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Newspaper industry cutting back on using copyeditors June 25, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Random musings.
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Fellow blogger, Abigail from Dispatches from an environmental translator’s desk, has posted the most tongue-in-cheek article I have read in a while. I’m sure the average reader probably might not catch the humor, but I know all you fellow linguists will love it!

On a different note, an interesting article that is definitely food for thought is this Washington Post story about the demise of the copyeditor in the journalism process. Make sure you read carefully!

I knew I was in for a treat as soon as I read the first five words. Enjoy!


In Memorium: George Carlin June 25, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Random musings.

George Carlin died three days ago of heart failure. Carlin was an American stand-up comedian, actor and author who won four Grammy Awards for his comedy albums. Most of you are probably wondering why a translation blog would be posting a memorial to George Carlin. Language was a frequent focus of Carlin’s work. Euphemisms that, in his view, seek to distort and lie and the use of language he felt was pompous, presumptuous, or silly were often the target of Carlin’s routines. He had such a unique way of looking at life. Who else would describe the experience of being in an earthquake as “an amusement park ride”?

Carlin was especially noted for his political and black humor and his observations on language, psychology and religion along with many taboo subjects. Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words” comedy routine is an absolute classic and was central to the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the Supreme Court affirmed the government’s right to regulate “indecent” material on the public airwaves, which still controls how material is aired today. If you haven’t seen it, you need to click on the above link and check it out. Since it could offend people I am not including a direct link to it here.

Goodbye, George Carlin, the funniest man who ever lived. You lived life by your rules and never let anyone censor you. You made us laugh; you made us think. You will be missed. So, in memory of George Carlin I offer you this clip on his views on “Soft Language.”

The best advocate for birth control June 24, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Random musings.
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This foreign ad is an oldie, but a goodie. I also think it is the best advocate for birth control around. Whenever I feel the urge to have a baby, I simply watch this video and change my mind. Enjoy!

Why women need catalogs June 24, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, German culture, Random musings.
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When it comes to humor, nothing beats a good German ad. One of my (non-translator) friends sent me this video yesterday, and I thought you all might enjoy it. I have several language-related videos that I enjoy which I will post on off-days. I hope you enjoy this one from Otto Versand. I’ve delivered my 6,100-word marketing survey and am off to the dog park…

Spreading the love June 24, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.
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Inspired by the Masked Translator’s post, When your client goes bankrupt, I want to stress the importance of “spreading the love.” By that I mean the importance of not relying on one or two customers for all of your work. I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. If one of those customers goes bankrupt or the project manager you work with leaves to strike out on their own or go work for another company, you might find yourself in dire straits.

When I was first establishing myself on the U.S. market after relocating to the U.S. in 2001, one of my colleagues gave me the best advice when she told me you need 7 clients to be successful. I realize the wisdom of those words and strive to cultivate a large client base. I didn’t realize how many clients I actually had until I entered them all into my Translation Office 3000 database. It has reached the point where I am trying to cull some of my clients who are difficult to work with or have unacceptable payment terms, but more on that another day.

Not every client is going to contact you as their first point of contact, but that isn’t necessary to build a thriving translation business. I can confidently say that I am the “A translator” for two of my clients. When they contact me (at least once a week, if not some weeks every day) I do everything I can to make sure I have capacity for their work. One of them tends to send a small job every day or every couple days, but those small jobs add up when I issue my invoice to them at the end of the month (I only issue monthly bills for three clients – everyone else gets billed when the job is delivered). I also have numerous clients for whom I am their B or C translator, but that is okay too. Having several clients who contact you with job requests (perhaps not every day, but at least several times a month) ensures that you will be kept busy throughout the month.

This also translates into a steady inflow of payments, so there is no major ebb and flow in the bank account (except for maybe right after my quarterly tax payment when the clients have also had to pay their quarterly taxes and are a little slow in issuing payments). I must be extremely lucky, because I have never had a client go bankrupt while owing me money. However, I also don’t tie myself up with one client’s job for an entire month, ensuring no other money will be coming in. If you spread the love, you’ll find things go relatively smoothly most of the time (but be sure to tuck aside some money as a cushion to cover the dry spells – and never, never tap into your quarterly tax payment fund).

