Sunday, 23 September 2012

Tell a friendIn my last post I suggested that a quick visit to the Code of Conduct buried somewhere in your office could prove beneficial.
Here are some posers for you.

Should you, as a freelance translator, sub-contract work to another translator. Indeed, is it permissible at all to do this, and in what conditions? What safeguards should you put in place?

In some circumstances you might find yourself accepting a job that requires particular specialist skills and knowledge. You find yourself slightly outside your comfort zone. What should you do?

I’d be very interested to hear what you think.

I'll prepare some answers of my own for next time.

We have moved to: Why not bookmark the new page now?
Thanks for your interest.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

We're moving. Wir ziehen um. Nous déménageons. Nos trasladamos

I have decided to move this blog to a new host at the eCPD website and to bring in the company blog previously written by Sarah Dillon to the same place.

To see our new home, simply click this link 

I intend to continue posting articles here, but eventually will move everything over to our new home.

Dusting off the Code of Conduct

When I became a Chartered Linguist five years ago I attended a gruelling interview at which, among other searching questions, I was presented with an imaginary* ethical dilemma for a translator and then asked to tell the interviewers what I would do in the circumstances of the scenario I was given.

I cannot remember the scenario now, and probably wouldn’t divulge it or my answer, even if I could remember. I was given five minutes to think about the dilemma and how I would deal with it. To prepare for the interview I had studied the Chartered Institute of Linguist’s code of conduct. I read it and re-read it, and dissected every clause in my mind. I practiced scenarios and dreamed up ever more unlikely situations in anticipation.
In my own working life I have been presented with few real ethical dilemmas. The majority of the work that comes my way was and continues to be bog standard commercial stuff, raising no problems with my conscience. And my clients are all bona fide businesses, trading correctly.

But dilemmas do happen, and that’s why we have a code of conduct to help us solve them.

Read this example of the kind of thing that we might come across as translators:
Ethical dilemmas from the Translation Times
Or this more recent posting from the same source.

Of course if you are an interpreter, especially working in the public sector or community, you will come across dilemmas on a daily basis: the defendant who asks for legal advice, the client who insists on giving you a gift.
At eCPD webinars we ran a webinar with Sue Leschen, a solicitor and highly qualified public service interpreter (known as community interpreter in the US), on ethical dilemmas faced by public service interpreters. It is still available on demand at this link.

If you belong to a professional association you will have signed up to its code of conduct. So here’s my CPD advice tip for today: Dust off your copy and read it through again. Think about every clause and verify that you really do adhere to the code you signed up to.

And if you don’t yet belong to a professional association, I recommend doing so as soon as you can. See my earlier post on this topic.

*Actually it was probably not so imaginary. I’m sure it had happened to someone, somewhere. And for the interest of accuracy, I am no longer a chartered linguist since I no longer translate a sufficient number of words to satisfy the scrutinising committee, but have since become a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Linguists.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Proof-reading – editing – revising: the essentials

Today, I want to talk a little bit about a term used by work-providers and which greatly irritates many translators: that term is ‘proof-reading’. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked to ‘proof-read’ a text, only to find that what is actually meant is something else entirely.

A sample of texts I have been asked to check includes instruction manuals written in (poor) English by a non-native speaker of English, translations sent to me without the source language text and performed to varying degrees of competence by other translators, as well as translations accompanied by their source text (often still in bilingual format) for a full check of translation quality.

However none of the above is truly proof-reading. Proof-reading is what it says on the tin: reading the proofs that have been prepared ready for a print-run. Such a check is the final step on the road to publication and, provided that all other checks have been made beforehand, should really only throw up issues such as incorrect hyphens, incorrect placement of text by the typographer and other minor issues not connected with the translation itself.

If you are asked to ‘proofread’ you need to know EXACTLY what is required. Ask if your client does not tell you. You also need to negotiate the terms on which you will get paid. in 99% of cases you can only do this after you have had an opportunity to study the text fairly closely. Whether paid by the hour or by the word, you need to be clear with your work provider exactly what you are going to do and have formed an idea as to how long it will take.

Editing: When editing a text, you are not necessarily required to go back to the source language text, except perhaps to check on something that may puzzle you in the target. You are not checking whether the translation is true to the original, but you are checking for style, punctuation, sense and readability.

Revising: Revising a text is the most intensive form of editing. Here you are checking the target against the source and checking that there are no mistranslations or missing phrases, and that terminology is correct. You also have to perform the editing tasks I list above.

Personally, I am not keen on editing/revision work, and generally restrict my activities in this area to a final proof-read of ready-to-print material that I translated myself.

However, if you are keen to learn more about this demanding but potentially rewarding field, you could do worse that check out these FAQs from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.

At eCPD earlier this year we held a webinar explaining just what editors and revisors do, with distinguished speaker Sarah Griffin Mason. It is available on-demand for just £21 from this link.

