Tuesday, 20 February 2024 08:41

The plagiarism allegations against ex-Harvard president explained

Written by Nancy du Plessis
Plagiarism allegations
On Friday morning, 2 February 2024, authors’ editor Mary Ellen Kerans addressed a case that has piqued language professionals’ attention. In a Zoom meeting for 34 SENSE members, Kerans discussed ‘Ousted for plagiarism? What did Harvard’s Claudine Gay do? Was it “serious”?
On 5 December 2023, Claudine Gay, who’d become Harvard University’s first black and female president just six months earlier, was summoned to the US Congress with two other Ivy League presidents. All three women were grilled about their response to antisemitism on campus. Five days later, University of Pennsylvania’s president resigned and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) governing board pledged its president ‘full and unreserved support’. In Gay’s case, however, the focus shifted to plagiarism. She resigned in early January 2024.
Kerans began by noting that in the last 15 to 20 years, plagiarism software has been weaponized. As language professionals, not only do we need to understand potentially career-destroying accusations, but we also need to respond to possible cases of plagiarism without devastating our authors and sources of income. 
In the early 1980s, word processing led to expectations that greater editing ease would result in better prose. But research soon found that some faculty writing deteriorated. Was that because the printed texts looked ‘finished’ and were not revised as they were retyped? By the 1990s, scholars had recognized how easy it was to copy and paste, and despite copyrights, began to recycle large parts of their own – and chunks of other peoples – published articles. Kerans calls Gay ‘a stellar example of [that] generation’.
She examined four of the numerous allegations of plagiarism identified by ‘similarity’ detection software. 
First, ‘patch writing’ – copying from one’s own or other authors’ articles without any original commentary. That is problematic, and while quotation marks can sometimes provide a fix, patch writing indicates that the writer seems not to have developed their own voice – or has no original ideas. 
Second, in an article from 2016, Gay did not reference her – otherwise appropriately – paraphrased information. Referencing is important: paraphrasing does not absolve a writer of the need to cite.
Third, Gay used a method or data analysis approach and its description without acknowledging the ‘similar’ source the software flagged. Using a method without acknowledgement is serious. Could Gay have cited the wrong source? Is the difference a matter of sloppy writing or was Gay’s reference correct and that of the ‘similar’ publication not?
Fourth, Gay used boilerplate phrases in her acknowledgements. But boilerplate and clichéd acknowledgments are very common: they do not constitute plagiarism.
According to Kerans, not all these examples are plagiarism. However, an educator and mentor should do better.
So how should allegations of plagiarism be addressed – and by whom? By the universities, but not by their lawyers. Only those familiar with a field and its language and genres are competent to assess such charges.
We ran out of time to discuss why Gay was ousted. A few days later, Kerans explained in writing that Gay resigned because donors were threatening to withdraw their support: ‘[U]niversity presidents are fund-raisers, not dedicated researchers or educators.’ 
What does this mean for language professionals? We are responsible for calling an author’s attention to the risks of patch writing – not only to help them find their voice but also to protect them from possible future allegations that could be linked to contested actions or political views. We’re all the wiser for having heard Kerans talk.

Blog post by: Nancy du Plessis

Website: www.everything-in-english.com

About Nancy: www.nancyduplessis.com


Thursday, 08 February 2024 10:09

The relationship between yoga and work

Written by Anne Hodgkinson

Yoga 1

Some of you may have caught my ‘Yoga while you work’ session at last year’s Professional Development Day (PDD) and know that I’ve been teaching yoga for a while now. I’d like to share a little more of my experience, as well as some more information than would fit in the half-hour session we had that day.

Yoga 2I came to yoga relatively late in life. After trying out several kinds of yoga (there is a bewildering array of them out there), I settled on Iyengar Yoga, named after Mr BKS Iyengar, one of a handful of people who brought yoga from India to the West in the second half of the 20th century. (He famously said, ‘Call it Iyengar yoga if you want to, I just call it “yoga”.’) In it, poses are generally held for longer and there is more focus on alignment than in most other forms. Iyengar also pioneered the use of ‘props’ such as blocks and belts, which help people feel the intention behind the poses. This is especially helpful for beginners.

What is yoga?

Briefly, ‘yoga’ is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘union’, from which the English word ‘yoke’ is derived. Originally, yoga was pure meditation, practised to achieve union with the divine. Since devotees needed to be able to sit for hours at a stretch, a system of exercises was developed to strengthen and prepare the body for it. Today, there are many forms of yoga practised all over the world, ranging from pure meditation or service (e.g. working in an ashram) to athletic ‘flow’ and ‘power’ yoga.

Many schools of yoga, including Iyengar, draw inspiration from the ‘Yoga Sutras’, written by a sage named Patanjali sometime between 200 BCE and 200 CE. It begins more or less with the sentence ‘Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind’. It goes on to describe how to do that, starting with precepts on how to act towards others and yourself, and on through breathing exercises, poses and meditation. Ultimately, one is freed from the encumbrances that the past and future can put on us; this is not done by ignoring them, but by recognizing when they’re in the way – then we can let go of them.

Because most yoga practised in the West focuses on the physical, most people seem to think it’s reserved for the bendy. (If I had a nickel for every time I’d heard ‘I could never do yoga, I’m too stiff!’…) In fact, yoga gets rid of stiffness. It can also make you stronger and the breathing, as well as poses like twists, allows better circulation to your abdominal organs.

