Time-Saving Tip of the Week

As busy entrepreneurs, it's important that we maximize our time, as our time is the only resource we truly have. We are constantly looking for ways to do this, and found one that has been really helpful.

Just like many of you, we provide formal quotes for project for all clients. We create these quotes by using a Word template with an integrated Excel table for the cost breakdown. The quote is fairly elaborate, comes with information on payment terms, terms and conditions, delivery time, etc. Even though it's a template, it takes around 15 minutes to do a full quote. We have now realized that, instead of doing a full quote for every inquiry, it's a better option to e-mail the potential (or existing client) and say: "The cost for this would be XXX. If this works for you, we will e-mail you a formal quote for your approval." In many cases, this weeds out the folks for whom the price doesn't work, and saves us 15 minutes of our time. Think about it -- if you do, say, 2 quotes a day for interested parties who do not end up using your services, you have used up 30 of your minutes from that day. Instead, run the document through a word count software (AnyCount, or Word will do for simple, text-only documents), and give the customer a price. If they are interested, you can proceed with making the quote. Don't forget to obtain formal approval (for instance, by having the customer sign the document and scan/fax it) before you proceed. However, you can easily waive this last step for repeat clients, as we routinely do.

Entrepreneurial Linguist Book: Coming Soon

Hot off the presses: we are about halfway through writing our translation book, cleverly titled "The Entrepreneurial Linguist," which will focus very strongly on the practical aspects of running a translation business, based on many lessons that Judy learned in business school. Here's why we have undertaken this monumental project:
  • We were inspired by Corinne McKay's "How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator"
  • We were encouraged by colleagues at Judy's "Entrepreneurial Linguist" workshops
  • We realized that there are very few books about translation as a business
  • Writing runs in the family -- our mom is a German-language children's book writer
  • Because running a small business and writing a dissertation in Romance languages (Dagmar) isn't keeping us busy enough -- not!

We are currently on page 90 or so, and if the stars align correctly, we are hoping to self-publish it this year. We figured the subject matter is too narrow to shop it around to publishers, and the idea is for it to be available easily and quickly, so we are going with Lulu.com. Since the book is, in part, a direct result from conversations we have had with linguists around the world, we'd love your feedback. Is there any area that you would like us to explore in detail? As it stands at the moment, the book will focus on marketing, economics, entrepreneurship, client relations, work/life balance, etc. It will also include chapters on social media, innovative marketing ideas, etc. Feel free to leave a comment and tell us what you think - after all, the book will be for all of you!

Free Software of the Month: Dropbox

Dropbox is the tool the translating twins had been waiting for! Since we collaborate on projects on a daily basis reviewing and editing each other's translations, we were tired of e-mailing files back and forth. Luckily, our IT guru pointed us to Dropbox, which is an amazing free tool (free is good in this economy). Dropbox has several features, but our favorite is the "share" option. All we had to do was download the software to both our computers. A folder named "Dropbox" is automatically created. Since we gave each other access to the other's Dropbox folder, we can now see every file either of us puts into the folder. We can make changes on our local computer and the twin will immediately get an updated version of the file. We love it! We know it's sometimes hard to find the time and mental readiness to get used to a new piece of software, but this one definitely worth it! It's quick, simple, and there's literally no learning curve. Even if you don't have an editing twin, Dropbox should be on your computer. We used Dropbox to create this blog posting.

It's a Scam Update: The Accused Speak(s)

In an effort to provide both sides of the story, and as a follow-up to this week's article It's a Scam: International Language Interpreters, we are hereby posting an e-mail that we received. We don't actually know who it's from -- no signature, no company information, just a free e-mail address with a name that appears to be unrelated the folks in question. Judging from the references being made, this appears to be from the accused party. Below is the entire unedited (no grammar or spelling mistakes were corrected) e-mail. Note: the writer refers to Ms. Dhillon, who is the interpreter who brought this to our attention and is one of many linguists still trying to collect. You can contact Harinder Dhillon for details on the case.

"It's amazing on how you can take the time to write these horrific things about individuals/companies without providing the companies or individuals to provide their side of the story. Faviola being the CEO of a small interpreting agency started an agency with the hopes of providing business for "Freelance Interpreters" not knowing how harsh "Self Employed Freelance Interpreters" would be. Interpreters seem to think that running a business is easy and that we are just sitting and collecting money and running. unfortunately anyone in the "Real Business World" will tell you that running a business is NOT easy and that collecting and running is not the case. I spent hundreds and thousands of dollars on sales and marketing to get business took out a second mortgage to keep business upfloat and unfortunately I was owed thousands of money from some of the customers that forced me to file bankruptcy.

