Multilingual Food Glossary

One of our colleagues from the American Translators Association, Kristina Moeller, just shared a link to an interesting four-language online food dictionary (French, Spanish, German, English -- just up our alley). We quickly tested it with a few fancy food terms, and it appears to be quite accurate. As with every online resource, this is simply a glossary and not a painstakingly compiled dictionary, so take the results with a grain of salt. This is a good place to start if you do translations in the area of hospitality, travel, restaurants, etc., which we do quite a bit. Enjoy and let us know if you find the glossary to be solid! Visit the Gourmetpedia here.

Nifty Online Tool to Frame Digital Pictures

Our web guru, Tom Gruber, is always on the lookout for new useful software that we can use and share with our colleagues. This free online tool, still in beta testing, is delightfully simple and effective. Try Clip Your Photos Framer --nothing to download, install, or learn. Simply upload an image and make it look professional/interesting/edgy/artsy (your choice) by adding one of a dozen or so digital "frames." This will beautify your image and make it ideal for use in company presentations, marketing materials, PowerPoint presentations, etc. We tried one of our images, and in ten seconds produced the framed image to the left. We are partial to simple, useful, and free tools, and this one certainly fits the bill. Have you used it?

Report From the Front Lines of Interpretation

Fresh from a delicate interpretation assignment involving some private family and legal matters, Judy has been thinking about the interpreter training she has received and how it works in the real world. We wanted to share some of our thoughts about this particular situation, which shows that while we certainly have to uphold our ethical principles and our code of conduct, sometimes minor adjustments need to be made in order to achieve the best possible communication result.

  1. Third person versus first person: It's widely known -- and taught -- that interpretation needs to be done in the first person, unless special circumstances dictate otherwise. In this difficult conversation between an adult and his elderly family member who suffers from dementia and has trouble following complex conversations, Judy decided to opt for the third-person summary style of interpreting. It felt awkward, at first, to move away from the classic interpreting mode in community settings, but it was a good decision: communication went relatively smoothly.
  2. Taking sides: As interpreters, it's essential to be impartial and to not take sides, as compelling as they may be. Both sides had very good points, felt very strongly about certain issues, and everyone's heart was in the right place. It was difficult at times, but Judy managed to stick to her interpreter role. An interpreter is not an advocate.
  3. Enforcing frequent pauses: Ideally, our clients and their parties would speak slowly and make frequent pauses to make the intepretation process easy, and they would speak one at a time. Unfortunately, when things get heated, both parties tend to talk at the same time. The traditional hand signals for pausing were not working for Judy in this conversation, so she had to use the "please stop so I may interpret" phrase. While hand signals are the preferred way to ask a party to slow down, sometimes you have to ask verbally. It worked in this case.
  4. Taking notes: It was very helpful that one party had prepared written notes that he was reading off to his family member to help him ensure he wouldn't forget anything. He read them slowly, which enabled Judy to take good notes and use those as a basis for the interpretation for the other party, who was speaking freely. While good memory is essential for being a good interpreter, good note-taking skills are vital, too.
It's been another highly interesting interpretation project. As challenging as it was, it taught us to adjust to complex situations and to do what we've been hired to do: to serve as a conduit.

Translator Profile: Abigail Dahlberg, the "Trash Girl"

In our second translator profile (read the first one, about BJ Epstein and her process of getting a PhD in translation studies here), we are delighted to interview our wonderful colleague Abigail Dahlberg, a German->English translator specialized in waste management. Abigail hails from the UK and lives and works in Kansas City.

Translation Times: Is it OK if we call you the Trash Girl? We think that’s a fabulous, edgy term.
Abigail Dahlberg: Of course, you can! A client once suggested that I develop a superhero cartoon character called Trash Girl, but I have not quite found the time for that yet.
TT: How did you find your specialization?
AD: I think there was a certain element of happenstance involved. After I finished my degree in translation and interpreting, I realised that my next career step should be to move to Germany and find an in-house position. I ended up living in the Black Forest area and applied for every translation position I could find within a 50-mile radius. I was ultimately offered a job as an in-house translator and journalist for a trade journal specialising in recycling and waste management issues. As part of my job I attended countless trade fairs and conferences throughout Europe on subjects as varied as battery, electronics and packaging waste recycling, and also went on tours of different kinds of waste treatment facilities in several countries.

TT: What’s the most interesting thing about your specialization?

AD: For me, I think it is the wide range of texts and topics that I handle even within such a narrow speciality: One day I might be translating a report about the state of Germany's ferrous scrap market and the next be working on a press release or a contract for a waste management firm. It is also interesting to watch new terminology develop as concepts and technologies that exist in Germany are exported to other countries.

TT: What’s the most challenging assignment you have worked on lately?

AD: The most difficult text that I have translated in a while came across my desk a couple of weeks ago with a section containing lots of stocks and bonds terminology. Luckily my husband is fluent in German and works for a bond fund so he was able to lend me a hand. It is always good to have a group of people who you can contact with specialist terminological questions, even better if they live in your home!

TT: What would your advice to newcomers be who are trying to break into your field?

AD: My number one tip for newcomers trying to hone out a spot in any niche market, not just environmental translation, is to find a topic that you are interested in and then read everything you can get your hands on to build up your level of knowledge. Subscribe to trade journals in your source and target language and find courses online or in your area to develop your skills. Attend conferences and trade fairs to meet companies that might need your services and market yourself aggressively online (e.g. start a blog, join LinkedIn or Twitter) and locally through active involvement in your local translators association.

TT: Did your passion for this field develop organically or was this always something you were interested in?

AD: While I would not describe myself as passionate about waste, I have always been interested in environmental issues. As I have become more involved in this field, my dedication to reducing our impact has grown although I am far from being an activist. In our household we try and do all that we can to minimise the amount of waste that we set out in black bin bags at the kerb each week. Yet I am aware that our family's carbon footprint is massive simply by virtue of the number of transatlantic flights that we take each year.

TT: What direction do you think is the future for your general field?

AD: I think that the future for environmental translators is definitely bright as people become more aware of environmental issues and companies and governments take action to minimise their environmental impact. When it comes to growth areas, I think a great deal depends on your language pair. For translators working into US English, green technologies should be a fairly safe bet. Renewable energies are certainly an area to watch closely regardless of your language pair. Translators working with languages spoken in Africa and the Middle East might also want to consider specialising in water provision, sanitation and wastewater treatment.

TT: Who are your clients?
AD: I would estimate that 90 to 95 per cent of my business comes from direct clients located in Germany. My single largest customer is the publishing company where my career started. I also work for German waste management companies and government agencies. Moreover I still provide translation services to a select few companies outside my area of speciality, notably publishing firms, that I have worked with since shortly after starting my freelance business in 2005. Translation agencies only account for a very small share of my income at present.
Thanks for speaking with Translation Times, Abigail!

Royal Academy of Spain Publishes New Language Rules

The Royal Academy of Spain (RAE), which is the ultimate authority on the Spanish language, has recently finished one of its most ambitious projects to date: the publication of more than 4,000 pages of grammar rules, aiming to unify the Spanish language from Madrid to Tierra del Fuego. For the first time, the Spain-based institution has included details about the pecularities used spoken in all parts of Latin America. To achieve this, RAE worked with its dozens of sister organizations on the other side of the Atlantic for more than 11 years.

