Tag Archives: translation

New year, new you?

If you’re starting off the new year with some resolutions, why not add some CPD ones? They’re actually perfect as SMART targets – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely – so you’ll be more likely to stick to them!
There are plenty of providers out there, my favourites being the ITI and the language, regional and subject-specific groups as well as eCPD webinars. You could attend a workshop or webinar learning about something lecture-style or you could try out one of the mentoring schemes that some of the ITI groups run and actually get feedback on your translations, in a new area, for example. That’s what I did when I took part in the ITI German Network’s mentoring scheme. It was a great opportunity and I can highly recommend it!

I wrote about it for the GerNet Netzblatt in June 2017, if you missed it you can read it here too:
I entered translation as a bit of a generalist and was quite conscious that I would probably do better (read: earn more money!) by specialising. So, when an agency I had been working for asked me to take a test for some financial work they were expecting, I gave it a go and was accepted. The work never materialised from the agency but I did start investigating the field; I took some courses, did a few financial translations and proofread some annual reports, but I needed to do more.
I had been considering the GerNet mentoring scheme for a while, and finally took the plunge in the summer of 2016 when I thought work would be quieter. The GerNet coordinator paired me with Laura Byrne, a German to English translator who worked as a financial analyst in a former life. After being assigned to each other we had a Skype conversation to discuss the kind of areas I was interested in and for Laura to find out about my prior knowledge. The idea was to build on what I already knew and Laura managed to find texts that did just that.
The first two texts were very similar but meant that what I learned in the first one, I was able to put into practice in the second, something I found really useful – how often do we learn things and forget them by the next time we need them? So I liked this approach because it helped cement my knowledge. The third text was a slightly different area and a lot more challenging.
Overall we worked together for seven months, allowing up to a month for a piece of work at busy times. I know that’s unusual in the industry, but I couldn’t see the point in rushing a translation to a meet a short deadline and not learn anything from it – for me it was a learning process; I wanted to read through the text, look up terminology and research around the subject a bit before actually translating. Fortunately Laura shared this opinion and could be flexible around deadlines too, often revising my work within a couple of days. Overall I spent far more time on it than I am allowed to put on my CPD record, but it was much more worthwhile.
One of the first things I learned from Laura was about style. My impression of financial writing – limited as it was to the financial press – was that it uses a lot of idiom and metaphor. I thought that if the German used different words to express certain ideas, I would have to do the same – and here I’m mainly thinking of terms like increase/decrease which came up a lot in all three texts. But Laura pointed out that her experience reading and writing lengthy documents as an analyst had taught her that ‘clarity’ is the guiding principle, because as she said, investors or analysts need to “absorb the information as painlessly as possible”. So while it’s nice to be able to dress up a text with synonyms and metaphor, clarity should always take priority for these types of texts.
Naturally, there were many specifics that Laura helped me with; from explaining that I shouldn’t use documents from banks for building a financial corpus (their structures tend to be much more complicated than a simple limited business), to how best to translate anything with Konjunktur in it – despite having studied modules on ‘German economy’ at university, I have never felt comfortable translating this term, but Laura gave me some great tips to deal with it confidently in future. She also explained the difference and when/how to use terms that may seem interchangeable to the untrained eye e.g. Aktien/Renten/Anleihen/Securities…
From the first Skype conversation and throughout the mentoring, Laura sent me a wealth of useful links, and recommendations or suggestions for further reading – this has been one of the most useful things about the mentoring scheme for me, because I can continue to progress with this guided learning – now I just need the time!
Other topics we discussed were possible approaches for getting financial work as a newbie to the field, who to trust or not on dict.cc (which has a large financial section) and the merits of Dragon.
Of course, I know I still have a lot to learn about finance to be able to call myself an expert, but the scheme gave me the reassurance that I was looking for: I am not ill-suited to this type of work and I do have some flair for it. I learned so much from the mentoring, it really was an invaluable experience and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to up their game!
Good luck and all the best for a happy, healthy and successful 2018!

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Food memories: Pimm’s as a translation problem

Back from a surprisingly sunny August bank holiday filled with nice walks in the countryside followed by delicious food and Pimm’s and lemonade and I am reminded of this:

Pimm's o'clock on campus!

