Difficult Things

In your own work life, do you sometimes encounter difficult things? Surely you do. Perhaps there’s a tough conversation you need to have with a co-worker. Maybe you’re trying to help someone facing serious health challenges. You could be helping someone with legal issues. At some point, most of us work with challenging situations.

It might sound strange when I say that I like translating “the difficult things”. Here’s an example:

Someone, to me: “So, what types of projects are you working on right now?”

Me: “Well, I just finished a newsletter for a community organization.”

Someone: “Oh, cool, what type of organization?”

Me: “They work to prevent substance abuse and domestic violence. There was a lot of good information in the newsletter, and I enjoyed working on it.”

Someone: “Oh boy, how difficult! That doesn’t sounds like fun at all.”

Me: “Ummm…”

The truth is, the “difficult things” are often the projects I enjoy most. Why? Because I’m helping people. By ensuring that something like a newsletter, client intake form, or information pamphlet is in another language, I’m helping someone to gain access to support and services they may not otherwise know about. This is a huge reason why we translators and interpreters do what we do!

So the next time you’re faced with that hard project yourself, just know I’m right there with you, sending waves of support your way. These are the projects that truly matter.

What I’m Working On, Part 2

Most translators specialize in certain fields: finance, legal, education, etc. As a former classroom teacher, I’ve specialized in education from the start of my translation business. I also work a lot with legal documents and art world publications. The past couple of years gave me the opportunity to work in new fields:

-Community health and wellness

-Agriculture and land use/land conservation

I shared a pie chart last year called “What I’m Working On”. Here’s an updated chart for 2022. This shows areas I’ve been working in:

I’m happy with how it’s all shaking out and look forward to continued work in these areas. I hope 2022 is treating you kindly!

Getting Great Subtitles

Subtitles open doors because more people will enjoy your videos. As a translator, I write transcripts used for subtitling. If you need subtitles for your film or video, what should you do?

First, it’s important to understand the difference between subtitles and captions. Let’s look at Rev.com‘s definition of each:

Captions: “Captions are designed to increase video accessibility for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Captions are a transcription, usually word-for-word, of the video’s spoken dialogue, and may not exactly match the pacing of the dialogue or action.” (Captions are often generated by AI.)

Subtitles: “Subtitles are a translated version of a video’s transcription, meant to give the viewer a real-time experience of what is happening on screen….Typically subtitles are intended for use by viewers who do not speak the language used in the video, but who can still hear other sounds, like music, and can tell which person is speaking.”

If you need subtitles for a video, how do you get them? There are three main steps.

First, someone will watch your video and transcribe (write down) the audio. They will usually include time stamps in the transcription. Sometimes a transcription is generated with AI, and a human goes through later to correct errors. Sometimes it is generated only by a human, which costs more but will be more accurate.

Second, that transcription goes to the translator. The translator writes everything in the target language.

In the final step, a professional will use software to input the subtitles. A good subtitling professional will know how to match the target-language dialogue to the pacing of the video so that it flows naturally and matches what’s happening on screen. They rely on the time stamps to help them.

Translating for subtitles can be a lot of fun! I recently wrote the English subtitles for a few episodes of a Spanish-language sitcom called “Todo por Lucy” (“All for Lucy”). It will be available in the United States and Latin America. Inspired by the American show “I Love Lucy”, it stars two well-known Mexican actors: Daniel Tovar as Ricky and Natalia Téllez as Lucy. It’s a fun, lighthearted series, and I was giggling as I worked!

If you hire a translator and/or a video editor for subtitles, make sure to give them as much time as possible to get the job done well. This helps them to avoid errors and make the right language choices. We can all think of times when subtitles miss the mark, resulting in awkward or incorrect meaning. But excellent subtitles make you forget you’re reading subtitles—so you can just enjoy the show!

Translation for the Wine Industry

It’s harvest time in California wine country! In fact, the 2021 grape harvest began early this year. I live in Sonoma County, and harvest time can be exciting. As fall colors begin to change and the air turns crisp, we see truckloads of grapes making their way down winding country roads. Floodlights light up vineyards at night so workers can see while picking grapes, and everyone is talking about the weather and how it may affect the fruit.

For the past couple of years, I’ve have the opportunity to provide translation services for the wine industry in Napa and Sonoma counties, as well as for a family-run winery in Spain. I’ve translated things like employee manuals and safety guides, especially for the Covid-19 workplace. I’ve also translated tasting notes and social media posts. Staying up to date on wine industry news and trends is important to me. Here in California, the industry is facing big challengesand big opportunities.

Some questions among vineyard and winery owners are: How do we adapt to a changing climate? How can large-scale operations work well with conservation groups and neighbors? What needs to happen to ensure worker safety? How is the customer base changing?

