Author Archives: admin

Top 3 Apps to Increase Productivity This Year

Even after seven years of freelancing, I still look for new ways to be more productive during work time. The more efficiently I work, the more I can truly enjoy my time off — instead of thinking about what I still need to get done.

So, here are my top three apps for increasing productivity:

  1. Expensify (iOS + Android) – During the year-end break, I finished up my bookkeeping for 2013. Although I’m happy that it improved over the previous year, it wasn’t up to the level I want. Ideally, I would like mileage and expense logs to update instantaneously, so I never have to spend time catching up. Finally, Expensify offers a streamlined solution. I can quickly snap a photo of a receipt, categorize it, and specify whether it’s a billable expense, all in the same upload. For business mileage, all I have to do is hit a button at the start of a trip and let the GPS track me. All my data is available from the Expensify website and I can easily export it Excel. Bonus: My CPA suggests that keeping up-to-date logs is the best way to benefit from all possible deductions.
  2. Timesheet (Android) – Until now, the time trackers I had found just didn’t fit my style. The Printable CEO has good Pomodoro-type printouts, and there are a ton of programs to help you log project times. But I test drove Timesheet on a recent forensic-transcription project (Preciso’s newest service offering, yay!) and it turned out to be the project tracker I was waiting for. It lets me annotate work completed during each time period dedicated to a project. It gives me analysis across a project and allows multiple projects.The widget on my phone makes it easy as pie easy to start and pause tasks. As an added bonus, having the break timer ticking was a nice motivator to get back on task.

    Timesheet - Productivity for Translators

    Timesheet – Productivity for Translators

  3. Facebook – Surprised? Well, my suggestion is actually to take Facebook (or your time sink of choice) and uninstall the app from your phone. We all have those sites we like to check in on for one or two or forty minutes when faced with a work task we’d rather not do (see #1, in my case). It’s time to take control and save these sites for a hard-earned, guilt-free break. At minimum, turn off all notifications so you only log in when you’ve decided you have some time for it.

These are my favorite productivity boosters right now. My sister, who works from a home office as a mortgage underwriter, just started using Timesheet and loves it. Do you have a favorite timekeeping app for Apple? Other productivity apps we should know about?

Announcing ATA’s Savvy Newcomer blog

After spending some time with UT Arlington students last month, my mind has been churning with ideas to help people interested in joining the profession. I’ve consulted many resources over the years, and many gems are freely available. But it would take a real commitment to retrace my steps and collect them into a little online guide.

Fortunately, right on time, the American Translators Association announced a new blog with this exact purpose. One of the first posts addresses a very common question: how does one find that first paid translation job?

With a diversity of industry contributors, I’m sure this blog will quickly become a point of entry that demystifies those normal newcomer questions.

UT Arlington – Choose Your Own Adventure – Professional Translator/Interpreter Resources

It was a great pleasure to visit my alma mater, UT Arlington, today, and talk with a great group of students and professionals.

Here are direct links to the resources I mentioned during the talk:

One thing I’d like to underline is that it’s easy to feel a little lost starting out in this profession. Don’t be afraid to find your own path, but also know that there are many, many colleagues who will be happy to give you tips and help you along.

Finally, if you’re ready to start going through the steps of setting up your translation business, I recommend you check out Corinne McKay’s online course, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator.

Correction: My slides included incorrect information for passing scores for the Texas Licensed Court Interpreter exam. The minimum passing score for a Basic license is 60% and the minimum passing score for a Master license is 70%. I’m grateful to the colleague who alerted me to this error.

San Antonio for Translators – An Insider’s Guide

Today, translators and interpreters around the world are gearing up for the 54th American Translators Association conference in San Antonio. I’m excited to meet everyone in such a uniquely Texan city. The downtown has a wonderful art deco feel, and the area still preserves a lot of flavor from its roots as a Spanish colony.

Of course, you can visit the Alamo. And any guide will tell you to visit the San Antonio Riverwalk, a special downtown hub for restaurants where you can ride a gondola or take a water taxi after dinner. But, there are a few other authentically San Antonio destinations that are well worth a little excursion.

