A Translator's Life

A personal insight on all aspects of the translation world.

Translating Football in its Spiritual Home

posted 9 Mar 2015, 20:12 by Luciano Monteiro   [ updated 19 Mar 2015, 12:03 ]


Five years prior to the 2014 World Cup, Luciano Monteiro was tasked with managing the translation of the FIFA website into Brazilian Portuguese. Here he charts the ups and downs of a monumental project.

This article was originally published in the March 2015 issue of the ITI Bulletin. Click the images above to read the print article.

On the last day of 2014, a long, arduous and rewarding five-year translation project came to an end. It was not until late 2009 that Fifa, football’s international governing body, decided that its official website needed a Brazilian Portuguese version, and it was also at that time that I was approached to linguistically manage the deployment of the website and its future updates, always with an eye on the 2014 World Cup to be played in Brazil. Two factors led me to say yes. Firstly, I was happy to see the value of specialisation recognised. I've always believed that translators should work in their specific fields of expertise, and I felt fully capable of taking the job since I had been working with and writing about football translation for many years. Secondly, I received carte blanche to build my team by selecting only the best writers, translators and reviewers.

It was not long before I got to grips with some actual work, as the new pages had to go live by year-end. As I began to appreciate the huge amount of static content to be translated from Fifa’s four official languages (English, Spanish, French and German) as well as from Arabic, it became clear that a large number of translators would be necessary to handle such high volumes in all these languages.

Scratch match
I knew from the beginning that the recruitment process would not be simple, because I had worked with other translators on football-related projects in the past, and had seen that many colleagues showed a lack of intimacy with the subject matter. Unfortunately, many translators throw themselves at the first opportunity and, to say the least, indulge in wishful thinking about their abilities. That said, I still thought that the spiritual home of football would offer no shortage of good professionals.

I was wrong. It wasn’t long before I realised that, while many translators simply lacked football knowledge, many others did not consider it a serious specialism. The fact that football as a subject is less 'heavy' than medicine, engineering or insurance does not make it easier to translate. Even after we tested dozens of candidates (many of them accomplished translators in other fields), all I saw were clumsy, artificial stories that reeked of translatorese and would not be accepted for publication by any sports media outlet.

We moved on to football journalists, experienced writers who know exactly what the reader wants. However, their lack of foreign language knowledge created a new obstacle. It surprises me to see that most people (many journalists included) have no clue whatsoever about the processes involved in trying to bridge two languages and two cultures. Again, either due to bad faith or lack of self-criticism, what we saw was the candidates' inability to effectively understand all the nuances of the English source text. To digress a little, I must say that, as far as foreign-language learners of English are concerned, this situation is getting worse due to an over-reliance on machine translation tools, which on the one hand may speed up the job, but on the other help circumvent the fundamental process by which you deconstruct the source in order to be able to reconstruct it in the target language. And I’m talking here about finding translators from English to Portuguese. When it came to the other source languages, it was nearly impossible to find a translator who ticked all the boxes.

After not a single test had fully met our expectations, I saw that we would need to pick the candidates with the greatest potential and invest in their training. And so we began with the Herculean task of correcting and resubmitting translations so that a desired level of quality might be met. During that process, and based on the most frequent errors found, I wrote a Brazilian Portuguese translation guide that was later adopted by Fifa. Finally, after about six months I had the joy of being able to 'promote' a colleague who, after working hard and accepting constructive criticism of her translations, began to write with the desired level of quality.

Absurdities and aberrations
Building a qualified team was a difficult albeit rewarding task. Equally positive was the need to take linguistic decisions to standardise to some extent the language used on the website. From the start, we made it a point to favour truly Brazilian terminology, that is, the football jargon that has been used by the press and the fans in Brazil for several decades. Although the game in its modern form was first organised in Britain, and its nomenclature was initially derived from English, football was soon adopted by Brazilians as their own. As the country began to write its victorious history on the pitch, the game quickly became ingrained in the nation’s culture as if it had been a South American creation from the outset. Brazilians believe they’re stating the obvious when calling their country O País do Futebol (The Country of Football), so it seems logical to them that the language of football should be Brazilian Portuguese.

Trying to avoid Anglicisms would not have been such a battle two decades ago. However, the fact that more and more Brazilians are on the internet, coupled with a notoriously poor education system that produces young people who can barely read and write in their own language (let alone in a foreign tongue), has gradually led to the younger generation replacing well-known Brazilian football lingo with untranslated English terms that also carry with them a different way to see the game. I'm happy to say that we were successful in our fight. By working as a team, we managed to eliminate aberrations that were becoming common in certain circles, and we soon realised that other media outlets were following suit.

This is not about trying to preserve a language at all costs, nor does it imply any kind of linguistic xenophobia. Language evolves, and foreign language ​​loans take place all the time. But it becomes a problem when the natural flow of influence is inverted. Just as it makes no sense for the English language to be influenced by other languages ​​in areas such as information technology or finance, it is unnatural that a country where football is such a part of everybody’s life should see its specific terminology influenced by a language whose majority of speakers in the world (with all due respect to most Britons) thinks of an egg-shaped ball when it comes to football. Since we were not swimming against the tide, it wasn’t difficult to achieve the desired results. In those five years, my team and I were fortunate to use a highly influential website to stop the advance of certain linguistic absurdities and aberrations.

