5 June 2020
SENSE Online Conference Day 2 Highlights The six sessions on today’s programme dovetailed and complemented one another wonderfully – themes such as networking, fair rates for quality (fit-for-purpose) work, trust transfer and being transparent with clients all came shining through the shared experience and wisdom of our presenters.
Sally Hill – Networking to obtain new work opportunities
Sally began her talk by emphasizing that, as a starting-out freelancer, you should not rely on just one or two clients for work; this simply increases your vulnerability. Rather, put your eggs in a number of baskets by diversifying your business. This may mean using or developing other skills in addition to editing or translating. So consider your innate talents or interests: copywriting, web design, SEO work. To diversify, you need two key things in place: transferable skills plus what is known as ‘trust transfer’. This latter term entails developing in others a trust in your knowledge, ability or expertise, or simply in you as a person. Then, word of mouth tends to kick in and you might receive a request through a totally non-work-related connection – typically from a friend of a friend – for editing or translation services.
Sally both joins groups (‘tribes’, as she labels them) and has even created her own tribe – the ScienceMed Writers Network – to help her to obtain and pass on work through trust transfer.
To illustrate how both volunteering and skills transfer can help us to move (unwittingly) into new fields, Sally shared three case studies – all of SENSE members. Through volunteering for the Society and/or learning technical or management skills, or both, they prepared themselves either for full-time positions or a completely new field of expertise and services, with great success.
Her concluding points were:
Nigel Saych – Fair Trade in an unfair world At the outset of his presentation – a real breath of fresh air, especially in these post-Covid times – Nigel quoted the World Free Trade Association’s statement that Free Trade is ‘a trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks greater equality’. This formed the golden thread through his talk, the key words of which he returned to in his concluding remarks.
To Nigel, Fair Trade means three things: being fair to his company’s clients, to his cohort of translators and to the Fair Trade team itself. This involves clients choosing either an hourly or a per-word rate, not levying surcharges for urgent work and no minimum charge, charging the same rate for all language combinations, a maximum price guarantee and full GDPR compliance.
For his translators, Fair Trade means paying everyone the same rate and expecting the same quality from them, not looking for the cheapest service provider and providing prompt payment (they even have an Advance Payment Scheme for those who are used only infrequently). There’s also a no first-come-first-served policy in his business model, and every freelancer signs a clear, concise and honest working agreement up front.
Being fair to the company itself means having no hierarchical structure, having linguists as decision-makers, being successful without making excessive profits, encouraging (positive) feedback from clients and translators, as well as being socially responsible by supporting charitable and NGO causes or campaigns.
Unfair trade, on the other hand, means carrying out discriminatory practices (whether based on race, gender or disability), and paying unacceptably low wages or rates that are not commensurate with practitioners’ worth.
One concern raised about the post-Covid environment is that some translations businesses are either forcing translators to cut rates or to accept delayed payment – which flies in the face of Fair Trade principles.
Tiina Kinunnen – From whining to shining
A teacher and translator (primarily of film scripts), Tiina shared her professional thoughts on how to portray a professional image (publicly versus privately) and how productivity lies in your comfort zone (find the types of text you are either best at or enjoy most). She also made the point that practitioners should make informed decisions on matters such as rates (don’t make a habit of offering clients discounts and know implicitly what you need to earn to pay the bills) and on matters such as the quality of our deliverables: should we be aiming at perfection or fit-for-purpose end products? In all these, she advocates transparency in dealing with clients. This sometimes entails explaining to (sometimes difficult or demanding) clients that for rate A you can deliver certain products or services, but for rate B you can offer more. That way, the client gets to choose the service they require based on information.
Her take-home message was twofold. Firstly, make yourself the go-to person for your client, having made yourself part of their solution, not part of the problem. Secondly, find trusted colleagues with whom you are able to network, network, network.
Wendy Baldwin – Honing skills through near-peer exchange
This session introduced us to an innovative way of online co-working: a kind of hybrid between conventional co-working and a writing retreat. In it, the participants – usually paired language practitioners and academic writers – set aside a time and space in which to work on agreed-upon chunks of current work in blocks. It can, of course, take time to build such a co-working relationship, but as a practitioner herself Wendy recommends starting with academics you know, agreeing on a session structure and boundaries, and being flexible when engaging with potential co-workers.
