New Year's Resolutions: Buy a Colleague a Drink

It doesn't have to be top-notch. Image: Judy Jenner
As this wonderful 2015 comes to an end, we've been thinking about New Year's resolutions for both ourselves and for the profession at large. We think this is a lovely profession, but of course we can always make it even better. So we came up with one simple thing: pick out a colleague you do not know very well (yet), either in your city, at a conference, or when you are in their city for work or pleasure, and invite him/her out for a drink (or coffee, or whatever you would like). We think it's so lovely when colleagues come to our town and reach out to us, and of course we love taking them out for a beverage (adult beverage or not). It really takes relationships that may have only been virtual to the next level. It's wonderful to build relationships that ultimately strengthen our profession and extend our networks. Judy was in New Mexico for an assignment recently and made sure to look up a colleague she'd met at the ATA conference in Miami who lives in Albuquerque. They shared a nice meal in that city, and got to know each other much better than they have been able to do a large conference. 

And how about perhaps taking a colleague for a drink who is either new in town, new to the profession, or maybe even both? Let's start paying it forward, build relationships and friendships, and watch the positive impact for all of us! What do you think, dear colleagues? Will you join us?

With that, if you don't hear from us again this year: happy 2016! Time flies, doesn't it?

The Client Perspective: The Ideal Interpreter

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Today's quick post is from the client perspective, because in addition to being services providers ourselves, we are quite oftentimes clients ourselves, meaning that we buy interpreting services. More specifically, we outsource interpreting work to colleagues, mainly for conference interpreting projects. We'd like to give you a quick list of things that we look for, in no specific order. These attributes and characteristics go beyond actual interpreting skills.

  • The interpreter has a professional presence and presentation (website, business e-mail, etc).
  • The interpreter asks our questions the first time (our pet peeve: we send three questions and get answers to two).
  • The interpreter responds promptly. By that we usually mean the same business day. We certainly don't expect an immediate response, but the same business day is usually good. 
  • The interpreter sends a professional price quote when we ask. And by that we don't mean an e-mail with a rate--we actually mean  a document with terms and conditions, etc.
  • The interpreter knows which questions to ask, for instance about the equipment, when it comes to requesting background materials, etc.
  • The interpreter makes us look good. Ultimately, we send interpreters to events to do a great job and to make us look good. This includes being professional at all times.
  • The interpreter solves problems quickly. In conference interpreting, problems can arise quite easily. We look for interpreters who take quick action and solve them as independently as they can--although we are, of course always available to help.
  • The interpreter is positive and outgoing. We look for interpreters who focus on the positive rather than things they can't control. Constant complaining at events is not attractive and serves no purpose. Some situations might be less than ideal, but you have to roll with the punches.
  • The interpreter has good rapport with the client. As opposed to many other LSPs, our small boutique agency is not afraid that our interpreters will "steal" the client. We trust our interpreters and feel very comfortable in our relationships with our clients. At the event, we think it's very appropriate for the interpreter(s) to talk to the client if the situation arises--with our without our presence.
  • The interpreter is on time, or early. We have a tendency to work with the same linguists, and we always choose people who have a history of being early. Being late means you will probably not work with us again. 
These are the main things we look for when hiring interpreters. Is there anything else you would add?

Interpreting Politics in Vienna

Presidents Bachelet and Fischer
and their interpreter. Photo credit:
Peter Lechner/HBF
Have you ever wondered what it's like to interpret at a high diplomatic level? Read on for Dagy's report on yesterday's assignment in Vienna, Austria.

As I stood in the courtyard of the Vienna Imperial Palace on a cold and windy morning, somebody grabbed my hand and asked if I too had cold hands. I did, and the person asking was the President of Austria, Heinz Fischer. Stupidly, all I managed to say was “yes.” That was one of my rare moments of speechlessness this year.

Heinz Fischer, his entourage and I were waiting for President Michelle Bachelet and her delegation to arrive to kick off an official working visit and I was to be one of their interpreters. While I had been hired by the Chilean embassy, the Austrian delegation had hired two other interpreters, one of whom I knew well. It was to be a first for me, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

The day had gotten underway with a meeting that included the three interpreters and the head of protocol for the Austrian presidency. The preparation phase had been slightly unorganized and confusing and things turned out very different than expected. I had prepared for consecutive and a bit of simultaneous for German-Spanish and vice versa, but ended up doing mostly whispering from English into Spanish. Flexibility is key, in high-profile settings and just about everywhere else.

We received detailed instructions on what to do, where to stand, etc. One of us was to volunteer to go downstairs with the Austrian President to welcome the Chilean President, and that was me. Good thing I had bought a nice and warm coat in Chicago last year during the ATA conference. I was told to spring into action just in case President Bachelet greeted President Fischer in Spanish. They spoke English, so I quickly got out of the way as I’d been instructed, but before that, one of the press photographers took the picture above. It even made it to the Austrian President’s website!

After that, things moved fast: quick photo session between the two presidents, a 10-minute one-on-one conversation without interpretation, followed by a working meeting. Initially, there was to be no interpreting because it would be held in English, but I learned at the last minute that one of the Chilean ministers would need interpreting into Spanish. Which is how I ended up whispering to her for 45 minutes, interpreting everything Michelle Bachelet and Heinz Fischer said from English into Spanish. “My” minister was lovely, she gave me her water and tried to feed me some of the delicious-looking Christmas cookies.

Before and after that meeting, I interpreted short conversations between her and her Austrian counterpart, the Minister of Education and Women’s Affairs (German<->Spanish). What struck me was that while the setting was very formal, all people involved very lovely, very relaxed and approachable. 

