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Beetle Bailey: can you translate that? September 17, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Translation Sites.
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Since the Speed Bump comic strip was so well-received, I thought I’d share this Beetle Bailey comic strip with you all. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Beetle Bailey, Beetle made his comic-strip debut as a college cutup in 1950 in a mere 50 newspapers. He accidentally enlisted in the Army during the Korean War and has been in the Army ever since. Most of the humor revolves around the mostly inept characters stationed at Camp Swampy. Private Bailey is a pretty lazy soldier who usually naps and avoids work, and thus is often the subject of verbal and physical abuse from his Sergeant.

Watch your back – what is YOUR back-up system? September 15, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.
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Cleveland got hit with the remnants of Ike yesterday. We had sustained winds of 40 mph and gusts of 50-60 mph for several hours, some rain, and lots of downed trees and power lines. The lights flickered a couple times here, so I decided to turn off my computer and settle in with a good book. Before I did, I e-mailed the translation I was working on to my Gmail account – just in case I needed to go somewhere else to access and work on it today, because it is due at EOB.

Luckily I didn’t lose power, but 336,000 people in the Cleveland area did. It got me to thinking about back-up systems. I used to back up on a zip drive back in Germany. Now I have an external hard drive. I have it set to automatically back up my files at midnight every night, because I usually have my computer on but am watching TV. Unfortunately it hasn’t worked in about a year. I tried to update the driver and reinstall it recently when I had some down time, but the thing is just an expensive paperweight at the moment. I need to buy a new one, and I think this week will finally be the time I do it.

It is also really important to keep a copy of your important files off-site in case of a power outage, flood, fire, etc. I know this and yet I rarely do it.  Jost Zetzsche, who writes the biweekly newsletter for translators called The Tool Kit (if you don’t subscribe, I highly recommend you do – lots of good information about translation tools and other issues!), mentioned once that he stores his external hard drive in his car. As I said before, my off-site back-up system consists solely of me mailing files to my Gmail account. I used this more when I was teaching at Kent State and would e-mail the PowerPoint presentation and files I needed that day just in case my zip drive didn’t work. There are plenty of off-site file storage sites out there like RSync or Global Datavault (just to name the first two hits on Google), but there are so many it is hard to choose. Plus, most of them cater to big companies and not one-man operations. If you can recommend any that don’t cost an arm and a leg, I would love to hear about them!

Translate some scoop for E! Online September 13, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Random musings, Translation Sites.
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It’s the weekend, so I am going to post something really fun yet still translation-related. Those of you who know me personally know that I am a big fan of TV. I enjoy numerous shows – just not reality TV – when and if I find the time to watch them. I usually download them and catch up on weekends or whenever I get a chance (like once the season is over). I just caught up on Heroes Season Two and plan to finally start Ugly Betty Season One tomorrow. It’s supposed to rain all weekend. Perfect “vegging out” weather.

Anyway, the point of this post is… Kristin at E! Online interviewed four actors from the TV show Heroes and had them answer in Japanese, Spanish, Korean and French, respectively. Apparently a fan asked the cast to describe the new season in one word at this year’s ComicCon. When it came time for Masi Oka’s (the adorable Hiro) turn, Milo Ventimiglia whispered something in his ear, and Masi answered the question in Japanese. Several weeks later at the Heroes season three premiere party (last night), the E! Online interviewer asked him to tell them in Japanese what was so great about season three, and he then proceeded to give the entire interview in Japanese. The interviewer was inspired and then asked three other bilingual actors to answer in their languages, and now the readers at E! Online have been challenged to translate the answers to find out the “scoop” on Season Three.

Someone was able to translate the Spanish and French (somewhat), but if you want to enlighten them or smooth it out it might be kind of fun. How cool is it that the show is so multicultural? They manage to effortlessly integrate the Japanese dialog with English subtitles without the American audience rebelling (probably a first since the average American doesn’t like subtitles – yes, I’m being sarcastic). OK, the Korean actor plays a Japanese guy, but still it’s a start to America embracing globalization… Every little step counts.

TGIF: I Love Lucy: A Matter of Interpretation September 12, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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It’s Friday! Time for another video. This particular I Love Lucy isn’t the most well known of her clips, but this clip seriously amused me. Lucy gets arrested in France for passing counterfeit money and gets thrown into the Bastille. As always, wackiness ensues.

They just don’t make comedies like this anymore. I Love Lucy was wicked funny, and I believe they were also the first “bilingual couple” on television. I grew up with a crush on Desi Arnaz. I think everyone did. Must be where the idea of “tall, dark and handsome” came from – and was the beginning of my love for foreign men.

