TOURANSLATION: A MONEY-MAKING FUSION

Focus on the relationships between translation and the tourism industry could prove lucrative for translators and visited countries alike. BY MEHDI ASADZADEH, PhD

ABSTRACT

Translation Studies approaches the phenomenon of translation from different perspectives. The present paper explores the relationship between translation and the tourism industry as a potential area for Translation Studies. Tourism has evolved in recent years, and allows tourism operators to benefit financially from human interest in exploring the world. Specialized translation services could help tourism operators overcome the language gap, as well as help translators to search out their best place as a part of that industry and get their due financial share of a potentially large emerging market. By presenting some facts and figures, the present paper attempts to stimulate translators to rethink their strategies in a way to foster better cooperation with tourism operators.

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THE PRICE-FIXING TABOO

Are language service providers limited in their ability to address downward price pressures due to now irrelevant anti-trust legislation? BY STAFFORD HEMMER

In February 2011, fellow NCTA Jonathan Goldberg member posted a message to the NCTA groups list about a Hebrew-English job offer he had recently received. He was willing to investigate the option of taking on the assignment from a client who expressed dismay at the quality of the existing translation products they had been receiving. However, when Goldberg learned that the compensation for his work would be “$0.05/word – no match,” naturally the conversation was terminated. Hebrew<>English is a language pair that, according to the ATA’s 2007 Translation and Interpreting Survey of Compensation, generally commands about $0.22/word by the average ATA language service provider (LSP). Mr. Goldberg noted that, “the fact that they have had a translator until now working at that rate, irrespective of the quality of the translations, is cause for concern. Some translators should be reminded that there is no need to agree to such a low rate or even to agree to double that rate―particularly if the translation is from English and more particularly if it requires a non-Latin font.” → continue reading

CROWDSOURCING: OUTRAGE OR OPPORTUNITY?

The debate about translation crowdsourcing encompasses a number of concerns, not the least of which are quality, professional standards, and ethics. BY NAOMI BAER

In June’s issue of the ATA Chronicle, Jiri Stejskal announced in the President’s column that the ATA Board had declared crowdsourcing one of the two top threats to the profession and to the association, at the same level as the other top threat they identified, the economic downturn.

This new trend—and the perception that this is just one more modern variation on the age-old theme of using unskilled, low-cost labor to produce translations—has engendered a strong reaction in the translation community. The most notable example is the controversy that arose after LinkedIn surveyed members, asking if they would be willing to contribute translations to the website for compensation such as account upgrades, recognition, or just for fun. The ATA quickly responded with a press release and open letter to LinkedIn, and the New York Times covered the resulting outcry, describing translators variously as “irked,” “surprised,” “upset,” “annoyed,” and in one case, “excited” about the opportunity for public credit. → continue reading

WHAT MAKES A GOOD AGENCY

Advice for ensuring the relationship between freelance translator and client remains harmonious, productive and pleasant for both sides. BY HERBERT EPPEL

In the 15 years since I started diversifying into translation I have worked with around 100 different clients and have encountered dozens of others, many of them translation agencies. Based on this experience it is worth reflecting on what distinguishes these agencies in terms of their interaction with the translator. → continue reading

Notarization on the Horizon?

A new trend regarding contracts

By Stafford Hemmer

A recent discussion on the NCTA web forum suggested that agencies are dispensing with a generally more lenient attitude toward employment terms and conditions in favor of a more legally airtight, formalized contractual relationship sealed by notarization. This article summarizes the viewpoints of several NCTA members who participated in the discussion.

When an agency engages an interpreter or translator, the respective contractual obligations are established by countersignature to the relevant documents, typically confidentiality and independent contractor agreements. Not uncommonly, both parties forego even these most basic of conventions—whether intentionally or by default—and work with each other on the basis of verbal agreements reached on the phone, or written covenants established by an exchange of emails. Yet these circumstances seem to be changing.

NCTA member Naomi Baer recently confronted this situation and asked fellow members, “Is anyone else being asked more frequently to notarize employment applications in order to get an assignment?” The case at hand pertained to a confidentiality agreement and a “proprietary agreement” that the agency wanted notarized by the translator-interpreter before consenting to give her the assignment. Although it was for a small project, the expectation was that it might lead to more serious work down the road. And yet the concept of having to pay to get set up to work with an agency seemed problematic, given the range of agencies Naomi has worked with, and given that, in general, she had no way to know if it would pay for itself over time.

Notarization refers to the certifying of documents by a notary public—an officer authorized by the state (such as California) who can also administer oaths, take acknowledgments, and take depositions if the notary is a court reporter as well.

“This new phenomenon seems to have reached epidemic proportions,” replied long-time NCTA member Peter Gergay. “Agencies that did not require notarized statements before, do so now, and nowadays new agencies with which I begin to do business tack it on almost routinely.” Not all NCTA members share the opinion that this phenomenon is so common; indeed, another long-time member, George Plohn, who has been a freelancer since 1990, translating into and from ten language combinations, claimed to have never heard about such a requirement.

