Oct 27, 2009

Listening to Jeffrey

I'm a big believer in interdisciplinary principles. General education. Cross-fertilization. Recently I had a very disappointing conversation with a bright 16-year old planning to go to the university next year, who informed me that German education was superior because no time was "wasted" on general education and there was far greater rigor in the individual disciplines. Right. I suppose that's why the "best" university in Germany is ranked something like #65 in the world. And why objective studies place the country nowhere near the top of the European scale.

Germany has a lot to offer. And there are many brilliant, creative Germans in academia, industry and elsewhere whose contributions will stand up to those of any others. But I could probably say the same for Iran. The stars here, as in most places, do not draw their experience and ideas from one well; instead they synthesize information from many sources and look for underlying, general principles which often apply across disciplines.

Often, translators are far too insular. We spend our days with translations. We talk to translation clients about translations. Agencies about translations and translating. Colleagues - the same. I'm sure some of our pets are damned sick of hearing about Trados. (Yes, Astrid and Russell, I can say damned and even make it red, bold and italic here ;-)

Some of my translating colleagues - successful ones generally - draw their business inspiration from many sources, most of them having nothing to do with translation when taken at face value. But these smart people understand that the principles of general education apply throughout a lifetime and are usually the basis for success. That's why so often you'll find the English major with eclectic minors and broad general education in the board room raking in the multi-million dollar salary while the specialist Ph.D. labors unloved and unnoticed in the lab. I've been there and seen it in action at Avery and elsewhere. That's reality in the professional world, and the "nerd" who makes it to the top probably has a lot more on his shelf than the engineering degree would suggest.

This long, dull pontification is my silly way of leading up to a recommendation for a man who is on my list of must-read inspiration sources. If I met Jeffrey Gitomer in person I might have to step out for air after ten minutes. Maybe not. Sharp sales types get on my nerves big-time, unless they are 100% genuine, like a certain ex-decathlete sales and marketing executive I know who cares more about the well-being of his customers and his family than he does about making a sale. He is, of course, superbly successful, and he sleeps well at night with a good conscience. Mr. Gitomer is the author of a number of books on selling and related topics, none of which I have read, though perhaps I should some day. What I do read, however, is his weekly newsletter with advice on how to meet the challenges of selling. Lately - not surprisingly - his emphasis has been on how to survive and thrive when so many do not in the current economy. On the lower left side of the home page of his frighteningly bright web site, you can subscribe to his Sales Caffeine newsletter. Some days it is really a major jolt of java.

Mr. Gitomer makes a very real impression. At least the advice he dispenses fits with the experience (good and bad) I've gathered over the years, and his suggestions for doing better are plausible. Some are dead obvious, but many are not. A lot of what he says is directly applicable to the freelance translating professional, even though his main audience is very obviously salaried salesmen and -women. Ditto for agencies looking to save their businesses. This weeks's jolt is titled "Take a Internet lesson from the big companies. Don't do it their way." Gotta love it. Don't let the screwed up indefinite article upset you, my pedantic peers, the man is sharing the wealth there, and you'd be fools not to fill a sack or two before you move on.

Oct 24, 2009

Seminar in London for translating annual reports (German to English)

City University, London, is running a one-day seminar addressing content, style and process issues for German->English annual report translations – perfectly timed for the annual report translation season that starts in December 2009/January 2010!

Annual reports present significant challenges for translators. They span multiple registers and subject areas, require both absolute accuracy and impeccable style, and seem to get longer and more complex every year. This seminar looks at how translators can successfully provide the product and the service clients need for these projects. Topics covered will include the following:

- legal and accounting requirements
- target audiences and text registers
- translator roles and requirements
- bridging the cultural divide – or not…
- critical success factors and golden rules
- clients and all who sail with them
- project framework, planning and processes
- general stylistic considerations
- weasel words, bugbears, and dead horses
- participants’ questions

Presentations on the issues above will be accompanied, where appropriate, by textual analysis and translation exercises. Group participation and discussion is actively encouraged. The seminar will be led by Deborah Fry, Fry & Bonthrone Partnerschaft.

