Thursday, 29 September 2011

International Translation Day

Today is International Translation Day! The theme this year, as you most probably know, is "Translation: Bridging Cultures".

I was reading the other day, that the translation and interpreting professions are among the 50 best occupations in the USA! I agree! I just hope that translation and its recognition becomes more widespread, especially in South Africa and that we see a positive climate for growth here, as the rest of the world is experiencing.

At least as translators we know that our profession will never become moot.

Many translation organisations are organising get togethers today. I would like to know what you are planning to do today or what you have heard about other translation organisations' plans.

The South African Institute of Translation (SATI) has organised a weekend away at the Leriba Lodge Hotel. You can either stay for a few hours or stay for the weekend, where there will be a picnic and discussion.

You can find me today over at the free coffee morning organised by ECPD Webinars. "See" you all there!

Oh yes, and Happy International Translation Day!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Admitting to some cardinal translator sins

Usually I like to post a new blog post every Tuesday but I’m sorry to say that I didn’t post one last week. Tuesday morning I woke up to no broadband access. I subsequently learnt that a cable in our area had snapped (didn’t know that was possible!) and that by Thursday they had finished laying the new cable. I was assured that only a technician had to come round, or maybe even remotely being able to connect it back up. Also, a technician had been assigned to my fault already. There was hope. However, there has still been no sight nor sound of this technician.
I lived in hope everyday that I would see the lights on the modem flashing but it never happened. It is true that hope deferred makes the heart sick.  I spent the whole week agonising over how the phone company which supplies my broadband line had cut my lifeblood! For this reason I thought I couldn’t write a blog post.
Yes, I know it shouldn’t be this way, that I was brought almost to a complete standstill by having no broadband back-up plan but I fell for the “it never has happened to me” excuse. Even my 3G was being temperamental and working at a snail’s pace  so that I couldn’t even attach files to emails. My comfort was also impeded- I couldn’t sit and have instant access in my own space.
I’d like to say that I prepare my blog posts weeks in advance but I don’t. I jot down ideas during the week, maybe from my observations or even while daydreaming out the window psyching myself up for the next task in hand. I then sit down maybe the day before and hammer out the blog post. This past week I had plenty of time to mull over my next blog post, maybe a rant about my internet line and the company which provides it or a rant in general but I scrapped that idea!
I thought I would go back to perhaps a worn out topic in translator circles. How to make ourselves indispensible. If a simple thing like a glitch in our broadband can cause our businesses to go down the drain how do we as translators make it that in general, if people don’t have access to translators, things start falling apart.
There has been much discussion surrounding this, such as be professional, don’t undercut your colleagues, work together as a translation community, prove to the client you are indispensable to them by delivering top quality work etc. etc. There are plenty more points you can add to this.
In my disconnected misery I jotted down a few ideas of my own which I can do in my small sphere to make a difference. I am probably repeating a lot of what everyone knows and what has been said but things like this always bear repeating. Here is my simple list:
1. Respond
Respond to emails promptly. I am always surprised when I get a response from any business or corporate in less than five hours. People like to work with businesses who are responsive and who seem to have life on the  other side, not just an automated response.
2. Anticipate
When you get a query in, anticipate what your client may need or would still like to query. Refer them to your website, attach a rates sheet, anticipate what you can provide them with so that you can show how prepared you are and the knowledge of processes.
3. Read
Be careful you read every word of every email and instruction you receive. How often I have missed seeing an attachment to an email or glanced over an email and upon closer inspection a few hours later realised I misunderstood something.
4. Be pedantic and precise in everything
This is an area I still need to work on because when you’re quickly typing out an email you often miss some grammatical errors or something trivial but which makes a lasting impression on someone. Now that you’re working for yourself, there’s no one to check on your work and the sole responsibility lies on you, a very heavy responsibility. Precision needs to be engrained in you.
So, this blog post may have shown a few of my faults, such as I didn’t have a backup plan for when my broadband went down (translator cardinal sin number one) and that sometimes I’m not as pedantic, precise or hawk-eyed as I should be (translator cardinal sins 2, 3 and 4) but I’m working on them.
I welcome any comisoratory stories you would like to share with me today about a translation misstep, fowl up or areas which you are working on to make yourself indispensable . Even suggestions on what alternative I can use when my broadband goes down will be most welcome;) 
To make up for no blog post last week there will be two blog posts this week to make up for it.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Pleased to meet you?

