The Art of Technology in Translation

Translators have to be more than “just” good with words. This is no longer a profession in which we can rely on our linguistic skills. We have to stay on top of tools and systems. Definitely a chore, but satisfying when everything works well.

I recently purchased a new laptop to replace my desktop system (which has become my new backup system). My IT guru brother in Switzerland, whom I consult each time I have to make a decision of this type, strongly recommended a solid-state drive. Though I got less bang for my buck when it comes to storage, I don’t regret my decision one bit. It starts up in no time, it is super quiet and fast!

I am excited to have memoQ Translator Pro on my new system. This tool is fantastic, but more about this another time. What makes me almost break out in hives each time I purchase a new machine is installing Trados. Not only is their licensing system notoriously difficult to use and error-prone, I also had to dig out a nearly-defunct laptop from years ago, wedge in the power cord connector with a toothpick (the battery no longer works, and it kept shutting down because of a faulty connection), and try to return my license to Trados before being able to re-use it on my brand new system. It did not go very smoothly, but I researched solutions and prevailed! My victory dance upon two messages of “license installed successfully” was a sight to behold. Ask my boyfriend.

Neckholder-Kleid: English word creations in German

Over the last few decades, German has seen a massive invasion of English words, some filling a need for a specific term, such as Software and Hardware, others merely playing with a different sound, like Family and Kids. Then, there are a few puzzling ones: Ask an English speaker if they know what a Neckholder might be. Or a Beamer. How about a Messie? Interesting.

WiFi, what WiFi?

Last night, I returned from Denver, where I attended two full days at the annual conference of the American Translators Association (ATA). I connected with clients and colleagues, attended seminars and lectures, and enjoyed socializing with linguists from all over the world. As always, the conference was organized, sessions started promptly, and technology was in place for the speakers. During the first seminar, a so-called pre-conference seminar, I pulled out my laptop to take notes and opened the window showing available wireless networks. Nada. No WiFi. I thought surely they are behind in setting this up, so I patiently waited a few minutes, half an hour, one and a half hours. During the break, I walked over to the ATA information booth to inquire what was going on and was told the WiFi network would not be set up until the following day.

Is it really possible that whoever was in charge of scheduling the WiFi network for the conference thought it would be just fine not to offer translators a connection during the pre-conference seminars? Would anyone have thought 20 years ago that it would be ok not to have payphones available at any type of conference so people could stay connected to clients, friends and family? Does offering pre-conference seminars somehow fall under a different category of needs for those attending? Does the ATA not understand that many of us actually work on projects while we are at the, yes, "pre"-conference? I think it’s time to wake up and smell the 21st century.

Celebrating 15 Years of Translation Service

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of my clients, past and present, for growing with me over the last 15 years, and I look forward to seeing many at the ATA Conference in Denver this week. I took my first baby steps as a translator with just one client, back when very few people had e-mail and most companies did not have a Web site. Luckily, my client was not too far from my home office, so driving over to deliver a 3 1/2 inch floppy disk was not a huge task. Today, I work with dozens of clients all over the world, delivering quality work with a decade and a half of experience in the industry.  

Every Two Weeks, a Language Dies

In an interesting report on NPR yesterday morning, Mary Louise Kelly spoke with Swarthmore College linguist K. David Harrison about dying languages, why this is more than merely a loss of words, and what can be done to keep languages alive. In researching these cultures and languages for his book, The Last Speakers, Harrison says he realized how important it was to help some of the communities revitalize their languages.

Does language shape the way we think?

In an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, Lera Boroditsky, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, states "… If people learn another language, they inadvertently also learn a new way of looking at the world. When bilingual people switch from one language to another, they start thinking differently, too."  Language is much more than mere words describing concepts.

Gerichtsverhandlungen in Deutschland auf Englisch

Ab sofort können in Nordrhein-Westfalen können mündliche Verhandlungen in den Kammern und Senaten auf Englisch geführt werden. Auf Deutsch eingereicht werden müssen allerdings bisher noch Schriftsätze und Urteile. Die Frankfurter Allgemeine berichtete kürzlich über diese Option die einen Vorgeschmack auf eine bundesweite Neuregelung bietet. Dies ist vor allem für ausländische Kläger und Beklagte angenehm und außerdem handelt es sich bei Streitigkeiten oft um Verträge, die auf Englisch ausgehandelt wurden. Aber reichen die Englischkenntnisse der Beteiligten aus?  Brigitte Kamphausen, stellvertretende Vorsitzende des Richterbunds, sieht dies positiv: Immer mehr Richter haben bei einer ausländischen Anwaltskanzlei gearbeitet oder einen angelsächsischen Zusatzabschluss.

