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

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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

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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.

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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.

Rainy weather reading

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The rainy season is in full swing in California, and I have been taking advantage of the weather to snuggle up with some great books. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

  • Ces enfants de ma vie, by Gabrielle Roy – This French collection of related tales starts out slowly with some shorter stories, but keep with it! It builds into longer, more personal tales of life as a young teacher in remote areas of 1930’s Canada. We read this for our local book club, and those of us who finished it could not stop talking about the ending. The sweet descriptions of the Canadian landscape are a great touch to help you embrace the colder seasons, too.
  • Hocus Pocus, by Kurt Vonnegut – The story of a war veteran who teaches at a college for the disabled, then at the prison across the lake, and survives the takeover of the town when the inmates escape (among other things). It hits a bit close to home in the current American political climate, but Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors. Perfect if you like witty, sometimes dark humor.
  • Pacsirta, by Dezső Kosztolányi – For those of you who read Hungarian, I loved this description of a family experiencing temporary empty-nesting when a couple’s daughter visits cousins out of town. Plenty of laughs, with enough substantive food for thought to keep you hooked. And there’s no sappy Disney ending.
  • The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, by Candice Millard – I am still working on this piece of non-fiction. Teddy Roosevelt was a total character with huge capacity for persistence. This book documents the trip he took after losing his bid for a third presidential term, down the Amazon with his son Kermit. They faced disease, death, and even murder. Fascinating!

What are you reading lately? Can you recommend any favorite authors? Share in the comments below!

ATA Statement regarding the Executive Order on Immigration

Dave Rumsey, current president of the American Translators Association, has issued the following statement regarding President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration:

As the voice of over 10,000 interpreters and translators in the United States and abroad, the American Translators Association is very concerned about President Trump’s recent Executive Order to suspend issuing visas to nationals from certain countries in the Middle East and northern Africa.

This decision will have a negative effect on interpreters and translators who are citizens of those countries and their personal and business relations with the US. It may have a particularly adverse effect on those interpreters who bravely served with US forces in Iraq.

ATA has been monitoring the progress of the US government’s Special Immigrant Visa program, which issues visas to interpreters assisting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. ATA expressed its displeasure in the New York Times in February 2016 (“Visas for Interpreters”) when the government attempted to delay and complicate the application process for this program. The government ultimately rejected its plans thanks to pressure from ATA and others.

Nevertheless, ATA will continue to raise objections to any obstruction to this successful and valuable program.

ATA values the strengths and skills of its diverse membership, which includes a large number of immigrants to this country as well as overseas members in over 100 countries. The experience and expertise brought by these members not only benefit the association, but the nation at large.

ATA will continue to monitor the situation and encourages members who are concerned about changes to US immigration policy to contact their congressperson, senator or the President through these links:

If you would like specific information on the best way to make your voice count when contacting your representatives, read the Indivisible Guide. (It’s partisan, but provides good tips for everyone.)

I would also encourage all of my colleagues in the US and abroad to practice compassion in their communications and actions in the coming days and months. Individuals on every side of the many issues that have arisen are afraid, but we cannot make good choices and establish positive change from a place of fear. Be kind to your neighbors, colleagues, and strangers in the street. We’re all in this together.

 

 

Book review: Des nouvelles d’Édouard, by Michel Tremblay

I am lucky to have an active French book club here in Sacramento. We recently read Des nouvelles d’Édouard, by Michel Tremblay – and I heartily recommend adding it to your list.

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We take turns suggesting books for our next meeting, and this one came with the very simple description of being “a novel about a man from Montreal who travels to Paris.” Imagine my surprise when the prologue establishes our hero as an aging drag queen! Édouard inherits a sum of money from his mother and decides to go to France to make his dream come true; he documents the ocean voyage as a journal to his sister-in-law, in lieu of letters.

Édouard’s homosexuality certainly crops up as a theme in his notes, but only a minor one, really. His struggles to meet someone are the same for everyone, no matter your preferences.

What really stood out to me was the difficulty he had with social class. His ticket to Paris was bought with a small inheritance, and clearly he could never have afforded it otherwise on his salary as a shoe salesman. I was thrilled when he went all out, opting for first class, to better study the habits of the highfalutin people he normally only interacted with by serving. In some ways, he enjoys it; in other ways, he doesn’t.

“On est toujours le nobody de quelqu’un d’autre!”

Besides wrestling with how to come across as “Kultured” to the upper-class women on board without being totally bored out of his skull, Édouard has to deal with the aggressive sexism of the men assigned to his first-class dining table. And that’s on top of all your standard culture shock issues.

Des nouvelles d’Édouard is full of laugh-out-loud one-liners. It was the most fun book I’ve read all year, truly.

I should warn you, this was a divisive selection for our club. Those of us who loved it had a lot of fun with it; others just didn’t connect with the author’s sarcasm or criticism of France. In case this one doesn’t sound quite like your cup of tea, keep in mind that Des nouvelles d’Édouard is 4th in a series of 6 semi-autobiographical novels by Michel Tremblay; each works fine as a stand-alone, and I hear the others are even better, and a bit different.

What good books have you picked up lately? What’s the last surprising thing you’ve read? Share in the comments below!

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Learn Something New in 2017

Happy new year! As you begin to make your plans for 2017, I hope you include some education experiences. I’ve had my eye on a paralegal course offered through the UC Davis extension school here in Sacramento – just once a year, they give the classes live and in person, rather than online. That’s an important feature to me, since so much of my work is remote from a home office. After some budgeting of time and resources, this is the year I sign up.

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If you don’t have concrete ideas yet, or prefer to study from the comfort of your own pajamas, here is a short list of free or low-cost options:

  • Coursera has a wide selection of massive open online courses (MOOCs) in their “Learning English” category. Even if English is your target language, though, the University of California, Irvine, presents higher-level topics on grammar, verb tense, and academic writing that could benefit anyone.
  • EdX offers a great selection business courses, among others. If improving some aspect of your work habits is part of your list of resolutions for 2017, this is a great place to start.
  • FUN is a French platform that offers classes (mainly in French) on topics such as law and finance.
  • The American Translators Association always has a new live webinar in the works, and they offer some past webinars for viewing on demand. For instance, you can watch my previous classes on copyediting and proofreading.
  • ATA’s French Language Division produces fun podcasts for French-English translators and interpreters that you can listen to on the web or in the car through iTunes or SoundCloud.
  • eCPD is another translator-focused platform that offers live webinars on topics like how to manage corpora and updates in medical terminology.
  • ProZ also posts a huge selection of webinars, including an incredible variety on the dozens of translation and productivity tools you might use. They just restructured their paid memberships so that the newest option gives you access to the entire webinar library (including my class on credentials translation). You don’t have to be a member, though – you can still purchase access to individual webinars à la carte.

Do you know of any other great resources? What are your education goals for 2017? Share in the comments below!

Listen to me with the FLD!

I recently recorded a podcast with the American Translators Association’s French Language Division. Click here to listen to “Adventures in Early America – Translating Liancourt’s Travels,” in which I chat with host Angela Benoit about translating Comments on the North American Travels of La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt: 1794 – 1798. We had a lot of fun discussing some of the challenges, quirks, and historical significance of the original author and his unique French style.

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More information on Comments on the North American Travels of La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt: 1794 – 1798 is available here.

This podcast is part of the FLD’s continuing education series. Each episode focuses on some aspect of the craft of French-English translation (or interpreting). Learn more on the FLD website.