An ode to Coffeemate Italian Sweet Crème creamer June 23, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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Let me start off by saying that I never drank coffee until grad school. When I lived in Salzburg and backpacked through Europe in 1989-1990 I rated the cafes based on their hot chocolates. I’m still a hot chocolate fan and recommend trying Schokinag’s hot chocolates for true European-style chocolates (not the American powder-in-a-pouch crap).

I’ve developed my love of coffee slowly. I imported some flavored coffees (primarily Ghirardelli) when I lived in Germany from 1995-2001 and really miss Borders’ Holiday Traditions coffee. That said, I may be a coffee snob (I now only buy high quality coffee and have Jacobs Krönung and illy on hand at the moment), but I like a little cream and sugar in my coffee and tea. It makes it a decadent treat. I don’t drink coffee by the pot. I drink a cup or so a day and savor it.

I know a lot of people prefer their coffee black, but if you don’t you might want to check Coffeemate creamers out. The Coffeemate products are very creamy, and the taste is strong enough that you can taste it over the flavor of the coffee. It enhances the flavor rather than covers it. That said, everyone has different tastes, and I’ve found some of the flavors to be quite nasty (I had to pour the Gingerbread creamer down the drain).

I am addicted to Coffeemate Coconut Crème liquid creamer in my coffee, but I just wanted to declare my love for Coffeemate Italian Sweet Crème creamer. It is the perfect addition to a cup of tea because there is no “added flavor” to it, and I don’t need to add any sugar (or in my case Splenda) at all. It just tastes like cream, without being cream (which is extremely welcome when you are allergic to milk products). I’m drinking a big Starbucks San Francisco mug of English Breakfast tea right now and felt the urge to share my joy with the world.

And for a little humor today: check this blog post out. The comments really made me chuckle out loud, and I think I’m going to have to try the Chai Spice creamer based on this recommendation alone.

Parsing words is a terrible idea June 23, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings, Translation Sites.

I have somehow become the go-to person for the daughter of one of my NOTA members who is doing an internship in Germany. She has asked me questions that have stumped her for the past couple days now. I don’t mind an occasional question, but lists of questions and e-mails every day are a no-no. Anyway, she wrote me today asking about the term “Wirtschaftspate.” I didn’t really have time to get into it, so I told her to ask her co-workers. She instead asked her professor at OSU, who told her:

For future references [sic], get in the habit of parsing words, i.e., isolating the stem of the words and the various components that make up an entity. Wirtschaftspate = Der Pate = godfather, hence, the godfather of economy. It’s actually quite common to hear the word ‘Pate‘ in German when referring to someone really important or someone whose opinion and approval means much. Hence, translating it as ‘the godfather of economy’ makes full sense and it’s something that’s featured in other languages as well.

I couldn’t disagree more!

After doing a quick Google search for “godfather of the economy” I responded to her that this was not at all a common phrase. In fact, it only got one hit – in reference to someone becoming the godfather of the economy minister’s child. Why do people insist on simply breaking down words in German and then come up with an inelegant solution that sounds wooden and at worst translated?

Parsing words is not a good idea at all and is the sign of a inexperienced translator. I used to parse words before I went to Kent State University and lived in Germany for a while. It is better to find an equivalent meaning than to parse words. Read the sentence and decide how the word fits in the sentence. In this case, he is getting an award for his dedication in offering his experience and know-how to an economic campaign. The movie “The Godfather” (Der Pate) has nothing to do with it.

Some other online German-English dictionaries June 20, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Tools, Translation Sites.

In addition to Leo and dict.cc, I sometimes use FreeDic.net, TU Chemnitz’s BEOLINGUS, Grimms Deutsches Wörterbuch, the Digitale Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache des 20. Jahrhunderts, the University of Leipzig’s Wortschatz, and the dictionaries at wissen.de (which I’ve created a TinyURL for).

And of course no translator’s browser toolbar should be without a link to Refdesk.com or Webster’s Online Dictionary. This is just the tip of my Bookmarks iceberg, but they are the ones I use most frequently. What are your favorite online dictionaries?

