Professional Headshots: Our Experience

We are SO not models.
We've long been advocates of professional headshots to be used on business cards, websites, marketing materials, etc. Long gone are the days when we saw many T&I professionals use cropped summer snapshots as their profile pictures on LinkedIn and other online media, and that's a great development. Lawyers, doctors, and other professionals long ago discovered the power of professional images, and translators and interpreters need them, too. It's rare to visit a website these days that doesn't feature an image of the actual services provider. It builds trust and it's always nice to see a picture of a real person rather than a stock image. We are usually surprised when there isn't a real picture to be found on someone's website, and we bet clients feel the same way. Having a professional image is relatively easy and doesn't require a big investment. This year, we just spent $100 each because of a fabulous special at a local studio that made us feel like royalty for an afternoon.

Dagy's royal treatment.
A few years ago, we started encouraging our local and national associations to host photo shoots with professional photographers at discounted rates for their members, which allowed many colleagues to obtain top-notch photos at reasonable prices. We had our pictures taken at several of these events, and it's fantastic that this is catching on!  Even if you hire your own photographer, it's usually a worthwhile investment and one of the few upfront investments you need to make in your online presence. 

Photo by Sam Woodard.
Photo by Sam Woodard.
After doing four or five outdoor photo shoots in a row (all in Vegas), we decided to have an indoor studio photo shoot this year. We had just received a very attractive offer from Fremont East Studios through our downtown Vegas co-working space Work in Progress and we had a fantastic experience! The photo shoot even included the services of a highly talented and lovely make-up artist, and the studio was fantastic and very comfortable. We hope you enjoy both the finished product (that's Judy on the left) and some goofy behind-the-scenes pictures as well. As you can tell, we are very far from being model material, and we usually don't know how to stand, where to look, or what to do with our hands (told you we weren't model material). Luckily for us, photographer Sam Woodard and make-up artist Doralynne Valenzuela told us exactly what to do. What a great all-female team! You'd think that posing in a studio would be really unnatural and awkward, but it was quite the opposite.

And don't forget that this is a classic business expense. Actually, it's one of our most entertaining business expenses of the year. 

What about you, dear colleagues? Have you had a professsional headshot taken or are you still thinking about it? We are always looking for good photo ideas, so we'd love to hear about your experiences!

It's Official!

After four years and more than 3,000 books sold, we are proud to announce that we have finally tackled a big project. Yes, we are currently working on the new edition (second edition, actually) of The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation. This edition will include several completely revised chapters as well as a chapter specifically for interpreters as well. The book will be available on Lulu, Amazon, etc. in print and PDF format and of course in all e-book formats through BookBaby.

While we don't have a hard deadline for this, we would love to be able to introduce our new book at the 55th Annual Conference of the American Translators Association in Chicago in November, as we will both be there. We are currently reviewing all existing content, creating new chapter(s), and putting thought into the cover design and illustrations. 

Since we are currently working on the new edition, we'd love to hear from our colleagues. Is there anything you'd like to see included? Please do let us know by leaving a comment and we will be delighted to review all suggestions and input.

Thanks for your support of our first edition, and we look forward to sharing our second edition with all of you! We will keep you posted about our progress right here on this blog.

Book Review: "Entre Deux Voix"

The book on the road at Heathrow airport.
Note: It’s summertime, which usually means books and book reviews, and here is our first one of the summer. Dagy reviews a French-language book below. Judy has nothing to contribute because she doesn’t speak French. FYI: This English-language review includes a few sections in French.

Instead of attacking my oversized ZEIT newspaper on my recent flight from Heathrow to Vegas, I decided to read Jenny Sigot Müller’s debut novel (not self-published, but by an actual publisher!) “Entre deux voix” (Between two voices). It was mostly a good read and it saved me angry looks from the poor person stuck on the middle seat next to me who would have certainly disliked having my huge paper spill over into her tray table.

While the cover says “Journal d’une jeune interprète de conférence”  (journal of a young conference interpreter), the book reads much more like a novel than a private journal, and it could have benefited from a catchier title. Even though this is a journal, the author, a practicing conference interpreter in Switzerland, decided to keep the reader in the dark about the mysterious “agency” that usually hires her, which struck me as odd. Puzzlingly, she receives faxes from them for her assignments, even though the novel is clearly set in modern tech times, and as far as I know, the fax went extinct in 2000, but I digress. The author also does not disclose the clients she ends up working with. One of them is most certainly Red Bull, but the author never mentions the brand. While this is certainly understandable from an actual conference interpreter’s ethical perspective, it leaves too many blanks for the uninitiated reader. This is, after all, a work of fiction. Or not, as mentioned above.

