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Jan 29, 2015

The New England Translators Association stands tall against attacks

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

                                                                           — Martin Niemöller
The New England Translators Association (NETA) has published an open letter of support for Aurora Humaran, president of IAPTI, who is faced with lawsuits against her and her organization in brute violation of her personal freedom of opinion and expression and against IAPTI members as a whole, whose freedom of association has been threatened. Here is the text:
To Aurora Humarán, president of the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters (IAPTI), from Diana Rhudick, president of the New England Translators Association (NETA), on behalf of the Board of Directors and members of NETA
January 26, 2015
Dear Ms. Humarán:
It has recently come to the attention of NETA’s members that you, as IAPTI’s president, are facing lawsuits for allegedly authoring an anonymous blog post that was critical of a translation agency’s practices and for using social media to circulate it. We have further learned of threats made by this agency to publicize the names of IAPTI members who refuse to disavow support for you as its president and to denounce them personally to other clients for whom they work.
As a fellow association of professional translators and interpreters, NETA is deeply concerned about the dangers that these lawsuits and threats pose to the freedom of expression guaranteed to you, as an individual and as president of IAPTI, and to the freedom of association guaranteed to all of IAPTI’s members. We believe that, more broadly, these dangers represent an affront to the rights of all translators and interpreters to express their opinions, to share information through social media or any other channel, and to associate with their colleagues without fear of retaliation. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the freedom of opinion and expression, including the circulation of ideas through any media and across any frontier, as well as the freedom of association. NETA condemns all efforts to suppress such freedoms taken by any person, translation agency, or other entity against any translator, interpreter, or the organizations that represent them.
As president of NETA, I therefore wish to affirm our unequivocal support for IAPTI and for you as its president to exercise your legitimate freedoms of association, opinion, and expression without interference, without threats, and without restrictions placed on the venue or medium through which opinions are expressed or circulated. We strongly hope that the lawsuits against you will be promptly dismissed and the threats against IAPTI members will be fully retracted.
Since this is an open letter, we are publicizing it through NETA channels and we invite IAPTI to publicize it through its own channels as it sees fit.
Diana RhudickPresident, New England Translators Association, on behalf of the Board of Directors and NETA Members

The recent deranged attack by a bulk market bogster is part of a long-standing pattern of attacks by self-interested parties from the low-end translation bog and other exploiters and charlatans seeking to sell their sleazy interests to trusting professionals and turn these against their own. I am long familiar with such things myself, for example with the recent threats received, in public and in private from the I Am That I Am of translation, His Hendzelness, for discussing questions about Translators Without Borders and its sometimes dubious practices (more on that to come), questions which may have influenced the resignation of that organization's head as the evidence mounted, but Mr. Chiosso's illegal and unethical campaign aggainst IAPTI's president and its members raises the ante to a new level.

And the silence so far from certain pundits and some other professional associations is deafening.

IAPTI Member Paula Arturo, a translating attorney, has written an post titled "Defamation or Freedomof Expression? Can Translators Share Bad Practices Info Online?". It is worth reading.

I applaud the sound ethical instincts of the New England association, the first to show backbone in standing up beside another organization and its president to prevent cancers like this from spreading. Like the recent action from the ITI in the UK, begun under its former chairman, my esteemed colleague Nick Rosenthal, and which finally resulted in the conviction of a deceiving translation agency operator who defrauded his suppliers - translators - of large sums, this is the sort of thing where we all need to stand against the criminals. Not support and promote such practiceZ as some do.


I took the picture above in a Swiss courtroom a few years ago, where another infamous bogster and defaulter on payments owed to translators sued me for daring to discuss his unethical practices on this blog. The costs awarded to me in that action remain unpaid to this day. But let's hope that the same graphic could be used soon to report the fate of Mr. Chiosso, who most definitely belongs in the dock. And on that day, we shall see who stands for free, honest expression and the rule of law in our societies and who remains... silent.


Jan 25, 2015

SDL conquers translation at Universidade Nova in Lisbon


The day started inauspiciously for me, with a TomTom navigation system determined to keep me from the day planned at Lisbon's New University to discuss SDL Trados Studio and its place in the translation technology ecosphere. When the fourth GPS location almost proved a charm, and I hiked the last kilometer on an arthritic foot, swearing furiously that this was my last visit to the Big City, I found the lecture hall at last, an hour and a half late, and managed to arrive just after Paul Filkin's presentation of the SDL OpenExchange, an underused, but rather interesting and helpful resource center for plug-ins and other resources for SDL Trados Studio victims to bridge the gap between its out-of-the-box configurations and what particular users or workflows might require. There are a lot of good things to be found there - the memoQ XLIFF definition and Glossary Converter are my particular favorites. Paul talked about many interesting things, I was told, and there is even a plug-in created for SDL Trados Studio by a major governmental organization which has functionality much like memoQ's LiveDocs (discussed afterward but not shown in the talk I missed, however). In the course of the day, Paul also disclosed an exciting new feature for SDL Trados Studio which many memoQ users have been missing in the latest version, memoQ 2014 R2 (see the video at the end).