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone June 20, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings, Tools, Translation Sites.
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Whew, that was a bit nerve-wracking… Leo, a much-loved, online German-English/German-French/German-Spanish/German-Chinese dictionary disappeared for a while yesterday. When I tried to call it up yesterday it took forever to load and then displayed “page not found.” Luckily I still also use my electronic dictionaries from Acolada UniLex (which includes my beloved Pons/Collins Unabridged general dictionary, Brinkmann/Blaha Wörterbuch der Datenkommunikation, Ernst Wörterbuch der industriellen Technik, and Kucera Wörterbuch der Chemie) and Langenscheidt (which truly unites the Handwörterbuch, Fachwörterbuch Mikroelektronik, Fachwörterbuch Telekommunikation, and Peter Schmitts Fachwörterbuch Technik und angewandte Wissenschaften as well as the Duden Rechtschreibung in one interface-which is *really convenient*), so it wasn’t that big of a deal. However, I did get nervous when someone wrote to PT late last night asking where it went and someone responded that it had transformed into Leo-Pro, which had transformed into Slicktionary, which had then been swallowed up by dict.cc. What a frightening thought. I would hope if something like that would happen they would let us know ahead of time.

Leo may not always be the most accurate solution (and some of its terms can be downright wrong), but it often has suggestions that go beyond the scope of my dictionaries and hit the nail on the head. It is especially helpful with obscure business terms and slang words, which I encounter a lot in my marketing surveys (not to mention bad grammar, typos, garbled special characters, etc., but I digress…) A good translator generally doesn’t and shouldn’t depend on dictionaries to perform their job, but they can come in handy when you are stuck trying to come up with the perfect word. And you really have to have a good command of a language to recognize when a suggested term is in no way suitable.

Luckily it was back up again when I woke up this morning. There were a lot of people sweating bullets yesterday… Welcome back, Leo!

Wikipedia: How to Get Clients to Pay Invoices Promptly June 19, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.
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My iGoogle page has once again provided an interesting tidbit. Today’s “How To of The Day” is “How to Get Clients to Pay Invoices Promptly.” As someone who has $1000 in overdue invoices and almost $2000 due within the next week, I was very curious to see what they had to say.

Their tips include:

  1. Make your payment policies clear at the time your services
    are retained.
  2. Accept all forms of payment and encourage credit card
  3. Get a deposit in advance.
  4. Always let the customer pay when they offer.
  5. Make arrangements for payment before you deliver the final
  6. Follow up every day until you receive your money.
  7. Apply your payment policies to every single customer.
  8. Contact the credit agencies.

I have only quoted the highlights. I highly suggest clicking on the above link and reading the whole article.

I agree with most of the points, but unfortunately in our business some of the points don’t apply. First of all, I don’t know many translators who are willing to accept credit cards (I know there are a few who rely on PayPal and/or Moneybookers, but I personally can’t justify the fee). Getting a deposit in advance or payment before delivery is all well and good if the client is a direct client, but I don’t know many (if any) translation agencies that are willing to accept either of those practices. I also disagree with following up every day until you get paid. I generally wait a week or two before I send out a reminder. Once the invoice is over 30 days late I will write an e-mail every week or every couple days. If it were ever to get more than 45 days late I think I would then start writing them every day and being a total pain.

Luckily I haven’t had to worry about this much. I do my due diligence before accepting work from a new client (I subscribe to Payment Practices and Zahlungspraxis [a German-language payment practices list] and ask for referrals from several of their translators if the agency isn’t listed on one of those lists) and generally only work with clients with whom I have a good relationship. In the rare cases that an invoice has been almost 30 days overdue it is usually because the project manager or accounting has misplaced or lost the invoice – or at least claims they have and assure me that it will be processed as soon as possible.

The bullet item I would probably add would be: “9. Submit invoices either with the job or immediately after you have submitted the job.” I’ve found most agencies take 30 to 45 days to pay an invoice (and I refuse to work with agencies that have payment terms of 60 days or even 60 days EOM [end of month]). Why wait an additional 15, 20 or 30 days because it took you that long to send them the invoice in the first place?

Do you have any tips you have found to be helpful for being paid promptly by your clients? I definitely want to hear them!