Welcome / Bienvenue / Benvinguts / Bienvenidos
For information about my translation services, please visit the main site.
Pour des informations sur mes services, merci de regarder le site principal.
Para información sobre mis servicios de traducción, visite el web principal.

On the usefulness of machine translation

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a fan of offering machine translation post-editing. There is just so much to fix when you work this way that it’s not worth it, especially if you’re a perfectionist like me, who would find it to difficult to leave a sentence alone that can be understood but leaves much room for improvement.

I don’t, however, belong to the camp who think that machine translation (MT) is never useful. In fact, I challenge anyone to tell me it would not save them time in the following example.

Continue reading

Share:

I’m going to Cannes!

As I was doing the washing up last night, I decided to tune in to France Info. And it was perfect timing: a few minutes later the presenter interviewed Aurel about his film, Josep, which had been selected for the Cannes Film Festival 2020.

The animated film, produced by Les Films d’Ici Méditerranée, tells the story of Josep Bartoli, a Catalan artist who was among the many Republicans who fled north into France to escape the Spanish Civil War. The French government placed the refugees in concentration camps, in awful conditions, in the middle of winter. You can read a full review in English here.

So why was I so excited when this interview came on the radio?

Continue reading

Share:

WFS Live Review

Used with permission by World Football Summit

This year I had been looking forward to attending one of the World Football Summit events, either in Madrid or in Durban. Sadly, like so many other events this year, COVID-19 stopped play before it even began, but the World Football Summit did a wonderful job at organizing an online event in their stead. Here are some of my thoughts about WFS Live, which took place online from 6-10 July.

One of the advantages of the event being online was that it attracted a more international audience, rather than the usual crowd from Europe and North America. There were many attendees from all over Africa and Asia. The speaker line-up was also impressive, no doubt helped by the fact that it was far easier for top speakers to fit an online event into their agendas than it would have been for them to fly perhaps half way around the world to attend an event in person.

Continue reading

Share:

For your critical documents, don’t trust a translator!

Hear me out… You’ve spent days or weeks working with a team to fine-tune your document before it is published. Now, it’s time to get it translated, so all you need is a good translator, right?

Wrong. If you needed a team to put together the original version, what makes you think a translator working alone will produce what you need? For your most critical documents, don’t trust a translator, trust a translation team. If you hire a translator who will work with another colleague, you’re more likely to receive a translation that has the same impact as the text you produced.

My workflow varies from project to project. For instance, for a recent document that had lots of short, catchy titles, I had a brainstorming session on the phone with my colleague, but I wouldn’t do that for every project. Here’s a typical workflow I might use when working with a colleague on an important document:

Step 1 – My first version: The fact my work will be read by an accomplished colleague shouldn’t make any difference. But I’ll be honest with you: it does. My reputation is important to me, and I know my colleague will pick up on anything that doesn’t quite sound right, or worse, any blatant mistranslations. So I read my work a little more carefully before passing it on. For some parts of the text, I even offer two solutions and leave a note asking my colleague which one he or she prefers.

Step 2 – My colleague’s edits: My colleague reads my work through carefully, edits it to improve the text, and adds additional comments with other ideas.

Step 3 – I go through all my colleague’s changes. Some of them I accept; some I reject; some I replace with a better idea.

Step 4 – My colleague looks at my feedback, and makes additional suggestions.

Step 5 – Depending on how much discussion is still taking place, I’ll either finalise the text or get on the phone and discuss the last few points.

Step 6 – I read through the entire text one last time in English to check the overall flow of the text before sending it to the client.

If it took an entire team to draft your document, or you had five different versions before you produced the definitive one, don’t have it translated by a translator working alone. Find a team.

Share:

Introducing Mumbi

Meet my new assistant!Blog post pic - edit

Mumbi Kasumba officially started on Monday 1 June, but three days earlier she assisted me with an online quiz night I ran for translation colleagues. She will be helping me with some of my day-to-day office tasks, leaving me more time to do what I love most: translating and editing.

Here are some of the tasks she will be doing or has already started doing:

Continue reading

Share:

The true identity of Athletic Bilbao’s last Englishman is finally unearthed

Earlier this month, Spanish football historian Lartaun de Azumendi published a 43-Tweet-long thread to explain a remarkable discovery he had made about Martyn Veitch, the man usually cited as the last foreigner to play for Athletic Bilbao before they introduced their famous Basque-only policy.

His discovery quite literally changed the history books, as several days later, Athletic Bilbao updated its website to reflect Lartaun’s discovery. The thread was in Spanish, but as a professional translator specialising in sport, I’m always on the look out for interesting stories that would interest English readers, so I asked Lartaun if I could translate it.

Although I have published a version on Twitter, I recommend reading it on here, where I’m free from the shackles of the 280-character limit. Enjoy!

