Emails asking for translation or interpreting rates: Here’s how I respond

I often get requests for my rates from organizations that are trying to build a database of individual translation or interpreting service providers. An individual provider is a person who does their own work, also known as an interpreter or translator. Keep in mind that prime contractors (large language companies) can’t provide services without a sufficient number of subcontractors (individual translation and interpreting providers). We as the practitioners have a responsibility to steer this conversation.

The prime contractors often start with questions about rates, and their emails go something like this:

“I found your name on the website for Professional Association X. Are you interested in translating or interpreting for us?”

Note that there is no personalization. Nothing about your specific profile that stood out, nothing personal. They aren’t trying to build a business relationship with you; they just want data.

“If so, what rate do you charge by the [insert very small unit here]? Are you certified in [insert specific certification here]? Do you have any experience with [insert specific service]?

Sincerely, Person X”

At the end of these emails you’ll often see phone numbers listed in more than one city. So you know for sure that if you call, you won’t get Person X on the line! So how do I respond?

“Yes, I would be thrilled to translate and interpret for you! I charge by the [usual large unit, minimum number of units]. I am certified in [list all my certifications, not just the one they asked for]. I have experience in [providing specific service]. As a matter of fact, I have been doing that since [year], and my clients preschedule my services at the rates mentioned above.

For more information, please check me out at [LinkedIn, my website, etc.]”

This way, when someone contacts me back, I get to continue the conversation on my own terms. I make the next move and set the terms of the discussion. I own the story about my profession and get to answer the questions I wish they had asked instead of the ones they did ask.

Next time you get an impersonal client email that seems to be fishing only for numbers and data to add to a database, try this technique! Professionals set their own terms and set rates that work for them.

Your Networking Mistakes are Turning People Off

This post originally appeared on SBO blog and it is republished with permission.

I’ve been networking regularly for about eight years now, gradually increasing the frequency from once a month to at least once a week, sometimes more. As I eased into the rhythm of networking and kept seeing familiar faces (Singapore is really darn small), things got a little boring. And then I started people watching.

It’s actually an interesting exercise to step out of being a participant and into an observer’s point of view. It dawned on me that I was once (and sometimes still am) that douchebag who unintentionally (and now sometimes intentionally, for good reasons, of course) behaved inappropriately.

It’s forgivable if you’re a newbie, but many people remain oblivious to despite going to countless networking events. Let’s count your sins.

Let’s count your sins.

Going without intention

It’s easy for people to tell when you’re networking without a purpose, and they’re likely to think that you’re a time-waster and probably unreliable.

Networking needs to be intentional, even if the intention is as mundane as going there to see who you can possibly connect with. Or maybe you’re looking for more business and want to qualify some prospects. Whatever it is, find a reason to be there. Your actions and chats will become purposeful. People can see that and might even mistake that as confidence.

But of course, this can swing the other way as well, that is approaching the session very intentionally with the goal of selling.

Going with every intention to sell

This very aggressive approach to networking turns people off almost instantly.

A casual survey that I had conducted on a Facebook group revealed that most people hate hard-sellers.

If you’re pulling out your sales deck or portfolio the first time you meet someone, then you’re doing it wrong. Networkers, especially the seasoned ones, can detect desperation. This very aggressive approach to networking turns people off almost instantly.

Remember that networking requires some time investment. It’s all about sowing seeds. Even if the relationships that you’ve nurtured don’t result in a direct sale, they might end up passing referrals to you, simply because you’ve been a sincere friend.

Be a wallflower

… grab an extroverted friend, explain your fear and willingness to face it, and get said friend to help you open up conversations.

Networking means jumping into the pit with everyone. If you’re going to stay in one corner and just wait for people to approach, you’re better off saving your money and staying home. Furthermore, the impression you’d be leaving would be that creep who’s at a corner, and the longer you stay in that corner, the more people will never approach you.

If you’re afraid of crowds but still wish to push boundaries through networking, that’s great! Try approaching someone that’s away from the crowd (there’s always at least one other person) and strike a conversation. Another way is to grab an extroverted friend, explain your fear and willingness to face it, and get said friend to help you open up conversations.

Go talk to someone!

Be passive

Conversation is a two-way street. When you get into a conversation with someone, don’t just give a one-worded reply or wait for the other party to ask more questions. This comes across as insincere and disinterested.

Take a real interest in what people are doing. Reciprocate with genuine questions. Showing that you are curious will encourage people to share more.

Beating around the bush

If you’re going to get someone as a client, they are going to find out who you really are sooner or later. Can they trust you to be honest and professional with their money when you’re not forthcoming?

