Ferragosto = Cucumber Time for translators?

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koconini [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

August is done and dusted and it was an experience, rounded off with a trip to Amsterdam, before which I learned that the Dutch refers to the “quiet period in summer when little happens” as “cucumber time”. Beautiful!

Dutch is not one one of my languages, but Italian is and if any country does cucumber time well, it’s Italy. I anticipated a fall in requests due to the Italian holiday Ferragosto and the tendency for individuals and even businesses to take extra time off around its celebration on 15th August. I did not anticipate the extent of that fall. This did not necessarily harm business – I took the opportunity to focus on some editing work for a British client (as well as the time to work some slightly shorter days in the absence of a holiday since last December) – but it showed me August is a potentially dangerous month for a translator of Italian.

So I have decided to explore first the history of Ferragosto, then how it’s celebrated today and, finally, some ideas on how it affects work in general but, specifically, self-employed professionals.

What is Ferragosto?

It has a perplexing history, rooted in autocracy. Its origins are in Feriae Augusti (“Augustus’ rest”), a holiday established by Roman Emperor Augustus, added to a series of existing festivals that celebrated the end of harvest. By linking this series of holidays together, a substantial rest period was created – perhaps why the holiday occupies more than just 15th August today.

It is said that, on this day, workers well-wished their bosses and received a tip in return. The first coining of Buon Ferragosto (“have a good Ferragosto!”) is said to have been around 2000 years ago, but it was in the 1930s that many of the traditions we saw today really took off – at the behest of a fascist government. Workers were given the days off around the national holiday and guaranteed reduced fares on trains (the so-called treni popolari), giving many the opportunity to see the magnificence of Italy beyond their small towns and villages.

From it’s Roman origins to the Fascist popularisation of the national holiday, the way Ferragosto is celebrated today does have something to do with those leaders’ self-promotion. Regardless, this beneficial summer break has held impressively strong throughout history.

How is it celebrated today?

To answer briefly, with a wonderful range of traditions both ancient and modern. Here are some more detailed examples – beyond beach trips with family and friends and packed lunches.

The Palio in Tuscan city Siena takes place on 16th August. The city is divided into 17 contrade, or neighbourhoods, and there are 10 places up for grabs in a horse race that consists of three clockwise loops of the iconic oval-shaped main square. The Palio refers to the cloth banner awarded to the horse – jockey or no – that comes first. When visiting at the ripe old age of eight, I was told – after the race – that most locals watch (sensibly) on their TVs. If you’re ever in Siena on 16th August and you don’t want to end up with your lightheaded mother in a laundrette-turned-first-aid-room, I suggest you do the same!

Another alternative and – I imagine – hauntingly beautiful way to experience Ferragosto is by attending a concert in the caves of Castellana, Bari, on 14th or 15th August.

A far newer tradition, but one that is nonetheless brilliant, is in Campagna (in the Salerno province), where they host what is essentially a giant water fight every Sunday in August.

Food, of course, plays a huge role in any Italian festivities. And, with this particular holiday having originated as a celebration of the end of Roman harvests, you’re guaranteed to find at least one sagra to attend anywhere you might be in Italy at this time of year.

But what about business?

Someone once told me Italians just love to create an extended break out of one day’s holiday – they call it a “ponte” or “bridge” (essentially a long weekend). Knowing this, underestimating how quiet August would be was perhaps a little silly.

But really, August is a quiet month everywhere. Even in other countries, school holidays tend to fall around August and people take their holidays accordingly. And if everyone is doing so at slightly different times, it takes longer to get things done – if ‘Mary’ needs a signature from ‘Barry’ to be able to send X.doc to the translator, but Barry is on holiday, even if he signs it as soon as he gets back, it’s a week later. And by that point, Mary is off for two weeks so in total it’s three before anything gets done.

So is Italy’s concentration of that time off into the same week or two actually a better solution? Could it be better for an economy as a whole?

A difficult question for me to answer, as interesting as it is. But it looks like mid-August might be a good time for me to take a little break myself, in years to come. And, with the Pope having declared 15th August the official day for celebrating the Assumption of Mary, it’s also a national holiday in Spain, certain parts of Switzerland and many other Catholic countries, meaning this is quite possibly applicable to those working in other language combinations, too. It’s certainly worth knowing when holidays occur in the relevant countries – I’ve added the Italian holiday calendar to my iCal, for this very reason.

