Friday, December 20, 2013

Review of Joanne Archambault’s Presentation “Time for a New Hip?” presented at the ATA 54th Annual Conference in San Antonio

Reviewed by Joan L. Wallace

With the number of hip replacements increasing as the population ages, translators are bound to encounter more of them. Joanne Archambault’s presentation this year provided an excellent introduction. As a translator specializing in orthopedic translations, with a PhD and industry experience in the field who works directly with French surgeons and manufacturers to translate in this field, Joanne is well qualified to present on this topic

The presentation began with a review of the hip’s anatomy. To simplify it greatly, a total hip replacement (THR) entails replacing both sides of the hip joint, i.e., the acetabulum (socket) on one side, and the neck of the femur on the other. We learned about the various prosthetic devices and materials used, including their respective advantages and disadvantages (ceramic vs. metal or metal-on-metal, for example), and how the correct size of the implant is determined. We also learned about the indications for THR, the most common of which is osteoarthritis, wear and tear of the joint that usually occurs in older patients, as well the expected outcomes and possible complications. We watched a “bloodless” (but not “cringeless”) video of the procedure. Of course, there is no shortage of online videos, but this one is easy to see and follow.

The presentation also included mention of partial hip replacement, used when only one side of the joint needs to be replaced (usually due to a fracture of the femoral neck) and hip resurfacing, a procedure used mainly in younger patients in order to retain hip replacement as an alternative down the road. This is because a total hip replacement has a life span is about 20 years, and there is a limit to how many times surgery can be repeated since tissue is lost each time. She also touched upon cementless implants, in which the bone tissue itself grows into holes in the implant and holds it in place.

There was a lot of information packed into one hour. I felt that it was very clear and organized. The slides illustrated the topic well with clear pictures of the anatomy and components and presented English and French vocabulary specific to the topic, which was summarized in a handout. The sequence was logical and easy to follow. The presenter also shared some of her research strategies, including how she had tracked down a particularly elusive term for a device, and provided a list of resources. I definitely felt like I came away with a better understanding and resources I could put to use.

For those who missed it, it will be on the conference DVD. I will certainly be looking for any future sessions she presents.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Going All-In: a Good Gamble

Reviewed by Karen Tkaczyk

Christos Floros presents "Going All-In"

So there I was, beginning to feel worn out on Saturday afternoon in San Antonio, wondering which session I ought to attend. I chose to support a friend who was giving his first session at an ATA conference. Christos Floros was speaking on one of his areas of subject-matter expertise, translating for the gambling industry. It had an intriguing title: “Going All-In”. I don’t gamble and have no intention of targeting translation clients in that industry but I do live in Nevada where general knowledge on the subject is remarkably useful. And I do like to support people who are brave enough to offer a session at these conferences, especially when, as is often the case for a first-timer, they are stuck on a Saturday afternoon, when audience size begins to tail off.

Christos is a well-established English into Greek translator based in Athens, who works with this wife Catherine Christaki. He began his session by applying gambling concepts to the ATA conference’s session review forms. Using the flip chart, he dashed off a quick explanation of the odds of winning a prize if we completed a form after every session. This was an entertaining and relaxing way to begin. What’s more, he showed us that the odds of winning something if we completed a form for every session were surprisingly low!

Next Christos got down to business and introduced us to the obvious division to keep in mind when thinking about this industry: off-line versus online gambling. He said that the off-line gambling market is limited and hard to break into. For instance, it would include translation of themes and labels on slot machines. Online gambling products and services are where Christos believes freelancers can more easily create a niche. He gave us examples of the big players in the market, many of which are British companies, largely due to the nature of the history of gambling in the UK. Christos showed us examples of how online gambling works and how the multilingual user interfaces operate. He used a fun example of freelancers playing poker together in several different languages to demonstrate this. He also explained the rise of games such as Texas Hold’em, which have only become popular with the advent of Internet gambling.

an example of a website offering localized versions

From there Christos gave us some background into the world gambling market, including trends, and he told us why he likes to ‘go all-in’ in this field: partly personal interest as he’s been a gambler for about 20 years, with exposure to many markets, and partly because the volume is there to make it a worthwhile specialization. Christos lived for years in the UK where the ‘bookmaker’ system prevails and he visits Las Vegas, his favorite vacation destination, regularly. He’s clearly a subject matter expert of the first-order, having practical expertise from those two markets.

Christos then moved into telling us our how we might gain background knowledge on this subject, referring to some popular Hollywood films and books as beginners’ resources. Then he showed us how online gambling sites have an area for practicing, i.e. gambling with play money. He recommends that anyone who wants to get into the field practice there.

Another topic Christos covered was correct use of terminology. This portion resembled any subject matter expert giving us examples of words that anyone but a subject-matter expert would frequently translate incorrectly. He also discussed localization issues related to this market. People with accounts in online gambling websites will routinely receive seasonal specials, weekly offers and the like. Those are usually themed around the home culture’s festivals. As a localizer Christos must decide whether to attempt to transfer a concept or whether to completely rewrite and make the special offer about something entirely different. He has established customer relationships over time so he knows the degrees of freedom he has for each client.

The visuals in Christos’ session were top-notch: they were slides that added to the comfortable, conversational presentation that he gave, that were full of light-hearted jokes and pleasant cultural touches. I think Christos did a great job helping attendees learn how to get started in this field.

Monday, December 9, 2013

ATA54 Review: “Beautiful Translations: Foundations for the Personal Care and Cosmetics Industry”

ATA 54th Annual Conference, San Antonio, Texas, November 6-9, 2013
Session ST-11 “Beautiful Translations: Foundations for the Personal Care and Cosmetics Industry” presented by Karen Tkaczyk on November 8, 2013
Reviewed by Mery Molenaar

It is late Friday afternoon in San Antonio, Texas, and I am attending the ATA conference session on Beautiful Translations. This is probably one of the most difficult timeslots of the entire conference as people are about to wind down after two full days of networking and conference sessions. Nevertheless, the room is packed and Karen starts with full enthusiasm, determined to teach us a thing or two about the beauty and personal care industry.
Karen is a French to English translator and has previously worked in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry, so I am looking forward to spending an hour with an expert in the field.
Karen’s goal is to provide us with a basic understanding of the industry. After a short overview of today’s topics—regulatory framework, scientific and technical assessment, ingredients, and marketing—we jump right into the first topic of national and international regulations. Karen uses a nicely organized PowerPoint presentation and lets us know that she will be sending us the slides by email on request after the conference, so we can all sit back and listen.
The most influential markets for personal care products and cosmetics are the US and Canada, the EU, Japan, and Korea, and it is not surprising that there are regulatory differences from one country to another. Labeling requirements differ between regions, and certain hazardous ingredients and testing methods used in one region may not be allowed in another. Although people are working on alignment, there is currently very little harmonization. Areas where there is no harmonization include the listing of forbidden or restricted ingredients, animal testing and even the definition of a cosmetic product.

