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Amazon UK launches Literature in Translation store November 12, 2008

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

Blogging Translator reports that Amazon UK has launched a Literature in Translation store last week. I think I will be bookmarking the site just as a reference for new books to read. The store features a scroll bar with the top 48 Bestsellers in Literature in Translation, and they also focus on one or two authors. They are focusing on Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk and Austrian/Czech author Franz Kafka (he was born in Prague, but was from a German-speaking Jewish family) at the moment. I am always open to new and interesting book suggestions.

This is also a great way to publicize our profession. Even if they haven’t made a huge announcement, we can. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell other colleagues.

Having worked at Borders for several years when I first moved back to the States (practicing what I preach to budding translators – get a part-time job to pay the rent while you are just starting out and trolling for clients), I came to realize most customers had no clue they were reading translations, which is a huge complement when you are the one who translated the book but not so ideal in terms of publicizing the profession. Heck, most customers didn’t even know the author’s name… I got really good at trying to figure out what they were looking for based on vague descriptions or knowing what Oprah just recommended. 🙂

I also love that publishers are finally starting to prominently feature the name of the translator on cover pages. I’m reading Out by Natsuo Kirino right now, which was translated by Stephen Snyder, and his name is featured prominently on the cover page as well as in the Amazon listing. This is a great advancement for us. Most literary translators were never mentioned on cover pages in the past.

Amazon UK prefaces their Literature in Translation store as follows:

Welcome to our Literature in Translation store. Browse here for great deals on top fiction from around the globe. You can search by language or by genre to discover new authors, and see what other people are reading and rating.

so check it out.

Alaaf! November 11, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in German culture.

Oh, how could I have forgotten that today is also the start of Karneval in the Rhineland! Thanks to my friend Heike, who reminded me. “The fifth season” begins at 11:11 a.m. on November 11th every year when women storm the City Hall and officially begin Karneval (Carnival). Karneval is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February and March. The Karneval spirit is then temporarily suspended during the Advent and Christmas period, and picks up again in earnest in the New Year, culminating on Rosenmontag (Rose Monday). Weiberfastnacht is the Thursday before Rosenmontag and is marked by lots of drinking and costumes – and men’s ties are not safe, because the women cut them off. Most businessmen wear old or ugly ties today for this very reason.

Carnival is mostly associated with Roman Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox Christians; Protestant areas usually do not have carnival celebrations or have modified traditions, like the Danish Carnival. The world’s longest carnival celebration is held in Brazil but many countries worldwide have large, popular celebrations, such as Carnaval of Venice, or the world famous German celebrations. Karneval festivities are especially strong in the Rhineland region (Cologne, Bonn and DĂĽsseldorf), since it was a way to express subversive anti-Prussian and anti-French thoughts in times of occupation, through parody and mockery.

So Kölle Alaaf! I’ll be cracking out my Karneval CD this morning and celebrating virtually with all my friends in the Rhineland.

Google can now OCR PDFs November 10, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Tools.
1 comment so far

Google just keeps offering new and exciting improvements that make our lives easier – from Google Print, Google Earth, Google Video to Google Translate and now the Tesseract OCR Engine. You simply have to respect a company that has the goal of making every last bit of the world’s information searchable. It is an awesome endeavor indeed. I am catching up on my feed reads and just learned that it can now OCR PDFs, and has been doing so since October 31st. For those of you who are not familiar with the abbreviations, OCR stands for optical character recognition and PDF stands for portable document format.

As announced on the Official Google Blog, the company is now performing OCR on documents that it indexes and identifies as having been scanned as PDFs. Google has indexed documents that were saved as text-based PDFs for quite some time, but many documents wind up being made into PDFs through scans, which store the text as images. You can see the words on the screen, but your computer doesn’t. When you put this scan up on a Web site, search engines have been unable to index the content of those documents because it didn’t recognize the text as text … until now.

According to the Google Code Blog:

In a nutshell, we are all about making information available to users, and when this information is in a paper document, OCR is the process by which we can convert the pages of this document into text that can then be used for indexing.

For now it only supports the English language, and does not include a page layout analysis module (yet), so it will perform poorly on multi-column material. It also doesn’t do well on grayscale and color documents, and it’s not nearly as accurate as some of the best commercial OCR packages out there. Yet, as far as we know, despite its shortcomings, Tesseract is far more accurate than any other Open Source OCR package out there.

As a medical translator I frequently get my source texts as a PDF. I create a PDF using ABBYY FineReader and generate Word files using OCR to allow me to translate them with the use of Trados. People can use the service to create texts from scanned PDFs by simply uploading them to the web site (caveat: do not upload documents you want kept private – particularly translations and source texts that belong to the client), but I am more excited about the prospects for Internet research.

