Google Adwords: EUR 50 Up For Grabs

It's time for another raffle -- we love raffles! We recently received a coupon from Google Adwords, but it's only for new users of this nifty online ad system, so we are not eligible to use it. Thus, we figured we'd raffle it off among our loyal readers. It's for EUR 50 and has to be used by the end of September.We will randomly choose a winner from the readers who answer the following question correctly:

Dagmar has recently started learning a new language. Which one is it?

Good luck!

Choosing Your Clients Wisely: Free Webinar on 8/31

We don't know about you, but we love free stuff, especially free professional development! Well, here's a free webinar for you: join Judy this Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 10 AM Mountain Time (convert it to your time zone) for a half-hour webinar on "Choosing your clients wisely: the benefits of being selective." The webinar is hosted by our friends and industry veterans Corinne McKay and Eve Bodeux through their Speaking of Translation webinar series. 
There's no catch and no string attached. No one will try to sell you anything, but you do have to sign up (takes less than a minute). Corinne and Eve will also raffle off two copies of our book. Sign up here

One Dog, Many Verbs and Nouns

Luna and one of her favorite toys, Foxy.
Happy Friday, everyone! For those of you who haven't seen it, we wanted to share this amazing video of Chaser, the world's smartest dog (not surprisingly, she's a Border collie). Chaser knows more than 1,000 words and successfully responds to commands that involve both verbs and nouns, such as "paw lamb." After receiving that command, Chaser walks over to her toys and puts a paw on top of her toy lamb. As a reward, she gets to play with her blue ball, aptly named Blue. We've tried this with Judy's dog, Luna, who's adorable and sweet, but she's not as smart as Chaser. We asked Luna to bring over her polar bear toy, but she brought the fox instead (we are still proud of her). Clearly, Judy is no university researcher or dog trainer, and Luna is no Chaser. According to psychologists, Chaser's ability to respond to this many human words nearly puts her at the intellectual level of a three-year-old. 

Watch the video here. How many commands does your furry friend know?

Singular or Plural?

We've noticed a strange phenomenon lately. Perhaps you've heard of it. It goes like this: one-person companies that usually offer services have outstanding websites with lots of information about services provided, background, contact information, etc. It's fantastic that all these small businesses have a web presence. The strange thing is that we've realized that many of these solo providers -- whether they be graphic designers, accountants, freelance web developers, translators or interpreters -- refer to themselves in the plural. We know it's not a matter of grammar: everyone knows the difference between singular and plural. However, by reading through the website, it is pretty clear that there's only one person who works there. The question then remains: why do solo providers have "About us" pages and talk about "our services" and "we provide"? Do office pets count as employees? We think that deep down, solo providers oftentimes think that they are not good enough because they run a micro operation, but nothing could be further from the truth, in our humble opinion.

First of all, we think all you solo providers should be incredibly proud of running a one-woman/man show. Most people will never be as brave as you are and decide to go into business for yourselves, yet many economies, including the weak American economy, depend on small businesses (says the American government). So: give yourself a pat on the back -- running your own show as a micro business  is great! Now:  there's no need to make yourself sound like a bigger company than you are. There's nothing wrong with being a one-person company; in fact, it's fantastic. We do think it is misleading and well, untruthful, to speak of yourself in the plural when there's only one of you. We checked with our pro bono laywer, and off the top of his head (disclaimer: he was mowing the lawn when we asked), he doesn't think that misrepresentation is strictly illegal, unless you claim to have a certain number of employees or claim to be able to provide specific services that turns out you cannot. So it's not illegal, but is it ethical? That's a personal decision, but we'd say it's probably not. There's no reason to start your business relationship with every single one of your potential customers by telling a white lie. There's only one of you, and that's a good thing (no co-workers, yay). We think transparency is a great thing. Now please go and update the "About us" section and make it "About me." By the way: since we are twins, we do have an "About us" section on our website, as we are two people. Unfortunately, growing up, many people thought we were one person, resulting in one birthday present on our joint birthday. We tried in vain to convince them that "twins" means two people. But that's a topic for another blog post. 

Readers: what do you think? 

Book Review: The Prosperous Translator

We've recently read several outstanding books about translation and interpreting, and it's time that we reviewed them. First up: Chris Durban's "The Prosperous Translator: Advice from Fire Ant & Worker Bee." Full disclosure: we received a free review copy of this book from Chris, who is a colleague and friend of Judy's. Of course, we receive quite a few books, and receiving a book doesn't guarantee a good review. Quite the contrary: if the book isn't any good, we'll gladly tell you. That said, this book is truly outstanding. Read Judy's review below.

What do the Stockholm Syndrome, the poverty cult and office clutter have in common? They all make appearances in The Prosperous Translator, a book edited and compiled by French-to-English financial translator and industry superstar Chris Durban. The book is entirely composed of columns in a question/answer format, so don't expect an A-to-Z guide to translation, as Chris correctly points out in her introduction. That's what the recently published second edition of Corinne McKay's highly popular book, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, which we will review later this month, is for. 

The columns might sound familiar to careful readers of the online Translation Journal, where the Fire Ant & Worker Bee column ran from 1998 through 2010. Chris and her co-author Eugene Seidel dispensed excellent no-nonsense advice for linguists of all levels. In 2010, Chris decided to create this book, which has, not surprisingly, been very well received.

To call Chris the Ann Landers of the T&I is probably not doing her justice (she's a better writer than Ann Landers). She's funny, witty, spot-on and she dispenses the tough love that many of us truly need. The book is well-organized into overarching chapters, each focusing on essential parts of the business such as pricing and value (my favorite chapter), ethics, marketing and finding clients, getting started, payment issues specializing, etc. I recently heard from Chris that she hired a professional indexer to help her perfect the index -- and it shows.

