jump to navigation

Favorite tools: Firefox March 12, 2009

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

Next to Trados and WinAlign, my favorite tool is without a doubt Firefox. I have Firefox running from the moment I wake up to the minute I go to sleep. Firefox is a free open source browser that offers a “faster, more secure, and fully customizable way to to surf the Web.” As you can see from my screenshot I have put a lot of time and effort into customizing my browser to make it work for me. My homepage is my iGoogle page, which I have talked about in detail on this blog several times. I have TwitterFox running in the bottom right-hand corner (I expanded it for the screenshot), and I can access it whenever I want to check out the Twitter tweets from the folks who I am following. I follow a variety of people, but they are primarily translators located all over the world who often offer really good information. I also have numerous tabs open at all times and toggle quickly between them as needed.


As far as organization is concerned, I now have two toolbars of my most frequently visited sites (thanks to a tip from one of my blog readers – thanks, Maxim!) such as my blog, online dictionaries, the Translator’s Home Companion portal, the Accurapid Translation Journal, Frank Dietz’ and Marita Marcano’s collection of glossaries, etc. as well as a very organized Bookmarks drop-down menu. I have the drop-down menu organized into folders and subfolders, which allow me to quickly and easily access subject-specific glossaries, dictionaries, traffic watches, Pandora Radio, Oanda (a really great currency exchange site), my bank accounts, my public library, conversion tools, etc. I have folders for blogs (from before I started using a feed reader – come to think of it I can probably delete the folder now…), client websites (for logging onto workspaces and managing translation jobs), colleague websites, translation aids (such as style guides, translation portals, payment practices sites, etc.), etc. One of my friends commented that they would love to get their hands on my Bookmarks, but this represents over 10 years of collecting and maintaining URLs. I consider it to be proprietary information just like my TMs are. ūüôā

Do you have any Firefox tips you would like to share with us? Tell us about them in the Comments!


Yeah, good luck with that… March 9, 2009

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

I just wanted to share two translation requests I received tonight. Enjoy!

Dear Sir or Madam;

Medical Translation from German into English

We are in a need of German to English Medical translators.

We might need at times to translate an average of 380 pages of medical transcriptions. The work will be performed for at least a year. We prefer that these service we deliver to us already proofread, edited and reviewed for final delivery. We expect zero errors and omissions.  We might have penalties for any return document(s) by client with more then 1% of error and or omissions.
You also need to agree to sign a confidentiality agreement, take training as needed and get certified about HIPPA rules.
Translators must vast experience (at least 3 years) on medical transcription is a plus, medical education or combination of both.

If interested please provide an update resume and rates per word and page s well as the extended of the work (only translation vs translation, editing etc. no later then 3/11/09 12:00 PST USA

If questions please send them by email.

Gee, zero errors and penalties? Sounds like a dream job – not. No one is that perfect. They can’t even write an e-mail with zero errors. They also didn’t mention if the translators would be reimbursed for the training and certification. I’m guessing no. Sorry, but I’d rather clean houses or be a secretary somewhere than be on tenterhooks for the next year working for this agency and wondering if the client was going to complain.

And this next one was just unbelievably ridiculous. Not surprisingly, it came through ProZ:

We are looking for German to US English freelance translators for a potential big project in the medical field.

The details are as follows:

Source format: .PDF and .doc files
Target format: .doc files
CAT tool: Trados
Proposed rate: 0.03 EUR/target word (I know it is a bit low, but the project is about 2000 pages and the client cannot offer higher rates)

If you are interested in this project and accept the proposed rate, could you please send me an updated copy of your CV in Word format? Your CV will be sent to the client (hiding your contact details) and, after the client’s approval, Silvia will contact you sending a short unpaid translation test, which will be reviewed by the client.

Should you have any question, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

I look forward to hearing from you.

A bit low? That’s downright insulting. Just a little under $0.04 a word for MEDICAL!!!! My delete button got quite a workout tonight!

Call me crazy, but I have a feeling both these agencies are bidding on the same job since the requests came in within an hour of each other. What do you think?