Road to Brazil
Ever since I was chosen to be the chief translator and editor for the Fifa website in Portuguese, back in late 2009, I knew I was kick-starting a project whose climax would be reached five years later, during the World Cup on Brazilian soil. So, after the tournament came to an end (with a disastrous campaign by the hosts) and as I was enjoying some holiday time in Russia, I knew that I would probably not be working in the same capacity four years later in the world’s largest country.

Thus, it was with a mixture of melancholy and pride that I received the news that the Portuguese language website would be discontinued at the end of 2014. During the final months, we continued doing work of the same quality, but instead of looking ahead we could only look back in satisfaction. After all, many were the good moments in such a long journey. In addition to building the Brazilian Portuguese team, ranging between 10 and 20 translators and reviewers at any given time, it was great to interact with the translators and journalists from the other five languages, many of whom I already knew from previous projects.

Although the website did not reach its peak until the 2014 World Cup, perhaps the greatest moment for those of us who were working behind the scenes came four years earlier, during the tournament in South Africa. After all, we had worked almost non-stop in our separate offices throughout the nine months leading up to the event, translating a wealth of content about the participating teams and the host country. During the competition, however, editors and translators came together in southern France not only to work until the early hours, but also to celebrate the new friendships that had been forged.

There were many other international tournaments after that World Cup, as well as daily articles to be translated about world football, with interviews, reports and news stories. Nonetheless, our work had become easier, as we had a good team in place, the style guide had been completed and many stories were quite similar to previous ones. At the same time, increasing numbers of articles were written in Portuguese, which, for obvious reasons, reduced the workload for Brazilian translators. As a result, we were able to keep just the core of the team, comprising the most qualified professionals.

Personal and professional
Even after a few periods of little activity, we knew that the great moment would come, and an increase in volume soon indicated that the World Cup was arriving in Brazil. One month before the tournament, there was no more time for other jobs. During the competition, I'm sure I was not the only one to forget about any regular routine and spend almost all my available time tuned in to the game’s showpiece event. To tell you the truth, there came a time when I really didn’t know when the fun started and the work ended, or vice-versa. I saw every single game and tried my best to watch and read the analyses being issued from various countries in multiple languages.
In short, the culmination of a project that had engaged me personally and professionally was a source of great pleasure. It's a pity that it came to an end, but in all fairness that was always the likely outcome. I share the success of this journey with the coordinators, translators and reviewers who worked with me and can also be proud of having written part of the history of a game that is intertwined with the identity of the Brazilian people.

Um longo projeto chega ao fim

posted 23 Oct 2014, 15:50 by Luciano Monteiro   [ updated 27 Oct 2014, 07:53 ]

Neste dia 31 de dezembro de 2014, chegará ao fim um longo, árduo e gratificante projeto de mais de cinco anos. Foi no início do segundo semestre de 2009 que recebi um contato inicial para gerenciar a tradução do site da Fifa ao português. Dois fatores me levaram a aceitar o trabalho. Em primeiro lugar, o reconhecimento da importância da especialização. Eu, que sempre fui a favor da especialização entre os tradutores, me sentia plenamente capaz de assumir um trabalho que teria enorme repercussão para divulgar o futebol internacional entre o público brasileiro. Em segundo lugar, recebi carta branca para montar a minha equipe, selecionando apenas os melhores redatores, tradutores e revisores.

Em setembro daquele mesmo ano, começou efetivamente o trabalho. Se por um lado já aparecia uma quantidade enorme de conteúdos "estáticos" vindos dos quatro idiomas oficiais da entidade (inglês, espanhol, francês e alemão) e também do árabe, ficava mais clara a necessidade de um grande número de tradutores para dar conta do alto volume em todos esses idiomas.

Recruta zero

Eu sabia desde o início que o recrutamento não seria simples, pois já tinha trabalhado com outros tradutores em projetos de futebol anteriormente e tinha percebido a falta de intimidade de alguns colegas com o assunto. Infelizmente, são muitos os tradutores que se jogam sobre a primeira oportunidade que aparecem e mentem (ou iludem-se) sobre as próprias capacidades. Mesmo assim, achava que, no país do futebol, não haveria escassez de bons profissionais.

Enganei-me. Percebi primeiramente que entre os tradutores faltava quem realmente desse a importância devida ao assunto. O fato de o futebol ser um assunto menos "sério" do que medicina, engenharia ou seguros não o torna mais fácil de traduzir. Além disso, o tradutor de formação tem como característica a dificuldade de se soltar em relação ao original e de se considerar o autor da tradução em vez de apenas o tradutor de um texto autoral. Mesmo após testarmos dezenas de ótimos tradutores, só o que vimos foram textos engessados e que não seriam aceitos em nenhum veículo da imprensa esportiva.

