We wish creativity and motivation were formulaic, but every writer—or in our case, language translator—has to find his or her own way of tapping into them. We’ve always been fascinated by the creative rituals of others, so we thought we’d share a few of our own. While we can’t guarantee that these will work for you, we hope that you’ll at least find them interesting.
Dress the part
A colleague of ours—and a fellow translator who used to work a nine-to-five—recently told us an amusing story. Before she exited the corporate world and went freelance, she was expected to show up every morning in a two-piece business suit. And each morning as she slipped into it, she resented it. The first thing she did after going freelance was wad up her power suits, throw them in a black trash bag and drop them off at the local Salvation Army.
Here’s the funny thing: Working from home in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt was liberating, but she believed that—in some strange, psychological way—the new wardrobe impacted her output and quality of work. Although you won’t find her in a business suit, the wardrobe that replaced it isn’t a far cry from the one hanging on the racks in the Salvation Army. Her conclusion: “Dressing up” is a necessary ritual and when she doesn’t do it, her work suffers.
Warm up and stretch your mental muscles
You’ll never go to a professional sporting event and find an empty field. Hours before the action begins, the athletes can be found running, taping their wrists, stretching, strategizing, throwing, etc. Language translators are linguistic athletes and as with physical activity, we’ve found that warming up and stretching is a necessary part of our routine.
Before we dive into the rigors of our daily work, we log into our Penzu account, an online journal platform that actually looks like a real journal. We may only write 100 words, but we never scrutinize it, never revise and never care how it sounds. We simply write enough to stretch our mind and ease into the day’s work.
Find an accountability partner
Our friends, spouses and partners may sympathize with the stress that comes with being a language translator, but they’ll never fully understand it. We’ve found it necessary to have an accountability partner—that is, a fellow language translator we “check in” with at least once a day. Our partner is someone we call or email in the morning and let them know what we’re going to be working on for the next four or five hours. Around lunchtime, we speak over the phone and give a brief “account” of what we’ve accomplished.
It may sound like a strange practice, but we’ve found it works wonders for our productivity and mental health.
You have a bedtime routine. Why don’t you have a translating routine?
We recently read a biography on novelist Stephen King. Amongst other things, we learned a bit about his philosophy on creative routines. For him, creative routines are no “different than a bedtime routine.” Here’s a quote from the book:
“Do you go to bed a different way every night? Is there a certain side you sleep on? I mean I brush my teeth, I wash my hands. Why would anybody wash their hands before they go to bed? I don’t know. And the pillows are supposed to be pointed a certain way. The open side of the pillowcase is supposed to be pointed in toward the other side of the bed. I don’t know why.”
Put together a morning ritual and follow it the same way every day. Like pulling back the covers on your bed before getting into it, the final step of your creative routine may make beginning your translation work a painless, almost reflexive final step.
Bullying incidents between students are well publicized. Less often though do we hear about the more discreet experience of professionals who suffer at the hands of a colleague. Statistics on the number of bullied teachers are hard to come by, but a 2010 study reveals that one in three teachers claim to have been bullied at school.
Many of us rack our brains trying to figure out why bullies do what they do. Are they threatened by us? Jealous, maybe? Do they victimize us because they were once victims? Trying to figure out “why” is exhausting and more often than not, futile. What you can control is how you react and whether or not you inadvertently feed a bully’s motivations. Below you will find a few strategies to help you disarm bullies.
Make an abrupt exit
Bullies count on their victim’s politeness and exploit it. There are simple ways that you can still be courteous and assertive. You may need to tailor your response to the situation, but try a variation on one of the below responses. In the middle of the confronter’s sentence, calmly and without emotion say,
“Excuse me, but I am expecting a phone call.”
“I’d like to talk more about this, but now is not a good time.”
If the confronter calms down and agrees to speak later, set up a specific time to speak. If he or she continues talking, calmly make your exit and say, “I’ll plan on speaking to you tomorrow at the agreed time.”
Why ask “Why?”
A more assertive approach is to repeatedly ask “Why?” You’ll want to vary the phrasing, but here are a few examples:
“What makes you say that?”
“I hear what you’re saying, but can you help me understand more?”
“When did you start feeling this way?”