Academics analyzed and studied more than 3,000 works of literature to come up with their final work, hoping to unify the language and its rules for the 400 million people who speak Spanish around the globe. The full book is in three volumes and is quite, well, extensive, at roughly 4,000 pages (King Juan Carlos has been given a book -- this will keep him busy throughout 2011). Abbreviated versions will be available for everyday use. Read the full BBC article here.

Translation Industry Featured in Wall Street Journal Online

This morning, we were very excited to see that the Wall Street Journal's online edition had published a short profile about the translation and interpretation industry that has been several months in the making. Judy, who is profiled in the article, gave an in-depth interview to the WSJ, and while some of the information she discussed -- professional development, translator associations, difference between working for direct clients or agencies -- were not addressed, we are still very happy that our industry is getting some much-needed coverage. You can read the full article here. Thanks to our friends at GALA, the Globalization and Localization Association, who made this article with the WSJ happen and recommended Judy to be featured in the article. Unfortunately, GALA did not get mentioned in the article.

This makes two high-profile translation articles in a month: remember Abigail Dahlberg's front-page Los Angeles times piece?

Value, not Price: A True Story

We've been lucky enough to receive lots of positive feedback from our wonderful direct customers, which we are always thrilled to get. We frequently talk to our colleagues about how direct clients need to feel that they are getting good value and that they oftentimes focus less on price. After all, if they can hire a contractor who gets done exactly what they need in the timeframe they need it, whether that service costs $x or $x plus 20% is oftentimes not that relevant.

Case in point: a few days ago, one of our favorite customers called us. She mentioned that she'd just recommended us to a fellow small business owner. She said that we provide amazing translations and that they are a great value! We've heard a lot about our business, but we usually don't have customers volunteering to pay more, which is exactly what she said, verbatim. She instructed us to charge her a bit more, since she's getting great value and is happy to pay more. We are still speechless and very, very grateful for the sign of trust. Has that ever happened to you? It's certainly a first for us, but it goes to show that it really is all about value, and that customers are willing to pay for it.

Offline Data Security: Get a Shredder

As linguists who work with oftentimes highly confidential documents, we go to great lenghts to ensure the documents' online security, from encryption to secure e-mailing to back-up data, etc. However, it's the offline part of data security that's sometimes not taken as seriously. By this we mean the actual hard copies of the documents that you print out to proof the translation. We are firm believers that the only way to really correctly edit a translation is on paper: for some reason, your eyes catch mistakes on paper that they don't catch on the screen. We print out at least three drafts of each translation, which leaves us a with quite a bit of paper that's confidential. What to do with it?

Throwing it in the trash or putting it into the recycling bin won't work, so get yourself an automatic shredder that you can put next to your desk. We are really like our workhorse, the Fellowes DM12C shredder, which we got at a great price at the membership-only (and worth every penny) Costco. We highly recommend making this small investment in your customers' data security -- the old-fashioned way.

Translation Cartoons: Funny and Relevant

For those of you who haven't seen Alejandro Moreno-Ramos' hilarious translator-specific cartoons, featuring Mox and his cute turtle Mina, please see below for his interpretation of how capitalism works. We are both big fans of his work, so Alejandro, please keep up the excellent work!Be sure to visit Alejandro's blog to read more adventures. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words -- we are tempted to use these cartoons as gentle client education materials (with Alejandro's permission, of course).

Free Screencasting Software: Ideal for Twitter

Our IT guardian angel, Tom Gruber, just told us about this nifty tool. We haven't used it yet, but it seems fantastic for creating short, high-qualtity screencasts. It's highly useful for Twitter -- you can create your own screencasts and share them with your followers. It's a web-based recorder, so you don't have to download anything. The tool is called Screenr and here's what it can do:

Screenr, is probably the best web-based screencasting application for Windows, Mac and Linux machines. With Screenr, you can create HD-quality screencasts of up to 5 minutes in length using any web browser that has the Java plug-in installed. The published screencast is available as a Flash video and as a Quicktime (MP4) movie.

There is, of course, a downside: everything you record with Screenr becomes available in public by default and there’s no option to create private or password-protected screencast videos.

We'll try it and report back on whether it makes us feel like movie directors...

Free (Limited) Stuff from Microsoft

Computer giant Microsoft isn't exactly known for giving away free software, but for those of you who don't have an Office package and prefer to work with Open Office (free, open-source software, which we also use), here's your chance to use the new Office 2010 for free until October of next year. The software is still in beta testing, but it includes the updated version of all the classic favorites: Word, Excel, Publisher, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc. Of course, once you are done with the free version, you will probably be so used to it that you want to buy it, which is certainly what Microsoft wants you to do. In the meantime, free stuff is good for small businesses! Download Office 2010 here.

Literary Translation Workshop in Banff, Canada

We recently came across this literary translation workshop in gorgeous Banff, Canada, which might be of great interest for our colleagues who work in the Holy Grail of translation: fiction and poetry. Click here for application details. The deadline to apply is February 19, 2010. The workshop will be held from June 6 through June 27. The cost is fairly high at $2853.90.Here is some information from the Banff International Literary Translation Center (BILTC) website:

Inspired by the network of international literary translation centres in Europe, the Banff International Literary Translation Centre (BILTC) is the first of its kind in North America. The primary focus of the residency program is to afford literary translators a period of uninterrupted work on a current project, within an international community of translators. Translators may request a joint residency (of up to one week) with a writer, allowing the translator to consult and deepen his or her knowledge of the writer’s intentions and the context of the work being translated.

The program is open both to literary translators from Canada, Mexico, and the United States translating from any language, and international translators working on literature from the Americas (both the North and South American continents). Since the inaugural program in 2003, the Centre has hosted translators from 26 countries translating work involving 36 languages. Writers from Canada, the United States, and Mexico (among others) have been invited to spend a week in residence to consult with their translators from abroad.

Translation in the News

We woke up to some excellent news. Our friend and colleague, fellow blogger Corinne McKay, who pens the excellent Thoughts on Translation, posted a link about another dear colleague, Abigail Dahlberg, who was profiled on the first page of the Los Angeles Times! We are so proud of her, and we've always thought that her specialization, which is German to English waste management, was incredibly interesting and relevant. We missed Abigail at this year's ATA conference, but clearly, she was well remembered by all; which resulted in this article.

Who knew -- translators on the front page of the Los Angeles Times? It's fantastic news for our profession. Congratulations to Abigail, to the LA Times for a well-researched article, and thanks to Corinne for letting us know about the article (even though Judy lives on the West Coast, she's a NYT girl). Read the article here.