After that, there was a very short press conference, where my two colleagues provided simultaneous interpreting. Michelle Bachelet summarized their meeting in Spanish, while Heinz Fischer did the same in German. Strangely enough, the two booths weren’t even in the same room, but upstairs. There were no technical glitches, but I was standing by for consecutive interpreting just in case.

At the lunch that followed, I did chuchotage for “my” minister during the toasts. Since she sat next to a member of the Austrian delegation who spoke excellent Spanish, I did nothing for the rest of the meal, sitting behind her, waiting to spring to action if she needed me. As usual, the interpreter got no food and watched the others eat, but that’s just the way it is. Which didn’t keep the Chilean minister from feeling sorry for me. Coffee and tea were served in another beautiful room, I did some more interpreting for her during short conversations she had, including with the vice-president of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce. Time flew, and before I knew it, I received hugs and kisses from the Chilean delegation before they hurried off to their afternoon meetings.

Bottom line: my first high-profile political interpreting assignments was great, I loved the anticipation, the formal ambience, the nice people, everything. As I walked back to the subway, my hands cold again, I felt the pressure slipping away and slight exhaustion taking its place. After an invigorating nap,  I was ready to do this again!

Gift Ideas for Clients (Video)

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Can you believe it's almost December? We can't--where has this year gone? We are busy putting together gifts for our lovely clients, and we wanted to share our thoughts with you, dear readers/viewers. We've recorded a brief video for you all; enjoy! We are still trying to investigate the strange issue with the first few seconds of audio not playing if the video is viewed in Google Chrome. (There are a lot of suggested fixes out there, but we have yet to find the one that works.)

Interpreting Bond, James Bond

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It's not often that interpreters play a role in big blockbuster movies, but maybe our moment has arrived courtesy of Bond, James Bond. We went to see the latest Bond movie, Spectre, last weekend, and while it might not be the best Bond movie ever, we really enjoyed the fact that interpreting was crucial in the movie. Well, maybe not crucial, but allow us to elaborate. We also thought it was marvelous that the movie was partially set in both of our dear countries, Mexico and Austria. Specifically, the very intense (and entirely unnecessary) opening scene takes place in Mexico City, where we grew up. So the movie won us over in the first 10 minutes (we are easy to please).

In typical Bond fashion, in this movie there's a very, very bad guy (and very petty, too, and he holds grudges--but no spoilers here) who wants to basically dominate the world (sound familiar?) and yes, of course he wants to kill the very suave James Bond (a fascinating, if not classically beautiful Daniel Craig). This evil dude runs a big international group of fellow evil-doers, and as one might expect, they hail from different countries. They have their big bad meeting in a snazzy Roman palace and everyone just speaks their language while the truly invisible interpreters (at least we never see them in the movie) work their magic in this large, cavernous hall. We can't imagine the acoustics would be very good, but we digress. We didn't really see any of the speakers turn on a microphone, either, but perhaps they were wearing lapel microphones. Or not. Or something. This is, after all, the movies. And everyone took turns speaking; what a concept for those of us who work as court interpreters! Those who needed interpreting services used what looked like Sennheiser receivers, and for those in the movie theater, the nice people at MGM provided fantastic subtitles.

Now, of course, the things discussed at this meeting of evil people were, well, pretty evil. Good thing it's a movie, so we don't have to worry about a real code of interpreter ethics here, but it does beg the question about how one would behave if you were put in a situation like this one where you had to interpret truly horrific things that have only one goal: to pretty much destroy most of humanity and enrich a few. Would you do it? 

In the meantime, despite some minor flaws, we are delighted to see that simultaneous interpreters (even if they are never seen, as is oftentimes the case in conference interpreting) have made an appearance in a major Bond movie. Here's the trailer if you are interested:

Video Post: Quick Interpreting Tip

Happy Friday, dear friends and colleagues! Today's brief post is another video featuring Judy and a brief interpreting tip that should help you increase your performance regardless of your interpreting field. Note: the first few seconds of audio don't work again (we are still troubleshooting this issue), but you don't miss much, as it's just an introduction. The audio works fine after that. Apologies for the inconvenience.

Video Post: Thoughts on Passing the FCICE

Happy Friday, dear friends and colleagues! We want to continue our tradition of video blog posts, and today we would like to share some brief thoughts that Judy has on the FCICE (Federal Court Interpreting Certification Examination). Enjoy! Note: There is an issue with the audio during the first few seconds of the video, but it works just fine after the fifth second (sorry about that).

The Results: Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination

After three months of waiting for a result of the oral portion of the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination (FCICE) that she took in Tucson, Arizona, on July 21. She took the written portion in 2013 and passed it with a high score, but she did not do well enough--but it was very close-- on the oral examination in 2013 (which she took in Denver).  However, the second time is the charm! Judy finally doesn't have to wait for the results anymore (it's been torture). As of this morning, all candidates received e-mails that the result of their oral exam were available online. It's quite scary to log on (this is the second time), but this time it's excellent news. Here's her very brief report:

I passed! I am absolutely delighted to be a federally certified court interpreter for Spanish and look forward to being part of this very exclusive group. Thanks to everyone for the support and good wishes!

American Translators Association: Take the Compensation Survey

The last ATA survey on translators' and interpreters' compensation dates back quite a few years, so we were excited to hear that the second-largest T&I organization in the world has now made a new survey available. It's completely anonymous, as only aggregate data will be collected, and no one at ATA will have access to individual answers, so your data is entirely confidential. We think these numbers really are key to understanding our industry, so the more data we have as a profession, the better. You don't have to be a member of ATA to take the survey. Here's the link. The survey closes on October 16, 2015. 