Share your favorite line in the comments below. My favorite is “Nobody speaks English–they’re all foreigners!” Ah, Lucy…

Freelance rule no. 1: Never rely on one or two clients September 11, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings, Translation Sites.
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I mentioned in my post two days ago that I had gossiped/chatted with several colleagues that day. Well, one of them was telling me that one of my former clients had lost his government contract and dissolved his agency a while back. This morning I was chatting with another colleague who reminded me how lucky I had been by not accepting his offer of full-time employment with his agency. I had completely forgotten all about it, because I always get one or two offers of full-time employment at every ATA conference. My colleague’s comment was “I can see why you stress having many clients over just one….but then that’s life for most folks employed by one employer….”

I learned this lesson indirectly when I was working in Germany. The agency I worked for relied too much on Microsoft and got into some financial difficulties when Microsoft started paying later and later. Instead of shopping around for new clients the owner ended up selling the agency to a bigger agency, which in turn sold it to an even bigger agency. By then the agency I had worked for was unrecognizable. Luckily I had left before the owner sold the agency. By the second sale, many of my colleagues who still worked there were forced to either move almost 100 km away or find employment elsewhere.

Work with the agency from the first paragraph dried up a year or so ago, and now I know why. Having enough other clients, it really didn’t bother me, and I hadn’t given it another thought. I knew it wasn’t the quality of my work, because he had obviously been impressed enough to want to hire me. Working in-house simply isn’t for me. I love the freedom and excitement of freelancing too much. It isn’t for everyone, but it can be very rewarding if you are well-suited for it.

A good general rule of thumb is to have about 7 A and B clients (for a good explanation of what an A and B client is, see Some thoughts on setting goals at Thoughts on Translation). That way if one of your A or B clients starts paying late or gets bought by another, less-than-reputable agency it isn’t that much of a blow to your pocketbook. I also get regularly contacted by new agencies who found my listing on the ATA website or on ProZ.com. I consider them C and D clients and am always willing to give them a try if I have the time and the project is interesting or in one of my chosen fields. Because they could end up to be A or B clients who pay even better than existing clients.

The only constant in life is change. Freelancing is by and large always about constant change. Every day we get new and different texts to translate. Our client base should also be fluid and constantly changing and improving.

Electronic dictionaries vs. bound dictionaries September 10, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Tools, Translation Sites.
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No sooner do you announce that you are slow, and the work comes pouring in… I am translating a couple surveys today and using both my electronic dictionary interfaces (Langenscheidt and UniLex) and Leo.org to look up words I’m unsure of or can’t immediately come up with. Working with electronic dictionaries and web-based glossaries and dictionaries sure have made our lives easier. Most of my colleagues agree that they rarely reach for bound dictionaries anymore. It is so much quicker and easier to highlight a word and use a keyboard shortcut to paste it into an electronic dictionary interface.

Back when I still thought the ATA accreditation (now called ‘certification’) exam was worth taking I bought lots of bound dictionaries to bring with me to the exam. Now I rarely reach for a dictionary if I have it in electronic form or can easily look up a term on Google.

It is also so easy to work anywhere, because I can pop the translation on my laptop and use all my electronic dictionaries without having to schlepp my heavy dictionaries with me. That is one of the main reasons I stopped working for the FBI – having to drag all my dictionaries in with me (well, that and not being given access to the Internet). Now it isn’t a problem to head to a coffee shop or restaurant with WiFi or travel to Germany or my sister’s to babysit and not be at a disadvantage. I remember dragging dictionaries with me to several ATA conferences because I had some translations to finish before I could enjoy myself.

I love my Langenscheidt and UniLex interfaces. I have four dictionaries each installed on them and, after updating the UniLex and changing a setting under Options, am able to search all the dictionaries in the interface at once. My Langenscheidt dictionaries include the Handwörterbuch, Fachwörterbuch der Mikroelektronik, Fachwörterbuch Telekommunikation, and Peter Schmitt’s Fachwörterbuch der Technik und angewandte Wissenschaften (one of the best technical dictionaries out there). The UniLex interface allows me to quickly access to the Collins/Pons Unabridged German to English Dictionary, Ernst Wörterbuch der industriellen Technik (a good technical dictionary, which I also have in bound form), Brinkmann/Blaha Daten- und Kommunikationtechnik (Data Systems and Communication Technology) Dictionary, and Kucera Dictionary of Chemistry. I ordered the latest electronic version of the Großer Eichborn from UniLex yesterday. I am seriously considering buying the electronic version Dietl/Lorenz Dictionary of Legal, Commercial and Political Terms as well to make my life easier because it takes so long to pull the dictionary off the shelf next to me and find the word I need. Time is money and the more words you can translate an hour the more you earn!

If a term isn’t in any of the dictionaries in the one interface it is usually in the other. I also like to check both and compare all the suggestions in order to choose the most suitable one. I won’t entirely stop buying bound dictionaries, because a) some are still only available in hard copy and b) I am a dictionary addict and they look so great on the shelf. But if given the choice I will always choose the CD-ROM.

