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How I feel today January 13, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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I don’t know about you, but I feel like a truck hit me this morning. Don’t you just hate days when you feel like Adam in the above comic strip?


What to do when you accidentally delete files January 11, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Tech tips, Tools.

One of my friends called me Saturday night at 11:30 PM in a panic because she had deleted 6 hours of work from her jump drive (thinking she was deleting superfluous files off her laptop). She knew I’d be up and needed someone to talk to because her boyfriend was already asleep. Having been in her position myself I was able to sympathize, but I was under the impression that once files are deleted off a jump drive they are gone. Not true! She called me back about twenty minutes later to inform me she had found a great little program that recovered her deleted files within seconds. The program she used was Undeletemyfiles.

As the software advertises:

“UndeleteMyFiles is a quick and easy way to find and recover deleted media and digital devices. It employs a simplified two-step process that enables you recover any files that used to reside on your system. The interface is very easy to use, just select the device that contains the files that need to be recovered and specify the folder to save the files to.”

What program do you swear by to recover deleted files?

TGIF: Lewis Black on Bad Language January 10, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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OK, so technically it isn’t Friday anymore, but most of you don’t read this on Friday anyway. I’ve been fighting the post-holiday malaise, so it’s been hard to motivate myself to sit at the computer. Luckily business picked up today, so I look forward to being back to normal next week.

Here is a little comedy bit on bad language by Lewis Black from his Red, White & Screwed comedy show. For those of you who don’t know him he is a rather caustic and cranky comedian who focuses mainly on politics. No politician is safe, regardless of their political affiliation. I don’t normally feature politics here, but all politicians are his targets so there isn’t any bias.

Some of the highlights from this show are:

“Dick Cheney. And that’s all I’ve got to say. Isn’t it great that we’ve reached that point? You don’t even have to say Dick Cheney, the vice president who shot his friend in the face. …

“The last year and a half has by far been the toughest time to be a comedian. It’s just become more and more difficult. I just can’t keep up. … It used to be easy. There used to be one or two things that happened in a week. … I don’t even have a ports of Dubai joke and we’re on to immigration. You tell me how we’re going to catch 11 million people. … And build a fence that’s 700 miles long? A fence that would basically be the distance from Washington to Chicago. We’re going to build that fence and then it’s going to take Congress five years to decide what color to paint it. We’re going to build a fence that’s 700 miles long and we couldn’t build levees in New Orleans?”

“About six months ago, I was home alone watching the president speak on television and … realized that one of us was nuts. And for the first time in my life, it wasn’t me.”

“It’s not like I’m saying Kerry would have been any better. Let’s face it. When you when into that voting booth, you had a choice between two bowls of shit. The only difference was the smell. How did you Democrats find Kerry? What’s the matter with you people? … The first time I heard him speak, I thought … ‘I don’t have enough bread crumbs to get me home.’ The fact of the matter is the Democrats not being able to find somebody to defeat George Bush is beyond belief. It’s stunning. It would be like finding a normal person who would lose in the Special Olympics.”


Showing the Gate to 2008 January 9, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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“Showing the Gate to 2008”
by Rob Kyff

The old year has passed, so now’s just the time
To lambaste its buzzwords and do so in rhyme.
With “downturns” and “crashes,” please call the cops!
And don’t even mention those defaulted “swaps.”

“Wall Street” trashed “Main Street,” we’re sorry to say,
But “bail outs” and “rescues” claimed, “Help’s on the way!”
The “drumbeat” of bad news was loud and so steady,
And projects to help us were deemed “shovel ready.”

When anchors told experts to just “walk us through it,”
They all said, “my sense is,” which had no grit to it.
They backtracked and wavered with “having said that,”
Till viewers had no idea where they were at.

The sports guys on cable were never in doubt,
When showing us highlights, they said, “Check this out!”
And weather folk felt they’d just never make sense
Without all their talking of snow-sleet “events.”

When these fell together, they knew they’d transfix
By hyping the dangers of cold “wintry mix.”
Describing the nighttime, just one term seemed right;
Without any question, ’twas “the overnight.”

They talked of “YOUR forecast” for “YOUR Saturday,”
Please pray to YOUR God, make this go away!
When newspaper readers wrote letters to papers,
They started their missives with two standard capers.

While “I read with interest” seemed mild enough,
“Let me get this straight” just sounded too gruff.
Yes, Deep Throat passed on, but Watergate’s slime
Still lingered when people said, “that point in time.”

“Efforting,” “footprint” — Have you had enough?
These phrases, we pleaded, “throw under the bus!”
Seeking “engagement,” we rallied “the base”;
“Way forward,” “proactive” all over the place.

