Monday, December 21, 2015

ATA 56 Session Review: How to Read and Translate Risk and Safety Vernacular Phrases in Technical Texts

 Review by Martina Burkert

At the 2015 ATA Annual Conference in Miami, the Science and Technology Division offered several excellent sessions. One of them was Matthew Schlecht’s presentation on Risk and Safety Phrases in Technical Texts.

R & S Phrases
R-phrases (short for Risk Phrases) and S-phrases (short for Safety Phrases) describe risk and safety aspects of dangerous substances and preparations in 1–13 words. They are associated with identifying letter-number codes and occur in chemical documentation like product labels, shipping manifests, MSDS/SDS/PSDS sheets, manufacturing instructions and batch records, as well as related legislation and regulations.

H &P Statements
H-statements (short for Hazard Statements) and P-statements (short for Precautionary Statements) are newer standardized phrases describing the hazards of chemical substances and mixtures and giving advice about the correct handling. With the implementation of a Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) R & S phrases are being replaced by H & P statements.

What translators need to know
R & S phrases as well as H & P statements are defined in the relevant regulations of different legislatures and were formulated by standardization bodies of the respective countries. Rather than attempting a literal translation, translators must use the equivalents for the target country even when they do not seem to match the source text exactly.
Translating from Japanese into English, for example, the appropriate translation for Risk Phrase No 33 (R33) is ‘Danger of cumulative effects’ while the source text could literally be translated as ‘Repeated accumulation is hazardous’.

In some cases there are significant differences between countries speaking the same language, one example being Mexico and Spain.

R & S phrases and H & P statements belong in a TM or another readily available resource file for translators working with technical (and especially chemical) texts.
However, finding the right target equivalent can be challenging. R & S phrases have developed over almost 50 years with numerous amendments, and transitioning to the H & P statements of the GHS system is an ongoing process since 2008.

Understanding the history of hazard communication can help guide translation as well as maintain awareness of future changes.

Before the EU and EU
In 1957 the European Steel Community consisting of France, the former West Germany, Italy and the Benelux Union compiled a list of commercial chemical substances and a set of phrases describing the risks and safety measures to include with packaging of these substances in four languages (DE, FR, IT, NL).

In 1967 the Dangerous Substances Directive 67/548/EEC “on the approximation of laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances” was promulgated by the European Economic Community in five languages (DE, EN, FR, IT, NL).

This directive was amended numerous times, including 2001 (EU Directive 2001/59/EC) with updated standard phrases lists and a consolidated list in 11 EU languages (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV).

By 2006 (Directive 2006/102/EC) 22 European languages (BG, CS, DA, DE, EL, EN, ES, ET, FI, FR, HU, IT, LT, LV, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, SV) were included.

The directive lists names of elements and substance classes in Annex I, some associated with a chemical hazard symbol and/or R & S phrases.

Annex II shows the respective danger symbols (pictograms), Annex III contains all risk phrases, and Annex IV all safety phrases.

UN-based System
Meanwhile nations outside the EU generated R & S phrases for their own use.
In 1992 the development of the UN-based Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) began with the goal of facilitating international chemical substance trade. It contains 17 physical hazard categories, 10 health hazard categories and 2 environmental hazard categories (aquatic toxicity and ozone layer). The first version was released in 2003 with updates following every two years.

In the Globally Harmonized System, the R & S phrases are replaced by Hazard Statements and Precautionary Statements (H & P statements), initially published in 6 official UN languages (AR, EN, ES, FR, RU, ZH).

UN GHS Adoption
Adoption of the GHS system is voluntary and deadlines differ by country. For the US, the final adoption date was June 1, 2015.

The European Union implemented GHS through the CLP (Classification, Labeling and Packaging) Regulation (Directive 2008/112/EC) from 2008 where some R-phrases not correlating with GHS have been added as EU-H statements. The EU CLP version was published in 24 EU languages.

Translators encountering standard phrases for the Mexican market must be especially vigilant. Since 2011 Mexico has been using the voluntary standard NMX-R-019-SCFI-2011. In October of 2015 its national implementation of the UN GHS was published, providing a transition period of three years during which current standards can continue to be used.

Matthew provided a list of valuable resources, e.g. ChemSub OnlineMSDS Hyperglossaryand Keminaco.

Lists of standard phrases and links to other languages can be found in several Wikipedia articles. For the latest version of H & P statements for EU countries the CLP Regulation is a reliable source.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Session ST-4 “Risk Analysis for Medical Devices” presented by Joanne Archambault

Reviewed by Mery Molenaar

On this beautiful November morning in Miami, Florida, I am heading to the conference hotel to attend the second day of the ATA conference. I am excited that there are several science-related presentations on the schedule. Since I often translate user manuals for medical instrumentation, I am especially looking forward to today’s talk by Dr. Joanne Archambault about risk analysis for medical devices.

While the last people enter the room, Joanne welcomes us and starts out with her goal for today: to teach us about the risk management process used with medical devices. Joanne is a French to English translator who has worked as a project manager for the development of a novel medical device and directly with device manufacturers on translation projects, including risk analysis documents.

