Bring Your “A” Game to Video Game Localization

If you’re a translator who is passionate about games and audiovisual content, if you like to get creative and enjoy jobs of the “transcreation” type, and if you’re not afraid of a good challenge, this could be a good niche for you. From in-game scripts to packaging and marketing, video games offer a broad spectrum of content bound to keep translators engaged and entertained—and challenged!

As gaming quickly becomes the world’s favorite pastime and as video game developers and publishers continue to invest to internationalize their games, there are more opportunities for professional translators who have a passion for localizing this type of content. However, the gaming industry calls it “video game localization” instead of “video game translation” for a reason. Video games require translators to take so much more than the translatable text into account. Its localization is a target-oriented translation and its goal is to entertain.

If you’re a translator who is passionate about games and audiovisual content, if you like to get creative and enjoy jobs of the “transcreation” type, and if you’re not afraid of a good challenge, this could be a good niche for you.

The following describes the different aspects to consider when working on video game localization so that you can bring your “A” game each time.

The Gamer Is Everything

When localizing a game, we need to constantly think about who will be playing that game; we need to think about “the gamer.” We want the gamer to be entertained and feel compelled to continue playing the game, and to buy products from that developer or publisher. If a segment doesn’t translate effectively into the target language, or the translation could confuse the gamer or disrupt their experience, we might need to consider sacrificing the accuracy of the localization that we render. This means that some character names, terminology, and complete phrases might need to be entirely transcreated. Think of it as switching the focus from words to intention and emotion. The gamer comes first. We want those playing the localized version to be immersed in the universe of the game and to have the same experience as those playing the non-localized version of the game. Your job is to make them feel that the game was designed for them.

So, do you need to be a gamer yourself? There are conflicting opinions on this. I’ve seen successful game localizers who are not gamers themselves, but who love creative translations and are detail-oriented. I’ve also seen full-time gamers fail at localization because they lack other important traits that a good video game localizer should have. Therefore, you don’t necessarily have to be an active gamer yourself, but you need to like and understand games. Why? Because you’ll likely be required to play and familiarize yourself with the games you localize.

The Content to Localize Varies—A Lot!

One of the most fascinating aspects of video game localization is the large variety of content that needs localization. From in-game scripts to packaging and marketing, video games offer a broad spectrum of content bound to keep translators engaged and entertained. And when I say “entertained,” I mean challenged.

Most video games will have in-game and marketing assets to localize. Some of this content can include:

  • User interfaces (menus, help screens, on-screen tutorials, etc.)
  • Narratives, dialogues (scripts for dubbing or subtitling)
  • Songs
  • Manuals
  • Official game guides
  • Packaging
  • Marketing and promotional material (digital and print)
  • Websites (game website, newsletters, blogs, etc.)
  • In-game graphics
  • User agreements

You might be thinking, “does this mean that I’ll be translating a legal document one day and a piece of artwork the next for the same game?” The answer is, yes. The versatility of a good video game localizer should not be taken for granted.

Be Creative, but This Is Your Incredibly Reduced Space to Do It!

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges in video game localization is this dichotomy between needing to be bold and creative and balancing this with the character limitations that might be imposed. For translators of languages that tend to be considerably longer than English, reducing the length of your translation to fit the character limit can be a real nightmare. However, it’s important to understand that those limits are there for a reason. In video games, as with other domains such as software localization, the user interface might be designed in a way that only allows a certain amount of space for text. If we don’t follow the character limit, the text will be truncated—something we need to absolutely avoid unless we want to have altercations with the video game testers.

Fortunately, we have technology as an ally when dealing with character restrictions. If you’re working with a computer-assisted translation tool, you can set it up to automatically count and show you the characters used in each segment, and even notify you if you’re exceeding the limit. If you’re working directly in Excel, you can also configure it so that the segment next to where you’re typing the translation shows you the number of characters used. Let technology help you with the tedious character counting to enable your imagination to flow and render an amazingly creative translation. You’ll surely need to tap into your imagination, get cleverly inventive, and be resourceful to express the same meaning and feel of the original in a limited space.

Tags and Variables and Gender, Oh My!

Two important elements that you’ll have to deal with in video game localization are tags and variables. Translators are likely all too familiar with these, especially if they translate software. Tags are formatting indicators in the text that must stay exactly the same in the translation. We have to identify what the tags are modifying to place them correctly in our translation. Sometimes the purpose of the tag is very obvious. For example, a tag that reads <COMMA> is referring to the punctuation mark. Variables, on the other hand, are values that can change, depending on the conditions or on information that’s passed to the program. For example, a segment that reads “%n requests” indicates that the variable is going to represent a number, as in “2 requests.”

Beware! If the target language you translate into has masculine and feminine form, variables can be especially tricky. A classic example in Spanish is the phrase “USERNAME, welcome!” Translating this literally might not work well, depending on the gender of the user. For example, it’s okay to say “Juan, bienvenido,” but what if the user is a woman? I cannot say “Maria, bienvenido.” because I would be addressing the female reader with the masculine form. Therefore, you must use an alternate translation that avoids using the feminine or masculine form in Spanish, such as “USERNAME, te damos la bienvenida.”

Language-Specific Jokes and References

A large number of video games will have language-specific jokes, puns, sarcasm, irony, and pop-culture references. Significant colloquial language might be used. Such fixed phrases or expressions cannot be translated literally, so we need to find the right equivalent in our target language.

For example, the phrase “a piece of cake” might not translate literally into the target language, so we need to find an equivalent to convey that something is very easy. In Spanish, we have the saying “es pan comido” (“it’s eaten bread”), which is an idiom that means that something can be done easily. There are other fixed phrases that could be used in this translation, such as “es juego de niños” (it’s a kids’ game), “es una papa” (“it’s a potato”—for the enjoyment of Argentine readers!), or “es como tirarles a patitos en la feria” (it’s like shooting rubber ducks at the funfair), etc. Of course, you can choose the one that fits the context and the target audience better.

Many years ago, I encountered a phrase that had me puzzled: “to the choppaaaa.” What is “choppa?” I couldn’t find the word in the dictionary and my research attempts were not getting me anywhere. (Keep in mind that this was over 12 years ago, and it wasn’t as easy to Google and get hundreds of visual references.) I finally asked my husband, who is a native English speaker, if he knew what this phrase could refer to, and he laughed (really hard). It turns out that “to the choppa” is a reference from the movie Predator, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger shouted “to the chopper” (the helicopter), but because he has an accent, it sounded like “choppa.” My husband told me that if you were not born in the U.S. in the 1980s, you might not understand this cultural reference.

Video games are packed with pop culture references, so buckle up and enjoy that ride, or as I like to call it now, to the chopper!

To Localize or Not to Localize… That Is the Question.

One of the common debates is if proper names should be localized in video games. For example, do we want “Hannah” to be called “María” in Spanish? This, of course, depends on what route the game developers want
to follow.

However, a good rule of thumb should be: when a name carries meaning, we don’t want the gamer to miss that in their language. For example, if a character’s name is “Berry Cute” because it’s a strawberry, we might want to think about an equivalent in the target language that carries the same meaning—something about the fruit and the cuteness.

This same criterion should be applied to all proper names within the game, including the in-game art, geographical places, entities, battles, etc. Otherwise, you risk the gamer missing out on the immersive experience of the game. Remember that localization is your ally for creating an immersive experience for gamers in any language.

Unleashing your creative self will serve you well in this field, but remember you should never forget that video game localization is an audiovisual entertainment form. This means that you cannot separate the text from what players are seeing and hearing on-screen. So, have fun being creative with your translations, but don’t forget the visual and audio aspects. Don’t exceed the character limitation, don’t place the tags and variables incorrectly, and basically, don’t have fun (just joking!). Video game localization can be lots of fun, but at the same time very technical.

This article does not intend to be comprehensive, since there are numerous other aspects that are important to video game localization. Rather, I hope I’ve provided a small window into what it could be like to localize video games.


Marina Ilari, CT is an ATA-certified English>Spanish translator with over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. She is an expert in translation tools and managing projects in English and Spanish. She has worked as a translator, editor, and quality assurance specialist for many companies around the world with a special focus on creative translations and video game localization. She is the chief executive officer of Terra Translations and co-host of the podcast about translation, En Pantuflas. Contact: marina@terratranslations.com.

Profile of ATA 2018–2019 School Outreach Contest Winner: Denise Fisher

This year’s ATA School Outreach Contest winner shared the inside story of a freelance interpreter with students at the University of Michigan.

ATA Member Denise Fisher, a Japanese<>English interpreter and translator based in Orient, Ohio, is the winner of this year’s School Outreach Contest. She won a free registration to ATA’s 60th Annual Conference in Palms Springs, California, for her photo taken during a visit to the University of Michigan, where she spoke to graduate students in a Japanese interpreting class about her profession.

Living Her Dream: Learning Japanese and Living in Japan

Ever since Toyota opened a large manufacturing facility in Georgetown, Kentucky, Denise—a Kentucky native—was fascinated by Japanese culture and had the desire to learn the Japanese language. But neither her high school nor the college she attended offered Japanese language classes. When she discovered that her college, Morehead State University in Kentucky, offered an exchange program with a Japanese university, she immediately applied. Denise was accepted and went off to Osaka to study at the Kansai University of Foreign Studies. During her exchange year, Denise managed to break free from the circle of international students participating in the program and make friends with Japanese students. Denise says this was the key to learning the language and getting to know the culture from the inside.

After her time abroad, Denise returned to the U.S., finished her college education, and started to look for ways to go back to Japan to meet up with her friends again and continue her language training. A career fair in Boston, focusing on people speaking both English and Japanese, helped her land a job with an American company looking for a sales representative in Osaka.

“The beginning was really rough,” Denise says. “Many times, I came home at night, crying and feeling lonely.” Since she had impeccable pronunciation in Japanese, native Japanese customers wouldn’t slow down or explain anything when talking to her. “It took me hours to write the sales reports due on Mondays.” But developing her language skills and knowledge of the culture helped Denise lay the foundation for her later work as an interpreter.

A Career in Japanese Translation and Interpreting

As a part of her sales representative job in Japan, Denise also began interpreting occasionally, bridging the language gap between American company representatives and local employees and customers. Since she had no formal training in interpreting, she had to learn it on the job through lots of practice, self-study, and hard work. After 10 years in Japan, she returned to the U.S. and continued her career as an in-house interpreter and translator at Honda R&D Americas, Ltd. Since May 2006, Denise has been working as a freelance translator and interpreter for automotive company clients and suppliers in the automotive and aerospace industries. She is based in Orient, not far from Ohio’s capital city of Columbus.

Denise has shared her professional expertise with colleagues at ATA Annual Conferences. At the 2017 conference in Washington, DC, she participated in a panel discussion about the automotive industry as a major source of work for Japanese language professionals. She enjoys the networking opportunities that ATA Annual Conferences provide. In addition to her active participation in ATA, Denise is a member of the Japan Association of Translators.

Presenting to Interpreting Students at the University of Michigan

In January 2019, Denise received an invitation from Professor Yoshihiro Mochizuki to give a guest lecture at the University of Michigan. Denise and Yoshihiro had met the year before, in Columbus, where they both held workshops for members of the Japan Association of Translators—he on translation, she on interpreting. Yoshihiro wanted her to share her experience working as a freelance professional interpreter with the students enrolled in his new course on Japanese interpreting.

Denise began her presentation by talking about how a professional interpreter is expected to behave. After explaining the different modes of interpreting, she provided an overview of the equipment that interpreters traditionally use. She shared photos of various portable equipment and what a typical booth setup looks like. She concluded her presentation with information on tools for terminology management and led a Q&A session.

Denise was pleasantly surprised by the active participation of the students, who had a stream of questions for her: Had she ever found herself in the work scenarios she had discussed, and how had she handled these situations? Is there a certain personality type that’s more suited to the interpreting profession?

Denise enjoyed the animated discussion during her presentation. Students also approached her after the class with more questions, and some asked to exchange contact information.

Denise Fisher at the end of her lecture at the University of Michigan accepting a stream of questions from students.

Getting Involved in the School Outreach Effort

Initially, Denise had thought that ATA’s School Outreach photo contest was only for ATA members presenting to young children. It was Yoshihiro Mochizuki—not only a professor at the University of Michigan but also administrator of ATA’s Japanese Language Division—
who suggested she participate in the contest with the photos he took during the lecture. Thanks to his tip, she submitted her entry and won the contest, getting her a free registration to ATA’s 60th Annual Conference.

Denise thoroughly enjoyed the conference in Palm Springs. “The conference was even better than I imagined. The location was scenic, the weather was perfect, and there were a lot of educational sessions and networking opportunities.” Her favorite session this year was “From the Stage to the Booth: Acting Tips to Improve Your Interpreting,” presented by Javier Castillo. “There was a lot of overlap between his lecture and my own lecture. I would love to collaborate with him on a joint session at a future ATA conference!”

Join our efforts! The 2019–2020 School Outreach Contest is now open and the winner will receive free registration to ATA’s 61st Annual Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, October 21–24, 2020. For more information, visit www.atanet.org/ata_school/school_outreach_contest.php.

Need Some Tips for Your School Outreach Presentation?

No problem! Just visit ATA’s online School Outreach Resource Center. Our goal is to give you quick, convenient access to material you can use in making presentations about the translation and interpreting professions. The material is organized by grade level. Each level includes What to Say, How to Say It, Extra Credit, and Presentations.

  • Tips on speaking to elementary school students
  • Tips on speaking to middle school students
  • Tips on speaking to high school students
  • Tips on speaking to college/graduate students

Just go to http://bit.ly/school-outreach-contest and click on Resource Materials.

Tell Us Your Story!

If you visit schools to speak to students about translation and interpreting, we would love to hear from you—whether or not you decide to submit a photo to the contest. Email School Outreach Coordinator Meghan Konkol at meghan@fr-en.com with a description of when and where you presented and let us know about your memorable experience. You can read other School Outreach stories here: http://bit.ly/outreach-stories


Birgit Vosseler-Brehmer, CT is an ATA-certified English<>German freelance translator based in Germany, specializing in technical, business management, and document translations. She is a member of ATA’s School Outreach team. Contact: bvb@bvb-translations.com.

A Multidisciplinary Team of Linguistic Athletes

We might think that sports and languages don’t mix, but the Lima 2019 Pan American and Parapan American Games and the Language Services team proved that to be far from true.

In recent years, Peru has gained the attention of the world for having an increasingly more stable economy, attractive tourist sites, friendly people, and, of course, great food. These factors have led to the country being selected as the host of numerous major international events, including the 20th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2014, the Meetings of the Board of Governors of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in 2015, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in 2016, and the Summit of the Americas in 2018.

The Pan American and Parapan American Games

On October 11, 2013, Lima, Peru, was chosen as the host city for the XVIII Pan American and Sixth Parapan American Games, the largest international multidisciplinary sports event in the Americas and the second most important in the Olympic and Paralympic circuit in the world.

Now that the pressure of such an important international event rested on our shoulders, the first challenge we had to tackle was communication. Since Peru had almost no experience in the organization of this type of multidisciplinary sporting event, the Peruvian government needed to sign a collaborative agreement with a government that did have such experience. So, the U.K. and Peru signed a Government to Government agreement making the U.K. their key partner in supporting the preparation and delivery of the Games. When the agreement with the U.K. government was signed, and English and Spanish were established as the official languages of the Games, the question of having an in-house language department was raised. After drawn out debates about the importance of an in-house language services team and the costs of outsourcing these services, the powers that be opted for an in-house team.

Shortly after, the first two professional translators were hired to be part of Lima 2019 Language Services, but they could not manage the increasing influx of documents alone. The first translation project manager, and head of Language Services, was hired shortly after in order to gain a sense of the services to be provided for the benefit of the project. A few months after, the chief interpreter was hired, followed by other key roles, such as chief translator, quality assurance coordinator, and multilingual desktop publishing coordinator.

Around 20 team members were added within a two-year period before the Games were scheduled to begin in July 2019. The team would not only handle the increasing amount of content that required translation, proofreading, and desktop publishing, but also provide interpreting services at several meetings, conferences, and events before and during the Games.

Once the Games started, Language Services had among its ranks 50 team members and was managing approximately 350 volunteers and coordinating their operations at the competition venues alongside the various event areas. The scope and complexity of this project was something Peru had never seen before.

The Language Services team at the General Assembly.

Project Management

Hiring a translation project manager and the leader of the team was key. Angie Tapia, head of Language Services, was able to manage, organize, and prepare her team for the challenges of this multi-sport event. One of the initial challenges she faced was the need to adapt her vast experience with dedicated translation project management software to the resources made available to the team, such as the tools offered in Microsoft Office 365 (instead of the trusty Post-It notes she had been using).

Another challenge was convincing the Peruvian members of the Organizing Committee representatives to purchase computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool licenses through tender processes so her team wouldn’t have to continue translating and proofreading directly in Microsoft Word. Some of the translators were not well versed in CAT tools, so they would need to be trained.

Linguists also needed to be reminded about the importance of meeting deadlines, not interfering with project management-related tasks, and improving their daily translation capacity.

One of the most difficult challenges was communicating the importance of setting reasonable deadlines to several clients who required translation but had no idea what it entailed (e.g., “I need this 12,000-word equestrian sports technical manual ready for tomorrow.”). Organizing schedules and planning the resources necessary to complete the official documents that were going to be published was essential, especially considering that the translation stage was the last step of every publication. A lack of thorough planning could directly affect the production process of Language Services, including its efficiency and productivity. The Language Services project management team took over the task of planning publications for the Games and added the desktop publishing process to its tasks, both to save time and guarantee quality results. The team even proved to be quite resourceful in terms of obtaining information on sports events in real time in order to anticipate publications, press releases, or tweets that required translation.

Once the responsibilities, tasks, and processes were properly communicated and delegated within the team, Language Services worked smoothly, met deadlines, and translated over 4,000 projects (more than six million words) in just under
two years.

Daniel Torres and Licetd Pérez interpreting in the booth.

Translation

The translation team also faced the challenge of translating Lima 2019’s communication with the world, working with the press and social media. They also had to work with all types of internal documents for the project, including sports technical manuals, sanitary reports on the water conditions of competition venues, security policies, and the World Anti-Doping Agency online training platform.

Translating sports media content proved harder than it looked, as articles and press releases were filled with metaphors and expressions related to sports that were unfamiliar to the team. In addition to the content of the documents, terminology, linguistic-related problems, and deadlines were among the most challenging aspects of Lima 2019. Since all documents were always labeled by the client as “urgent,” “important,” or “priority,” the translation team had to permanently work against the clock, trying to keep up with the quality standards required for this kind of event.

One of the most important lessons we learned was that, for this type of project, it’s important to consider hiring a trained team of professional translators from day one. Linguists need time to adapt and adjust to new topics, terminology, and other work-related conditions to deliver the highest quality possible. As stress intensifies and shifts get longer, it’s also essential to have a committed team that is fully aware of the importance of an event like the Pan American and the Parapan American Games.

Proofreading

The task of proofreading was essential to the translation process. Although translators may do their own proofreading in a freelance market, in the context of such a massive event, it was necessary to separate both these tasks. The proofreaders were allowed to change anything and everything to ensure a high-quality final product.

We soon discovered that hiring proofreaders was a more difficult task than it seemed. For one thing, finding translation professionals with a university degree in translation and a near-native level of English in Peru is like finding a needle in a haystack. To be a proofreader, it’s not enough to have studied translation—Peruvian universities don’t require you to know English before enrolling—or to be a native English speaker. (The “your/you’re” mistake makes one thing clear—just because you know it, doesn’t mean you know it well.) When we finally found the elusive proofreaders we needed, to no one’s surprise, they knew next to nothing about sports, which meant they had a long road of research ahead of them.

One of the many lessons we learned from this process was the importance of having well-trained proofreaders from day one. This way, the translation memory will only have content of the highest quality, making it more efficient and useful. Also, for future, less time-consuming projects, it would be ideal to prepare specialized glossaries for translators to make the proofreaders’ job just a little less stressful.

Multilingual Desktop Publishing

One of the most difficult tasks of Language Services was convincing the organization that having multilingual desktop publishers as part of their team was a necessity. However, once the publications started taking shape, it quickly became obvious that it was essential to have a specialized team within the translation process to carry out this task. Language Services began to receive a wide variety of documents created in dedicated graphic design software, such as Illustrator, Photoshop, or InDesign, that required a team specialized in editorial design who could prepare the text for the translation process and later edit and correct the layout of the translated file to deliver it to the client.

Another crucial task that was eventually assigned to this four-person team, alongside the marketing department, was the desktop publishing of all publications for the Games, both in their original language and their translations. This change was both cost- and time-efficient, especially due to the amount of urgent last-minute changes that many of the publications required. Finally, finding professionals with the specific profile necessary to provide a service that is still not very widely known in Peru was also a challenge. They had to have a combination of skills that is not common among professional designers, and they also needed the proper training to adapt their skills to the translation process.

Interpreting

Hiring a group of professional freelance interpreters was another very difficult task for Language Services. Not only because of the nature of the profession, which tends to make some freelancers afraid of committing to a long assignment for one client and causes them to shy away from a traditional nine-to-five job, but also because the rigorous hiring process of the public sector in Peru is not attractive for the typical freelancer.

A few months after being hired, the chief interpreter was joined by a group of seven interpreters with different backgrounds, skill levels, and personalities. Almost all the interpreters had some type of formal training in interpreting. Before the Games, they had worked on assignments in various settings, including press conferences for the medalists, visits to venue construction sites, discussions with leaders from different sports federations, general assemblies of sports organizations, referee training sessions, language support for international technical delegates, anti-doping control trainings, and budget auditing.

Some coordination of meetings or visits from international consultants required the use of portable interpreting equipment. The rest of the assignments were done using consecutive interpreting or whispered interpreting. During the Games, only the international sports federation and sports confederation assemblies at the official hotel required simultaneous interpreting with a booth, with English and Spanish as the working languages. There was a second booth at the Pan American Village that was used for meetings of the chefs de mission (the leaders of each national team) and for some sport-specific technical meetings.

Before hiring in-house interpreters, the Organizing Committee was relying on the services from different external agencies. The priority when hiring those services was cost savings, which led to some issues concerning the professionalism required by such an important international multidisciplinary sporting event.

Teamwork and good practices were fostered among all the interpreters who, in most cases, understood the importance of acting professional. Even though they had put their freelance careers on hold to work for the Lima 2019 Games, they appreciated having the opportunity to interact with the rest of the Language Services team. It was an opportunity for those who were inexperienced to learn from their more seasoned peers.

At the opening ceremony.

Final Thoughts

The Language Services team insisted on the importance of confidentiality, teamwork, and good practices, but, as is common among all teams, incidents happened and some egos collided. Long working hours, stressful situations, and the pressure of the Games brought out many emotions, including frustration, anger, and anxiety. The team later learned that this was normal in this type of international multidisciplinary event. Nevertheless, although Language Services itself was divided into several teams responsible for different tasks, they were, at all times, one team with the same goal: to do their part so that the Lima 2019 Games could be a success.

Hiring an in-house team of professionals resulted in quality translation services and consistency in terminology, and also saved the organization money! Something that was key for the team to function properly was the versatility of its members. On a few occasions, due to high demand, some translators had to face their fears, remember their undergrad interpreting training, and interpret. Likewise, some interpreters had to focus for longer periods of time, stop speaking, pay attention to details, and translate. Some project managers with a translation background had to translate or interpret, and some desktop publishers without any translation background had to train this diverse group of linguists in the use of design software.

We might think that sports and languages don’t mix, but the Lima 2019 Pan American and Parapan American Games and the Language Services team proved that to be far from true. This was, without a doubt, a great opportunity for learning and growth. Lima 2019 taught the Language Services team many lessons. First, that terminology is important when translating, but so is having good communication with the proofreader. Second, having a well-equipped interpreting booth is important, but so is knowing the speaker, who you may have happened to sit with during lunch the day before. And, finally, we learned that having a productive team is key for the project’s success, but so is having fun and relaxing.

The Games’ slogan is “Let’s All Play,” and Language Services played and did it as a team.

Members of the Lima 2019 Language Services Team

Daniel Aparicio, Nathalie Atoche, Alessandra Balleto, Rodrigo Bouroncle, Rosario Bustamante, Fernando Camino, Adriana Carbajal, Suane Carbajal, Lilian Cebreros, Diego Cervantes, Lidia Chavez, Javier Del Prado, Isabel De La Guarda, Mercy Diaz, Marianella Domen, Cynthia Fiorentini, Rosa Flores, Yanett Flores, Ann Giraldo, Gabriela Godoy, Heber Guerrero, Nancy Guima, Karen Gutierrez, María Isabel Gomez, Diana Marroquin, Rosa Medina, Giuliana Mori, Piero Mori, Milagros Muñoz, Bruno Languasco, Adolfo Leo, Gonzalo Pardo-Figueroa, Franco Paredes, Luis Pastor, Diana Peralta, Licetd Pérez, Emilio Pinares, Rodolfo Quispe, Karen Rosas, Dafne Rozas, Ada Rueda, Michelle Rullier, Milagros Salomé, Julio Sotomayor, Angie Tapia, Ricardo Thormann, Daniel Torres, Lia Vasquez, Kelly Verde, Carla Villegas, and Juan Carlos Yi.

 


Daniel Aparicio is a conference interpreter and interpreter trainer based in Lima, Peru. He served as chief interpreter for Language Services at the Lima 2019 Pan American and Parapan American Games. Contact: hola@daniel-aparicio.com.

Angie Tapia studied translation and interpreting at Ricardo Palma University. She teaches professional management and specialized software courses within the Professional Translation and Interpreting program at the Peruvian University of Applied Sciences. She served as head of Language Services at the Lima 2019 Pan American and Parapan American Games. Contact: info@angietapia.com.

Fernando Camino is a translator specialized in audiovisual translation and videogame localization. He also teaches at the Universidad Ricardo Palma and the Peruvian University of Applied Sciences. He served as the chief translator for Language Services at the Lima 2019 Pan American and Parapan American Games. Contact: fcamino@gmail.com.

Rosario Bustamante is an English quality assurance coordinator and Spanish>English translator and proofreader. She served as the chief quality assurance coordinator (into English) for Language Services at the Lima 2019 Pan American and Parapan American Games. Contact: rosario.bustamante.a@gmail.com.

Adriana Carbajal is a multilingual desktop publisher and translation project manager. She served as the chief of translation project management and multilingual desktop publishing for Language Services at the Lima 2019 Pan American and Parapan American Games. Contact: info@adrianacarbajal.com.

ATA at the New York Rights Fair and Book Expo

As chair of ATA’s Public Relations Committee, I’m always on the lookout for ways ATA can promote its members and educate potential client industries about how to purchase translation and interpreting services. ATA has successfully promoted member interests at the international Guadalajara Book Fair for several years. With this same goal in mind, ATA’s Public Relations Committee decided that ATA should attend a book event in the U.S. So, in May 2019, I attended the New York Rights Fair and Book Expo along with five additional ATA member volunteers. The event took place at the Javits Center in New York City, with around 9,000 publishing industry professionals in attendance for the Book Expo1 and Rights Fair2 combined.

Kate Deimling, Lucy Gunderson, Kristin Kamm, Stephanie Delozier Strobel, and Valeriya Yermishova, and I were on hand during the three-day event to represent ATA. Logistically, having this number of people onsite worked well since we were able to make contact with almost every exhibitor and publisher present, as well as with numerous agents and editors. We discussed translation and interpreting and the benefits of using professionals, and, specifically, how to find the right ATA member for publishing industry projects.

Showcasing ATA’s Online Directory

We took turns making sure that the ATA table was always staffed while others of our team fanned out throughout the event, directly approaching publishing houses and other attendees, including cultural representatives promoting publishing content from Canada, China, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and South Korea. In a sign of the changing publishing landscape, there were also representatives of self-publishing platforms and even an interactive fiction app.

From left: ATA volunteers Lucy Gunderson, Valeriya Yermishova, Kate Deimling, and Kristin Kamm staff ATA’s table at the New York Rights Fair and Book Expo. (Photo courtesy of Eve Lindemuth Bodeux)

We had a steady stream of visitors to our table as well. Visitors scooped up ATA-branded sticky notes and copies of Getting It Right, a publication that offers tips on how to hire language professionals. People were excited to learn that ATA’s online Directory of Translators and Interpreters is not a subscription-based database, but rather a free resource. One attendee who stopped by our table was Mat Edelson, a medical journalist and founder of InformAll, a nonprofit that uses audiobooks, podcasts, and new media to provide accessible health and wellness information to the public. He was enthusiastic about our members’ services, telling ATA by email, “I’m very impressed with the ATA directory; it’s a wonderful resource for both translators and interpreters and folks such as myself who need to hire them! [. . .] I have a feeling I’m going to be using it a lot in the coming months and years.”

These comments reflect the very positive feedback we received from attendees, including a representative from Overdrive, a large player in digital content for libraries, and representatives from several university presses who are expanding their catalogs outside their own university communities and who often publish works in translation. We were also quite pleased when several people from HarperVia, the new imprint of HarperCollins devoted to international literature in English translation, stopped by our table to learn more about translation, interpreting, and, specifically, how to find the right ATA member for future projects. These are just examples of the many people who stopped by ATA’s table.

We used a computer connected to ATA’s online directory to show visitors how they could find the right professionals for their projects. We demonstrated how to search using criteria such as language pair, location, keyword, certification status (translators), credential status (interpreters), specialization, and more. ATA members should note that in their profiles they can add free-form information in the “Additional Information” section that users of the directory can then search using the “keywords” field on the search interface. This is a way for members to add helpful information about expertise or background that may not be covered
in the more structured sections of the directory.

For example, one visitor was looking for a translator who worked from English into Korean and who specialized in yachting. In this case, “yachting” would be a good keyword to add to your profile if applicable. We also suggested to attendees that if they could not find the specialization they were searching for in a specific language pair, it could be fruitful to contact an ATA language division as a way to get the word out about their project.

From left: Panelists Marleen Seegers (owner, 2 Seas Agency); Barbara Zitwer (owner, Barbara J. Zitwer Agency); Peter Borland (vice president and editor-in-chief, Atria Books, Simon & Schuster Inc.); Claire Sabatie-Garat (literary agent, The Italian Literary Agency); and moderator Gabriella Page-Fort (editorial director, AmazonCrossing). (Photo courtesy of Kate Deimling)

What Languages Are Publishers Looking for?

The publishing industry professionals we encountered were interested in a wide variety of language pairs, including English to and from French, German, Dutch, Korean, Polish, and others. In fact, English into U.S. Spanish was the most talked about language pair at the show. Given how publishing rights work, in addition to Spanish, U.S. publishers most often look for translators who work from other languages into English. Moreover, publishers in other countries most often look for translators who work into the language of their particular country. However, from talking to publishing professionals, we found that these are not hard-and-fast rules and they also may have need for interpreters. For example, in addition to book translations, the companies we met may need translations of contracts, communications materials, marketing materials, and interpreting services both to and from English. As an example, we spoke to the Taipei Book Fair Foundation, which supports the work of Taiwanese authors by sending them to book fairs in other countries. They hire interpreters for these events.

Think Beyond Literary When Marketing

While within our own industry, we obviously see the merits of using professional translators and interpreters and ATA members for language-related projects in the business space, we were thrilled and even a bit surprised at the reaction from publishing professionals. On one hand, the welcome extended to us was quite encouraging. On the other, it’s a bit disconcerting that a readily available, free resource for finding professional translators and interpreters was virtually unknown to event participants who are often in search of translation services. This should encourage us all, as an organization and individually, to continue our efforts to promote the translating and interpreting professions to the wider business community.

Furthermore, it’s important to recognize the wide variety of publishers who were present. These included those who might most readily come to mind when one thinks of “book publishing,” such as publishers of fiction, literary works, and children’s literature. But there were also publishers from many other categories at the event, including numerous nonfiction publishers in fields like medicine, religion, business, crafting, gardening, leisure activities, and sports. Attendees also mentioned that translators are often found by word of mouth and that they often have difficulties finding the right translator. ATA translators and interpreters should take a tip here and realize that there are various types of publishers that might need their services. Think “outside the box” when marketing: remember, “publishing” doesn’t just mean “literary.”

Attendees repeatedly mentioned their concern with finding a quality translator who has the right expertise for their particular project. For example, one publisher said he was looking for a French into English translator who was an expert at knitting and crocheting to translate craft books. In another instance, a publisher of mainstream Protestant religious materials was satisfied with the quality of the day-to-day translations for promotional brochures, but was still seeking English into Spanish translators who could translate official texts used during church services in the proper register. In addition, Expo attendees readily acknowledged their need for both translation and interpreting services, the latter for international publishing events and events where international authors are present and promoted, to name a few.

From left: Moderator: Chad Post (founder, Open Letter Books); Nick Buzanski (general manager/buyer, Book Culture NYC); Lisa Lucas (executive director, National Book Foundation); Michael Reynolds (editor-in-chief, Europa Editions). (Photo courtesy of Kate Deimling)

The Importance of Literature in Translation

We were also pleased to see that, during the first day of the conference, all sessions were focused on literature in translation, how international books are discovered, and how foreign rights are purchased. In addition, presenters indicated that translated works are becoming more accepted by the U.S. publishing industry as a whole. However, according to one panelist, only about 3% of all books published in the U.S. are translations. The industry is still fighting the misconception that foreign fiction is exclusive or highbrow, or, as one panelist put it, “for people wearing berets.”3

An international network of literary agents and scouts play a crucial role in finding books to be translated for the U.S. audience. “Partials” (partial translations) of a work are also an important tool for encouraging publishers to purchase the rights to foreign-language content. Panelists who spoke represented works translated from Korean, Italian, and Swedish that have become “blockbusters” in the U.S. market.4

During these panel presentations, each speaker stressed the importance of the quality of the translation product for translated works that had become successful in the U.S. market. They used phrases like “gorgeous translation,” “really great translation,” and “excellent translation” as being one of the keys to the success of international books. In addition, panelists mentioned that even popular international fiction writers may need more than one translator if they write books in more than one style or genre.

A Resounding Success

ATA’s presence at the New York Rights Fair and Book Expo was a resounding success. The enthusiastic responses we received from potential clients reveal a wealth of opportunities for our members in the publishing industries, both in the U.S. and abroad.

(Kate Deimling, Lucy Gunderson, Kristin Kamm, Stephanie Delozier Strobel, and Valeriya Yermishova contributed to this article.)

Notes
  1. Milliot, Jim. “Event Attendees Rose 2% at BookExpo; BookCon Attendance Held at 20,000,” Publishers Weekly (June 20, 2018), http://bit.ly/Milliot-BookExpo.
  2. Email received from event management dated May 9, 2019.
  3. The panel, which took place on May 29, 2019, was entitled “International Literature: Promoting and Finding Audiences.”
  4. The panel, which took place on May 29, 2019, was entitled “Inside the World of Foreign Rights Sales and Scouting.”

Eve Lindemuth Bodeux, CT is an ATA director and an ATA-certified French>English translator. She is the owner of Bodeux International, a company that offers multilingual project management and other language services to clients worldwide. She has served as chair of ATA’s Public Relations Committee since 2018. She also served as administrator of ATA’s French Language Division (2014–2018), as well as two terms as vice president of the Colorado Translators Association (2008–2012). She has a BA in French and political science from Lebanon Valley College, an MA in international relations from the University of Virginia, and a graduate degree in European studies from the Université de Lorraine in France. She co-hosts the Speaking of Translation podcast. Contact: eve@bodeuxinternational.com.

Palm Springs, Here We Come!

By the time you read this, registration will be open for ATA’s 60th Annual Conference. Translators and interpreters will be taking over Palm Springs, California, from October 23–26, and we can’t wait to see you there! Included with this issue of The ATA Chronicle (or online, if you receive the digital version), you’ll find the preliminary program and hotel reservation information so you can start planning for four days of education, networking, and fun!

I attended my first ATA conference back in 2004 in Toronto, Canada. At the time, I had been freelancing for about two years and had never been away from my toddler daughter (now a rising high school senior!) overnight. The trip was a huge leap—financially, professionally, and emotionally. Walking into the opening reception, I felt like I had just landed at a family reunion with over a thousand attendees, about four of whom I knew by name.

Throughout the conference, I forced myself to hand out business cards to everyone I met. I took notes during every session and made an effort to connect with some of the speakers. It was an overwhelming experience, but it also—through a chance encounter in the hallway—connected me with a new major client. In the year following that conference, I doubled my freelance income and finally knew that I was going to make it as a freelance translator.

Over the years, I worked my way up the conference ladder. Finally, I was no longer a newbie! I knew more than four people, and I didn’t have to eat breakfast alone! After a few years, I got up the courage to submit a session proposal, which led to even more contacts and a higher profile in the profession. ATA’s Annual Conference became—and still is—the highlight of my professional year. It also seems fitting that ATA60 is where a chapter in my own professional life will close, as I rotate off the ATA Board after seven years, leaving you in the capable hands of our current President-Elect, Ted Wozniak.

Attending ATA’s Annual Conference is an investment. We know that not every member can attend every year, and that’s why we’ve enhanced our offerings in terms of webinars and one-day seminars. But if you attend the conference, we promise that you’ll be glad you made that investment. The quality of our sessions is top-notch, the networking opportunities are one of a kind, and this year’s venue in Palm Springs allows for plenty of face time (real face time, not the app!) with other attendees. As an attendee commented a few years ago, ATA’s Annual Conference truly is “the experience you can’t download.” We hope to see you soon in Palm Springs!

ATA at the ELIA Together Conference in Barcelona, Spain

ELIA attendees gather outside the conference venue. (Photo by Daniel Seabra.)

In February 2019 I had the pleasure of representing ATA at the European Language Industry Association (ELIA) Together conference in Barcelona, Spain. (ATA was a sponsor.) ELIA describes itself on its website as the “European not-for-profit trade association of language service companies with a mission to accelerate our members’ business success.”1

Throughout the year, ELIA hosts a number of events for language services companies, but the ELIA Together conference is a yearly event targeted to both freelancers and language companies. As defined on ELIA’s website, the Together conference is a: “two-day event that brings together professionals from across the industry for an open dialogue on industry trends, to learn mutually-relevant new approaches, to update technical skills and, ultimately, serve our end clients better. Most importantly, it’s a friendly, collaborative environment in which to develop lasting relationships.”2 I couldn’t agree more.

Mastering Digital Transformation

The theme for the 2019 conference was “Mastering Digital Transformation,” which ELIA defined as: “Focusing on what your business needs to do to stand out from the crowd and how to provide solutions to the changing needs of our end clients.”3

The event kicked off with keynote speaker Javier Zamora, senior lecturer in the Department of Information Systems at the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de la Empresa Business School of the University of Navarra in Barcelona. His presentation, “The Digital Mindset: Beyond the Technological Fads,” was inspiring and eye-opening for those in attendance. Zamora started by providing a brief history of machine learning and artificial intelligence. He shared an illustrative anecdote about the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence from 1955. That year, a group of researchers stated that they could discover and solve the problems of how machines use language in just two months if they could get the proper funding and build the perfect team of 10 scientists. Zamora got a good round of giggles and pats on the back from the translator-filled audience at that story.

Although Zamora emphasized that no one knows exactly where technology is heading—or if machines will ever reach singularity—he really drove home the importance of embracing new technologies instead of rejecting them. There is no denying that we, as humans and as translators, have to realize and accept that machines can now perceive and learn, but they can’t yet abstract or reason. If we know the limits of artificial intelligence, we can figure out how to leverage its uses for our own competitive advantage. Zamora encouraged us to be knowledgeable and aware about the tools available to us. Whether we like it or not, machine translation (MT) is a reality in our industry. Zamora also reminded us that advancements in technology are affecting every sector on the planet, not just ours. He ended on a positive note, saying that technology will improve our sector if we’re willing and able to use it appropriately and to our advantage.

Trending Topic: Machine Translation

Zamora’s keynote speech set the tone for the conference. During coffee and lunch breaks, or in the hallway between sessions, I didn’t hear much of the usual MT bashing I often hear at other translator and interpreter industry events. I participated in numerous conversations about MT that were quite refreshing. People talked about its advantages just as much as its disadvantages. I learned a lot, especially since I’ve not personally worked with MT before.

I had an incredibly enlightening conversation with an agency owner turned MT tool owner. He explained his current business process to me, saying that he trained specific MT tools for each of his clients. He said that once the machine was trained and put in place, he was back to square one—the same square one as any translation company: finding specialized translators that are good enough to work with the text at hand. He emphasized that the translation process really hadn’t changed that much. He still needed specialized translators to post-edit specialized texts. He was on a mission to tell as many translators as possible to rest assured. We aren’t being replaced by machines, we’re just working faster because of them.

ATA Spokesperson Molly Yurick (second from left) participates in panel session, “What Does the
Future Hold for Freelancers?” at ELIA Together. (Photo by Daniel Seabra.)

Freelancers, Language Companies, and Tool Representatives

ELIA welcomed a total of 236 attendees: 80 language services and computer-assisted translation tool companies and 119 freelancers. The remaining attendees were a mix of university professors, language consultants, and others. What I liked most about this conference was the great diversity of attendees interacting and mingling the entire time.

The two days of the conference were divided into two session tracks (“specialization” and “trends and technology”), which took place in separate rooms. As at most conferences, the sessions were hit or miss. The specialization track sessions were full of great ideas on how and why to specialize. Unfortunately, after two days of back-to-back sessions on specialization, they ended up being a bit repetitive. This was due to no fault of the presenters, since it’s hard to spin specialization in a million different ways. The trends and technology track was more varied, touching on items of interest to both freelancers and language companies. Some of the sessions that were specific to language companies were quite insightful for freelancers as well. I learned why language companies ask freelancers to do free tests, how project managers select a freelancer for a job, and what the onboarding process looks like from the language company’s side. One of my favorite sessions was about productivity, such as using email templates to save on typing time or the Pomodoro method to stay on track during the work day.

