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Enjoying some tranquility July 21, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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As soon as I finish a 2,700 word translation for one of my clients that I agreed to do for Tuesday I am taking the rest of the week off for a well-deserved mental health vacation. My head was throbbing on Saturday after such a busy week, and I recognized my need for some time off. I read somewhere that translators and particularly interpreters have a higher rate of strokes and cerebral events since we work under a lot of stress (it might have been a one-off mention in The Interpreter by Suzanne Glass; I can’t remember.). I don’t want that to be me.

Anyway, after doing two weeks’ work in five days I definitely deserve it. I will be spending time on my balcony and reading a good book or two. Not to mention a trip or two to the dog park since I neglected my dog last week. And a couple trips to the city swimming pool. Basically just relaxing. I may even pop over to one of the islands on Lake Erie for a fun day exploring.

I may be posting this week if a thought pops into my head, but if I don’t I hope you have a great week and I’ll be back as usual next week.

Working under a deadline July 18, 2008

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

As I mentioned yesterday, I am currently translating an 8,000 word computer game on horoscopes and love signs (the compatibility between the different signs of the Zodiac). I’m splitting the job with another unknown translator, who got “stuck” with the personalities of the various signs. I am translating the various pairings of the signs (Cancer-Capricorn, Leo-Leo, etc.). This is actually quite fun, because I used to be really into Linda Goodman’s Love Signs when I was in high school and college and still believe the concept does have some merit (In fact, I have the book sitting next to me, open to whatever pairing I am working on at the time so I can double-check the signs’ traits and mine it for terminology). Being a Virgo (actually, a double Virgo with my sun and moon both in Virgo) I definitely get along better with Earth and Water signs. And in the spirit of horoscopes and all things mystical, I just wanted to share today’s iGoogle Daily Horoscope for Virgo with you:

It’s hard to be creative when you are on a tight schedule, but having limited time now can actually work in your favor. Rather than being all dreamy and unfocused, your efficiency is heightened when you must produce under pressure. Paradoxically, you needn’t take it all so seriously; being able to enjoy yourself will help you be even more expressive.

Considering I translated 4,000 words yesterday and have about 2,500 to go before I’m done later today, I find today’s horoscope to be quite fitting. I find I work better under pressure. I recently finished a job on quality management (13 files, 7,500 words total) for a German hospital that took me a month and a half to finish because the client told me there was “no hurry” and his client was pretty relaxed. I kept putting the files off to accept jobs from other clients because I wasn’t under any time pressure, but they gnawed at my conscience. In the end, everyone was happy with the results and they didn’t mind that it took so long, but I did. I was just glad to finally cross the job off my job board.

Need a break? Watch this…, July 17, 2008

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

I’ve been unbelievably busy this week. I translated a 6,800 word batch of medical reports on Monday and Tuesday and am now working on an 8,000 word computer game on horoscopes and love signs. I’m approaching burnout, so I took a break this afternoon to finally watch Act One of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog starring Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day and Nathan Fillion, which was released on Tuesday and almost immediately crashed the web site server and is now the No. 1 download on iTunes. Act Two is being released today and Act Three goes live on Saturday. They will only stay up until Sunday, July 20th. After that you can download it from iTunes and it will probably be released on DVD soon.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog is the latest project by Joss Whedon (the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly as well as the feature movie Serenity). It is the first-ever superhero musical, featuring shy, wannabe mad scientist Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris), his archnemesis Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion) and the damsel in the middle (Felicia Day). Whedon wrote it during the writer’s strike in 2008 and filmed it in 6 days on a minimal budget. Joss’ work is known for its tight, witty dialog, and he can also write a catchy tune. And man, does Neil Patrick Harris have some fantastic pipes! I got chills listening to him.

I’ve been a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel for years now, since I first watched them in Germany (they translated surprisingly well, although they usually aired at 2 in the morning). If you haven’t seen his work, I highly recommend it. You’ll love the dialog and will stay for the gripping, enjoyable storylines.

“Coffee to go” July 16, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in German culture, Random musings.

There’s a very disturbing article about how European cafés are disappearing as Europeans are adapting to American trends in this week’s edition of the Expatica Germany newsletter. For those who are unfamiliar with it, Expatica is Europe’s leading lifestyle portal for internationals living abroad and they break the site down into the various countries with lots of country-specific tips about living abroad, numerous resources, information on expat life, etc.

