Do You Get What You Pay For?

Recently a good friend of ours asked us to recommend a translator from German into Ukranian. We gladly gave her the name of a linguist who is very well respected and well-known in the profession and serves on the board of a translation association. Our friend, who works for a large firm, obtained the quote from the translator (for a 150-page document), and, as was to be expected from a seasoned professional and for the size of the project, it was quite high. To compare prices and potentially save some money, the firm sought out a second translator on their own, and that quote came in at half the price. Difficult choice -- or is it? They had no information on the abilities of the second translator, but knew the first translator was a superstar at twice the price. Could this be worth the gamble?

We really understand that this might be a tough call for decision-makers at companies. Without knowing much about translation or speaking the languages, it's really challenging for an outsider to judge if there is a valid reason behind the significant price differences. Typically, the more seasoned the professional, the higher the prices (with exceptions, of course). In this case, the firm decided to go with the cheaper translator in light of the economic crisis and their limited budget.

The translation has now come back from the language services provider and it clear that it was unusable even to folks who don't speak the target language. In places where the translator did not know the word in the target language, he/she just left the German word in. This occurred every few sentences or so. The firm was quite surprised by this lack of professionalism, and they might have to send the entire project to get re-translated, most likely by superstar translator #1. Price: 1.5 of what they would have paid if they'd choosen more wisely in the beginning. Of course, cheaper isn't always worse and more expensive isn't always better, but it proves to be true quite frequently, as it did in this case.

American Translators Association Get-Together: Vegas

Our first small get-together in Vienna earlier this month was fantastic, and we figured we'd do it again! As a member of the German Language Division (GLD) of the American Translators Association (ATA), I know many folks personally, but there's also a lot of virtual-only contact. In order to reverse that, I've been trying to meet as many fellow language professionals as I can.

Next week, we are getting together in Las Vegas, my adopted hometown. We are meeting on Thursday, March 26, at 1 p.m. at Olives restaurant (one of my favorites) at the Bellagio hotel. Please e-mail us if you would like to join us. The weather is fantastic, and we are planning on enjoying an al fresco lunch. There's no need to be a member of the ATA or the GLD -- all fellow translators/interpreters are welcome!

Unexpected Crisis Effect

There's been a lot of discussion in translation circles about how the economic crisis is affecting (or will affect, or has affected) all of us. We've now discovered a somewhat surprising effect: we are now translating more than ever for our clients, but we are translating a lot of the following:

  • Internal memos to employees advising them how to save money
  • Letters to customers announcing new services and emphasizing competitive advantages
  • Internal seminars and presentations on pricing and how to maximize revenue
  • Newsletters to clients and higher frequency in communcation with clients
  • Follow-up with clients met at trade shows who have expressed interest in the company's products or services
  • Internal motivation letters to employees asking them to stay positive and productive
  • Reports on the financial situation so far this year
All of this is, of course, quite discouraging. We wonder when companies reach the point that they will decide to forego translation? On the other hand, many of our valued customers are trying to reach new markets (or expand business in new markets). For this, they certainly need our services. Now more than ever, companies need to market their products quite aggressively, and many have realized (correctly) that lowering their prices is not the answer (we don't lower our prices, either). Rather, they are looking for new markets, distribution channels, and creating innovative ideas.

Have any of you, fellow language professionals, been doing translations along the same lines? We'd love to hear your experiences!

Translation and Interpretation: Economic Outlook

Thanks to our colleague Céline Graciet over at Naked Translations for twittering about this very positive economic outlook for translators and interpreters in the U.S. It's a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (United States Department of Labor). The great news in a nutshell: employment for translators and interpreters is projected to increase by 24% in the 2006 - 2016 decade. We like hearing something positive admid all the terrible economic news, and this is certainly something to cheer about.

Read the entire detailed report (most interesting sections: job outlook and projection data) here.

Thanks, Google: The Ten-Dollar Website

Last week, during my "Entrepreneurial Linguist" presentation in Vienna, I addressed the importance of having a website. Our web guru, IT superhero, and general guardian angel, Tom Gruber, did some research for us, and he came up with the following recommendation.
Many of our fellow language professionals don’t have websites because they can be quite expensive. Google to the rescue! Thanks to the smart folks at Google who created Google Apps and Google Sites, you can register and manage a website for just $10 a year. While you won’t have a top-of-the-line website, you'll get an easy-to-manage site with an associated e-mail account that gives potential clients a quick overview of your services and qualifications. Our recommendation is to at least include sections on About, Contact, Services, Rates, Qualifications, Clients, etc. Be sure to keep things simple and easy to navigate: your goal is to make sure the customer contacts you after visiting your site.

Sign Up at Google Apps for the Standard edition. You can find a Video Tutorial here. After a few minutes, you can activate your e-mail account and start building your new website with Google Sites. And no, you won't need the help of a web developer to get started: building a website is as simple as editing a document. Questions? Google help center will most likely have the answer.

Of course, we also like supporting other small businesses (web designers, etc.), so if you'd like to spend a bit more, look for a local specialist, who should be able to build a basic website and maintain it for a few hundred dollars. Have fun with your site! We'd love to hear your experiences.

Fraud Alert: Wedding Interpretation Scam

One of our colleagues, Susanne Lenhart from Vienna, told us about a fraudulent inquiry she received recently, along with information on the scam details. We wanted to share this with our colleagues who might not have seen this one yet.

It is sad news that scam artists are increasingly targeting interpreters for assistance in interpreting at a wedding. Sounds innocous enough, right? However, during the e-mail exchange that follows, they are trying to get you to wire money that you have received from the "client" (in the form of a fake check) to pay for other wedding-related costs to a third party (we know, you wouldn't do this anway). Needless to say: don't touch this one with a ten-foot pole!

