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Scam or trend? March 28, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Scam alert.
29 comments

Usually I automatically delete e-mails like the one below after reading the subject line or at most the first line, but one of my friends forwarded it to me with a snarky comment that made me giggle this morning: “Can you count the typos/misspellings in this email???? Don’t think any of us will be going out of business anytime soon.” She was also wondering if it was the latest scam or the latest trend.

Become translator on TextMaster now and get extra 10% commission

Hello,We are very pleased to announce the opening of TextMaster, the first plateform [sic] dedicated to creating, translating and proofreading text. TextMaster is a service putting clients with specific needs in contact with writting [sic] specialists.

As a translator, we invite you to join our professionnal [sic] community for free and earn money with your talent! By subscribing now, you’ll get an extra 10% commission for life!

Sign up now and get the extra 10% commission by clicking here: SIGN UP

See you soon,

TextMaster’s team

Also, while responding to her e-mail, in which she mentioned an e-mail last week from “TextKing”, it occurred to me that the two might originate from the same person. So what say you, fellow readers, scam or misguided attempt to fill a market niche that simply doesn’t exist? After all, a 10% commission of 0 is still 0!

Make your comment heard March 18, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
15 comments

AKA “How to write a meaningful comment”

I didn’t approve a comment the other day, because it seemed too much like self-promotion. It said “Please do read more here [link]. this will surely help all of us.” The link was a blog post on a similar topic, but in my experience comments like this end up being spam or might even contain a link to a phishing site. So I deleted the comment and wrote the author of the comment explaining why I hadn’t published it. After some confusion on my part that made me think the commenter was being impersonated by someone using their e-mail to promote their blog (which apparently wasn’t the case), I realized the person was simply trying to be helpful. However, I had already deleted the comment.

Most readers of blogs aren’t aware, but blog authors often have to weed through lots of meaningless comments written by spammers, trolls or self-promoters to find actual comments written by actual readers. This blog currently has 1,891 comments, while my blog’s spam filter has caught 21,942 spam comments from being published. That’s a lot of spam!

In my experience, there are three kinds of meaningless or “unproductive” comments

  • Straightforward spam. This is usually pretty obvious, and Akismet usually does a really good job catching the most obvious spam. This can include very long posts featuring lots of swear words or porn and/or links to porn sites or comments that obviously have nothing to do with the post itself. This spam never sees the light of day, because I try to keep up with deleting this spam.
  • Trolls. These are people who say inflammatory or off-topic things just to rile people up. Luckily I haven’t had too many trolls on the site, and everyone behaves themselves. I haven’t had to block anyone from commenting again, which I really appreciate. There is a big difference between trolls and critical comments. Trolls deliberately say outrageous things to bate you. Critical commenters feel strongly about what they write and do an admirable job defending their position, so I won’t delete these comments. I don’t believe in censorship, but if someone is blatantly offensive I do adhere to the theory “my blog, my rules” and won’t hesitate to delete a comment in the future.
  • Self-promoters. These are commenters who don’t contribute to the conversation, but say something like “Great post!” while leaving links back to their own blog or site. Sometimes this practice can feel like spam if it happens often enough.

To ensure your comment gets published, please follow these simple rules:

  1. Don’t just post a quick criticism like, “I don’t agree; this isn’t my experience.” This doesn’t really engage in a conversation or offer something meaningful to other readers or commenters. Alternate viewpoints are welcome here, so please take the time to elaborate on it.
  2. Put your comments in context. Even though I may know who you are from interactions on online forums or previous comments, most people won’t know who you are when you’re commenting. So be sure to relate something about your background, experience, or point of view so we know where you are coming from.
  3. If possible offer a targeted resource. Some of the best comments point us to a very specific blog post or resource that I hadn’t seen before. The Internet is so vast it is easy to miss something or not be aware something is out there. Also, be sure to explain why you feel these resources are valuable to the readers in a sentence or two.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I try to be clear and concise, but I’m also human. If you didn’t understand something, there’s a good chance someone else didn’t understand either. So bring it up in the comments.
  5. Don’t just argue. If your views differ from mine, look for common ground. I am open to new ideas. I write this blog and read other blogs to learn more. I have learned so much from my colleagues in online forums, e-mail listservs and blogs since I started out in 1995. And I love sharing the knowledge I have learned with students and other translators.

I appreciate all of you who have left comments on this blog. I think the comments are often times more valuable than the actual post itself, because it is great to hear other experiences, opinions, and suggestions from fellow translators. That said, try to add a little substance to your comments to ensure they get posted for everyone to read. Leaving meaningful comments is also a good way to draw readers to your site. I enjoy clicking on the links in the contact information you leave to discover new and interesting blogs. If you want to share a link in the comment itself, please explain why you feel the page you are linking to might be of interest to me and/or my readers. Your thoughts are encouraged and welcomed!

Nebulous business practices abound… March 15, 2011

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

Do you have any capacity to take on work for Thursday morning?

