December 2021 – The Fundraiser

Learn more about my Liverpool Half Marathon fundraiser for Translators Without Borders!


At WM Translation Services, we undertstand the importance of charity. We continually take on pro bono projects, but with continued growth in our client base, we had to think outside of the linguistic box.

As detailed in my July post, the 2021 lockdown saw me undertake the WMTS Push-Up Challenge and during the summer I also decided to enter the Liverpool Half Marathon and raise money for Translators Without Borders (TWB). TWB is a fantastic organisation that’s close to my heart. When starting my career in translation, I secured my first pro bono work with them, which in turn helped me secure paid translation work and ultimately establish WMTS in 2017. Put simply, we wouldn’t be here today without organisations such as TWB.


The race was scheduled for 12 September (the day after my birthday), which left only two months to prepare. I’d been a keen runner for many years, but never completed 21 kilometres before. As with the Push-Up Challenge, I cleared a space in my calendar and started start getting the miles under my belt. I already had a fair idea of what my finish time might be, so I aimed to finish in less than two hours and set about promoting the fundraiser on my dedicated JustGiving page and the WMTS Twitter account.

Over the next 6 weeks, I settled on a longer local running route and hit the tarmac. Some days were harder than others, but by the end of August, I’d managed to complete the required 21 kilometres in under two hours.


Before I knew it, race-day had arrived and the early morning air was a shock to the system. The race was due to start at 9am and after posting the obligatory pre-race tweet, I made my to the starting line.

The race started dead on time with the euphoria inducing chorus of Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ blurring over the loudspeaker. Then, as the runners began to surge forward, I was off. Now, at this point, my inexperience got the better of me and I started off much faster pace than I usual pace. This would be to my detriment as the race went on.

The incline up Upper Parliament Street was tough and my legs were burning by the time I reached Princes Park. From there, I managed to settle into a good pace and made my way towards Sefton Park. My nerves had faded by the time I reached Otterspool Park and I began to feel that I might actually make it back to the Liver Building in under two hours.

However, as I made the big right turn back along the Otterspool promenade, my energy levels took a nosedive and I began to pay dearly for having started off too quickly. Over the last two miles my pace slowed dramatically, but I kept going and managed to pick up the pace again, acquiring a running buddy in the process. As the M&S Bank Arena came into view I knew I’d finish the race, but the clock faces of the Liver Buildings were still obscured by the red brick of the Royal Albert Dock. Then, finally, as I passed the famous Billy Fury statue, I could see the time had just passed 11am. As I rounded the Museum of Liverpool, towards the finish, I somehow found the energy to sprint the last 100 yards to the line and finish the half marathon in two hours and four minutes.


Initially, I was a bit disappointed with my finish time, but, as the day wore on, I began to reflect on what I’d acheived and how the money raised would help TWB break down language barriers and provide support in humanitarian crises, conflicts, disasters, and health epidemics. In total, I raised £625 for TWB, which will help fund workshops for field workers on effectively communicating COVID-19 prevention and response information.

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July 2021 – The Push-Up Post Mortem

Looking back, it was obvious even by mid-November that Christmas 2020 would be like no other in modern history. The season’s habitual cheer unmistakably vacant as the third wave of coronavirus infections surpassed anything we’d experienced during the first half of 2020. Even before the official announcement on 4 January 2021, the media had primed us all for a potential (if not inevitable) third nationwide lockdown. After the initial disappointment of the government’s announcement, I, like so many others, started thinking of constructive ways to combat the monotony of being stuck indoors and having nowhere to go as our civil liberties were once again curtailed.

For some, it was jigsaws; for others, painting and crafts. For me, it was personal fitness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no slouch, but I’ve never been one for going to the gym or weight training. So, what better way to tackle the winter lockdown than by doing as much of something I hate everyday until the restrictions eased, namely… push-ups. I hate doing push-ups; always have, always will. Nonetheless, if something fills you with dread, you should probably be doing more of it. So, after discussing it with Mrs M., I agreed to try and do at least 100 push-ups every day alongside work and personal commitments for the entirety of the lockdown starting on 6 January and continuing all the way through to 11 April (or beyond depending on how the pandemic unfolded). To keep track of my progress (and act as a nagging reminder to actual do the wretched things), I decided to post my daily totals on my Twitter account, @wmts_translates.

The first step of any journey is always the hardest and Day 1 of the WMTS Push-Up Challenge was certainly a tough one with only 86 completed.

Now, I’m only human, and as such, I have many endearing and not so endearing qualities. My worst (according to Mrs M.) is my perfectionism and the fact that I hate being bested. This came in handy between Days 2 and 10 where I managed to complete more than 100 push-ups every day.