I arrived just in time for the highlight of the day, the demonstration of Portuguese speech recognition by David Hardisty and two of his masters students, Isabel Rocha and Joana Bernardo. Speech recognition is perhaps one of the most interesting, useful and exciting technologies applied to translation today, but its application is limited to the languages available, which are not so many with the popular Dragon Naturally Speaking application from Nuance. Portuguese is curiously absent from the current offerings despite its far more important role in the world than minor languages like German or French.

Professor Hardisty led off with an overview of the equipment and software used and recommended (slides available here); the solution for Portuguese uses the integrated voice recognition features of the Macintosh operating system. With Parallels Desktop 10 for Mac it can be used for Windows applications such as SDL Trados Studio and memoQ as well. Nuance provides the voice recognition technology to Apple, and Brazilian and European Portuguese are among the languages provided to Apple which are not part of Nuance's commercial products for consumers (Dragon Naturally Speaking and Dragon Dictate).

Information from the Apple web site states that
Dictation lets you talk where you would type — and it now works in over 40 languages. So you can reply to an email, search the web or write a report using just your voice. Navigate to any text field, activate Dictation, then say what you want to write. Dictation converts your words into text. OS X Yosemite also adds more than 50 editing and formatting commands to Dictation. So you can turn on Dictation and tell your Mac to bold a paragraph, delete a sentence or replace a word. You can also use Automator workflows to create your own Dictation commands.
Portuguese was among the languages added with OS X Yosemite.

Ms. Bernardo began her demonstration by showing her typing speed - somewhat less than optimal due to the effects of disability from cerebral palsy. I was told that this had led to some difficulties during a professional internship, where her typing speed was not sufficient to keep up with the expectations for translation output in the company. However, I saw for myself how the integrated speech recognition features enable her to lay down text in a word processor or translation environment tool as quickly as or faster than most of us can type. In Portuguese, a language I had thought not available for work by my colleagues translating into that language.

A week before I had visited Professor Hardisty's evening class, where after my lecture on interoperability for CAT tools, Ms. Rocha had shown me how she works with Portuguese speech recognition as I do, in "mixed mode" using a fluid work style of dictation, typing, and pointing technology. She said that her own work is not much faster than when she types, but that the physical and mental strain of the work is far less than when she types and the quality of her translation tends to be better, because she is more focused on the text. This greater concentration on words, meaning and good communication matches my own experience, but I don't necessarily believe her about the speed. I don't think she has actually measured her throughput. My observation after the evening class and again at the event with SDL was that she works as fast as I do with dictation, and when I have a need for speed that can go to triple my typing rate or more per hour.

In any case, I am very excited that speech recognition is now available to a wider circle of professionals, and with integrated dictation features in the upcoming Windows 10 (a free upgrade for Windows 8 users), I expect this situation will only improve. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this technology for improving the ergonomics of our work. It's more than just leveling the field for gifted colleagues like Joana Bernardo, who can now bring to bear her linguistic skills and subject knowledge at a working speed on par with other professionals - or faster - but for someone like me who often works with pain and numbness in the hands from strain injuries, or all the rest of you banging away happily on keyboards, with an addiction to pain meds in your future perhaps, speech recognition offers a better future. Some are perhaps put off by the unhelpful, boastful emphasis of others on high output, which anyone familiar with speech recognition and human-assisted machine pseudo-translation (HAMPsTr) editing knows is faster and better than what any processes involving human revision of computer-generated linguistic sausage can produce, but it's really about working better and doing better work with better personal health. It's not about silly "Hendzel Units".

It has been pointed out a few times that Mac dictation or other speech recognition implementations lack the full range of command features found in an application like Dragon Naturally Speaking. That's really irrelevant. The most efficient speech recognition users I know do not use a lot of voice-controlled command for menu options, etc. I don't bother with that stuff at all but work instead very comfortably with a mix of voice, keyboard and mouse as I learned from a colleague who can knock off over 8,000 words of top-quality translation per short, restful day before taking the afternoon off to play with her cats or go shopping and spend some of that 6-figure translation income that she had even before learning to charge better rates.