By Thursday (30th August), my requests had already returned to something of a peak. So bring on this week: looks like I’ll be busy if Italy is about to play catch up.

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How to beat the solitary life of an independent translator

Image-1.jpgIt seems like a long old time ago now, but as I was finishing my Master’s degree I wrote Life After Classes, a piece discussing how I organised the odd translation job and how I might organise myself if I began work independently full time. It’s pertinent to anyone who decides to go it alone, perhaps more so in a profession such as translation where, nine times out of ten, it’s just us and our computers.

For me it’s more pertinent than ever: I’m fairly new to this as a full-time gig, I began as I moved to a new city where I knew very few people and I’m naturally quite a sociable person (I dispute the idea that translators are all introverts who shy away from human contact!). Giving up the social aspect of working in an office in return for this level of flexibility wasn’t an easy decision. It’s taken me some time to get to grips with the solitude. But I’m certainly getting there and here are my key hacks.

Joining professional societies

Attending the ATC Conference and becoming an ITI member were the first two career investments I made. Joining ITI ScotNet was the second. There are many levels of importance to these ventures. Event discount is huge – I’ve missed a number of the big ones, but ITI membership gave me discounted attendance at the ATC Conference as I was just (thinking about) entering self-employment. The Conference had three main benefits:

    1. Not knowing how much work was out there, I was surprised by how many companies told me they were looking for my language combinations.
    2. I met many prospective clients.
    3. It was also a great day out, a welcome break from sitting at a desk and made me feel a part of a whole.

As a smaller network, ScotNet puts me in constant contact with others in the trade, presents new work opportunities and provides a pool of willing advisors for anything translation-related. In addition, it means more local, more regular and more affordable events. Then there’s CAT tool discount – need I say more?

Joining clubs socially

Or perhaps semi-competitively, in my case. I love running, I love cycling, I love waterpolo. I don’t love sacrificing those things for work or other social events. And seeing as there are so few hours in the day, I combine my hobbies with meeting people. I have joined a running club, attend the odd ride with a fantastic women’s cycling group and I’m trying to help establish a seniors’ waterpolo club in Aberdeen. I’ve gone from knowing a handful of my boyfriend’s friends and colleagues to knowing several people that I see regularly both within and outwith the clubs where I met them.

Co-working

This was one of the topics I mentioned in Life After Classes what seems like aeons ago. I’ve finally made it a reality, after discovering Space2b – a brilliant initiative that welcomes professionals like me, companies requiring meeting space, charities and exercise classes alike, for a reasonable price and a number of benefits (flexibility and tea and coffee being my favourites!). It’s still low on attendance for the time being and I have yet to settle into an ideal timetable myself, but leaving the house and going somewhere will continue to formalise my working hours further, making me more productive while I’m at the computer and allowing me to relax more at home. It also means I bump into people, for a little break from myself.

Getting a dog

Ok so we haven’t done this one yet – but I’d like to! BorrowMyDoggy is on the cards… but hopefully we’ll reach a point where we spend fewer weekends away and have a place that allows pets!

I’ve always tried to get as involved as I can, wherever I am or whatever I’m doing but there’s no right answer. I’m always keen to hear how others break the WFH mould so please do comment below if you have further tips and hacks to share!

On Law Tech and translation technologies: can the integration “thereof” make us better?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What is Law Tech?

Succinctly put by LegalVision, Law Tech “is the buzzword used to describe how technology is assisting the legal profession”. Wikipedia will tell you it supports every aspect of the industry from practice management and accounting to document storage and legal research. The term, more recently, also covers systems that allow clients to connect with lawyers more easily or for clients to avoid the need for lawyers at all.

That last point sounds similar, doesn’t it? The grand MT debate ring a bell? In fact, much of what Law Tech entails lines up with the world of translation: project management tools help us coordinate (multiple) projects, CAT tools store and allow us to recycle translations, searching linguistic corpora echoes the purpose of legal research systems. But to what extent do – or rather, could – the tools in each realm tie in with each other and what does it mean for legal translators?

