Coffee hour, December 16th

Grab a coffee with your language-loving colleagues on December 16, 2017, in Roseville, California. I’m hosting another coffee hour for the Northern California Translators Association in the greater Sacramento area just in time for the holidays. Please join us from 10:30am–12:30pm at the Westfield Galleria for some friendly shop talk. Our gatherings typically cover everything from local restaurants to national politics. Whatever is on your mind professionally, you are welcome to share with us!

Details are on NCTA’s events page: http://www.ncta.org/events/event_list.asp

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How to Be a Better Translator

If you’ve been translating for a while and feel stuck at your current skill level, I have good news! It’s likely not your translating that needs improvement—it’s your editing. All first drafts are terrible. No one thinks in perfect English (or French, or Swahili) when they’re focused on forming ground-breaking, substantive thoughts. And that’s OK! What wouldn’t be OK is to release that brain dump as a final product.

Unfortunately, editing seems to be an afterthought when we think about translation as a whole. After all, translators work from finished products, right? Well… only sort of. You may be working from completed ideas and logic chains, but you need to leave yourself enough time to clean up the parts that didn’t transition easily into the target language. Done properly, the editing process can take as much time or longer than getting the initial translation down on the page (screen).

behind books

You don’t have to learn editing to translate, or to translate well. Not one of the 20 professionals in my workshop at ATA58 had ever taken a formal class in revision before (and many of them have been translating for over 20 years!).  But if you want to improve your translations, you should strongly consider taking a course on how to improve your quality control.

In-person classes are often available through your local university or writers association. ATA offers my revision webinars on demand (here and here). Or, if your time is limited right now, I can personally recommend any of these books as a soft starting point:

I’m curious: Have you completed any training in revision? What resources can you recommend? Add your favorites in the comments below!

Revision Refresh Workshop – Last Chance to Register

There are just a few spots left in my editing workshop at ATA58. If you have never had formal training in copyediting or proofreading, consider signing up now for the 3-hour session on October 25th. 

You’ll get hands-on training for every stage of revision and walk away with several customized tools for your language pair(s) and subject matter specialties. We’ll discuss how to manage individual projects, long-term client styles, and team translations. There is a pre-workshop assignment you can do now, or turn it in after the live class for personalized feedback.

In this tech-focused world, quality revision makes your work stand above the machine output. Click here to register for AST-14 today: http://www.atanet.org/conf/2017/astday/ 

IRAC and Legal Translation

One of my major goals this year was to complete some intense subject-matter training. The in-person UC Davis certificate program in paralegal studies began in June. It’s been exhausting, and will continue to be up through mid-November, but I am already seeing returns on this investment.

Besides the study materials coming in handy at my day job at the law office, learning how lawyers think behind the scenes about their work has led to a major breakthrough moment in how I approach my legal translation projects!

upside down

American lawyers break pretty much every issue down to four headings: Issue – Rule – Analysis (Application) – Conclusion, or IRAC. It’s the preferred method for deciding whether to take on a case, drafting a letter or brief, and presenting an argument in court. For example:

  • Issue—Can I certify this translation?
  • Rule—In the US, anyone can certify a translation they produce by signing a declaration under penalty of perjury that they are qualified and have done their best work.
  • Analysis—I am qualified, did my best effort, and will sign a declaration to that effect.
  • Conclusion—Yes, I can certify this translation.

Now, I’ve translated quite a few divorce decrees in recent years; I know what laws to expect, the general order of the basic parts of the argument, and I know the terms of art to plug in. Last week, though, when I received another run-of-the-mill Hungarian divorce judgment, without even consciously considering what I was doing, I broke the Hungarian text down according to IRAC principles. It was like getting a new pair of prescription glasses—I thought I could see before, but it’s so much clearer now!

All of a sudden, not only do I understand what the words mean and how to render them in English, I also understand how the Hungarian judge was analyzing the parties’s request and facts to reach her decision.  In hindsight, the differences in the source text and a parallel American judgment make total sense, based on the differences I already know about the syntax of the languages. Hungarian sentences play with word order so that the part being emphasized comes first (think Yoda-speak: Hungry, I am!). The Hungarian legal argument followed a similar pattern. The basic structure is, “Regarding issue A, the conclusion is X, because of our analysis in light of Rule P.” Besides the issue, the decision is the most important thing in a court document. The American IRAC structure is turned to ICAR in Hungarian.

Figuring this out won’t outwardly change my translations—in legal translation, it’s a no-no to reorder the paragraphs—but it was certainly a fun surprise to read an everyday project in such a new way. If you’ve been on the fence about investing in some subject-matter training, dive in now!

What special training have you taken recently? How has your work surprised you lately? Share in the comments below!

 

Get ready for #ATA58!

