Ph.D. Dissertation: Call for Participants

A few days ago, a Ph.D. candidate from one of the best-known translation programs in the country, Kent State University, e-mailed us about his research. Chris Mellinger is actively looking for participants, and we promised that we would share his message with our fantastic readers.

We have recently participated in several doctoral research programs, and it's quite rewarding. If you are interested in helping Chris, kindly have a look at his message below and follow the link. 


My name is Chris Mellinger and I am a doctoral candidate at Kent State University. I am conducting a study that will help me collect data for my dissertation, which will examine effort in translation when using computer-assisted translation software. This study is being conducted by Dr. Keiran Dunne, principal investigator, and co-investigator, Ph.D. candidate Christopher Mellinger, and it has been approved by the Kent State University Institutional Review Board.

I am currently looking for Spanish-to-English translation professionals who receive some or all of their income from the language industry to participate in this study. The study consists of two parts. The first part is a survey that will be used to determine your eligibility to take part in the second half of the study. The survey questions are about your work as a professional translator, and should take approximately 5 minutes to complete.

Should you qualify, the second part of the study consists of translating a text of approximately 400 words from Spanish to English using a web-based computer-assisted translation tool and without using any external resources. This translation should take no longer than 90 minutes to complete.

If you are a Spanish-to-English translator who receives all or some of your income from the language industry, I would greatly appreciate 5 minutes of your time to complete this survey, and if you qualify, 90 minutes to complete the experiment. Please click on the following link ( (or cut and paste it onto your internet browser) to complete the survey.

Thank you very much in advance.

Best regards,

Chris Mellinger

Mortifying: Mistake of the Week

Perhaps Judy needs new glasses. 
Just like every other business professional, we occasionally make mistakes. We don't make too many mistakes, otherwise we wouldn't be in business, but every once in a while, we make a mistake that's so mortifying that we can't help but share it with all of you -- for both entertainment and learning purposes. Read on for the most recent error (all identifying details have been changed).

A week or so ago, Judy was working on preparing two quotes for personal document translations for two different clients. One was a divorce decree and one was a university diploma. To save some time, Judy used one quote that she generated using TranslationOffice 3000 and simply replaced the key terms (bad idea!), including the client's name. Judy quickly sent off both quotes and waited for the customers to respond. One of them did respond very quickly, and he wasn't happy (understandably so).

The customer, who is completely lovely, said, basically, that he didn't really speak any Spanish, but that he was quite certain the document he needed translated for his client (he was a lawyer) was a university degree and not a divorce decree, as his client was happily married. You guessed it -- Judy did not replace that essential term when she sent the quote. We usually have a section that defines the project to be undertaken, and on this potential client's quote, it read: "Translation of a three-page divorce decree from Spanish into German." Well, this customer had submitted a one-page university diploma to us. Needless to say, we were mortified and apologized to the client. Judy sent this to Dagy: "Completely my fault. I am fully responsible for this error -- no excuses. We really don't deserve to get this project." 

We told the customer that we certainly didn't think that we deserved his business, but turns out he told us that he appreciated our obvious remorse and contracted with us for this small project anyway. We are extremely grateful to have understanding customers.

What about you, dear colleagues? Have you made a mistake that you would be willing to share? Please do so by leaving a comment. 

Book Review: The New Professional Court Interpreter

A few weeks ago, superstar court interpreter and renowned trainer Tony Rosado (state and federally certified, etc.) sent us a courtesy copy of his new publication, titled "The New Professional Court Interpreter." As we have done with many other books before, we'd like to share our opinion of this little book with all of you. As you might know, we don't tend to review books we don't like, so let's take the suspense out of this: we like it, but we have some constructive criticism as well.

It looks good on the bookshelf!
This slim, but useful tome would be best described as a manual rather than as a book, in reality, so we will probably stick to that term here. It is professionally bound and reads well, but at 49 pages, including 10 pages of relevant appendices, it's really more accurate to call it a manual or guide. It's geared toward beginning court interpreters in the United States. 

Tony Rosado is well-known across the country for his formidable insight into the Mexican and American legal systems and his outstanding skills as a court interpreter. He's a sought-after interpreter trainer and has spent a lot of time talking about the professionalization of our profession -- which happens to be something that's very dear to our hearts -- and this booklet is the naturally progression of all his teachings. It's also fantastic to learn from someone who knows the law as well as Tony does -- he is, after all, a Mexican attorney. This is a publication that we will certainly recommend to anyone who considers becoming a court interpreter in the United States, as this guide is ideal for beginners. 

