Are translators traitors or heroes?

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Photo by Mona Eendra on Unsplash

I do not like to romanticize our profession, saying, for example, that we have superpowers or the like. We do not. Our uniqueness and importance are the same as those of any other professional. Each one has their own relevance in their own areas. We have superpowers as much as doctors or teachers have: each one with their own value in their own area. We are not better than anyone.

However, I did come across a revelation these past few weeks – something I have not actually realized before – while translating product headlines of a major online retailer.

Have you ever bought anything from online retailers with English websites? Their product headlines and descriptions are horrendous, dreadful, hideous! They are a bunch of words bundled into a sentence with no connection whatsoever. And lots of mistakes. Argh!

Unfortunately, though, this is becoming increasingly common in English, in any field: contracts, business presentations, reports, etc. We are constantly faced with poorly-written texts to translate. I am sure you can totally relate with what I am saying, right?

My aim here is not to point fingers at anyone but to discuss our roles as translators. Do we transpose this horrible English into our own target languages? Never. Or at least we shouldn’t. I know I don’t. We try our best, sometimes working miracles, to understand the disastrous source and beautifully transform it into something – if not close to perfection – great in the target. After all, this is what we do. We craft fluent translations as if they were originally written in the target language, no matter how bad the source is.

And who gets all the credit for it? Most of the times, especially in technical translation, as is my case, the author, of course. We avoid misunderstandings, noises, and bad reputation. We facilitate communication not only by simply translating from one language to the other but also by improving the quality of the source.

Isn’t that beautiful? We praise ourselves for turning something ugly into something graceful. We love turning mistakes into clear sentences that flow easily. And I even dare say translations are usually way better texts than most of the original writings out there because our job is to perfect ourselves, day after day, translation after translation. Our job is to enable communication between languages and cultures, and to do so naturally.

So is the translator really a traitor? If anything, the translator definitely is the author’s best friend, godparent, carer – a trustworthy friend they can blindly count on whenever they have linguistic needs. If you have the right professional translator by your side, that is. 😉 If you do, make sure you cherish and value them because they are a rare find. If you don’t, it would be my greatest pleasure to help. 🙂 And if you are one: kudos to you and keep up the good work!

How to successfully network at a translation conference

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Courtesy of Unsplash, by Matthew Henry

Those who know me well are quite aware of the fact that I am a conference rat. I love conferences and, most of the time, they are an “excuse” for traveling somewhere and visiting some place new. So much so that whenever I travel my mom asks if I am going to attend any conferences. Well, sometimes I do travel to visit friends, you know?

After attending so many conferences, you end up naturally mastering this networking thing. However, I know how difficult it can be the first or second time we attend one. We feel lost, most of the times we do not know absolutely anybody, we are shy, and we want to dig a hole on the ground to hide and simply disappear from this frightening place. See? It is normal, it happens with anybody. I never feel comfortable whenever I go to a new place either, like a new gym, for example. But I will not stop exercising just because of that, am I? Well, I know this may be more than an excuse for some people though…

Keeping this conference newbie tiny issue in mind and the fact that the Abrates Conference is just around the corner, I decided to share with you some tips for successfully networking at conferences without simply throwing yourself at the people either.

  • First of all, having and carrying your business cards with you at all times is a must. And this is valid for any occasions. Have a bunch of business cards in your wallet, purse, gym bag, car. Whenever someone asks for your email or phone number, just handle them your card and make a good impression with your professionalism. 😉
  • However, do NOT just randomly start giving your cards away to simply anybody with no reason whatsoever. Wait for the right time. Timing is everything when you want to make a good impression.
  • In order to find the right time, first, you need to be open. When we feel shy, we tend to bury our heads in our notepads, mobiles, or even in the coffee break food. (Who never?) Look up, not down, and keep a smile on your face at all times. Do not be afraid of saying hi to people even when you do not know them, especially those who are sitting right next to you during the numerous talks. This openness is key to finding the right time to “strike,” besides making it easier for people to approach you.
  • Approaching other attendees is not necessarily the worse thing ever. Small talk is there to rescue us! Comment about the icing cold air conditioning, the horrible Wi-Fi connection, the nice venue, the amazing lunch you just had, that coffee you terribly need, you name it, with the person who is sitting next to you. After breaking the ice, show interest and ask the person their name, what they do, where they are from, etc. And take the chance to ask for the person’s business card, so you can keep in touch. Naturally, they will also ask for yours. There you go. It does not hurt, does it? And you cause a way better impression when you show you are interested in knowing about the person than if you make it about yourself from the beginning. This approach can also be used during coffee breaks: comment about the amazing food, the interesting talk you just attended, how sleepy and in need of coffee you are… And repeat the same next steps: show interest to know who the person is and ask for their card.
  • Another way of approaching other attendees is when you “know” them somehow: you always see them commenting/posting on Facebook groups, you like their blog/what they do, you are Facebook “friends,” you name it. These are great ice-breakers.
  • Do not leave a conference without talking to presenters you like or whose presentations you enjoyed! There is no better ice-breaker than approaching the person to say you watched their presentation and loved it. Ask for their card so you can follow them on social media, and there you go. Or, if given the chance, you can even approach them before their talk (even if you are not really planning on attending it), saying you saw they are presenting, you are interested at the topic but unfortunately will not be able to attend it, so maybe they could give you their card so you can keep in touch? 😉

In a nutshell, the key is to be friendly and open at all times, and take every chance to start a small talk and take it to the next level by showing interest at the person. Only make it about you if the person opens the floor for you to do so.

If you engage with as little as one person per period (morning and afternoon), you end up with four contacts to follow up at a two-day conference. If you adequately follow up with them after the conference, these four people may introduce you to other people throughout the year and at the next conference as well. It is a vicious circle that only gets bigger with time, and one that works for itself, with no need to make such a great efforts anymore.

Now, last but not least, it is also important to know how to properly follow up.

