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Revenge of the Sith… Errr I mean Backstroke of the West July 29, 2010

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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One of the folks I follow on Twitter recently posted a link to hilarious screencaps of English subtitles for a Chinese DVD of Revenge of the Sith (Episode III of the Star Wars film series). As the author explains, “a couple of years ago when i was living in shanghai i bought a revenge of the sith dvd off the street. it came with hilariously mangled subtitles that ranged from somewhat close to what the actors were saying to far, far away….” It is a very amusing analysis of failed subtitles. I hope you all enjoy it!

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Caution is good, but trust is better July 23, 2010

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

I was sitting at my computer the other day and received a Skype message from one of the agency owners with whom I work, out of the blue, thanking me for being such a professional. I believe the quote was, “THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for being such a professional.” Turns out she was filling in for her Director of Translation, who is out on vacation, and was having all kinds of troubles with the vendors. The incident that was making her want to bang her head against the wall – hard – was with an into Spanish translator. The job had been assigned on Tuesday and two days later (on the due date) the vendor told her he wouldn’t do the job because “we never sent a contract.” She had sent him all the preliminary stuff she had sent me when I started working with them and told him “if you have something else, we’ll sign it.” He told her flat-out “I don’t trust your agency.” In fact, his response was: “I am paranoid of not getting paid. If you are reputable agency that is in this type of business you would have had an agreement ready. I asked you that several days ago and you played games with me. I really do not trust your agency.” She had to scramble to find someone who could translate the file that day in order to meet the deadline and told him “Next time, please let us know sooner.  Your paranoia has discourteously cost another translator two days.” This is one of the most upstanding agencies I know. They bill themselves as being a socially conscious agency. The fact that he doesn’t trust the agency shows me he doesn’t know them very well at all.

I understand that some translators have heard the horror stories about agencies that don’t pay, but, folks, they truly are very rare. For every Ursula Bull or Language Promotion, there are tons of reputable agencies like CETRA, Syntes Language Group, Partnertrans, Geotext, Schofield & Partner, etc. Caution is good, but trust is better. It is so important to build a good working relationship with your clients. By establishing a relationship with your clients you get to know each other and they come to rely on you – and most importantly come back time and again.

I have all kinds of clients with all kinds of different business practices. Some make me sign a contract before working with them. Some send me a P.O. for every job. And some send me an e-mail in which they tell me I have the job and when I need to deliver the file(s). In my eyes, an e-mail telling me I have the go-ahead to do the job is just as valid (and in most cases legally binding) as signing a contract. Because I know the people I am working with and have established a good working relationship.

I’m not saying you should implicitly trust everyone who contacts you, but try getting to know or learn about your contact and his/her agency before automatically painting them with the “Big Bad Agency” brush. Caution is a good attribute to have, but by being paranoid you may unnecessarily alienate a potential long-term client.

Translating phone numbers July 22, 2010

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Translation.
8 comments

Whenever you encounter a phone number in a translation, ask yourself if the reader can actually call the numbers as they are written. The client who provided the source text, in most cases, doesn’t have any idea how international calling works.

First of all, the international access code, such as 011 for the U.S., is different for each country. You need to know the target audience of the text. If the text is intended for the U.S. you can localize the number for the U.S. However, it is pointless to indicate how to dial long distance from the U.S. to a reader living in Germany or Japan. According to the standards of the Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T), you should begin with a “+” (plus sign).

The country code for the country you are calling comes after the plus sign. You can find all the numbers you need on the Web. Canada and the United States are the exceptions. They are both “1.”

The area code is usually enclosed in parentheses, which indicates that it is optional. The European equivalent of the area code is the city code, which is preceded by a “0.”  The zero is analogous to U.S. or Canadian callers dialing a “1” before the area code. The zero in European city codes is sometimes enclosed in parentheses, which means that it is optional when dialing within the country. You should remove the “0” (and, if necessary, the parentheses) when translating the number.

