Tip of the Tongue
Time in the balance – how freelancers can create a sustainable work schedule
Sun, 24 Oct 2021 06:43:00 +0000

[lit lighter*]

Entrepreneurs, especially freelancers, lack an external framework to limit hours. Employers have legal limits in determining the number of hours they can make their employees work with most companies restricting the amount of overtime any employee can take on. Store owners may work long hours but most non-chains are not open 24 hours a day or even 7 days a week. Germany probably has the most extreme restrictions with the vast majority of stores closed in the early evening and generally on Sunday. Freelancers, solely responsible for their own success and generally highly motivated to work, often equate downtime with reduced income, ignoring the short- and long-term effects of overwork. However, by creating some consistent limits on daily and weekly work hours and proper management of workloads, freelancers can sustain a high level of productivity and enjoy life.

[character lifting weights]

First, it is necessary to define work. Judaism, due its Shabbat laws, has quite a volume of writings on this subject but instead I will use a Jewish joke to provide a workable definition. The story goes that two priests were discussing whether sex was work or pleasure and decided to consult their rabbi colleague, who had much more practical experience in the matter. Upon hearing the question, he immediately and unhesitatingly stated that sex was pleasure. When pressed for an explanation, he simply noted that if sex were work, his wife would have the maid do it for her. Consistent with that definition, work is any task that a person would have no issue having somebody else do in his/her stead while pleasure is a task that a person saves for him/herself. For example, while I do not translate on Saturday, I do write posts because I enjoy, even relish, the process of writing. Thus, on Shabbat, I do what pleases me, which happens to include writing posts. Therefore, for the purpose of this article, work is any task that you would not choose to do on a day off.

[up and down graph]

While at the surface it would be logical to think that more hours lead to more income, at a certain stage, the returns not only diminish but also decline. The first sign of overwork is reduced productivity and increased errors. Over time, it requires longer time to produce the same quantity of work, accompanied by every increasing number of errors. Reasons for this decline include reduced patience and increased mental fatigue.  Fortunately, a nice evening out generally recharges the battery. If a person ignores this overload for too long, burnout begins to develop, often expressed in less enthusiasm to start the day or a reluctance to take on challenges. When the brain goes on strike, it becomes necessary to take a few days off. Complete denial of overwork can lead to mental and/or physical collapse. The cost is heavy as many writing in Mental Health Week posts noted. The financial loss from the complete inability to function is much heavier than any associated with a short break from work, not to mention the harm caused to the relations with family and friends. In short, overwork is a preventable issue that is ignored at one’s peril.

[international clocks]
The first element of proper work management is the length of the work day.
It is clear that the vast majority of entrepreneurs do not work from 9-5 or even 8-6. There are simply too many tasks to accomplish on most days. Freelancers working with customers with multiple time zones find themselves connected almost 24 hours a day. In practice, aside from being physically impossible over an extended time, such dedication to work turns a person into a robot, with no time or energy for family and friends. In order to balance the need for mental and physical health with the requirements of running of business, it is first necessary to identify and set hours for full business activity and those for monitoring communication. Specifically, as each person has individual peak times for thinking, such as early morning or late night, it is advisable to perform high concentration tasks during the most productive hours as much as circumstances allow. The freelancer should handle the lighter tasks in the tail periods. The actual length of the working day clearly varies by person as age and experience create different endurance capacity. I personally take a nap every day, allowing me to extend my work day to better cope with the time zone issues. As for responding to emails, it is perfectly legitimate not to respond to correspondence in the late evening as most people do not expect an immediate answer during those hours, with some exceptions. By limiting active working hours and allowing oneself not to respond, the freelancer gains several hours of downtime each day, a key for long-term health.

[Cat sitting in a bowl]
It should be clear that working seven days a week is not sustainable over a year. The problem is that special cases requiring us to work an entire week without a day off become the rule, not the exception. The only way for an independent entrepreneur to take a day off is to schedule it. The actual day of the week is not important but at least 24 hours without work is vital for sustainable work. For example, my wife and I have decided that we do not work from Friday night to Saturday night except in extreme circumstances. Our reason for keeping the Jewish Sabbath is not religious but instead practical as nobody in Israel or abroad expects us to work on Saturday, meaning we do not generally receive requests, thus facilitating our decision. I also do not work on Sunday nights as I watch US football and baseball but, again, it is easy to take Sunday night off as the whole world is recovering from the weekend. In practice, all that a freelancer needs to do to have regular days off is make a firm decision, which is admittedly easier said than done. However, insistence on at least one day of rest pays long-term dividends.

[stress attacks]
The last scheduling choice is the actual workload. Freelance business tends to be feast or famine, i.e., too much or too little. While the latter may not be healthy for the bank account, the former has the potential to harm the person. It is difficult, if not impossible, to define “too much work” as individual capacities and technological skill vary from person to person as does the effect of stress. Some people only perform at the best when they face a tight schedule. However, everyone does have a point beyond which the pressure created by the workload begins to create harmful physical and mental health. The key is to identify that point and be ready to schedule work in a manner that does avoid that point, even at the price of losing a project. I suffered from years from irregular heartbeat, which was aggravated by stress. One benefit was that it taught me to listen for the signs of stress and schedule work in such a manner that I feel confident in my ability to meet the deadline without killing myself. If a potential project creates uncomfortable stress, I state a deadline that fits my needs even at the risk of losing the project as my health is more important any specific project. Daily work scheduling is not a science but instead the art of managing the possible.

The results of overwork are financially, physically and emotionally disastrous. Entrepreneurs, especially, freelancers, should schedule the work day, work week and work load in such a manner that the they can sustain the pace and enjoy the money they earn. After all, money is a means for a goal, not the goal itself.

* Captions allow the blind to fully access the Internet.

All pictures from Pixabay.

A spotlight on English to Hebrew legal translation – an interview with Adv. Yael Segal
Sun, 17 Oct 2021 07:20:00 +0000


It is often illuminating to get an opposite perspective on any matter. As I translate from Hebrew to English, I was curious to know it looked from the other side. I posed several questions relevant to translation and learning translation to Adv. Yael Segal, an experienced English to Hebrew legal translator as well as teacher of translation. In terms of background, she studied law and psychology in Tel Aviv University, interned in Shibboleth law firm, was admitted to the Israeli Bar in 2011 and has been translating ever since.  She teaches legal translation in Beit Berl College and Versio Academy. She lives in Herzliya with her partner and 3 boys.

1.  What would you consider a proper background to be a legal translator into Hebrew (aside from a law degree)?

I think that anybody can be a legal translator. I even teach it (at Beit Berl) for that reason. Legal language appears daunting but once you learn how to recognize it, it no longer seems impossible. Some students break through that barrier as early as the second lesson. However, it should be noted it requires serious investment, especially to those that do not have any legal background (which is not limited to a law degree and may be attained in other ways). Ultimately, I learned legal translation as I learned English: I simply read a tremendous amount. In my opinion, a person that wants to enter this field and has the analytic ability will succeed.

2.  What are some specific challenges translating English to Hebrew legal material?


First and foremost - terminology. There are many words in English without an equivalent in Hebrew or whose equivalent terms is not exactly the same. For example, think about how many words there are in English to say lien or mortgage. In Hebrew there are barely two words, שעבוד [sha’avud] and משכון [mishkun]. I would love to meet an Israeli attorney that could tell the difference between them. Another related challenge is the difference in the legal systems. An equivalent concept does not always exist. Furthermore, Hebrew has no capital letters and thus cannot emphasize terms using them. Sometimes it in necessary to find creative solutions.


3. What are some mistakes that distinguish a poor legal translator from a proficient one?


In general, bad translators produce a text that I cannot understand despite my significant experience reading legal material. They stick too closely to the English text, ignoring the actual meaning. Although the material is legal, it is sometimes necessary to change a word or two to render the material readable. Many attorneys think that English syntax creates a higher register. For example, they write In Hebrew that “the document will be signed by the company.” I do not agree. As I see it, the Hebrew should read: “the company will sign the document.”


Furthermore, there are translators that believe that it is possible to find everything in the dictionary and simply translate the word without understanding the legal terminology. As a result, we see jewels like “capitalized terms” translated into Hebrew literally as “conditions involving capital”, תנאים מהוונים [tnaim mehuvanim], instead of defined terms מונחים מוגדרים [munachim mugdarim] or “prejudice” into the Hebrew prejudgment דעה קדומה [deya kduma] instead of the Hebrew word for damage, נזק [nezeq].


4.  In regards to the issue of agencies vs end clients, which do you prefer and why?

I have no preference. Agencies pay well, have your back if there are problems with the customers, treat me nicely and provide me with interesting material just as do private customers, who pay well, treat me nice and provide me with interesting material. I will not work with an agency that is not appropriate for me nor will I work with such a customer. I have no problem giving an agency a percentage of my charge as an agency fee if it is worthwhile for me.