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Are you planning on heading to Washington, DC this October for the 58th Annual Conference of the American Translators Association? I sure am — I used to live in the neighborhood where the conference is being held. DC is a great place for language lovers and folks who love to explore different cultures. Here are my recommendations for the conference. Feel free to add yours in the comments below!

At #ATA58

  • Sign up for my pre-conference Advanced Skills and Training workshop on revision (AST-14). We’ll be reviewing the basics of tidying up the written word and spending plenty of time on translation-specific problems like working with non-native texts and dictated translations, and jumping between specialty fields. Details are available here.
  • The French Language Division is putting on a number of fun events, including a happy hour mixer and the annual dinner. (Sign up soon for the dinner; it regularly sells out.)
  • In addition to all the great presentations, I highly recommend attending at least one special event—the job fair and brainstorm networking have been very helpful to me at prior conferences. It’s a chance to meet potential clients and colleagues you might not see otherwise.

Around DC (and walking distance to the conference hotel)

  • Kramer Books is a great place to browse for new reads (and get a potent cup of Irish coffee to go with your purchase).
  • The Phillips Collection has one of my favorite curated art collections in the world—the last time I went, they were still arranging the rooms by subject, rather than artist or time period. It’s a whole new way to see artwork!
  • St. Arnold’s Mussel Bar tucked away on Jefferson Street offers scrumptious moules-frites and a wide selection of Belgian beer.

I hope to see you in DC. Please share your favorite city sites in the comments below—even with the politicking, it’s a wonderful place to visit!

Alibi

Alibi mystery magazine cover

Do you teach a language in addition to your translation work? Or do you have a pack of kids swarming your house this summer? “Alibi” is the game for you!

This works best for small groups (5-10 participants) and is fun for all ages. (Really. We tried it at an office party with the attorneys, and no one wanted to stop.) You might want to use this for intermediate language learners and above.

Set the scene: A crime or murder has been committed. Use some imagination to customize it for your group – for instance, someone stole all the cookies from the cookie jar. The police have narrowed it down to just two suspects, but unfortunately, the pair are providing an alibi for each other. Be a little specific here – such as, they say they were at the movies together at the time. 

Choose the potential criminals: Now pick two people to be the suspects with the alibi, and ask them to leave the room for a minute before the interrogations. They should be corroborating their story now (for example, what movie did they see, where, and what time). In the meantime, explain to the rest of the group that they will be the interrogators. They should brainstorm a series of questions to try to catch the suspects in a lie.

Interrogate suspect one: Ask only one suspect back into the room. Sit the person in a chair facing the group, and let the questions begin. For writing practice, someone can be in charge of noting the answers. Go through about 3-5 minutes or 20 questions at this stage. The interrogators can improvise questions as they go. The suspect must answer (pretend to be their attorney if they try to use that defense to get out of playing).

Interrogate suspect two: You can ask the first suspect to leave, but it’s more fun if they stay – as long as they are quiet. Bring in the second suspect and go through questions agan. Ask the same or similar ones to see where their alibi is weak. Cap this stage, too, at 3-5 minutes or about 20 questions (unless you clearly catch the lie – then a questioner should holler “Aha!” and “the law” wins). You will likely catch the pair in a lie, but they might hold out – in which case, “the citizens” win.

My favorite part of this game is that each round is equally fun. There aren’t many tricks you can learn that make it too easy for either side, and it doesn’t get vicious – people are too busy puzzling through the logic flow. Even your most reticent students will be itching to chime in. No one can resist a mystery…

What language games do you like, for fun or for class? How do you get shy people talking? Share in the comments below!

Coffee hour, July 15

coffee

I’m hosting another coffee hour for the Northern California Translators Association on July 15, 2017. If you’re going to be in the greater Sacramento area this summer, please join us from 10:30am–12:30pm at the Westfield Galleria for shop talk. Our last few gatherings have covered everything from local restaurants to national politics. Whatever is on your mind professionally, you are welcome to join us!

Details are on NCTA’s events page: http://www.ncta.org/events/event_list.asp

 

Business Tools Update

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Happy mid-year! Have you checked in with yourself lately to see how you are doing with meeting your annual goals? I just started my paralegal training this week, so that’s one thing checked off my list.

A goal I didn’t write down is to streamline my billing and accounting system. Software packages like QuickBooks or Quicken are too expensive and complicated for my business type.  I do everything in homemade Excel spreadsheets right now, which I love, but I know they can be improved upon. And guess what? Someone has already done that! A colleague sent me a link to Simple Planner. It has everything I was looking for – income and expense calculators in the same Excel file, plus an invoice generator. It may even motivate me to calculate my profit and loss statements. I won’t be changing my system mid-year, but this is definitely going on my list of year-end buys (especially since this tip comes from someone I trust; I promise we are not in the pockets of this company). Check it out here.

