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Off-topic: Non-racist white Namibians must stand up to racists

The following text is a letter I sent to three Namibian newspapers following my rather unpleasant experience last Sunday. At the time of writing it has not been published by any of them, but letters are usually published on a Friday, so I hope it will still get published.

I stood with the young boy, who was in floods of tears after his bike had been stolen. I and my future in-laws had just tried to chase after the thief. I called his father to explain what had happened. “Those people are troublemakers,” replied the father. “What does he mean by ‘those people’?” I thought to myself. This was back in 2014, when I’d only spent a couple of weeks in Namibia. Then it clicked. He was referring to black people, completely oblivious to the fact that everyone who was helping the boy, apart from me, was black.

Since then, as a white person I’ve often heard comments that I rarely seem to hear when I’m with my wife, who is black. Racist people who don’t know me obviously think they can air their pathetic, antiquated views when I’m around because I’m white. They assume I’ll agree with them, or at best that I’ll simply tolerate them. If I’m with my wife, who is black, I don’t tend to hear such conversations (though on the odd occasion I do).

This Sunday, my wife was away visiting family in the North and I was in Windhoek, so I spent the afternoon working and watching sport at a restaurant in the city centre. There was a group of people on the table next to me, and one of the guests got chatting to me. She was very excited to hear that I was from the city of York, in England, because her grandmother came from there. She seemed a pleasant enough lady at that stage.

Then I started to hear what kind of person she really was.

I was watching the Formula 1 on the TV, as was one of the men on her table. Both he and I were supporting Lewis Hamilton. Then, while they were talking about Hamilton, I heard the woman say, “He’s not even white.” Later, when they were discussing where he is from, I told them that his father was from Granada. “He should go back there,” she quipped.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! If she thinks a second-generation Briton with Caribbean ancestry should go “back” to where he is from, surely it follows that she, a third-generation Namibian with British ancestry, should go back to the UK?

Then it got worse. She started churning out nonsense about the differences between Caucasian and African brains. According to her, blacks have thicker skulls, and therefore less brain tissue, which explains why, according to her, blacks “can’t even fly planes” (strange, because every TAAG, Ethiopian or Kenya Airways pilot I’ve ever seen has been black).

Of course, there is not a shred of reliable evidence to support her ideas. And those ideas are extremely dangerous, because they are what fuelled the holocaust in Germany in the 1940s.

Next, the people at the table got ready to leave. What was I going to do? I knew she was going to come say goodbye to me because we’d been chatting earlier, but I couldn’t bring myself to smile, shake her hand and say, “Goodbye. It was nice meeting you.” I was far too angry by that point.

I told her how upset I was at what she’d said, and I told her she should go fly with Kenya Airways because she’d see black pilots (I could have said TAAG or Ethiopian too). She just said “Okay” and left.

The saddest part was that she had a four-year old daughter who heard everything she was saying about Africans and all her pseudo-proofs to support what she was saying. A whole new generation will grow up as racist as their predecessors if they keep hearing such nonsense.

I’m not sure I achieved much by challenging her. I’m sure she’ll be the same racist bigot when she goes to bed tonight. But if all decent Namibians, including white Namibians, stand up to the racists, they will start to realise they can’t get away with airing such views in public places, even if the only people who can hear them are white people. And if we reduce the number of spaces in which they feel they can get away with expressing such toxic views, fewer people will be infected by them.

Despite the title of this piece, all decent Namibians should take a stand against racism, but since white racists feel safe expressing their bigotry in the company of other whites, it is vital that decent whites stand up to them and make it clear that we will not tolerate it.


Financial translation CPD part 2: the 2018 Financial Translation Summer School in Brussels

After attending the 3rd ICEBFIT conference in Alicante then spending a few days with friends in the Barcelona area, I was glad to be escaping the scorching hot and humid conditions of the Mediterranean and jetting off to Brussels, where I could cool down a bit. Or so I thought… Turned out it was almost as hot, so I’d travelled half way around the world with a thick coat for nothing. And at times the heat felt worse, as northern Europe is far less prepared for it than the south, so there is often no air conditioning on public transport or in buildings.

Anyway, enough about the weather.

I was in the Belgian capital for part 2 of my financial translation CPD trip, at the 2018 Financial Translation Summer School (UETF), which is organised every even-numbered year by Société française des traducteurs (SFT) (non-members may attend). This year’s UETF was hosted by BNP Parisbas Fortis at its headquarters, conveniently located right in the heart of Brussels, just around the corner from the Central Station. The auditorium was excellent, the facilities top-notch and the two huge screens perfect for reading every last detail of presenters’ slides without squinting. A rather different experience from the dingy classrooms and noisy air conditioning units in Alicante a week earlier!

I had been a little apprehensive about going, as I expected the list of attendees to be dominated by translators who know financial reports like the back of their hand, translators who can tell you the ins and outs of the Basel III liquidity rules without consulting any notes. Would a translator who focused on macroeconomic reports feel out of depth in a sea of financial translators sensu stricto? With a price tag of €795, I didn’t want to go if I wasn’t going to learn anything relevant to my line of work.

Larry Cohen and Rosie Wells face off in the French-English slam, with Chris Durban watching over.

Larry Cohen and Rosie Wells face off in the French-English slam, with Chris Durban watching over. Photo by Bernhard Lorenz, used with permission.

Nevertheless, I was reassured by some of the items on the programme that were closely related to the work I do, especially the talk on tax policy (more on that later), and I’d read glowing reviews about the biennial event. Since I was attending another event in Europe just a week earlier (this was before my September move from Namibia to Scotland), I decided to give it a shot. Further reassurance of the event’s relevance to my line of work came when, a couple of weeks before the conference, I received the text for the French-English translation slam: an article from the Belgian economics and finance magazine Trends-Tendances about banking union in the euro zone. The subject matter was right up my street, as it contained the kind of discussion and analysis found in economics books and reports I’ve translated.

