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Second Annual Shreve lecture on Friday, Apr. 13, 2012 March 28, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Translation.
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If you are within driving distance, the Institute of Applied Linguistics at Kent State University in Ohio cordially invites you to attend this event.

The IAL is sponsoring the second annual Shreve lecture and invites you to come hear their distinguished Translation Studies speaker, Professor Rosemary Arrojo. The lecture and reception will be followed by a showing of the documentary Woman with 5 Elephants (If you haven’t seen this documentary, you should!).

When: Friday, April 13, 2012 at 3:30 PM
Where: Satterfield Hall – Room 112.A

“Translation as Subversion in Latin American Fiction”

Refreshments will be served. All are welcome.

The IAL is pleased to present the second lecture in the annual Gregory M. Shreve Lecture Series in Translation Studies, instituted in honor of the IAL’s founding director. The series is made possible through the generosity of alumni, IAL faculty members, and friends of the IAL.

Dr. Rosemary Arrojo is a leading translation scholar. She is currently Professor of Comparative Literature at Binghamton University (SUNY). She has been teaching translation theory since the 1980s and has published extensively on the interface between translation studies and contemporary thought (psychoanalysis, deconstruction, post-colonial theory) and on representations of translation in fiction, both in English and Portuguese. Her work has also appeared in German, Spanish, Turkish, and Hungarian.


Film review: The Woman with the 5 Elephants March 28, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.

I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed this documentary here. I saw it last year, and it has stuck with me. I remember hearing about “Svetlana Geier” back when I lived in Germany. It was interesting to learn more about her in this manner.

Photo by the Cinema Guild

The five elephants in the documentary title are Dostoyevsky’s great literary works, all of which have been translated by the 87-year-old Svetlana Geier, who is considered the world’s most masterful translator of Russian literature into German. Retranslating Dostoyevsky’s five major novels took Geier twenty years. She completed the project in 2007 and died shortly after the documentary was filmed at age 87 in November 2010.

The filmmaker visits with Geier, whose fascinating and dramatic life story has been colored by some of the most violent events in 20th century European history: Stalin’s purges of the kulaks (responsible for her father’s death) and the Nazi occupation of the Ukraine (ultimately responsible for saving her life and leading to a university education in Germany).

As the audience, we meet some of her family members and get a glance at her home life in Freiburg, Germany, where she was a university professor. She studied languages as a young girl in Kiev, and after the Germans invaded Kiev she began working as an interpreter for Dortmunder Brückenbau AG. After the Nazis were defeated in Stalingrad she and her mother decided to flee to Nazi Germany in 1943. The reasons were twofold – as an interpreter and translator for the Nazis she would have been considered a collaborator by the advancing Russian Army and her mother did not want to live amongst the people who had killed her husband. She studied in Germany at the University of Freiburg and became a university professor in Freiburg and the University of Karlsruhe. She began translating in 1953.

In the documentary we accompany her and one of her granddaughters as she visits the Ukraine for the first time in 67 years. She visits locations from her early adult life and speaks to university students about translation. However, as a translator, what I found most interesting and compelling was watching her translate and parse the language, word by word, with her colleagues. She dictates her translation to an assistant and then revises the typed translation with a musician friend who questions her word choices, argues the fine points of the German language, and provides some much needed levity. It wasn’t stated, but I got the feeling she urgently wanted to finish the project before she died.

I walked out of the theater amazed at how she worked, knowing that as a retired university professor she could afford to argue the finer points of German. If you get a chance to see the documentary I recommend you do!

Here is a link to the trailer to whet your appetite:

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday March 28, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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Thanks to the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters for posting it on their Facebook page.

The Big Sell March 26, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Tools.

I thought it might be interesting to share the advertising mails I received for translation tools in the space of one week…

E-mail advertising 30% off a workgroup license for DejaVu (unsubscribe option was in French – thank heavens for Google Translate)

E-mail telling me Wordfast Pro 3.0 is coming soon

E-mail offering 20% off SDL Trados Studio 2011 in honor of their 20th anniversary

E-mail advertising a full license and upgrade to DejaVu on ProZ, an e-mail advertising 40% off memoQ translator pro, and an e-mail offering an upgrade for Translation Office 3000

This morning I was offered a free webinar on how to use TO3000 (tips and tricks). Ah the joys of unsolicited advertisements. I’ve deleted every single one of these e-mails, but I think I’ve decided to just consequently unsubscribe from each one I receive in the future. I’m perfectly happy working with MemoQ (and to a lesser degree Fluency). If I absolutely need Trados for a job I still have a licensed version on my laptop. As for Translation Office 3000… well, I gave up working with that program years ago because I found it to be too clunky and time-consuming. Maybe I should sign up for the free webinar after all…

