Category Archives: Uncategorized

Best mouse for translators?

Review of Logitech Anywhere MX 2s vs. MX Master 2s

After working for a long time with a basic cable mouse, I thought it was time for an upgrade. And since it’s such a major piece of hardware, I went right for the flagship segment.

Logitech offers its premium mouse MX Master 2s as a more portable Anywhere MX 2s version.

Unbenannt

Logitech MX Anywhere 2s with assignable buttons. Notice that the scroll wheel has no click function!

Since I work on my laptop a lot, I bought the portable Anywhere MX 2s at around EUR 60. Here are the useful features:

  • Works on any surface – even on glass!
  • Sideways-moving mousewheel for horizontal scrolling
  • Extra fast wheel for horizontal scrolling
  • Rechargeable – no external battery
  • Bluetooth and dongle connection
  • Small enough for portable use
  • Gesture button – great for switching windows (Alt + Tab)
  • Customizable thumb buttons

Then there’s the pretty fancy but useless feature of Logitech Flow, which lets you use the mouse on two devices at once. I only use one laptop, or a second screen at best.

Altough I was pretty happy at first, there’s one basic feature missing which broke the deal for me. Logitech’s customer support forums are full of rants by CAD engineers – the Logitech Anywhere MX 2s has no middle click on the scroll wheel.

Any mouse with a scroll wheel has this function, but Logitech took it out of the Anywhere MX 2s. It took me an hour to figure this out, of course, because the middle wheel does click, but it’s purely haptic and has no function.

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Logitech MX Master 2s with all customizable buttons. Notice that scroll wheel does not move sideways, as there’s an extra thumb wheel.

So then I returned it and bought the bigger MX Master 2s at around EUR 80. It’s not exactly portable. The MX Master 2s has most of the functions that the MX Anywhere 2s has. The differences, in my opinion, are rather annoying:

  • It has a clickable thumb rest; I don’t really need it, and I find clicking with my thumb awkward
  • The wheel doesn’t move sideways; instead, you have a thumb wheel; I liked having all scroll functions in the wheel
  • The fast-scroll toggle is an extra switch, instead of just clicking the wheel – so you have to keep one button assigned to switching the wheel between fast scroll and slow scroll mode, if you want to switch

All in all, I think the MX 2s series doesn’t need 2 models. The bigger version is too clunky and costs almost EUR 20 more, and the smaller version is great, but dropped a core feature that all mice should have. So in the end I felt forced to buy the bigger model.

Nevertheless, these two were the best mice I could find. The all-surface feature, fast scrolling, and the rechargeable battery are impossible to find in the lower price range.

If you work mostly stationary, get the MX Master 2s. If you need portability and don’t care about the missing middle click, the smaller version will do. Logitech’s previous models are also a lot cheaper on Amazon now.

Wie erkennt man eine gute Übersetzung?

Unbenannt

Google Translate kann vielleicht korrekt übersetzen, aber nicht mitdenken, wenn der Ausgangstext schrägt wirkt.

Viele denken, Übersetzung sei reine Gefühlssache. Es gibt aber einige Punkte, an denen man saubere Arbeit erkennt. Wichtig ist nur stilistisches Wissen, das über den Duden hinausgeht, sondern auch Geistesgegenwart.

Anders als Google Translate kann ein guter Übersetzer vom Wortlaut abweichen und es trotzdem besser sagen. Solche Leute sind leider rar, weshalb die Furcht vor der maschinellen Bedrohung weiter berechtigt ist. Hier sind einige rein formale Zeichen, an denen Kunden aber auch Kollegen eine saubere Übersetzung erkennen können:

Einheitlichkeit

Konsistenz ist ein guter Schnelltest für sauberes Arbeiten, wenn auch nicht für schriftstellerische Fähigkeiten. Wenn offensichtlich keine Rechtschreibkontrolle gemacht wurde, wenn Anführungszeichen und Bindestriche kreuz und quer in allen Formaten auftauchen, ist der Text noch nicht fertig. Oft werden auch Kursivschrift und Anführungszeichen uneinheitlich für die Hervorhebung von Werkstiteln o.ä. verwendet.

