The Extraordinary Translator and Interpreter: A Mini-Survey from #ATA57

In just one week, nearly 2,000 translators and interpreters will convene at ATA’s 58th Annual Conference. Memories of last year’s event abound, and The Savvy Newcomer is pleased to present the results of a mini-survey we conducted at the 57th Annual Conference in San Francisco whose goal was to examine trends in the backgrounds of translators and interpreters, particularly those who have enjoyed long careers in the field.

Some of the aspects we looked at in the survey were: highest level of education, areas of study, how often translators and interpreters transition to these fields from a prior career, and for those who have transitioned, the ways in which their prior professional experience has influenced their careers as linguists.

The survey, and who responded

To conduct this survey, postcard questionnaires were handed out randomly to attendees at the Conference. We received a total of 35 completed postcards, which were processed by our team and evaluated for trends. What we found surprised us. To start, here is a breakdown of the basic demographics of our sample:

  • Translator, interpreter, or both?: 13 translators, 13 translator-interpreters, 4 interpreters, 5 no response
  • Length of T&I career: Average of 13.85 years (range: 1 to 44 years)
  • Language combinations: Overwhelmingly Spanish-English—in one direction or bidirectional (32 respondents, 91.4%); but French (2), German (2), Japanese (1), and Portuguese (1) were also listed in combination with either English or Spanish.
  • Number of language pairs: The majority had one working language pair (32, 91.4%), whereas only 3 (8.57%) had two or more language pairs.

Translators and interpreters appear to be highly educated—well beyond the general population

Some of the most compelling findings were in relation to prior studies completed by those surveyed. Of those who responded to the question “What is your highest level of educational achievement?”, 82.86% (29) had earned an associate’s degree or higher (the remaining 5 respondents had completed university courses, but 4 did not specify whether they had completed a degree). A striking 47.5% (16) reported having earned a master’s degree as their highest educational achievement, while approximately 25%* (9) held at least a bachelor’s. (*The responses of the 4 mentioned above who did not specify their highest university degree suggested they had earned at least a bachelor’s, which would bring the total of bachelor’s to 36.43%.) One respondent held a PhD (1), and another was a doctoral candidate (1) at the time of the survey.

Respondents had earned degrees in 16 different countries (with some overlap): Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Germany, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Prior studies: from A to T

There were a total 29 prior fields of study reported, including T&I. Seven (20%) reported having studied T&I, of whom one held a master’s in translation and another a bachelor’s, whereas the other 5 reported having participated in a certificate or other non-degree program. Most fascinating was the incredible variety of areas of study beyond T&I itself. There was truly a range from A to Z (well, to T for translation, to be precise!): from art history to social work, advertising to computer programming, finance to music, education to philosophy, and interior design to hotel management. We also saw journalism, linguistics, psychology, law, anthropology, and geography. Of the 29 fields reported, 9 had some overlap: engineering (4, 11.42%), business (3, 8.57%), education (8.57%), Spanish or English (8.57%), literature (8.57%), advertising (2, 5.71%), archaeology (5.71%), biology (5.71%), and political science (5.71%).

Getting a leg up from prior careers or studies

Most respondents shared stories of how past professional experience and academia had bolstered their careers in T&I. Below are just a few examples—some expected, and others less so:

  • Engineering and biology (master’s): Academic knowledge leveraged in medical translation
  • Political science, philosophy, economics, journalism (master’s): Benefit of strong research skills and experience reading foreign-language sources
  • Psychology (master’s): Communication and listening skills, understanding of human behavior
  • Chemical engineering, literature (master’s): Grasp of “implicit information” in source texts
  • Finance (bachelor’s): The ins and outs of working as an independent contractor
  • Social work, hotel management, law: Understanding international clients and medical content
  • Mechanical engineering: Context for technical translation
  • Social science, geography/geographic information systems (GIS), anthropology: Appreciation of the importance of language access after working with low-income, at-risk families and inmates
  • Advertising: Marketing one’s own business

Making the switch to T&I

The reasons respondents gave for switching from another career to T&I were varied: While some felt the need for a change and decided to intentionally put their language skills to use, others seemed to find themselves in the career inadvertently and never left.

Some found a need in the community (years translating or interpreting in parentheses; T=translator, I=interpreter, T-I=translator-interpreter):

  • “Somebody heard me at the hospital helping my mom” (13 years, I)
  • “The need of people who speak Spanish” (20 years, T-I)
  • “Increasing need in community where I worked” (3 years, T)

Others had “dabbled” in T&I as part of a past career and apparently discovered a passion for it:

  • “Already working as bilingual aide, I was hired as translator” (16 years, T-I)
  • “Part-time job interpreting, liked it a lot” (7 years, I; 4 years, T)
  • “Through my work as a Spanish instructor because I started proofing” (3 years, T)

Yet others saw an opportunity to make some extra cash, and for some, the work became a lifelong career:

  • “Needed money in grad school” (37 years, T)
  • “Became a freelancer because I quit my other job” (20 years, T)
  • “Plans for retirement” (2 years, T)
  • “At the suggestion of a friend, because I couldn’t find professional work in the US (and I wasn’t going to make coffee)” (14 years, I)

Considering the relatively small sample of 35 respondents, the variation in experiences observed was remarkable, leading us to conclude that the individuals behind the professions of T&I, the paths that led them there, and their specialized knowledge, are as diverse as the languages they speak and the countries they hail from. Aside from their current careers, the one thing they seemed to have in common was an impressive level of formal education.

To think that these 35 individuals make up only a tiny fraction of the attendees at the ATA Conference each year brings into perspective just how magnificent our colleagues are. Whether you have plans to attend a local conference or meet-up this fall, or plan to join the ATA Conference in Washington, DC, you can be sure you will be in extraordinary company.

Preparing a Translation for Submission to the United States Government

Written by Helen Eby in collaboration with Jamie Hartz

Many documents that are submitted to U.S. Government agencies must be submitted along with a statement indicating that the translator is skilled to perform their task. This can be called a translator’s statement, statement of accuracy, certification, translator’s declaration, etc. I’ll call it a “translator’s statement” here as I dive into the requirements that you are most likely to see when preparing documents like this. I’ll also offer some tips on how to best ensure that your translation will make the client’s process easier and not harder – for instance, don’t forget to sign the statement!

First of all, keep in mind that “certifying” a translation (by creating and signing a translator’s statement) is different from being certified (by ATA or any other entity), having a certificate, or having any other validating credentials. See more about the difference between a certificate and certification at this post on The Savvy Newcomer from April 2017: https://atasavvynewcomer.org/2017/04/04/translation-certificate-vs-certification/.

If a client requests that the translator be “certified” in order to “certify” the translation, you should also bear in mind that multiple entities can offer certifications and you will need to look into what certification is required and what language pairs that certification is available in. For example, ATA certification is widely accepted in the United States, but the credential is only offered for the language pairs listed here: https://www.atanet.org/certification/aboutcert_overview.php. In other words, Somali into English is not a language pair in which you can receive ATA certification, so keep this in mind if your language pair is not highly common in the U.S. and clients are asking for you to provide proof of certification – you may not be able to! However, in most cases you can still “certify” the translation by providing the written and signed translator’s statement.

