Monday, 28 December 2009

Happy xmas

Hi guys,

This is an informal post, just to wish a great xmas to all my readers and friends. In terms of translation I've come across quite a few interesting leads to write stories on, and I plan to get round to them soon.

In any case, let me wish you a happy and healthy xmas and new year.


Sunday, 27 September 2009

Academic Degree Certificate

There have been a tonne of academic degrees to translate recently. Over the past few weeks, most of my major clients have sent me at least one of two to translate.

Actually they are pretty easy to do once there's a template, and I'm thinking I could write a small software programme to actually translate them for me. So it would say "enter the date of birth stated on the certifiate", "enter the name of the university" and so on, then could produce a translated document based on that. There are quite a few different factors to take into account but it's definately doable. The question is whether the amount of time used in the programming would be made up with the translations.

I find the most time consuming things are translating the names of the universities (because I always have to check the offiical english name), and checking the president of the university who signs the certificate.

I guess I would just write something small to do it in something like access or maybe VBA or something like that? I could even programme it to produce my invoices etc.

Sounds like an interesting project when I've got some free time.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Timing of Translations

There is some part of my body that makes me work slower the further I am away from a deadline or the more comfortable I am.

A job that really should have been an hour took two hours for the first section, and then as it was getting late, 20 minutes for the rest. I find I actually work best when it's getting late and I've got some kind of primal urge to do the job quickly and get home. I also find that the quality seems to be best at that time of night. During the day on the other hand, I find that I keep getting distracted and wanting to watch Youtube videos and so on. It means that sometimes when proof-reading, I notice that I had missed a whole paragraph or line.

This is a pretty well known phenomena I guess. I remember that my old manager at a bank I used to work for told me to always book meetings for 430 or later, because everyone will go there and get straight down to business, with no time wasting. It works every time!

I'm sure there's a science to work timing that could be extremely helpful.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Translation Tools - Wenlin Computer Dictionary

The device I use the most when translating is probably Wenlin. It's basically a piece of software that works like a dictionary. There are some very strong advantages to Wenlin that make it ideal for translation, and for learning of Chinese. It's made as a general dictionary so it doens't help me translating technical Chinese but it's really good for more general documents.


You can search buy radical, number of strokes, pinyin, and character frequency. Another really useful feature is being able to look for a character by clicking on components and selecting "show characters containing this component". So for example you can get a list of all the characters containing "Cloud" by clicking on "cloud". It's really useful if you know part of a character but not the entire thing.


Some of the words are just wrong. It has "to censor" translated wongly as "to supervise" for exmaple in my version. There is also a serious lack of even very slightly technical terms, although it does OK with older Chinese.

Overall, it's a really great thing to have for anyone, but it's not cheap. The cost seems to vary depending on the reseller, but in Beijing I saw it for more than 1,000RMB. You can visit the website to read up no it. You can check out the details on their website:

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Paper Dictionary Review Part 2

Another resource that I frequently use is:

中山 汉语医学词典 Yatsen Chinese-English Medical Dictionary published by 外语教学与研究出版社 in Beijing.

As a technical Chinese to English translator, I definitely need a medical dictionary. As far as I'm aware this is the only one still currently in print. By the way, if you're new to the area be aware! There are millions of English -Chinese dictionaries, but only a handful of Chinese - English. If you buy one on the internet always remember that YOUR mother tonge should be the second word. So I'm a native English speaker, translate into English, and thus use Chinese - English dictionaries. An English to Chinese translator would use English - Chinese.

The dictionary is sorted in order of pinyin. However, the pinyin of the characters isn't written. This can be a pain if you are looking for a word and open to a page where you don't know the pinyin for the first character you see. I think that this shows they obviously made the dictionary more for Chinese native speakers, as even for extremely skilled translators, it's a bit of a pain not to have the pinyin equivalents for the terms. It has the English phonetic pronunciation.


