Meet TM-Town and Its Creator

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dias.
Here at Translation Times, we are always on the lookout for new technologies that might benefit us and our friends and colleagues. Every once in a while, a new idea comes up that is very, very promising. Here's one that seems quite revolutionary: TM-Town. Just like many industry professionals, we are quite convinced that translators won't be replaced by technology, but rather, that the most successful translators in the future will be the ones who embrace technology. Full disclosure: TM-Town's creator, Kevin Dias, had previously taken advantage of Judy's consulting services, but other than that, we have no other ties to the company. We just think it's a great idea. Here's a preview: it's a translation enablement platform. But rather than writing about what we think TM-Town is, we figured we'd bring you the information from the founder himself.  Here's our interview with American developer Kevin Dias, who is based in Tokyo, Japan.

Translation Times: It looks like you are not a translator. How did you get involved in a project for translators? What’s your background?

Kevin: I'm a developer, and I love web development in particular. I have a friend who is a translator, and when I saw the way he was working, I began to imagine some things I could build to help him in his work. Once I got into the field I became fascinated with the possibilities for blending web development with emerging language processing technologies. It is a very interesting field.

What exactly is TM-Town? Can you give us a quick summary?

TM-Town is a place for translators to store, manage, leverage and optionally share their prior work. For those interested in establishing new relationships, it is also a place for clients and translators to be matched on the basis of that prior work. I am using the term "translation enablement platform" to describe this.

Are you a small company? Or is it just you? Who is behind TM-Town?
For now, it is just me. I received a small outside investment from a person who noticed my prior project, Transdraft. That has allowed me to work on TM-Town on a full-time basis for the past six months.

Who do you see as your competitors?
I am not aware of anyone providing a "translation enablement platform" of the sort that I have developed. One aspect of TM-Town is providing tools for translators to manage their linguistic assets. In this regard, I view TM-Town as a “Dropbox for Translators”. As many translators currently use Dropbox or Google Drive to manage their translation files, this is one form of competition. Another aspect of TM-Town is the job-matching platform. In this regard I think TM-Town is very unique in that it is the first service of this kind to match based on an analysis of the document to be translated against the prior work of translators to find the most suitable subject-matter expert for the job.

Are there any downsides to using TM-Town?
A person who is not comfortable with the idea of uploading prior work to the "cloud" may not find TM-Town suitable. Beyond that, the site is free to try so I would invite your readers to find out for themselves. If anything needs to be improved, I am ready to do it!

How many clients are currently signed up? How do you plan on continuing growing the client base?
Aside from some informal personal invitations that I sent to select people, I started promoting TM-Town just last week. I am pleased that about eighty translators have registered so far. I plan to begin promoting the site to clients in 2015.

Thanks for your time, Kevin!

Read more about the innovative ways translations are priced here. Learn more about TM-Town.

Our Top 5 Stress Busters

Business has been really, really good, and we are very grateful. However, with lots of business comes lots of work, and with that comes some stress. We admit it: one of us has been a bit overworked and grouchy (hint: it's not Dagy), and as we try to follow our own advice, we figured we'd compile a few easy stress busters here for this Friday post.

  1. Take a nap. Sure, a nap won't solve the problem about all the things you still have on your plate, but it will probably make you feel better. We come from a long line of nappers, and we can do quick naps of 30 minutes or so and feel refreshed. If you need a two-hour nap, this might not work for you as it will probably stress you out more.
  2. Go for a walk. Clearing our head always helps. We grab the doggie and go for a walk around the block, which only takes five minutes.
  3. Call a member of the complaint club. When we are frustrated and overworked, we try not to voice our frustrations online. Rather, we place a call to a trusted member of our so-called complaint club, which is comprised of dear friends and family members. We usually vent our frustrations (which largely revolve around lack of time) for 10 minutes or so, which helps put things in perspective.
  4. Have a cup of tea. We've spent enough time in England to know that having a cup of tea solves most problems, including stress, so sometimes we do that. If all else fails, we have a lovely piece of Austrian chocolate to go with our Earl Grey tea. We've also been drinking a lot of ginger tea lately. We've experienced with grating fresh ginger, which is instantly invigorating.
  5. Yoga. We are as inflexible as the next translators, but we are working on it. If we only have 10 minutes to decompress, we will do a few easy yoga poses, including laying down on our backs with our legs up a wall. Downward dog, tree, child's pose and others are also fantastic poses for a quick refresher.
What about you, dear friends and colleagues? Do you have any quick stress busters that you would like to share? We'd love to read about them in the comments section.