  • Write an individual and personalized email to people you really liked meeting showing your appreciation.
  • Do NOT simply add people on social media without sending them a private message reminding them exactly where and how you met, or where you know them from. Actually, this should be always applied, like a best networking practice. It is hard to remember every single person we meet at conferences, and anywhere for that matter.
  • Now, I know this is hard to ask nowadays, but I actually prefer to follow their blog, like their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, etc., instead of adding them as friends on Facebook or LinkedIn, especially those I did not really have a chance to connect that much.

Those who are at the the ITI and NAJIT conferences can already start applying these tips. If you do, let us know if it worked. And for those who are attending the Abrates Conference next week, like myself, you can start practicing in the shower. 😉

All the amazing things

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Photo by Chris Lawton, courtesy of Unsplash

One of these days, I came across a documentary on HBO called Every Brilliant Thing, where a young boy tries to cure his mother’s depression by creating a list of the best things in the world. The list includes items such as “ice cream” and “Star Trek.” I liked the idea, especially because I have been trying (really hard) to stop focusing on bad things, complaining and gossiping; and it instead focuses on good things. I am well aware of the fact that it is easier to focus on the negativity. Take, for example, how people criticize more than praise others. Try scrolling down your Facebook page and count the positive x negative posts. Focusing on the positivity takes effort; it is not as easy and natural as being negative.

Therefore, I decided to go the extra mile and, instead of losing my time and sanity scrolling down my social media channels, taking the time to compile a list of all the good things in my life. Here it is:

  1. Sleeping.
  2. Sleeping on the couch watching TV on the weekend.
  3. Remaining on bed doing nothing for a while after naturally waking up with no alarm on the weekend.
  4. My bed.
  5. Weekends.
  6. Massage.
  7. Feet massage.
  8. Face massage.
  9. Carefully smearing moisturizer on my feet after taking a shower at the end of the day.
  10. Child smile and/or laughter.
  11. Drinking water when I am really thirsty.
  12. Taking a day off in the middle of the week to do something really nice.
  13. Taking a cold shower when it is really hot.
  14. Taking a nice shower after exercising a lot at the gym.
  15. Manicure.
  16. Pedicure.
  17. Having my hair washed at the hairdresser’s.
  18. A nice, frank in-person conversation with that dear friend you have not seen for a long time.
  19. Routine.
  20. Staying at nice hotels.
  21. Nice hotel breakfast.
  22. Sunset.
  23. Beach.
  24. The sound of the waves at the beach.
  25. Sunbathing.
  26. Fresh coconut water.
  27. The smell of a new book.
  28. The smell of new clothes.
  29. The smell of nicely clean bed sheets.
  30. Wearing new clothes for the first time.
  31. Vacation.
  32. Clouds.
  33. Sky.
  34. Flying.
  35. Dressing up.
  36. Laughing until crying.
  37. Dancing.
  38. Singing along to live music I really like.
  39. The mixed feeling of emotions that include exhaustion and mission accomplished after a hard workout. (Someone must create a word for it!)
  40. London.
  41. Guinness.
  42. Having a pint of Guinness at an English pub.
  43. Cinema.
  44. Watching a movie (at the cinema or at home) eating popcorn.
  45. Tight hugs.
  46. Some people’s smiles.
  47. My birthday.
  48. Being pampered on my birthday.
  49. Presents.
  50. Getting something I really wanted or love without expecting.
  51. Listening to a Brit talk.
  52. Reading a good book.
  53. Stretching out.
  54. Receiving a visit.
  55. Traveling.
  56. Talking about life.
  57. Receiving a handwritten letter.
  58. Writing hand-written letters.
  59. Receiving things from the postman, especially when unexpected.
  60. Eating.
  61. Visiting a new place for the first time.
  62. Watching movies that make me laugh, cry and/or reflect.
  63. The smell of coffee.
  64. Cheese.
  65. When my 3-year-old nephew/godson says “dindá” (dinda is an affectionate way of saying godmother in Portuguese, especially by children).
  66. Piano music.
  67. Eating out.
  68. Trying new things.
  69. Autumn leaves.
  70. Great views.
  71. Knowing I do not have to wake up early the next day.
  72. English scones with cream and jam.
  73. Popcorn.
  74. Having a hot drink in a cozy, warm place when it is really cold.
  75. Having a really cold beer when it is scorching hot.
  76. Friends.
  77. Family.
  78. My cousins.
  79. Friendly, smiley unknown people.
  80. Violin music.
  81. Living by myself.
  82. Silence.
  83. Chocolate and all its forms.
  84. Walking barefoot after cleaning the house.
  85. Wearing PJs.
  86. Traveling by myself.
  87. Eating out.
  88. Watching Friends.
  89. Watermelon.
  90. Finally (unexpectedly) finding something I have been looking for for a while.
  91. Prosecco.
  92. Alice in Wonderland.
  93. Freedom: being able to do whatever I want whenever I want.
  94. Christmas.
  95. New Year.
  96. My sister’s chocolate cake.
  97. Meeting new people.
  98. Learning something new.
  99. When people I love and care about are happy.
  100. My own and very company.

I could easily go on with my list, and I will certainly try to keep it growing, but you got the idea.

What do you think of my list? Is there anything that you also enjoy? Would you add anything to it? I would love to hear your thoughts. And should you feel like writing one of your own, please let me know somehow (ping back to this post, tag me and/or use the hashtag #AllAmazingThings). Sometimes we forget some amazing things in our lives, taking them for granted, so it is good to become aware of them again. 🙂

2017 Resolutions for Translators

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Christmas is here. We have 11 days left in 2016 before starting a fresh new year. We will have a clean slate comprised of 365 days to do things better – learn from the mistakes we made in 2016 and improve those actions in 2017.

I am well aware that the whole “New Year, new life” mindset is actually a myth. January 1 will be just another usual day in our lives. However, I do believe in the spirit of renovation and what it can do for us. After all, change only depends on us. And if this spirit inspires us to change somehow, then anything can happen – we just need to believe and act upon it. And since change can start from every one of us, I also believe we can make the world a better place too.

In my last 2016 post – this is my fourth end-of-the-year blog post, which also something to reflect upon –, I would like to point some things we, translators, can change in the next year to become a better person and translator. Let’s start applying the change we want to see in the world to our lives?

