ON ETHICS AND THE GENERAL MEETING

Vice President Sonia Wichmann and President Paula Dieli present Connie Archea with the Volunteer of the Year award.

A first time attendee reflects on our collective, the assimilation of knowledge, and the benefits thereof. BY NOEMI GONZALEZ

On December 10, 2011, I attended my first General Meeting of NCTA. I left the conference a few hours and several discussions later with two lingering thoughts: First, the General Meeting is the perfect forum for the NCTA to reiterate the reason for its existence, la razón de su existencia, le raison d’être. The other was that the activities the organization undertakes to optimize its knowledge base, how it gathers and disseminates information, form a perfect blend of the Borg (of Star Trek—The Next Generation fame) and TQM (Total Quality Management) philosophies.

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HAPPY HOURS GOING STRONG

Happy Hour People
Happy Hour People.

BY ANA DE MORAES

The weather in the Bay Area has been unusually unsettled this year; until recently it seemed that we were all living through a never-ending winter. On May 23rd, however, we were blessed with a beautiful, sunny and warm day, the kind of day we needed to get out of our houses and enjoy the outdoors.

That’s what we did during one more Happy Hour gathering at Mijita’s Restaurant in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. This very casual restaurant has been the chosen spot for a number of meetings now. The Ferry Building itself offers a lot in terms of restaurants and interesting shops, not to mention the wonderful setting, both inside and outside, where the view is spectacular, with the Bay Bridge as background. → continue reading

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FACING EVOLVING INDUSTRY DEMANDS

Customized service leads to success for language service providers. BY DEANA SMALLEY

The first General Meeting of 2011 took place on Saturday, February 12 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the San Francisco State University Downtown Campus. Outgoing President Tuomas Kostiainen presided.

Thirty-four people attended, and six newcomers introduced themselves: Eric Rea (Spanish), Elena Ow-Wing (Russian), Hsiao-Ming “Sheree” Wu (Mandarin), Leonor Delgado (Spanish), Kamel Khailia (Arabic), and Miriam Barraza (Spanish). → continue reading

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NCTA MEMBERS IN PRINT

BY STEVE GOLDSTEIN

Congratulations are in order for Alison Anderson and Sarah Llewellyn on the publication of their translation, from the French, of the recently released memoir of former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, “Even Silence Has an End” (Penguin Press).

Alison, a long-time member of NCTA before her move to Switzerland in 2008, was the work’s principal translator, with Sarah, who is based in San Francisco and is currently NCTA’s Continuing Education Director, collaborating as second translator.

The book is a riveting account of Betancourt’s harrowing ordeal as a hostage of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), which kidnapped her in 2002 and held her in the most appalling conditions imaginable, deep in the Colombian jungle, for more than six years. The book is as much a tale of survival as it is a meditation on the meaning of life itself: fear and freedom, hope and what inspires it.

Within two days of its release, the highly-anticipated memoir reached Number 4 on the Amazon.com bestseller list and went on to achieve a top-10 ranking on the New York Times bestseller list (Hardcover Nonfiction). SG

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THAT WAS THEN

Two of our earliest members look back to the very beginnings of NCTA—and before.

BY MARIA LUISA BODEN AND TONY RODER—NCTA CLASS OF 1978

Roots …

Back in the dark ages of 1978, many talented translators in Northern California toiled in isolation. There was no forum, no place to be heard, nowhere to share knowledge and resources, opportunities, encouragement, and friendship. ATA accreditation was out of reach unless you could afford traveling to the annual conference.

When I arrived in San Francisco in 1975 with my husband and a two-year old daughter who had moved nine times in her short life, I wanted to settle down and resume my freelance translation career. It looked like an uphill battle. What do you do when you don’t know anyone?

No local association meant no local seminars, no roster of colleagues, no built-in exposure to potential clients, and no standards and ethics committee … all the things we now take for granted. Networking was a slow process. There was little reaching out, you might be viewed as a competitor, and even the good translation companies were not in business to help you meet other potential clients. It was you and your typewriter!