Same-Day Payment

This holiday season, we are grateful for our clients, and of course, we are also grateful for our lovely colleagues and friends who are our subcontractors. We didn't start out working with subcontractors, but our fantastic clients send us so much great work that we have enough to share with our colleagues, and we work in teams on many of our biggest accounts. We've worked with the same colleagues for a long time, and we've had (almost nothing but) great experiences. Unfortunately, we are not accepting applications -- we know where to find you if we want to add you to the list!

One of our favorite ways to show our appreciation is to pay our subcontractors the same day they invoice us whenever possible. Yes, you read that right: the same day, sometimes even within a few minutes if the colleague is set up to receive online payments. Here's our thinking: if a small business doesn't have enough money in the bank to hire subcontractors and to be good for the money even if the end client doesn't pay, that business probably shouldn't be hiring subcontractors, period. That's why we are so puzzled by the common complaint by others that large companies (think Fortune 500 translation agencies) are late in their payments because "the end client hasn't paid." That's truly unacceptable to us, and we never do that to our contractors. In fact, we pay each and every contractor before we've even issued the final invoice to our customers. We think it's the right thing to do. And as a small business, we want to keep the professionals who make us successful happy.

So, we'd like to conclude this post by saying that we are very, very grateful to you (you know who you are). We wouldn't be successful if it weren't for you, and you deserve every penny -- on time and early. 

Fun Memory Exercise

Today we'd like to continue our tradition of quick posts with very simple tips that are easy to implement. As all of us are in the middle of the holiday season, we figured we'd keep it short. This blog post should take you no more than three minutes to read.

Interpreters are constantly working on their memory, as having great memory is key, especially for consecutive interpreting. We keep our memory sharp with all sorts of exercises, and one of our favorite ones is also quite fun, but it's actually harder than it looks. 

Here's how it works: next time you go to the movies, keep track of the previews that are shown before the actual movie starts. Here in the United States it's usually five previews, but it can be up to eight. Don't write anything down (as that's sort of cheating!) and try to remember all previews in the right sequence until the end of the movie. Can you do it? We usually accomplish it by remembering keywords ("stupid movie based on a cartoon" or "lovely movie based on a best-selling novel" or "horror movie for teenagers") and traditionally do quite well on this. It's become a sport, and anyone who comes to the movies with us gets drawn into this, like it or not!

What do you think about this memory exercise, dear friends and colleagues? If you have other exercises to share, please do so by leaving a comment below.

Quick Interpreting Tip

As our lovely readers and colleagues in the US get ready for Thanksgiving (in the rest of the world, it's just another Thursday), we wanted to share a quick interpreting tip that comes in very handy during practice.

Take a speech from your favorite source (Speechpool, TED, etc.), interpret it simultaneously (consecutive works, too), and record it using a recording software (we use Audacity). We think it's key to record your practice sessions, so it's good to get into the habit of doing so. After doing the recording, try to turn off the memory you have of the source recording and just listen to the target recording. Ask yourself: 

  • Does this recording make sense? 
  • Would I understand this if I didn't speak the source language? 
  • Can I summarize the content of this recording? 
Ideally, once in a while, you'd give the recording to a friend who truly doesn't speak the source language, have him/her listen to it, and have the person to answer the questions we've listed above. In simul interpreting, that is exactly the case - the person(s) you are interpreting for doesn't speak the source language, which is why they need an interpreter. However, so often when we grade exams, the recordings and live performances are disjointed, incoherent and oftentimes consist of fragments rather than entire sentences. Once in a while, if we had not heard the source recording, we would not be able to make sense of the interpretation, which of course is defeating the purpose of having an interpreter to enable communication. 

So next time you listen to your interpreting recording, take off your multilingual hat and listen pretending you only speak the target language. This simple and easy trick has helped us identify weaknesses in our own recordings, such as bad syntax, idioms that didn't quite make sense, etc.

We hope you enjoy this quick tip, dear colleagues! We'd love to hear other tips as well.

