Raising bilingual children

I haven’t blogged for a while due to lack of time – and whenever I did sit down to start writing, words failed me. What could I possibly write about? This blog’s topic is close to my heart as it involves my parenting and two children, predominantly my toddler (the 4-month old hasn’t said much yet).

Before Lena was born, I read all sorts of tips and tricks of how to raise bilingual children. I was horrified when I read of parents who were saying that their youngsters had stopped using one language and only responded in the other, or that they even kicked their parents for “not speaking the right language”! I was convinced that we would be different one day.

Now, three years into the experiment of raising bilingual child No. 1, it is time for a reality check.

What have we done to foster bilingualism so far?

We’re using both languages, English and German, on a daily basis. We try to read as many stories in both languages as possible, and use puppets to reinforce vocabulary in a fun way. Frankly, German is omnipresent in this house.

What are the results?

Our toddler speaks English fluently and is able to form complex sentences using the correct tenses. According to professionals, she is more advanced linguistically than any other of her peers. Now, this didn’t come overnight, I should add. Her active language development was delayed by a couple of months, considering that when she joined nursery a year ago, she did not speak any English at all.

With regard to her German, this is a different story. Her passive understanding is immaculate. We can explain things to her, ask her to do something, read stories, even reason with her in German without any communication problems. In terms of her active use of German, it has become quite evident that English is her preferred and dominant language. She will use German words in an English sentence if she hasn’t learned the English word so far – “Mummy, I want to wear my Bademantel (dressing gown) please!”

What are the challenges?

Bilingualism needs to be reinforced constantly. We often catch ourselves speaking too much English and then fall back into German; also, it is tempting to just answer in English when asked a question in English. We are permanently aware of our language, and when speaking in German, we try to speak High German to avoid teaching a dialect or words we consider to be too colloquial. In an ideal world, she will one day be able to go and live in Germany without sounding (too) foreign :)

What are the benefits?

Lots of fun and laughter! :) When I counted to 10 in German the other day, I was told off by our toddler because I wasn’t counting “properly”, ie. in English! You become smarter by challenging the functionality of your brain, your memory improves, you have a special skill on your CV, you can socialise in other countries, have better communication skills… The list is endless!

A word of warning!

As a parent of bilingual/multilingual children, you believe that there’s nothing more fun in the world than flashcards in various languages…who needs Barbie dolls for Christmas when you can have magnetic vocabulary cards? :)

8 THINGS EVERY PARENT RAISING BILINGUAL KIDS IS GUILTY OF DOING…

1) You think flash cards and vocabulary games are fun.

2) You spend most days on Pinterest trying to enhance the experience of language learning.

3) You spend most of your salary in the bookstore.

4) You look for more languages your child could learn next.

5) You find yourself fretting about your child’s linguistic progress, comparing her with her peers.

6) You find yourself justifying why your child mixes up words.

7) You are chief interpreter for friends and family!

8) You are having a secret conversation with your partner in one language, assuming your toddler will not understand you (e.g. normally relating to their bed- or bath time), and out of nowhere comes the voice of protest. You always assume you can get away with more than is actually possible.

Kathrin xLeni Kindi

Post-Editing – The Gloomy Future of the Translation Industry?

Not everyone may have heard of the term “Post Editing”. Good old Wikipedia defines it as “(…) the process of improving a machine-generated translation with a minimum of manual labour”.

Sounds simple, and harmless, does it not?

Over the past year, I have received an increasing number of job offers for Post Editing. Machine-generated text in need of “spicing up” (or dramatically corrected) by a human being. The quality of those machine translation varies greatly – from surprising accuracy to eye-watering nonsense (especially with a tricky language such as German, where the verb is always at the end of a sentence).

I must admit, Post Editing does have its funny moments, where sentences like “Das Dokument ist im Büro zu übergeben” is machine-translated into “The document will be vomited into the office“, and not, as it should be, “The document shall be submitted in the office”. :)

But jokes aside – What are the consequences for us translators of Post Editing jobs? It is an undeniable reality that we, us translators, get paid a lot less: Post Editing jobs do not even come close to the pay of translation jobs (around 60% less). And while you play an important role in ensuring the overall quality of the final translation, I mostly find that those jobs have a sour aftertaste. Are we not accomplices to this development on the market whenever we take a PE job on board? Will this not mean that eventually, all those highly educated, qualified translators around the world will end up having to put the finishing touches on machine-generated translations, or are there any areas where Machine Translation will never achieve what a human translator could?

