Why Pairing up Is a Good Idea, Especially for Freelance Translators!

“I’m a freelancer, so other freelancers are my competitors. Especially in my language pair. I should avoid them at all cost!”

As a small business owner (because that’s what you are as a freelancer!), it’s very easy to fall into this trap. It does make sense, doesn’t it? Professionals who offer exactly the same services as you are direct competitors who could steal your clients and ruin your livelihood. You need to be better, cheaper or faster than them so that you can beat them.

Well, think again. If there’s one thing we can glean from the history of mankind, it’s that human effort yields the best results when driven by collaboration. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day—nor was it built by one guy with a hammer and some nails. Where would giants like Apple and Google be if those tech-savvy programmers would have isolated themselves back in the day? They’d probably still be coding line after line in a basement or garage, eager to figure it all out by themselves.

I believe not isolated diligence, but open collaboration is the key to long-lasting success. This very much applies to translation too, though it does require that translators adopt a less paranoid and more collaborative attitude. Even if you don’t actually like other translators, the benefits of working together are such that it makes little sense to stick your head in the sand.

Before we continue, I have a confession to make. I’m a freelance translator and so is my partner, Lineke. We’ve been running our translation business together for three years now and we’ve been swamped with work right off the bat. Since we’re partners in real life, we live in the same house. That makes collaborating extremely easy—if I have a question for Lineke, I can simply walk up to her office and ask her straight away. I don’t need to send an email or call her.

Still, I’ve taken part in other forms of freelance collaboration and the results have always been fantastic. I’m happy, whoever I collaborate with is happy and, most importantly, the client is happy. The best business is blissful business.

Now, let’s move on to why freelancing should not be a permanent solo effort.

It Takes Two to Tango, Right? Well, It Takes Two to Translate as Well

Everyone in the translation business knows that a proper translation requires not one, but at the very least two pairs of eyes. The translation needs to be edited, and usually there’s a round of QA to mop up any blemishes that passed through the translation and editing phase unscathed.

If you pair up with another freelancer and become a translator/editor duo, you’ll be in a position to produce very high quality without having to rely on anyone else. In fact, once you pinpoint each other’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll know exactly what to look out for, meaning you’ll spend less time on perfecting the copy than you would when you’d edit a translation done by God-knows-who. That’s not only good for your client, but for your hourly income as well, as your productivity grows while the collaboration lasts.

Two Translators Have Higher Capacity Than a Lone Wolf

Let’s assume business has picked up lately and you’re finding yourself with plenty of work on your plate. Suddenly, a very enticing offer comes in: a big, fat, juicy job for which you’ll be able to charge a hefty rush fee. Alas, you have to decline the offer since your one-man company is running at full speed. No can do.

Guess what? If you have a fellow translator to fall back on, you’ll still be able to take on that job, including that chunky rush fee. You can simply switch around your standard roles and have the editor translate the copy, with you taking care of the editing once the storm in your inbox has calmed. You’ll avert disaster, make more money and you’ll have a happy customer. It’s a win-win!

Before you worry about margins and rates: since you know each other well and function like a well-oiled machine, you can be completely transparent about the financial side of things. This is what Lineke and I like to do. We sometimes choose to work with a fellow translator because we’re both fully booked and we’ll always tell them: this and that is the maximum rate I can afford—is this acceptable for you? No need for awkward negotiating and hard-core haggling, since we’re not looking to make a big profit on the professionals who help us serve our customers well. In fact, we’re looking to enrich them as much as we can! It’s a whole different kind of dynamic—one that is in favor of the translator.

A One-Trick Pony Is Nice, but a Multi-Trick Horse Is Definitely Better

So, you’re very good at translating marketing, for instance, but your client needs help with the terms and conditions for their promotion. What will you do now? Decline, and risk sending the client into the arms of some random business they found on the internet, or accept, knowing you’ll have to struggle all night through unbridled legalese? Neither option sounds all that great, do they?

This scenario actually happened to us. Lineke and I both aren’t very keen on legal copy, but luckily, one of our fellow translators happens to excel at it. We sent the copy his way, edit it ourselves and poof—we managed to expand our business portfolio without inflicting frustration on ourselves. Not bad, right?

Having a broader range of services than what you can offer all by yourself makes you a more well-rounded business partner. Good clients hardly ever need one single service. They might require translation one day, and copywriting or DTP the next. For instance, we have clients who sometimes need Flemish versions of our Dutch copy. We don’t tell them “Well, good luck with that, because we cannot do that”. No—we have a contact for Flemish who is happy to edit our copy so that our work sounds good in Flemish, too. This saves our client quite a headache!

That’s the first three major benefits of collaboration for translators. There’s more to it though: the second part is coming soon.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your views on translation collaboration. Is it a feasible option for you? Or perhaps you already have your own unique form of collaboration in place to tell of? I’m eager to hear your thoughts and experiences!

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.

Pursuing the Translation Dream: What to Know Before the Phone Rings

Have you ever asked yourself if you have what it takes to be a translator? You probably know it takes more than being bilingual, but did you know there is more to it than being a good translator? If you are curious to know what it takes to build a successful translation career, you may be pleased to learn of this hidden gem offered by the ATA: A Self-Evaluation Questionnaire for Translators. This comprehensive “checklist” for newcomers to the field is a juicy resource that answers the question of what it really takes to be a translator.