At the start of each session, the partners in such a Language Practitioner and Academic Co-working (LPAC) partnership set (writing or editing) goals. They then set a time (usually 75 minutes) for achieving those goals, checking in to assess progress and plan their next steps. The overlaps and complementarity between co-workers include discipline, language, locality and skills, which means that a diversity of co-workers can engage in LPAC sessions. One of the major benefits of such sessions is that they provide a safe, social space in which to work productively.
Marieke Krijnen – Editing in the era of digital nomadism COVID-19: How I look after my mental and physical health
For her presentation today, Marieke adeptly adapted her title to cater to the conditions we’re all having to live under since the outbreak of COVID-19. In accordance with her title, she divided her presentation into ‘physical health’ and ‘mental health’ issues and solutions. And each topic was further subdivided into ‘at home’ and ‘other’ suggestions for coping under the present acute conditions.
So far as promoting our physical health is concerned, she suggested that, failing gyms and swimming pools, some exercise and ergonomic solutions are necessary substitutes. These could include exercising while working (with a treadmill or a desk-cycle) and changing your position during a day – for instance, moving from your desk to a sofa and then to the garden or a park as a routine practice. This movement and postural variety is considered very important when you’re restricted to your home environment.
So far as mental health is concerned, as homebound digital nomad we have to introduce a work–life balance and also tap into communities of some sort, including virtual/digital meetings, to break down our isolation. Other disciplines include blocking access to your laptop and mobile phone when you really do need to switch off from work, taking regular breaks during the day, taking a shower (!) and taking weekends off to give your brain some relief. Marieke’s sound advice, based on her personal experience, had many a head nodding in agreement. C’est la vie.
Panel discussion – Setting up shop: newcomer perspectives on the translation industry
Relative newcomers to freelance translation Jasper Pauwels, Branco van der Werf and Louise Wetzels were joined by more seasoned translators Lloyd Bingham and Nigel Saych in raising a number of questions relevant to those starting out as freelance translators. How and where to get started? How to market yourself and make contacts with clients or agencies (and what are both good and bad strategies to do so)? Is it better to specialize or to be a generalist in the translation services and the disciplines or areas you offer? And, inevitably, the question of rates: which model to adopt, hourly, per word or per page? Another question that arose was whether membership of a professional association improved one’s chances of making contact with clients and obtaining work (not so, they thought).
Considering that in their audience was a large contingent of students of translation, the points they made back and forth, positive and negative, were likely to be keenly received. But there were no hard and fast solutions on offer, largely because the panellists agreed that providing translation services is such a personal thing (for both translator and client) and the permutations of genre, subject and discipline so great that each case has more or less to be judged by its own merits. For instance, Jasper specializes in legal translation and marketing materials: Branco has a wider range, including film scripts and educational texts. And while some clients are happy to pay by the hour for certain services, others tend to stick to the good old per-word rate. But one thing they agreed on: when approaching clients or agencies, online is the best way to go to get the greatest reach, but it means you’ll have to have to differentiate yourself from the rest (to stand out from the thousands of other hopefuls) and be specific about the translation service niche you have to offer. And, as Branco reminded us, there’s no harm in calling a potential client or agency so that they actually hear your voice and can interact with you in a more personal way: that’s precisely what helped to get him a foot in the door!
Also, Jasper pointed out that as a starting translator, you should learn to say no when jobs you’re offered are either beyond your capability or when the rate is ridiculously low – in the latter instance, you’ll find it hard to charge a higher rate with the same client. Is there a right way when it comes to choosing between specialist or generalist? Not according to the panel; largely because each individual will have an offering that might be dead right for them or their client, or not. In the result, it’s possibly best to specialize in something you’re really passionate about, whether it’s marketing materials, video games or contracts.
4 June 2020
The SENSE 2020 Conference celebrates the Society’s 30th anniversary and has been months in the making. Maastricht was to be our host city and the Amrath Grand Hotel de l'Empereur our venue, but fate had a different idea in store for us. Nevertheless, thanks to the efforts of the conference team, the show must go on(line) – no mean feat with such little precedent having been set for online conferences in our sector.
