THE TRANSLATOR AS AN ENTREPRENEUR:AN INDIAN PERSPECTIVE

By Ravi Kumar, Founder, Modlingua Learning
First presented at International Symposium on Technical Translation and Terminology for Cross-Cultural Dialogue. Reprinted with gracious permission by the author.

The Translator as an entrepreneur

After several years of struggle, in many countries Translation has evolved as a professional activity and its practitioners have been able to get a professional status. However, it is important to note that India, in spite of having recognized and documented the presence of 1635 rationalized mother tongues, classified into 234 mother tongues and grouped under 122 languages, has failed to achieve professional status for its translators. Translation is an activity that not only helps bridge communication gap, rather it facilitates the whole set of business activity in terms of localization and globalization thus generating employment. An individual translator not only generates employment for himself/herself but also facilitates multiple activities and thus multiple employment activities ranging from DTP, advertising, education etc. to development and facilitation of high-end software and products. A translator applies his knowledge, skills and competencies and consistently evolves and applies new ideas at the individual level or collectively and in most of the cases, he/she is one person enterprise that generates employment and wealth and contributes to the economic development of the country.

It is also notable that most of the translators in India are forced to orient their profession and tune it as per the language demand of the industry by being restricted to the roles of language teacher, BPO employee, tele caller, etc. Those who remain loyal to their professional orientation as translator become freelance translators and often slowly grow into translation agencies. Unlike big business houses, translation businesses are usually run from home or from sparsely-furnished small offices, have limited resources and often the owners don’t know where the next penny is coming from to keep the operation going. Most of the time, such translators or agencies work in isolation and lead lonely existences as few can empathize with their troubles.

Socio- Cultural situation of translators in India

Bilinguals have always been respected in India as persons with superior qualifications, and they have played a pivotal role in social and cultural change. Slowly, bilingualism has become so widespread that it is complementary in nature. For example, an individual may use a particular language at home, another in the neighborhood and the bazaar, and still another in certain formal domains such as education, administration, and the like. In addition, the languages of national and international communication, Hindi and English, are also part of the linguistic repertoire of a sizeable number of Indians. In India, linguistic diversity is not by accident, but is inherited in the process of acquiring the composite culture of India.

Economic Situation of a translator in India

On the one hand, bilingualism/ multilingualism have played a pivotal role in shaping the diverse society of India, and even UNESCO has appreciated India’s situation on maintaining its linguistic diversity. On the other hand, Indian translators face challenges that are byproducts of the bilingualism / multilingualism inherent in Indian society. For example, it is very common to equate a translator with a bilingual neighbor, friend, relative or office colleague who are readily available for help or extend their services either at a very low price or, many times, even for free. I define these actions as part of the entrepreneurship attitude inherent in almost every Indian who tries to make best use of available resources and economizes his/ her efforts by making use of available resources. In this case, the resources are readily available bilinguals or multilinguals. These challenges become tougher when a Project Manager, knowingly or unknowingly equates the service cost of a professional translator with that of his in-house bilingual colleague whose services he / she has been availing of, free of charge. The challenge becomes stiffer when a translator has to explain to the Project Manager or the Indian Businessman (who still insists on using online freeware like Babelfish, Google or Systran) the difference between a machine translation and a professional translation, while trying to bid for an international project. This further confirms the resolve of an Indian businessman to prove his entrepreneurship skill which finally leads to a fiasco.

Making of a translator in India

As explained above, in spite of India’s very rich and continuing diversity of languages, there are only a few universities that offer translation courses in their curriculum, and these find it difficult to sustain themselves because of lack of infrastructure, lack of trained faculty, lack of well formulated course curriculum and, above and all, public lack of awareness and government apathy.

In this situation, it becomes very challenging for a translator to evolve as a professional, and those who evolve as professionals can be easily put into the category of entrepreneurs as they develop the ability to create and build something from practically nothing, and they practice this process of building wealth daily and continue to face all odds with a hope that one day they would be established translators.

External challenges faced by the translator entrepreneur

Once a professional translator starts interacting with the Industry, external challenges multiply. The translator goes on to face many other issues, including payment issues with clients followed by lack of continuity of work, government apathy towards professional recognition, lack of established standards, lack of certification, lack of funds for up gradation of skills, etc.

