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The ABCs of Traveling December 29, 2011

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

One of the blogs I follow recently posted this fun little meme. Travel blogs are nominating other travel blogs, but I encourage my fellow linguist bloggers to just post this with their own info. I had a lot of fun reminiscing about my past travels while doing this.

Age you went on your first international trip

19. I was a junior in college and lived abroad in Salzburg, Austria for a year. It may have also been the first time I had ever been on a plane. Up until then we had always driven to our destinations.

Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where

I really like Grimbergen, Leffe or Duvel from Belgium. The first time I drank it was obviously in Belgium. I’m pleased that they are now available at some bars and grocery stores here in Cleveland.

Cuisine (favorite)

Czech – although Italian is a close second. I just love those Bohemian bread dumplings (knedliky).

Destinations: favorite, least favorite and why

Favorite destination is Prague. I’ve been there four times. It’s a magical city, with the castle overlooking the winding streets and the Charles Bridge. I love the food, architecture and the river. My second favorite destination is New Orleans. Awesome location, awesome food, awesome music, and a fun culture.

I have yet to find my least favorite destination.

Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”

Christmas in Germany and Austria. The Christmas markets are a lot of fun, and there is hot spiced wine to keep you warm.

Favorite mode of transportation

The train. I have been all over Europe on the train, from Italy to Norway, Paris to Budapest and everywhere in between. I’ve even been to New York City several times on the train. It is relaxing to just watch the countryside go by.

Greatest feeling while traveling

The adventure of discovering new places, new food and new traditions.

Hottest place you’ve traveled to

Cancun, Mexico.

Incredible service you’ve experienced and where

The service at the resort in Mexico was really good. Usually I stay at middle-class locations or youth hostels, so staying at a resort where you could eat overlooking the ocean or get any kind of fresh juice you wanted (watermelon!) was pretty awesome.

Journey that took the longest

The night I spent on the train traveling through East Germany was the longest night of my life. It may not have been a long trip, but it sure felt like it. I’ve never been so cold…

Keepsake from your travels

I try to buy a piece of jewelry or accessory from each location. I cherish my framed piece of lace from Bruges, Belgium because it is one of the first keepsakes I ever bought.

Let-down sight: why and where

Slovakia. Lots of East Block architecture and not many restaurants to choose from. We got out of there pretty quick.

Moment where you fell in love with travel

My first trip to Austria in 1989.

Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in

We stayed at several nice hotels during my AYA year abroad. The nicest one was the Hotel Ambassador in Berlin. They gave some of our group the penthouse, and we had a pool party.

Obsession: what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?

The buildings. I love all the different building styles out there.

Passport stamps: how many and from where?

Nearly all of my stamps are from Europe or the US. I’m on my third passport, so I have no clue how many I’ve ended up with over the years.

Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where

We traveled the United States a lot in an RV with my grandmother when I was a kid. We visited lots of quirky roadside attractions (and campgrounds) with the RV. I think the quirkiest was some dinosaur roadside attraction. I think that is where I bought Mexican jumping beans from some tourist trap store. We also stopped at the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of North Dakota thirty years ago. It still isn’t finished, so you can imagine how it looked back then.

Recommended sight, event or experience

Christmas in New York City. Everyone should experience it at least once. If you buy tickets for Broadway and Radio City Music Hall in July you can get some awesome seats.

Splurge: something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling

A good meal. I have enjoyed a lot of memorable meals – both good and bad. But a good meal is something you remember as making your trip worthwhile. Eating a muffaletta on a bank of the Mississippi, enjoying the most amazing slice of pizza in Florence, raclette in the Latin Quarter and duck at an amazing brasserie in Paris when all my roommate wanted to eat was McDonald’s, the pork and dumplings in Prague, eating bread with Swiss cheese covered with jam for breakfast in Norway, and the tortellini in Finale Ligura were ones that stand out the most. And of course Belgian chocolates.

Touristy thing you’ve done

I went on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg with a bunch of Australians who had lived in Austria for years. It was a riot. I toured the salt mines of Salzburg, sliding down the big wooden slide and floating across the underground salty lake. I remember taking a boat to see the Wisconsin Dells (and toured an iron ore mine) with my Aunt Birdie, Grandma G and my sister. I climbed in the Berlin Wall. If you are a tourist you should do touristy things.