Feeling confident, I decided to up the ante on Day 11, aiming, from then on, to complete at least 200 a day. Increased discipline was required to fit them into my busy work day and I eventually hit on doing reps of 20-25 push-ups spaced about 30 minutes apart. Obviously, this all hinged on work and most days I only reached the 200-mark once my son was tucked up in bed. Over the following three weeks, I only failed to reach the new target on three occasions.

By day 20, progress had definitely been made. The pain of lactic acid had all but disappeared and my numbers steadily increased over the following days.

Day 36 represented the high-water mark of the challenge with a massive 310 push-ups completed. I remember it being a very, very long day and from then on I decided 200 a day was the right target for me.

Fatigue, both mental and physical, began to set in around mid-February and from Day 42, my daily total started to fluctuated. If Day 36 was the peak, Day 46 was the trough. My arms and back ached so much that I thought it best to take a break from the push-ups with a big, fat 0 completed.

I had been bested, but it didn’t deter me from carrying on. From that point on, I occasionally hit the 200 mark, but mainly I hovered around 100 or so a day.

On Day 96 (the last day of the challenge), I may have limped over the line with just 60 push-ups, but I’d made it to 11 April having done (more or less) what I’d set out to do at the beginning of January. Over the entire period, I managed a very respectable 15,246 push-ups. That’s an average of 159 a day.

So, it’s now nearly three months since my push-up challenge ended and some of you may suspect that I’ve simply slipped back in to my old routine, right? Well, the last thing I wanted was for this challenge to be reduced to a simple series of updates on my twitter feed; I wanted it to be a positive and constructive experience.

If the challenge has taught me anything, it’s that it’s always possible to do more and since mid-April I’ve continued to fit in as many push-ups as I can every day. Some days it hasn’t been possible, but overall I’ve definitely noticed an improvement in my overall fitness and posture (especially when sat at my desk, which is a massive bonus). Continually pushing myself, both personally or professionally, is certainly something I’m taking into the second half of 2021, and beyond. Finally, WMTS is also embarking on a new fundraising challenge for a very, very good cause. More on that to come soon…

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February 2021 – The Importance of Staying in Fashion

This month, I discuss the the important role of style guides in the translation and localization process.

When it comes to providing top-quality services, continuity is key. One method of ensuring translation services exhibit a level of consistency appropriate to a client’s needs is to establish a tailored, client-specific style guide serving as the basis for future projects.

Providing consistency is about staying ahead of any potential issues through the regular review of any style guides employed.

For the uninitiated, a style guide is a document agreed upon between the language service provider (LSP) and the client containing clear instructions about how the client wishes specific linguistic elements to be treated in any works undertaken for them. This can include, but is not limited to, conventions on font types and sizes, date and time formats, how handwritten text, signatures, and stamps are represented, headers and footers, and the use of client-specific terminology. The latter usually takes the form of a glossary, forming either a relevant section or appendix, or a wholly separate document to be used in conjunction with the guide. Glossaries can also be converted in termbase files to be used by translators using any agreed CAT tool software. This complete guide should be then be shared with everyone involved in the translation and localization processes.

Clients may already have developed their own style guides and here at WMTS, we’re more than happy to employ these when available. As a requirement for compliance with ISO 17100, we’ve also established our own in-house style guide which serves a jumping-off point during discussions with potential clients who may never have previously had cause of consider such conventions.

So, a style guide is in place and the client is happy with its content, fantastic! At this point, you’d be forgiven for thinking the only thing left to do is get on with the business of translating and localising, right? Well, not quite. Just like your favourite stonewashed denim jacket or that rather expensive pair of shoes, today’s fashion do’s can quickly become tomorrow’s fashion don’ts. With longer-term and regular output projects, perhaps more important than the establishment of such a style guide is the continual process of reviewing and updating it as the client’s requirements evolve. In most cases, conventions may not change very much (if at all), but having regular confirmation of this provides LSPs with reassurance that their translations continues to meet the needs and requirements of their clients. Complaints and legal disputes could potentially arise if such quality assurance mechanisms are not in place.

As mentioned, one important area is client-specific terminology. While a style guide may comprise a client-specific glossary, it’s by no means a guarantee against potential lexical issues further down the road. There’s always the potential, especially at the outset of a new project, that terms not initially identified by the client as requiring specific treatment may end up requiring review. This can sometimes be the case in projects involving multiple translators. Within a given sector, the differing treatment of more commonplace nouns can lead to variation in the collective translation output, especially with interchangeable synonyms, e.g. doctor/physician/practitioner. The client should be informed and a decision made about their preferred treatment for all future work. The existing glossary should then also be updated to include any newly agreed terms and disseminated accordingly.

