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When to throw in the towel on a task


At the end of 2008, I wrote a post about post about outsourcing that generated quite a bit of interest, so I thought it was worth raising this topic again. After years of battling with my business payroll taxes (I have an S-Corp and thus have to file quarterly payroll taxes and a separate year-end tax return for the business), I decided to hand that task over to my accountant and so far I’m really pleased with how it’s going. For $40 per month, my accountant will run payroll (I’m the business’ only employee, so this isn’t a monumental task), automatically withhold the appropriate tax amounts from my gross pay, file my quarterly payroll taxes and issue my own W-2 at the end of the year, along with 1099-MISCs for anyone to whom I subcontract more than $600 worth of work. Read more

Funny translations into English

By: Gabriela Nikolova

There’s the story about the computer designed to translate between Russian and English. The English phrase “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” was submitted and then the Russian translation of that was re-submitted for conversion back to English. The result: “The wine is good but the meat is rotten.”
In the early days of computing, in the 80’s, a London university tried to develop a program that was so sophisticated it could translate several thousand colloquial phrases. At the official press conference a reporter entered the English phrase “Out of sight, out of mind”. The resultant Russian was translated back to English: “Invisible idiot”.

  1. In a Tokyo Hotel:
    Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not a person to do such thing is please not to read notis.
  2. In a Bucharest hotel lobby:
    The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.
  3. In a Leipzig elevator:
    Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up.
  4. In a Belgrade hotel elevator:
    To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.
  5. In a Paris hotel elevator:
    Please leave your values at the front desk.
  6. In a hotel in Athens:
    Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 a.m. daily.
  1. On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.
  2. On the menu of a Polish hotel: Salad a firm’s own make; limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people’s fashion.

and more…

Parking garage software switches language when full

By: Jason Grimes

From an article by Robert Charette in the IEEE Spectrum:

There was an amusing story in last week’s London Daily Mail about a Birmingham, England council-owned parking garage that has a ticket dispenser that switches from English instructions to German instructions on its display screen when the parking garage is full. Locals are apparently not amused.

According to this story a few days later, the city of Birmingham changed the parking garage’s software in December when the city hosted its Frankfurt Christmas Market.

. . .

The Daily Mail story shows a photo of the dispenser with a little paper sign attached to it that says helpfully that, “If display shows German writing it means car park is full. Please wait until display returns to English before obtaining ticket.”

Plans are in the works to fix the software.

Three recently launched sources of terminology

By: Niraja Nanjundan

The  European Central Bank published a glossary of payment, clearing and settlement terms in December 2009, mainly for use by EU institutions to maintain a consistent use of terms within the European System of Central Banks. For more see

Another interesting new terminology source is the ISO Concept Database with terms and definitions used in a large number of ISO standards. It is now publicly available at where you can log in as a guest and search for terms.

TERMIUM, the Government of Canada’s linguistic and terminology database is now finally available free of charge through the Language Portal of Canada at You can also browse the portal to find articles related to linguistic issues, dictionaries and publications as well as language training.

Welocalize Sets Its Sights on Marketing Translation


Language service provider Welocalize today announced the release of its web-based MarketSight translation marketplace. In this latest example of translation technologies moving into the cloud, this self-service software is aimed at helping companies manage their marketing translation budgets and operations. Unlike most portals offered by translation agencies, MarketSight lets users plug in any translator or agency that the client engages.


A Computer in a Pen

By: Gabriela Nikolova

Have you ever wanted a pen that could play the piano, solve math problems, record a lecture, speak Spanish, and translate your handwriting into type? No? Well, you do now.

It’s called the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen, and it contains an audio recorder and a tiny infrared camera that records everything the pen writes. Say you are in a meeting, taking notes on Livescribe’s special lined paper, which can be printed from the company’s free downloadable software.

A translation tool, which will allow users to write a word in English and get a translation in Spanish, should be available in mid-2009. Not enough?

Oxford Reference Premium Collection (On Line)

By: Gabriela Nikolova

In Oxford Reference Online: Premium Collection you will find a wealth of facts, figures, definitions, and translations from 175+ Oxford reference titles, many of which are in-depth, scholarly articles from titles in the acclaimed Oxford Companions series, plus all 20,000 quotations from the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.
The Premium Collection has an ‘intelligent search’ which will find your search term whether it appears in an entry heading, the full text of the entry, and will even find it if you have misspelled it.

