Results: Federal Court Interpreter Certification Exam

The results of the written portion of the Federal Court Interpreters Certification Examination (FCICE) were finally sent out the week of November 15. Judy took the exam at the beginning of August (she reported on her experience here), and we are happy to report she passed. Here's Judy's full report on her grades, which she is disclosing in great detail.
Even though the FCICE website emphasizes that no printed communication will be sent to candidates, I did receive my results via the postal service. I took the exam on a computer at Prometric testing center, so I am a bit puzzled why it takes two months to grade a standardized non-essay exam, but I digress.

I was delighted by the results, even though I was shaking when I opened the very thin envelope which I thought meant bad news. It did not! Dagy, my twin sister, is here from Europe and we are working from the US for a month, and I was so happy I did not have to open the envelope on my own! 

Candidates need to score at least 75% on both the English and the Spanish section to pass the exam and to qualify to sit for the oral exam, which will be held in 2013 (dates to be announced).

I usually score higher on the Spanish section than on the English section, but as I'd previously mentioned, I thought the register for the Spanish section was higher than the English portion.

My overall scores:
English: 89%
Spanish: 85%

There are 10 individual sections (five for each language; I am indicating my scores next to the sections). The sections are:

  1. Reading comprehension (English 100%/Spanish 94%)
  2. Usage (English 100%/Spanish 81%)
  3. Error detection (English: 88%/Spanish 88%)
  4. Synonyms (English 94%/Spanish 69%)
  5. Best translation (English 81%/Spanish 100%)
I was quite floored to see that I scored 100% on three of the sections. Overall, my lowest score was 69%, which I am a bit embarrassed to admit. I scored that low in the section I perceived to be the most challenging:  Spanish-language synonyms. I am a voracious reader in my three languages, and I thought I had a pretty extensive vocabulary, but there's always much room for improvement. I think that some of the Spanish-language terms were a  bit archaic, and some I simply didn't know, so I guessed (mostly incorrectly).

The official results letter came with disclaimer warning me not to use the results from the individual sections as a diagnostic tool, as the sample is too small, but I am doing so anyway, as it's an interesting exercise. I am very pleased with my performance on the Spanish-language best translation section and scored exactly the same (88%) in English and Spanish error detection. I thought the Spanish-language reading comprehension was quite challenging, and was surprised to see that I scored 94%. I think the English-language reading comprehension was probably the easiest for me, and my score (100%) reflects it. 

Overall, I am very happy with the results, but I keep learning and improving on all fronts every day. What about you, dear colleagues? Did you get good or bad news? Feel free to share as much or as little as you'd like. What's your overall assessment of the test? I think it's fair, straightforward and well-balanced.

ATA Conference: San Diego Restaurants

We both look forward to seeing many of our fantastic friends and colleagues at the ATA conference in San Diego in a few days! We are busy putting the finishing organizing touches on our lunches, dinners and meetings, and now our friend, colleague and fellow foodie Marianne Reiner, who lives in San Diego, has kindly put together this list of restaurants. We are grateful to Marianne for taking the time to do this for all her colleagues. We hope you find this list helpful. We are really hungry now....

San Diego Restaurants nearby conference hotel (Hilton San Diego Bayfront)