The use of hyphens, slashes and periods is frowned upon by ITU-T. A number in Bonn might be 0228 345678 or 0228/345678 but would read +49 228 34 56 78 for international dialing. Finally, a U.S. number such as (216) 234-5678 would be translated as +1 216 234 5678 for foreign readers.

Toll-free 800 numbers are of no use in Europe or Asia (as are the German 0180 numbers in the United States). Encourage your clients to omit 800 numbers if the documents are to be published outside the country.

Who knows how long this will all be relevant now that Skype and VOiP calling is gaining ground.

TGIF: The Trouble with Voice Recognition July 16, 2010

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, TGIF.
2 comments

Fabio at Fidus interpres just posted this video on his blog today. I normally hate to repeat what other translators post,  but this is just too hilarious not to post. Plus, I wanted readers who don’t read his blog to see it (and if you aren’t reading his blog, why not??). The trouble with voice recognition software is that it has problems with accents – in this case Scottish. I love a good Scottish accent. I would marry a Scot in a second just for the accent (yes, it is true about Americans being suckers for accents). I have joked with my friends that I would pay a Scot to read the phone book for me. I just love how they sound. This video is hilarious, so I hope you enjoy it.

A word on dictionaries for German translators (and perhaps other languages) July 13, 2010

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Tools, Translation.
10 comments

The basic library for getting started as a German-English translator consists of:

  • 1 good general bilingual dictionary (Muret-Sanders is a probably the most complete and reliable bilingual dictionary. I also like Pons or Harper-Collins)
  • 1 good monolingual German dictionary (Wahrig Deutsches Wörterbuch)
  • 1 good monolingual English dictionary (preferably unabridged – I have a massive Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language on a stand)
  • 1 good commercial-legal dictionary (Hamblock/Wessels Großwörterbuch Wirtschaftsenglisch or Dietl/Lorenz Dictionary of Legal, Commercial and Political Terms)
  • 1 good technical dictionary (Langenscheidts Fachwörterbuch Technik und angewandte Wissenschaft (by Peter Schmitt) or Ernst Wörterbuch der Industriellen Technik)

Once you become more established you will want to buy more dictionaries as you need them. I try to buy at least one dictionary a year (usually at the ATA conference). Here is some advice on dictionaries from a handout from Dr. Sue Ellen Wright, Kent State University, October 1994. Dr. Wright is a Professor of German and a member of the Kent State University Institute for Applied Linguistics, where she teaches terminology, computer applications for translators and German to English technical translation. She is one of the world’s leading experts on terminology and terminology management and is active on in the national and international standards community as well as standards for translation quality management.

1. General bilingual dictionaries

  1. Langenscheidt – Condensed Muret-Sanders
    Probably the most complete and reliable bilingual dictionary in any language pair for a reasonable price. [If you don’t think the price is reasonable, check out the price for the Encyclopedic Dictionary!] If you can scrape the $$ together don’t waste your money on anything else – go straight for the German-English, but bear in mind that you may want the English-German for stylistics.
  2. Langenscheidt – Muret-Sanders Encyclopedic Dictionary
    The greatest bilingual dictionary ever written. Period. In any language pair. It’s so great people who don’t do German ought to read it. If you ever have the money, buy it. Not only does it document general language, it also contains much general scientific vocabulary and a surprisingly rich selection of medical and biological terms.

2 Bildwörterbuch
The German-English Oxford-Duden is the great-granddaddy of the pictorial dictionary. It’s a super reference for translators and language students because lots of times we don’t know what word to look up in the first place, but we know how a thing looks or operates. Don’t let misinformed Americans convince you that the word “Duden” is a synonym for a pictorial dictionary! Duden is the German equivalent of Webster’s and Larousse and publishes a wide range of dictionary products. It’s nice that they also invented the pictorial dictionary, but that shouldn’t be an invitation to misuse their name.