What Should I Tweet About?

We have a confession to make: well, it's not really much of a confession, but we think Twitter is great. It's revolutionized communication in many ways, and it's a powerful and free tool for self-promotion. We know that there are many Twitter haters out there, but there are fewer now than were a few years ago. Oftentimes we get asked what self-employed linguists should tweet about. While there are no solid rules that work for all, Judy has amassed many followers (8.5 K, specifically) by doing a few things that worked for her. Have a look at some of these:

1) Follow the 80/20 rule. That means you should promote yourself 20% of the time while focusing on other things 80% of the time. Reason being: it's hard to get followers if you only tweet things like, "Hire me!". That's just not interesting, and there's a reason that airlines don't just tweet about their newest and best flights. They tweet about other interesting things as well to grow a following, and so should you.
2) Be helpful. Not everything you do on Twitter has to be related to your business. In fact, most of it won't (see above). If someone asks for a restaurant recommendation in your city, chime in. It's never a bad idea to be a nice and helpful person, online and offline. We oftentimes retweet (=share) things that others ask us to share.
3) Post interesting things. Just posting stuff about yourself is the Twitter equivalent of only talking about yourself on a first date, so don't do that. Share things about organizations and people you like. Most people are aware that retweets aren't necessarily endorsements, but we still recommend reading everything before retweeting it to make sure it isn't offensive.
4) Politically correct? Speaking of offensive: it's almost impossible to never, ever, offend anyone, unless you want to be so politically correct that you are a bit bland and boring. Some linguists prefer to only tweet about business-related topics (which can be controversial enough), while we like to mix personal and private, and yes, sometimes, we use Twitter to briefly complain about bad service from say, our cable provider. We have learned to not censor ourselves too terribly much, but we also don't tweet about overly private things. 
5) Have fun. Twitter is the online equivalent of the watercooler, and it's supposed to be fun. Of course, as with the real water cooler, there are people online you'd rather not interact with, and you don't have to. If someone is harassing you, block them. If you don't want to respond, just don't. There will always be people you can't get along with --online and off---and you have to pick your battles. Surround yourself with good, positive people, just like you would in real life.
6) Learn. We can't even tell you how much we have learned from being on Twitter--we follow prominent journalists, writers, activists, politicians, and of course, fellow linguists. It's been an amazing tool, and it's also great for continuing to read in all our languages. 

Upcoming Fall Workshops

While it does not feel like fall here in Vegas (which we like), we wanted to include Judy's upcoming workshops for translators and interpreters during the next few months. We'd love to meet you, so if you are in Orlando, San Francisco, Miami, or online--come join us!

Here's the overview:

September 19, 2015
Orlando, FL
National Association of Hispanic Journalists: Excellence in Journalism
Location: Orlando World Center Marriott World
Workshop title: Common Grammatical Errors in the Newsroom: Learn How to Identify and Correct Them (panel discussion)
Registration: On the Excellence in Journalism website

October 3, 2015
San Francisco, CA
Northern California Translators Association (NCTA)
Location: Golden Gate University
Workshop title: 10 Habits of Highly Successful Translators and Interpreters
Registration: On the NCTA website

October 20, 2015
Webinar (online)
Location: Online
Workshop title: Getting Paid: Your Due Diligence
Registration: On the eCPD website

November 5, 2015
Miami, FL
56th Annual Conference, American Translators Association
Location: Hyatt Regency Miami
Workshop Title: Interpret This! Speechpool and the European Union Speech Repository
Registration: On the ATA website

Looking for English->Spanish Translation Pet Peeves

Happy Friday, dear readers! Today's your turn to share your English->Spanish pet peeves, and we know you have a lot of them (so do we). Here are the details: Judy is one of the spokespersons of the American Translators Association, and as such, she was invited to speak (via the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida) at the Excellence in Journalism conference, which is a joint event between the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists. The event will take place in Orlando September 18 through 20.
Specifically, Judy has been asked to serve on a Spanish-language panel titled "Common Grammatical Errors in the Newsroom: Learn How to Identify and Correct Them." The panel will consist of a few journalists and one translator, and Judy has been compiling her own list of grammar pet peeves when it comes to newspapers and translation. Oftentimes, Spanish-language journalists in the U.S. don't have any formal educational background in Spanish, which can lead to less-than-stellar results in original Spanish-language writing. Other times, articles are poorly translated from English, and don't even get us started on Spanglish.

Since we love to share what our colleagues have to say, we figured we'd open this up to all who would like to share their pet peeves by leaving a comment below. If she has the chance to do so, Judy will mention that she polled her colleagues, and will try to mention some by name. Are you in? Please share! There are no rules or guidelines: go for it!

Coming Soon: The Interpreter Movie

We recently heard from our friends at InterpretAmerica that they have teamed up with USC Media Institute for Social Change and the non-profit No One Left Behind to make a movie about military interpreters, specifically about Afghan interpreters who work for the U.S. forces. The title of the movie is "The Interpreter.

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This is a topic that we are very interested in, and we've written about the life-and-death problem that Afghan interpreters face when the immigrant visas that the U.S. government promises them in exchange for their services aren't approved, as is the case for the vast majority of interpreters. They are seen as traitors by the Taliban and can't pretend they did not work with the U.S. forces. This issue has been getting a bit of coverage in the media, but not nearly as much as it should, which is why we are so delighted that this movie is being made. Think about how cool this is: yes, a movie about interpreters! And it doesn't have Nicole Kidman in it!

Now's your chance to become part of this adventure: spread the word, fund the Kickstarter campaign (we did; $17,000 to go), or both.  For $2,500, you can get associate producer credit in this movie, which would be a fantastic option for a large interpreting company.