Tips on How to Better Connect with your Freelancers (GALAxy newsletter article) March 22, 2012

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

I was recently asked to contribute an article for the Globalization and Localization Association’s GALAxy newsletter, which was just published in the last few days. GALA is holding its 2012 conference in Monaco this week, so the timing couldn’t be better. Since GALA is targeted to globalization and localization companies, they thought it would be interesting for me to write about the qualities a good translation company should have. Jiri Stejskal, CEO of CETRA, wrote a similar article from the company’s point of view entitled LSP with a Human Face: Connecting with Freelancers. In his article he offers “suggestions from an LSP perspective on how to develop a successful working relationship with contracted freelancers.” I was asked to take the freelancer’s perspective on working with translation companies and share advice on “how to create lasting and fruitful relationships with translators.” You can read my article here (note that I consistently used “translation agency” instead of “LSP” (because we are all LSPs) in my article. I had to defend my choice to the newsletter editor, but she agreed that I had a valid point and allowed me to use “translation agency.” I wonder if anyone in GALA even noticed. I am honored to have been asked to write the article and hope you all enjoy it.

A new kind of spam comment? March 20, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.

This is a question for all my fellow bloggers. I was going through my “spam” comments today and found a couple that I would normally deem to be spam since they follow a pattern of deliberately misspelling a word in the first sentence. However, in reading the comment I found someone took the time to actually write about translation. Here are some examples:

Comment on my “Wie gut ist dein Deutsch” TGIF video:

Great idea. Start with a simple situloon and work from there. As a client I don’t want heaven I just want what you offered in your newsletter. My biggest problem is that translators translate the same glossary word across different texts and come up with different translations for the same terms and words. This gets worse if multiple translators are involved. Especially when creating software and help files and FAQs this is a huge problem: Menu items always have to have the same translation for example, as users can otherwise not understand how the text ralates to their software.There is no grading involved. There simply is only ONE translation and that’s it. I don’t know why an early version or any version would need a grading system. If I as a client want a translation of a word or term in the glossary fixed, so that it always is translated in the same way, then that’s what I want. That’s why I place it in the glossary. I do this to take away ANY options from the translators to get the translation wrong.If you can deliver what you are suggesting in the newsletter, you would provide a great situloon. From the comments I can see above it appears you have translators responding who want a grat Glossry for entirely different reasons than suggested by you. Stick with what you suggested, and you will make many of your clients happy who want to get better quality and more consistent translations across multiple documents.I do NOT want a glossary such as trainer -> (sport) istruttore, allenatore, trainer, mister That already exists in translation software. There is no need to reinvent this.I want a glossary that takes away options from translators and forces them to always translateX with Y.This is what I understand you are planning and this would be a great situloon.

Second comment in reply to Lisa Davey’s comment:

I don’t think there are all that many comments out there dnaparsgiig MT across the board, if you take a closer look. I’m a professional translator but I certainly see the value in having MT tools available for people to get the quick gist of a web page, for instance. Most of the my god, look at this terrible MT output commentary you see (at least the stuff that’s worth reading at all) will be criticizing inappropriate uses of MT, not MT per se—cases where it’s used to produce absurd signs at the Beijing Olympics, or gibberish on a website that’s actually meant to market services or products to readers of another language. Google Translate is a fine and helpful tool, and I turn to it myself when I want to get a dim idea of what some Russian or Korean just wrote. I don’t write a snarky blog post about Google Translate unless there’s a company using its output, unedited, to try to sell web services to the Japanese market or the like. And then the focus of my post is going to be This company hasn’t got a clue, not Google Translate sucks, ha ha.

Comment on my “Translators do it better” post:

Very early on, the members of Vox Clara agered to something they eventually called the Moroney Principle. The principle maintains that wherever possible the current ICEL translations spoken by the people should be retained provided they are not too distant from what LA proposes. Yet, if the literal route was chosen it would have given parishes all the more reason to either sing the readings, or if they were unable to sing the readings perhaps they could sing the acclamations. When the Latin text is employed the way the different responses to Verbum Domini are registered most effectively in the mind depends upon how Verbum Domini is sung. The sung text cues the different response. Thus, not only could you have the literal translation, but in order for there to be a proper pastoral cue it would necessitate singing the acclamations. How they are sung of course would not have to be what the latin chants propose, but could be adapted for the English Language context. Fr. Joncas might at least agree with that goal. Maybe for the sake of singing they should be translated literally. I am sure that Fr. Joncas would agree that singing an acclamation heightens the effect of it.

They appear to be coming from some Facebook profiles. What say you, fellow bloggers? Spam or not spam? This is hard to determine!

