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.

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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…

My redesigned website: Long in coming, but worth the wait!

By Marion Rhodes

After more than three months, roughly a dozen revisions and at least half as many proofreading sessions, my new website finally went live this week. Redesigning the online presence of Integrated MarCom Translations had been on my to-do-list for quite a while, and in October, I finally took the plunge and commissioned the design agency Websites for Translators to help turn my vision into a reality.

The new homepage of Integrated MarCom Translations

The new homepage of Integrated MarCom Translations

Not that my previous website was bad. Yet somehow, as I honed in on my specialization in the area of marketing and communication, my website failed to keep up. It wasn’t looking as professional as I wanted it to be. So I spent much of last summer researching content strategy and writing new copy in both German and English in an effort to build a website that not only represents me and my brand but also offers useful information for potential clients.

Redesigning a website is just about as time-consuming as creating a website from scratch. In fact, I am pretty sure I spent more time on this redesign than I did on the initial site. I wanted to make sure the new site not only fulfills all the basic requirements of a professional translator’s online presence but take it one step further by creating added value for translation buyers. Thanks to last year’s Expert Bootcamp for Translators with Marta Stelmaszak and Tess Whitty’s Marketing Tips for Translators podcast, which has covered the topic of website creation in several interviews, I already had a pretty good idea for the general outline.

  1. A compelling homepage that provides just enough information to draw the visitor in
  2. An About page with details about me, my business, my qualifications and my services to build the “Know, Like and Trust” factor
  3. Contact information on every page as well as a separate Contact page
  4. Sample translations, publications and testimonials by former clients
  5. Recent activities and developments such as CPD efforts, certifications etc.
  6. A language toggle switch to change between the English and German versions

To make it easy for visitors to quickly find the most important information, I included several lists throughout the page, such as “What you get at a glance” and “Professional highlights.” I also added a prominent call to action right on the homepage where potential buyers can upload their documents for a free quote.

Screenshot (2)

The hardest part of creating a website that truly represents me and my skills was focusing on what makes me unique and why people should hire me over the thousands of other German translators out there. Finding your unique selling proposition (USP) is harder than you might think! After several attempts, I came up with the 4 C’s of Integrated Marketing Translation. (Luckily, those four C’s could be translated into four K’s in the German version!)

My goal was to create a website that is informative and transparent, so that if a prospect who has never worked with a translator stops by, he or she will get a pretty clear idea of how the process works. As translators, we tend to forget that not everyone is familiar with what we do, and many people have absolutely no idea what translation entails. To take things even further, I included some helpful resources for clients, integrated my blog and gave the option of subscribing to my newsletter.

I cannot thank the wonderful team at Websites for Translators enough for all their hard work. I didn’t always make it easy for them, but they were invariably patient and eager to accommodate every one of my requests. The result is a beautiful website that is everything I had imagined. Please take a look and see for yourself. And of course, if you happen to find any errors or mistakes, please let me know right away. 🙂

Meet me at the ATA Conference!

By Marion Rhodes

This week, I will fly to Chicago to attend the 55th Annual Conference of the American Translators Association. I am looking forward to meeting up with old friends and colleagues, getting to know new ones, and listening to a variety of interesting presentations. From Million Dollar Commas to Mastering the Challenges of a Direct-Client Portfolio, this year’s sessions promise to be both wide-ranging and highly relevant.

I am particularly excited about this conference because even though it is my third ATA Conference, it will also be a first in many ways. For the first time, I am attending as an active member of the Colorado Translators Association, which means I won’t be there alone. In fact, CTA will have a strong representation at this year’s conference, with more than 20 of my Colorado colleagues attending as participants and eight of them giving presentations. In addition, two of my CTA colleagues are up for election for positions on the ATA Board of Directors.

ATA55

As an official ATA Chapter, CTA will have a table at the conference to provide information about our local association. I will be staffing our table on Friday between 3:30 pm to 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm to 5:30 pm, so if you would like to meet up with me, please stop by and say hi.

This is also the first year I am staying directly at the conference hotel, which will allow me to take advantage of the social life surrounding the conference. I even plan on taking the early-morning Zumba classes on Friday and Saturday!

Finally, I am excited to meet two of my industry idols in the flesh: Tess Whitty, creator of the excellent Marketing Tips for Translators podcast series, and Marta Stelmaszak, trainer and author of The Business Guide for Translators. We already scheduled a get-together, a conference preparation move that is also a first for me.

I hope to take away many great experiences from this year’s conference and will be sure to write an update or two afterwards. See you in the Windy City!

Marketing to a Global Audience: Making Your Company’s Translation Projects More Efficient

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By Marion Rhodes
English-German Translator

Every now and then, it is good for us translators to walk in the shoes of our clients and see what their internal struggles are when it comes to translating content for foreign-language markets. In that spirit, I recently joined a webinar by the American Marketing Association on how to make translation projects more efficient for companies operating on an international level.

The webinar addressed what companies can do on their side to ensure their translation projects deliver on three fronts: cost effectiveness, quality and time expenditure. Being a translator, I was already familiar with the information that was being presented. However, I realized during the webinar that for many translation buyers, these tips were not at all obvious. Therefore, I decided to sum up the key aspects here, adding a little bit of my own insight as well.

1. Why should you translate your content into another language?

Did you realize that a relatively small up-front investment can help you significantly increase your customer base for years to come? Consider this finding from a 2014 study by the research firm Common Sense Advisory: 75% of consumers in non-Anglophone countries in Europe, Asia and South America prefer to buy products in their native language.