There's been much speculation about whether the questions asked of Fire Ant & Worker Bee are actual questions from actual translators. Chris has insisted that they are, and I agree: you can't make this stuff up. As president of my local association of translators and interpreters, I am on the receiving end of a myriad of good, bad and outright baffling questions about our industry. Chris answers them all in her trademark honest and informative style. 

I could not agree more with Chris on her main points (all of her points, as a matter of fact). The recurring themes include a quest to defeat linguists' so-called poverty cult.  Ready for some tough love? It goes more or less like this: no one is forcing you to accept low rates. If you accept them, you are partially responsible, so stop whining and look for more profitable customers. Too tough for you? Well, she's right. The recurring theme is that translators write in saying that the barriers to entry are too low (true), there is a lot of competition (true), that they don't get paid what they are worth (whose fault is that?) and that there is no market for translators at the higher end of the market (Chris and I beg to differ). 

This is an empowering book that will drive home some of the most important points in our business, including the one that translators have to be gifted writers in their target languages. I think that's a crucial point that perhaps hasn't been emphasized as much in other books, and it's essential: if you are not a strong writer, this is not the right business for you. Chris proves that she's an eloquent, funny, witty and straight-forward writer, and emphasizes time and time again how essential it is to hone your writing skills. Chris is very generous with her advice and provides plenty of resources and advice on how to find the help you need, even though she gets some pretty silly questions from readers.

I am incredibly relieved that this book exists and have been sending many of the "I need answers about the industry" e-mails to her website in the hopes that this book will clear up many of the questions. It's ideal reading to keep on your nightstand as a quick reference and as an empowerment tool. No one said running a translation business was easy, and it's not. Those readers who are hoping for a highly lucrative business that involves little work are better off looking for the latest online sales strategy. A caveat: while many of the lessons discussed in this book also apply to interpreters, this book focuses mainly on translators -- as the title implies. 

The book's main point is beautifully illustrated by the very fact that the book exists. Not surprisingly, Chris is on the very high end of the translation market herself. She charges adequate rates for her professional services and doesn't have to work around the clock to pay her bills. Otherwise, how would she have time to write this book? She does emphasize that high rates are always earned, and one of my favorite quotes in her book is that "good clients do not buy translations from anonymous providers over the internet" (page 161). Even in the age of the internet, proximity to your clients is paramount; so find a way to reach your customers in person. 

The verdict: this book should be required reading for both beginning and seasoned translators around the globe. Especially for those starting out, $25 is a steal considering how much time and research this book will save you. Just like many books in our industry, this book is self-published, so please support by purchasing it on their website. Happy reading!

The Interpreter's Launch Pad: Excellent Resource

A few months ago, we discovered a fantastic new resource for interpreters. It's a monthly newsletter cleverly titled "The Interpreter's Launch Pad." What do interpreters and astronauts have in common? Read the newsletter and you will find out.  Interprenaut, a smart female interpreter/astronaut (get it?), will be your friendly guide on this exciting journey.

This newsletter is jam-packed with jewels of witty writing, courtesy of the very talented Nataly Kelly, also known for being the chief research officer at the Common Sense Advisory. We've long lamented that there aren't enough newsletters and blogs dedicated specifically to interpreters -- well, the wait is over!

It's completely free to sign up at the The Interpreter's Launch Pad website (we love the graphics, by the way). There's no catch, and don't worry: you won't get any unsolicited e-mail. You will, however, get a free digital book just for signing up. It's Nataly's fantastic book "Telephone Interpreting: A Comprehensive Guide to the Profession." Enjoy the ride!

ATA Certification Exam in Reno: Register Now!

The Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association (NITA), of which Judy is currently president, is offering an ATA certification exam for translators (a variety of language combinations are available) on August 20 in Reno, Nevada. It's not too late to sign up, but the regular registration period ends this Friday, August 5, 2011. Right now the fee is $300; after Friday, it goes up to $345.

The ATA (American Translators Association) handles the entire registration process, and NITA is merely providing a venue and a proctor for this exam. To register for the exam (there are a number of pre-requisites), please visit the ATA's certification page. To learn more about the exam in Reno, please visit the NITA site. 

Changing the Perception of Freelancers

We subscribe to Ed Gandia's newsletter -- he's the founder of the International Freelancers Academy. It's free, contains a lot of valuable information and there appears to be no catch. We've learned some great things from Ed, and we recently received an invite to participate in a short survey that's meant to change the way freelancers are perceived (he's on a mission). It seemed intriguing, so we took the survey (which does actually only take the 5 minutes that it's supposed to). It contains 29 questions. We were happy to see that the survey lists both interpreter and translator under the available categories of freelance professions.

Freelancers who choose to participate in the survey will get a free report of the survey findings. We think the survey is a great idea, so if you have a few minutes, head over to the Survey Monkey link and get started. 

Here is Ed's e-mail to his fellow freelancers:

Fellow freelancer,
According to some estimates, one-third of the U.S. workforce is
self-employed, contingent or freelance. The percentage is even
higher in other countries.

Yet there's very little published information about who we are
... what we do ... how we land work ... what we earn ... and why
we do what we do. And politicians and the mainstream media are
absolutely clueless about our industry!

I'm on a mission to change that.

I've just commissioned a comprehensive study on the freelance
industry, which will be published in September.

And I need your help by participating in the survey that will
drive the results of this study. You can complete the survey

This survey is completely anonymous and will take you 5 minutes
or less. As a "thank you" for taking the time to complete it,
I'll send you a free copy of the detailed industry report as
soon as it's ready.The survey closes on August 9, 2011. 
Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become 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 is 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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