Switching from science to translation?

Reblogged with permission

I often receive emails from aspiring translators who are switching from a career in the fields of science or healthcare and are seeking advice from someone with the same language combination who made a similar change, albeit several decades ago. This blog post is an expanded version of my response, in the hope that it will save me writing similar emails in the future, while reaching a potentially larger group of career switchers.

Here’s a five-point summary of translators’ core skills, so you can identify areas that you need to work on. Translators have:

  1. Excellent source-language understanding
  2. Sharp target-language writing skills
  3. In-depth subject knowledge
  4. A good command of the translation process
  5. Business know-how

1. Source language

Since you’re interested in becoming a translator, I imagine your source language is already good. The best way to improve is through immersion. Living for extended periods in your source-language country will give you a native-like understanding of your source texts. If moving countries is impossible, you can easily access foreign language resources online, through language courses, videos, podcasts, films, blogs, etc. Reading – fiction and non-fiction in your specialty – will improve your source language at every level. And remember, there’s always room for improvement.

2. Target language

You might think that your native target-language writing is good by definition. Unfortunately, scientists and healthcare professionals aren’t renowned for their writing skills. You may need to brush up on your grammar, refresh your punctuation and writing style, learn to write clearly or improve your technical writing.

3. Subject knowledge

Most translators agree that specialisation is the key to success. As a subject-matter expert, you’re ideally positioned at the start of your translation career. Your past experience will help you produce robust translations and reassure clients that their project is in the right hands. But bear in mind you will be applying your specialist knowledge to specific areas, such as clinical trials, patents, medical devices, regulatory affairs or research articles. Each genre has its own style, format and terminology and you’ll need to specialise further to adapt your knowledge to these genres. Learning about and working with corpora is a good way to solve linguistic problems in your specialty.

The AMA Manual of Style is a gold mine for medical writing and the online platform Cosnautas is the go-to place for Spanish medical abbreviations and tricky terminology.

4. Translation: theory and practice

If you have little translation experience, then an MA translation programme will give you a solid foundation. Nikki Graham’s blog reviews many master’s degree programmes in Europe. Other onsite and remote options include general courses at translation schools, such as Translator Training and WLS, and more specialised courses, such as those offered by Estudio Sampere and AulaSIC. If self-learning appeals more, then read up on general (In Other Words, The Translator’s Invisibility) and specialised translation techniques (Scientific and Technical Translation Explained, Scientific and Technical Translation, Medical Translation Step by Step).

Getting feedback on your translations is important for everyone at every stage of their career. If you decide to dive in now with little or no translation theory, feedback will be a lifesaver. Be sure to check out the networking tips below.

Computer skills are essential. You’ll need to be a competent MS Word user, know how to search for information on the internet and be familiar with specific software – CAT tools – for translators.

5. Business know-how

Business acumen is a soft skill to work on alongside the core competences mentioned above. From writing your CV and marketing yourself, to keeping track of your projects and invoicing, running your own business is no small feat.

The eight-week ITI SUFT (Setting Up as a Freelance Translator) course offers advice and hands-on practice for small groups of students, with ample opportunity for discussion and learning from your peers. One of the modules deals specifically with the thorny issue of overcoming the no-experience barrier and getting your first job. (Disclosure: I’m a tutor on this course.)

Take advantage of experienced practitioners’ books on the business side of translation. Recommended reading includes The Business Guide for Translators, The Prosperous Translator and 101 Things a Translator Needs to Know.

Last but not least: networking

The above points barely skim the surface of what you need to know about the world of freelance translation. Networking gives you a key to delving deeper. It opens the door to on-going contact with peers who can guide you through the first months and years of your new career. Here’s a list of networking ideas:

  • Get active on social media. Join conversations on Twitter and Facebook groups. Meeting and communicating with other translators virtually makes it much easier to connect at real-life events. On Twitter, check out #xl8 , #medxl8 and @translationtalk. On Facebook, join Standing Up, Traducción médica aplicada or Translators for Health.
  • Join a translation association and get involved. Associations offer training, forums for general discussion and terminology, member directories and specialised resources. Visit their websites to see what they offer: Asetrad, Institute of Translation and Interpreting, ITI Medical and Pharmaceutical Network, ITI Spanish Network, Mediterranean Editors and Translators, Tremédica.
  • Sign up for in-person translation training events. If you’re already active in social media groups and translation associations, meeting people for real will be the next step in learning and working with your colleagues. Referrals play a key role in a freelancer’s portfolio.
  • Go to industry events. As an expert yourself, you’ll be able to talk to potential direct clients on equal terms. And you’ll keep up with the latest changes in your field.
  • Try co-working with colleagues.
  • Attend social networking events in person. Going out for a meal or a walk is a great way of getting to know your colleagues.
  • Work with a mentor. Many translator associations organise mentoring schemes. Direct contact with an experienced colleague who gives you guidance and feedback on your work is invaluable.
  • Find a revision buddy. If you take networking seriously, you’ll be more likely to come across a colleague who can revise your work and have the confidence to approach them. New translators with strong linguistic training will be delighted to get subject-knowledge input from you, and you, in turn, will benefit from their translation expertise.

The translation sector benefits hugely from subject experts like you. I hope some of the above ideas will help you on your way to becoming a great translator. Good luck!

Suggestions?
If you’ve already switched from science to translation and think I’ve missed any important resources or points, please mention them below. My perspective is limited to my personal experience, so there are big gaps, especially in US courses and associations, and other language combinations.

Acknowledgements
With thanks to Helen Oclee-Brown and Tomás Cano Binder for their contributions to the recommended reading lists.
Image attribution: Alex Kondratiev on Unsplash

Starting at square one as a translator or interpreter: What does it take?

From time to time we at The Savvy Newcomer receive questions from our readers that make for great blog post topics. This is one of them! Here’s a question from one of our readers who’s just starting to pursue an interest in languages and wants to know how to get started.

Q: Is there any advice you could give for someone who is starting out at square one, wanting to learn another language, with the end goal of interpreting? This may be a wild question, but I have always had an interest in other languages, and cultures, so interpreting and translation work are very attractive vocations to me. How would you recommend someone starting to make that career shift?  And do you happen to know what languages are in demand, or the most useful to know?  Are there any language schools you would recommend?

A: Thanks for asking! The Savvy Newcomer has a couple of posts that may be of interest (How to become a translator or interpreter, Translation/interpreting schools, Interview with student interpreters) but it sounds like you need a bit more direction on the front end as you consider learning a language and go about getting started.

One of the key requirements is a very strong language background. Interpreting and translation, based on quite a few testing results I have seen, require skills beyond the minimum requirements of Advanced High on the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) scale.

To reach that level, people usually have to get far beyond what can be accomplished in the institutional setting in the US. It generally involves at least a year in a foreign country, immersed in the language, not spending their time with the other US students who are there doing immersion programs but going to local choirs, doing some kind of local volunteer work, etc. beyond their academic work to get into the community.

However, even a very high ACTFL score is not a guarantee of translational action skills (the ability to convert the message from one language to another, whether orally or in writing). Interpreting and translation both require congruency judgment, which is an extra skill on top of that. It goes beyond being a walking dictionary. Asking any of us translators what a word means would leave us flummoxed. However, when we are given a problem to solve in context, our brains start clicking and we can be helpful.

Language proficiency is an essential prerequisite. Without language proficiency, there is not much basis for cultural understanding, according to the ILR (Interagency Language Roundtable) guidelines, and culture is part of the written code. For example, Americans have a tendency to sign a business letter “Pete”, but that would never fly in Argentina. It would be “Mr. Peter Brown,” and the letter would be in the formal usted (you). Anything else would just not go. So you need to understand the culture it is going to as well.

Interpreting and translating, though they purport to leave the person who does the language transfer invisible and not change the message at all, by necessity have to make these minimal adjustments so the message reaches the audience the way the original speaker or writer intended it to get there. Otherwise, it is disrespectful to the speaker or writer. We understand that and generally are doing what I would call “transcreation very light” invisibly. Clients do not like translations where this does not happen.