A few elements are required by nearly all entities requesting translator’s statements, whereas some are based on preference of the individual agency or client.

Generally accepted and required:
Translator’s name and signature
Certification that the translator is competent to translate the language in question
Certification that the translation is complete and accurate

Sometimes required:
Date
Translator contact information
Notarization

N.B.: Notarization may involve charging the client for my time going to the notary’s office and back, waiting there, and paying the notary. In addition, some notaries are not willing to work with documents in foreign languages. I charge the official certified court interpreting rate for my time when running this errand, for the sake of objectivity.

I like to use the following template as a translator’s statement. (I’ve inserted nonsense text here in place of the information you will need to fill out on your own.) This template is a combination of the two sample templates I’ve included at the bottom of this article by NCSC and USCIS, respectively, and it contains all the information I have found necessary in a translator’s statement. In other words, this template is comprehensive enough to be accepted by USCIS, state courts, and the State Department (and hypothetically the IRS, whose requirements at https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/iw7.pdf do not specify what constitutes a “certified translation”). I try to include this statement as a footer on the document in question so that it does not get separated from the translation itself.

Element Purpose
I, Jane Brown, Translator’s name
certified by the American Translators Association for Klingon to English translation, Certification to support competency statement to follow; other credentials listed by the NCSC include court certification and graduation from a translation program. List all that apply.

Yes, I know ATA does not certify from Klingon to English!

hereby certify that I am competent to translate the attached Statement of competency
[marriage certificate], identified with serial number __________________, from Klingon to English and have translated it fully and accurately. Description of document and its markings
I have translated it on February 43, 2059. Date of translation (completion or delivery)
I can be reached at 123 SW Hot Dog Street, Town, State, Zip Code or by email at zipityzip@something.com. Address and email contact information for backup.
[Signature] I usually sign across the full translator’s statement, which is included as a footer on the document. I sign in blue ink (handwritten, not a digital signature) so it contrasts and it is clear that this is an original. In Oregon, where I live, legal signatures must be in blue ink or at least ink that is not black.

Full text of my translator’s statement (go ahead and copy it! I even created an autocorrect setting in Word so that if I type “certrans” it automatically converts the text to the following paragraph):

“I, Jane Brown, certified by the American Translators Association for Klingon to English translation, hereby certify that I am competent to translate the attached marriage certificate, identified with serial number __________________, from Klingon to English and have translated it fully and accurately. I have translated it on February 43, 2059. I can be reached at 123 SW Hot Dog Street, Town, State, Zip Code or by email at zipityzip@something.com.

[Signature]”

Resources:

  1. National Center for State Courts recommended template (from Guide to Translation of Legal Matters, page 12):

“I, ______________, certified by the (state name) Administrative Office of the Courts for Spanish-English court interpreting and accredited by the American Translators Association for Spanish to English translation, do hereby declare that the attached birth certificate, identified with serial number ___________, is a true and correct translation of the Spanish original.”

  1. USCIS recommended template (as stated in form N-400’s application instructions):

“I [typed name], certify that I am fluent (conversant) in the English and ________ languages, and that the above/attached document is an accurate translation of the document attached entitled ______________________________.
Signature _________________________________
Date
Typed Name
Address”.

  1. Instructions document for the following forms (you will need to click the link to “Instructions for Form ___” once you click on the hyperlink below:

Annual Certification of a Regional Center (https://www.uscis.gov/i-924a)
Application to Register Permanent Residence (https://www.uscis.gov/i-485)
Application for Naturalization (https://www.uscis.gov/n-400)

  1. USCIS requirements (https://www.state.gov/m/dghr/flo/154965.htm)
  2. USCIS form filing tips (https://www.uscis.gov/forms-filing-tips)
  3. IRS Form W-7 instructions (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/iw7.pdf)
  4. National Center for State Courts (NCSC) Guide to Translation of Legal Matters

What are your thoughts, readers? Have you been asked to create a translator’s statement before, and if so, how did you go about it?

Image credit: Pixabay

Summary of the ATA Translation and Interpreting Services Survey

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle with permission, incl. the image

The fifth edition of the ATA Translation and Interpreting Services Survey serves as a practical tool, revealing general trends in the translation and interpreting industry.

The recently released fifth edition of the ATA Translation and Interpreting Services Survey is an invaluable benchmarking tool for nearly everyone in or affiliated with the translation and interpreting industry. The study allows an individual or company to easily compare their compensation levels to their peers. Translators and interpreters are able to review rates across languages, specialties, and location. Companies involved in translation and interpreting are able to refer to this report when determining their competitiveness with respect to compensation. Students considering careers in the translation and interpreting industry can use this tool to steer their specific career decisions and to gain insight about potential compensation. In addition, the study serves as a practical tool for a broader audience—individuals and businesses in the market for translation and interpreting services.

The survey was compiled, tabulated, and prepared for ATA by Industry Insights, Inc., a professional research and consulting firm that provides management and marketing services to dealer organizations, individual membership organizations, and professional trade associations and their members. The company specializes in compensation and benefits studies, industry operating surveys, member needs studies, educational programs, and customized research activities.

Survey Design

Responses were received from translation and interpreting professionals worldwide. Approximately two-thirds of the respondents reside in the U.S., 15% in Europe, 6% in South America, 4% in Canada, and the remaining 6% in other locations.

Upon receipt, all data were checked both manually and by a custom software editing procedure. Strict confidence of survey responses was maintained throughout the course of the project.

The seven employment classifications analyzed in this report include:

  • Full-time independent contractors
  • Part-time independent contractors
  • Full-time in-house private sector personnel
  • Part-time in-house private sector personnel
  • Company owners
  • Educators
  • Government employees

For detailed analysis, responses were broken down by age, gender, years in translation and/or interpreting, education level, ATA membership, geographic region, and certification and interpreter certification/credential. This comprehensive data allows users to compare their own income, hourly rates, and rates per word to individuals in similar situations.

Some Key Findings

Respondent Demographics: Survey respondents had varying backgrounds and experience. As shown in Figure 1, more than two-thirds were female and nearly one-third were ATA-certified. More than 60% held a master’s degree or higher, and more than two-thirds had over 10 years of employment in translation and interpreting. The typical (median) respondent was 50 years old.

Summary-Fig-1

Income Varied by Employment Classification: As shown in Figure 2, translation and interpreting company owners reported the highest gross income at $55,630, which is slightly ahead of full-time private sector employees ($55,547) and full-time independent contractors ($52,323). The lowest income was reported by educators and part-time independent contractors: $17,344 and $17,746, respectively.

Certification and Credentials Matter: On average, ATA-certified translators earned 21% higher compensation than those who were not certified. Similarly, on average, certified and credentialed interpreters earned 27% higher compensation than those who were not certified or credentialed.

Trends: Nearly half of the respondents reported that their 2014 gross compensation from translation and interpreting increased compared to 2013. Nearly one-third reported no change in income, while 23% reported a decline.

