A Computer Journal For Translation Professionals

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Issue 22-9-340
(the three hundred fortieth edition) 
Confession time
Can you believe I had never read Ray Bradbury's classic Fahrenheit 451? Never until this summer's vacation at the lake, that is. Reading the dystopian novel didn't really lift my mood on that particular day, but I'm glad now that I read it. Maybe even especially glad at a time when book bans in libraries and schools, at least here in the US (as well as lots of authoritarian countries), are all en vogue.

Most of you know that burning books -- all books -- is at the heart of this novel written in the early 1950s. The title refers to the assumed temperature at which paper starts to burn. (Apparently Bradbury called a guy at the Los Angeles Fire Department to ask what temperature he should use. The guy said -- "Umm, how about 451?" -- and that settled it.)

Why do I mention all of this? Because in the handsome 60th anniversary edition of Simon and Schuster Paperbacks that I was reading, a little story was added to the addendum of the book that talked about the first print run of the Danish translation (translated by Michael Tejn, whose name was unfortunately and unsurprisingly omitted from the vignette). Of all the 33 languages into which the book has been translated, Danish was the only one that went into hyper-localization mode and called it -- yes, you guessed it -- 233° Celsius.
It turned out, however, that Bradbury was not quite as nonchalant as he was with the original title. He threw a fit, and the Danish title never made it past the first print run.

Oh, and there is also this little gem in the book:

"Every hour so many damn things in the sky! How in hell did those bombers get up there every single second of our lives! Why doesn't someone want to talk about it? We've started and won two atomic wars since 2022."

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6 tips to study for the European Union's Interpreting Accreditation Test (Column by Josh Goldsmith)

How to plan large projects to minimize stress (Column by Dorothee Racette)

Art is dead, dude. It's over. A.I. won. Humans lost.

Because it feels really good

New password for the Tool Box archive

The last word on the Tool Box Journal
Here's a topic I assume you may not be familiar with: translation grades. I'll try to give you a short overview of what it is and what it is not (!) in this edition of the Tool Box Journal, and Alan Melby, who is deeply involved with the efforts, will expand on that in the next edition.

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of "grade"? Maybe (likely!) because I'm not a native English speaker, the first thing I thought of was "quality." That's exactly not what it is in this context, however. Those among you who have children in school might have thought of school grades -- especially at this back-to-school time of the year. That definition comes much closer to what we're talking about.

A translation grade, according to the proposal that we're discussing here, is a category, similar to what most other industries use to classify their products or services. Take plywood, for instance (I happen to buy a lot of that for some of the shell art I make). There are four different grades of plywood, each assigned a letter between A and D. The grade is determined by the smoothness of the surface and the number of knots that were fixed or still need to be fixed. Very often, you will even have plywood sheets that differentiate the two sides of the sheet. An A-D sheet of plywood, for instance, is one where one side looks great and can be left exposed because it's pleasant to look at (or can be painted because it's smooth); the other side doesn't look great but is fully functional as long as it's not shown. Here, in the western part of the US, plywood is the number one material for house construction. A house builder would be foolish to use A or A-A plywood for the basic construction of a house since virtually all of that will be covered with outside sheeting or interior drywall, so they will always go for D plywood. (I bet you didn't expect to get a crash course in house building today, right?) What's important about all of this is that D-grade plywood can be of great quality -- within its specification. Conversely, A-grade plywood can be of poor quality -- if it doesn't meet its specifications of an almost blemish-free surface.

How does all of this relate to translation? Let me try to explain.

Have you ever had a discussion with a client about quality? Let me answer that for you, if you don't mind: Of course, you have! These discussions either take place before a project starts ("I want this to be very high quality" or "It's OK if the quality is not really great") or -- usually in a slightly less agreeable tone -- after the delivery of the project ("The quality of this is terrible"). What do any of those statements mean? They certainly relate to something in the mind of the speaker, but all too often they don't correspond to the exact same thing in the mind of the hearer. Quality in translation is famously difficult to pinpoint. What's good for one person might be bad for another and might be daring and exciting and therefore great for a third. Throw into that the fact that at least one party in all of this typically does not actually speak one of the languages involved and things get really complicated.

