one-day event, and we hope that many of you can join us in Novi, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Please help us spread the word! The conference, which includes lunch and a networking session, will take place at the Crowne Plaza hotel, and there will also be some exhibitors.

Here's the conference schedule with all the sessions, and you can also visit the conference website.

Two Hands = Violinist?

Today we'd like to discuss one of our favorite topics -- why the simple fact that being bilingual doesn't automatically make anyone either a translator or an interpreter. There's significant training involved, but oftentimes outsiders to the profession equate bilingualism with professional translation and interpretation because writing and speaking is something we already know and do, so they don't perceive it as a learned skill. We've spent a few years trying to collect some convincing analogies, and depending on who we are talking to, we select from this list. Some might be more direct analogies than others, while others might be funnier. As always, take some of these with a grain of salt.

In addition, we like to add that just because you like to do something, it doesn't mean you do it well or that others would pay you to do it. For instance, just because you like to crochet doesn't mean that it's good enough that anyone wants to buy your work. Just because you like to dance doesn't mean that event planners will hire you as entertainment for their events. Passionate chess players might very well not be good enough to play payed exhibition matches -- but the professionals are. Enjoying something doesn't necessarily mean you are good enough that others will pay you for it, or, in other words, that it will have value in the marketplace. However, oddly enough, this is what the general public usually incorrectly assumes about languages skills and translation or interpretation. We rarely hear anyone say that they like numbers, ergo they are an accountant, perhaps because there are significant barrier to entry to becoming an accountant, but we digress.

We've written about this many times before, but we'll state it again: being bilingual is the minimum requirement for this job, just like having two hands is the minimum requirement for being a violinist. But having two hands doesn't automatically make you a violinist. And being bilingual doesn't automatically make you an interpreter or a translator, but all interpreters and translators are bilingual.

Now, without further delay, here are our analogies. Some might be better than others, and we look forward to hearing which ones you like!

Being bilingual doesn't make you a translator just like.....
  • being able to write in English doesn't make you a journalist.
  • being able to write in English doesn't make you an advertising copywriter.
  • being able to write in English doesn't make you a public relations professional.
  • being able to type doesn't make you a court reporter.
  • enjoying cooking doesn't make you a professional chef.
  • driving every day doesn't make you a race car driver.
  • being tall doesn't make you a basketball player.

Being bilingual doesn't make you an interpreter just like...
  • speaking English doesn't make you an actor.
  • speaking English doesn't make you a TV anchor.
  • speaking English doesn't make you a professional comedian.
  • speaking English doesn't make you a voice-over talent.
  • liking to argue doesn't make you a lawyer.

I Was Bored Before I Even Began

We created this image on
Many times, we hear from newcomers to the profession that they want to become translators and/or interpreters because they love languages and really enjoy working for themselves. Those are two excellent reasons, but of course those two things don't make anyone a translator or interpreter, nor do they guarantee success, but we digress. Today we wanted to address some lesser-known facts of the business: much of it won't have anything to do with language at all, and some can be, well, a bit boring. We are not saying, by any stretch of the imagination, that all adminstrative tasks are boring, but it does make for a catchy title. 

Most readers of this blog are experienced linguists and will certainly know that self-employed translators and interpreters have to devote a significant portion of their time to tasks that have absolutely nothing to do with language. These are neither fun tasks nor tasks that you can romanticize at all: they are the nitty-gritty basic tasks (some very easy, some challenging) that are necessary to run a business. They include highly interesting (yes, we are being sarcastic here) things such as:
  • Logging our mileage and our business expenses so we can deduct them from our taxes 
  • Calling customers who have not paid their invoices (does not happen very often)
  • Sending customers the requested paperwork (W-9s, confidentiality agreements)
  • Dealing with tax-related paperwork
  • Paying our bills and your vendors
  • Renewing business licenses and dealing with government bureaucracies
  • Going to see our accountants and lawyer, etc. 
On the other hand, there are many routine tasks that we enjoy very much, such as:
  • Issuing invoices
  • Working in our trusty accounting system, Translation Office 3000
  • Corresponding with clients
  • Depositing checks
  • Checking the online balances of our accounts
Others are not boring, but can be taxing, such as:
  • Dealing with computer challenges
  • Doing software upgrades
  • Calling the bank again to deal with an incorrect charge
In addition, we frequently outsource work to a small group of our superstar contractors, so we oftentimes do project management and edit others' work, which is not boring at all, but can be quite cumbersome on the administrative level.