Less negativity, more positivity

This may be the most common New Year resolution, but that is because it is valid every year. The world is full of sad news and horrible people. And that will hardly change overnight. Actually, it may never change. However, what good does it bring if we just complain about it? Quite the opposite: it only makes things even worse.

Instead of complaining about rates, agencies, clients, how about stressing the perks in translation? Stop posting about translation mistakes and start recognizing the amazing job of a fellow colleague. Stop complaining about horrible clients and start praising a client who values professional translators. Stop posting poor memes of translators working overnight, on weekends and holidays and glorifying it, and start spreading tips for a quality work-life balance. Simply stop sharing bad news and start sharing good news. If you do not have anything good to share, simply do not share anything at all. And this can be applied both online and offline.

Less complaining, more doing

When I was a university student, I used to call my mom, crying, complaining about how things were difficult. She would say, every single time, “That’s the life you chose for yourself. You wanted that, now you have it. Do you want to come back home? No? So deal with it. Do you want to quit? No? Then deal with it. You are the only person who can sort things out.” Some will think she was a hard mom. That was what I thought back then. After all, all I wanted was a shoulder to cry on. However, after hanging up the phone, I would wipe my tears off, take a deep breath and take the bull by the horns. Maybe, if she did give me what I was looking for, I would not have the courage to face my problems and would be a whiny adult waiting for things to get better on their own.

What does this have to do with what we are talking about? Complaining, whining and crying do not lead us anywhere. Having the guts to face our problems will. And this applies to anything in life.

That client does not pay well or is not worth it? Raise your rates to whatever suits you, start prospecting with the adjusted rate and fire that old client. That colleague pisses you off every time he/she posts something online? Unfollow him/her. You are tired of working non-stop, with clients contacting you at any time of the day, any day of the week? Determine your working hours, notify your clients about it, display it on your social media channels, website and e-mail signature, and try to stick to it.

How about joining the first point to this one and, whenever you feel like complaining about something, think twice and see if you can do the opposite: try to take something from it and focus on it.

Less work, more productivity

It is a funny thing how translators pride themselves at working practically non-stop – weekends, holidays, overnight; with no vacation for [fill in time here] long years; only sleeping for [fill in time here] hours. I admit I will never understand the logic behind it.

Do not get me wrong. I have already worked under those circumstances – and in all of them at once – in my early beginning. However, I never thought it was something to be proud of. So much so that I learned with my mistakes – as I usually do – and changed. And I do rarely work (but only part time) on the weekend or on a holiday or until later (but definitely not overnight), if necessary. But those are exceptions, and that is fine.

The problem is we usually procrastinate a lot and/or do other things rather than translate and then we have to work more time to deliver an assignment on time. It is possible to work less (time) and produce more. All it takes is discipline, organization and determination. Do you want to work only 6 hours per day? Do it. Yes, you can! Leave social media, personal e-mails, Skype chats, whatever non-work-related tasks for before and/or after your working hours, and set up a fixed day of the week and time for other professional tasks, such as invoicing and marketing. And translate like crazy in those 6 hours. You will see time will fly and your productivity will really increase.

Your translation quality highly depends on it. Lack of sleep, for example, interferes with your thinking capacity, as does working for long hours and multitasking. Focus is the new black.

Less anything bad, more quality of life

If you apply the tips mentioned above, you will already have a better quality of life and more time on your hands to take up on other activities to improve it even more. More positivity means you will also be more positive towards yourself and your life. More doing means you will focus on increasingly improving personally and professionally. More productivity means more quality = more translations = more clients = more reliability = increased rates = professional fulfillment – not exactly in this order. It is a vicious circle of only good things.

Use the time left to exercise, take a CPD course/webinar, meditate, go to the movies, go out for a coffee/beer with colleagues/friends, sleep, you name it – whatever you feel like doing. Do not forget to eat well and take regular breaks throughout your working hours.

What is the point in working your health off and then spending money with doctors, or being unable to work for being sick in bed because your immunity is low for working too much, or getting burned out?

I saw someone post on social media this week, asking for tips on books or anything that could help her stop procrastinating. Books, blog posts, magazine articles, friend’s advice, nothing will work if you are not willing to change. Even this blog post will be in vain if you think it, by itself, will solve all your problems. As I said at the beginning of this post: change starts with us.

So, what do you say? Let’s do this, together?

Meanwhile, I wish you all a merry and joyful Christmas, and an inspiring and happy New Year!

What I learned from a bad year

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After four months of silence, I stare at a blank page, finally trying to write a blog post again. Four months! It’s hard to believe I spent one-third of 2016 not writing on the blog, and it’s already almost 2017! To make matters worse, guest posts and the interview series did not follow their normal flow either. Totally my bad!

What happened?

2016 happened. Not one of my best years.

Brazilian political, economical and financial crisis. My complete inability to control my personal and business finance. A huge downtime period. My believing I can embrace the world and take on other responsibilities. And other consequences arising from these.

This is life: full of ups and downs. It’s up to us to always try to learn something, even (or especially) from the downs. And this is what I learned from my bad year:

Financial control
I always knew better, but never put it into practice. The more I earn, the more I spend. It has always been like that. However, if I don’t learn now, I never will.

As freelancers, business owners, entrepreneurs, you name it, we only earn money if we work. Therefore, vacation, sick leave, days off, dry spells mean no income. It is essential that we prepare in advance for all those situations.

Clients are never too much
We should never stop prospecting. If not to have a wide and diverse client portfolio (agencies, direct clients, overseas clients, local clients), to try to gradually increase our rates. We should never settle.

Service diversification
We must adapt in moments of crisis. There is nothing to do? Adapt to the market. See what it needs that you can offer. Learn a new language or something new, or develop yourself at something you already know so you can offer it as a service.

Side projects
As much as they can be nice, rewarding and fulfilling, we need to know when it’s too much and when it’s not worth it, for any reason. Is it stressing you too much? Is it really adding value to you as a professional? We should not be afraid of being selfish once in a while; after all, if we don’t think about and take care of ourselves, who will?