“Coffee to go” the cry as Europe adapts to American trends reports that “the times when people would spend hours reading newspapers or indulge in deep conservation in Berlin while sipping endless coffees is somewhat seldom nowadays, partly due to faster-paced life trends, and soaring cafe rents.” It then goes on to discuss how Starbucks and coffee bars are replacing older, more relaxed coffee houses in many European capitals.

I find this trend sad, because I enjoyed many hours drinking coffee (ah, the simple pleasure of a Milchkaffee…) and enjoying homemade Kuchen or a nice brunch at cafés like Café Sacher in Vienna, Café Tomaselli in Salzburg, and my favorite café in Bonn – Bonngout. I’m sure cafés won’t totally disappear, but I find it very sad that Europeans are giving in to the American fast-paced life. That was one of the things I enjoyed most about living in Europe – things were more relaxed and slow-paced.

Choosing the right bank account for you July 14, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.
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I recently sent a check to a fellow translator to whom I had subcontracted a legal contract. She hadn’t cashed the check yet, so I wrote her today to ensure she had received it. Since it was a very large check I wanted to make sure it hadn’t gotten lost in the mail. She replied that she had received it, but hadn’t had a chance to go to the bank to deposit it.

This made me all the more appreciative of my bank, which allows me to deposit my checks from home using my scanner. I find this service to be invaluable, because it allows me immediate access to the money and saves me gas and driving time. When I receive a check in the mail, I endorse the check and add my account number. I then turn on my scanner, log on to my bank’s web portal, click on Deposit@Home, and scan the front and back of the check in the deposit interface. Once the check has been accepted, I am given a confirmation number and can print out the confirmation page (but I generally just enter the confirmation number in the Memo: field in my accounting program). I am then instructed to write “Void” on the check and destroy it. I simply pop it in my cross-cut shredder and continue translating, answering e-mail, surfing the Net, reading blogs, etc. The whole process takes less than three minutes.

In case you are wondering, I bank with USAA Federal Savings Bank, which caters to the U.S. military (both active duty and retired military personnel, the National Guard and Reserve personnel, officer candidates in commissioning programs such as ROTC) and children of USAA members (which is how I can bank with them). I have insured my car with them since I was sixteen years old, and since there are U.S. military bases all over the world I was also able to insure my car through USAA when I was living in Germany.

When was the last time you analyzed the services your bank is offering? If you get a chance, you may discover it is time to switch banks. Does your bank charge you an annual or monthly fee? Does it offer you a free credit card or do you have to pay an annual fee for it? Does it charge you a fee for incoming electronic deposits or deposits from foreign accounts? Does your bank reimburse you for ATM fees at third party banks? Does your bank have an agreement with your overseas bank that allows you to withdraw money from your foreign bank account for free or a low fee? USAA isn’t the only bank that offers perks like ATM fee reimbursement, no-fee foreign deposits, and Deposit@home. National City Bank just started advertising ATM fee reimbursement. When you are negotiating with your bank it helps to know which banks offer which services. Maybe you can convince them to offer you similar services. Switching to a bank that doesn’t charge you fees or getting your bank to stop charging you fees can save you hundreds of dollars a year. It’s definitely worth looking into.

[July 16, 2008: In light of the IndyMac bank failure, you should also make sure your bank is FDIC-insured. Expatica also has a very good article comparing six of Germany’s largest banks on its portal]

Internet search tips July 13, 2008

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

Every translator should be adept at using the Internet. I consider the Internet to be one of my most valuable tools. I use it to search for parallel texts and elusive terms as well as keep up with the latest news and changes in my fields of interest. I also use it to verify facts, locate places of business, schedule my day, etc. In fact, I resigned from the FBI because my supervisor would not authorize access to the Internet. I never realized how reliant I am on the Internet until I was unable to use it to do my job.

There is no right or wrong way to search the Internet. If you find what you need and find it quickly, you can consider your method to be successful. However, you also need to make sure that what you have found is really the correct answer, is the best answer, and is the complete answer.

The following list provides a guideline for you to follow in formulating search requests, viewing search results, and modifying search results. These procedures can be followed for virtually any search request, from the simplest to the most complicated. For some search requests, you may not want or need to go through a formal search strategy; however, it’s a good idea to follow a strategy. Following the 10 steps will also ensure good results if your search is multifaceted and you want to get the most relevant results.