A clear and easy to read style with a pretty large font. There seems to be a pretty good range of words, and several terms that I've looked for have been in there. However, it's far from perfect and I've found some terms that I've never been able to confirm elsewhere.


No pinyin as I said above. It does have pinyin for the headings, but not for the actual terms. If they're needed for the headings then surely they're needed for the terms, and vice versa? Poor quality paper means it's easy to rip and spilled drinks make the pages totally unusable. Considering that the book is for people writing INTO English there is very little English. All the terms like "see page 8" are written entirely in Chinese, as are the foreward, and instructions for use etc. It's not a huge problem, but it would be helpful.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Translation Resources - Classified Encylopedic Dictionary

From time to time, I plan to talk abut some of the paper resources I use for my translation.

One of the paper dictionaries I use most is a Taiwanese resource "Chinese-English Classified Encyclopedic Dictionary". It's published by "万人出版社" which is a Taiwanese publishing house.

This dictionary is divided into 20 sections, each of which is divided into many other sections (e.g Section 13 = science, part 1 = philosophy etc).


It has a really useful section on Industry which is perfect for scientific or technical Chinese to English translations. In particular, I often use part 5 of the industry section "Power" as I frequently translate power related things, other useful parts include Petroleum, Chemicals, and Metallurgy.


Each section only has 200 terms at most, so it is very unlikely that my exact term will be there. I can think of only one occasion where it has had the exact term I was looking for, from at least 100 uses. Another disadvantage is the complete lack of any kind of pinyin or bopomofo index, so you have to find terms by stroke order which I suspect most non-native Chinese speakers find difficult.


It makes a good place to start, and can come in useful for a whole range of translation subjects. So it's certainly worth tracking down. However, there is no ISBN number and it was last published in 1996 so it is very hard to find. My copy cost 700NTD (which is around 10GBP or so).

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Hilarious Translations

I came across a translation that was obviously done by a non-native English speaker. These are usually a good source for laughs, and this was no exception. I wish I could post the whole thing but I don't want to break any confidentiality agreements with my clients.

Some funny things I've come across recently are:

a new staff member who uses the English name 'Dopey' - because he's her favorite dwarf!
A kind of candy with a caption "guaranteed oral pleasure"
"because of the economic crisis" translated as "because of MY economic crisis"
an angry text message which wanted to say "pay your rent!" but said in "to quick of payment for rent agreements pleases"

I could list more but it's almost too easy.

My next posts are going to be more technical and hopefully more instructional, as I'm going to try to turn this blog to a learning resource. So stay tuned!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Parameters and Coefficients

I've discovered that there is one Chinese word which can mean in English - parameters and in other cases coefficients.

The Chinese word is 系数 (xi shu). It's extremely common in the kind of texts I work with. Particularly in physics or electronics and computing stuff.

You'll find a lot of websites with translations either way: - uses parameter系数
- uses coefficient

So that leaves the translator with the problem of figuring out which is which from the context.

My first impression is that the English words are basically the same, but a dictionary search reveals:

Parameter (according to Princeton Dictionary)
  • a constant in the equation of a curve that can be varied to yield a family of similar curves
  • any factor that defines a system and determines (or limits) its performance
  • argument: (computer science) a reference or value that is passed to a function, procedure, subroutine, command, or program
  • a quantity (such as the mean or variance) that characterizes a statistical population and that can be estimated by calculations from sample data
Coefficient (according to the same source)

a constant number that serves as a measure of some property or characteristic

So obviously in computing, it is going to be parameter.

But both definitions are possible in Physics or maths stuff.

Sometimes there seems no way to be 100% sure. It's just a matter of educated guesses, dertermining things from context, and so on.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Exc ess Data

I just completed a translation where in the source text, they had specified "taken into the stomach by the mouth". I originally translated it as "taken orally", but then I started wondering why they had specified "into the stomach".

So then I went backwards and forwards translating it as "taken orally into the stomach", "taken into the stomach" and so on. I wish I could have got in touch with the writer of the source text, but I couldn't.