Following Instructions

Today's brief post is about something very simple that can make you very popular with clients: following their instructions. This should be easy enough, but the reality is that some client instructions are relatively complex (some can be several pages long), and can be hard to follow. However, you can really set yourself apart from your colleagues by doing a very thorough job at following these instructions. 

We are oftentimes clients ourselves, as we frequently outsource work to our superstar colleagues, and naturally, we tend to work with linguists (always the same people; not accepting applications!) who are not only extraordinary translators and communicators, but are also great at following the instructions we pass along from the client. Some of these instructions can be quite cumbersome (don't translate the text in red; all headlines need to be font 13 and not 12, etc.), but we pay our contractors well, and hence expect them to follow instructions carefully. We've oftentimes heard from our clients that they like working with us because we make 100% sure all client wishes and requirements are always met, the first time.

Doing so has absolutely nothing to do with translation itself, but it's all about customer service. Even though some customer requirements might be quite elaborate (we do charge an extra fee if additional work is needed), we are here to make our clients happy. Without clients, we've got nothing. While it's completely fine to occasionally feel frustrated by client instructions/requirements, we also need to keep in mind that our businesses exist because we have clients.

What about you, dear colleagues? Have you run into unreasonable customer requirements? How do you handle them? We would love to hear from you!

Print It Out!

Image created on
Today's quick tip to improve any translation is a seemingly simple one, yet it's a step that's oftentimes forgotten: printing out the final translation to proofread it on paper. Yes, we are tree-huggers and don't like paper as much as the next environmentalist, but for our careers' sake, we print out every single translation we work on, sometimes multiple times. That said, we print on recycled paper (readily available at most office supply stores) and also print on both sides of the paper. We then shred everything and recycle the shredded bits.

We don't know why, but it's truly amazing that the human eye catches many mistakes on paper that it doesn't on screen, and skipping the step of proofing our work on paper would definitely decrease the quality of our translations. We usually sit down with the printed out target text, without the source text, move away from the computer, and grab a red pen. We have caught many typos and factual errors this way. In addition, printing out our work is also essential to make sure the formatting is entirely correct.

Happy printing and translating! What about you, dear colleagues? Does this simple technique work for you?

Where to Find Us: ATA Conference in Chicago

It's our favorite time of the year! Well, we like the holiday season as well, but the annual American Translators Association conference, which wil be held in Chicago this year, is one of the best weeks of the years for us. We get to spend it together and we have the chance to share a fantastic four days of conference with all our friends, colleagues, subcontractors, and clients. We cannot wait! Come tomorrow morning, we will both be on a plane. Dagy will be coming in from Vienna, while Judy is making the shorter trip from Las Vegas.

We truly enjoy spending time with our friends and colleagues, but with 175 sessions, dinners, lunches, networking events, and a busy exhibit hall, it's sometimes hard to meet up. We therefore wanted to give you an overview of where we will be in case you want to meet up and say hi -- we'd very much enjoy it!

  1. Buddies Welcome Newbies (Wednesday, November 5, 5:15 to 6 p.m.): We know how hard it is to attend this big conference for the first time, so we have volunteered to be buddies for a newbie. 
  2. Welcome reception (Wednesday, November 5, 6 to 7 p.m.): It is amazing how much fun you can pack into an hour! We always really look forward to seeing everyone for the first time at this event.
  3. "Quote This! 7 Essential Elements of a Language Services Price Quote": Judy will be giving this session (IC-13) on Saturday, November 8, 2014, at 10 a.m. Things usually get really busy before and after the session, but we'd love for you to come attend it! Judy's sessions are usually held in one of the bigger rooms with plenty of seating for everyone.
  4. "German Orthography for Experienced Linguists" (presented in German; G-5) on Friday, November 7, 2014, at 2:30 p.m. Every year, we present one German-language session and usually have a lot of fun. While the topic can be dry, we strive to make it entertaining. If German is one of your working languages, you might enjoy this session!
  5. InTrans Book Service booth: Our favorite bookseller, Freek Lankhof, will be on his farewell tour (yes, we will cry), and we plan on spending as much time as possible at his booth (6/7 in the exhibit hall). We are also doing a book signing on Friday from 3:45 to 4:45. Stop by and see us! We will be signing copies of our popular The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation book, which will be available for sale from Freek.
  6. The Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association (NITA) table. All ATA chapters and affiliate groups usually have tables (location to be announced) with information about the organizations, and since Judy is the immediate past president of NITA, she will be helping staff the table. It's the ideal place to find us in between sessions!
  7. Spanish Language Division dinner (Friday evening) and German Language Division dinner (Thursday evening): We will be attending both events! 
  8. The lobby bar: There's nothing quite like sharing a glass of wine with friends and colleagues. Look for us in the bar. We should be easy to spot, as we are usually the only set of twins.
We look forward to seeing you there!