 

  1. Boerne, Texas grew from communities founded by German revolutionaries who conversed in Latin. Now, it’s a lovely town with a nature center for birding and hiking, a Wild West theme park (open Saturday and Sunday only) and two living caves.
  2. Bandera, Texas is authentic cowboy country. Bandera hosts events almost every day, including a Western display on Saturday afternoons and a Cowboy Camp with traditional cowboy music on Sunday. You can also visit one of the dude ranches for hiking, horseback riding, fossil digging, and more.
  3. John T. Floore Country Store is part of a select group of Texas venues with terrible acoustics and a long history of hosting some of the biggest names in country music. It also also has a café where the food is named after musicians, and you can try country fried steak or fried pickles. There are shows on Friday and Saturday nights during the conference, and every Sunday Floore’s hosts a free dance with live music.
  4. King William Historic District. Named after King Wilhelm I, King of Prussia, this area offers a neighborhood full of 19th-century mansions and the historic Guenther House Restaurant. Guenther House is built on a flour mill property and gets very busy for brunch on the weekends, but in the meantime you can stroll the grounds and peruse the store for pancake and waffle mixes to take home as souvenirs. This District is located at the opposite end of the Riverwalk from the convention center.
  5. Japanese Tea Garden. An interesting, peaceful haven not far from downtown.
  6. Ranch at the Rim. By special request, I checked into the best place to buy cowboy boots and the answer was Ranch at the Rim. They offer boots, hats, and western accessories at a variety of price points. Click here for a free boot care kit with purchase. Cabela’s is another, less local, option.
  7. San Antonio Spurs. Basketball fans can catch a home game versus the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night or the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.
  8. Legendary San Marcos outlets. I usually seek cultural and historical destinations rather than shopping, but these are not your average outlets. There are high-end stores like Burberry and Barney’s New York, and with 140 stores, there is a lot of price competition to attract buyers with the best deals. I’ve found some truly incredible deals on quality items. Serious shoppers make a week-long vacation out of this place. Tip: Guest services will sell you a $5 coupon book entitling you to a single-use additional discount on your entire purchase at many stores. Student, teacher, and military IDs can get you this book for free.

Finally, a mini attraction: I’ve got a few things up my sleeve for this conference. One is a special Texas edition sticker, and the other is a Galaxy Gear smart watch! Look for me around the convention center to get your sticker and a futuristic watch-camera portrait.

Dallas interpreter technology

See you in San Antonio!

-Holly

You’re Invited – Free Webcast of International Translation Day Colloquium

I’m excited to share a great opportunity to hear about some new developments in translation and interpreting. This afternoon, University of Texas at Brownsville will host a four-hour translation colloquium. In addition to speakers from across Texas, the keynote speaker, Dr. Elena Fernández-Miranda-Nida, will present her new Spanish translation of two of Eugene Nida’s fundamental works on translation.

To accommodate those of us who couldn’t make it to Brownsville for this event, UT Brownsville will generously provide a free webcast of the event.  It begins at 4:30 PM Central Standard Time, and Ms. Fernández-Miranda-Nida will be the first speaker.

Click here for more information.

Urgent: Act Now to Save Iraqi and Afghan Interpreters

For the past few days I’ve been trying to raise awareness of an urgent issue that touches on interpreting but is really a humanitarian issue: the September 30th expiration of the Special Immigrant Visa program. This program benefits U.S. allies, including Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who served the U.S. military.

In creating the program, Congress has recognized the need for these interpreters to receive visas. But, the application process is so lengthy and arbitrary that the program is about to close down with close to 80% of the visas left undistributed. Meanwhile, these interpreters are being targeted with violence and death threats for their role in the U.S. occupations. Some have already been killed. Many more live in hiding, unable to show their faces or support their families (read first-hand accounts of their experiences here). Setting aside my opinions on the wars, I strongly believe we must follow through on our promises to these interpreters.

Despite wide reporting of this critical issue in The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and NPR, the visa program is set to expire tomorrow.