In the US, cosmetic products are defined by intended use: “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body... for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.” Karen points out that the definition does not include the word treat, and that cosmetics therefore are not considered drugs. When you buy a moisturizer you do not find the words treat or cure on the product, although marketing makes us believe that they do.

So what about fluoride toothpastes, antidandruff shampoos, and antiperspirant deodorants? Are these products cosmetics or are they drugs? Actually, they are both. While the cosmetics industry uses the word ‘cosmeceutical’ to refer to cosmetic products that are also drugs, the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act does not recognize this term. In the US, the FDA has published over-the-counter (OTC) monographs for these kinds of nonprescription drugs. Monographs are detailed product descriptions, including drug indications, dosing, contraindications, adverse reactions, etc., and as long as the active ingredients in cosmetics that also have medicinal benefits fall within one of the drug monographs, an FDA new drug application is not required. Karen stated that soap is a special regulatory case in the US, based on its specific chemical make-up, and pointed us to a reference for finding out more about that.
In the EU, the assessment of whether a product is a cosmetic product is made on a case-by-case assessment. Just this year, the EU Regulation replaced the Cosmetics Directive, but even with this new Regulation in place, rules vary for some countries, such as for the French pharmacy system. The EU definition of a cosmetic product is too long for a slide and Karen directs us to the handout she provided at the start of the session. This handout also lists a wealth of other useful resources and is included on the Proceedings & Handouts CD-ROM provided by ATA at the beginning of this year’s conference.

It is becoming clear to me that translators working for the cosmetics industry need to be well informed about international regulations and make sure they stay up-to-date.

We now move on to product testing. How well does a product stand up against contamination? Will a lipstick melt when left in a hot car? Animal testing is controversial and now banned in many countries, but what are the alternatives? Do your toiletries make it through TSA on your way to the conference? As some ingredients and techniques become controversial or are banned, the cosmetics industry is forced to constantly develop new techniques and alternatives.
Karen explains several mechanical and physical techniques used to test products. We learn that pumps are safer than jars as no germs are introduced to the content and that the term ‘air-free’ is often a misnomer. ‘Air-free’ in this context generally means that no air can get back into the product. An example of this would be a pump action bottle where the internal container volume shrinks as product is dispensed.
Next are ingredients. Again, we are dealing with differences between the United States and Europe. What makes this session especially interesting is the wealth of real-life examples Karen provides us with. Take sunscreen for example. In the US, active ingredients are defined in monographs by name and percentage (%) and are listed first on labels. In the EU, no such requirement exists. Karen emphasizes that when translating labels, you always need to take the target audience into account.
Another example is the use of parabens, a class of chemicals used as preservatives in cosmetics. About 10 years ago, parabens were a hot media topic and the use of parabens as a preservative to control bacteria, molds, and yeast became highly controversial. Unfortunately, it has proven to be very hard to find cheap alternatives and the industry has moved to reducing the need for preservatives by changing the way their products are packaged—using pumps instead of open jars, and adding solutes, such as glycols and salts, thereby reducing the amount of “free water” in the product, as water provides a medium for harmful bacteria, mold, and yeast to grow over time.
We end the session on the topic of marketing. Pointing out that translating marketing and advertising texts requires different writing skills, Karen recommends an article by fellow translator and marketing expert Agnes Meilhac on this topic. The article was published in The ATA Chronicle in April of 2010. A link to this article can be found on the session handout.
I am leaving this session impressed with Karen’s expertise and her commitment to the challenges of translating for the personal care and cosmetics business. The most profound takeaway for me is a point made by Karen that when you do this kind of work, you really need to know your chemistry and physics. Thank you, Karen, for a Friday afternoon well spent.

Mery Molenaar is an English to Dutch translator specializing in technical and scientific translations. She holds an undergraduate degree in mathematics and physics education and an MS in physics. Mery is originally from the Netherlands and currently lives in Longmont, Colorado.

Monday, November 25, 2013

On Being Human, Small, and Vulnerable

Those of us who had the chance to attend one of the two sessions given by the division’s distinguished speaker at the American Translators Association  54th Annual Conference, which was held in San Antonio a few weeks ago, were in for quite a treat. I went to John Moffitt’s cleverly titled lecture “Earth Extinction Events: History and Future.” As someone with a keen interest in astronomy and physics, I thought that this session might be interesting and might remind me why I wisely chose not to major in physics in college (because it turns out I wasn’t good enough at math, but I digress). The highly approachable astrophysicist with 45 years’ experience fulfilled my expectations and gave a clear and concise overview of bad things that have happened, can happen and will happen to our planet due to outside forces that humans can’t control—contrary to what is frequently depicted in Hollywood movies. If I recall correctly, he called the movie Armageddon “the dumbest movie in the history of the universe.” Quick to smile and endlessly patient with the audience’s many interesting questions, Moffitt is a speaker who is not only highly knowledgeable and well-known in his field, but also has the ability to entertain while teaching us a thing or two (or five hundred). Plus, he presented a well-designed PowerPoint presentation with many embedded graphics, cool NASA projections, and even a movie or two.

So what did I learn? A great deal of things. Moffitt presented a concise summary of the science behind the end of the world, and it was a fascinating and scary world. It will come to an end, but it’s just a question of when. There is one question I could not keep out of my head. A colleague asked what could have happened to a dinosaur that hadn’t been wiped out by the initial asteroid (“big rock” in Moffitt speak) that did in fact kill the dinosaurs. Would he or she have survived? With his characteristic quick wit, Moffitt responded that things wouldn’t have turned out too well for said dinosaur, because all food would have been gone, the planet’s temperature would have been altered, and well, there are only so many dead dinosaurs you can eat before they rot. When the earth’s time comes, the impact of the asteroid will create a tidal wave that will essentially liquefy the planet, and there would be no possible-survivor scenarios. For now, we should all be grateful to the moon, which has been impacted by many a rock that could have hit earth.

In general, the presentation was a friendly reminder how fragile a planet we live on. This was elegantly demonstrated by a number of impressive images, including one showing just how much water we have. Turns out it’s much less than we think: it only covers about half of the US, and that includes salt water. I also enjoyed the animation about how small our planet is compared to other stars and planets. I’d recently seen an impressive model of this at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, but Moffitt’s computer animation really drove home the sense of scale, especially once we saw an animation of the largest known star (VY Canis Majoris), which would take 1,100 years to circle in an airplane traveling 900 kilometers per hour.