Let’s be honest: I would posit that few, if any, successful translators got to where they are today by methodically checking off boxes on a similar list. One example is Pilar Saslow, who writes in another article about what she learned from her follies: The Top Three Things I Wish Somebody Told Me When I First Started As a Freelance Translator. Entry into the profession is rarely a smooth and linear process. However, I do not doubt that many seasoned translators would have loved to have had such a list when they were starting out.

This post kicks off a new Savvy Newcomer series that will highlight questions from the ATA checklist for new translators. In each post, we will delve into several questions and offer additional insights. In today’s post, we explore the first section: “Professional Preparation (What I need to know before the phone rings).”

Am I willing to invest time, money, and physical and emotional energy to build a career?

There is no such thing as a career that does not require investment. However, most “traditional” careers follow a well-tread path towards success, whether that means obtaining a degree, earning a license, or getting hired at a company. On the contrary, most translators are self-employed, and this independence comes with added responsibilities, including self-motivation. A career in translation requires an ongoing commitment beyond the act of translating alone. But if you love the art itself, you will probably not hesitate to invest the time, money, and energy it takes to build a translation career. Alina Cincan elaborates on the first steps towards investing in your career in her post How (Not) to Be a Professional Translator and 6 Tips to Help You Become One.

Do I know the difference between an employee and an independent contractor in terms of tax law?

Not only are most translators self-employed; the majority are also independent contractors. Independent contractors provide services based on a verbal or written contract (hence the name) with another entity that is not their employer. Unlike the relationship between employer and employee, where the employer pays a portion of the employee’s taxes (in the US, usually 50%), independent contractors are responsible for paying the full amount of taxes owed each year.

Furthermore, it is the independent contractor’s responsibility to keep track of all payments received in exchange for work and to declare and pay taxes on this amount annually or quarterly. This means putting aside approximately 30% of all taxable earnings (i.e., after deductions such as costs, depreciation, etc.) If you live in the US, you can find more information on taxes for independent contractors via the Internal Revenue Service (IRS): Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center. Our own Jamie Hartz also offers tips on paying taxes in this review of The Money Book.

Is my resume up to date and appropriate?

If you plan to offer services as a translator, it is important to have a resume dedicated solely to translation. You may want to include experience in relevant subject areas, but the job you held at the local pet shop years ago probably does not qualify.

Once you have your ideal translation resume, make sure not to let it collect dust. There is nothing like getting a resume request from a prospective client and letting the email languish while you scramble to get your resume in order. Taking the time to update your resume periodically will save you the headache later, and might even land you the client.

Find more tips in Marta Stelmaszak’s guide to translator CVs.

Am I able to give a reasonably accurate word count (in source and/or target languages) and turnaround estimate relatively quickly after I have seen the document?

Some things you simply cannot know until you know them, and word count and turnaround estimates sometimes fall into this category. However, one way to gain control is by tracking word counts and time spent on each project.

Use a tool like Toggl to determine how long it takes you to complete an assignment based on project or document type. You can also keep track of word output per hour to get an idea of how long it takes you to translate certain documents. Once you have your numbers, continue to expect the unexpected and give yourself a buffer so you are able to submit your projects on time.

Have I prearranged quality control measures to guarantee a top-notch product (such as time to mull over my draft, proofing tools, time to proofread, a third reading by a colleague with source- or target-language background, a subject area expert to consult, etc.)?

Never underestimate the importance of quality control. Like many translators, I consider myself a perfectionist, but experience has taught me that even perfectionists make mistakes. There are some things only a second pair of eyes will catch, like the misspelling of epidural (“epdiural”) that I once accidentally added to my dictionary in Word, causing spell check to overlook the typo. Whenever possible, it is invaluable to have a subject-matter expert on hand (whose fees you can budget into your quote) and to allow for ample time to mull over your draft.

Now that we have taken a closer look at things to keep in mind when first deciding to pursue a career in translation, it is time to prepare for what to do when your first clients start trickling in. Stay tuned for the next post in the series: “What to Do When the Phone Rings” (or when the first email arrives, in today’s business world!). Can’t wait for more inspiration? Check out this post by Corinne McKay with tips for new translators and interpreters.

Image source: pixabay

Computerized ATA Certification Exam Option Now Available at Select Sittings

 Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle with permission (incl. the image)

ATA is now offering a computerized option for taking the certification exam at select sittings. Candidates will now be able to take the exam on their own laptops.

Candidates:

  • May use most resources stored on their laptops, including dictionaries and glossaries.
  • May use non-interactive Internet resources, such as online dictionaries and other reference material.
  • May not use CAT tools or translation memories.
  • May not use e-mail, chat rooms, forums, or MT tools such as Google Translate.

This is to ensure that the work is the translator’s own and that the carefully vetted exam passages are not shared.

How Does the Computerized Exam Work?

Candidates input their translations using WordPad (or TextEdit for Mac) onto an ATA-supplied USB drive, with grammar and spell check utilities disabled.