Guest post: 1/3/10/30/90 March 20, 2012

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

My friend and colleague John has just launched a blog on interpreting called “In the Middle.” So far there is only one blog post, but I wanted to publish one of his past articles from our newsletter explaining his marketing method in order to introduce you to him. He specializes in both court and medical interpreting, getting his start at Language Line. We graduated from Kent State together back in 1995. John is one of only two state-certified interpreters in Ohio (he is an OH/TN State Certified Court Interpreter and CCHI Certified Healthcare Interpreter) and is one of the forces behind Ohio’s push to implement state certification. He also took over for me as President of NOTA and is doing a great job reinvigorating the group. He is also the former chairman of the ATA Mentor committee and one of the best people I know. If you are interested in interpreting I hope you’ll start following him.


By John P. Shaklee, Spanish<>English interpreter

The most frequently asked questions of mentors in the American Translators Association mentoring program have to do with marketing: How can I market my services? Where do I begin? What works? This article will describe a marketing tip shared with me by one of my mentors. It sounds simple: contact one hundred potential clients, and follow up three, ten, thirty and ninety days later. The prediction is that ten of those contacts will become clients.

Sound hokey? Maybe. But it worked for me. I left a full-time interpreting job last year to become a freelancer and profited from the 1/3/10/30/90 marketing tool.

Here’s a breakdown of what I did:

Day 1: I sent out a cover letter, resumé and notification of my court certification status by snail mail. The letter included my availability, experience and recent assignments. At the end I wrote “as part of my ongoing training …” (fill in the blank). This notifies the client that I’m not stagnating and that I am willing to continue to learn. I asked another of my mentors, who happens to be an agency owner, to review my resumé for content and mechanical errors. Jill Sommer, NOTA president and a frequent contributor to American Translators Association conferences and publications, provided a template for the cover letter. If you would like a copy of my resumé or cover letter, please e-mail me at  jshaklee@neo.rr.com.

Day 3: I contacted the recipient of my mailing to see if the information arrived. Be it by snail mail, e-mail or a phone call, this is another opportunity to make personal contact with a potential client. When a job crosses someone’s desk, I want “John Shaklee, Interpreter” to be the first
name to come to mind. If the recipient says that the information didn’t arrive, politely offer to submit it once again and hang up quickly. On day ten, contact the recipient again to see if the information arrived yet. Find out who actually decides which interpreters to call so that your information gets to the right person. Be pleasant and polite no matter who answers. Remember, they are doing you a favor: “May I speak to the person in charge of XXX? I appreciate your time today.” A frazzled secretary will remember you if you are warm and nice instead of huffy and is more likely to see that your information is passed on.

Day 10: Send a brief letter to explain what has happened since your last contact. For example, “I recently translated XXX” or “I attended a workshop on interpreter ethics through the Community and Court Interpreters of the Ohio Valley.” Mention job-related activities since the last call and that you look forward to your first assignment with them. Have you written an article for publication? As a court interpreter, I mention which new court I’ve worked in lately. The network grows with each effort you make.

Day 30: If you haven’t been called by this time, don’t fret. Here is a sample of a day 30 letter: “Dear Mr. Smith … I appreciate the e-mail from your secretary who mentioned my information is already on file. Most recently, I interpreted for a lengthy pre-sentence report in Columbiana County. Also, I’ve been assigned to team-interpret for a trial in Judge Lucci’s court in Painesville. Should you have the need for a state-certified court interpreter, please call me at XXX.XXX.XXX. I’m willing to travel and my rates are competitive.” Short, simple, and to the point. Once again, the potential client hears my name. Tailor the letter to reflect your experience.

Day 90: You can review assignments, workshops, recent credentials or anything that you have done in the past time period related to why they ought to hire you. Did you build a Web site? Again, make the letter brief.

Do I enjoy this disciplined exercise? No. Frankly, I don’t like this any more than balancing the checkbook. Yet, since I started to work freelance last August, my work load has increased. I am working harder for shorter periods of time and earning more. The 1/3/10/30/90 tool has put my name in the hands of judges and court administrators throughout northeast Ohio. When a case comes up, they know to contact “that guy from North Canton who keeps contacting us and is certified.” Have your rates and availability at hand as the client will call. Join me in the abundance.

TGIF: Jimmy Kimmel interviews Will Ferrell in Spanish March 17, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, TGIF.
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I don’t even know Spanish, but I can hear that he is obviously murdering the Spanish language. You may only be able to watch a few minutes of it, but I have posted all 3 parts. Will Ferrell certainly knows how to take a joke and run with it (or drive it into the ground as it were…). To continue this for as long as he did shows dedication to the joke and a strange kind of perseverance. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to those of you who are celebrating today.

