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Archive for March, 2012

Wikipedia: a reliable source of information?

09/03/2012 5 comments

Most of us, who recently graduated from uni, praised Wikipedia for its precious service during our uni carrer, especially when time was scarce and we were loaded with projects, deadlines, presentations, interpreting classes etc. Wikipedia seemed to be a quick-fix for all our problems. Presentations were prepared fast and information was collected easily. Silently, we always thanked Wikipedia for the magic it provided so comfortably. At the same time,  we were lured to consult the website over and over again and until it formed an integral part of our uni life. Ok, we were told every now and then to refrain from using Wikipedia as a source of information for our interpreting classes, but come on: Who didn’t check on the website to save some time and nerves?

The thing is: Wikipedia may have helped us at university, but is the platform a valuable and reliable source of information which to consult for the preparation of an interpreting assignment? The answer to that question is: yes and no.

In a professional interpreting context, and I reckon that must be self-explaining, I’d never use Wikipedia for information such as bibliographic information about people, about historic events, political ideologies … for most of the things actually. Why? You never know who is behind the information, if the information is true/accurate/verfied or not. Wikipedia’s open, collaborative approach is generally a good thing, but you can never be sure who is behind the information you find. If you use Wikipedia as source,  always double-check your information!

However, I must admit that I use Wikipedia sometimes when it comes to technical things,although you have to be very careful here, too. Sometimes, people with amazing technical or mechanical knowledge post things about “suspension bridges” or “injection molding” or whatever else. The more they share, the easier it seems to get access to very specific and good information It’s like finding a magic fountain of technical wisdom in a way.

BUT: always double-check!!! Think critically!!! At the end of the day you can never be sure as to where the information comes from. And especially recent graduates should learn to prepare an assignment without Wikipedia and consult other, more reliable sources of information. Getting rid of Wikipedia might be like trying to quit Facebook as it involves a profound change of habits and a lot of self-discipline. It also involves a huge personal effort as “to quit” and “to stay away from something” are two different things.And, alas, Wikipedia is just so god-dammed comfortable. However, leaving Wikipedia behind along with your uni carrer might be the way to go for beginners. See it as part of the transition from student to professional! I mean why go the easy way if it is about a job, paying your rent, your reputation etc. Don’t take any risks! Fast, quick and vast information seems like a comfortable quick-fix … but that doesen’t mean we have to blindly believe it.

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8 basic tips for designing your business card

01/03/2012 2 comments

We freelancers are aware of the importance of our business cards. They enable us to engage with colleagues and clients, they offer a first platform for gaining new customers and tell the world literally who we are, what services we offer and what the hell we actually do, etc. However, there are many things you can do wrong with the cards themselves. Especially when just recently graduated from uni and too eager to print them with the intention of casting them over the entire city from an airplane the next day. Then, there is a danger to forget some basics.  Bear the following tips in mind in order not to forget anything important before you print your business card.

1. Be creative

Business cards for freelancers should be as individual as possible. The more of your own personality is entailed in your card, the more likely it might be for a colleague/customer to remember you. But don’t forget: you are selling your language services, but you are also selling yourself. Therefore, your business card should also meet professional standards, as well as being creative. (And that is trickier than it sounds!)

2. Develop a basic concept

Try to come up with a basic concept based on the follwing questions:  How is the card supposed to look? Do I have some sort of corporate design I can include? What colours should predominate? How much textual information do I want to include? Who am I designing the cards for? Which impression do I want to convey?

3. Collect impressions

Try to collect as many business cards as you can, irrespectively from where they come from.  Spread them out in front of you and try to figure out what you like and don’t like about their colour, textual information, format, design, fonts, paper, etc… This will help you to establish some DO’s and DONT’s for your own card.

4. Don’t hurry

The design of your business cards is a time-consuming process. Rome wasn’t built in a day, either! So don’t stress yourself and don’t be too eager to come up with the perfect card on the very same day.

5. Consider feedback

Of course, if you have an idea that you consider the foundation for the most perfect business card the world has ever seen, you don’t want anyone to tell you that the idea is nonsense. But other people’s feedback might just be the thing to get where you want to get. Ask friends, colleagues and people unfamiliar with the interpreting and translation world for their opinion. You might be surprised what they could tell you. The more people take part in this creative process, the more creative ideas are channelled.

6. Less is more

Try to be simplistic with your design. Many people have business cards which are too confusing or too irritating, because they contain too much text, too many colours, etc. Try to convey the maximum information you want with a minimum of visual and textual resources. Think of a good PowerPoint presentation: no fancy images, no disturbing special effects, no overload of textual information. Just plain, simple and short.

7. Stick to conventions

Ask yourself the same questions that you do when you translate culturally-bound terms for example: What conventions are there for business cards in my country? (Yes, business cards are texts, too!).  I learnt, for example, that in Spain it’s might be okay to write “Traductor ES > DE” on your card, whereas in Germany the bracket and language abbreviation might cause some confusion. Don’t forget your “target audience” whilst designing and ask yourself if it might be better to omit certain things.

8. Good investment

Technically, you can create your own business cards in 5min for a bargain. However, business cards are something that you should invest as much financial resources as your budget allows. It hurts at first, but it will pay off! The impression you leave with an individual, creative, professional, well-printed and good-quality card will be better than by a cheap and random card from the web done in haste.

Designing your business cards is a process where you can learn a lot … if you want to! Of course, you need some software to do that: I can recommend Inkscape (http://inkscape.org). It’s OpenSource and available for both Windows and Mac OS. It’s a bit tricky to master, but there are many tutorials on the web and it shouldn’t scare any translator or interpreter off.