Education and Experience: Thirty percent reported having a degree in translation, while 12% reported having a degree in interpreting. Half reported having a non-degree certificate in translation or interpreting. Other credentials reported include state court interpreter certification (8%) and the U.S. State Department exam (6%).

Translation Volume: Translators’ target output per day was reported at 2,855 words. On average, they translated approximately 380,000 words per year in 2014.

Translation Income: Responding translators reported three-quarters of their income was derived from translating, while 15% was earned by editing/proofreading.

Translation Services: A little more than 14% of translators reported offering editing/proofreading services, while more than 76% reported offering translation services. Only 1% of translators reported offering post-editing machine translation services.

Interpreting Income: Responding interpreters reported the bulk of their income was derived from the following settings: judiciary (27%), medicine/life sciences (22%), and business and conference (12% each).

Interpreting Services: The interpreting services offered most frequently were consecutive (96%), simultaneous (74%), sight (44%), and phone (42%).

Compensation: Thirty-two language combinations were surveyed. Translation rates were reported per word and hourly. Hourly rates were reported for editing/proofreading services. Hourly rates were reported for interpreting services.

Summary-Fig2
Summary-Fig3
Ordering Information

ATA’s 58-page Translation and Interpreting Services Survey, Fifth Edition presents the survey results in much greater detail than is possible in this summary article. The complete report includes translation and interpreting hourly rates and rates per word for a wide range of language combinations. It’s important to remember that the statistics published by ATA should be regarded as guidelines rather than absolute standards. ATA intends the survey to reveal general trends in the industry, not exact amounts.

The full report is available to ATA members for free by logging into the Members Only area of ATA’s website. Non-members may purchase the complete report for $95. Please order from ATA’s Publications page or write ATA to order your copy: ATA, 225 Reinekers Lane, Suite 590, Alexandria, VA 22314; 703-683-6100; fax 703-683-6122, e-mail: ata@atanet.org.


Shawn E. Six is a principal at Industry Insights, Inc. His position includes marketing, design, and implementation of the company’s research efforts, with a focus on compensation and benefits studies for a wide variety of industries. He has conducted more than 200 studies during his 20+ years at Industry Insights, and the results of these projects have been cited in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, CNN, and countless association journals. He has an MS in marketing from Westminster College and a master’s degree in predictive analytics from Northwestern University.

9 Things You Can Do Today to Get the Most out of #ATA58

This October, some 2,000 language professionals will swarm the Hilton in Washington DC for the 58th Annual ATA Conference. They will push through crowds of people to find the next packed presentation room, will sit in a sea of unfamiliar faces, will spend their entire waking day taking in new information and trying desperately to remember the name of the person they met two seconds ago. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. It’s also exhilarating.

Even the most introverted among us feel a thrill being around people who understand our career and share our interests. In the chaos, it is easy to miss opportunities and come away from the conference feeling disappointed. Below are nine ideas for how you can prepare to get the most out of ATA 58.

1) Double-check your marketing materials

Update your resume and triple check for any mistakes. Do the same for your business cards and order extras now.

Find something extra to bring to help you stand out. This could be a personalized name badge, a lanyard—something pretty, crazy, or specific to your specialization, stickers or pins to show your language or specialization… Anything that encourages others to approach you about something you are interested in is helpful.

As you update your marketing materials, write out previous jobs and relevant experience. What stands out? What are you most proud of? What might be funny (and positive and professional)? What showcases your talent, knowledge, and drive?

Add to this list any time you take on a new job, and always note why the job is important. (A challenge you overcame, an impressive client, new information learned, etc.) If you don’t have a lot of job experience, consider classes you’ve taken, volunteer work you’ve done, research you are excited about. Review this list before the conference so that you will have specific, positive, professional responses when people ask you about your experience.

2) Research the presentations… and the presenters

Does the presenter have a website? Social media accounts? Find what information they’ve made public. Look for common interests, common languages, and anything you would like to ask about. Write all of this down and review it before the presentation. After the presentation—introduce yourself!

If you’re really excited about a presenter or a topic, feel free to send them an email in advance sharing your excitement, asking a question, or pointing out a shared interest. Everyone likes enthusiastic people in the audience. And while we’re at it, why wait until after the conference to follow them on Twitter?

3) Research the companies at the job fair and the exhibit hall

Look for specific things to discuss with any company you are interested in. What skills are they looking for? Why are you a good match? Why do you like this company? Research can make you stand out in a busy job fair. If you can find out who will be representing the company, why not drop them a line today, and tell them how much you’re looking forward to meeting them?

One easy way to start this now is with the ATA Conference App. During the conference you can use it to keep track of the schedule and stay up-to-date, and you can use it today to look through the list of represented companies as you start your research.

4) Reach out and make friends

Whether you’ve met fellow attendees in past or only know them online, a quick social media post or a brief email to let people know that you look forward to seeing them or to plan a coffee together can go a long way.

5) Research the area around the conference

A little research saves a lot of time and stress during the conference. Find a place you can recommend for lunch or coffee. Find a place you can slip away, where others can’t see you, for some quiet time. Find cultural places in the area specific to your language/specialization/interests. Look up a few practical places around the conference: ATMs, drug stores, phone stores for chargers, etc.

6) Set specific goals

Goals give focus and clarity in the midst of chaos. Set a goal for each presentation: “I want to meet two people who translate in this field into my B language,” “I want to learn X, Y, Z.” Don’t assume it was a bad presentation if it didn’t cover your specific question. Asking your question at the end of the session is a great way to meet people.

7) Prepare for questions

If you feel awkward when asked the standard conference questions, prepare for them now. “Why are you here?” “Did you come last year?” “What did you think?” “Are you enjoying the conference this year?” “How did you become a translator?”

“Last year I was just too overwhelmed and intimidated to come,” may be true. But it might be better to try something like: “I’ve been developing my business this year, learning about the profession, expanding my client base, and I’m so excited to be here!” Focus on what you’ve learned, what you look forward to learning, what excites you, how it fits with your work or a new avenue you are interested in exploring. Be honest, positive, and professional.

8) Post to social media

Everybody recommends this, but I’m going to be the one negative voice here. Posting to social media that you are going to be traveling on specific dates is a potential safety risk. You don’t have to do it. However, if you’re comfortable with it, it can be a great way to connect with people before the conference and can make it easier to plan coffee dates, lunches, trips to cultural sites, etc.

But remember, you can do much of this via email, phone calls, and private messages if you prefer not to post about it publicly. Where appropriate, you can also contact favorite clients to tell them that you will be attending a presentation pertinent to their field.

9) Schedule time after the conference

Immediately following the conference, you will have so much to go over, you will have work that’s piled up, and then there’s the laundry… If at all possible, schedule a few days after the conference to catch up and recharge before diving back into your routine. Otherwise, you may never get to your post-conference to-do list.

After the conference is the time to post to social media about what you learned and who you met. Write an article or two… Blog…  follow up with the people you met. This is the single most important thing you can do. Send emails, private messages, tweets. Connect on LinkedIn and Twitter… And be prepared to do it all again in a week or two.

This is where you will really stand out. So prepare for it now.