Partimos então para os jornalistas especializados em futebol, gente que escreve com facilidade e sabe bem que tipo de texto o leitor quer. Porém, esbarramos na falta de conhecimento de língua estrangeira. É impressionante como falta no público em geral (do qual os jornalistas são um bom exemplo) o entendimento do que é realmente dominar e compreender uma língua. Novamente por má fé ou falta de autocrítica do candidato, o que vimos foi a incapacidade de efetivamente compreender um texto em inglês, situação que vem piorando cada vez mais em função das ferramentas de tradução automática, que entregam de bandeja um resultado e eliminam o fundamental processo de desconstrução do original para que se possa construir uma tradução. E nem estou falando das outras línguas, em que até mesmo nos anos seguintes foi quase impossível encontrar um bom profissional.

Após nenhum teste ter atingido plenamente as expectativas, vi que seria necessário apostar nos candidatos com maior potencial. E assim começamos, com um trabalho hercúleo de correção e reenvio de textos com vistas a que fosse atingido um certo nível de qualidade. Em meio a este trabalho redigi com base nos erros encontrados o guia que acabou se tornando o Manual de Redação, Tradução e Estilo do site Fifa.com em português. Por fim, depois de mais ou menos seis meses tive o orgulho de poder "promover" uma colega que, após se esforçar muito e aceitar as críticas construtivas, passou a produzir textos com o nível de qualidade desejado.

Absurdos e aberrações

A formação da equipe foi bastante difícil, mas gratificante. Igualmente positiva foi a experiência de efetivamente tomar decisões linguísticas para padronizar até certo ponto a linguagem utilizada no site. O mais importante desde o início foi dar prioridade às formas verdadeiramente brasileiras, aos termos consagrados pela imprensa e pelos torcedores brasileiros nas últimas décadas. Apesar de o esporte ter vindo da Inglaterra e de a nomenclatura inicialmente ser derivada do inglês, o futebol no Brasil ganhou vida própria e, ao mesmo tempo em que criava o seu próprio estilo vitorioso, gerou também uma terminologia com a qual se apossou do futebol e passou a chamá-lo de seu. O Brasil virou o país do futebol, e esse país tem a sua própria língua.

A preocupação com anglicismos não seria tão grave há duas décadas, mas a popularização da internet, a grande disponibilidade de sites em inglês e o baixo nível de instrução em língua portuguesa de muitos jovens brasileiros acabariam fazendo com que termos comuns do português fossem substituídos por termos em inglês ou corruptelas destes. E nessa luta tivemos um grande sucesso. Ao trabalharmos em conjunto, conseguimos evitar aberrações que já se apossavam de certos círculos (o tal do "escore agregado", por exemplo) e percebemos que outros veículos de imprensa passaram também a valorizar mais a importância do nosso idioma.

Não se trata de ufanismo nem de medo de estrangeirismos. A língua evolui, e empréstimos de línguas estrangeiras ocorrem naturalmente. O problema é quando há uma inversão do fluxo natural de influência. Assim como não faz sentido que a língua inglesa seja influenciada por outros idiomas em temas como tecnologia da informação ou finanças, é pouco natural que o país onde o futebol é mais adorado em todo o mundo tenha a sua terminologia específica influenciada por um idioma cuja maioria de falantes pouco sabe sobre o verdadeiro futebol da bola esférica. Como não estávamos nadando contra a maré, não foi difícil atingir os resultados Nestes cinco anos, tive a felicidade de perceber que um site com a influência do Fifa.com conseguiu interromper o avanço de certos absurdos e aberrações linguísticas.

Brasil, mostra a tua cara

Desde que fui escolhido para ser o tradutor-chefe e o editor do site Fifa.com em português, ainda naquela metade de 2009, já sabia que estava iniciando um projeto cujo auge seria alcançado dali a cinco anos, na Copa do Mundo em solo brasileiro. Assim, após o fim do Mundial, nas minhas férias na Rússia, já sabia que, por motivos externos e fora do alcance da área editorial, seria pouco provável manter o mesmo projeto até o torneio de daqui a quatro anos no maior país do mundo em extensão territorial.

Assim, foi com um misto de melancolia e orgulho que recebi há poucas semanas a notícia de que a versão em português realmente sairá do ar no final do ano. Enquanto isso, seguimos o trabalho com a mesma qualidade, mas olhando mais para trás do que para a frente. Afinal de contas, foram muitos os bons momentos nesta caminhada que tornou o Fifa.com o site esportivo com o maior número de visitas em todo o mundo. Além de montar a equipe de língua portuguesa, que variou entre dez e vinte profissionais na maior parte do tempo, foi muito bom interagir com os tradutores e jornalistas dos outros cinco idiomas, muitos dos quais eu já conhecia de outros projetos anteriores.

Apesar de o auge do site em termos comerciais e de visitas ter sido o Mundial deste ano, a Copa do Mundo na África do Sul foi o grande momento para a nossa equipe. Afinal, trabalhamos praticamente sem parar durante os nove meses que antecederam o evento, traduzindo uma enormidade de conteúdos sobre as seleções participantes e sobre o país-sede. Durante o torneio, coroamos o trabalho com um encontro dos editores nos arredores de Marselha, ocasião durante a qual trabalhamos como nunca, mas também tivemos tempo para celebrar as amizades criadas.