For example, if a client were to accidentally write “the ocean is full of fresh water,” they would call me out if I translated it that way. They would say I made a mistake in my translation. So I translate it as “the ocean is full of salt water.” I also send them a note, saying I translated it this way, and if they want it to say “fresh water” I can put it back but I would like them to be aware of the issue in the source text.

Of course, this does not apply to some translations submitted to the court as evidence. But even then, we translate so the courts can understand the writing. We typically do not reproduce grammatical mistakes to make the text illegible. It’s very hard to do, and we run the risk of overdoing it and making it a caricature… and getting sued.

So translation is more complicated than it looks. We have to consider a lot of things when you look under the hood, and we carry a lot of responsibility in the language transfer. We take it seriously. These are the opinions I’ve formed from years of experience and from conversations about these topics with my clients.

Readers, what questions do you have about getting started?

Image source: Pixabay

How to Create an Ideal T&I Client Profile to Market Your Services

This post was originally published on Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo’s blog. It is reposted with permission.

It is incredibly important to know your ideal client if your marketing efforts are going to be effective. After all, we want to work with our ideal clients, and not just anyone who crosses our paths, right? I mentioned recently in a webinar that I created an ideal client profile and its usefulness in creating effective marketing content in my business.

One of the attendees asked me if I could show an example of an ideal client profile and how to create one, so I’m breaking it all down for you right here. I’ve even thrown in examples from my own translation client profile!

● Start with creating your ideal client avatar.

○ Find an image that depicts your ideal client. This way, whenever you create new marketing content, you have an image of this person in your head and you know that this is who you are talking to and targeting in your marketing campaigns.

○ Give your ideal client a name (also called a user persona).

○ Give them a position or title.

○ Include demographic information:

■ gender
■ age
■ education/background
■ marital status
■ salary
■ where he/she lives
■ number of children, etc.

○ Include information about his/her personality. What does he/she:

■ like to do outside of work?
■ like to watch on TV?
■ like to buy (what brands and where does he/she shop)?
■ drive?
■ wear?

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● Then, describe how you can be your ideal client’s best choice of translator or interpreter.

○ What are his/her goals at home and at work? What does he/she aspire to do in his/her career?

○ What are his/her pain points/challenges?

○ What outcomes does he/she want?

○ What services do you offer that can help relieve his/her pains/
challenges?

○ What services do you offer that help him/her reach goals?

○ What pains can you kill? What gains can you create?

○ How did he/she find you?

○ What makes him/her engage with you?

○ What makes him/her return to work with you?

○ What makes him/her recommend you to someone else?

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● Finally, create your marketing content based on what you know about your ideal client. Be creative!

○ How did he/she find you?

○ What makes him/her engage with you?

○ What makes him/her return as a customer?

○ What makes him/her recommend you?

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Once you can summarize this information related to your ideal client, you will have an ideal client profile that will inform all of your marketing decisions and efforts. All of your marketing efforts should be geared toward this type of client. You need to know this person before you can market to them. So, now that you do, create those marketing campaigns that you know will speak to them on a personal level. You can do this via social media posts, emails, blogs, etc., and always remember to keep them in mind every time you create a new piece of marketing content.

Author bio

Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions (ATS), a boutique translation company based in Southern California. She is also a Spanish and Portuguese to English translator, specializing in medicine and life sciences. Madalena’s interest in online marketing and copywriting has led her to write and teach about the benefits of using informational content online to attract and retain clients. After seeing the advantages of intentional and strategic marketing in her own business, Madalena now teaches those same skills to other freelance language professionals. She blogs and teaches courses on topics related to marketing your freelance translation business by deliberately building and shaping your online presence. For more information, visit www.madalenazampaulo.com.

The Secret Sauce for Building Cohesive Teams

Though it may seem paradoxical since many of us work independently, teamwork is a critical component of a freelance translator or interpreter’s professional life. Introverts and extroverts alike need collaboration and interaction in order to thrive, and oftentimes quality necessitates working together to resolve questions and agree on solutions. Whether you’re volunteering on a committee, working with a team of translators and editors on a big project, or joining forces in the interpreting booth, cohesive teamwork enhances and enriches your efforts.