I experienced all of the above benefits doing yoga. In learning to respect and acknowledge my boundaries, I also learnt that some of them could be stretched. While accepting other limitations, I also came to appreciate what our bodies do for us every day, in addition to transporting our brains to conferences, as someone once said. And – quite unexpectedly – I started to feel much calmer after a good session (I tend to be a little high-strung) and, occasionally, I can find that calm at off-the-mat moments as well. I’m not saying I’ve attained enlightenment by any means, but for me yoga really did and does ‘still the fluctuations’ of my mind.

If you feel that yoga is out of reach for you because of all the slick photos of people tied in knots in studio ads and Instagram posts, I’d like to say that the photo is a guide. Many people enjoy yoga without ever getting into the ‘final’ version of a pose. The beauty of yoga is that, unlike say, tennis, any effort towards that pose that entails some challenge for you is yoga. There are classes done sitting on/in chairs, even in wheelchairs. With a good teacher encouraging us, focusing awareness on the body compels us to stay in the present moment. Should that sound too ‘Land of Woo’, be assured that it’s very concrete. In fact it means that for an hour or so, we don’t get caught up in fantasizing about the future (e.g. to-do lists) or ruminating about the past (e.g. ‘that’s what I should’ve said…’), and it feels refreshing.

Yoga practice affects my work in that the body awareness helps me realize I’m sitting badly or need a break, before something starts to hurt. I also sometimes become aware of the old fluctuations acting up and decide it’s time to clear my head, or I notice I’ve been holding my breath for some indeterminate period.

I was so inYoga 3spired by what yoga did for me that I eventually decided to teach (photograph on the left: during one of the lighter moments of the pandemic, teaching online). It wasn’t until I was teaching yoga that I realized what a good complement it is to my desk job. Not only does it get me out and get me moving, but I also have contact with other people, in person. (We got through Covid by going online and we got creative with using furniture, doors, books and many other objects as our props.)

Work comes into yoga when I realize how important language can be in teaching and that, for some people, words are not as good as visual cues or hands-on adjustments.

Once I started teaching, I felt a clear parallel with the idea of keeping your target reader in mind. As Stephen Johnson put it at the same PDD in his ‘How to write great copy’ workshop, the first question many of us ask when taking on a job is ‘who is going to be reading this?’. In my first teacher training, we practised teaching each other. There were twenty of us, relatively fit and young, and the yoga style was Vinyasa, the flowy kind. When I started to teach my own classes, I quickly realized that many of my students were older, stiffer and were dealing with some injury, and some students were male, and they simply couldn’t do all I was asking. Nothing makes someone abandon a class quicker than the feeling they’ll never get it. I had to tone it down for my ‘audience’ and think about what I could do to enable students to get the most out of the poses. The Iyengar training was much better in this respect. Starting from what the student can already do is more challenging than just reciting instructions and hoping people can imitate you, but it makes them feel good instead of inadequate and the connection makes it much more rewarding for both parties. I’m much more present myself because I’m observing them.

For me, yoga is a wonderful complement to my sedentary life as a translator and editor, and teaching is an antidote to the solitude. One last benefit: I don’t believe yoga will keep me young, but I do believe it’s helping me stay healthy as I get older. If you’re curious, look around – most teachers/studios offer a free or cheap trial class and many offer a short introductory course for beginners. I’m sure there is a form you’ll enjoy.

Blog post by: Anne Hodgkinson

Website: www.rosettastonetranslations.nl/

Blog: www.bootsandbowtie.com/


Tuesday, 23 January 2024 10:05

DeepL and machine translation

Written by Jenny Zonneveld

DeepL 1 

SENSE members met under the Zuid-Holland SIG umbrella at Joanna Bouma’s house in The Hague on 16 November 2023. While we enjoyed Joanna’s drinks and snacks, we had a lively discussion about the merits of machine translation.

Some of us have clients who use DeepL as a matter of course, and then send the text to an editor or translator for correction. We agreed it is essential to have the original source text for these tasks, so you can refer to it when checking a translation. Then you can spot where the human translator or machine translation has plugged in the ‘necessary variation’ – which refers to machine translation’s penchant for inserting synonyms when consistent terminology is required.

DeepL shortcomings

SENSE member Marilyn Hedges has significant experience of post-editing DeepL translations and shared her observations and some of the issues she and a colleague have identified. These include the following:

  • Inconsistent terminology between adjacent sentences.
  • Inconsistent use of quotation marks.
  • Poor translation of the more creative source texts; DeepL appears to perform better with factual documents.
  • DeepL is not very good with headings, especially those with clever alliteration, and the same goes for less well-known idiomatic expressions.
  • DeepL gets easily confused if the source text contains any typing errors.

DeepL Pro

DeepL Pro, the paid version of DeepL, offers some extra features. You can upload glossaries and access the editing tool known as DeepL Write. Also, in the translation and editing windows there’s an option to listen to both the source text and the translated or edited texts.

Tips and tricks

There are other useful features in the browser version and DeepL for Windows app, which you can invoke using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+C+C:

  • Access dictionary entries for the source text by simply clicking on a word.
  • See alternatives and synonyms in the target text. When you select an alternative, DeepL rewrites the sentence using your selection and will also offer to add this to the glossary.

