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!

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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.

Our Number One Rule for Interpreting Practice

We both have the pleasure of teaching interpreting at the University of Vienna (Dagy, in-person) and at the University of California-San Diego Extension (Judy, online) and while we share what we know with others, we are also always constant students of our craft and practice and learn every day. We don't have too many hard rules for when we practice interpreting, but we have one that we came up with long ago that we try to stick with no matter what. Now, without further ado, here's our number one rule for practicing interpreting:

Stick with it. When you hit "play" on a recording (YouTube video, Speechpool video, any audio file) or listen to a TV show or radio show that you have chosen to interpret, just do it, even if it seems terribly hard. Soldier on. Try to stick it out, even if you falter early on, and try to recover. Just go on, even if the first sentence was terrible. That's how things will be in real life: you just have to go on, and learning how to do that early on, when the stakes are low, meaning you are sitting at home in front of your computer, is a very important lesson. Trust us, it can be painful -- we've been there too. As a matter of fact, Judy just listened to a recording she did a few weeks ago where the first 30 seconds were really quick terrible, but she did recover and went on to give a strong performance for the next 20 minutes. Be tough on yourself with this rule, and just keep on going once you've started interpreting. The worst that can happen is that you are not too happy with your performance, but the beautiful thing: it's only practice. And don't forget to record yourself.

What about you, dear colleagues and interpreter trainers? Do you have one favorite rule for interpreting practice that you'd like to share? We'd love to hear from you.

Open Thread: What's the Nicest Thing....

This month, we are in full client appreciation mode, but come to think of it, we are in client appreciation mode every month! We realize that without clients, we have nothing, and it never ceases to amaze us how great and lovely they are. We think it's important to never lose sight of that: as professional services providers, we are here to make our clients happy and to make them look good, and in turn, they pay us and keep us in business. We couldn't be more grateful, and we are quite sure that most of you feel the same way about your clients.

We recently started thinking about the nicest thing a client has ever done for us. We'd love to hear your #1 client interaction/memory/nice thing. We had many nice things to choose from, but without further ado, here's ours....

Our favorite client moment happened when a lovely long-term client approached us and gave us a permanent raise on our rate, and it was THEIR idea. They told us that our work was invaluable and that they wanted to pay us more than they had before. We were quite stunned, as that was a first, and initially told them we felt very well compensated, but the client insisted, and we gladly accepted. Now we make sure to show our appreciation by sending small gifts to our client as often as we can while continuing to make them look good with their customers. It's a win/win, and everyone's happy!

What about you, dear friends and colleagues? We'd love to hear your stories, and here's to being in the lucky position of working for ourselves. Here's to our clients!

The Humility Factor

Much has been written about what makes entrepreneurs successful, and in recent years, many books have also been written about success factors in the languages industry. We have also done quite a bit of writing about what one should do to succeed in our fantastic industry. Of course, while there are no secrets (which we would gladly share if they existed), there are many factors that contribute to one’s success. There are the basics, such as top-notch language skills and outstanding writing skills for translators, business skills, and a pleasant speaking voice and stamina for interpreters, among hundreds of other factors, both large and small. However, we’ve recently started noticing that not too much has been said about the importance of being humble. Allow us to elaborate.

We think being humble and recognizing one’s limitations and shortcomings can be a significant success factor. It keeps you honest and grounded, and if you are humble enough (and smart enough) to understand that you cannot take on a translation on say, quantum physics, it will serve you well because you won’t deliver a terrible translation. It will also serve you well because hopefully you will be humble enough to recommend a brilliant colleague who happens to have a doctorate in physics from.  The colleague will probably be happy to get the business, and the client should also be happy that you didn’t decide to wing it and instead sent her to the expert. In addition, humility is good because it helps you build a good reputation as an insightful analyst of your skills rather than show-off. We started thinking about this, and turns out that some of the translators and interpreters we admire the most are also the first ones to say that they don’t know something. Now, I don’t think there is much about legal interpreting that our court interpreting heroes Holly Mikkelson and Esther Navarro-Hall do not know, but we really like how they rarely speak in absolute terms and always allow some room for better ideas and other approaches. We have also noticed that the most experienced linguists are the ones who know exactly what they are good at and what they are not, while some newcomers tend to overrate their own abilities, which is a dangerous thing. It’s important to have confidence, but that confidence must be backed up by skills.


Humility has served us well in our years as a court and conference interpreters. Judy gladly confesses that she was initially terrified of the new interpreting territory in court, but that fear and that humility motivated her to acquire vocabulary at a fast pace. It’s not normal not to be humbled by what experienced court interpreters know, and of course you will be a better interpreter five years in than you are on day one. We have been flabbergasted by newcomers who insist that they know everything and that there is nothing they can learn from experienced interpreters (or translators, for that matter). 

These newbies are of course wrong, and going around saying you know everything certainly won’t endear you to your colleagues. Our best advice to newbies and to my students is to be a sponge and to follow around an experienced interpreter if they allow it (be sure to buy lunch!). This endeavor is a bit more difficult on the translation side, but the ATA listservs are a great opportunity to get advice from the best in the business, especially if you are new to translation. However, it’s important to keep one’s ego in in check and eat some humble pie if necessary – for instance, when an experienced colleague disagrees with your own crack at translating a particular sentence. Rather than getting defensive, take this valuable advice as what it is: a gift, and then, 10 years from now, you can pay it forward. However, regardless of how long we have been in the business: we are continuously humbled by all the things our colleagues know and by how much we still have to learn.  We will never know everything, and that’s a great gift for our brains and for our career. 

What do you think, dear colleagues? We'd love to hear your feedback.

Win a Book: Happy International Translation Day!


Yes, we love September 30th -- happy International Translation (and Interpreting) Day to all our friends and colleagues around the world! Last week, we helped UNIVERSITAS Austria Interpreters' and Translators' Association celebrate both our big day and their 60th anniversary in style in Vienna, complete with a reception at Vienna's legendary city hall, a one-day conference at the University of Vienna, and a memorable event at Europe House (co-sponsored by the European Union) with a fantastic keynote speech by industry expert and VP of SmartlingNataly Kelly, who flew in from Boston for the event. Speaking of Nataly Kelly: as you know, she co-authored a fantastic book on our industry with Jost Zetzsche, which has been selling quite well and is meant for the general market. The book is called Found in Translation, and Nataly donated several books to Translation Times earlier this year.


Now, to celebrate International Translation Day, we'd like to raffle off a copy of the book. The first person to correctly identify where the pictures on this blog post were taken will win the book. They were both taken in the same city. We are not looking just for the country or continent, but the name of the city where these two pictures were taken. We will pay for postage to send the book to you, regardless of whether you live in Santiago de Chile or Sydney.

Best of luck to all of you!
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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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