It’s said that staying in fashion is often about staying ahead of the trends, and by way of analogy, maintaining the level of consistency expected by clients is also about staying ahead of any potential issues through the regular review of any style guides employed.

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May 2020 – Normality 2.0?

In this month’s blog, I assess the current economic landscape and consider how the language services sector could be affected as the global economy cranks through the lower gears of recovery.

As we slowly emerge from our coronavirus-induced coma, thoughts inevitably turn to the future and how it will look for language service providers (LSPs). Economic speculation is certainly not without its critics, and depending on whom you ask, it has little to no worth whatsoever. In the words of the economist John Galbraith, “There are two kinds of forecasters: those who don’t know, and those who don’t know they don’t know.” Nevertheless, the current crisis is so all-pervasive that postulating a post-COVID economic landscape could help us identify areas to think about as the global economy cranks through the lower gears of recovery.

The first thing to state is that we are still only at the beginning of the start of the pandemic, and the true scale of the fallout will only be evaluated in the months and years to come. What we can, however, infer with a fairly high degree of certainty is that we are standing on the verge of the most significant economic recession since the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Already, UK taxpayer money to the tune of £63 billion, and counting, has been utilised as part of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and others, to help support eligible businesses and furlough their employees during the past few months. However, the proverbial white elephant of how this money will be repaid appears one for the government’s and wider society’s long finger. Such schemes, as with other stimulus packages of years gone by, merely serve as the pain-numbing rush of adrenaline we all experience as part of our fight or flight response. The hurt is coming, just not yet.

As in 1929, so shall it be in 2020. The global economic activity has and will continue to shrink. The financial black hole caused by three, or possibly more, month’s worth of lost revenue will inevitably leave many businesses having to make difficult decisions about how to reduce outgoings and return to prior growth. Inevitably, people’s livelihoods will be increasingly affected. Already in the UK, many people have and will continue to lose their jobs amid the recent Bank of England warning that the UK unemployment rate could reach as high as 9 percent, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s recent forecast of a “significant recession”.

So what will the fallout be for LSPs? Are we up next for the chopping block, or will we emerge relatively unscathed? As the spinning coin of economic uncertainty begins to slow and tumble toward the normality 2.0, two distinct possibilities loom on the horizon: a squeeze, or a boon.

Feeling the squeeze

A recent ATC survey confirmed that, two months into the lockdown, around two-thirds of LSPs have been significantly affected by the crisis. A separate two-thirds also noted a decrease in turnover of 50 percent, or significantly more.

Many reading this may too have seen most, if not all, of their regular business suddenly vanish amid the compelled closure of diverse industries. The long-term survival of many smaller LSPs inherently depends upon whether their clients can weather this economic rogue wave, particularly if they work within a niche industry. Freelancers out there will already be cognisant of the industry-wide, cost-cutting race to the bottom, but the current crisis has, for many, also begot significant delays in payment which has only piled more pressure on a vital, yet volatile, sector of the economy. 

Given our ability to thrive often depends on our clients’ ability to conduct their business freely, both nationally and internationally, is there a case for adjusting our practices, and even our pricing structures, in ways which may help keep afloat those innovative small and medium-sized businesses upon which many depend? This is, of course, an open question, and one which may initially be difficult to entertain. Nevertheless, if we can demonstrate flexibility to regular and prospective clients alike during these times of great economic uncertainty, could this not be translated into increased customer loyalty later down the line once the global economy picks up pace?

Benefiting from a boon

As businesses begin the long road to recovery, LSPs could also find themselves in a distinctly advantageous position. The growth of online retail during the crisis is set to continue into the second half of the year, while recently noted that despite many clinical trials having been postponed or cancelled as result of the COVID outbreak, they perceive life sciences as a “resilient sector”; we expect to it grow further during the second half of the year, and into 2021.

Online streaming platforms has also seen a surge during the lockdown, with content giants Netflix currently scrambling to localise its back catalogue while its original content filming is still on hold. Online content providers will undoubtedly continue to dominate the entertainment market, while cinemas and theatres have been among some of the hardest hit industries

Economic forecasting can never be wholly accurate, but it is nevertheless important to keep an open mind about possible futures and how best to navigate them. According to this week’s announcement by the UK government, retailers and non-essential businesses could reopen by mid-June, under strict new COVID-secure restrictions. This is, of course, a best-case scenario and presumes the abatement of the much dreaded, and oft forecasted, second wave of infections.

However global events unfold, 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered as a year of great uncertainty, tumult, and of course tragic personal loss. We will all have to adjust to new, and perhaps challenging, ways of working in the post-pandemic landscape, but as the proverb says, “Necessity is the mother of invention”, and if there was ever a need to think clearly and creatively about the future of the language services sector, surely the time has now come.