If no results are found in entry headings, our intelligent searching facility moves on to full text to look for your search terms. Finally, if it has not found results in entry headings or full text, it uses a Pattern search to find similarly spelt words, in case you’ve misspelled your search term.

You can use wildcards if you’re not sure of the spelling, if there are several variant forms of the word that you are looking for, or if you want to find words which start or end in the same letter.

More information about it:

How to have more desktop on your laptop


Recently, my desktop computer suffered from a chain of problems. I had to send it for repairs twice; In the meantime, I’ve relied on my laptop.

When I use my laptop for short periods, or when I travel, I just use its built-in screen. For more sustained work, though, the small laptop screen is a hassle, with its tiny fonts and limited vertical space. So I connected the laptop to my desktop monitor.

At first, I just turned off the laptop monitor and used only the desktop one. Now, however, I’ve learned a trick that could prove useful to other people working from a laptop: I use both monitors at the same time, but, instead of displaying the same Windows desktop on both monitors (as you would do when projecting a Power Point presentation, for example), I extend the Windows desktop over the two monitors. Read more

Community Translators Misdirect Google Translate


With all of the news about hacked e-mail accounts, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that crowdsourcing interfaces can be manipulated, too. Earlier today, politicking or pranking Russian translators forced a Google Translate mistranslation of four segments — “USA is to blame,” “Russia is to blame,” “Obama is to blame,” and “Medvedev is to blame” into English from Russian (click here to see a screenshot).


Language Line Services Does an About Face (-to-Face)


This morning, Language Line Services (LLS) announced that it will use its staff of 8,000 interpreters to offer face-to-face (F2F) services throughout the state of California. Why is the company suddenly making such a strong play for in-person services after decades of touting the benefits of its remote interpreting services? We spoke with Louis F. Provenzano, Jr., President and COO of Language Line, to get more details about the announcement, which comes amidst the buzz of its much-talked-about initial public offering. (more…)

How to run two copies of Trados freelance while sharing the same Internet connection


You work from home, together with your partner. You decide to try a program that supposedly can help you do your job better and faster. In spite of a few defects, you find that the new program really helps, so you buy a second copy for your partner, and install it on her computer. Runs great on her computer as well, but, as soon as you launch it from yours, the program detects the copy running on her computer and reverts to demo mode.

This is probably the most annoying limitation of Trados freelance: two copies cannot run on the same network, even if you have paid for both copies. SDL wants you to buy a pro license.

According to SDL’s the reason is that running two copies of Trados at the same time is something only an agency would, and they want agencies to buy the more expensive pro version. So, if you are not an agency but you live and work with another translator, you are out of luck: you can either run Trados on two disconnected computers (so you cannot share a fast Internet connection), or you can have both computers connected, but only one of them running Trados.

There is a way you can still share the same Internet connection without violating the terms of the freelance license: put the two computers on different networks.

The way I’ve done it is by adding an inexpensive wireless router to our wired home network.

Our computers and various devices connect to our Internet router via Ethernet cables. Also connected to the wired router is a wireless router, to which our laptops can link. When it is time to launch a second freelance copy of Trados on one of the computers, I just unplug the Ethernet cable from my laptop. At that point the laptop is no longer on the same network as my partner’s desktop PC, but it still accesses the Internet (through the wireless router).

This is just a workaround and still a nuisance (the physically disconnected laptop no longer reaches some of the peripherals). I suspect that I could find a better solution if I knew networking better, but this is a useful stopgap: this way we can have two copies o Trados running at the same time, from two computers that share the same Internet connection.

Why Machine Translation Matters for LSPs


In my last entry I pointed out some of the reasons why the information deluge on the web and the worldwide thirst for knowledge is driving the development of MT technology and only touched upon why this might matter to Language Service Providers (LSP) and the professional translation industry. I thought it might be useful to expand on this.

It is useful to summarize some of the key trends in the professional industry as they provide a useful backdrop for why the need for more automation will only continue to build momentum. I am told that SDL originally stood for Software and Documentation Localization. The world has changed and the increasing source data volume, falling prices and the increasing value of dynamic community-created content suggests that changes are needed.The list below explains this further.