E-mail marketing tips March 9, 2009

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

As a follow up to my guest post at Naked Translations, here are some dos and don’ts for an e-mail marketing campaign. I got inspired by reading Tips for applying to a job from Craigslist this morning (another tweet from someone I follow on Twitter). As the author says, it doesn’t take much to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack. This is also true for the translation field. There are certain dos and don’ts when applying as a freelance translator with a translation agency. Take them to heart to ensure your e-mail doesn’t end up in the Trash folder.

1. Don’t have any spelling errors or typos in your e-mail. Seriously, just don’t!!! You are applying for a job as a translator, which requires good grammar and spelling. You need to make sure your e-mail is flawless. Read the e-mail through a couple times before sending it to make sure you catch every spelling error or typo. You might even want to start at the bottom and work your way up so you don’t miss anything.

2. Indicate your language pair in the subject line or the first sentence. The person reading your e-mail shouldn’t have to dig through your letter to find out what language(s) you translate.

3. Use the body of the e-mail as your cover letter. Don’t attach a cover letter and a resume. No one is going to take the time to look at two files. One – maybe, two – no way.

4. Try to write a unique but catchy cover letter. Let your personality shine through. In this day and age, no one wants to read a stuffy letter that has obviously been sent to 300 other agencies or could have been written by 300 other translators.

5. Focus on what makes you special and what makes you stand out. What makes you the best choice compared to the other prospective translators sending their resumes to the agency? Do you have an M.A. in translation, are a Diplom-√úbersetzer, used to work as a medical doctor or researcher, or have a law degree? Have you lived in the target country for several years? Did you grow up in a bilingual household and are equally comfortable in both languages? Be sure to mention it in one of your first sentences.

6. Make sure the agency works in your language pair. If the agency specializes exclusively in Japanese and English translations, don’t send them an e-mail unless they specifically say on their website that they are looking to branch out to include other languages.

7. Check their website out before applying and follow their directions to the letter. If they say they only accept submissions through their website, don’t bother sending them an e-mail. It will only be deleted, because it shows you can’t follow directions.

8. Tailor your e-mail to the agency. Show them you did some research and looked at the website to find out if your fields of specialization mesh with theirs. Find out who you should address the e-mail to and try to avoid sending an e-mail to “To whom it may concern:” if the website specifies a contact.

9. Make sure the person you are sending the e-mail to is in fact a translation agency and not another freelance translator. I can’t tell you how many times I have received unwanted resumes from prospective translators. All you have to do is look at my website to see that I am a one-woman show. That said, if you have a website that talks about “we” instead of “I” you are making yourself a target for unwanted resumes.

10. Localize your resume for your target audience. If you are applying to a German agency, it helps to send them a resume that is in German and conforms with other German resumes. Also, make sure your resume is proofread by a native speaker.

11. Think carefully about how you write your name. Choose one name and spelling and stick with it. This will generate name recognition. For example, I use the name “Jill R. Sommer” on my resume, on my business cards, on my website, in the ATA directory, for presentations at conferences, and anywhere else I have a presence (the exception to this being my blog). Also, if your name is somewhat exotic for your target audience be sure to clarify your gender. For example, sign the e-mail as (Ms.) Jill R. Sommer or (Mr.) Chiang Kai-shek. That takes the pressure off the person who might want to respond to you, but doesn’t know how to address you.

12. Use a professional e-mail address. It simply makes a good impression. If you have your own domain name, you give the impression that you have invested in your profession. Free e-mail services like yahoo.com don’t make a good impression. The only exception to this is Gmail, because it is a more serious provider and has outstanding online file storage capacity. There is some debate on the professionalism of aol.com addresses. Some of those who profess to be against aol.com accounts believe that since AOL started off as an entertainment site it is not as serious as other e-mail providers. Just a little food for thought… E-mail with your own domain name ensures no one has any prejudices when they see your e-mail address. And it should go without saying that e-mail addresses like “ cutiecat23@juno.net” or “BigBigGirl@yahoo.com” simply don’t convey the professionalism you need to convey.

13. Consider naming your resume “Last name first name_resume.” If your resume is called “resume,” it is simply going to get amended with resume1.doc, resume2.doc, etc. by the client’s e-mail program. Make sure the client knows what the file is at a glance and can allocate it to your application.