The most common trades that are present at any networking sessions are financial planners and property agents. The decent ones will not mince their words and just tell you straight up who they are, then tell you what’s different about them. This is great because it saves everyone time. The interested parties can stay, the rest can move on.

Then there are the annoying ones telling you some variation of their job, such as “finance industry professional”, “wealth manager” or “investment strategist”, and only upon probing further that people realise who they really are.

Now think about it. If you’re going to get someone as a client, they are going to find out who you really are sooner or later. Can they trust you to be honest and professional with their money when you’re not forthcoming?

Pushing name cards

People don’t like to be treated as a number, a game or both.

To some people, networking is but a numbers game. The more people you come into contact, the better. These people seem to be always in a rush, shoving their name cards into people’s hands as if they are flyers. The more creative ones give out other forms of marketing collaterals, including gifts, in place of name cards, but that doesn’t make it less offensive.

People don’t like to be treated as a number, a game or both. They want to be treated as a valued individual. Even if you’re in a rush, linger for a while, ask a few questions and at least try to understand the other party at a superficial level. When you really need to go, apologise and offer to arrange a separate time to catch up.

If you’re still not convinced and insist on doing this, you’re better off standing at the MRT station giving out flyers. You’d capture a lot more people.

Pushing name cards pushes people away.

Dominating the conversation

While it’s true that networking is all about talking, it’s not all about you. People didn’t pony up and gather at a place at their free time to hear you ramble on and on about yourself. Don’t hog the individual. As interesting as that person may be, he or she would like to know more people too.

Be aware of the conversation. It’s obvious that you’re just talking to yourself when nobody’s asking you questions. But if you find someone who really does ask a lot about you, find an opportune time to turn the tables around and say, “I’ve been talking so much about myself, but I hardly know you!”, then follow up with a question.

Another good rule of thumb is to move on after some time. “Some time” is really subjective because it depends on how many people are there and how much time you have. In doubt, keep to 5-10 minutes and move on.

Asking to be added to someone’s personal social media

Unless you’re talking about LinkedIn or if you’re sure the other party feels as if you’re a long lost twin, do not ask to be added on Facebook, Instagram or the likes. It may come across as an invasion of privacy, particularly when you’ve just met. Think of how uncomfortable you’d be when a stranger comes so close to you that you can feel their breath. Yup, it’s that creepy.

Be a friend first before asking to be added to their personal social network. If you can’t wait, LinkedIn is the closest you should get.

Using your phone or talking to someone while someone else is talking

That’s simply rude. You’re sending the message that you’re either not interested or not paying attention.

If you’re keen on the conversation but really have to attend to your phone or someone else, apologise and tell that person that you’ll get back later once you’re done.

If you’re not keen, find an excuse and move along.

Pro tip: Unless you have an image to keep, using your phone is actually a good strategy to turn off those that you don’t want to talk to. I’ll share more in a future article.

Stop checking your mobile phone when someone’s talking to you!

Turn a coffee session into a sales meeting

If you asked for a coffee session, keep it as is. Don’t start whipping out your slide deck and present your product.

A coffee session with someone you’re keen to work with is a good idea as a follow-up to a networking session. But be very clear of what you asked for. If you asked for a coffee session, keep it as is. Don’t start whipping out your slide deck and present your product.

That session is good for you to understand the other party at a deeper level. Find out what they do and the challenges they face. With all that information, you’d be positioning yourself better to offer a solution and, eventually, close the deal. Even if you don’t, you’ve probably forged a stronger relationship with a potential source of referrals.

Even till today, I’m guilty of some of these mistakes (an introvert loves to be a wallflower). Just being a little more mindful helps you to become a better networker, leave good impressions and form stronger relationships.

Have you observed any other annoying behaviour? Comment below.

Author bio

Vinleon Ang is the chief editor of Singapore Business Owners, a small business magazine that talks about businesses in Singapore. He is passionate about content marketing and building magazine titles. He is also available for consulting and partnerships. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.

Five Things That Bother Me As A Translator

“Translations? Is that a thing?”

In 2016 I started a BA in Translations. It was a new, exciting experience for me, being able to study something that I had decided to do in high school, but had to put off for two years because, you know, life. However, with my decision to become a translator—and eventually working as one—came a lot of things that bothered me, and still do. Let us see, shall we?