Speaking about outsiders to the profession: Even though I sincerely hope that the general public will reach for this book in the bookstore, they might find it doesn’t provide sufficient background information about the industry. For instance, the author doesn't explain what a source text is or what the difference between consecutive and simultaneous might be. It isn’t until very late in the book that the reader even learns the narrator's working languages (English and French; any others?).

As probably most novice authors do, the author did fall into several traps, mostly in terms of style (je hurle de toutes mes forces; j’éteins la lampe d’un geste déterminé). Wittingly or not, she oscillates between overly dramatic passages (especially when describing her very first interpreting assignment), staccato-like writing and traditional prose. What struck me as troubling was that an interpreter who’s clearly aware of the power of language would use the generic masculine when talking about interpreters in general: Et l’interprète a une autre voix, qu’il revêt une fois le micro allumé, etc.

Most authors seem to think that no novel is complete without the typical love story (or budding love story) thrown in, but the story line in this book is so contrived and kitschy that the book would certainly be better off without it.

Luckily, there were other traps that the author successfully avoided, such as celebrating the greatness of interpreters in general. Instead, the plot is mostly about the one-sided rivalry deliberately created by an experienced interpreter and the poor up-and-coming interpreter (narrator) who finds herself facing extreme hostility for no apparent reason and struggling to cope with that situation.

Overall, a few flaws  aside, this was a good read. Even though it will not be a contender for the Pulitzer prize, industry professionals will certainly enjoy reading it. Here's the author's website, and of course, the book is also available on Amazon.

Do You Need a College Degree?

A few months ago, a lovely acquaintance who wants to be an interpreter, asked us whether she needed a college degree to succeed as a (court) interpreter. We hadn't really thought about this, as college is such a natural step in most professionals' lives, but the question is more than valid and merited some more thought. The answer is a bit more complicated than it seems, but basically, we'd say the answer is: yes, you should probably have a college degree to make sure you put yourself in the best-possible competitive position. The longer answer is: it depends. Let us elaborate on that.

Translation and interpretation are very competitive industries, and according to some surveys (there aren't too many on this topic, actually), the vast majority of translators and interpreters hold at least a bachelor's degree, but many have advanced degrees, including doctoral degrees. However, especially in the US, these degrees aren't necessarily in T&I but in other fields. In Europe, things are quite different, as T&I programs are easily available at most universities, so anecdotally we will go out on a limb here and use our background in the industry to boldly state that most translators and interpreters who work professionally in Europe not only have college degrees, but have degrees in the actual field. Which one is better, a T&I degree or a degree in another field, perhaps in your area of specialization? That's a topic for another post.

Now, is a degree strictly necessary to work as a translator and interpreter? No, it's not. Ours is a fairly unregulated industry, and there are no hard educational guidelines, as opposed to, say, lawyers, who need to have a J.D. (or an LLM if they are coming from another country) to sit for the Bar Exam. Not so for translators and interpreters.

However, we personally only know two successful interpreters (and no translators) who do not hold a college degree. We are not saying it's essential, but it's just another tool that you need to have in your toolbox. The reality is that few professional jobs in this economy are open to non-college graduates, for better or for worse. Newcomers to the profession have to compete with colleagues who might have 20+ years of experience and hold graduate degrees, so any newcomer is well advised to get as much formal education under their belt as possible. While it's not impossible to succeed in this business without a college degree, it's unusual and it's an uphill battle.

We did some soul-searching and asked ourselves: would we work with (=outsource to) a colleague who did not have a formal college degree? This is a tough question, and the answer is: probably not, as we have a long list of superstar colleagues with impressive credentials to whom we are more likely to outsource. Would we discount someone without a college degree immediately, as many employers and LSPs might do? Probably not, but it does give us pause, and we do think earning a college degree shows initiative and determination. We are usually particularly puzzled by those who are one class or a few credits away from finishing their degrees, and unfortunately, in education, things are black or white in terms of credentials. Either you have a degree or you don't (there is no such thing as an almost-degree). While we don't want to draw general conclusions on someone's work ethic based on whether or not one has a college degree, having one does show dedication and stamina, which are important in our industry.

So, in a nutshell, we think that in order to be competitive in our industry, every newcomer should have a college degree in some field. We are not saying you won't be successful without one, but the chances of success are usually higher with a college degree. On the interpreting side, we've seen a few colleagues who do very well for themselves without a degree, but they are the exception rather than the rule. What do you think, dear colleagues? Ah, and for the record, Judy has an MBA in marketing and an undergraduate degree in business administration, while Dagy has a master's degree in conference interpreting, a bachelor's degree in translation and interpretation, and the equivalent of a master's degre in French and communications. That should be sufficient degrees for now, although we have thought about getting a PhD...