ATA's 50th Annual Conference: Looking Back

Just like every year, Judy headed to the very exciting American Translators Association conference at the end of October. This year marked the organization's 50th anniversary, so the conference was held where it all started: New York City. Dagmar wasn't able to attend as she recently represented the Austrian Interpreters' and Translators' Association (UNIVERSITAS), in her function as interm Secretary General, at the German BDÜ conference in Berlin. Hence, Judy was, unfortunately, twin-less, but still managed to have a good time. Here's her review in quick bullet points for easy reading.
  • Overall, it was fantastic: more than 150 sessions and more than 2,000 colleagues. I had the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and make new ones. It's great to put the name with the face, especially folks you see a lot on Listservs. My own presentation, the "Entrepreneurial Linguist" was held on Saturday and was standing-room only. I am delighted to report that I've gotten a lot of positive feedback.
  • My favorite sessions included the free pre-conference seminar held my a past ATA president titled "Jurassic Parliament". I went in my function as vice president of NITA, and was accompanied by our president. We learned how to run meetings more effectively using toy dinosaurs. It was wildly entertaining (T-Rex! Flying dinosaurs!) and educational. I also really enjoyed Xosé Castro's presentation "Domesticación de Word," which focused on a myriad of excellent tips and tricks in Word. He was the invited speaker of the Spanish Language Division. In addition, Franz Pöchhaker, a professor at the University of Vienna, gave a fantastic presentation on "Interpreting the Inauguration," which focused on president Obama's eloquent speech and on how to interpret it into German. Last but not least, my friends Corinne McKay, Eve Bodeux and Michael Wahlster gave a fabulous, succinct, and easy-to-understand presentation on Social Media and Web 2.0.
  • In terms of networking, I really enjoyed the speed networking event. I'd done one before during a different event, and this year was the ATA's first attempt to do this. While a few kinks need to be worked out, it was fantastic -- I had the chance to meet dozens of linguists from other language combinations I wouldn't otherwise have had the chance to meet. In addition, the German Language Division's dinner at Lorelei restaurant was also a lot of fun. The room was a bit crowded, making it challenging to walk around, but it was all very well organized. The German food was great, too!
All in all, just like every year, I am delighted that I attended the conference. While it is a major expense, it is worth every penny, and the ATA certainly tries its very best to keep the costs down. While the conference hotel, the Marriott Marquis on Times Square, had a fantastic location, the layout of the conference was a bit challenging (three floors), and the lack of wifi in the rooms was a bit of a disappointment. I've returned from the conference thoroughly energized and inspired.I am already looking forward to Denver in 2010! Mark your calendars now and score a cheap flight.

Marketing Idea of the Week

After Judy's Entrepreneurial Linguist presentation at the ATA's Annual Conference in NYC last week, she was approached by two very entrepreneurial linguists: Dutch<->English financial translators Annie Tadema and Astrid van der Weert, who run their team business out of Utrecht, the Netherlands.

They gave Judy their very creative customer gift -- a USB stick embedded in a traditional Dutch wooden shoe, which is beautifully decorated and looks gorgeous (almost too pretty to use). It's one of those rare gifts that is both aesthetically pleasing and useful and that one doesn't already have a million of (think pens, keychains, notepad, etc.). We both think this is extremely clever and might mention it during an upcoming Entrepreneurial Linguist presentation. In the meantime, thanks to Astrid and Annie for sharing their great present and for giving us one. We wonder what the cost of one of these is? We'd guess at least $10 (we'd love to hear from Annie and Astrid about this), so one would be best served to only give these out to favorite customers (and a few select colleagues). See the picture of the shoe/USB stick catching some sun (80 degrees!) at the Vegas pool on November 1.

ATA Conference: Entrepreneurial Linguist Slides

A full recap of the outstanding 50th Annual American Translators Conference in New York City this past week is coming up shortly. In the meantime, we wanted to give attendees from Judy's Entrepreneurial Linguist session the link to where they can find the slides. Simply click here, where you will be able to download the PDF slides via Slideshare. You will also be able to watch the very funny video about pricing. Thanks for coming!

Should Spanish Be an Official Language of the US?

Bilingualism, language acquisition, official languages, and services to speakers of foreign languages have been areas of interest for us in the past. As the United States' percentage of non-English speakers grows, the amount of services available in Spanish and other languages increases accordingly. There are very interesting points of debate on either side of the aisle -- should the US cater to speakers of other languages or shouldn't it? If yes, what are the limitations? We are happy we are not in the difficult positions to draft public policy about this, as there is no easy answer. Through one of our mailing lists, the Interagency Language Roundtable, which we highly recommend, we came across this interesting article which addresses the issue: should the US adopt Spanish as an official language? While this article certainly provides no definite answers, it's very interesting food for thought. Read the article here.

Prioritization Strategies: Who Goes First?

In a constant effort to improve and streamline our operations, we've recently started thinking about how to best handle work flow in terms of customer priority when things are extremely hectic. In the world of freelance translation, many time it's feast or famine, making it challenging to plan a schedule a few weeks out. So what do you do when your phone rings incessantly, the e-mails are pouring in, and you are getting more price quote requests than you have time to make? We've informally come up with the following prioritization strategy. Our goals with this strategy are:
  1. To ensure that we are able to stick to our extensive quality assurance methods, even under time pressure.
  2. To make our existing clients happy.
  3. To make our new clients happy.
  4. To keep ourselves sane and happy.
Here are the ways we are trying to accomplish this. It's an art, not a science, so there's always room for improvement.
  1. Long-term repeat customers who have worked with us for years always get first priority.
  2. Recently acquired repeat customers with an urgent project get first priority.
  3. Our surcharge for 24-hour turnaround is applied to all projects that are needed the next day. We typically accept these projects only from repeat customers.
  4. New client referrals from friends and colleagues have secondary priority.
  5. New customers with urgent projects are next.
  6. Once we have booked the following seven days, we will still provide quotes for future projects. In order to save time and effort for all parties, we respond quickly to inquiries, advising of the timeline. If the client is flexible with the time frame and still wants to work with us, we will send a formal price quote. If not, we will happily try to refer a trusted colleague.
  7. There is always some room to accomodate special requests, and we work with customers to help them achieve their goals, even if it means less leisure time for a weekend or two.
  8. We do not accept deadlines that we deem to be unrealistic and that wouldn't allow for our thourough QA process. There can be a higher margin of errors for last-minute projects, and that's not in anyone's interest.
We have been thinking about new ways to approach project management, scheduling, and prioritization. We've been thinking about working on retainer for some of our repeat customers. We'd love to hear if you have any other prioritization strategies. Please leave a comment below.

Bloggers' Lunch at ATA Conference

In keeping up with a tradition introduced last year, our friend and colleague Jill Sommer from Musings of an overworked translator is organizing another bloggers' lunch during the ATA's national conference. This year it's happening during the American Translators Association's 50th annual conference in New York City. We are going to meet on Thursday, October 29, at 12:30 p.m.

To let us know you are coming, please visit Jill's blog for detailed information and let her know that you will be attending by leaving a comment. We look forward to another entertaining lunch. Last year in Orlando we got to make contact in the real world with fellow bloggers as well as friends and also speculated about the Masked Translator's secret identity. Shall we do it again?

Short Survey for Judicial Interpreters

In an ongoing effort to improve the quality of court interpreting services available on both the state and national level, the National Association of Judiciary Translators and Interpreters (NAJIT) is kindly requesting interpreters' help with filling out a 15-minute survey. This is done through the anonymous Survey Monkey software and is completely confidential.

The purpose of the survey is to obtain detailed information nationwide about the ways in which state and federal courts use certified and non-certified spoken-language interpreters, so that NAJIT may best target its future advocacy work. The data generated by this survey will be made available to all participants and will be summarized on the NAJIT web site and in its advocacy efforts. No specific information that could reveal the identity or locations of the survey participants will be published.

You can take the survey here. For more information about NAJIT, please visit their website.

Link to Payment Options: A Great Overview

Translation and interpretation is an increasingly international business, and entrepreneurial linguists need to determine the best ways to accept payments from both domestic and international clients. There are many options, and some have some intransparent fees, while others are just too expensive for small amounts. Which one should you chose? PayPal? And what's ACH? And what does Bloomberg and the interbank rate have to do with anything?

Join our friends and colleagues Corinne McKay and Eve Bodeux as they discuss the different payment options in a well-researched, easy-to-follow report, which also includes links to the most important sites that they mention. Listen to the informative (and unique!) Speaking of Translation here to ensure that getting paid doesn't get too expensive for you.