Whether or not the trend is pervasive, both experienced translators agree on one thing: compliance is generally advisable. Peter replied that he uses a standard text that had been originally drawn up by educational credentialing institutions for diplomas and transcripts and subsequently approved—a long time ago—by government agencies and the ATA; he kindly volunteered to send interested colleagues a sample. He also added that he bills for the reimbursement of these charges ($10 per document) as well as for his time in getting the translations notarized. George added that he “would not  hesitate to satisfy such a requirement if it would bring business.” But he also pointed out that his bank provides this service free of charge, and suggests that translators should find out from their own financial institutions if they provide such a free service; if not, he suggests opening a small account at another bank that would.

Clients often ask agencies, and ultimately translators, to obtain notarizations, for instance of a translated college transcript or birth record. In most cases, the notary is merely certifying that the translator presenting the documents has properly identified himself or herself to the notary. The notary is not attesting to the accuracy or veracity of the translation itself. So what does an agency gain by asking its contractors to get signatures to an employment contract notarized? Other than the obvious additional legal gravitas derived from the signature and stamp of a notary public added to an otherwise valid contractual relationship, it is difficult to extrapolate from the group list discussion why agencies are increasingly asking contractors to provide these notarizations.

Still, there was consensus among translators, interpreters, and agencies alike that understanding the phenomenon of notarization is important. Wrote Michael Alioto, who runs an agency based in Italy, “There is a lot of confusion in the U.S. translation market about rules that are either non-existent or vague at best.” He points out that this is not the case in Europe, where agencies often deal with notarized documents, and especially in the context of the Hague Convention. (Michael’s clients have Italian estate matters that have to be addressed via various powers of attorney). As Michael says, “Because we do many translations for direct clients and attorneys, I found this subject needs to have a legal foundation that is understood by all.”

Song White, White Song

By Steve Goldstein

Newly elected NCTA board member Song White is the cofounder of White Song, a translation firm that focuses on multilingual and multicultural communications, particularly in Chinese language and culture. The company currently offers translations in Korean, Spanish, Japanese, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Italian.

What is the story of the name: both yours, and your company’s?
SONG WHITE: My parents gave my first name when I was born. Song is one of the volumes of the book, The Book of Odes. The Book of Odes is a famous ancient Chinese poetry book from around 700 B.C. My parents named their children after the names of the volumes in the book. The volume “Song” is the collection of songs sung in the religious ceremonies in the temples. My last name is my husband’s last name which I adopted when we married. When the company was started, we thought of several names. When we reversed my name to White Song, we found it had a strong sound in the market and decided on it.

How do you keep up with the terminology issues in emerging and constantly evolving industries such as biotechnology, computers, and others?
Between our contacts in many different industries and the niche expertise of our translators, we’ve been able to keep current on the latest terminology of our clients. When a better term is developed and should replace the term we currently use, we go through a change control process to apply the new term.

As your company’s specialization is in Chinese, do you have trouble attracting work in your other language pairs? Why should a client with a Finnish-English job come to White Song?
Lowering the translation cost is the first reason a client would come to us. Regardless of the language, translation processes are similar. Asking questions and educating the prospect with information on how to cut translation costs helps clients evaluate their decision, revise their source language material, and be confident in their investment in translation. This process itself, costing the client no service fee, already has saved the client a large portion of upfront cost.

Our process is another reason clients come to us. We adhere to our processes in translations for software, for websites, and for marketing material. Those processes, again, regardless of language, allow us to provide quality work for our clients.

Technical know-how is another reason clients come to us. With the growth of the Internet, our expertise in search engine optimization helps us win clients who need their foreign language website to be optimized for these engines. We also consistently educate ourselves to keep up with the most current technology.

What is the most satisfying part of owning an agency? The most difficult?
I mostly enjoy the teamwork. Completing a job with the team members’ professionalism and initiative is the most rewarding part. Balancing my business responsibilities and my translation responsibilities is sometimes challenging.

How has new technology changed or affected the way translators or interpreters do their jobs?
New technologies improve the productivity and quality of translation. Online dictionaries, delivery over the Internet, translation memory, and search engines have become indispensable due to recenttechnology advancements.

New technologies also provide more options for translators conducting business worldwide, from invoicing to getting paid, from checking the reputation of a client to marketing a translation service.

Finally, new technologies cut the cost of doing international business. Agencies can submit a bid request online and receive many responses promptly. Translators can upload the translation to a client’s site without using an expensive express delivery service. And interpreters can use VOIP (an Internet telephone service) to perform a phone conference interpretation without running up a large phone bill on international calls.

Our ever-more “globalizing” world encompasses multinational, multicultural, and multilingual environments. At the same time, English seems to be moving inexorably towards becoming the world’s lingua franca. If this is the case, would a futuristic scenario require a) more and more translators, or b) simply that everyone on the planet know English?
The need for more translators will grow, as globalization requires more and more interfaces among different languages and cultural groups. I believe the growth of the need for multinational, multicultural, and multilingual interfaces will outpace the speed of people mastering English.

It will be a long time before everyone knows English. The ability of a language to prevail as a global language depends on a variety of factors, among them political, economical, and technological forces. English has gained its momentum due to these forces, and many people will try to learn English as long as these forces support that. Any factors that change those forces, however, may change the course of the language—although they will not change the need for interfacing with other languages and cultural groups.

How will the world of translation be different 10 years from now?
The Internet has improved the world of translation in the past ten years. I believe the next thing is wireless technology. In upcoming years, you will be able to use translation services through your cell phone, or network with associates or locate a translator with any number of different types of handheld devices.