This blog is moving!

By Marion Rhodes
English-German Translator

This is going to be my last blog post on this site, and it will be brief. But don’t worry, Translation Matters will live on! It is simply migrating to my website.

Some of you may have read my blog on my website, Integrated MarCom Translations, before, where it has been integrated for a while. Now, I have merged the two sites completely, which means I can write updates from the backend of my own website and won’t need a separate domain anymore.

While the Translation Matters site will continue to be around for a while, I won’t post any updates after this one. Any new articles will be posted directly under the blog’s new home at http://www.imctranslations.com/index.php/blog/.

The section “Helpful Hints for Translation Buyers” is now available under Client Resources on my website, where I will continue to update it with links to relevant blog articles.

This means that if you’ve subscribed to this blog, you won’t receive notifications of new posts unless you subscribe to the blog at its new address. I am working on making that option available, so please bear with me.

Thank you for following me, and I’ll see you on my website!

Marion

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When Said Says It Best: Localizing German News Copy for a U.S. Audience

By Marion Rhodes
English-German Translator

Have you ever translated a German press release or news article and scratched your head over the various different ways Germans appear to give statements? They hardly ever just say anything. Rather, they mention it, explain it, go on or criticize. Reading a German news release can provide more synonyms for say than a thesaurus.

And let’s not forget my favorite, the simple word so – as in “The new product is the result of years of planning,” so Bob the Manager. Honestly, this word is about as nondescript as it gets. Not to mention as lazy as it gets: Ah, forget it, let’s just use so to attribute this quote to the source and get this story in the paper.

As a trained journalist specializing in media translations, I’m no stranger to the challenges posed by localizing German news copy for the U.S. market. The question how to handle quote attribution can create more than a little headache for translators who are concerned with keeping the tone of the original text but also honor the journalistic conventions of the target country.

Growing up in Germany, the creative ways German spokespeople seem to express themselves (they äußern, meinen, erläutern and fahren fort, but they rarely ever sagen anything) did not rub me the wrong way. But when I studied journalistic writing in the US, I quickly learned that when it comes to attributing quotes, simplicity does it. “Said usually says it best,” my Associated Press Guide to News Writing emphasized.

“It’s short, clear, neutral and unfailingly accurate, a verb for all seasons.”

So what do you do if you have a piece of German news copy that needs to be translated into English, with all its elaborate said-synonyms?

Repeating the same attributive tag over and over throughout the same text certainly doesn’t make for elegant writing. But when trying to recreate the versatility of German journalistic copy, English writers need to carefully consider their word choices, especially when there is no direct equivalent in English (such as in the case of the blah-word so).

One word to be particularly careful with is the word meinen, which is commonly (albeit not always correctly) used in German newswriting when attributing quotes. Consider the following, real-life example:

„Wir feiern Geburtstag”, meinte er mit strahlender Miene. (“We are celebrating a birthday,” he said, his face lighting up.)

Meinen comes from the word Meinung, which means opinion, and it implies a certain conviction of the person making the statement. However, many German reporters and PR writers use it synonymously with the word say, such as in the example above, which is a statement of fact, not an opinion.

Consulting a dictionary to find a fitting translation for meinen isn’t the answer either. LEO, for example, suggests the words mean, opine, think, believe, guess, deem and suppose, among others – none of which captures the true meaning of the word in this case, which is plain and simple: He said it.

When I started working as a news reporter for the Omaha World-Herald in Nebraska, a newly arrived immigrant from Germany, I found myself trying to avoid repetition in the stories I wrote, coming up with creative alternatives for attribution whenever possible. I usually got my articles handed back to me after my editor had taken a look and found that in most, if not every, case, my innovative synonyms had been replaced with the same old, simple word: said. I quickly learned that US newspapers, as well as audiences, prefer simplicity when it comes to attribution.