Good, bad or ugly?

The first and most obvious connection between Law Tech and translation technology is the controversy that surrounds both – scratch at the surface of either and you’ll soon be tangled in a web of pros and cons.

Speed is usually of the essence in law: client cases usually require urgent attention, due to the nature either of the case or of the client. So, of course, a tool that eliminates lengthy and/or menial tasks has its upsides. Hand-in-hand with this goes the idea that technology frees up time for the experts to use their – well – expertise to its maximum potential: the less time one has to spend on formatting or account management, for example, the more time there is to explore the intricacies of each individual case – the details for which a lawyer has been trained to spot or even the human aspect.

Another argument in favour of Law Tech is that it can put clients in direct contact with their lawyers sooner than if they had to, say, wait for an appointment. And, linked to that, is the idea that a client can receive automated help, meaning human resources aren’t being used where they’re not strictly needed, reserving them for where they strictly are.

Of course, none of this is without its reservations. “A man is only as good as his tools” – rubbish in, rubbish out! Freshfields sees smart contracts in a similar light: “Code can never be wrong per se, but it can have unintended consequences.” There’s always room for error where the human aspect – demeanour, body language, the way things are presented, omissions – are so important. Can a computer be as good as a human at deciphering whether, for example, a client is omitting vital info? Exaggerating something else? And what good is a computer if it’s then making calculations based on false or erroneous information?

There’s long been a discourse on whether plain writing in law is a positive or a negative thing. Making law something everyone can understand sounds great but can lead to a loss of precision and some argue it make the general public feel they can understand it but, when put to the test, they’ve missed some vital points (e.g. legal terms with non-legal meaning understood in their everyday sense). I’m not necessarily against plain writing but the cons have their bearing and I see the idea that Law Tech removes the need for a lawyer as an extension of that argument.

How does Law Tech compare to translation technology?

How doesn’t it? CAT tools and their advancements are the cruces of so many debates that match those concerning Law Tech: are they removing the need for translators? Do they (negatively) affect our income? And MT is getting more intelligent by the day: it’s created a new role (post-MT editing) and become good enough that some clients feel they can do away with the translator entirely. But it’s not good enough yet to handle subtlety and nuance.

CAT tools, though, have improved our output by making us more consistent and increasing our efficiency and productivity. Portals allow us to communicate faster and more effectively with our clients. The list goes on.

At the end of the day, the advancements are happening whether we like it or not and we’d do better to get on board and steer them in the right direction rather than get left on the platform. For now, anyway, it is sensible to see the tools as a supplement rather than a replacement.

And so…?

Well, when it comes to legal translation, I’m surprised a crossover between the two fields of technology doesn’t currently exist – judging from my experience and from what I’ve been (un)able to find online so far, anyway. I thoroughly welcome any suggestions to the contrary.

I haven’t had much of a chance to really look into it yet and it would be interesting to play around with some of the Law Tech tools available – especially in drafting and in research – to see exactly where that potential for such a crossover lies. But I’m certain that potential there is, particularly in the area of research.

I’ve been quiet again lately! But here’s why

Training! Approaching a year ago I blogged about my sporting interests: a large cycling trip around Scotland and my proud achievements in running Brighton marathon and competing in a standard-distance triathlon. Well, I’ve been at it again.

On 27th May 2018 I demonstrated that I am indeed mad. I attempted to run 26.2 miles along the coast just south of Edinburgh in under three hours and 45 minutes. For those unacquainted with marathon chatter, that time would put me in the “Good for Age” category, thus improving my chances of getting into the London Marathon 2019 (because three time’s a charm. Or something).

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The formula for preparing for something like this, regardless of the time you aim for, is transferable. It doesn’t immediately strike the eye as being comparable to our work as translators. But here’s a selection of reasons why I think it is.

Time Management

I’ve written before about time management – it’s a fundamental skill, especially for those working for themselves. At the height of my training, I ran up to 38 miles a week – not including the cycling, swimming, gyming, physio and sports massages with which I supplemented my training.

Four weeks in a row I had guests come to visit in Aberdeen, adding cleaning and sheet and towel changing to my weekly workload, as well as getting up early on the weekends (so as not to leave them alone for too long as I went for my long Saturday morning run.) Do you see the similarity yet? Only by being organised could I fit all this in.

