European Medicines Agency publishes new versions of controlled vocabularies

The European Medicines Agency publishes new versions of controlled vocabularies used to comply with Article 57 (2) requirements on submission of information on medicines

The European Medicines Agency has published a set of updated versions of Extended EudraVigilance product report message (XEVMPD) controlled vocabularies. These vocabularies support marketing authorisation holder compliance with Article 57(2) of the 2010 pharmacovigilance legislation, which requires marketing-authorisation holders to submit information to the Agency electronically on all medicines for human use authorised in the European Union by 2 July 2012.

The controlled vocabularies will be updated regularly to improve the standardisation of the terminology used in the electronic submission of medicinal product information to the Agency.

A marketing-authorisation holder that has already submitted medicine information to the Agency using the previous version of the controlled vocabularies is not required to resubmit this information. Marketing-authorisation holders are required to use the latest versions of the controlled vocabularies for submissions of medicine information as soon as they are published on the Agency’s website.

The updated controlled vocabularies are available on the EMA website

Google Translate: 200 million monthly users

Google Translate had barely celebrated its 6th birthday that it reached  200 million monthly users, as Google announced earlier this week.

Franz Och, research scientist at Google Translate: “In a given day we translate roughly as much text as you’d find in 1 million books. To put it another way: what all the professional human translators in the world produce in a year, our system translates in roughly a single day (…) We imagine a future where anyone in the world can consume and share any information, no matter what language it’s in, and no matter where it pops up.”

Wow. Imagine…What all the professional human translators in the world produce in a year, the Google Translate system translates in in one day.

Of course this is a simplistic view, and of course Google Translate can’t quite do what we do. The job of a professional, specialized translator goes beyond simply translating words and putting them in the right order to make a sentence out of it. Of course the machine does not have the background and the technical knowledge to translate a specific technical document. Of course the machine is not aware of specific terminology specified by the client. Of course the machine does not have the cultural knowledge allowing it to do much more than just translate, but adapt to the target audience/market. Of course. And of course – and this is a very important point – Google Translate is one thing, it’s great to translate “I love you into 64 languages”but there are many LSPs and companies who developed (and are developing) their very own machine translation solutions, completely customized to professional specialized translators, with stunning results.

As a translator from the “new generation”, I am not afraid of machine translation at all. CAT-Tools always belonged to my job, I did not know “the time before CAT”. So maybe this is why I see Machine Translation as the natural, normal, next step. I am also convinced that the machine will never replace the human brains when it comes to translation. But I am convinced that we will have to evolve, that the translator’s job will evolve – and that we’ may probably be “post-editors” rather than translators in a few years. Just like when CAT-Tools came and many translators saw them as a threat, as a personal insult, as a danger, Machine Translation is coming anyway, whether we like it or not – and my opinion is simple: MT is not a threat. MT is the next logical step. MT is a very powerful tool that can really help us do our job faster and better. So why not adapt and make it our best ally?

Bottom line: Machine Translation is coming – it’s actually already there – and it’s getting better and better. Exactly how long will half of the industry pretending it’s not happening?

Just my two cents.

Anyway, for those interested in knowing more about Google’s projects and plans for the future of Google Translate, here’s the blog post from Franz Och on the Google Team blog.

Breaking down the language barrier—six years in

“The rise of the web has brought the world’s collective knowledge to the fingertips of more than two billion people. With just a short query you can access a webpage on a server thousands of miles away in a different country, or read a note from someone halfway around the world. But what happens if it’s in Hindi or Afrikaans or Icelandic, and you speak only English—or vice versa?

In 2001, Google started providing a service that could translate eight languages to and from English. It used what was then state-of-the-art commercial machine translation (MT), but the translation quality wasn’t very good, and it didn’t improve much in those first few years. In 2003, a few Google engineers decided to ramp up the translation quality and tackle more languages. That’s when I got involved. I was working as a researcher on DARPA projects looking at a new approach to machine translation—learning from data—which held the promise of much better translation quality. I got a phone call from those Googlers who convinced me (I was skeptical!) that this data-driven approach might work at Google scale.” (Read more)

conhIT Berlin 2012: Europe’s leading industry event for healthcare IT now even bigger

We were in Berlin these past few days to attend the conhIT 2012 Trade Show. It was a very interesting event that allowed us to stay up-to-date with what’s going on in the Healthcare IT industry, strenghten existing contacts and make new ones (it was also a great opportunity to (re)discover the city of Berlin and we were extremely lucky with the weather!