Visibility is not always good
Some people will love you, but a couple of people will hate you, misinterpret you, think they know you, when, in fact, they don’t have a clue as to who you are. But that’s life, right? Some people say even Jesus did not please everyone. And I’m well aware that I’m far, far away from getting this close to being compared to him or anyone for that matter. The problem is this handful of people affect us in such a way that can crush us, make us feel terrible, miserable human beings. However, just like with everything else in life, we learn, we adapt, and we move on.

So, yeah… Not a good year, if I consider I had more downs than ups. But since I only really learn with downs, it was, in fact, a good year for life learnings. Now it’s that time of the year again, Thanksgiving is next week, Christmas in a bit more than a month, followed by New Year and, finally, my birthday. And I take the time to reflect upon my rights and wrongs, acknowledge and be grateful for the people in my life and for what I have learned, and move on to 2017 with a new, mature mindset.

Now I’m ready to resume my normal blogging routine, which feels great. Check out the blog’s editorial calendar here and stay tuned for the next posts.

And feel free to share what you have learned in 2016.

Ergonomics in the professional translator’s workplace

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Source: FCOS Box

On July 12 and 13, I attended the Ergonomics and technologized knowledge work: cognitive effort, creativity, and health issues workshop held at FALE (Faculty of Languages), UFMG (Federal University of Minas Gerais), in Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil. The workshop was organized by Prof. Fabio Alves (UFMG) and Prof. Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow (ZHAW), and supported by the Brazilian-Swiss Joint Research Programme (BSJRP) and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences.

Besides having personal intentions (I wanted to interview Maureen, Fabio and Adriana Pagano for the podcast – and I did!), I also represented Abrates at the event.

The workshop was fantastic because it fostered interaction among researchers and professionals in interdisciplinary areas, such as translation studies, applied linguistics, health, ergonomics and other technical fields. Only about 20 people attended the event, but it ended up being great for networking and exchange of ideas in a more intimate and personal level. I was the only professional translator; everybody else was a researcher and/or university professor.

Prof. Fabio Alves opened the event with some numbers regarding UFGM:

  • The university has about 3,000 undergraduate students and 600 graduate students.
  • It is the only Brazilian federal university with 2 Excellence-graded programs, both in Languages and Linguistics.

Everyone deserves a break!

Prof. Maureen then presented on “Ergonomics matters for translators and other knowledge workers.” And she started in great style by applying common knowledge and research into practice: she stopped for a 5-minute break every 20 minutes. In the first break, we stood up and  introduced ourselves to the people next to us. This was great to break the ice and already get to know some of the attendees. In the other breaks, we also had to stand up and did some quick and simple stretching exercises, following an occupational therapist from ZAHW. I loved the idea! The Swiss researcher and professor talked about the research she conducted with other colleagues recording translation processes of professional translators at LSPs, institutions and freelance environments. They analyzed not only their physical environment (chair, table, computer, etc.) but also their social situation (people, systems, etc.). Since competence in language technology, such as CATs and MT, is now a prerequisite for professional translation, our memory has been extended by the use of multiple applications and resources, and the disadvantage is that we can offload too much, affecting our emotional state and concentration.

from Greek: ergon = work, nomos = laws

Prof. Maureen’s main goal is to study the human side of usability, focusing on the user, rather than on machines or tools, or even productivity. Therefore, ergonomics, on her study, encompasses:

  • Physical: concerned with human anatomical, anthropometric, physiological and biomechanical characteristics as they relate to physical activity. Simply put, physical ergonomics involve equipment (desk, chair, keyboard, mice) and their design; use and distortion of hand/wrist when typing and handling the mouse; sitting for too long in one position, resulting in pain and muscle stiffness; context factors, such as noise levels, lighting, temperature. Consequence: negative impact on accuracy and translation quality. For example, did you know QWERTY (English) keyboards were arranged to prevent mechanical typewriters from jamming, not for ergonomic reasons?
  • Cognitive: concerned with mental processes (perception, memory, reasoning, motor response) as they affect interactions among humans and other elements of a system. Simply put, cognitive ergonomics involve human-computer interaction (HCI), computer responsiveness, digital resources, over-crowded screens, disturbances and interruptions, and time pressure. The consequence here is also the negative impact on accuracy, translation quality and productivity. As we, professional translators, are well aware of, even slight delays in computer responsiveness can negatively affect task perfomance and potentially contribute to stress.
  • Organizational: concerned with the optimization of sociotechnical systems, including their organizational structures, policies and processes. Simply put, organization ergonomics involve sociotechnical issues, teamwork and communication, self-concept and professional identity, and job satisfaction. Consequence: negative impact on company loyalty and organizational development.

In a nutshell, the translational action is a complex system and sociological event that involves various actors and factors where every small detail of the interaction matters. What we currently see are translators adapting to machines, instead of the contrary.

The brain is not only in the skull, it involves the entire body.

Prof. Fabio followed, and his talk was about LETRA (Laboratory for Experimentation in Translation at UFMG): “LETRA’s perspective on cognitive ergonomics and human-computer interaction.” His presentation was in Portuguese in order to provide the interpreter students in the booth (yes, there was an interpreting booth in the room!) a chance to practice Portuguese into English interpretation. According to UFMG’s Director of International Affairs, the lab carries out research on human-computer interaction related to processes involved in: post-editing tasks of MT output, development of interactive MT interfaces, and development of translation applications comprising a combination of speech recognition, MT output and HCI. The process maps the translation expertise, taps the translation process and models task execution. The methodological approach involves pre-task questionnaires, keylogging, eye tracking, direct observation, task recalling and text analysis. The results of the studies conducted at LETRA allow the design of interactive platforms and applications geared to improving/enhancing translators’ performance and interaction among users, and the development of training programs.

Prof. Adriana Pagano, coordinator of the area of Translation at UFMG, presented next on “Ergonomics and usability testing in the design of applications for chronic condition management and health promotion.” The goal of her study is to design an app to promote adherence of teenagers to treatment of diabetes and user empowerment, facilitating self-directed behavior change. The group comprising the study is called Empoder@ and aims at developing a conceptual and methodological prototype for the design of tools to assess educational interventions oriented towards self care and empowerment. Questions such as smartphone and internet use, app features and avatar were asked to teenagers in order to find out what they prefer. Note that the focus here as well is on the human being: developing an app adapted to the user, not the contrary.