This film will be screened at festivals around the country and the purpose is to raise awareness and to put pressure on political leaders to issue these visas. It's such an amazing and huge project, and if we were trying to produce a movie, we wouldn't even know where to start. We are so impressed by what InterpretAmerica has been able to put together. Here's a link to how this project started. 

Let's make this movie a reality! Will you join us in funding it and/or helping spread the word?

How Do I Market My Translation Services to Clients? (Video)

Without a doubt, the question we get the most from fellow linguists (especially beginning linguists) is: how do I get clients? How do I market my services?

We have both had the pleasure of speaking at conferences around the world to address this very topic, and we did publish a book on this topic as well, but now there's more: a 10-week class that Judy is teaching at the University of California-San Diego's Extension program. It's entirely online and there are no prerequisites (even though the class is part of the Certificate in English/Spanish Translation and Interpretation). Anyone can sign up for it, and this year's class (it's usually only offered once a year) starts September 29 and runs through December 7. It's presented entirely in English, so you don't need to speak Spanish to take this class.

While it is true that many T&I universities around the world fail to focus on the entrepreneurial and marketing aspect of our translation, there is now a class available that teaches you those skills, so: no more excuses! The class is offered by one of California's premier public universities, so it's also affordable at $475 (it was important to Judy to work with a well-known bricks-and-mortar institution that focuses on teaching rather than on maximizing profits). But rather than tell you all about this class in writing, we had Judy record a little video to explain the class in a bit more detail. Here's the link to sign up.

But rather than just read about the class, allow Judy to tell you about the class in this brief video:

Meet Wordycat

We recently heard about Wordycat through a colleague and are happy to spread the word about it. It's a new platform for translators, and before you roll your eyes and think "I've heard this before," have a look at what they are doing. They might be on to something! 

We are not associated with Wordycat in any way, but we think it's a great idea. But enough of us writing about them: here's a link to their Kickstarter campaign. We like how this new project describes itself: "Wordycat is an exclusive network in which freelance language professionals and their customers meet at eye level." It's the brain child of Anja Müller (and team) of Germany. While they did not reach their backing goal, it's not too late to support them! We also think the idea of language professionals getting recommended based on their skills and profile is a strong one; one that's very much in tune with what we think: business professionals will recommend linguists to their peers (or anyone else) if their experiences are good, and having a platform to do so is smart. This platform basically takes an idea that works well offline (recommendations) and replicates it online. Here's a link to the website with plenty of news in both German and English. 

And for the record: the creators spell Wordycat with a lower-case first letter, but in line with the major style guides, we will capitalize the business name in this post.

Most importantly, here's a cute YouTube video that they produced:

Only time will tell if this concept will catch up, but we'd like to congratulate Anja and her team for their vision, effort, and enthusiasm to create something better and make a positive contribution to the industry,

Getting Started: 10 Tips

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We oftentimes get questions about how to get started in the profession, and that's a long answer. Actually, part of this blog is dedicated to answering precisely that question, and we have a long list of articles that we've marked for beginners. However, a dear friend of ours recently asked us to compile 10 tips on what one needs to do to get started (he was thinking about becoming a translator). We came up with these 10 tips/ideas, but of course there are hundreds more. These tips have nothing to do with language skills (we will assume everyone has those), but have to do with building a business and a career once you already have the necessary skills.

1) Read some fantastic books that will answer most of your questions about the world of translation. These books weren't around 15 years ago, so you are in luck if you are getting started now. Our all-time favorite is Corinne McKay's How to succeed as a freelance translator, and we hear our book The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation isn't bad, either.    These two books should help solve 90% of your initial questions.
2)  Invest in your education. There are many fantastic courses available for translators, and many are even online. For the Spanish/English pair, may we suggest UCSD-Extension, where Judy teaches?
3) Become a member of a professional association. Or two. Or three. The ATA has a great membership directory that clients can use to find vendors (read: translators).
4) Read the 650+ entries on this blog to get some good insight into the joys and challenges of translation. Then discover other fantastic blogs. We've listed them on our blog roll on the right-hand side of this blog.
5) Build your website and get an associated professional e-mail address. Don't tinker with it too long--it will never be perfect, and you can always change it later. Done is better than perfect.
6) Attend industry conferences and meet your peers. There just is no substitute, and translators need a network of colleagues to succeed. So go out and build it. Be sure to also join e-mail lists (listservs) that many associations offer.
7) Invest in your set-up. We are in the lucky position that starting a translation services business requires minimal investment, but there will be some (a few thousand, perhaps) you need to buy a great computer, dictionaries, CAT tools, etc.
8) Keep in mind that starting a translation business is no different than starting out any other business, but perhaps with less risk because the investment you need to make is low and you have no overhead. Remember that it will take time to build a business. It's never instantaneous.
8) Go to where the clients are. You need to get out of the house and network. If you are a legal translator, go to events where there will be lots of lawyers, such as bar association meetings, etc. 
9) Create a good pricing structure. Don't underprice everyone just because you are getting started, as that will affect you and everyone else in both the short and the long run. Do the math to see how much you need to make to have a thriving business, and charge the rate that gets you there. Not everyone will want to work with you, but you don't need thousands of clients.
10) Dedicate time to administrative and promotional work. Unless you work only with translation agencies, which essentially do all the client acquisition work for you, you must do the sales and marketing functions yourself. In the beginning, this will take up a big part of your time, but as you progress in your career it will be less so.

What would you like to add, dear colleagues?