A 20 per cent rise in trade visitors, a 12 per cent increase in exhibitors and two fully booked exhibition halls: those are the preliminary results of this year’s conhIT – Connecting Healthcare IT, which closed its doors on Thursday in Berlin. More than 5,357 trade visitors from 46 countries, including high-ranking delegations from Europe, Saudi Arabia and Korea, came to conhIT to find out about the latest developments in Healthcare IT. The Industrial Fair, Congress, Academy and Networking Events all gave exhibitors and visitors daily opportunities to exchange views, broaden their knowledge and put forward their own topics.

“The exhibition halls and Congress rooms were filled to capacity on all three days of the event and the mood among exhibitors and visitors was very positive“, said Bernhard Calmer, Chairman of the Board of bvitg – German Association of Healthcare IT Vendors e.V., which five years ago founded conhIT. “The number of events over the three days was impressive. Whether at the Industrial Fair, the Congress, Academy, Innovation Forums or on the themed tours and hospital excursions – all the events were very well received. The level of political interest and involvement has also increased.”

Representing Messe Berlin – the organisers of conhIT – project manager Ursula Baumann
added: “It is nice to receive so many positive comments from exhibitors and visitors. The significant rise in numbers from abroad, in terms of both visitors and companies, shows how important this event is to the industry.” The share of visitors from abroad rose by 15 per cent, doubling last year’s figure.

For gmds e.V. and BVMI e.V., the partners of conhIT, the event was also a resounding success.

“This year’s conhIT fulfilled our high expectations“, said a satisfied Dr. Carl Dujat, president of BVMI e.V. “The unique overall concept of this integrated industry event proved to be right and many individual meetings with visitors, exhibitors and organisers confirmed this. conhIT has finally come of age and established itself as the leading Healthcare IT event. That is an outstanding success.”

That impression was echoed by Prof. Dr. Peter Haas of gmds, president of the conhIT Congress: “With this year’s programme we were able to address all the target audiences and organise a Congress that focused on all the important topics in healthcare IT.“

“conhIT has grown to an impressive size. The only way it can still expand is by attracting new audiences and greater numbers from abroad“, added Prof. Dr. Paul Schmücker, 1st vice-president, gmds e.V. ”Events such as the career workshop, the job exchange and the get-together with students, young professionals and exhibitors were all very well received. One of the highlights was the presentation of the conhIT award for young professionals for the best diploma presenting practical ideas.“

bvitg e.V. and FÜRS LEBEN, a trust managed by Deutsche Stiftung Organtransplantation (DSO), took the opportunity at conhIT 2012 to provide information on donating organs. Every visitor receiving a ticket was also given an organ donor pass. The DSO provided information at its stand and talked about the trust’s new app at a panel discussion. “It is essential for us to have modern and reliable information technology“, said Prof. Dr. med. Günter Kirste , medical chairman of Deutsche Stiftung Organtransplantation. “We need it to ensure the successful and smooth coordination of organ donations and to maintain a permanent dialogue with hospitals.“ In the opinion of bvitg, one way to streamline the exchange of information would be to make an organ donor pass part of the electronic health card.

The next conhIT will take place on the Berlin Exhibition Grounds from 9 to 11 April 2013.

Source: conhIT website, Press section, Press releases – conhIT 2012 Closing report, 2012/04/27. Original press release here.

Translators fight the fatal effects of the language gap

Translators fight the fatal effects of the language gap

Volunteers translating health messages from English into local languages are providing a vital service for NGOs and freeing up millions of extra dollars to be used for medical aid.

Lori Thicke had an epiphany in Thange in eastern Kenya when she saw Aids orphans playing in front of posters with advice on Aids prevention. “The posters carried excellent advice, but they were in English, a language that people didn’t understand,” she said.