The Mediterranean Editors and Translators Meeting this year will be in Venice in November. The programme looks very interesting, especially the workshops on the first day.

A forum I follow recently had a lively discussion on the use of “they” as a singular pronoun as in this example: “The telltale sign of a right-winger: they can’t write in English to save their lives.”

My own view is that as translators we should try to avoid using ‘they’ and ‘their’ to accompany a singular noun by rewriting the sentence. But I accept that in certain cases it might be impossible to do so. For more discussion on this and other subjects, have a look at the debate at the Chicago Manual of Style.

What do you think about the plural pronoun issue?

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Will on-line webinar* training ever replace face-to-face seminars?

The short answer has to be a firm “no”. When I started running webinars* over three years ago now, it was never my intention to usurp the important role played by training and information sessions in a classroom, seminar room or conference setting. Nothing can replace the immediate interaction with the speaker, the lunchtime chats with colleagues, or that exchange of views (and business cards) over a coffee at break-time.

But there was a definite and crying need for an extra arrow to add to the quiver of good continuing professional development (CPD) offered by professional institutes, universities, and commercial enterprises.

Translators are a mixed lot. Many of us work from home because we love the independent life-style that free-lancing provides. Some live a long way from any city centre; many care for children and/or elderly relatives. Family commitments and too much work often make it difficult to get away from the office.

Webinars are a quick and easy way of keeping totally up to the minute on every aspect of a translator’s life without leaving home or office. The only equipment needed is a reasonable PC or Mac and a good broadband connection. Many events, such as those provided by CAT tool vendors, are free. Professional organisations such as ITI and ATA have been putting on webinars (through eCPD) at reasonable cost for a couple of years now, and since 2010 eCPD Ltd (my company, I declare an interest here) has run dozens of webinars for translators and interpreters. We have covered subjects from Terminology Management to PDF files, from Translation Techniques to Chemistry for Translators. For a full list of webinars coming up later this year see this link, and most of our past webinars are now available on demand. Some eCPD webinars are free. For the sake of fairness, I mention also that ProZ offers a programme of training webinars too.

Seats at a webinar are very reasonably priced, usually at £20 (about $31 or €25), and anyone worried about not being able to make the live session can be assured that a recording will be made available afterwards for viewing as often as desired@ at no extra charge.

Once they have got to grips with the fact that they cannot actually see their audience, our speakers have reported that they have greatly enjoyed the experience of talking to attendees who may be logging in from Peru, Australia, Russia, or Taiwan. They find it exciting and exhilarating. Webinars also make it possible to draw on the expertise of experts based in many different parts of the world, the USA, Australia, France and Spain, for example.

Attendees appreciate the fact that we try to keep the cost of webinar places as low as possible. At eCPD Webinars we are translators ourselves and know that the translators budgets for CPD are often tight. My colleagues and I are aware of what translators and interpreters are asking for and try to provide training and information on topics that translators want.

Some of the most popular webinars have been the “Specialising in … “ series. These include sessions on financial translation, legal translation, medical translation, sub-titling and many others. We are currently planning a session on “specialising in technical translation” for the new year.

This autumn sees a new venture – a series of language-specific translation workshops (German, French and Spanish in both directions). If these prove popular (and seats are strictly limited to ensure that we can keep to the workshop format), we will try some other language combinations.

I make no apology for promoting eCPD Webinars in this blog. I strongly believe that attending webinars – from whichever provider you choose - forms an important part of a translator’s portfolio of reasonably priced continuing professional development (continuing education) – especially when travelling to on-site training is difficult. After all, that’s why I started eCPD Webinars in the first place!

And remember: "It's what we learn after we know it all that really counts." (Quips and Quotes by E.C. McKenzie ).

Webinar: a seminar presentation or workshop made available via the Internet.
·      @ For a minimum of 90 days

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Conference on education and CPD for translators and interpreters - and some excellent blog links for new translators

When I started this blog I decided to aim it principally at new translators as well as at those practising translators who are looking for some low-cost ideas to brush up their language and technical skills.

Today I have news of a translation conference to be held this November at Portsmouth University (on the south coast of England). This annual conference often deals with pretty academic topics, but this year’s conference, the 12th, is on a much more practical (for me anyway) level. Presentations are likely to include talks on CPD, online training, training the trainer, the role of professional organisations, and of professionals within the translation industry, educating the client, and many more. All are topics very close to my heart. The title of the conference is 'Those Who Can, Teach': Translation, Interpreting and Training. The date is 
10 November 2012 and it will take place in the Park Building in the centre of Portsmouth. Registrations are not yet open so I cannot tell you what the cost will be but I can say that in the past it has always been very reasonable. (Last year the fee was £40 for a very full day of presentations, with generous discounts for students. It even included lunch!) The conference is sponsored by Routes into Languages among others.