Global challenges faced by the translator entrepreneur

Many of the leading portals have developed a strong foothold in India. It is true that they have given good opportunities to many of the translators to get in touch with domestic as well as International agencies and that this has resulted in an increase in income. However, it is important to note that most of these portals are operated from outside India and they follow their own rules. Many times, Indian translators are cheated and then, to add insult to injury, blamed for bad quality. This kind of situation arises because of a mismatch of expectations, lack of documented guidelines and supports that agencies or clients must offer translators. Outsourcing is a good phenomenon, but service takers as well as service providers need to develop trust and culture sensitive relationships that is so often lacking in these web portals.

Competition from International agencies

It is true that the majority of Indian translators still follow the translation approach of translation – many times translations are handwritten, followed by typing, re-checking – and final delivery; this translation approach has its own importance, but it results in delivery delay and lack of quality control, making the whole affair vulnerable to stiff competition.

On the other hand, International agencies who maintain in-house teams of translators are sophisticated. They make use of trained translators who are well versed with computer applications and CAT tools (Computer Aided Translation Tools). Unless Indian translators also upgrade themselves with this modern translation approach, they will continue to suffer the snobbery of a select privileged few. Also, there are a few MNCs who have already made their presence in the Indian market, and, as a matter of practice, with their organizational strength and economic power, it would be easy for them to develop an economically competitive process that would be a big challenge to Indian translators entrepreneurs who are still struggling for their identity. By the time they realize their weaknesses, it would be too late to start competing with these translation houses.

Internal challenges faced by the translator entrepreneur

An individual, after having gone through the hurdles involved in evolving as a translator, faces the next stage of problems and challenges that many times originate from his / her own self:

  1. Translation activities have been treated as a very personal and private affair by individual language professionals. Many times, even best friends do not share information between themselves about their translation projects.
  2. Translators suffer from an identity crisis – Let us say, an Indian language professional refers to himself as a translator in a gathering of friends or acquaintances who otherwise have no other association with the translation industry. The response the professional’s statement would commonly receive would simply be, “Okay, this is what you do. But what is your profession?” This underlines the very simple fact that the translation industry generally has very little professional recognition in the perception of the masses. This does affect the credibility and the position of a professional translator in the eyes of his social peers. This is what we translators refer to as an Identity Crisis.
  3. Ego clashes – identity crisis makes an individual more sensitive to issues that have been making him suffer, any new initiative is regarded with suspicion – once suspicion comes – questions are asked, many times resulting in absurd questions offending egos and ultimately, failure of any collective initiatives for professional development.
  4. If at all logic prevails – the established translators start fearing loosing their business which they have established since years, making personal efforts – but very privately. Under no circumstances do they want to come to a common platform and discuss relations or issues related to their clients. But this thought is not expressed directly (part of identity crisis), rather it is expressed in terms of pin-pointing personal or professional or organizational weaknesses of the individual who has taken the initiative.

Successful translators and diversification

In spite of all the odds mentioned above, there are quite a good number of translators in India who face these challenges and overcome all hurdles to finally make a living and contribute to the economic and cultural growth of the country. In addition, there are a few who grow enough to launch small and medium sized translation enterprises which further add value to translation as a profession.

Need for collaborative efforts

With the collaborative efforts of a few like-minded professional translators, the Indian Translators Association was established in December 2007. It seeks to unite the widespread translator and interpreter community of India on a common platform to address issues for the betterment of the industry and take steps to ensure that its members provide services meeting the professional standards of the industry. Its integration with the International Federation of Translators (FIT) in July 2008 and its subsequent collaboration with Termnet Austria prove its commitment towards achieving its objectives and goal of developing a vibrant platform for the translator’s community of India.

Networking as a Possible Solution

To counter external as well as internal challenges a translator needs to take into consideration the phenomenon of globalization that has brought tremendous dynamism into market forces. The world is evolving towards finding innovative ways of achieving customer satisfaction that is based on N =1 (one consumer experience at a time) and R = G (resource from multiple vendors and often from around the globe). [5] To achieve competitiveness and provide unique, personalized experiences to consumers the firm needs to create a system that involves individual customers in co-creating a product / service that provides a unique experience. No firm is big enough in scope and size to satisfy the experiences of one consumer at a time.