Mysteries of DeepL

It is unclear whether DeepL translates sentence by sentence or looks at larger sections of text. I have experimented and observed varying results from the different ways of using DeepL:

  • In a browser, copy and paste a single word, sentence or longer chunk of text.
  • In the app, copy and paste a single word, sentence or longer chunk of text.
  • In a translation tool such as MemoQ, Trados, and Déjà Vu.
  • Translating an entire document, either in the browser or desktop app version.

Optimizing workflows

We talked about different workflows for incorporating or avoiding machine translation in our work and how this affects our consistency and creativity. We discussed how best to help clients who send a machine-translated document for post-editing. Depending on the nature and quality of the source text and its intended use, it may be quicker and cheaper for the client to start the translation from scratch. We can explain why this is the better option as clients may not be aware of the shortcomings of machine translation and why it makes mistakes.

DeepL 2

Types of errors in automated translations

Machine translation expert Michael Farrell gives a good explanation of errors in his book ‘A guide to machine translation for today’s professional translator’. He lists these errors as lexical errors, syntactic errors, grammar errors, errors due to lack of cultural knowledge, stylistic errors, human errors (in the source text) and technical errors.


The next topic we discussed was the use of ChatGPT as a translation tool and the reasons why the AI text generator is prone to ‘hallucination’. Simply explained, this is because the algorithm for selecting the next most common word or phrase in the sequence contains a randomizer, which sends it off on a tangent. This is similar to machine translation engines inserting the ‘necessary variation’ mentioned above.

Next meeting

At the next Zuid-Holland SIG meeting, on Monday 29 January 2024, we will discuss AI, editing and copywriting. Do join us if you can. Dogs are welcome!

Blog post by: Jenny Zonneveld

Website: www.translatext.nl

LinkedIn: jennyzonneveld


Tuesday, 16 January 2024 09:28

Microcopy: snippets of text have a huge impact

Written by Kees Kranendonk

 1 Microcopy

Microcopy. Not a word that rocks the headlines every day – and you’d be forgiven for thinking that SENSE’s 22 November 2023 webinar was going to focus on small print. You know, that legal abracadabra that many of us are all too happy to ignore. As it turned out, the evening centred on those tiny texts we all need and read, but as translators and copywriters, perhaps don’t always give enough thought.

Some 30 attendees had responded to Utrecht SIG convener Jenny Zonneveld’s invitation to hear a talk by Elina IIaria Nocera, Italian-English marketing translator, web copywriter and microcopy expert.

Under the banner ‘Microcopy: snippets of text have a huge impact’, Elina shared her wisdom on the importance of those small messages that help us navigate the internet and complete our online actions correctly. Also known as UX text – where UX is short for User eXperience – you find microcopy on buttons, tooltips, placeholders, confirmation messages and more.

The purpose of microcopy is to motivate and guide the user, and to give feedback on the actions performed. Since these are primarily functional messages, they used to be quite formal, up to the point of being robotic. And while even today many still are, Elina taught us that they are also well-suited for building and cementing a brand’s identity.

Microcopy, then, should be transcreated. The snippets offer a unique opportunity for a brand to forge relationships and build trust with existing and potential customers, while using its own, consistent voice. Indeed, it is a missed opportunity for any brand to not view UX text as marketing copy. It should be written and/or translated correspondingly, adapting the message to the audience.

Elina treated us to an avalanche of examples good and bad (the three images in this blog post are from her presentation, including the ones below from Asos and Mailchimp), along with advice on dos and don’ts. For example, did you know that confirmshaming* is not a good idea? That you don’t want to use these manipulinks*? And yes, for this type of content, clear and concise beats clever and snappy anytime. Good microcopy is human, polite and conversational. It is crystal clear, brief – but not telegraphic – inclusive, and consistent in wording and voice.

2 Microcopy Asos      3 Microcopy Mailchimp                                                                                                                  

With a busy Zoom chat box running simultaneously, Elina guided us through the topic in a very pleasant and professional way, sharing insights and confirming her position as a microcopy expert. She offered ample room for participation and feedback, and a lively conversation followed afterwards. I have no doubt that, going forward, those who attended will give a lot more thought to these tiny texts, in the knowledge that they are just as important as the landing page.

*Confirmshaming: Guilting the user into something by wording the option to decline in such a way that it induces a feeling of shame or embarrassment. ‘No thanks, I’ll give that advantage to the competition.’ The actual link is called the manipulink.

This informative webinar/SIG meeting was accessible to members and non-members alike. In fact, many SENSE events are. Of course, there are many benefits to being a SENSE member, so you should definitely consider it! You can keep up with SENSE by following us on LinkedIn.


Blog post by: Kees Kranendonk

Website: keeskranendonk.com/en/

LinkedIn: keeskranendonk


Thursday, 04 January 2024 13:05

On business websites: Promotion, privacy and padlocks

Written by Linda Comyns


In the age of social media, are business websites still needed? This was the opening question at Southern SIG’s meeting on 9 November 2023. There were 12 SENSE members on the Zoom call, plus Alex Went, a web designer based in Prague. Alex designed SENSE member Linda Jayne Turner’s website and he kindly offered to share his expert advice.