Here at The Savvy Newcomer, we have learned the value of cooperation and collaboration time and time again as we work together to bring you content on a weekly basis. No team is perfect, but we’ve worked out quite the recipe for cohesiveness as we have been growing and stretching as a team since 2013. Starting with a team of three translators who barely knew each other and had no idea what platform we would be creating, Savvy has grown to include eight members that coordinate both a weekly blog and two conference sessions. Read on to learn more about what we’ve concocted!

Ingredients

1 core team of 2-3 dedicated individuals who share a common goal

  • Each teammate should have a role to play. Know your strengths but also be willing to back each other up when needed.
  • Add more people to the mix as you need additional support; integrate slowly, making sure they know they are valuable to the team and have an important role to play in your group’s success.
  • Sometimes teammates don’t work out; be willing to have frank conversations with teammates who can’t commit to working with you or whose work doesn’t line up with your team’s objectives.

2 people trained and prepared to take on each task

  • It’s inevitable that teammates will need breaks or go on vacation or take leaves of absence, because life happens. Make sure that no one person on your team holds all the knowledge about critical processes.
  • Keep SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) so that it’s easier for someone else to take over when one person needs a break. Update these on a regular basis, or every time your process changes.

1 communication method that suits your team

  • Agree on a platform that everyone can communicate through, whether it be email, Slack, or a listserv. Keep communication clear and concise but friendly; business colleagues can talk about everyday stuff, not just business!
  • Share ideas openly; make it clear that your team is a safe place to springboard ideas and build confidence.

1 file sharing method that suits your team

  • Whether it’s Dropbox or Google Drive, make sure everyone on the team can access the documents they need in order to pull their own weight. If one person can’t get to the SOPs, they can’t be helpful even if they want to!
  • It’s also important for your file structure to be well-organized; when new members join the team they shouldn’t have to take a crash course in how your folder system works. It should be intuitive and logical so that people can get up to speed quickly when they pick up tasks for other team members.

Instructions

These ingredients aren’t foolproof, but hard work and good camaraderie are a good combination so we believe you’ll find that this mix will make for a viable team. Keeping commitments is critical to any team effort; make sure your teammates can count on you and vice versa. Be open to improvement and adaptation; your process may need some tweaking over time, and in particular you may need to do some adjusting as you get started. Lastly, be aware that sometimes you put together the perfect dream team and it just doesn’t work out—the timing might not be right, it might not be what your audience wants, or your dream team might not mix the way you thought it would. That’s okay! Take note of lessons learned and try again.

What types of teams are you a part of, readers? What is your team chemistry like? What unexpectedly worked or didn’t work?

Freelance Beginner Tips: The Pitfalls to Avoid

Reblogged from Hongkiat, with permission

If you’re still unsure whether or not to pursue freelancing, chances are you’ve contemplated what life is like as a full-time freelancer. You’ve probably heard of the many splendid perks of freelancing, but you’re still dying to know if it’s really all sunny and greener “on the other side”.

Like most professions, freelancing has its own downsides. How you manage these problems on your first year can dictate how successful you’ll be in the long run.

In this post you’ll find out the common pitfalls that trip freelancers up during their first few years on the job and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Getting stuck with low rates

Setting your first rates for your freelance business can make you feel uneasy. Charge too high and you risk losing potential clients – charge too low and you’ll have a hard time paying your own bills. So how do you make sure you’re being paid for what you’re worth?

IMAGE: Freepik
What to Consider:
  1. Experience – The best way to determine the value of your services is to look into your experience. Did you go to university or took up an online course to obtain the skills you have? How many years have you been freelancing? What is the quality of work you can deliver?
  2. Competition – Freelancing is a lot like starting your own business. You need to be updated with the highs and lows of your industry. To set fair rates, you have to look into your competitions. How are other freelancers acquiring clients? How much are they charging?
  3. How Much You Need To Earn – Calculate the annual salary you’d like to earn on your freelance business. How many hours would you like to work a week? Make sure that your rate will help you earn enough to pay the bills and fund your lifestyle.