What was the use of this information provided by well-meaning NGOs, she wondered, if the people they were trying to reach could not read English. “People are delivering aid every day in Africa in English, French and Portuguese,” said Thicke. “That is fine for the educated elite, but they don’t need aid. It is the parents among the poor who need the information on symptoms of malaria.”

She saw the fatal effects of the language gap in India too, where mothers could have saved their children from dying from diarrhoea if they had followed the simple advice on health brochures and leaflets.

Thicke, a Canadian who came to Paris to write the great Canadian novel but founded a translation company instead, had pinpointed a glaring but little-noticed paradox in the information revolution. Thanks to the internet and mobile phones, knowledge and information is disseminated far and wide and at speed. But that knowledge is wasted unless understood by those who need it most.

Translators without Borders was founded by Thicke and Ros Smith-Thomas in 1993 after Médecins sans Frontières, the medical NGO, asked her company, Lexcelera, to work on a translation project. She asked if they needed translation often, and if giving them the words for free would be like a donation. They said yes to both questions, and TWB was born. But until that moment in Kenya two years ago, the group dealt mostly with European languages. Now Thicke is determined to bridge what she calls the “language last mile” in the developing world.

One of the group’s current projects is to teach sex workers in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, to translate material in English on sexually transmitted diseases into languages such as Swahili, Luo and Kikuyu. The project started last week, with Simon Andriesen, a specialist on medical translation who is on the TWB board. He will teach about 125 women from Kibera, who speak different languages, to translate four-page brochures in English into the different Kenyan languages.

“He is teaching them translation skills so they can reach their own people,” said Thicke. “All the girls from Kibera represent different languages. They have been recommended to us by a health NGO and their job is to pass on information to other girls. We want to provide brochures in a language that can be understood so it doesn’t get thrown away.”

Paul Warambo, a recent masters graduate in the Kiswahili language living in Nairobi said: “The health translators training has come at a time when the country urgently needs translators in every sector, but especially in the health sector where little information is available in languages that can be understood by the majority of Kenyans.”

TWB is working on an even more ambitious project with Wikipedia. The aim is to take Wikipedia entries on the most important health topics, turn them into simple English and then translate them into as many languages as possible. The articles will then be accessible for free on mobile phones through new agreements betweek Wikimedia, which runs Wikipedia, and telecoms operators. A number of Wikipedia articles covering dengue fever, Aids, malaria, cholera and tuberculosis are awaiting translation from TWB’s army of volunteers.

The group has about 2,000 translators, who have passed its translation tests. Indian languages are well served but Africa is a big gap, with only about 15 of TWB’s translators able to deal with African languages. Africa has more than 2,000 different languages, such as Amharic, Swahili and Berber, spread across six major language families. Nigeria alone has more than 500 tongues spoken within its borders.

Until the 2010 Haiti earthquake, TWB had limited reach. But the crisis revealed not only the need for translations from thousands of aid groups that need humanitarian translations but also a critical mass of translators willing to help.

So the group created an online platform to bring the two communities together. Last year,, the world’s largest translator organisation, created an automated translation centre for TWB so it could broaden its reach. Approved NGOs can now post translation projects such as field reports, treatment protocols and websites. Alerts then go out to the translators in those language pairs. Those who are interested in the work of that particular NGO will take on a project, translate it, and return it to the platform for delivery. Most of the projects are picked up within 15 minutes.

Translators without Borders can easily handle projects for 100 non-profits at a time, but as its volunteer community grows, so does its capacity. Over the years, it has donated almost $3m in translation services, which means that money went towards medical supplies, vaccines, rehydration kits and more.

“We are working to build a world where knowledge doesn’t have borders,” Thicke said. “With technology, and cellphone penetration in Africa, we have the potential to spread knowledge, but no one is talking about how people are getting information even if they are connected. People die not just of disease but from a lack of knowledge on how to avoid getting sick.”

Mark Tran, “Translators fight the fatal effects of the language gap”, The Guardian (, April 11,2012

View the original article on the Guardian website here . We’d like to thank the author, Mark Tran, for allowing us to reproduce it here on the Stinging Nettle. Some in our staff are volunteering for Translators Without Borders themelves and this article is a very good tribute to Lori and to TWB and the amazing work they do everyday along with their volunteers.