The UETF has already been lauded in blog after blog after blog. And this post is no different.

A unique event for translators

What makes the UETF so unique among events organised for translators is that most of the talks are not specifically about translation. Instead, they aim to educate translators about a particular subject or field in which they might work. The speakers included a journalist, an expert on the EU, an OECD tax policy adviser and senior figures at various companies and organisations in the field of finance (including the Belgian director of country services for French oil giant Total). The presentations covered the topic of finance in the broadest sense of the word.

The highlights reel

The UETF 2018 programme was so packed that, were I to write about every session, the post would become far too long, so I will mention just some of the sessions that stood out for me.

The French word doctor

Thursday and Friday morning began with short, 20-minute sessions called “Allo, docteur Termino” and “Word Doctor”, respectively. The speakers in these two sessions looked at specific strategies translators can use to make their target-language output sound more authentic and less like a translation.

On the Thursday, co-organiser Dominique Jonkers showed us various sentences he had worked on that contained forms of the English word support (sometimes as a noun, sometimes as a verb). Dominique argued that the word support is used far more frequently than the words that normally appear in its place in French translations: appuyer, supporter, appui(s).

After showing each English example sentence, Dominique asked audience members – especially those who work into French – to propose French translations that did not use the obvious, instinctive translations for the word support. The aim was to create a more authentic text that better reflected what a French author might have written. For each example, drawn from a real project he had worked on, Dominique listened to a few proposals from the audience before revealing the solution he had used in his project. His translations often had a completely different structure from the source text, but even to a foreign ear like mine, the end results clearly sounded more genuinely French.

Domnique’s alternative translations included épauler, aide, être entourés, contribuer à la realisation de, avaliser, and porter assistance à.

The English word doctor

On the Friday, it was the turn of English-speaking word doctor Martin Hemmings (whom I finally met in person, having previously only met him “virtually”). Martin explained that authentic, non-translated English texts frequently use what are called “embedded questions”.

Anyone who works with French and English will know that French uses far more nouns than English, and few things make an English text sound more like a translation than when they constantly use the “[noun] of the [noun] of the [noun]” structure. Martin showed examples of how embedded questions can often replace French nouns to create a more authentic-sounding English text. (By the way, the previous sentence includes an example of an embedded question, which sounds so natural you probably didn’t even notice it.)

Martin noted that restructuring the sentence to insert an embedded question usually forces the translator to take a step back and think about what the author means, which is always a good thing, since we translate ideas not words!

Let’s look at one of his examples. Martin showed us a source text that read as follows:

Les organisations devraient contrôler les droits d’accès au système comptable.

It would come as no surprise to see this translated as:

Organisations should control access rights to the accounting system.

This translation wouldn’t necessarily be wrong (though the usage of “control” is questionable). But is it what an English-speaking author would have written? Martin proposed the following translation instead:

Organisations should check who has access to the accounting system.

I think most English speakers would agree that the result sounds more natural. Furthermore, the solution underlines the point made about taking a step back. Had the context (which Martin had been privy to when he translated this sentence) been different, and the text had been discussing different levels of access, then the sentence might have been better translated as:

Organisations should check what level of access each member of the accounting department has.

That is why it is important to take a step back and to look at the overall context when using embedded questions not found in the source text. Translators using this strategy must be extra sure they understand what the source text means (there’s another embedded question!), but by doing so they can produce a more polished text.

Martin even gave examples of embedded questions that he had spotted in the slides of other English-speaking presenters in previous sessions, thus underlining the fact that English really did use this structure frequently, and that his examples weren’t merely the result of cherry-picking from a huge corpus.

The doctors’ prescriptions

If the Word Doctor sessions could be summarised in two sentences, they would be:

  • When translating the English word support into French, look for solutions other than appuyer, supporter and appui, according to the context.
  • When translating from French to English, look for opportunities to use embedded questions, especially if the sentence contains too many nouns (particularly the [noun] + de + [noun] structure).

Both of these sessions were useful for both English-speaking and French-speaking translators, since both of these tips can be turned on their heads:

  • When translating from French to English, look for opportunities to simplify the sentence by using forms of the word support.
  • When translating embedded questions from English to French, look to restructure the sentence, in many cases replacing the embedded question with a noun.


Second up on the opening day was Jean-Paul Servais (pictured below), who is President of the Belgian Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA), Vice-President of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) and a lecturer at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). Goodness knows how he finds the time to do all three!

Jean-Paul’s excellently prepared presentation explained what the FSMA does to protect consumers of financial products and what it has achieved. The clearest indication of the organisation’s success is that financial products are becoming less complex: between 2015 and 2017, the amount invested in financial products involving at least three mechanisms fell by a quarter as a proportion of total investments in financial products. Of course, less complex financial products is good news for translators who are tasked with explaining these mechanisms in another language!

Jean-Paul Servais explains what Belgian's Financial Services and Markets Authority does

Jean-Paul Servais explains what Belgian’s Financial Services and Markets Authority does

We learned that the FSMA engages in one of Chris Durban’s favourite pastimes: mystery shopping! But the FSMA uses mystery shopping to ensure that organisations that sell financial products comply with the regulations, so it’s a little different to what Chris Durban does in the unregulated translation sector.

Jean-Paul Servais briefly talked about the website Wikifin.be, a financial education programme that has had a whopping 7 million visits since its launch in 2013. Given these impressive viewing figures, it’s a shame that the site was under maintenance at the time of the presentation and is still under maintenance at the time of writing (August 2018). I look forward to visiting this promising resource once it is back on its feet.

The polyglot lawyer

According to Tom West’s company website, he is ATA-certified for translation from French, Spanish, German and Dutch to English and he has also studied Danish, Swedish, Portuguese, Afrikaans and Russian. Quite a polyglot then!