Pimm’s o’clock on campus!

Such a shame it wasn’t a permanent fixture on campus when I was writing the dissertation for my MA I’m sure my writing would’ve flowed much better 😉 – this shot was taken at the 50 years of Aston University celebration in April.

But talking of (drinking) Pimm’s, reminded me of an article I saw in the Tesco magazine (We Heart Food, May 2015 pp. 8 – 13) about British ‘food icons’ and about how ‘our food experiences help to shape our identity’ (p.8). Alongside pictures there was also some background info (memories) about the icon, making the article perfect as a crash course on our food culture. It was a light-hearted article but taken from a translation (studies) perspective, it was really interesting!

Apart from Pimm’s and lemonade in the garden, ‘is there anything more civilised than enjoying a glass of Pimm’s in the sunshine?’, some of the other icons they mentioned were a fry up at a greasy spoon, pick ‘n’ mix sweets and hot buttered crumpets ‘perfect with lashings of butter and a slick of gooey golden syrup’ (and let’s not even start on the crumpet or English muffin debate!).

The article had many references to the importance of food in our culture, they used words such as nation; collective DNA; shape our identity; UK food scene and it is these things which make it so difficult to translate the food items they mention for a different target audience. Peter Newmark said that, “Food is for many the most sensitive and important expression of national culture; food terms are subject to the widest variety of translation procedures”(p.97). And that’s how I read this article, as though it was a translation problem.

If we were to try and translate the article for another culture, how would we deal with these culture specific terms? Much would clearly depend on the purpose of the translation (or its Skopos) but if it were to be used to explain our food culture to someone from a different target culture, then any translation would probably need to loan the English name into the target language but then add what Chesterman (I used his classification in my Masters dissertation…) calls an information change-addition, either some extra information or a literal translation so that the target reader knows what the item is – so that they can decide if they want to try it and what it’s called in English.

If on the other hand these items cropped up in a book translation or in a situation where the reader only needs to know that this is food or drink, then cultural filtering could be used so that items are “translated as TL cultural or functional equivalents, so that they conform to TL norms”(Chesterman, p.108). Take the Pimm’s illustration, does Germany have a drink that summons up the same sentiment that Pimm’s does in us Brits? I think this type of translation would be much harder, but would allow the translator more creativity (after all, they are the cultural expert here).

This article reminds me how important it is to live in your source language countries where it is much easier to learn about cultural references, such as food and drink. Sure, I know about the obvious food customs (Kaffee und Kuchen ­more of an elderly lady thing these days ­ and Glühwein at the Weihnachtsmarkt; or Galette des Rois in January and how seriously bread is taken in France), but it was only by living in Germany that I found out that they drink dark beer (Alt) in Düsseldorf and region.

There must be so many other regional and local food customs I’m missing out on ­share your favourite customs with a memory / some background info like in this article!

Chesterman, A., 2000. Memes of Translation. Paperback ed. Amsterdam: John Benjamins B.V.

Newmark, P., 1988. A Textbook of Translation. Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall International (UK) Ltd

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6 takeaways from an introduction to the German legal system

Last Saturday I attended a full day workshop in Birmingham on the German legal system. ‘Einführung in das deutsche Recht’ was aimed at all translators (we all have to sign contracts after all) not just those specialising in legal texts and Heike Simon, a lawyer, lecturer and translator from Bayreuth, took us through some of the basics.

Some of the main takeaways from the day were:

  • Having a look at the relevant law will often help since many contracts will use the terminology from the BGB
    • Action point: buy a copy of the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB) available on Amazon Prime for £6.60
  • The BGB is also online (http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/index.html) as are all other laws and there are even translations into English to get you started at http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_bgb/
  • Be very wary of translating ‘fair and reasonable’ as ‘Treu und Glauben’ and vice versa as these terms to do not encompas the whole meaning of each other
  • Different terms for the same thing are used in different areas of the law – this will help you find out which area of the law is applicable – you need to check you’re using the correct terminology for that area
  • A ‘simple’ Kaufsvertrag’ is not actually all that simple! In Germany it’s not one but 3 different types of transaction rolled into one…
  • Fun fact: German lawyers’ usual response to anything is identical to lawyers in English (only in German, obviously!) ‘es kommt darauf an’

It was a great workshop (thanks to Cherry for organising!) and lovely to see some familiar faces and new ones too.

