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!

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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!

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!

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.

American court interpreters get a voice

Go read this. Now. I mean it.

This is exciting, people. BuzzFeed, a pretty popular source of news and entertainment for many Americans, just ran a piece on the state of court interpreting in the US. In addition to the independent interpreters interviewed, the American Immigration Lawyers Association spoke up on behalf of our profession—they know it’s not easy, and the work we linguists do is pivotal.

american flagConsider this short excerpt:

The immigration court system has long attracted criticism for its patchy, lackluster efforts to provide high-quality language interpretation. A 2011 report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found that the Justice Department consistently failed to provide meaningful language access in immigration courts…

Despite the confusion caused by the author switching back and forth between the terms “interpreting” and “translating,” I’m going to call this a win. Our profession is gaining traction and visibility in the States. There is hope!

Read the BuzzFeed article here: www.buzzfeed.com

What do you think? What are your experiences? Share away!

What non-translators think of translators

Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with more direct clients on a wide range of tasks: consulting, recruiting, managing, interpreting, and translating.

However, hearing what non-translators think of professional linguists… was not always pretty. Take a look at some of the comments I’ve heard from different buyers:

  • We’re an exclusive crowd. We can be difficult to talk to, hard to reach, and suspicious of outsiders (even though they are our potential clients).
  • We’re not the most flexible. In the interest of portraying confidence and defending our “turf,” we’re frequently unwilling to budge in any area of negotiation—which leaves the client wondering where their side of the win-win went.

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  • We are openly hostile towards technology. And it scares aware customers who aren’t sure why we’d take that stance, even though it could soothe some of those negotiation points.
  • We’re quirky. Sometimes a positive trait, sometimes a negative.
  • We’re incredibly intelligent. When we finally get talking, it’s clear we know a lot about our subject areas, languages, and cultures.
  • We help people move forward with their lives. People come to us with serious roadblocks to their business, immigration, healthcare needs… you name it. And when we can remove those for them, it’s a major relief.

I offer these as some free market research for all my fellow linguists (in the United States, at least), along with a challenge:

Let’s use the positive comments to our advantage, and change the negatives for the better. Lead with your knowledge, ask intelligent questions, and let people know you’re ready and willing to help them communicate. Talk to local business owners. Correct the myths about our industry.

We do amazing things every day. Our reputation should match that!

Have you heard these comments before? Do any of these surprise you? How do you address the good, the bad, and the ugly in your business interactions?

Proofreaders’ marks

Thanks to everyone who participated in today’s webinar with the ATA! It was fun leading you through the creation of a proofreading system. I’ll be following up on some questions that came up afterwards over the next few days.

One participant asked, “Where can we download or get the proofreaders’ marks?” That’s an easy one, so here you go:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/mw/table/proofrea.htm

And a similar version from the Chicago Manual of Style:

Chicago Manual of Style proofreaders' marksHappy translating (and proofreading)!
Carolyn

Quality assurance training opportunity

A little bit of exciting news:

The American Translators Association is hosting a webinar with me on June 16th, 12pm (noon) EDT. I’ll present techniques and tricks for proofreading your work efficiently and effectively, plus some of the science behind why they work. Register here today!

Here’s a quick sampling of my reference materials:
Building Great Sentences, by Brooks Landon
The Fine Art of Copyediting, by Elsie Myers Stainton
The Organized Mind, by Daniel J. Levitin

For more information, click here. I hope you can join us!

Dealing with change

It has been a long while since I’ve shared my thoughts with you, and that deserves some explanation. The last year has brought some significant shifts in my private life. Something had to give. I hope you have enjoyed scouring the archives in the meantime.

Without making any promises about the regularity of future posts, I want to share some ideas that helped me keep my business growing while dealing with the heavier stuff behind the scenes. No one is immune to change, whether to their health, relationships, or goals. You have to learn to manage them—wanted or not.

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1. Systems and routines minimize the energy you must spend on your business and allow you to maintain some semblance of continuity. You should decide in advance which systems are essential, and which can be let go temporarily.

I suggest keeping a bare-bones social media presence alive, a daily industry news habit, and the administrative and production tasks that regular client work demands. Everything else—seeking out lots of new business, building fun marketing campaigns, planning world domination—can probably slip a little without harming your business. Look at your own data and make the call. Think of it as part of your emergency preparedness plan.

2. A wise person once told me, “Relax. This will not be the biggest growth period in your business history, and that’s OK. That can come later. Probably sooner than you expect.” Don’t force it. Accept that the present will become the past, quickly.

3. Maintain relationships with your core group of colleagues. You don’t need to broadcast your troubles to the world, but do let some key people know why you are scaling back temporarily. Camaraderie works!

These three pieces of advice served me well in the last year. I gave a successful presentation to a welcoming group of colleagues in Chicago, joined a great group of local businesspeople in my local Chamber of Commerce, and signed on as translator of a book (much sooner than I anticipated in my 10-year plan). Hopefully, this advice helps you, too.

If you have any thoughts or tips to add about freelancing during rocky times, let us know in the comments.
Happy translating!
Carolyn

Getting things done

Happy new year! Have you made any business resolutions yet?

This year, I’m going to focus on expansion in several directions: doing more education outreach, getting more involved with direct clients, and taking my language skills up another notch. I laid the foundations for reaching these goals last year by joining a few chambers of commerce and working closely with a colleague to develop a panel discussion at the local university. And this summer, I’m planning to spend 6 weeks working from Budapest.

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Needless to say, there are days when everything feels incredibly overwhelming! I know I’m not the only entrepreneur out there who gets anxious. Here are my favorite resources for helping “tame the beast:”

  • A calendar. I used to be a die-hard paper person (and I still have a paper calendar on my wall), but for all the daily and weekly to-dos, it got too crowded. The visual clutter was too much! This year, I switched to Google for my scheduling. So far, so good!
  • A planner. Most of my planning goes into a simple, unruled notebook. It’s great for “brain dumps” and doodling the connections between different tasks. If you need a little more guidance than a blank page offers, I recommend the Passion Planner. (You can download a basic template for free!)
  • An escape. A couple of times a week, I go to yoga. The classes I like are recurring events on my calendar so I’m not tempted to skip. And once every 6–8 weeks, I get a massage. (And no, I’m not a 6-figure earner yet.) I started doing this the last few months of 2014, and it is amazing how much longer I can go between the “freelancer blahs.” Not to mention the energy boost it gives me. What’s your escape?

Best wishes to you with all your goals this year. Feel free to share your own below, and resources you’re using to reach them. Happy 2015!