Translation: “one of the weightiest and worthiest undertakings in the general concerns of the world” 8

A variety of well-known figures have weighed in on the art of translation. Borges said, “El original no es fiel a la traducción”  (“The original is unfaithful to the translation”). “Translation is the art of failure,” according to Umberto Eco.  Ursula K. Le Guin has said, “Translation is entirely mysterious. Increasingly I have felt that the art of writing is itself translating, or more like translating than it is like anything else. What is the other text, the original? I have no answer. I suppose it is the source, the deep sea where ideas swim, and one catches them in nets of words and swings them shining into the boat … where in this metaphor they die and get canned and eaten in sandwiches.”

Do any of these quotes represent what translation is to you? Do you have a favorite quote on translation that better sums up the profession?

There is a ProZ.com Wiki article which is a collection of memorable quotes on or related to translation. Check it out here.  Add to it if you can.

If you could sum up the art of translation, or the life of a translator, what original quote would you like to leave behind? Be creative!

Add your original quote here >>

Twitter for translators? 24

I dismissed the whole Twitter thing at the outset. I had been through MySpace, and was already getting tired in Facebook of reading about what everyone had eaten, or was going to eat, for dinner. So when people started talking about Twitter, and tweets, whatever those were, my first reaction was, “Another social network for people to spam each other with information I don’t need? No thanks.”

Then I remember hearing about Twitter in the ProZ.com forums, and people were talking about being able to add a Twitter feed to your ProZ.com profile. One of the most vocal in favor was member Erik Hansson, who has been an excellent example of the use of Twitter by an industry professional. Professional translators were using Twitter? What were they using it for? I decided to go ahead and create an account and poke around and see what was going on.

At first, on a general look around, I saw a lot of the same stuff you will see on any other social network. Ugh, I thought. Let’s see what translators are doing.

This is where it got interesting. I saw people in the translation industry using it (as they use other social networks!) to network, share information, stay informed, promote themselves and others. Work was even getting passed and done through it.

I had felt obligated to add friends and people I knew to my group of friends in Facebook, but I decided to use Twitter in a different way. I would only “follow” those whose tweets I found informative or useful. And I would try, at least try, to only tweet information which I also found informative or useful.

The tweets I follow are now just as useful, if not sometimes more useful, than many news services or my Google Reader when it comes to hearing about some of the latest in translation, or issues facing translators and how they are dealing with them. And there’s an advantage to this format: the character limit means that I get short, concise snippets from different people, and I decide whether to follow the link to the full story or investigate further. A time-saver. People at industry events tweet throughout those events, so that even if I am not there, I get a taste of what is going on, what is being discussed, what is striking a chord with attendees (and the fun they’re having that I’m missing out on!). In a collaborative effort, everyone contributes what they have, what they know, what they have read or seen, to the mix. By selecting with care those you follow, you create a powerful way of staying informed and in communication with colleagues, with a minimum of time invested. By sharing with care what you find useful and informative with others in the industry or by passing the word on by “re-tweeting”, you are helping do the same for others.

I’d like to mention here a few Twitter users who I have found particularly informative. This is by no means an exhaustive list:

@erik_hansson

@Textklick

@hyperlingo

@TranslatorsWB

@renatobeninatto

@waylum_99

@kvashee

@LinguaGreca

@Tesstranslates

@TAUS_Data

and @ProZcom of course!

Check them out, and if you have not already, try forming a list of people you follow which you find useful and productive. Then try your hand at returning the favor to those who might follow you.

I’m focusing here on the informative-collaborative aspect of using Twitter, and the benefits I have found. I’m sure there are pros (pro translators and pro tweeters) who can expand more on other beneficial aspects for their businesses of using this medium.

Comments >>

What does your About me say about you? 1

I saw a blog post by Catherine Translates last week which was basically a short list of articles on things to keep in mind while preparing your website. The articles are useful, check them out.

One of the articles in particular, on writing a good About me/About us page, caught my eye, and got me thinking about an area of the ProZ.com profile which can represent a sort of “white bull” for the translator establishing or maintaining an online presence, the “About me” section. Most other fields in your profile are “easier” to fill out, since you know which services you provide, the languages you work in, the projects you’ve completed, etc. But what should go in the “About me” section? Here are some points to keep in mind when crafting or updating yours:

  • Approach your “About me” and your profile in general as if you were a potential client looking for a professional in the languages and field(s) you work in.
  • Try not to copy and paste your CV into the “About me” section. Your profile has an area where you can upload CVs in various languages and formats, and a potential client who wants to see your CV will look there (you can also see how many times each CV has been opened). Rather, select some choice information that highlights your area(s) of specialization, qualifications, services– things that make you stand out as a professional. What makes you different from others in your field? Why should a client choose you for a project over your colleagues and competitors? Use your “About me” to make sure these things jump out at the visitor to your profile.
  • Avoid using phrases such as “never missed a deadline” or “professional and reliable”– serious clients take this as a given when contacting serious translators.
  • Keep the format of your “About me” simple but attractive. If you don’t know a little html, there’s a tutorial in the interface to edit your “About me”, and plenty of other guides online. Avoid overusing different fonts, font sizes, and colors, since this can make your presentation harder on the eyes.
  • Spend some time crafting your “About me”. It is part of your online business card, and a thoughtful and useful presentation is easy to detect. So are haphazard ones.
If you are a professional translator and do not have a website that represents you and your business, look into getting one. It’s worth mentioning that ProZ.com members have access to free web hosting and can set up their own website relatively quickly. A website that reflects what you have to offer professionally is another storefront for your online presence. If you have a ProZ.com profile, be sure you are treating it as you would treat a website that represents your business, because that is basically what it is, and it also has much greater potential for high visibility on the web.*

Has anyone found any good strategies that could be applied to crafting a great “About me”?

* ProZ.com currently ranks among the top 3,400 websites worldwide, according to Alexa. This means that pages on the site, profiles included, have a visibility on the web that is difficult to achieve with an individual website. Member profiles receive this exposure and resulting client traffic at a rate that is far greater than that of non-members. Compare this exposure to the cost of setting up and hosting an individual translator website, and factor in that web hosting is free for members, along with a range of other benefits (risk management, access to clients and job flow, networking, etc.).

Some highlights in translation for March 1

I hope everyone had a good March. Here are some highlights and stories of interest in the translation industry for this past month as it comes to a close:

  • Efforts to provide assistance to those affected by the disaster in Japan:
    1. The Japan Association of Translators (JAT) assembled a list of volunteer interpreters to help in the aftermath of the disaster.
    2. The Japanese Association of Medical Interpreters (JAMI) set up a call center to help out in the disaster.
    3. The International Medical Interpreter Association (IMIA) has built a Disaster Relief Database. This international effort lists interpreters in many different language combinations and sends the information periodically to 20 non-profits around the world, including the Japanese Red Cross.
    4. Translators without Borders announced that it is ready to assist with requests for translation related to the disaster from humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Read more >>

  • Job flow on the site, which has been trending upward, hit an all-time high during March.
  • Translators Without Borders and the ProZian community are working together in large humanitarian localization project.  Read more >>
  • The European Patent Office and Google followed up on their announcement of intent to collaborate by signing a long-term agreement to collaborate on machine translation of patents.  Read more >>
  • Euan Fry, who helped bring world-class translations of the Bible to the indigenous peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea passed away on March 1st.  Read more >>
  • Translation industry ‘founding father’ Geoffrey Kingscott passed away on March 2nd.   Read more >>
  • The results of GALA’s quarterly economic survey were published for the first quarter of 2011. GALA also announced the launch of a full-time, funded initiative to define localization standards. The GALA 2011 conference wrapped up yesterday in Lisbon.
  • The TAUS Data Association (TDA) opened the free “Corpora-for-MT” service to the public, and TAUS/CNGL machine translation post-editing guidelines were published.
  • Check out an interesting post by Kirti Vashee of eMpTy Pages on “The future of Translation Memory (TM)”.
  • The Prosperous Translator: Advice from Fire Ant & Worker Bee is now available through the ProZ.com Books section, along with a selection of other works by ProZ.com members which are of interest to translators.

Thanks also to Véronica Coquard of Vers d’autres horizons… for this month’s guest blog post, “Don’t lower your rates! There are better ways of getting noticed”.

See the ProZ.com newsletter for March for more news.

Stay on top of what is happening in the industry by following Translation industry news.

Have a great month of April!

Jared

Translators Without Borders and the ProZian community work together in large humanitarian localization project 3

Translators Without Borders is an independent, non-profit association that since 1993 has been providing free, professional translations to humanitarian NGOs, enabling them to spend the saved funds in their field operations.

ProZ.com has been supporting Translators Without Borders both in the screening of their volunteer translators via the ProZ.com screening center and in the posting of translation jobs, but even more important is the contribution of ProZ.com’s community of translators.

Since there is no time for reviewing and no room for errors in the handling of emergencies, Translators Without Borders recruits only experienced and solid professionals able to do a good job each time. Approved applicants are asked to submit one or more test translations within the system.