  1. Identify the important concepts of your search and rely on built-in relevance rankings provided by search engines.
  2. Choose the keywords that describe these concepts.
  3. Determine whether there are synonyms, related terms, or other variations of the keywords that should be included.
  4. Determine which search features may apply, including truncation, proximity operators, Boolean operators, and so forth.
  5. Choose a search engine.
  6. Read the search instructions on the search engine’s home page. Look for sections entitled “Help,” “Advanced Search,” “Frequently Asked Questions,” etc.
  7. Create a search expression using syntax that is appropriate for the search engine.
  8. Evaluate the results. How many hits were returned? Were the results relevant to your query?
  9. Modify your search if needed. Go back to Steps 2 through 4 and revise your query accordingly.
  10. Try the same search in a different search engine, following Steps 5 through 9 above. You may also want to try using a meta search engine that searches several search engines at once.

If you feel that your search has yielded too few Web pages, there are several things to consider:

  • Perhaps the search expression was too specific. Go back and remove some terms that are connected by ANDs.
  • Perhaps there are more terms to use. Think of more synonyms to “OR” together. Try truncating more words if possible.
  • Check spelling and syntax (a forgotten quotation mark or a missing parentheses)
  • Read the instructions on the help pages again.

If your search has given you too many results and many are unrelated to your topic, consider the following:

  • Narrow your search to specific fields, if possible.
  • Use more specific terms (for example, instead of cancer, use the specific type of cancer in which you’re interested).
  • Use quotation marks to indicate phrases when a phrase more exactly defines your concepts (for example, “quality criteria” will be more specific than quality criteria, which could occur in different places on the page).
  • Add additional terms with AND or NOT (or + and -).
  • Remove some synonyms if possible.

One important final step that should never be brushed off is verifying the term by assessing the quality of the content.

  • Consider the source (who is the organization behind the site? is it from an established news source, government, journal article, etc. or does the group have a bias that might influence the words they choose?)
  • Look at the quality of the site (if there are spelling and grammatical errors you might assume that the same level of attention to detail probably went into the gathering of the content).
  • Are the site and the contents current?
  • Verify using multiple sources – is the term you have found used on other English language web sites?

Verifying is probably the most important step in the process. Some web sites are poorly translated, so your term may be a false friend or an incorrect translation that has been picked up by other sites. One example is the use of Imprint for Impressum on German web site translations. An imprint is used in the publishing world, but it is completely inappropriate for web sites. This has been the subject of numerous discussions on the various listservs I belong to. Some more suitable suggestions include Credits, Legal information, Corporate Information, Legal Disclaimer, Contact Details, Contact Details/Disclaimer, About This Site or even The Boring Stuff (depending on level of informality of the site). Anything but Imprint, but I digress…

Another technique that I find to be invaluable is to put portions of a sentence in quotations in the search field or using a term that is used in the same sentence with the German word. By searching for [German term] lasers 3:2, I was able  to find a term that used the word “ratio” for another colleague who had spent several fruitless hours trying to find the term (I wish I could remember the specifics). And by searching for “sick days taken by employees” or “not work on Saturdays” you might stumble on a document that is similar (or identical) to the one you are translating. You can use the results to see how other people phrase things, which can be a terminological goldmine for the rest of your text.

By using these simple techniques and honing your search process you too can become a search champion. If you have an hour to kill, you might want to check out my streaming video presentation on Internet Research Skills, which was filmed in March 2006 at the University of Gainesville (disclaimer: I was talking to an empty room, so please ignore the awkwardness). If it doesn’t open in FireFox try opening it in Internet Explorer.

TGIF: Deaf Karaoke Live – The Ultimate Version July 11, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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This is one of my favorite videos — stand up comic David Armand performing his sign language interpretation of Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn. I think it’s pretty hilarious and hope you enjoy it. I offer you the original version as well as the “ultimate version” here.