Stop check fees are a part of doing business March 2, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.

I am currently in the process of deciding if I ever want to work for this client again, and it is all over a $31 stop payment fee. The long and short of the story is an agency that I worked for twice in 2010 owes me about $1400 for a job I did for them in early December. The payment was overdue by 30 days, so I sent them a reminder. They informed me that they had mailed the payment on December 31st. Turns out they mailed it to my old address since that is the address they had for me on file. I haven’t lived there since June 1, 2010. My former landlady had contacted me in early January to tell me that I had received some mail at the old address (including what looked like a check) and asked for my address to forward it to me. Needless to say she didn’t and when I called her again two weeks ago she told me she would, but still hasn’t.

I contacted the client for them to reissue the check. They told me they would have to stop payment on the check, and they would be charging me the stop payment fee. Even though the problem happened through absolutely no fault of my own. They claim it’s my fault because they say I didn’t notify them when I moved. My correct address was on the invoice, and oddly enough none of my other clients have had problems updating my address or sending payments and 1099-MISCs to the correct address.

Legally I am correct, but in order to get paid I am going to have to eat the stop payment fee. What is up with agencies feeling they can pass on fees like this onto the little guy? If I have to stop payment on a check it’s not like I can pass the fee on. I would never charge the Illuminating Company or even one of my subcontractors a fee to stop payment on a check I wrote them. It’s part of doing business and should be written off by the company. Am I wrong in feeling this way? Agency owners, what say you? The opinion on the Business Practices listserv was either that it was silly of the agency to charge me the fee or just write it off and not quibble about $31 in the grand scheme of things.

I can tell you this though… there are some major negative feelings on my end towards this client, and I will not be working with such a petty, nickle-and-dime agency in the future. Since I only translated this job at the end of 2011, two jobs for them in 2010 and several in 2008, this won’t be that big of a loss. There are plenty of other good agencies out there that value their translators. All over a stupid $31 fee that they could have easily written off as a business expense. I hope it was worth it to them.

Update: I received the replacement check (for the full amount) today and in response to my e-mail letting them know and thanking them I received this e-mail:

Accounting told me that your old check came back to us, I guess your landlady never sent it to you, but to us. So we have re-sent it to the new address. Therefore, don’t worry about extra charges 🙂

All’s well that ends well.

Bonus TGIF: Applied Language Solutions/Ministry of Justice Framework Agreement March 2, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Fun stuff, TGIF.

Court interpreters in the UK are protesting the signing of a private contract between Applied Language Solutions and the Ministry of Justice, which has seen their rates almost halved. According to an article in the Guardian, “As many as 1,000 interpreters are boycotting a privatised contract to supply linguistic services to all English and Welsh courts, resulting in postponed hearings, suspects being released and compensation claims.” According to Syed Amjad Ali, who organized the Manchester demonstration, “Interpreters were getting £30 an hour before, for a minimum of three hours, now they offering them £16-£22, no travel for the first hour and petrol of 20p per mile.” Apparently about 60% of the 2,300 people on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters are refusing to work for ALS under the conditions in the contract, and the court is starting to panic because cases are being postponed and even dismissed because they can’t find an interpreter. One of the biggest complaints is that qualified interpreters aren’t willing to work for those rates, so the quality of the interpreters who are being sent to jobs has understandably dropped.

The rates for interpreting in court in Germany (and government contracts here in the States) have always been lower than the standard market rate, so I can’t imagine what the UK interpreters are dealing with. Based on the chatter on my listservs and online, Applied Language Solutions signed an agreement to provide translation services to the court and for the 2012 Olympics. I imagine that will be hard to do if they can’t find anyone to provide those services for them. In the past the Olympics has relied on volunteer interpreters with no training. I happen to know someone who worked in Atlanta back in 1996. She did it as a lark because she knew a little Spanish. I knew her from back in high school. She has never worked in the T&I industry and is a Tastefully Simple salesperson. Anyway, I’m digressing…

Back to the matter at hand. As Chris Durban so aptly explained, “very worrying logistics & quality issues now have led the MoJ to authorize courts to look for alternate solutions — an indication that maybe, just maybe, some intermediaries’ race to the bottom rates-wise may have reached a limit.” It’s kind of hard for an agency that doesn’t actually do the work to provide bottom-rate translation services if the service providers choose not to work for them. Keep your chins up, fellow UK interpreters! We’re all behind you.


Apparently the CEO behind ALS is a 35 year old whose ambition is to become “the biggest language provider in the world”. Yeah, good luck with that. According to Chris, “The chairman of ALS tipped his hand (slightly) in a “fund my business venture” TV show called Dragons Den a few years back here:”