Corpus analysis techniques

As I mentioned in a blog earlier this year, one of my projects for 2016 is to develop my skill set in corpus analysis, intending to use this to develop my translation skills and also to build terminology bases and to identify the grammatical characteristics of the language used in my specialist areas.

In this blog I want to go into more detail about different analyses that can be performed using corpus tools and what they can show us. For this post I used a corpus that I built for a recent translation assignment, using the WebBootCat feature, which I described in a previous post.

Today I will introduce another corpus analysis tool, AntConc, developed by Laurence Anthony. It is open source and can be freely downloaded, along with other related tools.

Building the corpus

As I explained in my earlier post, I used the WebBootCat function to create this ad hoc corpus. To do this you need to access SketchEngine. This is the process I use:

  • Select seed words using terms/words that are used in the target subject area (for example, in this case: subsidies, FIT, premiums, installed, capacity, margin, power, etc.).
  • WebBootCat trawls the internet and produces a list of different URLs that match the search criteria.
  • Check the data that came through to remove any sources that may not be reliable.

If you do not have a subscription to SketchEngine, you can create your own corpus using documents you have selected yourself. To use these in AntConc, they must all be in text file (.txt) format in UTF8 (check out the AntFile Converter to convert).

Below are the basic types of analysis that you can perform using AntConc (and corpus tools in general). For more information on how to use these features in the AntConc tool, please refer to Laurence Anthony’s website, where there are a number of tutorials available.

Word lists

It produces a list of all the words included in the corpus, ordered by frequency. While this can be useful, often it is used as a basis for other analyses. You will find when you create word lists that prepositions and articles often come at the top of the list before any nouns, adjectives and verbs.

Keyword lists

Here you have to load a word list of your choice (in this case the British National Corpus word list). This function then creates a list of keywords that are comparatively more frequent in the corpus being analysed. Another example of where this might be useful is if you want to compare vocabulary used in two different genres, or different registers within a genre.

In my case, I created an adhoc corpus from seed words, so there is some bias to these words. However, I was looking for the usage of these specific terms for the translation I was doing, so it is not a problem. However, it is worth being aware of this in case you are interested in building a corpus for other research purposes.

As you can see, some of the seed words are up in the most comparatively frequent words, but there are also other words that are unusually frequent in the corpus, which can give us insight into the use of vocabulary in a certain area, and can give indications of collocations and clusters to look at.

Collocations, clusters and N-grams

N-grams/Clusters

N-grams demonstrate the frequency of two-, three- or four-word clusters in a text. This can help to identify possible multiword expressions (MWE), as well as common grammatical formations. In translation, for example, if you are looking for a possible term in a target language, but you are not necessarily sure of the correct translation, this might be a good place to look. It can also help you to identify grammatical patterns. Contrary to collocations, n-grams are shown without context, but give frequency as a number (see second column below). If you have been looking for suitable terms, once you identify a possible term you may want to then use the collocation function to look at it in context.

Collocations

This feature looks at usage of a specific word in context, and can be used to identify common collocations of words, either to identify multiword elements or also grammatical collocations such as verb-noun collocations, or adjective-noun collocations, verb-preposition collocations, etc.

Example of how these analyses work

For the purposes of this post I am going to look at the use of the word ‘margin’. When you search for collocations, you can search aligning to the right or the left, up to three places each side. With a noun such as ‘margin’, if you are looking for common noun collocations, it is likely a good idea to search left – if you want to see verb-use patterns, then search right.

Margin – 481 hits

  • Common collocations

Capacity margin

Definition (The capacity margin is difference between capacity and peak load, expressed as a percentage of capacity (instead of peak load).

This was a term that formed part of the seed words for compiling the glossary, but the frequency and also spread of its use added to its viability. A number of variations of this term came up, but also different terms, such as:

Reserve margin

Definition (The reserve margin is the difference between generating capacity and peak load expressed as a percentage of peak load).

As you can see, the collocation tool allows you to not only identify and see the context in which certain phrases/terms are used, but also potentially identify other terms, and determine whether these terms are used in specific companies, or specific contexts. I had not used the term ‘reserve margin’ in my seed words, as it was not a term that had come up in my translation. However, it did come up in the corpus. When I first saw this term I was unsure if it was a synonym of capacity margin, given the context in which I found both terms used. However, from further research I found out that they are two ways of referring to the same thing, but expressed using different criteria (as can be seen in the definitions).