Signed Statement Required

Candidates who opt for the computerized format must sign a statement acknowledging that certain activities are prohibited during the sitting (e.g., use of e-mail and chat, copying the exam passages) and that they understand the consequences of noncompliance.

Candidates who violate the rules applicable to computerized sittings are likely to face restrictions on future certification eligibility and could face ATA ethics violation proceedings.

Information about the statement candidates will sign and the consequences of rules violations is available from ATA’s Certification Program manager.

For a description of the exam format, please see the certification exam overview.

Handwritten Exam Available

Candidates can also choose to handwrite their exam. All candidates may continue to bring and use any print resources they wish.

Exam Schedule

Sittings continue to be scheduled primarily through ATA chapters and affiliates as well as through other local groups.

Groups and individuals interested in hosting a sitting should contact ATA’s Certification Program manager to inquire about the physical and technical requirements needed to host a computerized sitting.

Several computerized sittings will take place in 2017, including at ATA’s 58th Annual Conference. See the schedule of upcoming sittings for the status of future examination sittings.

Book review: Manual de traducción inglés-castellano

Translation Handbook – Spanish book review

Alert! This is a book review on a book written in Spanish. Therefore, the quotes will be in Spanish!

I’ve been having weekly discussions with people who want to become better translators. Some would call this “translation training.” As they ask questions, they drive me to read books. One of the gems I have encountered in my research is the Manual de traducción inglés-castellano by Juan Gabriel López Guix and Jacqueline Minett Wilkinson, published in 2014 by Editorial Edisa, in Barcelona, Spain.

The book covers many important subjects before getting into the practicalities of translation:

  • The role of translators
  • Language philosophy
  • What is meaning?
  • The differences between English and Spanish
  • Translation theory from many points of view (at least 10 theorists are discussed in depth)

After covering this background information, it gets into practical issues:

  • Text analysis
  • Translation techniques and processes
  • Reference material for translation

In a way, this seems extremely different from many presentations I have attended, where the goal appears to be to get to the point as quickly as possible so we can get the tips to be a good translator and become great in about an hour. The authors of the Manual de traducción understand that translation happens in a context, and first, we must know what we are doing. On page 18, it says, “lo que los lectores tienen en sus manos es un libro escrito por el traductor” (what readers hold in their hands is a book written by the translator.)

This statement is key. Translators are writers. The statement that follows is equally important: “Una obra está sujeta a múltiples interpretaciones en la medida en que varían los lectores o el contexto en que se lee.” (A work is subject to multiple interpretations based on who reads it and the context in which it is read.) Therefore, a translator must read carefully. The way we read will make a huge difference in our translation. We must hone our deep reading skills so we can become very accurate readers, since we are the last reader of the source text before the readers of the translation receive our translated text. What a tremendous responsibility!

Reading and writing. Understanding and expressing. This leads to the next issue in our role: Decision making.

El proceso de traducción es un proceso de toma de decisiones, con distintas interpretaciones del texto de partida y diversas posibilidades de expresión en el texto de llegada.” (p. 19) (The translation process is a decision-making process, with different interpretations of the source text and different ways to convey the message in the target text.)

The book continues with one of the best comparisons of English and Spanish I have seen, introduces us to a variety of translation theories, and starts to get to the nuts and bolts of translation on page 193. That is where the explanation of text analysis begins. “Cuando el texto llega al traductor, él hace una lectura que condicionará a todas las demás.” (p. 193) (When the translator reads the text, his reading will influence further readings.) It proceeds to list a number of issues translators should consider:

  • The setting in which the communication happens
  • Actors in the process of communication and their relationship
  • The role of the text in the act of communication

In chapter 9 we are given a series of techniques for translation, with their challenges and appropriate uses.

I encourage you to read the book for yourselves. There is so much to be gained from a thorough understanding of the foundational understanding of the theoretical underpinning of our work, besides the obvious list of techniques! Listing them here would probably lead to misunderstandings, since several techniques must be “handled with care.”

I read the whole book and wrote a 13-page summary for my own use, which I refer to constantly. There is simply no waste in this book! This is a must-read for those who want to hone their skills in English-Spanish translation.

When translation clients ask for favors

Here’s a situation we’ve all probably encountered: clients asking for favors. “Any chance you could quickly translate 25 words?” “Do you have time to look over a couple of sentences in a source document in your language?” “You’re so great with this piece of software; any chance you could take a quick look at a problem we’re having?”

A client favor can be one of two things:
-An opportunity to solidify the relationship with a client you love
-A source of resentment when the favor spirals out of control, or the client abuses your generosity

Let’s take a look at how to handle client-requested favors.

Tip 1: If the client is a valued one, and pays well and on time, just do the favor. Don’t charge for it, and don’t make a big deal about not charging for it. Just say, “This only took a few minutes; no need to invoice for it.” It’s like giving your boss a ride home when their car is in the shop; it’s an investment in the relationship and in workplace harmony. This is the tactic I take with most of my direct clients. I even offer them free favors, in the sense that if a project is truly tiny—something that takes half an hour or less—I don’t charge for it at all. Personally I would rather charge a higher rate overall than nickel-and-dime the client over 15 minutes of work. Sometimes I will note the item on an invoice, and put “Courtesy” instead of listing a charge (i.e. “Mailing hard copies of documents: courtesy”), but that’s as big a deal as I make out of it.

