Monday, November 30, 2009

Vienna ProZ Conference

The ProZ conference just ended last night with a dinner near one of Vienna's (semi-)traditional Christmas markets. I met quite a few interesting colleagues, including one who had come all the way from Chile.

What struck me here, compared to U.S. conferences, is how many of the attendees weren't just bilingual, but spoke multiple foreign languages fluently -- and in some cases translated from/to quite a number of languages. As is common with international conferences, the lingua franca was English, although, this being a regional conference, many -- if not most -- attendees also spoke German. I found myself constantly asking people I met which language they spoke/preferred.

Maybe a variation of the Quebecois greeting should be developed for such conferences. In Montreal, when I bought groceries the cashier would greet me with "Bonjour, Hello". I was then expected to reply either "Bonjour" or "Hello" to indicate my preference for French or English. The remainder of the transaction was then conducted in that language. I could see participants in international gatherings greeting each other with "Hi, Guten Tag, Bonjour", for example, to indicate the languages in which the conversation could be carried out. For some people -- particularly in our profession -- that might become a rather lengthy greeting, though.

Most sessions were in the end conducted in German, even though some of the session titles were in English, and some speakers had expected to give their presentations in English. So the PowerPoint slides projected behind the speaker might be in English, but the speaker's commentary on them would be in German. I generally try to take notes in the language in which the talk is given (or the book is written), but I found myself using English, English abbreviations, German and German shorthand all in my notes for the same presentation. Not a problem, unless someone else wants to see these notes, or I need to remember the language in which the talk was originally given, but potentially confusing.

Being back in Vienna makes me a little homesick for this city, although I don't think I could move back here permanently. I am too much of a New Yorker by now to live with the slower pace, smaller city and relative homogeneity of the population here. Participants at this conference were talking about having attended, or planning to attend, conferences in various other European cities. There is definitely an advantage to living in the center of Europe. Maybe some day I'll come back for a little while ...

I got to go to visit my parents -- another advantage of being in Vienna: they are just a subway ride away, instead of an ocean away.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Off to Vienna! + Backup Security

Hi all,

I am getting ready to leave for Vienna, Austria, to attend the ProZ Regional Conference there this weekend. Next week I am meeting a few business contacts and will also visit my family. I'll return to the U.S. December 8.

The conference sounds interesting -- not surprisingly, I seem to be the only U.S.-based translator who signed up for it. Frankly, I probably wouldn't have signed up, either, if I didn't have family in Vienna. A number of people from various European countries (not just German-speaking) are attending, though, so that should be fun. Plus conference attendees were apparently invited to a fancy "Heurigen", a Viennese-style wine bar cum restaurant, by the mayor of Vienna.

I spent part of today backing up information & transferring files to my laptop, so I'll not only have everything I could possibly need with me, but the information will also be stored on CDs and on an external hard drive. I am rather over-conscious when it comes to backing up digital information -- particularly business- or client-related items. Every night, each project I am working on is copied to a CD for that client (which is stored in the client's folder, along with print-outs of work orders & e-mails with instructions from that client). When a project is completed, it is again backed up to CD. Once a week, both my desktop and laptop automatically back up to an external hard drive attached to my home network. Similarly, accounting information (kept in QuickBooks Pro) is backed up regularly on CDs (one for the business, one for home/family accounts), and contact information and e-mails (kept in Outlook with Business Contact Manager) are included in the weekly backup to an external hard drive.

I am considering adding a layer of online backup every other week or so, in case something *really* bad happens to my house. The question is, how secure is such a backup (especially when it comes to client and/or financial information)? Anything on the internet can be hacked, including "secure" online storage. Houses can be broken into, as well, but at least I'd notice if someone broke into my home office and made off with my files (not sure why anyone would do so or what they would do with the files, but ...). If someone hacked my online backup space, I wouldn't necessarily know that the data had been compromised. On the other hand, online storage seems the only viable option for securing data if my home office is physically destroyed or severely damaged (e.g., a fire -- it's on the third floor, so flooding is unlikely to be a problem).

Do you have any experience using online backup solutions? If so, I'd love to hear from you.

Until next time,


PS (April 2010): I have since set up online backup. Read about my entire backup/disaster preparedness system.

Monday, November 16, 2009

ATA Conference + Translation Industry Study

As a child I had always admired the hotel concierges in old movies who dispensed advice and critical information along with mail and phone messages. At the recent American Translators Association conference here in New York I got to be something of a concierge. I, along with a number of other members, volunteered at the hospitality desk set up by ATA's New York chapter, the New York Circle of Translators. We could even use a "real" receptionist's area, complete with chest-high countertop and little cubicles behind the countertop. We volunteers not only helped out-of-towners find their way around New York City, but in the process we met conference attendees from a number of different places. This being a conference of language professionals, the information could even be offered in a number of different languages (although the printed materials - some of which came from the New York City tourist office - were only in English).

The most valuable part of the conference for me were the contacts I made with both other translators and purchasers of translation services, such as translation agencies and organizations with translation departments. I am heading for Vienna in the end of the month and will meet with some of these contacts there. ProZ, one of the larger translation websites, is holding a regional conference in Vienna, which I will be attending before visiting family and meeting with some business contacts in early December.

The ATA conference also included a number of interesting presentations. One of these was a study from Common Sense Advisory suggesting that the translation industry in the U.S. is poised for significant growth, particularly in the national security, international affairs, public work and public safety sectors. That's great news for translators working in Middle Eastern, Eastern European or Southeast Asian languages who are willing to work for the U.S. government. Not so great news, though, for those of us who work with Western European languages and won't work for the U.S. military or "homeland security". According to this study, the next-biggest industry in terms of translation and localization potential is IT. That would be great for me, since I specialize in IT documents, but the language most needed in that sector is Chinese. Since I don't speak Chinese, that doesn't really help so much ...

How have you translators of Western European languages who do not work for the U.S. government fared in terms of assignments received during the last 6-9 months? Has the volume decreased, increased or stayed the same? Have any of your regular clients cut back or stopped assigning translations altogether?

Either post a comment here or write to me at

Until next time,