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April 2020 – Cracking Conference, Part 2

As the curtain fell on the first day of CIOL 2020, information overload fatigue set in and pangs of hunger began to override my concentration. We’ve all been there, half-heartedly listening to the last presentation of the day whilst resisting the urge to clock-watch and yearning for some fresh, unconditioned air. Luckily for me, Friday’s closing keynote speech, So you are a translator. What’s going on in your brain?, was anything but dull and sent me away from the conference with lots to ponder over dinner.

Dr Binghan Zheng’s keynote speeach at CIOL 2020.

In his talk, Dr Binghan Zheng, Associate Professor of Translation Studies at Durham University, gave a fascinating overview of his cutting-edge research into the physical processes occurring in the brain as linguists perform translation tasks. Citing James Holme’s map, Dr Zheng began by explaining that, in comparison to the subject areas of both pure and applied translation, which have been fairly well studied, process-oriented studies are relatively few and far between. By using a range of scientific techniques, Dr Zheng and his team hoped to uncover the actual physical processes occurring inside our “little black box”.

By way of introduction, he began by discussing thinking aloud studies which, as the name suggests, rely on the verbal reporting of subjects about their thought processes at the point of translation. Known to yield intensely subjective results, Dr Zheng then pointed out a range of issues with the thinking aloud approach and moved to discuss other technological approaches which have produced increasingly insightful and scientifically reliable data.

Key-stroke logging, which involves the deployment of a computer programme, namely Translog, to track keyboard key selections during a task, was one such approach which offers greater insight into internal translation processes. The software produces a linear representation of how the translation task was carried out and helps identify areas of text where, for example, the translator, having already selected a word or phrase, goes back and deletes it in favour of another. While key-stroke tracking does offer more insight, Dr Zheng also pointed out it’s main limitations, such as how an individuals keyboard competence can potentially sque the data.

The next approach discussed by Dr Zheng was eye-tracking, which is used for measuring the point gaze or motion of the eye relative to the head. This is a well validated tool and has been employed across a number of scientific fields including cognitive linguistics, market research and behaviour studies. Dr Zheng described a range of experiments in which eye tracking revealed how the eyes move across a given text in strikingly different ways depending upon the task being performed. For example, while reading a portion of native language text, hot spot visualisation revealed that metaphors often require more cognitive effort to decipher. When studying the difference between reading for comprehension, versus for translating, gaze spot visualisation showed how, while reading for translation, the eye moves back and forth both horizontally along sentences and vertically between paragraphs in comparison to the steady left-to-right linear motion noted during comprehension reading. Going still further, Dr Zheng then showed gaze spot visualisations for reading during sight translation, versus while typing a translation. While there was marked eye movement in both cases, it was clear that, while typing a translation, the translator’s eye jumps dramatically in all directions across different areas of a given text compared with sight translation; constituting a veritable spiders web of blue dots and lines. While eye-tracking, like key-stroke logging, provides a helpful window into the cognitive processes involved, Dr Zheng was nevertheless keen to point out that tracking gaze does not necessarily give any information about other aspects of the subject’s cognitive processes, i.e. just because we know where a person was looking doesn’t tell us what they were thinking while they were looking there. Dr Zheng then noted that triangulation of all these investigations has, up until recently, been required in order to make sense of the possible cognition intimated by the results.

At this point, Dr Zheng moved to discuss his own research using the tools of cognitive neuroscience as first described by Maria Tymoczko, Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Dr Zheng’s research centred chiefly around two main areas of interest: identifying the different areas of the brain activated during reading and translating, and the different areas activated during L1 (target/native language) to L2 (source language) translation, versus L2 to L1 translation. He and his team deployed fMRI imaging while participants where asked to perform a series of randomised L1-L2, L2-L1 translation and reading tasks.

A slide from Dr Zheng’s presentation, CIOL 2020.

His results have shown increased activity in the left inferior temporal (visual word form) area of the brain, whereas during the translation tasks, there was increased activity in the dorsal prefrontal (attention, working memory), ventral prefrontal (language) and occipital (visual) regions. During translation, the basal ganglia is also activated, which is strongly linked with goal-directed tasks. Drawing his findings to a conclusion, Dr Zheng noted that the task of translation is indeed more effortful and recruits some domain general neural networks beyond domain specific (language) regions than standard reading. He also added that, of the two directions, forward translation (L1-L2) is more demanding and requires further cognitive resources and additional motor mechanisms. Dr Zheng concluded by stating that forward translation has more activation in the middle temporal lobe which functions greatly in conceptual mediation and representation as opposed to a more lexical mediation required during L2-L1 translation.