  1. “Translations? Is that a thing?” When I told people that I was studying translations, about 60% replied with these questions. Yes, of course it is a thing. You read Harry Potter in Spanish, right? How do you think that happened? As awesome as it sounds, Hermione did not magically convert the books to other languages.
  2. “Does it really take four years to learn how to get one text from one language to the other? Don’t you just need to know the language and that is it?” No! There is a reason we study for four years. Do you know how many different translations the word “consideration” has? It is a nightmare. You are not translating 24/7 for four years; you have to learn punctuation, Spanish and English sentence analysis, and if you want to major in something, you have to study everything related to that major (like literature, medical English or private law.) So, no. Two years is not enough. Hell, four years is not enough.
  3. “Hey, you are a translator. What does *random Spanish word* mean?” Wow, I did not know I had suddenly morphed into a dictionary. Just because I work as someone who translates a text into another language does not mean I know the translation of every word. Again, do you know how many translations “consideration” has?
  4. “I heard you graduated! Can you give me an estimate of how much this translation will cost? Oh, I am going to go for someone cheaper.” I hate disloyal competition! I have been working freelance since before I graduated, and I would either do the projects for free or get paid in Starbucks. Now, I’ve found out that not only is competition tough, but other translators are willing to basically give their work away by how little they are charging their clients. I gave someone an estimate which was less than half of what I would normally charge, basically giving them my work for free, but they thought it was too expensive. I lost my first client as a graduate because of unfair competition, and I’m pretty bothered by that.
  5. “Hi! I am very interested in your CV and think you will make a great addition to our team. Do you have experience? *five days go by* Sorry, we have decided to move on with more experienced candidates.” How am I supposed to gain experience when no one will hire me because I have no experience? It is just like those job ads that say “Entry level” but require 3-5 years of experience. It makes no sense.

In 2020 I graduated as a translator. Some people have a knack for science, others for arts, and others, like me, for languages. No, it is not easy. But with hard work and lots of coffee, you get the job done. I may never be rid of the questions you see above, or the disloyal competition out there, but, at the end of the day, I love what I do; and even though all these things bothered me—and some still do—, getting the right translation of the word “consideration” is so rewarding. There is no better feeling.

Of course, this is just my experience. As a recent graduate I would love to know what other frustrations translators have (either graduates or translators who are well into the business). Also, veterans, if you have any tips based on your experience, please let me know. I really want a job.

About the author

Samantha Biscomb is an English-Spanish translator, graduated from the University of Montevideo, Uruguay. She has been working freelance since 2018 because no company will hire her given that she has no experience working in a company. It bothers her.

Top 5 copywriting tips for translators

This post originally appeared on Anja Jones Translation blog and it is republished with permission.

Translating marketing texts can be a tricky thing. We need to relay the information from the source text and make sure it sounds beautiful in the target language at the same time. Here are our top 5 tips for good copywriting that also apply to translation.

1.    Research your audience

Before you start translating, find out who the translated texts are aimed at. What’s your target audience? Is the copy written for other businesses or end customers? What’s the age group? If your audience is young and tech-savvy, using a formal tone of voice may alienate them. If you’re dealing with businesses and professionals, writing too informally can cost you clients. Browse your customer’s website and ask for a style guide if you didn’t receive one. That way you’ll always hit the right tone of voice!

2.    Avoid nominal style

Nouns slow down the pace of your copy and your text can feel stilted. Check which nouns you really need and which can be replaced by verbs. Using more verbs loosens up the text and feels more natural to the reader.

E.g.: Terry made the decision to learn French. > Terry decided to learn French.

3.    Use the active voice

Active sentences engage the reader. Your text feels livelier and is easier to read. Passive sentences are usually longer and reveal important information only at the very end.

E.g.: The text was translated by Terry. > Terry translated the text.

4.    Keep sentences short

The rule of thumb says if you can’t quite remember how the sentence started when you’re at the end of it, it’s definitely too long. Some people have a knack for bulky sentences that span over many lines. That may sound clever in a scientific piece of research. But it will exceed the attention span of most other audiences. If you want to engage your readers, keep it short. This may mean that one sentence turns into two translated sentences.

5.    Before you submit your translations, read them out loud

It may feel a little silly at first, but this is a great way to test the readability of your translation. If you stumble over complicated constructions, or you run out of breath before the end of the sentence, chances are you need to simplify your text.

Summary post: The thorny problem of translation and interpreting quality

As professional translators and interpreters, we are always striving to provide high-quality services to our clients, be that translation, interpretation, revision work, etc. Yet what does high-quality work look like as a language professional? How can it be measured and how do we know if we are providing quality work? Drs. Geoffrey Koby and Isabel Lacruz tackled this massive subject in their academic introduction to a volume of Linguistica Antverpiensia, New Series: Themes in Translation Studies that focuses on the issue of translation quality.

