The Veiled Interpreting Booth

As a follow-up to this week's raffle (congratulations to our winner Marina Meier!), we wanted to share the story behind what we've been calling "the veiled booth."

This set-up is good enough, if far from ideal.
A few months ago, Judy had a conference interpreting assignment at a large Vegas hotel. The number of attendees was well in excess of 5,000, and interpreting services were provided in six different languages using table-top booths, which are less than ideal (fine, that's an understatement). The interpreting console was quite odd and Judy hadn't seen a set-up like this in a long time. For instance, there was a stand-alone microphone with an on/off button, but not the traditional cough button. However, here in the US, conference interpreters learn how to roll with the punches, and the set-up was functional and there were plenty of technicians to ensure good sound. Even though the interpreting conditions were far from ideal, the first day went quite well. We had individual screens on the tables that showed live footage of the
Just outside the booth: it's a party!
speakers, but not of the videos or any PowerPoint slides, but we could see that through the main window of the booth, so it worked. However, this event also featured a DJ, so it was very challenging to get the audio feed through the headset with the hip-hop music at full blast, and we usually could not hear ourselves interpret. So the conditions were difficult, but certainly not impossible.

Judy did notice that a lot of the relatively rowdy attendees were unsure of what these table-top booths were for, and kept on walking up to us to ask us questions and to try to plug in their cell phones, which was incredibly distracting. The event organizers must have noticed that, because the second day of the event, we came back to find "the veiled booth."

Say hello to the veiled tabletop booths!

It sure seems like the event organizers decided to section off the sides of the booth that was open to the ballroom. This seemed like a good idea because it would prevent attendees from wandering into the interpreting booths. However, what we can't figure out is the black veil that's securely fastened to the front and the sides of the booths via very strong velcro strips (and many of them). We were basically stuck without a way to see the stage. We did have the aforementioned screens, but we could not see any videos or PowerPoints that the presenters were showing (and there were quite a lot). In order to interpret those, we had to get up, headset and all, and try to stretch our necks to see. This made our work very difficult indeed, but we persevered. We couldn't find the conference organizers to have a conversation about the veiled booths, so we just worked with what we had. The show must go on.

What do you think, dear colleagues? Would you have been able to work with this? We'd also love to hear about any challenging situations that you have run into at conferences. Please leave a comment and share your experiences!

What Is This? Enter to Win!

A few weeks ago, our friend and colleague Nataly Kelly, co-author (with our also friend and colleague Jost Zetzsche) of the marvelous book Found in Translation, donated several copies of the book to us. We will be raffling them off here on the blog, and tried to come up with a clever way to select a winner. 

In the past, we have done this by having readers identify who is who (we are, after all, twins) in a picture, having readers guess where a particular picture was taken, and a variety of other things. We haven't yet run out of ideas, so here's our latest one: Have a look at the picture below and tell us what it is that you are looking at. We realize it's a bit challenging, so here are two hints:

  1. It does have to do with either translation or interpretation.
  2. Judy tried to work here.

The book (standard shipping included to wherever you happen to live) will belong to the first person (timestamp) to guess correctly. Simply submit your entry (one per person, please) leaving a comment.

Good luck! We love raffles! And yes, we willl raffle off more copies of Found in Translation very soon.

Top Language Lovers: Voting Phase

We can't believe it's already been a year, but time flies, doesn't it? We recently received a notification that this blog had been nominated for Lexiophile's Top 100 Language Lovers competition. We are very honored to have won this category (language professionals blogs) before, so if you enjoy our blog and would like to vote for us, we'd very much appreciate it. You can vote for this blog (or a variety of other fantastic blogs written by our friends and colleagues) here. The list is alphabetical, so if you'd like to vote for us, please scroll down until you see "Translation Times." There are so many great blogs to choose from!

The official voting button.
In addition, Judy's Twitter feed (she's @language_news) was also nominated in the Twitter category, and to our astonishment, she has more than 7,000 followers! If you enjoy what she shares on her feed, you can vote for it here

As past winners, we know that winners do not receive any monetary reward, but you do get bragging rights and Lexiophiles makes a lovely donation to a charity in the winners' name, which we think is just fantastic. 

Voting is open now and continues through June 9th. Winners will be announced on June 12. The final results will  be based on votes (50%) and evaulations by the Lexiophiles staff (50%). In addition to the Twitter and language professionals blog category, there are also a variety of other categories that need your vote, including best Facebook page, best YouTube channel, and best language learning blogs.

Translation Cartoons: Tina and Mouse
A few weeks ago, we received an e-mail from Elena de Terán Bleiberg, a lovely colleague in Spain who is both a medical doctor and a translator. Oh, and she's a cartoonist, too, one who chooses a female translator as the progagonist of her very attratively drawn minimalist cartoons. Her sidekick is a cute little mouse, who is also quite wise and has some good insight. His or her name (we are not sure!) is simply Mouse, hence the title of the cartoons "Tina and Mouse." We are particularly fond of the lead character's name, as one of our dearest friends is also named Tina. 

Elena has worked in the translation industry in a variety of roles (freelancer, project manager, editor, third-party reviewer, director of medical translation services, etc.) since 1991, and she's published more than 40 Tina and Mouse cartoons in 2013 and 2014. Be sure to check out her blog. We haven't been this excited about translation cartoons since we discovered the great Mox, who seems to be on a bit of a hiatus at the moment.