Lange Sätze

Wenn dem Verfasser die Feder ausgerutscht ist, ist das für den Übersetzer noch lange kein Freibrief. Schachtelsätze gehören zwar zu Deutschland, aber nicht ins digitale Zeitalter. Einen wildgewordenen Satz zu bändigen kostet nur wenige Tastaturanschläge. Selbst in juristischen Texten gilt: Übersetzte Sätze, die drei oder mehr Zeilen lang sind, zeigen schwaches Textverständnis.

Kommata

Kein Satz braucht mehr als zwei Kommas. Partizipien oder Komposita machen Relativsätze überflüssig und klingen noch dazu viel knackiger. (Diesen Trick nutzen z.B. Boulevardzeitungen.)

Beispiel 1

  • Relativsatz: „Die Kuh, die lacht
  • Partizip: „die lachende Kuh“
  • Kompositum: „die Kicherkuh“

Besonders das letzte Beispiel kann in einem spielerischen Text die lustige Kuh viel bildhafter vermitteln.

Beispiel 2

  • Relativsatz: „Wir setzen uns dafür ein, dass alle Menschen Zugang zu ihren Rechten bekommen.“
  • Kompositum: „Wir setzen uns für Menschenrechte ein.“

Zahlreiche Kommata und Erörterungen sind Zeichen für Unsicherheit und mangelnde Sprachökonomie.

Kollokationen

Häufige Kombinationen von Wörtern, z.B. „ein Gesetz verabschieden“ oder „nach dem Gesetz“ (nicht „unter dem Gesetz“, das wäre ein Anglizismus). Im Duden findet man Kollokationen nur begrenzt. Es gibt aber sog. Korpus‑Suchmaschinen wie DWDS.

Beispiel

„wir beschreiten eine neue Welt“

Hier ist die Kollokation „einen Weg beschreiten“ mit reingerutscht. Korrekt hieße es „wir betreten eine neue Welt“.

Wer weiß sowas schon auswendig? Außerdem ändert sich die Sprache. In den meisten Fällen aber wird der korrekte Begriff mehr Treffer auf Google liefern.

Auch geübte Übersetzer sollten sich nicht auf ihren Instinkt verlassen, sondern Kollokationen recherchieren. Schräge Wortkombinationen entstehen vor allem durch wortwörtliches Übersetzen und schlechte Recherche.

Tautologie

Unnötige Worthäufung. Berüchtigt ist die „Servicedienstleistung“ (Englisch: „service service service“).

Autoren verwenden auch Komposita wie „Gruppenkontexte“ als sprachliche Hecke, um möglichst viele Bedeutungen abzudecken. Sie sind somit eine Form der Hyperkorrektur.

Das gilt auch für nominalisierte Verben („von Bedeutung sein“ statt „bedeuten“) und Präpositionen („im Rahmen von“ statt „während“) und offiziöse Verben („begutachten“ statt „anschauen“).

Sprichwörter wie „dumm und dämlich“ sind vielleicht manchmal sinnvolle Stilmittel, aber ein guter Übersetzer sollte für seine Zielgruppe angebrachte Stilmittel, wichtige Informationen und Geschwätz auseinanderhalten können.

Beispiel

Wer mitdenkt schafft oft erstaunlich knackige Sätze:

„Nicht Alter oder Tradition der Kunstform sind von Bedeutung, sondern der Spaß und die Gefühle, die sie zu vermitteln vermag.“

„Bei der Kunst geht es nicht um Traditionen, sondern um Freude.“

Generell gilt: Das Kürzen darf nicht zu kurz kommen. Gewissenhafte Übersetzer legen zwischen Übersetzung und Korrektur noch ein Lektorat ein, das nur dazu dient, den Text kompakter zu machen.

