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The beauty of working from home April 29, 2011

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

I am sitting in my hotel room after the Welcome Reception for the ATA’s TCD conference. Corinne McKay gave me and several others signed second editions of her popular book, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator (hot-off-the-press – it’s not yet available for sale but it will be very soon). After staying up late last night to finish translating a particularly tricky contract and packing to then wake up early to fly to DC I declined joining several friends for dinner, choosing to crash in the hotel. I started reading the book, and something in her Introduction resonated enough with me that I wanted to immediately blog about it. She talks about work-from-home opportunities and how translation is one of the few legitimate work-from-home careers. The sentence “…working from home, you’ll probably experience greater job satisfaction and less stress, since a relatively minor disruption like a dentist appointment or furnace repair won’t derail your entire work day.” made me say “right on!”

I recently experienced this first-hand. Wednesday night my Internet kept going down and was running at an average of 36 MPbs. Repeated reboots of the cable modem and router – and even my computers – were unable to speed up the connection. Frustrated, I turned the computer off, hoping it was a momentary upgrade problem. Thursday morning things hadn’t improved, so I called my cable Internet provider to complain. The service rep checked the line and agreed that I did have a problem. He offered to send a tech out, but he noted with some trepidation in his voice that  he wasn’t sure when the tech could come out and I would need to be home the whole day, possibly as late as 8 PM. I cheerfully informed him that that wasn’t a problem because I worked from home and urged him to put me as high on the list as possible since I depend on the Internet for my job. Luckily I didn’t have to wait all day. The tech was there within a half an hour and even though he didn’t find the cause of the problem and would have to come back later to check the cable on the telephone pole the Internet was somewhat more stable after he left and I was able to work again.

If I worked in an office this scenario could have never been possible. I would have had to take a vacation day to be home to let him in, and he wouldn’t have been able to fit me in so quickly in the day. I was already home, so the tech was able to immediately come by.

As Corinne so aptly states, the beauty of working from home as freelance translators is that we can structure our work day around our peak energy times and family needs, rather than our employer and its policies. I particularly love working from home in the winter, when my commute on snowy days is from the bedroom to the coffeemaker to the office, where I read all kinds of irate tweets and status updates from people complaining about their commutes and the weather. And in the summer I can take some time off at any time to take the dog for a walk. You really can’t beat it… and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything.


Favorite tools: Search and Replace April 20, 2011

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

One of my German friends/colleagues complained on Facebook yesterday that she was proofreading files and the translator had changed Vereinigtes Königreich (United Kingdom) to Groß Britannien (Great Britain – but spelled wrong, because it should be Großbritannien). If it was just one file it wouldn’t have been a problem to correct it, but the problem here was that the translator had changed it in 148 separate files.

Screenshot taken from the Funduc website

There’s a shareware tool for that! Search and Replace by Funduc Software is a great little tool that can easily fix this problem. It “searches through one or more files files for a string and can also replace that ‘search hit’ with another string. It can even search for the string inside .ZIP files, which can be a handy feature to have. Search and Replace is also available in international versions. As they explain on the Funduc website, “Language interface downloads are available below for German, Danish, Dutch, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish versions. Some older Japanese, Greek, Norwegian, and Swedish modules are also available.” You can also write support@funduc.com if you need an older language dll that is not listed. You simply install the English version and then add the language support files into the Search and Replace program directory.

This is a must-have tool for translators. I can’t tell you how many times I have relied on this tool. Search and Replace costs $25.00, Replace Studio Pro costs $30.00 and Replace Studio Business Edition costs $37.00.  I have been perfectly happy with Search and Replace for years now. Windows XP, Windows 2003, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. 32-bit and x64 versions are available for all three tools.

The distinction between interpreter and translator April 18, 2011

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

An ongoing debate in our industry is whether or not to push the distinction between an interpreter and a translator. We in the industry all know that interpreters talk and translators work with the written word, but people outside the industry automatically assume I am an interpreter when I say I am a translator. I have to explain to almost everyone I meet that I prefer to “sit behind my computer and find the perfect word” instead of rambling on until my point gets across (because, believe me, if I were an interpreter that would be EXACTLY what would happen – I was not blessed with the gift of off-the-cuff speaking like my interpreter colleagues…).

It certainly doesn’t help that those in television, movies and print media don’t even know the difference. We all cringe when we hear “We need a translator in here!” when a police officer on a show like Law & Order: SVU or CSI needs to interview a witness who doesn’t speak English. But it seems only a translator or interpreter even notices the difference. The most recent episode of The Good Wife is a good example of this. An ongoing storyline features America Ferrera’s character as an undocumented worker who had been brought to the States at age 2 and was working as a nanny for the political opponent of the main character’s husband. The husband’s cunning political consultant leaked the story, but has fallen for her character so he was secretly trying to get her naturalization paperwork pushed through and even saved her father from being deported the week before. This past week she was working as an intern for the main character’s law firm. She just happened to notice a mistranslation in a previous translation that gained them a decisive advantage in the deposition between an oil company and a drilling company that was owned $87 million and just happened to be nationalized by Hugo Chavez that day. She then interpreted for the team of lawyers in the deposition – and even for Hugo Chavez in Venezuela via a monitor. Her efforts won them a settlement – all as a lowly intern. What a gal!

In real life, the Jenner twins and Corinne McKay were recently featured on NPR explaining the difference between an interpreter and translator, and NPR got it wrong in a story the very next day…

It’s enough to make anyone throw their hands up in the air and stop bothering. A colleague on one of my German listservs is quite vocal about no longer bothering with clearing up the misconception. She feels it simply isn’t worth the effort. I say we still need to continue fighting the good fight, but we need to know when to inform and educate and when to simply move on and not belabor the point. As Corinne states in the comments of the aforenamed blog post, she adheres to Chris Durban’s advice of “keep it short, upbeat, don’t harass and harangue!”

The need to stress one minor point is still desperately needed though… As one of my colleagues so concisely put it “The skill and training to translate and/or interpret in one direction does not mean you can do it in the other. People unfamiliar with the work involved somehow imagine that anyone who translates German to English, for example, can obviously translate from English to German (or Chinese to English, for that matter — “it’s only a couple of sentences!”)”.