ATA Conference in NYC: Marriott Room Available

For those of you who are going to the American Translators Association's 50th Anniversary Conference in NYC at the end of the month, you might have noticed that the excellent rate ($199) that the ATA had secured at the host hotel, the Marriott Marquis on Time Square, has sold out. There was a limited block of rooms available. If you are still looking for a room, contact Judy (click on "Contact Us" for the e-mail address). She recently found out that a good friend of hers is going to be able to house her on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, and instead of just canceling the reservation, she'd like to transfer it to a colleague. Preference will be given to someone with the same dates -- Tuesday, October 27 through Sunday, November 1 -- as to not "waste" any nights at the special price. Other than that, it's first come, first served. We are also posting this information on other listservs so all our colleagues have a chance to see this.

See you in NYC!

Negotiating: A Short Case Study

Negotiating is one of the skills that are crucial for any entrepreneur, especially in the languages industry, where we frequently get asked for discounts and yes, free translations. In general, unless you can expect an immediate promise, in writing, of a project following your free translation, they are not a good idea. You'd be voluntarily devaluing your product. We do, however, think that giving advice, along the lines of attorneys prodiving free first consultations (but where they do NOT give you a sample contract) is advisable. We routinely provide free over-the-phone assessment of clients' translation and multicultural marketing strategies.

We wanted to share this brief case study. A few days ago, a potential client called us with what sounded like an interesting long-term collaboration on multilingual websites. The client, to remain anonymous, asked us to translate a few lines for free, but that he would show his gratitude by "sending a little something via PayPal." The first thing we need to remind ourselves is that this is not personal -- it's just business. We quickly responded that we do not provide free services on the promise of future projects, which might or might not happen. The potential client mentioned that it was "only a few lines," to which we said that this was about the principle about not providing free work. We then quickly thought about what the customer wanted: he wanted to verify that we have website localization and e-commerce experience, which is certainly a very fair request. We offered him a following:
  1. Customized links in the language combinations that he was looking for to live websites that we've translated and localized
  2. References from clients who have used our services for website translations
We felt that this was a good compromise and that it would fulfill both purposes, which are:
  1. Giving the customer what he wants: a verification of our skills
  2. Giving us what we want: to not give away free work, but to make our customer happy
We are happy to report that our customer seemed satisfied with this scenario and we hope to collaborate with him in the near future.

Pricing: Video on Vendor-Client Relationships

Finally: a very funny video that has a professional point to make. This video eloquently summarizes the main points about pricing that we've discussed in the last few months. Without further ado, please have a look at this very well-made poignant video about how other services providers would react if their pricing strategies were challenged. Does any of this sound familiar? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Judy is showing this video, which has been circulating among translation organizations around the world, at a workshop tomorrow in Seattle as well.

Online Resources: World Languages

We just came across a very interesting website sent to us through one of the listservs that we belong to. It's a site that covers information on a wide variety of languages spoken around the world, including Malayalam, Pashto, Quechua, Dakota, Tok Pisin and many others that you probably aren't familiar with (we weren't.) It's a fascinating resource, especially for language professionals, and it has a wealth of extremely well-researched information, including difficulty of language acquisition, dialects, background, strucutre, writing, etc. This is a good website if you need to settle any discussion about languages; for instance: where is Telugu spoken? Answer: it's spoken by 70 million people in India, mainly in the state of Andra Pradesh. Or: what's the third official language of Ruanda? Answer: Kinyarwand. Warning: this site is not only highly informative and academic, but also highly addictive. Enjoy learning more about languages of lesser diffusion! Visit the World Languages site here.

Entrepreneurial Linguist Site: Live

While we are still in the final stages of editing our "Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation" book, we have received so many inquiries and pre-orders that we have created a website with more information, where you can also add yourself to the pre-order list. It contains a tentative table of contents, information on what an Entrepreneurial Linguist is, etc. Check it out here. We are currently working on a cover design with the assistance of our fantastic IT guru Thomas Gruber and our amazing photographer friend Ulf Buchholz. It might look like the image above, but the jury is still out. If any of our readers have any ideas, we'd love to hear them, and who knows, perhaps we will use it! It's the new area of collaborative ideas...

Professional Development: Health Care Interpreting Workshop

The Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association (NITA), for which Judy serves as vice president, is holding a one-week health care interpreting workshop in Reno, Nevada, from November 9 through 13. It's a week-long course that includes a certificate of completion and is given by well-known interpretation trainer and NITA founding president Tracy Young. The workshop is open to speakers of all languages and incldues a pre-course language proficiency exam by a third party. This is a full 40-hour course held in one week. NITA has secured a fantastic hotel price for those participants from out of town at $35 per night.

For full information, please visit the NITA website. The registration deadline is coming up on October 1. This is the second time this year that NITA has been able to offer this workshop (in only its second year of existence), so we hope you can join us. There's an increasing need for health care intepreters in the U.S., so if this are of interpretation has piqued your interest, this is the workshpp for you.

Translation Times Turns One

This week marks this blog's first year of life on the blogosphere, and we have been delighted with our blogging experience. We were inspired to add a translation blog to our list of blogs by many of our fantastic colleagues who have blogged about translation for years. Here are some of this year's highlights:
  • 125 posts
  • Average of 7 -9 blog posts per month
  • Hundreds of comments and interesting discussions
  • Appreciative feedback from readers we informed of an interpretation company that has not paid many contractors, as reported to us by affected parties
  • Our most popular blog entries, by number of comments, were the above-mentioned non-payment alerts, including this one here and the accused's response here.
  • Many good ideas and suggestions from our readers, which inspired new blog posts, including one on languages in literature.
Thanks for reading, everyone! We are appreciative of your input and feedback and look forward to continue strengthening our translation community by writing about relevant things for linguists. We will continue bringing you popular posts about marketing tips, advertising strategies, cost-saving tips, information on professional development, and much more. We'd love to hear from you as well - let us know if you'd like us to address a particular issue. Here's to a great second year! Note: the above picture was taken by our good friend and volunteer photographer, Ulf Buchholz, in front of a run-down building in east Las Vegas, signaling the end of the building boom in Nevada. No end of the blogging boom in sight, though!

Professional Development in Berlin: Meet a Twin

September and October are usually very popular months in the professional development world, and this year is no excception. The American Translators Association's 50th Annual Conference starts in NYC on October 28.

This weekend is the German association's (technically, the Federal Association of Translators and Interpreters) long-overdue national conference in Berlin, Germany. As opposed to the ATA, the BDÜ does not have yearly conferences, but when they do, it's a in grand style, including evening entertainment, dinners, cruises, etc. Dagmar, the European twin, will be representing the Austrian Translators' and Interpreters' Association UNIVERSITAS in her function as Assistant Secretary General. Be sure to say hello to Dagmar at the conference! We are already impressed by some of the BDÜ's ideas, including an customized electronic conference planner, which is certainly much more sophisticated than the paper-and-pencil schedule that we are forever altering at the ATA conferences. Both of us already went to Berlin earlier this year, and that's where this picture was taken.

For more information about the BDÜ conference, titled "Interpreting the Future," please visit their official website. It looks like it will be a very popular event with more than 1,600 linguists registered. The event is September 11 -13.

Early Bird Special: ATA Conference in NYC

The American Translators Association's 50 Annual Conference is promising to be quite an exciting event, with a record number of submissions for seminars and speaking slots and a higher-than-usual expected attendance. It's fitting that the ATA comes back to where it all started: New York City. Judy will be there, just like every year, and she's presenting her seminar "Lessons from Business School: The Entrepreneurial Linguist" on Saturday, October 31, at 11 a.m. The conference is from October 28 through the 31.