Seminar details:


Course cost: GBP 150, incl. lunch, coffee, tea.

This seminar will only go ahead if a minimum of 12 registrations are received in the next two weeks, so if you’re interested in attending, register soon!

Oct 21, 2009

Full speed ahead with the MemoQ Server

Some weeks ago I was invited to join a team of freelance translators working together (without an agency) on a joint project in MemoQ. I found the idea rather intriguing, and since the subject matter is something I can handle, I agreed despite my usual reservations about group projects. Early last year I was asked by an agency client to join a similar server-based project with MemoQ, but I had concerns about the quality of the work in that case and also did not want to take on a big project under time pressure with an unfamiliar tool.

My initial experiences are very, very positive. At the end of the project I hope to persuade the project leader to write a full summary of the experience to include on this blog as a guest post. But things look so good that I cannot restrain myself from making a few comments before then.

The setup of the MQ server appears to have been the easiest part of the operation. We did experience a lot of trouble at the beginning, but none of this was related to Kilgray's product; rather, there were issues with the router and its use of dynamic IP addresses. These problems were resolved with the help of an expert technician.

The time to download the server project update via the Internet seems rather long. But once that step is completed, the translation using a remote TM and termbase is actually faster than I experience locally using my huge TM migrated from DVX. (I have been advised by Kilgray to chop this up in a few pieces due to the optimization parameters for TMs in MQ, but haven't gotten around to it yet.) My project partners also reported that simultaneous translation in the same document by two translators worked like a dream, with updates appearing quickly on each translator's screen. Wow. One of them is in Germany, the other in the US.

Kilgray also offered a very, very friendly option for this project. The full server version with "online docs" (I think this means documents residing on the server instead of locally) costs around € 5,000 (for 5 concurrent user licenses) - not a lot, but still more than a few freelancers want to pay for what may be a one-off project. So the software is being made available on a limited term monthly lease. I don't know all the terms, but what I've heard sounds like spare change to me, and it gives us the ability to lease as needed for future projects AFAIK. Very, very good for ad hoc teams like ours, and one more example of the creative, customer-friendly approach the Kilgray team has adopted.

The actual working environment in MQ differs slightly in the server project, with the addition of a communication tab with a chat stream to discuss or point out important project issues.

All of this is extremely encouraging to me. The environment is clean, fast and offers top performance and productivity for collaboration. I see this as a real alternative for freelance teams and my agency clients who want to improve quality and efficiency.

Oct 13, 2009

Sillier and sillier

Recently, colleague Jeff Whittaker started a discussion thread on ProZ regarding bottom feeders and the suckers who beg to work for them. Some of the "offers" are quite entertaining, really, but they don't have much to do with professional translation. At about the same time, I got one of those frequent unsolicited e-mails from an Indian agency begging for work and promising to be cheap. I commented on this and shared a few excerpts from my correspondence with the agency, because I hadn't found time to blog about it as I would like to eventually.

Later in the thread, I responded to a point about the bottom of the market, relating my own experiences with an agency here in Germany. After a day, the post was censored by moderator Russel Jones for alleged offensive language:

Dear Kevin Lossner,

This message is to inform you that your post "No, the bottom in Germany is below that" has been removed from public view because it was not in line with site rule:

Thanks in advance for your understanding and future cooperation.

Russell Jones, Moderator
It seems that pew is getting crowded :-) As usual, here is the original post:
No, the bottom in Germany is below that Oct 12

Posting not yet approved

Laurent KRAULAND wrote:
... as a general trend in France, the Netherlands and Belgium (sometimes even Germany), I can see that agencies tend to pay the translator about 0.07 euros ex VAT per word and to sell the translations at no more than 0.12 euros ex VAT per word.

