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Belated TGIF: Happy Birthday August 30, 2008

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

Yesterday was my birthday, and I spent it out of the office enjoying myself. The highlight was celebrating with my German Meetup.com group and friends and family at the local Oktoberfest. After starting off the night at the keg tapping (free beer) and enjoying the traditional German style polkas of The Hank Haller Band in the main tent, we spent the night drinking and dancing to a great rock band called Disco Inferno in the Microbrew Bier Garden.

I wanted to share this little birthday clip I received featuring Disney movie clips with characters saying Happy Birthday in various languages. Some of the languages (including the German one) are inaudible, but it is a cute video all the same. I’m off to celebrate my niece’s birthday today and both of our birthdays tomorrow with the immediate family. Why celebrate one day when you can celebrate all weekend? 🙂 Monday is a holiday both here and in Germany, and I’m going kayaking on Lake Erie (weather permitting). [Edit: Robin reminded me that it isn’t a holiday in Germany. I got our Labor Day confused with May Day – hey, it happens 🙂 ] I’ll be back in the office on Tuesday. I hope you all enjoy your weekend!!


Would you willingly point out repetitions? August 28, 2008

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

One of my project managers got upset with me last week when a 2,000-word job I translated for him ended up having 900 words of 100% repetitions. Apparently it was the client’s error, and the PM didn’t catch it either. Since it was such a small job I assumed it was a deliberate choice on the client’s part (not every sentence was repeated, so it could have been for something completely different) and didn’t bother to say anything. But you know what they say about assumptions – “If you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.”

It is worth mentioning that this is one of my clients that has never insisted on Trados discounts. I wrote the PM several e-mails explaining why I did what I did and offered to charge 30% on the 900 words, since I had a feeling the client had really screwed up and would be refusing to pay for those 900 words. It was a misunderstanding all around.

I never heard back from him and when I sent my invoice to the company owner and apologized and explained the discounted price, he had no idea what I was talking about. Oops! So it must not have been as bad as I assumed it was, but a little more communication from the PM would have soothed my nerves. Apparently the PM is on vacation. Here I have been worrying about losing the PM’s trust and business because I hadn’t heard from him. Luckily this is one of my oldest and dearest clients with whom I have an excellent relationship, so there’s no harm done. But what if it had been a random client with whom I only work on occasion…

I thought it was definitely worth mentioning here for that very reason. I was curious as to how you all would have handled the situation. If you notice repetitions, would you voluntarily mention it (and voluntarily earn less)? That seems kind of counterintuitive to me, but apparently this PM was disappointed that I didn’t. I’m curious to hear what you all think.

Favorite tools: Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 file formats August 27, 2008

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

If you are anything like me, you are probably still using an older version of Microsoft Office. There could be any number of reasons for this. My reason is that it still works great and I have no desire to try to learn how to work with ribbons instead of menus. I’m holding out in the hope that the next Office version will go back to menus for some of us “old timers” (man, I realize my birthday is Friday, but typing this sentence just made me feel very, very old… It’s similar to the feeling I get during 80’s weekends on the radio when I realize that the music I grew up with and still love is now over twenty years old).

Some of my clients send me files with .docx extensions. Instead of asking them to convert it into a format that I can use (and admitting I’m using an older version of Word), I have downloaded the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack. The Compatibility Pack allows you to “open, edit, and save documents, workbooks, and presentations in the file formats new to Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007.” The system requirements are pretty broad. Your operating system should be either Windows 2000 Service Pack 4, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows XP Service Pack 1, or Windows XP Service Pack 2. It works with a variety of Microsoft Office programs (click the link to see the list).

What annoys you? August 25, 2008

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

Today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer features an article entitled “What annoys you? PDQ asks readers to share what gets under their skin.” The article interviewed people in different occupations asking “In the course of your job, what’s the one thing people do that annoys you the most?” in the “not-so-subtle hope is that the people doing these terrible things will read these answers, and, well, um, stop already.” It was a fun little read, and I thought it would be fun to ask you all what annoys you the most. I’ll start…

The thing that annoys me the most is when project managers at large-scale agencies send a job query e-mail to an unspecified number of BCC: recipients asking if you are available to translate X number of words by X date (usually an impossible word count with an equally impossible deadline) – without mentioning the subject matter involved – and then the job has already been assigned once you respond (even if you respond within 10 minutes of receiving the e-mail). This is the main reason why I prefer to work with smaller agencies.

OK, your turn. Whether you are a project manager, freelance translator, in-house translator, or someone not in the translation industry who just stumbled upon this blog during a random Google search, what is the one thing that annoys you the most about your job?

