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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. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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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:

AvisTerms

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. Continue reading

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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…

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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.

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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!

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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. Continue reading

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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!

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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.

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A guide to pronouncing the place names in reports about the terrorist attacks in Catalonia

Journalists have been struggling with the pronunciation of Catalan place names in the aftermath of last week’s tragic events in Catalonia. Strangely, sometimes the names of places in Catalonia and the rest of Spain are pronounced as if they were French, with a nasal vowel creeping in to place names that begin with “Sant”, for instance. This phenomenon is known as a hyperforeignism.

Journalists should not be expected to pronounce place names exactly as they are pronounced in the original language, but the purpose of these tips is to offer the best compromise pronunciation, i.e. a pronunciation that uses sounds that we use in English. In other words, it would sound pretentious to pronounce the r of the French city Rennes out of the back of the throat, like the French do, but it makes sense to avoid pronouncing the final s, since it is easy for an English-speaking person to do so and it does not sound unnatural.

I’ve refrained from using phonetic symbols to make this guide accessible. A linguist will spot inconsistencies in my “transcriptions”, but they’re intended to be read by English speakers as if they were English words. The syllables written in all caps are the stressed syllables. The letters uh indicate a schwa sound, like the initial a in the English word about.

Barcelona: This one’s easy. I think we can consider this one to be Anglicised, like Paris (in which we pronounce the s, even though it is silent in French). So just pronounce it the usual English way. But whatever you do, please don’t pronounce the letter c as a th! It sounds pretentious, and although it is part of the Spanish pronunciation, in Catalan, the c in Barcelona is pronounced as an s, just like in English. Recommended pronunciation: [bar-suh-LO-nah].

Cambrils: Another easy one for English speakers. Read it as written, including the final s. The stress in on the final syllable: Recommended pronunciation: [kuhm-BREELS].

Sant Sadurní (d’Anoia): I’ve put the final part in brackets because, although it is part of the official name, it is usually left out, in the same way that Newcastle-upon-Tyne becomes Newcastle. The pronunciation is quite straightforward. Note that in Catalan and Spanish (unlike in French), accented vowels indicate the stress, so Sadurní is stressed on the final syllable. The only other thing to note is that the final t of Sant is silent in most Catalan dialects. Recommended pronunciation: [SAN suh-dur-NEE (duh-NOY-a)].

Sant Just: Like in the above, you can drop the t, so Sant is pronounced [San] (don’t make it sound like the French word Saint!). The j of Just is pronounced like the s in vision, or the j in words borrowed from French, like jus. Recommended pronunciation: [SAN JOOST].

Alcanar: The main mistake I’ve heard with this one is a stress on the first syllable; it should be on the final syllable. The final r is silent in standard Catalan, but is pronounced in the accent of the people living in that part of southern Catalonia. Recommended pronunciations: [uhl-kuh-NAR] or [uhl-kuh-NA].

Subirats: The important thing here is to place the stress on the final syllable. All the letters are pronounced. Recommended pronunciation: [soo-be-RATS].

Ripoll: No, it doesn’t sound like the English word ripple! The double l produces a sound that doesn’t exist in English and is hard to pronounce. But we can get close enough by pronouncing it like a letter y. The stress is on the final syllable. Recommended pronunciation: [ri-POY].

Vilafranca (del Penedès): There are several places called Vilafranca in the Catalan sprachraum, but since this one is the biggest, Vilafranca del Penedès is often shortened to Vilafranca. The pronunciation of the short form is straightforward; English speakers will even relax the unstressed vowels in the same way that a Catalan would. If reading the long form, the word Penedès is stressed on the final syllable, as indicated by the accented vowel. Recommended pronunciation: [vi-la-FRAN-ka (duhl puh-nuh-DES)].

Pau Pérez: Not a place name, but the name of one of the victims. The first name should be familiar to basketball fans, thanks to Pau Gasol. I’ve written it as “pow” in the recommended pronunciation. Note that this should rhyme with cow, not with bow. In the surname Pérez, the first syllable is stressed, as indicated by the accented vowel. It is a Spanish name, so most Spaniards (including Catalans) would pronounce the z as a th sound, but in other parts of the Spanish-speaking world people would pronounce it as a hard s sound, so this would also be acceptable. Recommended pronunciations: [POW PEH-reth] or [POW PEH-ress].

Have I missed any out? Leave a comment below, or tweet me, and I’ll add any other places you’d like to know how to pronounce.

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