Twitter saga ends in jailed translator going free July 10, 2008

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

According to CNN.com, a one-word blog post from a cell phone to the social networking site Twitter helped to free an American student from an Egyptian jail, but it took the signatures and support of “thousands of activists” — and three additional months! — to get his translator out. James Karl Buck, 29, a graduate student from the University of California in Berkeley, was working on a photography project for his master’s thesis by photographing anti-government protests over low wages and rising food prices in April. “His translator, Mohammed Maree,” (I think they mean interpreter 🙂 ) is a 23-year-old Egyptian veterinary student in Mahalla, Egypt. The two met, and Maree “offered to help Buck.” That seems a little strange to me. Did they meet in a bar and Maree offered to help him out of the goodness of his heart? Most likely he was expecting to be compensated for his work, but that is never mentioned in the article. Or was he also a fellow civil activist working with him who felt just as strongly about the protests?

Anyway, they were detained during one of the demonstrations. En route to the police station, Buck sent a message via Twitter, and his school hired an attorney and was able to get him released within a day. But Maree remained in jail for nearly three months. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time! “Maree’s family was worried about when, if ever, he would be freed. After reports of alleged torture in prison, relatives feared for his life.”

The Americans were — and still are, apparently — outraged. Shades of the kid who got caned in Shanghai all over again. Sorry, but if you are in a foreign country you need to abide by its rules – this includes not taking photographs of or participating in anti-government demonstrations.

CNN quotes Buck as saying “he hopes to visit his translator in Egypt as soon as possible and meet his family so he can apologize to them and tell them about the impact Maree has made.” He should apologize, but it was also Maree’s choice to help him. If I were Buck, I’d pay him for the three months the poor kid was in jail and stay home before he makes things worse. Foreign governments do not, nor should they, abide by American laws. I hope he learned that very valuable lesson. Too bad no one else seems to think of that aspect.

“Quick question” July 9, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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I had three e-mails named “Quick question” in my inbox this morning. I’m just as guilty of this as the next person, since I often fire off a “quick question” to a colleague if I need some help – generally through the Skype chat interface. But receiving three e-mails from three different people (one a client, one a colleague with a German handwriting question, and one a colleague in a different language pair asking a question about PayPal) has really made me think about how we formulate subject lines. I’ve already complained about clients who don’t even use a subject line, but “Quick question” doesn’t offer much insight about the subject matter of the e-mail either. I’m certainly going to think twice the next time I want to send someone a “quick question.”

Favorite tools: WorkPace July 8, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings, Tools.
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If you are anything like me, you are passionate about translation and can become fixated on what is displayed on your computer screen, forgetting everything around you. I can work for several hours without taking a break and have been known to forget to eat or even move. I first heard about WorkPace® (or a program very similar to it) when I lived in Germany in the late 1990s. I kept telling myself I should download it, but never got around to it. I have always been concerned about ergonomics (as demonstrated by my ergonomic German keyboard with integrated touchpad, which no one but me enjoys working on. I love it so much I moved both keyboards—work and home—with me when I relocated back to the U.S. in 2001), so I eventually got around to downloading the 1-month trial version. I bought a license before the trial was even up.

WorkPace® is a breaks and exercise software tool proven to help prevent, and aid recovery from, Repetitive Strain Injury (also known as RSI, OOS and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome). The software provides an integrated health and safety solution for computer users, with break, stretch and exercise reminders, ergonomic training, monitoring of discomfort levels, and statistics on computer use. In short, it is a holistic tool that rocks.

WorkPace® monitors your keystrokes and offers break reminders that include stretches and exercises you can do in front of your computer to “reinvigorate your body and mind.” The more intensely you work, the more “microbreaks” (8-second pauses in your typing) will be displayed. However, you can change the settings to fit your needs. For example, you can turn it off if you decide you need to concentrate. It took a while to adjust to these microbreaks and especially the breaks. I eventually turned the microbreaks off completely, but still try to adhere to the breaks. Otherwise the program will chastise me and display a “frownie face” in the toolbar.

The first day I used the program I was under a lot of stress to get a legal translation of the German Cosmetics Ordinance finished, but I complied with most of the breaks and found my stress level wasn’t as high as it could have been. I never realized how badly I need to stretch and am reminded each time I perform a stretch and hear my back crack or feel the muscle stretch and loosen.

It is available in two editions, Personal and Professional. WorkPace Personal is designed for individual users, so it is perfect for the translator sitting in his or her home office. WorkPace currently supports English, Dutch, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian and Portuguese (Note: All languages supported are automatically included with each software product. When you download and install the product, all languages are then available. Each user can choose their own language preferences from the Preferences / Language menu in WorkPace). The license for WorkPace Personal costs $49.00.