Another use of the collocation tool is to see which verbs are commonly used with the terms you are searching for – as you can see in the screenshot, the verbs ‘provide’, ‘meet’ and ‘retain’ seem to be common collocations with the term ‘capacity margin’. This can be useful when translating as the verb used in the source language does not always directly correspond with the use in the target language. This tool can also be used to see typical tenses used in certain contexts, which is another area in which there are often differences between source and target texts.

Concordance plotter

Concordance plotters show where in the corpus terms appear. I decided to contrast the use of ‘reserve margin’ with ‘capacity margin’. This works better if each file is separate as you can see in which files the term appears, but even so it will give you an idea if a term is specific to one file or is used generally.

“Reserve margin”

“Capacity margin”

I hope this brief introduction to different analytical features will have given you some insight into the different ways in which corpus tools can help you in your translations and other language work.

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Are you paying attention?

distracted

The world today is full of constant distractions, constantly tempting us to flit from one activity to another without a second’s thought. How does this affect our learning, its effectiveness and our productivity?

Claire broached the subject in her blog ‘The Distraction Trap’ last year with some handy tips to reduce distractions in our work. In this blog I want to focus more specifically on learning, sharing my experiences from the ‘Learning how to learn’ course I took in January.

I started the course as I felt that I had become increasingly scatty and forgetful as 2015 drew to a close, so this year I decided to make a conscious effort to reduce distractions and improve my learning.

The concept of ‘Deep Work’

As part of the background reading for the course, I read ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport, which looks at the value of uninterrupted, focused concentration on our work and study.

A state of constant distraction in which multiple things are going on in your mind at once puts a huge strain on your working memory. This means that you will be unable to effectively retain information, or concentrate on one task properly to innovate or solve problems. As regards memory, this implies that you may use the information once but will not retain it for later use. You may say that this doesn’t matter, you have Google, but I believe that this negatively affects your productivity and also means that you are likely to advance slower than colleagues who are capable of working deeply (applying focused concentration to single tasks or problems). Being able to concentrate and to fully explore ideas, to learn and apply new knowledge acquired (relatively!) quickly through effective working is desirable in all areas of life.

How does this relate to translators and interpreters?

I believe this concept is key to both our work and learning. Translation and interpreting are professions in which you need to be able to grasp new concepts quickly, while honing your language skills. Learning how to learn and to acquire periods of undistracted focus in your day will help you to improve your translation speed (both through lack of distraction and heightened expertise), will improve the accuracy and fluidity of your translations and/or interpretations and help you to gain specialist knowledge more efficiently.

Are you really learning?

I had been increasingly finding myself in the situation at work that I knew I had come across a term or concept before but I was unable to recall its translation or meaning. I recognise that at times this is inevitable, but it should not be the norm. Here are some tips that may help you to recall past information better.

Just reading and rereading doesn’t work

As Claire mentioned in her article – are you actually reading or are you scanning? Focused reading is the first step to remembering information.

Recall is in fact one of the simplest ways to properly remember some information – just think about if you tell someone about what you have learned in comparison with if you don’t. The former stays with you much longer. This works as it strengthens the links used to retrieve the memory, reinforcing the neural pathway to this memory.

Spaced repetition (reviewing new information at spaced intervals over time) is another example which works on the same principle.

Anything which requires that you manipulate the information will help you to remember it, such as answering questions on the subject or manipulating the information to adapt it to something practical (a blog post, for instance). These sorts of activities will help your brain to analyse the information, which promotes chunking, or the collation of various elements of information into one, easy to handle piece.

Why is chunking important?

  • Means you have understood
  • Takes less effort for the brain to use
  • Can help to link different aspects of information from different areas

NOTE: the more ‘real’ learning you do, the quicker you will understand texts and be able to link previous work to what you are doing now. This highlights the importance of specialising.

Do you suffer from einstellung?

The brain applies two modes when thinking: focused and diffuse, which it switches between throughout the day. Focused thinking is when you are concentrating on a specific problem and tackling it directly. Diffuse thinking is when your mind wanders, such as when you go for a walk, or look out of a train window. Both of these modes are important for advancing your learning and innovation.

Einstellung describes when our brain gets stuck on a loop, which does not retrieve the correct answer, but our focused mind does not allow us to conjure up a different solution. The course taught us about the importance of intertwining the two modes of thinking.

Focused mode is important for a specific task with specific goals, but diffuse mode allows you to open your mind up to other possibilities. Also, in diffuse mode your brain continues to process ideas in the background while your mind wanders onto other topics. This is why if you skip an exam question you can often tackle it better when you come back to it later, or that word you were searching for so desperately comes to you in the middle of the night.

Beat procrastination!

I will only mention this briefly, as Claire wrote an interesting article about time management last year for those interested in procrastination-beating techniques. I will mention however that the course emphasised the importance of not only breaking down daunting tasks into smaller chunks but also focusing on the process, rather than the product, of the task. This means focus on doing a little bit frequently (‘I will do half an hour on …’) rather than ‘I will finish the blog post today’. This way you will reduce the amount of willpower required to embark on the task, without the added stress of feeling that you have to complete it right away for it to be worthwhile.

So, are you concentrating?

To conclude, we live in an attention-deprived era, which often promotes multi-tasking as a bonus. However, it severely affects productivity and your ability to learn. Since completing the course I have applied many of the techniques mentioned by Claire, and I already feel much more focused and productive. Just being aware of your triggers can be a great start to a new, focused you.

What do you think? Do you think multi-tasking is detrimental to your work-life? I would love to hear your thoughts on how you learn best, any tips you may have.

 

 

 

 

 

Some thoughts on networking events and using an ‘elevator pitch’

By Claire Harmer

Last week I attended an LRG networking event held in central London. The committee has held similar events before but this one had a special focus: creating an elevator pitch. Nathalie Reis, the LRG’s publicity officer, hosted the event and spoke about her experience of using an elevator pitch at various networking events (more details below). Working in groups, we looked at the different elements that should be included in the pitch, which sparked some very interesting conversations! I wanted to share some of the things we talked about and it would be great to hear your thoughts on what you find works well (or not so well!) when meeting new people at a networking event.

I was interested in attending the LRG event as I’d been in several situations before where I felt like an elevator pitch would work really well, such as at trade fairs, networking events, or business gatherings, but I’d never had anything rehearsed to say. I thought that being able to introduce myself in a concise, confident way would be a good skill to have, and that having something already prepared would help me to do just that.

A few things to think about when putting together an elevator pitch:

  • Focus on what will interest your potential client: language combinations, areas of expertise, services offered, etc.
  • Touch on the problems faced by your potential client and explain how what you are offering would help them to solve these problems. The aim of this is to pique their interest so they will ask you more questions afterwards.
  • Include something memorable about yourself. It is likely that the person you are speaking to will meet lots of new people that day (particularly if they are on a stand at a trade fair) so having something memorable in your pitch will make you stand out.

One of the discussions that took place at the LRG event revolved around how far you should go to educate a potential client. The verdict was that if you were meeting them for the first time it was best to answer their questions politely and try to inform them about the profession. Most of us had experienced people saying things like ‘oh, so do you work in a hospital/booth/court room’ at some point in our careers, i.e. mixing up translators and interpreters. With this issue in mind, I added the fact that I help companies with their ‘written documents’ into my elevator pitch. Here is the one I came up with at the event… it’s a work-in-progress!

Hi, my name is Claire and I am a London-based translator specialising in the medical, pharmaceutical and packaging sectors. I work from French and Spanish into English (which is my native language) and work with companies from French and Spanish-speaking countries to transform their written documents into idiomatic, fluent English. By doing this, I help these companies to increase their chances of success in English-speaking countries such as the UK and the US.

We also discussed how to deal with comments like ‘some people in our office speak English, so they take care of the translations’. The consensus was mixed in my group; some stressed that we should inform them of the dangers of this producing an inaccurate translation (particularly when carried out by non-native speakers of the target language!). While myself and a few others thought that if they didn’t know why this would look and sound unprofessional, they probably weren’t the best people to do business with. A few of us mentioned that the ITI translation guide for buyers: ‘Getting it right’ would be useful here, but we weren’t sure when giving it out would be appropriate. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

 

I’ve compiled a list of the general networking events and groups which were mentioned at the LRG event, in case any readers are interested:

Apparently this is ‘the most successful business networking referral organisation in the world’! Members are part of a ‘word of mouth’ programme whereby they can develop relationships with other professionals. They have branches or ‘chapters’, as they call them, all over the world, with each ‘chapter’ allowing just one representative from each trade or professional to join the group, so there is no competition between members. It also means that there is a wide variety of professionals at their events and not 10 accountants at one meeting, for example! The downside is the expense attached (around £400 yearly subscription fee plus registration costs) and it’s a fairly hefty time commitment – most chapters meet on a weekly basis and attendance is mandatory.

  • Chambers of Commerce

www.ccfgb.co.uk (as an example, this is the French Chamber of Great Britain)

People at the LRG event seemed to have varying reviews of COC events. The main point that came up was that most of the other individuals attending the events were in finance, so it wasn’t great for those wishing to network with people from a variety of trades. On the other hand, perhaps it would be a great networking opportunity for financial translators!