Pacing yourself

Time management and prioritising came into their own while I had all this on. But there was no rushing to the finish line either – in training, on race day or with my work. As it turns out, pushing myself too hard meant injury. Working too hard can be just as injurious, bringing unnecessary stress.

I had my heart set on that sub 3.45 goal but it was vital to know when knocking out another run might do more harm than good. Knowing when to turn work down (say, because I’m already at capacity that week) is comparable: I might make more money but the overload could impact the quality of my work.

Dedication & Willpower

Still, often the more you need to do the more you can get done. “I’m dedicated,” is a cliche for a reason. I love my work but I also love what I do on my own time and I’m thoroughly dedicated to both: I can’t train effectively without being dedicated, I can’t do a good job without being committed.

But for all the dedication and love in the world, work isn’t always easy and neither is training. We all receive jobs we don’t want to do or jobs that seem easy at first but hide complex concepts or poor source language composition. Meanwhile, on race day… let’s just say 21-22 miles is a dark place to be. But willpower is knowing that, as hard as it may be, I can get through it.

Sense of achievement

I was chatting about the marathon with my boyfriend this morning and he came out with these wise words: “When we set our minds to things, it becomes just another task. But when we complete that task, other people see it as an achievement. We need to let ourselves recognise our successes.” (He completed an Iron Man last year, so perhaps my marathon pales into insignificance by comparison.) He’s right, and it applies to the good work that the self-employed do every day.

It’s important to find your own sense of achievement. In our industry, it’s unfortunately rare to get meaningful feedback[1] but we shouldn’t underestimate the implied feedback of returning clients. Marathon-wise, I think not just of crossing the finish line but of each training run I completed or perhaps how much I raised for charity. It’s about recognising how hard I’ve worked to earn my medal or money.

Looking forward

Legs and brains both burn out from overstraining them and it’s important to factor in recovery time. But while a 20,000-word (or larger!) translation might occupy my calendar until deadline day, I need to have something lined up for when it draws to a close. Likewise, I’m not giving up my hobby because the marathon’s over – I’ve got my eyes set on the next events (some shorter distances and a middle-distance triathlon).

I’ve been looking ahead a lot – perhaps the buzz of last week’s achievement gave me an extra push. I have detailed plans for this blog and for updating myself with CPD. I have plotted supplementary reading to help both. Stay tuned to hear about the impact of technology on law and the law in translation. In the meantime, I’d love to hear how your interests tie in with your work.

[1] An observation, not necessarily a criticism. Currently, I work mostly for agencies. Sometimes the text type wouldn’t warrant it, but some companies simply don’t have the resources to provide feedback on every project. Many do and, although the final product is often superior for it, that’s a discussion topic for another day.

 

When Twenty-Six Thousand Good Writing Skills Invade Your Mind

writing-pencil-pen-red-paper-lip-1363790-pxhere.comI mentioned in my last post that I’ve taken on a substantial amount of editing work recently. Discussing this with a friend and former colleague – who I revere in terms of monolingual and bilingual editing – he referred me to an article in the New Yorker.

“Stinkbugs,” he said, “In the latest edition, is the kind of excellent writing I aspire to.” I thoroughly believed him – I have full confidence in his judgment of skill and entertainment – but I was convinced the stinkbug was a metaphor and the piece an allegory. I understood the stinkbug to represent what exemplary writing should be. Or something. If I’d known the stinkbug was an “actual thing”, I might have seen how wrong I was from the outset. But sheltered away from the beastie, here in the UK, I had no idea.

The article is indeed about stinkbugs. Specifically the brown marmorated variety, accidentally imported into the US from Asia and now wreaking havoc on agricultural produce and homes alike.

Astonishing, yes. Interesting, of course. Relevant, highly. But my friend’s focus was on the writing style – and too right. This topic might seem uninteresting, irrelevant, too scientific or otherwise inaccessible to many. It’s also a long piece. Really long.

Yet it’s engaging and I wanted to read the whole thing… that can only mean it’s written well. How?