We “blogged,” and we “twittered” on gadgets of gab
And sometimes we traded a feisty “fist jab.”
Obama, he started each sentence with “Look . . .”
While Palin’s “you betcha” swam like a chinook.

This mommy of hockey put “lipstick on pigs,”
And Fey nailed her hairdo, with no need for wigs.
We heard about “change,” and then met a comer:
An unabashed “maverick” named ol’ “Joe the Plumber.”

Obama said, “fired up, ready to go,”
With “Yes, we can!” “Yes, we did!” he stole the show.
The buzzwords of last year deserve no ovation,
From twenty-oh-eight, we demand a “staycation.”


Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Conn., invites your language sightings. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via e-mail to Wordguy@aol.com or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. To find out more about Rob Kyff and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Wanted by the FBI: Employees January 6, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings, Translation Sites.
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NPR reports this morning:

The FBI has launched one of its biggest hiring blitzes ever. It needs to fill 850 special agent positions. It also has openings for more than 2,000 support staff. Officials say this is the agency’s largest job posting since just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The openings are largely due to attrition and a wave of retirements.

If you want to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a linguist, you need to be aware that it will take at least a year for the background check after you have completed the 12-page application and passed the testing process. You also must be a U.S. citizen. The linguist test is a battery of tests that includes oral and written comprehension as well as translation ability from the foreign language into English. The first part is a written test with multiple choice questions testing reading and listening comprehension and then the translation of several texts. Most of those who take it (70 or 80%) fail this test. If you have passed the written test you will be invited back for a 20-to-50-minute telephone interview. The telephone interview tests your listening and speaking comprehension in the foreign language. The interviewers rate you based on the linguistic content of your responses and not on your knowledge of the subject matter. If you are fluent I can guarantee that you won’t notice when the interviewers raise the linguistic register and will find the phone interview quite enjoyable.

Once you have passed the battery of language tests, you will then have to pass the polygraph and an audiometer (hearing) test. The polygraph is mentally and emotionally grueling. They ask you about anything you may have omitted on the application and questions that might preclude your employment by the Bureau and about your character. I was so mentally exhausted after the polygraph that I took a 1-hour nap when I got home. You may also have to submit to a drug test, especially if you are offered a language specialist position. As a contract linguist, the folks in Cleveland decided I didn’t need to take it, but I was more than willing to. If you are an upstanding citizen you will have nothing to worry about from the polygraph or drug tests.

Having passed the language tests and polygraph, they will then begin conducting your background check. The application has you list every address you have ever lived at and name one person who can attest to your having lived there for each address. I also had to include a list of all of my clients at the time. The FBI visited everyone listed on the application and asked them about me and my character. They even went door-to-door on my parents’ street (and I imagine the street I grew up on for 21 years) asking the neighbors about me. I was glad I had warned my clients that I was applying to the FBI, because the secretary at one agency called my project manager to tell her “there are people from the FBI here who want to speak with you” – not something you hear every day and not something a foreign national usually wants to hear 🙂 .

I was a contract linguist for four years. It took them a while to finally start sending me work and even longer until they sent me to DC for training. However, it might have just been my field office and supervisor. I eventually got disillusioned and decided I no longer wanted to work with them. However, I know plenty of people who are contract linguists and enjoy the work. The texts I translated were indeed very interesting – Internet and banking fraud, letters rogatory, and extradition documentation. If you specialize in legal and financial texts this might be a good choice for you. If you are working at a field office as a contract linguist you will be expected to bring your dictionaries with you to the office. They never provided me with any dictionaries. Headquarters, on the other hand, has plenty of dictionaries. You will need to insist on having Internet access, because a lot of the things you translate and terms you encounter will not be found in a dictionary.

Contract linguists are paid by the hour, and the hourly rate is determined by language. As a contract linguist you would be self-employed and will not receive benefits. This means you will also be responsible for paying taxes out of the $34 or $35 an hour you are paid. You will keep a monthly time log and submit it at the end of the month in order to be paid. It is a nice little side job, but if you are chosen as a contract linguist you may or may not be given steady work depending on the needs for your language. Language specialists are considered full-time employees, and the assignments are rare. You may also be required to relocate or work from headquarters. Most people are contract linguists. Contract linguists may be given opportunities to travel (but assignments tend to require long stretches of time) or may remain in their city of choice and work from the local field office. Due to security concerns and the need to protect evidence, contract linguists must work in the field office instead of their own home or office.