London-based networking group, although there are lots of groups like this out there, particularly in and around big cities. Any individual/company can attend two events as a non-member before deciding whether or not to join. The events are fairly low-cost (around £25 for London events) and unstructured, i.e. they don’t follow a fixed agenda, unlike the BNI events. I’m planning on going to one of their events next week. I’ve not been before so I’ll let you know how it goes…. watch this space!

  • Speed networking

Trade fairs and exhibitions often run speed networking sessions alongside them. I recently found out that www.meetup.com has groups specifically for speed networking, but I haven’t managed to get to an event just yet. You often only get 60 seconds to explain your business and introduce yourself; a perfect opportunity for trying out your elevator pitch! Speed networking means that you’ll meet lots of people in a short space of time, and the cost of these events is generally low. Some people argue that 60 seconds isn’t enough time to build a relationship with a potential client, but since people tend to hand their business cards out to each person they meet during the event, they can always contact you later.

If you’ve been to any of these, or any other networking events for that matter, what did you think of them? It would be great to get your feedback!

R73C0282

The LRG event I attended, held at the Devereux pub in London.

Courtesy of Nada Photography

Using corpora in translation

by Sandra Young

With the beginning of a new year come new ideas, challenges and resolutions. For the first blog of 2016 I wanted to invite you to explore what I consider to be an invaluable tool for our work as translators, particularly when working in technical fields with very specific terminology. One of my professional resolutions for the year is to succeed in fully harnessing the benefits of corpora for my work.

Corpus: “A collection of written or spoken material in machine-readable form, assembled for the purpose of linguistic research.” (Oxford English Dictionary)

I first came across corpora in a professional sense when working on a dictionary project with the Oxford University Press (OUP). The examples for each sense (the different meanings of a single word in specific contexts) in the dictionary entries (the collection of these senses under one headword) had been extracted from a European and Brazilian Portuguese corpus, purpose-created by the OUP. To search this corpus the translation team had access to an online corpus building and mining tool called Sketch Engine.  We used this tool to find entry words and phrases in context, search for additional or more appropriate examples for senses of words and suggest further meanings, which was essential to producing appropriate translations. Words without context have no meaning at all, any choices of translation without this would be arbitrary.

On the target language side, we could also use the British National Corpus (BNC) to search for examples of our suggested translations in context and to cross-check against contexts and usage in the original language, in this case Portuguese. This made us confident that our choice of translation was fit for purpose.

Throughout the two-year dictionary project I found working with corpora not only useful, but fascinating. With very little effort you can produce lists of in-context words or collocations that appear in your conglomeration of text (which is about 100 million words in the case of the BNC), facilitating the quick analysis of information. For the dictionary project I used corpora to check the usage of specific words in context to be able to make informed decisions on the correct translation of said words, their most common grammatical forms and common collocations; however corpora can be used for many other purposes too.

When the dictionary project drew to a close, I continued to dabble with corpora in my work, but for some time I failed to follow a clear path. I started a MOOC course on Corpus Linguistics but, as with many free courses, I found it difficult to juggle both work and study and work won out. This course, run by Lancaster University, is of particular use to researchers, so there are elements that may not be directly applicable to our day-to-day work as translators.

However, last year at the MedTranslate Conference in Freiburg, I attended Anne Murray’s talk on corpus building and mining. In the talk, Anne took us through the steps to building our own corpora within Sketch Engine. It is a subscription-based tool costing £78/year, with a discount for MET members. The tool allows you to search existing official corpora, from Arabic to Yoruba, as well as building your own corpora up to a total capacity of one million words.

There are two main ways to build your own corpora within Sketch Engine. The first is WebBootCat, in which you input specific search terms that the program uses to dredge the internet for matching websites and files. The other option is to upload specific documents you have found (and vetted for reliability) and compile a corpus from them. The table below outlines the main tendencies of each.

WebBootCat File-based corpus
Quick to build Slow to build
Less reliable content More reliable content
Reliant on usage of appropriate and thorough search criteria Based on the assumption that with hand-picked documents you will have had more time to refine the search criteria and collate a sound base of information

As WebBootCat automatically dredges the internet, you gain quick access to a lot of information but you have less control over the content, so it can be assumed to be less reliable on the whole, as it is more difficult to check the quality of the information. You can vet the websites included in the final corpus to exclude any outliers, but this will not ensure same the quality as hand-picked material.

If you work from a file-based corpus, it will be considerably more time-consuming as you will have to search for and check each and every document for reliability and appropriateness before compiling (e.g. native author, correct spelling variation if required, correct subject matter and register). However, once you have built the corpus, you can be confident that the information within it is reliable.

