Those changes to Linkedin

LI indexNow I appreciate that this doesn’t, strictly speaking, have anything to do with #welovelanguage, but there is no doubt that we all use Linkedin to contact and engage with clients, interpreters and translators.

Linkedin, as a friend of mine oft opines, does not regard world domination as an option, they regard it as a right!  The bulk of their income comes from recruitment, so they are keen to make it as difficult as possible for anyone who doesn’t pay for their premium licences to find people on their site.  Over the years, they have gradually restricted the options available for free search and their latest moves are part and parcel of this. However, there is more to these changes than simply restricting recruiters’ free access to candidates.  Microsoft bought Linkedin in last year for a reported $26.2BN and you can be sure they will want their investment to succeed.  As a result, the new interface that is being rolled out across all Linkedin profiles is generally regarded as an attempt to integrate some Facebook-like elements into the site, albeit more business-orientated than you would get on Facebook.   We shall see how well this goes down with the site’s users: responses so far have been mixed, but Linkedin does not normally let this sort of reaction cause it to change course.

All this said, there are a lot of  changes that have been introduced and it’s important to understand them.  You may not have  seen them if your profile has not been changed yet, but rest assured you will, sooner or later.

A good friend of Global Connects, Tony Harding of momentumspk, has produced a very useful guide to these changes and how to find things that have been moved on your pages.  You can see it here. 2017 LinkedIn changes V4  It is well worth taking a few minutes to read this as it will help you get to grips with the way Linkedin is now structured and, as noted above, love it or hate it, you can’t ignore Linkedin’s importance to the business community generally and to the language industry specifically.

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

 

 

Manipulating language to get a pay rise

record-1264177_640How many people are happy with what they are paid? We all think we are worth a little bit more, don’t we?

Occasionally, I like to fantasise that the boss has called me in to his office and said, “Rosetta, I’m really happy with your work and I’d like to make you a generous offer to show how well I think you’re doing. Please accept this 30% increase in salary and, while you’re at it, you can have six months’ holiday and when you come back you’ll have a seat on the board.” In these circumstances, I might possibly be tempted to say, thank you, that would be very kind, what took you so long to realise how important my contribution has been, and can I start my holiday tomorrow? Unfortunately, not only will the moon be composed entirely of cheddar by that time, but there will be layers of ice six-foot deep in hell and chickens will be grinding their molars all over the country.

But supposing there was a way to make this happen…?  I’ve just read this article on Motherboard. If it is right (and it seems to be), then there might be the prospect of a rather nice pay rise in the offing…

Apparently, Adobe have worked out how to manipulate voice recordings in much the same way we do with images via their Photoshop software, but this time applied to voice recordings. In the past, you might take a picture of one of your colleagues and then superimpose the head of a penguin (or worse) on it. Now it appears you can take a voice recording (let’s just say of your boss, to pick someone entirely at random) and not just cut and paste the words but actually create totally different, original recordings in that person’s voice. You don’t even need Photoshop skills; you can do all this via your keyboard. As the Motherboard article explains, “according to Adobe, after about 20 minutes of listening to a voice, users can make the voice say whatever they want just by typing it out.” To illustrate how this works, have a listen to this audio clip on YouTube, which shows what happens.

What I don’t know is whether this works for other languages. I presume it does. I also wonder if this software can be linked to mechanical translation software so you can get the boss to give pay rises to the Buenos Aires office? Muchas gracias señor.

If you don’t mind, I’ll let you get think about the possibilities for your own business. I’ve got a man to see about my holidays…

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

 

Why you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the papers…

In today’s Daily Telegraph, James Titcomb writes about Artificial Intelligence and suggests that we are getting a bit too worked up about the possibility of killer robots, etc.  In his article he includes the suggestion that Google Translate is now approaching superhuman accuracy, linking to a further article in the Washington Post which claims that this is the case.

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To test this, I tried Google Translate with one of the best loved phrases in the English language, “the cat sat on the mat”, and asked it to do its superhuman stuff.  Now my Spanish is of a reasonable level, but I am not fluent. However, I do know that  the word “alfombra” in Spanish means “carpet” and the word “alfombrilla” means “mat” (literally, a little carpet). There are also other words for “mat” in ‘Spanish, “la estera” and “el felpudo”, the latter being a mat by a door.