In addition to the limited on-site eatery options, there are numbers of good to excellent restaurants in downtown San Diego. I will focus here on a part of downtown called The East Village, which I think has better options for lunch and dinner.
-My absolute favorite is Café Chloé , 721 9th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101.
The food is of very high quality with mouth-watering fares such as Mushroom and Bleu d’Auvergne Tarte or Smoked Trout and Apple salad to their Mussels or high-end version of Mac & Cheese! The place is small and popular for lunch and dinner. So call ahead for reservations.
-The Mission, Soma East Village location, 1250 J Street, San Diego, CA 92101.
This is a highly popular place in San Diego, with 3 locations. The place is known for having long waiting lists on week-ends. The East Village location is in a very cool building and within walking distance from the conference hotel. The lunch menu is delicious and stays close to classic fares with a Mexican influence. Again, you are better off calling ahead or planning to wait. The Mission is not open for dinner.
-Lolita’s at the Park, 202 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101.
This is a good option for a quick and inexpensive lunch within walking distance to the conference hotel. This place offers classic Mexican fares and is also open for dinner.
-Jsix Restaurant, 616 J Street, San Diego, CA 92101.
This is an excellent restaurant, with a young, innovative Chef, whose focus on sustainable and local ingredients has given him a great reputation in San Diego. The place is pricey but if you are willing to splurge, it is worth it.
-East Village Tavern and Bowl, 930 Market Street, San Diego, CA 92101.
This is a restaurant and a hipster bowling alley! It has a surprisingly good lunch menu and as well as easy fares on their dinner menu. The place gets very loud in the evening. But it is a really fun place if you feel like a strike or spare in the middle of the day!
-Neighborhood, 777 G Street, San Diego, CA 92101.
This is a great option for a good salad, burger, wrap or a warm soup for lunch. They are also open for dinner. And I have to give it to them for their humor. Their website opens to a drawing of Jesus eating a burger!
-Venissimo Cheese, 871 G Street, San Diego, CA 92101.
Venissimo was the first high-end, European style cheese shop in San Diego. Their first location was in the Mission Hills neighborhood. This is not a restaurant but a cheese shop but if you are craving a great cheese sandwich, this is the place to go to. They will make you a sandwich with the cheese of your choice, on one of their ciabatta or baguette bread and will accompany it with fresh grapes or an apple. A delicious and easy treat. And if you are curious, I would suggest taking your sandwich few blocks away and eating it at the ball park downtown. The baseball season being over for our local Padres, the park is now fully open to the public. The stadium and its surroundings will allow you to see a good example of the downtown revitalization.
-Café 21, 750 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101.
This is a wonderful option for lunch. I only know their Normal Heights location but I am sure the downtown one cannot disappoint. As their motto says this is a place for a “Neighborhood fare with flair.”
-Zanzibar Café, 707 G Street, San Diego, CA 92101.
This is another good option for lunch and dinner. The place is very popular and gets loud but the food is worth it.
-Saffron, 3731-B India Street, San Diego, CA 92103.
This is a great Thai restaurant in San Diego. But you will need a car or take the trolley to get there. The food is totally worth it. Su-Mei Yu has received accolades from food publications from around the world. This is a lunch and dinner place (closes at 9PM though…). If you go there, you will need to beat the lunch crowd. So get there just before noon or after 1PM. The place is highly popular as you can imagine and people from all around the county drive to get some of Su-Mei Yu’s best recipes.
-The Brooklyn Bagel Company, 1000 Island Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101.
I have not personally gone there yet but it was recommended by some foodie friends. It is a bagel shop with what promises to be great sandwiches for lunch. It may not satisfy our friends from NY or Montreal but I still thought I would share it! And it is also a nice stroll from the conference hotel.

Win a Blogging Toolkit

A few weeks ago, Judy gave an interview sharing what she knows about blogging to fellow translator Olga Arakelyan of Russia, who also runs a Sharp End Training, which offers training for freelance translators with her business partner Jonathan Senior, who works out of the UK. Olga and Jonathan interviewed several translation bloggers and created a nifty how-to-get-started package for beginning translation bloggers. While it turns out that this information will not be free, but will rather be available for sale in the future, you can win it now by participating in the no-strings-attached contest (we love raffles). Readers of our blog have two ways of winning. Please read the information below.  

Here is the information (slightly edited) we received from Sharp End Training:

The toolkit includes -
  • Complete video training package for setting up Wordpress
  • A "What not to do with Wordpress" training course
  • Interviews with translation bloggers
  • A comprehensive PDF cheat-sheet manual 
  • 30 days FREE membership to their blogging mastermind "closed doors" support group
  • Plus a series of "mystery bonus" items that are still shrouded in secrecy

You can enter the contest here. For a second chance at winning, you can also leave a comment on that page saying that you have entered the contest.