Quack, Quack: A Museum for a Translator

One of our dear German translator colleagues recently shared a gem of information with us: there's now a museum in Germany that honors a translator (yes, one translator). 

The English->German translator is none than the amazing late Erika Fuchs, who translated all things Disney comics (specifically, Carl Barks' comics featuring Mickey Mouse) for more than 30 years. She's well-known and beloved in the German translation world, and her work was truly groundbreaking and brought Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to German-speaking audiences. In fact, our first encounters with the mouse and the duck were courtesy of Erika Fuchs, and that was long before we knew what translation even was and understood that she had opened up a world to us kids that we wouldn't otherwise have had access to. Ms. Fuchs was known for her exquisitely crafted translations that matched each cartoon character's personality and quirks. She was also a master at avoiding literal translations, and was quite free in her approach, yielding highly idiomatic results that generations of kids were addicted to (we were as well). 

If anyone deserves a medal for her work, it's certainly Erika Fuchs (and she received several during her lifetime). We would never have dreamed that she would have an entire museum dedicated to her, but it's official! The small town of Schwarzenbach an der Saale (in Germany), where Ms. Fuchs lived for more than 50 years, now has a museum dedicated to her. Here's the German-language link to it.

Did any of our lovely colleagues also fall in love with Mickey Mouse as kids because of Ms. Fuchs' translations? Please share your stories with us!

Interpreting: Anatomy of a Deposition

Today's quick blog post is a link to a video Judy recorded for Speechpool a few months ago. It's about what happens during deposition proceedings. While the video was recorded to practice interpreting, the content covers exactly what happens during a deposition, which is why many interpreters have found it helpful to prepare for this type of proceedings. We love this, as we are killing two birds with one stone here! We have had several requests to make the video available outside of Speechpool, so here it is.

There will be a second part to this video coming soon--stay tuned!

We hope you find this useful! It's been our experience that most court interpreter training focuses on proceedings that happen in actual court, which makes sense. However, in many stages, cases are also handled outside of court (arbitration, mediation, depositions, etc.), but relatively little information is available about these processes. We are hence trying to fill in the gaps here in terms of information so our colleagues can prepare for these kinds of assignments. Enjoy!

Improve your Sight Translation: Quick Tip

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Today's quick tip doesn't really directly relate to interpreting technique, but it has everything to do with preparation. As many of our readers know, sight translation (despite its name, it's considered a form of interpreting) is very frequently used in court settings. While we learn at university and at prep courses that we should never, ever start sight translating until we've read the entire document, the reality is that most of the time things move so quickly that we just don't have time to do so. The best we usually can do is to scan the text a few sentences ahead while we sight translate sentence by sentence.

Now, the best way to get better at this is to be a fast reader. Yes, mom was right: reading is good for many, many things, including sight translation. The faster you read, the better you will be at crafting good sight translation, even when under pressure. Of course we don't just mean superficial reading, but reading to really understand the texts. To practice that, we read high-level texts (good newspapers, such as the New York Times and non-fiction), and after reading a paragraph or two, we put away the reading materials and ask ourselves: have we really understood what we just read? And then we try to give a brief summary.

Needless to say, the more you read, the faster you usually get, which will benefit your sight translation. And yes, we'd say your summer reading by the pool definitely counts--everything counts!

What do you think, dear colleagues?

The Pro Bono Factor

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Happy Friday! For today's quick post, we wanted to talk about the lovely colleagues we hire as contractors for projects every week.  We recently realized that they have many things in common. The one that stands out the most (in addition to excellent language skills, of course) is that the vast majority of them are active in their translator and interpreter associations or do some other sort of volunteer work.

It's not that we specifically look for colleagues with volunteer experience or that it's a requirement at all, but we tend to naturally gravitate towards those linguists who not only want to earn a good living, but who also want to give back to their communities and to the world. We've both always done a lot of pro bono work ourselves, and we appreciate others who do as well. Going good can also be good for you! We think it says something very powerful about a linguist when she or he is donating some time to make the world better for everyone. 

We recently looked through our contractor list, and sure enough: pretty much all of them have been on the boards of their local translator/interpreter organization, and many have done lots of other pro bono work in other sectors.

We've worked with the same colleagues for years (sorry, not accepting applications), but if we were looking for say, someone, to translate something from English into Romanian, and we can think of two translators for that language pair (we actually can!), and all other things being equal, we'd probably pick the one translator who is more active in the industry. It also helps that of course those linguists who are more active in the industry (speak: pro bono) are more visible, which makes it easier for us to remember them.

What do you think, dear colleagues? If you'd like to chime in, please leave a comment below. Have a great weekend.

Interpreting Tip: Try This

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For today's quick and short post about interpreting (which will take you less than three minutes to read), we'd like to share an easy technique that should help you improve your interpreting skills. It's a true-and-tried technique, but one that we also frequently forget about. Whenever we do remember to do it, we feel that our subsequent interpreting renditions are stronger.

The technique is called shadowing. Most of you will know what that means, but let us elaborate just in case. Shadowing means that you will listen to an audio recording via headphones and repeat what the speaker says in the same language word by word, trying to lag at least a full thought behind the speaker. This sounds easy, but some speakers are so fast that shadowing in itself (let alone interpreting) is a huge challenge. We purposely choose fast speakers (court hearings and especially trials on YouTube work very well) to make this as difficult as possible. It's still less draining than actual interpreting, so we try to do some 45 minutes of this. And we can really tell the difference if we do an interpreting practice session right after. In our experience, shadowing helps us with improve our pronunciation and speed, and repeating the same phrases over and over again during practice puts them the tip of your tongue for actual interpreting work, as we have found.