Read more

SDL Acquires Fredhopper: Amazon-Type Functionality for “The Rest of Us”


SDL announced another technology purchase last week to further deliver on its strategy to be a one-stop-shop for global content management tools. Its acquisition of Amsterdam-based Fredhopper will enable it to be a player in global e-commerce solutions. (more…)

Google encouraging creation of non-English content in Africa, elsewhere

By: Jared Tabor

This article at the New York Times describes Google’s efforts to create new Internet content in non-English languages:

“Then there are the gaps in the Internet, barren because large populations in the Arabic world, Africa and much of India lack the means or education to create Web sites and other online content.
“But Google can do something that cowboys can’t: create more real estate. The company is sponsoring a contest to encourage students in Tanzania and Kenya to create articles for the Swahili version of Wikipedia, mainly by translating them from the English Wikipedia. The winners are to be announced Friday, with prizes including a laptop, a wireless modem, cellphones and Google gear.”

International Relief Workers in Haiti Ramp Up Linguistic Capacity


Disaster relief workers from across the globe continue to arrive in Haiti in response to the devastating earthquake that hit the Caribbean nation last week. In addition to feet on the ground, the international community is also lending financial support — Europe has pledged more than US$500 million in relief funds and President Obama has offered US$100 million in aid. While there is no doubt that money and manpower are sorely needed, multilingual communication is also a must.

Once again: what not to do when you send out your résumé


Today I received a résumé that is an almost perfect example of what you should NOT do if you want to be more successful in your search for new customers:

  • The author mentioned she had browsed our web page, yet the résumé was address “to whom it may concern”. If she had browsed our web page, she could easily have found the names of the partners of our company: sending your résumé to a specific person, instead than to nobody in particular, increases the chance that it will be read.
  • The author said in the subject of her e-mail she was an English to Spanish translator, but she did not include that information in the header of the résumé. Without that information, it is impossible to see at a glance what exactly you do.
  • The résumé was in Spanish, though it was sent to a company based in the United States. As it happens, I do read Spanish, but if I did not, the résumé would have been sent to a person unable to read it. Tailor the language of your résumé to the language or languages of the country you are sending it to.
  • The résumé included work experience not relevant to our profession, such as teacher of English or education coordinator. Only include information that is relevant to the position you seek.
  • The résumé listed first educational attainments, and only afterwards professional experience. Also, it was in chronological order, with older items first. Your résumé should follow the most commonly used format for your target country. For the USA, you should mention your professional experience first, your educational experience only later. Also, you should list your professional experience in reverse chronological order (most recent first).
  • The résumé was much too long (seven pages). One page (two maximum for experienced professionals) is usually more than enough: busy people don’t want to wade through seven pages of repetitious information. Be short and to the point.
  • The résumé listed as working language pairs both English into Spanish and Spanish into English. Unless you are truly bilingual (raised as bilingual from an early age), you should give as your target language only your own native language.
  • While the résumé listed as working languages English and Spanish, under “Languages” it only gave French language courses. If a language is not among the languages you translate, do not mention it in your résumé.
  • The résumé had a “hardware and software” section, which may be useful, but then included irrelevant information. Tell the CAT tools and other specialized tools you use (so, do include Trados, Acrobat professional and Auto-CAD, if you have them). Do not include programs that everybody is expected to have (Windows, Office), or outdated software (Adobe 4 when the current version is 9). If you do not use the latest version of some program, it is better to blur the issue a bit, by not mentioning the version number at all.
  • The résumé had a three-page list of translations done. Much more useful is a brief summary that suggests the fields you have translated in (for example, “Translated for customer X medical documents and articles, as well as various magazine articles for customer Y”). A long list of translations is usually counterproductive for two reasons: a) it will not be read, and, b) it gives the impression to be a complete list of all the translations ever done, thus evidence of a relative lack of experience.
  • Finally, the résumé had a list of further education courses, none of which had any relevance to translation (at first glance they seem all to be courses for teachers). If something does not add to your professional experience or attainments, do not include it. If you include something, explain why it makes you a better translator.

This résumé managed not to fall into a couple of frequent errors: it did not include personal information (such as date of birth or marital status), and it did not include a photograph (both no-no’s for a résumé aimed at a US prospect).

It is difficult enough to win new customers by sending out a good résumé. Sending one that hides your true accomplishments and looks amateurish further stacks the deck against you.

For more Dos and Don’ts about translators’ résumés, download my article “How Not to Get Hired”.