Why we should perform risk analysis

Clearly, all medical devices involve some degree of risk, so why do a risk analysis? First of all, it is required by law. It also offers manufacturers some protection from product liability and helps identify problems before the device is distributed. Furthermore, Joanne points out, it simply is the right thing to do.

The goal of risk analysis is not to completely eliminate the risk of a device, but to reduce the risks to acceptable levels that are “as low as reasonably possible.” This is not as easy as it seems, since a terminal cancer patient may accept a higher risk than, for example, a diabetes patient.

Risk analysis is performed during the design stage of a device before it is brought onto the market. Joanne briefly touches on the risk management standard for medical devices, ISO 14971, and the different standards in the US, Europe, and Japan, before moving on to an example.

Simulating the process

Here is how it works. The risk management process consists of several steps, including identifying and assessing risk, taking steps to reduce risk to an acceptable level, reporting, and finally gathering information during production and post-production. All this information is recorded in a risk management report.

Although clearly an expert in the field, Joanne is able to talk on a level that is accessible to a novice like me. She introduces a sample medical device to simulate the process and enlists input from the audience and help from Karen Tkaczyk, who volunteers to write the responses from the audience on a flip board, to complete the risk management spreadsheet.

Our fictional device is called “Silknee.” Silknee is a silk rope, available in different lengths, which is implanted in the knee to replace a torn knee ligament. The target market for the device is athletes with knee injuries.

The first step in the risk management process is risk analysis: what is the intended use of the device, what are the potential hazards, what is the harm done, how likely is this to happen, and what is the severity if this happens?

We already have defined the intended use of the device, so we quickly move on to identifying the hazards and determining potential hazardous situations.

What makes this session so much fun is Joanne’s ability to engage the audience. Together we brainstorm on possible potential hazards: the silk may break once implanted, it may not be sterile, the device may not be secured correctly, or a device of the wrong length may be implanted. The device may also be labeled or stored incorrectly. Joanne gives an example of a hazardous situation in which a box containing the device is delivered to a clinic here in Miami and left out in the hot sun. The exposure to high heat and humidity may cause the silk fibers to denature.

After each step, Joanne takes us back to the spreadsheet and shows us the next step in the process. We now need to determine the possible harm done in each of these hazardous situations. This can be physical injury or damage to the health of the patient, or damage to the environment. In case of the forgotten box in Miami, a patient could develop an allergic reaction due to the denatured silk or the device may fail once implanted.

To estimate the risk that a scenario like this actually happens, we determine the probability, or likelihood of occurrence, and the consequences, or severity of the harm. In short, Joanne explains, the risk can be estimated using a 3x3 matrix, with three probability levels (high, medium, low) and three severity levels (significant, moderate, negligible).

With this, we have only just completed step two of the risk management process. It becomes clear to me that risk management is a comprehensive and involved process. The information is now reviewed by the manufacturer and for each identified hazardous situation, the manufacturer decides if the risk is acceptable or whether measures should be taken to control or reduce the risk.

Let’s get back to our example: using the risk matrix, we determine that the risk of denatured silk due to high humidity and heat is not acceptable. The audience quickly offers some possible risk control measures: include a temperature indicator with the shipment, require temperature controlled packaging, include silica gel desiccant, or have warnings on the outside of the box.

All risks are now considered together to define the overall residual risk. The device can only be developed if the medical benefits of its intended use outweigh this overall residual risk. For our particular example, we conclude, after a warning about storage conditions has been included on the box, that the residual risk is acceptable.

The device is now ready for production, but the manufacturer will continue to collect and review information about this and similar devices during and after production as part of the risk management process.


I am leaving the session with a general understanding of how risk management activities are used to identify potential problems before they occur. Risk management is a creative process that involves identifying, evaluating and mitigating the impact a device can have on people and the environment. The goal is to make medical devices safer by incorporating risk analysis as a standard part of the design and development. Central to this process is the ISO 14971 standard. Risk management is an involved process that clearly benefits the patient as well as the manufacturer in the long run. Thank you, Joanne, for a very informative and engaging presentation.

Mery Molenaar is a former math and physics instructor and currently works as an English to Dutch translator specializing in technical and instructional texts. Mery is originally from the Netherlands and lives in Longmont, Colorado. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Preconference seminar review: Teach Your Text to Strip with Marcia Johnston

Review by Jesse Tomlinson

Marcia Johnston: “Tight, readable, concise. But what does concise mean?”

We’re at ATA56 in the preconference seminar with Marcia and we’re talking about English writing. In lieu of “Ms. Johnston,” I feel comfortable calling her Marcia, not just because the title of our seminar is “Teach Your Text to Strip”, and it isn’t because she’s in a lounge singer’s dress and red feather boa with lovely black gloves snaking up to her armpits. It’s because she’s an accessible, friendly online personality who plays a game called “Tighten This!” involving sentences that need to be stripped down. This game is a neat way to think differently about our words, our words in translation, and just exactly how much every little extra one counts.

We start the seminar by discussing what ‘concise’ means. It doesn’t mean short, because ‘short’ isn’t connected with meaning. If a sentence is short, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s clear, or concise. It doesn’t mean ‘shorter’ because that’s just like a woman’s skirt. Do we really want a skirt as short as possible? No, we want a functional skirt, one perhaps that is minimal, but that is still covering all the places we want it to. So concise is minimal, but that ‘minimal’ still has to be effective.

