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iGoogle June 9, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings, Tools.
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I wanted to share one of my favorite “tools” with you: the start page on my Internet browser. Google does a lot of things right, and it is a heavily relied upon tool by most modern translators. They keep coming out with more and more tools that make our lives easier, such as Gmail, Google Image, Google Reader, and Google Print. You may or may not be aware of iGoogle, its personalized Google page. You can customize this page to have all your information at your fingertips, including news sources, weather, RSS feeds, and all kinds of neat Google gadgets that make your life easier. I also have my web-based e-mail addresses (Yahoo! and Gmail), which I rarely or never looked at, built in to my iGoogle page, so I am able to see at a glance if I have e-mails in my in boxes and call them up by opening a separate tab (yes, I use Firefox!). It is available in many localized versions of Google (42 languages, over 70 country domain names, as of October 2007).

You can also jazz it up with various “themes.” With iGoogle, users can select unique themes for their Google homepage. Some of the themes are animated depending on weather conditions, the time in your area (it asks you for your location upon selecting a theme), and so on. The sky darkens/lightens throughout the day, depending on the time. They also offer “artist themes” by professional artists. I have chosen a world theme called Earth-light. It is a photorealistic simulated view of Earth from space, including seasons, day/night, clouds, and city lights.

My iGoogle pageMy favorite gadget by far is the Google Calendar. By having it on your iGoogle page, you can access your calendar from any computer in the world. It is a great way to track your plans, birthdays, important deadlines, appointments, personal reminders, etc. You can add additional calendars to fit your needs. For example, I have the American and German holidays, the Jewish holidays, the phases of the moon, and a fiscal week calendar (because German clients frequently refer to “Kalendarwoche” or KW (fiscal week) and it saves me from having to calculate it) added to my Google Calendar.

I have arranged my page in order of importance (to me). All you have to do is drag the window to where you want it on the page. I have a ToDo list, the weather, and my Google Calendar, Google Calculator and the World Clocks gadgets at the very top of the page. Below that I have various news feeds such as CNN, USA Today, BBC News, the Drudge Report, the NY Times, NPR, Wired, and German news feeds such as Spiegel Online, Financial Times Deutschland, heute-Nachrichten, and ZDNet. Interspersed throughout the page I then have fun little add-ons such as a Wikipedia search bar, a PeopleSearch bar, MapQuest, Moon Phases, a Bush countdown bar, a Snopes.com window called Fact or Fiction to be aware of various Internet hoaxes, and LabPixies radio (to stream Internet radio from anywhere in the world – more on that another day). I also have some entertaining gadgets, such as my Daily Horoscope, a Biorhythm calculator, a currency converter, several crossword puzzles, and a couple fun little games for when I need a quick break from translating – to name just a few.

This is how I can easily keep up to date with numerous web sites and have lots of tools at my fingertips without having to remember each and every URL or visit a bunch of sites first thing in the morning to catch up with what is happening in the world. If you haven’t tried it, give it a try as soon as you can. I guarantee you’ll be immediately hooked!


I don’t need no stinkin’ job tracking system… June 5, 2008

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

Au contraire! I, like you, thought I didn’t need a job tracking system. When you are first starting out it is easy to keep track of the jobs because you may only have one or two. You may not think you need a job tracking system right now, but once things get busy and you completely forget about a job you agreed to take when you were stressed out with another job and/or forgot to write it down somewhere, you will definitely implement one! I’ve been there and I know of what I speak. I have forgotten two jobs in the thirteen years I have been doing this, and both times I was absolutely mortified. Luckily I had good relationships with the clients and was able to save our relationships. The first time I offered a substantial discount and busted my rear end to get the file done as soon as possible. The second time they decided to do it in-house, and the situation involved a lot of groveling and apologizing on my part… I’m still working with both clients – and the last job I forgot was back in November 2006.

My job board

There are numerous systems translators use to track their jobs. As you can see, I use the old-fashioned, yet oh so handy, dry erase board. It’s a tried and true method to track jobs and note deadlines and estimated word counts, and it gives you the added satisfaction of crossing a job off once you have finished the job and sent the invoice (the same day you deliver the job – or at most the next day. Don’t put it off or you’ll forget!!!).