Another friendly reminder: Turns out we are not the center of the universe. We knew that, but it’s nice to see some scientific proof that the world does not revolve around or human race and certainly not our planet in general. Another memorable quote was, “We are all made of star stuff,” meaning that we are all made of elements formed by stars. If a star hadn’t exploded, we wouldn’t be here. And another interesting piece of information was that we don’t have very many stars in our neighborhood, really—“it’s like a vacuum here.” One of the things that impressed me the most was John’s ability to put scientific data and tidbits into language non-scientists like me can understand. In terms of the approaching earth extinction event, Moffitt’s tongue-in-cheek advice is: Get a tinfoil helmet and wear it! He revealed that his is duck-shaped and encouraged us to start designing ours. Maybe mine will be dictionary-shaped. When asked what asteroids are made out of, John replied that it could be stone, carbon, or nickel-iron, but emphasized that when the asteroid hits us, “we won’t care what it’s made out of.”

At the end, as the speaker received his well-deserved applause, I felt humbled and small by the size of the ever-expanding universe. We all know how big the universe is and how infinitely small we are, but it’s a nice reminder and reality check to hear it from someone who has the scientific background to put this all in perspective. And let’s enjoy this planet earth while we still have it, because it’s not going to last forever.

John Moffitt, Science and Technology Division Distinguished Speaker, and Division Administrator Karen Tkaczyk

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

ATA54 Division Meeting Minutes

The 54th annual conference was a great success, with a strong offering of sessions in the Science and Technology track. In the coming weeks, we plan to post reviews of sessions here for those who were unable to attend. We hope to see all our readers next November in Chicago!

Below are the minutes from our division annual meeting:

American Translators Association
Science and Technology Division
Annual Meeting
Friday, November 8, 2013
San Antonio, Texas, USA (Marriott Rivercenter, Salon A)

Division Administrator Karen Tkaczyk called the meeting to order at 12:37 pm.
The agenda was presented. There were no objections to the agenda; it was accepted.

Karen Tkaczyk thanked the nominating committee, Abigail Dahlberg and Salvador Virgen, for their work in searching for and contacting potential nominees for the post of division administrator and assistant administrator. The nominating committee selected Karen Tkaczyk, who ran for a second term as administrator, and Alicja Yarborough, who ran for the post of assistant administrator. Both candidates were accepted in uncontested elections and will serve for two years.

The members of the leadership council were introduced:
Matthew Schlecht (outgoing assistant administrator)
Stephanie Delozier Strobel (event coordinator)
Tess Whitty (blog editor)
Amy Lesiewicz (blog editor)
Nicholas Hartmann
Iryna Ashby (webmaster)
Petra Schweitzer
Lebzy Gonzalez
Susanna Weerth

The leadership council members serve for a term of one year. Karen Tkaczyk will soon contact current leadership council members, asking them to continue serving in their current positions; and potential members, inviting them to join the leadership council. She invited anyone interested to contact any member of the leadership council.

Division members were invited to submit content to the division blog. Posts may be new or republished content on any topic that may be of interest to division members or readers of the division blog. There are no submission deadlines or restrictions or requirements involving word count. The blog editors will be happy to suggest editorial changes, but the author will be given last say and nothing will be published without the author’s consent. Non-native speakers of English are invited to submit content as well; we will provide editing by native English speakers, and we appreciate how different perspectives can enrich our blog. We will be happy to include a brief bio on the author and a link to the author’s website, LinkedIn profile, or other appropriate site. Each post is viewed approximately 100–650 times, and the blog receives over 1,500 views per month. Please email submissions or questions to blog editor Amy Lesiewicz (

In other activity, the division website is updated every month and is a hub for all division matters. There are links to the Yahoo group (division listserv), Facebook group, LinkedIn group, Twitter (@ATASciTech), and the ATA home page.

Division members are invited to submit proposals for webinars with a SciTech focus. Any webinar sponsored by the ATA should be able to attract an audience of 20 attendees or more.

Division members are invited to submit abstracts for sessions at future ATA annual conferences, following the instructions they receive by email from ATA Headquarters when the window for submitting proposals opens, and also to suggest topics of interest and to suggest potential speakers to any member of the leadership council or in the division’s online networking areas. The ATA can offer to defray travel expenses for division distinguished speakers; it was noted while speakers from outside the United States are good candidates, divisions are reminded that there is a vast pool of talent within the United States and that foreign travel stretches the conference budget. The 55th annual conference will be in Chicago, IL in November 2014, so speakers who live near the Chicago area are especially welcome. A Chicago-based member said he had contacts in Mechanical Engineering that we may be able to tap into for ATA55. Another member present suggested that he would welcome sessions related to nanotechnology.

The floor was yielded to open discussion. Amy Lesiewicz proposed a potential opportunity to approach the American Chemical Society: in their October 28 edition of the Chemical and Engineering News (the ACS weekly news publication), there was a one-page article on the ACS International Activities Division and their attempts to promote international collaboration among chemists. The article mentions language barriers as one of the obstacles they have faced and provided an email address to send suggestions or information. Amy Lesiewicz stated that she plans to approach the ACS as an individual; any members who would like to collaborate and approach the ACS as a group or team are welcome to contact her ( Fellow chemists and ACS members Matthew Schlecht and Karen Tkaczyk remarked that they had previously written a letter to the editor of the Chemical and Engineering News about chemist–translators and the letter was published.

Attendees then introduced themselves, stating their language pairs and areas of specialization. Attendees were invited to continue discussion over lunch at the neighboring Rivercenter (shopping mall) food court. The meeting was adjourned at 1:00 pm.

Minutes written by Amy Lesiewicz and approved by Alicja Yarborough and Karen Tkaczyk
Issued November 11, 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

ATA54 Session Preview: Time for a New Hip?

(Saturday, 8:30am-9:30am; Intermediate; Presented in: English)

Description from ATA website:
Many surgeons consider total hip joint replacement to be the greatest surgical advance in the second half of the 20th century. Translating documents related to orthopedic implants requires knowledge of medicine (anatomy, surgery, etc.) and engineering concepts. The speaker will review various types of hip implants, including how they are manufactured and implanted into a patient. Key terms and primary research strategies will be discussed using examples in French and English. The information provided will be useful to translators working on medical reports, legal claims, marketing material, regulatory filings, and clinical research articles involving the hip.

Additional information from Joanne:
I want translators to come away from my session with a better understanding of total hip replacement procedures. My presentation assumes that the audience has been involved in medical translation for a few years, so that we can go more deeply into the specifics of hip implants (what they are, how they are made, how they are implanted). I will also be discussing some of the current issues surrounding hip replacement, reviewing key French and English terms in this area and outlining how I would go about finding the EN equivalent to a rarely-used FR term.