But despite this vast assortment of languages, Tom (pictured below) clearly knows his stuff in the area of law. Since he was addressing an audience of translators who all work with French and English, he demonstrated his expertise in legal terminology in those two languages, but anyone looking for evidence that he is just as knowledgeable in some of his other languages need only turn the pages (or check out the online previews) of his highly acclaimed Spanish-English Dictionary of Law and Business and Trilingual (French, German and English) Swiss Law Dictionary.

Tom, the polyglot lawyer

Tom, the polyglot lawyer

Tom West gave two presentations: one on the terminology used in French and English to describe different types of companies, and one discussing the implications of a new French law on the due diligence duties of companies. The content was excellent, and would be impossible to summarise in a small section of a blog post, but to give you a taste of what to expect if you ever attend one of his talks, I’d encourage you to read his excellent review of what for many of us is our go-to French-English legal dictionary, the Council of Europe French-English Legal dictionary. During his talks, he dealt with some of the points included in that article.

At last, a non-literary slam!

There’s no better way to wind down from a day at a translation conference than a good-old translation slam, but I think every one I’d ever been to before this one dealt with literary texts. Not that I don’t enjoy a literary slam, but since I am a non-literary translator, it made a refreshing change to see non-literary translators putting their reputations on the line in front of an audience of translators. Wednesday’s slam was French to English; Friday’s, the other way round. Well done to Larry Cohen (see the photo at the start), Rosie Wells (idem), Christèle Blin and Jeremy Fileul for being brave enough to defend their excellent translations in front of their peers.

All about the EU (and, of course, Brexit)

Brexit seems to have been the big story in the news for an eternity now, and with the UK still trying to negotiate a final deal, it was the subject, directly or indirectly, of three talks at UETF. Dutch writer and journalist Joris Luyendijk gave his views on “why it happened, how it happened, what happens now”, while Charles Grant, of the Center for European Reform, discussed “Brexit and its consequences”. The president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Brussels, Howard Liebman, meanwhile, focused more on what the European Union does.

Addressing VAT fraud

As I mentioned in the introduction, I had been worried UETF would focus on finance in a narrow sense, but the speakers dealt with a broad spectrum of related subjects, and it was perhaps David O’Sullivan’s presentation about measures to combat VAT fraud that was most closely connected to the kind of work I specialise in. Taxation is a central topic in the macroeconomic reports about developing countries that I translate and edit, usually for his own organisation, the OECD.

David O’Sullivan (pictured below) explained why VAT is such a common form of taxation, used by 170 countries, how the OECD helps to create standards to ensure that everybody pays what they should to the treasury, and how the explosion of international trade in services (including translation services!) has created challenges for policymakers to deal with. He also gave examples of tax-evasion schemes, which often fund organised crime, with one of his slides showed an excellent graphic illustrating how carousel fraud works. Finally, David outlined what governments must do to tackle VAT fraud and how new technologies can assist them in doing so.

David O'Sullivan on VAT fraud and losses

David O’Sullivan on VAT fraud and losses

Other sessions
I have mentioned just some of the sessions that stood out for me. But ask attendees what stood out for them and they might tell you about David Berenger‘s talk on how US shale gas will make up for the shortfall in oil supply in the coming years (budding translators looking for a specialism take note!), or maybe Jean-Luc Layon‘s overview of the French multinational oil giant Total, or one of the other presentations.

Filet américain in the lunchtime buffet

Filet américain at the lunchtime buffet

Networking opportunities

Opportunities to network were aplenty. Breakfast was available every morning for those who arrived early, followed by a mid-morning coffee break. Every day, we had a delicious lunch buffet, where I ticked tasting steak tartare off my bucket list.

(It was actually filet américain, but that’s close enough. I’ve never been brave enough to order it off a restaurant menu, lest I find it revolting and have to resort to Atkinsonian methods to hide my embarrassment at not being able to eat it. As it turned out, it was rather delicious.)

Autoworld has a beautiful collection of vintage cars.

Autoworld has a beautiful collection of vintage cars. We got the chance to wander round the magnificent collection before the gala dinner.


I’ve uploaded the full resolution versions of the car pictures so you can see them in all their splendour. Just click on the thumbnails to enjoy!

On the Wednesday evening, I had dinner with a group of translators in the heart of the old city, and on the Friday evening I went out for drinks with two translators while watching Belgium outplay Brazil in the World Cup quarter-finals. And then there was the delicious gala dinner at the fabulous Autoworld museum, which has a huge collection of the most splendid vintage cars.


The cars are arranged chronologically by decade. Here is the 1910s collection.


The high price tag for the event had the advantage of filtering out bottom-feeder translators and agencies, so most of the translators I was mingling with while enjoying the best of Belgian cuisine were serious ones willing to invest in their professional development, and therefore the kind of translators I’m inclined to work with.

My one disappointment with the networking was that there were few opportunities to chat with the industry speakers. As far as I know, the only non-linguists who were around during the networking sessions were the ones who had just given a presentation, so 95% of the time I found myself networking with other translators, just like I do at any other translation conference. Not that I see any way around this, as all the “outside” speakers were busy people who don’t have time to hang around and be pestered by translators. The solution for translators looking to get leads is to use the Q&A sessions to introduce themselves to the speakers, to use the coffee and lunch breaks to start a conversation with the speaker and get his or her business card, and then to follow up on that conversation after the event.

But generating leads is not the raison d’être of UETF. I probably won’t get any work directly from any of the speakers, but I’ve improved my expertise in finance, improved my raw translation skills thanks to the Word Doctors and the workshop, and I’ve networked with translators operating in a similar market to me. All these things will be beneficial to my career.

A lesson for other conference organisers

By inviting speakers from outside the translation sector, UETF offers two major benefits to those attending. First, the translators have an opportunity to mingle with people who desperately need high-quality translations and are willing to pay the price that such translations command. And second, the translators have access to insider knowledge in their specialist fields.