SENSE Chair, Mike Gould, opened the conference with a reminder of the tough market conditions that freelancers face, which we often feel are beyond our control. He shared a pertinent statistic: 40% of the Dutch workforce consists of freelancers, a stark reminder of the vital part we play in the economy. Mike sees a role for SENSE in this context, namely as a society that offers opportunities for its members to up their skills to match demand.
Joy Burrough-Boenisch delivered the first session, contrasting the way in which brackets are used in Dutch and English and offering strategies to translate phrases dominated by brackets from Dutch into English. In English, we use brackets to add information without which a sentence would still make sense. In Dutch, however, brackets can also be used to mean ‘or’: ‘a (folding) bicycle’ describes a bicycle that either folds or does not. The problem is that this difference is not always translated accurately into English, particularly if the translator is not a native speaker of English.
Joy showed us some creative examples of similar bracket usage in English by native speakers in newspaper headlines, such as ‘the li[k]es of Facebook’ and ‘Big(ot) Brother’, despite these going against the authoritative sources on bracket usage. In essence, writers must be aware of misapplying the Dutch bracket convention in English, and translators and editors must not simply ignore bracketed material or transpose it directly, but identify what the author intended by it and translate it accordingly.
Tony Parr led the second session on translating texts for museums, as iconic places with very visible, public-facing translations. Despite institutions such as the V&A issuing and following guidelines for museum texts, a number of Dutch museums are producing substandard texts for exhibition spaces and individual exhibits. This is possibly owing to different approaches adopted by curators (who want to include a lot of detail in exhibit texts) and communicators (who seek to keep texts short and sweet). Regardless, the lack of sound language practitioner intervention seems to be a contributory factor.
Tony proceeded to show us examples of poor layouts of museum exhibit texts and their translations, like using the same font and colour for multiple languages with little space in between, or texts where the translation font is miniscule. He also presented mistranslations such as ‘entrance disabled’ and instances of misused tense, as when the present tense is used in a text referring to a historical event (a clear influence from the Dutch language). Tony also stressed the importance of offering additional information in museum translations; a Dutch speaker, for example, would know that ‘het IJ’ refers to a body of water in Amsterdam, but a non-Dutch museum visitor, not necessarily a native English-speaker, is unlikely to. However, after carrying out surveys that revealed how few people actually read exhibit texts, the crux of Tony’s message was that a shorter, summarised translation might actually be a better fit.
Emma Hartkamp gave an interesting overview of the European Commission’s DG Translation (DGT) work. MT is used at the DGT under a neural and deep learning-based system known as eTranslation, available in all official EU languages and Norwegian & Icelandic (650 combinations), including to public administrations in Member States. Great investments have been made in eTranslation within the Commission’s wider role of creating a Europe fit for the digital age. The European language industry survey 2020 confirmed trends regarding MT, and identified AI as the strongest newcomer. Technological change is not seen as a major stress factor, yet the survey revealed that there is not enough adequate training for translators in technology.
The DGT is collaborating with a network of Master’s programmes in Translation (the EMT network) to improve the quality of training and helping young graduates enter the translation job market. The EMT Competences Framework 2009-17 served as a leading reference standard for translator training and competences:
These form the basis for the updated competence profile for future EU translators, which will also see a sixth area added on terminology and data management, and the translation area expanded to include revision and editing. New tasks will be integrated, notably PEMT and project management, as well as new roles, such as that of language technology coordinator.
It was interesting to learn, too, that only groups of freelancers may pitch for EU/EC tenders, because it is felt that individuals will not be able to cope with translation jobs of any magnitude. The alternative is for them to continue working through the translation agencies that win the current round of tenders.
In his session, Brian Mossop outlined how we can define the amount of time that quality requires. He referred to the problem of not spending enough time to achieve quality (caused by over-confidence, distractions and not taking the job seriously) resulting in errors, literal translations and failure to identify ambiguities. Spending too much time, on the other hand – owing to either a lack of confidence or perfectionism – can produce synonyms that are no better, too much of a focus on minor aspects to the detriment of major ones and ultimately a loss of income.