This was already true before the advent of fluent machine translation output so now . . .. Well, now we might need grades. This at least is what a group consisting of LSP reps, translation buyers, industry analysts, and standards activists suggests.

Their argument is this: Since, on the one hand, quality is very subjective, and on the other hand, technology produces fluent but often flawed translation that is widely used, why don't we agree that there could be different grades of translation? Translation vendors (freelancers, LSPs) could then sell high-grade, medium-grade, or low-grade translation for different use cases. This might help with a number of things. Clients would have to be educated that just because a translation is produced (for example, from Google Translate or an unqualified translator), the purpose the client had in mind might not have been achieved. And vendors can sell different kinds of services for different use cases.

So, how would the three grades be differentiated? The proposal uses two axes to determine the grade (category) of each translation: fluency and correspondence (consisting of accuracy and terminology). For instance, a fluent translation that completely corresponds to the source text would be a high-grade translation, whereas one that is fluent but shows a number of deviations would be low grade. In my opinion, this is one of the more important differentiators because it immediately addresses the problem with neural machine translation that often produces fluent translation but might well have significant terminology or other content-related errors.

As mentioned above, this is not a quality metric, so a translation could be delivered that is only "understandable" (vs. fluent) with some non-substantial deviations between source and target and still be a product that completely fulfills the requirements for a medium-grade translation. (I'm sure Alan Melby will talk more about this next month.)

The grades also don't prescript processes. So theoretically anything could be done in any way (post-edited, no machine translation at all, fully TEP'ed or not), but implicitly one kind of process will be more suitable than another (several pairs of human eyes, minds, and hearts will likely be involved in a marketing translation, for instance).

There will probably still be disagreements about whether a certain grade has been achieved. Assuming a correct understanding about the same grade has been agreed upon (imagine how much fun all those client education talks ahead of every project will be!), a quality metric like MQM that is already supported in one way or another by most translation environment tools can be used to verify what grade the translation should have.

I think this endeavor (which is just about to be transformed into ISO and ASTM standards) bears some very positive possibilities for making translation buyers understand that we sell high grade translations -- if we indeed want to do that -- enabling us to differentiate those from other vendors and/or machines and charge accordingly.

If you can't wait to read what else Alan will have to say about this next month, you can also listen to a panel on September 29 as part of Proz's conference for International Translation Day.
The Tech-Savvy Interpreter 2.0 - 6 tips to study for the European Union's Interpreting Accreditation Test (Column by Josh Goldsmith)
Do you dream of interpreting for the European Parliament, the Commission, or the Court of Justice?

You probably know you need to pass the EU accreditation test first!

Read on to learn more about the test and discover our top tips to become accredited with the European institutions.

1. Check if you qualify

The EU institutions hire interpreters who work with the 24 official languages of the European Union.

They also hire interpreters with non-EU languages, co-official languages spoken in member states, languages of candidate countries, and sign languages. Here, we'll focus on how you can get accredited if you work with the EU's official languages.

Each year, the EU updates its list of desired language profiles (PDF). To be invited to sit the test, you'll need to offer a language combination from that list. This might involve working from various passive ("C") languages into your main ("A") language, or working from your main language into a second language ("B").

Do you speak American English, Latin American Spanish, African French, or Brazilian Portuguese? Don't worry! Non-EU citizens can work as freelance interpreters.

However, you generally will need a degree in interpreting or extensive conference interpreting experience.

You can find a full list of requirements and testing dates and apply for the exam on the EU's dedicated website.

2. Know how the EU accreditation test works

The first step is an online screening exam, where you'll be tested on one consecutive speech and one simultaneous speech in a language pair chosen by the Selection Board.

Since the test happens online, make sure to follow our suggestions for looking and sounding good in remote settings: use a good headset or standalone microphone and headphones, plug in a cable instead of Wi-Fi, and work from a quiet space.

Once you pass the screening test, you will be invited to another online test using the same web-based testing tool. This time, you will be asked to give one 6-minute consecutive interpretation and one 10-to-12-minute simultaneous interpretation in several of your language pairs, which will be chosen by the Screening Committee. (You'll know which of your languages are being tested before the screening and accreditation tests.)