So what should we strip off then? How can we write more concisely? Marcia gave us an excellent list and I’ll show a little knee here – get rid of:
  • weak ‘be’ verbs
  • the word ‘different’
  • ‘of’ in general
  • not, no
  • just

Marcia was clear in letting us know that you can’t just strip it all off and be happy with a word-less party. ‘That’ is probably useful after a verb; but we can often take it out after a noun.

You can read more on ‘that’ on her blog.

We never want ‘in order to’ at our word burlesque event; her advice is to slash and burn this little threesome at all times. Bottom line: “Don’t cut words that we need for meaning, like ‘the’, ‘that’ or even ‘is’”.

But how to tell when and how to strip? The decision comes from context. Marcia just wants you to sit up and take notice of the words. Many words slide into texts without us thinking about them. “Let the context be your guide.”

I came away from this seminar not only loving the strip tease Marcia performed for us at the end, but loving her message. It’s not about a quick-fix answer like, “Make your texts as short as possible.” When is it ever? But we still inevitably find ourselves looking for that kind of easy answer.

So Marcia played up on what we all want. She gave us a bit of stripping (text and accessories!) but emphasized that it’s more about what you’re taking off than the fact that you’re taking it off.

What is the short answer after all then? We need to use our brains in a way that we might not have been using them so far. We need to look at the words we use every day in our writing, and to consider them in a different way. We need to think about words that before we were taking for granted.

And whatever does stripping and ‘taking it off’ have to do with direct writing, except for snipping some of those extra words? It has to do with skin, the universal language. And I really loved that tie in. Words convey things. So does flesh. But more or less flesh is not necessarily better. What is better is the way you present the flesh, the way you flesh out your text, or the way you dress it up or down.

And now if only I could find a pair of those long black gloves . . . 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Annual Meeting Minutes

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Division Administrator Karen Tkaczyk called the meeting to order at 12:31 p.m. The agenda was presented and accepted.

The Leadership Council was introduced to the audience. Those present were Karen Tkaczyk (administrator), Alicja Yarborough (assistant administrator), Amy Lesiewicz (blog editor), Lebzy González (LinkedIn moderator), and Carola Berger (Facebook group moderator). Other leadership council members who were not present were Stephanie Strobel, Matthew Schlecht (Yahoo list co-moderator), Petra Schweitzer (Yahoo list co-moderator), and Iryna Ashby (webmaster).

Abigail Dahlberg of the nominating committee thanked Lebzy González and Carola Berger for agreeing to run for administrator and assistant administrator, respectively. As no objections or additions had been received, they were elected by acclamation.

Lebzy González thanked outgoing administrator Karen Tkaczyk and outgoing assistant administrator Alicja Yarborough for their contributions to the division.

A goal for the coming year is to increase engagement, so anyone who is interested in getting involved should contact Lebzy or Carola. Lebzy also encouraged attendees to spread the word to other people who might be interested. Specific needs are:
  • Website administration
  • Social media administration

Amy Lesiewicz reported on the blog. If anybody is interested in blogging, Amy is happy to provide instruction and publish articles. Any blog submissions are proofread by Amy and then passed to the ATA editor for review prior to publication. All changes are cleared with the author before publication.

Next year’s ATA conference will be held in San Francisco, so attendees were encouraged to begin thinking about topics for sessions and ideas for distinguished speakers. Amy Lesiewicz mentioned that The Mythbusters are local to the San Francisco area, and Jamie Hyneman has a degree in Russian, so that could be a possibility for a distinguished speaker or field trip. Carola Berger mentioned Professor Uwe Bergmann of Stanford University, who uses x-rays to study old scrolls, as a possibility. She also mentioned that the Bay Area Science Festival will be happening at the same time and might offer possibilities for an outing.

Attendees then introduced themselves, stating their language pairs and areas of specialization.

Lebzy González announced that the Science and Technology Division dinner was full and that those attending should meet at 6:00 pm by the concierge desk. Handouts with division social media links were distributed, and the meeting was adjourned.

Minutes drafted by Nancy Leveson and approved by Lebzy González, Carola Berger, and Amy Lesiewicz.
Issued November 14, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Voyage to Antarctica: Translating the Environment

Ana Salotti will be presenting “Voyage to Antarctica: Translating the Environment” on Thursday, November 5th 2015, at 11:15am-12:15pm.

Did you know there is an official ocean in the world called the Southern Ocean? This ocean surrounds Antarctica, and is one of the most pristine, delicate and abundant marine environments in the world.

In this session, Ana will focus on the challenges of translating texts on marine conservation in the international and intergovernmental arena, and more specifically on the conservation of the icy ocean that surrounds Antarctica, the Southern Ocean. Attendees will learn about its resources, exploitation, and conservation efforts. 

The session will be built around two main goals: 1) to explain the technicalities that Ana has researched in her translation practice with this type of texts, and 2) to tell attendees about the realities of a translator working for intergovernmental organizations that deal with conservation of the Southern Ocean.

An overview will be given about the history of conservation efforts around the Southern Ocean and Antarctica, as the kickoff point to delve into what an ecosystem-based approach to management means in Antarctica, and why the Antarctic krill is king.