What are your thoughts and experiences with Post Editing? How do you feel about it?

Have a great week, all of you!

Kathrin

” Conscious Coupling “

In four months, I am going to be Maid of Honour at my friends’ wedding – both of whom I love dearly. During my research for a suitable poem, quote or saying for my speech on the day, however, I couldn’t help but think about the latest events in Hollywood that made headlines in every paper across the globe (with the exception of North Korea, perhaps.). While I’m not a fan of celebs, gossip and tabloid papers (I am proud to say I’ve never had an OK! magazine in my possession), the – oh so! – eloquent and euphemistic phrase of “Conscious Uncoupling” really hit a nerve with me.

It made me think: how many couples in my social circles would have used the same phrase to describe their break ups, had they had the means to pay some brainy PR guru to come up with it in the first place? And just how many people did I actually know who said “We still love each other very much, but…”? The answer is: more than I could shake a stick at.

I had to digest this for quite a while to finally be able to pin point my irritation. It stirred anger and frustration within me – what greater gift is there to love and be loved? And why this need to strive for more than LOVE in a relationship? If love is the basis of everything – mutual respect, kindness, loyalty, adoration – why want for anything else if you have everything (financial means, self-fulfillment, a career and everything else included)?

What could I possibly say to my friends on their wedding day that wouldn’t sound a) cheesy, b) cynical, c) unworldly? A cynical pessimist might argue that, given the statistics of today’s divorce rates and the increasing amount of couple therapies on offer in the Western World, seemingly making marriage a fashion statement rather than a life-time decision, there is not much left to say at all.

Luckily, I am neither a cynic nor a pessimist – especially with regard to a topic this close to my heart as the bond between two people in love. I write these lines as a true positivist, yes, even a romantic, when I say to you, my friends: as long as you have love, you have everything. The truth is, there is no guarantee, no recipe, no potion, no universal instruction to marriage. It is so much more than picking a wedding dress, finding the right shaped wedding cake or the best colour scheme for the wedding day – it is, as I am sure you know – a life-long journey.

Always uphold the respect and adoration you both share for each other. Always invest, always care and nurture your marriage. If there is one thing I can be sure about, it’s that you have made the decision of becoming husband and wife with open eyes and open hearts, and I know that you will consciously couple to share the rest of your lives together. For any marriage that fails for various reasons, it is such a relief to know that there is couples like you in the world, who will enter this promise – not necessarily before God, but certainly towards each other – with utmost commitment and respect.

Happy New Year = Happy New Pricing?

Happy New Year = Happy New Pricing?

Finding the right timing for a price increase is a tricky business for any entrepreneur. Naturally, the New Year virtually lends itself to changing existing price structures – isn’t it a nice fresh start for everything?

However, increasing one’s prices as a translator is not an easy chapter. Having spoken to several old-timers in the translation industry, the results were often quite eye-opening. One translator lamented the fact that she hadn’t been able to increase her price per source word with her agency in 10 (TEN!) years. Several other colleagues of mine stated that they were simply reluctant to change their pricing policies for fear of being dropped by their clients for cheaper competitors.

This has presented me with several questions. 1) Is it not justified for a sole-trader to adjust prices at least according to the national inflation rate? 2) Is it fair to say that agencies “drop you” once you’ve raised your prices after working with them for a considerable amount of time? 3) Is new pricing bound to have a negative impact on your workload (i.e. higher fees = less clients?) And last but not least: 4) If these assumptions are true, are translators too shy when it comes to efficient price negotiations?

I refuse to believe that there is “no way”, as some colleagues in the translating industry have put it, to be running an increasingly profitable translation business and have happy long-term clients (or agencies) at the same time. Working for clients for several years implies that a relationship of trust, reliability and mutual understanding has been formed. If these ingredients aren’t the perfect basis for price negotiations, what more could you wish for?

In my experience, clients have been very open in terms of increasing my prices after set periods and once they could convince themselves of my reliability and translation quality. If agencies replace you right after you’ve increased your prices by some percent, it most probably wasn’t a very trustworthy work relationship to begin with.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate with your clients – it’s your right as a service provider to do so. Don’t be greedy, either. Price jumps of 200% very rarely receive a cheerful standing ovation by your clients. Never forget what your work is worth, and keep a watchful eye on competitors if you need guidance for the right pricing guidance.

7 more weeks till 2014 – plenty of time for a good re-think of dusty fees from years ago that might be in desperate need for some polishing up.