The “State of the Wine Industry Report 2021” from wine industry investor Silicon Valley Bank highlights recent trends in the U.S. wine industry. This year’s report discusses the importance of online sales, how wine marketing campaigns can appeal to millenials and other younger consumers (such as more diverse, multicultural messaging), and how local tourism will be key to business during this time when international travel has dipped.

“Fire season” is really a thing here in the West. Luckily, an oversupply of grapes helped to ease some of the pain caused by natural disasters like wildfires, and last year’s harvest quality was good. The report also discusses labor supply, which is limited and has increasing costs. Vineyards and wineries must try new ways to reach out and support new and potential employees.

Supporting agricultural workers in wine country has been front and center for labor groups and organizations such as the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation. For example, the SCGGF set up the “Farmworker Resiliency Fund” to help workers pay for housing and other needs after wildfires. Clear communication in Spanish is also a huge need for these operations. I can tell you stories of OSHA presentations where workers didn’t understand the content because presentations and materials were only in English. Not good!

For his article in North Bay Biz, author Tim Carl states: “Creating a work environment that is welcoming and accepting to all is not only the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense….Doing so means you and your organization have spent time thinking about how to engage those not normally in your sphere of experience. It also demonstrates you’ve been rethinking the very framework your company has used to engage with others in the past.”

You can access the full Silicon Valley Bank report here, and learn about support for vineyard and winery workers here. In the meantime, here’s hoping for a successful 2021 harvest.

Talking New Mexico

My husband and I were fortunate to spend most of our summer in New Mexico this year. We stayed in Santa Fe, Taos and the Albuquerque area, where my husband’s family lives. We also drove far north, which we usually don’t have the time to do, visiting the picturesque mountain town of Chama and the wilds of the Carson National Forest.

As a language person, I love seeing and hearing Spanish words used every day in New Mexico. Some people who visit New Mexico don’t necessarily know the Spanish words key to the local culture, so today I’ll share a few that I’ve learned about over the years. If you go to New Mexico, make sure to keep your eyes and ears open for these Spanish words!


National Geographic tells us that “(t)here are close to 700 functioning acequias in New Mexico, according to the state’s Acequia Commission, and a score more in Colorado. Many of these gravity-fed ditches that bring runoff from the mountains to the fields have been operating for three centuries, and some were likely dug long before that.” Local farmers and homeowners depend on these acequias to irrigate crops and gardens. If you have property with an acequia, you likely pay an annual fee to be part of the system in your neighborhood. Land with an acequia is like gold in these dry parts of the Southwest.

This acequia is in the village of Corrales, just north of Albuquerque.


On the subject of acequias, the mayordomo is an important person within a community with these irrigation ditches. This individual oversees the maintenance and fair use of the acequia. People often take turns in the role. The mayordomo interfaces with community members, property owners and local government to make sure everything runs smoothly, with fair use for everyone with water rights. A well-known account of a mayordomo in Northern New Mexico is chronicled in the book “Mayordomo” by Stanley Crawford.

This mayordomo is opening the sluice gate to let water into the main stream.


Without water, we wouldn’t have chile! Whether you prefer red or green, a typical meal in New Mexico isn’t complete without it. Note that it’s spelled “chile”, and not “chili,” which is the chili stew with beans, meat, and vegetables you’d get in neighboring Texas.

This chile is turning from green to red.


When it comes to art in New Mexico, you’ll find paintings, sculptures, music, theater…and one of the most traditional art forms is the carved wooden “santo”, or saint. Some santos are plain wood, and others are painted with brighter colors. Santos can be three dimensional statues or simple wooden wall hangings with a picture of a saint. The Harwood Museum in Taos has a gorgeous collection of santos by Patrociño Barela. His simple, deeply thoughtful works are considered to reflect the universal human condition.

This collection of santos is in a home.


A portal is a covered porch, with the overhang usually supported by large wooden beams. It’s a classic feature of most New Mexican homes, even if the home is a modern one. It’s the place to be on a hot day with your lemonade or beer!

This building in Santa Fe has a portál along the front.

Are there any words you’ve wondered about during a trip to New Mexico? Let me know and I’ll answer your questions!

Images courtesy of Yes Magazine, the Santa Fe New Mexican, Archaeology Southwest, KUNM and On the Luce.

What I’m Working On

Summer greetings to you!

I took a look at what types of translation projects I’ve worked on during the first half of 2021: January through June. Here is how it’s shaking out:

Two trends are clear. The first trend I notice is that a lot of education- and health-related projects came in over the past six months. This was a direct result of Covid-19 because many schools and medical/health providers increased their communication during the pandemic. The second trend I see is that arts-related translation is certainly down…as is travel-related translation, which only makes up a small part of that “Other” category. Not a surprise there! It will be interesting to see if the numbers change in the second half of 2021.

Hope you’re enjoying summer, wherever it finds you.

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