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More v Network Omni, Inc. August 5, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
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I received a reminder postcard in today’s mail about More v Network Omni, Inc., the class action suit against Network Omni for failure to pay wages to its interpreters. I had heard rumblings of the suit and had received a notice packet last year, but I didn’t do anything about it because Network Omni didn’t owe me any money. I had worked for Network Omni in the past, but not as an interpreter. I also stopped working with them as soon as I heard the rumblings.

I was contacted by one of my agencies yesterday about a translation job. I informed them since they owed me $1400 in overdue invoices I would not be working with them until they paid them. And frankly, depending on how quickly they pay up and provided they pay all the outstanding invoices, I will probably stop working with them altogether unless business is REALLY slow (which never seems to be the case). That has been my method of choice in dealing with slow-paying agencies. That and finding agencies that have a good reputation and pay within 30 days. There are plenty of good agencies out there that have good payment terms and don’t wait 60 or 90 days to pay you. There is no reason to keep working with a bad apple.

I did a Google search just now and discovered an anonymous Rip Off Report about the case itself and a first-person Rip Off Report from one of the affected interpreters. There is also a discussion about this and accusations of sex discrimination and racial insensitivity here. Frankly, if the company owed me money I wouldn’t be posting anonymous posts on some web site. I would be hiring a lawyer and writing letters to the ATA Chronicle. How did Network Omni let things get so out of control? I remember a posting on the message boards at last year’s ATA conference, but I am frankly surprised that this has actually turned into a class action suit.

The only bright side to this is that if Network Omni loses the case other slow-paying agencies might be inclined to reconsider their business practices.

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Gut gebrüllt, Löwe! (aka The Masked Translator rocks!) August 4, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.
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FYI, Gut gebrüllt, Löwe basically means “Right on!” (literally: Well roared, lion)…

The Masked Translator has a fantastic post about translation agencies’ communication methods with their translators. Masked Translator then breaks down the various forms of communication, which include mass e-mails, assigning jobs to the fastest responder (so not worth anyone’s time!) and agency newsletters. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you immediately click on the above link. I would add that agencies need to clearly state at the top of the e-mail or in the subject line that they are sending out a mass e-mail or an e-mail inquiry without a confirmed job attached.

Two months ago one of my best friends received an e-mail from an agency that appeared to be a job request on a Friday afternoon that was due on Monday. Since she had an open P.O. with them for a related job she assumed it was a confirmed request and spent the weekend translating the job and delivered it, only to be told that the job had been assigned to someone else.

I myself fell victim to something similar over the July 4th weekend. A client (agency owner) sent me a job request on July 4th with a Tuesday deadline to my Gmail account (something I had asked him not to do several times). I had an autoresponder on my two main e-mail accounts informing my clients I was out of the office for the holiday weekend. I checked my mail Sunday night and responded (with a CC: to the specified project manager as well) that I would be happy to accept the job. The client never responded on Monday at all (not even to say they had given the job to someone else), so I proofread the job and delivered it that night. The next day I received a terse e-mail stating a PO had never been issued (literally one sentence long), so I had wasted three hours proofreading 12 pages (the translation was terrible!). I responded saying they should have written on Monday when I agreed to take the job and let me know they had assigned it to someone else. I then cut my losses and wrote them off. Needless to say I will never work with that agency again, and I assume they realize that because I haven’t heard from them since.

Scam/virus alert! August 4, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Scam alert.
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I just received this e-mail and wanted to warn the translation blogosphere just in case one of you receives a similar e-mail. I am fairly confident (ok, more than fairly confident…) that the attachment contained a virus, so I of course deleted it without opening it. I also know no money was debited from my account, because I had just checked my account to ensure a payment had been transferred several minutes beforehand.

Subject: Lastschrift 89773505

Morgen,
Ihr Auftrag Nr. SP0511940 wurde erfullt.
Ein Betrag von 6890.87 EURO wurde abgebucht und wird in Ihrem Bankauszug als “Paypalabbuchung ” angezeigt.
Sie finden die Details zu der Rechnung im Anhang
PayPal (Europe)
S.577; r.l. & Cie, S.C.A.
98-57 Boulevard Royal
L-2001 Luxembourg
Hochachtungsvoll,
Vertretungsberechtigter: Deandre Xiong
Handelsregisternummer: R.C.S.  B 194 162

Basically, the gist of the e-mail, for those of you who do not speak German, is that Order No. SP0511940 had been carried out and that they had debited €6,890.87 from my bank account as a PayPal transfer. The details of the transfer “can be found in the attached file.” I have no doubt the address and Handelsregisternummer (Commercial Register Number) are not real, so I don’t have any qualms about posting them here. I also doubt there is anyone named Deandre Xiong living in Luxembourg – or anywhere else for that matter.