TGIF: Another Eddie Izzard video August 22, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, German culture, Random musings.
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Hi folks,

It’s Friday, and I am taking the afternoon off yet again to go to the dentist and then go on a Happy Hour cruise of the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie on the Goodtime III with one of my Meetup.com groups. I could get used to working four days a week… After slogging my way through a really tough text yesterday about philo-Semitism I am really looking forward to some R&R.

Anyway, here is another Eddie Izzard video discussing President John F. Kennedy’s utterance “Ich bin ein Berliner,” which every Intermediate German student laughs about. This is in fact an urban legend, but Izzard is always worth a laugh.

Now onto the educational portion of this post… Here’s President Kennedy’s original speech for those of you who aren’t familiar with it.

According to Wikipedia:

Kennedy came up with the phrase at the last moment, as well as the idea to say it in German. Kennedy asked his interpreter, Robert H. Lochner, to translate “I am a Berliner” as they walked up the stairs of the Rathaus (City Hall). With Lochner’s help, Kennedy practiced the phrase in the office of then-Mayor Willy Brandt and in his own hand made a cue card with the phonetic spelling. [Note: The cue card can be viewed at Haus der Geschichte in Bonn.]

According to an urban legend, Kennedy allegedly made an embarrassing grammatical error by saying “Ich bin ein Berliner,” referring to himself not as a citizen of Berlin, but as a common pastry:

Kennedy should have said “Ich bin Berliner” to mean “I am a person from Berlin.” By adding the indefinite article ein, his statement implied he was a non-human Berliner, thus “I am a jelly doughnut”.

The legend seems to stem from a play on words with Berliner, the name of a doughnut variant filled with jam or plum sauce that is thought to have originated in Berlin.

In fact, Kennedy’s statement is both grammatically correct and perfectly idiomatic, and cannot be misunderstood in context. The urban legend is not widely known within Germany, where Kennedy’s speech is considered a landmark in the country’s postwar history. The indefinite article ein can be and often is omitted when speaking of an individual’s profession or residence but is necessary when speaking in a figurative sense as Kennedy did. Since the president was not literally from Berlin but only declaring his solidarity with its citizens, “Ich bin Berliner” would not have been correct.

The origins of the legend are obscure. The Len Deighton spy novel Berlin Game, published in 1983, contains the following passage, spoken by narrator Bernard Samson:

‘Ich bin ein Berliner,’ I said. It was a joke. A Berliner is a doughnut. The day after President Kennedy made his famous proclamation, Berlin cartoonists had a field day with talking doughnuts.

The New York Times review of Deighton’s novel added the detail that Kennedy’s audience found his remark funny:

In fact, the opposite is true: The citizens of Berlin do refer to themselves as Berliner; what they do not refer to as Berliner are jelly doughnuts. While these are known as “Berliner” in other areas of Germany, they are simply called Pfannkuchen (pancakes) in and around Berlin. Thus the merely theoretical ambiguity went unnoticed by Kennedy’s audience, as it did in Germany at large. In sum, “Ich bin ein Berliner” was the appropriate way to express in German what Kennedy meant to say.

During the speech Kennedy used the phrase twice, ending his speech on it. However, Kennedy did pronounce the sentence with his Boston accent, reading from his note “ish bin ein Bearleener,” which he had written out in English phonetics.

It’s a shame that a great speech is now the subject of ridicule based on half-truths and an urban legend.

How not to market yourself August 18, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Marketing ideas.

I just received the following e-mail (the details have been removed to protect the clueless):

Subject: English>Arabic / Italian>Arabic freelance translator
Dear sir or Mm,

I am a freelance translator, proofreader and editor based in Egypt. I am very interested to develop long-term cooperation with your esteemed agency. Please find enclosed my cv. All related certificates are available upon your request.
Looking forward to hearing from you.

[Name deleted]

Really? Did you even look at my web site? First of all, I am not an agency, but rather a fellow freelancer. Secondly, I don’t work in Arabic or Italian. I only translate German to English. Thirdly, you couldn’t even take the time to spell out “madam” or “best” in “Best regards,” which is just lazy. On the plus side, there was some grammatical awkwardness, but at least there were no typos (if you don’t count the non-capitalized “cv”). And you attached a PDF of your resume instead of a huge, multi-megabyte file or a Word document that could possibly contain a macro virus. Anyways, thanks for the spam, jack! Better luck next time.

Enjoy Pandora Radio while it lasts August 18, 2008

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

Pandora Radio may be pulling the plug soon due to Internet radio royalty demands from SoundExchange. SoundExchange is a non-profit performance rights organization that collects royalties on behalf of sound recording copyright owners (sometimes artists but usually the big-time labels) and featured artists for non-interactive digital transmissions, including satellite and Internet radio.