It’s humorous: despite the ‘truth universally acknowledged’ that the more you explain a joke the funnier it gets, I won’t dissect them too much. But references to a “color [sic] palette as elaborate as Benjamin Moore’s” or juxtaposing “millionaires, feudal lords, and goats” have a high propensity to making the reader feel included – both by making them chuckle and by contributing to my next point.

It’s down to earth: these jokes are complimented by the use of modern turns of phrase (the interjection of “or something”, for example) to create an accessible and familiar language. I mean, you’re not going to keep reading if you have to put unwarranted effort into doing so, are you?

It’s factual: it’s absolutely stuffed full of research and anecdotes alike; although – however refreshing the lack of links is in this SEO-fuelled world – if you did need to use its science for whatever reason, you’d have to find it yourself. I personally learnt new terms (‘yellow jacket’ n. and ‘flashing’ n., ‘to overwinter’ v.); of course, this would be less pertinent to its US target audience.

It’s ironic: a few ridiculously long lists aren’t there out of laziness or a lack of awareness for style but to effectively emphasise the extent to which stinkbugs constitute a potentially catastrophic threat. This is closely related to humour, in that it can get its message across without being too aggressive (i.e. without putting the fear of God into you).

Most importantly, it’s none of these: not to an excessive extent, anyway. In other words, it’s not trying too hard. And if you get all the way to the end, it of course has a deeper meaning that encourages you to reflect.

This piece is, quite frankly, amazing. You’d expect that from a writer who won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing; but it’s certainly a style we can all aspire to.

Branching Out

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This is just going to be a quick and short one because, fortunately, I have been super, super busy. That’s so good to be able to say now I’m working for myself, even if at times can be somewhat stressful.

One element of this is pretty exciting. A few weeks ago I spent three days working with a company who trained me up in their systems so I can edit for them. At first I thought it would be a great opportunity for two reasons: the first that it would be a regular and reliable source of income, the second that it would break up the translation day. I love translation, it’s why I’m doing it. But, all translators will acknowledge that sometimes – especially if what we are working on is dry – it can be a little mundane.

I have, however, discovered further benefits to this monolingual editing work. There’s the social side: I spent a few days out of the house – always good – and I am now regularly in contact with a group of colleagues. Although remote, there’s still the chance to have a quick chat – small talk as well as work.

Then there’s the language side: I’ve noticed within just a month’s work how much more acute my sense of good writing is. I find myself much more able to look at a piece of writing as a whole, see what fits where, what flows into what, what the writer’s style is (coherence). This means that in my translation work I am analysing, reading, searching for meaning beyond the words or the sentences, to make the translation fit together in the same way as the original.

I will never rewrite a piece I am translating in the same way that, at times, I am required to for the work I’m editing – it’s a different job and I’m fully aware of the fact. But knowing it doesn’t flow (it happens!) helps as much as knowing how it does! A proper oversight of the piece I’m translating allows me to be faithful to the style of the person who has written it as well as to what they want to say; to their ideas and how they link them together. It’s all fundamental in understanding the original and then transmitting it into my own mother tongue.

Part of me worried that I was fleeing the translation battlefield before the fight had even begun by taking this work. How did I intend to expand my experience as a translator if I was spending a number of hours weekly on monolingual toils? But each time I switch from mono- to bilingual task, I see how it’s helping me to grow in my career.

On a side note it is also potentially opening up SEO to me and my portfolio, which may be the perfect complement to the translation work I’m already doing in the marketing sector. I mean really – other than occasionally having a lot to do (and is that a bad thing anyway?) – I’m struggling to see the downside to branching out. 

Learning to Be Your Own Boss

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My initiation into the freelance profession is complete. I have (re)learned the hard way the importance of balance.

“Know your limits! Save some time for yourself!” – we have all read and heard this, time and again, whether in a peer’s blog, in an ITI Bulletin article, a university lecture, a conference talk. Do we listen?

My next blog was supposed to be about my trip to Mexico (and my, my, did that give me a lot to write about). However, the very reason I still haven’t got round to that (or any blog for that matter) has become the replacement topic.

Mexico was a two-week holiday, my first since becoming my own boss. I thought knowing that every day not working is a day not earning makes might make it hard to switch off. But actually I felt things had been going well enough not to be too concerned. Plus, after the stress of a disastrous job (practically a con) and the resulting second relocation in less than a year, I felt I had earned a break.