Probably would’ve been useful to have more clue about the English legal system first though! *adds to CPD plan*

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October 6, 2015

The tatty sheet of paper stuck on my wall for checking French and German ALT codes got even tattier when I had my office redecorated earlier this year. I didn’t want to put it back up again because a) it was torn and b) it wasn’t really fit for purpose because I had to get up and unpin it every time I wanted to look at it…no, I had to reinvent the wheel! So now the codes are kept pristine in some cheerful frames within reaching distance. Much more ‘shabby chic’ then just plain ‘shabby’.

2015-09-23 15.17.50


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memoQ Level One Certified

A week or so back I had some spare time, so decided to complete the online memoQ training modules. I’ve been using memoQ for a while but I still learned a few new tips and tricks so it was worth doing! I passed too and can now proudly use this logo :)memoQ_level1_certified_logoIf you’re a memoQ user, I also came across this useful link from Kilgray for resources and help: memoQ resources

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Shedding Light

Published in ITI Bulletin May/June 2015

Friday 20th March 2015. Not your average Friday because of the partial eclipse forecast for the UK. Everywhere people flocked outside in their droves to catch a glimpse (from behind ‘eclipse glasses’ or using pinhole projectors, naturally!) and outside the Main Building at Aston University was no different. Thanks to Emmanuelle Jeannot who brought some glasses along, members of the West Midlands Group were able to safely view the eclipse before getting stuck into their Translation Workshop and AGM. Who said that AGMs are dull and boring?! For me the eclipse was overshadowed by the WMG event! The day was lively with a festive atmosphere, ‘partially’ due to the eclipse but probably more to do with the opportunity for networking with colleagues old and new.

Once everyone had made their way inside for coffee and the welcome, groups were formed for the translation workshops; French, German, Italian and even Danish this time. Colleagues had brought along texts either about solar eclipses or containing rhymes and other translation challenges. The French translation workshop I joined tackled the song Le soleil et la lune a 1930’s song by Charles Trenet. The song is about an impossible meeting of the sun with the moon and is a metaphor for romantic rendezvous between men and women on Earth. The most obvious challenge was to match our translation to the music of the song. Beyond that we also discussed how we would deal with the gender of the sun (Mr Sun?) and the moon (Lady Moon?) and discovered that translating into Polish would be even harder than into English  because the moon is a masculine noun and the Sun is neutral!

After refuelling with a sandwich lunch we moved on to the serious business of the day: the AGM. Fortunately that was all concluded quickly and painlessly and we were soon listening to Lloyd Bingham’s talk about Twitter. Very practical, especially for those of us just starting out because we could then join in at the TweetUp organised by TweetOutWest after the workshop at Aston.

In the afternoon translation session, I stayed with the French group as Emmanuelle Jeannot had brought along some French idioms for us to look at – some of these were really intriguing but Emmanuelle gave us print-outs of the meanings and origins to help us understand them. Who knew that cats feature in so many French idioms! “Chat échaudé craint l’eau froide”, literally a scalded cat is scared of cold water (I wonder if this is where scaredy-cat comes from?) is equivalent to the English proverb “once bitten, twice shy”. Great tip: You can sign up to Expressio.fr and receive French idioms daily.

To finish off the day we relocated to Bacchus Bar in the Burlington Arcade to practise our new-found Twitter skills and socialise with colleagues. Bacchus is a bit of a find; on Birmingham’s oldest street, with its imposing vaulted interior, it’s like being in an abbey and surprisingly the prices weren’t sky-high! Linguist Bingo got everyone networking with questions like ‘what’s your USP?’ or ‘what’s the strangest thing you’ve translated/interpreted?’. One lucky person’s most exciting assignment was interpreting for a contestant in a treasure hunt around London for a luxury cosmetics brand. Sadly, they didn’t get a goody bag! And here’s a great suggestion for an ‘ideal CPD event’: Something combining wine-tasting with translation.