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All photographs by William Maitland ©2020

March 2020 – Cracking Conference, Part 1

The line-up for first day of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) Conference, 6 March 2020, proffered a host of intriguing language-industry-related topics. Set in the splendid surroundings of BMA House, London, the organisers and presenters certainly didn’t disappoint.

The courtyard at BMA House, London

Following registration, and a spot of coffee-infused networking, the day began with the first keynote presentation by Ellie Kemp from the fantastic humanitarian organisation Translators Without Borders (TWB). Her presentation, How do you talk about Ebola?, focused on the interwoven linguistic, cultural and capacity-based issues faced by humanitarians trying to effectively communicate health and disease prevention information to a populous in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) often intensely striated by localised, and often irreconcilable, ethnic and linguistic differences.

Ellie began by noting that there are over 400 different languages currently used within DRC; mainly French and Swahili accompanied by a host of regional minority and marginalised languages, such as Kinandé, which represent a real barrier for communication when coupled with the poor levels of health literacy and inherent confusion about the disease amongst local populations. Information about the disease simply doesn’t exist in local languages, which puts certain sectors of the population at increased risk. To this, Ellie highlighted the three main vulnerabilities of speaking a minority language, a person’s level of wealth and poverty and gender as being particularly pertinent to a their ability to gain access to, and understand, information about Ebola—an older woman living in a small, impoverished village within a region of DRC where only one or a handful of minority languages are spoken is comparatively less likely to access information about the disease which is comprehensible in her own language.

The Great Hall, BMA House, London

To this end, TWB continues to support language communicators in disseminating information in a local context as, for example, many western technical medical terms, such as mental health, are often considered diminutive in marginalised languages and the task of researching and deciding on localised, perhaps not entirely equivalent, phrases represents a cogent task for communicators on the ground.

Ellie was also keen to emphasise that this is not just an issue confined solely to the DRC, it’s a worldwide problem. A lack of data around minority languages can, and has, introduced language bias into humanitarian data. Marginalised languages are, in Ellie’s words, being “airbrushed out of the data”, which, in turn, can have serious consequences for service commissioning. Although, as mentioned earlier, TWB’s glossaries may not perhaps be technically accurate, they’re judged on how effectively they’re understood by locals.

TWB is a wonderful organisation which WMTS has had the great pleasure of collaborating with. They do vitally important work around the world and Ellie’s engaging and revealing presentation gave us only a small glimpse into how effective communication can make all the difference, especially when it could mean the difference between life and death.

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All photographs by William Maitland ©2020

November 2019 – Hold your tongue!

Nothing in recent memory has done more to inflame discussions around the use of language more than the current political landscape surrounding Brexit. Since its entrance into common parlance, this Frankenstein-esque contraction of the already clunky phrase British exit has served as the proverbial kindling for an ever-escalating firestorm of rhetoric, conjecture and hyperbole which has seemingly hijacked all sense of moderate and controlled discourse around the subject. Not least among the divided general public and media establishment, but also among politicians themselves who, despite hailing from the same political stripe, disagree profoundly about how the result of the 2016 referendum should, and can, be brought to fruition.

Regardless of your political persuasion, no other subject in recent history has been more loaded with fervent partisanism than Brexit, and why shouldn’t it be? With such a split referendum result, 52% Leave versus 48% Remain, perhaps it should have been evident to all concerned at the very beginning of the exit process in 2016 that navigating the traitorous, meandering Brexit waters would never be the reposed water park rubber ring ride that many initially envisioned. Quite to the contrary, the steady stream of Brexit secretary and cabinet minister resignations, missed Brexit deadlines and the continued political jousting between Westminster and Brussels has only demonstrated the ubiquitous difficulty of keeping an even keel whilst sailing on the wild and windy Brexit waves.

The recent change of prime minister has in turn brought with it an undeniable intensification, on both sides of the aisle, of the Brexit debate and in recent months the flagrant and often grossly divisive use of hyperbole and rhetoric during heated debates in the House of Commons has prompted many, both within and outside the political arena, to question the conduct of MPs citing the damaging nature of their conduct around Brexit on the public’s perception of the political process. Among the first to publicly denounce the inflamed use of provocative parliamentary discourse were the Church of England’s bishops who released a statement in September 2019 criticising the unacceptable nature of the current Brexit debate. Labour MP Paula Sheriff also criticised the prime minister, Boris Johnson, for his use of ‘dangerous’ language during the same Commons debate.

The following day, on the Andrew Marr Show, Mr Johnson described himself as a “model of restraint” during the debate while in the House of Commons, Speaker John Bercow stated that the House had done itself “no credit” and that, on both sides, the atmosphere in the chamber was the worst he had seen in his twenty-two years. Concluding his impassioned statement, Mr Bercow further pleaded with MPs to “treat each other as opponents, not as enemies”; a call to action much easier made than implemented.