However, the week before holiday was quiet… and the week after? Let’s just say I spent a lot of time arguing with the airline. So when two fabulous jobs came along the following week, how could I turn them down? And when the client for another, open project asked me to do just a little bit more, how much would it really add to my workload?

Well: I had Christmas Day off but around that was a cacophony of nine-hour days and unbridled stress.

Of course, there will be busy times. Of course, it’s hard to turn down work. Of course, after writing this, many a time will follow when I do the very same thing. Again. (And probably again.) But going forward:

  • Both clients wanted me to do the job, and at least one of them would have been able to eek an extension out of the end client.
    • Client A: I said yes to them first, but I didn’t try for an extension after the second job arrived. No harm comes from asking, and politeness goes a long way.
    • Client B: When the second came in, I shouldn’t have assumed they wouldn’t budge either. “I have just accepted a job of x words due on y date. Could we push this deadline back a couple of days?” I repeat: no harm in asking.
  • To the existing client: I should simply have turned this down. There’s a stark difference between helping out your client and not overworking yourself. That doesn’t mean saying no: I learned long ago to always propose a solution: “I’m booked up until x date, after that I can help you with y amount by z alternative deadline. Alternatively, colleague a might be able to help you – would you like me to find out?”

And now in the new year I’m back on it – not quite swamped, but busy enough for general-admin avoidance. As far as New Year’s Resolutions go, I will aim not to do this to myself again… And I have signed up for my next marathon as punishment!

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Parallels – from the perspective of a full time freelancer

I couldn’t help but use the title of this entry to show off about the exciting new development in my career. Hear ye, hear ye! I am now translating for an extra special company – myself – on a full-time basis and I am super thrilled about it.

Feel free to check out my LinkedIn account for more details on my experience and the services I offer.

The development ties in nicely with the next topic I wanted to explore – using Parallels. I have had my MacBook Air for some time now, much longer than my previous (Sony VAIO) laptop lasted. It’s fast, I prefer the interface to Windows and, from time to time, I still find new little tricks that make my life easier.

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But there’s an obvious downfall for translators: the main CAT tool producers (SDL Trados and MemoQ the biggest that spring to mind) are Windows only[1]. OmegaT was enough for the odd, short translation job, but for larger projects its scope and its benefits are limited. Not having one of these tools goes beyond increases in working efficiency, though. As freelancers, some of our biggest potential clients aren’t interested unless we work on the same platforms that they’re using[2]. That’s a whinge large enough to save for a future blog, though.

Of course, switching to a PC doesn’t only conflict with preferences. CAT tools alone are a significant investment (especially for a new starter), so also buying a whole new computer and the accompanying everyday software (like MS Office), is financially challenging. That’s where Parallels comes in.

I was dubious to begin with, but Windows10 took a long time to download. Then I had to restart because my computer (and I!) slept half way through, causing a download error. I considered giving in. But soon it was up and running and I have been impressed at how Windows literally runs in parallel to OS. I can use Mac keyboard commands to switch directly to individual applications on either platform (i.e. not just between operating systems or only between the applications on one operating system at a time).

A few Pros and Cons

Pros

Interfunctionality

  • The obvious one – I am ABLE to use the CAT tools my clients require, without buying a whole new computer.
  • Opening Mac applications from the Windows 10 operating system can be quite a short cut: for example, when you “Save Target As” in SDL Trados, it gives you the option to “Open Target Location” (which it of course does in Windows in Parallels). Being able to open the file into (Mac) MS Word directly saves manually finding the file in (Mac) File Explorer.
  • Similarly, the programme installation accessed in Finder opened automatically in windows. Much faster.

Price

  • For a piece of software that has been a lifesaver, and actually works quite efficiently, it’s not out of reach.

Cons

Keyboard shortcuts

  • I’m a shortcut junkie and the usual Mac ones don’t work in the same way on a virtual machine – the “cmd” button doesn’t exist on a PC.
  • Ctrl replaces cmd for the basic functions, but muscle memory is usually how I source these shortcuts!
  • [cmd + direction arrow] to skip a full line of text, [Options + left arrow] to skip one word are two shortcuts I use an awful lot. Skipping one word is now impossible on the virtual machine and it’s made life a fair bit slower.