Many thanks to the organisers, Juliet Hammond-Smith and Charlie Gobbett, for such an enjoyable and interesting event. The next total eclipse isn’t until 2090 in the UK but fortunately we won’t have to wait that long till the next WMG event; the 10th anniversary summer walk is on Saturday 19 July 2015! All being well, it will be in the Severn Valley near Highley, scene of the first walk in July 2005.

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ITI MAT Tourism Workshop with Oliver Lawrence in London

*Update: was sorely tempted to ‘borrow’ the National Geographic Traveller magazine at the dentist’s as there was an article about Paris 😉

I recently made my way down to Imperial College London for my first ITI MAT workshop on tourism; my Masters dissertation topic was tourism translation so it’s a field of particular interest which I’m still trying to break into…

The workshop was in two parts – a presentation by Oliver Lawrence, an IT to EN translator and copywriter, followed by a panel discussion including Charlie Gobbett, Isabel Brenner, Alison Hughes and Oliver.  The workshop was really interesting but 5 questions (see below) in Oliver’s presentation stood out as being most relevant for a fledgling tourism translator such as myself and I decided to analyse these in this blog. I’ve included highlights of the data Oliver provided at the end of this post after I’ve summarised the findings which were most significant to me.

The presentation was based on a survey that Oliver had sent out specifically to tourism translators in order to fill gaps in his knowledge and learn from other translators in a systematic, rather than ad hoc way (article in the ITI Bulletin soon). His sample size was 73 and he received 37 responses. Questions covered areas such as the type of texts translated and how often translators travelled, to whether translators write for travel publications and have Search Engine Optimization (SEO) skills.

The 5 questions:

  • Have you worked in the travel industry, and has this helped?
  • What do you do to find direct clients?
  • What sales arguments do your clients find persuasive?
  • What are the main skills that a travel translator needs?
  • How did / do you develop your specialisms?
  • What kinds of CPD do you do for travel translation?
Summary of findings

I was rather relieved to learn that it doesn’t matter that I don’t have a background in tourism – you know how important it is in some industries to have proper work experience or a degree in that field – but seemingly for tourism translation it is not the case. My previous work experience, which involved communicating with a range of different clients, means I’m already used to tailoring my writing to different audiences and this should help.

On the other hand, I did find it a bit worrying that there aren’t any surefire things I can do to find new clients since many translators said they rely on word of mouth and being found – but I’m networking at events and online and I can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter etc. As for sales arguments that work, I had intended to approach badly translated websites (my Masters dissertation revealed that many tourism websites do not fulfil their ‘persuasive function’ in terms of promotional tourism language and webstyle) so I was disappointed to find that this tactic tended to yield little success. But it’s not all bad! By changing the slant of my ‘cover email’ to demonstrate the ‘benefit’ of using me (a professional translator)  such as avoiding losing customers, rather than highlighting ‘features’ such as my good writing style I should pique their interest and possibly gain a customer.

In terms of the main skills, some of these can be self-taught and naturally good writing and copywriting skills are paramount – I’m glad then, that I went on the German Network’s copywriting workshop a couple of years ago!  I was concerned that knowing industry specific terminology would be a high priority but it seems it’s more important to have good knowledge about places and be enthusiastic about learning more about them or new places, as well as knowing how to quickly research the things you don’t know. For a naturally curious person (aren’t all translators anyway?) it’s no problem!

I must say that I was surprised that in this field it’s client demand which has helped translators develop their specialism. I really thought it would be more down to people’s love of particular tourist destinations or types of holiday that would motivate them to learn more about them and thus become an expert. I lived in Paris for a year and love it there, so there I was checking off  some of the skills-needed boxes above and thinking I could translate tourism literature on Paris…now I ‘just’ have to find some clients who need their Paris brochure translated into English!