I will be handing out an orthopedic surgery specific FR-EN glossary. Even if you don't work in this language pair, the EN side of this glossary should be useful to you because it lists the "correct" EN term to use in your translations.

For those who cannot attend, you can look at this 3-minute surgical animation that I will be using in my presentation and email me for my glossary.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

ATA54 Session Preview: Achieving a Synthesis

Matthew Schlecht will be presenting "Achieving a Synthesis: How Scientific / Technical Translation Resembles and Differs from Organic Chemical Synthesis" (ST-5, Friday 11:30am-12:30pm). From the abstract:

Both organic synthesis in chemistry and the technical translation field employ processes of assembling components into a defined whole. Both require years of experience and training. Organic synthesis is represented by a universal symbolism that is mutually intelligible to chemists who don't share a common language. Commonalities across languages exist for scientific and technical translation that are absent in other areas of translation. This session will cover multiple languages and examines how these processes are similar, yet different. Can the areas of scientific/technical translation and organic chemical synthesis learn valuable lessons from each other?.

With this presentation, I want to show some similarities (and differences) in how professionals work in the ostensibly quite different fields of translation and organic chemical synthesis. The processes of creating a translation and creating a synthesis utilize similar skills: parsing and analysis, making strategic decisions, exploiting familiarity with components and tools, the transmutation, then fine-tuning and polishing.

Being language professionals, we all “know” what translation is and how it is done, while few in the translation field might know what synthesis is and how it is done. I hope to provide some insight into this at a level that can be appreciated by a general audience.

A chemical synthesis is a plan that details how to prepare a target structure from available components or starting materials, and utilizing known, modified, or novel methods or steps. Both processes are shown schematically below, with the example of a chemical synthesis of the human hormone prostaglandin E1, and the example of the translation of an abstract from a medical case study from Japanese into English:

The example on the right is taken from JA>EN translation, but other examples presented will draw on translation into English from German, Spanish, and French. The synthesis scheme shows what is referred to as a retrosynthetic (reverse-direction strategy) approach to prostaglandin E1, in very broad strokes with no details. This symbolic rendering of molecular structures serves as a lingua franca among synthetic chemists. Chemists from China, Germany, Japan, Iceland, Argentina, Russia, or the US could all look at the scheme on the left and understand what is meant, even if they shared no common language.

In addition, computational tools are making inroads into chemical synthesis as they are in translation, and I will touch in a general way on the similarities (and differences) in how these tools function, and how they are accepted in their respective professional communities.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Roundup of SciTech Division Events at ATA54

Here’s a roundup of the SciTech division events at this year’s annual conference.

Science & Technology Division Brewery Site Tour
Wednesday, November 6 • 2:00pm • Registration and payment required
Please join members of our group for a plant tour of the Blue Star Brewing Company. A tasting and light appetizers will be provided.
Cost: $25.00 per person (includes tax and gratuity).
For details and to reserve your place on the tour, preferably by November 4, contact Karen Tkaczyk at

Division Open House
Wednesday, November 6 • 7:00pm – 8:00pm • Open to registered attendees
Meet and mingle with your fellow Division members and newcomers. If you are not a member, come learn about these professional interest groups and the information and networking opportunities they provide. A variety of desserts and coffee will be available.

Science and Technology Division Annual Meeting
Friday, November 8 • 12:30pm – 1:00pm

Followed by a pay-as-you-go informal group lunch for all those who wish to join us once the meeting ends. Lunch venue to be announced.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

ATA54 Session Preview: Going All-In

Christos Floros will be presenting Going "All-In" (ST-9, Saturday 2:30pm-3:30pm). The brief description from the conference website reads:

The increased demand for online gambling products in many languages has opened a very lucrative market for translators. This session will focus on some techniques for translating terminology related to gambling. Attendees will be given an overview of the various casino games and types of sports betting, tips on tackling jargon, as well as leads on where to find potential clients.

Christos notes on his presentation:
“When introducing myself to colleagues at past ATA conferences, everyone was a bit baffled when I mentioned that I translate gambling content texts. Most translators have mixed emotions about this field: they either believe it’s too simple (it’s not) or too difficult (it’s not, if you have the right experience). I guess this presentation is the ideal opportunity for me to show that gambling translation is not as strange or difficult as my fellow translators believe.

My audience is the technical translator who is curious about this translation field. I will try to explain what gambling translation is about, why it is a good idea for translators to break into this market (the global casino and betting industry has a net worth of over $125 billion) and how they can do so. In the process, I will offer examples on jargon and terminology and answer questions on gambling and/or translating gambling texts. The topic is very wide anyway, so I won’t be able to cover everything in an hour, but I’ll be glad if the attendees have a more positive opinion about the gambling translation market and hopefully I might even convince a few of them to pursue this specialization.”

Monday, October 7, 2013

Looking Forward to ATA54: Science and Technology Division Distinguished Speaker

This year’s Distinguished Speaker is John Moffitt, whose CV includes about 50 years of experience in the oil business. Although he’s an industry veteran and is usually surrounded by oil and gas experts, he’s also very experienced talking to groups who don’t have advanced backgrounds in science and engineering. I was fortunate to meet him in person recently at a local ATA event, and found him to be an energetic, down-to-earth speaker.
John will be presenting an Action-Packed Tour of a Modern Offshore DrillingOperation (ST-2, Thursday, 2:30pm–3:30pm). The brief description from the conference website reads:
“The speaker will discuss the types of hardware designed for use on modern oil exploration rigs, from the crown to the sub-sea. Attendees will learn about the variety and sizes of large steel robots that now do much of the heavy lifting on modern drilling rigs. Development and application will also be discussed. Questions will be encouraged.”
His talk in San Antonio will cover the offshore rig from birth to death. He’s currently managing a group of engineering working on the end of a rig’s life cycle.
When I met him, John had very interesting stories to tell about the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. He can describe how a series of oversights, mistakes, and poor planning culminated in one bad decision by one person, which ultimately killed 11 people and destroyed a multi-million-dollar drilling rig. When you hear him speak, you’ll immediately know he’s excited about his subject.
John will also be presenting Earth Extinction Events: History and Future (ST-4, Friday, 10:00am–11:00am):
“Let's take a look at the very big picture of Earth's past three orbits around the Milky Way-and even go a bit into the future. Many are familiar with the theories associated with Earth's most recent extinction events, but few are aware that the planet's past is filled with a far more complex pattern of extinction events and probabilities. The speaker, a geologist and astrophysicist, will examine paleogeography and astrophysics in the context of our complex solar system. Learn how life on Earth has been significantly affected by the geometry and violence in a very crowded solar neighborhood.”

