My colleagues and I often talk about the fact that speaking English has almost come to be expected from many European non-native speakers, especially from the Dutch and the Germans. Not sure why, though, since we don’t expect North Americans to speak fluent German, Dutch or Spanish. As a matter of fact, we don’t even count on every Canadian to speak French fluently, although French is one of two official languages in Canada (the other being English).

Coupled with the mistaken assumption that being (almost) fluent in two (or more) languages also means that you can translate (written) or interpret (spoken) from one language to the other, we regularly stumble across more or less awkward mistranslations.

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On the occasion of International Translation Day I just have to state the obvious: These minor and major errors could be avoided by hiring a qualified and experienced translator or (conference) interpreter. Professional language service providers are members of provincial/ state and/or national professional bodies. Each professional association has an online directory to easily find someone by language combination. In North America they usually have a designation like “Certified Translator” or “Certified Conference Interpreter.” They can help you communicate more effectively in the foreign language, because they “know their stuff.”

So to all my qualified colleagues out there: Happy translating and/or interpreting!

May all your clients value what you do!



Forest bathing…


Hello, fellow friends and travelers,

A recent article in a German magazine has me thinking about great words that do not exist in the English language.

Here are a few of my favorites:

For the tree hugger:  Shinrin-yoku – Japanese, for “forest bathing,” the “practice of taking a short leisurely visit to a forest for health benefits” (Wikipedia: forest bathing)

For Santa and his helpers, a unit of measurement: Poronkusema – Finnish for “the distance a reindeer could travel before stopping to urinate” (Wikipedia: poronkusema)

For the currently stationary traveler: Fernweh – German for the ache / longing to travel or get far away.

For the budget-conscious: Prozvonit – Czech for initiating a cell phone call and only letting it ring once, so the other person has to call back and you can save on minutes. (See Wiktionary).

And finally, for the art lover: Duende -Spanish for “having soul, a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity” (Wikpedia: duende), i.e. the power that a work of art can have to deeply move a person.

Happy travels!





Hola, fellow travelers, friends and colleagues! How are things in your world?

I just returned from adventures in Costa Rica. Found it quite amazing – between the beaches and the rainforest… just incredible! Take a look at the photo… no swimming on this beach, let me tell you, but plenty of drama as you can see…. and lots of great memories, which brings me to today’s post. (Nice segue, right? 😉

A few colleagues have asked me about translation memory (TM). They wanted to know, what kind of TM software/ system I use and why. Here is my take on TM for translators:

After more than 15 years in this business, I have seen translation memory systems change and evolve. Originally and from what I understand, translation memory was developed by translators for translators. The objective of TM was to make our work more efficient (by storing and retrieving previously translated units) and more consistent (e.g. through terminology databanks). Trados was originally developed in Germany, I believe, and was one of the first TMs marketed in the 1990’s. I purchased Trados back then for a large project involving technical manuals. The time investment was 4-5 days to familiarize myself with the software and the cost was about $ 800 back then. Trados worked for us for many years, while other TMs came on the market. It worked well for user manuals (IT), contracts, etc. Using this TM system with repetitive text increased output by about one third. We purchased a couple of upgrades during that 10 year period, always at a reasonable price. I also worked with SDL Lite when it first came out and with SDL proper before it aquired Trados and with a number of other TMs on the market.

Once SDL acquired Trados, however, an upgrade was going to cost us the same if not more as our original investment. Nice reward for being a loyal customer all those years right? And a bit cheeky, if you ask me. So we jumped ship – more out of principle, if you know what I mean. After some research I found Metatexis in Germany and have been using their TM ever since. It’s Trados-compatible, which means we could use all our existing memory. It’s user friendly (except for some minor glitches here and there, but there’s always someone there to help). And: It’s affordable.

There are lots of other TM systems out there, just take a look. Some are better suited to your language combination than others – so do your research. Bottom line in my view: If you do a lot of repetitive translation work, it’s well worth the investment. Be brave! Be adventurous!

Tip: TM was designed by translators for translators. In my view, it was not designed for translation agencies to apply scaled rates for freelancers (100% pays this much, 75% pays that much), thus in effect reducing translator’s pay.

Signing off for today…

Your Traveling Translator