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E-mail subject lines June 30, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Fun stuff, Random musings.
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I was forwarded a job inquiry last week from a local temp agency looking for a German translator. The first thing I noticed was that the employee who wrote the e-mail hadn’t bothered to include a subject line (the subject line of the forwarded e-mail was: “Fwd:       “). The e-mail also didn’t specify what kind of text it was, which didn’t exactly inspire me with confidence or the desire to respond to the e-mail.

In keeping with this topic, today’s Pearls Before Swine comic strip deals with e-mail subject lines. It’s definitely worth a read 🙂 . I’m going to employ this technique the next time I respond to a request that I don’t want to do. Don’t be offended if it’s you 🙂 .

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A fun interview with a language lover June 30, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Random musings.
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Today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer features a short interview with Heba El-Attar, an assistant professor at Cleveland State University. The interview was featured in the PDQ section, which has a light take on arts & life, so the interview isn’t exactly “intellectual,” but it’s a fun read all the same. Ms. El-Attar speaks Arabic, French, English, Spanish and some Italian and has lived in Germany, Spain, Milwaukee and Cleveland. I particularly like her explanations of Arabic culture and the misconceptions most Americans have of Arabic.

Going the way of the dodo bird: the fax machine June 29, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings, Tools.
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I bought a plain paper fax machine this weekend at a garage sale for $3. I had bought a thermal paper fax at  a garage sale when I moved back to the U.S. in 2001 for $20, so I definitely felt like I got a real bargain. But then I got to thinking about how many faxes I get a month and wondered if I could have spent the $3 on something useful — like a latte. However, my free eFax number is limited to receive 20 pages a month and an attorney had sent me 11 pages on Thursday, so it was on my mind. I hadn’t received a fax for several months before that.

I basically just used the thermal paper fax machine to occasionally send faxes that required my signature (to my bank, non-disclosure agreements to agencies, etc.). Since I receive so few faxes, paying for eFax service simply doesn’t make sense. I never used my fax machine to receive faxes, because the thermal paper fades so quickly and so thoroughly. Faxes from five or six years ago are completely illegible now (I just went through some old binders and ended up shredding/recycling a lot of old translations, paperwork, bank statements, correspondence, etc.).

We should always maintain the tools of the trade, but is a fax machine really necessary anymore? With scanners and eFax and PDFs, fax machines are slowly going the way of the dodo bird. I keep mine unplugged to save electricity and only plug it in when I need to send something (I find the process of scanning a document to be too slow sometimes). Any thoughts? Do you have tools that you use to send/receive faxes?

Music in the workplace June 28, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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I love listening to music and own around 500 CDs, which, because of my anal nature, are classified on the shelves according to genre (comedy, jazz, classical, folk, rock, soundtracks, etc.) and alphabetized by artist 🙂 . However, I usually don’t listen to music when I’m working. When I do, it is generally innocuous, soft music that plays in the background.

I use a variety of methods to listen to music in my office (for example, right now). I have a wireless speaker tucked in the corner to listen to music that I am playing on my stereo in the living room, but that usually doesn’t make much sense. After all, I am sitting in my office most of the time and using the computer for music consumes a lot less electricity. I generally only use this option when I am cleaning my apartment because I am in and out of every room so frequently.

The program I generally rely on for music while I work is iTunes. Being frugal, I don’t buy music through iTunes (most of my CDs were purchased from used CD stores or free from Borders listening stations-an employee perk that no longer exists). The iTunes interface itself is free, and I have either downloaded music or copied them from my CDs over the years (my collection of Christmas music is so large that I recently had to move it onto a USB drive to free up several GB). I use iTunes to listen to the various playlists I have set up based on what I am working on. I usually listen to my Relaxation playlist, because I find it difficult to concentrate if I am listening to rocking tunes such as those by Evanescence or BAP. I have also subscribed to several free iTunes podcasts, such as Car Talk Radio, but I don’t listen to them very often because they require concentration.

Streaming radio is also a great way to listen to music. There are a ton of ways to listen to streaming radio. For instance, you can now go to just about any radio station web site and stream their broadcast to your computer. I prefer streaming music through my iGoogle page LabPixies gadget, which allows you to choose five radio stations for its settings. I have two German radio stations, one British radio station, and two local classical music stations stored in my LabPixies gadget (if you haven’t tried Kent State’s station, WKSU, I suggest you give it a listen). I find listening to German radio sometimes helps me get in the “German state of mind.”