Whilst I was at the presentation, I had already started a list in my head of what I could and should be doing to improve my chances in this field, but the results from Oliver’s survey gave me more ideas for CPD and resources beyond Wikipedia 😉 although I will resist the urge to ‘borrow’ any glossy travel magazines from the dentist’s next week! :)

The workshop was well worth attending and has given me the confidence that I can become a specialist in the tourism translation field: my previous experience covers some of the essentials and I can always teach myself anything else! Of course, it was also lovely to meet and put faces to people I otherwise only know from ITI forums. I really enjoyed the networking with (new) colleagues so many thanks to Alison Hughes for organising. The venue was convenient too and I got a gluten free lunch :) just sorry I couldn’t have the famous ‘macarons’!

Brief headlines from the survey data

Sample size:73

Responses: 37

Number of respondents to a question/comment shown in brackets

  • Have you worked in the travel industry, and has this helped?
    • No, not worked in th travel industry (20)
    • Travel industry experience has helped with: what’s important for clients & tourists; in-depth knowledge of market and trends; corporate communications
    • BUT one respondent commented that they thought it would’ve been a bigger selling point
  • What do you do to find direct clients?
    • Nothing /  they find me / word of mouth / referrals (21)
    • Email / direct mail (11) – postcard campaign; mass mailing; cold mailing to badly translated websites
    • Tradefairs /networking / blogging /website
    • Limited success actively marketing self : contacting badly translated sites; trade fair leads came to nothing or opposite language direction needed
  • What sales arguments do your clients find persuasive?
  • Features
    • Don’t actively sell (9)
    • My experience (6)
    • Quality (5)
    • Good writing style / creativity (5)
  • Benefits
    • Improve client’s business  / increase and attract more and avoid losing customers  (5)
    • Recommendations and examples of work (4) 
  • What are the main skills that a travel translator needs?
      • Excellent writing (12)
      • Copywriting (12)
      • Creative thinking (moving away from the ST but keeping flavour (11)
      • Effective research away from just the ST (7)
      • Also subject / terminology knowledge; enthusiasm about learning about new places etc.; adapting to target audience (need cultural awareness) 
  • How did / do you develop your specialisms?
    • Client demand (12)
    • Previous experience (4)
    • Personal interest  (2) and personal reading / location
  • What kinds of CPD do you do for travel translation?
    • Reading online travel articles / blogs / newsletters / Facebook posts for destinations / tourist boards, tour operators or expats (23)
    • Travel / country magazines (22)
    • Travelling (keeping eyes open to soak up translations) (19)
    • Collecting leaflets and brochures when on the move (“stealing glossies from the doctor’s surgery”) (10)
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ITI WMG Workshop, AGM and TweetUp

Last Friday I attended the ITI West Midlands Group Translation Workshop and AGM at Aston University. Who said that AGM’s are dry and boring?!

The day was lively with a festive atmosphere, possibly due to the partial eclipse (thanks Emmanuelle Jeannot for letting me have a look through your glasses!) but probably more to do with the opportunity for networking with (new) colleagues. The French translation workshop I joined tackled a song, idioms and a tourist brochure – fascinating! To finish off the day, Lloyd Bingham of @tweetoutwest organised a TweetUp with a few drinks at Bacchus Bar, a lovely bar on one of Birmingham’s oldest streets. A great find!

Many thanks to the organisers, Juliet Hammond-Smith and Charlie Gobbett, for such an enjoyable and interesting event, looking forward to the next one!

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The Art of Marketing

I recently attended an ITI German Network event in Birmingham to learn the ‘art’ of marketing. Rachel Goodchild (@RachelGoodchild) presenting, taught us all about the worlds of Twitter and Blogging. Being completely new to Twitter, this was a bit of an eye-opener. I’ll be honest with you, I couldn’t see the point of Twitter previously – other than for sending cute cat pictures to your friends, that is! And apparently, that’s allowed (occasionally) even if you’re only using Twitter professionally; it shows you’re human :) (but I don’t think that’s a licence to talk incessantly about a certain singer and her tour, do you?!).

If you’d like to read more about using Twitter and blogging, both Kari Koonin (http://bit.ly/18Ak2cg) and Elisabeth Hippe-Heisler (http://bit.ly/1BBjP4l) have written excellent reports on the event.

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