One of the sessions is entitled Progressing your Career without Breaking the Bank and it will cover the need for CPD, keeping CPD records, finding good quality, yet low cost, CPD that works, and the need to reflect on achievements. The speaker will be … me.

That brings me neatly to ways in which very experienced practitioners can add valuable points to their own CPD records. CPD is not just about absorbing information, but passing it on too. Many of my colleagues throughout the world are more than generous with their advice and help. They dedicate hours of time to writing blogs and researching information which they willingly pass on to colleagues. That time is entered onto their annual CPD records.

Here are some wonderful such blogs and websites for new translators to get started with:

Thoughts on Translation. This blog, by translator Corinne McKay in the USA, concentrates on translation and the translation industry. She has also devised an on-line course on Getting Started as a Translator.

From Words to Deeds. This is a great blog if you specialise in legal translation. It describes itself as “building bridges – between academia and practice and between translators and legal professionals” and it is full of information about legal practice and the art of translation within in.

The eCPD Webinars blog contains a number of reviews of past webinars. For future webinars, don’t forget to check out the main eCPD website for future CPD training webinars and workshops, at deliberately low cost for high-quality presentations.

There’s Something about Translation. Sarah Dillon, the author, has been on maternity leave recently so hasn’t been updating her blog. But there is a wealth of valuable information relating to CPD in the archives.

Signs and Symptons of Translation. This is a relatively new blog by colleague Emma Goldsmith. Her particular niche in the overcrowded blog scene is medical translation, Spanish language terminology and pharma regulatory news.

About Translation.  This blog contains many useful technical tips such as advanced searching in Word and making the most of Google searches.

Translation Times. With her twin sister Dagmar, blog author Judy Jenner wrote and published the Entrepreneurial Linguist.

If you haven’t decided on a CAT tool yet and are wondering what they actually do, visit Translators Training. This website, maintained by Jeromobot, aka Jost Zetzsche, contains 3 hours of free video showing how 20 different tools translate the same Word document.

Lastly, don’t let this blog about Mox – a young and brilliant translator - put you off translation. But this cartoon blog is a lovely way of raising a smile at the end of a busy week.

I hope to see some of you at Portsmouth.

More tips soon.

Friday, 29 June 2012

The benefits of belonging to a professional association

When I started to blog in April I stated that my aim was to put forward some ideas for maintaining informal CPD at no or low cost. A secondary aim was to deal with aspects of our profession.

In this post I want to stress the value of belonging to one of the peer support networks that most professional associations run for their members these days. If you are not a member of a professional association, my advice is to join an association in your country, and consider joining one in another country too. And if you belong to one, but have not signed up to the eGroups, you are missing out on a huge benefit of membership.
About a decade ago I was instrumental in setting up the e-version of TransNet, the translators’ forum for the Translating division of the Chartered Institute of Linguists. The words of its publicised aim (to discuss issues affecting professional freelance translators) do not do justice to what TransNet actually is.

New members of the Institute who join the forum find a wealth of support and friendly advice from experienced translators. Some issues discussed recently include CAT tools (what to buy, specific problems with specific tools), how to approach clients, whether a website is a good idea or not, advice on matters of style and a host of other queries from translators working all over the world. And TransNet is not just for new translators. The forum often hosts discussions about professional issues such as deductible expenses, VAT, ergonomic laptops.

The CIoL also has sub-groups for various languages so specific language queries can be addressed to them, and there is a group for interpreters too.

And I must not forget the aspect of friendship. Translating is a lonesome business and I, for one, felt very isolated when I started out. eGroups turn colleagues into friends. The CIoL even has a virtual winebar where colleagues can hang out at the end of the day and chat about non-translation issues or even nonsense if they wish.

Membership of these eGroups is free to associate members, full members and fellows of the CIoL (the exception being, I believe, student members).

I have been an associate of the ITI for just over a year now and find that here too, there are many eGroups dealing with specific areas of a translator’s daily life. There is a group for new members where new translators (and they are not necessarily youngsters, but are often people changing careers) ask questions about the practicalities of becoming a freelance translator.

A recent discussion on the CIoL German group brainstormed some ideas for a German translation of “sharing platter” – the kind of dish so popular on restaurant menus these days. The original asker opted in the end for "Gemeinsame Platte" but contributors put forward plenty of ideas.

More recently, on the ITI new members group some excellent advice was proffered recently on the subject of websites. One respondent replied with this comment: “Often a question has been raised without me realizing I was in need of that information. The discussion on the topic of developing your own website is very apt for my current situation and I eagerly read every response.”

No matter what the query may be, someone will have advice. Of course it is up to the asker to evaluate that advice, but in my experience all contributions are of of very high quality.