Speed/Memory

  • I believe it does use up quite a lot of memory and so can be a little slow (although my Mac is a few years old and very full, so that does have some impact).

Windows

  • I have had a couple of hiccups that I’ve known PCs to have that I don’t have on my Mac. But that’s less a Parallels issue than a Windows one – I’d have that if I bought a PC.

My pros and cons list turned out to be a little short but that’s because Parallels’ offering is so simple. I am able to work on my own terms and my clients’ terms simultaneously, I have spent relatively little and – touchwood – there have been no major mishaps…

Would recommend!

[1] For the desktop versions at least.

[2] This podcast touches upon the subject, thanks to Dragoș Ciobanu for bringing it to my attention.

 

ATC Summit 2017

The Association of Translation Companies goes all the way back to 1976, making it one of the oldest associations of its kind in the world. Their 2017 Summit was my first time at a large conference of the sort, but I was excited to be back in the translation world proper.

Variety abounded, ranging from SEO and the importance of digital content to a tech talk (including the inevitable AI vs. the translator), fabulous jokes to Sci-Fi analogies, a crash course in hostage negotiation to an extraordinary new dictionary tool. And – of course – plenty of tea, coffee and biscuits.

First up was Udo Leinhäuser’s master class on SEO

He brought it back to basics to show us we can all be involved. He asked me a surprisingly difficult question: “Which bit of SEO are you interested in?” Given I currently work for an SEO company, it might seem odd that I was there precisely because I know so little about it.

In managing translations for SEO specialists, I am fortunate they have never asked me to literally translate a list of keywords; yet they have never seen enough of a connection between translation and SEO to teach me it in any detail.

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Udo provided us with a detailed definition of SEO and the elements involved. I’d like to explore those details after I have played around with the list of tools that Udo provided. But in the meantime…

Why teach SEO to LSPs and translators?

Marya, from Surrey Translation Bureau, hit the nail on the head in her Day-Two speech, “How Digital Marketing can grow your brand”: translators and translation project managers need to understand SEO because Google is the bigger “audience”. We’re here to help our clients communicate globally, how can they do so if they’re not ranking on the search engines of their target audiences?

Stability in an ever-changing market

After a coffee break, Renato Beninatto inspired confidence in us about the importance of human employees in the translation industry. He believes our core functions are PMs, Sales and VMs – and that will never change. We’re not in the business of “translation”, we’re in the business of “Project Management” and we need to sell that.

From a translator point of view, this is relevant – we need to sell to all the peripheral activities that combine to perfect our services to clients (Ever tweaked the formatting after a job? Created a Trados package? Recommended a peer when the client requires extra hands or additional languages? Translated for SEO?). Our clients will stay with us over the machines because we’re providing a service… but more on machines and machine use later.

What about future planning?

I mentioned recently that I returned to blogging because of a need for self reflection  – I’ve developed a strict plan for my business and a PDP to help me get there. By contrast, Louise Killeen explained she had no “grand plan” for what she calls her “accidental LSP”, LK Translations. But her message was similar to Renato’s: they don’t “translate”, they “enable” clients to sell, do business, etc.

And now for something completely Sci-Fi

Tony O’Dowd from KantanMT woke up a sleepy, well-lunched audience with an amusing Star Trek analogy, equating RBMT to the USS Enterprise, and Neural MT to its space-ship successors. It’s just so much better – and even Kantan don’t know how it does some of its stuff.

Although the first paper on NMT was delivered in 1970 (so Star Trek came first…), computer power of the time couldn’t support it. SBMT (in Tony’s words, “a TM on steroids”) replaced RBMT and was an improvement, but NMT goes further. The latest technology in MT looks at sequences i.e. sentences, rather than just phrases. It takes more hours to train but the BLEU score – an algorithm used to measure the success of MT output – is better.

old computer.jpg

And by the way Kantan, well done on the SEO – you’re the first hit, with a featured answer, for “BLEU score” on Google!

