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Is it worth it to expand? August 14, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
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Sarah Dillon’s blog post, The Royal We: Why Small is the New Big, made me stop and think today in the midst of translating my 11,000 word marketing survey (ok, think about something other than mobile phones ­čÖé ). She writes about whether translators market themselves as “we” or “I” and lists various reasons why translators might not necessarily decide to use the royal “we” when marketing themselves. Count me as an “I.”

With my workload, I could certainly branch out and hire on other translators to help (and I sometimes do), but the risk is high that I would be unhappy with the quality of an unknown translator. One of my colleagues was recently burned when she subcontracted a job and the subcontractor left her in the lurch, leaving early for the weekend and delivering a sub-par and incomplete translation. She spent the night fuming and translating the document for delivery to the client the next day. I only work with translators I know are responsible and professional, but everyone can have a bad day. At least if I screw up I only have myself to blame.

I was offered a translation agency two years ago – for free. The owner knew I was responsible and diligent and wanted his agency to go to someone who would run it properly. This was a tough decision for me, and I debated for several weeks, talking to several agency owners I knew and weighing the pros and cons. In the end I decided I would miss translating too much, so I decided not to do it.

I have never regretted that decision. I for one prefer to be an I. It’s safer, and I can control the quality of my work better than if I were to work with others.


Experimental German treatment August 13, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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Check out today’s Speed Bump by Dave Coverly. Enjoy!

Busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger August 13, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Marketing ideas, Random musings.
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Man, I don’t know about you, but business here has been exploding lately. I am translating two large projects for one of my favorite clients (5,000 words due Wednesday and 11,000 words due Thursday – both easy surveys, so doable in that time frame). I had to turn down a rush job today for one of my other favorite clients who was willing to pay double my normal word rate if I could have 3700 words done by tomorrow (he’s asked me to clear my calendar for Friday just in case he can’t find anyone). The client forgot the document and needed it today (Tuesday), so they are a little desperate to get it translated. I was hoping to take it easy today after turning in a really technical legal/telecommunications contract yesterday, but my plans quickly went awry and it snowballed from there. And it sure isn’t easy working with a sinus headache that makes you nauseous…

I’ve been trying to fight the onslaught of work off as best I can so that I can at least enjoy a little bit of the summer, but it is hard to say no to some of my clients, especially when everyone else is off enjoying themselves on vacation. It’s tough being single with no one to travel with. I just signed up for a singles cruise group on Meetup.com, so hopefully that will change and I’ll be asea soon.

I know I’ve complained about it before, but it isn’t easy saying no to your two best clients. And it’s tough when they both come to you with work at the same time. That’s why you haven’t heard from me much in the last few days. Hopefully things will start calming down again once school starts and no one is on vacation anymore. If you are a newcomer, now is definitely the time to send your resume to new agencies. Strike while the iron is hot!

Germany in the news – and not in a good way August 12, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in German culture, Random musings.
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Four people were killed in a German ice cream parlor in Russelheim today. That is just sad. It seems as if Germany is catching up with America in senseless killing and random shootings. If you ask me, German ice cream parlors stand for all that is good in the world. There is nothing quite like a German Eisbecher (ice cream sundae), a wonderful concoction of ice cream, fruit, chocolate, and (if you are lucky) alcohol. The German ice cream parlors have taken creative ice cream concoctions to a new level. This is exemplified by a simple Spaghettieis, which looks like a plate of spaghetti in which vanilla ice cream is pressed through a modified spaetzle maker to make it look like spaghetti, placed over whipped cream and topped with strawberry sauce (to simulate tomato sauce) and either coconut flakes, grated almonds, or white chocolate shavings to represent parmesan cheese. Or the After Eight Becher with vanilla and peppermint ice cream topped with whipped cream, mint liquor, and After Eight mints. Nothing beats the fancy ice cream sundaes that combine fruit, alcohol and ice cream. To see how wonderful these creations can be, click here. Yum. Anyway, the shootings southwest of Frankfurt have shocked the country. CNN intimates that it may be related to a shooting blamed on an organized crime syndicate based in the southern Italian region of Calabria. This may not be such a stretch since most ice cream parlors in Germany are seasonal and run by Italians.

And then there is the Rockefeller wannabe calling himself “Clark Rockefeller” who kidnapped his daughter, is a “person of interest” in the disappearance of a California couple, and may be a missing German man who left Germany as a teenager and broke off contact with his family 20 years ago. Authorities are fairly confident that “Rockefeller” may in fact be Christian Gerhartsreiter, who was an exchange student in Connecticut in 1980 under the name Christian Gerhart Reiter when he was 17. I have been following this case closely, because he reminds me of someone in Germany I used to know. Absolutely crazy.

