Displaying items by tag: blog2021

Carla Bakkum

When Carla Bakkum tells people she specializes in financial translation, reactions vary all the way from awe to downright horror. But take it from somebody who has spent over 30 years Swimming with Sharks, the financial world is exciting. Here Carla busts seven common myths about the profession.

You need a financial background to be a word worker in this sector

False. I myself am a case in point. As a Dutch gymnasium student, I was never bothered with something as mundane as economics, and five years studying English at the University of Amsterdam made me none the wiser financially. But when private bank Pierson, Heldring & Pierson came to our professors looking for fresh translation talent, they recommended me, three-times winner of their department’s poetry translation contest. I blithely applied, having virtually no idea what I was letting myself in for, but knowing translation was where my heart lay.

Though I didn’t get the in-house job, the head translator Silvia Zaugg called me not much later to ask if I’d like to work freelance for them. She coached me intensively through my first on-site assignments and unfailingly sent me back the revisions not long after. With the experience I gained, I applied for and won work from ABN AMRO: I was launched as a financial translator. And what got me there? An enquiring mind, a sharp pen and a knack for quickly learning new languages – such as financialese.

It’s all about numbers

False. Financial texts are about the real world, about economic activity in all its varieties. Translating stock market updates, annual reports and press releases means treating yourself to a crash course in anything from beer brewing to baby nutrition, from aviation to nanotechnology, from power plants to solar cells. Some inkling of chemistry and physics is a real help, I find, and can actually give you an edge on the investment writer whose text you’re working on (who has typically studied economics or law). If you enjoy developing a broad knowledge base and learning something new every day, you have the makings of a financial translator.

It’s mind-bogglingly difficult

Sorry, not entirely a myth. Besides developing more than a nodding acquaintance with a myriad businesses, translating investment texts and annual reports means getting to grips with exotic beasts like hedge funds, interest-rate swaps, CoCos, floating rate notes, bear straddles, impairment, EBIDTA, tier 1 ratios…. And just when you think you’re on top of things, financial innovations like bitcoin and blockchain technology come along. Enough to make your head swim! Looking on the bright side, though, Google is your friend, and finance is one of the best-documented fields on the internet. If you do this kind of work long enough, you may actually one day catch your investment writers talking through their hats.

It’s ho-hum boring

False. If the variety and complexity of the subject matter isn’t enough to keep you on an adrenalin high, the tight deadlines will surely do the trick. Nowhere is timely information more a make-or-break factor than in the investment business, and nowhere does news turn stale more quickly. So if you can’t deliver that update the same day or overnight, you may as well not bother. Even then, in the time you need to translate your update, new events may reduce it to toilet-paper status. I was rarely more frustrated than the day I worked flat out to deliver a 2,500-word article, only to be told the next day they wouldn’t be using it and asked to translate a completely new one. On a positive note, I did, of course, get paid for both.

It’s a boom-and-bust business

It depends. There is a sizeable core of financial translation, editing and writing that needs doing whether business is booming or in the depths of recession. Annual reports, for example. But the times when I was translating one IPO prospectus a week are long gone. The 2008 recession had a definite impact on my top line. Over the years, however, my brushes with a range of industries while working for banks enabled me to win business clients outside the financial industry as well. I worked to expand in those areas and on broadening my own offering by venturing into copywriting.

There is no fun in financial translation

False, definitely false! The language of the stock market in particular oozes imagery. What is essentially just a matter of price variations over time is described in the financial pages with a poetic zest that is second only to that seen in sports journalism – perhaps because securities trading, like competitive sports, is an activity where modern humans (overwhelmingly men) sublimate their primordial lust for battle. Stocks can soar and nosedive, markets and profit-and-loss accounts can colour red, and Mario Draghi of the ECB has a Big Bazooka he can fire to defend the euro. Even if you’re not writing for the dailies, your texts are often meant for your client’s clients, and therefore need to be engaging and pleasant reading, a worthy calling card for the organization. The authors are rarely talented writers. Taking their pumpkin and mice and turning that into a golden carriage with six white horses is a significant added value that we, the fairy godparents of communication, bestow on our financial clients.

The financial industry is an evil empire that nice word workers like us should shun

False. Yes, false. Let me start by saying that among the people I have dealt with personally, the #@*hole count was extremely low. Many of my contacts are in-house translators, who are up against the same problems I face, but have to bear the brunt of all the office politics, too. The financial specialists I’ve worked with, barring a few exceptions, are dedicated and decent people. It was a horrifying experience watching the 2008 sub-prime crisis unfold from my particular vantage point as a freelancer and a word worker.

As I see it, the downfall of the mighty banks was perhaps not so much a matter of toxic assets as of toxic jargon. The quants who created the overly complex securities, and the traders who traded them, spoke a language that even their own bosses didn’t understand, let alone the investors who bought the securities. As in the fairy tale of the emperor’s new clothes, nobody dared admit they were clueless – or they preferred to ask no questions as long as the returns were so phenomenal.

As a word worker in this sector, you have the option to either go with the flow or spread a little clarity. I was once asked by a pension fund client to summarize and then translate into Dutch a lengthy ‘explanation’ of hedge funds. It had been given to them by a New York asset manager they had hired to invest in hedge funds on their behalf. One of my most challenging jobs ever! When I’d finished, the text was down to manageable size, readability greatly improved, jargon overload pruned – and the vital bad-news info that had been tucked away in the footnotes was now restored to the body text. A real eye-opener for my client. These days, with the harsh spotlight of public opinion shining more intensely on them than ever, financial institutions need to communicate more clearly, both internally and externally, and many are taking steps in the right direction. They are on the threshold of a much-needed culture shift, and as communication specialists we play a key role.

This article was originally published in eSense 43 (2016).

Tagged under

UniSIG HazelB

Thanks to Zoom, our January UniSIG speaker Hazel Baker was able to join us on a cold winter morning from Sydney, Australia, where it was a hot summer evening. Over 20 of us – including a couple of guests from the UK and South Africa – logged in on 15 January to hear her talk on ‘Academic editing in the Australian context’.

Hazel set the scene by giving a quick overview of IPEd, the professional association for Australian and New Zealand editors. Its 1,200 or so members are bound not only by its Constitution but also by its Code of Ethics. If they wish, they may apply for accreditation, which entails passing a stringent three-hour exam based on IPEd’s Australian standards for editing practice and then renewing their accreditation every five years. Like SENSE, IPEd has a directory of editors that can be used to search for editors with specific subject expertise and language skills.

Moving on to describe the academic context, Hazel pointed out that 25% of the students at Australia’s 43 universities are international, with Chinese accounting for the largest group, followed by students from India, Nepal, Brazil and Vietnam. A new edition of IPEd’s Guidelines for editing research theses was published in 2019. As well as explaining the copyediting and proofreading tasks involved in editing master’s or PhD theses, the guidelines also detail the responsibilities of supervisors and students.

It was no surprise to hear that in Australia, the cost of editing a thesis depends on the time needed, which in turn depends on factors such as number of words, complexity and quality of the language. Hazel noted that an Australian university will typically contribute about AUD 800 for editing a thesis; that’s equivalent to only about EUR 536! She did add that in practice, costs were higher.

Some of the aspects Hazel highlighted were familiar to us here in the Netherlands. They included the techniques of editing (tracking changes and using marginal comments), the ways editing can help academic researchers, who does the editing (salaried editors, freelance editors, editors working for companies providing editing services) and the range of documents they deal with, but there were differences. For example, under IPEd’s guidelines, students should show their editor their supervisor’s written approval to use an editor, and the version of the thesis the editor receives to work on must have been approved by the supervisor (‘signed off’) for editing. The guidelines clearly state what is meant by copyediting and what is meant by proofreading; from the discussion following Hazel’s talk it was clear that in Europe, the distinction is generally not so clear-cut and that in the UK in particular, ‘proofreading’ can cover a range of textual interventions, some of which are major. SENSE member Stephen Machon, however, did point out that faculties of law at Dutch universities take care to specify that editors of theses by law students may amend language but not content and that this process of amending language only is generally termed proofreading and not editing.

In response to a query about acknowledging editors’ input (which the guidelines advocate), Hazel noted that IPEd has suggested wordings available but that some universities require their suggested wording be followed.

This informative and lively 90-minute meeting demonstrated the added value of using Zoom to link up with colleagues from around the world to gain insights into other approaches and contexts of editing. There will be more opportunities for international linkups in forthcoming meetings!

Tagged under

RRR

On 6 November 2020, SENSE organized REFOCUS • REBOUND • REPEAT: a free panel discussion on risk-taking and agility for freelancers in turbulent times. The panel consisted of four founders of international, creative-industry companies, and was moderated by SENSE CPD Coordinator Matthew Curlewis. Longtime SENSE members Carla Bakkum and Francis Cox share their respective takes on the event.

Carla Bakkum:

I had signed up for the REFOCUS – REBOUND – REPEAT panel early on, drawn by the prospect of fresh voices from outside our regular circles. And I was not disappointed with the panel that our CPD Coordinator Matthew Curlewis expertly put together and hosted: the geographical range – from here to down under and back – was spectacular, and the varieties of English were a joy to hear.

David Beckett, the nestor of the group, related how he reinvented himself in the 2009 crisis after a losing his big-company job – an inspiring lesson in soul-searching and discovering your true talents. Industry influencer Kerry Finch highlighted the shift toward stakeholder capitalism among the big brands she advises. Amsterdam-based recruiter and consultant Mariette Hoitink described the ecosystem of young talents she works with and their take on life: keen to create, experience and take care of the world and each other, while less focused on financial success (a great example for older generations, I would say.) Valerie Khoo reported that writers in her country were bearing up pretty well in the current circumstances, while also reminding us that there’s a world beyond Covid-19 – it already exists in Australia!

Over 100 participants tuned in, all of whom could post questions and add comments. I saw lots of familiar names come by. It saddened me a bit that I couldn’t share a drink with them after the event, but on the whole, I came out of the session feeling genuinely uplifted.

Francis Cox:

The word 'inspiring' is overused, particularly in the copywriting game, but it fits the SENSE panel discussion REFOCUS - REBOUND - REPEAT. I was worried at first that it was going to be too corporate-speaky (‘Amplifying a thought leadership position’? Spare us!), but it soon got down to brass tacks. As someone who's reinvented himself several times over the years, a lot of the strategies mentioned were familiar to me. I'm a strong believer in making small improvements and changes in order to reach a bigger goal. That's how I moved to the Netherlands. I particularly liked Valerie Khoo's comment that there are a lot more opportunities out there for professional growth and change than you might think. That's certainly been my experience.

I had a problem, though, with the idea of pivoting or doing a 180. It sounds too drastic. I've been a video technician, fundraiser, translator, copywriter and actor. For me, there's been a logical progression to that career path since all those jobs relate to communication. One strategy I would add to those covered in the discussion is: Listen to the signals you get from your network or the universe in general. That's how I became an actor. More recently, people have been telling me I have a great voice. Because of that, I've been developing myself as a voice actor throughout the last lockdown. By constantly growing and changing in this way, I feel able to face whatever life throws at me.

What other attendees said:

“Outstanding, thank you all!”

“Very interesting, a good combination of panellists.”

“Inspiring discussion, thanks to SENSE and speakers!”

“Really useful and enjoyable.”

“Plenty of food for thought.”

The panel discussion recording is available upon request until 28 February 2021. Please contact the Web Manager if you are interested in viewing it.

Tagged under

Your Brand Here

The Starters SIG meeting on 7 December 2020 was an enjoyable session packed with useful information about personal branding for freelancers. Graphic designer and identity branding expert Sarah Notley discussed using social media, getting started with email marketing and the essentials of website design. She started her presentation with the thought-provoking statement that ‘Personal branding is the story people tell about you when you're not in the room.’ Having caught everyone's attention, she went on to talk about the tools you can use to communicate your brand (your visual identity, your website etc.), where to look for your target audience and how to reach them (don't put all your eggs in one basket), setting goals and ways of measuring success, choosing brand assets and making them work for you (without having to invest more time and effort than you can afford) and effective marketing strategies. She also discussed the basic principles of search engine optimisation (SEO) and strategies to make sure that your website fulfils Google's preferences for ranking websites in response to users' search queries.

Besides providing a wealth of practical information and tips, Sarah also looked at the current websites of two brave volunteers. She then provided them with constructive feedback and suggestions for improvements. This was an extremely useful exercise (as well as an opportunity to see fellow translators' websites), since it provided attendees with practical examples of the elements she’d covered in her presentation. Maaike Leenders, one of the volunteers, had this to say about the experience:

‘I’d been thinking about redoing my website for a while and was struggling with the same questions over and over again: Where to start? What am I doing right and what can be improved? Should I do it all myself or get some help? So when the call came for volunteers to show their website to a brand identity specialist, I knew I had to get out of my comfort zone and sign up.

Sarah made it a very practical and pleasant experience. After talking to us about building a brand and the important elements of your (online) presence, it was time to look at the volunteers’ websites. I can’t deny I was a bit nervous about having everyone take a look at the same time! However, the positive feedback I received and Sarah’s presentation really clarified what I could tackle first – and how. This was exactly what I was looking for, and I’ve got my plan for a 2021 website revamp ready to go!’

The meeting ended with a Q&A session during which Sarah answered participants' questions and provided yet more information, suggestions and prompts.

Although I've been a freelance translator for quite some time, I've only recently started marketing myself and my 'brand'. A website is top of my list, so this session was just what I needed!

Tagged under

Brian Mossop

The importance of revision will be self-evident to SENSE members. It’s easy to overlook a mistake when you’re juggling two different languages, or editing copy or publications. So how do you revise effectively? Fortunately, Brian Mossop is a respected authority on revision and answered this question, among many others, during his two-part workshop. Because of the pandemic, Brian could not join us as planned at the 2020 Jubilee conference, but thanks to the marvels of technology, Brian could tell us more about revising without leaving the comforts of his home in Canada.

The first part of the workshop focused on revision in general and self-revision in particular. On the solid basis of academic research and forty years of experience, Brian shared his thoughts on revision, translation quality and the principles of making changes. He argued, for example, that revision should be primarily considered a reading exercise and not a writing exercise. Revisers should ask themselves if they really need to make a change, not whether they can think of a better translation. Furthermore, having a clear definition of ‘quality’ or ‘fit for purpose’ in mind can help you work more objectively, more justifiably and possibly even more quickly.

Rethinking what revision is and is not proved to be a valuable exercise in itself, but the workshop also included many hands-on exercises to put those new insights into practice. During one exercise, attendees identified which translation strategy comes naturally to them. If you know that you tend to start revising mid-translation or that you don’t look back before your first draft is done, you can adapt your revision strategy accordingly.

Attendees also had the opportunity to discuss their revision experiences and share their own best practices. One helpful tip was to revise ‘backwards’, that is to say, from the last sentence of the translation back to the first one. A few attendees reported this helps them when revising in a rush.

The second part of the workshop addressed, among other things, revising the translations of others. How do you check all possible aspects of a translation systematically? How much do you actually need to revise to assure quality? And how do you maintain a good working relationship between the revisor and the revisee, which can be the trickiest part of revision? One great tip was not to make changes you can’t justify, as well as remembering this is not your translation. If it is a good translation, it is perfectly justifiable to make no changes at all.

The workshop was quite intense, offering attendees many new insights as well as actionable best practices they could start applying right away. For instance, Brian recommended reading the translation before turning to the source text, which worked out surprisingly well for me personally.

If you would like to improve your revision skills, the fourth edition of Brian’s book, Revising and Editing for Translators, is now available.

Tagged under
Page 5 of 5

Previous articles