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The dreaded 5:21 a.m. phone call December 12, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.

So I was in a deep sleep this morning, dreaming about something I can no longer remember, when my phone rang at 5:21 a.m. It was some agency drone (I assume in Europe) who obviously didn’t realize there was a time difference between the U.S. and Europe. I had to have her repeat herself twice before I actually understood what she was trying to say, and even then I don’t think I really understood it. She asked if I was “still looking for work,” she had downloaded my resume from somewhere, and that she would send an e-mail to my Gmail account, which was a clue to me that it was an agency I had never worked with before. Needless to say I brushed her off and went back to bed. I don’t even think she realized she was waking me up – that’s how intent she was on getting her message across. Talk about a total fail! Still no e-mail in my Gmail account… but I have a raging headache and will be wrecked for the rest of the day.

I know, I know, I should turn my phone off, but these calls come so rarely that it really isn’t worth it. If it had been a legitimate client calling at a more respectable hour I would have been more than happy to talk with them. I suppose I should be grateful that it was 5:21 and not 3 a.m., which I have also experienced in the past.


TGIF: Mobile phones of the future December 12, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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This little clip is a fun Swedish skit about modern inventions in mobile phone technology. The comedy does not suffer despite the language barrier. Enjoy, and I hope you all have a great weekend!

Max Planck magazine mistakenly runs brothel ad on cover December 11, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Translation Sites.
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This translation error makes the “out of office” message in Welsh pale in comparison. The Max Planck Institute, a well-respected German research institute, mistakenly ran an ad for a Chinese brothel on its cover page  while seeking to illustrate a special report on China with Chinese characters. The institute bought the picture of Chinese characters in good faith from a photo agency and had it checked by a Chinese speaker, who said it “looked good and didn’t appear to pose a problem.”

After it was published about five weeks ago on the cover page of the journal devoted to China, readers noticed that the text included a reference to an ad for “hot housewives in action” from a brothel in Northern China. Oops! That edition of the journal has since been recalled, and the institute has apologized to readers, a Max Planck spokeswoman said.

The institute quickly acknowledged their mistake and admitted they had not contacted a native speaker for verification. “To our sincere regret … it has now emerged that the text contains deeper levels of meaning, which are not immediately accessible to a non-native speaker,” the institute said in an apology. “By publishing this text we did in no way intend to cause any offense or embarrassment to our Chinese readers.”

If the institute hadn’t quickly admitted their fault in this, I could see this actually becoming the first case in which a “translator” might be sued – and rightly so. But obviously the person wasn’t a professional, because I would hope that a professional would have actually read and understood the text – native speaker or not.

For more information check out this article on the incident in German or this article in English. The English article is particularly informational and entertaining, particularly the last paragraph or two in which they talk about various forum comments.

Fight for your rights if you have to December 10, 2008

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

My disagreement with my client has been peacefully resolved, with everyone except maybe the end client happy (but then again the survey was huge, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the bill will be expensive…). My PM has apologized, and I have graciously accepted her apology and told her we should put it behind us and all is forgiven. Forgiven, but not forgotten. I won’t forget the lessons I learned from this incident, and I am vowing to stand up for myself more with this client.

They are my best client, and I have put up with a lot of things from them that I wouldn’t with other clients. I don’t mind churning out several thousand words a day for them, because the jobs are usually very easy and do not require a lot of effort looking words up. It pays very, very well, and I for one appreciate it. They are marketing surveys asking German respondents what they thought of this ad or that ad and why. I generally translate the phrases as fast as my fingers can type,  which was last recorded at a little over 90 words per minute. Sure, I often have to decipher atrocious misspellings and typos, determine which umlauts are sometimes missing, and figure out what the respondent was trying to say, but after four and a half years I have gotten really good at that.

The problem stemmed from the exporting. The exporting tool was aborting in the middle of the word count exports, and that caused the PM to think that the word count was half the amount I was claiming. She redid the word count at my request and came up with a higher word count, but it was still 10,000 words less than the word count I had. In the end I had to call her boss, and a third party familiar with the tool reviewed the word count and agreed with me. I just sent my invoice. Unfortunately I didn’t have the heart to charge for the time I spent reexporting everything for a detailed word count, but it was worth the effort since I was able to get my full word count recognized.