Ursula Meidert, from ZAHW, followed with her presentation “Physical ergonomics at computer workplaces: Findings from ergonomic workplace assessments and interviews.” The study was conducted by an inter-professional project team: the Institute of Occupational Therapy and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting. As Maureen also pointed out, not only physical work environment factors, but also context factors, such as ambient noise, lighting and temperature, can influence the performance of people who work at computers (translators included), and they can even represent risk factors for health problems. Typing and using input devices (touchpad, mice) involve the entire body, and constant repetition of certain movements can cause an overload of muscles.

Did you know women generally complain more about health than men?

Besides interviewing participants, the researchers also visited workplaces (freelancers’ offices, enterprises and institutions) and assessed their ergonomics, recorded screens and translators themselves while working. Problems were more often observed among freelancers and younger professionals, therefore, the researchers’ recommendation is that: basic ergonomic knowledge be integrated into BA and MA programmes, ergonomic training be provided to practitioners and information about ergonomics be disseminated through professional associations. They also recommend an individual workplace consultation by an occupational therapist before any health problems emerge.

The last activity on the first day was a workshop, “Cognitive and Physical Ergonomics of Translation: What can we do to make a computer workplace more ergonomic?”, presented by the occupational therapist Michèle Gasser (also from ZHAW) and Ursula Meidert. Michèle started by saying that the worst problem of professional translators is the one-sided strain: sitting in the same position for a long time. The physical load on the body throughout the day remains the same, causing problems, especially when the workplace is not ergonomically adequate and/or the translator has the wrong posture. Ergonomic adaptations to the translator’s abilities must be made, but it is advisable that the translator also have a healthy life (regular exercise), take regular breaks and frequently change the working position. Here are some of the orientations:

  • The computer screen should be positioned so that the light from windows comes from the side, preventing reflections or glare. The light should always be indirect. Office light should not be directly above the head.
  • The feet should be flat on the floor, forming a 90-degree angle by the knees and the hips. This is important for posture and blood circulation. If, for any reason, when making these adjustments the feet do not reach the floor, a footrest should be used. However, the best condition is that the table and the chair are adjustable in order to allow the feet to touch the floor. There should be a gap of two fingers between the knees and the seat.
  • The arms should also form a 90-degree angle and rest on the table. Armrests are not really necessary.
  • The backrest should be flexible enough to lean back for occasional relaxation, but still providing enough resistance to support the back, that should press lightly against it. The curve of the backrest should support the lumbar lordosis.
  • The computer screen should be straight in front of the translator at an arm’s length. Now here’s something new: the top of the screen should be one hand width below eye level, not on eye level! However, this will also depend on the size of the screen and on the CAT the translator is using. The rule of thumb is that the nape is straight, not curved, and the translator is slightly looking below, not straight ahead.
  • The keyboard should be directly in front of the translator. Allow enough distance so that the heels of the hands can rest on the table, and are not floating.
  • The mouse should be next to the keyboard, as close to it as possible.
  • When working with two monitors, whenever possible, the main screen should be straight ahead and the second, stand next to the first, at an angle. However, when both screens are used equally frequently, both should be angled and positioned accordingly.
  • When working with paper documents, they should be placed between the keyboard and the screen, preferentially supported by a holder.
  • When working regularly for long periods on a laptop, it is important to use an external keyboard and mouse, and all of the above orientations apply. However, a larger external monitor is also recommended.
  • Ideal equipment: big non-glare screens, adjustable chair in height and backrest and adjustable table.

A peace and quiet work environment is also essential. Avoid interruptions and misunderstandings by communicating your working days and time.

Useful link:
FCOS Box: Safety, health and ergonomics in the office

Another recurrent topic during the event was usability and its connection with ergonomics, topic that was also addressed by Rossana Cunha, a research student from UFSC (Federal University of Santa Catarina). The goal of her study was to bridge the gap between corpus-based tools, ergonomics and usability by a user-oriented methodology. The results indicated that, despite the concern for providing a user-friendly interface, the system she analyzed did not make use of known usability and ergonomic methods. And here I add something one of the presenters mentioned: SDL Trados was questioned if they conducted usability tests. Surprise, surprise (or not): “Usability? What is it?” was their answer. The problem here, and with most of the CATs we use, is they are developed by developers only, with no involvement of translators whatsoever.

Next on the second day, Arlene Koglin and Norma Fonseca, both from UFMG, presented on “An analysis of work-related medical issues and ergonomic aspects in Brazilian translators’ workplace.” They mentioned the importance of introducing usability and ergonomics in early stages of university courses to make students aware, and not only buy the coolest CAT in the market. The results of their research can contribute to increasing awareness of the physical and cognitive aspects of professional translation as well as to improving translators’ working conditions. Now here is the great news: they plan on publishing the results of their study to the professional translation community, not only to academic professionals. So we may have something new coming up soon… 😉

Last but not least, Maureen presented with Peter Jud on “Cognitive ergonomics of computerized translation work.” Besides being a translation teacher at ZAHW, Peter is also a professional translator, so it was interesting to see his intakes from both sides. According to them, it’s all linked: physical, organizational and cognitive ergonomics. Therefore, disturbances and interruptions at the workplace can also negatively influence the translator’s work. All levels, players and aspects should be taken into account: physical aspects, translator training, translation teacher training, software development, research, organizational aspects, clients/agencies.

To sum up all the learnings from the event, all participants and presenters were asked to talk a bit about their impressions, and the key points were:

  • Usability was the keyword of the event, as an object of study, approaching it from different angles and disciplines.
  • Keeping people in the middle is what matters.
  • Translators don’t have a voice: we (researchers) have to listen to them!
  • Being keen and open to new approaches is essential.
  • This workshop and the discussions we had may be the stepping stone of something larger to come.

7th Abrates Conference: Official coverage – Part 2

This is the second part of my post about the Abrates Conference. Read the first part here.