I just “stumbled uponPandora Radio, which plays music based on your likes and dislikes. I must have signed up for it a while ago, because I didn’t have to set it up. Right now I am listening to Eva Cassidy Radio, which features soothing songs by female singers with clear voices such as Sarah McLachlan or Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide. I like it because I am exposed to singers who I might not necessarily listen to otherwise and am not bound to a radio station’s playlist. It’s also ideal music for working at a high-stress pace.

I’m curious to hear how others work. What programs or methods do you use? I am always looking for new and interesting music sources. Do you listen to music while translating? Do you only listen to music when you are proofreading? Or do you refuse to listen to music because it interrupts your concentration?

Kent State University Board establishes nation’s first dual master’s degree program in language translation June 27, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings, Translation Sites.
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If you have read my “A little bit about my background” tab, you are probably aware that I graduated with a master’s degree in translation from Kent State University and am an adjunct instructor in the graduate program (I have primarily taught the first-year computer courses as well as a first semester German translation course and an undergraduate course in German translation). I am very proud of my affiliation with Kent State University.

Kent State University is one of only four or five universities in the United States that offers master’s degrees in translation. There are numerous translation certificates and programs out there, but only a couple master’s degrees programs. Getting my master’s in German translation was the best decision I have ever made. It literally changed my life. I would have never lived overseas had it not been for Kent. That said, I have always wished I had studied business or another specialized field at the same time. Well, now you can!

From the Kent State web site:
In its May 28 meeting, the Kent State University Board of Trustees established a dual-degree program that combines master’s-level study in language translation and business administration, effective fall 2009. The program is the first of its kind at a public or private university in the United States. Students who complete the new program will earn a Master of Arts degree in translation through the department of Modern and Classical Language Studies (under the leadership of the university’s Institute for Applied Linguistics) and a Master of Business Administration.

The program was established to give Kent State students a unique, competitive edge in today’s global economy and to help provide Ohio with business professionals who can work effectively across countries and cultures. The new program builds on Kent State’s internationally recognized leadership in language-translation education, which includes the nation’s only comprehensive sequence of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs in translation and translation studies. The dual-degree program was approved by the appropriate faculty councils, the university’s Educational Policies Council and the Faculty Senate, and by the president and the senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.

A TGIF treat: The Medieval Help Desk June 27, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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Everyone needs a little levity on a Friday. It’s a great way to start the weekend (although if you are like me you are most likely working this weekend – so humor me 🙂 ). This is without a doubt my all-time favorite video. I almost fell off my chair laughing the first time I saw this.

This video makes fun of modern newbie computer users by illustrating – in a way fully understandable to them – how silly some of their questions are by creating a similar problem in the Middle Ages.

It’s from a show called Øystein & Meg (Øystein & I) produced by the Norwegian Broadcasting television channel (NRK) in 2001. The spoken language is Norwegian. It’s written by Knut Nærum and performed by Øystein Bache and Rune Gokstad. Enjoy!

I’ve got a rule for that: The ProZ song June 26, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Fun stuff, Random musings.
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This was a huge hit in the translation industry about a year ago. For those who haven’t heard it or would like to hear it again (it never gets old), I give you Rules, Rules, Rules by The Dangling Participles.

I have my own issues with ProZ, but certainly don’t look down on those who actually pay to be on ProZ. I have my resume posted there as well, but I certainly don’t pay for that “privilege.” I despise the idea of “bidding” for a job.

The KudoZ boards have helped me out numerous times when I was searching for a term in Google, and I’ve heard good things about the Blue Board. I also like the new availability calendar feature that full/paying members can post on their ProZ page. However…

My biggest complaint with ProZ is that they fail to patrol their members’ claims. Henry and I crossed swords several years ago when I alerted the ATA chapters that 35 people had erroneously (or perhaps purposely) declared themselves members of NOTA. Henry was not willing to work with us, and as a result MICATA asked to be removed from the list of organizations and the NOTA Executive Committee decided to opt out of their database. We are listed, but no one can select us as a Membership option. And don’t get me started on the million-words jobs for $0.01 a word I’ve been offered in the past…

Favorite tools: WeatherBug June 26, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Random musings, Tools.
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One of my favorite non-translation tools is WeatherBug. It’s a tiny, free (ad-based) tool that resides in the tray of your computer and monitors your weather using the tracking station nearest you from among its 8000 tracking stations. When you first set it up you have to enter your zip code. It features live local weather conditions, forecasts, and life saving, severe weather alerts. WeatherBug’s application has also come pre-installed on HP and Compaq computers and Logitech peripherals, but you can also download it onto your computer for free using the above link. It can also be used on mobile phones. To date, WeatherBug has registered over 65 million users for the free WeatherBug product and has become one of the largest news and information sites on the Internet.