Professor Hardisty also gave me a useful surprise in his talk - a well-articulated suggestion for a much more productive way to integrate machine translation in translation workflows:
David Hardisty's "pre-editing" approach for MpT output
The approach he suggested is actually one of the techniques I use with multiple TM matches in the working translation grid where I dictate - look at a match or TM suggestion displayed in a second pane and cherry-pick any useful phrases or sentence fragments and simply speak them along with selected term suggestions from glossaries, etc. and do it right the first time, faster than post-editing. This does work, much better than the sort of nonsense pushed too often into university curricula now by the greedy technotwits and Linguistic Sausage Purveyors, who in their desire for better margins and general disrespect of human service providers and employees fail to understand that good people, well-treated and empowered with the right tools, will beat the software and hardware software of "MT" and its hamsterized process extensions every time. Hardisty's approach is the most credible suggestion I have seen yet for possibly useful application of machine pseudo-translation in good work. Don't dump the MpT sewage directly into the target text stream like so many do as they inevitably and ignorantly diminish the level of achievable output quality.

After the lunch break, Paul Filkin gave an excellent Q&A clinic on Trados Studio features, showing solutions for challenges faced by users at all levels. It's always a pleasure to see him bring his encyclopedic knowledge of that difficult environment to bear in poised, useful ways to make it almost seem easy to work with the tools. I've sent many people to Paul and his team for help over the years, and none have been disappointed according to the feedback I have heard. The Trados Studio "clinic" at Universidade Nova reminded me why.

Finally, in the last hour of the day, I presented my perspective on how the SDL Trados Studio suite can integrate usefully in teamwork involving colleagues and customers with other technology and how over the years as a user of Déja Vu and later memoQ as my primary tool, the Trados suite has often made my work easier and significantly improved my earnings, for example with the excellent output management options for terminology in SDL Trados MultiTerm.


I spoke about the different levels of information exchange in interoperable translation workflows. I have done so often in the past from a memoQ perspective, but on this day I took the SDL Trados angle and showed very specifically, using screenshots from the latest build of SDL Trados Studio 2014, how this software can integrate beautifully and reliably as the hub or a spoke in the wheel of work collaboration.

The examples I presented using involved specifics of interoperability with memoQ or OmegaT, but they work with any good, professional tool. (Please note that Across is neither good nor a professional translation tool.) Those present also left with interoperability knowledge that no others in the field of translation have as far as I know - a simple way to access all the data in a memoQ Handoff package for translation in other environments like SDL Trados Studio, including how to move bilingual LiveDocs content easily into the other tool's translation memory.


Working in a single translation environment for actual translation is ergonomically critical to productivity and full focus on producing good content of the best linguistic character and subject presentation without the time- and quality-killing distractions of "CAT hopping", switching between environments such as SDL Trados Studio, memoQ, Wordfast, memSource, etc. Busy translators who learn the principles of interoperability and how to move the work in and out of their sole translation tool (using competitive tools for other tasks at which they may excel, such as preparing certain project types, extracting or outputting terminology, etc.) will very likely see a bigger increase in earnings than they can by price increases in the next decade. On those rare occasions where it might be desirable to use a different tool or to cope with the stress of change from one tool to another, harmonization of customizable features such as keyboard shortcuts can be very helpful.

I ended my talk with a demonstration of how translation files (SDLXLIFF) and project packages (SDLPPX) from SDL Trados Studio can be brought easily into memoQ for translation in that ergonomic environment, with all the TMs and terminology resources, returning exactly the content required in an SDLRPX file. Throughout the presentation there was some discussion of where SDL and its competitors can and should strive to go beyond the current and occasionally dubious levels of "compatibility" for even better collaboration between professionals and customers in the future.

One of the attendees, Steve Dyson, also published an interesting summary of the day on his blog.




Jan 19, 2015

Two years in Alentejo

A little over a week ago I celebrated the second anniversary of my arrival in Portugal with friends, who suggested a trip to town for food and fado. So we went to Casa de Fados Maria Severa in Évora and enjoyed a long night of wonderful music that went on well past the official midnight closing time. This was my first live experience with that musical genre, but it won't be the last. I'm not much of a tourist, so I have yet to experience many of the things that a typical foreign visitor might see in a week's whirlwind tour of Portugal. I came here to enjoy a normal life with good, normal people who respect each other and live as they can with the means available. The famous Alentejan cuisine reflects and amplifies this way of making do and doing it better with its minimalist approach of few ingredients, usually simple and inexpensive, but fresh and sound, with a resulting taste matched or exceeded by few. Life in Alentejo is best savored slowly, like aguardente caseira.