Another useful spin-off from joining such groups is that members often share glossaries and links that they have found useful in their work.

Here is one recommended by a CIoL member of the German group recently: It’s a building construction dictionary  (Baulexikon) from German to English. It was collated and is maintained by a university in Stuttgart.

Through the eGroups you will usually get to hear about CPD events, lectures and conferences being held in a city near you, or on-line.

But you could do worse than get yourself onto the eCPDmailing list.
Newsletters full of tips, advice and news of upcoming CPD webinars are sent out a couple of times a month. Join the list here, and some of the past newsletters are hosted at this link. Marketing Director Sarah Dillon works very hard to find useful resources for translators all over the world and she passes on these tips to everyone on the mailing list. It really is a “must-read” newsletter even if you don’t want to attend the webinars on offer that particular month.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Results of multi-lingual living survey and a source language tip

The poll on multi-lingual living, which I ran on my blog a couple of weeks ago, is now closed.

The results are very interesting. The first thing I learned is that I have a thing or two to learn about creating surveys. The questions could have been better phrased to fit more peoples’ circumstances.

My own experience of filling in surveys for various organisations has told me that that they should be short and that there is no ‘one-size-fits all’ response to survey questions. I am very glad therefore that I gave respondents some space to put in their own comments.

I condense the results very briefly here.

Sixty-five people responded and a big thank you to everyone who spent a couple of minutes on this.

There were three questions, two of them were mutually exclusive – or so one might have thought – but in fact one person translates both ways, so answered both.

Q1. What kind of (language) household do you live in?

Twenty-eight people (43.1%) live in a mono-lingual household. I was heartened by this because I had previously formed the opinion that I am very much in minority and that most translators have greater access to language practice that I do. Although 43.1% still represents a minority - it's bigger than I expected. And if you add those who live alone, it actually becomes a majority.

Twenty-four people (36.9%) live in a bi-lingual environment, seven (10.8%) in a multi-lingual household and six (9.2%) live alone.

There were some very interesting comments on this point. One respondent mentioned that she and her husband each have different native languages, neither of which is the language of the country they live in. Most of those who live alone mentioned that they have friends or relations who are natives of their source language. One person pointed out that she was in the same boat as me in that her husband stoically refuses to learn her source language. To be fair, my husband did try once.

Another couple, both of the same native language but both also bilingual, switch to the other language when they don’t want people to know what they are saying. (I do that sometimes with my French friend Michele when we wish to make a catty remark about someone.)

One of the multi-lingual households mentioned that there were three members of the household and between them they had four languages: Arabic, German, English and Polish – not all mutually understood.

One respondent in a bi-lingual household (native language English) speaks Italian to her children. But the children are not very cooperative and reply in English. Another couple (French/Australian) is trying to bring up the children in both cultures and languages.

The second and third questions were:

Qs 2 and 3: If you live in your target (or, for Q 3, source) country, how long do you spend each year in your source/target country?

Again, I’m glad I allowed people to make comments because, inevitably, the options didn’t necessarily fit the circumstances.

Forty of the respondents live, like me, in their target language country, and the vast majority of these (36 - or 90%) spend less than a month in their source language country. Four of them spend between one and three months away from home, and no-one spends longer in their source language country. Some respondents commented, giving further details on how that time is split over the year.

Twenty-six people live in their source language country (one person filled in both questions because she or he translates both ways. The question relating to amount of time spent away from home came out with a slightly smaller majority for those living in their target country: twenty (76.9%) spend less than a month away, and three between one and three months.

One person living in Australia isn’t able to get back to her native France every year and is very grateful to the Internet for making it possible to keep up-to-date with developments in her language. Another, living in her target country, makes an effort to cultivate friends who speak her source language. Yet another points out that travel plans vary from year to year.

By the way, the survey was completely anonymous and I don’t know who the respondents are. If I attribute a gender to anyone in the comments above, it is because the person gave a clue in the comment.

I find these results very interesting. Of course the survey was small, and not very scientific, but it shows that there are very many working translators who are not surrounded by different languages on a daily basis and have to make considerable efforts to keep their language skills up-to-date.

Tip: Free language podcasts from iTunes:
For those residing in their target country here’s a tip for honing your language / listening skills. If you use iTunes (if you don’t you should) search the iTunes store for “Higher Education” “French” (or your desired language) and see what podcasts come up. Most are free. It's a neat way of learning something new about a subject you enjoy, delivered by an academic in your source language. I listen when I can on my iPad where iTunes U is the app to go for. I'm currently watching a lecture on computer science from a technical university in Germany. Thanks to my business partner Sarah Dillon for this tip. She mentioned it on her blog some months ago.

I shall put forward some more ideas on low-cost or free ways of honing language and other professional skills in future editions of my blog. Meantime, if you have any of your own ideas for unusual sources of CPD, please do let me know.