If you plan to mail cards after the conference, buy them now. Address them if possible. Write up ideas for what you might say. Streamline your social media. (Link your accounts so one post will go to multiple accounts, learn to schedule your posts, etc.)

The key is to be intentional and organized about what you want out of any large conference. After all, you are setting aside time and money to be there. Why not make the most of it?

Author bio

Anne Goff is currently writing a book on networking for introverts. She has an MA in French>English Translation and a BA in French. She translates legal texts and particularly enjoys helping adoptive families bring their children home. She has lived in countries with red, white, and blue flags—France, the UK, and the US. When not translating, writing, or introverting, Anne teaches French at university and speaks about networking and business for the non-extraverted. Contact her: anne@aegtranslations.com, http://www.aegtranslations.com.

Enter to win a free copy of Anne’s upcoming book on networking for introverts. Send her an email with “I’m interested in your book!” in the subject line.

Why Pairing up Is a Good Idea for Freelance Translators! Part 2

 

In part 1 of this post, I explained three major benefits of working together with other translators. Quick recap: you need two people to produce the quality customers require, you’ll have more capacity and you’ll be able to offer more services. That is only half the story though: there are three other major benefits:

Two Professionals Are Much More Adept at Navigating Rough Seas

Being in business is a bit like taking a boat trip. Sometimes, the sea is silky smooth, but more often than not there are choppy waters, which require that you adapt your schedule and improvise a bit. This can be daunting when you’re all alone. But when you have a reliable partner at your side, insurmountable obstacles can become mere hurdles instead.

An example: I do most of the sales and marketing stuff for my business. I contact potential clients, negotiate prices and try to find new business opportunities. Since finding new clients isn’t exactly the easiest thing on the planet, I sometimes lose motivation and feel like accepting the status quo. I’m happy with our current business anyway, so why would I go through all that bother if it only sometimes yields results and often causes frustration?

Whenever I feel drained like that, my business partner Lineke always manages to convince me not to give up on it. She has the positivity that I lack and it helps tremendously. She’d probably feel as droopy as I do if she had to invest so much time and effort into something so fickle, but that’s the thing: she does not have to! So, she has energy aplenty to keep me going.

This might be one of the biggest benefits of collaborating with fellow translators. We’re all different people and sometimes, when you have run out of ideas and positivity, there’s always someone else who’s able to invigorate you with new perspectives.

It Simply Makes Much More Sense to Not Do Business as a Lone Wolf

Take a look at the average translation client. If a company needs translations, it’s probably because it has managed to grow to a considerable size—one that merits communication in two or more languages. Translation clients can be even be as huge as governments! It’s not very appealing for big guys like that to do business with self-employed translators, because big fish have business needs that the small fry cannot satiate on their own. The Dutch government probably wouldn’t want to outsource its copy to a company that can take on 5,000 words a week.

Now, as a freelance translator you’re probably not dead-set on landing governments as clients, but there’s still a lesson to be learned. If you want to be a fully-fledged business partner for even medium-sized clients, you need to be able to keep up with their pace. One of our direct clients is a marketing agency that has over 100,000 likes on Facebook, while we don’t even have a Facebook page! Still, they love working with us, but they’d probably never do business with only one of us, because the turnaround times would be way too long. From a translation business perspective, being just a bit bigger than the smallest possible set-up is a very good thing. You’re agile and capable, without incurring overhead and other factors that increase costs. You’ll be able to enter markets that are normally cordoned off by bigger companies for you.

You Can Adapt the Size of Your Collaboration to Whatever You Need

As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of collaboration, as it has yielded great results for my business. However, as interested as you might have become in working together with other translators, there’s a good chance you’re thinking: who and how many people should I work with? The answer is as simple as it is true: the scope of your collaboration and selection of business partners is entirely up to you, especially now that the whole world is connected digitally.

Let’s say you want to offer SEO to your clients, but you lack the technical know-how to find the right keywords. Partner up with an expert who knows all about SEO wizardry. If you have a client who wants to enter new markets, you might even offer them multi-language SEO. Who knows, you might end up doing SEO for them in 11 languages—or more! You’ll be a much more flexible business partner this way.

If multilingual SEO is more than you want to bargain for, you can simply keep things nice and small. Collaboration works at any size—it’s not like a small team of translators is any less viable than someone who gathers a whole slew of experts around them to win huge clients. The only difference is scale, which is just a variable, not a limit.

So Get Out There and Mingle

And there you have it. Six benefits of freelance collaboration that will allow you to do better business. Modern technology makes it so easy to find other people to work with that it’d be a shame to beaver away on your own, especially since collaboration is one of the cheapest (if not completely free) tools you have at your disposal. I’m all up for it, so I can only say: get out there and mingle!

Image credit: Pixabay

Author bio

A native speaker of Dutch, Branco van der Werf runs his two-man translation company with his partner, Lineke van Straalen. His language pairs are English-Dutch and German-Dutch. He graduated from the School for Translation and Interpreting in the Netherlands in 2014 and has since specialized in marketing translation, transcreation and copywriting. His creative translations regularly appear in TV commercials, brand assets and digital spaces. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Questions to Ask Before You Accept a Translation Project

It is impossible to anticipate every issue or question that may arise during the course of a translation project, but one thing you can do to be prepared before you get started is ask a lot of questions. Below are a number of questions you should keep in mind each time you receive a new project request (especially from a new client), so that you can be sure to avoid any surprises or problems down the road.

You can use this as a sort of checklist each time you receive a new request; be sure to glance through each topic and consider the answers to all the questions we’ve listed before you even quote the job. You don’t necessarily need to ask the client all of these questions for each project you quote—just remember that addressing these topics as early as possible will help clear up any misunderstandings, make you appear professional, and ensure that your client will be as satisfied as possible in the end.

The Task at Hand

Before you accept—or even quote—a project, think generally about what you are being asked to do.

Does the client need translation only or translation and editing?

If a second editor is needed, make sure you have someone lined up and that their services will fit into your budget.

Can you open all the files you received?

Make sure you can open and view all files received from the client, especially if sent through a secure link online or if there are audio/video files involved. Some clients may remove files after you confirm receipt, or there could be a zip file that you are unable to open. It is crucial to identify these problems as early as possible before you get started, so you don’t misquote or misjudge the amount of work you have to do.

Is the document fully legible?

If not, how will you handle illegible text?

Do you need a better copy if the source file is scanned?

The client may have access to the hard copy of the document in order to provide a better scanned electronic copy.

Do you need to work in a specific software tool?

Do you own that software tool, or will the client provide you the means to use it?

Is there any handwritten text?

If so, how will you handle handwritten text?

Is the project confirmed or potential?

Does the client expect to receive a confirmation soon, or is this a project that multiple vendors may be bidding on?

The Bigger Picture

In addition to the questions above, before quoting or accepting a project it is a good idea to think about the bigger picture. The document(s) you are being asked to translate may be part of a bigger project scope that you are not seeing, and the decisions you make on this project could have ramifications later on.

What is the purpose of the translation?

This will help to inform your translation decisions.

Who is your target audience?