5.  What advice would you give a customer seeking translation of legal document into Hebrew?


Ask for a sample, paid or free. Choose on the base of recommendations, not the lowest price. Provide translators with as much background as possible. If there is specific terminology, let them know in advance. Finally, of course, pay on time.

Taking into her broad background, specifically law practice, translation and teaching, her answers emphasize that legal translators require thorough understanding of both law and language. The attainment of these skills requires significant investment of time. This point is vital importance to prospective and current translators as well as purchasers of legal translation. I wish to thank Yael (Ygoraly@gmail.com) for shining light on this specialization and wish her and future English-Hebrew translators success.

Always label to picture to allow the blind full access.

Picture: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/clker-free-vector-images-3736/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=303864">Clker-Free-Vector-Images</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=303864">Pixabay</a>

Relatively rude – International communication
Sun, 10 Oct 2021 06:07:00 +0000

[Tower of Babel*]

The world may be becoming a global village but each of us has our own native language and culture. This tower of Babel, now just as then, creates infinite possibilities for misunderstanding, especially when negative emotions are expressed. For example, the line between acceptable annoyance and unacceptable anger is cultural and subject to interpretation. The manner in which people express these feelings vary by culture and even subculture, a factor to be taken into account when interpreting communication, especially written, and sending messages.

Each culture, however defined, has created its norms for the acceptable manner of expressing dissatisfaction beyond which the message is considered too angry and personal for business communication. Two factors in this framing are directness and registry. The Mediterranean and China are known for their direct approach in terms of syntax. “You have not paid me” is not considered rude but a fact, however unpleasant. Other regions insist on a more indirect, objective approach that would be laughed at by direct cultures. “I have no record of payment” sounds much less accusatory and more professional than the direct accusation to an American or Brit even though the message is the same. Not every country appreciates straight-to-the-point communication

Register also is a factor. For example, the form of the second person pronoun or lack thereof is part of the message. For example, the choice of the informal you (e.g., tu in French and du in German) would create a very negative reaction as compared to the vous and Sie, respectively. Likewise, Japanese business culture requires frequent use of honorific particles. The use of titles such as Mr. or Mrs. is obligatory in many cultures but even insulting in other ones. For example, in Israel, women under the age of 60 do not appreciate being referred to as “Mrs. So and So” as it that implies she is old. On the other hand, I sort of enjoy being called Mr. Rifkind in the United States even if I subconsciously look if my late father is near me as it means that I am receiving respect. In written communication, this formality is expressed in the closing. For instance, proper English letters should end in yours truly, yours sincerely or respectfully yours regardless how untruthful, insincere or disrespectful the letter is. Similarly, all formal French letter end in “Veuillez agréer l'expression de mes sentiments distingués”, be assured of the expression of my distinguished sentiments in English, even if the writer is threatening to send the receiver of the letter to jail. Noblesse oblige. As long as the rules of syntax and formality are followed, the message can sometimes avoid being rude but merely be highly unpleasant.

For the receiver of emails and memos from other culture, this variety of approaches means careful consideration of the form as well as the message in order to ascertain the actual emotional subcontext. For example, the sentence “I found many errors in your work” implies varying degrees of dissatisfaction. If an Israel or Spaniard writes this, it is probable that the receiving party will have an opportunity to re-establish trust. By contrast, this same line from an English or German would probably mean the end of the business relationship. On the other end of the scale, the sentence “we would appreciate delivery in the near future” coming from a UK agency is not a polite request but an order. It is an error to base interpretation of the message on the culture of the receiver as that of the sender is the determining factor.

It should be noted that most users (including writers) of English worldwide have a different native language, meaning they did not grow up in an Anglo-Saxon country. Their level of mastery of English and awareness of culture differences thus varies greatly. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the name of a person provides no clue to where they were born. Just because the first or last name may “sound” Spanish or Asian, for example, does not have any significance of their mastery of a language or cultural norms. As a result of this linguistic shuffling of the cards, it is a good policy to allow for cultural confusion in interpreting communication. In practice, the person writing the message may have no idea that their form of expression is rude. The worldwide village demands some tolerance to operate properly.

As for creating communication, business people must attempt to take into consideration the cultural background of the receiving party, if possible. The purpose of communication is to attain a goal, which generally does not include insulting the person or getting them angry. Therefore, it is advisable to apply some indirectness where appropriate, i.e., discuss facts, not personal intentions. For example, I would appreciate payment within seven daysworks much better than Pay me within seven days, especially if a hefty arrears interest is then mentioned. The message gets across. Likewise, it is important to always begin correspondence with a proper salutation and closing and maintain language-appropriate formality. The French are genius at polite nastiness. Let your words attain your goal without interference from your form. When in doubt, consult with an expert. Clear communication is a key for solid results.

Doing business worldwide not only requires language skills but also cultural awareness. Faced with the need to communicate effectively with someone on the other side of the world, geographically or culturally, business people struggle to express what they mean and understandably so. After all, “Isn’t that rude?” is in fact a very complicated and important question.

* Always label your pictures to allow the blind access to your posts.

Pictures: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/gdj-1086657/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=5771062">Gordon Johnson</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=5771062">Pixabay</a>

All encompassing – translation and translators
Sun, 03 Oct 2021 06:15:00 +0000


[Unity puzzle*]

I had the privilege of participating as both a presenter and attendee in two online Translation Day conferences this week, specifically the three-day KTLC Conference in Poland and the Proz.com two-day International TranslatorsDay 2021. Aside from being well-organized and highly informative, they presented quite a panoramic picture of the present and future of the language industry. The most striking image was how inclusive the industry is today in terms of the variety of roles available, the people involved and the actual importance of translation. These conferences left me with a sense of how broad the terms translation and translator can be.

[Rubik's cube]
First, the task of a translator is not necessarily limited to transferring the meaning of text from one language to another. For example, in a panel discussion in the Proz.com event, Marina Ilari, Kate Edwards, Belén Agullóand Yuhei Nasu provided concrete examples how they have guided game companies in adjusting content in game content and script to create seamless international distribution. Gabriel Karandysovsky (KTLC) discussed the importance of listening to buyers when localizing content.  Nina Sattler-Hovda (Proz) provided a detailed explanation of the process and future of transcreation. Translators can even act as marketers as Isabella Nanni demonstrated in her presentation (Proz). Thus, the translation industry provides concrete opportunities for people with many types of talent and background.

[Multicolored toys]
More striking than the specific roles, it was eye-opening and encouraging to see how diverse the translator community is. The experts in all of the panel discussions I viewed were entirely or mainly women, each with decades of experience and confident in their skill. Two Africans, Osman Abdullahi and Dachiny Ewekengha (Proz), presented the story of their entry into the profession. In terms of age, the presenters reflected the entire spectrum, showing that the translation business is relatively free from ageism. Furthermore, these conferences provided more than enough information and tips to allow a complete novice to build a successful career. Many lecturers, including Andrzej Homańczyk and Zofia Owczarek from Kontekst Translations (KTLC), showed how it is possible to create and develop lucrative specializations. The translation industry truly is an equal opportunity employer.

[Opened lock]

Beyond the what and who, some presenters exposed the inspiring world of the why. Translation is not merely the technical representation of content. It also opens the world to the disadvantaged. Sabina Jasinska (KTLC) exposed the importance of means of Internet access to the disabled, temporarily and permanent. M. Paula Jacinto (Proz) discussed gender pronoun use and its importance, a highly debated issue worldwide today. My contribution was to highlight the importance and manner of translating legal language such that vast majority of the population can understand the contracts they sign. The message that these and other speakers reinforce is that proper translation matters and affects millions of people.

I regret that I was not able to mention or even attend many of the lectures that were presented. However, I completed this marathon with the strong belief that the language business is much more diverse in tasks, skills, people and social roles than it has ever been before. Anybody with a love of language, skill in a relevant area, a willingness to learn and a desire to make the world better can make it a career. Translation as an industry is truly encompassing.

* All pictures from Pixabay.

Short but not simple – translating abbreviations
Sun, 26 Sep 2021 06:17:00 +0000


[Mining a peanut*]

Seemingly obvious, deciding how to translate abbreviations tests the mettle of technical translators. It is not an accident that agency translation tests often include at least one abbreviation to see how the candidate deals with it. The reason is that a few consecutive capital letters require the translator to apply editorial discretion, technical knowledge and linguistic skill to properly translate the term.

The first issue is whether to translate the term at all, a decision often based on the target audience and language. When the known target audience is both familiar with and uses the source-language abbreviation, generally English, it is possible to legitimately retain the original term. For example, a group of doctors or radiologists are expected to know what a PET scan is while IT experts should know what BIOS stands for. However, the existence of a known, acceptable alternative provides a basis for translating terms especially when the target audience would also be familiar with that. The English VAT (value added tax) would be understandable in France but is referred to TVA in that country. Likewise, the VFT, also known at a bullet train, is a TGV (train grande vitessse) in French.  The name of organizations in English, as compared to the language of the country, is not always obvioius as certain countries are infamous for the tendency of their national institutions not to choose an official name in English, leaving the translator with the choice of unofficial translation. Thus, the first decision of a translator facing an abbreviation is consider whether it requires translation at all.

If the answer is positive, it is vital to understand the meaning in the context to avoid creating a major translation error in breaking down the term. In many cases, a given abbreviation may have multiple possibilities, even in the same general field. For example, the term PCR has become quite famous this recent year and could stand for polymerase chain reaction but also can mean plasma clearance testin other contexts. Likewise, BPM can mean, among others, beats per minuteor breaths per minute. An ounce of caution, i.e., research, prevents a pound of upset customers, or worse. The rule is to thoroughly check if you are not 100% sure since translators are not paid to assume. As in most language matters, context is the key and must be considered.**

After the translator identifies the right term, grammar and syntax enter the equation. First, avoid redundancies created from the existence of the term in the abbreviation. For example, it would be improper to place the word systemafter ABS as the “S” stands for system. Likewise, if a translator chose to use the American ATM, it would be redundant to refer to it as an ATM machine in the non-English target language for a similar reason. Another issue is gender as most languages, but not English, reflects gender in nouns, adjectives and sometimes even verbs. For example, in Hebrew, machine, medicine and test are all feminine, affecting the grammar of the entire sentence. By contrast, English has only natural grammar, meaning only biological males and females will be referred to as he and she with everything else an it. In short, the translation also has to sound correct.

It is quite surprising how long it can take to properly translate a term of three or four letters. The decision to translate, the identification of the term and its correct form can require more than a few minutes for each term. However, this attention to detail is what defines professional translators. Every letter counts.

* Use picture captions to help the blind access the Internet

** Examples provided by Tzviya Levin Rifkind in her medical translation course.

Picture credit: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/pixel2013-2364555/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=1745718">S. Hermann &amp; F. Richter</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=1745718">Pixabay</a>

The price is right – setting rates on certificate translations
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 05:51:00 +0000


A significant part of my work volume is translating certificates of all kinds, from the simplest, college degrees, to the most complex, government tax forms. While it is quite common and accepted, if not ideal, to price documents by word count, this method does not reflect the actual work involved. Instead, it is advisable to price each certificate in a rational way using a base adjusted by its specific factors. It is also my experience is certificate translation is profitable both in the short and long term.

Certificates vary in the number of the number of words but more importantly in terms of formatting complexity, vocabulary and clarity. Clearly, some official documents are very short, such as drivers’ licenses, while others extend to many pages, such as bank statements. However, if time is money, formatting runs up the meter. A water bill of two pages can take 2-3 hours to recreate merely because of the formatting. To the best of my experience, automated PDF converters do not provide a professional result, leaving it up the translator to do the ant work, at least the first time. Furthermore, in some cases, the language used in the document is quite specific and must be, correspondingly, very accurate. Insurance and tax documents use terms whose translation require checking to ensure accuracy. This search takes time. Often, the quality of the PDF is poor, with no better copy available. Even worse, handwritten text can be quite difficult to decipher, requiring time and concentration, if not consultation. Thus, all certificates of the same number of words are not created equal.

I suggest setting a base rate for one page which reflects a set time and the economic reality. This base rate should represent what the translator wants to earn per hour, which of course depends on the cost of living and financial circumstances, among other factors. Translators also need to consider supply and demand. It is not difficult to ascertain the range of rates for the translation of a marriage or death certificate, rather standard documents. The rate should lie within this range, preferable towards the upper half. This number may vary depending on whether the ordering party is an agency or an end customer and the country of purchase. With this number, it is possible to assess the basic rate for each certificate.

At this point, the actual rate can be set by adjusting it upwards or downwards as required. Premium elements include rush jobs, difficult formatting, poor quality of the original, multiple pages and your expected level of distaste/boredom in doing the work. QA and accounting time should also be included. Discounting factors include short texts, simple language, customer budgets, quasi pro-bono situations, one-time discounts and established relations with customers. Furthermore, if there are more than one document of a similar type but with different numbers in the package, e.g., salary slips from several months, it is possible to reflect that repetition in lower rates for the additional documents. Note that having a template of the document from a previous translation is not relevant to the equation. When the plumber comes and fixes the problem in 10 minutes, he still charges for a full visit and correctly so as you pay for his experience.  As each document is treated individually, the sum total of the rates should reflect the total number of hours you expect to invest multiplied by your hourly rate. I often add a “surprise factor” to allow for unpleasant discoveries. The factor should not be so high as to distort the quote but enough to allow me not to get upset if the translation takes more time than I expected. The final amount is your quote, which, in the case of single documents, almost all customers find affordable.

I profit in the short term both emotionally and financially. When larger projects are lacking, it is reassuring to receive short translations to fill the time and create a feeling of working even if they will not pay any serious bills. More importantly, the actual per-hour rate for certificates can be amazingly high. In simple words, my profit is my expertise. The difference between the theoretical time required to translate the document from scratch and the actual time is often night and day, leading to healthy hourly rates with little stress. Of course, the first time I translate a new form can take a long time but this investment bears fruits in the future. Given the constant demand for certificate translation, I am generally quite busy with a good profit rate.

In the long term, certificate translation is the key for gaining the trust of customers and receiving more financially meaningful projects such as contracts and long documents. Viewing the translator-customer relation as potentially long term, it makes no difference if the first project only pays for today’s lunch or dinner. It is quite possible that in the near or far future the same customer will need a major translation. Having previously proven your quality and reliability, you have a significant advantage over potential competitors. In practice, trust is as important as rates, if not more. Furthermore, these small jobs often lead to referrals to other customers, creating a whole network of contacts, all from a small certificate translation. Thus, certificate translation is part of my long-term translation marketing strategy.

Certificate translation is a profitable niche on condition that the rates reflect actual reality. The price, seemingly insignificant, is right both in the short and long term, especially if you can use it to get to what is behind the window in the next round.

* Blind people need captions to fully access the Internet. Picture credit: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/mermyhh-48700/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=263731">Sabine Lange</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=263731">Pixabay</a>

Heart-felt words, more or less
Sun, 12 Sep 2021 06:28:00 +0000


[Hammer and nails*]

Emotions have nuances that must be expressed in some manner by language. Of course, every language has its own strategy for distinguishing levels of attachment, including using completely different words or merely adding describers.  Examples of such important distinctions involve residence, approval and joy, which are reflected in different ways in English, French, Hebrew and Russian.

[Urban houses]
In English, there is a vital difference between house and home. The former is a building, generally not attached to other residences. It can be bought, surveyed, destroyed and repaired, to name a few actions, with very little emotional cost. By contrast, the latter is where, as Pliny said, the heart is. What matters is not the physical characteristics of the residence – it could be an isolated house or a flat in a 24-story building - but instead the memories people have of it. In practical terms, after people leave their childhood home, they look for a house that can become a home. Thus, English uses two different words. French has a word for both meanings, which can be understood by context, maison, but can use a preposition, chez, combined with a name to reinforce the attachment. For example, the English expression “there is no place like home” would be “on n'est vraiment bien que chez soi”. The Hebrew word for home בית [biet] covers both elements but becomes much more emotional in its locative form הביתה [habeita]: אני הולך הביתה. [ani holech habeita] - I am going homeward literally. Russian is similar in that the nominative form дом [dome] applies to both with the locative form домой [domou], implying an emotional attachment. Of course, adding a possessive adjective such as my, his or her before the word for housecreates the attachment of the basic word home. Not all houses are homes.

[Loving fingers]
As anybody that has been disappointed in their search for a partner knows, like and love are not identical even if they both technically express a positive opinion. The latter is much more passionate and intense. For example, almost everybody likes chocolate but far fewer truly love it. Again, English, rich in vocabulary, distinguishes them by using two different words making it easy to understand. Russian also distinguishes the mellow from the passionate using two words нравиться [nravitza] and любить[lyubitz]. Likewise, Hebrew uses the rather lengthy מוצא חן בעיניי[moze chen be’aini] or shorter חובב [hovev] to say “I like”, with אוהב [ohev] generally but not always expressing love. The French has the generic and ambiguous verb aimerbut can distinguish the lessor form by adding the adverb “bien” as in “j’aime bien le champagne”, which implies that the person won’t refuse to drink the bubbly but won’t buy an expensive bottle at an auction. It is clear that liking is not very romantic.

[Old woman smiling]
Happiness is not so simple either. There is the joy of receiving a wonderful gift but there is a less intensive but longer-lasting pleasure of having made the right career choice even if not every day is a joy. In short, some happiness is momentary while other is much more rooted. English is forced to use a French root to clearly express the second meaning, specifically content, as in “he has never been so content with his life”. French and Hebrew have separate words, content and heureux and שמח [sameah] and מאושר [meushar], respectively. Likewise, Russian has счастливый [schazlivi] and доволен [dovolen], although the difference is often contextual. Happiness, like beauty, can be for a night or constant, if not eternal.

The most difficult and often most important words to translate involve emotions. Some languages use different words to distinguish levels while others merely modify the basic term. Whatever the case, understanding the hidden text is both vital and quite interesting, at least to translators. They need to express their heart, linguistically that is.

* Use picture captions to help the blind. All pictures via the Pixabay site.

Stretching the law – Applying old law to modern realities
Sun, 05 Sep 2021 06:05:00 +0000

[Tortoise and hare*]

Reality and law are a bit like the hare and the tortoise. While the former advances at breakneck speed, the other crawls forward at its own pace, seemingly oblivious to time. The intersection of new reality and antiquated law often requires courts to apply great creativity in applying statutes whether in terms of scope or extension.

A curious example was the case of the woman recently sentenced to one year in jail and ordered to pay 30,000 USD in restitution for entering a store in March of 2021 and intentionally coughing, spitting on merchandise and yelling that she had the Corona virus and people were going to die. She was drunk at the time and later regretted the incident but these are sensitive times. See here for more details. The interesting aspect of this case was that she was convicted of making bomb threats, a felony. I suppose the charge of endangering public health would have also applied but probably carried a lesser punishment. Given the fact that until now only governments had been involved in biological weapons, it is not surprising that no statute specific for intentional disease spreading. I would have to agree that telling people that they would die of Corona is a quite a bomb threat.

An older threat is the Nigerian scam, which involves informing people by email that they have been awarded money in order to get them to reveal their bank details. It is not an accident that that these scammers are generally not physically located in the United States. The Mail Fraud Statute dates from the late 19th century while the US Government enacted the Wire Fraud statue in the 1950's, both quite a while before the Internet and email. However, they are written quite broadly. They require the use of mail or wire communication, the intent to defraud and material deception. (For more details see here.) The courts have found it quite easy to extend its provisions to email crime. After all, the only difference is the letter e. US law is often written quite loosely in order to cope with future changes and avoid the continuous need to amend laws.

A more complicated challenge arises when the law is specific but the structural reality has changed. For example, when the US Constitution was finally ratified with all its amendments in 1790, the British and, consequently,US, legal system consisted of two parallel systems applying common law and equity, respectively. In overly simple terms the former could decree punishment while the latter could issue injunctions. The 6th amendment to the US Constitution guarantees the right to a jury trial for the former but not the latter. Two changes occurred: the US and UK  merged these courts; and new modern crimes emerged. For example, when the SEC was formed to regulate the stock market in 1934, it had the power to prosecute financial crimes and demand both fines and injunctions. The issue of whether the defendant is entitled to a jury trial has kept the US courts of appeal quite busy. For example, in 2016, a Ninth Circuit Court opinion, in the case of U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission v. Jensen, following precedence, transposed the distinction to modern times and ruled that when a legal remedy (civil fines) is involved, the right to a jury trial is relevant. See here for more details. In other words, they acted as if the trial had occurred in 1790. There are several other areas of law where US judges act on the same basis.

So, while watching the speedy rabbit of reality may be fascinating in its own way, observing the plodding legal system cope with reality is no less captivating, albeit frustrating at time. I assume that other legal systems face the same problem and cope with it in their own way. Law truly stretches the mind.

* Add captions to picture help the blind access the Internet. Picture credit: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/stephenwheeler-23068626/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=6570775">StephenWheeler</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=6570775">Pixabay</a>

Driving culture
Sun, 29 Aug 2021 05:59:00 +0000

[Man behind the wheel*]

It is said that our first 18 years have a lifetime impact. Our childhood affects the foods we enjoy, our approaches to life, the way we raise our children and even our career choices, to name a few. Granted, each of us over time accepts or rejects this heritage at any given time but it is present and impacts our life one way or another.

I recently became aware that it also influences how we drive. Simply put, I am a much better driver in the United States than in Israel. By better, I mean more natural and relaxed. In the United States, I sense the kind of stupidity to expect from the drivers around me. I know the expected pattern of speeding up and slowing down (except on Sunday when the “Sunday drivers” come out). I am confident in my ability to identify early and react to any situation. As a result, I am relaxed when I drive in the United States, especially on the West Coast, and find the driving experience neutral, i.e., neither pleasant nor unpleasant. By contrast, in Israel, I actively monitor all cars around me, expecting them to try to risk their life to reach the same red light 30 seconds before me. I am rarely disappointed. Although I still often sense what a given driver will do, I am less confident and more stressed. For me, a 45 minutes’ drive in Israel is not fun, to put it mildly.

Logically, that should not be so as I have driven in Israel for many more years than I did in the United States. I drove in the States for some 12 years regularly, getting my driver’s license at the age of 17 until I immigrated at the age of 28. Adding annuals trips over many years, I have driven on US roads for some 15 years at most. By contrast, I have lived in Israel some 32+ years, driving on a regular basis for a good part of that period. I am quite familiar with the roads and the drivers. They should be second-nature.

Of course, driving in the Mediterranean is Mediterranean is highly entertaining, at least for those that enjoy action. Whether in Spain, Italy, Tunisia or Israel, Mediterranean drivers own the road, literally. Other drivers are mere trespassers and really should not be there. Not only that, as elsewhere, phone calls and personal arguments are of greater priority than keeping with the flow. Still, the traffic flow around this middle sea does have a specific tempo that can be learned.

Clearly, high temperatures affect driver attitudes but only so much. As the mercury goes up, driver patience tends to go down and tempers rise. It does not take much to begin an argument between two drivers here. A sudden stop will suffice to create some interesting street action. The fact that all cars in Israel have had air conditioning since 1995 has not significantly mitigated the slaughter on the roads based on the annual numbers. Not only that, drivers from many other countries also suffer from high temperatures but still exhibit patience. The weather itself does not explain the difference.

It is possible that my driving culture was formed not only by actually time behind the wheel but in the surrounding seats. For some 16 years, I watched my parents and other people drive and the interaction between them. In a passive but embedding way, I “learned” how to drive, which I applied when I became an adult. As I came here at the age of 28, I did not receive that education. Thus, my comprehension of Israeli drivers is not instinctive. On the other hand, it may be just me. Other immigrants may have gone native with no problem. I confess to have done no research on this subject.

So, in my opinion, driving patterns are a cultural phenomenon. They are affected, as in all such matters, by both childhood and later life experience. I strongly affect that the former has more of an influence than people suspect.

* Caption pictures to help the blind access the Internet. Picture credit: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/photos/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=1149997">Free-Photos</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=1149997">Pixabay</a>

Presence – the sign of a teacher
Sun, 22 Aug 2021 06:30:00 +0000

[Man with serious look*]

As part of the tenured staff of the English department at the Braude College of Engineering in Karmiel, Israel for almost 30 years, I have observed scores of lessons given by prospective teachers as part of the selection process of new teachers. The nature and quality of the lessons have varied as has the background of the candidates. I can say that my main criteria for recommendation are pedagogical order and, much more importantly, teacher presence.

Clearly, experienced teachers are expected to know how to organize a lesson in accordance with the goals of the lesson and levels of the students. Most prospective teachers focus on a text or specific words from it and demonstrate how they would teach them. In many cases, their teaching technique hits all the bases and demonstrates great creativity. If they can do this, they have shown that they are pedagogically knowledgeable.

However, I personally do not find this skill decisive in its own right. First, as physicists know, the presence of an observer distorts the results. The vast majority of teachers, knowing in advance that they will be observed, can prepare an organized lesson to one degree or another. As a result, the demonstration lesson is less than a perfect representation of the teacher’s ability. Secondly, in our case, the material presented is more often than not irrelevant to our needs. Specifically, while most English departments in Israel primarily still teach reading comprehension and vocabulary to a heterogenous population of students, whether at the high school or college level, our college applies the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference, don’t ask) guidelines for English skills involving four skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening), which is famous for nomenclature for English proficiency level from A1 (absolute beginner) to C2 (almost native). In other words, we actually do not spend much time on reading texts and teaching vocabulary because our students generally do not require much reinforcement in those areas as compared to the other skills. Moreover, our students are all engineering students, which means that that they are successful, intelligent students, albeit often with substandard language skills, i.e., not a heterogenous population. Finally, the theory and reality of pedagogy clash in the real (or zoom) classroom. Specifically, we have 13 weeks, 52 hours, to get the students to a B1 or B2 level in all four skills from an A2 level at most. It strictly limits the time spent on any single activity and, consequently, the time available for any specific teaching sequence. Therefore, however technically proficient a teacher may be, it may be not enough.

The factor that determines my assessment is the elusive “teacher presence”. I would define it as the feeling created that the teacher is in control of the material, the lesson and the learning situation. In other words, there is no vacuum in the classroom. It does not mean shutting the students up or discouraging creativity but the sense that the teacher has identified and is striving to reach a worthy goal. There is no single style or form to this presence. Effective teachers can be male or female, petite or physically imposing, native or immigrants, frontal lecturers or facilitators, or controlling or free flowing. The key is that the educator creates an environment of clarity and security.

The challenge for assessing is not determining its existence but whether the type of presence is appropriate for the specific student audience. To explain, any student knows which teachers are “serious” and which can be manipulated. The difficulty in evaluating prospective teachers is deciding whether the specific style is appropriate to our student population. For example, highly effective elementary school teachers often cannot teach adults not only because of the difference in age but also in specific knowledge and experience of the students. Furthermore, in Israel, students come from widely varying cultures, from ultra-orthodox and Arab to democratic and home teaching. Consequently, their attitude to authority and self-expression as well as skills and knowledge background may vary significantly. An approach that is successful for one group may not work for another group. Finally, as the students are Israeli adults ranging from the ages of 18 to 30, while teachers may start the course with respect, they must earn it afterwards. Thus, a specific form of teacher presence may seem inappropriate for teaching adult engineering students.

At the end of each teacher interview, the coordinator asks for our opinion. Initially, there is a discussion of the teaching method applied. However, to twist the words from one of Cher’s songs, for me it is all in his (or her) presence.

* Captions are an important tool for Internet access for the blind. Picture credit: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/pexels-2286921/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=1283235">Pexels</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=1283235">Pixabay</a>

Customer Satisfaction – for people and by people
Sun, 15 Aug 2021 06:47:00 +0000

[Abraham Lincoln*]

Customer retention is one of the key goals of companies regardless of their size because it is much simpler and less expensive to keep a customer than it is to attract a new one. As a result, many corporations use rewards programs to encourage their existing base to continue to use their services. Unfortunately, many of these same companies forget that a prime motivator in customer loyalty is the level of confidence in the ability and willingness of the company to fix errors. A service provider that swiftly resolves issues is one step above any of its competitors. As I experienced on my recently-completed trip to Los Angeles, a company not only needs to have consumer-driven attitude but allow customers access to its personnel.

On this trip, unavoidably complicated by Covid, I required transportation, banking and medical testing purposes. The issues ranged from contacting representatives, sorting out confusion and receiving timely answers. The results ranged from absolutely atrocious to excellent with the key predictor being the ease of accessing a flesh-and-blood person. Where I was able to reach human beings, they easily resolved all issues while where no contact was possible, no solution was possible.

On the negative side, both Lyft and Uber use applications that do function well when all elements are in alignment but do not provide any access to a human operator when the application fails. In the former case, I was eventually able to “chat” online with a representative, who was able to explain why I needed to enter an additional credit card. In any case, the second time I tried to order a cab from their service, it was again unavailable. As for Uber, it somehow knew that I translated Russian and kept on sending me error messages in Russian, without any solutions or ways of contacting a representative. The medical testing lab situation was a greater disaster. I took a Covid test almost three full days before my flight via Walgreen’s pharmacy, which uses LabCorp to conduct the test. In practice, I had to postpone the flight because the results arrived four days after I provided the sample. What exasperated the situation was the fact that Walgreen had no knowledge of the results once it passed on the sample to the lab while LabCorp provided no contact phone number, only allowing email contact, to which it did not respond.  I was thus unable to attain any update. I felt like an insignificant number. All these negative experiences involve the complete lack of ability to reach a human representative.

By contrast, I had excellent interactions and results with those companies whose systems allowed for direct conversation. After making an appointment with Chase Bank, I managed to solve several complicated banking and credit issues that had seemed deadlocked in my long-distance conversations. When I called L.A. Cab, to my great surprise and their credit, I talked with a scheduler, who immediately told me when the cab would arrive. While the response staff of United Airlines is understaffed, as are many of the airlines, I was able to talk with representatives, both in person and via the telephone, and twice reschedule my flight at no extra cost. Finally, at LAX, the young staff of the Corona testing guided me through the complicated process (for people over 50) of signing up for the Covid test, with the negative result arriving in a few hours. Thanks to these people and the companies that allowed them to talk to the customers, I know that that I can count on them in the future.

The lesson to all service providers, great and small, is that while customers may or may not remember their loyalty bonuses, they never forget the treatment they received when they did request services. As omnipresent and omnipotent digital services may seem, most customers want and require human responses when problems occur. If a company provides them, they have won the heart of the customer. After all, as Abraham Lincoln probably would not say, good service is for and by people.

* Pictures labels are important to the blind. Picture credit: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/arttower-5337/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=55480">Brigitte makes custom works from your photos, thanks a lot</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=55480">Pixabay</a>

Teaching medical translation – an interview with Tzviya Levin Rifkind
Tue, 27 Jul 2021 07:29:00 +0000

[Zoom teaching*]

It is an honor but also a challenge to be given the opportunity to teach your skills to others. Tzviya Levin Rifkind, my wife, has just completed teaching a 12-hour enrichment course on medical translation to students in the English-to-Hebrew translation track at Beit Berl College in Israel. Her answers to my questions reveal the skills required to be a professional translation as well as the unique aspects of medical translation.

*           *          *          *           *

What is your background in medical translation?

I worked as a nurse for many years and began translating 23 years ago to earn extra income. I discovered that my broad experience applying medicine gave me a great advantage in translating material on medicine. I have focused on that area ever since.

Which knowledge and skills did you teach the students?

Given that the students have no medical background, I began by defining the word medical, stressing how many domains include medical translation. I then explained some basic terms in medicine so as to gain familiarity with the subject and allow them to identify medical elements that may appear in any type of texts from prose to marketing. I then worked on how to relate to them and avoid common pitfalls when translating less familiar elements. More importantly, the students learned what to do when they are not certain, including seeking solutions and asking questions. I also discussed back translation and transcreation in brief.

How did the students apply this knowledge and practice these skills during the course?

In class exercises, the students actively participated in identifying and solving translation issues, first discussing among themselves in groups and then together as a class. The home tasks involved light or non-medical translation tasks that required them to analyze texts and find solutions for medical translation issues, thus developing not only their translating skills but also their thinking skills.

[Medical terms]

What did the students learn in regards to being a professional translator in general?

They learnt how vital it is read and understand all instructions. Furthermore, the students came to understand the importance of asking questions, whether of the client or any other source, when they are uncertain. The course also brought into focus how attention to details is one of the keys of proper translation. Finally, the students learned to not send work immediately but instead to allow time to conduct proper QA.

How did you find the experience of teaching translation as compared to actually translating?

As a nurse, patient and colleague education were integral parts of my job. Thus, I had experience transmitting knowledge and skills. Today, I often help in translation groups and even voluntarily invest time helping new translator one-on-one. So, teaching was not that different except for having the status of “teacher” with all the attached privileges and duties as well as the requirement to teach at a fixed time and place. I have to admit that teaching through Zoom was a new and challenging experience.

*           *          *          *           *

Also being an educator, I can attest that teaching is a form of learning, probably the most intense but also the most satisfying. Sharing knowledge and enriching others creates a great feeling of contribution while also, most curiously, broadening the perspective of teachers themselves. I am sure that both Tzviya and her students were enriched by this course.

* Captions provide the blind with full access to the Internet. Pictures from Pixabay.

Worthiness – Freelancers and Fraudulent Syndrome
Sun, 18 Jul 2021 07:13:00 +0000


[Skeleton soldier*]

You show up at a conference or participate in a Zoom meeting and strive to put your best foot forward and sound successful. However, not far below the surface, seemingly obvious to everybody else, you think to yourself – "What am I doing here? – Do I belong here? – These people are true professionals, not like me." These are classic symptoms of the fraudulent syndrome and are experienced by numerous professionals, especially freelancers, not only in the beginning of their career but for many years. I first had this feeling when I attended my first conference and only filed it away a few years ago. The impact of a sense of inadequacy is not only emotional but financial. Freelancers in particular market (some would say “sell”) themselves more than their services as the quality of the latter will only be known after the initial project is completed. Therefore, entrepreneurs must work through the challenge and change their self-value to from negative to positive if they want to build a proper customer base.

[Half-full cup of water]
The cup – half full or half empty

Low self-esteem is not the only trigger for a sense of inadequacy. In reality, in any given field, a professional will find colleagues that are better in one or more aspects. That statement is accurate at all stages of a career. Thus, people can only control how they view the situation. In my opinion, the following facts are true to one degree or another for 99% of all professionals:

1.       Many of my colleagues earn more money than me but many of them earn less money.

2.      Many of my colleagues can produce a higher quality product or service than me but many produce lower quality work.

3.      Many of my colleagues worry less about income than me but many worry much than me.

4.      Many of my colleagues have more experience than me but many have less.

5.      Many of my colleagues are more recognized than me but many are less.

In other words, the cup is half empty, give or take a few drops. Freelancers can choose to enjoy the success they have achieved and strive to add to it. The relatively greater success of others does not fundamentally detract from the achieved success nor does the size of the group with less achievements eliminate the need for continual improvement. If freelancers, including translators, focus on the liquid, not the air, they can feel pride in their work and, importantly, transmit that confidence when working with customers.

Fake it till you make it
[Happy and sad mask]

Clearly, the vast majority of entrepreneurs do not develop this confidence overnight. It is a continuing process, shorter or longer depending on the circumstances. First, it is natural, especially in the beginning stages of a career, to feel less qualified than your peers. On the other hand, generational differences create reverse inequalities. Younger professionals often have superior knowledge and skill in computers and marketing, for example. Thus, it is important to keep the negative comparisons in perspective. Furthermore, fortunately, people cannot read our thoughts. It is important to project confidence in your ability and skills, hard and soft, as colleagues have a tendency to accept your self-assessment until you prove otherwise. This projection, derogatorily referred to as faking, most curiously becomes natural over time and becomes ingrained. In other words, through achievement, growth and active reinforcement, the projection becomes a reality. Instead of pretending that they belong to a group, confident entrepreneurs “know” that they belong. The alternative, projecting negative skills and potential, does not create any growth. If freelancers work on the belief that they have been personally successful so far, the belief becomes a reality.

[Wily Coyote]

Everything in moderation (including moderation)

Clearly, confidence and arrogance are two different attitudes. The former is a realistic assessment of one’s actual and potential skills while the second is boasting beyond any sense of proportion. For example, when inexperienced translators that are born and raised in Israel state that they can translate doctoral theses from English into Hebrew because they have studied the field of the thesis, I have no problem believing them. However, if they insist that that they can translate into English like a native English speaker, I am very skeptical about the claim and person. Especially in the early stages of a career, do like Theodore Roosevelt suggested and speak softly but carry a bit stick as it is more effective approach. Wile E. Coyote, Genius is not an ideal marketing model.

Human beings are both worthy of respect and often troubled by doubts. Entrepreneurs, especially freelancers, must project the former and work on the latter. They not only can but must strive to overcome the sense of inadequacy and realize their worthiness as professionals in their own right.

* Caption pictures to allow the blind to fully access to the Internet. All pictures via Pixabay.

On advertising, marketing and freelancers
Sun, 11 Jul 2021 06:29:00 +0000

[Store marketing flow*]

Most freelancers find advertising and marketing a bit mysterious, confusing and/or disturbing in some way. For this reason, among others, they try to avoid investing in them on a regular basis. In practice, advertising and marketing are two different activities in terms of goal, method and measurement with marketing being a much more practical, effective and affordable for most entrepreneurs.

To explain, advertising is promoting short term sales. It involves exposing a product or service to a specific audience and encouraging immediate action. The customer motivation to buy may be limited time or supply or a notably low price. The promotion, whether in audio or visual form, emphasizes the product and the reason it is advisable to purchase now. Advertising generally involves a short-term, often high, cost. The business owner measures the results by comparing the estimated profit without advertising to the estimated profit attained through promotion, deducting the advertising expense. For example, if a new business advertises a grand opening, a successful advertising campaign would lead to a much larger showup to the event and an increased volume of sales on and around the opening. Likewise, if an established business advertises a product whose inventory it wishes to reduce or eliminate, it is possible to compare volume and profit before and during the campaign. Once the promotion is over, the seller returns to business as usual.

By contrast, marketing emphasizes brand over item. Specifically, it aims to create an identification between a service or product and the provider. As extreme examples, Google, McDonalds and Pampers each invest great effort in creating link between their name and their product, search engine, fast food and diapers, respectively. Marketing campaigns generally lack short term incentives to purchase, including low prices, but instead focus on a positive attribute of the product or company. A name-recognition effort can take on a variety of forms, including media adverts, sponsorship, signing, conferences and talking to your neighbors. The sky is the limit but many forms of marketing only involve investing time, not money. However, successful marketing does involve consistent effort as the fruits of marketing are invisible and slow and require multiple exposure. Simply put, it may take makes months or even years to financially profit from the effort even though the name recognition campaign is actually effective. Large companies can afford to conduct measuring surveys to ascertain the actual effectiveness. Most freelancers must have faith, a necessary attribute in all respects for a freelancer. Successful marketing requires long-term, directed action.

Advertising may be appropriate for some freelancers. For example, an accountant or translator specializing in tax form preparation and translation may try to reach companies and individuals in the first quarter of the year as the tax filing deadline creates a time incentive to purchase their service. Likewise, a recently established site designer or immigration document specialist may be willing to sacrifice short-term profit in order to build a portfolio and reputation. Service providers can reasonably provide large discounts if they are especially efficient in their work. Of course, those entrepreneurs finding themselves with no customers can choose to offer especially low prices choosing to prefer low profit to no income. The issue is trying to raise the prices to normal levels later but that is a long-term problem, a luxury for some people. Thus, for entrepreneurs with short-term goals, an advertising campaign may be worthwhile.

However, for most freelancers, including translators, marketing is the better option in terms of effectiveness and cost. Since most independent business people offer a product or service that is generally only occasionally required, the best method for incoming business is the create a connection between that service or product and the potential provider. To give an example, a customer contacted me this week for a French to English translation after her Masters advisor read a previous post of mine and labeled me as a potential provider of translation should occasion arise. Even more, marketing does not necessarily involve significant financial outlays. For example, business group zoom meetups and telling your hairdresser what your profession are free of charge as are posts in Facebook and other social media. One graphologist posted a simple business sign in her garden and regularly profited from opportunity clients. Marketing does require time to think, create and act. For better or worse, many freelancers had and have far too much free time in the last two years. Marketing is a way of converting that surplus into a future financial profit.

As a trigger to thinking about marketing, I would suggest considering the following questions:

1.       Do people in my local community know what I do?

2.      When I enter my name in Google search, do my profession and contact details appear?

3.      Have other people in my profession in my country and abroad, if relevant, heard of me?

4.      Have my potential customers ever heard of me?

If the answer to any of the questions is negative, it is time to actively think about marketing and then begin an ongoing effort to change the answer to positive. The results probably will not occur immediately. However, in an especially volatile market, all entrepreneurs must consider the question of where they want to be two years from now, keeping in mind that the failure to act is an action in itself. Despite their connotations and the lack of comfort they create for independents, advertising and, even more so, marketing are important options for all freelancers building a long-term future in their business.

* Picture captions open up the Internet to the blind.

Picture credit: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/megan_rexazin-6742250/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=4156934">Megan Rexazin</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=4156934">Pixabay</a>

Transformation by addition – The strange incident of French nouns that were mutated by an adjective
Sun, 04 Jul 2021 07:54:00 +0000


[Dog in moonlight*]

Meaning is contextual. In the case of words, the form, position and connected modifiers define their actual significance. As an example, a hot dog can refer to a panting canine  after a long walk in the heat but is a sausage when put in a bun. In some cases, an attached adjective affects a noun to the point of creating a meaning beyond the common, isolated sense of the words. French has several expressions that go beyond the inherent significance of the word.

[Coffee and croissant]
Very common adjectives can have this effect. The word droit means right, as in the direction, in French. However, tout droit, literally “all right”, means “straight”, also the physical direction. The difference is significant if you need to understand directions using the French version of the Waze application. Likewise, in France, a déjeuner is a lunch but a petit déjeuner is not a light lunch but instead breakfast. Given that traditionally lunch is the heavy meal in Paris, the choice of one or the other word affects food expectations. Another example is the term grande école, which is not a large school but instead one of the elite colleges preparing people for leadership positions in France. UC Berkeley, with some 70,000 students, is not a grande école but the École Normale Supérieure in Paris with 2300 students is. Literal translation can be deceiving.

For some reason, descriptions of women in French can be a bit obscure. For example, your beloved belle-mère, “mother-in-law” in English may not be so pretty. For that matter, your beau-père and belle-soeur, father-in-law and sister-in-law, respectively, are not always so good-looking either. The term femme forte can be used to describe your belle-mère if she is a matriarchal figure but generally is directed at any women that is noticeably overweight. Context and tact are quite important here. On a positive note, your belle-soeur may a sage-femme, which does not imply any great wisdom but merely that she is a midwife. Curiously, bonne femme food can also be prepared by not-so-good hearted women and even by men because it is simple, home-style cooking. The French language has many hidden linguistic minefields.

[3 fork roadsign]
When I tried to find similar phrases in Hebrew and English, two languages in which I have a good vocabulary, I was unable to identify any similar terms. It is possible that equivalent terms are escaping me at this moment. However, I strongly suspect the nature of the languages subtly affects its use of words. English has both an extensive vocabulary and tends to be direct and concrete, even labeling indirect terms somewhat derogatorily as euphemismsand politically correct. For example, any man that stated that he had an expanded forehead would be mocked for making an absurd attempt to avoid saying the word bald. By contrast, modern Hebrew, not biblical Hebrew, is a very young language with a relatively small lexicon, which means it has not had sufficient time for the meanings of words to evolve. The French are the exact opposite, relishing la belle phrase, the beautiful sentence, and willing to sacrifice directness and specificity for the sake of the aesthetics. It seems that the tendency in French is be obtuse creates the ideal environment for the development of abstract connections.

To paraphrase Dinah Washington, from these examples, we can see what a difference an adjective makes. In French at least, it can transform the meaning of its attached noun to the point that the connection becomes a true puzzler. On the bright side, what’s wrong with a good mystery?

* Picture captions expand the Internet to the blind. All images through Pixabay.

Law education, present, past and future – a personal tale
Sun, 27 Jun 2021 06:23:00 +0000

[Raspberries in different stages*]

I just successfully completed a semester course on contract drafting from the Concord Law School, an accredited online law institution. It had been more than 30 years since I completed my year of law studies at the University of Oregon and some 17 years since I began working as a legal translator. As a result of this course, I reinforced my opinions about learning and age, my previous career opinions and I best manner of legal writing.

In the spirit the well-known expression, education is somewhat wasted on the youth. I discovered that not only was I able to follow and keep up with complicated material at the “old” age of 60, I actually understood and absorbed it better than I did then. To clarify, my discovery was that my many years of experience translating contracts as well as the immediate need to apply my learning allowed me to achieve more learning. Far from age being a disadvantage, I not only still “have it” but am much a better law student today than I was then. For the record, my average on the course was 86 but the main satisfaction was proving to myself that I was still capable of formal learning.

The course also calmed any doubts I had had about my choice then to not continue law school. I completed the year not on probation. Those that went to law school will understand the significance of that. However, after 3 days, I already understood that I lacked any of the main motivations to become an attorney, specifically, the drive for money, fame or justice. The knowledge I gained from that year helped me greatly in my second career but I do not claim that I knew that at the time. Nothing in life is wasted, including seemingly irrelevant knowledge, but we do not know when we will need it. This course resurrected the mixed feeling of the love of legal theory and language and a lack of interest in actually working as an attorney. As I wrote in a previous post, intuition is generally correct.

Finally, the course material, both that previously known and that new to me, reinforced my belief that legal language in English, like all text in English, can and should be clear and accessible. Steven Erikson wrote that tradition was the last bastion of fools. Clearly, fools did not write legalese but there is no justification today for writing texts that only judges and attorneys can understand. Part of the course involved understanding and rewriting contracts and regulations in such a manner that not only simplified the language while retaining the content but also brought out inconsistencies and omissions in the original text, which had been long lost in the circuitous phasing. With this knowledge, I will confidently apply plain but correct language in my translations and strive to educate other translators that “garbage in, garbage out” is not an effective strategy either for the legal customer or translator. I now am fully certain that legalese can be understandable to lay people without losing precision.

Thus, with no homework this Saturday and feeling “free” just like any student after the end of the semester, I look back on my course on writing contracts with great satisfaction in regards to my understanding then and now. Furthermore, I intend to share my knowledge of the relevant techniques with others at any opportunity. Education is growth at any time of one’s life.

For those interested in more information on plain English in legal writing, I will be giving a 2-hour workshop at the Translation and Localization Conferenceat the end of September.

* Picture subtles help the blind access the Internet.

Picture credit: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/elstef-3091248/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=5298416">Elstef</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=5298416">Pixabay</a>

Second-cousin languages
Mon, 21 Jun 2021 06:58:00 +0000



All that glitters is not gold nor do any identical letters make for identical languages. The confusion is not between Spanish and Italian or German and Dutch, languages that evolved sufficiently long ago so as to be immediately distinguishable, but instead between languages that are directly related by history but have only recently (in historical terms) gone different ways.

One example is French from France as compared to that written in Quebec. Clearly, the letters and grammar are identical as are most of the words. However, a deeper analysis would identify some traps for the unsuspecting translator. On the one hand, Quebecois tends to more firmly insist on French roots as compared to English roots in business, e.g., réunion and planification instead of the free French use of meeting and planning. On the other hand, funny Americanisms, such a chien chaud for hot dog,do show up. On a lexical note, French-Canadian meanings can differ, including déjeunerand dîner are breakfast and lunch, respectively, in Quebec as compared to the Parisian petit déjeuner and déjeuner. For more information see https://www.technitrad.com/the-differences-between-french-and-canadian-french-when-translating-professional-documents/ Both customers and translators should confirm the source of the French text.

Hebrew and Yiddish share the same letters but have different vocabulary sources. Hebrew uses roots derived from Hebrew and Aramaic with some more recent English and Russian additions. On a humorous note, I just heard a music judge say “lejamjem”, meaning to have a jam session. By contrast, Yiddish is a localized combination of Hebrew, Russian, Polish and German roots, transliterated into Hebrew applying Yiddish grammar. It was the language that allowed Jews from all over Eastern Europe and Russia to communicate with each other. Clients see the Hebrew letters and assume that the text is in Hebrew. While a non-Yiddish speaker can understand some of the text, it is a language in itself.

My personal bugaboo is Ukrainian. I translate many certificates from Russian and occasionally don’t pay attention to the entire text when quoting. Only upon started the job do I discover that the months of the year are different. Curiously enough, the Ukrainians use a much older system of month names based on agriculture and plants, naming each month for that feature of it. For example, travyen means grass and is the equivalent of May while Syerpen means a sickle and is the equivalent to August.  For a beautiful presentation of the Ukrainian calendar see https://www.ukrainianlessons.com/months/.This is only one of the differences in these two separate languages but it is easy to catch and helps me avoid having to find a Ukrainian translator. Not all Cyrillic languages are created equally.

In the most perfect of worlds, translators would always read the entire document carefully before proposing a price and accepting a job. In reality, there are occasional lapses. As Bregalad the Ent would say, they are occasionally "hasty" and don’t properly check the source text to identify the actual language, creating a solvable but avoidable problem. On the bright side, it does make for a funny story.

* Picture captions allow the blind to access the Internet. 

Picture credit: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/thevirtualdenise-5804203/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=2491047">Denise Husted</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=2491047">Pixabay</a>

Yahrzeit – Thoughts one year after my father’s death
Sun, 13 Jun 2021 06:23:00 +0000


In Judaism, the one-year anniversary of person’s death is an important milestone, representing the end of bereavement and a time for contemplation. My father, Melvyn Spector Rifkind, died last year on June 14 (22 Sivan) at the age of 95 from complications from a stroke. Since then, through conversation and filed-away papers, I, his youngest son, have learned much both about him and myself. This deepening understanding of who he was has led me to a greater sense of thanks, appreciation and acceptance.

Thanks: I can thank my father for providing for us financially, instilling important values and preparing us to be adults. While he never achieved his dream financial goal, he made sure that neither my mother nor I and my brother will want of money. He was a brilliant investor to his last days, outperforming industry experts. Careful in his investments, he almost never fell in love with them and knew when to sell. Furthermore, he taught by example that we should work hard, honestly and ethically to advance ourselves and that the means are no less important the goal. Finally, he succeeded in one of the hardest tasks parents have: preparing their children to stand on their own feet. It is painfully ironic that the litmus test of effective parenting is no longer being needed. Children need to learn how to make our own decisions, learn from our errors and accept responsibility. For this education, I am grateful.

Appreciation: I have also learned to appreciate his achievements, modesty and wisdom. My father, like most of his generation, has a difficult childhood, having to deal with poverty, immigrant parents, and World War II.  He succeeded in becoming a journalist and later a top figure in financial public relations and began a new life in Los Angeles with almost no money in his pocket. He fought in the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge) and Metz, experiences that marked him for life. Yet, he never talked either about his difficulties or his successes. He exemplified that idea that rewards, whether financial or public recognition, are not the goal in life but instead tools to help create a good life for his family and the community. He generously gave to charity but quietly filed away the letters of gratitude he received. The world was not about him but our role in it. Finally, I have discovered how many of my attitudes came from him. He did not believe that people fundamentally change, a bit like Emile Zola, but accepted people as they were, warts and all. His few close friends were intelligent and generous. Without being rude, he chose not share his time with fools and buffoons. I fully understand and agree.

