Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More Conferences to Attend - Why?

Here I am, barely back from the International Translators Federation congress in San Francisco, and I just registered for my next conference. This time I'll be going to Boston for the American Translators Association conference.

Is all this jet-setting really worth it? Well, for one, I'm not exactly jet-setting. I try to find the cheapest way to get there (in the case of Boston that is a $15 or so ticket from a discount bus company), then find a cheap hotel that's accessible by public transportation. In Boston, this proved to be harder than it had been for other conferences, but I finally did find something cheaper than half a double room at the conference hotel. Telling from Google maps, it's even within walking distance of the conference - although a little bit of a hike. The conference fee itself is fixed, but I always register early enough to get the early-bird discount.

Despite the economizing, though, I do spend quite a bit of money on these trips. While I have only gotten work as a direct results of two conferences, establishing contacts with potential referrers and/or clients does seem useful to me. In addition, conferences do provide much more in-depth information on current trends and issues in the profession than magazines and online articles do.

Then again, maybe I'm just rationalizing these trips. I really like to travel and going to conferences gives me an excuse to do so. I always try to make room for at least a little exploration of the city in which I'm staying, even if that means staying up rather late or hauling my luggage with me while sightseeing just before the bus/plane back to New York.

I'd appreciate any suggestions on a. cheap accommodations in Boston (the reservation I made can still be cancelled) and/or b. things to see there on a Sunday (the conference ends late Saturday, so I'm staying over until Sunday).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Keeping Up With Your Field

I specialize in technical translations, particularly IT, but I haven't actually been an IT manager or technical writer for more than a decade. (I was both of these things -- consecutively, not simultaneously -- before embarking on a translation career in 2000.) So while I still deal with any electronics- or wiring-related problems at home and for friends and family, I no longer spend my days immersed in computers. Since technology changes fairly rapidly in this field, I need to make a conscious effort to keep up with the latest terminology.

To do so, I subscribe to a couple of technology magazines, such as Wired, and regularly read online computer articles at sites such as CNet. I do own some specialized computer dictionaries, but by the time such a dictionary is printed, it is already outdated. On my trips to Europe, I pick up the latest issue of various computer magazines so I can keep up with the German terminology in the field -- although much of that is English anyway.

IT is probably extreme in terms of terminological change, but even in less rapidly-changing fields, such as finance, new terms develop, or at least enter the mainstream vocabulary. Before the recent economic crisis, for example, few people knew that a number of risky financial instruments even existed, let alone knew what they were called. Now everyone is familiar with subprime mortgages and various types of swaps, among other terms.

Specialized printed dictionaries rarely can keep up with these changes in a timely manner. That is why most of us rely on online resources in our terminology research. I use LEO, the online German-English dictionary originally developed by the computer science department at the Technical University of Munich, extensively, in addition to various other sites.

What are some of your favorite online resources?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Report From the FIT Congress -- Part II

Last week, I summarized the first three of six sessions at the congress of the International Federation of Translators. Here are the remaining three summaries.

Nicholas Hartmann "The Beginning of Wisdom: Some Practical Aspects of Technical Translation"

As a service provider, the translator is not only expected to provide a quality product on time, but also needs to be flexible and adaptable in terms of the client's terminological preferences and deadlines. Technical translations into German are frequently reviewed at the client's by German-speaking professionals with very good English skills, but not native fluency in English. This sometimes gives rise to "educated German disease": the belief of German third-party reviewers that their English is superior to that of the native-speaking translator. Coupled with the tendency of large companies to develop their own in-house terminology/terminological preferences, this poses a challenge for the translator. When working through an agency, it may be difficult to have that terminology clarified, since access to the client and its subject-matter experts will be restricted, if not impossible. For this and other reasons, translators should aspire to work for direct clients, rather than agencies. However, such terminology discussions and potential evaluation/revision of source text, if that text is unclear, do take time for which the translator ought to be compensated. One way to do so is to charge a per-project fee. Another is to try to charge a higher per-word fee to incorporate that extra work.

Rosana Wolochwianski "Threat or Opportunity? The Emerging Role of Machine Translation Post-Editing"

Historically, machines have increasingly replaced repetitive human tasks, and machine translation is no exception here. However, machines cannot make ethical decisions, so a human post-editor is still required to ensure that the machine output is accurate. There are three types of post-editing of machine translated text: full editing fixes stylistic issues and makes the text read smoothly, minimal/partial editing renders the document understandable and rapid editing only removes the most blatant/significant errors. End users' expectations of the quality of the text are frequently lower than the expectations of experienced translators. Translators working as post editors must lower their quality standards, particularly when asked for partial or rapid editing. Such constant exposure to flawed language, however, may affect the post editor's linguistic development in the long term. I would add that minimally edited machine translation, among other issues, also promotes acceptance of lower-quality text in the general population who keeps reading/hearing ungrammatical or confusing language in various media.