All speeches are recorded in advance. They cover a variety of topics, including current affairs and politics, science and technology, and pretty much anything that you might find in a news article in EU countries. (For my most recent exam -- to add Portuguese to my language combination -- the speeches touched on Portuguese football teams, a well-known hacking scandal in Portugal and Angola, and the new rates for public transportation in Lisbon.)

Once you're accredited, you can take Language Addition tests to expand your language combination. For example, I applied with passive French, Spanish, Catalan and Italian, was tested on French and Italian, and added Spanish, Catalan, and Portuguese later.

3. Find practice speeches

The best way to practice for the EU accreditation test is to use speeches specifically designed for that purpose.

Luckily, the European Commission has put together an excellent resource: the Speech Repository.

The Speech Repository features over 4,500 video speeches, with 3000+ designed by EU interpreters for training and the other 1000+ taken from conferences, parliamentary debates, press conferences, and other real-world settings.

All speeches are searchable by difficulty, use (simultaneous or consecutive), topic, keywords, and language. Plus, the metadata includes key terminology to help you familiarize yourself with the subject before you dive in.

Speeches are available in all 24 official EU languages as well as Albanian, Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, International Sign, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, and Turkish.
Should you really go through all the speeches in the Speech Repository, don't despair - there's more material out there! You'll find plenty more tips in our blog post, The 5 best places to find interpreting practice speeches.

4. Practice the right way

Successful practice isn't just about rote interpreting. It's about practicing regularly, reviewing your performance, identifying issues and developing the skills to overcome them.

Start by establishing a schedule that allows you to practice consecutive and simultaneous in each of the language combinations you'll be tested on.

You don't have to practice every language and every modality every day -- don't wear yourself out! Instead, strike a balance and work on each language combination and technique regularly. (I recommend 3-4 one-hour sessions per week.)

Before each practice session, decide on a specific skill you'd like to work on. Then, grab your practice speech and a recording device and dive in!

The simplest way to record yourself is by using an audio recording or voice memo app on your computer or smartphone. For more bells and whistles, check out Just Press Record for iPhone or Easy Voice Recorder for Android.

If you'd like to record two-channel audio so you can listen to the speech in one ear and your rendition in the other, download Audacity, a free piece of software which runs on Windows, Mac or Linux. (You can learn all about how to use this tool in our Audacity for interpreters webinar.) If you're an interpreting student at an EU university, the SCICRec tool (for Windows, Mac, or Linux) will let you record your interpretation and listen back to dual-channel audio, too.

Log your progress as you listen to your interpretation. (You can use our free feedback forms. 😉) This will help you identify positive trends and areas for improvement.

To avoid overwhelm, don't try to listen to everything you interpret. Instead, listen carefully to a short segment of your rendition - multiple times if necessary!

Circling back to speeches you've already worked with makes for a great warm-up and is an excellent confidence-booster - especially just before the exam.

Finally, be consistent. If you're strapped for time, interpret just a single speech and listen to part of it - or set aside the recording and come back to it the next day.

(If you'd like to take a much deeper dive into how to record dual-track audio, identify what skills to work on next, create a learning plan, auto-generate and analyze transcripts of your practice sessions, log your progress, and avoid burnout, check out The Interpreter's Practice Toolkit!)

5. Learn the EU lingo

As you study for your exam, make sure to learn how the different EU institutions work and how to refer to different EU bodies in your languages. As a starting point, read up on the European Commission, European Council, European Parliament, and Court of Justice of the European Union.

Learn the names of the political parties and government bodies from the countries where your languages are spoken in your target language. (Is it the "Senate"? "House"? "Chamber of Deputies"? "Constitutional Court"?)

Keep an eye out for nicknames, like referring to La Farnesina (the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) or L'Hexagone (France).

Familiarize yourself with basic European geography, too. For instance, learn the names of major cities, regions, and geographical features (like major rivers and mountain ranges) in your target language. (A few examples from my languages: Italy's Puglia region is called Apulia, Holanda is the Netherlands -- not Holland, and La Manche is the English Channel.)

Struggling to keep track of all this new information? Build a glossary of key EU terms in your working languages and create flashcards to practice these terms. To learn how, check out the techforword insiders webinars on these topics, Intro to tech-savvy terminology management and Learn vocab in a flash.