Ana will then briefly outline how the Antarctic ecosystem works, and how its resources are managed on an international scale. A quick guide to the main fishing gear and methods will be given, and technical concepts in marine conservation will be dealt with through the lens of international organizations. Some conservation measures will be exemplified in relation to albatrosses and petrels. 

Projeto Tamar Brazil ( Photobank (

Friday, October 23, 2015

Translating Patents for Evidence and PCT Filing

Webinar presentation by Martin Cross

Review by Alicja Yarborough, PhD

As a part of ATA’s webinar series on October 1, 2015, Martin Cross presented “Translating Patents for Evidence and PCT Filing,” an overview of the methodology that can be used for both evidence and PCT filing, as well as the differences between these purposes. The handout included a chapter of his book on the same topic.

Martin began the webinar with a short illustrative anecdote describing what happens and what can go wrong when a patent attorney needs to prove that an idea for an invention is new, but some possibly relevant literature is published in a foreign language and thus needs to be translated in its entirety to see if the idea is original. He emphasized how important it is to reproduce the actual meaning of an invention—and that this means it can be done only through a literal translation.

Producing a literal translation
  1. Reproduce the meaning. Patents are usually very technical so you must understand the text well to reproduce the right meaning. There is often ambiguity in implication; therefore, you need to have a certain degree of knowledge to understand the text. This does not mean that you must have a master’s degree in the subject matter, though of course that helps; it means that you need to be able to research very well.
  2. Reproduce sentence breaks and carriage returns. A lot of translators like to break longer sentences to the short ones because they feel that it will be easier for the reader. Do not do this! A judge at patent proceedings may sometimes reject a translation without even looking at the content only because the sentence breaks are not in the same place as in the source document. The sentence is the fundamental unit in law, and it needs to be respected. The solution for this is: if you have a long sentence and you feel that it is difficult to track, use semicolons in the places where you would use periods and you will get the same effect yet respect the sentence. Keep the carriage returns where they are in the original, too. The carriage returns sometimes have a meaning in patents so it is best just leaving them alone.
  3. Be consistent with vocabulary and phrasing. This advice is generally true for any translation, but it is even more important in patent translation due to the specific ways that people read and analyze the patent. If you call an element “a shaft” in one instance, you should not call the same element “a rod” or “an axle” in another part of the translation. That rule applies to phrasing also. If you have a phrase in one place that is translated as “a shaft for driving a flywheel”, do not translate it in another place as “a shaft by which the flywheel is driven.” Terminology needs to be consistent throughout the whole document.
  4. Maintain one-to-one correspondence between the source and the target. This is where literal translation for patents may be different from literal translation for localization, for example. In practice, one-to-one translation means that a translator will be able to go to the courtroom and draw a diagram on a whiteboard, underline words in the source text, and draw an arrow to where it is translated in the target. This exercise shows that everything in the source text is shown in the target text, and that everything that is in the target source was in the source text. Imagine yourself in the courtroom and wanting to see if everything corresponds one-to-one. How does one do that?

Here is an example of one-to-one correspondence.

In French:
“Je m’appelle Martin et je suis traducteur”.
One-to-one (or mechanistic) reproduction:
“I call myself Martin and I am translator”.

This is what people usually think about as literally translated, as some sort of mechanistic rendering. It is not a good translation, however, because it does not convey the meaning very well. In English it implies that I call myself Martin, but my name is actually something else. In French we do not use indefinite articles before nouns, but in English it looks sloppy, as if it has not been proofread.

The correct translation is: “My name is Martin and I am a translator.”

The above is a literal translation using two techniques. The first is conservation of lexemes and second is equivalent phrasing. In patent translation, conservation of lexemes is used 95% of time. This is your plan A. For the remainder, it does not work. So then you go to plan B, which is equivalent phrasing. Conservation of lexemes is much easier to defend if you have to verify that your translation is in fact literal.

Lexemes and Function Words
Lexemes are basic units of meaning. Function words are grammatical glue that holds the lexemes together. Lexemes include nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and numerals (for the purpose of patent translation). Function words are everything else; i.e., articles, pronouns, prepositions, postpositions (English word ago), conjunctions, auxiliary words, interjections, and particles and case markers in some languages. If the word is just grammatical, it is a function word. It does not have inherent meaning but rather connects words that have meaning: e.g., the, a, her, it, they, that, of, on, under, before, thereafter, thereby, and, but, for, so, unless, because, is, may, can, should, will, to, even, there.

Knowing this, we can adopt a methodology for literal translation where we have a one-to-one relationship between the source and the target texts. We do not introduce new lexemes and do not leave out any lexemes that are in the source text. However, we may use as much grammatical glue, the function words, as we like to produce grammatical sentences in the target text.

Example: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” Let’s pretend that this sentence is translated from or to another language. How we can preserve lexemes?
“Over the lazy dog jumped the quick brown fox.” This structure has the same meaning and the same lexemes, and the function words are the same, but we are not limited to them.
“The lazy dog was jumped over by the quick brown fox.” This has the same meaning even though we have different function words.
“The fox, which was quick and brown, jumped over the dog, which was lazy.” This has the same lexemes and the same meaning, but different order of function words. It still counts as one-to-one correspondence and a literal translation.
“The fox did jump, and did so over the dog, the fox being both quick and brown, while the dog was lazy.