The answer to the opening question was an overwhelming ‘Yes!’ from those present, partly because some of us do not have a social media presence and partly because platforms such as Instagram and Facebook only reach certain clients. For many of us our websites are more of a calling card, a place where potential clients can check us out once they have heard of our services via other channels, most often by word of mouth.

Although not necessarily expecting to appear on the first page of Google search results, we were all keen to hear more about the possibilities. Alex explained how the Google search algorithm favours dynamic content and recommended including a blog for this purpose, providing it is kept up to date – Google loves fresh meat. A blog can also be used in combination with social media posts to promote your business: simply post a link to your latest article on your social media channels to direct people to your website. Alex also told us about Google Search Console, which he finds more useful than Google Analytics for analysing a website’s performance in Google search. You do not have to worry about your budget, as Google Search Console is free to use.

Website security was next on the agenda and the conversation moved on to secure network connections and privacy. Alex explained that the padlock symbol in your browser denotes that the website uses secure sockets layer (SSL) to provide a secure network connection and that this is important for Google’s search algorithm. You can choose between two types of SSL certificate: a free one which is usually available via your hosting platform or your own personal one, which may be subject to an annual fee. Also vital for those with a contact form on their website is compliance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Since a contact form collects personal details (such as email addresses), it is important to have a check box that a prospective customer has to click to confirm that they have read and agreed to your privacy policy. Just having the privacy policy on your website is not enough!

Compliance with GDPR is also a concern when using a captcha to prevent spam. Alex warned that it might be best to avoid reCAPTCHA v3 because it uses mouse movements to determine whether a person or a bot is navigating your website. Since these mouse movements occur before someone has clicked to confirm that they have read and agreed to your privacy policy, this type of captcha is actually in violation of GDPR.

Google’s search algorithm reared its head yet again in response to a question about website domain extensions, such as ‘.com’ or ‘.nl’ or ‘.eu’. With many options available, these two or three letters make our lives difficult once again. Here the difference lies in the country of the prospective client. A Google search in one country will bring up a different set of results to the same search in another country, depending on the website domain. Although having several hosted websites can be costly, using a simple redirect from different domain extensions to a single main site could be a cost-effective solution.

We packed a lot of discussion into our 90-minute meeting. Other topics included some of the tools people used to design and create their websites, with Squarespace, WordPress, Polylang and Divi all being mentioned. We also debated how best to structure your website. Should you follow the trend of a few years ago and have just a single page or go with several pages and a menu? Lastly, and somewhat surprisingly, we discovered that bilingual – or even trilingual – websites can cause more problems than you might expect, such as additional fees and search engine problems, and even our expert Alex said it was an area he wanted to explore further. For those of us with clients who only speak one language, having a website available in multiple languages is a must, and although there are various automatic translation options available, do you – as a language professional – really want your calling card to be written by a machine? Watch this space for a follow-up talk…

As we wound up the meeting there was a final bonus for attendees: Alex offered to do a free audit of our websites. I imagine his inbox was pretty full the next day! In keeping with our tradition, we appointed our latest Southern SIG member of the month (the attendee located farthest south) and this time Linda Jayne Turner was a worthy winner, dialling in all the way from the Czech Republic.

About Alex Went

Experienced web designer with proven track record of consultancy to small businesses, NGOs and individual clients. Also worked in higher education and creative industries. Recommended media and communications professional. Graduated Master of Arts from Cambridge University. Lives in Prague. alex@websiteswanted.eu

Blog post by: Linda Comyns

Website: www.lmcenglishcommunications.nl


Wednesday, 20 December 2023 10:06

SENSE demographics 2023

Written by Paula Arellano Geoffroy

 Demographics 1

In this follow-up to the previous post ‘SENSE ‒ A name and a meaning’, I will be breaking down the data from our membership database to look into the make-up of our Society. Even though membership numbers have fluctuated over the years, the general tendency has been towards growth. As of September 2023, the Society has roughly 280 members, and although this number changes slightly every month, I will assume it fixed, so we can read the data as a snapshot of our Society as it stands today.


Currently, SENSE is an international community of language lovers, with 20 languages represented in the Society. Besides English (73% of members are native English speakers) and Dutch (roughly 60% of our members work into or from Dutch), the most popular languages spoken are German and French (8% of our membership) and Spanish (3% of our membership). Other languages present among us are Italian, Danish, Czech, Portuguese, Afrikaans, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Greek, Japanese, Persian, Armenian, Chinese, Polish and Turkish.


Our community has a number of distinctive features. The membership base has many long-standing members. Almost half of our members joined before 2010 (42%), 43% joined between 2010 and 2020, and 15% joined in the last three years. It is noticeable that 71% of our members are women and 29% are men.

SENSE encompasses a varied array of professionals such as translators, editors, proofreaders, copywriters, journalists, trainers, language teachers, subtitlers, interpreters, transcribers, indexers, technical writers and content writers. Most of our members offer two or more services, which is especially true for translation and editing, offered by 57% of our membership. It is worth mentioning here that 41 members (15%) are sworn translators. Many SENSE members also offer copywriting services (33%).

Most of our members work as freelancers (76%), have a website (56%) and have shared with us their LinkedIn profile (58%). We have three student members. Many of our members (39%) also belong to other language or freelancers’ organizations, such as ITI, NGTV, ATA, MET, NEaT, PEG, EMWA, CIEP, EASE, EFA, etc.

