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TGIF: Bad translations May 28, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Random musings, TGIF.

Today is the one year anniversary of this blog. With this post, I have published 301 posts in the last year. Wow, that’s a lot of random musings and TGIF videos! I hope they amused and helped you. I would like to thank all my subscribers and readers for finding me and sharing your insight in the Comments. I have said several times that I think the Comments are the best part of a blog. Without them it would just be me nattering on about all kinds of things – and who cares about that.This site is all about community- let’s keep it growing! So thanks for sharing the last year with me! It’s been a blast, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

And to those of you who have stumbled on my blog doing searches on German men, German culture, word count, 1099 questions, international banking, etc., thanks for stopping by and come back soon!

But it’s also Friday, so I hope you enjoy this slide show of bad translations.


Scripps National Spelling Bee again May 27, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.

If you are in the U.S. you might want to watch the Finals of the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee tonight (Thursday) at 8 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). As translators, we are picky about our spelling and writing skills, so I always enjoy watching the kids spell words like autochthonous, Ursprache and – last year’s winning word – guerdon. These kids are impressive, because they always manage to spell words that I have never heard before. As a bonus you can expand your vocabulary.

The bee is open to students who have not turned 16 or passed beyond the eighth grade and who attend schools that are officially enrolled with the Scripps program. The winners of just under 300 local spelling bees qualify to attend the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. It can be quite suspenseful and exciting to watch them compete.

The term “spelling bee’ is a bit of a mystery. As the Spelling Bee website explains the origin of the term “spelling bee”:

The word bee, as used in spelling bee, is one of those language puzzles that has never been satisfactorily accounted for. A fairly old and widely-used word, it refers to a community social gathering at which friends and neighbors join together in a single activity (sewing, quilting, barn raising, etc.) usually to help one person or family. The earliest known example in print is a spinning bee, in 1769. Other early occurrences are husking bee (1816), apple bee (1827), and logging bee (1836). Spelling bee is apparently an American term. It first appeared in print in 1875, but it seems certain that the word was used orally for several years before that.

Those who used the word, including most early students of language, assumed that it was the same word as referred to the insect. They thought that this particular meaning had probably been inspired by the obvious similarity between these human gatherings and the industrious, social nature of a beehive. But in recent years scholars have rejected this explanation, suggesting instead that this bee is a completely different word. One possibility is that it comes from the Middle English word bene, which means “a prayer” or “a favor” (and is related to the more familiar word boon). In England, a dialect form of this word, been or bean, referred to “voluntary help given by neighbors toward the accomplishment of a particular task.” (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary). Bee may simply be a shortened form of been, but no one is entirely certain.

A Dictionary of American English. Sir William A. Craigie and James R. Hulbert, eds. University of Chicago Press, 1944.

A Dictionary of Americanisms. Mitford M. Matthews, ed. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1951.

Mencken, H.L. The American Language. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1938 (suppl. I, 1945: suppl. II, 1948).

How to say no and still keep the client May 26, 2009

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

As freelance translators we all eventually have to say “No” to a job offer. Either we are too busy to do a good job or feel it might be over our heads – or may simply want to enjoy a weekend off for a change. Some translators I know are afraid to say “No” to anything, because they are afraid the client won’t contact them again if they say “No” too many times. This isn’t a good mindset to get into. If you have done good jobs for them in the past and are easy to work with I guarantee the client will contact you again.

Sometimes “No” is the only responsible response – as well as an honorable response. If you decide that “No” is the answer that you prefer to give, then it is authentic and honest for you to say “No.” If you say “Yes” when you want to say “No” you will feel resentful the entire time you are working on the job – and that helps no one. This costs you energy and discomfort and is not necessary if you just say “No” when you need to. Plus, you probably won’t do as thorough a job if you are resentful – and that is NEVER a good idea.

There are ways to say “No” and still keep the client. A simple “No, I won’t be able to help with that. I’ve already made a commitment for Friday afternoon.” is always appreciated. My method is explaining why I can’t accept the job and always offering the names of one of two colleagues who I think would do a good job. It is up to the client to then decide whether or not contact them, but I have found that most of my clients appreciate a good referral. Sure, some clients have their own stable of translators who they contact, but some don’t. And your colleague might appreciate the work and return the favor in the future – it’s a win-win situation.