Free Software We Love: Toggl

Today's post is short and sweet, and it's about software we love that makes our lives easier. After kissing a few software frogs, we went with a dear colleague's suggestion and started using Toggl to keep track of hours worked. We charge more and more clients by the hour, and needed a simple and reliable way to keep track of our hours. Toggl does the trick. There's nothing to download and no learning curve. While some features are fee-based, we have not used them and just use the free version. Paid features include invoicing options, which we don't need because we already have a very solid accounting system.

We started using Toggl within five minutes of visiting the website, and it is user-friendly and intuitive. You create a free account in a few minutes, and you are off to track your time based on projects. The company's tag line is "Insanely simple time tracking," and that describes it well. We are actually quite addicted to the software now, as it lets us see very clearly exactly how we allocate our time. Of course you do have to get used to clicking the "start" button when you start working on a particular project, which took us a few days to remember. Just like lawyers, we only get paid when we have billable client hours and it's fascinating to see that some days we only bill four or five hours to clients and the rest is work that cannot be billed to any clients. These tasks include administrative work, answering e-mails, quotes, invoices, inquiries, blogging, social media, filing, organizational tasks, teaching (for which we get paid a fixed amount and do not bill hourly), pro bono work, etc. It really does put our work day in perspective! We also really like the easy reports that Toggl allows you to compile. If requested, these can be sent to the client.

What about you, dear colleagues? Do you use a time-tracking tool like Toggl? If yes, which one? We'd love to hear about other software options. 

Workshops in Europe: September

It's official! We will both be in Europe in September, as Judy will be crossing the pond to work from Vienna for a month, and she's also fitting in two recently announced workshops. Here is additional information -- we would love to see you there!

At ITI London, September 2013. Picture by Dagy.
Manchester, UK (North-West Translators' Network, a regional group of the ITI). On September 20, Judy will present her popular three-hour "No Pain, No Gain: Active Marketing to Direct Clients" workshop, which includes exercises, a raffle (win books!), and yes, a skit. Last year, Judy gave this workshop in London and York, and they both sold out very quickly. We felt really bad for colleagues who could not get in, so please do book your spot early! The room seats 60.

Vienna, Austria. UNIVERSITAS Austria Interpreters' and Translators' Association. On September 27, Judy and Dagy will be part of the association's 60th anniversary celebrations (a two-day event) and will present a German-language session on social media for translators and interpreters. More information (in German) is available here. The two-day event will also include a keynote presentation by Nataly Kelly, VP of Marketing at technology company Smartling and co-author of Found in Translation.

We love meeting fellow translators and interpreters at conferences and events! If you plan on attending either one of these workshops, please do drop us a note so we can meet up.

Who Wants to Go to Summer School?

Translators and interpreters are always learning and improving their skills, so there's no reason to not continue doing so during the summer -- well, there are a few reasons, but we digress. This summer, UC San Diego-Extension's Certificate for Spanish/English Translation and Interpretation program (all online), where Judy teaches, offers a variety of classes that might be of interest for both beginning and more advanced interpreters and translators.

Introduction to Interpretation (no prerequisites, starts July 1) is a five-week course delivered via Blackboard (an online learning platform). Every week, students will access customized, pre-recorded PPT presentations with audio, which last approximately 2-3 hours per week. Students complete assignments every week, including weekly quizzes, and learn about all basic aspects of interpreting. The PPT presentations include dozens of exercises with original content. Students are only graded on one actual interpreting assignment (the final exam), as this class is meant for beginners.

Introduction to Translation (no prerequisites, starts August 5) is a five-week course that teaches newcomers to the profession the basics of translation, and introduces them to a strategic way to approach translations. This course is ideal for those who want to find out if this profession is for them. Judy will share the realities of our profession without sugar-coating the challenges translators face. Students will submit two graded translations and many exercises.

Strategic Branding & Marketing for Interpreters and Translators (several prerequisites, starts July 1) is a ten-week course where Judy teaches everything she knows about marketing your services as a translator and/or interpreter. The course follows the same format as the other classes and includes easy-to-use information on marketing to agencies and direct clients, social media, networking, outreach, public relations, etc.

To view all classes in the certificate program, please have a look at this link. Our lovely colleague and federally certified court interpreter Jennifer de la Cruz also teaches in the program, and she's a very popular instructor! Be sure to have a look at her classes, too. Happy summer!