I guess Americans don’t have a lock on weird and disturbing crimes…

Random musings about the 2008 Summer Olympics’ Opening Ceremony August 9, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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Wow, that was absolutely breathtaking. To be honest, I was apathetic about the Olympics this year, but I love watching the Parade of Nations and Opening Ceremony. So I ordered a pizza and watched the Opening Ceremony tonight, even if it was time-delayed for the American public. I’m inspired to watch the Games now. I think my sleep pattern is going to be really off for the next three weeks…

I learned about two new countries in this year’s 204-country Parade of Nations. I am a total geography nut, but I can honestly say I have never heard of Tuvalu, a Polynesian island nation in the Pacific Ocean, and Comoros, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. As the Parade went on I kept wondering if I had somehow missed Germany. It was the 198th country to parade in. Italy and Austria made me laugh with their exuberance. Many of the poorer nations with small delegations really made me choke up. I can’t imagine some of the trials and tribulations the athletes endured to make it to compete in China. It’s really inspiring. The American flag bearer, Lopez Lomong, a Sudanese refugee and one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” epitomizes that struggle, as did little Lin Hao, the nine-year-old earthquake survivor who saved two of his fellow classmates from the rubble and proudly led out the Chinese team with Chinese flag bearer and NBA basketball star Yao Ming.

As a Cleveland native I also was very proud to see LeBron James walking with the American team. He really is an inspiration to the city and people of Cleveland. He puts his money where his mouth is and sponsors numerous events for the underprivileged. And his son goes to preschool with my niece, which I think is pretty cool.

The artistry of the Opening Ceremony was amazing. However, they skipped a hundred years of their history when they skipped any mention of China’s Maoist history (not that that is a surprise…). The mass of performers was overwhelming. Thousands of dancers and performers painted moving pictures of the invention of paper, the printing press, and the Great Wall. The LED screen and all the pageantry was so cool, as was the idea of having the athletes walk over paint to commemorate the Games. I can’t even imagine how amazing it must have been to be there and watch such impressive fireworks. Sarah Brightman singing in Chinese was also very cool.

But the ultimate moment was when Olympic gymnast Li Ning ran through the air around the stadium to light the Olympic Torch. My heart stopped when it appeared as if one of the wires had broke, but they were merely adjusting him for his run. Very impressive. It gave me goose bumps! This is going to be a tough Opening Ceremony to top!

TGIF: Bill Maher interprets rap into the white vernacular August 8, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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This clip is absolutely hilarious, especially if you are familiar with the songs he is interpreting – but it is still funny even if you aren’t, because you can kind of imagine what the song actually says. If you are easily offended you might not want to watch it, but I promise this is absolutely worth watching!

Found on ProZ.com August 8, 2008

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

It wouldn’t surprise me if they actually had some takers (who are not professionals), but at this price and the deadline I’d rather work at Borders for $7.00 an hour… I’ve translated it in parentheses for those of you who don’t read German.

SUPER EILIG!!! ├ťbersetzung im Bereich Mobiltelefonie TRADOS!! (SUPER URGENT!!! Translation in the field of wireless communications TRADOS!! – why use one exclamation point when you can use two or three…)

Liebe Kollegen (Dear Colleagues),
wir wurden h├Ąngen gelassen und brauchen nun dringendst Hilfe bei der ├ťbersetzung verschiedener Dateien – manche im PDF Format, manche in Word. Einige Tausend Worte zu vergeben – Abgabe MORGEN. (freely translated: the translator we hired backed out/got sick/had a computer problem/wised up to the poor pay… and urgently need help translating numerous documents – some in PDF, some in Word. We need to place several thousand words – due date: TOMORROW)

Am liebsten w├Ąren uns Kollegen, die PDF-Dokumente konvertieren k├Ânnen!! (We prefer translators who can convert PDF files)

TM bereits vorhanden, wird mitgeliefert. (We already have the TM, we will send it to you with the files.)

Lieferungen m├╝ssen im bilingualen Format erfolgen, da wir hier noch Korrekturlesen. (We need you to deliver bilingual files, since we still have to proofread on this end.)
Bitte angeben, wie viele Worte bis morgen geschafft werden k├Ânnen! (Please let us know how many words you can translate by tomorrow!)
Wiederholungen und 100% matches werden nicht bezahlt. (We will not pay you for repetitions and 100% matches.)

Bezahlung: (Payment: )
Zahlung erfolgt innerhalb 45 Tagen nach Erhalt der Rechnung per Bank├╝berweisung, Scheck oder Moneybookers. Bei Scheckzahlungen und Bankkonten au├čerhalb der EU ├╝bernimmt der Empf├Ąnger die Geb├╝hren. (Payment will be made within 45 days after receiving the invoice via bank transfer, check or Moneybookers. The recipient will assume any bank charges for checks and bank accounts outside the EU.)

Source format:
PDF, PPT, Word
Delivery format:
bilinguale Dateien
(bilingual files)

Volume and pricing:
0.060 EUR per word
Payment method: Other
Payment 45 days after date of invoice.