So the next time you are feeling overwhelmed practice saying “No.” I guarantee you that you won’t regret it.

TGIF: Lauren gets worked up over her French exam May 22, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, TGIF.
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I interrupt the regularly scheduled Schoolhouse Rock videos on grammar to share this fun little video clip. Here is another hilarious moment from Catherine Tate’s BBC comedy sketch show. You might remember I posted her sketch as an interpreter who interpreted 7 languages back in July. Thanks to Sarah Dillon for tweeting about it a few weeks ago.

Those of us in the United States will be celebrating Memorial Day on Monday; however, just about every translator I know will be working that day. Ah, the life of a freelancer… Business has really picked up in the last week or so for just about everyone I have talked with, so maybe, just maybe, we’ve seen the bottom of our recession. I hope you all enjoy the weekend and the video!

The luxury of mobility May 20, 2009

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

telecommuting_frenzyYou really have to love our job. We can live and work anywhere we want and still be able to keep in contact with our clients. Benny the Irish Polyglot is the epitome of the globetrotting translator :-), but most of us do love the freedom translating affords. As long as we have our laptop set up and configured we can pop off to the cafe and use the wi-fi whenever we feel like working with others or our Internet goes down.

I just spent the last two days at my sister’s. I babysat my nieces and still managed to translate around 3000 words both days. My parents are on vacation (I am also dogsitting their Cairn Terrier). My father babysits on Mondays, and my sister needed me to take his “shift.” I was even able to spontaneously stay a second day when I realized they needed me but hadn’t dared ask if I could. I don’t think my clients noticed, because I had access to my e-mail, Twitter and Skype the whole time. Most of my clients also know to call my cell phone. When I walked in the door tonight I checked my messages and only had one – and it was not a business call.

When my nieces asked me why I was working all day I explained that adults work all day (and that their mom and dad were also at work); however, I also found time to blow bubbles in the backyard, run around the yard with the dogs with them, and cater to their every need. Most importantly, I took the time to explain that work doesn’t feel like work when you are doing something you love. Hopefully that settled in their subconscience for when they grow older and are ready to choose a vocation.

How not to market yourself May 16, 2009

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

Social networking sites can be a great way to market yourself, but you need to make sure that the person you are looking to “link up with” is in your field and/or a potential business contact. If you are looking to stretch out of your field, you need to make sure that your message to them is targeted enough to want them to link to you. One of my friends, who is very active in social networking, received the following request through XING. The names have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty.

Dear Karen,

Johanna Onestra has requested to be connected to you on XING.

I would like to connect with you as I can offer you my affordable translation services.

With kind regards,

Johanna Onestra

Now, my friend is not involved in the translation field. She is an online recruiter (specifically, an in-house headhunter for a Fortune 500 company). If “Johanna” had done her homework on her potential connection (a simple Google search of her name would have sufficed – she’s all over the web) she would have immediately seen that “Karen” has no need for translation services. Instead, “Johanna” did not get a connection and actually had her e-mail forwarded to me with the wry comment “Thought you’d get a kick out of this 🙂 I didn’t realize I was in the market for translating services!”. If she had simply written “Hi, I am a Business English trainer who is pursuing a career that combines both my academic and professional experience and would like to learn more about what you do.” (because I googled the woman and that is pretty much what her LinkedIn profile says – not a word about translation services) or even”Hi, I like your profile and would like to learn more about what you do,” my friend might have been more receptive to adding her to her network.

Marketing involves a bit more legwork than simply sending out an e-mail or link request blindly. Do a bit of research on the person or company you are contacting. I promise you will stand out from the crowd!

TGIF: Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here May 14, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, TGIF.
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Following the theme of Schoolhouse Rock videos on grammar (we’re getting close to the end now!), here is the classic clip on adverbs, Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here. This clip first aired in 1974. If you have problems understanding the lyrics, you can find them here. My dad used to drill the fact that adverbs usually ended in -ly into my sister and my head growing up, so I’m a big fan of adverbs.

As Wikipedia explains:

An adverb is a part of speech. It is any word that modifies any other part of language: verbs, adjectives (including numbers), clauses, sentences and other adverbs, except for nouns; modifiers of nouns are primarily determiners and adjectives. Adverbs typically answer questions such as how?” (or “in what way?), when?, where?, why? and to what extent?. They often end in -ly.