If you haven't registered yet, be sure to do so by September 25, as the early bird registration ends that day. To sign up visit the ATA's website and save 20%. Hope to see you there!

Efficiency Nirvana: Empty Inbox

Last week, for the first time, Judy achieved something that Dagmar, the more organized twin, routinely achieves: a completely empty e-mail inbox. You don't need to be one of those office organization consultants to know that it's not good to have hundreds of e-mails cluttering up your inbox. While we are still working on achieving a very clean inbox on a consistent basis, here are some quick tips to get you started:
  • Set up e-mail filters for all newsgroups and listservs that you belong to. These messsages will then bypass the inbox and go into pre-specified folders to read at your leisure.
  • If you don't think you need an e-mail, delete it. When in doubt, delete it.
  • Create good folders on your e-mail system. The more granular, the better. Have one for each client, subdivided into correspondence, projects, invoices, etc. We have dozens of folders that are well sub-divided for ease of finding.
  • When you get an e-mail, evaluate if you can take action within a few minutes. If yes, do it right away. If not, wait until you have some extra time to research and think before responding.
  • Consider setting up a "pending but not urgent" folder. You could move anything that's not too pressing into that folder and program a reminder to look at it once a day.
Having a clean inbox really gives one a sense of accomplishment, organization, and simply room to breathe. Also, you will save lots of time as you will be easily able to locate important messages. Try it -- it's actually easier than cleaning out a desk drawer.

Language in Literature: Budapest by Chico Buarque

Last month, we wrote about a work of fiction that did the interpretation profession a disservice through inaccurate portrayals, and it made us think about how the translation and interpretation profession is generally portrayed in literature. One of our most loyal blog readers, Guillermo, suggested that we read "Budapest" by Brazilian author Chico Buarque. Guillermo refered to it as a masterpiece on language, so we had to get it. We ordered it from our local library, and Judy read it in one day. If Dagmar's take on the book differs drastically from Judy's, we will post it here soon as well. Thanks a lot for the great tip, Guillermo!

I don't speak Portuguese, so I read "Budapest" by famed Brazilian artist Chico Buarque in its good new English translation by seasoned literary translator Alison Entrekin. It's quite a challenge to communicate some of the finer points of Romance languages and nuances in a non-Romance language, and at times, the writing doesn't seem as eloquent as it probably is in Portuguese. However, Entrekin certainly did the author justice (she apparently worked closely with Buarque on the translation).

The book, set mainly in Rio de Janeiro and Budapest, Hungary, tells the tale of a ghostwriter who lives in the shadows of his outstanding work, which repeatedly brings others fame and fortune. On a whim, he decides to move to Budapest and learn the "only language the devil respects." What follows is the protagonist's, José Costa's, immersion in the Hungarian language, life, and of course, love, which comes in the form of an enigmatic and unorthodox Hungarian teacher. Buarque's writing is at times breathless and always quite stunning, and it reminds me of some of Andrea DeCarlo's earlier works. Buarque's descriptions of language acquisition are very interesting, and while this book does not focus on the translation profession per se, it's an insider's view of learning a new language as an adult. While some of the aspects of the plot are highly unlikely (we won't spoil it for you here) and some passages seem a bit out of place or don't do much for the story, it is a well-developed tale full of descriptive power.

The passion for language -- both the author's and the protagonist's -- comes through very clearly, and it's a fantastic read for those of us who make our living by working with languages. It's great to finally read a good book about loving language, the place language occupies in our lives, how we define ourselves through language, and the liberty to perhaps choose your own native language. You can buy the book here or check if your local library carries it.

An Entrepreneurial Year

Even though we've been running our business through its European sister company since 2002, Judy didn't join Dagmar in full-time entrepreneurship until last year. From 2003 until 2008, Judy worked full-time as an in-house translation department manager for a large e-commerce corporation and ran Twin Translations on the side. August 31, 2008, marked her last day in corporate America. Today, August 31, 2009, is the first anniversary of Judy's full-time entrepreneurship. A few thoughts:
  • It's been an amazing year, even though we picked an economically difficult time
  • There isn't enough money in the world to make up for the joy of being in control of your own destiny
  • We've acquired dozens of new clients and hundreds of new projects
  • We debuted this translation blog
  • Judy debuted her "Entrepreneurial Linguist" workshop, which she's now given ten times across the U.S. and Europe
  • Judy was elected Vice President at the Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association
  • Published five articles in high-circulation translation newsletters, including the ATA's Chronicle and the ITI's Bulletin
  • Enjoyed all the freedom of working from anywhere thanks to wifi (pool, cofffe shop, etc.)
  • Took a working vacation to Europe for seven weeks in the spring
  • Still counting blessings
Even though being an entrepreneur, especially in these tough economic times, is a huge challenge, we're both really proud of how far we have come. We will most likely earn less income this year than in our highest-grossing years (2006 and 2007), but we are doing what we love, working with whom we like best: each other and our fabulous clients. Thanks to everyone for all their support and for giving Judy the kick in the butt to make a long-overdue decision.

A Day Without the Internet

Last week, the wireless system in Judy's house in Vegas went down. Both the PC and the laptop weren't connecting to the internet. While we are software power users, occassional beta testers and feel very comfortable with anything HTML and e-commerce, hardware isn't our thing. After an hour or so disconnecting and connecting the modem, the router, and anything else that had a plug, Judy gave up. Well, a call to our cable service provider was made, and they assured us that the problem wasn't with them, but clearly with Judy. Instead of fretting for the rest of the afternoon, Judy did something atypical and forgot about the ever-present online access and focused on something else, mainly writing our "Entrepreneurial Linguist" book which we've talked about here before. Without constant online distraction, we are happy to report that the second draft of a chapter on social media was written in one afternoon. Lesson learned: you can live (and get work done) without the Internet, and perhaps we could even self-impose an internet-free afternoon (it's doubtful that we will really do that, though). The picture to the right features Judy's laptop poolside with no internet acccess. Perhaps it needed an online break, too.

Miss Universe 2009: Beauty and the Interpreter

Yes, we admit it: we occassionally watch Miss Universe (at the gym, while running). This year, Judy had an incentive, as she has two friends working at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, who put on the event (great job, guys!). When it came time for the dreadful final question phase (we won't get into the merit of the answers here), several contestants required an interpreter. First of all: our hats are off to an interpreter who's willing to stand in front of millions of people at a live TV show and interpret while being distracted by gorgeous women. It's very scary, and there aren't that many linguists who wouldn't panic at the thought (we would). That said, the interpreter had some noteable mishaps, but he held his own with remarkable self-assurance.

The interpreter struggles with his interpretation for Miss Dominican Republic, and he certainly made an ethically incorrect decision by not interpreting the contestant's mistake (she meant to say "descuido" -- mistake -- but said "cuidado" -- care), but correcting it for her in his English interpretation. Part of the judge's question was: "According to the World Health Organization, there is an urgent need for HIV testing across the globe." Interpretation: "La Organización Mundial de la Salud exige que alrededor de todo el mundo se hagan pruebas para descubrir si la persona padece de SIDA o no." Translating back the interpreter: "The World Health Organization demands that AIDS testing is done all around the world to determine if the person has AIDS or not." The WHO does not demand such a thing, nor did the judge say that. And the testing is for HIV (VIH in Spanish), not for AIDS (SIDA in Spanish). This interpretation mistake would certainly have been disastrous at an international conference, but how serious is it here? What do you think? As professionals, we say that it certainly matters, but that mistakes happen, especially in high-performance situations. Was it good enough? And what's your stance on the interpreter not following the rules of his profession and correcting the contestant's mistake, to her benefit? We'd love to hear your thoughts on the interpreter's performance. On another note, we are still wondering why Miss Puerto Rico, who is from a country with two official languages (English and Spanish), needs an English<->Spanish interpreter.

