Let's Talk About Rates

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Our lovely colleague Jo Rourke of Silver Tongue Translations in the UK is hosting a live chat to discuss something that's very near and dear to all translators' hearts: rates

It's oftentimes not discussed enough, mainly due to restrictions on doing so (price fixing), but these are important conversations to be had, especially for newcomers to the profession. The live chat is completely free, but is limited to the first 100 linguists who sign up. It will also feature some give-aways! Here's the link. There's even a cool video! Please join Jo for this awesome-sounding event on Wednesday, October 5th at 8 p.m. London time, which is 12 pm Pacific and 3 pm Eastern here in the U.S. We just signed up ourselves.


Business Pitfalls: The Trouble With E-Mail

It's Labor Day here in the U.S., and while we are not working that much today, we wanted to leave you, dear readers, with a brief post about business practices.

For better or for worse, the vast majority of business communication most of us do is via e-mail, and while as translators we know that the written medium is a fantastic choice for many things, it also has myriad limitations. People could read things into it that you did not mean, the tone can come across differently than you intended it to (especially if you have a quirky writing style and the other person does not know you well), you can come across as too direct or not direct enough, etc. In spoken communication, especially when we are actually looking at each other, things are easier because non-verbal communication is an essential part of communication that makes it easy for humans to decipher the other's intent by evaluating tone, body language, pitch of voice, etc. We don't have that in written communication, and we need to be aware of this fact. By that we don't mean adding emoticons to business e-mails (we actually highly discourage you from doing so), but we mean that you should be very careful about what you put in writing.

We recently worked on a large legal case that included a government subpoena and some 1.1 million e-mails, and we bet that none of the people who wrote those e-mails ever expected anyone other than the recipient to read them--this in spite of the well-known fact that e-mail is never truly private. We think it's essential to keep in mind that you should never put anything in writing that you wouldn't feel comfortable seeing on the front page of the newspaper the next morning. This is a little internal test that we use quite frequently, and it works for us.  Here are a few other e-mail tips you might find useful:

  • Don't send e-mails when you are angry. It's fine to write them, but just don't hit the "send" button until you have let some time pass. Let the message sit for a few hours or a few days (as long as it's not urgent), and come back to it later. Keep in mind that you usually can't take back what you have written, so think before hitting "send."
  • Have someone give you a sanity check. For very important communication via e-mail, we look over each other's e-mail to make sure the tone is right. It's good to have someone double-check your messages, especially if you have any doubt about whether what you are writing is appropiate. Of course you shouldn't need to do this very frequently, but probably just a few times a year or so.
  • If you have any doubt about whether you should send the message or not, don't send it. Your instincts are probably good, so delete the message and start over.
  • Be brief. Judy has a tendency to write e-mails that are too long for everyone, so she's worked hard on changing that, and has also tried to learn from her lawyer husband who's fantastic at writing succinct messages. Read through the message again before sending it and see if you can strip out unnecessary sections. It's a sign of good writing, and your e-mails are also more likely to be read that way.
What about you, dear colleagues and readers? Is there anything you would like to add to this non-exhaustive list? We look forward to reading your comments. 

ATA Annual Conference: Advanced Skills & Training Day

Time flies, doesn't it? Our favorite week of the year is almost around the corner, and readers of this blog will know that we are talking about the annual conference of the American Translators Association (ATA). This will be the 57th conference (amazing, huh?) held in gorgeous San Francisco, and as the organization is constantly striving to improve the conference, there's something somewhat new this year. 

What used to be the pre-conference is now a full day of three-hour courses taught by the most popular ATA speakers and it's called Advanced Skills & Training Day. This year it will be held on November 2, and Judy is delighted to have been invited to present a three-hour session titled "Seven Ways to Actively Market to Direct Clients." It runs from 8:30 am to 12 pm and includes a networking break. The session is language neutral and is limited to 25 participants. You will learn how to create a strategy to find those elusive direct clients and how to keep them happy. Come prepared to learn innovative client acquisition techniques you may not yet have thought of. 

