Posts Tagged ‘Translation’

First New Year Jobs!

January 2, 2008

Today I received my first two 2008 jobs. One is not for publication (so… ssshhh) and the other one is, well, you’ll hear about it soon, because I’ll surely write something about it here.

So there I am, with jobs carried over from 2007, brand new 2008 jobs, and today is only January 2nd, and these pictures from Christmas and the New Year are still with me. But it’s back to work now.

I have given up on New Year resolutions, because they are usually dead by the end of January. Indeed, they are usually killed by the first January job, the rest of the year is just a whirlwind.

In the middle of all this, I now have my copy of Timothy Ferriss’s book (The 4-hour Work Week I mentioned here). I started listening to it (yes, my copy is an audiobook, I like audiobooks a lot), and I am eager to discover more, because I found that I can easily relate to some of his ideas, based on my own life in the past 25 years, in particular to his idea of relative vs. absolute income. A promising ‘read’.

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A Good Year After All

December 28, 2007

At close to 395,000 words translated this year, plus a substantial amount of editing, 2007 was a good year after all.

In particular if you consider that I do all the translating myself (apart from a little help from WordFast and Naturally Speaking), I can say it has been a good year. Of course, I am not including some voluntary, i.e. unpaid work in this total. I am not including conference interpreting either, because the unit of measurement is different (number of working days, and preparation days not accounted for, as I explained in a previous post) and there is sometimes some overlap with translation work, although I find it increasingly difficult – age must be the reason – to combine these two very different intellectual activities within the same day.

Financially speaking, it has been a good year too. By this, I mean that I was able to charge my own fees, and only on few occasions felt tempted to accept a little lower paid jobs.

This is no small feat. I remember the gut reaction of a translation agency secretary who approached me a long time ago. She wanted to know how much I was charging, and when I told her the figure, she simply cried out: ‘But that’s exactly what we charge our customers!’ ‘Well’ I said, ‘that is exactly the reason why I don’t work for translation agencies. I don’t want to work for a fraction of the price that my work is worth.’ I can accept small adjustments, depending on the client, deadline, etc. but I do not accept low-paid jobs.

It all depends on how you see things: I haven’t been able to update my fees in more than 10 years.

Depending on my mood of the day, I can say: ‘I was lucky to be able to resist the drop in translation fees that has happened in recent years,’ or ‘I am unlucky that my fees have remained unchanged, when just about everything else has gone up:’ social security contributions, taxes and rates, food, clothing, utilities (oh my God, haven’t they gone up a lot?), insurance, fuel for my car, office stationery. The only things that have gone down, telephone bills (sort of…), computer equipment (but I buy a new computer every 2-3 years, so where’s the big deal?). And these bills HAVE to be paid.

Some blame it on the introduction of the Euro. I don’t know, but one thing is for sure: I don’t earn more than 10 years ago, and some years a lot less, and I spend a lot more on necessities, and this includes things like books, etc.

o why do I say that it has been a good year, AFTER ALL? Because, on Jan 1, 2007, I had very little idea that it was going to be that way. If I accepted low-paid jobs, I would probably be able to work night and day, 40-hour days. I mentioned in a previous post 2-cent jobs I once saw posted on Proz. Do I want to work night and day? No. Is it possible for me to become a millionaire, well why not a billionaire even, translating millions of words paid 4 cents? No, not if I am doing the work myself, and not if I don’t compromise on the quality delivered.

So in exchange for some uncertainty and roller-coaster sensations, I am free from a lot of other constraints, and I like it better that way.

This doesn’t mean that I work full time and translate ‘only’ 1,500 words per day. Sometimes I have been able to do more than 7,000 words in a very full day. But the rest of the time, I have been able to engage in other, equally satisfying pursuits: studying a new language and learning about a new culture, going to the movies in the middle of the day, meeting people, seamlessly being away on a short vacation and working at the same time, etc.

I don’t live in luxury, and I have my own share of problems, like anyone else, but I am able to say that I feel fulfilled by my job/life combination. And I would love to cram even more things in my life: some serious traveling, for instance. That is why I’m looking forward to receiving my copy of The 4-Hour Work Week, by Timothy Ferriss. I don’t wish to become a billionaire doing no work at all, but I’m told that there is an number of interesting tips and work/life considerations in it.

So my 2008 wish for myself, and for all those who are kind enough to read my blog, is this:

A satisfying quantity of a satisfying job, and a lot of good life.

And if only I knew how to do it, I would add a lot of sparkle around this 😉

Let’s meet in December 2008 and see what we have achieved. We might be in for a lot of surprises!

Making Unusual Connections

December 26, 2007

The interview of Abha Dawesar here was translated by me.

Let me tell you about its background, it will show how diversified, and sometimes unusual, our sources of work and connections can be.

This year’s Salon du Livre (the Paris French Book Fair) featured India as Special Guest. Tirthankar Chanda, the author of the interview, is a literary critic for several French newspapers, a journalist on Radio France International and also a professor of Indian Literature and Bengali at INALCO, where I was recently learning Bengali. He is also an expert on African literature and literature of the South. He would probably qualify as a ‘/’ slash careerist!