The text looks like this (this is the original version -- we resisted the temptation to edit and correct):

I’m Jeff and My fiancee Mary are planning to have our wedding in the Month of March 2009.I have decided to give her a well treated package by giving her options of venue of celebration in anywhere in Europe,Based on her option,She has decided to choose Germany and We will be staying within Your area.We will be staying for 3Weeks from 7th of March to 28th of March 2008.My Fiancee only speaks English and My native language..
We will require Your services as an interpreter for 3 hours daily,for any 5 days that will be suitable for You within the period that We will be staying.So We will like to pay You in advance of our visit so She can be assured of an interpreter during her shopping for the wedding because this is her first visit.An early reply will be appreciated.Please acknowledge if you can offer this service and give me a price quote,as soon as you receive this email,so we can conclude on all other arrangements, as time is not really on our side.
Remain Blessed,

Will Translate/Interpret for Food

All of us receive and come across hard-to-believe work "offers", and we had to sharee that one of our colleagues kindly sent us.It's quite difficult to top the chutzpah of this one. The European spice distributor Kotanyi (a very large and well-respected company) actually posted this piece of paper outside several classrooms at University of Vienna's Institute for Translation Studies looking for a language services provider. Apparently, the difference between a translator and an interpreter wasn't known to them, so they just posted "Translator/Interpreter". The German-language note is full of typographical errors, and for your amusement, here's a translation of the sentence that got us the most:

"Your services would not be paid, but we would provide food and drink." Nice! Hey, perhaps we can all munch on some dried oregano, try some chile peppers or chew on some vanilla beans, and who knows, they might even throw in a sandwich or two and some cold milk to counteract the spicy chiles!

Needless to say, the Austrian Translators' and Interpreters' Association UNIVERSITAS is taken action and will send a strong and informative letter about our industry to Kotanyi.

This one certainly deserves this year's most offensive offer of the year award. If you have any other finalists to propose, we'd love to hear them.

German-English Airport/Aviation Glossary

Thanks to our colleague Mary Virginia Burke from the German-language division of the American Translators Association for sharing this fantastic bilingual glossary with us. We are avid collectors (and sharers!) of such glossaries, of which you can never have enough of. You never know when a project related to airports or aviation will come across your desk. The glossary also includes a link to very handy aviation-related abbreviations in both languages.

Here's the link.

Spain's Prime Minister: It Starts with an "F"

For weekend amusement for Spanish speakers, we had to share this funny video which one of our Viennese translation professor friends pointed us to. It features Spain's Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, talking about the importance of Spanish tourism to Russia. He wants to say "fomentar" which means "to boost", but he ends up saying "follar", which, well, is the vulgar equivalent of "to copulate". It's a very short video, and although he doesn't miss a beat after his f-word (in both Spanish and English) mistake, it's already made its way around the world.

It's proof that one language is certainly hard enough to handle (or proof of what he was really thinking about). I wonder how the Spanish->Russian interpreter handled this situation -- probably better than Zapatero!

Proz Pow-Wow in Vienna: Slideshow

Our Proz Pow-Wow in Vienna yesterday, March 5, was a very nice evening of information and ideas exchange. We appreciate everyone who joined us at Pulitzer in the 6th district. The place was very nice and modern, and they had a separate non-smoking room with laptop hook-ups and a projection screen. We can certainly recommend it for future events. The food was good, too!

We had a good turnout and I am delighted to report that my presentation was interesting for our colleagues, who enriched the discussion with fantastic questions and anecdotes from their own business experiences, which made for a great interactive presentation. Thanks to everyone for their input and interest!

Congratulations to German-Danish translator Lise Smidth, who won Corinne McKay's book (which I highly recommend ) "How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator" in our raffle.

As promised, please click on this link for the entire presentation. Feel free to share it with any colleagues who might find it useful.

Back It Up!

Yes, we know: you’ve probably heard this a gazillion times. Still, one can never emphasize enough how important data security is in our business. Other than the information in our heads, our data is the most valuable asset we have. So we better take really good care of it.

We do daily backups of our business data at 11:00 p.m. every night. For that purpose, we use an external hard drive. 500 GB 3.5’’ external hard drives (the large ones with power supply) cost approximately EUR 60 and 320 GB/2.5’’ (the small ones without power supply) cost around EUR 80. For the daily backup, we use one of the smaller hard drives in combination with the free backup tool EzBackitup.

It addition to that, Tom, our web guru, does another backup in larger intervals (in Dagy’s case, every 3 weeks) using another external hard drive, which he keeps at his downtown office. What might seem like an unnecessary precaution came in really handy the other day because the external hard drive we use for daily backups fell to the floor and died (RIP, dear hard-working hard drive). Since the computer was up and running, no data was lost, but hey, you never know! If push comes to shove, we’d much rather have a 3-week-old version of our data than none at all (addresses! translation memories! termbases! e-mails! accounting!). Just imagine: there might be a fire in the apartment or a burglary – you never know.

Another option is using Online Backup Services which run between EUR 5 and EUR 50 per month for 10 GB (which is approximately the amount of data we back up). Even Amazon offers backup services. In fact, there are many companies out there offering these services. Tim Borman has compiled a list (sorry, it’s in German) and he actually tested a few of them.

However, our IT guru recommends using two external hard drives (one for daily backups and one for backups in larger intervals) because it’s ultimately the cheaper option.

We’d love to hear what you use and what your experiences have been with backing up your data.
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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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