After having such a good start, the second talk I watched on Saturday was Isabel Gorg’s, also on automated translation. The speaker conducted a survey and found out that 22% of the interviewees used some sort of MT strategy. Her presentation was mostly based on pointing out common mistakes in MT, such as spacing, capitalization, grammar, sentence structure, local standards and terminology. Being aware of their frequency makes it simple to spot and correct them. And, needless to say, source quality can also highly influence the quality of MT translations. The takeovers from her talk were: MT will not disappear, but rather get better; MT can increase productivity; we should concentrate on what MT does right, not wrong; and we should align our expectations.

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Isabel Georg

The third talk I attended on Saturday was by Felipe Cichini Simões, on personal and professional budgeting for freelancers. According to Felipe, we must never spend every cent we earn, but have some savings for vacation, professional investment, variable income, etc. The speaker suggested the YNAB (You Need A Budget) method and briefly showed us how the app works. According to Felipe, in order to start a budget plan, we must forget the past and start planning from now on. Felipe also said that giving each cent a function helps us understand what we can do with our money. Acknowledging our actual expenditures (besides our fixed ones) is also important for planning our future budget. However, he also points out that budgets are not always perfect, and sometimes they may not work as planned, especially for us, freelancers, who do not have a fixed income. It can happen, and we may not lose heart. The speaker also suggested the Wave Accounting app for financial control. I will surely try any of those apps, because I myself am very bad at budgeting and planning for the future. I know, shame on me!

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Felipe Cechini Simões

Next on the presentations I attended on Saturday was Adriana de Araújo Sobota’s, on how to start working with translation agencies. The large room was totally full and people loved her presentation. Adriana mentioned methods for receiving payment from overseas (PayPal, Moneybrookers, direct bank transfer, wire transfer through Payoneer and TransferWise) and how to check a potential client’s reputation (Payment Practices, Blueboard, Hall of Fame and Shame, Untrustworthy Translation Agencies). It is also important to check if they have a physical address, on-line domain, professional e-mail address, etc. When looking for translation agencies on Google, we should be careful with the search results, because they can return one-person companies/entrepreneurs, not only agencies. Adriana also mentioned the importance of professional behavior, having a good CV, knowing how to behave on-line, communication, etc. The translation market is fast, so we should make sure we do not lose a chance for nothing. All the information needed on how to find potential clients is out there: research and search for it. The speaker concluded her presentation stressing out some don’ts: do not depend on only one agency; do not pressure the potential client for the result of the test; do not ask if you can send a CV, simply send it; do not send bulk e-mails; do not complain about an agency in public (social media).

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Adriana de Araújo Sobota

After lunch, I attended GALA’s presentation, “Economic Crisis at Home? The World is Yours – How to Overcome Obstacles When Selling Abroad.” You can read more details about this one here, on a post I wrote for their blog.

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GALA (Globalization and Localization Association): Fabiano Cid, Lilian Alves Mouton, Eugenia Echave and Gabriela Morales

After that, I ran to a presentation I was actually part of, about the Abrates Mentoring Program. Steering Committee members William Cassemiro, Adriana Sobota, Mônica Reis and yours truly explained how the program works and what the rules are to those who wish to take part both as mentor and mentee. Our current mentors and mentees, both represented, respectively, by Filipe Alverca and Sabrina Fuzaro and present among the attendees, had a voice and spoke about the enriching experience they are having with the program. You can find more information about the program on its web page and on this blog post I wrote a while ago (both in Portuguese). Juliana Tradutora has also written a blog post about our presentation, also in Portuguese, here. Should you not understand Portuguese, here are some important points:

  • The program is totally free, from all parts: both Committee members and mentors are volunteers, and mentees do not have to pay to take part.
  • To be a mentor, the person needs to be an Abrates member and have at least five years of experience in the area.
  • To be a mentee, the person also needs to be an Abrates member and have a maximum of two years of experience in the area. Or be in the last year of a Translation/Interpreting course.
  • The program lasts two years with a minimum of two hours of mentoring per month (in person or via Skype or other method agreed upon both parts).
  • The program’s coordinators closely follow their assigned pairs through follow-up reports both the mentor and the mentee have to fill out separately after every meeting.
  • The coordinators must be aware of every decision made by their assigned pairs in order to avoid any potential issue, including change of date of the meeting.

We had a fantastic feedback from our current mentors/mentees, from potential mentors/mentees and from people who run mentoring programs in other associations all over the world, such as Canada, Argentina and Israel. They were mesmerized by our organization, quality and professionalism. The presentation was followed by our own coffee break filled with positive comments, feedback, nice conversations with people who were interested at the program and future contacts. Should you be interested in learning more about it, do not hesitate to leave a comment below or send an e-mail to mentoria@abrates.com.br.

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Steering Committee members, William Cassemiro, Adriana de Araújo Sobota, Caroline Alberoni e Mônica Reis, mentee Sabrina Fuzaro and mentor Filipe Alverca

To sum up a perfect first day, Renato Beninatto hosted a round-table about, once again, machine translation with Kirti Vashee, Ricardo Souza, Ronaldo Martins and Marcelo Fassina. Marcelo Fassina, from Lionbridge, started talking and said that usually material with low access by the general public or the end user goes through MTPE (machine translation post-editing). However, the agency must always inform the translator when they use MT. The translator’s feedback is extremely important to feed the MT and improve it, as Kirti also mentioned in this morning’s presentation. Ronaldo Martins took the floor and spoke beautifully and eloquently. I was in owe with his perfect choice of words. According to him, evolution is inevitable. Technology may close some doors, but it will certainly open other windows. Ronaldo explained the difference between accelerated, delegated and augmented technologies. The first ones are not revolutionary; they only assist, but do not replace; for example, bikes. The second ones are substitutive, but are not necessarily better than what they replace. The last ones, on the other hand, enable us to do things we were not able to do before. In spite of what people think, MT involves science. Ricardo Souza followed, representing translators. Last but not least, Kirti Vashee also gave his opinion on the subject. According to him, human translation is the driving force of technology.