The point of this post is the following: newcomers to this profession must realize that while of course we work with language on a daily basis, all linguists devote part of their time to administrative tasks. Sometimes it's 30% of our day, sometimes it's 50%, sometimes it's even 100% (as happened during a recent computer crisis). We think it's important that newcomers know about this reality, which is why we share it here on this space as food for thought.

What about you, dear colleagues? How much time do you spend on boring (read: administrative) tasks every day? Which one is your least favorite? Do you have one that you actually like?

And surely music fans were quick to recognize the title of this post: it is a favorite line from an 80s song by The Smiths. The name of the song is "Shirtlifters of the World Unite." Yes, Judy is a huge The Smiths/Morrissey fan.

Spanish Grammar and Writing: In Pictures

Our friends over at Ortografía Real have been tweeting up a storm and have been sharing a large amount of interesting tidbits about the Spanish language. We really enjoy their tweets and their Facebook page, and highly recommend you follow them.

They recently tweeted two images that nicely illustrate some very common mistakes. If we had a penny for every time someone sent us an e-mail with Hay nos vemos (correct: Ahí nos vemos) or Haber si te quedas a cenar (correct: A ver si te quedas a cenar), we would be rich. Perhaps this will clear up some of these common errors. Enjoy!

Thank you, Ortografía Real, for this gem.
Simple and priceless. A ver si se acuerdan.

Should I Sign This?

Today's brief post is about a topic that we consider vital to your success: documents that require your signature, specifically, documents that either an end client or a translation/interpreting agency sends you before you have an agreement and before services are rendered. Remember that we are not attorneys, although one of us is married to one. The following is not legal advice, but rather our advice on what we have learned in the T&I trenches. Here it is, in easy-to-read bullet format.

  • Read everything. Even if the client insists that you need to sign this right now or the world will come to and end (yes, this is the sense of urgency that's sometimes communicated to the translator or interpreter), take your time to read everything. Also be sure that you understand what you are reading. If you don't, consider asking. 
  • If you don't agree with something on the document, be it a confidentiality agreement, a purchase order, or a non-compete agreement, don't sign it. These documents can be considered drafts of contracts, and they are not court orders with which you need to comply. We occasionally get non-compete clauses that are so completely egregious that we simply can't agree to them. So we go into the document, delete/amend the portions we don't like and send it back to the client for their review. Initially, we used to be a bit nervous about this, because just like many service providers, we want to make everything easy for the client. That said, we also have to protect our business interests, and sometimes that's a thin line. However, pretty much all of the time, the client has agreed to our changes and we've signed the redacted version of the document.
  • Even if the client claims that this "is just completely standard," it still has to be a standard that works for both parties. A contract is an agreement between two parties, and if you don't agree, say so. Don't be afraid of potentially losing a client. If the client isn't willing to respect your business interests, then perhaps this is not a good basis for a work relationship. We assure you that there will be other, better clients. We recently turned down a hugely lucrative contract with a tech giant because their terms were so outrageous (especially their terms in case of any errors and omissions) that our entire business would have been at risk. The client said that the contract was just a formality, but after having two attorneys review the terms, we decided to decline. It was a tough decision, but ultimately we thought it was the right one.
  • One of us (Judy) spends a lot of time in legal proceedings as a court interpreter, and it's never fun to go to court if it's about you. Save yourself the trouble of having to litigate anything and negotiate everything before you sign. Once your signature is on the document, it's official, so think twice before you sign.
Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive and is only meant as initial food for thought. What about you, dear colleagues? Do you have any other advice on handling this issue? We'd love to hear from you.

3000+ Translation Glossaries

A few weeks ago, our colleague Alina Cincan in the UK (managing director of Inbox Translation) contacted us to let us know that she was working on a list of more than 3,000 translation glossaries (yes, 3,000). This very well-researched list is now live, and we have to say it's quite impressive indeed.

It's divided into a wide variety of categories (120 to be exact), including such diverse topics as medicine, weights, printing, beauty, mythical creatures, text speak, gambling, nutrition, noble titles (yes!), food, measurements, math and much more. This is quite possibly the most extensive list of translation glossaries we have ever seen, and would like to thank Alina very much for undertaking this massive project for the benefit of all! The vast majority of these are monolingual and are very helpful.

Here's the link to the 3,000+translation glossaries.

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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