This slim manual isn't meant for experienced court interpreters. Rather, it's geared toward brand-new (and possibly newly certified) court interpreters who are just starting out and need guidance on everything from basic procedural information, to billing, to business etiquette, etc. As a matter of fact, when Judy first became certified as a court interpreter in Nevada, she realized that workshop attendees and court interpreter hopefuls could really benefit from some more information than the 2-day workshop that was organized by the courts. This manual fills some of the void, but we still wish it were four times as long. There's a lot to say about this topic, and Tony is a prolific and insightful writer (visit his blog). Given his fantastic writing track record, we expected a bit more from this guide.

While it features some solid starting-out information, this manual left us wanting for more, and were indeed disappointed that it was so limited. Wanting to read more from Tony is a good thing, as he is, without a doubt, one of the most respected and knowledgeable professionals in the court interpreting industry.

Does this manual do his knowledge justice? Probably not, as it's just a synopsis of what he knows. Some of the additional information we would have liked to see included is: detailed description of the stages of a criminal and civil case (which isn't that easily available in a simple format for non-attorneys), work opportunities in the courts, and a greatly expanded section on ethics, among other topics.

Ethics in the courtroom is a very important area, but it's one that really is rarely covered well beyond simply giving the interpreter the code of ethics, which is quite vague. We had hoped Tony would dedicate, say, 30 pages to analyzing specific situations and giving advice on how to handle them, as he has the insight to do so. It's great that Tony includes the code of ethics, which every certified interpreter has, but the question is: what does the line "interpreters shall protect the confidentiality of all parties" really mean? Does that mean we can never talk about the case even in abstract terms? Can we give the parties pseudonyms and then talk about them? Can we talk about the case 25 years from now, after the parties have passed away? Can we use actual court cases (well disguised) when we teach other court interpreters? These are all good questions with no readily defined answers, as the code of ethics is pretty general. We think insight on this topic would have been fantastic, especially coming from someone who has worked in the courts for 30 years. In addition, Tony writes on his blog quite eloquently about many topics, and we wish he had included some of that information here.

The only other sticking point that's already been mentioned by others is the price -- but it's notoriously difficult to put a price on original work. We've seen this manual sold for $19-$30 (depending on where you purchase it), but would agree that this is a bit high. In comparison, full-length 200-page books, such as Corinne McKay's How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, cost $19.95, which we think is more reasonable. However, this guide deserves a place on the bookshelf of every beginning court interpreter. Now, perhaps we can collectively talk Tony into publishing a full-length book? We'd be the first ones to read it.

Exam Day: The Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination (FCICE)

Last week, Judy finally took the oral portion of the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination (FCICE). We have written about this exam before: have a look here and here. Please read on for Judy's account of the exam day. This post will not focus on her preparation, which we have addressed in other posts (here and here) and will also discuss in future posts.

Final countdown to the exam. 
After much back and forth, I chose to take the exam in Denver (one can list a first, second and third choice when you register), and a full four weeks or so before the exam, the organizers finally confirmed the date and the location: July 16 at 10:30 in a Denver suburb (Aurora, infamous because of the movie theater shootings). Of course, there's much room for improvement within the registration process, but for now, let me focus on the exam. After months of worrying, agonizing, spending lots of money on courses and scolding myself for not studying enough, I can finally say: it's over. In summary, I'd also say that this exam is quite fair. I won't tell you, but in very general terms, what's on the exam, and it's hard to tell how I did, as only certain words (called scoring units) are actually scored. Now the waiting game beings -- 13 weeks, according to the FCICE website, up to six months according to colleagues who did not get their results until mid-December in 2011. The oral examination is offered every two years. The written examination is offered in even years.