The Sharp End Training guys will give a copy away on their contest. In addition, we will also select a winner from the comments left on the page.

Good luck!

Advice for Beginning Translators and Interpreters

A few weeks ago, Judy participated in a "Getting Started in Translation and Interpreting Workshop" in Reno, Nevada, which was organized by the non-profit she spearheads, the Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association. She presented this workshop with other industry veterans, including well-known French-to-English chemistry translator Karen Tkaczyk, who made a series of excellent points, which we will include here. This post is intended for beginning or new translators and interpreters, and it's one in a series of posts that should help those looking for information. Click here and here for other posts in this series.  Judy is also teaching Intro to Translation at UC-San Diego Extension (online) again this fall, and even though the class is a lot of work, it's also very rewarding to be doing this labor of love that helps educate the next generation. Many students have limited insight into what it takes to be a  professional translator, and that's where we come in. In her role as the secretary general of UNIVERSITAS Austria Interpreteters' and Translators' Association, Dagy regularly mentors newcomers and dispenses (useful) advice, so we have a thing or two to add to this topic.

While here at Translation Times we are known for our positive spin on things, get ready for some tough love! To succeed as a freelance translator, you must do many things. Here are 10 of them. You may take them with a grain of salt as well, of course!

1) Be an outstanding writer. If you don't love books, writing, and can't tell us the last five books you've read, this might not be the right profession for you. Do people constantly tell you that you are a strong, clear, precise writer? If yes, then you are very much on the right path. If not, then you've got some soul-searching to do. Being bilingual is not enough; but you already knew that. Interpreters need to have good public speaking skills and should also love all things language. Do you?
2) Be a top-notch translator. Be honest with yourself (we know this is difficult). How good are you really? Can you compete with people with high-level translation degrees, narrow specializations, or those who have been doing this for 20 years? Are you truly talented? Unfortunately, it's oftentimes quite difficult to get honest feedback on your work because no one wants to hurt your feelings. Find someone who wants to help you grow. Take a class and review your scores and your professor's comments. Find a qualified colleague and pay him/her to evaluate a translation. Ask him or her if your work is good enough. Take it from there.
3) Like paperwork. If you don't like to do paperwork, this profession is going to make you miserable. You will have to do your accounting, taxes, client management, client acquisition, etc. It's a lot of legwork and a ton of paperwork. You can outsource some of these tasks, but in the beginning, that's not cost-effective. Also, you must be very organized (printed and electronic files). If your client asks you for a file from last March, you better know where it is.
4) Have solid computer skills. You absolutely cannot rely on your roommate, your father-in-law, your brother or your wife to help you solve your computer issues. Clients expect perfectly formatted texts done to their precise instructions. If you happen to have a Mac, it's your job to figure out how to make that work with the client's PC-generated documents. The client doesn't care what you need to do to get this accomplished. You must be self-sufficient, as you probably won't be able to afford IT help. And no, you can't complain to your client that your antivirus software crashed. You are a professional, so do the job.
5) Be tough. This business is not for the faint of heart. If you can't take rejection, then you are in for some unpleasant surprises. As an independent contractor, you are always marketing yourself, and it can be hard to hear that someone doesn't want your services. No one said running your own business is easy. It's not. 
6) Communicate well. Karen Tkaczyk likes to tell the story that she gets a lot of work from agency clients because she's faster at responding to e-mail than most people. She truly is: you send her an e-mail and you will most likely get an immediate response. Clients like that. You don't have to respond right off the bat, but being reachable and responsive is a huge plus. In today's smartphone-dominated world, there's really no reason not to respond to inquiries in a timely fashion. In Europe, client expectations are a bit more relaxed, but in the US, you better be on it. You should be in front of your computer during business hours. 
7) Be reliable.This is a no-brainer, but we've seen it all before. People commit to deadlines and then can't meet them because the dog got sick or their mother-in-law is in the hospital. Some of these reasons are certainly very legitimate, but it doesn't change the fact that you didn't meet the deadline. Most clients, and we include ourselves here, would never, never, never do another project with someone who didn't meet a deadline. You know how many deadlines we've missed since 2002? None. And yes, our computers have crashed. And we've stayed up all night fixing things. And we've driven around town in the middle of the night trying to find  a place to print documents because our printer quit working. 
8) Be open to feedback. Most clients won't tell you if they don't like your work. They simply won't contact you again, but will probably tell all their contacts that they did not think your work was good. In the rare instance that someone does give you feedback, you should treat it as what it is: a beautiful gift and the chance for you to improve. 
9) Be true to your word. Your reputation is the only thing you have. If you say you will do something, do it. It doesn't matter if you commit to hosting a social get-together for your local interpreters and translators association, agree to meet your client for lunch at a specific time, or promise to follow-up to the customer's e-mail the next day. Just do it. If you can't remember things, put a note on your calendar. No excuses. We know some amazing colleagues whom we trust with our lives. We know we will be there when we need them. Those are the folks with whom we collaborate on projects. Not surprisingly, these are also the people who never miss a board meeting, are always on time for lunch, and send you that report for the newsletter that they promised they would.
10) Be able to deal with financial uncertainty. If you think you will make money right after hanging your shingle, you are probably wrong. Save 6-12 months' living expenses before you go out on your own. You might not make a penny the first six months. And you might do really well some months only to have little work the next month. Those are the realities of self-employment. If you don't have the stomach for it, don't run your own business. If you have a second income in your family, that certainly helps. In this business, it's either feast or famine, and every single linguist has gone through it, including us. It's not fun. If the thought of this makes you cringe, then you are better off working in-house. Just like with any profession, there are no guarantees.  Even the best master's degree from the best university or the best of intentions don't guarantee a job or clients (same for every other field: law, real estate, dentistry, etc.).