6. Polish your language

If you've sat accreditation tests at different institutions or with different selection boards, you might have gotten the impression that the speeches and assessment criteria vary.

Our (subjective) impression is that the examiners -- EU staff interpreters -- look for accuracy and polish, especially in your main language. Render the content faithfully -- and do it with pizzazz! Throw in appropriate idioms while producing a smooth, natural rendition of the speech.

You passed! Now what?

Once you pass the EU accreditation test, you'll be put on the interinstitutional list and you can work for all EU institutions, including the European Commission, European Parliament and Court of Justice of the European Union.

But that doesn't mean it's time to stop practicing!

Of course, start by taking a little break and celebrating. You earned it! 🎉

And before your first contract with one of the EU institutions, why not head back to these resources and brush up on the vocabulary that will help you shine on your first day in the booth?

Josh Goldsmith is a UN and EU accredited translator and interpreter working from Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Catalan into English. A passionate educator, Josh splits his time between interpreting, researching and teaching through, which empowers language professionals to make the most of technology.
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How to plan large projects to minimize stress (Column by Dorothee Racette)
Large work projects can be a boon and a bane for a freelance business. It's exciting to have a large chunk of income to look forward to, but accommodating parallel work volumes from other clients can be a challenge. Projects that extend over several weeks or even months typically involve more stress and longer working hours than usual. That makes it essential to invest some effort in planning to avoid last-minute time crunch, which is not only hard on you and your household, but will also ultimately affect the quality of your work. A desperate overnight marathon to make a deadline can leave flaws in a text that would have been easy to fix with more time for careful controls.

Here are a few thoughts related to planning for a large project:

  • Volume discounts: It may be tempting to accept a lower rate as a "volume discount" for projects containing many thousands of words. However, unless you manage to negotiate an interim payment or an advance, it will actually take longer to receive payment than it would for completing multiple smaller orders. While you wait for your project payment, you may also need to cover regular household bills with your own funds. In addition, larger projects involve more work, not less. None of these considerations make it any cheaper for you to do the work, so think carefully before agreeing to a reduced rate.
  • Scheduling optimism: While you probably have an excellent handle on your time planning for shorter projects, the time expenditures for big files are much harder to estimate. Simply multiplying your time needs for a short project by a factor of 10 or 20 can be a treacherous decision. Don't forget to plan on more extensive project research, the time it will take to consolidate multiple files, cross-file comparison etc. Be a pessimist when you project how much time you need to make sure unexpected events don't throw you into turmoil. (I developed a simple calculation tool in Excel to help calculate my time needs for big projects. Please get in touch ( if you would like to get a copy).
  • Set a generous deadline: If you have the luxury of setting the deadline, negotiate more time than you think you will need. You will thank yourself later, especially if you have to accommodate requests from regular clients that you can't decline. Working on big projects is rarely a smooth process. Your deadline estimate should be based on a regular workweek. Never include any night, weekend, or holiday hours in your initial project calculation, and be sure to check your calendar for any other scheduled breaks.
  • Map out all project steps: Set a strict production schedule for yourself, particularly if the deadline seems pleasantly far away. Create daily or weekly milestones to make sure you give yourself enough time to create glossaries, research terminology, and polish the text for consistency. Any time spent organizing the project will save stress in the final days. Percentage of completion is a useful milestone indicator and can be found in any CAT tool.
  • Don't forget final formatting: There is nothing worse than finding unexpected tables or graphics in the final files that were not captured by your translation tool and have to be translated on the fly. Discrepancies in text length can also lead to unexpected formatting challenges that are time-consuming to fix. Your work plan has to permit ample time to address such layout challenges so you don't have to abbreviate the final editing phase.
  • Check your project plan: Start every workweek with a realistic assessment of the progress you need to make to stay on track. Having a scheduling partner who can hold you accountable can be extremely helpful.

The strategies above may need to include an additional factor: Don't forget to account for the cumulative impact of distractions – those you create for yourself as you lose focus (getting lost in research, lengthy terminology discussions, endlessly rechecking your own work), and distractions from the outside. With consistent planning, large projects can become a more controlled experience that leaves you less exhausted and worried.