Guess which word the superhuman Google Translate chose?  Correct, it went with “alfombra”. The cat sat on the carpet.

Yes, machine translation is getting better and will continue to do so, but that doesn’t excuse lazy journalism such as this.  More pertinently, if this small detail is wrong, why should I believe the rest of the argument that Mr Titcomb makes in his piece in the Telegraph? And even more pertinently, if you’re striving for real accuracy, don’t rely on “superhuman” computers just yet.  Just a normal human being, fluent and trained in the use of another language, is still the best thing you can get.

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

French lessons in keeping your boat afloat

You may have seen this story, in which case apologies, but if you haven’t it’s as good an example  as there is of the problems that can occur when there are no interpreters around when they are needed – or to be more accurate, of the problems that occur when people assume that they have communicated with each other but, in reality, have failed spectacularly to do so…

In March this year, a French trawler sought safety in Dartmouth Harbour during stormy weather.  Then, as the Torquay Herald and Express reported in its summary of the investigation (which only finished in the last few weeks), “Steve Clinch, Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, said, ‘This accident happened as a result of a misunderstanding of communication between people of two different languages who could not speak each other’s language.’”

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The ship, Saint Christope 1, was directed by the harbour authorities to a berth where they knew that it would come to grief when the tide receded. Unfortunately, they could not speak French, or at least not to the extent that the boat’s skipper could understand them – and he couldn’t speak English. Their hand gestures were interpreted by the skipper to mean that his crew would have to tend the lines as the tide went out.  They thought they had got the message across.

The inevitable happened. The tide, naturally, did go out, and the trawler listed to one side before grounding on the harbour bottom.

The story of the investigation made the national press, with the Daily Telegraph reporting that “it later transpired that the harbour had a list of people who could act at translators if needed, but neither the harbourmaster nor his deputy were aware of it.”  The Telegraph concluded its story by noting, “The authority will make a remote emergency language service available at all hours, with notices on the quayside providing details.”

The official investigation – entitled “The grounding of French fishing vessels. Saint Christophe 1 (CN666535) and Sagittaire (CN764603) while alongside in Dartmouth resulting in the flooding and sinking of Saint Christophe 1 on 10 March 2016 – (which you can read here and from which the picture above was taken) found that there were mistakes all round, including on the part of the French skipper.  Sadly, the trawler could not be salvaged.

So the next time some says, “why should I learn a foreign language…?”, just tell them about the St Christope 1 and Dartmouth Harbour, and the very big bill that resulted.

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

 

 

The answer in English is (sometimes) plain to see!

English BooksIn a few weeks, it will be Plain English Day. Now, as interpreters and translators, we’re well aware that English can  sometimes be plain, sometimes flowery, sometimes technical, sometimes full of jargon and sometimes just plain incomprehensible.  Horses for courses is our motto, but that said, for anyone with an interest in the language, the principles underlying Plain English are well worth knowing.

The Plain English Campaign began in 1979 in the UK and Tuesday, 8th December is Plain English Day . This date was chosen because it was on this day that Chrissie Maher, a journalist who had founded a newspaper for people with reading difficulties, publicly shredded thousands of documents outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Maher founded the campaign to counteract needlessly verbose language, not just by those in government but by anyone producing documents which are supposed to be easily understood by the general public.  That said, the Civil Service does have a track record here.  Anyone who has tried to make sense of some government documents may understand her frustration!  Since the publication of ‘Plain Words’ by Sir Earnest Gowers in 1948 (and its many subsequent updates), many people have tried (often in vain) to render “civil service speak” into something a bit more comprehensible.

The Plain English Campaign annually announces the result of their annual awards for best and worst communications, which usually results in some newspaper mentions and are often quite entertaining. In 2009 there was also a re-enactment of the shredding outside Parliament. The campaign is still ongoing, and the fact that we even now refer to anyone who is particular verbose as a ‘Sir Humphrey’* indicates just how serious the problem remains!

At Global Connects, we know that our clients have varying requirements. If we’re translating ‘expert to expert’ then the use of the appropriate jargon is entirely acceptable, however, if we’re working on something simpler where it’s important to have clarity we always bear in mind the underlying principles of Plain English, adopting them where it’s sensible to do so. This helps produce a clear, straightforward translation, which, after all, is what we’re here to do!

You can read more about the Plain English Campaign and Plain English Day on their website.