Most translation conferences do not focus on a particular genre, but organisers could still invite specialists who work in certain fields. A few already do. In fact, some of the most popular sessions held at the conferences organised by Mediterranean Editors and Translators (MET) have been workshops run by
a statistician and a medical doctor.

Since generic translation conferences are attended by people who specialise in a wide range of fields, it’s impossible for organisers to please everyone, but perhaps some of the larger conferences could run some parallel sessions presented by professionals working in a certain field. One or two more generic talks could take place during the same slot for those not interested in any of the fields being presented. Alternatively, these thematic sessions could be held as optional extra activities the day before the main conference kicks off.

Sign up for the next edition

At UETF 2018, the content was excellent and the delivery superb, so I would highly recommend that any English- or French-speaking translators who work in finance or related fields sign up for the next edition, in 2020, probably in Paris. And if you can’t wait that long, you could always attend the 2019 event in Switzerland organised by the Swiss Association of Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters.


Avis charged me an extra €345.63 for returning a car two days early

Picture this scenario. A company hires me to work for them in house for a month. I ditch my normal per day rate and give a special price for the entire month. The contract specifies that it is a special rate for a full month.

In the end, the company decide they do not need my services for the final week, and they let me leave early.

What should I charge the company? I think most people would expect me to charge the original fee. After all, I booked time in my agenda for that final week and might not find other projects to take up the time.

But what if I told the client that because they were not using my services for the final week, I was going to charge then four and a half times the original price? What would the client think of my business? Would they ever use my services again? Would they recommend my services to other potential clients?

My bad experience with Avis

This is what happened to me when I hired a car from Avis.

I needed a car from 26 April to 16 May, and found a great price with Avis, at just €98.11. Adding a few extra days did not change the price, so given the frequency of strikes in France, I decided to extend the booking to 18 May, so that if my flight got cancelled I would still have the car for the extra two days.

The booking included the following clause:


For those who don’t speak French, it says “You shall not be refunded for the days that you do not use the car”.

This made perfect sense. If my flight went ahead as scheduled, then by returning the car on 16 May, I’d pay the same price as in the original booking and wouldn’t receive a refund.

Things turned out rather differently.

Unlike the conditions stated on the original booking, the conditions I signed when I went to collect the car said that the price was subject to hiring the car for at least 21 days. Yes, I realise that I should have queried this when I collected the car, but I’d already tried to check it would be fine and had been reassured by the above condition printed on my original booking. Sadly, the part about the minimum of 21 days was not among the three sections that I had to initial, otherwise I might have spotted it.

I returned the car, and thought everything was in order, but when I got back home and checked my credit card statement, I noticed a charge of €345.63, even though I thought I’d already paid everything I had to pay. It’s a good thing I checked the credit card statement, as I received no e-mail informing me of the additional charges until after I asked for clarification.

Of course, I’ll learn the lesson and in future I won’t return a car early without explicitly checking with the car hire company first. In this particular case, I did mention to the member of staff at the counter in Lyon that I was planning to return the car early, but I only mentioned it in passing, and did not specifically ask if it would result in a higher charge. It didn’t even occur to me that a company would charge more for an early return. It just didn’t seem logical.

Were Avis within their rights to make the additional charges? Perhaps. But it seems a strange way to treat one’s customers.

By returning the car early, I was making the car available to be hired by other customers. There was plenty of space in the company’s car park, so I can’t for the life of me work out why they needed to charge me an additional fee for returning the car early. And not just a small fee – one that made the total price four and a half times more expensive than the original price!

If I ran any kind of company that hired out any kind of product and a customer wanted to return that product early, I would always allow them to do so, and would never charge them extra to do so.

Fortunately many other car hire companies agree with me. Here’s what some other companies say:


Can I return the vehicle early?

You can return your hire early with no penalty however if your reservation was pre-paid you won’t get a refund of any rental days you have not used.


Can You Return a Rental Car Early?

At Enterprise, we do not charge customers more for returning a car early, and you will only be charged for the days you had the vehicle (excluding prepaid reservations).


Q: What happens if I return the car earlier/later?

A: In case you return the car earlier than the specified drop-off date and time, please note that there will be no refund.

In case you return the car later than the specified drop-off time and date, please note that there will be a grace period of 29 minutes. In case you do not return the car within this period, you will be charged a full day of rental, at the current rate.

(The latter is pretty similar to what Avis’s conditions said, but I know from experience that Firefly don’t charge you extra if you return the car early.)

So, with Europcar, Enterprise and Firefly, you usually pay exactly the same price for returning the car early, and you never pay more.

Had I been charged a small fee, I wouldn’t have been so indignant, but having been charged an additional €345.63 simply for returning the car early, therefore causing no inconvenience to the car hire company, I’ll probably not be hiring a car from Avis again.


Financial translation CPD part 1: the 3rd ICEBFIT conference in Alicante

I have just returned from attending two events related to financial translation: the 3rd International Conference on Economic, Business, Financial and Institutional Translation, at the University of Alicante, and the Summer School for Financial Translators, in Brussels. This post is about the first of the two.

I had already attended the first conference in 2014, and although it was very academic, many practitioners also attended, including representatives of several international institutions. One speaker from a major international institution did an excellent talk about recruitment processes in institutions, and after I spoke to her and sent a CV, I began receiving interesting projects at good rates. For that reason alone it had been worth my while attending the conference.

The headline act this year was Chris Durban, who spoke on “Dichotomies, differentiators and predictors. What mystery shopping can teach us about successful corporate translation”. Unfortunately I arrived late after TAP Air Portugal cancelled one of my flights, so I missed most of the opening day, including Chris’s presentation and that of well-known Spanish financial translator Javier Gil González, who spoke on “Emerging areas of work for financial translators” (voted best presentation by those who attended the conference).