Therefore, all firms will access resources from a wide variety of other big and small firms – a global ecosystem. The focus is on access to resources, not ownership of resources. Not to go too deeply into the logistics of this innovative thought, it is very important to understand that even the biggest companies do not own all the necessary resources to cater to the needs of their customer, nor do they have complete production in-house as the new dynamics of market demands inter-dependency on internal and external sources.

The above thoughts are very encouraging for an entrepreneur and especially for the translator who depends heavily on external sources and who does not have enough funds to own resources. As explained above, nor do the big business houses have the complete ownership of resources. The idea is to have fast access to these resources. A translator entrepreneur needs to be connected to fellow translators within his own country as well as outside the country to have access to information and knowledge and develop teams for the execution of a project through available resources and provide services and achieve customer satisfaction. For developing connectivity and networking, there are already various online systems in place that allow free access to their platform and offer options to develop connectivity and develop social or professional networks that further helps individual members to build on relationships, share knowledge and help in the overall growth of a complete social or cultural system thus allowing the creator of the system to benefit from the presence of a large number of human networks connected to its server. Amongst many other networks, I find Google, LinkedIn, Face Book, Hotmail, Groupsite and Twitter to be examples of the N=1 and R=G phenomenon.

Even for translators, there are well known networks that work wonders, and a translator must tune himself / herself to changing dynamics and bring competitiveness through using these networks (for example, Termium Canada, Terment Austria or even Termtruk and various other initiatives). In the Indian context, although there has not been a very visible network of translators, empowered by big business houses, however many personal initiatives are in place (for example, www.modlingua.com) and it is expected that in times to come when better understating of the market comes, translators would start networking in an organized way and such private initiatives would become part of a collective initiative covering a considerable number of translators.

All that remains to be said in conclusion is that, while Indian translators as entrepreneurs are slowly evolving, in spite of many obstacles, they are yet to explore their fullest potential by adopting a common platform. On the one hand, this, and the other hurdles and set backs can be attributed, to a large extent, to vestigial colonial mind sets on all sides (the colonizer and the colonized) which have so far endured past their expiry dates yet continue to exert influence. Perhaps the time has come for change and, given the shared impacts of events, East or West, North or South, salvation for all lies in sharing knowledge, experience and resources. The future of translation as a profession lies in the “networking” of entrepreneurs to economize processes and sustain growth by using all available resources and infrastructure. All that this requires is the investment of goodwill across the globe.

REFERENCES
[1] R. Gopalakrishnan, Prosperity Beyond Our Cities by Spreading Enterprise, AD Shroff Memorial Lecture, October 17-18, 2007
[2] Dwijendra Tripathy (ed.), Business Communities of India: A Historical Perspective. 1984
[3] Tarun Khanna, Billions of Entrepreneurs: How China and India are reshaping their future and yours, 2007
[4] See Pawan K Verma, Being Indian
[5] This phenomenon can be more understood by going through the writings of management guru C.K Prahalad and M.S. Krishnan in “ The New Age of Innovation: Driving Co-Created Value through Global Networks, Tata Mc Graw Hill, 2008

This Article is written by Ravi Kumar, Founder of Modlingua Learning, India’s No.1 Certified Translation Service Providers

NYCT May Meeting – Panel on Patent Translation

Panelists included Aaron Hebenstreit, Sand Jones and Sam Bett from Morningside Translations

Sam Bett explained what a patent is and what can be patented. A patent is a legal right that an inventor can apply for. They are generally for a 20-year term. No one is then permitted to use their invention without their permission. The panel then discussed the criteria necessary for a patent.

There is no international patent. Patents are granted in each country or selected countries. Various patents can be costly. (WIPO) World Intellectual Property Organization was discussed. They administer treaties and are a big source of translation work.

Many documents are associated with Patent Translation
1- The abstract
2- The claims, which sets out the legal scope.
3 – The description, or what it is
4- The drawings

How to get started in patent translation? Sandy explained that she worked with legal and one day a patent came across her desk. That started it all. Sandy emphasized and the rest of the panel concurred that a translator must have strong research skills. Research is half the job. Mistakes can be expensive. Consistency very important. However, no technical background is needed to start with patents.

What makes one suited to patents? Well, are you curious? Interested in how things work? These traits and language skills are what makes one suited to pursue patent work. At this time Japanese, German, Korean, Chinese seem to be the languages that offer the most work.

The panel also answered questions from the membership.