Dorothee Racette, CT has been a full-time freelance GER < > EN translator for over 25 years. She served as ATA President from 2011 to 2013. In 2014, she established her own coaching business, Take Back My Day, to help individuals and organizations solve problems related to workflow and time management. As a certified productivity coach (CPC), she now divides her time between translating and coaching. Her book Complete What You Started (2020) provides a blueprint for carrying big projects across the finish line. You can read her blog at
Don't miss Dorothee's webinar "Getting Out of a Business Slump" in the ATA Back to Business Basics series. Free for ATA members, on Wednesday, September 21, 2022 at 12 noon New York time. For more info go to
Art is dead, dude. It's over. A.I. won. Humans lost.
That's according to the creator of a (rather kitschy) AI-generated artwork that won an award at the Colorado state fair. (For those among you who don't know what a "state fair" is, that's where among carousels, bumper cars, food stalls and politicians vying for votes, statewide awards are handed out to pigs and cows and sheep, as well as to a plethora of other things, including best in class in crochet, butter-sculptures, and, so it seems, "digital art/digitally manipulated photography.")

This wouldn't really be something that's covered in the Tool Box Journal if it weren't for the response by other artists and, perhaps more interestingly, the general public. (The New York Times covered it right here.) You see, the artists are kind of like us when we discuss or fret about the future of our profession regarding AI (and, in our case, machine translation), though it seems that they more frequently talk about intellectual property (who owns the art that the AI uses to create new images -- see here). But it's the general public's response to the concept of art created by artificial intelligence that caught my eye. Computers generating "art" seems to strike a deeper nerve than computers generating "translation."

I happen to think these discussions are good for us and teach us a lot. First, I clearly don't think that true art will disappear just because computer programs can access AI-driven data clouds that respond to user prompts. And second, this might give us some good tools to communicate what we as translators are dealing with, and at the same time how powerful and yet limited AI-generated art is -- just like neural machine translation.

By the way, I used the same program that was used by the state fair victor and prompted it with

"A translator sitting at her desk thinking about the future of her profession."

Here's what emerged:
She looks a lot sadder than she should. But maybe she's just sad because of her messy desk and tiny screen -- if that's indeed what that mysterious black box is.
Because it feels really good
Yes, you've already read about this on LinkedIn and Twitter, in the last edition of the Tool Box Journal or an ATA communication, but let me say this one more time: You're in for a treat at the ATA conference this year if you're going -- but you can also participate if you're not going! The Dictionary Exchange is once again an event at the conference in Los Angeles. What is it? Bring your dictionaries in the specialties you don't work in anymore or the language combos that didn't prove to be profitable for you and . . . just give them away!

There'll be a big table where you can add them to the heaps of dictionaries that other benefactors have contributed, and then watch as those heaps shrink in no time. With each shrinking pile of dictionaries, the excitement of the budding translators that made out like bandits with their new dictionaries will grow disproportionally. It's a lot of fun, hugely helps your fellow translators, and just feels really good to do something because . . . it feels really good.

If you're not able to make it to this year's ATA but would still like to be generous with your linguistic treasures, you can also send the dictionaries to me at the conference and I promise to display them for your eager colleagues. This is probably not a good option if you don't live in the US, but within the US, domestic book rates are surprisingly cheap. Simply email me and I'll let you know where I'll be staying. (Just be sure to send them early enough so they'll be in LA on or before October 12.)

If you don't want to schlepp your print dictionaries but you have glossaries to share, you can bring a description of that glossary along with a QR code on a printed sheet of paper that will bring your colleagues to its online location. Of course, you can also email that code to me, and I'll display it on the dictionary exchange table. All of these will then also be shared under the #dictionaryexchange tag on Twitter.

An additional new feature this year that conference organizer and president-elect Veronika Demichelis has come up with is a (non-dictionary) book exchange. Unlike the dictionary exchange, this is a "true" exchange where you can bring your favorite book of the last year or so and exchange it for someone else's favorite book. This should not only make for interesting reading on the plane, train, or automobile back home, but also for interesting conversations at the conference, and possibly new friends as well.

See you then!
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