So try it, dear colleagues. We recommend doing this in both source and target (or in several source languages if you have them). What do you think? Have you tried it? Do you have some videos you like to interpret that you'd like to share? We'd be delighted to hear from you. 

Do Nothing

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We oftentimes hear from our lovely colleagues that they are stuck in a situation that they don't like, mainly that they don't receive the rates that they deserve. This is a common complaint not only in our industry, but in many other industries. In our book and on this blog, we have given advice for many years on how to get what you want from your business, including the rates that you want. However, what many don't think about is that changing a current situation to a better situation requires something crucial: changing something.  Doing nothing and changing nothing won't change the status quo.

We know that change is difficult, but if you don't like your current work situation (or even just a small portion of it), you have to change something. Doing the same thing over and over will give you the same result (presumably) that you have been getting and that you don't want. So change something, even if it's something small. If you don't like a current client, take the risk of not accepting any more work from him or her and look for a better client. If a client isn't paying you, write a strongly worded letter asking for payment. If you don't get paid, don't work for them anymore even if they promise they will do better with payment next time (which you've probably heard before). 

Yes, we are aware that some of these strategies are risky and may not yield the results that you want, but in order to be successful and put yourself in the situation that you want to be in, you have to take some risk. No one is successful (at least that we know of) without taking some risk, even if it's just a quantum of risk. Take baby steps and don't be too hard on yourself, but our main point here is: as a freelance linguist, you have the ability to change things. Try it and see what happens. No one else can do it for you, and it's almost impossible to change others, such as your clients, but you can change what you do and what kind of client you pursue. We have taken plenty of risks and not all of them have worked out, but we have stuck to our number one rule: we ask for and get the rates that we charge, but we don't get them for all potential clients, which is fine.

You always have the option of doing nothing. But if you don't like the status quo, you are going to have to make some changes.

What do you think, dear colleagues? We would love to hear your thoughts on today's quick post. 

A Career-Preserving Skill

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For today's quick post, we wanted to focus on a skill that's relatively easy to master.  All it takes is a few sentences, sincerity, and heart. However, its importance and impact are often forgotten.

All translators and interpreters are human, and as such, we make mistakes (see our previous post on Judy's mistake of the month). During some point in your career, you will make mistakes. Plenty of mistakes. We all do. They key is avoiding making the same one twice. The other key is making sure you apologize. 
Here are some thoughts in easy-to-read format:

  • Just do it, do it quickly, and mean it.
  • Be sincere and offer solutions.
  • As mortifying as it is to make mistakes, they happen. They are part of business, and part of life.
  • Take responsibility and accept that making mistakes is normal and human. 
  • Offer a discount if necessary and count your lucky stars if you client doesn't take you up on it.
  • It doesn't matter if it's a translation error, administrative error, if someone else made the error and somehow you are involved: 
    • apologize quickly
    • explain how you can fix the situation
    • and move on.

What do you think, dear colleagues? Meaningful and truthful apologies usually go a long way, even if sometimes all you can offer is: "Sorry about the oversight. While I investigate what happened here, let me offer my sincere apologies and a 10% discount on this project." We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Ouch: Mistake of the Month

Because few things are as fun as poking fun at ourselves, we wanted to do a quick post with this month's utterly horrifying mistake. We make many errors, but try not to make the same ones twice. This one was Judy's, so we will let her tell the story.

A few weeks ago, Dagy had the unique opportunity to interpret at an OPEC conference (English booth), and I was to be the back-up interpreter (I also did get to interpret). The setting in Vienna's regal Imperial Palace (Hofburg) was amazing, and the permanent booths were top-notch. As a US-based interpreter, I am usually quite impressed by anything resembling a permanent booth. We checked out the other booths, which are located on the third floor high above the stage, to meet our colleagues from the Spanish and Russian booths, but no one was there, so we reviewed our materials and got ready for the big moment. After we had sat down, a distinguished-looking gentleman walked in, extended his hand (without introducing himself), smiled, and said (in Spanish) that he was delighted to see us. I thought, don't ask me why, that this lovely gentleman was the colleague from the Spanish booth because no one else every ventures up there, so I immediately went into very casual small talk, and yes, I addressed him informally. As if I knew him. As if we were colleagues. As opposed to English, in Spanish we've got two pronouns, the formal usted and the informal (which I used). Among colleagues, we usually use the latter. 
The rest of the morning went better.

The only problem here was that this gentleman wasn't a fellow interpreter, but an ambassador to Austria of a South American country. Dagy had the good fortune of getting a glimpse of his badge, which had been facing away from me, and recognized the name immediately (research pays off; as the badge doesn't say "ambassador," either). She immediately greeted the ambassador with something appropriate along the lines of "Good morning, Your Excellency." This is of course when I realized my error and I was completely utterly mortified. However, the ambassador didn't miss a beat, didn't take offense at all, and just chatted away. I did recover enough to thank him for coming upstairs and for hiring us (yes, he hired us!), and exchange some other pleasantries. So yes, I committed a pretty big faux pas at a high diplomatic level, and I lived to tell about it. It's a nice reminder that people at the top can be very kind and forgiving, and I am grateful for it. I was pretty sure I'd never hear the end of this one from Dagy, and now that we've shared it here, I am guaranteed that it will last forever!

What about you, dear colleagues? Care to share your favorite mistake? We won't tell. Oh wait, this is a public blog....

Webinar: No Pain, No Pain (Active Marketing)

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Happy Friday! Judy is very excited to present another webinar on June 9, 2015 (yes, that's in 10 days).