Since the screening requirements for the Certified PRO Network are similar, members of the CPN are admitted directly as Translators Without Borders translators.

The level of activity has been increasing steadily. Some 40,000 words were posted in January. This number rose to 88,000 words during February and over 235,000 words were posted and accepted by volunteers during the first 24 days of March.

Update on the GoodPlanet project

In the second half of February, the NGO GoodPlanet asked Translators Without Borders for help to localize their new website into as many languages as possible beyond English, French and Spanish (which were already available).

Since then, more than a hundred members of the Certified PRO Network have responded to the call for volunteers, and the localization has been already delivered to the NGO (but not yet released) in eight languages:

Another four languages are close to completion: Arabic, Russian, German and Swedish.

Other groups making progress include Portuguese, Dutch, Indonesian and Chinese, as well as Japanese, Serbian, Macedonian, Hebrew, Croatian, Slovenian, Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil and Latvian, where in most cases a single volunteer is working per language.

GoodPlanet has granted permission to all of the translators who participated in this project to use a part of the translations they performed as sample translations in their portfolios.

In addition, translators who participate in any project handled by Translators Without Borders are kindly invited to enter the relevant projects in the project history section of their ProZ.com profiles and these projects will be validated by Translators Without Borders (send request to http://www.proz.com/profile/1352791 ).

There is still room for translation into additional languages, and some additional volunteers would be more than welcome in several of the pairs where localization is still in progress. Source language is English or French.

Any members of the Certified PRO Network who are willing to collaborate with Translations Without Borders in general, and with GoodPlanet in particular, are welcome to contact Translators Without Borders via their ProZ.com profile at http://www.proz.com/profile/1352791

For those interested in forming part of the Certified PRO Network, please visit http://www.proz.com/cpn

——————————————–

Update, March 30th:

Today the localizations into Russian and German were completed and delivered to GoodPlanet, taking the total of completed languages to 10.

Credit goes to:
* Russian: Natalia Mackevich, Mykhailo Voloshko, Yana Deni, Anna Konar, Valery Kaminski and a translator who asked to remain anonymous.

* German: Sabine Winter who, like Jana Novomeska in Slovak, produced the localization of the whole website into her native language.

——————————————–

Update, April 1st:

Today the localizations into Swedish was completed and delivered to GoodPlanet, taking the total of completed languages to 11 and the total of translated words beyond 100K.

Credit goes to Anna Smith, Christer Heljestrand, Johanna Hongell-Darsee, Victoria Eriksson, and Maria Grahm,

——————————————–

Update, April 5th:

Today the localizations into Arabic and Simplified Chinese were completed and delivered to GoodPlanet, taking the total of completed languages to 13.

Credit goes to:
* Arabic: Said Abouharia, Mohamed Gaafar and Heba Shawky.

* Chinese: David Zhang , Yun Lin and Susan Wang.

——————————————–

Guest blog post: “Don’t lower your rates! There are better ways of getting noticed”, by Véronica Coquard 13

This Translator T.O. guest blogger post is by member Véronica Coquard. Véronica and colleague Cornelia Buttmann-Scholl have released a new bilingual translation-related blog, Vers d’autres horizons… (you’ll find the link in the blogroll on the right as well). The following post about rates, responding to job calls and looking at both sides of the service provider – client equation is reproduced here courtesy of Véronica and Cornelia, and can be seen on Vers d’autres horizons… in both English and French:

—————————————————————————————————————–

(This article began as a post to a colleague on ProZ.com, who wrote:

I am a very experienced translator. In December, due to the loss of a major client, I decided to go Pro in this website. I apply to jobs every single day. At first, I cut my tariff in 25%, now it’s less than half, and yet, nothing.

…Anyone out there is getting jobs through this website that are [sic] fairly paid? Or are you a member for different reason, for the sense of community, etc?

I appreciate the time and effort of mods and Proz people, but I am mostly interested in knowing other members’ experiences!”

…And, thanks to a little encouragement from Jared at ProZ.com, it grew from there.)

As a translator, I have replied to countless jobs, on ProZ.com and elsewhere (well, I suppose I could count them, as I keep a file of them. But I digress). Statistically I only get a positive reply maybe one out of forty times. But recently, I had an experience “on the other side” that will influence my choices in the future.