This is good news to those of us who rely on Internet research to earn our bread and butter. Google’s latest innovation has potential in this respect. The impact on Internet research will be enormous. Since Google will be able to OCR PDFs, PDFs that were images will finally be indexed and searchable. Google’s “View as HTML” feature is quite useful for these documents, especially if you need to copy portions of them for notes or to paste found terms into your translation from them.

Happy St. Martin’s Day! November 10, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, German culture.

Saint Martin’s Day is without a doubt my favorite evening in Germany. St. Martin’s Day (or Martinstag, Martinmas, Martlemass, Mardipäev, etc.) is November 11, the feast day of Martin of Tours. Although in the Rhineland it is often celebrated on another day so that it doesn’t conflict with Weiberfastnacht, which is the kick-off for the Karnevalszeit (Mardi Gras) and takes place at 11:11 am on November 11 (11/11) when the women storm City Hall. The parade this year in Bonn is being held on November 10th. Even if you don’t understand German, you might want to click on the link and check out the photos (Bild-Galerie). Watching the kids walk through the dark night with their homemade lanterns simply warms my heart.

Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier who was baptized as an adult and became a monk. It is understood that he was a kind man who led a quiet and simple life. The most famous legend of his life is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying of the cold. That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak Martin had given away. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels: “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clothed me.” According to legend, Martin was reluctant to become bishop, which is why he hid in a stable filled with geese. The noise made by the geese betrayed his location to the people who were looking for him.

The day is celebrated in the evening of November 11 in many areas of Northern and Eastern Europe. Named for Saint Martin, the Fourth Century Bishop of Tours, this holiday originated in France, then spread to Germany, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe. It celebrates the end of the agrarian year and the beginning of the harvesting. It also marks the end of the period of all souls, that begins on November 1st, which is why Saint Martin’s Day activities resemble those from Halloween.

Children parade down the street with paper lanterns and candles and sing songs praising St. Martin’s generosity. A man dressed as St. Martin rides on a horse in front of the procession and there are generally geese being pulled along in a cart. The parade is culminated in Bonn by a large bonfire on the Marktplatz. The kids then go door to door and earn sweets or treats by singing songs, dancing, or citing poems.

The lanterns the participants carry have become a distinctive part of the tradition. Every age group has its own lantern design, which becomes more elaborate with the age of the builder. Older youth often opt to take a flashlight and attach craft paper with cutout designs augmented with transparent colored cellophane paper making them appear like stained glass torches. I still have the lantern my boss’s daughter made for me in my room. Unfortunately the batteries corroded and the light on the plastic arm no longer works.

If you live in Philadelphia (Sarah…) you might want to check out the German Society’s St. Martin’s Day Parade.

Taking criticism like a man and applying it to T&I November 9, 2008

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

The Art of Manliness has an interesting post on how to give and take criticism like a man that definitely benefits both genders. The point of (constructive) criticism is to help someone improve – and who doesn’t appreciate being able to improve? When used sparingly and constructively, criticism can be quite welcome. I think translators should read this so that we learn how to best respond to criticism. If you always respond negatively to criticism you are inevitably burning more bridges that you are building. I also really wish our clients would read this post and take some pointers for the times when they need to offer us feedback.

If you have been in the T&I industry for any length of time you have most likely had your translation criticized in one way or another. Let’s face it, it happens. Sometimes one’s style does not necessarily jibe with the client’s. Stylistic complaints are the most frustrating, and they are easier to brush off in my head. Not everyone likes my style, and that is ok. I simply devote myself to my clients who do.

Also, sometimes I have an off day (or several) when I’m not feeling well, am feeling out of sorts and/or lethargic, etc., but still have to meet the deadline. It is so nice to translate when I am highly motivated and the words just flow. However, not every day is like that. Our tight deadlines ensure that we have to produce even when we have a very tight deadline and are having an “off” biorhythm day. Clients also need to remember this, because no one is perfect.

I am not advocating doing sloppy work or offering excuses. We should always do whatever we can to ensure we consistently produce quality work. As Thea Dohler suggested, we should schedule our most demanding work at the time of day in which we are in our highest productivity curve. I intend to implement this starting this week. My highest productivity curve tends to be around noon or one. In my case, in order to ensure consistently qualitative work I have a colleague who proofreads the texts which I feel could use a second pair of eyes and I proofread her texts and help her with computer problems. This collaborative partnership works very well, and it ensures that I do not deliver a text in which I have misunderstood something or made a grave error.

My favorite passage in the abovementioned post was:

Criticize the action, not the person. Try to keep the person as separated from their mistakes as possible by criticizing their action and not them. It makes the criticism less hurtful and much more effective. So don’t say things like, “Jeez Louise you must be an idiot! Look at all these mistakes you made in this report!” Just because someone makes a mistake, that doesn’t make the person a pinhead. We all have bad days.