When I first arrived, my intent was only to enjoy a week of vacation, the first real one in nearly a decade. At the time I was living in Germany, where I had been since 1999 and where I expected to remain until my spare parts were harvested by the organ banks. Although I have nearly a 40 year history of close contact with the German language, come from a family of predominantly German heritage and always preferred to speak German at home in the US, and many of my friends in Germany are among the best people I am privileged to know, I never felt at home in the culture there, particularly away from the university environments. Many are concerned today about PEGIDA and other anti-social movements, but as one who usually flew under the cultural radar and passed for German, I find none of this new or surprising. So many things there which are accepted as normal, like the constant police guard on every synagogue, simply do not feel normal to me, and I could never stop taking it personally when imperfect strangers would try to engage me in conversations about how foreigners were ruining the country. Of course, such ugliness is not a majority characteristic there or in my country of origin, the US, but the minority is large and assertive enough in both countries that I prefer to live with a bit more tolerant quiet and hope for pleasant visits from like-minded German and American friends.

I used to think of Portugal as The End of the Earth, a place so far removed from the centers of activity that it was unlikely I would ever visit. Certainly, when I did decide to spend a little quiet time here looking at megaliths and old churches, and a friend spent some 9 hours and 5 bottles of wine trying to convince me not to visit this place where he believed the people were in a deep state of depression over the bad economy and the loss of their colonies (!!!), I did not expect Portugal to be The Journey's End. The sort of place where, after wandering too long on stony paths, you can put your feet up by a fire, like the one behind my office desk, and know you are at home.

Some like it hot!
Of course,  it rains even in paraíso, and the adjustment process, even in a good place, is often not easy. I think the greatest challenge for me, once I figured out where to find bread yeast and pectin, was dealing with linguistic isolation. It still is. For most of the first year I lived here, I kept my head down as I dealt with the administrative details of establishing residence and a business presence and moved house three times until I found a place whose dimensions and character truly met my needs. I spent little time learning more than the rudiments of the Portuguese language in that time, because the more I experienced that beautiful language, the more I knew it would break my heart to have to leave it. After it was clear that I could stay on, for another year at least, I sought out a part of town where the socioeconomic profile made it unlikely that I would encounter a lot of English speakers in my daily routine, and I made rapid progress with the local language for a few months as I fought a plague of mice and cockroaches before moving to a quiet little quinta several kilometers outside of town, a deep, narrow property perfect for training dogs and doing a bit of gardening.

Quinta Branca do Quartel ao Louredo
I'm fortunate to be near the ecopista, a beautiful path for pedestrians, equestrians and bicyclists on what used to be the train route for grain deliveries from the nearby farms. When the weather is nice (that is, most of the time), it's a great way to go to town or much farther out, where your way may be crossed by rabbits and javelis and not so many people.

It's been 16 years since I've lived on a farm, and it's slow going to figure out how to do what I want to with the land when the conditions are so different from what I knew before and I struggle to find the right words for conversations with neighbors about chickens and manure. Most of my attempts at a vegetable garden so far have been greeted with enthusiasm by legions of snails, who may someday adorn my dinner plate as penance for their voracious crimes. I've taken only a few random, neglected fruits from the land so far; a lot of careful thought and rehabilitation will be required, but this is a welcome break from the daily challenges of German translation, technology consulting and teaching for clients and colleagues at the other ends of the Earth. However, I was fortunate to find guidance for what to do with the crop of the dozen olive trees scattered about my six acres:

Home-cured olives and Alentejan white bread to fuel the next memoQ tutorial
I never would have imagined that my own cured olives, spiced as I like them, would be so much better than the ones I've eaten from store-bought jars, in restaurants and bought at farmers' markets and other places for years. Perhaps by next autumn I'll have figured out how and where to convert the bulk of the crop to oil, which was a staple in my kitchen long before I came to Portugal.

Life here is good, but unpredictable, even less predictable than the changing tides of translation in the past half decade. But where the general environment is a healthy one and the culture is tolerant, friendly and mostly flexible, unpredictability often means nice, or at least amusing surprises. When I wake each morning, I am not certain what to expect from the day aside from my usual work routine. Most days are uneventful - a visit by the husky bitch from a neighboring farm, who plays with my dog and hopes for a handout, a few pleasantries exchanged with neighbors about potatoes or rain, um galão at the taberna, conversations with my dog to convince him that the neighbor's sheep are not to be hunted - the usual. But anything could happen, and I always look forward to that here.