In practice, translators and editors do not have much of a chance to influence the deadline, so our time must be used wisely, and we must develop a realistic concept of the quality achievable within that time. However, there is no agreement on how to define good quality. Brian shared ten criteria on how to define a good-quality translation, summed up nicely by his last point: the output is fit for purpose. This naturally hangs on the accuracy of the text, which can be interpreted differently in different contexts. Sometimes an approximation will do, sometimes omissions are appropriate and sometimes intelligent guessing is perfectly suitable. Equally, universal advice on good writing – avoid the passive, be concise and avoid noun strings, among others – should not be applied without discrimination.
Brian presented a table of four levels of quality: intelligible, informative, publishable and polished. Each has its place depending on the situation, so not every text needs to be translated to the highest level. In order to save time, Brian’s advice is: don’t get hung up on a phrase, come back to it. Use the first word that comes to mind and don’t search for synonyms for no good reason. When checking, the focus is on reading, not writing: don’t make a change for the sake of it. Check monolingually if you’re confident about the accuracy but not with the formulation, and seek to make small changes, not re-write. Ultimately, we should ask ourselves ‘why do I need to change this?’, not ‘how could this be improved?’. Brian affirmed that that we cannot spot every mistake or eliminate every chance of a misinterpretation.
Jennifer de Beyer of the UK EQUATOR Centre gave the last talk of the day. She spoke about the utility of reporting guidelines, which provide the minimum information required in an article for a reader to understand it. The aim of these guidelines is to improve writing quality and ultimately forge better research. No official body has been appointed to oversee the formulation of these guidelines, and reporting quality is inadequate – many authors have never even heard of them, choose not to use them, or do so infrequently or inconsistently.
The EQUATOR Centre teaches academic writing skills and embeds good reporting in the writing framework. That results in a clear process for writing manuscripts and an understanding of what reporting constitutes, to the extent that students can then apply these standards to other texts. Essentially, she argues, they should be applied from the get-go of research design, not only from the writing stage, when it is usually too late to apply them. Also, researchers who have shaky academic writing skills need to polish those first, when interpreting the guidelines tends to become more meaningful. Speaking to a group of language practitioners, though, she admitted that the development or fine-tuning of the reporting guidelines – or their pruning – has fundamentally lacked the input of copy-editors, translators and other wordsmiths.
2 June 2020
Dear conference delegate,
We're almost there! Final preparations are underway.
Look out for our e-mail tomorrow morning with the links to join the webinars and networking.
Please make sure you have downloaded Zoom* & created your own free account (go to https://zoom.us/ to do this) in advance of the first conference session on Wednesday 3 June at 12:45.
If you have a question for the speaker, please ask it using the Q&A tab at the base of your Zoom screen. You can upvote a question asked by another participant that you find particularly relevant. You can use the Zoom chat function to exchange messages with fellow delegates, and if you wish to talk about our conference on social media, (please do!) include our hashtag: #SENSE2020.
On the conference days there will be a networking break in the middle of the afternoon, and you can network all evening from 19:00 CEST!
Wind down after three days of intense CPD with an online pub quiz organised by Capital Translation’s Lloyd Bingham. Compete individually against your SENSE colleagues and show what you know. Rounds will include general knowledge, film and history, but there will be plenty of language questions too! Doors open at 19:45 pm for a 20:00 start.
See you Wednesday,
SENSE 2020 Conference Team
* Zoom has issued many security updates, so please make sure you have the latest version.
Read the conference newsletters here!
If you haven't received our mails, please check your spam box and add sense-online.nl to your list of trusted senders!
29 May 2020
We're looking forward to a unique conference next week. Preparations are in full swing, so keep an eye on the programme page for possible last-minute changes.
Please make sure you download* Zoom & create your own free account (go to https://zoom.us/ to do this) well in advance of the first conference session and log in on Wednesday 3 June at 12:45.
To find out more about Zoom, you can check out this SENSE blog:
The format for the conference will be a Zoom webinar. Only speakers, their shared screens and the co-host will be visible on your screen. The co-hosts will briefly introduce the speaker and then switch off their video before the speaker starts to talk.
If you have a question for the speaker, please ask it using the Q&A tab at the base of your zoom screen. You can upvote a question asked by another participant that you find particularly pertinent. As the speaker winds up their talk, the co-host will come back ‘on stage’, select the most relevant and/or interesting questions, and put these to the speaker. We value your feedback on this new format of conference and to this end we will be sending an evaluation form by e-mail at the end of each day. Please take a few minutes to fill it in.