A little over a year ago one of my (now former) clients ripped apart my translation and demanded a discount, but since she was known for doing this I didn’t take it personally, admitted some of her points were valid and accepted a discount. However, I repeat: I did not take it personally (see: Consider the source in the quoted article). Ripping apart a translation really has nothing to do with helping a translator improve. I wasn’t hurt when they stopped contacting me, because frankly it was too stressful to try to produce a quality text that I knew was going to be ripped apart anyway. I don’t miss them, and they weren’t a good fit for me. I have since found new clients who are a much better fit.

Anyway, I have digressed… The sentence “Criticism is an important part of our personal self improvement, for it is other people who can point out mistakes and shortcomings that we can’t see because we lack objectivity.” is an important one. It is so true. If I am acting like an idiot I need to be told diplomatically so that I don’t continue to act like an idiot. As a Virgo, I am already my worst critic as it is and have most likely already magnified my behavior in my head to be worse than it probably is. 🙂

I love getting feedback on my translations, because it makes me a better translator. However, clients need to be as specific as they can, because a simple “it just wasn’t good” frankly isn’t good enough. We need specific examples to decide whether the criticism is justified and to change to ensure the client is happier the next time. I like to think I can take criticism like a man, but this article was a welcome reminder of the various ways to do so.

Musings about the ATA conference in Orlando November 9, 2008

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

Greetings from sunny Florida, where I have deliberately tacked on an extra day after the conference to my trip. The original plan was to go to Epcot, but the more I thought about it the more sense it made to simply lay around by the pool and relax. I’ve been to Epcot and enjoyed it, but it’s expensive and frankly I am exhausted after two consecutive days of very late nights and very early mornings. This night owl isn’t used to getting up early, and I closed the hotel bar two nights in a row and woke up very early for two consecutive mornings to drive friends to the airport.

My first ATA conference was Atlanta in 2002, and I haven’t missed one since. They are very addictive for numerous reasons – the biggest one being the pleasure of being around intelligent, like-minded people. I don’t necessarily go there to meet new clients or learn something new, but it inevitably happens. I was mulling over everything I learned at this conference and thought it might be fun to share it with you all in bullet form.

What I learned at the ATA conference:

  • I met a lot of great new people and was able to put lots of faces with names.
  • The hotel bar (and/or hotel pool) is the best place to get to know people.
  • I enjoyed visiting with old friends. Ted Wozniak, Michael Wahlster and Susanne Aldridge (III) are absolutely hilarious and fabulous people to hang out with. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Every lunch, dinner and drinks in the bar with them or a combination thereof as well as anyone else who ended up joining us was an absolute joy.
  • I need to schedule a lunch or dinner with Jost next time. I really wanted to talk to him more than I was able to.
  • No matter how hard I try I will never be able to spend as much time as I want with everyone I want to spend time with.
  • Being the only sober one in the hotel bar at 1 a.m. because you have to drive to your off-site hotel can be quite amusing, because you can sit back and soak in the drama and heightened emotions of the artificial conference setting and alcohol-induced behavior.
  • I’m staying in the conference hotel next year – damn the cost. Drinking one or two drinks and then just ginger ale ensures you can function after four hours of sleep, but it isn’t as fun. Plus you should try to get to the morning yoga session, because it is apparently very invigorating.
  • I will be doing yoga every day at home from now on to try to loosen my taut muscles. And Nina G.’s suggestion of two-hour massages every two weeks is also going to be a serious consideration.
  • The massage therapist in the Exhibit Hall taught me some easy ways to loosen the muscle in my forearm and get rid of the tendonitis. She was shocked how tight it was all the way down to my wrist.
  • I will be buying a T-Mobile Dash this week, because they are really cool. Three of my friends had one, and I was able to test it out.
  • Thea Dohler’s presentations were just as good if not better than I have always heard they are. Thanks to her time management seminar, I learned how to manage my time better and schedule my work based on my biorhythms. Her Attracting Clients from Germany seminar gave me some very useful tips for approaching German direct clients.
  • The one session you are really looking forward to may not be at all what you expected. I should have really read the session description for the social networking session closer, because I assumed it was something it was not.
  • I will be submitting a proposal on social networking tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook (in this case urging it not to be used for business purposes) for next year’s conference. It gives me a year to really study how they can be beneficial to translators. Judy Jenner and I will most likely present it together.
  • I will also be submitting a proposal for a session with Susanne (and hopefully Marita) about optical character recognition, ABBYY FineReader and other OCR tools, and word count tools.
  • Presenting two sessions is just enough. Any more than that is pure insanity. I really enjoyed doing a preconference session and the first session, because I could enjoy the other sessions without worrying about my presentation overlapping with a session I really want to attend.
  • It is much better to present with someone else, because I easily forget to mention things and the co-presenter can chime in with a brilliant insight that might not have been mentioned otherwise. Corinne McKay is really good at that. It also livens things up.
  • We will be having another blogger lunch again next year. It was a really fun lunch. I’ll be posting my photos later, because I forgot to bring a cable to upload them from my camera and my laptop is so antiquated it doesn’t have a suitable photo card drive.
  • Wearing a t-shirt to advertise your blog is a waste of time. I felt sloppy, and people looked at me funny. Or I will plan ahead better and really get a sharp t-shirt that has the graphic as it is in the header of the blog and not just the address and a really tiny graphic that can’t be recognized.
  • Reservations for lunch or dinner should always be for a (much) higher number than originally planned because your friends invite two friends who invite two friends and so on and so on…
  • I’m going to let others organize the lunches and dinners, because I don’t handle change or delays well. As a double Virgo (Sun and rising sign in Virgo), I can become quite cranky, irritable, and nervous when things don’t go as planned and others are surprised when I do so and don’t realize I get over it again quite quickly. And it spoils the mood somewhat.
  • I will be adding graphics of the book covers I have translated to my web site.
  • I will be posting several of my LinkedIn references on my web site’s References page.
  • I will be tweaking my web site a little better to attract German clients.
  • I need to market more to direct clients.
  • I need to work more on focusing on the person I am talking to and really concentrating on what they say. When I did that I found it much more rewarding.
  • Bring ear plugs to the conference dance, because the music is simply too loud to enjoy without them. I would have loved to stay longer and actually dance, but my ears hurt.
  • Don’t expect to eat well at the division receptions unless they are off-site. Hotel-catered receptions suck. And if you can’t eat cheese or drink lots of wine they suck even more. Think of the attendance fee as a networking/advertising expense and not as payment for the “refreshments.”
  • Harangue your friends to stay for the conference dance, because it isn’t as fun without anyone to dance with.
  • Consider staying until Monday. After four days of networking and being “on” it feels wonderful to just relax and do nothing. I had a nice chat with several folks by the conference hotel pool this morning. I also loved sitting by the seafood restaurant in my hotel facing the fountain with a good book and several banana coladas and having a blue heron try to beg for some of my seafood. It also allowed me to take a much-needed nap by the pool and then in my room at my hotel this afternoon.

I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones that have sprung to mind so far today. I’ll be going into more detail about several of these list items in the coming weeks.

Autoresponders are your friend November 4, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.

Several folks in the translation blogosphere have recently written about autoresponders in preparation for the upcoming ATA conference. I am interrupting my regularly scheduled vacation to add my two cents. It’s ok. My cousin just left to go vote, so I have the time. I voted weeks ago. All I’m doing is drinking coffee and catching up on the blogs in my feed reader – and finishing one of the books I brought with me, “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. I’m heading to Orlando later today to meet with Corinne and go over our presentation for tomorrow’s preconference session.

Autoresponders are something you don’t really think about until you are frantically rushing around to head off on vacation. However, they take some foresight and planning in order to work in the most ideal way possible. Ideally you should set up an autoresponder for your work e-mail and your personal e-mail (just in case your clients have that one too).

One thing most people don’t consider when turning on their autoresponder is that it automatically answers all your listservs and newsletters as well. That is annoying for everyone on the listserv and perhaps the newsletter owner, while you are blissfully unaware and enjoying your vacation. You could set all your listservs to “no mail” while you are gone, but there will inevitably be one or two newsletters or listservs you forget about. The solution to this is to set up an e-mail address that you use for any listservs or automatic e-mails you receive (like my daily cartoon or Jost’s Tool Kit newsletter). Most translators I know who are active on listservs have an e-mail address called “lists@domain.com” (or some variation thereof) that they use to subscribe to listservs. I go one step further and also subscribe to my daily comic strip and other weekly newsletters using that e-mail address as well.

Since I don’t use Outlook and don’t need my computer to run and use up electricity while I’m gone, I set up my autoresponder directly on my ISP’s web site where you manage all the e-mail addresses and things. It is actually really easy. I simply log onto the Customer page and click on the e-mail addresses that I want the autoresponder for and then type the “out of office” message and save it. I would include some screenshots, but I’m not on my computer. If you aren’t sure if your ISP offers this, ask. I bet they do. The login for controlling your e-mail addresses and aliases is usually on the same page as the login for their web mail interface.

Now if I could only figure out how to get it to selectively not respond to spam and let them know there’s a real person at that address…