Despite this, with Sketch Engine you should always be able to go back to the original text of each entry, which can help you to make a judgement on the reliability of the results produced whether using WebBootCat or your own file-based corpus. Also, as you can see, both styles offer viable options for different situations. Often we do not have the time to produce a specific, well-researched corpus for every single job we have.

How do I use corpora now?

I usually use corpora to analyse the usage of terms in the target language text, for correct translations of unfamiliar terms. Corpora are also very useful for familiarising yourself with a specific style of writing, or with common collocations in a specific subject area. In case you miss these on our twitter feed, here are some other blogs on corpora that you may find useful:

https://karenrueckert.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/part-5-corpora-and-parallel-texts/

http://jaltranslation.com/2014/04/21/using-corpora-in-your-translation-work/

I often use WebBootCat for efficiency, but recently I had 35 thousand words of pharmaceutical regulatory reports to translate. It was a sizeable job, so I decided to compile my own file-based corpus on this subject. Given the subject matter, it was relatively easy to find official, reliable documents as the FDA publishes a great deal of food and drug product guidance, compliance and regulatory information. I selected documents and compiled a corpus in Sketch Engine.

As a result of the corpus, I was confident in my choice of vocabulary as I could see clear evidence of how terminology and collocations were used in verifiable English texts, and I could see how sentences were structured around these terms to mimic the style of the official texts. Also, if the client were ever to query my use of certain terms, I would be able use results from the corpus to provide evidence to support my choices.

There are many other corpus building and analysis tools out there. I use Sketch Engine for its ease of use (you can upload documents in a variety of formats, the interface is very user-friendly, I already knew how to use the tool, etc.), but you do have to pay for it. In a later post I will go into detail about AntConc, Laurence Anthony’s free corpus tool. This is an incredibly powerful and useful tool which I aim to master this year and further develop my corpus techniques. I attended his workshop at the MET Conference in Coimbra at the end of last year and in addition to the corpus analysis tool there are a number of other interesting tools he has developed that may be of use to translators. For those of you who are interested, the corpus linguistics course by FutureLearn uses AntConc, so you could learn to use the tool that way.

Do you use corpora? If so, what do you use them for? What are the advantages and disadvantages of corpora?

Thanks for reading and happy 2016! I wish you all a great year.

 

 

Speech, Interpreting and the Brain

by Sandra Young

On Friday and Saturday I attended the ITI Medical and Pharmaceutical Network’s most recent workshop on the neurological processes involved in speech. Over the two days we heard from four researchers, Professor Richard Wise, Dr Anne Symonds and Professor Paul Matthews from Imperial College London and Professor Sophie Scott from University College London.

Today I want to share with you some of what I learnt from these talks, as well as thinking about these processes in the context of simultaneous interpreting.

How did we evolve speech?

Before looking at anything else, it is helpful to understand why we are physically capable of speaking. If we hadn’t evolved in the way that we did, we wouldn’t have the physical components necessary to make speech happen. Richard Wise brought the example of the Turkana boy to our attention. The boy is from approximately 1.5 million years ago, but his skeleton was found nearly intact. Using clues from his skeleton experts decided that he couldn’t have been capable of speech.

The reason for this is that he doesn’t have an expanded thoracic canal (see the image below). We need this so that complex neural structures can flow down our vertebrae to allow for the fine control of our intercostal muscles, which run along our ribcage. This allows us to control airflow in such a way to permit speech. Otherwise we would only be able to say one…word…at…a…time.

thoracic spinal canal

 

Fine control of our intercostal muscles is central to our ability to speak. This would not be possible if we were not bipedal. Standing up straight released our intercostal muscles from the supporting functions required during four-legged movement, allowing them to develop this fine control. Without these two features, we would not have been able to free these muscles to use in speech, or develop the increased innervation which allows us to control the flow of air to be able to speak fluidly, slowly releasing the air from our lungs. Our intercostal muscles have the same level of fine motor control as our hands, so it’s some pretty impressive stuff.

Add to this the use of our larynx (voice box), vocal cords and the motor skills of the tongue, you have speech! An interesting article about the evolution of speech can be found here. Also check out these links if you are interested in seeing our larynx and tongue in action.