The FBI does not distinguish between translators and interpreters, or between people who translate in one direction or another. The bulk of their work (perhaps 80%) goes into English, but a similar percentage of contract linguists and language specialists are non-native English speakers, so by definition most of their translators are working into their non-native language. Language specialists do not have the luxury of turning down assignments because it is into their non-native language or requires a skill set one may not have (such as interpreting). As a contract linguist you may have the luxury if there is a competent native speaker who can accept the assignment, but if you are in a language of limited diffusion you will most likely translate in both directions.

On a positive note, the FBI and other government entities are one of the few steady in-house jobs out there for translators. I have my fair share of gripes with them, but realistically it enabled several of my friends to keep freelancing until they establish a stable of regular clients. In-house jobs in the private sector are almost nonexistent, especially if you translate into English. You are also doing your part and helping your government in its dealings with other countries, which I really liked.

For even more information about working for the FBI and other government entities, I encourage you to read “Translating and Interpreting in the Federal Government” by Ted Crump. Many thanks to Corinne McKay for fact-checking, feedback and a couple additions to this post!

Separating the personal and the professional January 5, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Marketing ideas, Tech tips.

As a freelancer it is sometimes hard to separate the personal and professional aspects of your life. A large majority of my clients and/or jobs are due to personal contact or word of mouth from colleagues who have seen my posts on professional listservs and recommend me to their clients when they cannot accept a job. I found a new client sitting next to me at a murder mystery dinner theater show and a good contact and potential future job source (you never know…) on the boat from Alcatraz. I think it is crucial for the marketing of our services to never go anywhere without business cards. There is no doubt in my mind that being a social person plays a huge role in my success as a translator.

In these days of social media it can sometimes be hard to separate the personal and professional personas. I am enjoying exploring the various benefits of social networking and am also researching for a presentation on social networking tools at the ATA conference. In addition to this blog, I joined social networking tools Twitter and LinkedIn last year. However, I sometimes find it hard to separate my personal life from my professional life. A lot of my friends are fellow translators. I enjoy chatting with them on Skype, talking on the phone, exchanging e-mails in a smaller listserv, meeting locally for lunch or coffee, cheerleading them in their efforts to make important changes in their lives, and even going so far as meeting some of them in Vegas for a “spring conference” a few years ago to just hang out. As a result, it can be hard to draw the line sometimes.

I made a conscious decision when I joined Facebook to keep Facebook strictly personal, although I have lots of translators and former students among my “friends” there. I also have lots of friends from high school and college. Those two sections of my life don’t necessarily blend real well. One of my colleagues recently “friended” me on Facebook. After checking out his profile I realized that a lot (if not most) of his friends were professional contacts (and a couple of my clients) and I felt uncomfortable having my personal status posts broadcast to them. I decided to remove him as a friend, and luckily he understood when I explained it to him. I had looked into limiting access, but decided I simply needed to stick to my guns. After all, separating the two aspects is extremely important to me. For those of you who are already on Facebook and do not want to remove friends or want to limit certain friends’ access, these posts might help:

I may just have to give these tips a try…

In these days of Internet access and 24/7 availability, it is becoming harder and harder to keep the personal and the professional separate. Clients and some translators I know think nothing of working over the weekend. In the past I have had agencies call in the evening or even on a Saturday or Sunday trying to place a translation. I always decline those jobs. I need a couple days off to recharge just like everyone else and not working on the weekend is the easiest solution. I am finally going to buy a new phone with e-mail capabilities, but I am extremely hesitant to do so because it will once again blur the line between when I am available to my clients and when I am not. I won’t give up though and will continue to fight the Good Fight against the encroachment on my personal time. I look forward to hearing how all of you deal with this issue in the comments below.

Back to business as usual January 4, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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Whew, I’m glad the holidays are over. I enjoyed them, but I’m ready to get back to work now. There’s only so much “relaxing” I can do before I start going stir crazy. I read a few books, watched a few DVDs from the library, did some cleaning, etc.

Things have been pretty slow here, but I have to keep reminding myself that it was my choice. After three really large translation jobs in the beginning of December I told my biggest client that I needed a break to let my arm heal, and they honored my request. My arm is finally starting to feel back to normal. It took a couple weeks though… I thoroughly enjoyed having some down time. I prepared for the holidays, sent out my holiday cards to friends and clients, and enjoyed spending time with my friends and family. But I am ready to get back to the old grind :-).

I thought this was a cute comic that illustrated how most of us probably felt over the holidays:


It’s a few days into 2009 already, but I hope 2009 brings all of you lots of health, happiness and most of all prosperity!