On the final day, Ondrej Klabal and Michal Kubanek of Palacky University Olomouc (Czech Republic) presented research that showed how translation students produced better translation when they were exposed in advance to some kind of professional discourse on the same broad subject matter, either in the form of a TV interview or in the form of a newspaper article.

Two days earlier, Defeng Li of the University of Macau also presented research on preparation, but this time for conference interpreters rather than translators. The researchers found that interpreters who were given preparation material plenty of time in advance, allowing them to prepare properly, performed better than those who received no preparation material at all. No surprise there. What was most interesting about the team’s findings, however, was that interpreters who were given only 10 minutes to read their preparation material actually performed worse than those who had no preparation time at all. Analysis using eye-tracking technology suggested that those who received last-minute material were too distracted to interpret properly, because they were looking through their glossaries while simultaneously trying to listen to the speaker and translate what they were saying.

All but one of the presentations I was able to attend following my late arrival were by speakers affiliated to universities, so it felt like the “institutional” aspect of the conference had been neglected a little this year. This made the event less attractive to practitioners. Although the conference was well organised and many of the topics were interesting, before deciding whether to attend the next edition I will look carefully at the programme and weigh up whether I will get a good return on my investment. If the organisers can attract more institutional speakers, like they did in 2014, then I’ll almost certainly sign up again. If not, I’ll probably only go if I happen to be in the area around the same dates for another event.

This year I was attending another event less than a week later: the Summer School for Financial Translators. More on that in my next post…


Windows updates: “Requires a restart to finish installing”

The latest major Windows update, version 1803 (but this solution applies to other versions too), wouldn’t install on my computer. On the Windows update dialogue window, it constantly said “Requires a restart to finish installing”, even though I’d restarted the computer several times.

I eventually found the solution in the message by dckeks on this forum.

The first scan he suggests came back clean. I then entered the second command and restarted, and I was then able to install the update.

He provides additional instructions in a later post if the first two methods don’t work.


Save 20% on MemoQ

Use this link to get a 20% discount on a memoQ translator pro licence.

Avec ce lien vous obtiendrez un rabais de 20% sur une licence “memoQ translator pro”.

Utilice este enlace para obtener un descuento de 20% en una licencia “memoQ translator pro”.

Amb aquest enllaç, podeu obtenir un 20% de descompte en una llicència “memoQ translator pro”.


CPD at sea!

As a translator who has now been specialising in sailing for over three years, I thought it was about time I spent some time out on the water myself, learning how to sail and seeing first-hand what all the terms I use mean, so I signed up to Good Hope Sailing Academy‘s Competent Crew course. We had some theory classes, but it was mainly a practical course, out on the water.

The first two days we didn’t get far out of the harbour, because the wind was too strong for us novices, so we spent quite a lot of time on the theory. On day 3, however, we sailed much further, and on day 4 we went right out to Robben Island. The experience has been thoroughly enjoyable, thanks in no small part to the other students and our excellent skipper/teacher Digby.

As you can see, the views of Table Mountain and the surrounding hills from the water are pretty awesome!

A brief moment to relax while heading back towards Cape Town on a starboard tack.

A brief moment to relax as we close-hauled back towards Cape Town on a starboard tack.

Terminology was an important part of the course, which is one of the reasons why I signed up. The terms we learned were related to the parts of the boat, the names and parts of the sails, the points of sail and manoeuvres, among others. Many of the terms were ones that I was already familiar with, having used them in my translations, but it was helpful to see those terms in practical use, and it was reassuring to hear the captain use certain terms and expressions in the same way that I had used them in my translations, confirming that I’d used good sources when researching terminology and collocations. For example, hearing the skipper say “Shake out the reef” provided welcome reassurance that I use the correct expression to refer to the removal of a reef (i.e. a fold) from the mainsail. I also learned dozens of new terms, such as cleats (fittings used to secure lines), stanchions (the vertical posts to which the guard rails are attached), clew (the corner of a sail between the foot and the leech, or back edge) and to pinch (to sail too close to the wind, as a result of which the sail begins to flap).

Translators will tell you that one of the causes of a poor translation is that the translator has not understood the text. Thanks to this Competent Crew course, I will better understand the texts I will be translating and will be more aware of how to use the terms and expressions in English. I also believe it will help me better engage with conference attendees when I attend sailing conferences, since I will be able to better understand the conversations between session and participate in them.

On day 3 I was feeling a little unwell, and at one point I actually felt like I didn’t want to ever sail again! But I caught the bug again on day 4, and perhaps at some point in the future I’ll sign up to the Day Captain course!


Translation, a high-performance sport

This month, I finally got hold of my copy of La traduction, un sport de haut niveau (“Translation, a high-performance sport”), which is the title given to the June edition of Traduire, the journal published by the Société française des traducteurs. It was published way back in June 2016, but with moving house it got sent to my old address and I didn’t get hold of it until October this year.

It was the first time I had subscribed to the magazine, not because I was not interested, but because I wondered when I would find the time to read it. But edition 234 was dedicated to sports translations, a field in which I specialise, so I was looking forward to reading it.

There was a mixed bag of authors: some who focus only on one or two sports, some who translate other fields in addition to sport, and some who are translators who dedicate much of their free time to sport.

The pedalling translator

In Traduire à vélo, which I will liberally translate as “The pedalling translator”, Jonathan Hine (website, blog) begins by telling a short story. He then tells us about his life as a nomadic translator who travels around North America and Europe by bicycle. Interestingly, Jonathan says that his professional profile on the American Translators Association‘s website is by far his main source of new clients.

