Thursday, January 28, 2010

ProZ Conference Vienna - Part IV

The last set of presentations at the recent ProZ Regionalkonferenz in Vienna was related to language and translation itself:

  1. "Übersetzen für die Wiener Börse" by Edith Vanghelof

  2. "Übersetzen aus dem Deutschen -- Wortstellungsprobleme" by David Wright

  3. "Deutsche Rechtschreibung" by Dagmar Jenner

Edith Vanghelof spoke mostly about different types of markets and the terminology related to them, as well as to other financial instruments. Translating for the Vienna stock exchange (Wiener Börse) involves mostly rendering legal texts into non-country-specific English. It is not clear to me, however, how such English is arrived at, since financial products, as well as the specifics of a given economic system, differ among countries. Since stock exchanges are highly regulated environments, I'd imagine that the different legal systems producing such regulations would also play a role in how a particular term is rendered into English. Thus, it seems to me that translating such texts without reference to any one country would, at best, be difficult and frequently impossible.

David Wright showed examples of how text is easier to understand if the sentence starts with information already known to the reader. He said that German was more flexible with regard to word order than English, but that in German a particular word order also carried a certain connotation. While Mr. Wright is certainly right that some German word orders are simply ungrammatical in English, keeping the original word order does make text comparison easier. That seems particularly important with legal texts, where some clients may lay the two versions of the text side by side to ensure nothing was skipped or added during translation. With marketing texts, on the other hand, both word order and the actual words (or even phrases) may need to be changed to convey the same mood in another culture. To change word order, or not to change it: it all depends.

Dagmar Jenner had participants complete a short exercise filling in blanks on a business letter with the correct post-reform spelling. [The German-speaking countries changed how things are spelled a couple of times during the last decade or so.] Having left Austria before these spelling reforms, I find that much modern German text looks "misspelled" to me. That's one of the reasons why I prefer to translate into English, rather than into German. After this workshop (and while still in Austria), I did go out and buy the latest standard German spelling dictionary -- the brand-new version of the Duden's "Die neue deutsche Rechtschreibung". Now let's just hope the powers that be won't change things on me again ...

That concludes my notes on this conference.

Until next time,


Monday, January 4, 2010

ProZ Conference Vienna - Part III

In my last post I grouped the presentations I attended at the Proz Regional Conference in Vienna by topic. I then summarized the presentations in topic (group) 1. This post will be devoted to the presentations in Group 2 (marketing your services/getting (more) business). These were:

  1. "Modding Your Profile" by Siegfried Armbruster

  2. "EN 15038 -- ein Erfahrungsbericht" by Dr. Leopold Decloedt of Connect-Sprachenservice GmbH

Siegfried Armbruster uses his ProZ profile page instead of maintaining a separate website for his services. While it is certainly possible to do so -- and apparently a number of translators do this -- I appreciate the flexibility my own website affords me. The ProZ profile can apparently be customized quite a bit, but it can't be designed from scratch, the way I did with my own website. Mr. Armbruster spoke mostly about the ways in which he has customized his profile to illustrate what could be done.

Some of his ideas can be applied to freestanding websites, as well. One suggestion I may implement is a sustained attempt at increase the Google ranking of my website. While that would certainly increase my visibility, it remains to be seen how many of the hits so obtained are actually serious potential end clients and how many are low-cost overseas agencies trying to find translators willing to work for very little money (more about that in a later post).

Another idea I'll pursue is the creation of a central MS Word document containing all relevant information for updating my profiles on ProZ, LinkedIn, Translators Cafe, my own website, and, possibly, Xing (the European equivalent to LinkedIn I touched upon in my previous post). I'd like to find a way to automate profile updates across all these sites, but I'm not sure that can be done -- at least not without spending money.

Leopold Decloedt's presentation focused on an Austrian certification process, which, however, also exists elsewhere in the European Union. It is meant primarily for certifying translation agencies, but individual translators can be certified, as well. More and more European agencies are becoming certified according to this norm, which regulates work flow, as well as freelance translators' qualifications.

While standardization can be a good thing -- and should make it easier to convince end clients that the translation services purchased are, in fact, valuable -- it presents a problem for many translators. The norm prefers freelancers with a formal translation degree who work into their native language. Having come to translation through living and working in a language other than the one I grew up with -- a circumstance common to many translators, at least on this side of the Atlantic -- I don't have a degree in translation. I have translated professionally for the last 9 years, and have done so informally for much longer. I do hold a B.A., but it's in Media Studies, not translation.

Also, technically my "native" language is German, since that's what I grew up speaking. However, by now I have lived and worked in an English-speaking environment for a longer time than I have lived in Austria. Most of my technical knowledge was acquired in English -- personal computers were in their infancy when I left Austria 25 years ago. As a result, I am better at translating technical documents into, rather than from, English. At this point I consider both German and English my native languages. I will address the question of what constitutes a native language more fully in a later post.

One thing I noticed during this presentation was that I already follow many of the procedures required by this norm, e.g., I use translation memory; I systematically archive client orders, as well as work performed; I have a transparent invoicing system; I have a system for tracking client orders, their completion, invoicing and payment, etc. So rather than actually getting certified according to EN 15038 (which would be costly for an individual), I will get the regulations for the certification, see which portions apply to my business and then list on my website which of the requirements I follow, and how I do so.

Until next time,