Things are kind of quiet on the home front September 9, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.
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I’ve been enjoying a couple of slow days, and that is why I haven’t been posting much in the past couple of days (unlike Corinne who has been a blogging machine… 🙂 ). I got a small job this morning that I finished in about 15 minutes. I charged my minimum rate, so I did pretty well for 15 minutes’ work. I met a friend for lunch and treated myself afterward to a latte at the café down the street. I spent the rest of the day cleaning up my office, shredding some old documents, catching up on my e-mail, buying the new electronic version of Dietl/Lorenz Dictionary of Legal, Commercial and Political Terms, updating my LinkedIn profile, and reading Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (the HBO series True Blood, which premiered Sunday night, is based on her Southern vampire/Sookie Stackhouse books, and I had forgotten who the murderer was so I decided to reread it). Her books are addicting and light reads that you simply can’t put down. I also gossiped/chatted with several colleagues about various things, so I know I’m not the only one having a slow week.

When you are a freelancer you have to take advantage of the lulls, because there isn’t usually a lot of down time. When things are a little slow you have the chance to install software updates you’ve downloaded but not gotten around to installing, organize and archive the files on your computer, import some glossaries into your Multiterm termbase, buy that dictionary you’ve been meaning to order, and finish those little things that have been languishing on the To Do list for a couple weeks. I use a To Do list on iGoogle to keep track of appointments I want to make, phone calls I need to return, and things I need/want to buy. It really helps me remember things. If tomorrow is slow I have a list of things I want to do, but if I don’t have the time it isn’t that big a deal. Because chances are I am going to wake up tomorrow morning and have three translation requests in my in box.

Message to LotNommodo September 7, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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You are wasting your time spamming my blog with your advertising. WordPress uses Akismet to catch comment spam from ever posting to a blog and even if it didn’t I approve comments from unknown users. I doubt you are ever going to read this, but I wanted to give it a shot seeing as you spammed my blog with just under 40 comment spams today. I can’t imagine anyone makes any money doing comment spam. Comment spam and trackbacks generally use bad English and consist of a long list of links and unrelated words. Thank you WordPress for using Akismet!

Does Google sell its users’ personal data? September 7, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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According to the German magazine Stern it does. Stern bought several data packets that contained several hundred address lists for 1.50 euros plus value-added tax. For another 12 cents they bought the user’s telephone number. They called up the people on the lists (just as an advertiser who buys the information would) and told them everything they knew about them and where they had gotten the information. Needless to say people were pissed.

The fact that Germany has very strict laws regarding the protection of personal data (the Bundesdatenschutzgesetz) does not seem to matter – or apply. The problem is that names, addresses, birth dates, occupations and other criteria can be freely bought and sold as long as the customer does not expressly oppose it. How can they oppose it if they aren’t aware it is happening?

The Schober Information Group is an information broker near Stuttgart. It compiles information such as age group, gender, size of your household and income from the 50 million entries of private individuals. All you apparently need is an e-mail address and some cash to buy access to the information. Advertisers (really, anyone – even identity thieves) can use the Schober Information Group search engine to pinpoint specific target groups. Approximately 400 employees sort and organize the flood of data at Schober. The company earned 140 million euros in sales last year.

To quote the article (my translation):

Cookies can lead to real names

Companies such as U.S.-based Doubleclick even track the browsing behavior of a user over several websites with the help of cookies. With technical finesse, the company saves its results in a single cookie and passes it on to advertisers. Google not only uses cookies in its search engines, but also links them with real names if the user has an e-mail account with Googlemail [a.k.a. Gmail]. The company also scans the contents of e-mails in order to gather comprehensive files over its customers and load suitable advertisements. Wouldn’t it be dreadful if Google and Doubleclick were to work together? It happened a long time ago – Google bought the company last year for 3.1 billion dollars

I don’t know about you, but it bothers me that information brokers like Schober and advertisers can buy my information from Google and Gmail. If this is happening in Germany you know full well it is also happening here in the U.S. And it isn’t just online sources. Every time you swipe your credit card, use one of your customer cards (such as a CVS card to get a good deal on nail polish or buy one vitamin get one free, just two examples from this week’s circular), fill out a sweepstakes form, or buy something online more and more information is being collected. There doesn’t appear to be anything anyone can do about it. Big Brother is watching you…

Translation-related Speed Bump September 6, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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The weather is overcast and rainy here in northeast Ohio, so I am spending the day translating a contract and installing a bunch of little programs that I have been meaning to install for a while, such as the updated UniLex interface and a little program called CompleteWordCount. I’m also organizing and deleting extraneous files off my computer and have a few translation-related comic strips to share. This is one of my all-time favorites. Most of you may have already seen it, but if not I hope you enjoy it.