The Best Part...

CRIT USA is now open.
As our dear readers may know, we love our jobs and pretty much everything about our profession. However, there are always aspects of our business that are more fun (or less fun; such as paperwork) than others. Without doubt, one of our favorite parts of the job is visiting and spending time with our incredible customers in person. We have met many of them, while others we just know via e-mail and phone. It's usually a fantastic experience to finally meet clients in person, and we've traveled quite extensively to do so. Sometimes we combine a vacation trip with a visit to a client's headquarters, but this week, it was all business as Judy headed to San Antonio for the grand opening of the Children's Rehabilitation Institute of Teletón (Teletón is a Mexican non-profit organization that operates children's rehabilitation centers). The opening marked the first CRIT center in the United States (there are more than 20 in Mexico).

We were delighted that Judy had been invited to the grand opening, which took place on October 30 at the brand-new building. The more than 1,000 guests were treated to entertainment by impressive musicians, including Aleks Syntek and Aida Cuevas. Both Univision and Televisa are major partners of Teletón and CRIT, so many well-known anchors, television executives and media moguls were in attendance, including Emilio Azcárraga, the president of Televisa. Actess and activist Eva Longoria, whose brother has special needs, also spoke at the opening ceremony. During the event, two additional pledges of $1 million were announced.

CRIT USA is a first of its kind in the sense that it offers rehabilitation treatment (on an outpatient basis) to 600 children and their families a year, independntly of their ability to pay for these services. The outpatient facility is truly impressive, with many high-tech robotics to give underprivileged children with neuromusculoskeletal access to the rehabilitation treatment they need -- and no expense was spared when it comes to equipment and services. It might be quite unprecendented here in the US: the center offers treatment until certain pre-established goals are met -- and not treatment until the insurance company doesn't approve treatment anymore. The top-notch medical staff is complemented by a variety of comprehensive care services, including a multisensory room, a life skills room, and a custom-built pool for hydroptherapy. The entire center is decorated in bright and cheerful colors and doesn't look like a medical facility at all.

Our business, Twin Translations, helped CRIT USA and Teletón with the translation of many patient materials, internal documents, PowerPoint presentations, subtitling of movies, and much more (Spanish into English). We also worked on a portion of the website and hope to continue doing so. Meeting CRIT USA's CEO, Ricardo Guzman Hefferán, was a pleasure. It's great to put the name with a face and to be part of this incredible effort to establish the first CRIT in the US (in dollars, it was $17 million to build it).  The festivities ended with confetti, projected fireworks and mariachi music, to be followed by a tour of the brand-new facilities.

What about you, dear colleagues? Have you enjoyed meeting some of your customers in person?

Quick Translation Tip

We recently decided to introduce regular short blog posts that center on just one short piece of advice that can be implemented quickly and that takes less than three minutes to read.

Today's post is a simple and effective way to improve any translation.

Once you get to your second draft (printed), read every target sentence individually again. Don't look at the source text and don't worry about specialized terminology. Just read it and ask yourself: does this make sense?

Is the population of the UK really 641 million? (No; it's 64.1 million.) Is Yellowstone National Park in California? (No; but Yosemite National park is.) Is Red Bull an Australian company? (It's an Austrian company.) Our point here is: read for obvious errors that aren't linguistic but rather fact-based (easy to research and/or double-check) or somehow related to logic. Sometimes we focus so much on specialized terminology that we misspell names, places, numbers, and just commit general errors that you would easily catch if you remove the translator lens and just review the sentence as an outside reader would.  Read it again and ask yourself: does this make sense?

We've committed many of these mistakes ourselves and usually catch them on our second draft. We hope you like this quick translation tip - we'd also love to hear yours. Just leave a comment below.
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.

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