Medizinische Übersetzer – keine Ausnahmen von der Regel

Armbruster, Siegfried (2011). Medizinische Übersetzer – keine Ausnahmen von der Regel  Veröffentlicht in: BW polyglott, November 2011, Ausgabe 2, S. 20

Die Sicht einer kleinen, hochspezialisierten Übersetzungsagentur

Pharma- und Medizintechnikunternehmen sind in besonderem Maße regulatorischen Vorga­ben unterworfen. Projekt-Verzögerungen oder Übersetzungsfehler können schwerwiegende und kostspielige Konsequenzen haben. Deshalb sind Unternehmen aus den GxP-Branchen, die die Richtlinien für „gute Arbeitspraxis” befolgen (müssen), – Großunternehmen ebenso wie zerti­fizierte Übersetzungsagenturen – auf der Suche nach der „eierlegenden Wollmilchsau” der Über­setzungsbranche – dem medizinischen Fachüber­setzer.

Idealerweise sollten medizinische Übersetzer linguistische Kompetenz, medizinisches, phar­makologisches und technisches Fachwissen, Kenntnisse der relevanten regulatorischen Ver­ordnungen, Vorschriften und Standards sowie Kenntnisse der gängigen CAT-Tools (CAT = Com­puter assisted translation) etc. besitzen, und nach ISO 9001 und EN 15038 zertifiziert sein.

Linguistische Kompetenz

Über die erforderlichen linguistischen Kompeten­zen eines Übersetzers lässt sich diskutieren, aber nach EN 15038 muss mindestens eine der folgen­den Voraussetzungen erfüllt sein:

  • Formale höhere Übersetzungsausbildung
  • Vergleichbare Ausbildung in einem anderen Fachbereich mit mindestens zwei Jahren doku­mentierter Übersetzungserfahrung
  • Mindestens fünf Jahre dokumentierte professi­onelle Übersetzungserfahrung

In EN 15038 sind auch andere Kompetenzen fest­gelegt, wie sprachliche und textliche Kompetenz in der Ausgangs- und Zielsprache, die kontinuier­liche berufliche Weiterbildung oder die Kompe­tenzen auf dem Gebiet der Recherche.


Wie bei den medizinischen Berufen gibt es auch bei medizinischen Übersetzern unterschiedliche Spezialisierungen. Wer sich auf die Übersetzung von Beipackzetteln und Fachinformationen kon­zentriert, ist nicht unbedingt dafür geeignet, eine Benutzeroberfläche für ein Bildarchivierungs­und Kommunikationssystem zu lokalisieren, und Spezialisten für klinische Fragebögen kennen sich nicht notwendigerweise mit chirurgischen Instrumenten aus. Ich behaupte nicht, dass man ohne medizinische Ausbildung keine guten me­dizinischen Übersetzungen erstellen kann. Wer aber auf Terminologie-Seiten im Internet im Kon­text eines orthopädischen Textes über Wirbel­säulenchirurgie zum Beispiel den englischen Be­griff „cervical” dem Gebärmutterhals zuordnet oder in einer Übersetzung schreibt „Bei Diabe­tikern besteht das primäre Behandlungsziel da­rin, möglichst niedrige Blutzuckerwerte zu er­zielen”, zeigt, dass ihm jegliches Verständnis für den Inhalt des Ausgangstextes fehlt. Dies könnte im zweiten genannten Beispiel erhebliche Kon­sequenzen nach sich ziehen, sprich Unterzucke­rung mit nachfolgendem Zuckerschock bis hin zum Tode. Eine regelmäßige Weiterbildung und fundierte Recherchekenntnisse sind deshalb un­abdingbar, um sich das entsprechende Fachwis­sen anzueignen bzw. zu erhalten.

Als hochspezialisierte Übersetzungsagentur für Medizin sind wir immer bestrebt, „den” Spe­zialisten zu finden, und Übersetzer, die in ihrem Profil angeben, dass sie in Recht, Finanzen, Mar­keting, Tourismus und Medizin spezialisiert sind, kommen gar nicht erst in die engere Auswahl.