  • Exam location. This varies between cities, but as far as I know, the exams are usually held at a local hotel, and in Denver, it was at the Embassy Suites in Aurora, so I chose to spend the night right there to minimize any possible adverse factors. I flew in from Vegas (direct flight) the previous day and rented a car so I could get around. I really like Embassy Suites in general, and this location only had one exam room, which was easy to find. It wasn't a large or intimidating conference room at all. rather, the suite looked just like the one I stayed in, except that it had a conference table that sat six people instead of a coffee table, sofa, and TV. The ambiance was nice and relaxing and did not feel stressful at all. There will just be one proctor in the room with you. Her or his job is to press the buttons so you can hear the recorded exams and to record your rendition. My proctor was very nice, and didn't even speak Spanish -- they have nothing to do with the grading of the exam. Right before I went into an exam, a volunteer from the National Center for State Courts politely asked to be an observer during my exam. I politely declined, as I had not been prepared for more than one person in the room. I hesitated a bit, as he looked disappointed, but I managed to put my needs ahead of his. If I had known this ahead of time, I would have considered it. The proctor escorted me to the second floor from the first floor, where the registration desk was located. It was all quite low-key and relaxed.
  • Pre-exam. I was lucky to get a randomly assigned time that worked for me, as I am not too much of an early morning person. Plus, it's our mom's birthday, so I chose to take that as a good sign. I got a good night's sleep after a lovely dinner with friends, got up at 8 am, had a hearty breakfast of fruit, oatmeal and some mint tea for my voice, and reviewed a few notes. I did 220 sit-ups, one for each scoring units, and a few powerful yoga poses that I can actually do without hurting myself or my ego (Warrior, Tree, etc.)  I also warmed up my voice and did 15 minutes of interpreting using my Android. I dressed in layers, including a very soft cotton scarf in one of my favorite colors (yellow) that was a present from my hubby. And yes, I had brought several good luck charms, but I did not take them into the exam room (I wasn't allowed to). 
    Silly self-portrait before the exam.
  • Pens, paper, and other stuff. I had heard from previous test-takers that it's probably not a good idea to get too attached to your favorite note-taking pen, as you won't be allowed to bring it into the room. This is quite a bummer, as I actually do have a favorite gel-based pen, which I buy by the dozens at Costco. It is completely true that you can't bring anything in but your ID, your admission letter, and perhaps a few other small items (I also had my room key). You can't bring in a water bottle, but they have water for you, in a nice traditional glass, in my case (my hand shook slightly as I poured it). During my exam, the proctor gave me both a legal pad and a smaller notepad to use (my choice). There were at least four pens and five pencils, and while they were certainly not high-end, they did the trick (think hotel pens and basic pencils). The headphones are only used during the two simultaneous portions, and while the equipment was certainly not Bang & Olufsen, they worked fine and did not hurt my ears at all.
  • Instructions. If you have prepared a bit and have read the examinee handbook, then the instructions you will be read will be very straightforward, and I wasn't too focused when the proctor read them to me, as I was going my yoga breathing exercises. I wasn't too terribly nervous, but I figured the breathing exercises wouldn't hurt. The sequence of the exam was: sight translation into Spanish, sight translation into English, simultaneous (monologue), consecutive, simultaneous (expert witness). I finished in roughly 35 minutes, and I did take advantage of my two repetitions during the consecutive portion. While I certainly made plenty of unforced and silly errors, I felt that the exam was quite fair and there were certainly no trick passages. Exam conditions are ideal, too: the room is quite, no one interrupts you, and people don't talk at the same time. Quite nice if you think about it, actually.
  • Anti-climactic. Many colleagues have asked me how I felt during and after the exam, and as a former competitive tennis player, I do think it's true that the pre-match, err, pre-exam anxiety and preparation tend to be worse than the actual event/exam. It did feel a bit anti-climactic, and I'd say that the texts that I had to do might have been a bit easier than those I'd done in practice. That said, this was, without doubt, one of the most challenging exams I've taken. I think I may have a shot at passing it, but this was my first try, so it certainly is a long shot.
    Relaxing in a park. 
  • Post-exam. I made a few phone calls to my hubby, my twin, and my parents to tell them that I survived and then coordinated with my good translator friends, who insisted on treating me to lunch at a fantastic downtown Denver restaurant, Le Central, where I toasted to the fact that I'd made it to the other side of this interpreting exam. I then took a nap in a gorgeous park before meeting another friend for dinner in a suburb. I drove myself to the airport, caught a 9 p.m. flight to Vegas, and was at home by midnight.
And just like that -- it's done and over with. I can't wait to get the results! It will be a long few months for sure. If you also took the exam, please do share your experiences!

The Perfect Client

A few weeks ago, Judy had the pleasure of working with a brand-new client, who turned out to be the perfect client to contract interpreting services. Read on for Judy's take and for details about this fantastic client and learn why everything worked out so wonderfully.

Vegas wedding chapel. Picture by Judy.
Clearly defined project. The client, the owner of a travel agency, called to say that she needed a consecutive interpreter (she used the correct term!) for a Vegas-style wedding at a local chapel. Let's call the client Angela (not her real name), and Angela said that the couple was Swiss, but that she was not looking for a Swiss German interpreter. I laughed and said I was happy to hear that, as I don't speak Swiss German. I was quite surprised that she knew the difference and immediately knew that I was dealing with a very sophisticated client, and I also liked her immediately (turns out the feeling was mutual). Angela told me exactly what I would need to do, and had precise date and times. I asked her a few more questions, such as whether I would interpret for the couple or the guests or both, whether the couple already had a wedding license, and a few other things. Angela was impressed by my attention to detail, and she could tell that I've interpreted at weddings before and knew which questions to ask. Angela also mentioned that two people had recommended me, which felt great. She emphasized that she wanted consecutive, and not simultaneous, interpreting services, and I was quite stunned that she knew this much about our profession.