Tip 2: It’s also fine to charge for everything. You’re in this business to make a living. Do not ever (ever) feel guilty about charging a client for your time. After all, they’re probably not calling in favor jobs from their attorney, or asking their plumber to come unclog a drain without charging. Charging for everything also makes it clear what is billable and what is not, because everything the client sends you is billable. The key is to remain cheerful and polite while making it clear that you’re going to charge for the quick look at their TM bug. “I’d be happy to take a look; if it’s something I can figure out, I’ll just invoice you at my regular hourly rate after it’s done. Let me know if you’d like me to go ahead with it.”

Tip 3: Keep ethics and optics in mind. At least several times a year, direct clients ask me to work on projects that are peripherally related to their jobs. “Could you edit the blog post I wrote in English about this workshop I attended?” “I’d like to create business cards in English, could you help me?” and things like that. Often, they’ll hint—or just come out and say—that they’d like a discount on my regular rates. I’d usually be happy to do these jobs for free, but some clients are prohibited from accepting those kinds of favors from outside contractors.

If that happens, you need to respect the client’s situation, but it’s also not ideal to show the client that you’re willing to work at a great discount. When that happens, my solution is to propose a lump sum that is a lot lower than my regular rate, without explicitly saying, “I’ll do it for half of my regular rate.” This is a subtle distinction, but I think that the optics matter; rather than explicitly offering a 50% discount, you’re proposing an “honorarium” that the client can accept without crossing any ethics lines.

Tip 4: Beware of habitual favor-askers. Favors are a great way to cement a relationship with a valued client. But they can become a major pain if the same client asks over and over again for a half hour of free work here and there. Additionally, if the client is an agency, they are most likely charging the end client for the work that you’re doing for free. So, if a client (direct client or agency) crosses the line into abusing your generosity, proceed to Tip 2. The next time they ask, politely but clearly respond that you’d be happy to do this task, at your regular rate. Leave the emotions out of it. Don’t point out that you’ve done three small jobs for free during the past month. Just make it clear that from now on, favors are billable.

Header image credit: Picjumbo

Author bio

Corinne McKay, CT, is an ATA-certified French to English translator and the current ATA President-elect. She specializes in international development, corporate communications, and non-fiction book translation. She is also passionate about helping beginning and established translators launch, run, and grow successful freelance businesses. Her book, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, has become a go-to reference for the industry with over 10,000 copies in print, and her blog, Thoughts on Translation, has been a lively gathering place for freelance translators since 2008. You can keep in touch with Corinne on Twitter @corinnemckay, or on LinkedIn.

The Savvy Newcomer Resources page

It was a genius who said, “Never memorize something you can look up.” But as any good translator or interpreter knows, you have to know where to look it up as well! In this case, you’re in luck: The Savvy Newcomer has done the work for you with our Resources page. You can find the list, which contains links to what we consider to be some of the most useful resources on the web, in the tab titled “Resources” at the top of our blog. As the blog has grown, we have found that it is hard to get a glimpse of the full gamut of information it contains, so we wanted to have this way to share some of the tips and tricks we have found that make our lives a whole lot easier! Here is a glance at the content on the Resources page:

Journals, Newsletters, and Style Guides

Who doesn’t love a good style guide? We have compiled a list of just a few resources that may help as you make style decisions in your translations—some in English, some in Spanish. Know of a good style guide for another language? Let us know—we would love to include it!

Technology

The three resources listed under the Technology section are great not only for translators but for any computer user—they can even help you proofread general documents in Word.

Glossaries, Terminology, and Research

The resources in this section contain a wealth of information on terms and language use. They are especially helpful for subject-specific work and term research.

Education and Courses

Translators and interpreters alike can agree it is important to receive training. These resources will give you an idea of where to get started, whether you are looking into a certificate or a degree, interpreting or translation, local or distance learning.

Resources developed by ATA’s Certification Committee

The links in this section are a great starting point if you are considering taking the ATA Certification Exam; they will help you learn more about how the exam is developed, scored, and managed. The style guide and resource list are helpful not only for those preparing for the exam, but also for use in everyday translation work.

Advocacy Resources

The resource in this category is a link to ATA’s response to the Department of Homeland Security’s request for comments on its Language Access Plans. It is an interesting read as we look for ways to explain our credentials and advocate for our profession.

ATA Division Sites

This category contains links to all of ATA’s division websites. Take a look and see if any strike your fancy! ATA members can join an unlimited number of divisions for free and access division websites, forums, and newsletters on each particular subject matter or language.

As you may know, Savvy is always looking for more great content, and our Resources page is no exception—if you’d like to suggest a resource for us to include, send us an email at atasavvynewcomer@atanet.org.