In the last example, we have strayed from the style and the tone of the original sentence. This one is very wordy and sounds somewhat different. When you translate a patent it is best to stay as close as possible to the style and the tone of the original.

This demonstrates how much flexibility we have in literal translation, maintaining one-to-one correspondence with the lexemes in the source text.

Word and Phrase Order
For the nitrogen source, ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride and the like can be used.” (in Japanese)
√ “Ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride and the like can be used as the nitrogen source.” (in native English a one-to-one literal translation)
X “The nitrogen source can be chosen from ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride and the like.” (not a literal translation)

The meaning is the same, but an attorney from the opposing side may ask you, “Where is the word ‘chosen’?” You may say that it is not there in Japanese, so you added it for clarity’s sake. The attorney could then challenge you by asking what else you inserted for clarity’s sake and how we can now tell that you are reproducing the source. It is the less secure way of translating.

When to Use Equivalent Phrasing
  • When the equivalent is very well established (usually but not always, when the equivalent is listed in the dictionary). When called upon in the court you can just pull out the dictionary. Additionally, if there is something clearly established by convention and you can show that.
  • When using source lexemes would lead to undue confusion, or create a highly unnatural style.

Established Equivalents:
For example, the French “l’homme du métier”, has the literal translation “man of the trade”; but this would not be understood in English. The correct English—“those skilled in the art”—is an established equivalent and would be understood by the target audience.

Another example is the Japanese heading: “Scope of Patent Claims”. In English, this should be “Claims”—a well-established phrase.

These are very clear examples of when we do not need to stick to the lexemes in the source language.

Translation for PCT Filing
All of these requirements are the same as in the case of evidence filing. The attorney may make a special amendment if he wishes it to be easier to read or to be consistent with current US patent practice.

The only difference is that we provide translator’s notes (no annotations and nothing in square brackets).

When translating for a PCT filing, favor more clarity of expression, smoothly flowing target text over strict conservation of lexemes. People just want to see what is says. Be sure that translation is for filing; not all PCT applications are for filing, so be sure to ask. If it is old (more than 30 months), then it is most likely not for filing.

Cross also discussed how to certify a translation, and who may do so. At the end of the webinar, there was a Q&A session led by Karen Tkaczyk, who also has extensive experience in translating patents. Great questions were asked and Cross gave clear answers. Any patent translator from beginner to intermediate will find the webinar recording valuable.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Tapani Ronni will be presenting “Vaccines: Past, Present, and Future” (ST-5, Friday 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm).

This brief review of vaccines is aimed at medical and scientific translators. While everybody is welcome to attend the talk, some familiarity with basic life science concepts will help in understanding the concepts in this talk.

A vaccine is any biological preparation that enhances immune response in order to either prevent or treat a disease. Historically vaccines have been manufactured using killed or weakened (attenuated) microbes, and combinations thereof. Recent advances in biochemistry and molecular biology have made it possible to generate vaccines from protein subunits, nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), and genetically engineered virus particles.

While vaccines have had an enormous positive impact on public health, many challenges remain, due to the high variability of some pathogens and the fact that some microbes don’t have obvious antigenic structures suitable for vaccine development. On the positive side, many infectious diseases, such as polio, are nowadays kept in check with pediatric vaccination programs. Two diseases, smallpox and rinderpest (a cattle disease) have even been eradicated from Earth. However, urgent and important public health challenges remain to be addressed. In this talk I will give three examples: HIV/AIDS, ebola, and tuberculosis.

Genomic data together with novel vector engineering should allow for more efficient and targeted vaccine development in the future. The talk will conclude with some examples of cutting edge technologies in vaccine development. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies: Illegal Money or a New Global Payment Option?

Most translators and interpreters, as well as everybody doing international business, know them well: high bank charges, sometimes coupled with exorbitant exchange fees, endless, complicated forms, long clearance times etc. Then there is the archaic way of paying via check. Given that this is the 21st century, one might think that there should be better, cheaper, faster ways for transferring money from person A to person B. There are, of course, Paypal and similar services, which however also involve non-negligible fees, and their newer relatives Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and the like. Neither of the aforementioned options is truly global. However, there are some new players on the global payment market: Bitcoin, or more generally, cryptocurrencies.

Aside from a somewhat “dark” reputation as a means to finance illegal activities, Bitcoin is surrounded by a certain shroud of mystery, since the common explanation of Bitcoin as a “peer-to-peer currency” is neither particularly transparent nor particularly descriptive. So, what IS Bitcoin? Carola F. Berger will elaborate on this question in her presentation ST-6 in the Science and Technology track on Saturday at 11:15 AM – 12:15 PM at ATA’s 56th conference in Miami. In the following you will find a short preview.

Why is it so complicated to transfer money electronically from account A to account B?

All monetary transactions involve the following steps:
  1. Check that the sender actually possesses the required amount of money.
  2. Deduct the amount to send from the sender’s account.
  3. Transmit the specified amount of money to the recipient.
  4. Update the recipient’s balance with the transmitted amount.
It is obvious that a cash transaction accomplishes this without problems through the exchange of (very special) sheets of paper or pieces of metal that represent a specific monetary value.