14. Include a Summary of Qualifications instead of an Objective. You don’t need an Objective on resumes to a translation agency. It should be apparent from your e-mail cover letter that your objective is to start working with them.

15. Keep your resume brief. Try to keep it to 1-2 pages. I send a brief resume and refer potential clients to my website, where my resume is a lot more extensive (I also include a list of all the dictionaries and reference materials I own to show I have invested heavily in my profession). If the client is interested in working with me, the information is available, but they don’t have to wade through it if they aren’t.

So, those are my top tips. Does anyone have any other deal-breaking tips? Insights from agency owners or project managers are especially welcome.

Ten Characteristics of a Good Client (Freelance Folder) March 9, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
add a comment

I’ve really been enjoying Twitter since I installed TwitterFox. One of the translators I follow mentioned a blog post on Freelance Folder, so I checked it out and subscribed to the blog. The blog is targeted to entrepreneurs and freelancers in general. Today’s blog post, Ten Characteristics of a Good Client, is very applicable to freelance translators and their clients. Be sure to check it out , and I hope that your clients meet all ten of these characteristics.

Every Term Matters (Global Watchtower) March 7, 2009

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

This is sure to be one of those news tidbits that every translation blogs picks up and runs with, but I believe when it’s done right there is no need to repeat it here. Nataly Kelly and Renato Beninatto of the Global Watchtower were the first bloggers to report on Hillary Clinton’s linguistic faux pas on a gift to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The State Department left out a few crucial Cyrillic letters, changing the entire meaning of the word. I highly recommend reading their blog post on the subject. Hey, mistakes happen to everyone. Unfortunately it seems a lot of language-related mistakes happen to our government :-P.

TGIF: Berlitz La Bamba March 6, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, TGIF.
1 comment so far

It’s Friday. That means it’s time for another language-related video. This time it’s the Spanish fraction’s turn to enjoy a little humor (well, actually everyone because this is a pretty well-known ad even amongst those of us who don’t know Spanish). This Berlitz ad was a Cannes Lion finalist and won a silver medal at Epica 2006. Enjoy!

Firefox speed-up tip from Jost March 6, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Tech tips.

If you don’t subscribe to Jost Zetzsche’s biweekly Tool Kit newsletter, you probably missed this excellent tip in his latest edition, which just went out last night. If you don’t subscribe to this helpful newsletter written for translators by a translator, you really should. He talks about all kinds of important topics and offers lots of valuable tips. He has introduced me to numerous tools that make life as a translator easier. You can subscribe by clicking on this link. The Standard edition is free (with limited content), but the Premium edition is only $15 a year and so worth it. Go subscribe now!

Firefox Speed-Up

I recently complained about the increasing sluggishness of Firefox with an ever-larger number of plug-ins. Dominik Kreuzer reminded me that this might be due to the “automatic updating of installed add-ons enabled — that slows down the program start a lot.” And he was right on.

I had to look a little, but I eventually found the option to disable the automatic update under Tools> Options> Update. This was a much-appreciated tip and a good recommendation if you have lots of little add-ons in Firefox that make it ever-slower to open your browser.

I immediately changed the setting in Firefox and immediately noticed a difference in speed. Thanks, Jost!

Applications I can’t live without March 5, 2009

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

1. Trados

Translating with Trados (or any translation environment tool – TEnT) makes life a lot easier. It allows me to quickly look up terms (in MultiTerm or using the Concordance function) and easily align previous translations and feed my translation memory, which makes my life a lot easier in the long run. It also ensures that I don’t accidentally skip a sentence or a paragraph, because the tool treats every sentence as a separate translation unit. I have numerous TMs (translation memories) set up for the various fields I work in or for specific clients. This ensures there is no cross-contamination. However, I know several translators who simply work with one large TM and specify the fields in the project field. If you would like to learn more about the various TEnTs and take them for a test drive, be sure to check out Jost Zetzsche’s Translators Training site.