When working on news copy, translators need to be aware of the hidden shades of meaning each attributive tag entails. Asserted, stated, declared, commented, remarked, revealed and observed are widely misused as alternatives for said, even though these words are really much stronger. If you need alternatives to avoid repetitiveness, consider these neutral options:

went on
continued
added

Words such as pointed out, claimed, warned, complained, predicted and maintained can have editorial nuances and should always be used with caution, whether you write original English copy or translate from another language. When translating German news articles, try to determine if the chosen attributive tag was selected deliberately for its particular connotations, or if the only justification for its use was to avoid the word said again. If there is no reason to be fancy, feel free to keep your translation plain and simple by sticking with the obvious.

One last note: Many German news stories and press releases use attribution in present tense – the source says something rather than said it. In English news writing, past tense is usually preferred for press releases and hard news.

When translating journalistic writing, you should check with the end client whenever possible whether their priority is sticking as close as possible to the original or making the translation sound like it was written by a native speaker of the target language. If the latter is the case, try to write like a journalist, not a translator.

Take Your Dreams to New Heights at the CTA Conference

By Marion Rhodes
English-German Translator

Every business starts with a dream. At the 5th Annual Conference of the Colorado Translators Association, language professionals will learn how to not only dream big but also how to turn those dreams into reality.

As social media coordinator for the Colorado Translators Association, I got to help organize my second professional conference this year. The event will be held May 1-3 in Boulder, Colo., and offers a lineup of speakers on all aspects of running a successful translation career, including some of our industry’s most respected experts (think Corinne McKay, Karyn Tkaczyk, Tuomas Kostiainen).

Organizing a conference is a lot of work, but seeing everything come together in the end is a wonderful feeling. One of the biggest challenges is keeping prices low while providing exciting sessions for attendees. CTA worked hard this year to secure sponsorships to help keep costs down. We were thrilled to get both the University of Denver and SDL on board!

Most of our attendees will come from Colorado, of course. But if you’re a translator living out of state, let me give you some good reasons to make a trip to the Rocky Mountains in May (not including the legal weed):

  • Our conference is a three-day event that includes a sitting of the ATA certification exam and a pre-conference social on Friday, a total of 12 break-out sessions on Saturday and two tools workshops on Sunday. Details on these events, as well as the rest of the conference, are available on the CTA website.
  • Colorado is always beautiful, but this time of the year, it is simply stunning. The trees are in bloom, the weather is gorgeous (unless of course you get a late snow storm, which is always a possibility), and the sunsets are amazing. Even though the days are mostly warm enough to wear t-shirts and even shorts, you can still go skiing in many resorts, which are only a short drive from the conference site. For out-of-town visitors, CTA has negotiated a special rate at a hotel in Boulder, the Millennium Harvest House.
  • The 2015 CTA Conference has been approved for 11 ATA credits (5 for Saturday and 6 for Sunday attendees) and 3 CCHI (Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters) credits for Saturday attendees.

Whether you are wondering about the right legal foundation for your business, want to improve your self-marketing skills or learn more about translation tools, CTA will have sessions to help you grow. So what are you waiting for? Early bird registration will end April 15, so sign up now by visiting http://cta-web.org/2015-annual-cta-conference/.

See you there!

Resources for beginning translators

By Marion Rhodes
English-German Translator

Last week, I represented the Colorado Translators Association at a career fair for German students at the University of Colorado Boulder. Many of the students were interested in becoming translators after graduation, but most of them had no idea how to go about it.

Stepping into a freelance translation career is no walk in the park. Talk to 100 translators and you’ll get 100 different answers how they got started. For example, for me, translation was my second career. I had studied journalism in college and worked as a newspaper reporter for several years before cross-training into translation. And by cross-training, I mean teaching myself most of what I know about this industry with the help of books, webinars and blogs.

So I thought that to help beginning translators out, I could put together a list of helpful resources to guide them along the path to freelance life.

Here it is.