The electronic equivalent is necessarily more complex, since electronic transmissions always transfer only copies of files and since it is possible to transmit several copies (nearly) simultaneously. Electronic “cash” could therefore be copied and transmitted in arbitrary amounts, creating money out of nothing but electrons. Therefore, traditional electronic monetary transactions—such as ACH, wire transfer, PayPal, etc.—always involve one or more trusted intermediaries (and fees for the intermediaries’ services). The Bitcoin protocol, however, accomplishes electronic monetary transmissions WITHOUT such a trusted intermediary, by employing a peer-to-peer network and various cryptographic techniques—thus the term “cryptocurrency.”

The talk will explain the concept of peer-to-peer transactions and the Bitcoin protocol. It will become clear that the idea behind Bitcoin, the Bitcoin protocol, has the potential to disrupt several industries besides the banking sector. Therefore, venture capitalists are very interested in cryptocurrency R&D, because this disruptive technology can also be used for applications such as smart contracts or even completely decentralized elections. Unfortunately, while the disruptive potential of the idea behind cryptocurrencies is undisputed, the regulatory status of cryptocurrencies is still developing in most countries of the world. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether cryptocurrencies can really grow into a viable option for legal global monetary transactions.

The presentation will give a basic introduction into the aforementioned ideas and concepts such as the block chain, peer-to-peer transactions, cryptocurrency mining, etc. No advanced mathematical or cryptographical knowledge is needed. And there will be chocolate!

If you are unable to attend the talk, you are unfortunately going to miss out on the chocolate, but you can read a series of blog posts on the topic here:

About the presenter:

Carola F. Berger is an ATA-certified English into German translator with a PhD in physics and a Master’s degree in engineering physics. She specializes in the translation of technical, scientific, and IT-related texts including patents, leveraging her scientific and engineering background from her previous research career. She is also an avid lifelong learner and recently completed an online course on digital currencies by the University of Nicosia, which earned her the distinction of being among the first holders of an academic certificate of any kind that was published on the block chain as proof of existence. In addition, she loves chocolate!

Friday, October 9, 2015

56th Annual Conference Session Preview

The Turbine Engine: An Introduction to Modern Aircraft Propulsion Systems (ST-2)

The turbofan engines slung under the wings of a commercial airliner are highly engineered mechanisms developed over decades of research costing tens of billions of dollars. They are also manufactured by the thousand, and the aircraft that they propel can be seen almost anywhere on Earth. No other commonly encountered human product is both so sophisticated and so ubiquitous.

This presentation explains why. Beginning with the gas mixture that serves as lift medium, working fluid, and combustion support for aircraft (usually called "air"), it moves on to Newton's Third Law of Motion as it relates to rowboats and the Space Shuttle, dissects the anatomy of a modern airliner, explains why the "four forces" aren't really forces but behave as if they were, and asserts that "simplication" is a genuine word. Two essential concepts—the airfoil and the fluid coupling—are discussed in detail, leading to the central topic: the aircraft turbine engine, how it works, and why it has become an everyday means of transportation for over 3 billion people every year.

But that's not all: attendees will learn about airboats, rockets, electric helicopters, and bypass ratios, and discover the meaning of "time on wing," what that sound is right after the plane lands, and why a 747 is like a shopping cart. Hundreds of illustrations accompany the presentation, and an actual fluid coupling using actual airfoils will be demonstrated using common household items. Questions from attendees will be welcomed.


Nicholas Hartmann began working full-time as an independent technical and scientific translator in 1984, and now specializes in translating patents and related documents for corporate clients and law firms in the US and Europe. He is a Past President of ATA and has also served the Association as President-elect and conference organizer, Director, and Secretary; administrator of the Science and Technology Division (version 1.0); chair of the Client Education Committee, Governance and Communications Committee, and Science and Technology Information Committee; co-chair of the Business Practices Education Committee; and member of the Terminology Committee and The ATA Chronicle Editorial Board. Dr. Hartmann holds ATA certification in French–English, German–English and Italian–English, and still carries the FAA Private Pilot license he earned 25 years ago. For more information visit

Monday, October 5, 2015

Looking forward to ATA56

Here is the first in our series of previews for sessions to be presented at the 56th Annual Conference (November 4–7, 2015, in Miami, Florida).

A Lucrative Sideline: Editing Non-Native English Scientific Writing

As we wind down on Saturday afternoon in Miami, come and join me to ponder a sideline that scientific and technical translators might want to consider. I am not suggesting that I couldn’t make my entire income from translation, but I feel this sideline builds upon my skill set and I enjoy it. Attend if you think you might enjoy it too.
I have always edited academic articles written by non-native English chemistry graduate students and professors. I got into it because I'm a highly specialized technical translator with training in a hard science. In translation, I work mainly with chemistry and texts related to the chemical industry. I have received non-native editing work on and off throughout the 10 years I've been a freelance translator. It has come to me from my profile, from professors I've met at chemistry networking events, from editing agencies, and from word-of-mouth from translation colleagues who live in France. In the last year or two the volume picked up quite a lot with authors in earth and life science so I developed a process to make it satisfying and lucrative for me.
This session will include
  • what sets this work apart from translation or from editing texts written by native speakers
  • how to price this work
  • how to justify changes
  • how to handle authors’ egos and build the customer relationship
  • what an efficient editing process might look like
  • how to edit 

(Saturday, 3:30pm-4:30pm; All Levels; Presented in: English)

“The manuscript is poorly written and has too many grammatical and syntax errors. The results are very interesting from a practical standpoint, but the paper needs thorough revision to make it suitable for publication in The Journal of Astounding Scientific Developments.” Enter the native English-speaking editor. This session will describe what sets this work apart from translation or from editing texts written by native speakers, how to price it, and how to justify changes and handle authors’ egos when returning revised texts. We will conclude with a summary of what an efficient editing process might look like. 