3 General monolingual German dictionaries
Brockhaus, Duden and Wahrig all have their proponents. I personally think it is a good idea to have all three, but then I have had the time and money to invest in more dictionaries than most students do. Brockhaus in einem Band is also a terrific resource.  The important thing is to purchase at least one general language dictionary first.

4 Duden – Das große Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache
If the Muret-Sanders encyclopedic is the ideal bilingual, this is the best quasi-affordable German resource. This six-volume set is what Duden is really famous for, and why I don’t like to see the name misused. So when you get rich instead of just good-lookin’, this is a terrific investment.

5 Grammar and Style
The Duden in 11 Bänder and the Duden-Taschenbücher are great additions to any dictionary collection. [My note: I’m summarizing here. The most important Duden Bänder are Stilistik (the original collocation dictionary), Grammatik, Rechtschreibung, and Gutes Deutsch (another mainstay for stylistics). The Duden Taschenbücher Sue Ellen recommends are Die Regeln der deutschen Rechtschreibung, Wie schreibt man gutes Deutsch, Wie sagt der Arzt?, Wörterbuch der Abkürzungen, Wie schreibt man im Büro (business correspondence), Wie formuliert man im Büro (business composition)]

6 Business German (small stuff)
[Note: If you were to ask Robin Bonthrone he would tell you that none of the business and financial dictionaries are worth the paper they are printed on. If you must, Schäfer Financial Dictionary and Zahn Glossary of Financial and Economic Terms are two decent choices.]

7 Commercial German (serious dictionaries)
Wilhelm Schäfer’s Wirtschaftswörterbuch: Band I: Englisch-Deutsch and Band II: Deutsch-Englisch is a good choice. Dietl/Lorenz Dictionary of Legal, Commercial and Political Terms and Romain Dictionary of Legal and Commercial Terms are also good. If you do a lot of legal Romain is a highly recommended dictionary. I also like Hamblock/Wessels Großwörterbuch Wirtschaftsenglisch.

8 Technical Dictionaries
Peter Schmitts Langenscheidts Fachwörterbuch Technik und angewandte Wissenschaft is supposed to be one of the best technical dictionaries out there. Ernst Wörterbuch der Industriellen Technik (although not perfect) is a good general technical dictionary too – just don’t get the notion that you will find everything here, nor that what you find will always be right for your context. Sue Ellen “disrecommends” buying DeVries & Hermann. She equated its use would be equivalent with the old use for the old Sears and Roebuck catalogues.

9 Specialized Dictionaries
[She did not recommend any in particular because you have to seek out the items you need for any given topic. I’ll write about the medical dictionaries I use another day.]

A Final Word on English Dictionaries:
The American Heritage Dictionary is good, but Random House and Webster’s New World are also reliable. I particularly like the Concise Oxford when I’m called upon to produce good “mid-Atlantic” English. Once you have a good modern “college-size” dictionary scrounge the flea markets and used book stores for the 2nd or 3rd edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language published by Merriam Webster. The 2nd is the last great truly encyclopedic unabridged dictionary, and the 3rd represents a milestone shift to non-prescriptive lexicography. You’ll never regret the effort it took to find either of these classic dictionaries. (My copy of the 2nd was a $3 flea market find. I purchased a min-condition salesman’s sample of the 3rd a few years ago for $65. A realistic price for either probably lies somewhere between those two extremes.) [Note: I got my Webster’s Unabridged as a close-out at Border’s for $20]

Amazon, InTrans Book Service, Adler’s Foreign Books and Kater Verlag are all good sources for dictionaries.

Any German translators care to chime in as well with their favorites?