Regulatorische Kenntnisse

Im regulatorischen Bereich haben Übersetzer wie Übersetzungsagenturen noch Nachholbedarf. Viele Normen und Richtlinien schreiben den ge­nauen Wortlaut für Übersetzungen vor, und Dis­kussionen, ob eine andere Übersetzung besser klingt als der vorgeschriebene Wortlaut, sind un­nötig. Der Kunde muss das übersetzte Dokument womöglich bei einer Zulassungsbehörde einrei­chen und jede Abweichung vom vorgeschriebe­nen Wortlaut kann zur Ablehnung führen und er­hebliche Kosten verursachen.

Regulatorische Vorgaben können sich ändern. So wurden zum Beispiel kürzlich die Standard­texte für Medikamentenbeipackzettel geändert. Übersetzer, die sich nicht regelmäßig auf der Website der Europäischen Arzneimittelbehörde ( über Änderungen infor­mieren, laufen Gefahr, „falsche” Übersetzungen zu liefern. Dies ist nur ein Beispiel für regulato­rische Vorgaben. Die US-Norm ASTM 2503-05 schreibt unter anderem vor, dass Produkte, die nur unter bestimmten Bedingungen in MRT-Um-gebungen (MRT = Magnetresonanztomographie) betrieben werden können, mit „MR conditional” zu kennzeichnen sind. Wer das nicht weiß (oder recherchiert), wird kaum die Übersetzung „Be­dingt MR-sicher” verwenden, die im Entwurf der DIN 6877-1:2007-12 (Magnetresonanzeinrichtun­gen für die Anwendung am Menschen) vorge­schrieben ist.


Übersetzungskosten zu senken, wird oft als der wichtigste Grund für die Verwendung von CAT-Tools genannt. Gerade in den regulierten Bran­chen ist die Konsistenz der Übersetzungen jedoch viel wichtiger. In einem Projekt für ein Pharma­unternehmen fanden wir zum Beispiel bei einem Medikament, das in sechs verschiedenen Konzen­trationen zugelassen ist, bis zu vier verschiedene Übersetzungen für die gleichen Ausgangssätze. Für die Umstellung der Dokumentation von ei­nem dokumentenbasierten System auf ein Con­tent-Management-System müssen diese Über­setzungen konsolidiert werden. Dies verursacht nicht nur einen erheblichen Aufwand bei der Da­tenkonvertierung; die Dokumente der Medika­mente, die von den Änderungen betroffen sind, müssen in ihrer geänderten Form auch von den Zulassungsbehörden genehmigt werden. Mit kun­denspezifischen Translation-Memory-Systemen können CAT-Tools dieses Problem minimieren und dadurch Kosten einsparen, die die Kosten für die Übersetzung um ein Vielfaches übertreffen.

Rollen und Aufgaben

Um als medizinischer Übersetzer oder Überset­zungsagentur mit Schwerpunkt Medizin im aktu­ellen Umfeld erfolgreich zu sein, müssen wir uns vom klassischen Rollenverständnis des Überset­zers verabschieden.

Betrachten wir einmal die Übersetzung ei­nes medizinischen Fragebogens für eine klini­sche Studie (in der Ausgangssprache 482 Wor­te). Klar, werden viele denken, die Übersetzung kann ich in ein paar Stunden machen. Aber die­se Übersetzung ist nur ein Baustein im ganzen Ablauf der Lokalisierung des Fragebogens. Schon vor Projektbeginn wird in unserer Agentur je­der Satz und jeder Begriff in einer „Begriffsana­lyse” erläutert (2123 Worte). Anschließend wird der Fragebogen von zwei spezialisierten Über­setzern übersetzt. Ein Projektkoordinator beur­teilt die beiden Vorwärtsübersetzungen (Bewer­tung der Übersetzung) und erstellt daraus eine konsolidierte Übersetzung. In der Vorwärtsüber-setzungsanalyse (2586 Worte) begründet er für jedes Segment, warum er die eine oder andere Übersetzung bevorzugt oder eine dritte Überset­zung vorschlägt. Diese Version wird durch einen Rückübersetzer zurück in die Ausgangssprache übersetzt. Die Rückübersetzung wird dann vom Auftraggeber mit dem Ausgangstext verglichen und in Form einer Rückwärtsübersetzungsanaly-se (3235 Worte) mit dem Projektkoordinator dis­kutiert, um eventuelle Kontroversen aufzulösen. Die resultierende Übersetzung wird durch einen Mediziner kommentiert und mit dem Projektko­ordinator diskutiert (ärztlicher Prüfbericht, 7059 Worte). Diese Übersetzung wird in Interviews mit fünf Patienten validiert und die Ergebnisse im Pi­lotversuchsbericht (5298 Worte) dokumentiert und diskutiert. Nach Klärung aller Fragen wird sie vom Korrekturleser kontrolliert und die Änderun­gen werden im Änderungsprotokoll (826 Worte) begründet.