Clearly, John has an impressively broad scope of knowledge. You can tell from the way he speaks that he sees the big picture, taking a trans-disciplinary approach to studying the natural world. Both of his sessions are sure to provide new insight to beginners and experts alike.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Beautiful Translations in San Antonio

The American Translators Association will hold its Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas November 6–9, 2013. It is our goal here at the SciTech blog to provide a preview of some of the sessions that will be of interest to scientific and technical translators. The ST track looks very promising!

Karen Tkaczyk will be presenting Beautiful Translations:Foundations for the Personal Care and Cosmetics Industry (ST-11, Friday, 4:00pm–5:00pm). The brief description from the conference website reads:

“This session will provide an overview of essential areas to understand in order to translate for the cosmetics, toiletries, soap, and detergent industry successfully. The speaker will introduce attendees to the regulatory affairs and key concepts behind the industry. A list of useful resources and reference material will also be provided.”

I asked Karen to provide us with a little more information. She started with a personal observation.

“There are areas that non-specialized translators readily refuse work in. Cosmetics and personal care products doesn’t seem to be one of those. Presumably by virtue of personal experience, and due to the ever-present consumer-oriented marketing and advertising we are exposed to, many translators feel they understand this business well enough to work in it, without really having the requisite background knowledge of the field. My goal in this session is to provide that necessary background so that people actually know what’s going on and, I hope, produce much better translations. I have spoken and written on this topic before for ATA (At the 2007–2008 conferences and in The Chronicle, September 2008), but that was long enough ago that it seemed timely to offer a session again, with updates for what has changed in the interim. For instance, the EU has made regulatory changes for cosmetics that came into effect this year.”

When asked who will benefit from his session, she replied:

“My audience is someone who does not already know the global cosmetics industry inside out, or who perhaps knows how it works in a certain product category or country but wants a better understanding of the worldwide picture or the nature of the process from beginning to end: from raw materials to shopping cart. It will be particularly helpful to people who usually translate commercial or marketing texts and don’t intend to translate heavily technical texts but want to understand the background more to make any little technical portions that crop up easier to grasp. This session will also be helpful to people who want to pick up vocabulary commonly used in this field. I’ll do my best to throw in as many typical terms and phrasings as I can.

I will break down the content into four areas:
  • regulatory framework (let’s understand  the rules)
  • scientific and technical assessment (let’s understand the technical fields)
  • ingredients (let’s understand the chemistry and engineering)
  • marketing (let’s understand the hype)

This will be a high level review, given the time available, but I will provide an extensive resource list that should allow anyone who wants to target more clients in this area or become heavily specialized after the conference to do so efficiently, as they’ll have important links readily available."

Coincidentally, someone told me years ago that translation constitutes a roughly two billion dollar market in the U.S.—about the same size as the cosmetics industry. Karen Tkaczyk is a PhD chemist with years of experience as a successful translator specializing in the cosmetics and personal care market, so this is a perfect opportunity to learn about a potential new specialization from an expert.

Monday, September 23, 2013

ATA54: Basics of Virology

Tapani Ronni will be presenting Basics of Virology (ST-7, Saturday 10:00 am–11:00 am). The brief description from the conference website reads:

“This session will provide an introduction to virology. What are viruses and how are they different from other microbes? Can viruses even be considered alive? How come antibiotics do not work against viral infections? Using influenza and AIDS as case studies, antiviral drugs and antiviral immunity will be reviewed briefly. New tools, including viral vectors for gene therapy, will also be discussed. This session will be useful for scientific and medical translators and interpreters.”

I asked Tapani to provide us with a little more information and he referred to his previous talk he gave in San Diego in 2012, Basics of Immunology. An accompanying paper can be found in the ATA Conference Proceedings CD-ROM. He recommends reading it first. He has also written a paper for this talk that can be found in this year’s Proceedings.

“My audience is a scientific or medical translator who has some familiarity with biology and biochemistry. I don’t expect anything beyond high school level. I will assume that attendees are familiar with basic concepts of biochemistry such as protein, DNA, and RNA. I will introduce viruses from the historical viewpoint and then quickly go through their structure and properties—viruses vs. cells, what makes them special entities etc.

I cannot go too deep into virus replication in one hour but I will introduce their life cycles briefly using two important viruses, influenza virus and HIV, as examples. We will also talk about antiviral immunity, virus vaccines, antiviral drugs, and virus vectors in gene therapy. This is a lot to cover so we can only touch the surface of each topic."

This will be a highly visual talk that will give a foundation for further studies for those interested in learning more about this fascinating topic. A reading list will be given at the end.

I attended Tapani’s session on Immunology last year, and I can assure readers that he is an informative and engaging speaker. Listeners are sure to find his presentation very prepared, clear, and helpful.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Chemistry at the Conference

The American Translators Association will hold its Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas November 6–9, 2013. Here is another in our series of posts explaining a little more about the sessions that will be of interest to scientific and technical translators. This should help us better plan which sessions to attend, out of the abundant choices!

Karen Tkaczyk will be presenting Problems, Solutions, and Precipitates: Translating for the Pharmaceutical, Chemical, and Cosmetics Industries (ST-1, Thursday, 11:30am-12:30pm). The brief description from the conference website reads:
“Quality assurance systems and regulatory requirements often drive translation needs in the chemical industry. Translations in this area include standard operating procedures, quality assurance checklists, validation and qualification procedures, and test forms for use in laboratories and manufacturing plants. Through the use of specific examples, the speaker will explain the types of documents that form the backbone of a technical translation practice in this field. The areas that frequently cause problems during translation will also be discussed. Interaction and questions will be welcomed. This session is geared toward technical translators who already do some chemical work and wish to improve their understanding of the subject matter.”

I asked Karen to provide us with a little more information. “I have lots of knowledge I can share that comes from my studies and previous industrial work in the pharmaceutical industry. However, I am not always sure how to frame it. It’s hard to do any broad topic justice in a short time, and to go deeply into a narrow, specific subject might not help very many people. I thought structuring a session in terms of the documents that form the backbone of translation practices like mine was an idea that would work in the time frame. I’ll use examples taken from my own work in recent months, suitably anonymized, to lead a discussion on translating these types of texts, and hopefully how to do it very well. I hope this will help increase subject matter expertise for anyone who attends.”

I asked Karen how advanced this session would be: “It ought to be advanced. If the audience asks basic questions I’ll note them and follow up later with the person who asked. I will keep the discussion during the session more advanced. I’ll assume familiarity with relevant regulatory affairs, good manufacturing and good laboratory practices, and the common methods and techniques used in the industry. I’ll focus on terms and concepts that take time to research in our work, not what is immediately obvious to subject-matter experts. The session will be language neutral. Examples will be in English, and influenced by my experience as an into-English translator who works for both the EU and North American markets.”