So you are probably wondering what the point of this post is. For all those of you who are new to the business and reading this, please realize that you have every right to insist on being paid for your work. If the PM refuses to discuss it with you and you know you are right, go over their head and talk to someone else. If you do the work you should be paid for it.

I have also decided that I will be insisting on more reasonable deadlines in the future. Their end client needs to be taught that translators are not machines. If I keep killing myself to make the unreasonable deadlines, the end client gets used to it and starts to expect it. And that doesn’t benefit anyone but the end client. Client education is so important, and I for one intend on working to educate the PMs there as often as I can.

A Maxine Christmas Story December 10, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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I don’t know about you all, but I could use a little levity at the moment. It’s been a rough couple of days. I’m still arguing over the word count with my client, but I finally went over my PM’s head and got someone looking into the problem who is familiar with the interface and immediately recognized the likely problem. This is the first time I’ve ever done something like that, but I wasn’t going to take a 10,000 word discrepancy lying down.

My mother sent me this this morning, which cheered me up. Hope it provides a chuckle for you as well. Maxine is one of my favorite Hallmark Cards characters. She’s crabby and cranky – and absolutely hilarious. She even has her own blog, called Hot Flash Central! I’m going to go add it to my feed reader right now… Enjoy!

Twas the night before Christmas

And All through the house…
Not a creature was stirring Since the cat ate the mouse.

My support hose were hung By the chimney with care.
(I hung them last Christmas And just left them there.)

My dog, Floyd, was nestled All snug in his bed,
After watching the cat rip The presents to shreds.

And I in my long johns And ratty night cap
Had just settled my butt For a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn There arose such a clatter,
I swore at the window, “What the (blank) is the matter?”

I tore open the window, Not a second to tarry,
All ready to throw The noisemaker a berry.

A bright moon was lighting The new-fallen snow…
And I had a moon of my own Set to show.

Floyd was beside me, Paw pointing the way
Toward eight tiny reindeer Hitched up to a sleigh…

And a little old driver So cheery and quick,
I thought for a moment That I would be sick.

Like a bat out of…you know, His reindeer they came,
And I whistled and shouted And called them some names–

“Hey, Hornhead! Hey, Furface! Hey, Weiner and Turkey !
Yo, Klutzy and Mangy And Venison Jerky!

Stay off of my porch! Get away from my wall!
Now hit the road, hit the road, Hit the road, all!”

But as pedestrians before My old Buick, they fly
And head for high ground With great fear in their eyes,

So up to my rooftop The fleabags they flew,
With a sleigh full of toys And old Fruitcake Breath too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
Holes in my new shingles Made by each tiny hoof.

As I reached for my slingshot And a marble as well,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas Tumbled and fell.

He had a huge sack of Cheap junk on his back
And I whispered to Floyd, “Be prepared to attack.”

His eyes they were squinting, His toy bag was draggin’,
And I felt for a moment Like I’d soon be gaggin’.

He was dressed all in red. With a bell on his hat.
And a belt of black leather To hold back the fat.

A billowing pipe He clenched tight in his smile,
And the smell was like something Had been dead for awhile.

He had a broad face And a little round belly
That shook when I nailed him With a handful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, Well, actually porky,
And I laughed when I tripped him (He looked pretty dorky).

He was like a beached whale Unable to budge.
And he tasted good, too, If the dog was a judge.

I spoke not a word But went straight to my work–
A noogie, a wedgie, A cry of “You jerk!”

Until laying a finger Aside of his nose,
With a loud cry of “Uncle!” Up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to the sleigh And dragged in the toys,
Then he cried to the reindeer, “Get me out of here, Boys!”

And I had to exclaim As a slushball I tossed,
“Happy Christmas to all, And to all a Get Lost!”

But then, as I turned, I saw ‘neath the tree
Two gaily wrapped presents– One for Floyd, one for me.