This will help determine the register you use in your translation.

Have you done projects of this nature for this client before?

You may not realize that this project is similar to one you did previously, from which you can extract terminology or background information for the current project.

Who will own the translation rights after the project is completed?

For example, you may want to know if you can use this translation as a sample of your work to include in your professional portfolio. You may also want to know if you can be credited for the translation.

Is this part of a recurring assignment or ongoing project?

You may wish to develop a thorough glossary and TM early on, and take careful notes on your translation decisions, if this project is expected to continue for a long period of time.

Pricing and Deadline

Now you have gotten to the point where you are ready to negotiate a price and a deadline. Here are a few more considerations to keep in mind. You should also check out the items under “Resources” and “Delivery” for a few more questions that may impact the price you quote.

How much actual work time will this take you?

Estimate how many words you can translate per hour and divide the number of words in the text by this number.

What lead time do you need to finish the project?

Even if you only need 8-10 hours to complete the project, you may want to build in extra time in case you experience any technology issues, to accommodate other projects that may come up, or to fit in other commitments you may have going on. It may be better to tell the client a time range in days (e.g. “3-4 business days upon approval”) rather than a specific date so that you have some leeway in case the project is not accepted right away.

Will you offer a discount based on repetitions and/or TM matches?

For example, if you already translated 50% of this document for the same client and you only need to translate the remaining half, you may want to give them a discount of some kind on the first 50% of the text.

If the translation is urgent, will you charge extra?

Some translators charge an extra percentage of the invoice for projects due within a tight time frame (e.g. 24 hours or x number of words per business day), or projects that require weekend/holiday work.

What are the terms of payment?

Many translation projects are paid 15, 30, 60, or 90 days upon receipt of invoice, but for a larger project you may want to ask for a deposit up front.

Do you trust this client to pay on time?

You can check on the client’s reliability by looking them up on Payment Practices or ProZ Blue Board, or by checking with trusted colleagues as to their authenticity and payment habits.

What method of payment will be used?

The client may have a preferred method of payment and you will need to make sure you can receive funds that way—for example, PayPal, check, and wire transfer are three common methods of payment in the U.S.

Who will pay any payment fees?

Wire transfers and PayPal often have associated fees, and you will want to agree with the client in advance on who will absorb these fees. Alternatively, you can build these fees into your rate.

Source Text

Take a closer look at the source text to learn more about what you will be translating.

What is the subject matter?

Many translators specialize in specific subject areas based on their experience and background, but most importantly you must be familiar enough with the source text domain to produce a quality translation.

Is the entire document in the correct source language?

You may receive a long text that appears to be entirely in your source language, but partway through, you find a portion of text in another language. How will you handle this in the target text?

What country/variant/locale is the source file from?

Make sure you are familiar with the country and language variant your source text originated from.

Should you correct errors in the source text, if applicable?

Sometimes you may find errors (spelling, grammar, etc.) in the source text; it is a good idea to ask the client how to handle these when you find an error.

Resources

Before you start the project, keep in mind the following questions about research and resources, and be sure to ask the client if you have any doubts or concerns.

Is there a glossary or TM you should work from?

Make sure you are not doing more work than you have to, especially if the client has an established glossary they want you to work from.

Do you understand the text and terminology, and will you be able to research it sufficiently to produce a quality translation?

Have you reviewed the document thoroughly enough to determine that you are able to translate it?

Is the document confidential?

You may wish to share small portions of the text with colleagues as you research, in order to ask for their input; but first, you need to make sure it is okay to share.

Deliverable

Before you’ve even accepted the project, think about the end deliverable. You will need to be sure that you have checked with the client to align your expectations on the following topics.

What variant of your language should the target text be in?

Before you get started, be sure to check with the client as to what target language variation should be used, and that you are well-versed in this variant’s conventions so you can produce a top-notch target file.

What degree of formatting will be expected of you?

You may come upon images, charts, and graphs in the source file. Check with the client to find out if they want you to translate these, and determine whether you will charge extra for additional formatting.

What is the file format of the deliverable(s)?

Be sure to know what type of file you are expected to submit. Generally, clients will want a *.doc file if the source was a *.doc file; however, sometimes you will be expected to convert the source file into another format or provide a TMX or XLIFF file in addition to a translation exported from a CAT tool.

Will a translator’s statement be needed?

Especially for official documents (birth certificates and so on), clients may ask you to provide a signed “certificate” stating that the translation is accurate to the best of your knowledge. Consider whether this is needed, whether it will have to be notarized, and whether you will charge extra for these services.

What other questions do you ask yourself (and your client!) before starting a translation project? Have you found that keeping a list like this on hand helps you identify any potential issues early on and enable a smoother process going forward?

Stay tuned for another post on this topic: Questions to Ask Before You Accept an Interpreting Assignment.

Header image: Pixabay

Branding Yourself – Create a Professional Portfolio

 Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle with permission from the author

In today’s business world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make yourself competitive, especially as a translator. More and more freelancers are being added to the market, so what can you do to make yourself stand out in a sea of many? A great place to start your differentiating process is by creating a professional portfolio. A portfolio is an invaluable tool in more ways than one. But what exactly is it, and exactly how can it help you?

What Is a Portfolio?

A portfolio is simply a collection of your work that can be used to market your language services, apply for a job, highlight your professional experience, or document what you have learned. As a translator, you need a portfolio to create the link between what you can do and what the prospective client or organization wants from you. Your professional portfolio will distinguish you from the competition. It will clearly highlight your experience and demonstrate that you are serious about your career as a translator and your job search. It will show examples of your unique strengths and pique the interest of your potential clients or employers. In addition, it will help you build confidence in what you can do.

How Can Your Portfolio Help You?

What are your professional activities, and what are the outcomes of those activities? Are you documenting them adequately so others can see your contributions? Do your activities and the outcomes they produce match your profession? What do you need to change or enhance about what you do and the outcomes you document? A professional portfolio will be an immense help in answering these questions constructively. It helps you keep track of everything you have done in your career as a professional translator or interpreter and points out where you should go next. Most importantly for freelancers, it will definitely get you attention and help you stand out from the crowd.

The Importance of Your Unique Value Proposition

Before you embark on creating your professional portfolio, you must first identify your value proposition—a clear statement in line with the market’s challenges and your desires, communicating the unique contribution you and your services are providing that is different from your competitors. Try to answer the question, “Why should I do business with you and not someone else?” Your unique value proposition must appeal to the client’s strongest decision-making drivers. It should be believable, authentic, and specific. Once you have a statement that you are confident communicates your value, you have the basis on which to build your professional portfolio. Like a classic novel that has a specific theme or overall message, your unique value proposition should pervade your portfolio. Whoever is reading it should get an overall sense of your value without your having to state it explicitly.

What Goes Into a Portfolio?

The key point of your portfolio is that you want to give an employer cause to hire you or a prospective client reasons to retain your translation or interpreting services. You want to showcase your education and work experience by showing examples and evidence of your work, skills, and accomplishments. While your portfolio can be creative and contain an array of items based on the exact message you are conveying with your unique value proposition, there are some elements that are absolutely necessary. These are your career summary, bio, personal philosophy, and mission statement.