You see, recently, I was offered a big job by a direct client, who probably sent the tender notice out to a few agencies as well as to me, as I had called on them recently proposing that they compare my services to their current agency. I am not an agency, but a freelancer; but since I was entering into competition with at least one agency, I would have to find two other reliable translators to adapt the text into German and Dutch while I translated it into English. So, putting myself in the position of a project manager, I posted the offer on ProZ.com. By looking at recruitment from the PM’s standpoint, not only did I get a slew of replies; I also learned some valuable lessons that I will be putting to use the next time I reply to a job offer.

First of all, I wasn’t looking for the lowest rates; the most important thing for me was to find someone I could count on doing the job properly and on time. (I, too, have had people insist that I lower my rates, but they can insist all they like; I’m the boss of me.) All of the translators who replied to my offer were within the price range that I had cited, and many were below. I did not reply to the lower bidders, but then I did not really take the price range into consideration. In my offer I had asked my potential partners to align with my middle-of-the-range prices, and the crushing majority did just that (by the way, when I say middle-of-the-range, I am talking about rates that allow one to live an ordinary life in a developed country). However, the list of replies was long, so I had to narrow down the choices. Here is what I did.

ProZ.com offers its job posters the option of gathering replies through an on-line application form. I opted for this choice, and was glad I did. Instead of having to sort through my e-mails for replies, the applications were sorted for me. As their messages came pouring in, those who had followed the instructions were to be found through the link to my offer, neatly stacked up in chronological order and in the category of the language they were offering. Those who had not followed the instructions, who had simply contacted me by e-mail, were not on the list. It would have taken an extra effort on my part to include them, printing out various messages to compare them with those on my handy list. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t make that effort. Now, obviously, not all job posters use this system; as freelancers we are often asked to reply by e-mail or through the on-line forms of various agencies. The key here is to reply using the method requested by the client, which might simply save you from not being included on the list of people considered for the job.

When I followed the link to see the replies, I noticed that the page began with a succinct list of the applicants and their most basic information, such as their avatar and a link to their profile, along with the subject line of their message. Below that, there is a longer version of the list, including the text of their messages and their attachments in the same order. This explains why, when you are writing your message subject to apply for a job on ProZ.com, there is a little note alongside the form to help remind you to write something memorable. I hadn’t realized until that day that the subject line is also the heading of each applicant’s place on the shorter list. What you decide to write in that space really can help you stand out. (I’m the first to admit having produced such boring headings like “FR >EN translations”. I should have realized, and expressed in no uncertain terms, that I’m much more interesting than that!) To begin studying the some fifty applications that I received, I printed out the short (subject-line) list, ticking off people as I went along. So it is important to make your subject line specific and eye-catching, summing up in a few words why you are better than the competition, for this job (I’ll get back to that in a moment).

I had posted the offer in French. Now it may sound rash, but I began by throwing out any replies that were not in French. The lesson is: always reply in the language that the job is posted in. At least half of my applicants replied to me in English, but I wanted to get an idea of their level of French by reading their replies. In my case, I didn’t particularly care to know their level of English, as that’s my part of the job; and I trust that they are good in their respective native languages. Also, I had so many worthy replies in French that I didn’t bother going out of my way to request a French version of the application even from the English-speaking people who sounded quite competent.

After eliminating those who were speaking to me in languages other than French, I narrowed it down to those who had sent a well-written reply, and I must say that a few of them had me balking. You needn’t translate into a language other than your native, but if you are offering language services, you should at least be able to write a decent note in your source language. It’s also worth taking a bit of extra time to polish your message and subject line, running them through spellcheck and proofreading them (and if you’re really bad in your source language, may I somewhat cheekily suggest that you go looking for a job elsewhere). Note that the order of the replies did not really influence me in my choice; this is why I talk about taking a moment to verify your words. After all, the message you send out is the first (and might be the last) sample of your writing that the contractor will have to judge you by. Anyone who sent me a sloppy message (with typos or weirdly cobbled phrasing) was out. Again, I was spoiled for choice, and didn’t have to settle for slackness.

A few of the applicants piqued my interest because in their few short, well-turned sentences, I could detect that they had style. As writers, we must be aware of the powerful choices that we make when using words, although we mustn’t allow ourselves to become overwhelmed with the possibilities. My suggestion would be to tend toward subtle originality. The key word here is subtle: as much as it is important to stand out, don’t go so far as to make yourself ridiculous or even too casual. The “I’m-a-riot-to-work-with” approach might get you attention, but it doesn’t go far in reassuring your client that you are reliable. Likewise, in French we have a formal and informal form of address, and I didn’t much appreciate being addressed in the informal way; it just didn’t seem businesslike. The same goes for those who used smileys; for me, smileys are reserved for friendly exchanges, and not when you are looking to impress. You shouldn’t need them to express your politeness; courtesy and respect for your client should shine through in every aspect of your text.