Beware of Fraudulent Websites that Could Ruin Your Reputation or Worse: How I Achieved a Happy Ending

BY CAROLA F. BERGER, PHD, CT

Reprinted with gracious permission of the Science & Technology Division newsletter and the author, Carola F. Berger, who retains rights to the article.

A few months ago, I discovered, thanks to Google Alerts, that a fraudulent website was using my business name and excerpts of my copyrighted website content without my permission to advertise their dishonest services.

My business name, which was used on the aforementioned site without my permission, has been registered in the State of California, United States of America, since 2010. The illegal use of copyrighted excerpts from my website violates the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

On the same page, a highly unethical academic paper writing service was advertised; that is, a website was advertised, where students could pay for somebody else to write their term papers or other homework for them. This practice is not only unethical but also constitutes fraud. I had absolutely nothing to do with these academic paper writing services or that website.
The site has been taken offline a few weeks ago and has been offline ever since.

Here is the timeline of the actions I took, which led to this positive outcome and which may help you if you are ever in a similar situation.

Step 0: Set up Google Alerts

If I hadn’t set up several Google Alerts to inform me whenever my name or my business name appears on a new site online, I would never have known about the impostors. I wrote a blog post about how to do that here.

Step 1: Post a disclaimer on my website

I posted an alert immediately after the discovery of the fraudulent website, in which I disassociated myself and my business from the website and all its activities. If I had had the slightest suspicion that the impostors could contact my existing clients or solicit new clients under my name outside of that website, I would have also proactively contacted my existing clients and posted another alert/disclaimer on all my public and semi-private social media and professional accounts.

Step 2: Find out who is behind the website

Unfortunately, this step proved to be quite difficult, because the real host of the website was hidden under several layers of anonymized entities. I began by looking at the internet registry information, which you can find via any Whois domain service, for example http://centralops.net/co/DomainDossier.aspx. The domain and the network whois record indicated that this particular website was registered in Panama. Unfortunately, contacting the registrar (see step 3) proved not to be very useful, because they claimed they were only responsible for registering the domain name, not for the content. I was referred to another entity in China, which also claimed not to be responsible for the content.

However, the domain name registrar was helpful enough to suggest to run a ping traceroute, which gave me the domain name and the IP address of the entity that actually hosted the content on their servers. One such service is http://ping.eu/traceroute. The last entry of the route is the IP address and domain name of the server that I was looking for. With this information, I went back into the Whois domain lookup and got the record of the actual host. The host is supposedly based in Canada, but the IP address of the server is actually located in Utah, USA, as an IP location service such as https://www.iplocation.net revealed. Now I had enough legal ammunition to take action.

Step 3: Cease and desist letter

After peeling back all the layers of the onion, I sent a very official sounding cease and desist email to the aforementioned hosting service. Actually, I had sent cease and desist letters to all the involved parties/layers, but although I received nearly immediate responses, they just referred me to the next layer. But when I sent a cease and desist letter to the hosting service, the site was taken down the very next day, although I never received a response from the hosting service! Regarding the content of the cease and desist letter, I looked up a template online for the proper legal phrases. I mentioned that my business name, which was used fraudulently, is registered in the State of California (since 2010), and that the content of my website, which was used without my permission, is copyrighted. More on that below. I was prepared to take further action, but luckily, this was not necessary.

Step 4 (not taken): Invoke US copyright law

According to US Copyright law, all work is under copyright the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form, without actually having to register for a copyright. Aside from the standard “All rights reserved” disclaimer on my website, I also use a WordPress plugin to take snapshots of the content that I deem worthy of copyright. This serves as “fixing it in a tangible form,” as required under the US copyright law quoted above. There are many such plugins available. If the site had not been taken down, I was prepared to send a takedown notice according to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act to the service provider that was hosting the offending site. The steps to send a DCMA takedown notice are described here. Luckily, this was not necessary.

All is well that ends well. I want to thank my colleagues who helped me peel back the layers of this fraudulent onion. I hope that I can help other people in a similar situation by sharing this experience. I also hope that potential criminals will be sufficiently deterred from trying something similar in the future.

About the author:
width="150"Carola F. Berger, PhD is an ATA-certified English-into-German patent translator with a PhD in physics and a Master’s degree in engineering physics. She has written a series of blog posts about scams in the translation industry as well as an article in The ATA Chronicle in 2014, which is still very relevant today. Evidently, the scammers in the story above messed with the wrong translator!