[Bonus tip: Apparently, most banks let you download your transaction statements as Excel files. So instead of doing all your bookkeeping data entry by hand, you can copy/paste or link it all up!]

If marketing is your focus this year, BufferApp is another great tool to try. (Again, I am not compensated in any way for sharing this information with you.) I have been paying the nominal fee for their Awesome Plan for a couple years, no regrets. I love being able to schedule updates for events and holidays in advance, and spread out the news I read (usually in one big go on a Sunday) and share so I’m not just dumping everything on my followers at once. But it gets better: BufferApp recently added a feature that lets you sign up for RSS feeds for blogs, newspapers, magazines, etc., right in the scheduling app. So now, instead of going to my RSS feed to catch up on news, then switching to the app to post articles of interest, I can do it all in the same place. Isn’t everything better when it’s streamlined? Check out their plans here (they have a free version, too).

What goals have you checked off your list this year? What tools are you using to meet them? Please share your favorites below!

Extracts of Record for Visa Purposes

eagle

A colleague and I were discussing translations of personal documents for visa applications recently, and I was surprised to learn that attorneys regularly ask her for form-based translations of birth certificates. Rather than have her produce a full, alternate-language copy of the original record, they want a data table filled out (similar to the new, multi-lingual extract of record in the EU). In all my years providing translations of birth, marriage, and divorce certificates, I have never had this request from any agency or direct client—and the news went against all my training.

According to both the US State Department website, and to my great relief, the attorneys are not technically correct to ask for this format change:

Translations. Any document containing foreign language submitted to the Service shall be accompanied by a full English language translation which the translator has certified as complete and accurate, and by the translator’s certification that he or she is competent to translate from the foreign language into English.

(emphasis added; source: www.state.gov)

The USCIS website says the same thing:
11.3 Foreign Language Documents and Translations.
(a) Document Translations .
All documents submitted in support of an application or petition must include complete translation into English. In addition, there must be a certification from the translator indicating that the translation is complete and accurate and attesting to his or her competence as a translator. See 8 CFR 103.2(b)(3) .
(emphasis added; source: www.uscis.gov)
USCIS notes that, for countries with lengthy and dense civil recording practices, the “keeper of a record” will sometimes issue an extract (a simplified or abridged version), which can be accepted as long as it comes from an official, authorized record-keeper and contains adequate information about the individual(s). Translators are only meant to provide complete and accurate translations of the record—not shorten it.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if these websites were maybe out of date, or (more likely) out of sync with actual practices used by civil servants to process requests.  The truth is, neither my colleague who translates into a form template nor I have heard of issues with the applications that use either of our methods. So now, I am curious…
What has your experience been? Have you been asked to translate a document into a different format? Have you had issues with providing translations for visa applications? Please share below!

 

We are all translators.

For a little over a year now, I’ve technically been a part-time translator—by day, I work in my industry of specialization as a legal assistant. I draft, revise, and proofread legal writing five days a week, consult with court clerks, and prepare documents for filing. Two or three nights a week (on average—we all know how variable freelance schedules can be!), I continue to translate for agency and private clients and teach my source language to a couple students.

mask

When my career as a translator was brand new, there was a pervasive idea among language professionals that you were only a “real” translator or interpreter if it was the sole way you earned your living. At least, that was the message I gleaned from all the industry publications and professionals blogs I read. Perhaps things have changed, and just in case it wasn’t obvious: however frequently you practice your craft, as long as you conduct yourself with professionalism and obtain the requisite training to do your work well, you are a professional.

There is room enough in this industry for all of us. Translation and interpreting are increasingly growing in demand. Tech companies continue to attempt to reduce translation to machine output, and the results continue to highlight the need for human conduits between languages A and B.

As a full-time translator, I appreciated the time I had to really delve deep into vocabulary research and work on glossary projects. As a moonlighter, I love how my legal translations have improved from the interactions I have with attorneys’ work products. “Moonlighting” has allowed me to streamline my translation work so that I get to spend a greater percentage of my time on what I love: words.

I know many of my colleagues in the industry would never give up the freedom to be had in independent contracting—and why should you? But I have found my greatest artistic freedom within the so-called limits of a 9-to-5. My freelance clients continue to be happy with my work. And I don’t feel any less a translator than I ever did.

This story is in no way a defense: I hope only to inspire other translators to be true to themselves. If you love being your own boss and exploring your interests on your own terms, keep doing it. If you love the structure, stability, or socialization of an office job, get one. And if you love being a professional translator, be one, under whatever conditions you thrive upon. Your language skills are valuable, and however much you want to share them with the world in an educated, professional manner, the contribution is needed and appreciated.

We are all translators, no matter how often we can do the work.