According to arstechnica.com, “Despite being one of the most popular Internet radio services, [Pandora] still isn’t making money, and its founder, Tim Westergren, says it can’t last beyond its first payment of the higher royalties.” That’s sad, because I have been turned on to several new groups and artists through Pandora and even recently attended a concert by “Over The Rhine” because I enjoyed some of their songs through Pandora. I wrote about Pandora back in June in a post about music in the workplace. I for one would pay to make sure they don’t close their site, so hopefully the people at Pandora will reengineer their business model to fee-based accounts.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Pandora Radio, it is part of the Music Genome project. The Music Genome project is “the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken.” The folks at the Music Genome project have been listening to music, one song at a time, studying and collecting literally hundreds of musical details on every song – melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics … and more – close to 400 attributes. Pandora then plays songs that have similar attributes and interesting musical similarities to your chosen band or artist.

Most of you overseas readers probably don’t understand why this is such a big deal to U.S.-based companies, since foreign radio stations have always paid fees for public performance of music. Let’s just say that no one likes change, and this presents a big change to the status quo in the United States. Unlike European countries and other countries around the world, the United States did not collect payment for public performance of artists’ work prior to 1995. Users of music, the digital music service providers, freely performed these works at will, without paying the owners of those recordings or the featured artists who performed the songs. The Digital Performance in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 changed all that by granting a performance right in sound recordings. As a result, copyright law now requires that users of music pay the copyright owner of the sound recording for the public performance of that music via certain digital transmissions. Conventional radio stations don’t pay these fees yet, but that should change soon.

Most Internet radio stations like Pandora offer their services for free, or they offer accounts with more features at incredibly cheap prices. SoundExchange was able to initiate a massive (and retroactive) royalty hike on Internet radio stations by 2010, imposing per-user fees for each song of an estimated 2.91 cents per hour per listener—far higher than the 1.6 cents that satellite stations would pay. Most Internet radio stations won’t be able to afford these fees, and it smacks of favoritism and back-room negotiations. SoundExchange, on the other hand, argues that Internet radio stations could do a lot more to increase their revenue, become profitable, and pay their fees. It should be interesting to follow the developments over the next year or two.

Edit, 2:30 PM:
For an interesting take on things from musician and streaming radio channel owner David Byrne from the Talking Heads, click here. He is vehemently against the initiative and presents several different interesting arguments.

TGIF: The Importance of Being Bilingual August 15, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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It’s Friday! Here is a fun little video on the importance of being bilingual. Enjoy – and enjoy your weekend!

Everybody’s working for the weekend… August 15, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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I finished my 11,000 word translation shortly after midnight last night, so after finishing up some administrative tasks (like e-mail, sending invoices, paying bills, and setting the autoresponder for my e-mail) I am taking the rest of the day off. My dog was so neglected this week that she woke me up at 4 AM two nights ago just to play and was really clingy yesterday when we took some time off to visit the neighbor across the street and raid her garden (mmmm… fresh tomatoes!). If time allows I will head to the dog park with her later today.

When I get busy I tend to let the housework slide. My place looks like a bomb hit it, so I am spending the afternoon doing laundry, washing the floors, dusting, running errands and grocery shopping (I ran out of soy milk three days ago and literally have nothing but beer, wine, two lemons, condiments and a bag of shredded cheese in my refrigerator). It is so important to balance work and free time, and this is something many freelancers forget. I took the time to have a facial, attend an identity theft presentation at the local recreation center, get my car serviced, and go out to dinner last night in the midst of all the craziness this week. I even made a point of watering my drooping plants and doing two sinkfuls of dishes yesterday. Yet somehow the more mundane, time-consuming housework gets ignored.

This weekend is the local Donauschwaben club’s Sommer Oktoberfest, and I will be spending tonight and Saturday night there with my German Meetup group. I hope you have a great weekend planned as well!

Wordreference adds new Oxford dictionaries August 15, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Tools.

WordReference is a fun little site that offers free online translation dictionaries as well as tools/plug-ins/gadgets that offer easier access to the dictionaries. The most popular dictionaries are the Spanish Dictionary, French Dictionary and the Italian Dictionary. It also has a language forum for those pesky grammar questions for people who are too lazy/don’t want to look it up in the Chicago Manual of Style, the Associated Press’s Stylebook, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, etc.

WordReference has just announced that it has added new Oxford dictionaries to its web site. Five dictionaries are available for free:

* English-Spanish
* English-French
* English-Italian
* English-German
* English Russian

Each of the Oxford dictionaries has around 100,000 words and phrases with over 200,000 translations.

For frequent WordReference users, four larger versions of the same dictionaries (except for Russian) are available on the site by subscription.