Após a Copa do Mundo de 2010, vieram muitos outros torneios, além do material diário sobre o mundo do futebol, com entrevistas, reportagens e notícias. Por outro lado, o trabalho se tornou mais fácil, já que a equipe estava formada, o manual de estilo estava escrito e os assuntos acabavam se repetindo. Paralelamente, cresceu o número de artigos escritos originalmente em português, o que por razões óbvias acabou diminuindo um pouco o volume de trabalho para os tradutores brasileiros. Como resultado, pudemos manter apenas o "núcleo" da equipe, com os profissionais mais capacitados.

Pessoal e profissional

Mesmo com alguns períodos de pouca atividade, sabíamos que o grande momento chegaria, e a elevação dos volumes logo demonstrou que o Mundial estava mais perto do Brasil. Um mês antes, já não havia mais tempo para outros serviços. E durante a Copa do Mundo tenho certeza de que não fui o único a sair da rotina e dedicar praticamente todo o meu tempo disponível. Em um momento já era difícil saber onde terminava a diversão e onde começava o trabalho. Assisti a todas as partidas e tentei o meu melhor para acompanhar as análises vindas de vários países em vários idiomas.

Em suma, vivi com grande prazer o auge de um projeto que, mais do que profissional, foi também pessoal. É uma lástima que tenha chegado a um fim que, analisado friamente, sempre esteve próximo. Mesmo assim, divido o sucesso do trabalho com os coordenadores, tradutores e revisores que estiveram junto comigo e também podem se orgulhar de terem feito parte da história do esporte que se confunde com a própria identidade do brasileiro. 

The Beautiful Game, Found in Translation

posted 29 Oct 2012, 01:32 by Luciano Monteiro   [ updated 29 Oct 2012, 03:21 ]

It was a sunny September afternoon when I received an email from Nataly Kelly. I had known her mostly from her work with Common Sense Advisory and, except for a few exchanges related to some of her company's industry surveys, we had had little contact. The subject of her email on that day, however, was different. As she mentioned, she and co-author Jost Zetzsche were "working on a book that will be published by Penguin next year on the role of translators and interpreters in society". And they wanted to interview me for a chapter on sport.

"Found in Translation" is now not only a huge success amid the translation and interpreting community, but is also drawing more and more readers from other industries due to their superb writing and compelling depiction of our professions. Fourteen months ago, however, it was just an idea, but nevertheless an idea which thrilled me and which I knew was going to be immensely successful.

What made me even happier was the fact that Nataly and Jost intended to include the beautiful game in a book about translation. As I know from attending several meetings and conferences, sport translation is oftentimes overlooked as a niche market with very low demand, which couldn't be farther from the truth. Therefore, as part of Nataly's and Jost's project to bring translation and interpreting to the fore, I wanted to do my best to show how our professions influence the lives of football fans all over the world, but mainly in Brazil, widely acknowledged as a veritable soccer-mad country.

After some lengthy interviews by email and a long and exciting wait in the run-up to the book launch, I received a complimentary copy in the post, signed by Jost himself. Mr Zetzsche is an internationally acclaimed translation technology guru whom I had the pleasure to meet and speak to while walking from the hotel to the conference venue during the 2011 MemoQfest in Budapest, which leads me to think that perhaps that chance meeting was responsible for their decision to include me in the book. Another proof of the importance of networking.

I've just now finished reading the book and, even though I already knew some of the stories told and characters portrayed by the authors, "Found in Translation" has clearly exceeded my expectations. After all, the book has a different spin — instead of simply writing about translation for translators to help us cope with the common sense of "underappreciation", they write to the general public and show us as qualified and accomplished professionals who are happy to give their contribution to a better world.

Much has been said and written about the book, and you can find excellent reviews by browsing the web — much better than these humble words, by the way. What I can do for now is recommend that you read the book (if you don't know how to find it, write to me) and leave you with the excerpt containing my modest contribution: Soccer Stars in Nightgowns

A leap to the top

posted 28 Aug 2012, 12:23 by Luciano Monteiro   [ updated 11 Dec 2013, 02:03 ]

Over the past 12 years, since I began working full-time as a professional translator, there have been countless occasions when I was commissioned to manage a team of translators to tackle a specific job — usually a very long one, but with a tight deadline.

With that in mind, I have recently partnered with Brazilian-based translation company De Letra Tradução e Serviços Linguísticos to start working as their chief translator. For my current and potential clients in Brazil, that means they won't incur the infamous social security burden which makes up the notorious "Custo Brasil". For non-Brazilian clients, the only change is that I'm now invoicing most jobs as a company rather than as an individual.

Before my recent trip to the UEFA Euro 2012 and the Olympic Football Tournament, I was lucky enough to be tasked with a huge job to put my coordination skills to the proof — a 160,000-word Spanish to Portuguese translation of a World Bank report on safety in and around schools. On top of that, I kept my ongoing responsibilities as editor and translator.