How to Make Your Career Summary Interesting and Relevant

Your career summary is simply a description of who you are through what you have done throughout your career as a linguist. It typically includes information not on your résumé, such as your work ethic, professional interests, and your philosophy about life and work. In your summary, aim to quantify your achievements by using varied adverbs and more descriptive detail. Instead of simply mentioning that you did X translating job for Y company, make a statement saying something along the lines of you consistently did X job, translating 3,000 words per day at Y company.

How to Define Your Personal Philosophy and Mission Statement

This is a personal statement about the principles that guide you, your purpose, and your value proposition. Consider this your personal executive summary. While it may be short, this is important for singling out your mission as a linguist and expressing your uniqueness.

Perfect Your Bio

In the business world we summarize our experience, qualifications, education, skill-sets, and any other important aspects of our professional life (and sometimes even our personal life). This is contained in what is typically known as the résumé or CV (curriculum vitae). The information presented, its style, format, length, etc., all vary among cultures. Nevertheless, it is an important component of your marketing kit, regardless of the culture you are targeting. However, this tool does not really highlight all of those personal characteristics that make you different from others. The biography is a highly underestimated, yet very powerful, tool that should be essential in any marketing kit. It is simply the story of your life.

A résumé lists your credentials. A biography presents them in a story, automatically making the content much more interesting. Stories are fascinating and have the ability to engage and connect us with our target market through purpose and passion. Let your human side shine through your story. Your audience wants to find that special connection with you, and there is no better way to connect than by sharing your story. Do not be bland. Personal hobbies and interests, while not necessary, may be helpful in letting your readers get a taste of who you are as a person.

When composing your bio, consider your audience—who exactly will be reading it? This is important, because what you include in your bio should and will vary depending on your target audience. While this may be difficult to achieve, a good bio is short—somewhere between 150-300 words. To keep the length to a minimum, it is important to focus only on the highlights or more significant moments. Use phrases such as among others or to name a few. These phrases keep lists short, but convey the notion that the list continues. Your bio should also be written in the third person in order to keep it formal and professional.

Some Other Items to Consider in Your Portfolio

While every one of the following items is not required in your portfolio, you should try to include what you feel is necessary to convey your unique value proposition. Consider the following:
• Career summary
• Goals
• Personal brand statement in a tagline form
• Mission statement
• Bio
• Résumé
• Accomplishments
• Work samples
• Research publications and reports
• Testimonials
• Letters of recommendation
• Awards and honors
• Conferences and workshops
• Transcripts
• Degrees
• Licenses and certifications
• Professional development activities
• Volunteer and community service
• References

One thing to keep out of your portfolio is your rates. Also, if you are targeting translation agencies, include the tools and technologies you use; however, when targeting direct clients, this information is not necessary and may even confuse your potential buyers.

Stylistic Tips to Keep Your Portfolio Professional

Use an assortment of syntax and vocabulary so that your portfolio does not become boring to the reader. Be careful to stay truthful. If you are caught lying or even stretching the truth, you will lose a lot of precious credibility—and likely a client as well. In addition, industry jargon should be kept to a minimum. What good is your portfolio if the reader does not understand what is being said? Monitor the length of your sentences so that the flow of your statements does not become choppy or confusing. Keep in mind that bulleted lists are easy to follow and show organization. Avoid words that are too “flowery”; that is, if you think your reader might have to go to a dictionary for it, do not include it. Definitely omit pronouns, as they make your portfolio look less professional. You should always keep your intended audience in mind when planning your approach. Perhaps your readers would prefer something a little more personal. Always remember that your portfolio should motivate the reader to take action.

Stand Out from the Crowd with Your Work Samples

Regarding samples, if you are a translator, make sure you include the source and target translation. If you really want to stand out from the crowd, you can simply include a hyperlink to the source document and the corresponding translation if they are available online (like a website). Instead of just including the source and target translation, focus on highlighting any outcomes that resulted from your translation. For example, if you translated a website, and that website is reaching out to X amount of people, point that out. If you are an interpreter, you can include a link to a short video clip of an actual interpreting assignment along with a brief description of what the gig was all about. A word of caution: if you are going to include hyperlinks to projects or assignments on which you worked, make sure you always get the proper permission from your client to do so. You do not want to infringe on any confidentiality agreement and jeopardize not just the relationship with your client but also your professional reputation.

Your Portfolio: Why It Should Be Online

Google is your biggest promoter. The Internet is the biggest gallery in the world, with millions of potential clients online. You need to make sure they can find you and your work. An online portfolio gives you the perfect opportunity to do this. With numerous social media outlets, you have the ability to showcase yourself and your work to thousands of people not available via traditional methods. Think about the implications of not popping up on someone’s online search for your name. Will you lose all trust or credibility since you are not in the results set? Are you hiding something? If others cannot find you online, you have done a poor job of letting people get the chance to know you and your services. Your online portfolio is available around the clock. You want your online portfolio to be like a website that is well designed, easy to use, and tells the reader exactly what is wanted quickly and without hassle. Not to mention, you want it to be instantly inspiring upon first glance. One of the most important aspects of your online portfolio is its appearance—easy to read, clean, and thorough. When you create easy-to-read application material that paints a detailed, well-matched picture of your professional self, you make recruiters, clients, and employers happy and interested.

Online Tools to Create Your Online Portfolio Find websites that can both stylize your portfolio with graphics and organize your information in a visual and compelling way. There are numerous free and inexpensive tools online that allow you to create graphical representations of your skills, working history, and professional achievements. If you do not already have your own personal website, consider investing in one. Make it easy for others to find and be impressed by you. Make them think, “Wow, I need those services, and now!” It is easier than you think to make yourself accessible. You will find that your professional portfolio (particularly one that is online) will do that for you. All the effort required is the initial creation of the portfolio. So, go out and self-promote. After that, your clients will come right to you!

Image credit: Pixabay

Author bio

Marcela Reyes is the chief branding officer for Latitudes | Training, Coaching and Consulting. She is an entrepreneurial marketing expert and business coach with over 20 years of experience. She partners with language services providers around the world to help them communicate their value to attract more clients, expand their services, and develop their own brand in local and international markets. She gives presentations around the world and is a published author. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and an MBA with an emphasis in marketing. Contact: marcela@latitudescoach.com.

Corpus analysis: The Ugly Duckling of Translation

Not long ago, hearing the term “corpus linguistics” made me shriek; after all, it was something that only linguists in academia did, right? So, when I signed up for a course, I was not fully convinced that I would learn something that I could truly put into practice. However, by the end of the course, I had concluded that corpus analysis is the Ugly Duckling of Translation.

Before you get to know it, it looks ugly and worthless, but as your relationship deepens, you start seeing the beauty of it. And don’t take my word for it; others have seen it too. Take my husband, for example, a freelancer translator with all the best tools. He had also heard about corpus analysis; he knew that learning how to analyze corpus might be useful, but he had not taken the time to do it. Once I showed him how easy it was to do searches, he was immediately hooked. He even built a huge corpus from his legal and oil & gas documentation, which are his specializations. Recently, after a 10-minute introduction to a colleague, she said: “OMG, where has this been all my life!”