To join a conference session, simply click on the link in the mail we will send you and follow the instructions. There will be a link for each of the conference sessions: talks and networking. Please look out for these mails each morning of the conference, particularly if you have a Google mail address, as our message may be sorted into a ‘news’ or other category folder.
If you haven't received our mail, please white-list ‘sense-online.nl’.
The conference team are looking forward to your participation in our first online conference. By the way, there are still some spaces available for some of the workshops.
No conference would be complete without networking! We will be providing Zoom meetings for networking in smaller groups, BYOB, during the breaks and at the end of each conference day. More details to follow.
See you next Wednesday,
SENSE 2020 Conference Team
* Zoom has issued many security updates, so please make sure you have the latest version.
SENSE 2020 Conference goes online!
At the end of March we had to announce the cancellation of our 2020 Jubilee Conference in Maastricht.
We were not happy having to do this, but COVID-19 thought otherwise.
To make something positive from all the doom and gloom we are pleased to announce that the conference will now take place online in the afternoons of 3, 4 and 5 June 2020.
The pre-conference workshops we had planned in Maastricht will now take place as a series throughout May and June, so you can attend as many as you wish.
We have reduced and simplified the prices for this online format. And because these are a fraction of what they were before, there is no early-bird discount, but members of our sister societies will benefit from special rates for the conference and workshops.
You can register for a workshop or the conference up to 16:00 on the day before it starts, as long as we have received your payment, you will be sent the access codes for attending.
Please see the programme page for details and go to the events calendar to register for what promises to be a unique and exciting event.
The SENSE 2020 Conference team
Ashley, Jenny, John, Ken, Liz, Lloyd, Marieke, Matthew, Theresa
“If you think that macros are a ‘good thing’, you’re right!” says macro “guru” Paul Beverley, whom SENSE has invited specially to facilitate this Zoom webinar on “Macros for Writers, Editors and Translators”. Not only to appease Paul’s myriad “macro groupies” in the Netherlands but also to introduce others to the marvels of his macros.
Date: Saturday, 16 May 2020
Time: 10:00–15:00 (registration on the Zoom platform from 09:40)
Venue: Zoom video conference (registered attendees will receive the link beforehand)
During the webinar, Paul will provide you with a whole range of macros to use in your work and will also give you a chance to try them out while he’s on hand to help you if you have queries.
The day will provide you first with a conceptual framework to enable you to see what macros can do for you. You’ll also learn how they can be combined with your existing intellectual and professional abilities to enable you to work faster and to produce higher-quality documents.
If you are starting with zero knowledge of macros, the training will lead you through from square one. But for those of you who have already been using some macros, there will be plenty of scope for learning new tips and tricks. As there are well over 700 macros available (!), there is always something new to help you boost your effectiveness as a writer, an editor or a translator. So whether you are a “macro newby” or a seasoned and serious devotee, there’s bound to be something new for you to take away from the day’s sessions.
There will be one lecture-type session (first session, 10:00–11:00) to kick off with in order to explain the principles; this will be followed by two practical sessions, each introduced with a demonstration. Use your laptop, in the comfort of your own home office, to install a set of 20 new macros, and then off you go!
Take advantage of this unique offering to adopt, adapt or simply embrace macros with open arms in your work routine under the caring, expert eye of macro-creator and supplier supreme, Paul Beverley.
A brief overview of the webinar programme:
10:00–11:00 Lecture-type session to introduce you to the use of macros or to more “advanced” aspects, depending on your level of knowledge of and experience with macros in MS Word
11:00–13:00 Under Paul’s supervision, and in contact with him as and when necessary, exploring and experimenting with some of his 700 macros to your heart’s delight
13:00–14:00 Lunch break
14:00–15:00 Further exploration and experimentation, and Q&A, before wrapping up.
Paul Beverley has been creating macros for use by editors and proofreaders for over 13 years. The macros (over 700 of them) are freely available via his website and are used in more than 40 countries. Despite being of pensionable age, he enjoys editing far too much to stop altogether, so he occasionally edits technical books and theses. He has also produced more than 100 training videos, so that you can see the macros in action on his YouTube channel
Take advantage of this unique opportunity to adopt, adapt or simply embrace macros with open arms in your work routine under the caring, expert eye of macro-creator and supplier supreme, Paul Beverley. We hope to see you there!