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Ronaldo Martins, Kirti Vashee, Renato Beninatto, Ricardo Souza and Marcelo Fassina

This was it for Saturday. Sunday talks in Part 3 (final).

Read the impressions and reviews of other attendees:

Adriana de Araújo Sobota: Como começar a trabalhar com agências de tradução – VII Congresso da Abrates, by Juliana Tradutora
Traduzir livros para crianças é coisa de gente grande – VII Congresso da Abrates
, by Juliana Tradutora
Silvana Nicoloso: Identidade de gênero e o trabalho de interpretação simultânea em Libras – VII Congresso da Abrates, by Juliana Tradutora
Mesa-redonda sobre machine translation – Kirti Vashee – Ricardo Souza – Ronaldo Martins – Marcelo Fassino – VII Congresso da Abrates, by Juliana Tradutora
Comitê de Mentoria: Adriana Sobota, Caroline Alberoni, Mônica Reis e William Cassemiro – VII Congresso da Abrates, by Juliana Tradutora
Marina Piovesan Gonçalves: Inglês geral x inglês jurídico: diferenças e/ou semelhanças – VII Congresso da Abrates, by Juliana Tradutora
7º Congresso da Abrates – Resumão, by Laila Compan
5 insights que tive no 7º Congresso da Abrates, by Laila Compan
Ensaio sobre o fracasso, by Thiago Hilger on Pronoia Tradutória blog
Como começar a trabalhar com agências de tradução, Adriana de Araújo Sobota’s PowerPoint presentation
The Larger Context Translation Market, by Kirti Vashee

Other links can be found in Parts 1 and 3.

Mentoria em tradução

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O que é

Embora o termo mentoria seja recente, principalmente no Brasil, o conceito faz parte das nossas vidas de maneira informal desde que nascemos. Em sua forma básica, trata-se do processo natural no qual somos orientados no melhor caminho, incentivados a fazer mudanças ou impulsionados a evoluir. Por proporcionar efeitos altamente significativos, esse processo natural começou a ser estudado e pesquisado profundamente a partir dos anos 70 (no Brasil, somente há cerca de 10 anos). Foi, então, adaptado ao uso formal, estruturado como recurso de orientação e desenvolvimento profissional. No Brasil, a mentoria como ferramenta de desenvolvimento profissional está dando os primeiros passos. Na tradução, a ATA (American Translators Association) foi a primeira a introduzir um Programa de Mentoria, seguida recentemente pela APTRAD (Associação Portuguesa de Tradutores e Intérpretes) e agora pela Abrates (Associação Brasileira de Tradutores e Intérpretes).

Como funciona

A mentoria é um processo no qual o mentorado é orientado para facilitar e agilizar seu desenvolvimento e evolução por um profissional mais experiente que dedica seu tempo para compartilhar conhecimento e experiência com base principalmente no exemplo. Por sua experiência e por já ser consagrado no mercado, o mentor serve como objeto de respeito e admiração, um exemplo a ser seguido. Na tradução, esse processo ajuda o tradutor iniciante ou recém-formado a adquirir uma base mais sólida sobre como funciona o mercado diretamente de alguém que já está nele e que pode falar com propriedade sobre o assunto. Com isso, o mentorado obtém o caminho para encontrar as respostas (não as respostas em si) de que precisa de forma mais rápida e eficaz.

Benefícios são gerados para todas as partes: mentorado, mentor e organização. Além do aprendizado geral sobre o mercado e a profissão, o mentorado tem a chance de ampliar sua rede de relacionamentos. O mentor, por sua vez, além de ser reconhecido e de também aprender com o mentorado, obtém satisfação pessoal e profissional. Já a organização, adquire experiência organizacional e aprende com o desenvolvimento dos mentores e mentorados. Ou seja, todos saem ganhando.

Caminho das Pedras

O Programa de Mentoria “Caminho das Pedras” da Abrates é totalmente gratuito. Foi lançado no início de março e já é sucesso absoluto! No momento, há 20 pares mentor/mentorado em andamento e já há uma lista de espera.

Para se inscrever como mentorado, é preciso:

  1. Ser associado da Abrates e estar em dia com suas obrigações; e
  2. Ter no máximo dois anos de experiência como tradutor/intérprete; ou
  3. Estar no último ano do curso de tradução/interpretação/letras.

Para se inscrever como mentor, é preciso:

  1. Ser associado da Abrates e estar em dia com suas obrigações; e
  2. Ter no mínimo cinco anos de experiência na área.

Os interessados são solicitados a preencher uma ficha de inscrição com detalhes pessoais e metas desejadas para o programa. O Comitê de Administração analisa cada ficha e decide, em conjunto, o mentor mais adequado para cada perfil, de acordo com as descrições fornecidas na ficha do mentorado.

Cada programa dura seis meses, contados a partir do primeiro encontro do par. Os pares devem se encontrar por no mínimo duas horas por mês, no formato de preferência dos dois, com frequência também a ser decidida em conjunto. Cada par tem seu próprio coordenador dentro do Comitê de Administração. As reuniões são acompanhadas pelo coordenador designado por meio de relatórios de acompanhamento que devem ser preenchidos pelo mentor e pelo mentorado separadamente após cada reunião. Embora o programa tenha caráter voluntário (de todas as partes), há regras a serem seguidas para garantir a qualidade e o andamento fluido do programa de cada par. Caso essas regras não sejam seguidas, os coordenadores do Comitê de Administração decidirão, em conjunto, sobre a possível exclusão do mentor ou mentorado do programa.

Embora o limite de pares já tenha sido atingido, se você tiver interesse em ser mentorado e estiver de acordo com a regras do programa, envie um email se inscrevendo a fim de que possa entrar na lista de espera. A lista de espera segue a ordem de conclusão de inscrição, ou seja, quando o mentorado é finalmente aprovado no processo de seleção e considerado apto para começar o programa.

Acesse a página do programa no site da Abrates para saber mais detalhes, conhecer as regras e obrigações. Caso tenha qualquer dúvida ou queria se inscrever, entre em contato pelo e-mail: mentoria.abrates@gmail.com.br.