Demographics 2Geographical locations

Currently, 246 members (88%) live in the Netherlands and 34 members (12%) live abroad (UK, Germany, France, US, Spain, Finland, Poland, Australia, Belgium, Italy, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Oman), distributed according to the table on the right.

In the Netherlands, almost half of our membership (45%) live in the Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland provinces combined. If we add two of the other central provinces such as Utrecht and Gelderland, more than 65% of our membership live in the four central regions of the country, as you can see in the figure below.

Over recent years, almost all of SENSE’s in-person events have been held in the city of Utrecht, which makes sense given that it’s one of the most central cities of the Netherlands.

Demographics 3

Membership and freelance directories

If you are a member of SENSE, you can view other members’ services and contact details through the Membership Directory on our website. But of course you need to be logged in to access the directory. However, the contact details of the 218 SENSE members who have opted to be listed in our Freelance Register are public. If you visit either directory, you can fill in search criteria to find SENSE members who offer services you might need or find colleagues who live near you.

Our community is diverse, knowledgeable and passionate about language. We encourage you to reach out to each other with curiosity and confidence.

And if you are not a member of SENSE yet, you are welcome to contact us at membership@sense-online.nl to find out more and join us!

Blog post by: Paula Arellano Geoffroy

Website: paulaarellanogeoffroy.com

LinkedIn: paula-arellano-geoffroy  

Thursday, 07 December 2023 10:37

SENSE ‒ A name and a meaning

Written by Paula Arellano Geoffroy

NameMeaning logo

Ever since becoming SENSE Content Manager I’ve been wanting to write about the history of our Society and the composition of its membership. So I spoke to founding members, did a deep dive into our website archive, and downloaded our membership database, and I am happy to share my findings here and in a follow-up article about SENSE demographics.

The prelude to SENSE’s creation took place in 1989, when a group of 20 English-speaking people working as freelance editors in the Netherlands began meeting informally in Wageningen and Zeist under the name of the English Native-Speaking-Editors Network (ENSEN). In 1990, the group changed its name to The Society of English-Native-Speaking Editors (SENSE) and was formally registered at the chamber of commerce in The Hague. At its first General Meeting in Baarn, with 35 members, the first Constitution was ratified and an Executive Committee was formally elected. The late Peter Attwood became Chair, and the current Honorary Members Joy Burrough and Jackie Senior became Secretary and Treasurer.

A name and a meaning

In the following year, a contest was held to create a logo and a distinctive acronym. In the logo, an ellipse surrounds the word ‘sense’, which carries a caret under the letter ‘e’. A caret (^) is a symbol used by copy-editors and proofreaders to indicate a proposed insertion in a text when marking up texts manually or on paper. Both the ellipse and the caret signal the meticulous editing of the word ‘sense’, which at the time represented the name of the Society, but today is written SENSE. Not long after, the leadership chose to use orange and blue as the Society’s distinctive colours.


During its first decade, SENSE grew to 170 members. The Society began producing a quarterly newsletter printed on A4 sheets, held its first copy-editing training workshop, and launched an electronic Forum in which members could interact with each other and ask for help regarding anything related to their various language-related fields of work.

Becoming digital

SENSE continued its foray into the digital era with the launch of its first website in 2001 and four years later with the first digital newsletter called ‘eSense’, which was replaced in 2018 by a Newsletter and a Blog. In 2010, almost a decade after its launch, the website was upgraded to a content management system (CMS) for publishing website content. In 2016, SENSE’s website was updated with the modern ‘look and feel’ that it has today, and at the same time the Society became active on social media, creating and sharing content on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter (currently X).


By early 2017, SENSE had grown to be a larger, more diverse and open institution. The Society modernized and updated its Constitution with an inclusive policy that welcomed and allowed voting rights not only to English-native speakers but to all English-language professionals in general, and changed its official name to ‘SENSE the Society of English-language professionals in the Netherlands’.

A mission and a strategy

SENSE’s mission reads, ‘We want to make sure that all SENSE members, both new and existing, are aware of all the resources SENSE has to offer to help them improve their professional skills and increase their professional networks. In addition, we want to encourage as many members as possible to actively participate in SENSE to both share their knowledge and experience and to learn from each other.’

The Society strategy for 2022‒2024 states the following goals:

  • To bring English-language professionals into contact with each other.
  • To provide a resource network of skills, specializations and experience.
  • To encourage communication between societies and institutions involved in publishing commercial, technical and academic material in the English language.

Nowadays, SENSE represents a diverse group of roughly 280 members, encompassing translators, editors, proofreaders, copywriters, journalists, trainers, language teachers, subtitlers, interpreters, transcribers, indexers, technical writers, and content writers. There are 20 languages represented in the Society, with 88% of members living in the Netherlands and 12% living abroad. But if you want to know more, all these interesting figures will be discussed in more detail in an upcoming post titled ‘SENSE demographics 2023’.

Blog post by: Paula Arellano Geoffroy

Website: paulaarellanogeoffroy.com

LinkedIn: paula-arellano-geoffroy  

Tuesday, 28 November 2023 11:13

Meet Heather Sills

Written by Paula Arellano Geoffroy

Heather SillsEditor, proofreader and translator Heather Sills (website: www.heathersills.com; LinkedIn: heathersills) joined SENSE in July 2023. I invited her to tell us about herself and her life in the city of Ghent in neighbouring Belgium. She accepted with enthusiasm and here is what she said.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and where you are from?