Um die endgültige übersetzte Version des Fra­gebogens (556 Worte) zu erstellen, wurden ohne die E-Mail-Kommunikation und einige kleinere Dokumente mitzuzählen, Dokumente mit einem Umfang von 21 127 Worten verfasst. An dem Pro­jekt, das zwei Monate in Anspruch nahm, waren ein Projektvorbereiter (ein Medical Writer), drei Übersetzer, ein Projektkoordinator (ein Überset­zer), ein Mediziner, ein Korrekturleser (ein Über­setzer) und ein Projektmanager des Auftragge­bers beteiligt.

Maschinelle Übersetzungen werden in diesem Arbeitsablauf noch lange keine entscheidende Rolle spielen. Den großen, nicht spezialisierten Übersetzungsbüros, die „perfect” auftreten oder die die Übersetzer mit Löwenanstrengungen in die Cloud zerren möchten, droht das gleiche Schick­sal wie den Vollsortimentern im Einzelhandel, ihre Zeit ist abgelaufen. Die Arbeitsabläufe in der viel gescholtenen und durch das Internet ermöglich­ten Globalisierung verschieben das Gleichgewicht in Richtung kleiner, hochspezialisierter Teams oder kleiner, hochspezialisierter Übersetzungs­agenturen, die den Kunden qualitativ hochwerti­ge Ergebnisse liefern. Daher ist es empfehlens­wert, sich kontinuierlich weiterzubilden, denn teamfähige Übersetzer mit entsprechenden Qua­lifikationen werden zunehmend gesucht.

Armbruster, Siegfried (2011). Medizinische Übersetzer – keine Ausnahmen von der Regel  In: BW polyglott, November 2011, Ausgabe 2, S. 20

GxP will be attending conhIT 2012

The GxP Team will be travelling to Berlin from April 23rd to April 26th to attend this year’s conhIT Trade Show, Europe’s largest and most important Healthcare IT professional event.

With four coordinated sections, the Industrial Fair, Congress, Academy and Networking Events, conhIT actively supports the dialogue between manufacturers, users, policymakers and science. Throughout the entire value-added chain conhIT 2012 shows how modern IT improves the quality of healthcare, as well as helping institutions to remain competitive.

Read here Daniel Bahr’s welcoming address,  German Health Federal Minister and patron of conhIT2012.

If you wish to meet up with us at this occasion, feel free to contact us at!

Facebook versus… Facebook

Facebook marketing is a tricky one and my general position is that it makes little sense for  freelance translators to throw themselves actively into it. It is a powerful tool however and having a profile there to connect with those translation agencies that use it to post jobs and call for translators completely makes sense on the other hand. So yes, when it comes to your client acquisition strategy, you can perfectly integrate Facebook to it, in a “passive” way (in other words keeping an eye on potential clients and following what they post in case they post a job that’s in your area of expertise).

However, using Facebook passively for marketing purposes does not mean that you should lower your guard when it comes to what you share. Facebook remains a personal social network – i.e. its core purpose is to help you connect and keep in touch with people you know in real-life, people from your private sphere (family, school friends, university buddies, colleagues you became friendly with, etc.) – and its netiquette is quite clear on that: you should only invite as “Friends” those peope you know “outside of Facebook”. Point is, Facebook was never intended to be a business network. And it’s not – there’s LinkedIn for that, for example. Facebook just happens to have amazing business networking potential and marketing power – and we should use it. It’s okay. But keeping in mind the primary use and spirit of Facebook, it’s a bit tricky to behave there the way you do on LinkedIn, because you have those personal connections posting invites to play Games on your Wall, tagging photos of you, etc.