She will present a 90-minute webinar for ASETRAD, the Spanish Association of Translators, Copyeditors and Interpreters. Note: all links to ASETRAD from this blog entry lead to Spanish-only pages, but here's a link to the English-language homepage. The topic is a popular and often requested one: it's all about how to work with those elusive direct clients. The presentation's full title is: No Pain, No Gain: Active Marketing to Direct Clients. Hint: it's a bit of work to find them (hence the title of the webinar), but it's worth it. 

The webinar is hosted by ASETRAD and will commence at 6 p.m. Central European Summer Time (US Pacific + 9 hours; check the time zone relative to where you are here). While Judy has given many presentations in Spanish, this one will be in English to allow for a bigger audience and because it also allows ASETRAD to offer webinars in a language other than Spanish. There will be a 15-minute Q&A period after the 75-minute presentation. The webinar will be run via GoToWebinar. The fee for non-members is EUR 45, while ASETRAD members can join for only EUR 20. There's also a special EUR 30 fee for members of other associations; including ATA members (Spanish-language link to sign-up page).

We look forward to "seeing" you there! Please let us know if you have any questions. If we cannot answer your question, we will be happy to send it to the lovely organizers, who do indeed have all the answers.

Job Posting (Vietnamese): Las Vegas

While this job is not directly translation-related, it comes from a dear client and it might be of interest either to a beginning translator or a Vietnamese speaker who is looking for a steady entry-level position. Please see the job posting and application information below . Let us know if one of you gets the job!

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Nevada State Government Agency is seeking an Applicant who can speak and read Vietnamese for the position of:

Administrative Analyst I

Education/Experience: High school diploma or equivalent and 2 years of office experience.

Knowledge: General knowledge basic computer functions and Microsoft Office, spreadsheet software, and general office operations. 

Abilities: Ability to speak and read Vietnamese and English. Ability to multi-task; meet deadlines, prioritize and organize work and handle frequent interruptions and effectively compose business correspondences and reports. 

Duties: Assisting in administrative/office work, perform data-entry functions, communicate through email and phone, assist customers, and additional tasks as needed.

Employment Status: Temporary with possibility for full-time employment for the right candidate with Nevada State Government Agency.

Anticipated Start Date: TBD

Salary: Based on education and experience.

Location: Las Vegas

How to Apply: Email:

Introduction to Translation Starts 6/23

Happy Friday, dear readers! This is just a quick note to let you know that Judy's online class (English/Spanish) for University of California San Diego-Extension is starting again on June 23, 2015. The class is Introduction to Translation, and it's offered entirely online (asynchronous), and it lasts five weeks (through July 27, 2015). The class is offered via the user-friendly online learning platform Blackboard. 

The class is part of UCSD-Extension's online translation (Spanish/English) certificate, but you don't have to be signed up for the entire certificate to take this class. Since this class is the very first one in the certificate program, all students with the English/Spanish combination may take this class. Here's where to sign up

Translation Pricing: Should We Charge Hourly Rates?

The inside of Judy's wallet.
For today's quick post, we wanted to touch on something that we've been thinking about a lot: the way translators charge for their services. Traditionally, translation services in the U.S. have always been billed by the source word, meaning the translator will know exactly how much she or he will charge the client before the process starts. And the client has an exact figure, which is helpful for them. In Germany and Austria, translation is usually billed by the source line (a line being 55 characters).

Changing existing pricing structures can be difficult, and most translation agencies have established processes based on per-word rates, so we speculate that there won't be too much change there in the short term. So that's why we will focus on direct clients here. We work only with direct clients, and not surprisingly, most have no idea how many words are on the documents/websites they need to have translated  because as opposed to translators, they've never thought on a per-word basis. On most documents, it's easy to count the words, but things get trickier with PDFs and with web-based content. For the past few years, we have started quoting many projects by the hour, because we feel that an hourly rate is something most clients understand quite well, as they are used to paying that for other professional services, such as lawyers, CPAs, therapists, etc. 

We also like this approach  because it elevates our profession in a way and puts it more on par with other professional services and moves away from this "piecemeal" approach that sometimes comes with per-word pricing. And ultimately, it's all about making clients happy, and in our (not necessarily representative) experience we feel that clients have been pleased with the hourly approach. We also like this pricing structure because it makes sense to most clients. For instance: say a client brings you a five-page last will and testament. If you submit a quote for five hours' work (for instance) at your hourly rate of, say $100/hour, that's transparent and easy to quantify and understand. 

Finally, we like per-hour pricing because it gives the client the chance to clearly understand some surcharges that we usually added on manually in percentages. For instance: a scanned images converted into a PDF document will take infinitely longer to translate than a Word document with no tables (well, not infinitely, but it feels like it). We've always had a surcharge for PDF processing (which sometimes results in the client finding the Word document), and we think it's a very straightforward explanation that a PDF takes more time to process and is thus more expensive. We think it all comes down to an hourly charge being something that's transparent and easy to calculate and understand. Of course, your clients must trust you not to overcharge them. 

Now, what are the potential downsides to this pricing approach? The main one that we see is that the translator has to do an excellent job at estimating how long the translation will take before the project starts. This is relatively easy to do if you have many years' experience, but it's hard in the beginning. That's why we advise to estimate on the high end to give yourself some wiggle room and you will have a pleasantly surprised customer if you invoice them for less. On the other hand, we never invoice more than what we estimated, as we think that's not fair for the client. You may choose to do this differently, but on the few occasions where we've been way off on our estimates, we just had to absorb the difference. Another downside is that some clients might potentially perceive your rate, regardless of what it is, as high. Then you can either explain to them that translation is professional service or you can simply thank them for their interest. Unfortunately, a change in pricing structure doesn't mean that there won't be some clients who will think your work is too expensive regardless of how you charge for it. 