In the end I decided to translate as "taken into the stomach orally".

I'm sure there is a lot that can be learned from that kind of problem. I guess if your source text is odd, then even the best translation will be odd.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Patent Translation

Patent translation is an area that you could write millions of articles on. I'm currently working on a pretty technical patent, and it's making me think about the differences in format between the various nations.

Is there any reason why all patents in the world, couldn't follow a particular standard (section 1 = prior art, section 2 = content etc). It's so frustrating that the patents from the various Chinese speaking regions have different formats. So I can't just run it through my translation memory to save a bit of time.

On the other hand, the lack of any logical interaction gives me a way to show my skills to the client.

Sunday, 28 June 2009


I was recently sent a "proof-reading" job. It was clearly translated by a terrible non-native English speaker translator, and was more or less unusable.

It's a scam that a lot of companies use. They hire a cheap translator to do the Chinese to English translation, and then expect the proofreader to "tidy it up" and make it sound right.

I've got a really hard line on those, where I simply refuse to do them.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Olifant Software

I used a new type of software for the first time today. It's called Olifant software, and is available via free download. It's pretty nice. It lets you look in a TMX file, and change the data and tags etc. It's a small file and seems not to be as buggy as the bigger versions are.

I personally like to use small files, as they tend not to break down so much, and work a lot quicker. The menus are clear and clean, and because of the limited options its easy to use. I just figured it out right away without reading the manual at all! So if you need to edit TMX files, Olifant is worth a look.

You can read more about it here:

Friday, 19 June 2009

Friday Evening

I get a good portion of my jobs on Friday evenings. I'm inclined to think it's a conspiracy of some kind, but then again I guess a lot of agents just work a bit harder on Fridays to clear their desks so they've got a nice easy morning on Monday.

I just opened my email and had three free samples, two proof-reading jobs, and a small translation all to be done before Monday!

That's my weekend sorted!!!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Job Lengths

I've never done a full length book translation before, but it's something I'd really like to do. I figure that the pay would actually work out lower, but the schedule would be much more manageable. My longest ever single job was about 3 weeks. My jobs consist of about 50% minimum charge certificates and stuff, and the rest is shorter stuff. I find they tend to be about 1-4 pages.

I wonder if it's better to focus more on the shorter jobs, or to try and get hold of more longer term jobs.

In an ideal world, I think 10 minimum charge jobs per week, with one longer job or so per month would be perfect!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Working Long Hours

Working really long hours takes a lot of discipline. While staying awake for so long isn't impossible, it is difficult to ensure high quality for really tight deadlines. In the past I've had to work for a full 20 hours before taking a rest.

I've got a few suggestions that might help people manage to work such long hours.

1. Sit comfortably.
This is obvious and there are lots of great videos on youtube and other websites to help. After working for a few hours it's tempting to squirm around in my chair, but I force myself to keep optimal posture. This seems to work, because I don't seem to get any back problems.

2. Eat heathily.
Don't go drinking sugary drinks to try to get through the night, it's better to keep taking vegetables and whole grains throughout the night. Although sugar gives a quick burst, it will dump you down much quicker after an hour or so. I like to quickly steam some broccoli or something like that. It takes literally 9 minutes, and I can eat and type at the same time.

3. Keep cool.
In a hot country, you may find that the room temperature seems to go up as your deadline approaches. I find that I like to keep the room at a slightly chilly temperature of around 22 - 24 to keep me going through the entire night.

4. Take frequent short breaks.
I usually take a few seconds after every sentence, and maybe stand up after every paragraph for around a minute. After about thirty minutes I go for a quick walk or do something like that for five minutes. I find that if I don't do that, my quality goes down and down as I continue to translate.

5. Don't work long hours!
Obviously the best solution is to plan more reasonable deadlines so you don't have to go through all that in the first place. I find I end up doing a long shift usually if another translator suddenly pulls out without notice, or there's a problem with proof-reading or something.

Those are some suggestions!
Take care,