Machines can even help in VM

Alessandro Cattelan at Translated.net says they manage 250,000 suppliers with just two VMs by combining a Bayesian classifier and their own “T-Rank” system. It reads CVs automatically and, by inputting certain fields to Translated.net, companies can find the best translator for their job.

I asked Alessandro what this might mean for my PDF CV, with an email address watermark. It uses OCR to convert to text and then looks for keywords, so it shouldn’t cause any issues. It doesn’t eliminate the need for cover letters either – they creates more chance for the system to pick up your keywords.

The “You spent how much?” pose

The following day began with a talk from Richard Mullender, a hostage negotiator. Why? When we’re selling – persuading our clients to buy our services – we need to know what makes them tick. To bring them round to your side, you need to “find out their motivator, and provide their currency”.

He proved the importance of body language by showing that leaning forward shows you’re listening – if you only do it for the bits you’re interested in, it’s a dead giveaway (like finding out how much your partner just spent on an item!).

A thesis: coming soon

Andrew Hickson from Ludejo followed, discussing his localisation paradox and a thesis he hasn’t written yet – Nostalgia, Nationalism & Nuance, or: How I learned to stop worrying and love alternative facts.

He gave a neat definition of nostalgia, nationalism and nuance through sports and music analogies, including insulting half the room and putting up a topless photo of Justin Beiber. He had the room in tears of laughter, but his point was salient – we’re actively promoting cross-border cooperation, selling services to people worldwide and telling them each culture needs to be respected… so we should really understand culture ourselves.

Eat humble pie

Erica Manning of Imperial gave a cheerful talk about managing people based on her own experience in HR. We all need to consider doing a personal “strengths and weaknesses chart” (and avoid coming up with many strengths but few weaknesses!). Once you understand yourself, you can understand others and so figure out where you can help them.

My own PDP has a similar aim: figure out where I’m going and when. To do so I need to know how to improve and monitor my progress through targets. It’s like a long-term to-do list: not only does it make you more productive but it feels good to tick things off!

ATC Summit Blog

And the extraordinary new tool?

WordFinder is a dictionary, but it’s not just any dictionary! I spoke to President & CEO, Ola Persson, who gave me a demo.

For a monthly subscription, you can access all the mono- and multi-lingual dictionaries with which they have a contract. You can select dictionaries to save to your profile, then choose which are active at any given time. If you want to work offline, you can download them to your desktop, or to the tablet or mobile app.

Hot keys allow you to select a word in any application – it’s compatible with CAT tools – and jump to its dictionary entry. Inserting your chosen equivalent into your translation is simple. There is already a wide range of dictionaries available and he’s adding new ones. I sent him a list of publishers for Italian-English legal dictionaries, as he said he’d look for the publishers at an upcoming book fair. Brilliant!

The Summit’s summit

The two-day conference drew to a close with a panel discussion from the ATC council. They want to hold more sway over government, for better recognition for the profession, and to build stronger links with other associations. All sound good to me – oh and on that topic, a belated happy International Translation Day to all.

Why waffle?

This is a bit early, but an article on writing for translators in the ITI Bulletin July-August edition inspired me. The author, Oliver Lawrence, discusses why translators need to be good writers and pointed me in the direction of Udemy.com where ex-Wall Street Journal editor Shani Raja’s course Writing with Flair was just a tenner. So I went for it.

The crux of writing with flair is keeping it simple: no jargon, be clear, don’t be OTT. That means getting rid of unnecessarily long sentences, avoiding long words where short ones will do and knowing who your reader is.

It got me thinking about two things: do I bring the above to my own writing and where it is relevant to my translations? I know fewer words are more powerful, but I’m conscious that doesn’t always mean I’m not sometimes inclined to a bit of waffling (or, “I’m conscious I still waffle sometimes”). I need to consider my target audience more: it’s a blog about translation.

I’ve written about CAT tools, about my travels, about a recent cycling trip around Scotland and I have always mentioned translation. I want to write about these things and I don’t particularly want to create a separate blog for each topic. However, I haven’t always considered whether my terminology is apt for the target audience: a translator who doesn’t like to ride and fix their bike needs coercing into enjoying a text about precisely that.

To conclude I’m going against Shani’s advice with a cliché – the proof is in the pudding. See my convoluted version here.