Header image: Pixabay

Translator competence

Reblogged from Carol’s Adventures in Translation blog with permission from the author (incl. the image)

Translators and the need for speed

I’m very excited to be writing a guest blog post for Caroline, who I met at the XXXIV Semana do Tradutor in Brazil in September. Caroline indicated that I was free to choose any topic relevant to translators or translation, as long as it had not already been covered in a previous post. Therefore, like a good translator and researcher, I first diligently read the previous posts (I even attempted the ones in Portuguese!). And I’m really glad that I did. For one thing, I feel like I know Caroline a little better. I found out that she likes Alice in Wonderland, which means that she has something in common with Warren Weaver, who is one of my personal heroes in the field of translation. That’s Weaver as in “Weaver’s Memorandum”, the document that launched serious investigation into Machine Translation. Regardless of whether or not you are a fan of machine translation, Dr. Weaver was an impressive person in a number of respects.

In reading the previous posts, I observed some recurring themes, such as “translator education”, “knowledge vs skills” and “productivity”. I’ve decided to try to extend the discussion of some of these ideas by framing them in the context of my own experience as a professor of translation at the University of Ottawa in Canada.

The question of whether a translator education program should focus on knowledge (which leans towards theory or what Don Kiraly (2000) refers to as “translation competence”) or skills (which lean more towards the non-linguistic activities that support translation, or what Kiraly groups under the category of “translator competence”). Conventionally, universities have come down on the side of knowledge, contending that skills are too short-lived. For example, a university professor might argue that with regard to computer-aided translation, the important things to learn in class are the underlying concepts, and not the “how to” steps of using a specific piece of software, which may be outdated or out of fashion by the time the student graduates. Instead, the focus of a university education is on developing critical analysis, on honing evaluation, and on refining judgement. I think that few people would argue against this focus. Translation is a challenging task, and doing it well requires serious reflection. Learning to do it well, even more so!

Nevertheless, universities cannot ignore the fact that, after students graduate, they need to function in a professional work setting. One area where new graduates sometimes struggle is in meeting the tight deadlines which are a reality in the translation profession.

In many translator education courses, the focus is placed firmly on encouraging students to reflect fully, to analyze deeply, and to weigh options carefully before committing to a translation strategy, a terminological choice or a turn or phrase. There is no doubt that students must cultivate these deliberate analytical skills, and they must be given the time to develop them. However, in the professional world, there may be less time for careful deliberation. Instead, the translation must come quickly, if not automatically. Therefore, the addition of authentic and situated learning that tests and improves students’ translation skills under time pressure makes sense. It is an additional way to prepare students for the working world and to let them experience translation in a different form and under different circumstances.

Therefore, I have made a conscious decision to try to introduce some “speed training” into the courses that I teach. For the first time this year, in a 3rd-year course on professional writing, I have the students begin each class by preparing a précis or summary of a longer text. The texts in question are popularized texts on topics of general interest to students in Canada (e.g. the International Space Station, the World Series baseball championships, the discovery of a 19th-century shipwreck in the Arctic). Each text is approximately 600 words in length, and students are given 15-20 minutes to summarize the contents in about 200 words. The students receive feedback each week, although the exercises are not always graded. This takes the pressure off and allows the students to develop these skills in a low-risk environment.

The overall idea behind this “speed writing” summarization exercise is that it can allow the students to sharpen a number of skills and reflexes that are also useful for translation: the ability to analyze and grasp meaning quickly, the ability to extract key ideas and structure from a text, the ability to organize ideas, and the ability to convey ideas accurately and to recognize and avoid distortion in information transfer. By introducing speed training in a writing context, I hope that students will be better able to hone their capacity for making decisions quickly, and they can then extend this to a bilingual context at a subsequent stage of their training.

Students were surveyed at the mid-point in the semester to determine whether or not they found the exercise to be valuable. On the whole, their comments were positive and they indicated that they saw a genuine value in learning to work more quickly, and that they did feel that they were improving these skills as a result of practicing speed writing on a regular basis. There will be another survey at the end of the semester, and it will be interesting to see how their thoughts have evolved.

Meanwhile, from an instructor’s perspective, I have also noted improvements. Firstly, at the beginning of the semester, a number of students were unable to complete the exercise fully; however, now that we are nearing the end of the semester, students are able to finish within the time allotted. They are getting faster! With regard to quality, the information flow has improved significantly – the recent summaries read like actual texts, rather than like collections of independent sentences. The students are also doing a better job of differentiating between the key ideas and the more peripheral content.

So my questions to you, readers, are as follows: Did you ever do any formal “speed training” as part of your education? If not, do you think that it would have been helpful? Do you have suggestions for other ways in which “speed training” could be incorporated into a translator education program? Do you have suggestions for other types of professional “translator competence” type skills that could usefully be incorporated into a translator education program?

Some translation professors are genuinely interested in helping students to bridge theory and practice, but to do this successfully, we need input from practicing professionals! I look forward to hearing your thoughts! And thanks again to Caroline for the opportunity to write this guest post.

