Dec 11, 2014

memoQ 2014 Release 2: beware of Hungarians bearing updates!

Just kidding, actually. Facebook groups are, of course a buzz with tales of bugs and crashes the day after Kilgray's milestone release, and in my own office I heard a flurry of curses behind me as my Portuguese translator discovered the "can't quit" bug that someone had written about. This was just a short time before I delivered the last files for one of the busiest weeks of translation I've been hit with in months, weeks where I decided to live dangerously and do all the work with the bleeding-edge beta for yesterday's release. For me it was actually a rather bloodless experience.

Sure, I saw bugs. Screen refresh weirdness in the first few beta builds and my favorite (non-lethal) quirk: multiple instances of memoQ web search. I guess the developers figured we can't get too much of a good thing!
Triple play, anyone?
I didn't write as much about this release as I intended to originally, partly because I was too busy, but also because I took a very different approach this time, using the beta opportunity to do a little informal psychological research to support some upcoming tutorials I'm working on to help people make a smooth transition to the new interface and cope better with the costly challenges of flipping between versions if required to by some projects (for example with conservatives who still use old memoQ servers.

Those who are not absolute newbies on the technology scene are well aware that the months after any release from any provider of translation technology are always a risky time for those eager to get started with a new version. The prudent advice to anyone is don't hurry. There's no use slamming Kilgray or SDL or anyone other firm for the inevitable bugs after any release, at least not until two or three months have passed and the version has put through the real-life wringer in a way no testing program can do. After that, fair game as far as I'm concerned. Those first months are usually a critical time in which many improvements not even anticipated by the designers occur. So regardless of the official line, people, for the next three months any of you using memoQ 2014 R2 are beta testers. And that's a good thing, a chance to participate in a good development process. SDL Trados Studio users, DVXn fans and everyone else are on more or less the same curve each time a big upgrade hits.

In my beta test over the past month I made few attempts to explore new features. Instead, I focused on my usual workflows to see how they felt in the new environment. As I indicated in my first blog post on this release I was not entirely comfortable after a week of work just with thew new version. And I'm still not. I am less productive than I want to be, because changing the translation environment interface is always a costly process associated with reduced productivity. This is why I am such a strong advocate of interoperability and tell people to go deep with their environment of choice and learn how to work with information prepared in other environments with just your favorite tool for maximum efficiency and better earnings if you work at full capacity.

What I have learned so far is that this learning curve will be longer and steeper for me than I anticipated. However, the Kilgray ribbon designs for the new memoQ are well-designed for the most time, and I can reason my way through them and find anything. It just takes time right now. So make the transition when you aren't going to be under the gun for a while. Kick the tires soon (you can install versions in parallel at no risk) but take it slow and easy. The trip may be long, but it is clearly worth it in the end for a design that will benefit most in the long run.

And focus on keyboard shortcuts. The more you depend on those, the easier your work will be in the months ahead. Stay tuned.

Dec 7, 2014

Uptalk in training?

Like a number of other translators I know, for a number of years, I've followed the progress and publications of a young blogger in California, Pat Flynn, who engages in a wide range of transparent efforts involving online marketing and passive income. He has had many useful things to say about the technical aspects of e-books, podcast production and other subjects of interest to me. He also interviews various people involved in online businesses, and some of these interviews cover subjects I care about.

One recent interview was with a fellow who creates e-learning courses. As readers of my blog are probably aware, this is a subject which has had my attention for about two years now, and after reading some of Pat's interview transcript, I decided to download the MP3 recording and listen to the full interview. I didn't make it far.

The interviewee had a lot of interesting things to say, but I found it extremely difficult to concentrate on his content, because he, like, kept using a rising inflection at the end of every sentence? This is what is referred to as uptalk, upspeak, high rising terminal speech or other expressions. For me, I think the phrase "terminated communication" describes it best. Particularly for older Americans, uptalk can be very difficult to hear.

I've also noticed uptalk creeping into some of the training videos for the language professions. When I raised this issue with one person involved in the production of such materials, the response seemed to indicate that the private communication was deeply offensive and that I was "attacking" the person using that difficult inflection in the recording. On the contrary; I know the presenter is a competent professional with useful things to say, and I simply wanted a good person and a good company to benefit from communication less likely to pose challenges for a key "constituency" in the US and UK. On average, translators tend to be somewhat older, perhaps even more conservative in their language habits, and for now I just can't see uptalk as any possible advantage unless you are doing a guest workshop for students at a community college in the San Fernando Valley of California or some other hellish backwater.

