Fiverr revisited: can German translators do any better?

Following on from the experiment I conducted with Natalie Soper a few weeks ago, in which we tasked four translators from Fiverr.com with the translation of a French travel news piece, I decided to readjust the parameters and try again. “What if there are actually a few good German translators trying to get their career off the ground on that platform?” I thought to myself.

 

So I took this text and went about my search. This time, the text is shorter – our last text was around 500 words and not all of the translators we asked were happy to be paid $5 for so much work. Rather than trawling through the many profiles listed on the website, this time I decided to send out a request. It read as follows: “I need a text translating. It’s German & I need it in English. 234 words total.” No text attached. I could have given more information but I wanted to see whether any of the applicants asked questions, for example the subject of the text or the target audience.

 

They didn’t.

 

Within 24 hours, I had 22 requests. All but a handful were completely out of the question. Headlines such as “Translate your documents from english to french[sic]” (um, how about German to English?!), “translate any language to any other required language” (omg), “translate to any known language from english and hindi” (wrong direction for starters) and “html ccs bugs, and front end designing for you” (err, what?!) grabbed my attention… for all the wrong reasons.

 

Once I had deleted these inappropriate requests, I narrowed it down to the following four:

Translator A

Had more than 600 reviews on Fiverr, and a five-star rating. I was definitely ordering from him, even though he said he was a native German – technically translators should translate into their native language. (This can be a grey area, especially with German.) He even claimed to be specialised in marketing, SEO and business. Excellent!

Translator B

Had 21 reviews and a 4.5-star average rating. Not bad! Native English speaker, even better. Claimed to have lived in Germany and had experience of DE-EN translation. Excellent! I’d be a fool not to book her. Although, when I clicked through to her profile, there was very little mention of translation. Oh…

Translator C

Offered “Top QUALITY” German to English translation. Once I clicked on her profile, I saw 61 five-star ratings. She also claimed to have 12 years’ experience as a translator in English, French and German. Seemed promising. This translator is also a “holder of a masters in modern letters”. I wasn’t quite sure what this meant, but I was willing to overlook it.

Translator D

Promised a high level of accuracy and said he was a native German and English speaker. He has 50 five-star reviews. Although, once again, when I clicked on the profile there was no mention of translation. There wasn’t even a mention of him speaking anything other than English, even though he claimed to speak German and English. Maybe I made a mistake with this one…

 

The ordering process

I decided to order these translations bright and breezy at 9:45am on a Sunday morning. The first translation was delivered precisely two hours later by Translator D. I could certainly translate 234 words in two hours. I wouldn’t be delivering my best quality work, though.

Next to deliver was Translator A. At 5:38 am on a Monday morning. Translator C followed two hours later. Translator B messaged me on Monday morning: “Hello, Thanks for your order, I’ve been really busy but I’ll get on it right away and I’ll send it immediately I’m done. [Last name], [First name]”. She claimed to be a native English speaker, but there are several things in that message that set alarm bells off: immediately I’m done? And signing with your last name first? Hmm… She delivered the next day, at 2am. So I got all translations back from my original translators, that’s already progress compared to the last time!

 

Analysis

General comments

It is once again clear to see that all four translators heavily depended on Google Translate, with all four texts looking very similar to the machine translation version with a few tweaks here and there. I could go through the entire text with a fine-tooth comb in this analysis, but I’ve chosen to focus on four issues with the translations.

 

Michael Kerkloh and Reuters

In the first paragraph, Google Translate inadequately translated “[…] sagte Flughafen-Chef Michael Kerkloh der Nachrichtenagentur “Reuters”” as “[…] said airport chief Michael Kerkloh of the news agency “Reuters””. As a result, three of the four translators mistranslated this simple phrase, and Translator A, B and C decided to keep Reuters in quotation marks. The only reason why Translator D didn’t was because he put the quotation marks in the wrong place. Translator A went with: “[…] as told the news agency “Reuters” was told by the airport’s manager Michael Kerkloh” (yes, with two mentions of ‘told’ in one sentence). Translator C wrote: “[…] said airport Chief Michael Kerkloh of the news agency “Reuters”” (thus making it sound like Kerkloh was talking about Reuters, not to them) and Translator D opted for “[…] “said Michael Kökloh, CEO of the airport,” Reuters.” (thus quoting text that did not need to be quoted, and spelling the man’s name wrong).