 

Speech perception, production and semantics

Now we have looked, albeit briefly, at how we evolved the power of speech, we can take a look at what happens in our brain when we are listening to and producing speech. Many discoveries regarding language localisation – sites in the brain directly related to speech perception and production, were made in the 1860s and 70s. It was during this period that the Wernicke-Broca pathway was discovered.

brocas etc

Wernicke’s area is a part of the brain directly related speech perception, whereas Broca’s area is related to speech production. This McGill page goes into more detail about these two areas and how they were discovered. Lichtheim later proposed the theory of a concept area, in which semantic analysis would take place, so damage to the “connections” between this and the Broca’s or Wernicke’s areas would lead to different types of aphasia.

From here we start to think about the laterality of language – which side of the brain is involved in which activity. It would appear that:

  • The left hemisphere is generally used for semantics – understanding what is being said
  • The right hemisphere is more involved in processing other information relating to that speech – pitch, mood, emotion, etc.

Therefore, if someone flattens their speech then it is the right brain that will usually react to this change. This laterality is not found in 100% of people, but around 90% of right-handed people, and around 70% of left-handed people.

atl hub

 

The semantics system is found in the anterior temporal lobe regions (highlighted in pink above), and is strongly left lateralised in general (nearly always has strong activation in the left, rather than the right, hemisphere). What I found particularly interesting about this is when you are listening to someone else, both the left (semantics) and right (other information) are activated, but when you speak these areas are depressed, or switched off. The implication of this is that you don’t need to process what you are saying – you have planned this before you say it. However, I believe that in the context of interpreting these activation sites may alter.

The Brain and Interpreting

Obviously I don’t have any of the answers, but the talks over the weekend really made me think about some of the issues and peculiarities of how brain activity might differ when performing simultaneous interpreting.

There are just a couple of things I would like to highlight.

Laterality

I would be interested to see if left- and right-handedness affect brain activation during simultaneous interpreting, and also if this is linked to ear preference for headphone use.

Also, it would be interesting to look at the differences in brain activation during interpretation:

  1. when interpreting to the interpreter’s A language in comparison to the B language, to see if there are different activation levels for semantics, or in the motor areas of the brain, or
  2. the differences between monolingual brains and bilingual brains and those of professional interpreters.

Semantics system

Learning that the semantics system is usually suppressed when we speak was a fascinating discovery. When performing simultaneous interpreting then we are simultaneously listening and speaking. What’s more, we are listening to the original, producing the translation and monitoring our production of the translation.

Therefore it would seem that simultaneous interpreters’ brains may be able to cancel the suppression of parts of the brain, or perhaps even activate different parts of the brain during this task.

I found a study by Green et al, back in 1990, looking at the lateralisation differences between monolinguals, (matched) bilingual controls and professional interpreters. They gave the groups shadowing, paraphrasing (monolingual) and interpreting (bilingual and professional interpreters) tasks, using finger tapping as a measurement for interference (comparison with a baseline performing no verbal task).

If you want to read more about the study, please follow this link. Here were the general conclusions:

  • In monolinguals the LH interference was greatest.
  • Monolinguals were LH lateralised for paraphrasing, whereas both bilinguals and interpreters were bilateral for interpreting and LH for shadowing.
  • There was an absence of significant differences between bilinguals and professional interpreters. This means that the brain activity is associated specifically with the task of interpretation, not that the changes occur as a result of experience in the practice of interpretation.
  • Tapping disruption was also much greater in paraphrasing/interpreting than in shadowing as a result of higher levels of processing – phonemes vs semantic.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject, so please comment below. Throughout the week I will try to find further studies to share to try to build a more complete picture about what is going on in our brains when we perform the task of interpreting.

On another note, Professor Sarah Scott said she would be fascinated to do a study on simultaneous interpreters, so if anyone is interested, maybe you could contribute to research in the field.

 

 

 

 

ITI Medical and Pharmaceutical Network workshop on Diabetes

 

By Sandra Young

This May I attended my second ITI Mednet workshop, this time on the subject of diabetes. For the morning sessions, the group had invited an expert in the field, Dr Shanti Vijaraghavan, a Consultant Physician specialising in this area. The first half of the day consisted of talks in which she outlined the management and complications of the disease, highlighting differences between type I and II diabetes.

The talks allowed me to consolidate my knowledge on the subject of diabetes and its complications, assimilate new terminology and discuss the appropriateness of certain terms. Here are some examples of what I took away with me:

Diabetes and its complications

  • Good blood glucose control is essential for a person with diabetes’ health and to minimise complications. However, a person living with diabetes will develop complications such as neuropathies and retinopathies after living with the disease for a number of years, despite good blood glucose control.
  • Hypoglycaemic awareness fades as a result of damage to the sympathetic nervous system, meaning that symptoms (the warning signs of hypoglycaemia) disappear with time.