What a deal, huh? I’m sure you are all going to run to ProZ right now to find the listing and spend all day Friday and into the night working at these conditions. Sorry. The quoting deadline has already expired (5 PM GMT). I wonder if they found someone. I swear some agencies are so clueless…

Where have all the good clients gone… August 7, 2008

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

I just booted yet another client. Am I unreasonable to expect payment within the stipulated payment terms? It isn’t like I am hurting for clients, but if I keep booting a client a month due to their atrocious payment terms I won’t have too many clients left. Don’t get me wrong, I get contacted by new agencies just about every day, but I am leery to work with new agencies – especially if they are not listed on Payment Practices or the Zahlungspraxis listserv. I keep meaning to subscribe to the TCR (Translator Client Review) List. These are all good sources of finding reputable agencies.

What happened to agencies who pay on time and within 30 days? At this point I am beginning to think they are an urban myth. If I deliver a job on time (or even early) I would like to be paid for that job within 30-45 days. Is that such an unreasonable expectation? I honestly don’t think so. If I’m wrong, please let me know in the comments!

This particular client owes me $1,400.00 in overdue invoices (one invoice being 38 days late). They merged with another agency about 8 months ago, and their payment practices have gone straight downhill ever since. They changed their payment terms to “submit the invoice by the 7th of the month and payment will be made by the end of the month. Otherwise you will have to wait until the end of the next month” – essentially almost 60 days if you miss the 7th of the month deadline.

The e-mail I received from Accounts Payable today acknowledged that they overlooked two of my invoices, which were submitted 1-2 weeks before the submission deadline for this payment period and that they would be paying them with the next payment – in another 30 days!!! What kind of crap is that? I send monthly invoices to two clients because they are my best clients and faithfully pay within 30-45 days as promised. I am not willing to do that for every Tom, Dick and Harry agency, and that is essentially what this agency expects if they only pay invoices once a month.

And what about agencies that nickel and dime us to death with repetition discounts and lower and lower rates? Another German translator just wrote to the GLD list about an agency that went from paying 25% for 100% matches and repetitions to 10%. The Trados rule has been 30/60/90. When do we stop accepting this kind of treatment? One of my friends is seriously considering cleaning houses instead of translating, and she wouldn’t be taking a pay cut! If agencies don’t start standing up to their clients’ unreasonable deadlines and unreasonable price expectations they may find that there will be fewer translators out there to rely on. The vacation time dearth that is raging at the moment should be proof enough. I was contacted by four new agencies yesterday trying to place a translation, and two of them admitted that they were having a tough time placing it. Imagine what would happen when well-trained translators decide to become secretaries or get a full-time job instead of having to deal with the aggravation of negotiating price with every single job request. One of my fellow Kent State graduates (Class of ’95) just got offered a $90,000 a year job without the company blinking at her request or trying to negotiate her down. At this point I am still very happy being a freelance translator, but it makes you think…

In the meantime, I guess I will be going on a search for new clients that pay well at the end of the month (a Fall Kick-off as it were) and dreaming of landing my own $90,000 a year job. New agencies with a good reputation are welcome to contact me at any time.

How I spent my summer vacation August 6, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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I have recently started looking for a house and browsing real estate listings online. It’s amazing what you see online in photos that are supposed to be indicative of the property. I don’t know how I stumbled on the blog It’s Lovely! I’ll Take It!, but I have been a loyal reader for a while now. She features actual photos of real estate, highlighting particularly hideous and head-scratching photos. One of the today’s posts, How I spent my summer vacation, has got to be one of the most original ideas I’ve seen in a while. I just had to share it even though it isn’t translation related at all!

The Professor and the Madman August 5, 2008

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

I recently finished reading The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester, which is about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. I found the book to be quite fascinating. Imagine a time when there were no dictionaries. I’m not even sure I can. We take for granted that we can look up a word in a dictionary (or even plug “define:WORD” in Google) and have an instant answer.

Despite having been trained as a terminologist at Kent State University, I had also never really put much thought into what a daunting task compiling a dictionary was back in the late 19th century without the help of computers. We were taught to enter the words into a computer program (back then it was MTX now it is MultiTerm or some other program), which then compiled the words and alphabetized them for us. The folks at the OED compiled entries on slips of paper and published sections every few years.

It took Professor James Murray and his helpers 70 years to complete the dictionary with the help of hundreds of volunteer contributors. They distributed handbills through bookstores and libraries asking for volunteer readers to begin assembling word lists and quotations that illustrated the meaning of those words. The volunteers sent in slips of paper, which were then compiled into volumes. The project ended up encompassing 12 volumes. Professor Murray dedicated 40 years of his life to the project and did not live to see it completed. One contributor (and the most prolific) was an American, Dr. W.C. Minor, who had been committed to the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum for murdering an innocent British brewery worker whom the deluded Minor believed was an assassin sent by his enemies. Dr. Minor was responsible for almost 10,000 words in the final dictionary and was a huge asset to the project.

This book is definitely worth reading if you have a love of languages. It will not disappoint. It has intrigue, lots of historical facts and stories, as well as the minutia involved in making a dictionary.