 

My solution was to flip the sentence order and have this phrase at the start rather than the end. So my sentence begins with: “Munich Airport CEO Michael Kerkloh told news agency Reuters that […]”.

 

Breaking tents

The following sentence was pretty tough to translate: “Auch den überraschenden Abzug der Air France-KLM-Günstigairline Transavia, die ihre Zelte in München nach nur einem Jahr abbricht, erklärt der Flughafen mit fehlenden Start- und Landefenstern.”

Translators B, C and D  all decided to translate the “ihre Zelte in Münschen […] abbricht” literally with “breaks its/their tents”, which is not an idiom we use in English, and every native speaker should know this. I was also shocked by the sloppy translations of “Start- und Landefenstern”, especially as the word “slots” had been used in the German text. Translator B opted for “starting and landing windows”, C for “start and country Windows” and D for “, And land windows.” (yes, omission of a translation for “Start-“ and a random capitalisation of “and”.)

 

My solution was to split the sentence into two: “After just one year, Air France/KLM’s low-cost carrier Transavia unexpectedly withdrew from Munich. The airport blames this on a lack of take-off and landing slots.” I did this to make the text flow better, but my phrasing meant that I could omit the translation of “breaking tents” as it became superfluous. I also translated “Fenster” as “slots” to keep it consistent with the rest of the text.

 

Airport owner(s) and referendum (results)

The following section also proved to be tricky, and several issues arose in the translations. I want to focus on the text in bold:

“Noch im Frühjahr wollen Staatsregierung, Bund und Landeshauptstadt als Flughafen-Eigentümer entscheiden, ob sie den Bau einer dritten Startbahn vorantreiben und dazu einen neuen Bürgerentscheid abhalten. Das Projekt liegt seit dem ablehnenden Münchner Bürgerentscheid von 2012 auf Eis.”

 

Translator A: The state government, federal government and state capital as airport owner will decide whether to campaign and conduct a new referendum for a third runway in Spring. The project had already been halted with the negative referendum result of 2012.

Translator B: In the spring, the state government, federal government and the state capital as an airport owner will meet to decide whether to push forward the construction of a third runway and to hold a new referendum. The project has been on ice since the negative Munich referendum of 2012.

Translator C: In the spring, State Government, Federal Government and the city as the airport owner wants to decide whether they should promote the construction of a third runway and to hold a new referendum. The project has been on the ice since the disapproving Munich referendum of 2012.

Translator D: In the spring, the state government, the federal government and the state capital will decide as owners of the airport whether they are pushing for the construction of a third runway and make a decision on it. The project has been on the ice since the disapproving Munich citizenship of 2012.

 

Listing the three entities and adding “as the/an airport owner” is not technically incorrect, but it is very clunky in English due to verb used in the sentence. Do you go with plural as there are three owners or singular referring back to “airport owner”?

 

My solution: “In their capacity as the airport’s owners, the state and federal government and the city of Munich plan to decide on whether to proceed with the construction of a third runway and hold another referendum on this matter in spring. The project has been on ice since the residents of Munich voted against it in a referendum in 2012.” Although the first sentence is still long, I’ve avoided repeating the words “state” and “government” (see Translator A, B and D) and made everything plural so there is no confusion with the verb. I was also careful with the wording of the next sentence to avoid the phrasing used by the Fiverr translators.

 

The subjunctive

In German, authors can use the subjunctive mood to express doubt or to distance themselves from the opinions stated in the text. This is frequently used in journalism to indirectly quote speech. There is an example of this in the text:

“Kerkloh wirbt daher für den Bau einer dritten Start- und Landebahn. Ohne deren Kapazität werde München Wachstum verlieren.“

All of the Fiverr translators failed to spot it, translating this sentence as fact rather than Kerkloh’s opinion.

A: Kerkloh therefore campaigns for the construction of a third runway. Without it Munich will lose out on growth.

B: Kerkloh is therefore promoting the construction of a third runway. Without their full capacity, Munich will not continue to grow.

C: Kerkloh therefore promotes the construction of a third runway. Without their capacity, Munich will lose growth.

D: Kerkloh is therefore promoting the construction of a third runway. Without their capacity, Munich will lose growth.