“Can you be more specific about ________?”
“Can you define what you mean by ____________?”
Turn a one-sided confrontation into a conversation that you can continue to control with Socratic questions.
Use reflective listening techniques
Most psychologists use reflective listening techniques for a couple of reasons. First, because they let the client know that the psychologist is paying attention; second, they provoke clients into further developing their thoughts. All you have to do is paraphrase what the bully said and repeat it back to him or her.
“So what I’m hearing you say is that…”
“So you believe that I should be doing…”
“I want to make sure that I understand: You’re saying that…”
“So you feel that…”
Things not to do
Don’t act defensive: Acting defensive suggests that you did something wrong.
Don’t be timid: Timidity suggests that you are insecure and can be easily manipulated.
Don’t be fooled: Accepting what a bully says at face value will make you appear naïve.
When 13-year-old Rebecca Black’s parents handed ARK Music Factory a $4,000 check to have them cut a single and create an accompanying music video for their daughter, they couldn’t possibly have imagined what would happen.
Four months after “Friday” was recorded, filmed and posted to YouTube it went viral, receiving 166 million views and 3.2 million “dislikes.” Not long after, comedians like Jimmy Fallon and Steven Colbert lampooned the “so-bad-it’s-good” single and critics unanimously echoed that “Friday” was “the worst song ever written.” The derision must have stung, but it was only further exasperated by bullying at school, ominous phone calls and emails containing death threats.
Browse YouTube and you’ll see hundreds of thousands of videos and songs far worse (“worse” is relative, of course) than Rebecca Black’s. Few of them will ever be noticed; few will ever receive 166 million views and twice as many “dislikes”; few of them will be remembered a decade later and come up in conversation at a cocktail party.
This 13-year-old did absolutely nothing wrong—and as cliché as it is to say it, she was truly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nonetheless, odds are that “Friday” is going tag along with Black this Friday, the Friday after next and the one ten years after that. Time will tell.
What does this have to do with our students?
Although Rebecca Black’s experience may be a bit of a hyperbolic way to segue into a conversation about our students’ digital footprint, her experience does give them reason to reflect on the marks they leave behind when they post pictures, comments and videos on the Internet.
Everything we do online leaves a trail; it may wind and evolve as we age, but it will always point back to us. Colleges and universities are increasingly reviewing this footprint when they decide who is going to be receiving a letter of acceptance. Employers, too, are beginning to conduct informal digital background checks on applicants before offering them a position. Showing up for the interview is the second impression, not the first. And thanks to our digital footprint, personas begin to take shape the moment our parents post photos of us as newborns.
A discussion that truly unpacks the impact of our digital footprint deserves a book. We simply wish to get the conversation started so that you can continue it with your students. If you’re looking for a way to get started, we recommend checking out a five-minute, TED-Talks episode featuring Juan Enriquez. In it, Enriquez uses insights from Greek and Latin American mythology to make sense of the surprisingly permanent effects of digital sharing on our personal privacy.
You may be a perfectly responsible language translator who plans ahead and sticks to a schedule. Even so, you’ve found that you simply can’t meet a deadline. It happens, even to the best translators. Although missing deadlines can damage your reputation, there are several ways to minimize this damage and still make clients happy.
Make sure that “the deadline” is really the deadline.
We’ve accepted last-minute assignments from frantic clients claiming that they “needed the translation yesterday.” And we’ve worked into the early hours of the morning to turn our translations around and meet nearly impossible deadlines. Once the translation was emailed on Monday morning, we were surprised not to hear back from the client—the same one who “needed the translation yesterday.” So we make a phone call only to find out, “Yes, I received it, but I won’t be able to review it until Friday.”
Deadlines are frequently artificial. Before you run yourself ragged trying to meet a deadline, ask if there is any wiggle room with it. Does the project really need to be in by such and such time?
Always contact your client sooner than later
Figuring out that you’re not going to meet a deadline rarely happens on the day the project is due. Most language translators know that they're in deep water early on. Never wait until a couple hours before the deadline to contact your client and ask for an extension. If you give an advanced warning, your client is more likely to be understanding and may even be able to push the deadline back.