Unsere Ausgangstexte sind nicht immer Meisterwerke. Wenn wir schon inhaltlich nicht viel Spielraum haben, so sollte wenigstens ein stilistisch und formal durchdachter Zieltext rauskommen.

Kunden können Übersetzer z.B. vor dem Auftrag nach ihrer Übersetzungsstrategie fragen. Wer hierauf eine überzeugende Antwort geben kann, hat sich zumindest schonmal darüber Gedanken gemacht.

Bei weiteren Fragen, lass einen Kommentar da, oder schreib mir.

Write like a native – hacks from a translator

Wondering how to write more naturally? Here are some writing hacks that you won’t find in your average Hemingway style guide.

Inanimate objects can act

The inanimate agent is a powerful grammar tool. For example:

“The book says…”

“My phone died…”

English lets you combine “dead” things with “living” verbs. In German or French writing, dead things cannot act, and you need a special set of verbs for them. You would usually write:

“In dem Buch steht [geschrieben]…” “Il est écrit dans le livre…”

Most would translate this as “It is written in the book…” Now you’ve added a mysterious “it”, overcomplicating the sentence. Animating dead objects may not sound like much, but they’ll make your text flow so much better.

Consider instructions for example. In German, this would be considered good tech writing:

“Durch Klicken auf die Schaltfläche öffnet sich ein Fenster, in dem eine Meldung angezeigt wird.”

Inanimacy leads to further problems, such as missing subjects / passive constructions, nominalization, and reflexivity.

You can avoid all this baggage in English: “Click the button to open a message window.”  Or more literally “Clicking the button opens a window that shows a message.”

Avoid reflexive verbs

Reflexivity is when a noun does something to itself – “the window opens itself.” This makeshift construction is unnecessary in English – because whom else is the window gonna open?

Now why in German it’s wrong if a window opens, but correct if it opens itself? Makes no sense at all, so avoid reflexive verbs in your writing, they sound very un-English.

Bad nominalization

English style guides usually promote a verbal style. Take the above example:

“Durch Klicken auf die Schaltfläche öffnet sich ein Fenster, in dem eine Meldung angezeigt wird.”

Clicking the button opens a window that shows a message.”

By translating the nominalized verb “Klicken” as a dangling gerund (clicking), we’ve made the sentence sound impersonal. A gerund is a verb mutated into a noun. A dangling gerund is a gerund that has no clear subject.

The text actually addresses a reader. If we apply an active verbal  style (Click the button…), you can tell who is supposed to act.

So whenever you’re talking action, drop the nouns for verbs!

Good nominalization

Compound nouns can pack a lot of information. That’s why bureaucrats love them. Cramming a whole relative clause into two words makes you sound smarter.

So again compare “Clicking the button opens a window that shows a message.” to “Click the button to open a message window.” Six words vs. two. That’s a lot of screen space to be saved.

“Message window” is a fixed expression, but we also make up compounds as we speak. Compound formation is one of the hardest skills for language learners to master.

There two basic ways to form compounds:

  • Synthetic languages (German) and agglutinative languages (Turkish) use inflection and/or agglutination to combine words: Massenvernichtungswaffen (not Massevernichtungwaffen), kitle imha silahı 
  • Analytic languages, like English, use word order and prepositions: “weapons of mass destruction.”

Note that “mass destruction weapons” would also be grammatically correct. None of the words is inflected. The word order alone tells you what the compound means.

Apart from memorizing common compounds, how you form compounds is crucial to how your English will sound.

There are some things to consider:

  • Natural English forms compounds of nouns and other word classes, like adjectives. So instead of “law gap” (Gesetzeslücke) you would say “legal gap.”
  • Don’t overuse prepositions in compounds: Translations often contain words like “date of expiry” instead of just “expiry date.” Prepositions make you sound officious.
  • Pack relative clauses into compounds and generously use possessives, adverbs and other particularities of English.

I hope you found these native writing hacks helpful. If you have any comments, leave them below!