I was born and raised in Norfolk in the UK, before heading to Durham University to study Modern European Languages and Cultures. This included a year abroad, during which I was an intern for a translation agency and a hotel booking website in Berlin. After I graduated, I moved to London, where I got my first ‘real’ job as an editor for a tourism website, part of the renowned Frommer’s Travel Guides. From there, I moved to Thomas Cook, where I managed the hotel content. I then took a bit of a sidestep by becoming the product owner for an in-house content management system. Everything I’d learnt about how to create, edit, translate and maintain content went into being the business representative, working in IT, putting forward requirements, testing and giving feedback on new functionality, and managing projects end to end. This explains why a lot of the books and other texts I now translate and edit are on business and IT topics, as well as on tourism/travel and global development issues.

What brought you to Belgium?

When I was working in London, most of the software development team were based in Ghent. So, I was living out of a suitcase, travelling back and forth on the Eurostar. Eventually, I realized that after eight years in London it no longer felt like home. And I absolutely loved Ghent – it was the picture-perfect, café-strewn, cobblestoned town that I’d always dreamt of living in. It made me feel European again. So, I asked if I could be based in Ghent for a year. My boss agreed, I packed a slightly bigger suitcase, and – eight years later – I’m still here!

Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French and German. Do you speak all of them? Do you translate all of them?

I spoke German fluently when I was in Berlin. So, when I started trying to pronounce Dutch, everyone thought I was German, which led to some fairly amusing conversations… But after studying it at Ghent University and throwing myself into the deep end by working at a software company with no other internationals (quite rare in Ghent these days), I’m now told I speak Flemish like the proud Gentenaar that I am!

The main language I translate from is Dutch, as a lot of my clients are based in Flanders or in the Netherlands. But I also translate from French (mainly for clients from Brussels who’ll send you a jumble of Flemish and French without even realizing it) and from German. A lot of the English-language texts I edit are written by native Dutch speakers. I think it helps to know the language they were thinking in when they wrote it. It makes it much easier to work out what they were trying to say and then you can rewrite it in a more natural way.

You’ve been working for different companies for a long time, but a few years ago decided to set up your own business. How is that working for you? Do you like freelancing?

Indeed, I’d been translating and editing in my spare time ever since I was a student, but as I climbed the ladder in my day job, I realized I was spending too much time in meetings and not enough time doing what I really enjoyed. It was actually the coronavirus pandemic that gave me the push I needed. I noticed that companies were much more open to using freelance staff working remotely. After all, everyone was working from home. So, I quit my job and started offering translation and editing to clients around the world. There have been plenty of ups and downs, but each one has taught me something new. I love that I get to work on some wildly different topics and for all kinds of companies, from start-ups to publishing houses to government institutions and universities. No two weeks are the same. Plus, there are far fewer meetings…

Do you have any preferred hobbies?

Unsurprisingly perhaps, I like anything to do with languages and for me a big part of that is travelling and experiencing the country of the language you’re learning. Languages aside, I also love cooking and I am very interested in nutrition, fitness and well-being.

How did you learn about SENSE?

A fellow translator posted a link to a SENSE event in one of the Facebook groups I’m in. Even though I don’t live in the Netherlands, I thought it would be a useful organization to join. As far as I’m aware, we don’t have an equivalent in Flanders or anywhere in Belgium.

Blog post by: Paula Arellano Geoffroy

Website: paulaarellanogeoffroy.com

LinkedIn: paula-arellano-geoffroy  

Wednesday, 15 November 2023 13:24

SENSE Professional Development Day 2023

Written by Jasper Pauwels and Tomas Brogan

2023 PDD 1

On Saturday 30 September, SENSE welcomed members and guests for their first in-person Professional Development Day (PDD) since 2019. Held in Park Plaza hotel in Utrecht on the Feast Day of Saint Jerome – the patron saint of translators – language professionals were greeted by the Room Angels, also known as the organizing team: Maaike Meijer, Naomi Gilchrist, Nandini Bedi, Kerry Gilchrist and Lizzie Kean, who showed everybody to their meeting rooms throughout the day.

The organizers put together a diverse programme of workshops and presentations, and there was something of interest for everyone. Attendees were welcomed with coffee, croissants and cake, in addition to a well-received buffet lunch, which gave everyone time to mingle.

Below are some session recaps. If you log in to our website, you’ll find an overview of all the workshops on the 2023 PDD conference page.

2023 PDD 3Editing slam

Copy-editor and English teacher Nandini Bedi and copy-editor and proofreader Danielle N. Carter invited attendees to edit a humanities text written in English by a German scholar. This made for a lively interactive session.

The text was both poorly written and poorly organized, making it difficult to read and make sense of. Besides considerations such as changing the voice, e.g. from ‘this paper attempts to show’ to ‘I will show’, other issues were considered alongside the question of how far the text should be reorganized.

It was recommended that the editor request a sample of the source text before accepting an editing job. If the budget is tight, you may have to work out your client’s priorities and do less research. When giving feedback, you should strive to write cordial – but brief – comments to double-check with the author if your changes are acceptable and that the edit still reflects the intended meaning.