I count myself very lucky to have stumbled almost immediately upon The Lanfranco Institute, which would later become one of NCTA’s first corporate members. This led to meeting Tom Bauman, then head of the translation department at Wells Fargo Bank, and ultimately to a good in-house job. At the ATA conference held at Stanford in 1976, Tom was the de facto representative of the Bay Area translator community, most of whose members did not know each other. The idea of starting a local association was gestated during those brief days of learning and networking together.

A colorful crowd of 60 to 70 people attended that first meeting at the Chinatown Holiday Inn on March 4, 1978 in an upbeat mood. Our motives were as varied as our circumstances. Not all the talk was positive behind the scenes. There were the altruists, the self-interested, the simply curious, and the defeatists who predicted failure. This last group was soon out of commission as of course the NCTA thrived thanks to generous and competent leadership. Among others, Hélène Riddle, Kelly Gray, Deolinda Adao, Greg Eichler, and Irene Vacchina were decisively instrumental as early Board members and language group coordinators. Steve Goldstein took on the crucial role of editor of Translorial, which glued the membership together from the start. Read about them in the first few issues now starting to be available at the website. MLB

… and branches

The Saturday March 4 entry in my 1978 appointment book reads: “2 PM-6 PM Thomas Bauman’s North. Calif. Xlator Assoc., Washington Room, Holiday Inn, Chinatown.” Thus it came to pass that I was present at the creation …

I recall a very dark green room and a modest attendance. I don’t recall what was said and vaguely recollect some of those who were present. I left thinking that it was a good idea, but not for me, only a part-time translator on occasional evenings. Which is why I did not get to sign the association’s charter. But having signed in at the meeting, I eventually received notice of upcoming meetings, one at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, and subsequent ones on weekend afternoons in a room at the Main Library.

George Kirby, who was president after the initial period, recruited me to the board of directors. When the library room became unavailable, Edith Fried, a founding member, offered the haven of her dining room for the board meetings. My appointment books provide only vague details for the 1980s, but I well remember the realization that we were laying the building blocks of a vigorous organization. We continued Translorial, we published a directory from a rudimentary database, we hired an administrator, we defined our responsibilities, and we organized events.

These events included the formal annual General Meetings, held at the University of California Extension, and my favorites, the Post-Christmas Christmas parties with their buffets of national dishes brought by the guests. These were traditionally held at Ines Sweeney’s house in Oakland, and later at our house in Palo Alto, with truly impressive turnouts. There was also a memorable (10th or 15th?) anniversary banquet in Chinatown, attended by the ATA president; and a party with entertainment held at the Basque Cultural Center in South San Francisco.

I served on the board for about 10 years that included two terms as president, during which time we became a chapter of ATA, evolved to adopt current technologies, and saw our membership grow from about 50 to about 500.

It is a tribute to the founders that their vision bore such fine fruits. TR

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The Conference by the Bay

By Steve Goldstein, Editor

The 48th Annual ATA Conference
San Francisco
October 31 – November 3, 2007

“The convention seemed to capture the current wave of interest and enthusiasm that is rippling through the translator world, as most convention-goers seemed to sense that the tide is in the process of being turned—that it is perhaps not now unthinkable that our professional pride and prestige will soon take on greater and more justified proportions.”

Those words were written 29 years ago, by a young translator and writer; an emissary from the West Coast to the 19th Annual ATA Conference in New York, who had, just a few short months prior, been a part of the birth of his own local organization, the Northern California Translators Association, in San Francisco.

The President of NCTA at the time—a man who had taken that young translator under his wing in the nascent organization—had just been elected President of ATA as well, and was about to take office at the New York conference. This was an unheard-of and unprecedented occurrence—a West Coast president of what was at the time a largely East Coast organization. There was electricity in the air, and our young translator would get to write about it, in the unofficial conference coverage report. He would also bring back some of that momentum with him to San Francisco, where a small group of his colleagues was already at work building the foundation for what would in time become one of the national organization’s strongest local chapters.

Times have changed since 1978, of course. That NCTA and ATA President, Thomas Bauman, is sadly no longer with us to see some of the important changes that his work initiated and continued; changes at the national level, certainly, where our profession has indeed come a long way—although not without having continued obstacles to overcome. Today, ATA is of course no longer just a regional organization, but it’s not just a national one, either; today, it is a powerful international professional association of over 10,000 members around the world.