 

Karate and the Art of Translation

I’ve been in the translation business for 14 years now, and I’ve been practicing martial arts for over 25 years. You might ask what one has to do with the other. Well, I asked myself the same thing since I was fairly certain that there are aspects of my martial arts that help me in my business.

The martial art I practice is called Tang Soo Do. It is a traditional Korean martial art, somewhat related to Shotokan karate, which shares some of the same forms. We emphasize focus, discipline, respect and hard work and strive to better ourselves as human beings.

Being someone who has a hard time focusing on one particular thing, my martial arts training has taught me just that. When I perform a form, or hyung, as it is called in Korean, I do just that. Not one thought other than what is required to do my form enters my head. I am just present. This kind of focus has enabled me to be completely present for translation or editing tasks at hand as well. I know what it feels like to narrow down and zone in on my work, and it is a very satisfying and productive mode both I and my clients benefit from.

Then there is the aspect of respect. In the dojang (practice hall), we respect one another, no matter what rank or experience our opponent or partner has. We understand that we are dealing with another human being whose goal it is to be happy and accepted, and we learn that when we respect others, they respect us as well. I respect my clients, and though I may not always agree with them, I can maintain that respectful attitude I have been practicing for so long in my martial arts.

Freelancing is not for the procrastinator and requires self-motivation, which is a matter of discipline. The discipline I’ve learned in martial arts can be as basic as showing up for class or as challenging as performing each movement with 100% attention and effort. It is a mindset that can become habitual and that can greatly help any kind of performance. I approach my work the same way I approach my martial arts practice: With discipline and self-motivation.

In all of this, I am a human being. I have good days and bad days. I have moments where I have to interrupt my work for a while because it’s just not happening. I’ll take our dogs for a walk and come back refreshed and with a new approach.  My martial arts practice, which takes at least 5 hours of my time each week, is something I cannot imagine my life without and which is a wonderful counterpoint to sitting at my desk, and a great inspiration any day.

Stay-at-Home Working Mom – Curse or Blessing?

I started working as a freelance translator after my first baby was born in 1995, back when the Internet was a baby itself. Websites were few and far between, and I remember being amazed at the possibilities of e-mail connecting me with my family in Europe once they made that investment. I did not go online more than three brief times a day to retrieve my mail, because my online hours were limited, and I was blocking my phone while online. My baby daughter would be crawling around under my desk, pulling at any cord she could find while I was localizing software on a machine running Windows 3.1, with a 14 inch CRT monitor. A year later, my second daughter was born while I was working on a large localization project, and I remember having her on a pillow on my lap, nursing, while I was typing.

I always thought I had the best of both worlds, being present, albeit sometimes not 100% available, for my kids, and keeping my brain going while dealing with diapers, building blocks and baby bottles. It was never easy, though I had a day care provider who was flexible enough to take them at a moment’s notice when work fell my way.  Whenever both babies would nap at the same time, I would make a mad dash for the computer and work on my project, and evenings were always about finishing or getting ahead on projects.

Fast forward 14 years. My workload has stabilized, kids are out of the house full days Monday through Friday. I am glad to say that I was home every day they were sick, and I was there during their long summer breaks. I was never bored or unfulfilled, though sometimes stressed and on edge when a project did not go as planned. But would I have wanted to work in an office or stayed at home a full-time mom. Definitely not.

Working at home when the kids are little is not for everyone. It takes flexibility, patience, energy, focus, commitment, responsibility, spontaneity, excellent time-management and hard work. There’s never an autopilot program for the workday, because kids aren’t predictable. But it can be done, and I would do it again.

Terra Incognita – Into the Great Unknown

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(click on image to see full map)

Why did I call my blog Terra Incognita? First of all, I am a cartographer at heart, and I love maps. I also took 7 years of Latin in school and this had to be good for something.

The idea of calling my blog Terra Incognita came to me at about 2:30 in the morning last Tuesday night. I woke up and was sure I had a name. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea, because blogging is still the great unknown to me.

I am excited about exploring it and I look forward to meeting the natives…

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