David Rumsey "The End Game: Knowing Your End Client"

Freelance translators are at the end of the chain from end client via agency to the translator. But the agency's contact at the end client has his/her own supervisor, who also has a supervisor, ... Each person in that chain has his/her own needs and perceptions of the translation process. This means different players in this chain emphasize a different pillar in the service matrix: speed, quality or price. To meet these competing demands, the translator must remain flexible, particularly when dealing directly with end clients. By understanding the client's own system -- i.e., what steps precede the translation, how the completed translation will be used -- the translator can provide a better product and ensure smoother collaboration with the end client. Such information about the end client is, however, usually not available when working with agencies. Translators should therefore try to work directly with end clients as much as possible. In the ensuing discussion I also noted that there are also stakeholders beyond the end client, namely the audience for the completed translation, such as the readers of a manual for an electronic device. (See also my guest post about audiences on the ATA Science & Technology division's blog ).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Report From the FIT Congress -- Part I

Last week, I listed six sessions as highlights of the congress of the International Federation of Translators, which I attended last week in San Francisco. Here are summaries of the first three of these sessions. I will summarize the remaining three next week.

Maggey Oplinger "Hybrid Careers: Atypical Translation Skills in the Workplace"

When working in such hybrid professions, the translator does not simply render the source text accurately in the target language, but rather re-writes it to better fit the target culture and customs. This means there is no complete source text against which to proofread the translated text. Johnson Controls, where Ms. Oplinger works, has an information storage system in multiple languages where text is tagged, so that information can be retrieved independent of the language in which the source text was written. Many of the hybrid jobs described are in-house positions, although some tasks (e.g., reviewing/editing) are sometimes outsourced. When managing an atypical workflow in house, it is important to plan all facets of the project (e.g., linguistic difficulties likely to be encountered in the target market), to clearly manage the project, to include all involved parties (e.g., monolingual subject-matter experts) in the project team, to clearly define the workflow and to plan for production (e.g., printing, shipping) after the translation/transcreation phase of the project has been completed. Monolingual teams must frequently also be educated about the need for translation/transcreation work on a specific project.

Nataly Kelly "Translation Market Trends: What Freelancers Need to Know"

There is a growing market for outsourced (i.e., provided by freelancers rather than staff, not necessarily outside the U.S.) language services, but most of that growth is in multimedia localization and similar work, rather than traditional translation. The U.S. market is fragmented into many language service providers and buyers. The buyers may even include different departments within the same large company. Most of these use multi-language vendors (i.e., translation agencies), but over half the large buyers of translation services use freelancers directly. Ms. Kelly's employer, Common Sense Advisory, publishes annual pricing surveys. In the U.S., end clients pay agencies US$0.26-US$0.28 per source word for German to English translations. Other trends include movement towards transcreation (i.e., re-writing, rather than translating, the source text), crowdsourcing (i.e., non-professional bilingual volunteers providing translations), machine translation, faster turnaround times and globalization of products and markets. Ms. Kelly noted that the buyers of crowd-sourced translations are generally not the same as those buying traditional translation services and that machine translation is often used to disseminate information internally or to provide fast customer support, rather than to update marketing materials or similar text. An audience member also noted that agencies increasingly use automated project management systems, where the translator and computerized system also take on aspects of the project manager's traditional role.

Panel discussion "Creating a Lasting Partnership: Working with LSPs in the Age of Post-Editing"

The panelists were Kåre Lindahl of venga corporation, Michel Lopez of e2f translations and Uwe Muegge of CSOFT. All three agencies work in the technology sector, with e2f translations specializing in post-editing of English<->French machine translations. At venga corporation, the translation tools are built into an Agile software development environment. Agile development means that individual portions of the overall product are being translated as the project moves along, rather than having the entire help system translated at the end of the software development cycle. While this guarantees a steady workflow for the translator, this setup requires translators to work remotely on the agency's own system. However, agencies using such a setup do not always provide training on their own specific tools. Since in an Agile environment source text is still being developed, translators can -- and are expected to -- provide feedback on that text. Either an hourly rate or a combination of hourly and word rates was proposed to compensate translators for the extra time required to provide feedback on the source text. It seems to me that that hourly rate should also be paid for the time it takes a translator to learn the agency-specific tools/environment, if no training is provided. During the discussion period, I noted that remote work on the client's servers can cause problems if that server is located in a different time zone and crashes during that time zone's off hours, but during the translator's working hours. I have encountered that problem before and found there was nothing I could do except to wait for the client's IT department to get into the office the next morning (while I was asleep in the U.S.).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Brief Dispatch From the FIT Congress

As noted last week, I am attending the congress of the International Federation of Translators (Federation Internationale des Traducteurs - FIT) in San Francisco. Despite a good number of cancelled sessions (some of which were offset by last-minute additions), I found at least one presentation to attend during each of the 5 one-hour slots per day over the last three days. Taking in that quantity of information in such a short time does get tiring after a while, however. Two more keynote speeches tomorrow and the congress will be over.
A few highlights so far:
I will report more fully on these sessions next week.