That was all the e-mail that I received this Tuesday afternoon said. How am I supposed to answer this? “Uhm, yes?” “Sorry, I’m all booked up.”? I ended up going with “It depends.” and asked them how many words they need translated and what kind of a document it is – and, most importantly, what is the field/subject matter of the text itself? Could some clients be more nebulous about what they need? I don’t think this client could include less info if they tried…

Clients need to realize they need to be a little more specific when asking about our availability. 1000 words of an e-mail is not the same as 1000 words of legal or medical text. I can probably squeeze in 1000 words in a field that doesn’t require a lot of research and thought, but 1000 words of dense legal just isn’t going to happen. Especially when I am already working on 2500 words of medical reports recalling stent and bypass procedures. Besides, I had to take the critters to the groomer’s today and am running behind…

TGIF: Madonna Interview March 4, 2011

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

I had the text of this interview on my original website for a long time. It cracked me up when I read it, and it cracks me up even more that French & Saunders can barely read through it without totally losing it with laughter. When Madonna was in Budapest, Hungary filming the movie Evita, she was interviewed by the Budapest newspaper Blikk. The questions were posed in Hungarian, then translated into English for Madonna, whose replies were then translated back into Hungarian for the article. Shortly thereafter, at the request of USA Today, Madonna’s comments were then retranslated from Hungarian back into English for the benefit of that paper’s readers. To say that something was lost in the process is to be wildly ungrateful for all that was gained.

Luckily, since I never delete files… here is the original print of the interview for those of you having trouble following the interview due to the mangled language and laughs from French & Saunders. Enjoy!

“I Am a Tip-Top Starlet”

In which something is lost, but much is gained, in the translation

When the huge Evita production company blew into Budapest last month to rent its ancient architecture, Madonna, the film’s star, was much too busy staying in character to meet with the local press. Finally, on the eve of her departure, good manners prevailed, and the pop diva submitted to an interview with the Budapest newspaper Blikk.

Here is the complete transcript:

Blikk: Madonna, Budapest says hello with arms that are spread-eagled. Did you have a visit here that was agreeable? Are you in good odor? You are the biggest fan of our young people who hear your musical productions and like to move their bodies in response.

Madonna: Thank you for saying these compliments [holds up hands]. Please stop with taking sensationalist photographs until I have removed my garments for all to see [laughs]. This is a joke I have made.

Blikk: Madonna, let’s cut toward the hunt: Are you a bold hussy-woman that feasts on men who are tops?

Madonna: Yes, yes, this is certainly something that brings to the surface my longings. In America it is not considered to be mentally ill when a woman advances on her prey in a discotheque setting with hardy cocktails present. And there is a more normal attitude toward leather play-toys that also makes my day.

Blikk: Is this how you met Carlos, your love-servant who is reputed? Did you know he was heaven-sent right off the stick? Or were you dating many other people in your bed at the same time?

Madonna: No, he was the only one I was dating in my bed then, so it is a scientific fact that the baby was made in my womb using him. But as regards these questions, enough! I am a woman and not a test-mouse! Carlos is an everyday person who is in the orbit of a star who is being muscle-trained by him, not a sex machine.

Blikk: May we talk about your other “baby”, your movie, then? Please do not be denying that the similarities between you and the real Evita are grounded in basis. Power, money, tasty food, Grammys – all these elements are afoot.

Madonna: What is up in the air with you? Evita never was winning a Grammy!

Blikk: Perhaps not. But as to your film, in trying to bring your reputation along a rocky road, can you make people forget the bad explosions of Whos’s That Girl? and Shanghai Surprise?

Madonna: I am a tip-top starlet. That is my job that I am paid to do.

Blikk: O.K., here’s a question from left space: What was your book Slut about?

Madonna: It was called Sex, my book.

Blikk: Not in Hungary. Here it was called Slut. How did it come to be publish? Were you lovemaking with a man-about-town printer? Do you prefer making suggestive literature to fast-selling CDs?

Madonna: These are different facets to my career highway. I am preferring only to become respected all over the map as a 100% artist.

Blikk: There is so much interest in you from this geographic region, so I must ask this final questions: How many Hungarian men have you dated in bed? Are they No. 1? How are they comparing to Argentine men, who are famous for being tip-top as well?

Madonna: Well, to avoid aggravating global tension, I would say it’s a tie [laughs]. No, no, I am serious now. See here, I am working like a canine all the way around the clock! I have been too busy even to try the goulash that makes your country one for the record books.

Blikk: Thank you for your candid chit-chat.

Madonna: No problem, friend who is a girl.

Folly and foolishness in the translation industry March 3, 2011

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

A recent discussion on Proz.com (<sarcasm>that well-known bastion of professionalism</sarcasm>) suggested a general strike against TRADOS and other expensive CAT tools. Luckily most of the people in the discussion presented well-founded ideas why this is not a good idea. As @NadVega pointed out, “A CAT tool is an investment like any other. If the ROI justifies the purchase, it is not too expensive.” Like it or not, CAT/TEnTs are now part of doing business as a translator. As professionals we need to make sure we are investing in our businesses.