Unforgettable travel memory

Chopping at the Berlin Wall in February 1990. I toured Haus der Geschichte (Museum of History) ten years later and heard the sound of hammers on the Wall before I saw the video, and it gave me chills.

Visas: how many and for where?

About 5 German residency visas total.

Wine: best glass of wine while traveling and where?

I’ve had some good wine over the years. The most memorable evening was in Vienna with my study abroad group. It was a warm evening, and we enjoyed the new wine at a Heurige.

eXcellent view and from where?

The view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower from Montparnasse was pretty spectacular. The Grand Canyon wasn’t too shabby either.

Years spent traveling?

As kids, we spent many summers traveling all over the U.S. in an RV with my grandmother (Maine, Vermont, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Wisconsin). My family drove to New Jersey every summer (the Shore to visit my mother’s godparents and to visit my grandmother). One of my dad’s best friends lives in Niagara Falls. I lived abroad for a total of seven years. I have seen lots of sights in the U.S. and abroad, so pretty much most of my life has involved trips of one sort or another.

Zealous sports fans and where?

Everyone should experience a German soccer game. It just can’t be described.


I don’t have a plan – and that’s okay too December 20, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Uncategorized.

A lot of my colleagues are posting about end-of-the-year reviews and marketing and business plans. I don’t have a plan, and I’m okay with that. Everyone always talks about having goals and working toward those goals. My only goal is to consistently deliver quality translations to my clients and keep them happy. If you are like me and don’t have a plan and don’t have any desire to draw up a plan, that’s okay. I look at my bottom line at the end of the year compared to the year before and if it is about the same or a little more it’s been a good year. This year my income is about the same as it was the year before, so I’m completely content.

Tonight begins Chanukah, and the Christmas season is also upon us. I have a fun day lined up with my nieces tomorrow and am spending as much time with family and friends as I can. I hope you all are blessed enough to do the same. I wish you all a happy holiday season.

Advice for a new translator on job hunting December 6, 2011

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

I received an interesting comment from Martha, a new translator. I felt this was important enough that it shouldn’t be buried on a page no one will see. Martha has agreed to my posting it here for everyone to comment on. I particularly hope that some of my former students will share their insights (May, Justin, Emily, etc.) since they broke into the market more recently and are busy in their own rights.

I have to say that as a new translator, I’ve read these ideas to keep rates standard 100 times but find it very difficult to find any work at all if I can’t show I have much experience in any field yet. Does anyone have a good strategy of how to hunt for potential jobs (besides proZ.com)? I thought working for one agency and showing them that I could complete a quality translation would be an effective way to start and yet I finished a large project for my first employer and am now questioning whether I’ll be paid a dime for it or anything I’ve done since. Other translation agencies do not seem to be interested once they find out I have limited knowledge of a trial version of a CAT tool and have only offered small and sporadic work so I’m starting to feel overwhelmed. Do you seasoned translators have any suggestions?

Here are ten tips from me to get started. I hope others can share what worked for them.

1. Start marketing yourself to as many translation agencies and/or direct clients as you can. They won’t know you are available if they don’t know you exist. I wrote a guest blog post at Naked Translations explaining how I broke into the U.S. market when I moved back from Germany in 2001. Think about what makes you stand out from all the other translators out there looking for clients and highlight it to new clients.

2. Get active on the local, national and international levels. I was the president of the Northeast Ohio Translators Association for eight years. Not only was I the face of NOTA to local and regional businesses, I established good relations with my NOTA members (both agencies and freelancers) and kept urging my members to act professional at all times. I also highly recommend attending some of the smaller ATA regional conferences that are more specialized in the fields you work in or would like to work in. At the national and international level I attend (and present at) the ATA conference every year, am active on various translation listservs in the U.S. and Germany (word of mouth and referrals from colleagues who are too busy are VERY helpful – both when you are starting out and once you are established and you have a lull), maintain this blog, and use social media like Twitter, XING and LinkedIn. I have also written articles for our local newsletter (the NOTA BENE) and the ATA Chronicle. People actually do remember them years later.

3. Have you read Corinne McKay’s book, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, or Judy and Dagmar Jenner’s The Entrepreneurial Linguist yet? Both offer valuable advice for new and experienced translators alike.