What do you think, dear colleagues? This brief post is of course in no way exhaustive, and we'd very much enjoy knowing what you think. Please join the conversation below!

Kiva Looking for Volunteers (Into English)

We've frequently written about Kiva, a leading microlending organization with big impact on poverty that relies on volunteer translators to try to change the world, one microloan at a time. We have no working relationship with Kiva other than we think that they are doing great work, and we are happy to spread the word about them on this blog. We frequently recommend volunteer translation opportunities to beginning translators to get some experience under their belt, as most agencies (and direct clients) usually do not work with translators who have no experience. We think volunteering your time for a worthy non-profit and getting that name on your CV is a much better idea than working for the very low wages that are frequently offered to beginning translators on the open market.

A few days ago, we received another message from Kiva, asking them to spread the word. It looks like this time they are looking for team leaders rather than translators We are copying and pasting from the e-mail we received here:

Kiva’s Review and Translation Program relies on over 400 volunteers to edit, translate, and thoroughly review loan profiles that our Field Partners have posted to the Kiva website. Each profile provides a brief overview of the borrower's background and their microloan use. This personal component is what helps to connect Kiva borrowers with Kiva lenders.

To keep our volunteer teams working smoothly, we are looking for highly committed volunteers to lead teams of up to 35 members. This remote volunteer opportunity is ideal for someone who would like to use their for strong communicators who speak English at a native level to head teams professional skills to help create social impact through Kiva. We are looking for strong communicators who speak English at a native level to head teams working in English, Spanish, Russian, French, and Portuguese.

We’re accepting applications through May 31 for Team Leaders to join us in August 2015, and would greatly appreciate your help in reaching out to in order to help us spread the word
about volunteering with Kiva.

We don't have any additional information about this opportunity, so if you have any questions, please be sure to contact Kiva directly.

Bad Client?

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Today's  post is about something that comes up in our industry quite often. The scenario is this: the highly talented translator delivers a world-class translation, only for the clueless client (we mean this tongue-in-cheek, in case you haven't noticed) to destroy it by "editing" it when the client should stick to his or her area of expertise and leave the translating to the talented translator. The resulting edited translation is not improved at all: quite the contrary. It's a disaster. Now the translator is  indignant and complaining to all her colleagues and friends about it. Does this sound familiar? Let us suggest a different way of looking at it.

After the client pays for your work, he or she owns it. Period. They are free to do with your product as they please, because you now longer own it (yes, we got a legal opinion on this). A translator can certainly insist that his or her name not be listed as the translator on a mutilated translation, but the reality is that most translators can't get their names within 10 miles of most translations anyway, so this shouldn't be a big concern. We are not saying that the client is right in destroying a perfectly good translation with good intentions but bad language skills, but that's life. Translators are no different than lawyers, doctors, interior designers, stylists, etc. We hear our stylist when she tells us black is not our color, but we love it anyway. We hear our doctor when she tells us to lay off the fatty Mexican food, but it's so tasty.  Our CPA is right that we should be more organized in our charity donations, but we aren't. Sometimes clients buy a Mercedes and put gaudy rims and license plates with rhinestones on it. The dealer probably cringes, but if the client's money is good, what can be done? Not much. 

We have had this scenario happen very infrequently, but when it does happen, we just make sure to detail in writing why we think the translation should be published/going to print as is and list the reasons. Then we say that we are happy to give our professional opinion, since that's in part what we are getting paid for. If the client insists to use the mutilated translation anyway and our names are on it, we respectfully ask to have our names removed. We think it's important to stick to your role of professional advisor and not become too indignant when the client doesn't follow our advice. They pay us for it, so they are free to take it or leave if after they've paid for our services.

That said, we are on our way to the tailor to have her add some ruffles to a gorgeous black Jil Sander suit. While we are at it, we might stop by the hairdresser's to see if she can turn us into redheads. Just kidding! 

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

Jobs: Language Specialist at Netflix

Just in time for the weekend, we wanted to share a job posting that a friend recently sent to us. We have no other information about this particular job nor are we getting paid to post it, but Netflix sure does sound like a great company to work for. The job is located in Silicon Valley. 

We are copying and pasting from the company website's posting here:

Language Specialist

Los Gatos, California
Join the team responsible for localization at Netflix. We are looking for experienced linguists with the ability to translate
 and customize marketing, UI and content materials for the target market.

We are looking for highly motivated individuals with the right mix of technical, organizational and communication
skills to provide localization for the Netflix experience in the following languages: Arabic, Vietnamese, Japanese,
Korean, Polish, Spanish, and Hungarian. 

Native fluency, localization experience and creative writing in one or more of the above languages are essential.
Knowledge or prior experience in the film/entertainment industry is definitely a plus.

Specific responsibilities will include:
- Ownership of linguistic quality
- Creating and maintaining glossaries and style guides
- Working with CAT tools, approving translations and maintaining memories
- Working with external vendors 
- Representing linguistic and cultural nuances in cross-functional meetings
- Hands-on translation and editing tasks
- Planning and executing linguistic QA tasks on multiple devices and platforms
- Originating, monitoring and resolving linguistic bugs as necessary

Required Experience/Skills:
- Degree in Applied Linguistics, Translation and/or equivalent experience
- Native fluency in one of the languages mentioned above
- Knowledge of the movie/entertainment industry in the specific locale
- Mac and PC proficient
- Experience with translation & terminology tools 
- Basic knowledge of Content Management Systems and web localization tools

Have a look at this link to apply. Looks like the company has made it very easy to apply online, as you can apply via LinkedIn. We like!

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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