As I mentioned before, one of my German-English colleagues uses Post-It notes on her monitor to track her jobs. Here are some other options you may not have thought of…

An Excel spreadsheet is an excellent tool to track your jobs and keep a running tally of how many words you have translated in a year. The graphic to the right may be difficult to read, but basically it contains the job number, end client, file name, pages, type of work (editing or translation), _x$h, word count, actual client, due, delivered, rush?, $/word, invoice date, $invoiced, notes, and TM. You can adapt this to fit your needs. You may want to include a column for date paid, late? (or days late), etc. I particularly love that it tracks the words you have translated for that year. You can also use all kinds of formulas to automatically add it up for you if you like that kind of thing. The sky’s the limit!

Another tool that is especially designed for translators is Translation Office 3000. This project management, accounting, marketing, word count, dictionary, etc. tool quickens, simplifies and optimizes a translator’s day-to-day work. You can keep track of your jobs, track your outstanding invoices, note your quotes and easily convert them into a job, handle your client contact information, and count your files based on lines, words, characters, etc. – all with the help of this tool. I particularly like the ability to track contact information and the visual schedule so you can see when a job is overdue. I don’t like the fact that you have to first create a project and then enter a job, but others may find it very helpful. You can download a free 30-day version here.

Some other options that were suggested to me when I forgot the job were:

1) a project planner (e.g., http://ganttproject.sourceforge.net)
3) a web calendar with automatic reminders (e.g., Freemail Kalender at http://web.de)

I use a web calendar as well (more on that another day when I talk about iGoogle), but I haven’t gone the extra step and entered due dates in it. My job board is perfectly sufficient for my needs – provided I am diligent about writing a job down as soon as I accept it. It’s become habit now, which is quite comforting.

End of day? June 5, 2008

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

There’s an interesting discussion on the PT listserv at the moment about “end of day” (EOD) delivery deadlines. The translator who started the discussion took it to mean the end of her day (midnight), while her client meant 5 or 6 p.m. (close of business) This is a really interesting discussion, because “end of day” is so nebulous. Some translators agreed with her, saying that for them “end of day” means the customer wants it in their e-mail in box when they get to work the next morning so that they can immediately start working on it (although in this case the client would have most likely stipulated SOB – start of business – or “first thing tomorrow morning”). The majority of the members, however, felt that “end of day” meant the end of normal business hours.

Those of us (like me) who prefer to start work late in the morning and do our best work in the late afternoon or evening hours should never assume that the end of our day is the end of everyone else’s day. One member pointed out that we should not assume that our clients take note of our work habits. Nor should they.

This discussion also makes it clear that we should never assume things and should always clarify our terms at the beginning of the job – not the end. We are service providers, and it is our job to ensure that we meet our client’s stipulated deadline.

So in the future if your client tells you “2000 words EOD” be sure to ask exactly what time they consider to be end of day. You may be surprised at the response.

When do you cry “Uncle”? June 4, 2008

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

I just finished two large jobs and a couple small ones, delivering a total of 20,000 words today. The muscles in my shoulders are stiff, and my arms are a little numb. I have been busy before, but the past few days have been absolutely insane. Everyone I know is completely overwhelmed with translations. When does it end, and when do you cry “Uncle”?

One friend/colleague starts turning down work when she has six Post-It notes stuck to her monitor, indicating six different jobs. In my case, my job board, as you can see, is filled from top to bottom with jobs and crossed-out jobs. I guess you just learn how much you can handle and practice saying no to clients when you are too overwhelmed. But that’s easier said than done.

I’d be curious to hear how everyone else manages to handle a deluge of work. Do you feel guilty saying no to your clients? Do you say no to new clients, yet squeeze in work from long-term clients? I realize my work load this past week was beyond insane. I have some small jobs on my desk now, which are manageable, but I’m taking some time off tomorrow for some “me time” – a pedicure and if they can squeeze me in at the last minute a deep-tissue massage. I also plan on finally writing about the importance of a job tracking system and will talk about how some of my friends track their jobs as well.

In the meantime, I’m off to get some supper and get ready for water aerobics – and, most importantly, turning off my computer. More on this subject tomorrow!