Just because there’s a “free trial” doesn’t mean you should abuse it July 2, 2010

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
11 comments

Translators are a notoriously cheap bunch. Our job affords us the luxury of having low overhead for our businesses. All we really need is a computer, an e-mail address and Internet access, and we are in business. We don’t need to buy lots of suits or pay for gas to drive to work. We don’t have to spend money on lunches out or $4 lattes every day unless we choose to do so. Once a dictionary is purchased it usually doesn’t need to be repurchased for quite some time. Face it, we are truly lucky. This unfortunately leads us to feel that we can cheap out on all kinds of aspects of our job. Every year someone complains about the price of the ATA conference, when other professional conferences can run up to three times as much. Translators also have a reputation for cutting corners with software licenses, hotels during the conference, the cost of CEUs, meals, etc. [Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a saint either. I’ve done this as well.]

Corinne McKay told me last year that her very helpful book, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, had been scanned by some anonymous translator and put on some overseas website for download. It had been downloaded 3,000 times by the time she learned of it. I was absolutely aghast. When you download shareware or an e-book instead of buying it you aren’t sticking it to “The Man.” You are most likely stealing from someone just like you – someone who works from home in their comfy clothes and probably has a family to support.

I have just learned of yet another way a translator has tried to save $13-20 by signing up for a free trial service four times in three years (twice within two months). Shareware (also referred to as a “free trial” or “trial version”) is described by Wikipedia as “usually [being] offered either with certain features only available after the license is purchased, or as a full version but for a limited trial period of time. Once the trial period has passed the program may stop running until a license is purchased.”

Now, a free trial for a service like Payment Practices gives you free full access to the database; however, it should not be abused. That is just really tacky. Payment Practices is not like other payment lists, because there is a database that users can search. Other listservs run through Yahoogroups, which is conveniently delivered to your e-mail inbox but whose Archive search function is seriously lacking. It also doesn’t occasionally remove unfavorable reviews when an agency objects, unlike another Board out there a lot of translators use that shall remain nameless. The list owner, Ted, has invested a lot of time and money into developing the Payment Practices website and data engine. He doesn’t run the site for profit. He is a translator just like you or me – but he has a good vision and truly wants to help freelance translators avoid non-payment. Paying the $19.99 subscription fee (there’s a 25% discount for ATA members) to use the site and avoid potential non-paying clients is a no-brain move if you ask me.

To be a professional you need to invest in your business. It takes money to make money. $20 a year is not a lot in the grand scheme of things. I consider my $15 a year to be one of the best investments I make all year – especially if it saves me from one potential non-paying new customer. Abusing shareware, subscription fees and license fees is stealing, and stealing from anyone – be it software companies or other translators – is just plain wrong. And be happy you work in a job that allows you to live so cheaply.

TGIF: A small rewrite (Shakespeare sketch) July 2, 2010

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

Long-time readers know of my love for both Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Laurie. Here is a live Shakespeare sketch called ‘A Small Rewrite’ made for Comic Relief, with Hugh Laurie as Shakespeare and Rowan Atkinson as the editor. It’s a total scream. Enjoy!

Stupid payment terms July 1, 2010

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
5 comments

We’ve all experienced stupid payment terms, such as payment in 90 days end of month, payment on the 15th of the month after the invoice has been issued, payment after the end client pays your client, lump sum payment after the invoices total a specified amount, etc. However, this one really takes the cake. I’m also pretty sure that it is illegal.

Someone on the WPPF listserv has a client whose payment is contingent on their providing the translator with more work. WHAT?!?!? Who would agree to a payment term like that? First of all, we as translators have no control over when an agency will give us more work. We can try to be as easy to work with and friendly as possible, but if an agency doesn’t get work in our language pair for a while or decides not to work with us we have no control over that. And even if the agency did send you more work, who knows if you would be available to accept the job.

Never mind the fact that the translator did the work and should be paid for said work in a timely manner.

It is very important to find out the payment terms before accepting a job so that you aren’t stuck with a stupid payment term. And if you want to share some of the stupid payment terms you have encountered, feel free to do so in the comments. I know there are lots more out there…

On a more personal note: happy Canada Day to my Canadian readers, and I hope the U.S.-based translators all enjoy the long July 4th weekend. I know I plan to!