A big bag of jerky Turned Floyd mighty chipper,
While for me was a pair Of brand-new bunny slippers.

I looked out the window, And hovering there,
Old Santa was winking From his sleigh in midair…

“Merry Christmas, Maxine!” He cried, full of cheer.
“Same to you, Pal!” I answered, “I’ll get you next year!”

Why are translators so pedantic? December 9, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.

This post has been lingering in my drafts for about two months now. An e-mail yesterday from a colleague on a listserv correcting my German grammar (which frankly wasn’t that bad) on top of the stress of arguing with my client over the word count of my large online survey had me in tears last night, so I decided to finally publish this one.

Back in October it started with a simple off-topic request to one of my translation listservs asking for hotel recommendations in New York City. I responded with the name of a hotel that I have been meaning to try for a while now, and someone responded ripping the English grammar errors on the hotel’s web site. The discussion then morphed into a discussion of English grammar and the ever popular “I can English so I can be translator” whining. Why are translators so pedantic?

Translators are the only people I know who take joy in discussing the use of a single word or phrase for hours on end. Translation is first and foremost a business, so we often can’t afford to spend hours pondering one word. It isn’t like I’m being paid $0.50 a word, which would afford me the time to craft perfectly phrased texts. I generally quickly find the term I need and move on to the next sentence. Discussions on several listservs can span for days, long after the translation has been completed and sent out the door. I don’t have the time to discuss a word for days when the translation is due tomorrow.  Seriously, this behavior helps no one.

And to all those of you who are tempted to correct someone’s English or German or grammar or whatever privately due to a post on a listserv, DON’T! It’s rude and extremely presumptuous. Your “helpful correction” might just arrive at a time when the person is burnt out from translating and might not be all that well-received and appreciated. If the person is managing to get their point across let it slide. The way I write on a list often doesn’t reflect the way I would craft a translation. When I write to a listserv I don’t proofread the text three times before sending it. I simply write it and send it.

Thanks for letting me rant. I feel much better now 🙂

TGIF: Fry & Laurie on Language December 5, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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Sorry about not getting this video up sooner. It’s been crazy here today. Here’s an old Fry & Laurie clip for you to enjoy. I’ve loved Hugh Laurie before he became House. I first saw him on Black Adder. If you’re only familiar with him on House I think you’ll be surprised how zany some of his characters are. Enjoy!

Krampus outside Salzburg December 5, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in German culture.
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In honor of December 5th, here is a video of some Krampus. This kind of Krampus I didn’t mind. It was the ones who skulked in the dark and attacked folks that scared the bejeebus out of me.

‘Twas the night before Saint Nicholas Day December 5, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in German culture.

Christmas in Austria and Germany was always my favorite time of year. Nothing beats the Christkindlmärkte (Christmas markets) and a nice steaming glass of Glühwein (mulled wine) while standing under white twinkle lights and straw ornaments. The Christmas season is officially starting today for me, with Saint Nicholas Day, which was the inspiration for the American Santa Clause. In Germany, Nikolaus is usually celebrated on a pretty small scale. Many children put a boot, called Nikolaus-Stiefel, or shoe outside the front door on the night of December 5 to December 6. St. Nicholas fills the boot with gifts, and at the same time checks up on the children to see if they were good. If they were not, they will have a tree branch (rute) in their boots instead. Sometimes, a disguised Nikolaus also visits the children at school or in their homes and asks them if they “have been good” (sometimes ostensibly checking a book for their record), handing out presents on a per-behavior basis.

Krampus in Austria, Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

But for many children, Nikolaus also elicited fear, as he was often accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, who would threaten to beat, or sometimes actually eat, the children for misbehaving. Knecht Ruprecht is a scary looking incubus with goat legs. In Switzerland, where he is called Schmutzli, he would threaten to put bad children in a sack and take them back to the dark forest. In other accounts he would throw the sack into the river, drowning the naughty children. These traditions were implemented more rigidly in Catholic countries and regions such as Austria or Bavaria. In parts of Austria, Krampusse, who local tradition says are Nikolaus’ helpers (in reality, typically children of poor families), roamed the streets during the festival. They wore masks and dragged chains behind them, even occasionally hurling them towards children in their way. These Krampusläufe (Krampus runs) still exist, although perhaps less violent than in the past. The word Krampus originates from the Old High German word for claw (Krampen).

