Posts Tagged ‘ translation ’

The all-important smell test

Earlier today I received a request to translate an article from English into German.

The sender wrote from an AOL address and signed his email with his name and email address, which I thought was odd for a private customer. Also, who still uses AOL? Nevertheless, I sent him my per-word rate and requested a copy of the document, his full address (“for my invoice”), and advance payment–all of which I thought would discourage any pranksters. He replied a little later with a copy of the document. I did the word count and replied with my definite offer and suggested timeline. Throughout this entire process I had a funny feeling that I couldn’t quite place.

He accepted my offer and agreed to pay not 33% (as I’d asked) but 50% of the overall invoice in advance. He also asked for my mailing address and telephone number so he could arrange payment. This finally raised my suspicions enough to do a background check on him. After all, my telephone number is featured prominently on my website, and he told me he had found my email address there. So why not my telephone number?

First, I checked his name and address on and Google maps. He was not listed, but the street address seemed to exist. Ok, so maybe he likes his privacy.

Next, I checked the email headers of all three emails I had received. They all came from an AOL client (as per X-Mailer and Message-Id), and always from the same IP address. So far, so good. However, the odd thing out was the original IP address (X-Originating-IP), which according to the IP trackers ( and I used belongs to an ISP called “Deepak Mehta FIE”. I could not find a web presence for this supposed ISP (and surely every ISP has one); also, a quick Google search showed that it was located in the middle of a field in Kansas. Ok, maybe it was some kind of a VPN or anonymizing portal, but this was sure getting interesting.

Then, I took a look at the file itself. It was a Word document and looked otherwise legitimate, but when I checked the personal information it was stripped bare of meta information. I mean, completely bare! No date, no author, nothing. Now, I know people who are paranoid enough to do this to their files. But for a guy who was ready to send me a check and his private mailing address, this really looked fishy. I finally decided to copy a couple of lines from the document and paste them into Google. Turns out it was an exact copy of a Wikipedia article.

Now, I don’t know what the deal is with this guy. Maybe he really is harmless if incredibly paranoid and private. But I’m more inclined to think it’s some kind of overpayment/refund scam (here is an example:

Should I just have copied the German version of the Wikipedia article, taken his payment, and run? A scam the scammer kind of a deal? Perhaps, but I decided to play it professional and politely turned down the project.

What I learned from wasting 2 hours writing my offer and doing research: trust your gut instinct. If it “smells” funny from the get go, it probably is!


The only constant is change

I love languages, linguistics, and the art of translation. I also love computers, the Internet, video games, Wired magazine, web design, und the science of technology.

I always felt that it was impossible to successfully and elegantly combine the two, but I didn’t know how – especially when it came to my website or how I use Twitter. My translation clients are vastly different from my web design clients. I didn’t/don’t cater to this but instead used/use one blog, one website, one Twitter feed.

Well, no longer! This morning I decided that it was/is time for a change and that I will completely overhaul my website to give my (potential) customers the customized content that they need. I might also scrap Joomla as it’s just too slow and doesn’t give me enough flexibility. Change is good! Also, I met a graphic designer this past weekend, so it’s all coming together… Stay tuned!

Is that a fish in your ear, or are you just happy to hear me?

Google is working hard on re-creating Douglas Adams‘ famous idea of a babel fish, but will they succeed (source)? They are facing two main issues:

1. Voice recognition – I do not use it on my iPhone, and it drives me nuts in the car. So what grand technological secrets can they possibly have up their sleeve?

2. Translation – No machine translation will ever be as good as a human translator. Or will it? Will I have to go and look for another career? With so much content in so many languages now being posted to the internet, all you would have to do is feed it into a database and somehow map/match phrases or segments. Trouble is, not everyone is a professional writer. So how do you allow for typos, poor grammar and lack of punctuation? Never mind the complexities of human language.

To be continued…

Three percent

Books translated into English from other languages account for no more than 3 percent of the American book market (source). This, to me, can mean only one of two things:

1) There are a lot of original works being published in the US, enough to cover the domestic market. By sheer volume alone, any foreign translations become invisible and do not reach their potential readership.

2) American readers are suspicious of translations. Plus, they don’t want to read anything by non-American authors.

So, which is it? Are readers really aware when a book is a translation and when it isn’t? Thoughts?

A translator is a person who writes

Some time ago, I came across the quote “A writer is a person who writes,” and it seemed a bit odd to me at the time. Of course a writer writes. Right? Well, it was really hinting at how much hard work writing is, and that talent is just the tip of the iceberg.

I think this is also true of translation (and many other crafts that require a lot of writing). It is one thing to speak a second language fluently. But it’s quite another to truly transport one language’s meaning and flavor into another.

Since practise makes perfect I decided 2 minutes ago to start this blog. So there you have it. Enjoy!

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