Outsource the work when you have no other choice
So you can’t meet the deadline and know that there’s no hope for an extension. This is the time to turn to a friend. Always have at least one trustworthy language translator you can outsource work to when you are overbooked. Backing out of a project after accepting it is going to cost you a client—but so will turning in shoddy translations. Your brand is your reputation; never put it in the hands of someone whose work you’ve never seen.
Keep in mind that outsourcing work means that you’re going to take a financial hit since you didn’t factor in this expense when quoting the project.
Take it on the chin and learn from it
Having to ask for an extension won’t end your career, especially if you submit an impeccable final product. Granted, informing clients that you’re unable to meet a deadline won’t be an easy email to send or phone call to make, but you’ll both live to see another day. In the future, aim to under-promise and over-deliver.
Most schools use a monthly newsletter to keep parents and the wider school community in touch with what’s going on. Those of you behind the newsletters know how much time, energy and money it takes to generate the content, proof it, format it, print it and mail it. Despite our efforts, we’ve finally come to terms with two things: first, print has fallen out of favor; second, most newsletters end up in the recycling bin along with the Chinese restaurant menus and random circulars parents receive in the mail. So how can schools more effectively communicate with parents? The answer is simple and it won’t cost you a thing: Start a school blog.
Retire the school newsletter. Start a school blog
Many prefer to read news online
According to research published last year by Pew Research, a substantial percentage of leading newspaper readers get their news digitally. Currently, 55 percent of New York Times readers say they prefer to access news on a computer or mobile device, as do 48 percent of regular USA Today and 44 percent of Wall Street Journal readers. While this isn’t proof that nearly 50 percent of your readers prefer to access school news online, there’s a good chance that they do.
Blogs are current
By the time parents receive their monthly newsletter, much of the information is already outdated. Who wants to read about the “big game” or a service learning project three weeks after it happened? Blogs allow you to update readers as newsworthy events are taking place—not after. Another thing to keep in mind is that event information (dates, times, etc.) changes. Once a newsletter has been printed and shipped, there’s no going back. Blogs give you the flexibility to make changes whenever you want.
Blogs will save you money
Most blogging platforms are free. No more printing and shipping costs; no more envelope licking; no more label printing. If you are concerned about alienating parents who are less tech-savvy or prefer to read print, send home a survey and find out who your readers are and how they prefer to access school news.
Blogs provide a rich, multi-media experience
Unlike print, which is linear and static, blogs allow you to easily integrate video, audio, photos and text. Now you can show, not simply tell, parents what’s going on in school. You’ll be surprised at how capturing students “in the moment” and posting pictures and videos of them throughout the day will impact parent engagement.
There are dozens (probably more) of blogging platforms to choose from and most of them are free. Blogger, for example, is Google’s free blogging service. It only takes minutes to set up and you can customize the theme and color of your site. If you already have a Gmail account, there’s good news: You’ve got a Blogger account too. Simply sign into Gmail and select “Blogger” from the “more” menu. Other blogging platforms you might check out include WordPress.com, Blog.com, or even TypePad Micro.
There are a number of ways to work through assigned readings with our students, but we’ve always gravitated towards open-discussions. Though we prefer these over delivering lectures, seminar-style classrooms are not entirely unproblematic. Here are a few of the challenges we regularly encounter:
- Not everyone feels comfortable speaking in front of the class
- Not everyone actually reads the assigned text
- The same five or six students (whether they done the assigned reading or not) end up carrying the discussion
- Assessing student understanding is challenging
Recently, one of our colleagues told us about Highlighter, a free web application that actually addresses all of the challenges we mentioned above. Here’s how it works:
- Teachers upload course materials to highlight —PDF files, Word docs and webpage links—and students access them on their computer, laptop, iPad or smartphone
- Teachers assign students to virtual groups
- Students read the uploaded documents, highlight and bookmark important sections, and make comments directly on them. Each group will only be able to see what other students in their group are highlighting.
- Teachers receive email notifications when students make notations
Highlighter lets teachers know exactly what sections of the course material is most engaging—or most confusing. Knowing this allows teachers to plan accordingly, clarify confusing sections, or expand on key concepts. No longer will you wonder if students have read the course material — now you’ll see they have highlighted, commented, shared and saved.