Other fantastic sessions include:

These sessions are $150 each and are in addition to your ATA conference registration. Caveat: the ATA requires that attendees sign up for the entire conference in order to be able to attend AST, you must sign up for the entire conference. See you in San Francisco, dear friends and colleagues?

Tuesday Laughs: Voice Recognition Meets Scottish Accent

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! We know there's a lot happening in the world of voice recognition, and here's a humurous take on it. Many thanks to our lovely colleague Willy Martínez in Argentina for sending us this gem. Enjoy!

Packing Technique: Carry-On Only

Both of us travel quite a bit for both work and for fun, but mostly it seems that we are on the road for work these days. Judy greatly prefers to travel with carry-on only, and most her trips involves getting on an airplane, while Dagy takes a lot of trains in Europe. In the last eight weeks, we've been to: Mexico City, Boston, Reno/Tahoe, Vegas (for Dagy, as Judy lives here), Houston, and Washington, D.C.

Judy's masterpiece in Washington, D.C.
A few years ago, we learned a very easy packing technique that we cannot live without: the rolling packing technique. It involves rolling all your clothes because it allows you to fit an extraordinary amount of clothes into a carry-on. Typically, we are able to fit all of this into our trusted carry-on using this techinique:


  • Up to 5 dresses and/or skirts (summer dresses; winter is an entirely different issue)
  • One business suit (we don't roll the jacket and rather fold it on the very top; can get a bit wrinkly)
  • Up to 6 tops (short-sleeved or without sleeves)
  • Running shoes, pair of dress heels for work, flip-flops
  • Packing cube with underwear, scarves, socks, etc.
  • Packing cube with laptop charger cables, other chargers, etc.
  • Laptop (oftentimes we have to fit the laptop in our rolling carry-on because otherwise, with a laptop bag and a purse, we'd have three carry-ons, which is one too many)
There's no way we would be able to fit this much without the rolling packing technique and yes, the right carry-on (here's our recent favorite). We don't have an elaborate technique for folding and then rolling--we just wing it (but there are plenty of experts on YouTube who will show you exactly how to do it). Check out this video about the rolling technique. We also like this packing guide

What about you, dear colleagues? Any travel secrets you would like to share?  

Interpreting and Flying: The Connection

At the tiny airport in Ixtapa, Mexico. Photo by Judy.
Today's quick post is about two of our favorite things: interpreting and flying. Yes, we love to fly, and we fly a lot. Neither of us knows how to fly a plane, even though Judy's recent Google searches include "private pilot classes in Las Vegas." We've often thought about the similarities between interpreting and flying, and if you think that's a stretch, hear us out.

Once the plane--no matter how big or small, a Cessna, a C-130, a Boeing 737 or anything in between--is in the air, there's only one way to bring it down safely: by landing the thing. The same is true for interpreting: once the microphone has been switched on, or you have simply started interpreting without equipment, the plane has left the runway and you have to keep on going. There's no turning back in interpreting, and only one way to land the proverbial plane: by finishing the job that you have started. Again, we've never flown a plane, but we've been inside thousands of them, and in a way, we bet the adrenaline one must feel getting behind those controls is not that different from a high-profile (or not) interpreting assignment. Something we've learned along the way, while interpreting at international events, for presidents, CEOs, judges, lawyers, doctors, defendants, diplomats and everyone in between, is that starting an interpreting job means needing to finish it, no matter how scary or difficult the assignment is. The same is true for flying: the landing might not always be pretty or smooth, but you have to do it to complete the job and keep everyone safe. 

If you are a new interpreter and are trying to get used to landing the plane, we'd like to suggest that you train your brain to keep on going by forcing yourself to interpret every video and audio file you have clicked on. Keep on going, even if it doesn't feel great and it's not a great "flight." It's important to get used to the fact that you have to keep on going, no matter what. If you are lucky enough to work in formal conference interpreting situations, you will have a co-pilot, err, booth partner, to come rescue you, but in all other interpreting scenarios (legal, medical, community), you usually don't. Happy interpreting and flying! 