Jonathan discusses many of the difficulties encountered by nomadic translators. Whenever possible, he stays in accommodation with WiFi, though he can use his smartphone if all else fails. Given his nomadic lifestyle, it is surprising that he did not get his first smartphone until 2014. He does rent a small flat in Italy that he uses for storage or for receiving items in the post (though more often that not, he has parcels sent to friends or hotels). If Jonathan ever wants to cycle around Southern Africa, I could recommend a few routes in South Africa and Namibia! He ends his article with a list of pros and cons, which anyone considering becoming a nomadic translator would do well to read before taking the plunge.

Mourinho, the interpreter’s nightmare

In Le cauchemare des interprètes, or “The interpreter’s nightmare”, Laurent Laget (website) writes at length about the man we all love to hate, pantomime villain José Mourinho. Mourinho is known for speaking half a dozen languages, and according to Laget, “Mourinho learned Catalan” when working for FC Barcelona as Bobby Robson’s interpreter. However, like the late Johan Cruijff, despite learning to speak several other languages Mourinho has never been heard speaking Catalan in public. He certainly learned to understand Catalan, as evidenced by interviews in which the journalist asked him questions in Catalan and he responded in Spanish, but when he went to Real Madrid, he started refusing to answer questions posed to him in Catalan, saying he did not understand.

Laurent looks at some of the press conferences in which Mourinho has reacted to the intervention of the interpreter. In one instance, Mourinho protested after “we didn’t deserve to win” became “we deserved to win”! By contrast, on another occasion, Mourinho was so impressed by the efforts of a Romanian translator that he chirped: “Who pays this guy? His salary should be doubled!” Laurent also mentions that some of Mourinho’s opponents use “translator” as a taunt, as if to insult him. We should applaud how Mourinho responded on one occasion: “Don’t call me a translator because that would be an offence to every translator.” Laurent’s insightful article concludes with some thoughts on how learning a foreign language is beneficial to players’ integration. He concludes by saying that languages are a powerful tool for integration, which benefits a player’s well-being, and therefore his or her performance on the field.

Golf and concentration skills

In Golf et traduction : de la page blanche à la balle (literally “Golf and translation: from the blank page to the white ball”, but the French title works better as it uses the same word for “blank” and “white”!), Céline Graciet (website) talks about how she enjoys playing golf and draws parallels between golf and translation. According to Céline, the concentration skills she uses on the fairways and greens (and perhaps occasionally in the rough or the bunkers!) are extremely helpful when she is sat at her desk, and she says that playing golf makes her more productive. Recently, Céline is delighted to have been regularly translating documents for a new golf club.

The power of corpora

Over the page I found a very familiar name: that of Simon Berrill (website, blog). I skipped past L’art du cliché, not because I wasn’t interested in what Simon had to say, but because I’d already read The right clichés — the original from which this French text was translated — on Simon’s blog. Simon mentions the abundance of clichés in sports writing and how using corpora can help translators working on a text about a sport with which they are less familiar. He suggests building corpora using WebBootCat and analysing it using one of my favourite tools, AntConc.

Terminology on track

Next up, Taffy Martin discusses cross-border athletics in L’athlétisme à travers les frontières. She focuses mainly on the differences between how athletes spend their formative years in France and in the United States, but I think the most interesting part is where she looks at athletics terminology. Taffy notes that certain event names in English have evolved to reflect international usage (a precursor to euro-English in the EU institutions?), such as broad jump and hop, step and jump becoming long jump and triple jump, respectively, as a result of which the French event names are transparent to English readers.

As a translator working for the IAAF, Taffy was asked to translate articles from English to French, i.e. from her mother tongue to her second language. She talks about an article she agreed to translate about race walking, and notes how certain terms used in English for both running and race walking have two different translations in French. For instance, both disciplines use the term stride in English, but French uses foulée in running and pas in race walking. This situation, where a term in the source language can be translated by two different terms in the target language, depending on the sport, is a common occurrence that sports translators must be wary of. Simon Berrill’s article (see the previous paragraph) gives an example in the opposite direction: the translation of the French word arbitre is referee in some sports (football, rugby, boxing…) and umpire in other sports (most racket sports, but also some ball sports like netball and hockey), the choice between the words being somewhat, ahem, arbitrary.

Back in 2003, Taffy worked in a team of around 15 voluntary interpreters at the 2003 World Championships at the Stade de France (I, by the way, was there too, sat high up in the stands for the entire week watching the action!). She talks about the challenge of helping illiterate athletes, often with broken English, during drug tests. With all the money in sports like football and Formula 1, it is often easy to forget that many sports, including athletics, rely on huge numbers of volunteers, and an event like the World Athletics Championships could not take place without them. Translators need to bear in mind crude economic realities when looking for job opportunities.

The controversy of the substituted substitute

Hiroko Nakao (website) writes about working as Une correspondante sportive dans l’abîme du décalage langagier (“A sports correspondent in a language gulf”). Hiroko, a Japanese sports translator who works mainly in football, discusses the “often extremely short deadlines” she faces, which is something that I think all sports translators can identify with. Hiroko worked for five years as a sports correspondent, mainly covering a French football club’s takeover by a Japanese company on behalf of a Japanese sports newspaper, with a role that was far broader than that of a translator and interpreter. She mentions an incident in which the newspaper had changed a word used to refer to a substitute to make the article shorter, but the changed word had negative connotations that had left the club chairman fuming. After that incident, Hiroko would always leave a note at the end of each report specifying that the taboo word should not be used.

The interpreter-cum-commentator

Vanessa De Pizzol interviews Patrick Kendrick (website, blog), who is both a football interpreter and a sports commentator. (Is anybody as jealous as I am?) He had been told by one of his university interpreting lecturers that football press conferences are organised by clubs, who hire their own interpreters, often through agencies, and it is through a specialist football-interpreting agency that he began working as an interpreter in football. Asked about José Mourinho, Patrick mentions two positive experiences working with him. Regarding the role of the interpreter, Patrick says that when a manager says something controversial in a press conference, the home club’s press secretary might sometimes ask the interpreter not to translate it.