The complete article on this subject was published in the December 2016 issue of Meta, and it won an award.
Bowker, Lynne. 2016. “The need for Speed! Exploring ‘Speed Training’ in the Scientific/Technical Translation Classroom,” Meta 61(4): 22-36. Winner of the Vinay & Darbelnet Prize awarded by the Canadian Association for Translation Studies.
Back issues of Meta can be found at: https://meta.erudit.org/?lang=en

About the author

Lynne Bowker is a certified translator (French-English) with the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO). She earned a BA and MA in Translation from the University of Ottawa, an MSc in Computer Applications for Education from Dublin City University, and a PhD in Language Engineering from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST). She has been teaching translation, terminology, translation technologies and information studies at the University of Ottawa since 2000. In spring 2014, she was an invited professor at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. To find out more about her teaching activities, and particularly her thoughts on teaching translation technologies, check out this summary in Research Media.

Resources to Help Ensure Translation Payment

Resources to Help Ensure Translation PaymentOne of the questions that many newer translators ask is “How do I find good clients?” This question is often closely followed by a second: “How do I know they’re good?” To address this topic, specifically regarding scams and non-payment by translation clients, Ted Wozniak recently presented a session at the ATA conference titled “Ensuring Payment Before, During, and After the Project” which included an overview of the many actions translators can take in order to minimize the risk of not being paid for their services.

This list contains a variety of online resources that freelancers can use to vet potential clients, report non-payers and scammers, and get/share information about translation payment issues in general.

Online Resources

“Nigerian check scam alerts”
A free database of names and email addresses of assumed “Nigerian check scams” directed specifically at translators and interpreters.
www.paymentpractices.net/Scams.aspx

Blue Board – Proz
21,432 total outsourcers, searchable by name or country, as of 21 November 2016. Not all listings have scores. The LWA (likelihood of working again) is a subjective score from 1 to 5 that is entered by service provider. While there are numerous rules governing Blue Board postings, there are no rules or guidelines on how to rate an outsourcer, e.g. what constitutes a 1 or a 5.
www.proz.com/blueboard/

Hall of Fame & Shame – TranslatorsCafe
Reserved for paying members ($110/year) or to ATA certified translators who have their certification verified by TC for $25. 6,196 registered site members have access to this forum. The Hall of Fame & Shame forum contains 12,647 rating records for 2,525 agencies of the total of 7,094 agency profiles and 6,949 rating records for service providers. Caveat – When “praising” an outsourcer you do not have to confirm that you have actually worked for them, but that you would work for them again. Conversely, when “complaining”, you must affirm that you would not work for them again. No “neutral” or third-party comments allowed.
www.translatorscafe.com

Payment Practices
The “grandfather” of all payment issues lists, founded as a Yahoo Groups list in 1999. The database is searchable by a variety of parameters and contains 11,749 outsourcers, 8,717 responses (direct experience) and 3,398 comments (non-payment related information or summary of reports from other lists) on those outsourcers. The annual subscription fee is $19.99/€19.99. A free 7-day trial is available, as is a discounted rate for ATA members.
www.paymentpractices.net

Translation Scammers
Listing of various scammers (Nigerian check scams, CV theft, etc.) Not for reporting payment issues. http://www.translator-scammers.com/

Translation Ethics
Basically dead since 2014 but still has some good advice.
http://translationethics.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html#.VP2p1-HQO9Y

Mailing Lists

Betaalmoraal (Dutch)
400 members.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/betaalmoraal/info

The TCR List (Translator Client Review List)
http://www.webelists.com/cgi/lyris.pl?site=tcr&id=634874789

the-checklist (Italian)
1,020 members, 20 messages/month.
https://it.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/the-checklist/info

TradPayeur (French)
531 members. Not very active (31 messages so far in 2016, only 21 in all of 2015).
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/tradpayeur/info

Translation Agencies Payment Practices
Online message group, 190 topics (not very active 12 messages in 2015, 7 so far in 2016).
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/transpayment

Translation Agency Payment
1,155 members, 3 messages/month.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/translationagencypayment/info

translation-agencies
Any issues connected with translation agencies, not just payment. 1,174 members, on life support; 2 message in 2016, 0 in 2015. Topics seem to go in fits and starts.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/translation-agencies/info

TranslationPaymentsWhoWhenWhat
630 members. On life support. 12 messages in 2015, 17 messages in 2016.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/translation-agencies/info

Untrustworthy Translation Agencies
The full list of 700+ outsourcers (as of 31 Aug 2010) can be obtained by becoming a member (€96/year as of 1/2014). This info has not been updated since 2014 so its extent and usefulness are unknown. www.translationdirectory.com/non-payers.htm

WPPF
1,997 members, 47 messages/month.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/WPPF/info

Zahlungspraxis (German)
2,586 members, 25,168 messages, about 100/month.
https://de.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/zahlungspraxis/info

Inactive Lists

The groups and lists below are inactive or moribund; you should ignore them if they show up in your search.