I can't say to what extent uptalk may cause problems in other English-speaking cultures, but where I come from there are definitely issues in a professional setting, as this person rather "offensively" points out:

I prefer the more humorous take from this fellow:

His comments on courtrooms 15 years from now were amusing and are probably frighteningly predictive. How would courtroom judges react to an interpreter speaking that way today?

Have you encountered uptalk in professional settings? Is your experience with it positive or negative, and do you see it as useful in some contexts of training or public speaking? Am I just showing my Jurassic disposition to complain of such things?

And, like, when you comment, like, please, like, let us know if you are, like, a native speaker of, like, some kind of, like, English and like how old you are?

#lighttheday with eyesight

Annular Eclipse (Matsudo, Chiba, Japan) (7237425418)

When I was 15 I was fond of home-made pyrotechnics and organic substances suited for demolition work. After my start in translation doing recipes from Prato's Süddeutsche Küche, I spent many long hours on the eighth floor of Cal Tech's Millikan Library translating the original publications of research in Liebigs Annalen der Chemie and other sources of information on organic molecules of interest. That's probably where I learned to make picric acid. I could buy it over the counter in those days at a shop in Burbank, but I calculated that the cost to make my own from phenol, nitric and sulfuric acid was about 10% of the cost to buy the finished product, and since I worked hard cutting lawns in those days for my pocket money, I thought I would save some money for making the whistling fireworks and other things I hoped to do with the substance.

Unfortunately, for all my understanding of organic synthesis methods at that time, I had not gotten around to understanding practical thermodynamics at the time, and after a few successful batches, I decided to triple the quantity in the same reaction flask, which I assumed to be more than large enough. The resulting spray of hot nitrating mixture had an unfortunate effect on the skin of my face and swelled my eyes firmly shut. For a week of the Easter holiday as I lay in bed recovering from the accident, I assumed I was blind. At the end of that week, when the crusted seal of one eye broke as I washed and I could see just a little light, I felt great joy at just that little bit of vision as I still assumed that my reading future was Braille.

I was very lucky, of course, and made a full recovery, and I learned another one of many lessons about how little things can affect our lives far more than we realize. Anyone who has broken a toe or amputated part of a thumb (another stupid mistake I made once chopping zucchini for my sheep) or had similar "little" experiences knows this all too well.

Many people live rich lives without the gift of sight, but there are many difficulties inherent in such a life, and for one who has lived a long adult life dependent on sight, these might be greater. Years ago I asked a friend to research the religious implications of a collagen-based intraocular lens being developed in a laboratory for which I consulted, the collagen being derived from pigs' eyes. The conversation with an Orthodox rabbi which he reported later was quite interesting. He told me that Jews considered blindness to be akin to death and that saving sight was an act equivalent to saving life, for which the use of collagen from an unclean animal was acceptable. Now I had never heard such a thing before, and I have never asked a rabbi or anyone else if this is really true or whether this was just a good story he dreamed up after too many hits on his pipe, but it sounds plausible.

One of the things I am proudest of from my research days was developing the first optically clear silicone material for use in UV-blocking intraocular lenses; it was an inspiration that came after falling asleep in a lecture, and I gave the method away for others to make their fortunes. But each time I heard what it was like for someone blinded by cataracts to have their vision restored quickly by a painless, small-incision surgery, or I heard of doctors who would spend their holidays in a poor country giving sight back to many so afflicted, I felt very rich to be even a small, unknown part of such stories. And my interest in the field and the good it does has remained long after I left the laboratory, as friends and family age and sometimes require such surgeries.

This morning I was cheered by news from one such friend, blind in one eye and reduced to 10% vision in another. His happy letter, describing vision recovery in one eye to a level he had not enjoyed for decades was the best news I have heard in a long time. The sun was shining anyway as I read the news, but afterward the good day seemed so much brighter.

What is the bright side of translation? There are many bright sides I think, and which ones shine for whom will differ of course. The brightest for some that I know is that their work can facilitate the spread of important knowledge that can change lives, save lives. That might be medical information such as that related to the implantation of an intraocular lens, instructions for water purification or other hygiene methods or even educational material for the arts, which open up minds to a brighter side of life. These activities are deeply inspiring, so much so to some that they feel the need to give the work away, as I have done myself on some occasions. But on the whole, I think it is important for us to recognize the true professional value of such work and to compensate it accordingly, not fall into the traps of demonetization that are laid increasingly in our paths.

To light the day for others and see a better future for all, we need to consider the conditions and principles which allow us to do our best work and give 100% effort to the right things every day. Cui bono? If we get the balance right, everyone.