2. Microsoft Word

Although I also own WordPerfect, 99.9% of my translations are delivered as Word .doc files. I have become adept at tweaking formatting and playing with the ruler to set tabs and line up margins. Translators simply need to delve into the inner workings of Word in order to deliver the best possible translation to their client. Take it from me, clients notice when you deliver a translation that closely matches the formatting of the original. And a happy client means a return client.

3. Electronic dictionaries

I own a lot of dictionaries, but the ones I find myself using the most are electronic dictionaries. I have two electronic dictionary interfaces that I use — the Langenscheidt dictionary interface and UniLex. It is so much quicker and easier to highlight a word in Word or on the Web and use a keyboard shortcut to paste it into an electronic dictionary interface. For more information on the German-English electronic dictionaries I use (and to view screenshots of them), click on the Electronic dictionaries header. I also rely on online dictionaries such as Pons (they also have French, Spanish, Italian, Polish, and Russian dictionaries available), the Pons Bildw√∂rterbuch, Leo (also available in French, Spanish, Italian, and Chinese), dict.cc, LinguaDict, Grimms W√∂rterbuch, Wortschatz, Das digitale W√∂rterbuch der deutschen Sprache, and the EU’s multilingual terminology database IATE (formerly known as Eurodicautom).

skype4.  Skype

Skype has become an indispensable tool in my translator toolkit. I am connected to fellow translators and several of my project managers through Skype. If I have a sentence that is giving me trouble I simply copy and paste it into Skype’s chat window and discuss it with one of my colleagues. It also enables my project managers to instantly ask if I am available, receive an answer and assign the job to me. You can see the status of your contacts in the window and either call them (through headphones and/or video) or open a chat window. It also allows me to keep in touch with friends in Germany and my cousin in China.

5. ABBYY FineReader

Since I specialize in medical I receive a lot of my medical texts in PDF format. ABBYY FineReader allows me to scan the file and convert it into a format that can be read in Word using optical character recognition (OCR). This allows me to quickly translate medical invoices and the like using my medical TM. ABBYY is the clear favorite among translators (although PDF Transformer is a close second), because it creates fewer text boxes than other OCR programs. I also really like the spellcheck feature, which ensures the document I am working on doesn’t have any spelling errors that would corrupt my TM. Sometimes ABBYY has problems reading handwriting or working with fuzzy originals, and sometimes its formatting leaves a lot to be desired. In this case, I simply copy the text, paste it into a fresh Word document and format it by hand. For more information and to view screenshot, click here.

6. iGoogle

iGoogle is a personalized Google page. You can customize this page to have all your information at your fingertips, including news sources, weather, RSS feeds, and all kinds of neat Google gadgets that make your life easier. iGoogle allows me to keep up with the top headlines in numerous German, UK and U.S. newspapers, my Google feed reader, numerous miscellaneous websites, and my Gmail and Yahoo e-mail accounts all in one location. I have written about iGoogle before, but it deserves mention here again.

7. Firefox

I love Firefox. It allows me to easily manage my Bookmarks and gives me a very customizable toolbar for the sites I use most (like TinyURL, my Blog, a medical abbreviations site, the PONS dictionary, ReferenceDesk, the Roche medical dictionary, a button to add any product to my Amazon Wish List, etc.). I also love the Google toolbar, so I can quickly search Google without actually having to visit the Google homepage. I also think it loads faster than Internet Explorer or the old Netscape browser (R.I.P.). Firefox also seems to be less vulnerable to security breaches. If only I could figure out how to add a second toolbar for even more favorite sites…

8. PractiCount

PractiCount is my word count tool of choice. As many of you probably already know, Word does not count text in text boxes, headers, etc. and Trados does not count numbers as words. PractiCount allows me to count a variety of file types, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and HTML and XML files and adjust the settings as needed. It also allows you to count multiple files at once. In the old days we used to have to open each file, do a word count and add it up by hand (and double and triple check the total). PractiCount does this for us. If you like, you can also create an invoice directly in PractiCount based on the word or line counts (whichever you specify in the settings). For more information on word counts, read Word Count Issues – Part I and Word Count Issues – Part II.