One day at INALCO, he approached me and asked me if I could translate this interview for him. I was surprised at first, and I must say, a little nervous. Tirthankar Chanda, being Indian, is an expert of English and he writes perfect French. For this reason, and because I translate technical texts mainly, I felt a little uncomfortable, but I ended up accepting the job. The next two hours saw me at INALCO’s library, toiling away as if I was taking my first translation exam, and I’ve been working for almost 30 years!

When you read the text of the article, if you read French, you see that it’s fairly simple. But I checked everything at least 3 times, checked the grammar, the sentences, everything, and re-read the whole thing about 5 times. Never mind. A typo made its way into the copy, and when I re-read it just now, it made me shameful. It wasn’t mine. Still. There’s my name at the bottom. The evil perfectionist in me is grinding its teeth.

Your bonus: For an excellent presentation of Indian literature in French, follow this link.

Looking for Google Talk Testers

December 19, 2007

I am looking for fellow translators and/or individuals seeking good quality translation and interpretation, who are willing to test with me the new Google Talk feature that I’ve just found reported here.

I haven’t got into the detail of it, but there is a selection of languages. Needless to say, anyone interested has to be prepared to ask for more than just ‘How are you?’ ‘How’s the Weather?’ etc. If this kind of tool was to make a real impact, it would need to be excellent.

You may contact me via my Facebook Profile on the right, or via my Facebook page.

I’m very interested in this new feature, and will report on it as the test goes.

Food for Thought

December 19, 2007

I’ve just read this excellent piece written by a freelance interpreter, the Editor of Communicate!, A.I.I.C.’s newsletter.

What can I add? Nothing. It’s clear, to the point, and describes the usefulness, indeed the need for interpreters and translators worldwide.

We are not an industry, we are not products, we are real people doing real jobs and needing to be considered, and paid, accordingly.

I Really Admire Your Work!

December 12, 2007

Wow. We’ve all heard it. It’s always sincere.

And it’s the perfect ice-breaker at lunchtime, but once the ice is broken, it doesn’t take us very far, especially at a —— meeting (you may fill in the blank as you like, anything ‘technical’ will do).

‘I really admire your work!’ ‘I don’t know how you do it!’ ‘I don’t even speak English fluently’ (from French speakers).

The problem is, WE know how WE do it. We know it so well that it has become standard practice for us, and we tend to under-promote our wonderful skills, to put it mildly. So we mumble a few words of appreciation, about learning the job, practicing, and so on. If we start to describe what it takes to become an interpreter or a translator, people begin to get bored.

How can we promote our skills in an environment that is simply so different from our practice? I’ve been pondering this for ages, in particular during those lunchbreaks where we end up eating (the team of interpreters, I mean), separately from our audience.

The story is quite different when I am hired to do consecutive interpreting. I accompany my clients to meetings, they get used to me as I get used to them, we sit in traffic jams together. We have time to exchange, mainly on their subject. I can be of value to them, in particular to those visitors from America, as they see me not only as their ‘French voice’, but also as a source of information, especially on study tours. One visitor used me once as a sounding board on the subject of GMOs in France.

Their message is important to them, and so it’s important to me, and I make sure that they know it. That’s probably our best promotion tool.

The Meeting That Wasn’t

December 12, 2007

In defiance of all the laws that govern good (understand: aimed at attracting readers) writing, I’m beginning this post with a negative title. There!

The ‘meeting that wasn’t’ was planned with a client of my translation services who happened to be in Paris this last weekend. I ‘met’ her and came to work for her by e-mail. True, it was in fact a ‘word-of-mouth’ encounter, as I had worked for another member of the staff, but that person ended up being a good client, so I was pleased to get to meet her in the end.

She had to call it off, so I was left to ponder the difference between ‘meeting’ people professionally by e-mail and ‘in the flesh’.

I am a believer in human interaction, but networking is probably not my best skill. I still see fairly regularly a few friends I made more than 30 years ago, and I have no problem being reunited with people I haven’t seen in decades, and I keep making new real life friends, but work connections are different.

My work connections are generally very busy, and increasingly so, in a generally difficult economic environment. I have one client whom I haven’t seen in months, maybe years now. She’s not a frequent user of my services, and I know that she is really very, very busy. When she needs my services, she e-mails me, I produce a quote, and off we go. She doesn’t have to be a ‘friend’ although I think our feelings for each other are cordial.

With her, as with this client I almost got to see, what is important for me is to have at least one meeting. It’s important from a human point of view, but not necessary for work. I can’t really explain why it is important, maybe only to reassure myself that we are more than just machines.

Mobile Phone Translator

December 3, 2007

A couple of days ago, I Stumbled Upon this piece from the engadget website. Being a ‘gadget-y’ person myself, I would love to be able to have a look at the real thing, to try it and see what it can do for me (especially as I don’t understand Japanese at all).

It has also been reported here. Let’s hope that the translation provided by this jewel is of a higher grade than that one here, ‘Nec développe premier traducteur de langue des logiciels en téléphone mobile’. No-one seems to question anymore the inability of any software to translate anything properly. By ‘properly’ I mean, to produce a simple sentence, which is error-free in terms of grammar, vocabulary and meaning. Putting words in the right place, using articles when needed, etc. I am not talking about producing literary grade prose. Forget Marcel Proust and his half-page-long sentences.

Inserting disclaimers to protect themselves against non stylish machine translation is one thing, but what about the credibility of a company that provides simple translations that come out THAT bad, as they are reporting on a translation gadget?