If you’re a freelancer, chances are you’ve worked on “one of those projects” (or maybe more than one!) where you wished you had another one of you to take on some of the work. And if you’re Judy or Dagy (short for Dagmar) Jenner of Las Vegas and Vienna-based Twin Translations, you picked up the phone, called the other one of you, and the problem was solved. Judy and Dagy, identical twins who grew up in Austria and Mexico before attending college in the U.S. (Judy) and Austria and France (Dagy), now work together as a translation company that never sleeps, offering translations from and into German, English and Spanish, with Dagy adding in some French.
I recently asked Judy and Dagy if they would be interested in being profiled for Thoughts on Translation (in the spirit of disclosure, Judy and I are friends, but I don’t have any business associations with Twin Translations). Here’s what they had to say!
Q: Are you two really twins? Or just really good friends?
A: We are definitely twins. Identical twins. Which means we pretty much look the same, talk the same, gesture the same way, like the same literature, music, things in life, etc. There are a few small differences, though. Dagy prefers vanilla ice cream and Judy is much more of a chocolate addict. Also, Judy goes for ketchup, Dagy goes for mustard. Dagy is Judy’s younger sister, by 10 minutes.
Q: So where exactly are you from? Europe, Mexico, the US?
A: We are citizens of the world, in a way. We were born in northern Austria. At age 10, our dad got a job offer to run the Latin American operations for iron and steel division of his employer, which is now part of the German conglomerate Siemens. We moved there in 1987, and finished grade school and middle school at the German School of Mexico City. We moved back to Austria for our junior year in high school, and graduated there. After college, Judy took a full tennis scholarship to the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she also received her M.B.A. in marketing. Dagy studied French and Communications at the University of Salzburg and in Tours, France, and afterwards studied Translation and Interpretation in Vienna, where she is currently getting her master’s degree. Since college, we have been flying all over the world to see each other and spend time with our family. Dagy has been to Las Vegas, where Judy has lived since 1995, a total of 14 times. And it’s the best day of the year every time we see each other at the airport. Dagy lives in Vienna, Austria, with her boyfriend and Judy’s cat, who moved there from Vegas because Judy’s husband is allergic to cats.
Q: Tell us a little about your language combinations.
A: Our active languages are German, English and Spanish. We both translate into all of these. Dagy also has a passive language, which is French, meaning that she translates from French into any of the other languages. Most clients ask us for translations from German into English and vice versa.
Q: What’s your biggest translation pet peeve?
A: When a client asks for a free sample translation. While nobody would even consider going to an attorney and requesting a sample contract, people have no such qualms when it comes to translations. This is a professional service, and we are happy to provide future customers with references. And it also bothers us when clients tell us that they would’ve done the translation themselves if only they had had time. No wonder the world is full of awful translations (or translation attempts). We actually run a German-language web site for bad translations: www.uebelsetzungen.com
Q: What’s the most challenging project you have translated during the last couple of years?
A: One of the toughest projects was the translation of a technical brochure for Bösendorfer, an Austrian piano maker, from German into Spanish. It took us a while to understand how a piano works. We purchased a dictionary for piano terminology that also included pictures, which helped a lot. At that time, all we knew about pianos was that we had taken classes as kids and that we were awfully untalented. Now we know a lot more than that and that’s the beauty of the job. Another challenging job was the translation of the huge web site of the Austrian Postal Service into English in merely two months. While Dagy translated during the day, Judy did the proofing at night.
Q: Do you have a sample of your favorite incorrect translation?
A: Too many to count, but here is one. A major translation company in the US outsourced a big Vegas-related translation project to dozens of freelancers who were not familiar with Vegas. Hence, the Las Vegas Strip (the main road where all the hotels are on) became „la franja de césped“ (=the strip of grass). It never ceases to amaze us that large corporations, who hire the top attorneys, top CPAs, and the most highly trained software developers, want to save money on translation. The written word is every company’s business card, and the translations also have to be top-notch if the company wants to be taken seriously in the country that it tries to do business in.
Q: So what language do you think in?
A: No idea. Another thing we don’t know is what language we dream in. We’re still trying to find out how to determine that.
Q: What language do you speak in with each other?
A: A wild combination of our common languages, German, Spanish, English. It’s similar to the language that was spoken at the German School in Mexico City that we attended, but with a bunch of English thrown in because Judy is so Americanized now.
Q: Which fields do you specialize in?
A: Legal, business, technology, banking, marketing, etc. Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of music-related translations (they say Vienna is the world capital of music), logistics and a combination of legal and financial translations for the Austrian National Bank.
Q: What kinds of translations do you not do?
A: We are not licensed to do certified translations of birth certificates, etc.