To learn more about Highlighter, check out the video below.
Mobile technology is here to stay and while you may not find many apps specifically designed for the HR professional, there are still hundreds of apps that anyone in the HRM field will find useful. If you’re a HR professional who is looking to boost productivity, stay organized, or collaborate with your team more efficiently, we’ve got five apps to help you out.
Turbo Scan ($1.99)
Have you ever noticed how long it takes to scan a single page on your desktop scanner? We have an HP All-in-One printer/scanner/fax machine and nothing tests our patience like this machine—especially when we have a twenty-page document to scan. But there’s more than time at stake when you use a desktop scanner: there’s also the fact that you have to be at your desk to use it. Skip all of this and give Turboscan a try.
Turboscan optimizes your iPhone’s built-in camera, turning it into a multipage scanner for documents, receipts, notes, whiteboards, and other text. With TurboScan, you can quickly scan your documents and store or email them as multipage PDF or JPEG files.
Good Reader ($4.99)
We love Good Reader for a couple of reasons. First off, it will successfully handle any document—huge PDF and TXT files, manuals, large books, magazines, and renderings of 100 MB and more—with great speed. HR professionals will also be happy to know that they can annotate their PDFs using typewriter text boxes, sticky notes, lines, arrows, and freehand drawings.
Technically, Printfriendly isn’t an app, but we use this website so often that it had to be on our list. How much paper and ink do you think your department wastes every day printing needless sidebar images and web page clutter? If you’d like to print clean pages and save paper, all you’ve got to do is copy and paste the webpage URL into Printfriendly. Now you can edit webcopy, change text size, and remove images. Once you’re done you can either convert your text to a PDF file, email or print it.
HR at Your Fingertips ($1.99)
We’d never seen an app custom-tailored to the HR professional until last week when we stumbled upon HR at Your Fingertips. In addition to helpful walkthroughs on how to write an employee handbook, this mobile app also contains a law definition database and a common HR term glossary containing over 270 terms and definitions.
Corkboard Me ($5.00/month with a free, 30-day trial)
This app is perfect for HR professionals who are collaborating on a project. Want to share an idea? Simply type it up on a virtual post-it note and attach it to your team’s online “corkboard.” In addition to this, users can share PDFs, Powerpoints, sales plans—you name it. Drag and drop images directly on the board or add them to notes as attachments.
Having the responsibility of shaping a school, managing teachers, students and curriculum—and having to shouldering the blame when things go wrong—has led more than a few principals to project a persona. Principal or not, we all do this to some extent, of course. Under the pressure to succeed, under the pressure to “brand” ourselves with amenable qualities, we often fashion a version of ourselves that minimizes our blemishes and highlights only our best traits. Eventually though, false personas corrode and break down. That’s why we want to talk a bit about authenticity.
“What are some of your weaknesses?” This ubiquitous question shows up in nearly every interview. And while most of us have learned strategies to skirt the question, we believe principals should honestly reflect on their weaknesses. You may not necessarily want to share all of them in an interview, but having the ability to reflect critically on your shortcomings is an integral part of becoming an effective principal because it helps you assess where and when to seek help from others.
Learn to laugh at your blunders
Principals are under an incredible amount of scrutiny and that can make it hard to laugh. But taking yourself too seriously, denying or beating yourself up when you make a blunder is going to take a toll on you and your relationships. Self-deprecating humor is often the funniest. Laugh and laugh often.
Be interested, not interesting
We’ve all spent time with someone who didn’t understand how the give and take of a conversation works. We’ve all gotten off the phone a half hour later and realized, “Wow. She didn’t ask me a single thing about myself.” We all have our moments, but try not to be that person on the other end of the telephone. Authentic principals ask questions and are focused on being interested, not interesting.
Don’t surround yourself with yea-sayers
Praise and concession sure feels nice, but it amounts to little if it is coming from those who offer it out of fear or flattery. Connect with other educational leaders who aren’t personally invested in your school. It’s helpful to have mentors who are encouraging but who also aren’t afraid to give you a perspective that’s different from your own.