What Does the Future Hold for Freelancers?

The conference concluded with a panel session called “What Does the Future Hold for Freelancers?” I was honored to participate on the panel alongside such esteemed colleagues as:

  • Jerzy Czopik, a freelance translator and interpreter and the vice president of the Bundesverband der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer e.V., a professional association of interpreters and translators in Germany.
  • Clio Schils, president of ELIA and global director of life sciences at CQ Fluency.
  • Annette Schiller, chair of the International Federation of Translators (FIT) Europe, the Regional Centre Europe of FIT. She is also a professor of translation at Dublin City University and a freelance translator.

The ELIA conference app made it possible to survey the audience live to kick off the panel. Responses came up on the screen as they were submitted.

  • “Do you think the future will change your life?”
    • “Yes, positively” received 96 votes
    • “Yes, negatively” received 11 votes
    • “No, it will not change my life” received 3 votes

We were pleasantly surprised by the positive results, which set a great tone for the panel discussion. We answered tough questions from the moderator, Diego Cresceri, founder and chief executive officer of Creative Words, a localization company based in Italy. We spoke about our personal thoughts on the future, the most important skills that freelancers need to develop to remain relevant in tomorrow’s market, and how language services companies and freelancers can work together to better tackle current and future challenges in our industry. I personally encouraged freelancers to keep an open mind regarding new technologies, to make the most of the technology our agency clients have to share with us, and to stay informed.

The panel was well-received by attendees, who engaged with us in a lively Q&A session at the end. For me, one of the highlights of the panel came from an ELIA member who stood up and said that she was a big fan of ATA. She explained that she had attended an ATA conference in the past, was extremely impressed with how it went, and hoped that ELIA would eventually grow to be as large as ATA.

Final Thoughts

I would highly recommend attending the ELIA Together conference. I met interesting colleagues and connected with potential clients while learning a lot along the way. Next year’s date and location are still to be determined, but I hope to see you there!

Notes
  1. ELIA website, http://bit.ly/Elia-Together.
  2. About ELIA, http://bit.ly/Elia-about.
  3. ELIA-Together Program, http://bit.ly/Elia-Together-program.

Molly Yurick is a Spanish>English translator specializing in the tourism, hospitality, and airline industries. She has worked as a medical interpreter in Minnesota and as a cultural ambassador for the Ministry of Education in Spain. She has a BA in Spanish and global studies and a certificate in medical interpreting from the University of Minnesota. She is currently living in northern Spain. Contact: molly@yuricktranslations.com.

Profile of ATA 2017–2018 School Outreach Contest Winner: Jessica Sanchez

This year’s School Outreach winner took an innovate approach to teaching students about her work—a live interpreting demonstration with headsets for everyone!
Jessica Sanchez, a Spanish interpreter and interpreter coordinator for the Fayette County Public School District in Kentucky, won a free registration to ATA’s 59th Annual Conference in New Orleans through ATA’s School Outreach Contest. Jessica won the contest with an engaging photo (see below) taken during her presentation at Harrison Elementary School in Lexington, Kentucky.

Jessica Sanchez explains the difference between translation and interpreting to students at Harrison Elementary School’s Career Day in Lexington, Kentucky.

Jessica Sanchez explains the difference between translation and interpreting to students at Harrison Elementary School’s Career Day in Lexington, Kentucky.

Interpreting a Storybook for Students

Jessica often speaks to students in her school district about translation and interpreting. For her winning photo presentation, Harrison Elementary School invited her to speak to 10 rotating groups of students from multiple grade levels for Career Day. Each presentation lasted about 15–20 minutes.

“The population at this school is very diverse, so I started my presentation by greeting students in Spanish and then asking who speaks a language other than English at home,” Jessica says. Her main goal was to make sure the students understood
the difference between translation and interpreting.

Jessica used a poster board decorated with images and flags from all around the world. “I included pictures to help students see the difference between translators and interpreters,” she explains. “I had a cartoon image of two people talking and an interpreter interpreting for them. I also had a document translation to show them: one paper with English and one with Spanish. Visuals are great for kids!”

Jessica explained to the students that just as doctors have tools to make sure their patients’ eyes and ears are in good health, interpreters also have tools. Jessica brought interpreting headsets for the students to wear while she interpreted a storybook for them. The teacher stood in front of the students, reading in English, while Jessica stood out of sight in the hall interpreting what the teacher was reading into the headsets. “Seeing the countless smiles on students’ faces and how they covered their mouths in disbelief when they heard me in action was amazing,” she says.

“The best part for me was that the teachers and staff learned the difference between a translator and an interpreter,” Jessica says. Another highlight for Jessica was when one student excitedly proclaimed, “I want to be an interpreter when I grow up!” and one of his peers responded, “But you only speak English!”

From a Bilingual Childhood to a Bilingual Career

Jessica was born and raised in the border town of Weslaco, Texas, where 95% of the population is Hispanic. “I was an English Language Learner student at school. My parents only spoke Spanish and all the ‘important’ people in my community only spoke English,” Jessica explains. Because of this, Jessica says she often served as her parents’ interpreter. Ever since then, serving as an informal interpreter has always been a part of her life.

“When I worked at a medical facility in Texas, everyone there spoke Spanish,” she says. “Oftentimes the doctors spoke Spanish, but not well enough, so I would end up interpreting for them.”

After moving to Kentucky in 2003 to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Jessica’s informal interpreting work continued. “When I came to Kentucky, I worked as a bank teller, but was often pulled away from my desk to interpret for other employees and customers.”

The same thing happened when Jessica began working with her local school district in 2004. She started as a substitute teacher, then worked as a teaching assistant, then moved into a registrar position, and then on to budget and staffing. Jessica says she was constantly being pulled away to interpret while working in all these positions.

“When I saw that the position of interpreting coordinator for the school district was available, I knew the job was for me! It was so nice to finally have a job title that reflected what I had already been doing for years at all my other jobs,” she says.

Jessica coordinates approximately 85 interpreters for 40 different languages in the school district’s 66+ schools and programs. She also interprets at school conferences, special education meetings, family nights, and anywhere else she is needed. Jessica says she likes to interpret as often as she can so she can better understand and advise her interpreters when they are faced with a difficult situation.

Jessica completed the “Bridging the Gap” certification for medical interpreters through the Cross Cultural Health Care Program and an interpreter certification program through the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. She is planning to take ATA’s certification exam in the near future.

Multilingualism and Multiculturalism in Lexington, Kentucky

Jessica admits that she experienced culture shock when she first moved from Texas to Kentucky. “Everyone in my hometown looked like me and spoke my language, so when I moved to diverse Lexington, I just wasn’t used to it,” she remembers. But over time, Jessica embraced her new multicultural city. Not only does she work as an interpreter coordinator for a wide range of languages, but she also partners with Global Lex, a local non-governmental organization that assists refugee and multicultural families in the area. “Their data and records show that there are 160 languages spoken in the city of Lexington, Kentucky alone,” she says excitedly.

Jessica has two children that were born and raised in Lexington and says that it’s amazing to see them make friends with people from all around the world. “They’ll come home from school and tell me about how their friends celebrate different holidays and speak different languages than we do,” she says. “It’s so beautiful!”

Jessica is also very proud of how her school district celebrates its students’ multicultural backgrounds. She says that many schools host “International Night” for students and their families. During the school day, in the hall and cafeteria, students walk to tables dedicated to every country represented by the student population. The kids get a passport and go from table to table to get their stamps and learn about the countries represented. Jessica often sits at the Mexico table and teaches students about traditional quinceañeras (a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, marking her transition from childhood to maturity). Then, that same evening, the students’ parents come to school to watch the parade of flags, where each student walks with the flag from their country of origin. The day wraps up with a potluck featuring dishes from every country. When Jessica participates, she usually cooks Mexican tamales.

Another initiative Jessica is proud of in the district is the new “Seal of Biliteracy” program. High school seniors who speak, read, and write in a language other than English can take an exam to confirm their biliteracy. If they pass the exam, they receive the seal of biliteracy on their diploma, which helps them stand out when applying for jobs and college.

“I love what I do,” Jessica says. “It’s one thing when you get up to do a job, but it’s another thing to wake up and do something you love.”