For more information please see: Carola’s website (http://www.CFBtranslations.com) and the S&TD website (http://www.ata-divisions.org/S_TD/).

Peter Yoon, Past Board Member

Dear New York Circle Members,

It is with great sadness to share the news that New York Circle member Peter Yoon passed away this past January. His family informed us of his passing, but we have no further information, and we respect their need for privacy at this time. Peter was 64.

A Korean translator and interpreter, Peter was a longtime active member of the New York Circle and the ATA. He also had his own LSP in New Jersey, which specialized in technical and scientific fields. He held a BS in Chemical Engineering from Han Yang University in Korea and a MS in Computer Science from the Polytechnic Institute of NYU. Before entering the linguistic world, he worked as a programmer for IBM and was the IT Director of PR Newswire.

Peter is remembered as a very charming and amiable man. He had a ready smile and a willing attitude and was always eager to help out and advise fellow members. He served on our Board of Directors as Treasurer for two years in 2011-2012. At our monthly meetings, he greeted newcomers warmly and made them feel welcome. When I last spoke to him, he was excited about plans to expand his business and expressed great hope for the new directions he wanted to take. A number of past and present Board members have expressed their sadness at this loss and their fond memories of him. He will be missed. If you would like share a memory or tribute to Peter, please feel free to leave it here.

Sincerely,
Gigi Branch
New York Circle of Translators member

Welcome New Members!!!

Christina Lozano Arguelles

Mercedes Avalos

Carmen Criado

Mauricio Gamarra

Deborah A. B. Hahn

Jonathan R. Hiller

Adam Hubbell

Tatiana Lotarevich

Halina Malinowski

Michelle Negreros

Ivonne Padilla

Natalia Postrigan

Christo Snyman

Connie Villegas

Wuchuanzi Yu

 

NYCT Feb 2017 Meeting: Interpreting at the U.N. – Nahum Hahn

The February meeting was well attended. It had quite a few nonmembers, who were quite impressed by both the speaker and the NYCT. Mr. Hahn started with a day at the U.N. as an interpreter. No day is typical.

He discussed his work as a verbatim reporter, which was beneficial to his future interpreting work. It taught him all the “jargon” necessary for the work. He explained that all interpreters interpret into their mother tongue only. Most work is simultaneous.

There are six official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. If say a Chinese ambassador is giving a speech in Chinese, then the interpreters in the Chinese booth will render the speech into English or French. Then the interpreters in the other booths interpret the speech into their respective languages.

A Day in the Life

Hours are 10-1 and 3-6. Interpreters work in 20 minute shifts. Sometimes they must stay late until a meeting ends. They may also be called in case of emergency meetings, even on the weekend. There is no choice on the schedule. Interpreters work 7 1\2 days per week. Interpreters work for: General Assembly, Security Council, Economic & Development.

Unfortunately, speeches are not given in advance. A point to bear in mind is that not everyone is a good speaker, many speeches are read. The speed of the speech or the rate at which a diplomat is reading can make interpreting a challenge.

Video examples of a couple of different speakers were shown to demonstrate the differences in speakers. Some are easier to interpret for than others. Tone and register is also important. Some are engaging, other speakers can make it a bit harder to stay awake. Sometimes the accent or dialect can be difficult to decipher.

There 193 member states. It has become usual for Meeting Chairmen to limit diplomats to 4 minutes – causing many to rush an entire speech into 4 minutes. This is a disservice to everyone, both interpreters, the audience and even the diplomat giving the speech.

After some anecdotes, Nahum discussed the upcoming interpreter examination. Work experience, required languages were covered.


He then took questions from the membership.

Voting News from a Sister Organization NCIHC

To all NCIHC members,

Voting for the 2017 Election for the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC) is under way! All votes must be submitted before 5:00 PM Central on April 6, 2017. If you have any problems/questions, please contact: elections@ncihc.org.

All NYCT members who are also NCIHC members are encouraged to vote.

Translation and Translators in the News

Network of Translators Defies U.S. Travel Bans and Interrogations

Seventy volunteers who speak 25 languages have formed the new international Translation Outreach Network to publicize–and of course, translate–the stories of those traveling to the United States who are barred or detained for hours on the basis of their nationality or name. The network’s members include translators, scholars, journalists, activists and writers. They will translate stories of up to 2,000 words and help disseminate them.