But changes have occurred at the local level, too. And nowhere, perhaps, has the example been more instructive than here in San Francisco. ATA has brought its annual conference back to the birthplace of its most active chapter several times in the past three decades, watching as NCTA continued its own robust growth, built as always on the infectious enthusiasm of dedicated and tireless local volunteers who believe in working together to strengthen their profession.

Today, that dedication continues, through NCTA’s active role as the host chapter of the just-concluded 48th Annual ATA Conference in our City by the Bay, and via this special Translorial supplement reporting on the event. In these pages, we look at the conference from a variety of perspectives that may not always be found in the standard, straight-ahead reporting of the conference, as that information is available elsewhere. It is, instead, a decidedly more human approach because, well … translators are people, too, and that always seems the more interesting viewpoint, doesn’t it?

All those who are reading these words owe a debt of gratitude to their NCTA colleagues who did double-duty at the conference: as regular attendees, trying to learn and network and grow their own careers and businesses, and as your reporters, to give you a taste of the conference that you might not have otherwise had the opportunity to savor. Without their dedication and sacrifice—including that of Oscar Arteta and the tireless Christopher Queen, who took our terrific photographs—this supplement wouldn’t have been possible, and so to them I say, Thank you!

Has the tide in fact turned for our profession, since twenty-nine years ago? Certainly. But there’s still more turning to do, and while our young translator from that bygone era is no longer so young, he’s still here—to keep learning, growing … and working, to help turn that tide.

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The Hostess with the Mostest: NCTA at the Conference

By Ayano Hattori

It’s easy to sit back and let the national organization do everything when its annual conference comes to your city. But then, that’s not NCTA’s style.

Since the ATA national conference last came to San Francisco in 1997, the city has held the record for the largest number of attendees at the annual event. And naturally so—with our fine attractions, diverse culture, and, of course, our committed local translator community that makes the Bay Area language environment so special.

NCTA as a group proved this true as an enthusiastic host chapter to another record-breaking number of attendees—1,850 in all—by more than simply offering directions to nearby eateries. The goals as a host chapter were twofold. One was to play host to the attendees: to provide simple maps to the sights, tastes, and fun in and around town. The second goal was to promote the visibility of the chapter. NCTA is one of the largest and most active groups of ATA, so it was an opportunity to showcase the strengths of the organization and present the advantages of being a member.

These daunting tasks were tackled head on collaboratively by a volunteer team. Preparations began early in the year using the latest technology to communicate needs and ideas. NCTA veteran Sylvia Korwek said that the “contrast (to 10 years ago) is mainly technical.” Instead of calling each and every member, as was the case years ago, much of the communications was done electronically—a wiki, as well as a sign-up sheet for staffing the table, were set up online. Although recruiting volunteers proved a bit difficult in the beginning—perhaps because of the impersonal nature of the ubiquitous technology?—the NCTA table turned out to be well-staffed during the course of the conference.

Those who did volunteer did so with a terrific spirit. A couple of our colleagues even went so far as to personally show visitors around: neighborhood walking tours were coordinated by Naomi Baer, as was chantey singing on a boat, arranged by Maria Luisa Boden. Though hired per diem ATA staff could possibly fill the void, nothing beats the atmosphere created by both newbies with fresh feedback and seasoned veterans actively engaging with fellow industry members and offering knowhow and advice.

While the camaraderie was confirmed by the hubbub at the table, further, indirect PR efforts came from our many NCTA colleagues who were speakers at the event. Information on their sessions were on display at the table, not only reinforcing the strength of content that our chapter offers through periodic workshops throughout the year, but also demonstrating that the organization’s membership itself includes a fine set of experts on many topics. NCTA vice president Yves Avérous, speaking on the latest on wikis and blogs, even had mentions in his session of the latest online NCTA presence stemming from our host role. Truly, hosting the conference was a display of professional credibility and welcoming pride that  comes with being an NCTA member.

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Noteworthy

By Steve Goldstein

members in the news

Children of Magic Moon, Volume Two of the Magic Moon trilogy being translated by Stafford Hemmer and Barbara Guggemos, was published on October 9th. Congratulations are in order for this dynamic translating duo!