As Schoolhouse Rock explains:

An adverb is a word… (That’s all it is, and there’s a lot of ’em!)
That modifies a verb… (Sometimes a verb! Sometimes…)
It modifies an adjective,
Or else another adverb.
And so you see that it’s positively, very, very, necessary.

Enjoy – and have a great weekend!

Lost in translation at My Allrecipes May 11, 2009

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

One of my former students posted this amusing anecdote to the Kentlingua listserv tonight. A woman wanted to send two recipes to her boyfriend’s mother in Costa Rica and took the easy way out.

A few weeks ago, I made a chicken dish for Carlos that he loved. After the first bite, he told me it was so good, would I mind sending the recipe to his mother in Costa Rica? I only speak conversational Spanish, but I thought what the heck, I would try to translate it to English before I sent it. How hard could that be, right?

Machine translation strikes again, but this time at least the person who used the online translator is embarrassed of the results 🙂 Enjoy!

Ideas on handling presumptuous clients May 8, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.

Presumptuous: overstepping due bounds (as of propriety or courtesy) : taking liberties (Merriam-Webster)

We’ve all had to deal with them – clients who have unreasonable deadlines, clients who expect you to do their work like prepping files or formatting files to meet their standards even though the source text didn’t conform with their specifications, clients who change terms in the middle of the job, clients who expect you to translate 2000 words in one hour. Here are two very real examples that just happened today (one to me and another to a colleague who is ready to tear her hair out).

Example 1: Client sends a binding job order for a job due Monday morning at 11 a.m. German time without even asking if I am available.

Example 2: Two separate clients contacted my colleague on Wednesday with 4600 words and 7700 words respectively. Both clients initially asked her to deliver on Monday and she agreed – and then they started putting on the pressure for Friday. One even had the audacity to send her a PO with a Friday deadline instead of the agreed upon Monday deadline (for the 7700 word job).

Example 1 was resolved by sending an e-mail stating that I wasn’t available over the weekend. Hopefully they can find someone else. It’s not my problem. They should have had the common courtesy to ask if I was available. I have worked the last two weekends and two weeks straight without a day off. I need some “me” time.

Example 2 is a little trickier, and I would love to hear what you all would do in that situation. The nightmare PM has simply ignored her e-mails stating that the agreed upon deadline was Monday. The PM instead sent her an email asking her if she (colleague) wanted her (the PM) to convert the Excel glossary into a Multiterm glossary. She ended up delivering the 7700 word job 3/4 finished and is powering on with it today. In the meantime she is completely stressed because, like everyone, she hates delivering a job she hasn’t finished working on and hasn’t polished. I told her I would simply deliver the jobs as agreed upon on Monday and not stress out so much about it. But of course you have to keep the client happy…

She is seriously thinking about quitting freelancing and getting a different job altogether. Her final sentence says it all: “I love translation just not some of the business aspects of it. Which is sort of weird, because I think I did really well dealing with the business aspects when I was a PM. I would never have put “my people” under that kind of pressure.”

So how do you handle presumptuous clients? Any advice for my colleague?

Update: Client in Example 1 responded asking when I could deliver by because she definitely wants me to do it, so I now have a Monday afternoon deadline. See, clients can be reasonable if you stick up for yourself. Oh, and if you are reading this through an RSS feed I highly suggest clicking on the link to visit the blog itself and check out WordPress’ third suggested post for a good laugh.

TGIF: Schoolhouse Rock – Rufus Xavier Sarsparilla May 7, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, TGIF.
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This particular Schoolhouse Rock clip on pronouns is a personal favorite.  It first aired in 1977. Jack Sheldon must have practiced for weeks in order to sing this song. Jack Sheldon is a trumpet player, vocalist, and all-around great entertainer. He sang most of my favorite Schoolhouse Rock clips, including Conjunction Junction and the wonderful “I’m Just A Bill.” I promise his songs will stick with you. They are very catchy. Enjoy!

Now, I have a friend named Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla,
And I could say that Rufus found a kangaroo
That followed Rufus home
And now that kangaroo belongs
To Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla.

Whew! I could say that, but I don’t have to,
‘Cause I got pronouns,
I can say, “HE found a kangaroo that followed HIM home and now IT is HIS”

You see, (uh) HE, HIM, and HIS are pronouns,
Replacing the noun
Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla,
A very proper noun.
And IT is a pronoun, replacing the noun, kangaroo!