Patrick began working as a commentator when, after moving to Milan, he was asked to provide English commentary for the Italian league. He loves both careers and hopes that he will never have to choose between the two.

Adrenaline-powered translation

In Traduction sous adrénaline (“Translation on adrenaline”), Heather Watson (website, blog) discusses her role translating and interpreting (though officially as a “press officer”) for the sport of motorcycling, which is dominated by Italian teams, but has racers from all over the world. Like Hiroko Nakao, Heather mentions the “extremely tight publication deadlines”, with press releases that need to be completed in half an hour. She notes that translating for Twitter and for video subtitles has improved her ability to write concisely. As an interpreter, Heather says it is vital for her to know the technical terminology used in her sport, especially where two terms might be easily confused, such as forcella (the fork to which the front wheel is attached) and forcellone (the swinging arm to which the rear wheel is attached). She also mentions pseudo-English words that are misused, such as feeling, which she normally translates using a paraphrase referring to being in sync with the bike.

The forgotten specialist field

Idriss Chaplain (website), who translated the autobiography of four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome into French, says that sport is a much-maligned field in translation faculties, where lecturers rarely decide to work on sports translations, despite sport playing such an important role in today’s society. In his article, La passion, la tête et les jambes, Idriss recalls his surprise when he heard Laurent Laget tell an audience that sports translators regularly average 10,000 words a day! I have to say that I too am surprised, as I cannot recall ever translating quite that many words, though I have often had to translate around 1,000 words in about an hour. Sports translators often spot mistranslations made by non-specialists, and Idriss gives an example of the term clean sheet, which, during his master’s degree, many of his classmates translated as blanchissage, rather than writing cage inviolée. This is what Simon Berrill means when he refers to the importance of finding the right cliché.

Correcting the source text

Emmanuelle Hingant, whose Twitter feed includes a Tweet about a translation she did for the Irish National Ploughing Championships (yes, really!), also touches on the subject of clichés, or phrases bateau as she calls them, in Les mots du football : viser juste et respecter le jeu (“The words of football: aiming properly and playing fair”). By way of example, she mentions the number of times that the phrase “À la fin de la journée” crops up in translations of interviews, a mistranslation of “At the end of the day”. Emmannuelle says she usually has no problems translating player interviews, but sometimes struggles translating the words of managers who use long-winded answers to express a single idea. She gives an excellent example from an interview with Roy Hodgson when he was the England manager. “It’s better to try to reproduce the idea, rather than translating each sentence word for word,” she says.

Like me, and probably most sports translators, Emmannuelle finds errors in most of her source texts, and she agrees with me that we should point out such mistakes to the client, who expects us to do so. She adds that the only way for a translator to be able to point out certain mistakes in football texts is through “knowledge of the history of football, and knowledge of results, the Laws of the Game and the league tables”.

Sports de glisses

Elisabeth Monrozier (website) writes about Les anglicismes dans les sports de glisse. But what are sports de glisse? It is a term I first came across when I began working in sailing, and refers to a myriad of sports in which people slide across a surface, such as water, snow or ice, or even through the air. The term is a tricky one to translate because it is a case where French and English simply categorise things differently to each other. If you search for translations online, a common suggestion is boardsports (see this Proz answer and see the English language link on the French Wikipedia page). But remember where I said I first read the term: sailing. But although sailing is considered a sport de glisse (the boat slides across the water), it is certainly not a boardsport! For me, there is no one solution that fits every circumstance. You normally need to reword your translation based on the context.

Moving back to Elisabeth’s article, whose title I’ll translate as “Anglicisms in urban, nautical and winter sports”, the author looks at the influx of Anglicisms in new sports that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, such as freestyle and freeride (the kind of events you see in the X Games. Elisabeth explains that one reason why Anglicisms abound in these sports is because of the informal way in which the sports arose, without national sports federations to provide standardised French translations. Instead, there was a “community spirit”, and the translator, argues Elisabeth, can help the author be perceived as a member of that community by carefully choosing to use certain Anglicisms. She refers to three different situations: terms that have a single exact equivalent in French, terms that have a French equivalent used alongside an Anglicism, and terms that have no French equivalent.

The following fragment, which I quote in the original French (my emphasis in bold), is particularly interesting:

Prenons par exemple la figure consistant à sauter en réalisant un tour complet sur soi-même. Réalisée avec un skate, elle s’appelle un three sixty, mais se le sportif est chaussé de skis, c’est un trois-six.

First, we have another example of the same term in one language having two different translations in another, depending which sport is being referred to. In French, a three-sixty is called a trois-six when performed on skis, but a three-sixty on… On what? One might logically assume that skate refers to skating or skates. But skating is normally called le roller (except on ice, when it’s called le patinage). Le skate refers not to skating but to skateboarding! French tends to shorten many of the Anglicisms it adopts. Usually, though, this shortening of words merely involves dropping the -ing, so when Elisabeth’s article refers to the sports surf, ski, snowboard and windsurf, it is discussing surfing, skiing, snowboarding and windsurfing, respectively. So you would expect skateboarding to be le skateboard, but it is further shortened to le skate.

Elisabeth briefly discusses the illogical gender of some of the borrowed words from English, such as le team, even though équipe, the French word for team, is feminine. She then concludes that there are no hardfast rules and wisely advises sports translators, and translators in any field, that “the best glossary out there is no replacement for meticulous research”.

La course à pied vs. le running

Laura Orsal (website) writes about translating for the sports press, particularly texts about running, in Traduire pour la presse sportive : l’exemple de la course à pied (“Translating for the sports press: the example of running”). According to Laura, translations of articles about running are usually for a well-informed audience looking for “tips on training, food and equipment and nice stories to inspire and motivate them”. Like Elisabeth Monrozier, Laura notes the strong US influence on the language used in French, the perfect example being the influx of the English word run and its derivatives in the names of French blogs and magazines.