Attendees were particularly interested in the use of various software to speed up the editing process, in particular the Word plug-ins PerfectIt and Editor’s Toolkit Plus, together with macros such as JoinTwoWords, DocAlyse and HyphenAlyse. The Read Aloud function in Word was much praised by Nandini because it allowed her to check the flow of the text without the distractions of track changes. Another tip from Danielle was to rewrite various clients’ style sheets in your own standardized format for speedy reference.

Last but not least, the presenters and audience reflected on the crucial importance of communication outside of the editing process. For example, the presenters cautioned against contacting the author of a particularly troublesome piece for more information since lengthy email correspondence is not included in your quote. They trust your expertise and want you to make the text look respectable. To stress this, Nandini delivers work with the word ‘final’ in the filename.

Grammar & punctuation refresher

We can think of less intimidating things than presenting grammar and punctuation tips to professional language nitpickers, but Bristol-born Dutch-to-English translator Claire Niven executed the task with panache. The first part of the presentation focused on punctuation, with a strong attention to comma use, while the second part was about changing language conventions, such as singular ‘they’ and spelling issues related to race and ethnicity.

Claire covered four basic commas: the listing comma, the joining comma, the bracketing comma and the introductory comma, as well as the order of adjectives, which can be tricky. Native speakers subconsciously know the right order: determiner, observation or opinion, size, shape, age, colour, origin, material, and, finally, qualifier. If you would like to understand why ‘silver small spoon’ just does not sound right, you might enjoy reading ‘The Elements of Eloquence’ by Mark Forsyth.

Commas were just one of the language-related subjects that sparked a lively discussion. Hearing people’s different opinions and experiences helped those present to take more informed decisions on a variety of issues as the Oxford comma, the distinction between ‘which’ and ‘that’ in subordinate clauses and the singular ‘they’.

Race and ethnicity are hotly debated topics in contemporary societies and spelling can play a bigger role than you might think. Claire discussed capitalizing ‘Black’ (but not necessarily ‘White’), and noted that the term ‘Caucasian’ stems from outdated biological theories about race. ‘Person of colour (POC)’ is not as common in British English as in American English today, but like much of what we discussed, that may change in time. A highly recommended website in this regard is ‘The Conscious Style Guide’.


Despite facing technical difficulties, transcreation specialist Branco van der Werf delivered a captivating presentation in his own unique style on finding and keeping transcreation clients. Having specialized in translating creative marketing copy since 2014, Branco generously shared his insights from his chosen niche.

First and foremost, budding transcreation translators should not call their services transcreation, because that is what translation agencies call it. In Branco’s opinion, working on transcreation projects through translation agencies is not ideal. If you would like to work directly with marketers, you should search for marketing companies offering services called market internationalization, international copywriting or simply creative translation. Marketeers often specialize in either business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C) marketing and you should consider which one suits you best, or whether you want to offer both. As a rule of thumb, B2B has a more corporate, objective style of writing, whereas B2C is more subjective and is about eliciting emotions.

When working with marketing agencies, it is vital not to undersell yourself. Focus on what is relevant to them – they are probably not interested in what computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools you use and probably assume that you are meticulous and will deliver on time. They are interested, however, in which marketing projects you have completed, and for which brands. Keep your first elevator pitch email to two or three lines to get them interested.

One effective way of keeping your new-found clients happy is writing memorable emails, and sharing your enthusiasm for the project and how it ties in well with your previous experience. Of course, high-quality translation – or ‘market internalization’ – makes every client happy. When translating taglines, give your client options to choose from, instead of rephrasing the same translation three times.

But being creative on demand can be hard if you have no inspiration. To get his creativity flowing, Branco likes to impose restrictions on himself, such as trying to rhyme, making the copy shorter or choosing a different grammatical subject. Puns and humour are another great avenue to explore. And even if you hate your own pun, it could put your creativity back on track.

How to write great copy

Business writing trainer Stephen Johnston gave a whistle-stop tour of what is normally a two-day workshop on copywriting in just 45 minutes.

This workshop was the epitome of ‘there is no try’ as Stephen quickly and skilfully wrangled copywriting issues out of attendees, which he marked on a whiteboard and revisited at the end of the presentation.

One of the main takeaways was that great copy needs to get into the reader’s head, and not just remain on paper. To do this, both general principles and specific ‘job aids’ can be used.

In general, write the way you talk. Talk about the benefits – and not your features – as a business or freelancer. Help the reader by providing short, goal-oriented, navigable copy that has a clear structure, good grammar and a strong take-home message. Other tips included the ‘rule of three’: stop, look and listen.

The importance of considering the order in which information is presented was emphasized, as well as using informational sub-headings (e.g. using ‘Sales increased by 50% in the 2nd quarter’ rather than just ‘Sales’).

In terms of job aids, SCOPE was the most important:

  • Start – describe the reader’s current situation (that everyone can agree with).
  • Change – introduce a problem to be solved.
  • Overall question – identify the question posed by the change.
  • Principal message – answer the question with a principal message.
  • Explanation – briefly explain your supporting information.

In general, a masterful presentation with many actionable points for the audience.

Video game localization

If you think video games are for shy teenagers, think again. Video games are a multi-billion-dollar industry that is increasingly relevant to pop culture, just like cinema and music. Games go beyond entertainment and are also incorporated in e-learning, health and safety regulations, and to raise awareness on racism and cyberbullying. In his interactive and informative presentation, Melchior Philips, who has five years of experience as a video game translator, confirmed that many people prefer to play video games in their native language.