If you haven’t been overcome by this feeling yet, I am willing to bet that you are still looking at the Ugly Duckling from the outside. But I am sure I can convince you in the next few paragraphs by showing you the face of a cute little swan. There are three easy steps to start believing.

The first step: Decide which tool you want to use. AntConc, Wordsmith, and Sketch Engine are some of the top names in the market. All of them are great tools. But you can start with AntConc (free) to take your first steps and then take advantage of the free trials and play with the others to pick your favorite. Of course, you could stick to using online corpus such as COCA, BNC, BNCweb, etc., and maybe that’s enough for you, but why not build your own corpus that can be controlled and expanded endlessly and effortlessly!

The second step is collecting your corpus and converting it to .txt files. Nothing easier! Create a folder with subfolders on your computer. For example, if you translate documents on energy, you can have two main folders, renewable and nonrenewable; then, inside the renewable folder, you may have wind energy, solar energy, bioenergy, etc. Why is this folder division important? Because sometimes you might be looking for a general term on renewable energy, but other times you only want to search in your documentation on solar energy, which could make your searches faster. If you are just starting out, don’t worry about the number of documents in the beginning, just make sure they are representative of the topic you are working with to make sure you get useful results. You can add more documents as you get the hang of it. Just remember: Quality over quantity!

Corpus analysis tools only accept .txt files, but you can find free software that can do this for you in a matter of seconds, including the collection of cute little tools provided by the creator of AntConc, Dr. Laurence Anthony. AntFileConverter and EncodeAnt help you convert PDF and Word files into .txt, and .txt files into UTF-8 files, respectively (“stubborn” .txt files that the tool may not recognize might need that extra step of conversion to UFT-8 files). The conversion takes seconds, even for a large number of documents.

The third step is getting training, free training, that is. I know what you’re thinking: That’s going to take a long time. Wrong! Take AntConc, for example, Dr. Anthony has a collection of 5 to 10-minute videos that explain every function clearly. The fact that they are short suggests that it doesn’t take long to understand how the software works. By the way, when I say “software” I am actually referring to a downloadable file. It can’t get any easier than that! If you are just starting out, don’t get overwhelmed. First, play with the concordance tool until you feel comfortable using it before going to the next one. And that’s it! If you complete those three steps. you are ready to play. And, really… Play! It is so much fun.

What do I use it for? Corpus analysis tools include many great functions. I look for terms to confirm that they have been previously translated in this or that way. You can see how many times each term has been used and make an appropriate decision. For example, “operational” in Spanish could be “operativo,” “operacional,” “de negocios,” etc. When I check my corpus, which has been translated by professional translators, I can see how every term is used in its context and make my choice.

I can also “guess” a translation for a term to see if my guess is correct and, consequently, an accurate term for my translation. To illustrate, I can enter the word “framework” to search for a term that I know for sure contains it. I can sort my results by one, two or three words to the left or to the right (as shown by the colors red, green, and purple in the illustration) of the word “framework.” And I know it is an acronym, so I ask the program to look only for capitalized “Framework.” And, voilà, I get what I am looking for: Corporate Results Framework (CRF). If I click on Framework to see the context for every hit, the program takes me to the .txt file where the term came from. That is music to my ears.

Another tool that is music to my ears is BootCat, which converts your favorite websites into a format that can be examined in a corpus analysis tool. It is super easy to use, and it is extremely valuable if you have to translate a document about a topic that you still don’t know that well. (Great for newbies!) Just search the web, select sites or pages about your topic, and copy the URLs into BootCat.

After that first course, my interest in corpus analysis grew. There are a few courses and webinars that show translators not only how useful they are but also how to use them. However, few of them are free. I must confess, I am not an expert, but I am a good player. And when you become a skillful player, you too will see the ugly duckling become a beautiful swan!

Header image: Pixabay

Author bio

Patricia Brenes works in the Quality Control Unit of the Translation Section of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C. She is a translator and terminologist, with a Master’s Degree in Specialized Translation from the University of Vic in Barcelona and certified by ECQA as Terminology Manager (TermNet, Vienna).

After realizing that there was a limited availability of resources and information for linguists and other stakeholders, she decided to start a terminology blog with resources and information: http://www.inmyownterms.com (Terminology for Beginners and Beyond).

To ask or not to ask – that is the question…

Reblogged from the blog ClaireCoxTranslations ~ Lines from a linguist, incl. the image, with permission from the author

It’s a familiar story: you’ve come to the end of a lengthy translation and there are a couple of points you’re not quite sure about. It might be in-house jargon, or indecipherable acronyms. Or then again the source text might not be very well written, or there may be ambiguities you need to resolve in order to convey the meaning accurately in your target language. So do you get back to the client and ask for clarification? Or just hope for the best and go with your instincts….?

I’m firmly in the “ask” camp myself. I don’t believe any agency or direct client worth their salt would think you any less professional for seeking clarification. Indeed, not asking is much more likely to leave you open to accusations of unprofessionalism! There may be any number of reasons why a source text might not be entirely clear: the author may have left a word or phrase out; there may be a typing or dictation error, the text may have been left deliberately ambiguous, but conveying that ambiguity in the target text might not be quite as straightforward…. You might just not have a enough context to go on to make an informed decision. Add these to the list of considerations I mentioned above and you’ll see that if you’re in any doubt about the true meaning of your source text, it really is best to ask.

I clearly recall Chris Durban, in her mystery shopper presentation at the ITI Conference in Birmingham in 2011, describing her experiences with outsourcing work to translators. She too was amazed how few translators bothered to ask questions, but she was actually far more concerned if translators DIDN’T ask! I only outsource a limited amount of work these days, but I feel the same way. I always try and make it quite clear that I’m happy to answer any queries, no matter how trivial. It shows me that the translator is thinking about what they’re translating and keen to get it spot on.

I tend to leave it until the end of my first draft before sending in my queries, but with a very long document, it might be a good idea to split the text into sections and send batches of queries after each section. I’m currently working on a very lengthy translation and sent my first list of questions when I reached the quarter mark, over a week ago. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting, despite gently nudging the agency a couple of times in the interim! This is frustrating as not only am I perpetuating any misunderstandings I might be making, but the longer it takes, the more potential adjustments I’ll have to make at the end, rather than after a shorter section, as I’d hoped. Many of my queries relate to acronyms, not to their meaning as such, but how the client would like them conveyed in the target file. In the particular field I’m working in, some of my clients like to use the equivalent English acronym, some prefer the French left as it is and others prefer the French followed by the English equivalent in square brackets afterwards – as you can see, it’s a potential minefield! This particular end client made it very clear at the outset of this project that they were happy to field questions and that the priority was for accuracy, yet I suspect project managers at the client’s end have changed in the meantime and I have on occasions been asked to highlight any queries when I return my final translation – never a satisfactory outcome for the translator!