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

* for anyone who  is not from the UK, Sir Humphrey Appleby was a character in the TV series ‘Yes Minister’.  As Permanent Secretary in the Department for Administrative Affairs, he was famous for his verbosity and enormously convoluted sentences which were (deliberately) designed to frustrate the Minister of State, James Hacker.

A blow with a brush. Or Royale with Cheese.

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Un brushing or eine Afterhour are words that seem, at first glance, to come from the same place as ‘Royale with Cheese’; English words incorporated into another language with the minimum of fuss. However, these two examples do not have the exact same meaning as their English language counterparts; they are pseudo-anglicisms. These can be either portmanteaus or words appropriated for a different meaning. For example, unless you know, ‘Un brushing‘ might seem obvious, but in fact ‘Un brushing’ involves blow drying, rather than merely dragging a comb through one’s hair.

These new words and terms can have an almost childlike naivety – a sense of fun if you like –  such as, for example, the Danish for carrycot being babylift.  There’s a long-term movement of English into other languages, with a term losing syllables over the years as words diverge but meanings remain. This produces a dissonance, a sense of detachment, in terms such as body rental, which is an Italian term for hiring a temp.

French and German language institutions are not huge fans of pseudo-anglicisms, or indeed anglicisms full stop, especially where a perfectly good word exists in their own language for the same term. Also, there is the simple fact that in using these phrases some Europeans’ speech may sound a bit clumsy to native English language speakers. However, in Britain we do the same thing frequently enough; a latte in Italy is just a glass of milk, and ooh la la can mean ‘Oh dear’.  Let’s be honest too; all languages combine and use words and phrases from others.  How many native English speakers say they are ‘going to the loo’ without realising the (French) origins of that particular phrase?

Language does provoke strong emotions at times. However, for all of us who love it, we know It has never been at static thing - even when institutions try to force it to conform to their conventions.  Words will change, but the way they change can be shaped. That’s true, but while the institutions that act to guard their languages will do what they can to preserve the linguistic purity of their particular mother tongue, the people – the great unwashed that we are – will also mould words, foreign or indeed our own, in ways that the good and the great don’t always like.  As the Latin phrase has it, ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ Perhaps that’s what makes languages such fun!

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

Why the net works for translators

At the start of your translation/interpretation career you will soon discover you need skills beyond the obvious multi-lingualism. One of the most important to master quickly is networking. Be aware that if you aren’t able to get into a translation job straight away, there are jobs in connected industries. Publishing, for example, or law, or many international businesses. Aspects of these jobs will be useful not only for the contacts you’ll make but also for the opportunities to learn and understand industry-specific technicalities and prospective markets. Moreover, current colleagues may become future clients and if you continue to provide them with a great service they may well follow you throughout your career,

network-1020332_640Even if you head straight into a great job in the more traditional translation industry it’s still important to keep networking in order to establish relationships with people in these industries. Conferences and workshops are a valuable source of good contacts, with the added advantage that more experienced pros you’ll meet there may be able to give you other tips and feedback. Essentially, you have to put yourself “out there”, so don’t be a shrinking violet.  Remember, you may have gone into translation/interpretation because you love languages, but you are in business to make money!

You also have to, less literally, put yourself into the culture behind the languages you translate. While this will, to some extent, have been imbued in you during your language education, the business of ‘localisation’ – of making your work feel like it isn’t merely a translation but rather is immersed in the culture of your chosen language and the associated countries – is vital if you want to be recognised as not just a quality translation professional but also someone who understands everything that underpins your work.  Put simply, you need to do further reading on top of understanding the technicalities of the language, not just while you’re learning it but also as you progress throughout your career. globe-110775_640

There is no single, easy path to success in our industry. A combination of hard work, communication and – let’s face it – a certain amount of luck is what you need to make a go of it.  But we all know the famous quote (even if no-one can agree who first said it) – the harder I work, the luckier I get!

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

Managing your workload – it can be stressful – the translator’s daily problem?

In the last blog I looked at the minimum and maximum amount of work a translator can put in before it causes problems for their work. This time we’re going to look at some of the other work-related problems translators can face.