Record Speechpool Videos, Get a Book

Record to win!
We still have several copies of one of the best T&I books currently on the market, Found in Translation by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche (generously donated by co-author Nataly Kelly of Smartling), to give away on this blog. In our quest for ever-clever (or not) ways to give these away, we just thought of something. We would like to have this little giveaway benefit of our favorite interpreting tools: Speechpool. If you have not yet heard about Speechpool, you are in for a treat. Have a look at our initial blog posting about the site here

It's a free website (free to you, but not free to run; more on that later) for interpreters to practice interpreting -- in 19 languages! It's an entirely collaborative effort, as it's interpreters recording speeches for interpreters. Between the two of us, we've recorded more than 40 videos in German and English (Spanish coming soon), and it's addictive and fun. We also routinely use Speechpool to practice our own interpreting, as there are only so many TED talks and political speeches one can interpret before craving different topics, voices, accents and speaking styles.

Speechpool just celebrated its first anniversary, and we hope it stays around for a long time. The effort was initially funded by the UK NNI (National Network for Interpreting), but at this point, founder Sophie Llewellyn Smith pays everything out of her own pocket, so she's looking for donations. We don't want to make this a donation-based giveaway, but if you can, please donate here (we did).

Rather, we will give one copy of Found in Translation (shipping included to wherever you live) to the first three colleagues who upload at least two videos to Speechpool (it's easy; you record on YouTube, and the site explains everything very clearly).

Here are  few basic rules (boring but necessary):

  • The videos must be new, so that means they have to be posted to the site after June 10, 2014. 
  • Sorry, existing videos don't qualify.
  • Each video must be at least five minutes long. 
  • You must record at least two videos to qualify.
  • The videos must be in a language we either speak or somewhat understand: Spanish, English, German, Dutch, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Italian or Greek (Dagy speaks baby Greek).
  • First come, first serve! Post the Speechpool link in the comments section, and after we check out the videos, you get your book. 
  • The first three people with two videos each that meet the criteria win.
  • One book per person.
  • We have a total of three books to give away.
  • Have fun and good luck!
The best part: even if you don't win, you will either have discovered a new resource, will have fun recording a video to help this collaborative effort, or both. Enjoy!

Here's to Speechpool and to giveaways!

UNIVERSITAS Turns 60: Time to Celebrate!

No, we are not turning 60 yet (for a while), even though our combined age certainly exceeds 60. This round birthday is all about UNIVERSITAS Austria, the Austrian Interpreters' and Translators' Association, and such a big birthday just has to be celebrated, so here's some information about the festivities that will take place in gorgeous Vienna, Austria, on September 26 and 27. We are delighted to be part of the festivities (Dagy is the secretary general of the organization) and will give a presentation on social media for translators and interpreters during the professional development part of the weekend. But don't worry: there will be plenty of time to take a city tour, celebrate, and have fun with your fellow translators and interpreters. There is also a very creative video contest (information in German) that you might want to check out.

Nataly Kelly. Image courtesy of Smartling.
The event's fantastic keynote speaker will be industry insider Nataly Kelly, co-author of Found in Translation and VP of Marketing at technology company Smartling. She has given presentations at the Library of Congress, Google, Apple, Microsoft and everywhere in between, so we will be in for a treat! Her speech will be interpreted into German. The rest of the program is varied and top-notch and includes presentations on MemoQ, interpreting 2.0, audiovisual translation, misused words in EU translations, and much more.

There will be plenty of time for networking, delicious Austrian meals, and of course coffee and cake! The evening event will be held at the beautiful Vienna City Hall on September 26 at 8 p.m. Incredibly enough, the first day, including Nataly Kelly's keynote, is completely free for everyone (sign-up required). The second day is very affordable at EUR 60 even for non-members!

The program is available in German here. We look forward to seeing you there! Happy birthday to UNIVERSITAS Austria and here's to at least 60 more years! The 50-year anniversary party was a huge success and was still talked about many years after, so the bar has been set quite high. See you there?

Song Lyrics, Translated

Happy Friday, dear readers! We recently heard about a cool translation project that's currently underway -- translating English-language lyrics of songs into other languages, which is quite a challenging undertaking. Have a look at this here

The site currently features two very impressive videos (original recordings of the translated lyrics). The idea is to translate one famous American or British song into Spanish, Italian and French every two months. Readers can vote for the song that they would like to get translated. Next up: Bohemian Rhapsody (quite a challenge). Our colleague Pablo Muñoz also recently wrote about this very cool initiative here. Pablo is working on this project with Liam Curley of Smoke & Croak, a British company that specializes in website localization.

Now, we'd like to issue a challenge: Could they translate some of our favorite Luis Miguel songs into English? I bet that would be a lot of fun!

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

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