4. Use a full version of your CAT tool – not a trial version. There are some excellent tools out there like Fluency or OmegaT that do not cost an arm and a leg (in fact, OmegaT is free!). Once you start earning more money you can consider branching out and purchasing one of the more expensive translation environment tools (if you feel you need to). This is where I feel sites like Proz.com can come in handy, because they occasionally offer group buys that make a software like MemoQ more affordable.

5. Stay strong on price. I just announced to my favorite client that I was raising my word rate by $0.01, and they were okay with it. Quality agencies are willing to pay for quality work. Don’t let yourself be beaten down by the bottom feeders. Have you spent any time on No Peanuts! for Translators? They offer some convincing arguments you can use when you are pressured by a lower paying agency.

6. Be sure to check out the agencies on non-payment sites like Payment Practices, Translator-Client Review, the ProZ.com Blue Board and Translatorscafe’s Hall of Shame. Get on non-payment listservs like WPPF and Zahlungspraxis (in German). This ensures you won’t be taken in by unscrupulous non-payers who prey on (desperate/less-informed) translators.

7. Take some college courses to expand your knowledge and experience in the field you are interested in and let potential clients know you have taken them. You don’t need to get a degree, but it shows you are interested in becoming a better translator. For example, Kent State University offers classes that they consider their core requirements (Translation Theory, Documents in Multilingual Contexts, Terminology and Computer Applications, and hands-on translation courses in the practice of translation, sci-tech-med, legal-commercial and literary-cultural).

8. Consider working on holidays, weekends and during the professional conferences (and advertising that fact) until you establish yourself. Many agencies scramble to find translators when their established translators are not available, and if you do a good job and impress them they will come back.

9. Be prepared to work hard. It takes about a year to establish yourself. Consider taking on a part-time job until you start becoming busier.

10. Most importantly, keep your existing clients very happy with quality work (hire a proofreader if you have to) and deliver quickly (if not early).

Working with pets December 6, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.

Working from home as a translator presents all kinds of challenges: Do you call or email your client? Do you get up and shower or work all day in your pajamas? Do you feel guilty when you go to the grocery store at 10:00 a.m. the day before a holiday to beat the crush of pre-holiday meal preparation? But, for me, the greatest challenge is working around animals.

Being home all day, every day is very conducive to pet ownership. Most office drones don’t have that luxury and envy us. We don’t have to make sure someone is home in eight hours to let the dog out, and we can take the pets to the vet in the middle of the day if needed.

Having a pet can be very rewarding. I find it especially helpful, because it forces me to get away from my computer to take a walk or clean up after her. My white, fluffy dog is especially good at going out into the backyard and rolling in something dark and stinky, so that also forces me to bathe at least once a day, if not more.

Another bonus is that I actually meet my neighbors while walking the dog. I lived in my old apartment for three years before I got my dog and didn’t know any of my neighbors because I was holed up in the house all day and night. That changed as soon as I got Lily. We suddenly knew everyone and would have doggie play dates and walks with the Golden Retriever across the street.

I found having one pet wasn’t enough, so when my dog found a starving kitten in the backyard last summer we took her in to join our pack. Now Bailey helps me translate by walking or laying across my keyboard and adding brand-new words or deleting whole paragraphs because she is hungry or bored. I do occasionally throw her out of the office when I am doing something that requires focus, like balancing my accounts or credit card statements, and she stands at the door plaintively wailing her dissatisfaction while the dog scratches at it. This ensures that I finish as quickly as possible to restore some peace. As soon as I finish and open the door, the cat and dog both come bounding in to rejoin me, and all is forgiven.

You need to have a sense of humor if you have pets as coworkers – and a watchful eye. My cat especially loves checking out whatever beverage I am enjoying by pulling the glass down for an eye-level view. I have to anticipate her moves to ensure I don’t suddenly have a waterlogged keyboard.

I’ve come to rely on my pets to keep me company and to offer the occasional (much-appreciated) distraction. There is nothing more relaxing in the middle of a particularly stressful day than having to take a break to rub my cat’s tummy or throw my dog’s sheep down the hallway for a game of Fetch. Now if you’ll excuse me, the dog park is calling…

Update: This post was my contribution to Alejandro Moreno-Ramos’ book. Mox’s Illustrated Guide to Freelance Translation is now available for purchase for just €19.95. I can’t wait to receive my copy! Now if you’ll excuse me, my coffee is calling…