Professional Associations

American Translators Association
International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters
Local associations in your state, such as the Colorado Translators Association

Blogs/Podcasts

ATA’s The Savvy Newcomer Blog
Marta Stelmaszak’s Business School for Translators
Tess Whitty’s Marketing Tips for Translators
Corinne McKay’s Thoughts on Translation

Online courses

Corinne McKay’s Getting Started as a Freelance Translator
Marta Stelmaszak’s Business School for Translators
Nicole Y. Adams’ The A to Z of Freelance Translation
New York University Certificate in Translation
Alexandria Webinars
eCPD Webinars
Proz.com Webinars

Books

How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator by Corinne McKay
The Marketing Cookbook for Translators by Tess Whitty

Other

The American Translators Association’s Mentor Program

Have any useful resources to add? Please let me know in the comments!

How to Find a Good Professional Translator

By Marion Rhodes
English-German Translator

Last week, I restarted graduate school to finish my master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications, and already, I have gained some valuable new insight: Many people still don’t know how to find a professional translator. During a discussion of the translation industry in our online class forum, one of my fellow marketing students – the director of program services for a large, national nonprofit organization – remarked that she had found herself in need of a translator not too long ago but did not know where to look. So she did what most people in her situation would do: She asked Google.

“I really wasn’t sure where to start and picked a company based on price, turn-around time and ease of process,” she admitted. I realized that in general, laypeople – and that’s most people who need translation services – don’t know where to find a translator at all, let alone how to find a professional linguist who can produce high-quality translations. So, for all you translation virgins out there, here is a brief guide.

Basically, you have two options:

1. Yes, Google

Or Yahoo. Or Bing. It doesn’t matter which search engine you use, as long as you know what to look for. Chances are, if you’re a translation newbie in need of a translator to translate your English website into French, you will enter something like French translator into the search bar. You’ll get about 42 million hits, most of which will be completely useless, and then you’ll spend hours randomly clicking on links in hope of finding a suitable translator or agency that might be able to fulfill your translation needs. If you still have energy left after this endeavor, you might even compare a few websites, maybe get a quote or two, send your documents to the lowest bidder, and hope for the best. Good luck with that approach.

But don’t despair. There is a better way. Here’s how to make the most of your Google (or Yahoo, or Bing…) search.

  • Be as specific as possible. Don’t just search for French translator. Instead, search for English into French “marketing translator” and boom, you just narrowed your options to 13,000 with some very specific leads on page one of the results. If you want to narrow your search even more, you could add more qualifiers, such as a location. A Google search for English into French “marketing translator” Colorado only produces 2,700 results, for example. Still plenty to choose from, but not nearly as overwhelming anymore. 
  • Look for individual translators. OK, maybe I’m biased, being an individual translator myself and all. But unless you’re looking to get your text translated into 15 different languages, you’re probably better off with a one-stop shop than a large translation agency. To find out why, read my previous post on the advantages of hiring a freelancer.
  • Dare to compare. Don’t just decide on the first translator whose website or profile shows up in your search results. If someone sounds promising, take the time to check out the translator’s website and check out their experience, areas of expertise, testimonials, work samples and professional certifications. Anyone can claim to provide “quality translations, on-time delivery and competitive rates.” If these claims are true, you should be able to find substantiating evidence on the website. See if the translator is a member of any professional associations, such as the American Translators Association (ATA) or a local chapter such as the Colorado Translators Association. Membership in a non-translation related association (for a marketing translator, for example, the American Advertising Federation or American Marketing Association) is an even better indicator of the translator’s expertise and professionalism.
  • Consider the whole package. You may be tempted to select the translation provider with the most certifications, the lowest rates, or the fastest service. But remember that when it comes to price, quality and time, there is always a trade-off.

graphic

    Find the compromise that works best for your situation, keeping in mind the purpose of your translation. If, for example, your brand’s reputation is at stake, you don’t want to cut corners in the wrong place and sacrifice quality for cost or speed. A little more up-front investment may lead to higher returns in the long run.