We immediately fell in love with them and wanted to share them with all our readers! Have a look at all of them here

Webinar on Web 2.0 for Translators (German)

On June 4 and June 11, Dagy will present two one-hour webinars (in German) that are all about social media for translators. She will show you how to use social media to promote your services, get a solid online footprint, and attract more clients. This webinar is organized by the German association BDUE and should be a lot of fun! Dagy has a lot of experience addressing these topics, and she will help you overcome any technology-related fears that you might have. Have you wondered if blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. are for you and how you can get the most out of these tools? Dagy will tell you how, and here's more good news: you don't need to have any programming or advanced IT skills at all. If you can send an e-mail with an attachment or download your digital pictures from your camera, then you are ready to use social media to promote your business! Of course, the very best part of marketing via social media is that the vast majority of it is completely free (other than the cost of your time). 

Please remember that these two webinars (one hour of introductory information on June 4 and one hour of advanced techniques on June 11) will be presented entirely in German. This blog post is in English because, well, our entire blog is in English.

There are still some slots left, so sign up here

Recommended Reading: 101 Things a Translator Needs to Know

We recently received our review copy of "101 Things a Translator Needs to Know," and evey though our reading lists are quite long, we had to read this one first (we devoured it in one sitting). Thanks to one of the authors, Chris Durban, for sending the copy. The short review is: we like it. A lot. Go read it.

It's on the bookshelf! Picture by Judy.
This nifty little book (it has no page numbers, but it appears to be roughly 200 pages) is published by the WLF Think Tank, which is an ad hoc group of highly experienced translators (who have more than 500 years' experience between them). Many great working professionals contributed to this book, and they include our colleagues Nick Rosenthal, Janet Fraser, Ros Schwartz, Terry Oliver, Steve Dyson, and many others. The book is lovingly illustrated by talented illustrator Catherine Anne Hiley, and we are very fond of her work, with the exception of some drawings that just don't work well in black and white (including the drawing of a prism). Her work is clever and engaging, and every single one of the 101 things (or tips) comes with its own little drawing. It's a great idea that really draws the reader in.

The 101 things every translator needs to know consist of very short and concise bits of information -- consider it the Cliff Notes of our industry. We've long emphasized the importance of being brief and concise for maximum effect on readers, and this book truly pulls that off. The advice is short (roughly half a page each), spot-on, gives you plenty of food for thought, and is quite wise. Even the titles are very witty and engaging.

Here are some of our favorites (yes, it's hard to choose just a few):

#17: Hallmarks of a good translation
#23: Beware of sharks 
#34: When to say no
#49: Professionals v amateurs
#50: Don't bury your head in the sand. 
#88: The customer is always right. Or is she? Note: We love the consistent use of the female pronoun.
#96: Be transparent.
#101: Rules are made to be broken

This is most certainly a book that belongs on every translator's shelf. You can buy yours here. It is worth every penny of the $20.56 cover price.

Conflict and Resolution: An Example

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Every Spanish court interpreter in the US has probably found herself (or himself) in the following situation: a Spanish-speaking attorney who is determined to intimidate or critique the court interpreter. Here in Las Vegas, we have a lot of Spanish-speaking attorneys, and their language skills vary widely, from virtually non-existent to completely fluent. Many professionals outside the languages industry tend to overestimate their language skills, which sometimes doesn't stop attorneys from criticizing and challenging professional and certified court interpreters' skills. That's the problem, so to say, with language: everyone uses it every day, but having the attorney critique the court interpreters' rendition is like having the paralegal critique the judge. OK, so perhaps that's not the best analogy, but the point is: these situations can be uncomfortable and challenging. How is a certified court interpreter to deal with this? Now, if your language is Punjabi or Zulu and you live in the US, chances are this has never happened to you. If your language is Spanish, we bet you are nodding by now.

Let's illustrate this with a recent example from Judy's practice.

Last week, Judy went to interpret for a Spanish deponent in a very complicated case that involved several counterclaims. Once all the parties were present, Judy counted the attorneys, and there were seven of them. Yes, seven. One of them, clearly the leader of the pack, started the conversation:

Attorney: "You know, Judy, all of us here speak Spanish. You better watch out! We will be checking up on you."

What Judy really wanted to say: "Great! I read a lot of John Grisham novels, and my hubby is an attorney, so you better watch out, too! I will be making sure you follow all rules of evidence."

Of course Judy didn't say that. Rather, she did the following.

Judy: "That's great, Bob! Learning another language is always very enriching, and I am glad you've chosen such a wonderful language. I look forward to facilitating language access today."

Sometimes, it's just that easy. And the best thing you can do to stop any needless commentary is to simply do an outstanding job. Of course, you might still get critiqued even if you are right and they are wrong, but it comes with the territory and you learn how to stay cool and composed.

Now, this is what happened halfway through the deposition.

Attorney: "Wow, Judy, you are a superstar."

What Judy wanted to say: "I know."

What Judy said: "Thank you, Bob."

What about you, dear court interpreter colleagues? How do you deal with these situations?
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.

Translation Times