Last week Lisa Carter posted a blog post on the Versatile Blogger Award she was bestowed. Apart from her translation related posts, this was one of my favourite blog posts to read. One of the rules was to share 7 things about yourself. I loved reading what Lisa had to share, especially that she had once co-owned a bar in Peru.
This got me thinking how I might not meet in person a lot of the translators I know. This is the very nature of our profession. We have conversations on Twitter and exchanges on blogs but we haven’t “met”. So, I would like to take the idea of the Versatile Blogger Award and better introduce myself to you. I don’t have 7 interesting things to tell you but here are the 5 which I think are worth mentioning.
Enjoy and I apologise for the non-translation/language related post today.
1.       I am the youngest of four children.
2.       Although my dad is German, I cannot speak German. I know this is part of my “heritage” but I have never learnt it. I think this is down to the mother influencing what language is spoken in the home.
3.       My mother was going to give me a very strange German name which would have worked in Germany but never in an English speaking country. Fortunately she changed her mind and considered how cruel yet clever children can be with rhyming names. And no, I’m not going to tell you what it was going to be…
4.       I hate travelling! I suffer from severe motion sickness! This might not be a good thing to admit since I am a translator but too late now. Put me near a plane, car, boat, metro station, and I will start feeling awful!!
5.       One of my favourite books is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. People find this hilarious solely because I share a name similarity with Mr de Winter’s dead wife. Don’t ask me why people always find name similarities so funny;)
So…pleased to meet youJ Would you like to introduce yourself?

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Why I love translation and languages

I thought today I would try to delve into why I love languages and translating so much. I do agree that some people are born with an innate ability and love of languages but as the broken record of translation lecturer voices plays in my mind, experience also shapes how we view languages.
I thought this would be a good opportunity to describe my beloved country South Africa and the precarious and complicated situation of languages in South Africa . How we use them may have influenced my career path.
South Africa has 11 official languages. Truthfully though English is the dominant language used in the media, business correspondence etc. and is seen as an “economic power language”. Other languages are seen as “inferior”. Although English is the dominant language used, the majority of people speak it as a second language. This has made me aware of how I use language in certain situations for certain audiences depending on their level of language proficiency. This is nothing new-don’t we all change the way we speak when we know we’re talking to, for example, a Spanish person speaking English for the first time? Being exposed to this multiculturalism and language diversity  my whole life has made me aware of how language is manipulated and different people have different frames of reference to different phrases.
We speak South African English. South Africans have a very flat tone of voice when speaking too. Also,  instead of saying “yes” or “yeah” we say “ja”, the Afrikaans word for “yes”. But it isn’t pronounced like the German “ja”. It has a flatter, more drawn out tone. But we also have sub-dialects such as Black South African English too (a phenomenon studied in many linguistic departments at South African universities). Maybe another reason I love languages and being able to speak another language is that I’ve always been exposed to a type of bilingualism in South Africa. I always hear the till operators talking to each other in Venda or Xhosa or whatever province of South Africa they’re from. Some languages which belong to the Nguni group are mutually intelligible so although you may not speak the same language you can still communicate. Afrikaans is also spoken and you’ll be guaranteed that on any day of the week you’ll hear Afrikaans spoken or you’ll have to speak Afrikaans. There are a lot of Afrikaans speakers in South Africa and most people can understand it and can communicate sufficiently in it. We are taught it at school and you’re examined in it as a second language, in Gauteng (the province where I live),  for your school leaving exam.
We borrow a lot from the African languages and Afrikaans and our English is a very colourful English. We have words that we use that have a wide range of meaning that it would be difficult to explain to a foreigner the meaning and context in which we use such words.
For example, when someone tells us something shocking, exciting or wonderful we normally respond by saying “Yoh”. This “expression” can mean “really”, “that’s terrible”, “I can’t believe that just happened”, “wow”, “I’m in shock”, “I don’t know what to say”.
A lot of code-switching also occurs even when monolingual English speakers are talking. An example of code switching would be this sentence:
“Ja, please can you fetch my tekkies from upstairs?”
Translation: “Yes (Afrikaans), please can you fetch my sneakers (“Tekkies” is the Afrikaans word for “sneakers”) from upstairs.
We even use African words for things specific to South Africa e.g. “knobkierrie” (an African club with a knob on the end). “Tokoloshe” (a mythical, sprite-like character causing mischief).  
If you’re interested in our everyday language, we as South Africans have started an initiative called SA Street Dictionary where you can add your own words to the vernacular we as South Africans speak. You can also browse the dictionary and see definitions. You can view it here.
So to sum up, most South Africans are bilingual, speak in a flat tone of voice, use strange non-existent words and use a lot of code switching in conversations.
If you would like to hear a very stereotypical South African accent, watch the movie “District 9”. But don’t be fooled. Most of us don’t speak like the characters in this movie. I, for example, have a very neutral voice and you can’t really tell where I’m from.
I think you can now see why I love languages and their peculiarities  growing up in a South African environment. Can you think of any other countries with very colourful dialects?