Everything in a video game has to be translated: from the characters’ dialogues and user interface to support materials and patch notes (technical notices on improvements in new updates) to texts about the game (online store pages, product descriptions and newsletters), and even terms of use and end-user licence agreements.

Most video games are produced in the US and Japan and often contain cultural references that warrant localization. You need a lot of creativity, especially since context and visuals are not always provided. For many game developers, translation is an afterthought. The lack of context is often countered by two rounds of quality assurance, one in collaboration with the developer to see if the translations work in the actual game, followed by a linguistic quality assurance with a reviewer.

Video game localization is hard work but good fun, and unfortunately, the fun is also reflected in the rates offered. Many video game translators will work with specialized translation agencies, which at least usually guarantees a steady flow of work.

Yoga while you work

Anne Hodgkinson was the last presenter with her yoga class, which was perfect timing after a long day of mostly sitting. Together, attendees tried a number of yoga exercises that can be easily squeezed in between tasks while working. Clearly, this was not the first yoga class Anne taught and with her skilled guidance, even complete novices experienced the beneficial effects of office yoga. Everyone’s body is different and you should always respect your limits, but some exercises were truly manageable for every language professional. Reinvigorated and relaxed, we headed down to the bar, knowing a few new ways to work more healthily and happily.

2023 PDD 4

If you add Matthew Curlewis’ ‘Write to reconnect’, Anne Oosthuizen’s ‘Poetry and song translation’, Hanneke de Raaff’s ‘Music interpretation in sign language’, and Jenny Zonneveld’s ‘Creating an ergonomic workspace’, you’ll see that all in all it was a truly informative and splendid day.

Do you have an idea for a future online or in-person presentation? Or would you like to join the SENSE Continuing Professional Development (CPD) team? Please contact CPD@sense-online.nl.

Blog post by: Jasper Pauwels

Website: www.pauwelstranslations.nl

LinkedIn: jasperpauwels  

Blog post by: Tomas Brogan

LinkedIn: tomasbrogan  

Wednesday, 01 November 2023 15:48

Conservation volunteering – Where work and leisure pursuits meet

Written by Hans van Bemmelen

Hans volunteering1

I always used to translate Dutch into English, as that is what I am MITI-qualified to do. However, it seems that in recent years many into-Dutch translators have retired. Consequently one of my customers now regularly asks me to translate into Dutch – mostly operating manuals for mowers, chainsaws and other equipment used in the groene sector, the land-based trades, i.e. forestry, horticulture, groundskeeping, etc. As a conservation volunteer, I get to operate some of this equipment, chat with farmers and grounds personnel, and work with other volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds. As a result, my work and volunteering tend to support each other, making me more effective in both roles, and making both more enjoyable.

Hans volunteering2A number of years ago I joined an NLdoet volunteer work session in a park close to where I live in The Hague. I enjoyed that, so through a volunteering website I found the Werkgroep Agrarisch Natuurbeheer (WAN), which is active around Wassenaar and Leiden. The group manages geriefbosjes, coppices that used to supply farms with wood. Coppicing means regularly cutting trees back to stumps, after which they regenerate very quickly. This is done in winter when the trees are dormant. We mostly use an eight-year rotation, after which time the new shoots on the trees (ash, hazel, etc.) have grown to a height of six to eight metres and a diameter of around ten centimetres. It is essentially the same as pollarding where trees are cut higher up – knotwilgen being a key example in the Netherlands. Historically, coppiced timber was an important resource for the farms, providing both firewood and wood for tool handles, etc. However, as coppicing is very labour-intensive farmers have stopped doing it. Because copses can be an important habitat for a range of species, some are now looked after by voluntary groups such as WAN. We not only coppice and pollard trees but also plant new trees, dredge ditches, help install nest cameras, etc. Most of the work is done using pruning saws (pistoolzagen) which cut very quickly. We occasionally use chainsaws for heavier work and crosscutting the felled timber.

A few years ago I had to translate some chainsaw manuals so that was a good opportunity to do a course at IPC Groene Ruimte, a vocational training centre. Just as important as gaining technical knowledge and experience was chatting with the groene sector workers – basically the people who read the manuals I translate. Later, I also did courses on brush cutters and other equipment.

As the copses where I work are nearby farms, I get to chat with the farmers and learn about their work and equipment. That has been very useful in translating manuals for milking robots, tractors and flail mowers.

Hans volunteering3I also do some volunteering for Dunea, the drinking water company, which serves around 1.3 million customers in the west of Zuid-Holland and manages around 2,500 hectares of dunes that form part of the Nationaal Park Hollandse Duinen. Most of that work involves removing invasive vegetation such as black cherry (Amerikaanse Vogelkers) and white poplar (abeel) to preserve the openness of the dune landscape. These trees have to be dug out completely – cutting them would only cause them to grow back, as in coppicing. Again, chatting with Dunea staff and the other volunteers during coffee breaks can be very informative.

For me, combining conservation volunteering with working in areas such as agriculture and horticulture works really well.

Blog post by: Hans van Bemmelen

Website: www.techtrans.eu

LinkedIn: hans-van-bemmelen  

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