Accept that you cannot do this alone
You may think that you have to do it all—and certainly you have an overwhelming amount of responsibilities—but trying to do it all on your own is impossible; and it could have the effect of making you look like a control freak or worse—take a toll on your health. Let your “army” of intelligent and perfectly capable teachers help you shoulder the burden. They may gain a better perspective of the scope of the issues you face too.
Schools benefit from authentic leaders—men and women who engage others and who are working toward authenticity. Being authentic has the added benefit of letting people know that while you’re tough and very capable, you are human too, and appreciate help and support from others.
We just found out that NASA is calling all Earthlings to submit their names, along with a three-line haiku, to the Going to Mars with Maven contest. If you need a little incentive to get your submission in by July 1, try this on for size: The three most popular submissions will actually be written to a DVD and sent to Mars onboard the MAVEN spacecraft!
There is one caveat: Those who submit must be 18 or older. The good news is that teachers are allowed to submit on behalf of their students.
We think this is a great way to get students excited about science, space, space travel and writing. It’s also a creative way to help students make a personal connection to the MAVEN mission, which is scheduled for launch in November.
To learn more about the Going to Mars with Maven contest, or to view current entries, stop by their website by clicking here. You can also watch a video about the MAVEN mission below.
You may have fantasized about quitting your job and starting a translation business, a new career that, at least in your dream, allows you to meander downstairs long after your spouse has fought traffic and punched the time card. There’s no doubt about it, becoming a freelance translator is liberating in many ways, but before you decide to go solo, we’d like to debunk five freelancing myths.
5 Myths of the Freelance Translator
Freelance translators don’t have a boss
Indeed, you don’t have a boss; you’ve got dozens of them now. You’ve also got more than a few employees to keep in line: the copywriter (you), blogger (you), networker (you), IT specialist (you), marketer (you), collections agent (also you), and the list goes on. Then there are all of the clients you have to answer to. True, you no longer have to spend eight hours in a cubicle, but you’ll still spend eight hours (at the very least) in a place where you can get work done.
Working from home is liberating
Yes and no. Many freelance translators relish the fact that they don’t have to put on a tie, iron their pants and tuck their shirts in, but working from home has several landmines you’ll have to negotiate. If you have kids or pets, expect interruptions. Also keep in mind that you’ll need the will and tenacity of a saint. Our homes are full of distractions and unlike the office, no one is counting how many visits you make to the water cooler or how long you were gone on lunch break. You’ll have to keep yourself in check in order meet deadlines and keep clients happy.
Freelance translators have more free time
This is also half true. Unlike nine-to-fivers, you don’t have to spent an hour getting ready in the morning; you don’t have to fight traffic or wait for the train; you don’t have to take a mandatory lunch break when you’d rather work through your lunch and go home early. Now for the “but.”
Your schedule is not entirely your own. We suspect that many of your clients will be scattered throughout the country, maybe even the globe. Most businesses operate on a nine-to-five schedule, so you’ll need to be available. And keep in mind, if you’re working with international clients, or even clients located throughout the country, you’ll have to account for different time zones.
Freelance translators don’t have to “deal” with people
Freelancing is independent work, but misanthropes are rarely successful freelance translators. You own your own business now—which means that you must be the marketer, the relationship builder, the lead nurturer. When you aren’t translating, you’ll be talking to new clients, updating your own personal blog or website and networking with other translators through Linked In and other social-media platforms. You may not have to deal with a boss looking over your shoulder, but you’ll still have to deal with people.
Freelancing is quick money
This is one we borrowed from thebigwordblog. Contrary to what many folks think, freelance translation is not quick money. You’re going to have to work hard to find clients and build a reputation for yourself. Also keep in mind that building a steady stream of clients is going to take time, so chances are that money is going to be tight for the first year.
Think of a game plan and stick to a schedule. In addition to this, find time to brainstorm your brand, create it and begin to market it. The first few jobs you take on will most likely not be high-paying ones, but they should be credible.
Here’s one final thought: Before becoming a freelance translator, honestly ask yourself whether or not you have the necessary experience that will help distinguish you from all the other freelance translators. One way to do this is through Marygrove College’s online program in Modern Language Translation. In our program, students will not only study the linguistic and cultural aspects of language transfer, but they will take a hands-on approach to translating journalistic, commercial, legal, and scientific texts.