Práticas Comerciais de Tradução (Portuguese)
124 members, 5 messages/month. Dead.
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/pp_brasil/info

Translators-RedAlert-Hotline
57 members, Dead.
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/Translators-RedAlert-Hotline/

transpaybulletin
All spam. No legitimate mail since 2007.
http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/transpaybulletin/

Transref
480 members, no activity since May 2010.
http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/transref

Other resources

EU Directive 2000/35/EC
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2000:200:0035:0038:en:PDF

ATA Business Practices list
(NOT for payment issues)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ata_business_practices/

FIT Europe
Information on debt collection procedures in various countries. Go to site, then click on What We Do > Completed Projects > Debt Collection Procedures.
http://www.fit-europe.org/
http://www.fit-europe.org/en/what-we-do/completed-projects/debt-collection-procedures

LinkedIn Groups

Unacceptable Translation Rates Naming & Shaming Group
Translation Agency Business Practices
Translation Agencies – Good, Bad and Cheap

We hope this list of resources will be of help next time you are vetting a new client! If you have resources to add to this list, please comment below.

Header image credit: StockSnap

Resources courtesy of Ted Wozniak

Ted R. WozniakTed R. Wozniak holds bachelor’s degrees in accounting and German and is a graduate of the German Basic Course at the Defense Language Institute. Before becoming a freelance translator, he was an accountant, stockbroker, Army liaison officer in Germany, and an interrogation instructor at the U.S. Army Intelligence School. After pursuing graduate studies in Germanics, he became a freelance German > English translator, specializing in finance, accounting and taxation. He is also the president of Payment Practices, Inc., an online database of translation-company payment practices, a former mentor at the Graham School, University of Chicago German to English financial translation program, a former instructor in the New York University German to English financial translation course, isthe current Treasurer of the American Translators Association, and owner/moderator of Finanztrans, a mailing list for German financial translators. He resides in New Orleans, LA.

What Happens When Translators Go on Autopilot

Personally, I do not believe specialized human translators who actively use their brains will ever be replaced by machines. But if you put your brain on autopilot and work like a machine, then you could be at risk of becoming some kind of zombie cyborg competing with full-fledged machines! Here are some common problems I have seen in myself and other translators when we go on autopilot and do not think about what we are doing.

When you put your brain on autopilot in my favorite sport

Do you see the similarities in this hilarious video? This is what a translator who accidentally quoted too short a deadline while on autopilot looks like trying to catch up!

When I put my brain on autopilot and blindly trust the GPS

Have you ever done this? I feel so stupid when I show up late to a meeting or event because I blindly trusted my GPS and was too lazy to spend two minutes actively using my brain to think about where I was going! I type an address on the GPS, don’t look at the map at all, and press go, whether in the car or on foot. Sometimes something goes terribly wrong. I get confused. I have to pull over and frantically look at the map. Other times, if I just slow down, take a deep breath, and use my brain actively, I can study the route I will be taking for two minutes and I’m good to go. Even though the GPS is on, I know where I am and where I am going, and I am not as prone to getting lost.

This is exactly what I propose you do in your translation business to avoid going on autopilot: Stop yourself. Slow down for a moment. Don’t act without thinking. Take a deep breath. Use your brain actively. Examine the context, situation, and conditions around you more closely. And then, after you have all the information you need to make an informed decision, put in a conscious effort, know where you are, and know where you are going.

Quoting a price on autopilot

X number of words equals price Y—done.”

Hold the phone! Is the text within your grasp? Do you have the subject matter knowledge and expertise required to translate it? How complex is it? Is it a list of words or running text? Approximately how long has it taken you to complete similar projects? How long do you think it will take you this time? How much do you aim to make per hour? How important is the text to the client? What do you think it is worth to them and what do you think they are willing to pay for it?

Quoting a deadline on autopilot

“4,000 words? Delivery on Friday (two days)—done”

Hold your horses! What if the client doesn’t accept your quote until Thursday? Isn’t it better, then, to quote X number of business days following confirmation? Your daily output will not necessarily always be the same for all types of texts. Think about how long this specific project will take you. Double check your calendar to see if you will have enough time. Think about and find out how urgent it really is for the client before you bend over backwards unnecessarily.

Translating a term on autopilot

“Source language term X equals target language term Y—done.”

Wait a second! If you put yourself in the shoes of the specific target group, do you understand what this term means? Have you checked whether it corresponds to standard terminology used by native speakers in the relevant industry?

Translating a sentence on autopilot

“I translated the words—done.”

But is the sentence effective in communicating the intended meaning optimizing any calls to action? Is the information clear and easy to understand? Has the sentence structure been adapted to target language conventions?

Translating a document on autopilot

“I translated each sentence—done.”

Did you adapt the punctuation and check how the text flows as a whole? Did you check it in its final layout, beyond the CAT tool’s sentence-by-sentence structure? Examine it as a whole and see if there is any room for improvement once you get a better feel for the overall context and the role each part plays in the whole.

Sending and forgetting on autopilot

“I finished a project, now on to the next one.”

Hold up! How will you ever improve if you don’t know or care what happens to a text after you deliver it? And you could be missing out on opportunities to contribute to higher quality and a better reputation. Don’t just send and forget. Forward any questions and concerns you might have. Flag anything you aren’t sure about. Leave alternative suggestions where applicable. Ask to see edits, offer to review any in-house changes the client makes (I don’t mean for free, but be proactive). Ask the client if they are satisfied. Ask how the target group responded to it.

Running your business on autopilot

“When I receive a project, I take it. Then I rest until the next one comes. Done.”