It sounds like this presentation will be very pertinent to technical and scientific translators: it’s not translation theory, and it’s not just specialized knowledge in one particular field of science. Instead it will be applied translation practice, tools that can be used across a wide range of texts related to chemistry.

Friday, August 30, 2013

ATA54 Conference Hotel

The hotel for this year's annual ATA conference is the San Antonio Marriott
Rivercenter. Register soon and you could win one free night courtesy of the ATA!

See you in San Antonio!

ATA Compass

The ATA Compass is a client outreach blog targeted at those who buy translation and interpretation services. If you'd like to help educate current and potential clients, direct them to the ATA Compass-Client Outreach Blog. Feel free to read and comment on the blog's posts, which should come out about every two weeks.

Monday, August 19, 2013

ATA54 Brewery Tour

As part of the program in San Antonio, the Science and Technology Division is organizing a brewery site tour and beer tasting.
On Wednesday, November 6, the Blue Star Brewing Company will take us in their bio-diesel bus to one of their breweries for a plant tour, then provide a tasting and light appetizers.
Depart: hotel lobby at 2:30 pm
Return: about 5 pm
Cost: $25
Meet in the hotel lobby at 2:20 pm. Register and pay in advance. First come, first served. The bus seats 44 people.

Register with Karen Tkaczyk. Pay by PayPal (send money to or by check. Mail to:
1338 Chichester Drive

Gardnerville, NV 89410

Looking forward to ATA54

The American Translators Association will hold its Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas November 6–9, 2013. It is our goal here at the SciTech blog to provide a preview of some of the sessions that will be of interest to scientific and technical translators. The ST track looks very promising!
Steven Marzuola will be presenting Offshore Oil and Gas Technology (ST-3, Thursday, 4:00pm–5:00pm). The brief description from the conference website reads:
“This session will provide an introduction to offshore oil and gas exploration and production. The discussion will include descriptions of the major technological developments that enable the production of oil and gas from deep-water fields and the technical challenges that must be overcome. The session will also focus on historical trends in the industry and on the future importance of hydrocarbons in the world energy market.”
I asked Steven to provide us with a little more information, and he provided links to two presentations he gave in Boston in 2011, Introduction to Oil and Gas Production, Parts I and II. You can download these handouts to get a good preview of his presentation in San Antonio, which will be similar to Part II. When asked who will benefit from his session, he replied:
“My audience is someone who doesn't know very much about the oil industry. I will include some material from Part I in Boston, including why we use oil in the first place; as well as seismic exploration and its importance in the search for oil and gas. Next will be a series of transitions: from onshore fields to nearby shallow water, and then to deeper water—first the Gulf of Mexico in the 1960s, the North Sea in the 1970s, and the newer deepwater fields. Each advance uses technology borrowed from earlier development, and new ideas that had to be invented or perfected."
Steven won’t present the political, social, or environmental aspects surrounding oil and gas, and hardly any numbers. He’ll show us pictures of equipment and tell us what it’s used for, the conditions it needs to withstand, and how much it costs.
The mainstream media reports on the oil and gas industry, and they sometimes provide incorrect or misleading information. I asked Steven if he’ll correct any misconceptions or clarify confusing reports, specifically mentioning the Deepwater Horizon disaster (2010 in the Gulf of Mexico). Steven will let John Moffitt, the SciTech Distinguished Speaker, discuss that incident, but he’ll be able to answer other questions attendees may have.
I’m lucky to know Steven as the president of the Houston Interpreters and Translators Association, my local ATA affiliate, so I can personally attest to the fact that he is an engaging and entertaining speaker. His talk is sure to be informative, clear, and well prepared, pumped full of real-world examples and injected with humor.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More resources for technical and scientific translators

Débora C. de D’Eramo, an English>Spanish translator, has provided yet another bunch of links that readers here will find useful. Like her previous posts with glossaries, dictionaries, and references, these resources span a wide range of subject matters and include several languages. Be sure to watch the fun video on how transistors work!

Bioinformatics glossary (EN)

The ISI glossary of statistical terms (multilingual)

Glossary of terms for the electronic publishing, graphic arts, and printing industries (EN)

Dictionaries & Thesauri
IMS Technical Dictionary (EN-DE) – 90,000 terms related to ferrous metallurgy, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering

Multilingual dictionary of jewelry and giftware (EN, FR, ES, DE and IT)

Technical English-Spanish vocabulary (updated weekly)

How does a transistor work? (video)

Débora C. de D’Eramo is an English>Spanish translation specialist with a freelance practice focused on life science, technology and business. She has more than 10 years of experience in the field and has worked on pharmaceuticals, health care and scientific projects. You can find her at her website, or follow her on Twitter (@AccuWordsTrans). Contact: dc.deramo(at)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Interview with Nicholas Hartmann, German, French, and Italian to English Translator