By translating your website and other marketing materials such as your brochures, newsletters or blog contents, you can significantly increase your chances of being found by these potential customers. Moreover, 90% of the world’s online spending power is reached through just 13 languages: English, German, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Swedish, Italian, Portuguese, French, Arabic and Korean.

2. Be ahead of the competition, but don’t rush the translation process

When you’re trying to tap into the global market, speed is key. Reaching a foreign market before your competitors is critical for success. But that doesn’t mean you should rush to get your content translated at the expense of quality. You don’t just want to transfer your content into another language, you want it to speak to the foreign audience. Therefore, you need a translator with copywriting experience who will spend the time to get familiar with your brand, research your products, and then adapt your content for the target market.

When it comes to translating slogans or highly branded marketing content, a skilled translator with experience in the field will apply a process called “transcreation,” which means not only translating words from one language into another but making the content relevant to its target audience by keeping cultural differences in mind. Look for a translator who is specialized in marketing and establish a close working relationship. The translator will, in effect, become part of your team as well as your brand.

3. Don’t ask your bilingual staff to translate

The desire to be efficient is understandable. However, translation is an art and a science, a learned skill that professional linguists hone over many years. Having your secretary who spent a year abroad in high school translate your marketing materials is a recipe for disaster. Professional translators continuously spend time on developing their expertise and technique, they attend conferences and professional development workshops, and many of them are highly specialized in their field. Saving on the translation side can actually end up costing you in the long term. A bad translation, at best, may end up being funny, but at worst, it can be embarrassing and damaging to your brand image.

However, your bilingual staff may be a valuable resource in other ways. Bilingual employees in your target country may help when it comes to defining terminology, creating style guides, or reviewing the final translation. By allowing them to work directly with the translator, you can take advantage of their foreign language skills and increase the efficiency of your internal translation processes.

4. Look at your content

Translators are not miracle workers. They cannot – or should not need to – make your translated content better than the original text. Translators work with what you give them. If your source text is inconsistent, incoherent or not relevant to your target market, the translator will not fix those issues (unless you hire a translator who also specializes in copywriting, and improvements to your text are discussed in advance).

A good translation starts with good source material. Make sure your terminology is consistent throughout your marketing materials. The same items or concepts should be referred to by the same name or phrase in all instances. Needless to say, slogans must be 100% identical wherever they appear. But even the little things, such as whether to use “Email” or “email” or “e-mail” in your texts, need to be taken into consideration. Preparing a style guide and glossary for and/or with the translator ahead of the translation process will ensure less review cycles and revisions later on, which will save time and money.

5. Establish a workflow and a plan

Before you begin with the actual translation process, you need to look at the entire picture. How will you ensure consistency in your global marketing efforts, both now and in the future? Will your business use multiple translation resources or hire just one translator? Who will be responsible for the review process and approval before delivery? How will you handle future updates to your content that need to be translated – do you have a process for easily identifying changes for the translator? Thinking about these questions beforehand and having a plan in place will prevent headaches and last-minute scrambling later on.

6. Provide context for translators

In German, the word “home” can be translated into “daheim,” “nach Hause,” “Startseite,” “Heim,” “Haus,” “Heimat,” “Wohnort”… you get the picture. A translator working off a spreadsheet listing only words without context cannot possibly provide you with an accurate translation. In order to pick the right term and prevent embarrassing mistakes, a translator needs to know the context and see what the customer sees. Ideally, you should provide a visual translation interface for the translator to work with, e.g. the website layout, a PowerPoint presentation or a PDF of your brochure. Allow your translator to see exactly how the content is going to be presented to your customers in the end.

7. Review often and early

If possible, review a translation sample by the translator early on. This allows you to spot potential problems and identify any issues that may need to be addressed. Implementing changes is much easier early in the translation process than once the translator has finished the entire project. Also, if you notice that the quality of the translator’s work is not up to your standards, you can still find an alternative without losing a fortune by having to have your content re-translated or extensively revised.

Here’s an example from my own experience. I once was hired to review a website translation for an online travel agency. The initial translator or translators had apparently not paid much attention to consistency in terminology, and the overall quality was seriously lacking. The content sounded, well, translated – and badly at that. I was tasked with revising all content, which ended up being more costly than if I had translated it to begin with.

8. Last but not least: A note about translation memory

A quick survey of attendees during the webinar showed that outside of the translation industry, many people, including those working in international marketing departments, don’t know what a translation memory is or how it is used. I once told a client I would translate his web content using a translation memory solution to ensure consistency, and he told me he didn’t want me to use any software to translate their content. In his mind, he was picturing automated translation along the lines of Google translate. Not so.

A translation memory, or TM, is a database of sentences that have already been translated and approved – by a human being. Let’s say your web content repeats itself on some pages, or your product descriptions only have minor variations in some instances (e.g. “This red coat is both comfortable and stylish” vs. “This blue coat is both comfortable and stylish”). For the sake of consistency, you would want to ensure the use of similar wording in the foreign language as well. And of course, marketing slogans and tag lines should always be translated in the exact same way.

A translation memory allows the translator to use previously approved translations every time a certain sentence occurs throughout the translation project. A TM even works for partial matches such as the coat example above. As the translator works, the TM grows to include more and more sentences. This not only ensures uniformity but also saves time, which, in turn, can lead to reduced translation costs. Moreover, you can include the translation memory in the deliverables from the translator at the end of the project, allowing you to reuse it during later translation projects even if you end up hiring a different translator.