Watch the video. Warning: the quality of the video is very poor:

Not for Sale: Dealing with Self-Promotional Blog Comments

Those of us who write blogs have to determine a strategy for dealing with comments that readers leave. Most of the time, the comments section is what takes the blog entry to a new level , fueled by interesting insight our readers leave. We strongly believe that the comments section is a great forum for exchanging information and ideas with fellow linguists. However, we do moderate comments, which means that if a reader leaves a comment, it's not live on the site immediately. 99.9% of the time, we will approve the comment right away, and it will appear on the blog.

The reason we have to moderate the blog comments in the first place is because of the unfortunate fact that more and more spammers, pseudo-savy internet marketers, companies desperate for business, or simply unethical folks who want to take advantage of our hard work are trying to promote their businesses on our blog. So, for our reader's benefit and for universal fairness, we have come up with the following:
  • We will not, under any circumstances, publish a comment left with the sole intention of readers clicking on the commenter's link. A comment would be along the lines of "Great post. Please visit www.bestcarsontheinternet." It won't happen. This blog is a forum of professional exchange between linguists and is not a platform for others to promote their services.
  • We will not promote anyone else's services or products on our blog unless we deem them to be of great interest to our readers. We will, however, recommend things that we think are useful: dictionaries, new software, translation-related books, etc. However, there is never any financial interest with the publishers -- we are not getting paid to do any of this.
  • We will not participate in link exchanges. We will, however, link to our favorite blogs written by other linguists in our blog roll, and don't necessarily expect a link back.
  • We will not accept any invitations by dubious new translation-related websites to review their services. We frequently get invited into "bloggers' programs," which apparently is a thinly disguised ploy to get some free publicity.
  • The final word: we work very hard on this blog, and we appreciate our readers' loyalty. Hence, we won't turn it into a mouthpiece for anyone wanting to promote their services, nor do we want to put our readers through reading advertising copy. Whoever wants to promote something can start a blog of their own.

Time-Saving Tip of the Week

This is a seemingly easy one, but we wonder: how many of us do it? Between the two of us, Judy is guilty of it. Are you? We are talking about immediately responding to any new e-mail message that comes in, thus decreasing the focus you might have had on a translation project. Should you? It depends.

In time management classes, one learns to figure out if things are urgent/not urgent and important/not important. Almost all e-mails will have one characteristic from either category. In terms of e-mail answering while you are doing something else, you should try to only immediately answer e-mail that's both urgent and important (i.e., client asks a follow-up question on a translation, client needs clarification, client needs an urgent translation quote, etc.). Ideally, every other e-mail you'd answer at specific pre-scheduled times during the day. Time management experts are generally in agreement that this is the most efficient way to handle the hundreds of e-mails we get every day. However, who's really doing that? Are you? Judy is not. She reads every e-mail immediately and usually responds right away. Dagmar is much more disciplined and focused on this and only takes immediate action if necessary.

How do you handle the extraordinary amount of e-mail you receive? Do you have a specific strategy? We'd love to hear about it in the comments section.

Money-Saving Tip of the Week

As small business owners in these challenging economic times, it makes sense to try to find ways to cut costs. We won't compromise the amount of time we spend on translations (our main cost being our labor), the quality of our dictionaries, nor the quality of the specialized softwares we use. That leaves relatively few items where money can be saved in low-overhead business like ours. However, there's always ways. This one is also good for the planet, which is wonderful -- we are all about saving the planet.

It's a simple thing: printing on both sides of the paper. We always did this in graduate school, and we've once again gotten in the habit. As part of our quality assurance process, we print copies of all projects up to five times, so that's a lot of paper. Now we are at least using the paper twice, which feels great; and it adds up! Just be sure you are not printing on recycled paper when you have to deliver a hard-copy certified translation -- it almost happend to us! Any other great money-saving ideas out there from fellow translators?

Time-Saving Tip of the Week

As busy entrepreneurs, it's important that we maximize our time, as our time is the only resource we truly have. We are constantly looking for ways to do this, and found one that has been really helpful.

Just like many of you, we provide formal quotes for project for all clients. We create these quotes by using a Word template with an integrated Excel table for the cost breakdown. The quote is fairly elaborate, comes with information on payment terms, terms and conditions, delivery time, etc. Even though it's a template, it takes around 15 minutes to do a full quote. We have now realized that, instead of doing a full quote for every inquiry, it's a better option to e-mail the potential (or existing client) and say: "The cost for this would be XXX. If this works for you, we will e-mail you a formal quote for your approval." In many cases, this weeds out the folks for whom the price doesn't work, and saves us 15 minutes of our time. Think about it -- if you do, say, 2 quotes a day for interested parties who do not end up using your services, you have used up 30 of your minutes from that day. Instead, run the document through a word count software (AnyCount, or Word will do for simple, text-only documents), and give the customer a price. If they are interested, you can proceed with making the quote. Don't forget to obtain formal approval (for instance, by having the customer sign the document and scan/fax it) before you proceed. However, you can easily waive this last step for repeat clients, as we routinely do.

Entrepreneurial Linguist Book: Coming Soon

Hot off the presses: we are about halfway through writing our translation book, cleverly titled "The Entrepreneurial Linguist," which will focus very strongly on the practical aspects of running a translation business, based on many lessons that Judy learned in business school. Here's why we have undertaken this monumental project:
  • We were inspired by Corinne McKay's "How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator"
  • We were encouraged by colleagues at Judy's "Entrepreneurial Linguist" workshops
  • We realized that there are very few books about translation as a business
  • Writing runs in the family -- our mom is a German-language children's book writer
  • Because running a small business and writing a dissertation in Romance languages (Dagmar) isn't keeping us busy enough -- not!

We are currently on page 90 or so, and if the stars align correctly, we are hoping to self-publish it this year. We figured the subject matter is too narrow to shop it around to publishers, and the idea is for it to be available easily and quickly, so we are going with Since the book is, in part, a direct result from conversations we have had with linguists around the world, we'd love your feedback. Is there any area that you would like us to explore in detail? As it stands at the moment, the book will focus on marketing, economics, entrepreneurship, client relations, work/life balance, etc. It will also include chapters on social media, innovative marketing ideas, etc. Feel free to leave a comment and tell us what you think - after all, the book will be for all of you!

Free Software of the Month: Dropbox

Dropbox is the tool the translating twins had been waiting for! Since we collaborate on projects on a daily basis reviewing and editing each other's translations, we were tired of e-mailing files back and forth. Luckily, our IT guru pointed us to Dropbox, which is an amazing free tool (free is good in this economy). Dropbox has several features, but our favorite is the "share" option. All we had to do was download the software to both our computers. A folder named "Dropbox" is automatically created. Since we gave each other access to the other's Dropbox folder, we can now see every file either of us puts into the folder. We can make changes on our local computer and the twin will immediately get an updated version of the file. We love it! We know it's sometimes hard to find the time and mental readiness to get used to a new piece of software, but this one definitely worth it! It's quick, simple, and there's literally no learning curve. Even if you don't have an editing twin, Dropbox should be on your computer. We used Dropbox to create this blog posting.