An example of why study/living abroad is so important for a translator June 3, 2008

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

Among other things, I’m translating a marketing survey at the moment. After being asked the same question several different ways, the respondent is understandably frustrated. His (I’m going out on a limb and assuming he’s male based on the language used) response is Das habe ich eben schon beantwortet. Ihr Pappnasen, checkt ihrs noch? Luckily I’m having an ongoing chat on Skype with a fellow translator about our day, our dogs, whether I can proofread a small text, etc. You’d think Pappnasen would be my problem, which is why she is surprised that I am asking her about checkt ihrs noch?. She’s from Baden-Württemburg and hadn’t heard the term Pappnasen very often. I explained to her that my friends in Bonn used to call each other Pappnasen all the time. It must be a Cologne/Bonn thing because of Karneval. Anyway, if I had been depending solely on a dictionary to translate this phrase I would have been stumped. Langenscheidt offers false nose for Pappnasen. Leo‘s a little better, because it offers fool and idiot in addition to cardboard nose and false nose. This is yet another example of why living abroad is so important to the cultural understanding needed to understand and therefore translate a text well. In the end, I decided to go with When are you finally going to get it, you morons! Thanks, Eva!

Fanta: The Reich Stuff? June 2, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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I should be translating, but just stumbled on this interesting bit of trivia on my Snopes.com gadget on my iGoogle page. I had never heard the urban legend that Fanta was invented by the Nazis. It isn’t true, but the story of how it was invented is very interesting. Apparently Fanta was invented during World War II when it became difficult to get the ingredients to make the syrup. A German-born Coca-Cola employee, Max Keith, came up with the idea to make a new soda with whatever they could find to keep the factories operating and protect Coca-Cola people by keeping them employed during the war.

The importance of ergonomics – and a good desk chair June 2, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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One of the things I stress to the students at Kent State’s Institute for Applied Linguistics is the importance of ergonomics – and most importantly a good desk chair. You will most likely be sitting at your computer for 6 to 10 hours a day (sometimes more), so it is very important to set up an ergonomically correct workstation. One of my former students bought a massage desk chair and loves it. Friends in Germany love sitting on exercise balls because they exercise your core muscles and force proper spine alignment. I had one in Germany that had little nubs to prevent it from rolling away when you weren’t sitting on it. I really regret not bringing it with me in my move back to the U.S. The main requirement is that the exercise ball be high enough to allow you to sit comfortably at the desk with your arms at a 90 degree angle to the keyboard.

Photo of my ergonomically correct officeYour computer monitor should be at eye level and there should be no glare from light sources behind or in front of the monitor. Ideally, the light should come from the side. Your desk chair should be adjusted so that your feet are flat on the floor (or resting on a foot rest – a telephone book can also be substituted for a foot rest) and the lumbar support presses comfortably against your back and follows the curves of your back. When the armrest on my last desk chair broke, I moved it to the living room computer and bought a used Herman Miller Aeron chair. The Aeron chair is considered the BMW of desk chairs and is priced accordingly ($700 to >$1,000). You can frequently find them at used office furniture stores or from offices that are going out of business.

I also find an ergonomic keyboard to be invaluable in preventing repetitive stress injury and carpal tunnel syndrome (I also use a little software tool called ‘WorkPace‘ to monitor my work level and force me take regular breaks, but more on that another day). I have two German Cherry keyboards with a built-in My Cherry ergonomic keyboardtouchpad right under the arrow keys. They are so well-used that the letters have worn off some of the keys. There are numerous ergonomic keyboards and click-less mice out there to choose from. I find having a built-in touchpad prevents my arm from getting sore from constantly reaching for a mouse. The hot pink button is a ‘Panic’ button I bought from a local gag store.

You should also place the items you use most frequently within easy reach from where you sit. For translators, this means the phone and the dictionaries you use most often should be closest to you so you do not need to stretch to reach them. Dictionaries and reference materials I use less frequently are in bookcases scattered around my office (the sloping ceiling does not allow tall bookcases).

It is much better to prevent the injury from occurring in the first place than recuperating from a debilitating injury. The health consequences associated with desk work, such as a stiff neck, strained eyes, sore forearms or tingling and numbness that would indicate carpal tunnel, are easily preventable if you take the time to set your workspace up correctly. I also go the extra mile and try to get regular, monthly massages to loosen the rock-hard muscles in my neck and shoulders.