A 43-tweet research thread explaining why Athletic Bilbao never had a player called Martyn Veitch.

Who was Veitch? And what’s the story behind Athletic’s last foreign player before the club adopted its Basque-only policy in 1911? It’s a story we knew (almost) nothing about, until now.

Continue reading

Share:

Izaskun Orkwis’s article on institutional translation

I first met Izaskun Orkwis at the 1st International Conference of Economic, Business, Financial and Institutional Translation, when my only institutional client was the OECD. Since then, she’s given me some great advice on how to get my feet in the door of international institutions.

In an article for the latest edition of the ATA Chronicle, Izaskun draws on her experience with international institutions to explain some of the quirks of working for them and how to ensure your translation is fit for purpose. The article is packed with pearls of wisdom. Here, I highlight just a few, with some additional remarks based on my own experience:

“the different language versions must match exactly, including all nuances and formal structure…replacing parentheses with commas may be fine in other contexts, but not in institutional translation”

 

“There will be humongous databases and parallel corpora that will be both a blessing…and a curse (sometimes you must reuse previous language, unchanged).”

Sometimes I’ve translated 3,000 word documents in 15 minutes, as nearly the entire document is a recycled version of an old one in the translation memory. But as Izaskun says, sometimes the databases are a curse. This is especially true when you find inconsistencies in the memory and you spend far more time deciding which previous version to use than you would have spent just translating it from scratch.

“the institutional translator must…lose their individual voice…the translated document, just like the original, belongs to the institution, which is its sole author”

 

“the institutional translator must…adopt the institution’s working methods”

The latter is particularly challenging for those of us who do short-term contracts for various institutions, as the working methods vary from one institution to another. To give just one example, the World Trade Organization uses Trados Studio (with two different workflows, depending on the type of document), whereas the United Nations Office at Geneva has its own computer-assisted translation tool that runs in the browser. Some institutions require you to upload your translation to a portal; others ask you to save it to a shared network drive.

“the institutional translator must…adhere to vetted terminology”

Izaskun goes on to say that you should consult a terminologist if you feel the need to depart from the vetted terminology. In the work I’ve done, I tend only to have to consult one of the revisers, not a terminologist.

Sometimes the solution in the terminology database is not what the more senior translation staff actually use. In such cases, if I were working at home, with my own setup, I would quickly edit the entry in my termbase, but in an institutional setting, terminology vetting is a complex process and it can take a long time for the entry to be corrected. It gets even more complicated if you suggest a change to the editorial manual. Since it is used by all the UN offices, someone in Geneva can’t just change something without consulting colleagues in New York, Nairobi and elsewhere, which is perhaps why we’re still not allowed to make country names possessive, despite the fact that every UN translator I’ve ever spoken to hates the rule!

“whenever there’s a quote from or a reference to a previous document, no matter how long or short, you must assume there exists a previous translation that needs to be found and reused”

Continue reading

Share:

I’m back…

A few days ago, I got a message from Luke Spear to say I’d been included in his 75-strong blogroll post on his website. I was delighted to be included, but also a little embarrassed, as my latest post was four months old, and even that was just a discount code for booking.com. My latest real post, my review of the 2018 [sic!] Yacht Racing Forum, was over a year old!

It was not for want of things to write about, as 2019 was a hectic year for me. In fact, that was precisely the problem. Too much to do, not enough time to blog.

The post by fellow British Institute in Paris alumnus Luke Spear was the kick up the backside I needed to update my blog. In future, I should have more free time available because I’ve hired an assistant to take care of some of the many admin tasks I have to deal with (more on that in a future post).

A year in Dundee

Tay Bridge, the gateway to Dundee by train.

Tay Bridge, the gateway to Dundee by train. (Click on any of the photos in this blog to see a full resolution version.)

As many ScotNetters will know, in September 2018 my wife began a master’s degree at the University of Dundee. Just two and a half years after my big move to Namibia, it was time to say au revoir to the Mother Continent and hello to the Old Continent. I’d been away from Europe for little over half a lustrum (a favourite word of mine, so had to sneak it in), but it was my first time living in Britain since I’d left her shores and moved to Paris in 1999. How would it feel being back? Would the whole Brexit saga make me just want to leave? Would I get reverse culture shock? Continue reading

Share:

Yacht Racing Forum 2018, in Lorient

At the end of October, I attended the 2018 Yacht Racing Forum. Organised by Geneva-based MaxComm Communication, this year’s edition visited Lorient, in a part of Brittany that is marketed as the Bretagne Sailing Valley because of the huge impact that sailing has on the local economy (see the tweet below).

The Sailing Valley

Taking the forum to Lorient was an excellent decision, but taking it there just a fortnight before the start of the Route du Rhum was a master stroke. Thanks to the location and the timing, the organisers attracted dozens of the key players involved in the race, including a good number of the actual sailors. Continue reading

Share: