Tip of the Tongue
Great expectations – Service provider- PM relations
Mon, 06 Dec 2021 07:17:00 +0000


[Two puzzle pieces*]

One of the most vital links in the LSP as well as other business processes is the relationship between the service provider, often a translator, and the project manager. When smooth, it leads to optimal efficiency but, when flawed, can create production delays and poor products. One cause of tension is the fact that translator and PM have only partial knowledge of the difficulties faced by the other party. Yet, in practice, they share the similar expectations of their colleague. Some 18 years of experience working with PMs and long-term relations with many of them have led to believe that the keys for a successful partnership are mutual respect for timeliness, insistence on meticulousness and faith in the good intentions of the other party.

The translation business, as most other businesses, is structured by deadlines. Clearly, customers expect the finished product by the agreed time. Also, as ISO and less official QA process generally involve multiple stages, it is vital for all providers to meet their insistence deadline in order to avoid a domino effect on the entire process. It is my experience that PMs value translators that deliver their document on time without prompting. While unpleasant surprises such as illness or computer failures occasionally occur, these incidents should be extremely rare. In practice, this means that translators need to consider their deadline very carefully and report any issues as soon as possible. From the vendor point of view, translators respect PMs that quickly reply to queries as the answers are often vital for the project. They also appreciate receiving all information, including venue passwords, customer requirements and POs, in a timely manner such that the translator does not have to invest time in additional emails to attain that information. If any issues arise, linguists appreciate updates as soon as the PM has the information. In regards to companies with non-automated systems, I enjoy a prompt confirmation of the receipt of the translated document as I know that I do not have to worry about any email issues. When both translator and PM respect each other’s time, it makes the whole process not only more efficient but more pleasant.

[Snakeskin pattern]

Of course, attention to detail by both parties is vital for product quality. Clearly, good translators strive very hard to produce accurate translations, investing sufficient time in QA. As part of this process, attentive translators make a policy to read and reread the instructions to avoid wasted work and post-delivery revision. Effective PMs make sure that the translators have all the tools required to succeed, including access to originals and the required format. Attentive PMs also provide vital information related to the translation, such as the intended audience and spelling of the name in the target information. In fruitful PM-service provider relations, each side is pulling its weight.

[Jackdaw cleaning jackday]
As on all partnerships, trust is the key. Specifically, it is important that each party believes in the good faith of the other and its willingness to learn from incidents. All PMs clearly desire a smooth flow but proficient ones understand that sometimes “shit happens”. Likewise, experienced translators keep in mind that the PM may be involved with numerous projects and venders at the same time. Thus, a healthy PM-translator relation involves the belief that the other party is doing the best it can. When an issue arises, the emphasis is on solving it and learning from the experience, not establishing financial responsibility. The lessons learned solidify the basis for cooperation as both parties understand that they have a serious partner, one that cares about the result.

Timely, meticulous and good faith cooperation between service provider and project manager in all fields provide a solid basis for an effective and long-term collaboration. Of course, other factors influence the relationship, including rate structures and corporate culture. Still, if these basic expectations are met, it will be the best of times.

* Picture captions allow the blind access the Internet.

All picture via Pixabay.

Seeking the common denominator – a seasonal call to thinking big
Sun, 28 Nov 2021 08:14:00 +0000

[Holiday dinner*]

As a society and as individuals, we tend to seek to identify differences. Politicians carve out constituencies by statistically defining groups. Reports in the traditional media are explicitly about the unusual, not the banal. The masses of parents preparing a sandwich for their children’s lunch before they go to school is not of public interest but an especially shocking tale, however rare, of child abuse is news worthy. Social media certainly is quite often a dividing force. Personally, as a translator and teacher, I have been taught and directed to identify non-similarities and explain them. Thus, the dominating tendency is to create us as compared to them images.

However, this week, I accidently experienced a welcome call to reality. I teach general English to translator two groups of first-year engineering students at the Braude School of Engineering in Karmiel, Israel, which is located in the Galilee, a multiethnic area. The backgrounds of my students include religious and non-religious Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze. (This year, I have no Ethiopian or Circassian students.) As part of the process to accustom them to public speaking, I asked them to stand in front of the class and tell the other students about their favorite holiday moments. To my wonder and joy, each and every one of them, all 57, spoke about getting together with family and friends, eating special meals and enjoying the feeling of belonging. The occasions differed, from Ramadan and Ziyarat al-Nabi Shu'ayb to Sukkot and New Year’s Eve, each according to his/her customs. However, the actual religious or calendar event was ultimately irrelevant. All the students valued the feeling of food, togetherness and love.

This wave of common joy led me to think about Thanksgiving. I do not enjoy holidays as a rule. Somehow, the expectation that I am supposed to be happy depresses me. Thanksgiving is the exception. It is a holiday of too much food, bad football, and spending time with family. It has been some 30+ years since I actually celebrated it because I live in Israel and am married to an Israeli. Yet, I still have positive memories. My feelings are exactly the same as those expressed by my students.

Living in a diverse community and having witnessed how easy it is set off conflict among groups, I now see how important it is for everybody to teach and encourage the recognition of common humanity. Instead of emphasizing religion or color and creating tribe mentality, as in the Middle East and many other parts of the world, each of us in our various capacities, including parent, educator, marketer and even translator, should recall and transmit how much people have in common. The easiest way is to seek and recognize the universal reasons why people behave the way to do instead of attributing behavior to a unique, often negative, factor. To do so is to oppose the tribalization of society. Granted, the influence of any individual in the face of organized and unorganized groups is very small. However, as small as neutrinos are, quite small I assure you, when grouped they carry a large mass.

So, during this season, so important to so many religions, maybe because of the winter solstice, the best way to celebrate is marvel how people worldwide are so similar despite all the differences in culture, religion, language and other background elements. It probably won’t prevent another war in the Middle East or anywhere else for that matter at least in the near future. However, the insistence on seeking the common denominators among us can only benefit people and society if only in that creates hope for a solution. I wish everybody many happy holidays celebrated by eating too much with too much family.

* The blind need captions to fully access the Internet.

 Photo by Sebastian Coman Photography on Unsplash

Render unto freelancers what is freelancers' or the importance of being paid
Sun, 21 Nov 2021 06:45:00 +0000

[magnet attracing coins*]

Freelancers wear a wide variety of hats ranging from computer technician to CEO with signatory powers. Some of these roles are more pleasant than others but all are important in their own way. One of the key tasks that freelancers must perform but frequently avoid is bill collecting. A business is not a hobby but instead a way to make a living. Thus, collecting unpaid invoices is vital for economic survival. Granted, as simple as it sounds, requesting payment can be rather complicated. However, with proper bookkeeping procedures, a directed mind set and effective communication, the check or wire transfer actually arrives in the account.

While lack of business kills many enterprises, the failure to collect unpaid invoices bankrupts at least as many. Beyond the issue of the moral justice of being paid the agreed compensation for the work, freelancers are expected to pay their own bills just like everybody else. Given the effect of the law of opportunity cost, i.e., you can only perform one task in a given period of time (unless you outsource), not being paid is lost time regardless of the reason. In other words, a person that does not care about payment should either work pro bono, which is legitimate, or seek a salaried position, in which case the employer handles the payroll. The midway position, ignoring unpaid invoices, is economically untenable in the long term.

For freelancers, this task can become complicated due to varying payment procedures, concern over customer reaction and emotional impact. Payment terms in a global market range from prepayment with some end clients to 90 days for some institutional clients. As small players, it is difficult, if not impossible, to impose any payment specific regime on customers, however reasonable it may be. Even 30 days is far from universal. Moreover, communication regarding unpaid invoices has the potential to create tension between the service providers and customer. Finally, putting aside scammers from whom payment is clearly irrelevant, it is emotionally disturbing when customers do not do “what they are supposed to do” and fail to pay their invoice on time. Freelancer often prefer to wait another month before raising the issue on the hope of avoiding an unpleasant situation. One of the common sources of this discomfort is the embedded belief that bill collecting is a dirty task to be assigned to undesirable types, like tanning in India. While it is not rational given that a person chooses to become a freelancer, this prejudice provides further fuel to procrastinate on this task.

The first key to financial success for any business, big or small, is proper bookkeeping. Regardless of the means, a designated accounting program or Excel, a freelancers must make it policy to immediately enter all relevant information on a project, including billing date and, if possible, expected payment date. Of course, once payment is received, it is wise not to procrastinate in marking payment information, including the date and receipt number, as it is easy to forget to do so later. With this information, it is quite simple for a freelancer to glance at the three previous months and identify which customers have failed to pay. Payment review ideally is a monthly task concomitant with monthly invoicing  The easier is to identify late payments, the more likely a freelancer will make it a policy to check for them.

When turning attention to unpaid invoices, freelancers must make a mind switch. They need to pretend that they are a clerk objectively and unemotionally checking the books of another business. As Detective Friday from Dragnet would say, just the facts. Given that vast majority  of customers, in my experience at least, fail to pay on time due to inefficient accounting procedures, it is important they remember that they also find these errors unpleasant. With that thought in mind, the freelancer needs to coldly create a list of unpaid invoices with all the required information, i.e., number, date, amount and project, if relevant. With list in hand, it is then the time to proceed to the next stage, actual collection. Procrastination, like fear, is an expensive habit.

It is important to remember that most payment delays are unintentional. Of course, if you believe that a customer has a policy of payment delay, it would be advisable to drop it as soon as possible. Therefore, requests for payment must non-accusative and provide sufficient information to allow a quick search by the party in arrears. In simple terms, it is important to allow the customer to climb down the tree in relative dignity and efficiency. Of course, before suggesting any payment in arrears, it is necessary to conduct a thorough search of the bank records to confirm it. My letter of collection states that I have no record of payment, not that that the customer did not pay. Furthermore, I actually apologize for the inconvenience, which makes it easier for the other side to apologize for not paying. I express no anger or frustration, merely the request to resolve the matter either by immediate payment or specifics of the actual payment that was made. My record is close to 100% on collection issues without any loss of customers. We both treat the matter as an objective business issue, not a personal dispute.

Fear is a great paralyzer. Choosing to become a freelancer requires taking on tasks that are less comfortable in terms of skill and mindset. However, good accounting, like good fences, makes for good relations. By practicing proper bookkeeping, treating unpaid invoices as an objective business issue and firmly but politely demanding payment, freelancers can receive the due compensation for their work. After, it is a vital to render unto freelancers what is freelancers.

How often do you review your payments? Click here to take a survey.

* Picture captions help the blind access the Internet. 

Picture credit: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/pithonius-301639/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=2972568">pithonius</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=2972568">Pixabay</a>

The freelance dilemma – rising and raising prices
Sun, 14 Nov 2021 07:15:00 +0000



It is probable that many countries will experience meaningful inflation in the short-term future.  For example, the US Labor Department announced an increase in prices of 0.9% in October of 2021, this previous month. For freelancers lacking both a CFO to analyze the risk as well as significant market strength, this inflation poses a serious challenge, even danger, as it affects our ability to make a living. As I see it, the self-employed have four options to cope with the return of inflation if it occurs, each with its benefits and risks.

To clarify why inflation is likely to become a significant factor in the short term, in simplistic terms, inflation is too much money seeking too few goods. In the last three years, governments around the world have pumped in unprecedented cash to their economies while their economies were not growing or even shrinking at the same time. Therefore, neither production nor productivity compensated for the inflow of money. Furthermore, given the current high cost of living in many countries and high level of government aid, many workers do not wish or cannot afford to return to their previous jobs, minimum wage and higher, creating a labor shortage in many industries and, consequently, pressure to increase wages. Adding the masses of people that have chosen to leave salaried positions to start their one business, employers will have to pay more to attract employees, a cost that will eventually be passed on to consumers. Thus, prices are likely to increase until a balance is reestablished.

Inaction is always an option. It is emotionally easier both for the self-employed and their customers to ignore inflation. Whether out of ignorance, the lack of belief that anything can be done, as with exchange rates, or the conviction that the market will not bear higher rates, passive freelancers hope that inflation will not be significant enough to affect their standard of living. In the worst case, the relative attractiveness of their rates will lead an increase in volume, compensating for the loss in purchase power. The advantage is that it is possible to continue with “business as usual” and ignore actual conditions. The risk is regular loss of potential income and lower actual revenue

One active response to wait for official inflation figures in order to justify rate increases to customers. In theory, freelancers can inform their customers that their rates are increasing X% to reflect the official figures for the previous six to twelve months. For the freelancer, such an approach helps reinforce the courage required to raise prices and should increase the chance that this request or notice is accepted without protest. On the other hand, this strategy recognizes a write off of indexing differences, the gap between the nominal and adjusted income. Furthermore, as freelance rates are not automatically linked to any income, there is a limit on the frequency that this unilateral increase can be made, generally around once a year. While this reaction-based approach may be simple, it also simply creates lost income due to its delayed effect even in the best circumstances.

Of course, the self-employed can take a proactive approach and inform their customers that as of a certain date, their rates are increasing. For example, a translator can announce that as of January 1,2022, their rates will be .105 EUR per word instead of .10 EUR per word to reflect increased prices and taxes. The advantage of the approach is that it reduces the impact of inflation. The danger is that not all customers will continue to provide work at the same level or at all. As a result, entrepreneurs must invest time and effort in finding customers that will pay their desired rates, a positive result in itself. Admittedly, there is no certainty that the proposed increase will fully compensate for the actual inflation but there is no certainty in business in any matter. While being proactive may create some tension with existing customers and involve increasing marketing efforts, it does provide some protection from inflation.

Another approach, at least for translators and editors, is to switch to project-based pricing. As there are no “units” in this form of proposal, the rate can be adjusted flexibly, taking into account specific circumstances such as the individual customer, the state of the relevant economy and translation markets and the actual supply and demand of the freelancer at the time. As there is no need to justify increases to the customer, they are much easier to attain in real time. Of course, it requires educating customers that you do not have any per-word or per-hour rates but, in my experience, they not only get used to it but find project proposals much simpler. While many customers, including large agencies, may not prefer this approach, end clients find it much easier to understand and budget for. Furthermore, it does allow for immediate adjustment of prices. Project-based pricing requires changing the nature of the customer-freelancer relationship but provides the most effective protection from inflation in my opinion.

If inflation does begin to significantly affect buying power, freelancers should actively consider their strategy to cope with it. Each approach suggested above has its advantages and risks. However, clearly the problem of rising prices and raising rates poses a dilemma to self-employed but the power to act is our hands.

* Captions help the blind access the Internet.

Picture: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/stevepb-282134/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=1580168">Steve Buissinne</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=1580168">Pixabay</a>

Keeping both feet on the ground – maintaining bilingual proficiency
Sun, 07 Nov 2021 06:56:00 +0000


[Footprints in sand*]

Professional translators must not only to be proficient in the languages they work in but also maintain that level over their career. Attaining proficiency generally involves some combination of intentional action, e.g., studies, and life circumstances, e.g., living in places where people used a language. By contrast, keeping both languages up to par requires conscientious effort as the geographically distant language receives less reinforcement. However, it is possible to overcome that disadvantage to a large degree through active exposure, oral and written. The benefit of such an effort is a long, successful career in translation.

[Rusty gears]
It is clear that an important difference between an aspiring and professional translator is language proficiency, especially in the language being translated. Attaining this level of knowledge of a foreign language generally involves formal study but more often than not also develops from intensive exposure that the language or culture, whether through frequent visits or long stays in a relevant country or living with people that speak that language. As adults, most translators live in the country of birth or an adopted country, reducing exposure to one of the languages. As rust settles forms on the geographically distant language, the person slowly loses the ear. More seriously, without exposure to current developments in vocabulary and structure, translators find themselves failing to understand the meaning of more modern language. The longer the exile, the greater that gap between the language being currently used and their knowledge. Over time, the “new” language becomes a truly foreign language. This dissonance is even true for native tongues. Long established expats can sound like characters from an old movie, slightly off in some ways. It is clear that, without reinforcement, translators can lose some relevant language skills over time.

[Social networks]
Of course, the best way to connect with a language is to use, speak and write with others in that language. With current technology, building an international network is matter of time, not money. For some, work situations create natural bridges when they require regular communication, such as in business or teaching. For others, it is matter of reaching out to friends and family and investing time in communicating. Curiously, communication limited to an expat community tends to reinforce localized language, which is not always identical to that of the home country as it includes 2nd language interference and foreign vocabulary. Of course, frequent visits are very productive linguistically. Even if a language is a native language, it still requires active use to maintain.


In terms of convenience and being up-to-date, the various forms of media provide ideal passive reinforcement. Whether through television, radio or YouTube, to name a few, a person hears authentic language unaffected by local peculiarities This language is often the most updated, at least for a specific age group, because it intends to be communicative. It also requires little active effort beyond turning the TV or computer on, being available on countless Internet channels. By regularly watching such programs, translators can keep updated on changes in vocabulary and structure as well as maintain their ear.


However, since the oral media generally aim at the general public, reinforcing higher level language involves reading newspapers and books. Newspapers, especially those with a higher standard of writing, generally use more formal language than television, thus strengthening the internal feel of correct language. Books and professional journals firm the benchmarks for translating formal material in the relevant fields. A person must be interested and regularly invest time and effort to make a habit of reading more professional material but the reward is updated knowledge and enriched language. Regular active reading of well-written language is the most demanding of all the means but also the most productive form of reinforcement.

Personally, I practice all three to the different techniques. I not only regularly use English in all my oral and written communication as a translator, I also teach English at the local engineering college, which requires me to have thorough knowledge of English language structure. I also watch UK and French TV through an Internet site, providing almost daily exposure to current language. Furthermore, I have a subscription to the weekly magazine Le Canard Enchainé, which keeps up to date on events in France and reinforces my vocabulary. Alas, my Russian, despite the great number of Russians with whom I interact with, has not kept up with the times. As I tell my customers, my Russian is “Breznevian”, i.e., from the 1970’s. As a result, essentially, I translate certificates from Russian as bureaucratic Russian has not changed much in a hundred years. In these ways, I try to keep my languages up to date.

This commitment to maintaining and even improving knowledge of all applicable languages is a key to a long, successful career. Not only does it keep them up to standards, it also provides personal satisfaction. After all, the reasons a person chooses to learn foreign languages and become a translator generally includes a love of language, which does not fade with time. By keeping all their languages firmly rooted, translators can stand up proudly for their profession.

* Captions help the blind access the Internet.

All pictures through Pixabay.

Stupefying language – to aid or abet?
Sun, 31 Oct 2021 06:38:00 +0000



“After careful thought, I am too academic and old-(fashioned) to do this properly. I will have to pass.”

I sent this response to one of my regular customers, who asked me to further simplify the simplified text of a contract based on similar language on another site. In other words, I was asked to take simplified English of a legal agreement and turn into street dialect, including the grammar or lack thereof and vocabulary. This request was the first I have ever received of this nature. As such, I delayed response until I had carefully considered the matter. The dilemma for me went beyond my ability to the properly perform this task and involved whether I should do it.

To clarify the task, although I cannot present the actual text due to copyright and confidentiality issues, I will provide a similar example:




Only hair salons with city business licenses can sign this agreement.

If you are working from home and not paying the city to allow you to run your business, forget about it cause we cannot help you.

You think that any idiot with a pair of scissors can join our site? Forget it! Pay the stupid city. Don’t waste our time.


I wish I could say that I am exaggerating but some of the examples provided were far more “conversational”. The nature of the task was clear.

I understand that there is a justification for this task. In every country, a certain percentage of the population, some more and some less, lack basic language skills. The reasons for this deficiency include being immigrants, not finishing school and not even having gone to school. These people are already disadvantaged and discriminating against without unintentionally taking their legal rights away from them. As they cannot understand even simplified legal language, the idea of bringing the language down to their level can be justified in terms of social justice.

However, I was not qualified to do this project due to my background, lack of exposure and language habits. To explain, my father was a journalist and financial writer who chose words like some choose tomatoes at the green grocer: picking each one with care and searching for the gems. He would say: “why use three words when one word will do.” Clearly, that rule would not apply in this assignment. Beyond that, I have lived in Israel for some 30 years now and have no idea how the uneducated currently speak on the street, not that I ever was exposed to that language when I lived project there. Finally, as an English lecturer as well as a translator, I teach and reinforce proper English and believe in its value. Writing such dialogue would border on cheating on myself in a certain sense. Thus, I was clearly not the correct candidate for this job.

Beyond the issue of ability was the problem of the ethics of accepting substandard English as a dialect. The issue of when substandard language becomes respectable is complicated but has a long history. After all, French, Spanish and Italian, among others, began as awful Latin. However, intentionally writing text as if I were Cheech and Chong went beyond funny and entered the range of inappropriate. Although it may overly simplistic to think so, I believe that people of all ages can improve their language at least up to a certain level. It may elitist to say but I feel that they can and should. It simply felt wrong to cater to and legitimatize extremely substandard English.

For that reason, I exercised my right to take my personal stand on this issue and wrote the answer cited above. The issue is not black and white and does involve a dilemma. Specifically, does explaining legal language using street syntax aid people in understanding or abet them by formally legitimatizing their language? I reached my own conclusion. What would your decision be?

* Caption pictures to create full access to the blind.

Picture credit: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/mmt-649797/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=569265">MMT</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=569265">Pixabay</a>

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>