As much as I tried to collect and pay interpreters I was unable to pay them all, I had to pay employees, business debts and was able to pay 98% of the interpreters and unfortunately I was unable to finish paying all of the Independent Contractors; I had mentioned to some that I would be happy to pass on the invoices that were due to the company for them to try to collect it themselves as since I was unable to successfully do, but of course they said "NO That was NOT their job" and they were unwilling to accept any of my offerings.

All I.C Contractors sign an Agreement agreeing to the Terms and Conditions and part of that agreement is that if the company goes out of business, death or bankruptcy - company, owners, officers are released of any and all liabilites and unfortunately interpreters were unwilling to understand and work with me that I had no choice but to file for bankruptcy and therefore it has released me from all liabilities and debts as well as protecting me from all of these bad threats and harrasments.

In regards to International Language Interpreters and 411-OTPI it has nothing to do with HS Interpreters, Inc and Mrs. Dhillon and you need to get your facts straight and remove these companies from this bad review as it has NOTHING to do with HS Interpreters, Inc debts.

Mrs. Dhillon needs STOP this harrasment against me my husband and family I will report it to my bankruptcy attorney and courts about these threats harrasmants and defamation on myself my husband whom again has NOTHING to do with my business or business liabilities.

If information about Mr. Aranda or my self is NOT removed we will seek legal action against individuals making these false acusations as he is NOT an owner nor an officer of the company or companies. The agency HS Interpreters, Inc. was a corporation and an entity of it's own and has nothing to do with me as a person."

La Tribune Online Translations: The Integral of the Cats

Bad translations have made it into the nightly news: we recently heard Keith Olbermann on MSNBC mocking the online version of the French business newspaper La Tribune, which is now unfortunately available in bad English, German and Spanish. We'd love to know if the Italian is any good, but we doubt it.

On www.latribune.fr, next to the flags indicating the different languages, a banner reads "Beta Powered by Systran." We don’t know anything about Systran, which praises "a cost effective solution that makes it possible to increase content of translated content" on its website, but we do know that the "translations" their system provides are pretty awful. One of the menu items in the top navigation of the English version is quite accurately called "Green Business," but has a drop-down menu where you can click on "The integral of the cats". The French version says “L’intégral des chats”, which should probably read "Chat transcripts." Chat = cat? Our cat doesn't chat.

More negative highlights: another menu item is called "Untertaken," which should be "Business"(French: "enterprises"). We also shared a laugh about "Topicality of July 12,"Porsche makes assemble the biddings between Qatar and Volkswagen" and "Bank secrecy: the US government asks for the carryforward of lawsuit UBS."

The German and Spanish versions are largely incomprehensible, but give the reader a vague idea about the content of the article. The Spanish version offers a bizarre combination of English and Spanish: "Washington, tired autoridades suizas there UBS quieren intentar una última negociación idiot respecto Al secreto bancario. Piden prórroga LED pleito LED bank value suizo that debía abrirse mañana." Gosh, this website provides endless hours of entertainment! The infamous cats also make an appearance in the Spanish version: “El íntegro of leasing cats". German: "DAS íntegro DER Katzen". We suspect the Italian version isn’t any better – any Italian translators out there?

La Tribune is doing a fine job of ruining its reputation by providing these ridiculous automated translations. Non merci!

It's a Scam: International Language Interpreters

California-based court interpreter Harinder Dhillon would like to share the information below with  her colleagues in Nevada and around the world. According to Harinder, interpreters as far away as Argentina are owed thousands of dollars. Many of them have already sued the company in small claims courts in California (where the company is based) or contacted the Department of Labor. We have never worked with this company, and are merely posting the known facts as shared with us by Harinder, which she assures us are correct. Here's an excerpt of the message we received:

Scam artists operating under different company names
Company making money from free services of interpreters & translators

“International Language Interpreters” - www.ILinterpreters.com, (866)-546-8855. Owners: Faviola Valencia/Jose Aranda. Company also known as: www.411-OPTI.com. Previously known as Hispanic Services, H.S. Interpreters and Northern California Interpreter Network (N.C.I.N). They reside at: 7116 Koropp Ct., Sacramento, Ca. 95842. They have an unlisted home phone number for obvious reasons. Their current office address od P.O.B. 7575, Citrus Heights, Ca. 95621 could be at: 3017 Douglas Boulevard, Suite 300, Roseville, Ca. 95661.

This husband and wife team has been scamming interpreters and translators for several years now. They change the company name frequently and answer telephone calls and emails under different names rather their own. They give out assignments, collect money from their clients but then do not pay the translators and interpreters. When they are called for payment, the classic responses are: the invoice was not received, browser was down, fax was not received, the check is in the mail or went out to the wrong address, paid the wrong translator, accountant fell ill or Paypal allows them to pay only a lesser amount. Phone calls to the company frequently go unanswered because they are carefully screened. In trying to collect their payments, interpreters have faced intimidation, harassment, and threats of legal action. When approached by process servers, Faviola often tells them that it is not her and Jose chases them to their cars.