One issue the sports translator must face, says Laura, is the constant introduction of new concepts. She gives the word priming, which refers to a training technique, as an example. This term has been translated into French as amorce. Laura also discusses innovations in equipment, including clothing and footwear that incorporate “patented technologies with untranslatable names”.

Laura gives CrossFit as an example of a discipline in which Anglicisms are abundant, mentioning the terms kettlebell, skills, metcons, and providing definitions of all three in the footnotes.

Laura says that being a runner herself helps her understand the jargon, and therefore the text, and her examples of how to translate certain concepts prove that her knowledgeable about running is profound. She concludes by saying that sports translations “require excellent knowledge of the sport you are translating”. Having myself translated texts about sports I am less familiar, such as handball (and sailing when I first started working on sailing texts), my viewpoint is more in line with that of Idriss Chaplain (see above), who says that even when dealing with an unknown sport, someone who is familiar with sport in general will “assimilate the jargon much more easily, and turns of phrase will come more naturally”. However, I agree with Laura that by practising a sport (or, may I add, specialising in translating a specific sport) saves time when working on a text in that sport.

A valuable read
I would like to congratulate SFT for this fascinating edition of Traduire, which I advise any current or budding sports translator to read. The digital version will be freely accessible online from June 2018.

Idriss Chaplain mentioned sports translation being largely ignored in translation faculties, but it is also largely ignored by translation associations too, so I applaud the Société française des traducteurs for their initiative in organising this special edition of Traduire.

Are you a sports translator?
Unfortunately sports translation is a field ignored not only by faculties, but also by translation associations. I can’t remember ever hearing about any event or even a talk at a conference that specifically addresses sports translation. I already know around a dozen sports translators, but would love to hear from a few more, and perhaps one day organise a day of talks, maybe through a translation association. If you’re a sports translator, please drop me a line, either in the comments section or using the contact details on my website.


When a translation has no mistakes, but is still poor

This video by the Spanish Ministry of Affairs is an example of a translation that has no mistakes per se, but is still not a good translation.

In the following table, the first column lists some of the expressions that don’t sound natural in English; the second column shows some proposed solutions.

Unnatural phrases used in the videoAlternatives that sound more natural
"more than four and a half million foreigners habitually reside in Spain""more than four and a half million foreign nationals have made Spain their home"
"75 million inbound tourists will visit our country""75 million tourists will visit our country"
"1 in every 10 inhabitants of Spain is a foreigner""Foreign nationals make up 10% of the population"
"from all five continents""from across the world" (English speakers don't use the five-continents model!)
"Did you know that there are more than 100,000 different surnames from all imaginable origins in Spain""More than 100,000 different surnames reflect the diverse backgrounds of the people living in Spain" ("origins in Spain" in the published translation is misleading)
"this melting pot not only derives from people from other countries, but also from different regions of Spain""This melting pot is a result of migration from abroad, but also migration among the different regions of Spain"
"No xenophobic political party has ever held a parliamentary representation""No xenophobic political party has ever won a parliamentary seat" or "has ever been represented in parliament"
"Spain is a multilingual, non-denominational and open state""Spain is a secular country with a multilingual, tolerant society"
"We actively foster the integration of different peoples""We help people from a range of different countries and cultures to integrate in Spanish society"
"Our diversity is a source of social and cultural wealth, as well as an important economic asset""Spain's social and cultural diversity is a major* economic asset"

*I believe the word “important” is a translation error here, though some colleagues may disagree. The Spanish word importante often means big/large/major, rather than important. I believe that is the author’s intended meaning here.

As mentioned above, the expressions in the left-hand column are not wrong. It’s just that the turns of phrase are not commonly used in English, whereas the original version in Spanish used common, everyday phrases. The result is a text that sounds strange to an English speaker’s ear and doesn’t achieve the same result as the Spanish text.

Make sure you use a good translator if you want a text that sounds natural in the target language!


Dialogue boxes slow to open in Word

A problem I’ve been experiencing for quite a while on my computer is that dialogue boxes have been very slow to open in MS Word and Excel. I assumed it was a result of the UBitMenu, a handy add-on that restores the old-style drop-down menus we used to use before Microsoft introduced the awful ribbon. I accepted it as a trade-off, since the delays were more than offset by the time I gained by finding option quicker thanks the drop-down menus (and being able to open up the drop-down menus thanks to a script I wrote).

But then things started getting really slow, and I’d also experienced some sluggishness in my browser. I trawled through the forums and found many people with the same problem, but nobody was proposing a solution that worked.

Then I read a post by someone who hypothesised that it was down to hard drives that were dying. The writer of the post (which I can no longer find) had the issue on two computers, both of which then experienced hard-drive failure. He then started working on a laptop that was more than 10 years-old, and therefore should have been much slower, and found that he no longer experienced the problem.

The hard drive that came with my computer has been playing up recently, with one of the partitions not working very well. Fortunately, I only use it as a backup drive, as I migrated my operating system and documents to a solid state drive several years ago (I recommend all my colleagues do the same, as will make your system much quicker), but it seems that even having the hard drive connected was slowing down my system, especially (for some reason) when opening and closing dialogue boxes in Word and Excel.

If you are experiencing the same issues, try disconnecting any old drives that no longer perform properly. Of course, if it’s the drive that your operating system is running on, then you can’t just disconnect it, but it’s a good excuse to buy a solid state drive, which will definitely speed up your system, even if it doesn’t fix this particular problem.

If, like in my case, the hard drive playing up is one that you can safely disconnect, but it is an internal drive, you don’t need to get out the screwdrivers. You can simply go to the device manager, select “Disk drives”, then right-click on the device that’s playing up and select “Disable device” (whatever you do, don’t do this on the device that runs your operating system!). After restarting your computer, check whether the problem has gone away.