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Noteworthy

Members in the news

Our intrepid president Tuomas Kostiainen adds to his resume as chapter official, Trados expert, and now … translator to the stars! As Pamela Anderson was visiting Finland this summer, she wrote an open letter to the Finnish president asking her to ban fur farming in Finland—a story that made it to the afternoon papers (the more journalistically challenged ones, says Tuomas). Tuomas was the lucky one who got to translate the letter. “It’s not everyday that I get to deal with such famous women,” commented Tuomas. TK

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An Innocent Abroad:
Elevating our Profession Down Under

By Danièle Heinen

A new opportunity, half a continent away; an exciting job, an exotic locale, a chance to make a difference for a company relatively new to the intricacies of translation. What could be better? Well, read the story of our intrepid reporter, NCTA member Danièle Heinen, to find out exactly what could have been better.

I guess I could mimic Lauren Bacall who recalled “How I went to Africa to shoot the African Queen and nearly lost my mind” and say, “How I went to Brisbane, Australia to create and run a translation department and nearly lost my mind!”

In February of 2005, a long-standing client of mine referred me to the position of translation manager for a Canadian-based mining company located in Brisbane, Australia. Inco, at the time the world’s second-largest producer of nickel, was constructing a nickel mine and processing plant on the island of New Caledonia, a French overseas territory that holds about 30% of the world’s nickel reserves.

With the Project Engineering Office in English-speaking Brisbane and the mine facilities in French-speaking New Caledonia, the need for translation services—even more, for a structure for translation services—was obvious. Business practices in New Caledonia follow a variety of customs and regulations, most of which are European or French in origin, and which therefore require documents in French, including work permits and visas. On the other side, the requests for translations into English came from managing engineers in Brisbane responsible for the various portions of the project; these engineers were mostly monolingual English speakers, and it was often only at the last minute that they realized a translation was needed—on topics that ranged from mechanical to electric to fire protection and more—which then compounded the urgency. Most of these engineers, obviously, had no idea of what translation entailed.


 Translation? What’s that?
Prior to my arrival, the translation requests were handled by a competent, yet already overworked administrative assistant who acted as translation coordinator within the Contract and Procurement Department. Although she had no experience with translation and did not know French, she nonetheless developed a useful translation request form and tracking worksheet. Still, hers was purely a processing role. The local translation vendors were two French women who lacked translation training, and yet who were asked to handle virtually any subject and work in both directions.

The quality of the locally delivered translations was variable and unreliable; there were also spelling and grammar mistakes, and accents missing: a case of “I didn’t know I could reconfigure my keyboard under Windows,” and blaming the Microsoft Word spellchecker. Termium was unknown, while the GDT and the use of an electronic bilingual dictionary was known by one translator only.

Reviews, both technical and linguistic, were done by the requesting department, provided there was a bilingual (French or Canadian) engineer in the department. The translations came back with a number of terminology queries, but reviewers lacked time, and so coped as best as they could, amending the translations themselves.

A low level of support
Process problems were compounded as the technical documents went through a review cycle within the Engineering Department, where the translation requests would often be made at different steps of the process without anyone noticing that there might be only the equivalent of five to six pages of changes from one revision to the next; the entire set of documents was retranslated, sometimes by a different vendor.

In addition, the source and the target documents would sometimes be amended separately; to deal with this, a bilingual document format, with English on the left and French on the right, was designed to ensure matched text. The lack of secretarial staff that could read French, however, worked against the best intentions of this system. Problems with converting text from PDF documents further complicated things.

As if the existing process at the mining company were not difficult enough, the translation scene in Australia posed further obstacles. Translation and interpretation in Australia is mostly linked to immigration and medical concerns, not mining and engineering. AUSIT, the Australian translators association, includes members whose primary profession is not necessarily translation. NAATI, the national translation certification body, has three levels of certification, and very few translators working from English to French had reached the advanced level listed on the NAATI website; understandable, perhaps, as this was a paid listing. Finally, French is not the lead foreign language in Australia.

Digging in
Where to start? During my first trip to the country, I made a number of recommendations on procedures, looked at resumes, and interviewed people. I found one excellent professional translator with a translation degree from an institution in Belgium (but who could only work part-time), and set out to find freelance translators in the various technical fields that the project covered. In terms of tools, I decided that a translation memory tool would be in order, and also made lists of dictionaries in both paper and electronic format to order for in-house use.