“Let’s Talk Business, Shall Vee?” – Small Talk vs. The Germans

With my main clients in the UK and Germany, I am on the phone a lot. As you have probably figured by now, I prefer the phone over long and convoluted e-mail ping-pong – not only to get a feeling for the person on the other end, but also to establish an emotional link from a sales perspective and to avoid miscommunication. 

It fascinates me how different Germans and Brits are when it comes to talking over the phone! 

What a Brit would say…

What a German would think…

“Hello, this is [first name] calling. Am I speaking to [first name]?”

“Have a little respect here. Does he know who I am? Last time I checked, I was Herr Dr. [Surname]…”

“Hello! How are you doing?”

“What are we now, buddies? It’s my private business how I am.”

“What’s the weather like where you are? It’s a bit chilly at the moment, but it’s supposed to clear up…”

“Who cares what the weather is like where you are! We haven’t even met! Why would I care about your weather?”

“I’m no expert when it comes to XYZ, but…”

“Why would he make himself look stupid in front of a stranger?”

“It’s finally Friday! Any plans for the weekend?”

“He must clearly hate his job if he’s so desperate for a weekend. Plans? Again, private business!”

 

Dear Reader: Ironically, small-talk is written with a capital “S” in German, as are all nouns. Der Smalltalk has been adopted by the German language and roughly translates into gossipy, unnerving, unnecessary and time-consuming chit-chat.

I have found that German customers tend to get rather nervous when I approach them with a British angle – i.e. using first names instead of surnames (awkward!) , asking how they are ( very awkward, the usual response is a confused “errr.. gut” if they don’t brush over the question and get back in their comfy zone – business talk), volunteering some personal information to lighten up the conversation (non-existent for Germans!), moaning about the weather (Why are we not talking business here?)… It’s great fun to push the boundaries a bit, you should try it out some time!

The cultural confusion works the other way around as well. Brits find Germans very direct, often inaccessible and people who rather over-state than under-state. The fear of losing face is far greater than anything else, which means that Germans never talk about their weaknesses in public, hardly ever apologise for their mistakes in front of strangers and never want to be thought of as taking their jobs lightly. While Brits will quite overtly talk about their lack of motivation or fantastic weekend plans over the phone, a German would never (I say “never” generously of course, but as with all generalisations, I acknowledge that there are exceptions to the rule.) admit his low commitment to his job, no matter how dull it may be. Based on the to-and-fro between German and British clients, sometimes even as their intermediary, the general concern among Germans is that the British seem so wishy-washy and almost reluctant to talk business and numbers without the little dance with catch phrases and ice-breakers, chit-chat and anecdotes…

 

 

I Just Called, To Say…

 

No! Wait! Actually, I just e-mailed you to say XYZ. Because I don’t like telephoning people.

 

My fellow colleagues, friends and followers – this is a very sensitive issue for me. I would like to warn you that the following lines might contain a ‘good old rant’.

What is it with people these days, why do they never call? Why does everyone seemingly prefer sending e-mails? I am not just talking about the translation industry as such, this phenomenon has spread like a disease and contaminated numerous areas, whether in business or private.

This is a classic example:

 

E-mail No. 1:

“Dear Kathrin,

We have a very urgent project for you, due on … . Could you please let me know asap if you are available?”

In case I don’t respond within 2 mins, here goes

E-Mail No. 2:

“Kathrin,

I haven’t heard back from you re urgent translation! Are you available?”

And finally, if I still haven’t responded after 5 minutes (how dare I!), a rather snappy

E-Mail No. 3:

“K., ARE YOU AVAILABLE FOR THE URGENT PROJECT??? RESPOND ASAP I NEED TO KNOW!!!”

 

For those who know me, I am an adament opponent of 1) shouty capital letters and 2) the repeated use of exclamation and question marks. It makes me cringe every time.

And why, oh why, don’t people just phone up to clarify a matter, especially if it is that urgent? Instead of getting snappier with each e-mail, why not just dial my number and deal with me directly? What is it in the translation industry that everyone seems to go for e-mails? I appreciate translators are prone to using the written word rather than speech, but does that mean you’d want to risk missing out on great business opportunities by being a passive-aggressive mail-sender rather than a proactive, friendly voice on the telephone?

I do wonder whether I’ll have to explain Stevie’s 1984’s hit to my grandchildren 40 years down the road… “Grandma, what does ‘calling’ mean?”

 

 P.S.: Ironically, me phoning instead of e-mailing uncovered a huge scam this morning. Never underestimate the importance of the good old telephone.

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