Several recent complaints have been filed with the local Police Department and with District Attorney Jan Scully’s office in Sacramento, Ca. Toni Ruiz, at the D.A.’s office, can be reached at: 916-874-4782.

Deputy Labor Commissioner Helen Morales and Investigator Jay Cui can be reached at: 415-703 4810 and 415-703-4828. Deputy Labor Commissioner V. Lane Jacopetti can be contacted at: 510-022-3272.

For more information, please contact Harinder Dhillon at 925-833-1133, harinderdhillon@comcast.net.

Interpreters' Portrayal in Literature: Fail

Dagmar just read a book about a conference interpreter, the book’s clever title being “The Interpreter”, written by Suzanne Glass. According to her bio in the back of the book, the author is a former conference interpreter who is fluent in seven languages. That seems hard to believe, especially after reading certain German-language passages in the book. Here is an excerpt for the German speakers among us. This is from a letter quoted in the book: Aber nun setze ich mich hin und schriebe [sic] Dir. […] Ist es möglich dass es erst sieben oder acht Monate her ist? Es scheint doch wie ein Leben. There are quite a few mistakes in there. The last sentence doesn’t sound German at all. Suzanne Glass is really doing our profession a disservice here.

Having read about this book in an anthology about the image of interpreters and translators in literature, my curiosity was piqued, even though the back cover praises “a heady mix or romance and intrigue,” which would usually discourage me from reading it. While the author quite accurately describes the work of conference interpreter Dominique Green, this book has an unpleasant aftertaste. Dominique is described as “not having her own voice” – whatever that means – and this fact is attributed to her work. That is, of course, nonsense. I find it disturbing that Dominique eventually finds her own voice only through the miraculous love of a man. At the end of the day, the author probably just wanted to write a (barely interesting and sometimes cheesy) love story and her own profession just provided the logical background.

This book could’ve been a good opportunity for conveying a positive image of our profession. Too bad that was apparently not the author’s intention. For a detailed review of this book in German, please click here.

Vote for Your Favorite Language Blogs

We were delighted to hear that our colleague Emma Littner nominated our little blog for the Top 100 Language Blogs. Thanks, Emma!

The Top 100 Language Blogs list is compiled by the managers of a fantastic blog on language,s in several languages, Lexiophiles. We frequent the site for excellent insight into languages, and used their Top 100 Language Blog list last year to find our favorite blogs. There's a lot of talent out there in the translation world, and most of the blogs are fantastic (we link to our favorites on our blog roll to the left). It's wonderful that these blogs -- and the busy professionals behind them -- will be getting recognized.

We heard from the ranking's organizers that we are encouraged to put this button on our blog in case you would like to vote for us. We'd be honored and delighted, but please have a look at all the other contestants and vote for your favorites (you can vote for one in each category; ours is in the languages professionals group). Have fun, and if you decide to vote for us -- thank you! Voting starts today and concludes on July 28. Winners will be announced on July 30.

Speak English or Else

We subscribe to the very interesting listserv by the Interagency Language Roundtable, which is a federal agency that creates and shares information about language-related activities. They keep us up-to-date on highly relevant matters for our industry, including legislation developments on interpretation on the federal level. We highly recommend subscribing to their listserv here.

The listserv's most recent posting caught our attention:

Speak English well, or get a ticket
Truckers face hefty fine for breaking law that says they must be able to talk with police.

Tuscaloosa, Ala. —- Manuel Castillo was driving a truck through Alabama hauling onions from Georgia and left with a $500 ticket for something he didn't think he was doing: speaking English poorly.
Castillo, who was stopped on his way back to California, said he knows federal law requires him to be able to converse in English with an officer, but he thought his language skills were good enough to avoid a ticket. Still, Castillo said he plans to pay the maximum fine of $500 rather than return to Alabama to fight the ticket. "It just doesn't seem fair to be ticketed if I wasn't doing anything dangerous on the road," he said. Federal law requires that anyone with a commercial driver's license speak English well enough to talk with police. Authorities last year issued 25,230 tickets nationwide for violations. Now the federal government is trying to tighten the English requirement, saying the change is needed for safety reasons.
Read the full article.
It makes sense that commercial truckers need to be able to communicate with an officer in basic English when stopped on the road. However, getting a ticket for no other offense than being a "non-English speaker" is highly controversial (to put it mildly). The topic of English proficiency is hotly debated and doesn't have an easy answer-- what do the languages professionals think in this case? Who determines if the driver's English is good enough? The officer? How can she/he correctly assess language skills? Are there any discrimination issues? Would these drivers have the right to an interpreter? We'd love to hear your thoughts -- just leave a comment.

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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