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. 

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