Wednesday, September 28, 2011

International Translation Day - Bridging Cultures

This Friday, Sept. 30, is International Translation Day. In celebration,, the online translator's community, is hosting a virtual conference on Friday, as well as "the great translation debate" tomorrow, Thursday. The International Federation of Translators (FIT) calls on local organizations to commemorate the day in some form.

Some national organizations, such as the British arm of PEN have heeded that call. Here in the U.S., the American Translators Association (ATA) lists the day on its calendar, but has nothing specific scheduled. In fact, that calendar entry simply links to the statement on the FIT website.

That statement encourages us to image a world without translators and asks how we would communicate with each other in such a world. It calls translators and interpreters "brokers of peace and mutual understanding". By contrast, the ATA homepage lists "Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says language training critical to U.S. interests, security" as an item in its Twitter feed.

I, for one, chose this profession to enhance global peace and mutual understanding among nations, not to aid U.S. (policy) interests. So I will celebrate the building of cultural bridges between peoples and ignore Mr. Panetta.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Project Manage Your Life" Presentation at STC Meeting

As promised in my tweet last week, here is a summary of the presentation "Project Manage Your Life" by Anita Dhir that I attended at the Society for Technical Communications' meeting (New York Chapter) last Thursday.

Ms. Dhir started with the phases in managing any project: proposal - planning - implementation - closing down. When managing professional projects, managers and/or participants sign off on each phase before moving on. In one's personal life, such sign-off may involve soliciting the help of family or friends or outlining specific tasks for the following phase. The projects a person undertakes in his/her private sphere should align with that person's life goals, whatever form they may take. Just as in professional circumstances, life goals should also be SMART: specific - measurable - applicable - realistic - time-bound.

Another aspect of successfully managing one's life is good communication, which includes visual aspects, such as clothing, as well as the tone of conversations. It takes only 7 seconds to make a first impression, but 21 repeats to change that impression. This statistic shows how important it is to make a good first impression.

In addition, today many families, as well as work teams, are dispersed geographically. This means that important visual clues in communication, such as body language, are frequently missing when we speak with/write to family members or friends who are located far away. Photos and videos can help bridge that visual gap, but the tone of any communication must be controlled even more carefully, since it cannot be counterbalanced by visual clues.

Finally, project managing one's life helps to better allocate one's time, so that activities support achievement of one's life goals. After all, time is the only absolutely non-renewable resource, Ms. Dhir emphasized. Once it has elapsed, it can never be brought back.

Follow reliable translations on Twitter: @reliabletran.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Integrating Social Media Accounts

I finally took the plunge and signed up for Twitter (@reliabletran). My initial plan had been to ease into it slowly, mostly reading other people's tweets and tweeting infrequently myself. Next, I was going to sign up for a social media integration and scheduling tool to automate tweets at preset times. Es kommt immer anders als man denkt (It always works out differently from what one might have thought), as my mother would say.

During this start-up phase I tweeted about a blog post by Catherine Christaki that I had found helpful. As it turns out, Ms. Christaki is on Twitter (@LinguaGreca) and had been tweeting my blog posts for some time. She tweeted my existence on Twitter in her stream and now I have a number of Twitter followers. So now I have to tweet something to keep people interested.

As a result, I spent part of today trying to find an integration tool that would do the following:
1. Automatically post the title and a link to my blog posts to Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype and a box on my website's homepage
2. Let me schedule additional tweets to post only to Twitter at specific times
3. Allow me to post to the tool from my phone and netbook
4. Also automatically update specialized/non-US social networks, such as My STC, Xing and ProZ.

So I signed up for, as well as TweetDeck and investigated HootSuite. I didn't sign up for that last one because they tweet paid ads in my Twitter stream unless I pay a monthly fee. allows automatic posting to Twitter, LinkedIn, my blog and a custom URL (i.e., my website), but does not support scheduling posts in advance. TweetDeck supports scheduling, but won't work with custom URLs. It will, however, send to, among other accounts. Next, then, is piecing together a chain of different tools that will accomplish at least 1-3 above. (I haven't found anything that will let me do 4.) I am working on that ...

The next book I am reviewing for the Society for Technical Communication is "The Social Media Survival Guide" by Deltina Hay. Maybe it will shed some light on how to better handle this integration.

If you are on Twitter, let's follow each other. My handle: @reliabletran.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Good Client, Bad Client

Last week, I received an e-mail from an agency I had not worked with before asking whether I'd be interested in a particular translation project. I do get such e-mails from time to time, but for the most part these notes emphasize that the agency is looking for "your absolutely best price" or some other way of saying "we're looking for cheap labor". This agency was different, not just in their initial e-mail. Here is why I like my interactions with them so far:

Even though their initial e-mail was clearly sent to many translators, it told me how they had found me, why they needed to contact a number of translators at once, and what exactly they knew about this project so far (including sample text). While they did bargain about the rate I quoted them, they proposed an only very slightly lower rate and apologized for having to do so on this particular project. They were also willing to work with me in terms of my availability and have kept me informed each step of the way about the status of the project. As it turns out, their client is late in sending the source flies. Rather than simply assuming the translators they had assembled would work on this project during a different time frame than originally agreed upon, they only asked to be informed about our availability later on.

This is quite a contrast from another agency with whom I sometimes work, who simply informed its translators that it was trying out a new system that would require all of us to perform additional editing, as well as quality assurance for its existing TMs (which we have to use remotely) without any additional compensation. In the past, the agency had asked about my availability before assigning work. On Monday, I received an e-mail about a project from one of their end clients for whom I had translated before. That e-mail simply assumed I would take the project and deliver the translation by the next morning. Since I receive e-mail on my smartphone, I was able decline even while I was baking a cake for my neighbor's Labor Day party.

Because of time constraints, I may not wind up working on that first agency's project, after all, but I do look forward to other projects with them. As for the second agency, I think I'll be too busy when their next project comes around ...