As you can see, all of these translators have made it look like Munich will definitely lose out on growth if a third runway is not constructed. What the text actually says, though, is that Kerkloh thinks Munich will not be able to see growth without the construction of a third runway. Hence my translation: “He [Kerkloh] is therefore canvassing for the construction of a third runway as he believes Munich would not see growth without this capacity.”

 

This is something that Google Translate always struggles with because it needs to be translated differently depending on the context. For example, you can use allegedly/apparently to create distance or you can add in the speaker’s name with believes/reckons/thinks (or another synonym) to make it clear that you are referring to something they have said rather than a fact. The latter is particularly difficult for a machine to replicate because it requires understanding of the text, not just an ability to string words together based on translation patterns detected in texts already translated by humans and fed into the machine’s database.

Conclusion

All four Fiverr translators used Google Translate, and none of the texts are fit for purpose. Every single one of them had me scratching my head at least once, and if I couldn’t speak German, I would not be able to figure out what they were trying to say. The quality of these texts is sub-par as these texts do not accurately convey all of the information written in the German.

 

This is the second experiment I have conducted on Fiverr, the first one being a French translation in collaboration with Natalie Soper. The results of both experiments are the same: the translators use Google Translate and tweak the output slightly in an attempt to iron out Google’s mistakes. But it’s still not good enough. But as somebody pointed out on the Fiverr forums, what do I expect for $5?!

 

Once again, here are the translations and Google Translate’s output for comparison:

Translator A Translator B Translator C Translator D

Google Translate

Advertisements

The FAQ series: what is the difference between a translator and an interpreter?

I’ve been an avid networker since starting my translation business in 2012. When I talk about what I do, there are a few questions that pop up time and time again. This blog post series aims to answer those questions in detail. After all, you don’t always have enough time at these kinds of events (and, being passionate about my profession, I could waffle on about what I do for hours!)
microphone-704255_640

Interpreters work at events, conferences, etc.

There is one major difference between a translator and an interpreter: translators work with the written word and interpreters work with the spoken word.

So a translator may translate books, press releases, presentation slides, manuals, website content or even subtitles, whereas an interpreter may interpret at international events, conferences, in the courts, at international institutions and for the police. As you can see, these two roles are very different.
book-1798_640

Translators have the luxury of scouring dictionaries for the perfect word

The two professions are by no means interchangeable. I am not trained or qualified to work as an interpreter as this role requires tonnes of practice at hearing words and (sometimes immediately) interpreting them in another language. Interpreting is a psychologically demanding profession whereas my work as a translator allows me to go at my own pace, consult dictionaries and other reference works so that I can produce an effective text in English. Conversely, some interpreters prefer not to translate because they are familiar with the fast-paced world of interpreting and are not used to working with the intricate nuances of some texts.

So there you have it. Are you a translator or interpreter and have something to add? Are you a (potential) translation client and want to ask a question about the process? Leave a post in the comments or send me a message via the contact page!

The FAQ series: why don’t you translate into French/German?

I’ve been an avid networker since starting my translation business in 2012. When I talk about what I do, there are a few questions that pop up time and time again. This blog post series aims to answer those questions in detail. After all, you don’t always have enough time at these kinds of events (and, being passionate about my profession, I could waffle on about what I do for hours!)
pexels-photo-28764There are two main reasons why translators don’t tend to translate from their native into their non-native language. The first is time: it would take me at least twice as long to produce a text if I translated from my native English into German or French. Why? Because words and sentence formulations don’t come as quickly to me in German or French as they do in English. When I translate into English, I can usually read the sentence in the original French or German and compose the English sentence as fast as my fingers can type (once I’ve done the required research and with a proofreading stage later, of course). This process would be much longer and more laborious the other way around, and would be quite a strain on my brain! As a consequence, my services would also be more expensive as I factor time into the way I price projects. So translating into my native language is faster than translating into my non-native language and thus less expensive for my clients.
letter-761653_960_720The second reason is style: a translation should not stand out as a translation; the reader should not (usually) be aware that this text exists in other languages and is based on another text. It should be easy to read, “blend in with its environment” and act as a stand-alone text. Clients usually need their translator to be a native speaker of the translation’s language to achieve this effect. If I translated into German or French, it is possible that I would make non-native speaker mistakes, be it with sentence structure, words not being used in the correct context or evoking the dreaded we-just-don’t-say-it-that-way reaction that every multilingual person will encounter at some stage. Ultimately, translation clients want a stylish text, so they need their translator to translate into their native language, not out of it.
So there you have it. Are you a translator and have something to add? Are you a (potential) translation client and want to ask a question about the translation process? Leave a post in the comments or send me a message via the contact page!