There are a couple of actions you can take:

  1. Sign a petition asking the U.S. Congress to approve the Afghan Allies Protection Act (2013 petition: Sign a petition asking the U.S. Congress to extend the program)
  2. If you live in the United States, contact your congressional representatives directly. You can look them up on this site and be contacting them within a couple of screens. I believe this will be the most effective because the senators and representatives are able to see that you are from their state or district.

If you are just seeing this information and the deadline has already passed, I encourage you to still let your voice be heard so that your congressional representatives will know this issue matters to their constituents.

You can keep tabs on the issue by following The List Project or the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project.

[Updated 10/28/14 with current links]

 

The Paperless Interpreter Experiment: Part II

When I posted about my first experiment with paperless interpreting a few months back, I heard from interpreters around the world who had come to the same conclusion: the iPad is great for accessing references, but not for taking notes while interpreting.

But I’m happy to announce that I have since gone (nearly) paperless, thanks to the Galaxy Note Tab 10.1.

First the summary, then the details. Click on any photo to see a larger version.

Summary:

While it’s still not a perfect device, the Galaxy Note fulfills my requirements and continues to delight me. I still bring half a reporter’s pad to interpreting jobs out of paranoia (and to jot down unusual spellings for the court reporter), but I’ve now successfully used the Galaxy tab rather than paper for notetaking for several months.

The Experiment

Hardware: Samsung Galaxy Note Tab 10.1″ + integrated stylus

Apps:

  • S-Note (included)
  • iAnnotatePDF (free)
  • Dolphin Browser (free)

Results

 

  • Interpeting Notes. PASS

This is the first tablet I’ve found that is actually designed for handwriting. l like that the tablet will register my actual handwriting for interpreting notes, as opposed to converting handwriting to typed text.

The Note integrates its stylus in a lot of neat ways, with the Android customizability that I’ve grown to love. l can set a shortcut so that a program of my choosing opens automatically when I dislodge the stylus from its nest. Also, when the stylus is disconnected, certain programs turn off recognition of my hand or fingers entirely, rather than masking certain parts of the screen à la iPad.

My fingers do occasionally hit the OS taskbar and open menus unintentionally, but I fully expect to find an app that allows me to customize the taskbar as I did with my Android phone (which I’ve set to hide the taskbar that shows battery, network, etc. until I pull down from the top of the screen with two fingers).

  • Reference: PASS

Glossaries and apps are equally accessible as with iPad but this tablet has a couple of additional capabilities that knocked my socks off:

Split screen. The Note allows true multi-tasking, with split screen or moveable floating windows.

iAnnotate. This app allows me to overlay handwritten notes on a PDF. I can export the whole thing to a PDF and store it in Evernote, email it, or print it.

  • Work during downtime: FAIL

It was only fair to fail the Note in this area because it won’t replace my laptop entirely. However, I definitely use the Note for word processing much more than the iPad.

Composing documents using handwriting recognition has enabled me to get more done during those little lulls between interpreting jobs that are too short to go back to the office. The handwriting recognition engine is the best I’ve seen, by far. Rather than recognizing strokes or letters, the engine recognizes the whole word as I write, even if I go back and add a letter in the middle of the word. The latest update also fixes an annoying need to manually add a space after each word.

Note: The photos show an inaccurate conversion because I took the photos while the handwriting was still visible to show the engine at work. Once I stop writing, the recognition engine finalizes its choice, which is usually correct, but by that time the handwriting is no longer visible.

The downsides to real work on the Note is that it requires a Microsoft-compatible app rather than allowing me to actually use Microsoft Office. This means that formatting sometimes gets messed up after I open a document in the tablet. Interacting with Word and Excel documents is definitely easier with the Note’s stylus compared to the iPad, though.

If this were my top priority l would buy the Surface, which offers the real Microsoft Office and very sleek external keyboards.

  •  Entertainment: PASS

As l mentioned last time, my criteria are low for this, but l can use Twitter and read the Economist.

So there you have it, a perfect excuse to justify a new gadget as a business expense and save some trees at the same time. What do you say?

Language Reads: Dreaming in Hindi

Language Reads is a series designed to give a brief book review from a language professional’s perspective. Fellow translators, interpreters, and language lovers are welcome to submit guest reviews. 