Getting Involved in the School Outreach Effort

Jessica says she was honored to receive free registration to ATA’s Annual Conference for winning the School Outreach Contest, especially since she attended the conference for the first time last year and enjoyed the experience. “I’m looking forward to continuing this relationship with ATA,” she says.

Join our efforts! The 2018–2019 School Outreach Contest is now open and the winner will receive free registration to ATA’s 60th Annual Conference in Palm Springs, California, October 23–26, 2019. The deadline for contest submissions is July 18, 2019. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/school-outreach-contest.

Need Some Tips for Your School Outreach Presentation?

No problem! Just visit ATA’s online School Outreach Resource Center. Our goal is to give you quick, convenient access to material you can use in making presentations about the translation and interpreting professions. The material is organized by grade level. Each level includes What to Say, How to Say It, Extra Credit, and Presentations.

  • Tips on speaking to elementary school students
  • Tips on speaking to middle school students
  • Tips on speaking to high school students
  • Tips on speaking to college/graduate students

Just go to http://bit.ly/school-outreach-contest and click on Resource Materials.

Tell Us Your Story!

If you visit schools to speak to students about translation and interpreting, we would love to hear from you—whether or not you decide to submit a photo to the contest. Email School Outreach Coordinator Meghan Konkol at meghan@fr-en.com with a description of when and where you presented and let us know about your memorable experience. You can read other School Outreach stories here: https://atanet.org/ata_school/school_outreach_stories.php


Molly Yurick is a Spanish>English translator specializing in the tourism, hospitality, and airline industries. She has worked as a medical interpreter in Minnesota and as a cultural ambassador for the Ministry of Education in Spain. She has a BA in Spanish and global studies and a certificate in medical interpreting from the University of Minnesota. She is currently living in northern Spain. Contact: molly@yuricktranslations.com.

Teaching Localization in the 21st Century: Six Practices That Make a Difference

The author introducing students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen to the concept of product-centric translation.

The author introducing students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen to the concept of
product-centric translation.

Translation skill is no longer the key differentiator in the various careers available in the localization field.

For more than 10 years, I’ve been working full-time in leadership roles in the localization industry and have been sharing the insights I gained in the real world with newcomers to this still rapidly evolving field. Here are the main principles I’ve developed for my own teaching practice.

Bring the Corporate World into the Classroom

I believe the best way to prepare aspiring language professionals for a career in the localization industry is to expose students to real-world problems and solutions. As the vast majority of participants in my courses seek in-house employment, I go beyond the translatable text to examine localization in the context of business transactions. These transactions typically involve roles other than that of the translator.

In my current position as manager of the language management program at a global enterprise, I provide guidance to content creators on how to write translation-ready texts, manage a team of terminologists who maintain a multilingual corporate terminology database, and manage a team of analysts who manage translation projects from end to end using a powerful and highly automated translation management system. I’m also responsible for the overall relationship with our external language and technology service providers.

I’m happy to say that a number of my former students are already in similar positions where they’re not only responsible for translation, but for a much larger portion of the multilingual content life cycle. Preparing students for these bigger roles requires teaching staff that have a perspective that goes beyond that of the freelance translator.

Focus on the Product

One of the key differences between traditional translation and localization is the fact that in localization there is typically a strong link between translatable text and a commercial product. When translating a newspaper article, context is important, but the text itself stands on its own. In a localization project, however, a given text is usually part of a product launch or update. And a product launch typically involves multiple texts and text types (e.g., user manual, tutorials, specifications, marketing materials, etc.).

Teaching product-centric translation means emphasizing the importance of the consistency of a translation with other translations of the same launch, previous launches, as well as launches of related products. In my opinion, the only way of addressing the consistency problem that is particularly challenging in product-related translation projects is through the effective use of translation tools—in the real world and in the classroom. And that means teaching more machine translation, post-editing, and above all, terminology management skills!

Figure 1: Types of content I have delivered via the cloud in my courses

Figure 1: Types of content I have delivered via the cloud in my courses

Take the Classroom into the Cloud

The cloud has had a dramatic impact on how I teach localization. Using cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) applications, my students now have access to the latest translation technology from any device, from anywhere. In other words, students can use a laptop, tablet, or smartphone that runs Windows, MacOS, iOS, or Android in class, at home, or from any place with an internet connection. And 24/7 access is not limited to software applications. In fact, I’ve moved all teaching materials to the cloud: reading materials, assignments, instructor slides, exams (with instant feedback!), as well as student-generated content (groups capture their deliverables in wikis). And since most SaaS tools neither require a heavy up-front investment nor technical support from the educational institution’s information technology department, these cloud-based solutions can be rolled-out very quickly. Note: In the courses that I’ve been teaching, students work with cloud-based translation memory, translation management, terminology management, machine translation, post-editing, and translation quality assurance systems. (See Figure 1 below for the types of course content I deliver via the cloud.)

Treat Translation Memory Systems Primarily as Quality Assurance Tools

Translation memory (TM) systems have become commonplace in today’s translation courses, sometimes for the wrong reasons. If students are told that the only reason for using a TM is to leverage previous translations, these students will not use a TM system for non-repetitive texts. That teaching approach might also be frustrating for students who start with an empty TM, as these students may not get any immediate benefit from using TM technology. If, however, students are introduced to the TM as a quality assurance tool, the return on investment is instant. From translating the very first sentence in a TM system, students can take advantage of functions like completeness control, formatting control, and terminology control. (See Figure 2 on page 22.) Note: In my opinion, any translation project where formal translation quality is a consideration (e.g., stylistic, numerical, and terminological consistency, formatting, etc.) should be processed in a TM or translation management system.

Teach Project Management as the New Key Skill

Most of the students I’ve taught in recent years seek in-house, salaried positions after graduation. The reality of the job market in the U.S. is that unlike in the past, very few organizations, including language services providers (LSPs), have internal translation staff. Today, the overwhelming majority of translators work as freelance linguists for LSPs or direct clients. But LSPs and a growing number of organizations that buy translation services are hiring translation and localization project managers. In fact, the majority of students I’ve been teaching over the years now work as project or program managers, and as such, they manage localization projects instead of translating documents. Therefore, to prepare students for success in the localization industry means shifting the focus from teaching translation skills to teaching project management skills.

Yes, localization students need a basic understanding of the translation process, but more importantly, these students need to be aware that translation is just one piece in a long chain of processes that begins (ideally) with authoring for translation (and using author-assist tools like terminology management and automatic style checkers), translation preparation (including pre-translation), translation and revision (including automatic quality assurance), and (ideally) client review, publishing, and translation maintenance.

Figure 2: Example of a cloud-based translation memory system I use in class. This screenshot was taken on an Android device, displaying several quality assurance features (e.g., automatic terminology look-up, formatting placeholders, and completeness control).

Figure 2: Example of a cloud-based translation memory system I use in class. This screenshot was taken on an Android device, displaying several quality assurance features (e.g., automatic terminology look-up, formatting placeholders, and completeness control).

Harness the Power of (Social) Networking

Can (localization) students be too prepared for their job search? I believe not. And that’s why the very first tool I expose students to in my introduction to computer-assisted translation course is LinkedIn, the global job search engine. True, the majority of students already have a LinkedIn profile, but I’ve yet to see the incoming student who has a complete, let alone compelling, profile.

But can’t creating a presence on professional networks wait until students are close to graduation? Not if you want the best jobs for your students. Building a LinkedIn profile that really stands out takes time, especially the tasks that most LinkedIn users neglect (e.g., creating a network of relevant first-degree connections, getting recommendations/endorsements from former managers and co-workers, and joining relevant professional groups).

Over the past few years, I’ve built one of the largest networks of translators and people who hire translators/buy translation services, with more than 30,000 followers worldwide. I’ve always invited my students to connect with/follow me so that they can take advantage of my connections, and I’m now extending the same offer to all linguists. You can find my LinkedIn profile here: www.linkedin.com/in/uwemuegge. In addition, I maintain a Twitter account from which I tweet job opportunities, information on grants, awards, and competitions, as well as information on translation and localization events. Feel free to follow me here: https://twitter.com/uwemuegge.

It’s Not All about Translation Skills

As the field of localization evolves, so must the programs that prepare students for the increasing number of opportunities in this exciting field. Localization is very different from traditional translation in many ways, and I know from personal experience that translation skill is no longer the key differentiator in the various careers available in this field. I believe that it’s the depth of an applicant’s understanding of language processing technology and business processes, and how well that person is connected in the real and virtual worlds, that will determine their initial success in the localization industry.