Project management and coordination is nothing new to me, and I know that the bigger the project, the more difficult it is for the coordinator to have complete editorial control. That said, one of my conditions to accept my new role was to be fully in charge in terms of style and terminology, which has been possible by selecting only personally vetted translators who will abide by a given style guide, by using TM software in a sensible way, and by always revising all translations.

On the other hand, there are still many jobs which I take on a solely individual basis. Even though I invoice such jobs as a company, I won't outsource or share any documents under any circumstances unless previously agreed upon with the client, as I'm aware of their privacy and confidentiality concerns, not to mention their own consistency requirements.

I will finish this short post with thanks to my colleagues Fernando Campos Leza and Leonardo Milani, both highly successful and accomplished translators who have also made the leap from freelancers to sole proprietors and whom I truly recommend for PT-ES and FR-PT jobs, respectively. Having a small but good network of top-class translators is always the best way to get in touch with demanding, but knowledgeable and high-paying clients.

Plagiarism, the dark side of the web

posted 12 Jan 2012, 18:41 by Luciano Monteiro   [ updated 12 Jan 2012, 19:02 ]

I'm pleased to see that my recent article 'The Four-Step Approach to Translation Quality' has been praised by many colleagues worldwide. Since mid-May, when I posted it on my blog, it has been published in the prestigious ITI Bulletin and is soon to be published in the official journals of the Israeli and Czech Translators' Association, both with my previous consent.

However, having written a useful article for some colleagues has introduced me to a dark side of the web: plagiarism. Just before Christmas, six months after having first posted it, as I was searching for similar articles on translation quality, I found one which resembled mine a lot. When I clicked on the link, I saw my own article, ipsis literis, but without any reference to my name.

That was the website of a Ukrainian translation agency called Glebov. I immediately emailed that company and demanded that my article be removed. What I received was a lame apology: 'we were sure that there was link (sic) to your article, but quite probably it was removed by the administrator during the SEO optimisation of the web-site.' Ok, apology accepted, but now, will you please remove it? 'I can not simply remove the article, because it will damage the web-site.'

That was simply too much nonsense. They eventually said they might remove it after a few days, but were a bit sarcastic about it. I took a deep breath, and, you know, it's Christmas, let's just chill for a while. Who knows? Maybe they would take it away...

However, 20 days later, last night to be precise, I visited the same page and my article was still there, albeit now with my name — which, by the way, I had not asked for as I had made it clear that they did not have my consent to reproduce my article. It was then that I noticed many other unsigned articles on the same website and went about doing some detective work. I ended up finding out that I was not the only victim of plagiarism.

When I saw the title 'Is Machine Translation Making Experienced Patent Translators Redundant?', I knew I had seen that written elsewhere. And I was not wrong, as the article was originally written by Steve Vitek and is available here on his excellent 'Patent Translator' blog. Again, the article on Glebov's website was unsigned, as if it had magically landed there after having been written by an unnamed author.

By digging a little deeper, I was also able to find an excerpt of the highly praised book 'Telephone Interpreting: A Comprehensive Guide to the Profession', by Nataly Kelly. Posted on Glebov's website under the title 'The Emergency of Telephone Interpreting', it mentions neither Nataly nor her book. I've been in contact with Nataly in the past and I follow her on Twitter, so I know how meticulous she is when citing references for anything she writes, so she obviously didn't deserve to be a victim of such plagiarism.

But there was more, of course. Mathieu Guidere's article 'The Translation of Advertisements: from Adaptation to Localization', which has been cited in many books and papers, can be found with the same title, but with no reference whatsoever to the author.

I was beginning to feel tired, but I still managed to find another handful of plagiarised articles: 'You need to be an expert in a highly specialised field', 'Style in technical translation' and 'Technical Translation' have been unashamedly copied from the book 'Technical translation: usability strategies for translating technical documentation', by Jody Byrne.

And, speaking of excellent books, both 'Translation Industry Trends' and 'Comparison of Translator with other Professions' were copied from the extraordinary 'Translation as a Profession', by Roger Chriss. Needless to say, neither Jody's nor Roger's names can be found on the website.

It is clear now that the Ukrainian agency has been handpicking good articles from books and from the web to drive up their SEO potential and attract visitors. There's nothing wrong with that in principle, as long as the authors consent with their publication and appropriate acknowledgement is made, including, as applicable, a link to the original article. It's even better if only an excerpt is posted before the link, leading the reader to visit the original article and learn more about the author.

But no, the people at Glebov copied entire articles without giving proper credit, leading unaware readers to believe that the content was original and also trying to cheat search engines into rating the website more highly for content, hence attracting more visitors, hence more advertising, hence more money. It is just like copying a DVD and selling it in the black market. No, it's even worse: it's like copying a DVD and selling it after erasing the names of the people who made it. In short, it's dirty business.

Based on their unethical behaviour when it comes to plagiarism, I can just imagine what kind of translation services this agency is providing to their clients. I hope more and more translation professionals and translation buyers become aware of such facts and refrain from working with this company.