Mentoring Conference Interpreters in Austria

Dagy recently had the pleasure of being a mentor to young interpreters at the 3rd International Conference on Family-Centered Early Intervention for Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Bad Ischl/Austria. Following an initiative by the president of the Austrian Interpreters’ and Translators’ Association UNIVERSITAS Austria, Alexandra Jantscher-Karlhuber, the conference organizers agreed to give recent interpreting graduates who are part of the UNIVERSITAS Austria mentoring program a chance to show their skills, assisted by a total of four mentors who would take over when things called for an experienced interpreter, which happened considerably less often than you would think. Here's Dagy's report from this event.

The conference was a fascinating experience for those of us who like myself had never had any contact with the deaf community. What struck me was the excellent organization, the fact that dozens of speakers provided their PowerPoint presentations weeks (!) in advance and the general great ambience among conference attendants.
The organization was quite a challenge from the technical side, catered to everybody’s communication needs, and included a large array of language professionals showing their skills, ranging from sign language interpreters for as many as five different national sign languages to spoken language interpreters from English to German and vice versa as well as colleagues doing the captioning for speeches delivered in spoken language (provided for those who are hard of hearing and don’t understand sign language).
Our delegation included a total of 17 people who handled all kinds of different interpreting needs, including keynote speeches delivered in American sign language and interpreted into spoken English and from there into German. For the presentations delivered in spoken English, our booth was a relais meaning that the Austrian sign language interpreters used the German interpretation to provide theirs. This called for very exact interpreting, and the mentees did a great job at that.
As a mentor to these recent interpreting graduates, I was deeply impressed by their skills and dedication, both prior to the conference and during these three days. They ploughed through countless presentations to create glossaries on subjects ranging from a documentary about deaf role models in Kenya, traditional family structures and their impact on the health system in New Zealand, and the psychological aspects of decision-making processes by parents with children who are deaf or hard of hearing, to name just a few. The conference also included the typical frustrating experiences (which seemed to annoy me more than the mentees) such as presentation delivered at breakneck speed by a South African researcher, highly intangible subject matters and hard-to-understand accents. My fellow interpreters soldiered through it all. One of them, after a particularly challenging speech that left even the mentor exhausted, still said: “Interpreting is the best job in the universe.” Hearing her say that affirmed my belief that she has indeed chosen the right career path. Mentees with such passion and excellent skills assure me that the future of interpreting is in great hands. 


Upcoming Conferences: Denver, Houston, Philadelphia

Source: www.canva.com
Happy summer to all of you, dear readers! Summer is usually not our main conference season, but here are two great events in July that you might enjoy and one in September in Philadelphia. Please contact the organizers if you have any questions about the content or registration.

CAPI General Member Meeting and Educational Conference (Golden/Denver, July 9 and 10: Colorado Association of Professional Interpreters): Our friends at CAPI have put together a fantastic two-day event in the gorgeous Denver area. They say one goes to Denver for the winter, but stays for the summers, so this is a great opportunity for you to get lots of continuing education credits and enjoy the spectacular beauty of Colorado. The speaker-line up features a nurse examiner who will address the issue of interpreting sexual assault testimony, a workshop on sight translation, medical terminology in the courtroom, and much more. This conference is designed for interpreters.


The Entrepreneurial Linguist at HITA (Houston, July 30: Houston Interpreters and Translators Association): Judy is delighted to be the only presenter at this four-hour workshop at the University of Houston, organized by HITA. Come learn how to be an entrepreneurial linguist. The HITA website will have more information in a few days. Be sure to check back!

East Coast Interpreters and Translators Summit (Philadelphia, September 10): Our friends at DVTA (Delaware Valley Translators Association) have a long history of organizing top-notch conferences, and they are one of the most active ATA (American Translators Association) chapters in the country. In addition to fantastic speakers, with topics ranging from time management to Word formatting tricks and transcription techniques, DVTA is also offering an ATA certification exam the day after the conference. Have a look at the flyer here.