It's a Scam Update: The Accused Speak(s)

In an effort to provide both sides of the story, and as a follow-up to this week's article It's a Scam: International Language Interpreters, we are hereby posting an e-mail that we received. We don't actually know who it's from -- no signature, no company information, just a free e-mail address with a name that appears to be unrelated the folks in question. Judging from the references being made, this appears to be from the accused party. Below is the entire unedited (no grammar or spelling mistakes were corrected) e-mail. Note: the writer refers to Ms. Dhillon, who is the interpreter who brought this to our attention and is one of many linguists still trying to collect. You can contact Harinder Dhillon for details on the case.

"It's amazing on how you can take the time to write these horrific things about individuals/companies without providing the companies or individuals to provide their side of the story. Faviola being the CEO of a small interpreting agency started an agency with the hopes of providing business for "Freelance Interpreters" not knowing how harsh "Self Employed Freelance Interpreters" would be. Interpreters seem to think that running a business is easy and that we are just sitting and collecting money and running. unfortunately anyone in the "Real Business World" will tell you that running a business is NOT easy and that collecting and running is not the case. I spent hundreds and thousands of dollars on sales and marketing to get business took out a second mortgage to keep business upfloat and unfortunately I was owed thousands of money from some of the customers that forced me to file bankruptcy.

As much as I tried to collect and pay interpreters I was unable to pay them all, I had to pay employees, business debts and was able to pay 98% of the interpreters and unfortunately I was unable to finish paying all of the Independent Contractors; I had mentioned to some that I would be happy to pass on the invoices that were due to the company for them to try to collect it themselves as since I was unable to successfully do, but of course they said "NO That was NOT their job" and they were unwilling to accept any of my offerings.

All I.C Contractors sign an Agreement agreeing to the Terms and Conditions and part of that agreement is that if the company goes out of business, death or bankruptcy - company, owners, officers are released of any and all liabilites and unfortunately interpreters were unwilling to understand and work with me that I had no choice but to file for bankruptcy and therefore it has released me from all liabilities and debts as well as protecting me from all of these bad threats and harrasments.

In regards to International Language Interpreters and 411-OTPI it has nothing to do with HS Interpreters, Inc and Mrs. Dhillon and you need to get your facts straight and remove these companies from this bad review as it has NOTHING to do with HS Interpreters, Inc debts.

Mrs. Dhillon needs STOP this harrasment against me my husband and family I will report it to my bankruptcy attorney and courts about these threats harrasmants and defamation on myself my husband whom again has NOTHING to do with my business or business liabilities.

If information about Mr. Aranda or my self is NOT removed we will seek legal action against individuals making these false acusations as he is NOT an owner nor an officer of the company or companies. The agency HS Interpreters, Inc. was a corporation and an entity of it's own and has nothing to do with me as a person."

La Tribune Online Translations: The Integral of the Cats

Bad translations have made it into the nightly news: we recently heard Keith Olbermann on MSNBC mocking the online version of the French business newspaper La Tribune, which is now unfortunately available in bad English, German and Spanish. We'd love to know if the Italian is any good, but we doubt it.

On, next to the flags indicating the different languages, a banner reads "Beta Powered by Systran." We don’t know anything about Systran, which praises "a cost effective solution that makes it possible to increase content of translated content" on its website, but we do know that the "translations" their system provides are pretty awful. One of the menu items in the top navigation of the English version is quite accurately called "Green Business," but has a drop-down menu where you can click on "The integral of the cats". The French version says “L’intégral des chats”, which should probably read "Chat transcripts." Chat = cat? Our cat doesn't chat.

More negative highlights: another menu item is called "Untertaken," which should be "Business"(French: "enterprises"). We also shared a laugh about "Topicality of July 12,"Porsche makes assemble the biddings between Qatar and Volkswagen" and "Bank secrecy: the US government asks for the carryforward of lawsuit UBS."

The German and Spanish versions are largely incomprehensible, but give the reader a vague idea about the content of the article. The Spanish version offers a bizarre combination of English and Spanish: "Washington, tired autoridades suizas there UBS quieren intentar una última negociación idiot respecto Al secreto bancario. Piden prórroga LED pleito LED bank value suizo that debía abrirse mañana." Gosh, this website provides endless hours of entertainment! The infamous cats also make an appearance in the Spanish version: “El íntegro of leasing cats". German: "DAS íntegro DER Katzen". We suspect the Italian version isn’t any better – any Italian translators out there?

La Tribune is doing a fine job of ruining its reputation by providing these ridiculous automated translations. Non merci!

It's a Scam: International Language Interpreters

California-based court interpreter Harinder Dhillon would like to share the information below with  her colleagues in Nevada and around the world. According to Harinder, interpreters as far away as Argentina are owed thousands of dollars. Many of them have already sued the company in small claims courts in California (where the company is based) or contacted the Department of Labor. We have never worked with this company, and are merely posting the known facts as shared with us by Harinder, which she assures us are correct. Here's an excerpt of the message we received:

Scam artists operating under different company names
Company making money from free services of interpreters & translators

“International Language Interpreters” -, (866)-546-8855. Owners: Faviola Valencia/Jose Aranda. Company also known as: Previously known as Hispanic Services, H.S. Interpreters and Northern California Interpreter Network (N.C.I.N). They reside at: 7116 Koropp Ct., Sacramento, Ca. 95842. They have an unlisted home phone number for obvious reasons. Their current office address od P.O.B. 7575, Citrus Heights, Ca. 95621 could be at: 3017 Douglas Boulevard, Suite 300, Roseville, Ca. 95661.

This husband and wife team has been scamming interpreters and translators for several years now. They change the company name frequently and answer telephone calls and emails under different names rather their own. They give out assignments, collect money from their clients but then do not pay the translators and interpreters. When they are called for payment, the classic responses are: the invoice was not received, browser was down, fax was not received, the check is in the mail or went out to the wrong address, paid the wrong translator, accountant fell ill or Paypal allows them to pay only a lesser amount. Phone calls to the company frequently go unanswered because they are carefully screened. In trying to collect their payments, interpreters have faced intimidation, harassment, and threats of legal action. When approached by process servers, Faviola often tells them that it is not her and Jose chases them to their cars.

Several recent complaints have been filed with the local Police Department and with District Attorney Jan Scully’s office in Sacramento, Ca. Toni Ruiz, at the D.A.’s office, can be reached at: 916-874-4782.

Deputy Labor Commissioner Helen Morales and Investigator Jay Cui can be reached at: 415-703 4810 and 415-703-4828. Deputy Labor Commissioner V. Lane Jacopetti can be contacted at: 510-022-3272.

For more information, please contact Harinder Dhillon at 925-833-1133,

Interpreters' Portrayal in Literature: Fail

Dagmar just read a book about a conference interpreter, the book’s clever title being “The Interpreter”, written by Suzanne Glass. According to her bio in the back of the book, the author is a former conference interpreter who is fluent in seven languages. That seems hard to believe, especially after reading certain German-language passages in the book. Here is an excerpt for the German speakers among us. This is from a letter quoted in the book: Aber nun setze ich mich hin und schriebe [sic] Dir. […] Ist es möglich dass es erst sieben oder acht Monate her ist? Es scheint doch wie ein Leben. There are quite a few mistakes in there. The last sentence doesn’t sound German at all. Suzanne Glass is really doing our profession a disservice here.