Aside from issues of decorum and parliamentary etiquette, the language used around the potential economic impact of Brexit has also threatened to fracture the already fragile union of the United Kingdom and the hard-fought peace process on the island of Ireland.
Having overwhelming voted to remain part of the European Union, some of the fiercest language around Brexit has come from Scottish National Party MPs in the Commons and Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, who have repeated calls for a second referendum on Scottish independence
Meanwhile, across the Irish Sea, terms like hard border , customs checks, the single market and the now fabled backstop, having long been flash points and sound bites in the Brexit debate, were adorned with a very real and cogent sensitivity in the run-up to the 31 October deadline. All this set against the backdrop of continued economic uncertainty and the threat of returning to the dark days of the Troubles, the use of language and terminology in Brexit has and will no doubt continue to play a key role in the inevitable, as yet uncertain, outcome of this entire political process.

Just as language continues to inform opinions on Brexit worldwide, here at WMTS, we understand the importance of using appropriate, localised marketing materials to establish and help promote your business across international markets. We pride ourselves on providing high-quality French and German into English translation, transcreation and localisation services which are sure to help boost your international sales and improve your market position.

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February 2019 – A Winter Webinar

The festive period was a busy time for WMTS, but in between managing project deadlines and recovering from the over-indulgences of christmas and the new year, I did find some time to participate in the eCPD webinar ‘Understanding cancer for medical language professionals’ hosted by Jason Willis-Lee.

In a previous guise—before moving into translation—I spent a little over three years working as the Urology Multi Disciplinary Team (MDT) Coordinator for the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust (RLBUHT). It was an extremely challenging role and Jason’s webinar was the perfect opportunity to refresh my memory on some of the key terminology and themes associated with modern cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Due to vast scope of the subject matter, Jason decided to focus on two of the most common forms of cancer during his webinar. One—luckily for me—was prostate cancer; the other being breast cancer. After beginning with a quick refresher on the differences between mitosis and meiosis (which I had completely forgotten about), Jason ran through the range of diagnostic and treatment modalities associated with treating these cancer groups, and other more broadly.

While listening to Jason’s presentation, I couldn’t help but be transported back to working the Urology department all those years ago. On a daily basis I would track patients as they were referred in on the two week rule cancer pathway. I routinely escalated diagnostic test dates and results for TRUS (trans-rectal ultrasound) biopsies, CT and MRI scans so that they could be discussed at the weekly Urology MDT meeting which was attended by consultant urologists, oncologists, pathologists as well as the urology specialist nurse team.

As the Urology department at RLBUHT was—and still is—the central hub for urological cancer diagnosis and treatment across Merseyside and the Isle of Mann, I also had to coordinate the discussion of newly diagnosed patients across the entire region. In an era prior to the fast, simple and relatively secure digital transfer of data which we all today enjoy, the manual delivery of patient casenotes, histology slides and reports as well as vast numbers of CD-ROMs from Trusts far and wide—and not so far and wide—constantly presented challenges.

It was a time during which I also learned a lot. Coordinating the MDT meeting each week and having constant exposure to clinicians with many years of medical expertise, allowed me to quickly increase my knowledge about the different investigative pathways and even anticipate the treatment options that would be available to the patients discussed during the meeting.

On one rather memorable occasion, I was even invited to participate in the discussion about a patient’s diagnosis; in a strictly unofficial capacity you’ll understand. Whilst trying to diligently record the outcomes of the discussion, I was caught completely off guard by the pathologist who, having displayed a histology slide on the projector, said: “You have a go at this one, Will”, encouraging me to make a diagnosis of the cell dysplasia. Like a deer in the headlights I shifted my gaze towards the screen and after a few seconds—which, incidentally, felt like an eternity—I tentatively uttered under my breath: “Is it a seminoma?”. After receiving a confirmatory nod from the consultant, the meeting swiftly recommenced as I clambered to resume my frantic note taking.

Histology slide showing presence of seminoma.

Just as it was back then, personal development and exposure to those with expert-knowledge and experience is key to how WMTS conducts itself in the translation marketplace. I would thoroughly recommend this and other medical-related eCPD webinars to anyone with an interest in medical translation.

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Histology image courtesy of 

October 2018 – A Tale of Two Cities

The past two months have been a very busy time for WMTS. In between various projects, two events had been jotted in my diary for some time: the Peak Translations 40th Anniversary Conference in Manchester on October 5th and the CIOL Translator’s Workshop in Berlin on November 3rd. Both events were extremely useful, so much so that I thought I’d share an overview of them both and the main issues raised which are affecting our industry.