  • Title: Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language
  • Author: Katherine Rich
  • Pages: 384
  • ISBN: 9780547336930

Dreaming in Hindi traces the author’s personal journey as she learned Hindi while living in India. This book delighted me because it brought back so many memories of my own experiences as I acquired Spanish as a foreigner in Mexico, including the tumultuous dismantling of my own first-language identity. Learning a language in a foreign country is a task that is all-consuming, exhausting, and fraught with cultural pitfalls. Rich lets us live through this experience with her. She also presents a healthy dose of fascinating linguistics research, in brief summaries and anecdotes that should be quite accessible even to those without a linguistics background.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and recommend it for anyone who is interested in language acquisition or intercultural interactions.

Update – 2013 Federal Court Interpreter Exam

Yesterday, registration opened for Phase II of the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Exam. Since I was fortunate enough to pass Phase I (Written) last year, I registered right away to (hopefully) test for Phase II in my home city. This way, I can avoid combining travel stress with the stress of a test that won’t be available for another two years if I fail it. Which won’t happen, of course. (Positive thinking…)

Holly to all social invitations: "See you at the end of July!"

Holly to all social invitations: “See you at the end of July!”

FCICE has announced that the exams will be administered the week of July 15th, but it seems we won’t have a firm date until after the registration period closes on May 17th.

After the exam, FCICE warns us that Spanish applicants may have to wait up to 13 weeks for results. Applicants for other languages may have to wait even longer. Which means that I will probably check my mailbox at least 78 times from July to October, or 65 if Saturday delivery is canceled.

Did you also pass Phase I last year? Go straight to the Phase II registration page here. Thinking of starting the FCICE process when the written exam is administered next year? There are some materials available, including a practice oral exam.

 

Should Translations of Official Foreign Documents Replicate the Original Formatting?

Many websites offer speedy, inexpensive translations of official foreign documents such as birth certificates. This is not one of them.

Personally, I find these documents interesting to translate because each country’s documents are so different. For people belonging to an earlier generation than mine, for example, their birth certificate might be a narrative written by a priest in the official municipal registry.

But, I don’t do this type of work often because it can take me a full hour to translate a one-page certificate, between deciphering handwriting and tracking down the meanings of obscure abbreviations (sometimes from government entities that no longer exist). I give a customized estimate for each document and I don’t believe my rates are unfair for the thoroughly researched translations that I provide, but my rate for an hour of translation is still higher than what I see at the pre-paid, one-price-fits-all sites. Of course, quality might suffer with one of these more economical alternatives, but a quick-and-dirty translation may be sufficient as long as the vital statistics are right (though it’s unethical to certify such as a “complete and accurate” translation).

Something that does raise caution flags in my mind, however, is the practice of providing a translation as a formatted replica of the original document. Once, responding to a question on whether to format such translations, my beloved translation professor, a sworn translator from Spain, responded:

Soy traductora. No soy diseñadora gráfica.

(I’m a translator, not a graphic designer.)

Six years later, I still hear her voice and the simple conclusion she impressed on her students. It seems obvious, but sometimes in our eagerness to please our clients, we forget our real function. We translate the meanings of words. Generally, I don’t believe a translator should spend a lot of time messing with text boxes and images unless this work is contemplated as part of a service package (with a higher rate than translation alone) or paid as an hourly add-on service.

More importantly, replicating official documents could bring a risk of allegations of producing false documents. I learned that in Spain, sworn translations are text-only and fully justified, with dashes filling out any unused space on each line to prevent tampering. The only graphic elements in the translation are the translator’s seal and signature. Seals, signatures, logos on the original are described in bracketed translator’s notes: [This document is printed on official watermarked paper. There appears in the upper left-hand corner a seal that reads…]

Now, such sworn translations (and sworn translators) must fulfill much more rigorous standards than certified translations in the U.S., it’s true. But I think it’s in our best interest to play it safe by providing written translations, not replica documents. I have never seen a requirement from any government entity that the translation resemble the original, so why take the risk? At Preciso, the policy is to provide a translation clearly marked as a translation, with a certificate that bears the translator’s name and the title, in Spanish, of the original document.

What do you think? Am I missing an important reason to replicate the original document?