Becoming a Better Interpreter

We oftentimes get this question from beginners, students, those trying to achieve certification, and everyone in between. We are also constantly striving to become  better interpreters ourselves, as there is no finish line: this is a lifelong journey. We've long tried to dispense short nuggets of advice to those who ask, but we are simply unable to answer every e-mail with this question, so we promised we'd do a blog post about this important subject. Please keep in mind that not all these suggestions will apply to all linguists and that everyone's individual situation is different and might warrant a very individualized approach. Having said that, without further ado, here's a short (and by no means comprehensive) list of our favorite ways to become a better interpreter:


  1. Go outside of your comfort zone. You won't improve if you always interpret the same things and topics.
  2. Practice every day (or every week); no matter what. Be consistent. Be accountable to yourself. Can you commit to 10 minutes a day? A week? Great. Now go do it. Make it part of your daily routine.
  3. Learn new vocabulary in both (or all) your languages. The more synonyms and alternate expressions you know, the better. The bigger your vocabulary, the better. And yes, you have to do this the hard way: by memorizing and then actually using new words.
  4. Acquire new knowledge. The broader your knowledge, the better an interpreter you will be. If a keynote speaker at a conference keeps on referring to her PR without much context and you know a bit about sports, you'd know she's talking about her personal record. And you can only interpret what you know and understand.
  5. Question what you know. Just because you've used a particular term for 10 years doesn't mean it's necessarily the right one. Perhaps it was never right, or perhaps there's a better term now. Language changes and evolves. Stay up-to-date on the trends. Be humble.
  6. Learn from others. Observe others who are better interpreters than you are. Listen to their recordings if they are willing to share and learn and grow.
  7. Contribute practice materials to sites like Speechpool so we all have more material to hone our skills. Developing speeches is also good for your interpreting skills. 
  8. Join a practice group. If there isn't one that fits your needs, start one. It doesn't have to be in person. The internet is your friend.
  9. Get unbiased feedback. Surround yourself with colleagues who will tell you the truth about your performance. Take a class if you can't find anyone unbiased and get good feedback from the professor.
  10. Work on your voice. Research has shown that clients (=actual users of interpreting services) are attracted to pleasant voices. Work on your entonation and your breathing. Hire a vocal coach if your voice and/or your speech needs an adjustment (we've done that and are happy with the results).
  11. Finish your sentences. Don't leave the listener hanging. Finish the sentence you've started, even if it's a struggle and even if it's not the most beautiful thing you've come up with.
  12. Move on. If you don't like the way you solved a particular sentence, that's OK. Interpreting is mostly ephemeral, and if you stumble, pretend you are an ice skater. Get back up and keep on skating, err, interpreting. If it makes you feel better: most of the time you will actually sound better than you feel.  
  13. Don't be too hard on yourself. Interpreters, even highly qualified and experienced ones, aren't robots. We make (few) mistakes, and that's normal. Not knowing a word or two every few hours when speakers are going at 160 words a minute is a remarkable percentage of accuracy, if you think about it. Be critical of your own performance, but not too critical.
What do you think, dear colleagues? Would you like to add to this list, which will surely grow very long indeed? We figured we'd start with 13--and 13 can be the lucky number, for now.

Link: 139 (Mostly) Free Tools for Translators

Today marked the publishing of a blog post by our dear colleague Alina Cincan over at Inbox Translation, and it sure is an exciting day for those of us who want to discover new software tools. This is, as far as we know, one of the best and most comprehensive lists of free (or almost free) tools for translators. In total, 72 translators, including Judy, contributed to this list, and we want to try them all out right away! We hadn't heard of some 60% of these tools, so this list has already benefited us immensely. As you might imagine, compiling this information and getting the submissions from 72 translators is a ton of work, so we'd like to thank Alina very much for undertaking this project that benefits translators around the globe. 

Here's the link to Alina's blog
Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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