Their introductory article, The thorny problem of translation and interpreting quality, talks about how translation and interpretation quality is measured around the world with a handful of examples and explains why it is so hard for many professionals to agree on what translation quality really is.

The main problem with discussing translation quality is that there is no set definition nor a widely accepted tool for measuring it. The authors discussed the possibility of two largely acknowledged definitions put forward in an article for Revista Tradumàtica: tecnologies de la traducció:

Narrow definition: “A high-quality translation is one in which the message embodied in the source text is transferred completely into the target text, including denotation, connotation, nuance, and style, and the target text is written in the target language using correct grammar and word order, to produce a culturally appropriate text that, in most cases, reads as if originally written by a native speaker of the target language for readers in the target culture.”

Broad definition: “A quality translation demonstrates accuracy and fluency required for the audience and purpose and complies with all other specifications negotiated between the requester and provider, taking into account end-user needs.”

These two differing ideas bring up the question of whether high-quality translation and interpreting is indeed necessary for all projects. Machine translation (MT) and post-editing have made this question even more relevant nowadays. Is it not better to have a translation produced by MT that does not use well-formed language or sound native, but gets the idea across for instances where the text would not have been translated at all? Perhaps, but would that text still be considered quality work? That is where many views differ.

So, despite a lack of a universal basic definition for translation quality, how can one’s translation quality be measured? Different associations and government organizations around the world certify and test translators and interpreters to ensure that they are competent language mediators. However, assessing language professionals varies greatly in form, content, approach, length, etc. for each exam.

Many translation exams are based on either a holistic assessment or a points-off system. The ATA certification exam uses the points-off system where errors of various severity levels have different point values and will be deducted from an overall score. However, Koby and Lacruz state that this system fundamentally emphasizes failure and not what the individual did right. The correct is assumed; the incorrect is pointed out. Yet if full accuracy means zero (or nearly zero) errors, then an argument can be made for preferring error-based assessment over holistic assessment.

In regards to editing and proofreading practices in translation, revisers will often make unnecessary corrections to a translation. This inhibits the accuracy and the quality of the text and also wastes time and money for the client. The authors point out the need for more research in this area that would incorporate explanations from revisers as to why they made changes in order to classify them as “necessary” or “unnecessary” and keep a holistic view of the translations to see how they affect translation quality.

The second half of the introductory article discusses the different articles in the volume, which present ways that translation, revision, MT and post-editing, interlingual live subtitling, and interpreting quality are assessed. For brevity purposes, here are some of the ways that researchers differed in opinion in regards to assessing translation quality alone.

Research from the FBI concludes that there is a third aspect of assessing translation in addition to source language comprehension and target language writing skills. Translators that produce quality work also possess translation proficiency, a separate ability to translate well, which must also be assessed.

Another set of researchers believe that translation quality can be determined by looking primarily at the target text, as opposed to measuring the adequacy of the transfer between languages. They assessed this through the use of corpora and extracted several features to be analyzed. The researchers concluded that this method, in addition to constructive feedback, would be a better approach to assessing quality in translation.

Yet two other researchers disagree with both of these theories and suggest that a Calibration of Dichotomous Items (CDI) method is more appropriate for assessing translations. This method takes translations of the same material from a large group of translators and identifies the segments where there was a large difference in translation quality. Then, they decide which translations are acceptable and which are not, but they do not attempt to rate the quality of the translations in a more refined way.

A final set of researchers analyzed the different testing approaches for translators in Finland against the testing systems in Sweden, Norway, and the German state of Bavaria. After assessing the different approaches to testing in these other countries, some of which use error analysis method and others a criterion-based method, the authors decided to improve the Finnish examinations further by proposing a simplified scoring chart.

Though it is unclear which methods of assessment are the most accurate, this introductory article and the other articles in the volume were meant to shed light on some of the various ways that translation quality can be tested and the reason why it is so hard to define quality in language translation. Human language and mediation are complex, therefore quality assessment for translation, interpreting, and related activities remains a thorny problem.

About the author

Olivia Albrecht is a French and Spanish to English translator and copywriter specialized in marketing and tourism. She has a B.S. from Kent State University in translation studies and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in digital marketing. She splits her time between living in Canton, Ohio, US and Cali, Colombia. You can find out more about Olivia on her website at www.oneglobetranslation.com or on Twitter at @OneGlobeTR