When you’re starting off – as well as setting your rates and making new contacts – the very real possibility of work drying up is often a fear. Even if you’re successful and established there are always irrational worries about the next client not emerging (or paying!), the next project not being locked in, etc. When you’re worried about moving onto the next task – say there is a delay if you’re starting off a project – then sometimes self-doubt creeps in. The risk of indulging this might compromise the quality of any work you do then get. This then further perpetuates the self-doubt issue, and when you’re doing something for the first time you don’t need that clouding your judgement!

This in turn can contribute to ill health (as can doing too much work – see the last blog), and/or taking on too much work in an attempt to counteract previous issues. Taking on too much work can contribute to longer working hours, or a feeling of spreading yourself thinly. Rather than focusing on single tasks, a large workload can result in incremental progress while multi-tasking. Tiredness can result in questioning your ability, wondering if you actually did your job correctly, meaning you double check and take even more time. Take five and realise that you will sort things out!

These are very real problems that many people experience at work. Managing your workload and being confident in your ability to do the job are aspects of work that you aren’t always trained for, and need looked into where possible. I know – or at least I think I know, based on my contacts in the translating and interpreting worlds – that most people don’t have these issues, but there are many who do and, for what it’s worth, I’d suggest that the most important thing in these circumstances is to remind yourself not just of all your successes, but also of how well trained and competent you are and how your skills are in great demand. As I’ve written here on many occasions in the past, translation and interpretation are vital skills, needed by businesses worldwide. That means that people like you can make a successful career and a good living.

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

How long can you translate for? Six hours a day? More? Less?

As a translator, your labour may not involve a lot of physical exertion, but there is still a limit to how much you should work. With a job that involves detailed knowledge of not only another language but also of another culture and its nuances, you need to be able to concentrate hard, check facts, proof-read and, ultimately, craft great copy.

In this feature on the Open Mic there are tips on how much work you should be putting in per month and how much you can expect to charge based on that and other factors. I think it’s really interesting.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 09.26.48It asks a translator, just starting out, to consider how much work is feasible in a month. Sixty hours of pure work (not counting breaks and procrastination!) is deemed (by the blog’s writer) a reasonable amount. That works out at less than four hours work per day, which is a comfortable amount of work to be doing (as anyone in a Nine-to-Five job will tell you!), but translation is a specifically focused task and we are talking about the actual time worked rather than the shift itself. Five hours a day, pushing your monthly total up to a hundred working hours, is going to push you towards the edge of your effectiveness.

Six hours a day translating is apparently the edge. Any more than this and you simply will not be able to do the job effectively. As someone whose job is labour-intensive may suffer from burn out so too may the translator’s mental faculties be temporarily exhausted. Six hours a day can be sustained for short bursts when you have a lot of work to do, but otherwise should be avoided.  However, isn’t there then a danger that this ‘productivity’ issue will ultimately be rendered irrelevant by machines, which don’t have any problems working 24×7?   I’d be fascinated to know what translators think?

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

Language works on the web to shut as many doors as it opens

This blog is written in English. You have probably noticed this already, perhaps placing you in the twenty-six per cent of American internet users who use the world wide web in the language. At just over a quarter of the users, it’s the most widely used language for websites read by those surveyed by the Pew Research Centre. Around 21.5% of users read the internet in Chinese, and a further 20% is read in a multitude of other languages. The surveys were undertaken in Spanish and English, so it isn’t a perfect representation, but the raw data is supplies does still demonstrate that monolingualism is an excellent way to shut out most of the world!

If your business’s web presence is only in English, this is still sufficient of course for many if not most purposes.. After all, a quarter of the world’s internet users is still a sizeable market. However, the possibilities out there suggest that translation services offer a gateway to an even bigger one. For global businesses, it’s surely essential to offer a multilingual platform. To have a website is potentially to reach out to the entire world (that’s why it’s called the world wide web!), so why focus on the part of it that speaks English? Or, indeed, your version of English. Even within that twenty five percent there’s room for exclusion. As a famous man once said, “England (I presume he meant the British Isles*) and America are two countries separated by a common language.”

Nevertheless, the online challenge is to make your business feel like a one-to-one interaction with a customer – to make it feel personal – and to achieve this you will need to be able to translate your products/services into correct, idiomatic language for your markets. Research shows you only have eight seconds to make an impact online, but if you are able to translate your website that will bring your products and/or services to a truly global market with literally millions of potential new customers.

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

* the phrase is attributed to George Bernard Shaw, who was, of course, Irish.