Back in Canada before returning to Australia the second time for the duration of my commitment, I put a call out to ATA’s French Language Division and to NCTA to look for certified translators with technical knowledge. I also contacted professional colleagues from Canada and Europe (the time difference would be much easier to deal with from Brisbane). I also found a lone French Canadian translator who had been working in Brisbane—and who had connections with New Caledonia and mining for some years—and was very knowledgeable about various translation tools. My final team incorporated members from California, Canada, Australia, and France: a truly international effort!

Seeds of change
Once in Australia for good, I implemented SDLX with the use of both Elite and Professional licenses and encouraged the freelancers to use SDLX Lite to start with; some already used WordFast or Trados so we swapped TMs in TMX format. As I was far from knowledgeable about all the intricacies of SDLX (which resulted in a few nightmares!) I enlisted the help of the local translator I had found who already knew SDLX, and trained the newly hired inhouse translator/reviewer and the translator working on our HR documents. In turn, we offered training for the local freelancers.

My colleague put herself to the task of developing a TermBase, starting with an excellent glossary put together independently by some of the Canadian and French engineers. We also installed various electronic dictionaries and a French spell and grammar checker as standard tools for inhouse use. We also researched and purchased various software programs to deal with the PDF issues, all the while arguing for the need for native source files.

Administratively, we redesigned the translation request form and tracking spreadsheet, allocated a sequential number for each request, insisted on the need to nominate a native speaker for each translation request to review the translation from a technical point of view, and initiated searches for possible existing translations before assigning any work. Those searches—and the building of libraries from what we found—turned out to be extremely time-consuming, as there was no reliable archiving system of the matching source and target files. Eventually we started building translation memories, which were still quite rough because there was no manpower to do much review of the texts we decided to process. We deemed a number of them unusable and had to discard them.

The final tally
There were other issues: procedures that someone else had to establish and implement as I had my plate full; the impossibility of planning the workload as there never was an estimate of the number of documents that would require translation; the inability to find another professionally trained inhouse full-time translator (our normal working week was 45 hours); the need to deal with new types of documents for translation, as often is the case when a new translation department is established; and more into-English translation than had been expected, which created the need to find more translators in other fields and in a different language direction.

Above all, the main challenge and frustration came from having to constantly educate our internal clients as to the translation process, explaining that we were, like the engineers, university trained, and that a mistranslated document could pose huge risks.

Like Lauren Bacall, I almost lost my mind. But I survived, and the new system we put in place is now humming along—thanks mostly to my first colleague and the good people who have followed.

Still, having learned a bit, I’m ready for another assignment.

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Auf Wiedersehen, Mr. President

By Tony Roder

George Kirby, a president of our association from 1985 to 1989, died unexpectedly on December 29, in San Francisco.

A German-to-English translator, George worked for the U.S. government in Europe, and went on to establish and operate his own translation company, Golden Gate Translations, in San Francisco for 25 years. He was also a writer, editor, and author of the book Looking at Germany, among other works.

After a term as NCTA’s vice president, he reluctantly agreed to serve as its president, and he went on to be one of the association’s most active and forceful advocates of translators’ rights in the marketplace, as well as a strong promoter of their professional status. During his presidency, George guided the NCTA through a particularly difficult period when it and its parent organization, ATA, were under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission. The concerns he expressed at the time, for example, are still echoed in the May 2005 Translorial, in an article on the open discussion of prices. George concurrently served on the ATA board of directors and co-founded the first translators’ and interpreters’ labor union in the country, the Translators and Interpreters Guild.

It was during his term of office that the NCTA joined Bay Area Lawyers for the Arts to provide legal services for its members; contracted a group health service plan with Kaiser Permanente; engaged its first staff administrator; organized meetings between translation agencies and translators, a precursor to the present job fair; strengthened the association’s telephone referral service; and in 1988 hosted our tenth anniversary dinner, attended by both the president and the past president of ATA.

George Kirby guided NCTA through its fledgling years, for which we owe him a debt of gratitude. He was a gentleman of the old guard, a lover of opera and the arts, with a reverence for language and literature. Another photo of George appears on page 12 of the May 2005 Translorial.

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