Three Berlin Hacks for everyone

Are you a naive tourist or a bitter Altberliner? Don’t be sour, fight the power! Here are hacks for some common nuisances we all struggle with.

1. Get an appointment at the Bürgeramt TODAY!

Need to register your address in Berlin and just can’t make an appointment online, because the Bürgeramt is booked out till next year?

Don’t despair! Just call the central hotline 115 as soon as they open, around 9 AM. They have a special magic calendar that’s closed to the pesky masses.

They will tell you which districts have free slots that day due to no-shows, cancellations or just their own bad planning.

2. Find a great bike in Berlin without breaking the law

If you live inside the Ring, you’ll have noticed that more bikes have been dropped here than allied bombs. So why pay for a Drahtesel, especially when bike theft is a Volkssport?

Bike shops aren’t that cheap – you’ll easily hinblätter EUR 150 for a halfway decent three-speeder. That’s about how much your rent gets hiked each month… So waddaya do, Robin Hood?

Before you end up in a high-speed chase with that beardo who left his Peugeot roadie outside Markthalle IX, just get up early on a Saturday or Sunday and take a walk around popular tourist spots, especially the axis from Görlitzer Park to Warschauer Straße or around any U-Bahn station.

Intoxicated kids lose not just control of their esophagaeal sphincter, they also lose their bikes, or they ditch them like last week’s lover for the slightest dysfunction. The treasures you’ll find might have small bugs like flat tires or a torn cable. Rule of thumb: If you can roll it home, it’s likely still useful.

If you want to tie the legal knot with your newfound treasure, you can go to the Fundbüro and hand in the bike. If they don’t find the owner in 3 months, you’ll get a certificate that the bike is legally yours. Chances are pretty high, because owners tend to report bike thefts only if the bike is valuable and insured.

You can also go to the police and ask them to check if your bike’s serial number is registered at all. Tell them you found it unlocked somewhere and want to see if it’s registered. If so, you might have to hand it in. If not, chances are you can just keep it.

3. Find an official translator or interpreter

Everyone and their granny is learning German now. So there are plenty of expats offering translation services.

But what if you have an official appointment (marriage, court case, etc.) and they demand a certified translation or a sworn interpreter?

There are just two places you can look. They’re both in German and Google ain’t one of them.

The first is the official directory of all court-accredited translators and interpreters in Germany.

The second is the membership directory of the German Translators’ and Interpreters’ Association (BDÜ). Not all members are accredited, but you can filter for offical translators/interpreters.

One final note: These directories will not guarantee that the provider is a great linguist, only that they hold a license. As with any service, identify your needs first and check the provider’s testimonials and other info before assigning a job.

How to write good titles for the web

What’s the better headline “Repairing the screen of your iPhone” or “Repair your iPhone screen”?

There are several good arguments preferring infinitives and compounds over gerunds, participles and prepositional phrases in all titles, especially when writing for the web. What does that mean? Always write titles as simple commands.

Here’s why:

  • Infinitives are easy to machine-translate. It’s also the way someone would enter a search query in Google, so it’s bad for your SEO.
    • BAD: “Repairing the screen of your iPhone” becomes “Reparieren des Bildschirms deines iPhones”
    • GOOD: “iPhone screen repair” becomes “iPhone Bildschirm Reparatur” – that’s how most people would google for this topic.
  • Call to action! Infinitives are also imperatives: “Repair your screen! Click here!” That’s why they’re also great for user interface items, such as buttons. It tells the reader “Do this to get that.”

Do you have any other observations? Please share!

3 collocation search tools to boost your writing

One common habit of second-language English speakers is to speak “dictionary English.” They might be extremely well-read, but they can sound stilted. I’ve been listening recently to Indian speakers on YouTube. They might use “Divine cow!” as an exclamation, when every six-year old American knows it’s “Holy cow!” And what’s the difference between “sacred cow” and “holy cow”? This can really be confusing to adult learners.