2. Professional Directories

There are numerous professional associations for translators around the world, and most of them provide directories of their members. These are excellent resources for anyone who is looking for a reliable translator. Most associations allow you to set specific criteria for your search, narrowing your results significantly. The directory of the American Translators Association, for example, lets you search by language pair, specialization, certification and geographic location. A comprehensive list of translators associations is available here.

In addition to professional associations, there are other industry directories, such as ProZ.com or Translators’ Café, where anybody who calls himself a translator may create a public profile and offer his services. This, too, can be a good resource, although the free nature of these portals may allow some less reputable translators to try and blend in with the upper ranks. I’m not saying that every translator who is listed in the ATA directory is perfect, but overall, the chances of finding a bad apple are much lower when more barriers (such as association membership fees) are in place.

So now that you know how to find a good translator, what’s stopping you from getting your website, brochures, or press releases translated into another language? And pssst… if you’re looking for a great English into German marketing translator, I’ve heard that this girl here is pretty good…

8 Reasons Why Translators Should Attend Non-Translation Conferences

By Marion Rhodes
English-German Translator

Step outside your comfort zone.

Step outside your comfort zone.

One of my resolutions for this year was to step out of my professional comfort zone and try new ways to connect with potential clients. So when I learned that the second annual conference of the Colorado American Marketing Association would take place in Denver at the end of February, I seized the opportunity and signed up for my first professional conference outside of the translation industry: REV UP 360º.

For a marketing translator and student of integrated marketing communications, this event was a natural fit. It was a one-day, local affair – perfect to ease my entry into this new world. Sure, I had attended conferences held by the American Translators Association and the Colorado Translators Association in the past, but this was a completely different ballgame. I wasn’t attending as a translator among fellow translators. This time, I was attending as a marketing professional.

Not knowing what to expect, I attended the conference without any specific goals. I spent the day observing and learning, letting the event carry me along for the ride. I met several interesting people, learned about trends in the marketing industry, and even found a potential new client for my translation business – by pure chance. It was a great day.

So for anyone who’s been thinking about taking the plunge into non-translation conferences, here is a list of 8 reasons to go for it:

1. To rub elbows with industry professionals

First things first: If you go to any industry conference with the specific goal to gain new clients for your translation business, you’ll likely end up disappointed. Instead, think of yourself as an industry expert, one of “them” – if you’re a translator who specializes in the field, you are. Don’t approach people with the expectation of finding a new lead. Nothing stops a conversation faster in its tracks than introducing yourself with, “Hi, I’m a translator looking for new clients.” Instead, join conversations about the event and get to know the other people at the conference. Try to blend in. Observe how peers talk to each other. Establish connections that are based on your mutual area of interest. If you feel like a fish out of water, maybe you need to immerse yourself more into your subject of expertise.

2. To boost your expertise

If you are a specialized translator, you need to stay on top of current developments within your area of specialization as much as those who work directly in the field. An industry conference allows you to learn about new developments and provides a perfect opportunity to brush up on your terminology. Obviously, it wouldn’t make sense for a marketing translator to attend a conference of the American Bar Association. But it might for a legal translator. Find the conference that makes the most sense for your specialty, and soak up as much information as you can.

3. To connect on social media

In today’s day and age, most conferences have their own Twitter hashtags, which is good news for social media savvy translators. Join the conversation about the event on Twitter, and you’ll pop up on the radar of other attendees who are following the hashtag. You’ll also be able to find out who else is attending, allowing you to identify potential business prospects. Then, connect with those people by following their updates and replying to their tweets. You’ll likely gain some new followers that way – followers who may just turn out to be interested in your translation services down the road. At the very least, you’ll get your name out there to a very specific crowd of people.