Karen Tkaczyk is the administrator of ATA's Science and Technology Division and the chair of ATA's Divisions Committee. She is an ATA-certified French>English freelance translator. Her translation work is entirely focused on chemistry and its industrial applications. She has an MChem in chemistry with French from the University of Manchester, a diploma in French, and a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Cambridge. She worked in the pharmaceutical industry in Europe and, after relocating to the U.S. in 1999, in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. She established her translation practice in 2005.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Science and Technology Division Post-Conference Field Trip

Please join us for a field trip to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden to wander among lush vegetation.

Sunday, November 8, 2015
11am: Leaving the Hyatt

Going to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden by shuttle pickup from the front entrance of the Hyatt hotel, 9.5 miles away.
10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, FL

Admission to Fairchild ($25) includes all collections and exhibits, a narrated tram tour (weather permitting) and guided tours. Tickets are sold at the entrances. The garden accepts cash, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express and travelers checks.

Possible interest point: Wings of the Tropics, Tropical Plant Conservatory and Rare Plant House.

There are two cafés at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.


Sign up with an email to Jesse Tomlinson ( Payment for admission is onsite. For transportation: in person the day of the tour to Jesse.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Looking forward to ATA56 in Miami, November 4

ATA 56th Annual Conference

Welcome Celebration
ATA welcomes you to Miami!

This is the event that starts it all. Everyone you hope to see and meet will be there. Reunite with friends and colleagues, and mingle with this year's speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors.

Here's your chance to get to know ATA's Divisions! Divisions are professional interest groups providing specialty- and language-specific networking. Connect with fellow Division members, leadership, and newcomers.

Come celebrate the ATA 56th Annual Conference!

Wednesday • 5:30pm - 7:00pm

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Introducing New Administrator for the Science and Technology Division

Interview with Lebzy González, PhD, Spanish into English Translator

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico and moved to Boston to study engineering at MIT just after I turned 17. At this point I have lived most of my life on the US mainland and visit the island once or twice a year. Like many Puerto Ricans, my family is scattered all over. At last count, we're spread over two Caribbean islands, four states, and two languages.

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.

When I was a child, I wanted to be a writer. I was fascinated with the written word and obsessed with perfecting my English—I even started my own magazine with a friend while we were still in grade school. It wasn’t until high school, when I was invited to join the Math Team, that I became interested in technical subjects and decided to study engineering.

Somewhat ironically, attending engineering school had a profound and positive impact on my writing skills. Engineers have a reputation for being indifferent writers, yet the work itself involves a fair amount of documentation. Because of this, my university required us to demonstrate that we could write at a professional level and supported us with courses and tutoring specifically designed for engineering students.

After engineering school came a doctorate and about a decade of work as a materials research scientist in the private sector. By 2009 I was aching for a change. At first I thought I just needed to find a new employer; however, after a bit of networking and soul-searching I realized that I needed a more fundamental change than that. A friend suggested translation. I began attending the meetings of the New England Translators Association and reading books about translation. My interest just grew and by the end of that year I had enrolled in two online translation courses.

The following year, I quit my research job and went traveling around the world while continuing to study translation. I took the opportunity to spend several months in Latin America and become acquainted with local cultures and dialects. Finally, in 2011, I hung my shingle as a freelancer specializing in those topics I researched during my engineering career: polymer science, composites, characterization techniques, and mechanical testing. I became ATA certified (Spanish into English) in 2013.

What advice would you give to translators or interpreters just starting their careers?

Seek feedback wherever you can find it. Join translation associations and network with colleagues as much as possible. Many successful translators are autodidacts, but I like to encourage prospective translators to enroll in courses that provide detailed feedback and interaction with other students and translators. They are a very efficient way to develop and improve our skills.

What is unique about your skill set? What sets you apart?

My expertise and areas of specialization set me apart. I translate the same topics and types of documents that I worked with as a research scientist. This means that I understand the entire process, not just the terminology, and can offer more complete solutions to a client’s needs, whether they’re filing a patent application or submitting a multimillion-dollar project proposal.

What is your favorite type of text to translate? What makes it fun for you?

I love being able to work on several documents related to the same project. For example, translating a patent and related scientific publications or an engineering proposal along with its technical specifications. And, of course, the more specialized the document, the better.

Can you describe a project that you’re most proud of, or one that was particularly memorable?