The e-mail itself is suitably vague. The subject line is “Direct debit/debit memo 89773505” or something like that (I generally run screaming from translating financial texts, so don’t quote me on that). When I first saw the subject line in my Mailwasher program I thought it might be a translation request, but luckily I read the body of the e-mail as well.

I fell for this sort of thing about eight years ago when I opened an attachment that contained the “I Love You” virus, because the e-mail came from a client and sounded like it was a proofreading job (it was a variation on the first wave of the virus). I spent quite a bit of time and energy removing it, so I learned my lesson about opening attachments from unknown “clients.” If I get an e-mail with a strange subject line from a potential client I will either delete it sight unseen or reply asking them for more information about themselves. If the e-mail bounces back I know I can delete the e-mail.

I’m sure the point behind the e-mail is to make the recipient panic that money had been unjustifiably debited from their bank account and open the attachment to find out more details. A cooler head would wonder how these folks had gotten their bank information and authorization to debit the money from the account for a nebulous business transaction in the first place.

A little skepticism can go a long way in ensuring you don’t fall for scams, viruses and worms.

TGIF: Eddie Izzard on Being Bilingual August 1, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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It’s Friday! Time for another video. This is a clip from comedian and actor Eddie Izzard’s Dress to Kill stand-up act. For those of you who are not familiar with Eddie Izzard, he is an Emmy-winning English stand-up comedian and actor who is currently starring in The Riches (on American cable channel FX) with Minnie Driver. As Wikipedia reports, “Izzard’s style is heavily influenced by Monty Python, especially in his use of a stream-of-consciousness delivery that jumps between topics as he free-associates onstage. He does not generally work from a script, due to his dyslexia.” His comedy style is expressed in rambling, whimsical monologue and self-referential pantomime. Despite the fact that some of his humor goes straight over the heads of the American audience it is still brilliant. This particular clip talks about the differences between British and American English.

And since I was just raving about American moviemakers, here is Izzard’s take on British vs. U.S. movies.

Hollywood gets lost in translation – Groan! August 1, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in German culture, Random musings, Translation Sites.
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USA Today has an interesting article about how Hollywood is taking “a more active role in translating its [movie] titles to make sure ‘global launches’ go well.” Hollywood gets lost in translation examines the practice of titling movies for foreign audiences and cites several interesting examples. The author explains “Titles are often tweaked to sound better in the local language, or to provide a hint of the plot to audiences who might be skeptical of what is, to them, a foreign film.” It claims that “translations used to be left to foreign film distributors, with dubious results.” It is an interesting article that will hopefully educate USA Today’s ADHD-afflicted readership that there are other countries and cultures beyond our borders (dare to dream!).

I used to love trying to guess the American title of a movie or TV show when I lived in Germany and always enjoy researching the alternate titles on The Internet Movie Database when I come upon a movie or TV show title in a translation. For instance, the “Die Hard” movies are called Stirb langsam (Die Slowly) in German. “Die Hard 2” is Stirb Langsam 2 – Die Harder, “Die Hard: With a Vengeance” became Stirb Langsam – Jetzt erst recht (Die Slowly – Now more than ever), and “Live Free or Die Hard” has the imaginative title Stirb Langsam 4.0. And, yes, I needed to know this for a computer game.

It’s about time Hollywood started recognizing that they aren’t just making movies for American audiences. Now if only we could get them to stop including gratuitous shots of the American flag or other unnecessary shows of patriotism. Don’t get me wrong; I am as patriotic as the next person. However, after six years in Germany that kind of stuff really makes me shudder because instead of experiencing a swelling of pride or whatever the filmmakers expect us to react with I immediately wonder how non-Americans will react. Most Germans I know generally roll their eyes or make a comment. I had the same reaction at the Cleveland Indians’ game this past Sunday. Instead of belting out “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the Seventh Inning Stretch they started us off singing “God Bless America” (the ACLU would have had a field day…) and I sheepishly looked over at the Japanese guy sitting two seats over from me to see how he was reacting to it. OK, how did I get off-topic again…