Post-scriptum: You may have noticed that there are no links here to Glebov, simply because they don't deserve it. However, if you manage to make your way to their website and find more examples of plagiarised content, please let me know.


Translation Opportunities in the Football Industry

posted 15 Nov 2011, 22:46 by Luciano Monteiro   [ updated 17 Nov 2011, 08:11 ]

During the call for papers for the recently held III Conferência Brasileira de Tradutores, organised by ProZ.com in Rio de Janeiro, I proposed two presentations, both of which were accepted: whilst the first one would deal with translation opportunities within the football industry, the second one would take place in a workshop format, aiming at providing hints and tips for EN-PT football translation.

Other commitments prevented from me delivering both presentations, and in the end I decided to keep the first one and leave the workshop, which I have previously conducted in Porto Alegre, for a forthcoming opportunity.

The turnout for my 'Tradução por Esporte' presentation exceeded my expectations, especially as two other sessions took place at the same time — one of them was an attempt by a translation agency to lure novice translators, whereas the other was organised by ProZ themselves and thus received special attention from the organisation.

Even though my presentation was not intended for interaction, many attendees were very active and contributed with questions and comments throughout the session, especially after I finished my delivery. Many such remarks were in agreement with the 'triad' I referred to when talking about 'what translation clients want' in the field of sports journalism, namely superb journalistic writing, a passion for sport and an understanding of football's underlying concepts in both the source and the target languages.

Since I had just one hour for my presentation, I didn't plan to include any of the topics initially prepared for the workshop, such as translation exercises and drills. However, I noticed that many attendees were eager to find out how they could develop their translation skills in the sports arena, especially as they noted down the URL for the FIFA.com style guide.

I was also asked about specific training courses for football translation, but I'm afraid I really can't recommend anything. For the time being, I hope the style guide is useful, and I'll make every effort to be able to present my workshop again in the near future.

Finally, I'd like to thank the organisers for the travel and accommodation arrangements. The event in Rio coincided with a huge police operation to 'reclaim' some of the areas historically dominated by drug lords and organised crime in general. Luckily our hotel was located at the exclusive neighbourhood of Barra da Tijuca, where most of the venues for the 2016 Olympics will be located.

Why Lousy Translators Still Get Work

posted 20 May 2011, 08:34 by Luciano Monteiro   [ updated 20 May 2011, 09:11 ]

A prominent speaker remarked at the 3rd memoQfest in Budapest last month that translators do not make good business people, and that translation companies should be managed and administered by individuals from other sectors. Whilst I believe he may be right if you focus solely on profits, he couldn’t be more wrong when it comes to quality.

As I was saying to some nice agency owners I met for lunch during that conference, trust is fundamental in our industry. I am a professional, and I don’t want to be just an easily replaceable nut or bolt in the middle of a huge, inefficient machine. I trust that the companies offering me work will eventually pay me. And I want to be contacted by clients who trust I am the best person to provide a solution to their translation needs.

However, trust must not be blind. Clear-sighted trust cannot exist unless you have the means to assess who's trustable and who's not. And that's not possible unless you're an industry insider, unless you've been there and done that as a translator.

There are people out there who wonder why lousy translators still get work. It's simple: they are given work by somebody unable to evaluate their quality. By the way, I’m not saying that the people behind translation agencies have to speak all languages in the world in order to evaluate writing quality. However, some small steps can go a long way, such as interviewing translators, looking for references, checking credentials, doing the whole thing. Nothing could be worse than trusting statistical methods, hiring several cheap translators and then hoping that cross-review between them will produce anything good.

If you’re a translation company owner and tell me that approaching each translator personally is not possible in megaprojects with millions of words, I’ll reply that yes, it is possible. But perhaps you’ll need more and better people at management positions. And of course, you’ll need to pay better rates. Unless you hire well and pay well, you're not going to get quality work.

The crux of the matter
It seems to me that some outsiders running translation companies really think that the work translators perform is just a tiny part of the whole process known as, well… translation!

The presentation about integration of TM systems in content management systems in Budapest was hilarious. In a plug disguised as conference session, the makers of a CMS unveiled their state-of-the-art invention in which everything is automated — you just need to add the original on one side, then have it translated, and the translation will come out on the other end.

Amazing, isn’t it? You ‘just’ need to have the document translated. It’s clear those people have no clue of what translation is — an intricate and complicated process that involves different skills and efforts made by a highly educated, competent and ethical linguist. TM and CM systems are there just to streamline translation work, but they cannot be seen as more important than translation itself.

And I bet they'll sell those marvelous products, as many translation company owners have no clue either and will buy into that fantasy. After all, if they can sell toothbrushes, they can sell translations too, right? That’s what some agents provocateurs want the market to think.

I don't regret having attended memoQfest, as all those sessions made me see why interactions between agencies and translators have become love-hate relationships. It seems to me that most of those business people, who have never translated a single word, are not able to see that they are part of a unique industry. Regardless of how much money they spend on CAT tools, TM environments, MT engines, CM systems and the like, they will ultimately rely on the creative mind of human translators.