A harmonizing massage or a relaxing massage? Do you say the average German, the usual German or the normal German? Do you feel anxiety or do you experience it? Many of these constructions are correct, but what’s the idiomatic choice? Collocations are combinations of words that “co-occur more often than would be expected by chance.”

You won’t find them in a dictionary or thesaurus. Natives know them by gut feeling. They’re those worn-out figures of speech, that Orwell advised against.

For translations, however, collocations are very helpful, because they make texts sound less translated. They also help proofreaders justify their preferential choices. But how do you find them?

There are several smart ways to search for collocations. Google is the most obvious and works for many languages. However, it’s not targeted and you can’t search for combinations of word classes, such as adjective + noun.

For English, you can use netspeak.eu, Skell, Just-the-Word or the paid Sketch Engine. These are basically concordance searches, or as I like to call them, statistical dictionaries.

The great advantage of these corpus tools is that they don’t rely on human-edited dictionary entries, but just analyze language use to give you the most common phrase.

Netspeak.eu is great to compare word frequency, word order or finding synonyms.

Just the word is a very powerful tool for searching for word classes. If you search for “cow,” you can filter by word classes (noun, adjective) and collocations.

You can also check out the paid tool Sketch Egine. It’s free for researchers and is under development. It has a huge range of functions and a user-friendly interface. There are paid options for professional linguists.

What are your experiences with these tools? Do you know any other advanced tools for linguists? Tell me in the comments!

Translation Village in Turkey – Review

See more photos here.

Most translation conferences are by big business for big business or by academia for academia. They’re pricey, boring, or both. And at more casual translator meetings in Germany, I’m usually by the youngest – at 32.
It doesn’t have to be that way, I found out at the 2nd Translation Village at Aziz Nesin Mathematics Village in Sirince, Turkey.
I found this self-organized event in Turkey by a lucky accident. The idea: translators, interpreters, researchers and off-duty business people get together in a historic Aegean village for a weekend. Of the 70ish attendees, I talked to almost everyone – I just couldn’t avoid it. When was the last time you enjoyed talking to a colleague or business partner? Ever heard of a conference where you can bring your family for a vacation?
Life for translators isn’t easy, so why make it harder? Unlike Germany, Turkish universities are opening new translation departments. So many translators are young, and there are no traditional associations from the analog era.
Still the job prospects are not amazing. Graduates can “make it big” and land an in-house gig at Amazon (conquering Turkey this year), if they can average 800 words per hour. Or, as Turkey has no cozy government sector as provided by the EU or the German courts, aspiring linguists can become Uber-ized dorks like me, which has its ups and downs, but mostly it sucks.
This is also a reason why multinationals like SDL & Lionbridge or Amazon’s own language department control a vast part of the market. Western translators are still discussing whether MT-PE will replace “real” translation, while post-editing is the only work a young Turkish translator will find. New technical developments and constant price pressure erode old models (booth interpreting, etc.) much faster in Turkey.
So whether you freelance or run a language company, you have to stick your nose into all emerging branches, including not just new translation/interpreting modes, but also teaching, research, volunteering or even politics.
There’s no easy way in and no easy way out. Many of us will be driven out of the market or into new fields and few will reach a comfort zone.
I loved being around so many experienced and aspiring colleagues, the dedicated organizational team, our amazing interpreters, and the back-to-nature spirit.
With 10 years in the business and a couple of conferences under my belt, I’m telling you: Don’t miss the next Translation Village! It’s planned for September 2018. If you’re a student, a researcher, a business person, this is for you. The flight & accommodation will cost you way less than the sign-up fee for any European conference, you’ll have a great time, meet great people, and may even gather enough energy to survive another year in this shady business of ours. You’re also very welcome to prepare a talk or other activity, be it CAT yoga or bread baking (no academic credentials required)! Or why not become a sponsor? The lira/euro rate is almost 5:1, so with a relatively average European income, you can make a big contribution.
If you have any questions on signing up or getting there, please contact me emal@germling.com