For the Utrecht SIG, the 8 May meeting marked a return to the Park Plaza after a long remodelling period. The upstairs bar was an excellent new addition, but we all thought the large workshop space was a bit much for only five participants.
The translation of the evening was an analysis document about a company struggling with an unfavourable work culture. The company, historically Dutch but with a large contingent from a specific other country, was recently purchased by an American company. The Dutch consultant who had written the document needed it translated into English as a starting point for conversation with the American management.
Despite a few odd turns of phrase ('de juiste maat en modus vinden', 'deze notitie vormt de onderlegger voor het gesprek'), the text had very few grammatical issues. But boy was it vague. The consultant firmly refused to put their finger on many of the actual pain points and left a lot to be read as subtext. This is fine for an 'onderlegger voor een gesprek' – you can clarify the finer points during the actual conversation – but it makes life difficult for a translator. Instead of translating what it says, we ended up trying to find the right translation for what it didn’t say. That required extensive mindreading.
If something 'doet iets met het al dan niet vertrouwen hebben in mensen', does that mean lack of confidence or lack of trust? Especially if some people then 'koppelen dit aan de [other country’s] versus Nederlandse cultuur'? You get the sense someone is being racist, but who? And are they implying that they’re sick of some people showing up late or being stiff and judgemental, or that they’re afraid to leave their wallets out in the open?
We spent some time going round and round with this. With a text like this, the nuance is very important. Still, the client was very happy with the original translation, which was not all that nuanced because it had a really tight deadline. I guess the fact it was an onderlegger works both ways.
As usual, the main conclusion of the evening was: ‘If we could do all translations in a group, like this, all our clients would think we’re brilliant.’ Also want to feel brilliant? The next Utrecht SIG meeting will be held on 10 July at the Park Plaza Hotel in Utrecht. With a fancy upstairs bar!
The Utrecht Translation group met on 13 March to discuss a text from a member who translates quite a lot of urban and spatial planning documents. Accordingly, we had a piece full of choice policy jargon about the new National Environment and Planning Strategy.
From virtually the very beginning we were making our way through a jungle of a nationale omgevingsvisie. Thankfully, the member who had supplied the text was there and helped us hack our way through.
Texts like these may seem vague, but they have to be somewhat concrete. The translator can’t be too free, although a little creativity does help. The passive voice can be aggravating in these documents. A few of us were foxed by the linking words that start sentences (daarbij, hierdoor, etc). Although it’s scary to cut a word that’s been put in a piece of policy by a committee, we were assured by a few of the Dutch native speakers present that sometimes these words really don’t mean anything on their own and they can go. It was quite interesting to hear all the different solutions and learn why some work and others don’t. We got through two of the four paragraphs to be translated but, to be fair, we might have got a few sentences further if the Bistrot hadn’t closed at 21:30.
It was a large and convivial group (14, but 17 had signed up!). Some of the several new faces had experience in this area too.
In other news, I have stepped down as convener (as of this year’s AGM). It’s a fine position that didn’t demand that much of my time, but after so many years it was time to let it go. Maartje Gorte has offered to replace me, and I’m sure she’ll be more than capable.
A small but animated group of eight met up at Bistrot Centraal on 9 January for a post-holiday catch-up and to discuss the ups and downs of our professional lives.
The topics discussed were many and varied. One issue brought up was potential clients not being able to find your work on the internet if your translation is only used for something like an app, especially one for which people have to pay. (The example was a tourism app from one of the Dutch VVVs.) While you can refer prospects wanting to see samples of your work to a published book/journal, or send them to a web page via a search engine, search engines can’t ‘see’ apps. When the sole destination of your translation is an app, the chance of a possible client finding your pet project is virtually nil. There is no solution yet, but if you’re proud of what you’ve written/translated for that app, beware, and see if there’s a way to make it available (eg, on your own website).
Someone else was curious about what being a sworn (beëdigd) translator entails, as well as what advantages it might have. Fortunately, one member who was present is a sworn English-Dutch translator and was happy to share her experience. In brief:
For those wanting to know about the current terms for registration, they can be found on the WBTV website.
There was also a question about rates and how to quote for a job. This seems to be a hot topic right now, according to people who use other forums, with translators encouraging one another to charge more for their services. Perhaps the economic upturn is making even translators optimistic? One member pointed to the Editorial Freelancers' Association's list of the typical hourly rates for different types of editing and other work including translation. If you’re interested in knowing more, Sally Hill has written three articles on ‘Quoting for jobs’ for eSense. (Part 1 is on p.12 of eSense 41, part 2 is on p.13 of eSense 42 and part 3 is on p.18 of eSense 43.
As an aside, we heard during our meeting that work has already begun on organizing the 2020 SENSE conference. Although nothing has been set in stone, there is already some planning and extending of feelers. Spirits were high; we even got as far as proposing Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama as keynote speakers! More information about both the conference and the upcoming (September) Professional Development Day will be forthcoming at SENSE’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 23 March.
Our next meeting is scheduled for 13 March, venue to be announced.
On Wednesday 14 November, 12 of us met upstairs at Utrecht Central station in the Bistrot Centraal to discuss difficult clients. Joy Burrough had been present at similar discussions at the American Translators Association Annual Conference in New Orleans in October and had quite a bit to share, but everyone contributed insights, anecdotes and suggestions to make it a successful evening.
For many translators in other countries, the client doesn’t speak the target language and is ever so grateful that you can help them out. But not here in the Netherlands. Many of our clients speak good (occasionally very good) English, and there’s always one who knows better, having learnt something at school – sometimes something dead wrong – and has to let you know. Many of us had stories to share about these clients. We do need to remember, though, that occasionally the client can be right, especially if specialized terminology is involved. On-line corpora such as Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) are valuable tools in this respect.
We agreed that back-and-forth interaction to answer a question is better than having to deal with complaints. Most clients are happy to answer questions and like to feel they’re part of the translation or editing process. Asking them what they think of a given suggestion can even help them save face. It’s unusual that you are able to communicate directly with the client when you work through an agency, so you do need to establish early on how any questions will get answered.
The issue of putting comments/questions in the text vs in an email also came up. You need to know if the client is actually going to read your translation or just send it on. Agencies sometimes just pass it straight to their client, and the question you may have asked never gets answered. If you have put questions/comments in the text, it’s a good idea to put something like ‘be sure to read my comments’ in the email when you send in the translation.
Another recurring problem is that someone ‘corrects’ your translation after you’ve sent it in. If it gets published and your name is associated with a bad translation, it can damage your professional reputation. One translator puts a clause in her Terms and Conditions stating that she must be sent the printer’s proofs to proofread and if anything is changed afterwards without her permission, she is entitled to claim €5000 in compensation. How easy – and how costly – this would be to enforce is another matter, but at least it seemed to raise awareness among clients.
Then there is the issue of payment. Sighs all round. Don’t be afraid to be obnoxious if a client is late paying you. If it’s a large company saying ‘we lost the bill’, you can threaten to ask for an internal audit. As with the compensation clause, whether this would work in practice remains to be seen.
Our next meeting will be Wednesday 9 January – stay tuned to the Events page for details.