The 4-Step Approach to Translation Quality

posted 15 May 2011, 06:48 by Luciano Monteiro   [ updated 12 Jan 2012, 16:21 ]

This article was originally posted on my A Translator's Life blog and was subsequently published in the September/October 2011 issue of the ITI Bulletin. If you click the images below you'll see a copy of the article in the Bulletin.

Luciano Monteiro reveals the four-stage work process that he uses to ensure every completed translation of the highest possible standard

There is no such thing as a fully accurate translation. However, even though we know how elusive perfection can be, there are measures we can take to reduce to a minimum any possibility of mistakes. Having that in mind, I have long devised a system called The Four-Step Approach to Translation Quality, which I employ for every assignment I receive.

The four-step idea means not simply reviewing your own translation over and over again—even though that in itself is always recommendable. It also means approaching the translation differently at each stage, thus being able to benefit from different skills, from the fast thinking interpreters need to the meticulous eye to detail which is a requirement for proofreaders.

Whilst this system has been devised based on my personal experience, I believe it may be useful for all translators who believe that a literal translation is not enough and want to go the extra mile and offer ready-for-publication translated documents.

I’m publishing my workflow for one more reason—so that translation customers may realise how painstaking and time-consuming our work can be and how much more they’re buying than a simple translation. Whichever side of the fence you are on, I hope you find the next paragraphs useful.

STEP ONE — The first step is a draft translation. Whereas you could do it simply by looking at the original and writing the translation in a new file, it is recommendable to use a translation environment tool, as it automatically segments the document and stores your work in a translation memory, from which terminology can be retrieved in the future.

Even though the draft translation is not expected to be of maximum quality, it is a fundamental part of this workflow because that's when you use your "basic instinct", coming up with an immediate translation by tapping into the same process used to make speech decisions when talking in your native language. Whilst many choices will have to be amended for style later, quite a few will contribute for your translation to sound more natural.

In order not to break this “basic instinct” chain, make sure not to make long pauses during the draft translation. That is, if you find a word the translation of which you’re not entirely sure of, go with your gut feeling and make a note to carry out careful research at a later stage.

Ok, now it's time for a break. Go do something else. Stand up, drink some water, stretch your muscles, go wash the dishes, put some music on, watch the breaking news or feed the cat. If time is not a problem, take a nap. After you've completely forgotten about your translation, then perhaps it's a good time to go back.

STEP TWO — If the first stage was all about instinct, the second one is about eye to detail. Go over every sentence or segment, compare it with the original and make sure it is a correct translation within the context—which by now you’re totally familiar with, having read the document in its entirety during the previous phase. It is especially important to carefully check all names and numbers, which is easier when using a tool with quality-assurance functionalities.

After the second stage, the translation is supposed to be word-perfect, but in our line of work we'd better always err on the safe side. And, based on my experience, the third stage is the one that will set you apart from the translator who delivers his/her work under the assumption that it will be reviewed by somebody else. After all, if your client employs an editor, it's not to correct your mistakes, but rather to help improve your work—which is always possible.

Before venturing into the third stage, go about the same mind-clearing process you followed between the first and the second ones. The longer you take between steps, the more likely you'll be to look at your own translation with somebody else's eyes in order to enhance it.

STEP THREE — Once you're back, export or clean-up your document (if you're using a CAT tool) and, if possible, print it out. Then read it aloud. Pretend you're a news anchor or a voice-over artist reading an advertisement. Use your best voice and actually listen to your own words. You'll be surprised at how many improvements you'll be able to make. That's the stage where you'll join sentences, open new paragraphs and find undesirable repetitions, not to mention puns and alliterations which may not sound very well in your language.

During the third stage, if you're reading it on paper, make your corrections on the margin or by overwriting the copy. Then, after you get to the end, go back to the electronic document and implement all your changes. If you are reading on the computer screen —not ideal, I should say— you can make all the changes on the go.

STEP FOUR — Yes, there's still a fourth stage. If you're a careful translator, you've identified by now something very important which I haven't done: running a spell-checker. This has to be the last step in the workflow because typos can be introduced at any time. Your spell-checker may also find grammatical inconsistencies or inaccuracies in your text. But be careful and don't blindly follow all grammar recommendations made by the spell-checker, as some of them will be pure nonsense.

Once you’ve checked for typos, you’ve reached the end of this translation workflow. You can look at the end result with proud eyes and email the document to your client. But beware—don't forget to attach it beforehand. You don’t want to lose face by making a silly mistake after so much work.

The four-step approach to translation quality takes time and effort, but is in my opinion the best way to provide style and accuracy. Whilst being lazy and taking unnecessary risks will certainly damage your reputation in the long run, delivering high-quality work will enable you to find good clients with whom you'll be able to command fair rates, which will compensate for the time you've invested.