Peak Translations’ 40th Anniversary Conference, Imperial War Museum North, Manchester – October 5th 2018.

There could not have been a greater dichotomy between cold, dreary October weather and the warm, friendly atmosphere I encountered that Friday morning inside the Imperial War Museum North. After arriving early to take in the celebrated Poppies: Wave installation, I got chatting to some of my fellow translators and interpreters over coffee before the morning session began. Being that the act of translation is so often a solitary affair, it was a great opportunity to find out from others what they were working on and to share experiences: both good and bad.

WM Translation Services_Peak Translations Conference 1
Poppies: Wave

The morning session began with a brief introduction from Peak Translations‘ very own Helen Provart followed by a get-to-know-you session for all attendees. As over forty translators and interpreters were present, a large portion of the morning was needed in order to get around everyone. This said, it was fantastic to see the diversity of language pairs and specialisms currently situated in the North-West.

Following a short break, Helen then gave a short presentation on post-editing machine translation (PEMT) explaining its evolution from rule to statistical-based translation as well as more recent developments with the advent of neural machine translation. As its presence in the marketplace continues to grow, the topics up for discussion included the nuts and bolts of how machine translation works, the potential challenges and benefits of engaging with the technology and the current training available for those looking to keep up with the rapid technological innovations shaping the potential future of the industry.

This glance into the technological haze was followed swiftly by Emmanuelle Parker who gave an interesting insight into the day-to-day of a voiceover artist. She discussed her personal motivations for moving into the sector from translation as well as giving a brief overview of how the industry works. What stood out for me was Emmanuelle’s description of the need for a voiceover artist to truly believe and be invested in the project at hand, whether it be an enthusiastic product advertisement or mimicking the enthusiastic inflections and intonations of the red-carpet commentator.

To finish off the morning session there was also a brief discussion on subtitling (a topic which I will also touch on later in this post). Once again, Helen Provart gave an engaging overview of subtitling methodologies as well as pricing structures and relevant available training. Of those present, few had prior experience of subtitling and a major conversation point centred around the perceived need for heavy investment, both monetary and time, in subtitling software packages and video editing.

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Changing format for the afternoon session, attendees were given the choice of attending one of two planned workshops: Multilingual Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or Video Conferencing. In the vein hope of being able to understand exactly what it is that my brother does for a living, I opted for SEO.

After a lively discussion about what SEO constitutes and how its application can make the difference between the success and failure of a website in attracting the attention of prospective clients, we were let in on some handy trade hints and tips for improving the search-ability of even the most arbitrary-seeming elements of website design. The overarching message that I received from the session was never to underestimate the importance of ‘doing the work’ of designing a website and its content in such a way that will render it as visible as possible to both search engines and those dream clients out there in the internet ether that we all wish for, but may never connect with simply because they just don’t know that you exist. It was a fascinating talk for a relative layperson such as myself and in addition, I can now have an semi-intelligible SEO-related conversation with my big brother rather than getting bogged-down in the quagmire of acronyms and technical jargon.

The day ended with a lively Q&A session for all the presenters as well as members of the Peak Translations team and a representative from the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. Many present took this opportunity to express their fears and worries around the impact of Brexit on our industry. Despite the continuing political uncertainty, those present, many of European descent, maintained an overall positive outlook for translation post-Brexit and shared the opinion that the industry would benefit more from these type of collaborative events so graciously organised by fantastic teams at Peak Translations and the North-West Translator’s Network.

Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) Translators’ Workshop, Berlin – November 3rd 2018.

The SORAT Ambassador Hotel, set in the shadow of the Tiergarten along Bayreuther Straße, was the setting for this fantastically informative event. I have to admit that it had been a while since I last visited Berlin, but this workshop organised by the CIOL German Society was well worth the trip.

Following a brief introduction from Jadwiga Bobrowska, the day began with a fascinating presentation by Richard Delaney on the subject of certified legal translations. During his thoroughly engaging talk, Richard discussed the legal basis for safeguarding the fairness of criminal proceedings under European Directive 2010/64/EU, as well as the differing protocols and standards inherent in the British and German legal systems. He noted that in Germany, court translators work both into and out of their target languages which stands in contrast to the CIOL’s own Code of Conduct. Richard also talked about the difficulty of ensuring quality translations within the UK given that no enforceable restrictions or limitations on potentially inexperienced freelancers currently exist. As has been the case for a while in Germany, Richard also noted under the aforementioned EU directive that Courts should “endeavour to establish registers” of sworn/approved translators to carry out this type of work. To this end, he made a plea to the CIOL to produce either a stamp or seal, a certified translator status or specific qualification which could be used by its members to confirm the accuracy and trustworthiness of the work they produce for criminal court cases. I, among others present, agreed with such a proposal as well as a revised draft of the self-certification documentation recently offered up by the CIOL. This truly was an presentation packed with insight and set the tone for the three remaining presentations.