What the translation industry can do for Haiti


Modified reposting of entry by Tammi Coles in the Milengo Blog. Tammi is our Geeky Marketing Diva, and has a lot of experience in nonprofit advocacy. In her words, “coalitions and collaborations = conservation of effort = victory.”

Like you, Milengo staff worldwide heard the news about the earthquake in Haiti. As the reports and photographs poured in, the extent of the devastation became clear: full neighborhoods have been destroyed, government offices and services have crumbled, and basic access to food and potable water has degraded.

We have also witnessed an amazing public rally for support, including reports of initiatives from leading technology companies to mobilize their customers and employees in the efforts.

These reports started a conversation between Milengo CEO Renato Beninatto and Lexcelera CEO Lori Thicke about just what translators and localization service providers could provide to the effort.

We don’t have to look too far for ideas.

Pledge the efforts of your company
The folks at One Hour Translation put out a press release earlier today offering a simple, free translation of up to 250 words per each organization and individual affected by the earthquake. One document may not seem like much, but in an industry of over 40,000 companies, the potential impact on medical aid documentation and charity websites is enormous.

Offer your services as an individual translator
The French-based Translators Without Borders (founded by Lori) take it a step farther by offering translators the chance to answer the call of the humanitarian groups that need their time and effort. Their largest partner, Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders is already on the ground in Haiti, with over 1,000 patients already in their care and an inflatable hospital on its way. Whether the need is for training materials for volunteers or media announcements in multiple languages, your talents are welcome.

Spread the word one SMS and Tweet at a time
Messages on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have made a considerable impact on Haitian relief efforts. @RenatoBeninatto sent out a message on Twitter regarding the efforts of Haitian-born singer Wyclef Jean to get donations for the work of his nonprofit,, from U.S. residents. And CNet News reported that a similar SMS donation campaign driven by Verizon and the Red Cross raised $4 million USD within days, with each SMS a donation of just $10. The effort to both make a donation and spread the news virally is too simple to ignore.

Help Coordinate the Efforts
Doug Green from Translation Source, in Houston, TX, wants to make sure that our joint efforts are not so diluted. So, in order to make sure that language assistance has been properly mobilized, and that the language industry puts its best foot forward. He has created a Facebook group, a Twitter account, and an e-mail address to concentrate information:

Facebook: Interpreters and Translators for Haiti
Twitter: @IT4H

Doug also tells us that Pacific Interpreters has already stepped forward and begun to donate all over the phone interpreting assistance for Haiti.

We hope to hear more on Twitter and on this blog more about what you, our colleagues in the translation industry, are doing to help. Add your comments, ideas, feedback and more below.

TermWiki Lowers the Barrier to Terminology Management


CSOFT announced TermWiki, a multilingual terminology management solution based on wiki technology. As a wiki, it is web-based, supports collaboration out of the box, and provides users with a familiar interface for managing a terminology database. The company hopes to overcome traditional objections to systematic term management. (more…)

Mental Acculturation


“Behind the promotion of Western ideas of mental health and healing lie a variety of cultural assumptions about human nature. Westerners share, for instance, evolving beliefs about what type of life event is likely to make one psychologically traumatized, and we agree that venting emotions by talking is more healthy than stoic silence. We’ve come to agree that the human mind is rather fragile and that it is best to consider many emotional experiences and mental states as illnesses that require professional intervention. (The National Institute of Mental Health reports that a quarter of Americans have diagnosable mental illnesses each year.) The ideas we export often have at their heart a particularly American brand of hyperintrospection — a penchant for ‘psychologizing’ daily existence. These ideas remain deeply influenced by the Cartesian split between the mind and the body, the Freudian duality between the conscious and unconscious, as well as the many self-help philosophies and schools of therapy that have encouraged Americans to separate the health of the individual from the health of the group. These Western ideas of the mind are proving as seductive to the rest of the world as fast food and rap music, and we are spreading them with speed and vigor.”

If Western ideas about the mind so easily creep into the subconscious of the rest of the world, what other cultural mentalities will drift away with time and globalization?

Multilingual Information Management Failures Are a Terrorist’s Best Friend


After an attempted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day 2009, President Obama revealed that U.S. intelligence agencies had collected but then failed to piece together different threads of information about the suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Sound familiar? Just like the many warnings that were captured but went untranslated prior to 9/11, this latest incident highlights one of the U.S. government’s biggest counter-terrorism challenges – multilingual information management. (more…)

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United States

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