4. To see how other industries do conferences

We translators are spoiled. The annual conference of the American Translators Association, a three-day event, only costs about $400. Events of similar magnitude in other industries often cost more than $1,000 to attend. In fact, even the one-day REV UP conference set me back $266 – twice as much as the registration fee for our two-day annual conference of the Colorado Translators Association. How’s that for perspective?

5. To get out of the house

Many, if not most, freelance translators work from home. A conference is always a welcome opportunity to put on our fancy business suits (which are gathering dust in our closets) and meet people face to face. Getting out into the real world every once in a while is important – not only for our social skills, but to avoid burn-out. From time to time, we need to remind ourselves that we are successful business professionals rather than lonely home-office-nerds.

6. To educate others about the translation process

As far as I know, I was the only translator at the REV UP conference. Many of the people I talked to had no idea what my job entails and why a translator would attend a marketing conference. While translation is an important part of the marketing process, the details of how we work aren’t well known to those outside of the translation profession. I enjoyed telling people about the translation process and explaining to them why good translations are vital if you want to achieve international marketing success. In the age of Google Translate and the commoditization of translation, it is up to us professional translators to make sure people are aware of the added value we provide.

7. To meet new clients

I put this at the end of my list, because this is, at best, a potential added benefit rather than a given. At the REV UP conference, I got lucky: I was talking casually to another attendee about his business when he asked me what I do. I told him I’m a translator specializing in marketing and PR. As luck would have it, a woman passed by us right then and overheard our conversation. It turned out she was a marketing sales manager at a local company who had recently started working with some new companies in Germany and was in need of a good translator for press releases and marketing material. She asked for my business card. Sometimes, it’s better to let things happen naturally than to try to pursue specific goals.

8. To get swag

Need I say more? I mean, you can never have too many water bottles.

Are your applications getting lost in the sea of competition? Maybe your references are to blame

Sea of competitionBy Marion Rhodes
English-German Translator

Have you ever applied to a translation agency and wondered why you never heard back? After all, you seemed to be exactly who they were looking for, with all the right specializations and a killer cover letter.

While there may be many reasons why you don’t get a reply from an agency, here’s one hurdle to landing that spot in their database you may not have thought of: your references.

Many translation agencies ask prospective “vendors” for references to verify their translation experience. So you listed that project manager you’ve been working with for five years, who keeps coming back to you because of the outstanding work you provide. Certainly he will vouch for you.

Well, don’t be so sure.

Three years ago, I filled out a registration form for a translation agency that was looking for translators with my specializations. I listed one of my best agency clients as a reference, someone with whom I had been working on a regular basis for years. I never heard back from the agency. I forgot about them. That is, until recently.

The other day, I was contacted by that same agency about a potential collaboration. They had found my profile in the ATA directory and thought I might be a good fit. I didn’t realize I had filled out their online vendor form long ago until a message popped up during the registration process, saying a translator with my email address was already in their system.

I emailed the talent manager (isn’t that term so much nicer than “vendor manager”?) who had contacted me, who quickly got back to me saying I was indeed already registered. My application had never been approved because… wait for it… one of the references I had provided at the time never got back to them.

Of course, the translation agency had never contacted me to let me know about this. My application simply got lost in their system, stuck in a dead end due to a formality. I would have never known if it hadn’t been for this coincidence.

This occurrence has taught me two important lessons. First, always check with your references to make sure they are aware you listed them as contacts and get their OK to provide you with a testimonial. You may think they are willing to help you out, but they may be too busy to take the time to fill out an agency’s reference request form. Some agencies may even have a policy against providing references altogether. Always check.

The second lesson is: If you haven’t heard back from an agency after a week or two, contact them. This is especially important if you’ve merely filled out an online registration form rather than had contact with an actual human being. Write to the vendor (or talent) manager at the agency and explain that you have followed their online registration procedure but haven’t heard back. Then ask if there is any more information they need from you. This may not always result in a response, but it’s worth a shot.