Terminology

  • Charcot joint – complete lack of sensation in the joint, which leads people to injure themselves without realising. This eventually results in a disfigured joint.
  • Claudication – pain caused by too little blood flow, usually brought on by exercise.
  • Hyperosmolar Hyperglycaemic State (HHS) – Incredibly high blood sugar which results in “sludgy” blood.
  • Secretagogue – a substance that stimulates secretion, also a term used for insulin-releasing pills.

Appropriateness of terms – what do the experts really say?

  • Brittle diabetes – to describe someone with a type of severe diabetes characterised by blood sugar levels that are difficult to control.
  • Fundus – the correct terminology for the “back of eye” exam.

A morning of absorbing information was perfectly paired with an afternoon of working in language pair groups on a diabetes-related text. In my opinion, this combination is central to the success of the Mednet workshops and constitutes a fertile ground for learning.

The text dealt with complications of diabetes and its association with oxidative stress. It was a very interesting text to work on in a group of translators with varying backgrounds and experience. Our group, the Spanish to English group, was made up of translators who were originally from scientific backgrounds, pure-linguist backgrounds, editing backgrounds and native Spanish translators.

The input from those with a scientific background was invaluable, as they could use their understanding of the subject to decipher the more ambiguous sentences. The text used acronyms and abbreviations in a haphazard and non-standard way, in most cases failing to give a definition in the first instance. An example of this was the use of English acronyms ROS and RNS for reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species, but then the Spanish acronym was used for nitrous oxide (ON).

There was also a spelling mistake in which “citoaldehídos” appeared instead of “cetoaldehídos”. With an understanding of the context it was clear that it referred to something relating to ketones, not cells, but to the untrained eye this could cause a great deal of confusion. This highlights the importance of having a good understanding of the subject you are translating.

As regards editing, I learned that journals do not like the use of bulleted lists as a general rule. There was a section at the beginning of the article which had a problematic list, which contained a number of pairs of opposing functions. I had considered making a bulleted list of these opposing pairs. However,  advice was that a good solution might be to keep the list in the main body of the text, but to separate the pairs by semi-colons.

Being fairly new to medical translation, the group translations at these workshops are particularly useful for me as I get the opportunity to discuss problematic issues of a text with more experienced medical translators, hear their perspectives on these issues and learn from this. The group session this time helped me not only to better understand the concepts within the text, but also to learn more about editing and terminology within medical translations, all of which I can apply to my future work.

I have listed some resources for medical translations that were recommended during the group session:

The Entrepreneurial Linguist and meeting direct clients

By Claire Harmer

In October 2013 I attended a workshop organised by the ITI’s London Regional Group entitled ‘No Pain, No Gain – Active Marketing to Direct Clients’. The workshop was given by Judy Jenner, who was a truly inspirational speaker. Together, Judy and Dagmar Jenner make up Twin Translations, a boutique translation business which operates from Las Vegas and Vienna, where Judy and Dagmar respectively live.

I bought Judy and Dagmar’s book, The Entrepreneurial Linguist, just after attending the workshop in 2013 and have found it to be an invaluable asset since I started my freelance career in 2012. It provided me with encouragement and motivation during the difficult times (both financially and in terms of morale) when I had not long started my business and it was taking a while for things to get off the ground.

In this blog post I would like to share with you how the twins’ book gave me the confidence to go to trade shows and talk to prospective clients – something I would normally have struggled with and shied away from. I learnt a huge amount from The Entrepreneurial Linguist and from the workshop Judy gave, and hope to summarise some of the things I’ve found most useful when marketing my business to direct clients. These tips only cover a few pages of their ‘Business Development’ chapter, and this post focuses on what they call the ‘trade show strategy’, just one of the five client acquisition strategies Judy and Dagmar discuss in their book.

  • Research the vendors

‘It is not very time effective to simply go to the [trade] show, wander around, and approach random booths. It will not make you look very professional, and it is not the best use of your time’[1]. I booked to go to a trade show in Paris earlier this year and unfortunately, due to work commitments, didn’t have any time to research the vendors beforehand. I still went along as I didn’t want the ticket to go to waste (plus I’d already booked my flights and accommodation!), but I didn’t have the confidence to speak to the people I wanted to since I didn’t know enough about the companies. The trip wasn’t wasted, as I still met some interesting people and managed to fit in some sightseeing (!), but I now know just how important it is to make time for research beforehand!