A beginner’s guide to conferences

I recently attended the BP Translation Conference in Zagreb. It was my first conference and initially I had no idea what to expect. I did my research and as it turns out, I came over-prepared. This blog post presents my tips for a successful conference.

**Please note, seasoned conference-goers are likely to know this stuff like the back of their hand**

 

Before the conference
Business cards at the ready!
If you have business cards already, great. If you don’t, get some designed (or design them yourself). They will be handed out to new people you meet so that you can keep in touch, so they are an asset. Good business card websites include VistaPrint and MOO.

Get your profile on the conference’s attendees list
This is something I didn’t do until last minute, so my profile didn’t actually end up on the website. If your conference has an “Attendees” section, submit a professional picture of yourself and say a few words about you and your work. This will attract the attention of anybody who happens to come across the website, not just fellow translators.

Connect on twitter
Visit the conference’s website and look at the attendees list. As you browse through, check whether any of them have linked their twitter accounts and follow them. Have a look on twitter to see who is tweeting about your conference and interact with them by replying, retweeting or following them.

Check out the programme
You will probably have looked at the programme before you paid to attend, but go back and have another look at which talk is on at what time and plan which one you want to go to. There may be more than one talk scheduled at a time, so it pays to be prepared.

What to pack?
This was one of the focuses of my pre-conference research. I suggest: business cards, pens, paper (although this was provided at BP15), a business card wallet for the cards you get from fellow attendees, your tablet (optional, I never ended up using mine) and smart outfits.

What to wear?
This was another one of my pre-conference focuses. Conferences vary, so try to find out about the dress code beforehand. Search for pictures of the previous years’ conferences to give yourself an idea of what to wear. If, like me, your feet suffer in new shoes, get foot plasters or make sure your shoes are well-and-truly broken in before wearing them to a conference.

Where to stay?
I’d recommend staying at the conference hotel. This was a lesson I learned once I got there. I stayed at a hotel down the road and found myself getting jealous when fellow conference attendees decided they needed a break and retreated to their hotel rooms. If you forget anything, you can also just pop upstairs. It also makes getting to the conference a lot easier. I was almost late on the first day as I hadn’t allowed for the fact that 1st May is a Bank Holiday in Croatia, so I was still stood waiting for a tram at 8:50 when the conference started at 9.

Fringe activities
If attending the conference isn’t enough for you, conferences usually have a couple of days on either side where they organise activities: workshops, day trips to popular tourist destinations, dinners, evening entertainment, etc. Have a look through these offerings before you go and sign up to the ones you find interesting.

 

During the conference
Be sociable
Get to know as many people as you can, even if you are shy and quiet like me. This was pretty easy at the BP Translation Conference as many of the talks were interactive. There were also several coffee breaks (and of course lunch) which allowed for plenty of time to get to know your colleagues.

Take good notes
If you hear something noteworthy, write it down. You are more likely to remember it if you put it in writing rather than hearing something and trying to keep it in mind.

Hand out business cards
If you meet interesting people you want to keep in contact with, give them your card and ask for theirs in return.

Enjoy it
Although conferences are a business function, they can also be fun. Relax and enjoy networking with your peers!

 

After the conference
Touch base with the people you met
Have a look through the business cards you were given and find a way to contact those colleagues, be it through Twitter, LinkedIn or by dropping them a line via email.

Ask for presentation slides
If you went to a brilliant talk and you find your notes don’t do it justice, get in touch with the speaker and politely ask them for their presentation slides.

Read this article

 

Do you love going to conferences? What would you add to this list?

What to look for in a freelance translator

Are you looking to have your work translated and have opted for a freelancer, but you’re lost in the jungle of search results? Don’t be put off by the masses of information that search engines throw at you. The translation industry is not regulated, so knowing what to look for can be a bit of a minefield. This blog post contains some specifics to help you in your search.