Listen up! A business on autopilot is only focused on the present. A sustainable business model where you use your brain actively is focused on long-term improvement. If you want to command higher rates in the future, find better clients, and consistently grow your business over time, you have to set aside some time now to invest in the future. This works the same as the other points above: Stop. Take a deep breath. Analyze your current situation. Analyze the market. Figure out where you are and where you are going. Take action. Invest in strengthening your specialization. Invest in networking with potential clients within your area of specialization. Update your website. Be strategic about where, when, and how you do all this. That’s using your brain actively to run your business as opposed to running it on autopilot!

I hope you found this helpful. God knows I have done these things myself in the past and I kick myself every time! But awareness is the first step. One of the biggest problems is when you do these things unconsciously. And, of course, keep in mind that my comments about translating a term, sentence, and document, and on sending and forgetting, are largely based on my own experience with translations of corporate communications for direct clients. Nevertheless, I would venture to suggest that all of these points are highly relevant for translation agency projects as well. Sometimes it’s easier to spot autopilot behavior in others, but that doesn’t mean you have to be the bad guy. Colleagues collaborating on a project can benefit from reminding each other, playing a constructive role, and keeping each other on their toes.

What do you think? Have you kicked yourself after going into autopilot? Or facepalmed when you notice someone else doing it? Was there anything that helped you steer clear of cruise control? Please share in the comments!

Header image: Pixabay

Translation Certificate vs. Certification

By Helen Eby and Daniela Guanipa

“I have a certificate, therefore I’m certified.” Wrong!

So, you completed a certificate in translation from institution XYZ, you were given a nice diploma of completion, and surely, you are now a happily “certified” translator, who can go on and certify translations, list yourself as a certified translator in professional databases, and so on, correct? Well… Not so fast.

While a certificate in translation or interpreting will demonstrate you are seriously interested in the profession and taking all the right steps to learn everything you can about this new endeavor, it does not attest to your mastery of skills at a professional level in the T&I field.

Having a diploma from a certificate program indicates you have completed a program of study on a specific subject. You might have studied translation or interpreting at large, or a more specific field, such as medical translation or legal interpreting. Most of these programs are open to both newcomers and experienced professionals. When you list your certificate, you may want to specify what kind of certificate it is, such as:

  • NYU Certificate in Translation from language Y to language Z (you may want to state the number of courses taken and your GPA)
  • 60-hour Medical Interpreting Training approved by the Oregon Health Authority by XXX provider.

On the other hand, a certification is a competency-based assessment designed to evaluate mastery of certain skills. This assessment is usually done by means of a proctored examination. For example, ATA certification evaluates mastery of translation skills in specific language pairs; court interpreting certification evaluates mastery of sight translation, consecutive interpreting and simultaneous interpreting at specific speeds for specific durations at a certain performance benchmark. Certification also usually requires that you stay current with the profession by means of continuing education and continued practice in the field. These principles are acknowledged as Standards 19 to 21 of the Standards for the Accreditation for Certification Programs, issued by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

When you are certified, you should be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • Are you a certified translator? Interpreter? Or both?
  • What did your certification process entail?
  • Which certifying authority or organization granted the certification?
  • In which language(s) or language combination(s) are you certified?
  • Are there any limitations to your certification?
  • How much experience do you have interpreting/translating?
  • Are you required to maintain your certification with experience or continuing education?

These questions come from a resource prepared by the Federal government which clearly defines what being a certified interpreter or translator entails. We recommend that you distribute this resource broadly!

You can certify a translation whether you are certified or you have a certificate. Just make sure you state your qualifications accurately in your translator’s statement. The following is the recommended statement from the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), in its publication titled 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.”

The Institute for Credentialing Excellence has a great chart that compares Certificates with Certification.

Misrepresentation of credentials is a serious issue from the point of view of the ATA Code of Ethics, canon 3:

“…to represent our qualifications, capabilities, and responsibilities honestly and to work always within them”

Certified professionals are bound by a code of ethics. This is not so with non-certified professionals. However, misrepresentation of credentials earns you mistrust with your clients and colleagues. Here are some examples of resume padding and their potential consequences. In writing this article we discovered that resume padding has become a fairly common practice and here are some alarming statistics about it. Your clients and colleagues will not be pleased if they discover you have overstated your qualifications. Misrepresentation of credentials is also a deceptive advertising practice; the Better Business Bureau Code of Advertising is a good guide to learn more about this topic. It’s important to be mindful of the fact that your ATA profile is the only resume many of your clients see.

Professional certifications are publicly verifiable in most cases, so your clients and colleagues could double-check any certifications you list. If they have expired because you have not maintained them, it is best to keep your profiles and email signatures updated.

In this post, we have made reference to United States sources. However, the principles of certification expiration and the difference between certification, certificate, etc., apply in other countries as well.When stating your credentials, it is best to identify the certifying body and the country in which you obtained your qualification, as well as the expiration date, to avoid confusion.

Remember: Your ATA profile, your LinkedIn profile and your Facebook page are your public resumes. Your reputation for reliability is based on these public profiles. Make sure they represent you accurately! In a world where resume padding is so prevalent, people double-check your public profiles as a matter of due diligence.

Image credit: Pixabay