After a short break, we recommenced with a discussion on translating subtitles by Dörthe Busch. In her talk, Dörthe touched on the different formats currently used in subtitling along with the challenges faced by those working in the industry such as time constraints, where to position texts and the potential differences between what one hears and what one reads. She also gave an insight into the importance of understanding the natural steps of a video segment in order to ensure high-quality subtitling accompaniments. A demonstration of the software packages EZ Titles and Titlebee was given, featuring examples of work that Dörthe had previously undertaken. To finish off her section of the day, participants were invited to test our own subtitling savvy using another example video on the differing meaning of hand gestures across cultures and languages. A nice bit of fun which some of us all fingers and thumbs!

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The afternoon session started with perhaps the most anticipated presentation of the day: The Key to Music Translation by Janet and Michael Berridge. I thoroughly enjoyed this talk, especially learning about Janet and Michael’s extensive knowledge and experience of working in the music industry, with particular focus on classical music and composers. They described how, for many years, they have worked with record industry and independent music clients on various type of materials including CD booklet notes, artist biographies and press statements to name a few. Having an extensive knowledge of both music and history, they claim, is key to understanding how potential clients choose the projects they do, pointing to anniversaries both sombre and joyous, celebrated music festivals as well as the wants and needs of smaller independent labels who wish to try and break new ground by exploiting alternative international markets. In addition, Janet and Michael gave an insight into the reception of various pieces of their work, both warm and cold, by industry magazines such as Gramophone and in some cases, their very own clients whose opinions on the chosen translation style were sometimes too strong to move beyond. Early on in their presentation, the pair made clear their lack of love for using CAT tools in their daily work, owing to the fact that they will often go beyond their brief doing extra research on a particular artist to try and enhance, where possible, the experience of the end customer: the music lover. Instead, they made an impassioned plea for purely human translation methodologies in relation to creative subject matters, be it music or any other art-form. For someone like me, who is a passionate music fan, it was extremely interesting to hear from people who not only translate music-related materials but who had also previously worked in the industry itself for many years. Whilst I agreed with their call for human translation, I’m sure that there is plenty of room to incorporate existing CAT technologies into the creative sectors of translation.

Last, but certainly not least, was Rose Newell with her presentation, Translating for Marketers. The crux of this sometimes rather heated discussion was to try and understand our clients in the context of who in food chain, we as translators, are speaking to. From business owners to marketing directors through to secretaries and junior staff members, Rose walked us through how a person’s personal stake will affect the interactions that take place. She suggested that it is always vital to find out what exactly is the source material we are translating; how much there is; the deadline; how often you are needed and the budget for the work. She also pointed to elements of beneficial information which would help move discussions along with a potential client, more specifically: the person you are actually in contact with such as; the contact’s role; the reason for the translation; its purpose for the wider project being undertaken; its target audience and, if possible, background on the business’ market position. With darkness drawing in and the day growing long, Rose then proceeded, through a series of example marketing texts, to stoke the cooling embers under our feet with a discussion on identifying specific cultural and industry issues which would, in theory, help aid discussions with a potential client about the work being commissioned.
The discussion on this topic was, to say the least, lively; with opinions divided around the room as to the exact role and responsibility of the translator in situations were proposed marketing materials for localisation could either potentially cause offence, exacerbate existing cultural differences or simply not land well on the proposed target market. Is it the responsibility of the translator to warn a client about such issues? In doing so, is a translator showing good conduct or perhaps taking a step too far into the marketing strategy of a third party? The room was certainly divided and, like the UK Parliament earlier today, a consensus was not reached. As translators, we do hold a certain level of cultural and industry knowledge which could be of huge potential value to an organisation which perhaps has not quite done their homework? Nevertheless, the ethical quandary of acting on such insider-information outside the realms of an agreed contract, which could aid the very same client with their marketing strategy, will remain unanswered. Despite the obvious advantages of such practices for building rapport and trust with a client, I personally invoke a line from the Ballad of East and West: “never the twain shall meet”. For WMTS, acting in this manner constitutes an ethical red line similar to that of insider-trading within the banking sector; providing a potentially unfair advantage to a privileged few. The role of the translator is to act in accordance to the work detailed for them in a legally binding contract, not to blur the lines between translation and marketing adviser.

Having run well over the advertised finish time, the day drew to a close with the discussions moving to the much less formal setting: the hotel bar. It was great to be part of all the discussions which took place and to share ideas and experiences with so many of my fellow colleagues.

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All photographs by William Maitland ©

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