After these qualities, personalization proved to be a big factor in my decision-making. I was just naturally attracted to the people who had personalized their note. Those who had taken the time to look at my name (and spell it correctly) got points in my book. These were generally the people who understood what I was asking for, and who adapted their message in kind, instead of just copy-pasting a generic “cover letter” blurb (and again, I’ve done this plenty of times).

The smart ones listed any past experience specifically relevant to the job. Again, my priority was to find someone dependable, and it’s just safer to go with someone who has had similar types of experience. I can already hear some of you wondering where you can possibly begin when you’re new to the craft. In a word, the answer is: use your imagination (and read up on ProZ.com forums where there are dozens of ideas for plumping up your experience, such as pro bono work). You must have some kind of professional experience, even if it was prior to translation, and you can expand on that – without exaggerating your qualifications – to make it clear to your potential client that the subject interests you in some way. Be specific.

Likewise, a great many people who replied to me cited experience that had nothing to do with the job I was offering. I did not penalize them for this purposely, but it did leave me feeling a bit chilly toward them. I suppose I got the impression that not only they didn’t have any relevant experience, but that their experience was limited in general, which may or may not be the case. Anyway, the subject of the job you are applying for is the only kind of experience that the client is looking for, so talk about your experiences in that matter, and let the rest of your impressive feats be fascinating surprises for the client perusing your CV.

Most of my better applicants thought to attach a CV, although I hadn’t mentioned it, and, although I didn’t really plan it in advance, I printed out the CVs of my ever-narrowing selection of translators to make my final choice. I didn’t look at the CVs too carefully, but again, I made sure that there was something there that reflected the specialization I was looking for. It might be taking it too far to suggest that you should personalize your CV to every job offer, but it might be worth it to create several CVs, keeping the main points the same while providing more detailed information on the various main specialty fields that you develop for each corresponding CV. This will allow you to choose the CV that is the most appropriate for each job you reply to. The language of your CV, of course, should be the same as for your message.

In the experience that I am recounting, the CVs made for a handy one-page printout upon which I could make notes as I perused profiles and websites (yes, one page is enough to get an idea of your professional history; any more means your client will have to rummage through his or her drawer looking for a stapler, possibly discovering that he or she is out of staples, and putting him or her in a foul mood). By the way, I have also helped recruit team members in my past life as a tourist board director, and the one-page CV seems a universally good idea. Often, when scanning documents to be sent to other decision-makers, HR people will only bother to scan the first page anyway. So shrink it down, folks.

Many of my applicants – and this was especially penalizing for those who didn’t think to include a CV – forgot to sign their messages with their contact information. Occasionally I found myself having to click several times to get that information. So put your contact information all over the place, so that the impatient person looking for it will find it and won’t skip over you to the next person who thought to include theirs.
To contact the translators that I chose, I called them. Now, it’s not very kind of me, but I admit that I hung up when I got an answering machine. In spite of my ruthless eliminating, I still had a lot of competent translators on my list, and I didn’t want to leave a message with one, only to call another and perhaps give the second one a false hope, only to have the first one call me back… You get the picture. Impatience strikes again. I’m not proud of it, but I’m telling you this because I’m sure that the same thing happens to agencies and other clients.

The way it turned out, I had to call several people for the Dutch translation, and I came to the bottom of my narrowed-down pile of CVs; I therefore backtracked and printed out the contact pages of websites advertised on various offers, which proved almost as handy as a CV. It doesn’t hurt to have a website. Again, make sure that your contact information is visible on every page.

So after this experience, as I return to the land of those selling their services, I am sure that from now on I will reply differently to jobs. It’s been an awakening, because when I’m on our side of the line, I am not a lazy, hard-hearted person. However, as soon as I found myself in the position of power, I was struck with a case of the I-can’t-be-bothereds. Your client is probably a good person, but he or she might also come down with that syndrome when reading applications. So make it easy for that person to care about you.

Follow my mantra: I will only reply to offers where I have some kind of relative experience, I will personalize my reply and cite that experience, I will include my contact information and a CV to make it easier for the client to reach me. And I will keep trying, every day that I don’t have work to do!

You see, now, there’s no need to lower your rates!

—————————————————————————————————————–

Thanks to Véronica for this contribution! Looking forward to more insightful posts from Vers d’autres horizons…

Has anyone had similar experiences? Does the way you reply to jobs differ from what you would expect if you were seeking translators?

 

Receive notification of new posts on the Translator T.O. Subscribe by entering your email address on the right side of this page.