We think this is a good start, but would love to hear from our friends and colleagues (experienced or not). Did we miss anything essential? What advice would you give to people just starting out? Which are the essential skills that translators need? How about interpreters?

The Interpreter's Mid-Career Crisis

Many of the best interpreters in the world have the pleasure of working at the European Parliament. The star of this hilarious video, which is of course completely tongue-in-cheek, is a full-time employee at the European Parliament, where he works in the English-language booth (meaning he interprets from at least three languages into English). Watch Matthew in action!

We had a very good laugh about this. We hope you enjoy it as well!

Donuts, Please

We always knew that clients love it when you come bearing gifts. That's why we send gifts on special occasions and enjoy buying our clients lunch or dinner. Recently, however, Judy got schooled in the high art of bringing donuts to the people. Read on for a real-life scenario from our small business. Note: some embellishments and funnier-than-in-real-life one-liners have been added for comedic effect.

Judy was called to interpret at a rural court, let's call it Alphaville in Utah (it's not). It's a long drive (more than two hours), but they don't have any certified Spanish court interpreters in the area, so Judy was delighted to facilitate language access. She did, however, not know a very small detail. The fine folks at the Alphaville court are serious about their donuts.

Now, Alphaville is a very small town. You drive in with out-of-state plates and people notice. And they wave. It's that kind of place.

The courthouse was not hard to locate (GPS not needed). Judy found the court secretary, introduced herself, and entered the courtroom. Here's what followed:

Judy: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am your certified Spanish court interpreter for today. I'm Judy Jenner.
Public defender: Good morning, Judy! Nice to meet you. Great suit. Where are the donuts?
Judy: Nice to meet you, too. I don't follow, counsel. Donuts? I don't know anything about donuts.
PD: The Spanish interpreter *always* brings the donuts. Guess you didn't get the memo.
Judy (confused): Um, sorry, I didn't know anything about the donuts. You are right: I did not get that memo. I do, however, have a few packets of trail mix in my purse. Care for those?
Bailiff: No, thanks. We want donuts.