9. Microsoft Money

Whether you use Quicken, Microsoft Money or another accounting tool, you need to use an accounting tool to keep track of income and expenses. I like Money’s feature of listing overdue invoices and how many days they are overdue. MS Money also makes tax time a breeze, because I input my business income and expenses throughout the year and can easily generate a report for my CPA at tax time.

10. Time Stamp

I charge by the hour for proofreading. Time Stamp is a great little donationware tool that allows me to track the time I spend proofreading a text, and I can pause it when I take a break and easily start it again when I get back to work. And I can save the report in my archived zip file in case the client ever questions my invoice.timestamp

11. WordPress

It takes a special kind of person to be a blogger. You have to want to share your knowledge with others. Not everyone is willing to do that. I love blogging because it allows me to share my inane thoughts and all the tidbits I learned throughout the years with others – or even thoughts that are inspired by something I read. I used to send random thoughts and websites to the ATA GLD list, but my blog allows me to reach a wider audience. It is also a great marketing tool. Corinne from Thoughts on Translation advised me to use WordPress, and I have never regretted it. It is, by far, the most powerful blogging tool on the web today.

twitterfox12. Twitter (and specifically TwitterFox)

I am still learning how to use Twitter, but it became much more enjoyable once I installed TwitterFox, a Firefox add-on that feeds in Tweets in real time from my browser. Since I have Firefox open just about all the time, it allows me to quickly catch up with my tweets and interact better with the people I am following. Any Twitter feed tool, such as TweetDeck, TweetLater or Tweetie (for iPhones and the iPod touch), will suffice. TweetDeck appears to be the odds-on favorite at the moment. I also feed my latest Twitter Tweet into my blog. For more information on Twitter tools and choosing the right tools for your needs, be sure to read The Twitter Toolbox.

13. Norton Ghost

Everyone should have a backup system. My backup system of choice is Norton Ghost. It runs scheduled backups of my most important files (My Documents, my TMs, my e-mail program, etc.) every night and backs up my entire system once a week onto an external hard drive.

14. Pandora Radio

Pandora allows me to stream music based on my interests in the background while I work. Depending on my mood, I can choose stations based on my favorite singers, such as Eva Cassidy (smooth folk music) or Michael Buble (swing music), or groups such as Ah Nee Mah, which features sounds of the Native Southwest within the context of mellow ambient atmospheres, or Evanescence, which is a bit more rocking. I’ve written about Pandora Radio here twice — in Music in the workplace and Pandora Radio itself.

15. Facebook

Facebook is a favorite for purely private use. It allows me to keep in touch with friends and reconnect with long-lost friends. I have been enjoying posting photos from my Academic Year Abroad year in Salzburg for my AYA friends and have made friends with the widow of a friend that year. That said, I am very picky about who I accept as friends, as I don’t want clients to have access to old photos of me or status updates (not that there is really anything incriminating out there). Facebook is a fairly open environment, so you never know when one of your friends might publish compromising information about you or make a comment that might embarrass you. Better to be safe than sorry. If I ignore your friend request please don’t take it personally.

What are your essential applications? Do you have a few applications that you couldn’t live without? Share your favorites with us in the comments.

Check out my guest blog post at Naked Translations March 5, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Marketing ideas, Random musings.
1 comment so far

I’d like to invite you all over to C√©line’s blog, Naked Translations, where I’ve written a guest blog post on e-mail marketing. I have been reading C√©line’s blog since before I started blogging myself (she’s been blogging since November 2003). If you aren’t already familiar with it, be sure to give it a look! It’s got some great stuff. A little while ago C√©line approached me about writing a guest blog post for her blog. I had mentioned my e-mail marketing campaign in one of my blog posts, and she wanted me to go into more detail about it for her blog. I have talked about this numerous times in Corinne and my preconference seminar at ATA conferences, but I was able to go into more detail on C√©line’s blog. Thank you so much for inviting me, C√©line. It is truly an honor.

If you no can speak Croc-ese… March 4, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
add a comment

I finally got my scanner working again. It only took a couple weeks. This comic ran in last weekend’s Sunday paper. I thought it was hilarious for obvious reasons. I hate calling a company and not talking to a live person. This is a unique take on the matter. Enjoy!