It seems that many scientific and technical translators take a roundabout path in their careers. Is that true for you? Tell us about how you became a translator with your specialization.
My path was very roundabout indeed. My academic training was all in the humanities—a BA and MA in Classics and a PhD in Classical Archaeology. In real life, however, I always had a layman's fascination with science (knowing how the world is) and technology (how people have made use of that knowledge). During my doctoral studies I earned a stipend and tuition benefit first as a lab technician in the Radiocarbon Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania and then doing a variety of odd jobs and research projects, mostly related to ancient materials, at the Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology (MASCA), also at Penn. My dissertation was about iron artifacts in Central Italy in the pre-Etruscan period (about 1000-750 BC), so beneath the surface of my humanities degrees I was always looking at the ancient world in technological terms.
Was it challenging for you to combine your scientific and linguistic interests? What advice would you give to translators or interpreters just starting their careers?
It was not challenging; it was, in retrospect, obvious. My language capabilities have been there from the start, hard-wired into me the way some people are hard-wired for musical performance. I started learning French when I was six years old, Latin when I was 10, German a few years later, and soaked up Italian in the course of a couple of field excavation seasons. When money got even tighter than usual late in my graduate career I began working as a freelancer for a translation agency in Philadelphia, mostly doing French and Italian journal articles about metallurgy. That's when the penny dropped and my academic career ended: I found that I knew more than I had realized about materials (ancient and modern) and was eager and able to learn more about that and other technologies; I had adequate mastery of several source languages and could write plain English; and I had read enough journal articles that I could impersonate a scientist. And I got paid for doing it. I have never looked back.
My advice to a novice translator is to do what every beginner should do: practice. For example: download a random text in your source language and translate it, edit and refine it the next morning, then repeat until what you're writing sounds convincing. The only way to know it's convincing is in turn to read as widely and deeply as possible in your target language and subject specialties. Translators are actors: our job is to convince the reader of our translated text that it was actually written by a scientist / attorney / poet / marketing consultant in the reader's own language. You can only pull off that deception if you know how scientists / attorneys / poets / marketing consultants really talk and write.
What is unique about your skill set? What sets you apart?
If I am unique it is because I have merged a laboriously gained understanding of scientific language with a solid humanities background that taught me how to think and read and write and investigate and discriminate. I am a word person through and through, but I now use that skill in the service of the often un-wordy fields of science and technology.
What is your favorite type of interpreting assignment or text to translate? What makes it fun for you?
For about fifteen years I have specialized in translating German patent applications into English for submission to the U.S. Patent Office, which is now essentially the only kind of text I do. I work almost exclusively for direct clients, many of them patent attorneys—very smart people with very high standards and a very low tolerance for sloppiness or inaccuracy. Meeting those expectations is precisely what's fun: patent translation is a field that many translators find intimidating, but the opportunity to pour into it everything I have learned (and continue to learn), and to contribute to the ongoing human effort to innovate and push back the frontiers of knowledge and capability, is not just fun but a privilege.
Can you describe a project that you’re most proud of, or one that was particularly memorable?
Just as I advise beginning translators to practice and then practice some more, I hope to be judged as a translator not by one particular project but by what is by now a 30-year body of work. I am most proud of daring to think that I could make a living playing complicated multilingual word games, and of having actually done so. That said, I am also proud of the few book translations I have done, including a series of semi-popular French science books on topics like earthquake prediction, paleontology, and crystals. The big one, though (literally), was a multi-volume Italian geographical encyclopedia project on which I was one of several translators: it took two years and required interminable research in the days before the Web. It was probably out of date before it was printed, but the English text is clear and informative and my name is in there.
Are there any resources you use when translating that you’d like to share with readers?
I use very few resources that are not readily available to anyone with a Web connection and a browser. Most of my books are gone, and the Web now contains almost everything I need. The trouble is that the Web also contains a great deal of garbage, so my greatest resource, like that of all good translators, is the experience and good judgment to know what to trust. I have also compiled a 60,000-entry glossary that documents a lot of mistakes but also a lot of solutions that keep me from reinventing some wheels. (Another piece of advice to the beginner: start compiling your glossary NOW.)
How can readers learn more about you and connect with you?

Please visit my website at I have attended every ATA conference since 1984 and hope to continue that streak for a while, and once we have met and talked there I will be happy to connect on LinkedIn.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Some MS Word Tips and Tricks

Today I’d like to share two little tricks that I use in Microsoft Word. The first is a great shortcut: Shift+F3.
If you would like the change the case (upper case or lower case) of a single letter, word, or group of words, you can use Shift+F3. If you place your cursor anywhere within a word and simultaneously press the Shift key and the F3 key, it will change between lower case, upper case for the first letter, and all caps. If you press Shift+F3 several times, it will toggle between these cases. If you highlight a single letter and press Shift+F3, it will toggle between lower case and upper case. If you highlight several words, it will toggle between all lower case, initial caps (upper case for the first letter of each word), and all caps. Unfortunately, the initial caps case capitalizes articles and prepositions. I wish Microsoft would change that to initial caps for all words except articles and prepositions, but I guess you can’t have it all. Another way to achieve the same thing is through the edit menu. The keyboard shortcut is Alt+O-E, which opens a dialog box. This method gives you one more option: sentence case, which capitalizes only the first word of each sentence. The Shift+F3 trick works in memoQ too. (Thank you to those great people over in Hungary!)
Shift+F3 is a good shortcut for when you’ve accidentally kept caps lock on or off unintentionally, or if you want to capitalize the first letter of each word, for example in a title. I also use it frequently when I decide to change my sentence structure and move words around. If you are editing in Track Changes mode, the new case will not be marked is a change if you use Shift+F3.
My second tip is useful for working with optical character recognition (OCR) software. I use ABBYY FineReader 11. I’m sure if I spent more time learning to use that software properly, I could get better results. One of the problems it creates for me is that it inserts optional hyphens (sometimes called soft hyphens) into words in unexpected and inexplicable (at least to me) places, which cause problems if I want to use my CAT tool or Lingvo, my favorite digital dictionary. I tried various find-and-replace techniques without success, before I finally found the solution.

In the find-and-replace dialog box (Ctrl+H) with your cursor in the “Find what:” field, click on the [More>>] button, and then on the [Special] button. In the drop-down list, select “Optional Hyphen” and leave the “Replace with:” field empty. Click the [Replace All] button, and all of those annoying hyphens will disappear. Thanks to my friend and fellow translator SamPinson for pointing me in the right direction!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

SLD Member Amy Lesiewicz Wins Translation Prize

The ATA has just made a call for nominations for the S. Edmund Berger Prize, which is awarded annually in recognition of excellence in scientific and technical translation. The interview below, on last year's Berger Honoree, was published in the 2013 Winter issue of the SlavFile, newsletter of the Slavic Languages Division, and is reprinted here with their kind permission and our gratitude.

At the 2012 ATA Annual Conference in San Diego, Amy Lesiewicz, an SLD member, was awarded the S. Edmund Berger Prize for Excellence in Scientific and Technical Translation. The Berger prize is one of several prizes awarded annually by the American Foundation for Translation and Interpretation, a non-profit entity closely linked with ATA. Jen Guernsey interviewed Amy about the prize and her translation career.

JG: Congratulations, Amy! Tell us a little bit about your prize-winning translation.
AL: Let me clear this up right away! In the past, the Berger Prize has been awarded to a senior translator for demonstrating excellence in scientific or technical translation. This year, rather than recognizing someone at the end of his or her career, the American Foundation for Translation and Interpretation decided to award the Berger Prize to an up-and-coming translator to promote the start of a career. I don’t want anyone to have the impression that I’ve translated the collected works of Andrei Sakharov or something like that! I’m very honored by the award, but humbled too.

JG: Who nominated you for the prize? Did you know your work had been submitted?
AL: Last fall I was laid off from my in-house translation position at an engineering company. Although I had been translating full-time for five years, the vast majority of that was in-house, and I suddenly found myself a freelancer. I made all the rookie mistakes and was feeling a bit lost when I looked at the ATA website one day and saw an invitation to apply for their mentorship program. The application process was straightforward and painless, and before I knew it I was matched with a wonderful mentor, a German to English translator named Amanda Ennis. She helped me focus on reachable goals, including highlighting my scientific specialization and preparing for my first ATA conference.
Unbeknownst to me, Nick Hartmann from the Foundation asked Susanne van Eyl, the director of the mentorship program, if there were any scientific translators in this year’s mentee class. She gave him a short list, and the Foundation selected me. I was completely surprised and very grateful.