In Germany I know an agency seen here from time to time that is worse. Back in 2002 or so when I was building my client base, I took on one job with a really interesting topic for 6 cents/word, with the understanding that the usual rate for jobs to follow would be double that. I got a long whining list of excuses about how the budget for this one was exceptionally bad, etc. etc. and I though "what the heck, they don't know me, so it's an intro for us both". Well, these jokers turned out to be time-wasters, because every subsequent inquiry was offered at the same low rate. Seven years later I still get occasional contacts from these losers at the same rate, and I offer to do the work for triple that as a special favor for old time's sake. For some reason we never do business any more

That was the last time I fell for that sh*t. Either a job is serious and properly funded, or they can take it to Bangladesh for all I care.
Terribly, terribly offensive, though not necessarily for the language. And I'm sure that these days, if you are a ProZ moderator, yours doesn't stink ;-)

After I complained about the censorship, I received this kind note from Russel:
Kevin; I'm sure you can edit with an alternative to sh*t. You wouldn't believe how many complaints I get about such language! I don't find it all offensive but I'm afraid we need to recognise that is an international site and not all cultures share the sensible approach of the English speaking community!
Many thanks.

So the mods are "forced" to carry out actions against content that they do not find offensive? Interesting. Just following orders we wuz. Used to be a tradition of that here in Germany, but fortunately the populace has grown beyond that. Not so elsewhere it seems.

In memoriam: Richard Davey Benham

Our colleague Chris Irwin has written the following text to honor the late Richard Benham, a man noted for his professional competence and wit and whose untimely passing reminds us to appreciate our lives and the people we share them with today, because tomorrow may not count.


August 26, 2009 was a sad day for some in our profession, seeing the untimely demise of highly-respected and popular professional linguist Richard Benham in Australia at the age of 52.

Richard was well-known to many members of the community for the extent of his knowledge, his integrity, wit and the unique character traits that emanated from his entries in forum postings and terminology questions.

As a member of the UK Chartered Institute of Linguists, he held their DipTrans award for translation from both and French and German into English.

Richard’s fields of speciality were primarily in technical, including IT (he had experience as a programmer), automotive, electrical engineering and marketing work of a technical nature.

His elder brother Chris wrote: “Richard was the 'great brain' of the family, and the only one to have mastered more than one language. He had massive, massive knowledge and some great personal qualities. He could remember some of the things that happened in my childhood that I'd forgotten. He was the family champion at card games.”

Richards’ mother Daphne added in a letter to a colleague: “From early childhood, Richard loved learning and won state-wide prizes for both French and mathematics twice. He had suffered a fall last year on wet Geneva cobblestones and broke his left shoulder, which was a personal and financial disaster, severely affecting his ability to be present at the University of Geneva at the time. He was happy to be back in Adelaide uni doing a maths course and co-writing a paper on Dirac Delta Logic with an old friend who was a professor of philosophy, as well as finding time to do a bit of translating. It was all blue sky, or so we thought. Richard had a recurrence of stomach problems and the day after he had had both an endoscopy and colonoscopy he started vomiting in the night, subsequently passing away.”

Comments on an ‘R.I.P.’ forum on the site included these statements:
“I knew him only through this site and he was an inspiring and good person.”

“Oh damnit. This hits me pretty hard. We had emailed extensively a few years ago but were out of touch more recently. Am very sad to hear this and extend my sincere condolences to his family.”

“A much valued and respected colleague. I shall miss him.”

“He was someone I admired enormously, who was clearly a very talented person with excellent translation skills. I'm very saddened by the news of his death and I am sorry that I never had the opportunity to meet him in person.”

“I am shocked and saddened to hear of Richard's passing. Richard will be sadly missed by the many colleagues who got to know him over the years when he was an active member of the site. His outstanding skills as a translator, his sparkling wit and his frankness and honesty made him a colleague so many of us admired.”

“I had many great collegial discussions with Richard on KudoZ and respected him very much. I always valued his frank opinion and feel his contributions really helped.

Richard was truly a gentleman and a scholar. His passing is a huge loss to the translating community.”

Part of Richard’s integrity was indeed in his frankness, which led to his activities on the site being restricted. Some comments about this were edited out of the above forum; a tasteless action which caused disgust among several members.