Acceptance: In this year, I have accepted his death and am happy that he died before corona would have completely isolated him from all that he loved. I also know that he was thoroughly familiar with the strengths and weakness of his sons. Our failure to meet his hopes at any given time may have saddened or angered him for a moment, but he moved on and continued to believe in us, never saying "I told you so". He did not try to change us but instead accentuatde the positive, as the song goes. I have strived to apply this approach when raising my own daughter. Being similar in nature, I saw many of his shortcoming even while he was alive and viewed them as an essential part of him. However, I now better understand their origin and their place. As Edith Piaf, there is nothing to be regretted.

 In English, the phrase for deceased people is “May they rest in peace” while in Hebrew it is “May their memory be blessed”. To my father, I can say that you can rest in peace because your memory is blessed.

Native disturbance – first language interference and Hebrew/English errors
Sun, 06 Jun 2021 07:35:00 +0000

[Two adjacent clocks with different times*]

As anybody that has lived a foreign language or spent significant time with foreigners can attest, the native language creates challenges in fully mastering a foreign language. These interference errors often seem to be more resolute than the ability and desire to stop making them.  In many cases, non-native speakers never succeed in removing these inappropriate borrowings. Having lived in Israel for 32 years (immigrating on this date in 1989) and taught English to Israelis for the same period, I have experienced and observed certain error patterns in my Hebrew and the English of my students. These errors include sounds, gender issues and syntax constructions. Some of them are less critical than others but definitely mark the origin of the speaker.

[Sound space network]

The sounds of the different language family groups vary, making it difficult for learners, especially adult ones, to pronounce or distinguish certain letters. For Americans and Brits in Israel, the most common confusion is between alef
א and ayin ע, which are pronounced [a] and [aa], respectively. Fortunately, most native Hebrew speakers tend to blur the difference, taking foreigners off the hook. On a more serious note are the Hebrew letters hay ה, het ח and chof כ,ף, with the first a soft h sound and the other two a guttural ch. The correct pronunciation distinguishes lah לה, meaning to her, from lach לך, to you. By contrast, Israelis struggle with distinguishing short and long vowels. For example, Israeli pronunciation of the word feet and sheet often more closely resembles fit and shit, which are neither homonyms nor synonyms. It is possible to train the mouth to properly pronounce these sounds but this improvement takes sustained effort.


Hebrew, being a Semitic language, makes gender/number agreement an essential aspect of its structure while English is limited to natural gender. This requirement for grammatical agreement leads to repeated errors by English speaking expats living in Israel. They sometimes simply forget to pay attention to the gender of the noun and randomly use the masculine or feminine form of the adjective and sometimes the verb, frequently immediately correcting it at the end of the sentence. The effect of such errors is a lack of aesthetics but fundamentally does not prevent understanding. More embarrassingly, the Hebrew word for you is different for men and women, whether in the singular in plural form, specifically אתה [ata] and אתם [atem] for men and את [at] and אתן [aten] for women. English speakers don’t always remember to think before speaking and use the wrong form. Sharing a house with women, I tend to use at even when I should use ata and end up sounding rather stupid. The 2nd person command form also has masculine and feminine forms, with the same result.  Native Hebrew speakers have an equally difficult time removing gender. They tend to forget that he and she only refer to a biological gender with everything else being it. As a result, a company becomes a shebecause it is a feminine noun in Hebrew while a house is a he. Certain nouns in Hebrew are plural, such as sky and water, are occasionally referred to as they by Hebrew speakers. It turns out that gender differences are also confusing in languages.

[parts of speech]

Every language has its own syntax but the difference between languages from different families can be rather significant. In Hebrew, prepositions, (e.g., on and in) are letters attached to words, with each word retaining its own preposition.  To demonstrate, in English, you can say, “I got tired of the noise and cars of the city” with the preposition of implicitly linked to the word cars. In Hebrew, you would have to add the preposition of (meh מ) to both nouns. Curiously, many otherwise knowledgeable expats are unaware of this fact. On a more practical level, when Brits literally translate their English construction of “It’s hot today”, זה חם היום [ze cham hayom], it is incorrect as Hebrew eschews the it isconstruction with the correct form being “hot today” חם היום [cham hayom]. By contrast, Israelis tend to err when using the connecting term for example in writing. While in formal Hebrew, it is correct to add a colon after the term and then write the examples, in English the rules of composition require a full sentence after it (as compared to the expressions such as and including). Temporal clauses are also traps for Israel as they tend to apply the Hebrew logic of putting the verb in the future. The result is “When I will arrive, I will call you,”, which no native English speaker would ever say.  Likewise, after modals, Israelis sometimes use the infinitive instead of the base form, e.g. The car can to break down anytime’ because Hebrew modals are followed by the infinitive. Thus, native language syntax does invade learned languages.

Clearly, the vast majority of language learners never reach completely native level of a foreign language partly because of first language interference. Some transference will always occur. However, most of these mistakes actually do not affect comprehension. Furthermore, native speakers are generally willing to forgive foreigners for these errors and focus on the positive. As in dealing with any type of disturbance, it helps to have a sense of humor regardless of your role, speaker or listener.

* Add picture capitons to help the blind access the Internet. Pictures via Pixabay.

A Guide for the Perplexed – Posing questions on professional translator forums
Sun, 30 May 2021 07:01:00 +0000

[The four children of Pesach*]

Professional forums are a vital resource connecting people  with questions to experts. In translation, they serve as an important tool in locating translators, ascertaining the translation of difficult terms and confirming specific translations. Unfortunately, due to phrasing issues, many posers of these legitimate queries only receive answers after a long series of follow-up questions if at all. For the forum poster that does not know how to ask, I propose some tips for improving the post in order to receive quick, relevant answers.

Both the posting party and translators are happy to see available jobs posted on forums but these notices often suffer from insufficient information regarding the language combination, subject area, length, deadline and purpose. Clearly, if the post mentions only one language, e.g., English, without clearly designated the source and target language, responders will keep on asking even if the same issue was clarified later in the comments. Interested translators also need to know the subject area as nobody is proficient in all matters. In terms of length, if the document is in Word, it is best to provide the word count specified on the bottom of the page. If the document is in PDF, an approximate count provided by any PDF converter is sufficient. Only if neither of these are available or the document is a standard official document should the number of pages be referenced only as the number of words on a page can greatly vary depending on the font and spacing. Providing the actual deadline saves time and energy for both the poster and translator as only those available for the task will respond. Finally, an additional element immediately appreciated by translator and later by customers is the actual purpose of the document, which influences the required level of expertise, time required and price proposal. A request for translation with all these elements generally receives timely and relevant responses.

Translators use these forums to receive suggestions for translating difficult terms or phrases. This practice is legitimate on condition that the posting translator protects confidentiality, provides sufficient context, exercises due diligence and applies moderation. As a standard procedure, most translation customers formally or informally insist on the confidentiality of their material. When providing the term or its context, it is vital to redact all identifying or commercially sensitive information from the text. While failing to do so generally does not result in legal action, it may create a highly unpleasant and avoidable situation. Of vital importance is the providing of the total context of the term, as much as possible, including the subject area, document type and accompanying text. Otherwise, those translators willing to help can only guess. Regarding due diligence, the inability to translate a specific term generally results from forgetting or not knowing. In the first case, professional translators should find a colleague with whom it is possible to pose “stupid” questions after conducting a proper Internet search. The use of a trusted, non-judgmental partner saves embarrassment and avoids creating a poor impression on the forum. As for those terms beyond a translator’s area of knowledge, translators are expected to invest some time and effort in a directed, thorough search as it is quite probable that a reliable answer is available online. In other words, a query to a forum should be the last, not the first option. Finally, forum help should not be a replacement for subject knowledge. If a translator posts a list of multiple terms, many of them basic to the field, the intuitive reaction is that the translator should not have taken on the translation, not a positive impression. In practice, the length of the document and difficulty of the terms will influence whether the request is exaggerated or not but, as Oscar Wilde said, moderation in all things, including moderation.

A third, quite legitimate use of translator forums is to confirm the choice of translation. All of the elements above apply here but the motivation and dialogue are different. To explain, professional translators ideally strive to be 100% certain of their choices, especially in regards to  key terms and phrases. In many cases, only subject  field experts have the knowledge to confirm the translation. The best approach is to provide the term, context and the proposed solution or solutions. Often no exact translation exists, only close approximates, which leads to interesting dialogues regarding the relative merits of each option. Since the poster seeks a definitive answer, responders should avoid posting educated guesses. Discretion is the better part of valor.

During the Passover sedar, Jews read about four types of Torah scholars: the wise, the wicked, the simple and the one that does not know how to ask questions. When posing questions in professional forums, including translation forums, people posing notices in a forum should aim to be the first, applying due diligence and providing all the required information so that they receive the effective and efficient enlightenment regarding their perplexing matter.

* Picture captions help the blind access the Internet. Picture from Boulder Jewish News.