One of the big guys

posted 25 Apr 2011, 16:41 by Luciano Monteiro   [ updated 25 Apr 2011, 17:10 ]

More than ten days have now elapsed since the 3rd memoQfest in Budapest, Hungary. I’ve waited until now to sit down and write something about the event as first impressions can often be misleading, and I believe it is now a good time for me to look back and rely on my memory to remember what really mattered about the conference—that is, the underlying meanings underneath the presentations—and reflect on what the event meant for me.

Among the dozens of attendees and speakers at memoQfest, there were very few freelance translators, perhaps less than 10 per cent. It’s not difficult to know why, as the programme was mostly geared at translation agencies and enterprises, and representatives of such companies made up the bulk of attendance.

However, even if few presentations were useful for true translation professionals (rather than business people who are in the game just to profit from translators' work by paying ever-decreasing rates), attending the event in Budapest was fun because of the social events and networking opportunities.
Ultimately, it was also good to see first-hand what the people who run translation agencies are up to. There are different types of translation companies, and I truly believe that it's possible and profitable to work with the good ones as long as there's an understanding of the needs on both sides.

Throughout the event, the Kilgray management made it clear that the company has now reached a new stage in which they aim to fight with the big guys for the number one position in their market. It sounds good at first, but what it really means is that new features will be increasingly aimed at large customers such as LSPs and corporations. Unfortunately, no tool will be a market leader if all their customers are freelancers. For instance, Wordfast used to be the best tool for translation professionals until a few years ago, but money talks, and now the makers of Wordfast have virtually become a Transperfect sister company.

Kevin Lossner, who made several relevant points from the audience, asked when and whether Kilgray would pay more attention to freelancers’ needs by making improvements not only to the expensive server edition, but also to the “Translator Pro” version. Regardless of what they said, my take is that the gap between the two tools will widen in the coming months and years and perhaps reach a point where freelance translators who need minimal management functionalities will need to buy memoQserver.

Several questions concerning memoQ feature requests were made during the "ask the geeks" session and also during the presentation about Kilgray support. I know those people exist, but I have yet to meet somebody who made a feature request which was accepted and implemented in a later build of memoQ (after 4.0). When I bought memoQ, I did it not only because I thought (and still think) it is the best CAT tool available. I did it also because I had seen at the first memoQfest in 2009 that they still believed in tailoring a tool for translators by listening to translators.

But truth is that they're now one of the big guys, and arguably receive tons of requests every week. Thus they need to prioritise, and obviously they're giving priority to requests made by those customers who are bigger and more lucrative to them—which, by the way, makes perfect business sense. But I think they should come public about it.

Everybody from Kilgray said during the event that all requests are reviewed quite often and that at least a response is given to each one. I have made one feature request more than two months ago and I haven't received any feedback. I spoke to some people in Budapest and said I'm okay with being told "no", but I think I deserve some kind of acknowledgement. I received evasive answers. I guess I should have seen that coming, but customer relationship at Kilgray is no longer better than customer relationship at other CAT tool vendors.

Who's afraid of the big bad media?

posted 24 Mar 2011, 19:21 by Luciano Monteiro   [ updated 24 Mar 2011, 19:26 ]

It is no secret that I quit journalism to become a freelance translator for two reasons: there’s more money in translation, and a translator’s daily life is more suitable to my personality than the hectic (lack of) routine of a newspaper reporter.

Nevertheless, I do like to wear my journo hat every now and then, and there's nothing better than combining both sets of skills in the same job, as I usually do when working in partnership with my friend Dan Brennan, top-class football journalist and editor based in Glasgow, Scotland.

Basically, Dan suggests a name and the main topics, and then I conduct the interview over the phone, jot down whatever the interviewee says, translate it and send it back to Dan, who edits and give the perfect finishing touches for publication in English.

A few weeks ago, we conducted an interview with Pedro Botelho, young Arsenal player currently on loan with Salamanca, for a piece to published in the Gunners’ official magazine. Botelho was a pleasant surprise, as I’ve found out over the years that many footballers don’t realise how important it is to have their words translated to a wider audience.

Botelho answered all questions and was eager to point out how hard he’s been working to eventually make it to Arsenal’s first team. And he knows that merely doing his job on the pitch can just go so far, as media exposure is key to sign the best contracts with the best teams in a world where signings are made more and more on the basis of expected revenues than possible trophies for the club.

However, at least two other footballers I had to interview on a regular basis were blind to that fact. Actually, they were afraid of exposure and would rather not speak out of fear of how their words might be interpreted. Even though quite technically gifted, both of them failed in Europe and went back to Brazil, and I bet that their lousy relationship with the media played a part in their failure.

On the other hand, I can recall very well at least three conversations I had with Marta, arguably the best footballer the women’s game has ever seen. Despite her humble backgrounds, she’s built up a reputation of being a player who not only excels on the pitch, but also understands the game in detail. She’s not afraid of talking about all aspects of football, and that makes good news and enhances her profile as a whole.

No wonder after several successful seasons in Sweden she’s now the most valuable player in the new WPS, arguably the world’s richest women’s football league. Would she be less successful if she were not as media-savvy as she is? Maybe not, but good exposure never hurts, and I’m always happy to take a break from my routine to help good footballers score their goals on and off the pitch.

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