Traditionally in Austria young men dress up as Krampus in the first two weeks of December, particularly in the evening of December 5, and roam the streets frightening children (and adults) with rusty chains and bells. In some rural areas the tradition also includes slight birching by the Krampus, especially of young females. I for one hated walking on the streets of Salzburg during this time, because it was an excuse for delinquents to beat people. Some of us wore long coats to ward off the hits. Basically you heard the bells and ran like hell.

So Happy Nikolaus, folks!

Mourning the passing of cherished colleagues December 4, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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I would like to welcome guest blogger, Susanne Aldridge from In-House Translators – A Dying Breed, who helped me write this. I didn’t realize the irony of her blog title and the fact that she is helping me until I just typed it. No pun was intended. She may have helped me write this, but will also be writing her own memorial for Judy Ann. This is not a very cheerful topic to discuss, but I feel it is an important one.

Susanne and I have been active on the Internet for many years now. One interesting phenomenon that we have noticed is how close you can become with someone whom you have never met face to face. We have lost several colleagues over the years who were active in online listservs or blogs, and it never ceases to amaze us how their deaths affect us.

Getting news of someone’s death is always a disheartening experience. Whether we read about it in the papers, or are informed by friends, whether the death is due to natural causes or has been sudden and unexpected, it saddens us. And this is so even when we don’t know the person who has died.

My first experience with virtual loss was the death of David Orpin back in 2002. His posts to PT were always very well-written and profound, and I find myself sometimes referring back to them to this day. His insights and posts were extremely helpful to a newcomer to the business like me, and those of us on PT still remember him fondly to this day.

The death that really made me realize how close we can become to someone we have never met was the death of  one of my fellow volunteer translators at German News, Hermann Evelbauer. I learned of his death while checking my e-mail in the middle of the Exhibit Hall at the ATA conference. Tears streamed down my face and I felt the profound loss of such a helpful colleague, yet I had never met him because he had lived in Brazil.

The latest colleague to pass on is Judy Ann Schön, a English to German translator who lived in Lenggries. She was an active participant of the PT list and she was famous for her incredible knowledge of DejaVu X. She was a certified Atril training partner and, with her company EDV & Seminare, she taught DejaVu X training courses. Even though teaching DejaVu X was one of her jobs, she never hesitated to give free support and answer questions on and off the mailing lists. For many, her offer “If you like, you can send me your file and I’ll fix it” was a life saver and you never heard anything but rave reviews about her courses. She is survived by her daughter Sandra, a geology student at the University of Munich. The PT list, one of her virtual homes, is collecting money to help out Sandra and to show that, even though most of us had never met Judy Ann, we are truly affected by her passing. We may work in isolation, but something like this really brings the community together and, while Judy Ann asked to keep her illness a private matter, we believe that we can now get together to remember her.

Susanne and I were talking this morning about the phenomenon of losing an online acquaintance/colleague. We both mentioned that we had written out instructions for our executors about whom to notify once we are gone. Our families most likely have no idea how active we are online and where we were most active, so a list of groups to notify in the event of your death will be a huge help – and will allow your online friends to grieve and not simply wonder what has happened to you a few months after you stop posting. Consider taking a few minutes this week and compiling a list of the groups you are involved in. I have my list stored with my Living Will and other important documents. It may sound silly to many and you may not feel this way, but I do consider a lot of the participants on the various lists and message boards to be my colleagues and friends. In today’s world, I probably know them better than many of my next-door neighbors and I would want to know if something happened to them.

The outpouring of sympathy from online colleagues and friends will definitely warm the hearts of your family and next of kin. I myself am frequently touched by the responses on various listservs when the news hits that someone has passed. We mourn together as a community.