The district attorney shows up, dragging a heavy cart of files behind him.

DA: Welcome, new court interpreter! So you are a tree-hugger, huh? Is that your Prius out there? Say, do you have to plug that thing in?
Bailiff (grinning): She forgot the donuts.
Judy: Yes, I like to save the planet for sure, sir. And yes, I did forget the donuts -- sort of. But I will bring some next time, I promise! And no, you don't have to plug the Prius in. It charges itself when you drive.
DA, PD and bailiff: Great! We like Krispy Kreme.
Judy: That's nowhere near my house. I'd have to drive another 20 miles round-trip for Krispy Kreme. How about Dunkin Donuts? That's down the street from my house, and they are tasty.
Bailiff (chuckling): I don't like those that much, but I will eat them.
DA and PD: Works for us. Make it half a dozen glazed and half a dozen chocolate please. The judge likes glazed.
Judy: Sure, will do. May I give you my business card?

The judge enters the courtroom. Everyone scrambles to get up.

Judge: Good morning. Who are you?
PD: She's the new Spanish interpreter. She has the same last name as Bruce Jenner, you know, the athlete? But she did not bring our donuts.
Judy: I repent, Your Honor. Mea culpa. I shall bring donuts next time. 
Judge: Great, now that we settled this important matter, let's call our first case. I like glazed. Welcome to Alphaville.

And Judy now brings donuts every time, without fail. The end.

The Big Day: Found in Translation

It seems like more than a year ago that we started looking forward to the publication of this book, and now the day is finally here! October 2, 2012, is a big day for our industry, as the long-awaited book Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World, written by industry veterans Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche, is being released today by a big publisher (Penguin/Perigree). We had the pleasure of reading both the manuscript and advance copies, as Judy wrote a review for the British magazine Bulletin of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI). You can read the full review here
A prominent spot on the shelf. 

This book is magnificently well written and, as opposed to many other language books that we love, it's quite accessible and easy to read. We hate to admit this, but some books on language make their authors seem like pedantic bores, and this book is quite the opposite. The authors manage to convey a large body of knowledge in an upbeat and entertaining tone. Cleverly subdivided into chapters that revolve around how translation and interpreting influence business, the arts, religion, business and more, this is a work of non-fiction that you can read one chapter at a time or all in one sitting, which is what we did. Full disclosure: both Nataly and Jost are friends of ours, which doesn't prevent us from giving this book an honest review. Even though we have been in the industry for a long time, it's truly eye-opening to discover how far-reaching our profession truly is. We learned a lot about languages of lesser diffusion, which was fantastic. We will be the first to admit that we don't regularly seek out information about languages other than the ones we translate, so it was very enlightening to read about all the languages spoken in Nigeria and about how one goes about creating a keyboard for some of these languages.

We were very fond of the clever subtitles, including Houston, We Need an interpreter. Yes, the Russians cosmonauts and the American astronauts need interpreters in order to be able to communicate with each other when at the International Space Station. How cool is that? Interpreters' influence extends to space!

It's absolutely delightful that we finally have a mainstream book about our profession that's accessible and interesting to those who are not in the profession. Ultimately, as a profession, we want the general public to know that what we do matters, and this book will leave little doubt that what we do matters a great deal. We are picking up a big shipment of Found in Translation to give away as Christmas presents to friends and family. We can't wait for our family members to read this. Perhaps it will finally help them understand what we do for a living and why the global economy would be much worse off without all of us. Be proud, interpreters and translators! This is a great day for all of us. Even though the book is being released today, it's already gone into its second printing, which means that sales have been much higher than expected.

While this book is widely available on online retailers such as Amazon, we encourage you to purchase this book from the only independent dictionary and language book retailer in the US, InTrans Book Service. Visit the book's website here

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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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