Voluntary pre-payment. Before I even had the chance to send her a quote, Angela asked me how much I'd like to get paid. I quoted my regular two-hour minimum interpreting fee, to which she agreed immediately. She offered to pre-pay right away, and I received the funds via PayPal within five minutes (really). I hence waived the issuance of an official quote, as I'd already received the money, and Angela sent me an official work order.

Lots of details. The client's work order was more than four pages long, and it was full of important details. I was quite impressed by the level of thoroughness  and vowed to follow the instructions as given. There was even a section on permissible dress, which included the maximum length of earrings and length of the skirt. This might seem a bit overkill to some, but I figure it can't hurt to have precise details and to know what to expect. I usually wear a black business suit to everything, and that is naturally acceptable. What was surprising is that the company expects contractors to wear nylons unless it's hotter than 90 degrees (the forecast was 101 degrees). This work order took the guesswork out of the project, and Angela even sent the links to previously recorded ceremonies at the chapel in question so I could get an idea of how the pastors (there are two) hold their weddings. I watched five videos of each pastor and did transcriptions of all the sermons. I used the transcriptions to look up terminology and complied some lists of terms that I took to the wedding in a discreet leather-bound notebook (which I never looked at).

Quick to answer questions. After I reviewed all the documents, I still had a few questions, and Angela answered them within a few minutes.

Helpful staff. Once I got to the wedding venue, I immediately contacted the wedding coordinator (whose name was included on the work order) and introduced myself to the pastor. They were both quite happy to see me, and since it was my first wedding at this chapel, they took the time to explain exactly how everything was going to happen. Weddings are well-orchestrated events, and this chapel has it down to a science. The pastor had worked with dozens of interpreters before, and he told me that he would pause after each sentence so I could interpret. I was in interpreting heaven! The bride and groom, who arrived separately, were also very glad to see me, and I interpreted for the bride when she filled out some paperwork. We also spent some time talking to the maid of honor, as she was unsure of where to walk into the chapel. I'd like to think that I put them at ease because I spoke their language. Naturally, assignments of this nature are very different from court interpreting -- here, the interpreter can very much be an advocate in addition to a language conduit. I told the maid of honor not to worry, that I would tell her exactly where to stand and when to start walking. There were some tears of joy.

Ideal working conditions. The conditions could not have been better. I found out the day of the ceremony that the entire event would be shown online live for friends and family back home, which I thought was a fantastic idea. I stood right next to the pastor, so I could hear him very well -- no audio problems at all. It's a small chapel, so I did not need a microphone, and the audio was very clear on the video as well (which I watched online after the ceremony). The friendly pastor did indeed pause after each individual sentence, so I did not take notes (which is difficult when you are standing). 

Great working relationship. From the very first contact with Angela, I felt like we made a great connection, and our positive working relationship continued throughout the project. I made sure to e-mail Angela when I arrived at the venue (even though she had not requested this) so she would know that I was there. I checked in once again when I left and gave her a brief report. Turns out that the pastor then told the client that he was very happy with my services.

Overall, this project was so wonderful and went so smoothly that it's almost too good to be true. I wonder if I'll have another project that's this fantastic. What about you, dear colleagues? Do you have a perfect client or project? We'd love to read about it. 

The European Summer/Fall Tour

On this side of the pond: ATA in San Diego.
Since most of the details for Judy's European workshop tour have been finalized, we wanted to announce them here. We've been getting a lot of e-mail and Twitter messages asking us about the details, and we figured we'd post them here so you have have a look. We will be traveling together for all these workshops, and we'd love to meet new colleagues and share a meal, drink, or coffee! 

Here are the details:

In addition, we will at least one joint presentation in Vienna, Austria. Details will be announced soon!

Here's a link to all of Judy's workshops for 2013. See you in Europe? 

Free Webinar: Conflict and Resolution

Arguing penguins. Photo by Judy.
Once again, Judy is delighted to present a free webinar for software giant SDL/Trados. Her previous webinar, titled "5 habits of highly successful translators: Customer service" attracted more than 500 colleagues and friends from around the world, and you may still listen to it (also free, no strings attached).

Judy's next webinar for SDL/Trados will be on a topic that's very familiar to anyone who runs a business and anyone who has clients: conflict. Conflict is part of a normal business life, and learning how to deal with it might just be one of the greatest skills one can have. We don't know about you, but we very certainly occasionally have challenging situations and yes, even some unreasonable customers, so we've learned a thing or two along the way.

Join Judy for this 60-minute webinar titled "Conflict and resolution for freelance translators: Tricky situations and unreasonable customers" on July 25. It is at 9 am Pacific Time, which is 5 pm. European summer time (London). Click here for more information and to register. We hope to "see you" there! Judy will also reserve about 10-15 for questions, and a moderator will kindly help her sort through the questions as they come in. 
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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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