  • ‘Pre-qualified contacts’

For companies you’re hoping to make contact with at the show, try to get in touch with their marketing director or communications manager via LinkedIn before you attend. Judy and Dagmar mention that ‘if you have a contact in common, the person you are trying to reach will be much more inclined to talk to you’, so look out for 2nd connections on LinkedIn! The twins suggest that if you don’t have a contact in common, you can always try emailing the person, but the chances of you getting business this way are much lower.

How do I start the conversation?

  • Judy and Dagmar recommend checking whether the company you’re targeting is speaking at a session during the trade show. Perhaps this is something you can open up a conversation with? If you’ve contacted them beforehand, open up with that as a way of introducing yourself in person and thank them for replying to you if they did so.

Anyone for tea?

  • Another thing the twins suggest is taking vendors with whom you’ve already made appointments a snack or a tea/coffee. It’s a nice gesture when vendors are too busy to leave the stand or haven’t had a break in a while! In her workshop, Judy pointed out that sometimes vendors can’t actually leave the conference centres during their breaks, and since the food served at these centres isn’t always great, they might be craving a healthy snack!

Follow up

  • When I get home, I send a brief email to anyone I spoke to who seemed interested in working with me, to thank them for their time and for speaking to me. The Entrepreneurial Linguist recommends doing this within a week of meeting a vendor, and including something like ‘Follow-up: XYZ tradeshow from XYZ’ in your email subject line.

There’s a lot to be said for ‘learning through experience’. In addition to getting some great tips from The Entrepreneurial Linguist, here are some other things I’ve discovered about the process of meeting prospective clients:

Take notes to jog your memory later

  • I’ve found that it helps to write down anything that stood out about the person you spoke to on the back of their business card. Just after speaking to a vendor I jot down any key things that will help to jog my memory of them in future. They can also be used as talking points in a follow-up email. Examples of things I’ve written on business cards include ‘from Barcelona but works in Paris’ and ‘coming to London in a few weeks – go for coffee?’. I also take note of what their response was and whether they gave me any other contacts (I find that often people say ‘I’m not sure how our company deals with translations but you can get in touch with our marketing director *insert name here*, they should know’). In this case, make sure you ask them for the contact’s direct email.

Attend a show when it’s quiet (well… as quiet as it can be!)

  • I normally aim to go to trade shows in the morning/early afternoon. Exhibitors sometimes rush off a couple of hours ahead of the official closing time, so you may miss them, and a lot of them are busy packing up their stalls if they’re still around.

Business cards

  • When giving someone your card, ask if you can have theirs too, so you can follow up with them when you get home. Although it may feel weird for you the first few times (it certainly did for me!), this is standard practice at this kind of event.

Take a motivational pick-me-up!

  • Consider taking a motivational book with you (or just download something onto your tablet/Kindle if you find books too old-school!) in case you need a little confidence boost during the day. I take The Entrepreneurial Linguist to any trade shows, conferences or general networking events I attend, just in case I need some inspiration during a coffee break or something to keep me focused on the way there.

Finding trade shows

  • In terms of finding trade shows online, I’d recommend easyfairs.com and 10times.com. You can search for shows and conferences by country/date/industry on both of these sites, which is really helpful. Judy and Dagmar recommend signing up for RSS feeds from any local convention centres near you who put on regular networking events or trade shows (here in London I’ve signed up to receive RSS feeds from the Olympia and ExCel centres), as well as checking if your local chamber of commerce has any upcoming events.

To finish off this post, I wanted to share how, in her workshop, Judy mentioned that acquiring direct clients is a lot more time consuming than finding translation agencies to work with, and that the former is more like a long-term investment. ‘You may have to kiss a lot of frogs’! In other words, acquiring good direct clients is very much about trial and error: you may pursue several leads that don’t work out, but some will! Although Twin Translations work solely with direct clients, Judy pointed out that there is a place for translation agencies or language service providers (LSPs) in today’s translation industry, and that Judy and Dagmar’s business model is not for everyone! It certainly seems to work for them, though!

Translators and interpreters: have you attended any trade shows in order to meet direct clients? If so, what have your experiences been like? What do you think has worked when you have approached them, and what hasn’t?

Many thanks to Judy and Dagmar for looking over this blog post before it was published and for allowing me to talk about their book!

Judy speaking at the LRG event back in 2013: 'No Pain, No Gain – Active Marketing to Direct Clients’

Judy speaking at the LRG event back in 2013: ‘No Pain, No Gain – Active Marketing to Direct Clients’

Event attendees, a captivated audience

Event attendees, a captivated audience

[1] Taken from The Entrepreneurial Linguist. Unless mentioned otherwise, all quotes are taken from Judy and Dagmar’s book (with their permission, of course!)