Translation Tips: Staying in Touch, Saving and Autosaving, Spellcheckers, Keyboards, Translating outside with your laptop
Staying in Touch
One of the most important aspects of being a professional translator is to stay in touch, be easily reachable and to respond quickly to enquiries. Nowadays many translation companies will send out emails to several verified translators enquiring of their availability. The first to respond to such an enquiry can often be the one chosen to take the project. Hence it is within your interest to know when an email comes in and to respond quickly to it. One good way how to accomplish this is to divert all your emails as a text message to your mobile phone. Or pay for a service, such as mobilem.cz (works all over the world, unfortunately not in English), which will divert messages sent to a special email address to your mobile phone. Usually you can set up your regular email address to forward a copy of incoming emails to your special email to mobile text message address.
Even basic mobile phones can be used to respond to incoming emails, the details of which you should find out from your mobile signal provider (not the phone in terms of hardware but the company you pay for your mobile signal).
Or you can get extra fancy and buy a mobile phone ppc/pda, some of which come with their own popout keyboards. For more details on setting up such an email system you can refer to the perfect email solution pages.
Other ways you can get fancy, for example if you do a lot of traveling and often change sim cards, is by getting a SkypeIn account, buying a telephone number(s) from a large selection of countries and diverting the incoming calls, through the internet, to any local number of your choice.
If a customer will grow to trust that you will always respond quickly to their emails, they will have a greater tendency to depend on you and send you more work.
Saving and Autosaving
When your Word does crash, later versions have an AutoRecover feature, which automatically opens your last file opened. Save As that file with a different name and compare it to the file name you have saved on your computer, to determine and use the latest version.
Another option is to use OpenOffice.org This is a freely downloadable set of programs which can open and work with Microsoft Office programs like Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and has free spellchecking dictionaries as well, which may possibly be usable in Word by going to Tools > Options > Spelling & Grammar tab. There you can choose or add dictionaries through the Dictionaries icon. You can probably use several dictionaries at one time.
For later versions of Word, select your text (for example CTRL A), and go to Tools > Language > Set Language. Words not found in the dictionaries you have installed/chosen will have a red squiggly line under it. Press those words with your right mouse button, which should generate a drop down menu of closely spelt words from the dictionary. You can also add words to the dictionary, or just have them ignored in that particular document. For this function to work properly, you need to have that language dictionary installed as explained in this section above.
Once you have your keyboard layout set up properly, you may want different languages attached to that keyboard. For example, a German to Polish translator will want at least two language keyboards installed on their computer, in case they will want to type in some German words (such as names etc.) while they are translating into Polish. To add more languages to your keyboards, in Windows XP (follow similar logic with other Windows or other operating systems) go to Control Panel > Regional and Language Options. Click on the Languages tab and then Details. Here you can add or remove various languages to your keyboard, and choose the keyboard layout as well. With the Key Settings tab you can assign a particular shortcut key to jump from one language to another (I prefer to use ALT SHIFT, because I often use CTRL SHIFT to select text with the arrow keys), which is quicker than having to use your mouse and the language bar if shown in your system tray at the bottom of your screen (notice the Language Bar icon in this keyboard layout window you are presently in).
And finally, once you have everything set up, you may want to view your keyboard layout. Or you might like a program CharMap (character map) when selecting special characters. When using the charmap program, notice the shortcut key for each character (such as ALT 0169 for the Copyright symbol - you hold down the ALT key while punching in the number 0169 on the number pad, and then let go of the ALT key. For laptops you need to switch a portion of your keyboard to the number pad, usually by holding down the blue Function (Fn) key at the bottom left of the keyboard and then pressing the key NumLk (number lock)). This ALT shortcut key should work on any keyboard, so it is good to know in an emergency. Or for crazy characters you might occasionally need. You can download the keyboard viewer and the character map programs from our translation programs website.
Another option is to buy an external keyboard for your laptop. They are not expensive.
Translating outside with your laptop
Have one or two pliers with which to bend the hard wire. You can get hard wire at any electrical shop. Get a nice thick one which does not bend easily, or use your logic. Get a wire with a plastic coating so that you do not scratch your laptop. One wire is for around your lcd monitor, resting on the top and secure at the bottom. At the top you have extra for the hinge mechanism. The second wire loops into the hinge mechanism so that, when opened, it juts out the top of the computer monitor towards you. The reason I have devised this hinge mechanism is so that I can fold it when not using it and stick it into the outer sleeve of my laptop case. Otherwise, some permanently fixed jutting out structure will make it inconvenient to carry around or store.
Once you have the wire mechanism set up properly (the hardest part, for which I will try to upload the schematic at some point), you sow over top of the top wire part some thin black textile, to keep out the light. You want some extra material for the sides of the monitor, to keep out light coming in from the sides, which you can then fasten to the back of the monitor using velcro (I have velcro attached to black cloth sown around the wire frame which clamps onto the monitor itself).
And lastly, from the textile shop you can also get some textile elastic (used around the waste for underwear and for supporting other garments), and sow that onto the dangling side textiles, near the bottom end and connecting the two sides, so that you can slide this elastic fabric under the computer, hence holding them in place so that the wind does not blow them all over the place. Genius eh? But that is just one of the great benefits of being a freelancer, so take advantage of your freedom and improve the quality of your life!
Once you have that set up, you don't want your laptop to overheat, so you might want to work under a big umbrella, or at least put a white t-shirt or white fabric draped over the back, to bounce off the hot sunlight. With your hand occasionally check the heat coming out the fan exhaust of your laptop to make sure it is not much hotter than it usually is, or does not feel excessively hot, otherwise it will wear down some component within it and greatly shorten the life of your laptop, if maintained hot like this over longer periods. It may also be hot if your processor is working hard. For example, with very large Word files, I sometimes find the processor working at 100%, which heats up the components, and starts the fan running at full speed, jetting out hot air. You can find what programs are using a lot of processor speed through the Task Manager (CTRL ALT DELETE) and stop those programs from running, if possible. Keep your laptop running as cool as possible. If it is Word that is forcing the processor to run at full speed and which you might need for translating (hence you cannot simply turn off this program), consider breaking up your file into smaller parts, or Save As into other formats. You can always paste it back together (or Insert File) at the end. More detailed tips on processor speeds through the Computer Tips webpages above.
And lastly, be careful when working on the beach. Be careful about sand getting or blowing into your keyboard, and about damp salty air drawn into the air intake on your fan system. Damp salty air circulating through the interior of your laptop can do lots and lots of damage, and even clog up your fan. If your fan gets clogged up and can't spin, I found that blowing hard into the exhaust area forced the fan to spin at high speeds and help loosen it up. You laptop might not even start (a security measure) if your fan won't start spinning, so blowing inside like this is a quick solution. Otherwise, get yourself a tiny screw driver kit, and if you feel bold enough and have steady and surgical hands, you can take apart your laptop and clean the insides with a q-tip (those little sticks with cotton on the ends you use to clean your ears with). You can dip those into a little bit of clean water, possibly rubbing alcohol, to clean your motherboard and all other parts which look like they have a thin layer of salt on it. Such a thin later will eat away at your electronics, and if thick enough, will eventually become conductive, meaning it will short out your circuits, possibly leading to permanent damage.
So be careful. The heaviest and dampest salty air you will find at an elevation closest to the sea water, and at a location closest to the sea. So you may just have to suffer and work higher up and farther away from the sea. You can't have everything y'know. Generally I find I can feel the saltiness and dampness in the air (your skin gets sticky quickly). On a windy day, you will have to go away farther, or just go inside.
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Published - July 2009
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