JG: I find that most US-based translators have ended up in the translation field in a roundabout way. From what I know of your career, you fit that mold to some extent. Tell us about your background and your translation career thus far.
AL: I was a chemistry major and much focused on academics; I came to college with 22 credits already under my belt from advanced placement tests and some college classes I took while still in high school. This gave my chemistry advisor the impression that I was headed for a PhD and a career in academia. Therefore, he advised me to take at least two years of French, German, or Russian so that I could read the major chemistry journals in another language. The French and German classes conflicted with my chemistry schedule, so I took Russian, and I immediately fell in love. My instructor, Dr. Irina Ivliyeva, was a wonderful teacher, and a perfect fit for her science and engineering students. I wonder if my science (and maybe even music) background helped with the initial learning process: some students seemed to struggle with learning a new alphabet, but for me it was natural and easy to learn a new symbol and associate it with a sound and/or meaning. Perhaps this is similar to learning chemical symbols and associating them with elements, bonds, structures, and compounds.
By my fourth year in college, I realized I was disenchanted with potential careers in chemistry; my last semester’s course load included nine credits of Russian and only one credit of chemistry. My advisor was studying biimidazole chemistry, a field that had been extensively researched in the Soviet Union. One particular article hadn’t been translated into English, and he asked me to translate it. With only three semesters of Russian behind me, it was well beyond my level of understanding and beyond my little pocket dictionary too, so one Friday afternoon I claimed a table at the back of the library and built a little fortress out of dictionaries and went to work. When I realized I was hungry I looked at my watch and was surprised to find it was after 9:00 pm. That was when I realized that translating is fun; it’s like solving a complex logic puzzle.
From there, it took me a long time to feel qualified to call myself a translator. I finished my chemistry degree, worked various entry-level jobs, went to Michigan State University to earn a BA in Russian, and then realized I still wasn’t qualified, so I went to the University at Albany to earn an MA in Russian and a Certificate of Advanced Study in translation. Since they didn’t have any summer classes in the Russian department, I decided to try to find a summer job or internship in Russia. I ended up with a year-long position as an in-house translator at Language Link Translations in Moscow. It was a great learning experience and introduction to the profession.

JG: In your translation work, are there any particular parts of your experience that you drew on, aside from the obvious language-related capabilities?
AL: With each new assignment, I find myself doing roughly equal parts scientific research and linguistic research. For example, my work log for the last month shows that I translated a journal article on hydrocarbons and heavy metals in the water surrounding Vladivostok, test reports on the efficacy of various fungicides against diseases in several different crops, and back translated an informed consent form for banking umbilical cord blood.
For each assignment, I had to research the proper terminology used in those fields. I think it’s really fun!
A couple of years ago, I was translating a long regulatory document on fire safety of industrial buildings, when I came up against a stumbling block: заполнение проемов. This could mean a door, window, shutter, curtain, hatch, lid, or anything that closes any kind of opening in a wall, floor, or ceiling. The concept is relatively simple and the words are easy, but it took me hours to find the right term in English. At one point, I literally banged my head on my desk, which startled a passing co-worker (this was while I was working in-house). When I finally found a reliable source text (fire safety regulations from the state of California) that defined this exact concept as “opening protectives,” I was so excited that I actually felt a rush of endorphins. It’s not even a particularly exciting or elegant phrase, opening protectives, but it was the right term for the right concept, and it was a wily little guy.
I also get a kick out of unexpected translations. I was translating a contract for wellhead completion services a couple of months ago that mentioned фонтанная установка (literally: fountain device). Turns out, the English term for this thing is a “Christmas tree.” My project manager emailed me after I delivered the translation, suggesting that I find another translation, because “Christmas tree” couldn’t possibly be correct. So I sent her links to websites with pictures of these big stacks of valves (which look nothing like Christmas trees or fountains, if you ask me) and to the Schlumberger Oilfield Glossary.
In cases like those, I sometimes use the Google images search function to double-check that I’ve got the right term. If searches in both languages return pictures of the same thing, I think I’m on the right track.

JG: What recommendations would you make to translators interested in specializing in technical translation, or conversely, technical specialists who would like to transition to translating?
AL: There is a wide spectrum of scientific and linguistic skills, even within a relatively narrow subject matter. For example, my linguistic education is broader than my BS in chemistry, and so my working areas are somewhat broad (from chemistry and the pure and natural sciences to engineering and even non-technical texts). I have met other translators with PhDs in chemistry who focus on a smaller subject area but work from several source languages. Each area and degree of specialization has its advantages.
As a college student, I was frustrated that I couldn’t find a teacher to help me find the intersection of my two interests, science and language. I tried contacting chemistry professors who had emigrated from Russia, but they had not maintained any ties to Russia or the Russian language—they read and published in English—and were not interested in working with me. I tried translating a chemistry journal article on my own and asked one of my Russian professors to review it, but he got confused by the science in the second line of the text and gave it back with no input. During my first trip to Russia, I was delighted to find science textbooks in the bookstores, and I spent a year poring over an introductory chemistry book for thirteen-year-olds, looking up every word I didn’t know and writing down all of its collocations and standard phrases. When I was in Moscow, I carried little paperback study guides intended for high school students preparing for college entrance exams, and I read them on the metro during my daily commute. So I guess my advice for language students is this: Don’t wait for someone to teach you scientific vocabulary and style in your second language. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to find a language teacher with a science background, but in America they will most likely be interested in poetry and history. It’s going to be up to you.

JG: I remember an article in which Kevin Hendzel pointed out to us translators, “You’re only as good as your last translation.” I’m sure you have no plans to rest on your laurels just because the stellar quality of your work has been recognized. Where would you like to head with your translation work in the future?
AL: I’d like to focus on gaining clients who send me “higher quality” source texts. I’ve done a lot of work in the petroleum engineering field, and let me tell you, engineers are not always good writers! I enjoy translating scientific and medical journal articles, because they are well written and have been edited for publication. I’ve just joined the American Chemical Society, and I signed up for some upcoming online courses on medical terminology and the chemistry of drugs in the brain. I plan to start reading chemistry journals in English more extensively. Chris Durban said something at the last conference that really struck a chord with me: as a specialized translator, I should be able to rub elbows with scientists in my field and pass for one of them, if only for a few minutes. So in the coming months I hope to network with chemists in my area.

JG: We look forward to hearing more from you in the future. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions!

For more information about AFTI, the Berger prize, or other AFTI activities, visit