2. Freelance Burnout

Many freelancers work more than they should. Because of lack of time management, they find themselves working all day and all night. And because they don’t want to run out of projects, they’ll probably say YES to any gig that comes their way.

If you overwork yourself, there’s going to be a time soon where you’ll reach your breaking point. And even without a boss to fire you, you’ll still have clients who you’ll disappoint.

IMAGE: Freepik
What to do:
  1. Take copious amounts of break – After long hours of working, move away from the computer and refresh your mind. Even machines bog down if they are pushed beyond their limits. Designate times for break, and stick with them.
  2. Don’t stay on the same project for too long – It can be exhausting to work on the same project for weeks. As a freelancer, you have all the freedom to pick your projects. If this isn’t possible because of your commitments to the client, you can try to vary the repetitive work with something interesting once in a while.
  3. Schedule work wisely – When you’re an established freelancer and get many work requests, the next challenge would be finding time for everything. It’s going to be hard if you don’t schedule everything in a doable time frame. This also means you should know when to say no to a client who wants you to slave away for work with little pay.

3. Isolation

Depending on your personality, experiencing isolation due to your freelance career can affect your mental and emotional health. If you’re not an introvert who pretty much enjoys alone time – chances are you’ll find yourself starved for human interaction. And unless you rented a coworking space, most of the time, you’ll be working alone.

IMAGE: Freepik

Even when you’re working at home, sometimes because of your hectic schedule you’ll hardly have time to talk and spend time with family.

What to do:
  1. Set days off – Don’t let your social skills take a hit just because you’re working from home. Lack of human connection can cause depression which can affect your work performance. So stop working once in a while, and make time for your personal pursuits.
  2. Co-work with other freelancers – Today this is possible with the help of various sites which allow freelance meetups that host events and designate working environments for different kinds of freelancers. Co-working spaces made just for independent contractors can minimize the effects of isolation a freelance career can bring.

4. No Union or Laws to Fall Back On

Unlike full-time employees who can remind their managers its payday or are entitled to file a wage-theft complaint, freelancers don’t have enough legal recourse. Part of this is because work is done remotely and most contracts don’t have binding jurisdictions accompanied with them.

In fact, according to a 2014 survey commissioned by the Freelancers Union, about 70% of freelancers reported that they have experienced being stiffed by a client at least once in their freelance career. So how do we make sure that no projects go unpaid?

What to Do:
  1. Research the client or company – Before saying yes to a job, do a little background check on the client. Hopefully, you’ll see good reviews and not stories of freelancers who were left unpaid by said company.
  2. State payment terms and contracts early on – Do not ever commit to a gig without a written contract. Your contract should include a detailed outline of the project, your rates, and delivery dates. You should also highlight payment schedule, along with interest charges for late payments.

5. Distractions

When you’re working from home, every day may seem like a holiday. If you don’t have self-discipline, it’s easy to fall into procrastination and waste valuable hours of work. Soon you’ll find yourself chasing deadlines and feeling so tired you’ll feel like giving up.

The success of your freelancing career will ultimately depend on how good you can keep away from these distractions in order to stay focused.

What to Do:
  1. Find quiet space for work – Distractions usually come in places where there’s lots of background noise such as TV, conversations, and music. When setting up your home office, pick a room or corner at home where you can achieve full concentration.
  2. Gamify your productivity – Applying game mechanics to your productivity strategy can make work a lot more fun. You can create your own game where you set your rules and prizes OR you can use the help of applications like Habitica or SuperBetter that turn each completed tasks to points and rewards.

A Bright Future Ahead

“Freelancing isn’t for everyone – but it will be soon“. The global marketplace is emerging with institutions and policies which make it more viable for people to pursue a freelance career.

“The old system, which ties people to a job for 40 years so they could afford retirement, is slowly fading.”

Now, there are more and more ways to earn money with the use of your skills and experience. By avoiding the pitfalls mentioned above, and maintaining good work ethics there’s always a good chance you can succeed in your freelance career.

Editor’s note: This post is written for Hongkiat.com by Armela Escalona. Armela is a blogger and writer. She writes about technology, work, and productivity. She enjoys playing chess, scrabble and watching history documentaries. Follow her on Twitter.