Register now for this unique SENSE online workshop and benefit from the early-bird price until midnight on 1 May.
The European Commission’s DG Translation (DGT) fulfils an important role as language services provider in the EU’s multilingual context, and will continue to do so in the future. As translation technology progresses and the DGT’s role and mix of resources change, so the competence profiles of its translation staff will need to be updated.
In this presentation, you will hear about current reflections on new, future-oriented competence profiles for translation staff of the different EU institutions. These will be based both on the current translator profile and on a comprehensive mapping and description of the current and future functions, roles, tasks, competencies and profiles of EU translation staff.
It goes without saying that technological developments – in particular that of machine translation – will require high-level human and linguistic competencies and that the EU institutions will continue to need highly skilled professional translators. For these reasons, the DGT collaborates with a network of MA programmes in Translation (the EMT network) in order to work towards improving the quality of training and helping young graduates to integrate smoothly into the translation job market.
Emma Hartkamp works as a Language Officer for the Representation of the European Commission in The Hague. Previously, she worked as a translator and advisor at the Directorate for Translation of the European Parliament. She began her career as a freelance interpreter and translator in Paris.
We don’t sell bananas or coffee beans. We don’t outsource translations to child labour in the Third World. So why do I describe Interlex Language Services as a ‘Fair Trade Translation Company’? The answer is as simple as the concept: treating translators and clients honestly and with openness means they will be loyal to you; and working with integrity helps to improve the image of a sometimes tarnished profession. Interlex is a business not a charity, but that does not mean it is solely profit-motivated. In this short presentation-cum-case study, I attempt to demonstrate how Interlex is fair to its translators and its clients but can still make a decent living by doing a decent job. And that also means being fair to oneself, because we all like to think we are doing things the right way – and we all like appreciation, however experienced we are.
Nigel Saych is the founder and owner of a creative translation company based in Nuenen, near Eindhoven. No longer responsible for the daily administration, he is still very much involved as an active translator. For several years his company has implemented a Fair Trade policy, something initially treated with caution by others in the profession, now a hot topic.
Punctuation marks aren’t always used with the same frequency or in the same way in different languages. Take round brackets (in UK English, simply ‘brackets’): in Dutch- authored texts they’re often used in contexts and registers in which in English they would be used sparingly, if at all. Although some authorities on punctuation in English say that removing brackets enclosing a word or phrase from a sentence will leave a sentence that still makes sense, if you do this to a Dutch-authored sentence, you usually end up with a grammatically correct sentence that does not mean what the author intended.
Simply removing embedded brackets (brackets enclosing part of a word, as in the title of SENSE Conference2020: ‘(Re)Vision’) certainly isn’t advisable either – yet, strangely, there’s a lack of authoritative advice about using such brackets and about their purpose(s) in English. Small wonder that interpreting and using brackets vexes most language professionals translating Dutch or working with Dutch English. Drawing on my extensive collection of regular and quirky examples, I will therefore explain, compare and contrast ways that brackets are used by Dutch authors and by English native speakers uncontaminated by Dutch usage. My aim is to make language professionals more confident about bracket usage in English.
Although the presentation is intended primarily for language professionals whose exposure to ‘Dutch’ brackets has affected their interpretation and use of brackets in English, it will be an eye opener to anyone unaware of what can happen when a punctuation mark’s conventions and practices are transferred from one language to another.
Joy Burrough-Boenisch (MITI) is a founder member and past chair of SENSE with a long career as a freelance authors’ editor and translator for Dutch academics and scientists. She has taught scientific English to graduate students and has presented webinars. She has given workshops for language professionals on editing non-native English in various European countries and for the European Commission. Her conference presentations include two in 2018 as an invited speaker at ATA’s New Orleans conference. Originally a geographer, she learnt to edit in Borneo and Australia before moving to the Netherlands, where her interest in second language interference and non-native English resulted in a PhD thesis on Dutch scientific English. As well as being the author of Righting English that’s gone Dutch (3rd ed 2013), she has various scholarly and professional publications on editing and non-native English to her name.