This cult of poverty thinking that is so prevalent among so many of our colleagues drives me crazy.

The idea of the “poverty cult” stems from a presentation by Neil Inglis at the 1996 ATA Regional Conference in Washington, D.C. and later that year at the Annual Conference in Colorado Springs. Inglis, a translator at the International Monetary Fund, suggested that the poverty cult “may develop from the inferiority complex that language professionals have (and others have about them) regarding their worth in the marketplace.” Inglis characterized “the Seven Deadly Sins of the Poverty Cult” as “envying the success of others, gloating over the failure of others; a pervasive sense that it is better for everybody to fail than for a few to succeed; a sickly squeamishness where the subject of money is concerned; shabby gentility, more shabby than genteel; a widespread conviction that it is better to have a little and be secure than to take a gamble and risk losing everything; and last, and very much least, Schadenfreude mixed with sour grapes.”

This suggestion to strike just goes to show that – despite great strides – the cult of poverty is alive and well in the translation industry. To that I say… if you are not earning enough that a couple hundred dollars presents a hardship or an annual dinner or workshop by your local translation chapter that costs $30 makes you twitch you should either raise your rates or find another profession.

Every profession has its own tools and expenses. You need to adapt or perish. Dentists need to upgrade their x-ray machines and dental tools. Lawyers need to remain up-to-date on the most recent rulings in their field of specialization. Architects need to spend several thousand dollars on AutoCAD and other CAD software. Sure, their clients don’t demand discounts because they have this software, but there are plenty of clients out there who don’t insist on discounts. I know, because I work for many of them. If a client tries to “bully” me into buying one tool over another I simply don’t work with them. There are plenty of other fish in the sea…

In our profession you need at a minimum a computer, e-mail, and language skills in order to translate. Most people also prefer to buy dictionaries in which to look up terms. Some of us choose to use CAT/TEnTs. Whether you buy an expensive or cheaper tool or use a free tool is up to you. If your client wants you to work with a certain tool it is up to you to decide if you are willing to adapt or possibly lose the client.

Back in the early days translators translated their texts using quills and parchment, then pen and paper, and then typewriters. They went through a lot of carbon paper and White-Out back in those days. And if they were like me they would have to retype the document if they made too many typos. When computers were invented, several translators I know were the first ones to buy a computer, which back then cost several thousand dollars and didn’t have near the storage capacity as we have now (or any storage capacity for that matter…). Fax machines and modems were also very expensive. They may have complained, but they coughed up the money in order to continue working because they knew the tools were necessary to be more productive. They used their expensive modems and dial-up connections to communicate with each other on CompuServe and LANTRA-L. They tossed the modems and dial-up when high-speed Internet was available. They are still in the business, delivering files via e-mail or FTP and translating several thousand words a day with the help of CAT/TEnTs.

One agency near me hasn’t done such a good job in adapting. The company owner has developed a reputation for driving to his translators’ homes and hand-delivering the source texts. One colleague called me just today complaining that he wanted the translated paragraph directly beneath the source paragraph in the translation of a fairly lengthy technical text. She was shocked because that was the first time in 15 years anyone had asked her to do that. I laughed and told her that sounded about right and suggested she tell him he can either do the necessary cutting and pasting himself or she would charge him more for the formatting work. And if he balked tell him to find someone else… You’d be surprised how many members of my local translators association don’t have an e-mail on file with us!! Adapt or perish…

Just because we use a CAT/TEnT and charge by the word now does not mean we are merely “CAT operators” as one person vehemently contends. I used to think I didn’t have enough repetition in my work to warrant using a tool. I too used to be vehemently against the idea of using translation tools until I finally saw the benefits these tools provide. My CAT/TEnT has saved me hundreds of hours and earned me lots of money that I wouldn’t have otherwise earned. Using alignment I was able to align a quality assurance manual, import it into my translation memory and save myself three days of work because all I had to do was proofread the suggested translations and change the company name. The client was thrilled, and now I have a good Quality Assurance TM. My Medical TM has become so vast that I can quickly translate several thousand words a day of highly technical stent reports or discharge reports thanks to the repetition in medical reports. I still have to be careful to check numbers and make sure each segment is translated accurately. This doesn’t mean I am just a CAT operator; it just means I am able to leverage previous translations and benefit from the consistency this ensures.

For the record, I use Trados 2009 and sometimes Transit XV. I just bought another TEnT (Fluency) today after attending an online tutorial. I liked that it had built-in tabs with online resources like Linguee and Google. It cost me $99, which I am sure will quickly pay for itself. One translator in the above Proz.com discussion uses Omega T because it is a free, open source tool. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a tool, but you really should have one if you want to compete in the current market.

As Neil Inglis stated, “We are highly skilled professionals and should expect to be treated that way, and our status as such should give us clout in every regard (not just as language professionals).” I would also add that we need to act like professionals in order to be treated as such. Stop complaining about the cost of this and that if it is part of doing business and pay the subscription fees or buy the tools that make you work more efficiently and effectively.