I’ll never forget my very first paid translation project. In many ways it was the perfect assignment: a Mexican patent on polymer nanocomposite processing, one of my specialties. The source document was not very well written and contained many grammatical errors; my job was to translate it into English and make it shine. It reminded me of the texts that I used to edit for my undergraduate technical writing class—I was very grateful for that experience!

How can readers learn more about you and connect with you?

I tweet under my name (@LebzyGonzalez) and am active on LinkedIn and the S&TD Facebook group. I also have a short bio on my website,

Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday, August 24, 2015

Introducing New Assistant Administrator for the Science and Technology Division

Interview with Carola F. Berger, PhD, English into German Translator 

Can you tell the readers a bit about yourself?
Some colleagues in the Science and Technology Division will know me as the bicycling physicist with the funny Austrian accent from my presentations at previous ATA conferences. This obviously warrants an explanation: I was born and raised in Austria, where I also obtained a Master’s degree in engineering physics, which explains the accent. I then moved to the US as a Fulbright scholar to study theoretical physics. After obtaining my PhD and a brief one-year interlude in Italy, I moved back to the US and stayed, at first pursuing a research career in particle physics, which explains the physicist. And to compensate for all those hours sitting in front of the computer and to recharge my neuronal batteries with fresh air and nature, I ride my bicycle (nearly) every day, which explains the cycling.
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.
Indeed, I switched careers in 2010 and am now an ATA-certified English into German translator specializing in the translation of technical and scientific texts, such as patents, user manuals, whitepapers, and the like. However, I don’t view my career path as roundabout as it might seem. Particle physics is essentially a somewhat peculiar combination of engineering, applied mathematics and (a lot of) computer programming, so that is how I obtained my scientific and technical expertise. And although most of my physics publications were written with co-authors, I was always heavily involved in the actual writing process, simply because I really like to write. I also love to read and I seem to have languages in my genes, since both my parents were language teachers before they retired, and my sister is a language teacher as well. After the fact, it almost seems inevitable that I ended up as a translator, because it combines the mysteries of researching a new—to me or, in the case of patents, to everybody—device or method with the joy of writing.
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?
As I mentioned above, it seems almost inevitable that I am combining my scientific and linguistic interests as a scientific and technical translator, and in fact, my first few projects appeared almost accidentally out of thin air. Nevertheless, the first year was tough, but it helped to join ATA and peruse all the great resources, like the ATA Business Practices mailing list, the various online resources on the ATA website, and of course the ATA Divisions and Chapters, in my case the Science and Technology Division and the German Language Division, as well as the Northern California Translators Association, my local ATA chapter. That’s also the reason I am involved in the S&TD leadership council, as a way to show my appreciation for all the help I have received and continue receiving.
So one piece of advice I would give new translators and interpreters is to use these resources—there is no need to reinvent the wheel all by yourself.
Can you describe a project that you’re most proud of, or one that was particularly memorable?
My absolute favorite project to date was a patent for a novel bicycle component, because it combines not just two, but three of my passions: science, language, and bicycling. Thus, translating this particular patent was pure joy.
How can readers learn more about you and connect with you?

I have a website at with a blog section, where I occasionally write blog posts about all sorts of scientific, technical, and translation-related topics. Aside from Facebook, where I am currently co-moderating the S&TD Facebook group, I am also on LinkedIn  and Xing. And of course I will be at the upcoming ATA Annual Conference in Miami. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Please join us for dinner at Ristorante Fratelli Milano to see old friends again and to meet
new ones.

Thursday, November 5, 6:15pm

Ristorante Fratelli Milano
213 SE First Street
Miami, FL 33131
(312) 467-7177




Choose one of the following:

Arugula, grape tomatoes, pear, goat cheese, almonds, raspberry dressing

Fresh sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic


Choose one of the following:

Pasta stuffed with pear and taleggio cheese, sage butter sauce

Homemade spinach noodles, fresh tomato meat sauce

Pounded chicken breast, mushrooms, melted provolone cheese, Marsala wine sauce,
roasted potatoes and sautéed vegetables

PESCE PICCATA (gluten-free)
Tilapia filet, white wine, lemon, capers, sautéed vegetables, roasted potatoes

Lightly breaded and fried veal cutlet, arugula, tomatoes, bocconcini Mozzarella

++ Gluten-free pasta and vegan and peanut-free options available upon request. Please
coordinate with Lebzy González (


Served family style:




Price: $43.00 per person, including tax and gratuity. Please note that drinks are not

Payment of $45.00 should be made by PayPal, or check for $43.00 received, on or before
Wednesday, October 28. Seating is limited.

* Pay via PayPal: Go to the PayPal website ( and select the "Send
Money" tab. Enter the amount ($45.00) and transfer this payment to

* Pay by check: Mail a check payable to Carola Berger to the address below. Please
include your contact information if you would like to receive a confirmation message.

Carola Berger
PO Box 5585
Redwood City, CA 94063



A 5-minute walk (0.2 mi.) from the Conference Hotel to the restaurant. Walk out the front
doors and turn left, then turn right onto SE First Street. The restaurant is located at 213
SE First Street, in the first building on your left.



Contact Lebzy González,




Mailing List:



Facebook group:



Hyatt Regency Miami
Miami, Florida
November 4-7, 2015

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Science & Technology and Science & Technology Related Sessions