Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What Services Can Translators "Upsell"?

I've recently read up on marketing my services better. A few articles in a recent New York Enterprise report and elsewhere got me thinking that simply translating text may no longer be sufficient to get enough work at prices that let me live in New York City.

"Upselling" -- or adding products/services (for a fee) to consumer's core purchases -- seems to be the word of the day (or year). I can't seem even to shop for groceries anymore without the cashier trying to sell me something I don't want or need. Sometimes this can border on the ridiculous as when a toy store cashier tried to sell me batteries to go with a simple old-style board game.

While I will not subject my own (prospective) clients to the kinds of hard sell I experience in stores, I could be offering additional services on my website and in my marketing materials. So what services would it make sense to add?

  1. Besides translating a website's text, I could update the source code pages with the new text, adjusting table width and similar code as necessary.
  2. Besides translating a PowerPoint presentation's text, I could adjust the layout and text sizes to make everthing fit.
  3. Besides translating a whitepaper's text, I could translate the flowcharts contained in the paper, resizing text as necessary.
  4. In addition to accepting Adobe PDFs as source format (a necessary evil in our industry, it seems), I could provide the completed translation in that format, as well, with the original images intact and properly placed.

I could provide all these services with relatively little extra investment (except for buying MS Visio), although I would have to become more adept at some of the software involved. For example, I know basic PowerPoint features (and have created PowerPoints before), but I'd have to play around with the program some more to get up to speed on more advanced features. Similarly, I have used a previous version of MS Visio, but would need to teach myself the current version.

There are certainly other services translators could add to their core business, including working with other file formats (such as FrameMaker); writing the source text, as well; providing a country-appropriate layout for the text (probably more applicable for translations into right-to-left or top-to-bottom languages, such as Chinese or Arabic). I might explore some of these next year.

So what's your "upsell" -- or what could it be?

PS: I will be attending the tekom conference next week in Wiesbaden, Germany, and visiting family in Austria, so postings for the next few weeks may be more sporadic.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What in the World is Erse?

Yesterday's New York Times crossword puzzle asked for a 4-letter "European tongue". Based on other words around it, my husband and I came up with E_SE. None of the lesser-known European languages we could think of -- Sami in Scandinavia, Romani and Sinti in Eastern Europe, Basque in Spain, Gaelic in Ireland, Alsatian in France, Romansch in Switzerland -- would fit that pattern. It turns out (we had to wait for the solution in today's paper) that it's Erse. So what language is that and who speaks it?

Well, googling "Erse" gets you a manufacturer of components for audio and video equipment in the top spot, but then a couple of definitions from Wikipedia and several dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster. According to them, it is an alternate word for Gaelic, based on the Middle English word for Irish, Erisch.

Aha, not a language/people I had never heard of. So what would other languages be called in Middle English? Again, enter the web. There is an online Middle English dictionary housed at the University of Michigan. So German was called Alemaine back then (presumably related to the French Allemand). Next question then: how did we get German from Alemaine?

Enter the Online Etymology Dictionary. Apparently, German doesn't come from the Middle English Alemaine, but rather is based on the Latin germanus. Caesar used the plural, germani, to designate tribes in northeastern Gaul, possibly based on the name of one of those tribes. There is also a Celtic word "garim" meaning to shout and speculation is that germanus may be derived from that. Anybody who has ever been to an Oktoberfest can attest to the noisy character of that occasion -- although that probably holds true for any celebration largely based on an alcoholic beverage, no matter the culture.

What one doesn't learn when doing crossword puzzles! They do help expand one's vocabulary, even if this particular word will likely be of little use. A large vocabulary helps anyone working with language -- writer, editor, translator. So solving crossword puzzles (in both source and target languages) is a useful pastime for a translator. To that end, I'll buy a couple of crossword puzzle books when I go to Austria late next week.

If this piqued your crossword interests, here are a couple of sites that offer free online crosswords:

In English:

In German:

Happy puzzling!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A 12-Step Program for Large Projects

I just completed a 3-week-long translation project that consisted of one 700-page long source file (63,000 words plus screen shots). In the process, I learned a few lessons on how to handle such mega-projects more efficiently. Here are my 12 steps for working on such projects:

  1. Read the text in its entirety (on screen to save trees) and note important/recurring terms in an Excel spreadsheet or Word table
  2. Research the terms you noted above and fill in the spreadsheet/table. This is your own glossary.
  3. Divide the source file into smaller files. When doing so, make both the table of contents and the index separate files.
  4. Import the glossary spreadsheet into your translation memory software and translate the table of contents and index. Add all terms in these two files to your glossary.
  5. Translate your first source file, revising your glossary terms, if necessary, and adding any new terms you encounter.
  6. Edit that translation before going on to the other files. This way you will have a solid basis for recurring text in the other files.
  7. Translate the other files, one by one. If you change your mind on a term, add it to a list of changes to make to previous files.
  8. After translating all files, edit the translations one by one. Make the term changes you noted above while you are editing.
  9. Now convert each of the translated files back to MS Word (or whichever format is used for the deliverable).
  10. Check that the formatting isn't too egregiously off in the Word documents and nothing is garbled.
  11. Combine the Word documents back into one large file, checking for missing/duplicate text at the points where the files are joined.
  12. Send the completed translation off. You may need to use a service, such as You SendIt or Dropbox, to transfer the file back to the client, if it's too large for e-mail.

One more thing I learned from this project: electrical engineering is actually quite interesting. Maybe I'll pick up an "Electrical Engineering 101" book one of these days ...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Be Organized and Keep Your Translator Happy

Quite a while back, I wrote about issues to note when writing for translation. During a recent large translation project, I realized that clients may also need to be educated on potential organizational issues related to translation. So here are some dos and don'ts for clients preparing for a translation:

  1. If there is a glossary, provide it up front, not a week into the assignment. This means scheduling enough time to develop the glossary before assigning the translation.
  2. If you want the translator(s) to develop a glossary in the course of the translation, tell him/her up front. Accept a format that can be exported from common translation (CAT) tools -- usually a tab- or comma-delimited file.
  3. If you absolutely need a glossary in a different format, expect to compensate the translator for the extra time spent preparing it.
  4. Proofread the original (source) text, paying particular attention to missing text, garbled sentences and similar problems that impede understanding.
  5. Remember, the translator is not a member of your staff. He/she is therefore not familiar with company-internal acronyms, such as abbreviations for names of departments or specific jobs. If you use these, provide the translator with a list (incl. the meaning/full wording of each acronym).

If you are a translator, are there any other issues to be added to this list?

If you are a translation buyer, what else do you provide the translator to ensure a smooth project?