Uwe Muegge is the global language manager at Arthrex, a global medical device company. He has more than 15 years of experience in translation and localization, having worked in leadership functions on both the vendor and buyer sides of the industry. He has published numerous articles on translation tools and processes and taught computer-assisted translation and terminology management courses at the college level in both the U.S. and Europe. You can find him on LinkedIn (linkedin.com/in/uwemuegge) and Twitter (twitter.com/uwemuegge). Contact: info@muegge.cc.

Tips for Networking When You Work from Home

The next time you think about the need to network to grow your translation or interpreting business, shift your mindset to how you can actually build relationships and invest in others. The returns are bound to be much greater.

It’s probably safe to say that a majority of freelance translators work from home. Even if you’re a freelance interpreter, you may not have a traditional office, since you likely go from one assignment to another during the workday. So, how do you work out the timing and logistics of networking with potential and current clients? If you’re anything like me, you don’t always have the bandwidth for traditional networking (i.e., taking time out of your hectic week to drive to an event, spending time talking to people who are usually unqualified leads, and then following up with anyone who showed promise over email or by phone later that week). It can be exhausting to try to fit everything in. While there’s a lot to be said for meeting people in person, I believe we could be doing this more effectively, especially for those of us who aren’t the best at traditional networking or have limited time for scheduling extra events in the middle of the week.

Let’s be honest. The traditional methods of networking are not effective for everyone all the time. Sure, it’s great to grow your network, but how many times have you attended a networking event and felt like you didn’t take away a single warm lead? Or how many times have you walked away with a few leads you felt were solid, only to follow up and hear nothing but crickets?

Well, if I’ve learned anything over the years about networking effectively, it’s that you don’t have to know how to work a room to be good (or great!) at networking. You can still form and grow a solid network when working from home, and you don’t necessarily have to lose time commuting or organizing business cards so you can remember whom to contact after an event. The following are my top tips for effective networking when you work from home.

1. Make time for one-on-one meetings instead. You don’t have to attend every in-person event near you to reach those in your local area. Instead, choose to set up one-on-one meetings and nix those large mixer events from the schedule. After all, it can be very draining to attend large networking events. There are too many unknowns.

Let the person know you would like only an hour of their time, and make it clear what you plan to talk about so that you’ve also given that person the courtesy of feeling prepared. A huge perk of networking in one-on-one scenarios is that if the other person agrees to meet, no one’s time is wasted and you can make a more serious and effective connection. It will certainly be a more memorable one. You can also look up plenty of information about the other person and their business or organization in advance. This way you’re able to rule out some of those unknowns and show this person that you did your homework.

2. Send valuable information. Instead of trying to think of something intelligent to add to a conversation on the spot at a networking event, make better use of your time by researching leads/prospective clients and sending them something that’s worth their time. This should be something of interest to them that they wouldn’t normally expect from you. It could be an article you saw that might help them gain new perspective in their business, a blog post you wrote that applies to them and what they do, or even a handwritten note. (Major points here if you do this, as it’s not that common anymore to send handwritten notes. Trust me, people love them!)

Do you sell a service that might help someone in their day-to-day life? Offer to give them a sample of your work to use free of charge. I’m not saying you should give away your work or time, but think of something unique that will make them want to keep talking to you. Whatever you choose to send, it ought to be something more memorable than just your business card.

3. Network virtually. If you really want to do business with someone, one of the best steps you can take is to follow them on social media and interact with them. Is your lead someone who posts regularly on a topic about which you’re knowledgeable? Take time every day to work on your social media game. You could even include them in one of your posts and recommend them as a great business, resource, or role model (you name it). Whatever you do, give credit where credit is due and be as classy about it as possible. Also, check your “networking” posts and comments for punctuation errors, typos, etc., before you hit “publish.” Even if the interaction takes place only online, publicly misspelling the name or social media handle of someone you want to get to know better is not a good way to make a first impression. After all, we are word people. If nothing else, we should get this part right!

4. Send a congratulatory note. A very kind way of networking with someone is to congratulate them when you see that they’ve accomplished something, accepted a new position, or celebrated a milestone. This is not the time to sell your services. Just say “congratulations” and be personable. That’s all. They’ll remember you for it.

5. Meet online if you can’t meet in person. While in-person meetings are ideal, technology allows us to “meet” people we might not ordinarily have the chance to sit down with. For example, I often have virtual coffee meetings with people in another state or country. Take advantage of the amazing technology out there that allows us to bypass geographic boundaries. You’ll feel comfortable in your own space and there will be none of that first-time awkwardness that can sometimes come with meeting in person. You can still make a great connection and most likely have a more engaging conversation than you could at a large networking event.

6. Use your email list. Maybe you’ve heard this advice before, but use your email list. Seriously. Don’t depend on the power of social media to do mass networking for you. As people say—and it’s true—social media accounts are rented space. That’s made obvious every time Facebook and other platforms update algorithms. You have no idea if you’re even showing up in your followers’ feeds. But you know you’re going to show up in people’s inboxes. So, work on building your email list and use email to network with current clients, leads, and people who have similar interests. Set up an email capture of some sort on your website and start sending out email to your list on a consistent basis. Provide your contacts with valuable information that makes them excited to see your email. Just by showing up in their inboxes, you’ll stay top of mind with the people on your list. This can lead to new projects, referrals, and other opportunities.

7. Let your other social gatherings double as networking opportunities. Now, I’m not telling you to start handing out business cards at every social gathering you attend. But when the opportunity arises, be ready. For example, when I’m in public and get asked about what I do, I’ve already got a brief elevator speech ready for anyone who might be a prospective client. (For tips on preparing an effective elevator speech, see the sidebar on page 20.) And you better believe I have a business card or two in my bag should they ask me for more information.

Be ready to meet people in unexpected places: airplanes, your child’s soccer game, the public library, church events, or wherever you spend time outside the home or office. After all, isn’t that how things go? You never know whom you’ll meet or be standing next to when you’re waiting in line somewhere. Being prepared to connect is not strange. It’s smart. Just remember that when you do get into a conversation, don’t spend a lot of time talking about yourself, as this may come off as being too “salesy.” Just give the person your information and request theirs. You can follow up with them later in a more appropriate way.

Network Outside the Box

There are so many ways to network that don’t involve taking time away from your family in the evenings or losing large amounts of time from your workday. No more attending an event and leaving with a fistful of cards, knowing that only one or two of those people might be truly interested in your services.

Think of ways you can communicate effectively with your target audience that work for you and your lifestyle, schedule, etc. Be creative and think outside the box! People will remember you more for these things and your business cards won’t end up in their trash can.

Finally, don’t be afraid to set up a limited number of meetings per week or month. For example, I only meet with people on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the most part. Stick to what works for you and what allows you to be effective in your business and grow at your own pace.

Jackson Spalding, a marketing communications agency, has a very refreshing perspective on networking. Their take is that making meaningful connections is all about building relationships rather than relying only on traditional networking methods.

Networking is about meeting people. […] Networking is a task while relationship building is a commitment. It’s more long term than short term, more quality of relationships than quantity. Networking can be superficial, while relationship building is always about professional and personal sincerity.

So, the next time you think about the need to network to grow your translation or interpreting business, shift your mindset to how you can actually build relationships and invest in others. The returns are bound to be much greater.1

MAKE THAT CONNECTION WITH A MORE EFFECTIVE ELEVATOR SPEECH

David, Tim. “Your Elevator Pitch Needs an Elevator Pitch,” Harvard Business Review (December 30, 2014), http://bit.ly/HBR-elevator-pitch.
Poole, Laura, “Honing Your Elevator Speech,” Copyediting (March 10, 2017), http://bit.ly/honing-speech.
Scalco, Dan. “5 Ways To Take Your Elevator Pitch To The Next Level,” Inc. (October 27, 2017), http://bit.ly/Inc-elevator.

Notes
  1. Achieving Preeminence: The Seven Pillars (Jackson Spalding), http://bit.ly/achieving-preeminence.

Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo, an ATA director, is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions and a Spanish>English and Portuguese>English translator. She joined ATA’s Public Relations Committee in 2012 before becoming its chair in 2014. She has also served as administrator for ATA’s Medical Division (2011–2015). She has a BA in Spanish from the University of Southern Mississippi and an MA in Spanish from the University of Louisville. She is also a consultant for the University of Louisville Graduate Certificate in Translation. You can read more of her articles on her blog at www.madalenazampaulo.com/blog. Contact: madalena@accessibletranslations.com.

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