Because the business use of Facebook came later than the personal one and many people became so comfortable that they share anything and everything – if they feel comfortable doing so with private connections, hey, it’s okay and that’s their absolute right. But here’s the thing: how many of us have absolute zero business connections (or potential ones) among their Facebook Friends? Exactly. And here it is: on LinkedIn, we are “Contacts”or “Connections”. On Facebook, we’re “Friends”. The words are not innocent.

The minute we accepted the first business contact as a Facebook Friend (or invited them), we let the public sphere into the private one.

It became then clearer that something needed to be done in order to make sure that these photos from last night’s party remained visible only to the right people but completely invisible to business contacts. And here begin the headaches over Friends Lists. Truth is, Friends Lists are probably the most awesome thing ever. They enable you to separate all your Facebook contacts in groups (“Friends Lists” in the Facebook terminology) to which you can assign a certain visibility level – for example “Group A” contains your close personal friends and they can see everything on your profile and everything you share. In “Group C”, you put business contacts and you can select precisely what Group C sees and what they don’t see. And people don’t know which list they’re on – it is visible only to you.

Facebook privacy settings are very complete and exhaustive and allow you to choose exactly who sees what you share. And yet still many people are not using them! Yes, it can be a hassle if you already have many friends but those settings are the best thing since sliced bread, seriously.

The above obviously also applies to those using Facebook as a pure personal network – there must be some people in there you are not thaaaaat close with but can’t unfriend either,  so those lists enable you to make sure that they don’t see stuff you don’t want them to see on your Facebook – and even better, since the end of last year, you can even choose what you want to see from them. As a Facebook executive put it himself at the last f8 conference in September 2011, it’s a feature for “people you are not really friends with”.

Either way, keeping Facebook to a bare personal level is becoming difficult for many as business contacts add them asd Friends and they feel it may be rude to refuse, while some don’t even try and make their profiles “Open Bar” for the whole world to see. And as freelance translators, there is a real danger there if you also use your Facebook profile as a marketing tool – because there are PMs and agencies and colleagues out there who are among your Facebook Friends. Make sure they see what they should see, and not what belongs to the private sphere because this can backfire and you may never know it – you’ll simply never get any translation job from them. Always remember – your CV is not the most important thing in your reputation building with an agency. Your online behavior and etiquette is just as important – if not more.

And here’s the trickier part: there are hundreds of translation agencies that created profiles on Facebook and use these profiles to connect with any translator, anywhere in the world, and post jobs on their Walls. If you want to see those posts, you need to add those agencies as “Friends”. Make sure that they go straight in the right Friends List of yours – that is a list where you can see all updates from them but where they can’t see any and every update from you – only what you choose to make visible to them.

This problem is non existent when an agency has its Facebook Page that you simply need to “Like”. Pages and Profiles are 2 different things – when you “Like” a Page, you can see everything it posts but the person behind the Page only sees what you made “Public” on your profile (here is a very good and clear explanation of the difference between a Profile and a Page on Facebook).

To see what is public on your profile, go to your Profile settings and click on “View As”. You’ll see “Use this tool to see how your Timeline appears to a specific friend or the public” – just click on “Public” and you’ll see your Facebook profile as it appears to anyone who is not in your contacts – talk about “online reputation management”…

So, to summarize: the ideal is to refuse Friends requests from people that you would not count as “real life buddies/friends” and belong more to your professional world and connect with them on LinkedIn instead – that’s what LinkedIn is for. On the other hand it’s okay if you can’t avoid having business connections among your Facebook Friends, don’t loose sleep over it, and there are so many potential clients using it that you ought to follow them on this platform. If you do so, then create Friends Lists and put those contacts in one restrictive list where they will see little of what you have in your profile and exactly what you want them to see.

Bottom line: on Facebook, whether you want it or not, you can’t avoid having colleagues or clients wanting to connect with you. If you choose to accept them as Friends, then make that you drastically keep private separated from business.