“Treasured Guests” and Other Trials

I love Disneyland. It’s hopelessly uncool, I know, but the irony-free “Happiest Place on Earth” is a refreshing change from the cynicism required for survival in the rest of the world.

So it was a bit of a “what?” moment when a friend told me that Disney employees have a special code for referring to difficult or unpleasant visitors. So FIY, the next time you send back your burger at the Galactic Grill for the second time and ask to have a sandwich from the Blue Bayou sent over instead, do not be flattered when the waiter calls in a special request for a “treasured guest”; you’re being marked as a certified jerk. Continue reading

Advertisements

You Get What You Pay For — a Myth?

pennypincherPrincipled decisions usually have no immediate pay-off except knowing that you did the right thing, but sometimes life gives you a sweet little taste of poetic justice.

About six months ago one of my best agencies asked all its translators to lower their rates to help them keep up their profits (paraphrase mine). I passed on this opportunity to take one for the team, worked a little harder to cover the shortfall with new clients, and chalked it up to sad experience.

Fast-forward to last week, when I got another mass-email from this agency: Continue reading

The Pitfalls of Language Without Cultural Context

The Dutch are a no-nonsense, straightforward people, and I always thought the language expressed this national characteristic pretty well.

Not for us those expressions of affection that roll off the tongue so easily in English. Ik hou van je is much harder to say than “I love you” for some reason, which logically speaking is bizarre of course, since the Dutch love their nearest and dearest as much as anyone else. The only reason I can think of is that effusiveness is simply not in line with the Dutch character. We are a nation of farmers and seafarers after all. Fighting sea and soil does not leave much energy for poetry. Continue reading

When Bad Translations Happen to Good People

I received an assignment from a long-standing client last week that made my Spidey-sense tingle as soon as I read the instructions. It was billed as a super easy review of a translation done in-house at a hospital which should take no more than half an hour. Uh-huh. A quick glance at the translation told me that this was going to take a lot more than thirty minutes, especially since they also wanted me to explain every change I made and check the terminology against a reference document. I explained I’d only be able to scratch the surface in that time, so the agency agreed to pay me for an hour and asked me to do what I could within that time frame.

It was a textbook case of You Get What You Pay for and Why the #&!! Did You Not Hire a Professional in the First Place. Continue reading

Why I Hate the Phone (and other thoughts on business communication)

relationsipsThis is the first time I’ve posted a blog in a while, as my social media activities have been on the back burner for the past month. Nothing against y’all, but I’ve had family from the Netherlands staying with me and there is only so much of myself to go around. I did keep tabs on other people’s posts and tweets so I know I have a lot of good stuff to catch up on, but I’ve mostly been confined to lurker status.

During this period of social abstinence a few thoughts occurred to me about my usual forms of interaction.

If you’ve read some of my other posts you know I’m not a fan of the phone call. Continue reading

Deal With it: Developing Thicker Skin as a Translator

feedbackAs translators we spend a lot of time in the safety and comfort of our office, and those of us who are also introverts are just fine with that. (If you agree that e-mail is the best invention since the answering machine you know what I’m talking about.) So while we’re not exactly out there putting our fragile selves on the line like stand-up comics in front of a tough crowd, there are some aspects of our profession that do require thick skin. Here are two I’ve had to deal with. Continue reading

Rants and raves from the translation desk

aggravationDo you ever have one of those weeks that is filled with small setbacks whose power to aggravate is completely out of proportion to their significance? It’s been one of those for me.

One project was a series of transcripts for a nurse who wants to work in California. The translations had to be printed, certified, notarized and sent by registered mail. I had several deadlines looming over me and all these steps were eating up precious time, and of course every. single. time I printed out one page I would find a tiny error, or an inconsistency, or a better term I could have used. After about the fifth time I just about lost it and the only reason the printer didn’t go sailing out the window is because I didn’t want to pay for another one. Continue reading

How to Lose Customers – A Case Study

Customer serviceI have been in business for a couple of years now, and along the way I’ve built up a pretty sizable collection of mistakes. Nothing fatal obviously, as I’m still here, but I’ve committed my share of cringers. Like cold-connecting with people when the intention was clearly to promote myself, accepting jobs without checking the details first and having to work through the night on some hideous pdf in illegible handwriting, or even something as simple as hitting “send” on an email in a hurry and realizing a nanosecond too late that I used the wrong name. Continue reading

Translator’s guide to Project Manager pitches

Are you sure you know what you’re getting into when you accept that great new job from your friendly neighborhood translation agency? Don’t jump at that offer too fast, because not every great project is what is seems. Sometimes job offers are like real-estate pitches; you have to read between the lines or that “minimum editing” job you commit to may turn out to be a major reconstruction project. Watch out for these “opportunities”:

Continue reading