Having read about this book in an anthology about the image of interpreters and translators in literature, my curiosity was piqued, even though the back cover praises “a heady mix or romance and intrigue,” which would usually discourage me from reading it. While the author quite accurately describes the work of conference interpreter Dominique Green, this book has an unpleasant aftertaste. Dominique is described as “not having her own voice” – whatever that means – and this fact is attributed to her work. That is, of course, nonsense. I find it disturbing that Dominique eventually finds her own voice only through the miraculous love of a man. At the end of the day, the author probably just wanted to write a (barely interesting and sometimes cheesy) love story and her own profession just provided the logical background.

This book could’ve been a good opportunity for conveying a positive image of our profession. Too bad that was apparently not the author’s intention. For a detailed review of this book in German, please click here.

Vote for Your Favorite Language Blogs

We were delighted to hear that our colleague Emma Littner nominated our little blog for the Top 100 Language Blogs. Thanks, Emma!

The Top 100 Language Blogs list is compiled by the managers of a fantastic blog on language,s in several languages, Lexiophiles. We frequent the site for excellent insight into languages, and used their Top 100 Language Blog list last year to find our favorite blogs. There's a lot of talent out there in the translation world, and most of the blogs are fantastic (we link to our favorites on our blog roll to the left). It's wonderful that these blogs -- and the busy professionals behind them -- will be getting recognized.

We heard from the ranking's organizers that we are encouraged to put this button on our blog in case you would like to vote for us. We'd be honored and delighted, but please have a look at all the other contestants and vote for your favorites (you can vote for one in each category; ours is in the languages professionals group). Have fun, and if you decide to vote for us -- thank you! Voting starts today and concludes on July 28. Winners will be announced on July 30.

Speak English or Else

We subscribe to the very interesting listserv by the Interagency Language Roundtable, which is a federal agency that creates and shares information about language-related activities. They keep us up-to-date on highly relevant matters for our industry, including legislation developments on interpretation on the federal level. We highly recommend subscribing to their listserv here.

The listserv's most recent posting caught our attention:

Speak English well, or get a ticket
Truckers face hefty fine for breaking law that says they must be able to talk with police.

Tuscaloosa, Ala. —- Manuel Castillo was driving a truck through Alabama hauling onions from Georgia and left with a $500 ticket for something he didn't think he was doing: speaking English poorly.
Castillo, who was stopped on his way back to California, said he knows federal law requires him to be able to converse in English with an officer, but he thought his language skills were good enough to avoid a ticket. Still, Castillo said he plans to pay the maximum fine of $500 rather than return to Alabama to fight the ticket. "It just doesn't seem fair to be ticketed if I wasn't doing anything dangerous on the road," he said. Federal law requires that anyone with a commercial driver's license speak English well enough to talk with police. Authorities last year issued 25,230 tickets nationwide for violations. Now the federal government is trying to tighten the English requirement, saying the change is needed for safety reasons.
Read the full article.
It makes sense that commercial truckers need to be able to communicate with an officer in basic English when stopped on the road. However, getting a ticket for no other offense than being a "non-English speaker" is highly controversial (to put it mildly). The topic of English proficiency is hotly debated and doesn't have an easy answer-- what do the languages professionals think in this case? Who determines if the driver's English is good enough? The officer? How can she/he correctly assess language skills? Are there any discrimination issues? Would these drivers have the right to an interpreter? We'd love to hear your thoughts -- just leave a comment.

LinkedIn Translation Fiasco Makes the NYT

Our friend Jill Sommer sent us a note that the paper of record, the New York Times, just published an article about the fact that LinkedIn recently sent an e-mail to thousands of translators, essentially asking if they would help translate LinkedIn for free. This has been covered very widely in translation blogs and forums, and we certainly support the majority's viewpoint that professional translation services should not be available for free. It's disappointing to see that a major player like LinkedIn fails to take our profession seriously enough to compensate professional linguists for their services. We wonder if LinkedIn also sent an e-mail to attorneys, asking them to review some documents for free?

Read the NYT's excellent coverage, including a comment by Matthew Bennett, who started a LinkedIn groupd that hotly debated this issue, here.

Marketing Tip of the Week

One of our favorite marketing ideas of the year did not start out as one. When we bought a new laptop for Judy, we quickly realized that while it was a great deal ($499), it had a very glossy black surface, which nicely showed every fingerprint. Why the surface can't be matte is beyond us, but we digress. In an effort to solve the fingerprint-issue, we consulted our IT guru, technology guardian angel, and general genius, Tom Gruber. He suggested we buy a large sticker for the laptop and sent us to

The site offers inexpensive stickers, technically called laptop skins, completely tailored to your laptop's dimensions (you can even enter your make and model), which leads us to believe that most folks use this space as a marketing tool rather than a fingerprint-cover. Hence, rather than order a picture of, say, Judy's dog, we ordered a sticker that features the Twin Translations logo. It fit like a glove and cost around $30, shipping included.

The marketing effect:
  • While sitting in the Lufthansa business class lounge at LAX (thanks, Dad!), Judy was working on her laptop (see picture). Later, during the flight, she got approached by someone from the lounge who inquired about translation services and they talked at length.
  • While sitting in a coffeeshop with the laptop in Vegas, a very nice manager from IBM came over and asked what kind of company Twin Translations was. She asked for a card and said she needed translation services. Wow!
The bottom line: this is a good investment, especially if you work away from your house once in a while. It's a conversation starter as well, and you never know who you will meet. We'd love to know if you decided to get a sticker as well and what your experiences have been.

It's a Scam: Daimond Translations

Unfortunately, scams are becoming more and more prevalent in our industry. This morning, we received the following from a Gmail address; which lead us to hit the delete button immediately. However, we were curious and googled the sender's company name, and sure enough, there were widespread reports of scams.

We currently need German to Spanish Translators.If you"re interested
to work with us please contact us by e-mail as soon as possible.
If you get this e-mail as well, please don't reply to it. As a matter of principle, we don't reply to non-serious inquiries coming from non-professional e-mail addresses, so this was an easy decision for us. This new trend in the profession is quite alarming to us, but it's fantastic that we have forums where we can communicate these happenings to others. Our colleague Jill Sommer just reported on a similar scam (perhaps the same individuals are behind it?) last week on her blog.

Good News: Optimism in the Industry

We would like to share some economic data that we received from the folks at GALA (Globalization and Localization Association). They recently completed their third quarterly survey among their members, and have sent us the results. While the realities of these challenging economic times have affected all of us in one way or another, it is nice to hear that the outlook is generally quite positive. Here are some highlights from the study:

A full 78 percent of respondents said they had been impacted by the downturn in the last three months (Feb – April), a marked increase from 57 percent who indicated they had been impacted in the previous February survey. Far fewer in North America felt a direct impact (55 percent) than Europe (83 percent) and Asia (85 percent).

However, the outlook is not nearly as grim. A full 30 percent of respondents anticipate an actual increase in demand in the next three months—way up from eight percent in the previous survey. And many more respondents are optimistic about the future (44 percent) than are not (15 percent).

Other findings include:

* More than 82 percent of respondents have not cut workforce as a result of the financial crisis. There have been other reactions by many LSPs, including reductions in overtime and outsourcing, wage reductions and salary freezes.
* More than half of respondents (53 percent) report lower revenue compared to three months ago.
* Forty-four percent of respondents are optimistic about the next 6 to 12 months, while 15 percent are not optimistic and 41 percent are unsure.
* Similar to the first quarter, more than half of respondents have not had any projects or contracts canceled due to the economic situation. But there is a lot more downward pressure on price and some projects have been delayed.
Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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