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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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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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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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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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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La facturation en monnaie étrangère : un formulaire pour convertir les prix en euros selon la loi française

La loi française permet la facturation en monnaie étrangère, et le portail de l’Économie, des Finances, de l’Action et des Comptes publics explique comment le faire.

Pour le calcul du montant en euros de vos factures, j’ai créé un formulaire Excel. Il suffit d’introduire la date de facture, le montant et la devise pour que le formulaire vous calcule le montant en euros selon les deux méthodes permis par la loi française. Les taux de changes utilisés pour les conversions sont les taux officiaux de la Banque centrale européenne, qui publie les taux de référence utilisés par les autorités françaises.

ConversionFacturesDevises par anglopremier.com.

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