I like WeatherBug for two reasons: first of all, because it tells me how hot or cold it is without my having to look through an iced-over window at the thermometer outside and secondly (and most importantly) because it alerts me when a severe storm is coming. This way I can power the computer down if it is going to be a bad storm with lots of lightning (I’ve already experienced one fried modem due to a direct hit from a lightning storm and don’t want to jeopardize my computer, which is the lifeblood of my profession). But I suppose it could also be invaluable if there were a tornado alert and I wasn’t able to hear the siren a block away. Luckily I haven’t experienced that yet.

Usually, the WeatherBug features shows the temperature and looks like this: . When an alert is issued, the temperature turns into a bug that looks like this: and starts chattering like a cicada. By double-clicking on the alert I can read the alert and decide what to do. In this case, there is a severe thunderstorm warning for my area until 5 PM. In fact, I just heard the first clap of thunder…


Culling the herd (a.k.a. It’s so hard to say goodbye…) June 26, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.
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As I have mentioned before, I have reached the point where I can be more selective about my clients. I have already raised my rates and still find myself regularly turning down two to three (or more) jobs a day from new and existing clients. I am finding the process difficult on several different levels.

I severed ties with a particularly difficult client (a European PR agency) several months ago after a nasty e-mail exchange with one of its employees. I had been working with them since 2006. They would frequently send me texts that were due within a few hours and had asked me to translate a difficult batch of software strings and other technical website features for their client’s new portal. They also expected me to use a specialized, proprietary tool without being able to answer any of my questions about it (in all fairness the client had sent them the tool and they had no idea how to use it. Luckily I am adept enough with software to be able to figure it out on my own). When I would turn the jobs down they would literally beg me (“bitte, bitte“) to accept the job. The whole month of the site launch had rankled my enjoyment of working with them.

I had been getting more and more frustrated with their demands and complete cluelessness about the field of translation. All my attempts at client education were met with complete disregard. After the employee demanded I send her the character count of the multiple-file job I had delivered a few days before and had already archived, I told her my final line count, which was how I billed them, and said if she needed the character count she could do it by opening the files and using the Word count feature in Word (the files had no text boxes or anything that wouldn’t be counted). She replied that she wasn’t my employee, which set me off, so I replied that I wasn’t her employee either and suggested she find someone else to translate her texts in the future. It left bad feelings on both sides, which is a shame because I really enjoyed working with the agency owner.

I recently found myself in a similar, yet slightly different situation at the end of last week. I have been working with a European translation agency for about a year now and was never really happy with the remuneration because they insisted on using five different Trados rate classifications. They approached me about translating a large job that would take up the entire month, which I considered accepting provided I still had time for my other clients’ jobs. However, when I asked about an outstanding invoice that was three weeks overdue I was told that their payment terms were 60 days, which was news to me. Payment up to now had always been made within 45 days, which had been acceptable. At that point I decided I needed to let them go. It was a tough decision, because they agreed to make an exception and honor my payment terms of 30 days. However, they asked that I start billing them in U.S. dollars, which would cost me bank transfer fees, instead of paying me in euros to my German account. And then there was still the problem with the Trados rate scale. But that is another post in and of itself…

I realize I made a good decision in the first case, but I am questioning the second. We ended our e-mail discussion on very good terms. She thanked me for my “frank response” and said she would take my arguments about Trados into consideration and discuss it with her colleagues. She also wished me all the best and said “If in the future your circumstances change please don’t hesitate to get back into contact with us.” Such an understanding response and willingness to compromise makes it very difficult to have the resolve to stick to a decision.

I would love to hear your opinions on the matter. Where do you draw the line in the sand with a client? How have you handled having too many clients and not enough time in the day to translate all the jobs offered to you? I am opposed to the idea of outsourcing extra work or expanding to become an agency, because I am proud of my work and love what I do.

Etymologic: the toughest word game on the Web June 26, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Random musings.
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Glenn at yndigo wrote an interesting post on blogging tonight and mentioned StumbleUpon, “which not only lets you collect sites you like but allows you to, ahem, stumble upon others you might never have discovered.” As a former Internet researcher I was immediately intrigued. I installed the plug-in and “stumbled upon” this little gem that I wanted to share with you all: http://www.etymologic.com. Etymologic gives you 10 randomly selected etymology (word origin) or word definition puzzles to solve. I’ve got to say it’s pretty tough. I thought I was pretty good at etymology, but I only got 2 out of 10 right on my first run-through. I could see this site becoming addictive…