Qualifications
Qualifications are an important factor – a translator should produce good-quality work if they have a master’s degree in translation from a university or if they hold another equivalent qualification, such as the DipTrans. It should, however, be noted that not all translators have translation-specific qualifications. If your translator doesn’t, check whether they are a member of any professional translator associations, as some of these, such as the ITI, require translators to pass their entrance exam.

Experience
It goes without saying that a translator who has many years of experience should be good at their job. When searching for a translator, look at how long they have been working in translation, whether they have worked in-house or just freelanced, and the types of documents they have translated. These factors will give you a better picture of your translator’s abilities.

Specialisms
A translator’s qualifications and experience in the industry is not where your search should end. What type of text do you need to have translated? Is it a legal, medical, marketing or technical text, for example? A translator’s website should contain information on their specialisms, so when searching for “translator in [insert language pair here]” in a search engine, you should also include the type of text, e.g. “translator German to English business” to make sure your translator has the necessary knowledge to translate your text.

Professional translator associations
As with most industries, the translation industry has a set of professional associations, e.g. IAPTI and the ITI. If a translator is a member of one (or more) of these associations, it may reveal information about his or her business. Professional translator associations will have some form of code of conduct that they will expect their members to observe. Some translator associations will also expect their members to take a translation exam to verify that they have the appropriate skills to be a translator. So if your translator is a member of a professional translator association, you should expect professionalism and quality.

Translator portals
If you find your perfect translator via their business website but would like more information, you could search to see if he or she has a profile on a translator portal. Most translators will have a profile on one or more portals, even if it just contains basic information. Some will have spent time on their profile, and it may contain information that you cannot find on their website, e.g. rates and feedback. If you want further information before contacting your chosen translator, it may be worth cross-referencing their website with their profile, for example on ProZ.com or translatorscafe.com. These are just two of a wide range of portals you could search through.

Feedback on your translator
Before you enquire about a translation with your chosen translator, it may also be worth reading feedback and testimonials about the translator written by the translator’s clients. This may be included on the translator’s website, but some portals also have this feature. Feedback may contain information on quality, client satisfaction, and reliability, which will be helpful in your search.

There you have some tips to get you started. Happy hunting!

Feel free to add your comments and questions below.

Tips on getting into the translation profession

The translation industry is a notoriously tough industry to get into when you first start out. If you plump for working with agencies, many ask that translators have at least 5 years’ experience before they can be added to the agency’s books. If you decide to target direct clients then you have to stand out from everybody else in the industry, including those with decades of experience. Here are some tips to consider just before launching your career and when you’re first starting out:

1) Get a degree… and use it Whether in the languages that you want to translate from, or in a subject that could ultimately become your specialism, a degree is a major advantage to translators. Having a degree in a field other than languages and translation can also work in your favour as that field could become your specialism in translation.

2) Get translator training Be it a master’s degree in translation from a university or another qualification such as the IoL’s DipTrans, some form of training in the principles and practices of translation is absolutely vital in this industry.

3) Get as much experience as you can There are several ways to gain experience in the translation industry. You could take on a translation internship (many translation agencies are on the lookout for interns for 3-12 month placements) or you could volunteer as a translator with a not-for-profit website or company requiring translation (I volunteered with Watching America a few years ago. There are a number of options out there, and the more experience you have, the better.)

4) Exposure There are many sites out there aimed at online networking, and there are a few that are specific to the translation industry. Sites like LinkedIn are more general, whereas ProZ.com and TranslatorsCafe.com are specific to the translation and interpreting industry. It’s good to have profiles and be active on these sites (e.g. posting in the forums, asking terminology questions), as potential clients often use these sites to find new freelancers.

5) Specialise While you may accept whatever job lands in your inbox when starting out as a translator, it’s best to quickly suss out what you like and what you’re good at, then focus on gaining work in that field. That way you can focus your efforts on knowing your potential source material inside out, rather than being just relatively good in many subject areas.

6) Further training Once you’ve got a foot on the ladder, make sure you keep up-to-date with professional training. There are always ways in which you can improve as a professional – after all, we all have weaknesses. Webinars are an excellent tool for improving skills. My two favourite sites for this are ProZ.com and The Alexandria Project. They both offer insightful webinars on a wide range of translation-based topics.

Are you a translator? Feel free to add your tips for getting into the translation profession in the comments section below!