I often find that working for direct clients leads to more successful question-answer sessions, as you are able to go straight to the horse’s mouth. I love it when you query a term and the client ‘phones or e-mails you back saying they’ve just spoken to the engineers and giving you a detailed description of what the widget in question actually does – brilliant! Then again, direct clients may not speak the source language at all, but merely discussing the issue with them shows them that you’re aware there’s a problem and if nothing else you can add a translator’s note with possible options. I translate an ongoing series of minutes and actions for one particular client and it’s gratifying to find, further down the line, that a particular piece of text that I’ve queried has been amended in the source text as not being sufficiently clear there either….

I have worked for clients in the past who have clearly been unwilling to “bother” the end client and have just said “Oh, put what you think….” – which I hate! Providing you’ve done the necessary research, using standard dictionaries in your subject field and a decent amount of online searching, it is most certainly not a sign of weakness or ignorance to check your understanding of a specific term or phrase. Patents in particular, with their very long and convoluted sentences, are often riddled with typing errors and omissions and I frequently send them back with a list of queries based on my assumptions. With patents, you are often asked not to correct errors in the text, but to note them separately for consideration by the patent attorney. Another agency client sends me two-column Word documents extracted from Déjà Vu with an extra Comments column, and I use this to note any niggles I might have about the text as I work, for easy reference by my agency contact at the end. Translator’s notes (footnotes or endnotes) are another option, but I’d rather avoid these unless specifically asked to use them as I feel it breaks the flow of the text.

Of course, there are lots of things you can do before resorting to sending that list of queries to the client: checking dictionaries, on and off-line and carrying out web searches. I find Linguee extremely useful these days, as it shows you words used in context – you have to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff, obviously, but it can give you a nod in the right direction. Translation forums are also very valuable resources: professional associations such as the ITI have language and subject networks, often with associated e-groups, where you can post term queries for discussion by qualified translator colleagues. I find these particularly helpful for getting a native speaker’s take on a particular phrasing, less so for highly technical terms, but it’s always worth a try if you’re really stuck. Finally, I have a number of colleagues I can refer to in extremis, either by Skype messaging, e-mail or ‘phone: it’s amazing how often the act of writing down your concerns helps crystallise the problem in your mind! And if it doesn’t, two minds are better than one and, between you, you can arrive at a solution. It may be that you’re still not sure, even after all that, so that’s when you need to consult the client.

Often, if you’re unsure about something, but persuade yourself that you’ve instinctively worked it out, that will be the one term that will come back and bite you – in the form of a proofreader’s red pen, or at worst an angry reaction from the client. It just isn’t worth taking the risk – even if you have to badger the client to respond in the first place! At least that way, you’ve raised awareness, asked the question and tried to reach a solution. If you still don’t get an answer, you may have to reiterate your concerns when you send in your final text, but the ball is in the client’s court, unsatisfactory as that may be for you as a perfectionist translator…

So, yes: ask, ask, ask every time is the answer to my question – not to the extent that you make a nuisance of yourself, but so that you show yourself to be the diligent, professional translator we all aspire to be.

TM-76_The absence of context is to be lamentedWith grateful thanks to www.tina-and-mouse.com for the very apt cartoon!

How is the T&I industry laid out?

This post is the first in a series of five posts written in response to questions we at The Savvy Newcomer have received, sometimes from people within the translation world, but also from bilingual friends and family who are interested in translation and interpreting (T&I). Our hope is that this series will serve as a guide for people who are considering a career in T&I and want to know where to begin.

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How is the T&I industry laid out?

As a preface, I can think of numerous times since I began working as a translator that friends and family have come to me with questions about my work. Do I actually have a job? Do people pay me to do it? Who do I work for? The questions are not always this blatant, but I can often sense the underlying question of how the translation and interpreting industry really works, and whether it is a viable career for someone who knows a second language. In short, the answer is yes!

The question of how our industry is laid out is usually one that people do not ask straight-out, but it is the first topic I address in my response. It is crucial to have this foundational knowledge before you consider becoming a translator or an interpreter so you can decide if you—your lifestyle, your skills, your background—will make a good fit for the industry, and vice versa.

Translation vs. interpreting

The first distinction to make is the difference between translation and interpreting. Check out the infographic below to get an idea (credit: lucomics.com). Translation is written; when you translate, you receive a document in one language and translate it into another language—usually on a computer, but sometimes by hand. Interpreting is spoken; interpreters work in person, by phone, or by video, interpreting words spoken in real time by conveying the same message out loud in a second language so that another person or other people can understand what was said.

Translation and interpreting require very different skills; translators are strong writers with a good grasp of writing conventions in their target language. They need to be able to properly understand the source language to create a suitable translation. Interpreters, on the other hand, should have a strong command of speaking skills in both languages and must be able to produce coherent and accurate renditions of what is being said as it is said.

What is a language pair?

The combination of languages in which a translator or interpreter provides services is called their “language pair.” Translators usually work from one language into another; for example, I work from Spanish into English (Spanish>English), which means that my clients send me documents in Spanish and I deliver translated documents in English. It is a good rule of thumb to remember that translators usually work into their native language. This is because most of us are naturally better writers in our native tongue, so we work from our second language into our first. Interpreters, alternatively, may work with both languages at the same level; for example, if an interpreter is hired to help a doctor communicate with her patient, the interpreter will need to speak both languages so both parties are understood. In this case, we would say that the interpreter’s language pair is Spanish-English, since he is not working into one language or the other. As a side note, some interpreters offer their services at conferences where the speaker or presenter speaks in one language and some or all attendees need to hear the presentation in their own language (this is called conference interpreting). If, for example, a group of marine biologists from Mexico attends a conference in Miami, their interpreter would be working from Spanish>English, and would most likely provide the interpretation simultaneously through a headset while the speaker is speaking.

Who do you work for?

This is one of the questions I hear most often. A high percentage of translators and interpreters are freelancers, which means we work for ourselves! Our clients may be translation agencies or direct clients from other companies that require our services. Most T&I professionals work for clients all across the world, which makes for an interesting workday! Some full-time employment opportunities exist for translators and interpreters, but much of the industry is built on an independent contractor model. There are pros and cons to working for yourself:

Pros Cons
Flexible schedule Unstable income
The more you work, the more you earn Loneliness
Work varies and can be very interesting No employer benefits

What does it take?

To become a skilled and successful translator or interpreter, it is important to be self-motivated! Especially if you are going to become a freelancer, you want to be sure that you have the fortitude to set your own schedule, manage your time, and keep growing your business. It is also essential to have strong language skills in two or more languages. It is important to recognize that being bilingual does not automatically make someone a translator or interpreter! Knowing two languages is crucial, but it is important to have training or experience that teaches you the ins and outs of translating or interpreting: the pitfalls you may encounter, best practices, and the code of ethics by which you must live and work. Bilingual individuals who are not cut out to be translators or interpreters and want to use their bilingual skills in other capacities can find great career opportunities as language teachers, bilingual medical or legal providers, language project managers, and so forth. In fact, bilingual individuals can play a key role in just about any profession imaginable.

We hope this helps to answer some of the initial questions you may have about translation and interpreting! Stay tuned for the next installment: “Starting from Scratch.”

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