Curta a página do programa no Facebook e siga o perfil no Twitter para ficar atualizado sobre as novidades.

 

How to manage your Facebook friends like a pro

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Contrary to what most people think, Facebook (and any other social media) is not an alien world where you behave the way you wish, differently from real life. The same rules and common sense that apply in real life must be applied on Facebook as well. And in real life, everybody has several personas played accordingly in each situation. For example, you do not behave the same way in church as you do among your close friends; your boss does not know you as well as your family does. So why share absolutely everything with pretty much everyone who is your friend on Facebook? That picture of you, totally toasted one night at a bar may not convey a good image of yourself to your boss or a potential client (we never know who may have access to it).

“I don’t care what people think about me!”

Well, on social media, you should, especially if it can jeopardize your professional life.

We cannot help it. People will add us as friends on Facebook, regardless of the contact you have had with them and your level of intimacy. In the beginning, I was reluctant to accept requests from people I did not know. With time, I learned that was useless, especially if you are an online person. People may know you, even though you do not know them. Because of that, we may end up having total strangers as friends on Facebook or acquaintances whose friend requests you cannot ignore for any reason, but with whom you do not wish to share absolutely everything you post.

The good thing that most people do not know is that you can create custom friend lists on Facebook in order to easily and quickly restrict what people see, from photo albums to single posts you share.

To create a custom friend list: Scroll down to Friends on the left side of your News Feed. Hover over Friends and click More. Click + Create List. Enter a name for your list and the names of your existing friends you’d like to add to it. Click Create. You can add or remove friends from your lists at any time.

Don’t worry! People do not get notified when you add them to these lists. And you can create several lists. For example, “Family”, “Besties”, “Work”, “Church”, “Strangers”, etc.

You can send someone to a list straight when you send them a friend request: After adding the person, click Friend Request Sent. Select the list you want to add them to. If the list you want is not visible, select Add to another list… to see all of your lists or create a new one.

You can also send someone to a list when you accept their friend request: After confirming their request, hover over the Friends button next to the person’s name still on Friend Requests (at the top of the Facebook page) and select the list you want to add them to. If the list you want is not visible, select Add to another list… to see all of your lists or create a new one.

Whenever you want to add or remove someone from a list, scroll down to Friends on the left side of your News Feed. Hover over Friends and click More. Click on the list you want and then Manage List on the upper right corner of the page. Click Edit List. You can also delete and rename the list here. On this window, you can click on the person you want to remove from the list. Click on the dropdown On This List to add someone from your Friends, Pages or Following list.

Now, when you post something (status updates, photos and others), you can use the audience selector tool (dropdown menu beside Post on What’s on your mind? or with a gearing wheel on your albums). It lets you choose a specific audience:

  • Public: anyone, including people off of Facebook
  • Friends of Friends
  • Friends (+ friends of anyone tagged)
  • Only Me
  • Custom: this is where you are able to choose who you want to share or not to share your post with (lists, specific people, groups, networks)

I suggest you start by creating your lists. Then review every one of your existing friends and send them to specific lists, or take the chance to unfriend them if you feel like doing so. Uncluttering is also a good practice from time to time.

Another great Facebook feature is the Timeline review. It lets you choose whether posts you are tagged in by other people appear on your Timeline. When people you are not friends with tag you in a post, they automatically go to Timeline review. By doing this, you can accept or reject a tag, depending on your wish to show it on your Timeline or not. You can do the same with all tags:

Click on the arrow at the top right of the Facebook page and select Settings. In the left column, click Timeline and Tagging. Look for Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your Timeline? and click Edit to the far right. Select Enabled from the dropdown menu.

Also in Settings, take the time to review your current settings, especially the privacy ones. For example, you can restrict who can contact you and who can look you up, block users, etc.

Should you have any other doubts, check the Friend Lists section of Facebook’s Help Center.

32 lessons I’ve learned in 32 years

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My birthday was on January 8th. And as a (belated) celebration, here is a post with 32 lessons I’ve learned in 32 years (and counting, both the lessons and the years).

1. It’s a huge waste of our time to worry about what others think.

2. We may be young and healthy now, but not forever. Taking good care of our body is essential for having a healthy and long life.

3. Dealing with our own business is already a full-time job, so why waste our time minding other people’s?

4. Being polite and using the magical words (“please”, “thank you” and “sorry”) are the best mom’s advice we should live by.

5. Listen more and speak less.

6. A positive atitude and a smile can do wonders.

7. Nobody is better than us neither we are better than anyone else. We all have something to learn with each other.

8. Therapy isn’t a waste of time. It can help us be a better person.

9. “Do what you love and love what you do, and you won’t have to work a day in your life” is definitely not a cliché.

10. The busier we are, the more productive we are and the more we want to accomplish, and vice-versa.

11. If we want something, we should go and get it. Things do not fall from the sky straight on our laps.

12. We all have something interesting to share.

13. Balance is key. Life goes way beyond work.

14. Whining, complaining and drama do not solve problems, only attract negative vibes.

15. Vacation and time off are as important as routine.

16. Real friends are a treasure.

17. Only by traveling are we able to acknowledge and value our own culture.

18. Gratitude is key to happiness.

19. Sometimes it is better to agree with a person than waste our time and energy arguing with them.

20. Even the worst times and people in our lives teach us something. It is up to us to learn from them or simply regret them.

21. Life is full of ups and downs. And the downs are as important as the ups.

22. Positivity takes us beyond and helps us go through hard times.

23. Embracing ourselves and accepting who we are help us acknowledge our weaknesses and strengths and learn how to deal with them.

24. People need attention and love as much as we do. Give and you shall receive.

25. We will never be good enough for everybody, but we may be the best for a single person. That’s what counts.

26. Mistakes are part of life. Admit them and apologize, do not give excuses.

27. Kindness is the real beauty.

28. We are the only ones responsible for our happiness.

29. When people are rude to us, they reveal who they are, not who we are. Politeness is the best response.

30. We should always try to make a great first impression.

31. Working hard does not always mean working smart.

32. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to success, because it depends on how each one of us perceives it and on our individual paths.

Would you like to share any lessons you have learned in life?