Pursuing the Translation Dream: Professional Demeanor

Your translation career is moving right along: you have a growing slate of repeat customers and a modest circle of close colleagues. You can even hear a little voice in your head wondering whether you’ve finally “made it.” But that little voice has a devilish counterpart that doubts work will always be plentiful and that you’ll earn enough to meet your goals.

This post, which is part four of a five-part series on how to achieve a successful professional career in translation, explores what it takes to continue to build your business and foster professional relationships that will help you meet your long-term goals.

This series is inspired by the ATA’s Self-Evaluation Questionnaire for Translators. The previous three posts in the series contemplated what to know before the phone rings, what to know after the phone rings, and how to keep the phone ringing. In this fourth installment, we’ll look at selected questions from section 4 of the questionnaire, on “Professional Demeanor.”

Have I honed my “client education skills”? (For instance, what would I say to politely refuse a request for a job with an unreasonable deadline or fee?)

Sooner or later, newcomers to the profession will hear old-timers talk about the need for client education. But it can be hard for a budding translator to imagine what client education looks like until she finds herself in a situation that calls for it. Even then, it can feel easier to shy away from the problem than to figure out how to face it.

Here are two recommendations on how to help clients understand your work as a translator:

Talk to experienced colleagues. If there’s no one you feel comfortable seeking advice from, consider consulting the enlightened and lively participants of the ATA Business Practices list, where you’ll be sure to reap advice from those who have worked through their own trial and error. (For the record, we’re always happy to answer your questions here at The Savvy Newcomer blog, too!)

Use the power of visualization. In other words, put yourself in the client’s shoes. Close your eyes and imagine you’re the client. Visualize yourself in their office, at their computer, even literally in their shoes. Now think about what drives that person, what worries them.

Now think of the client’s role in the exchange at hand: Imagine you’re the one who needs the translation. You’re the project manager challenged with delivering a quality translation to the end client in a short timeframe and you must find a well-matched translator who’s also able to deliver on time. Or you’re the head of marketing trying to figure out how to produce effective copy to attract customers in other languages without the CFO questioning“unjustified” expenses.

Now open your eyes and return to your own shoes. Think about how you can communicate in a way that speaks to the “client version” of yourself. How can you help the client solve their problems, while still taking into account your knowledge of the nature and value of your own work?This may mean finding common ground with the client, or it may mean forgoing the project altogether in order to maintain your own sanity and professional standards.

Either way, understanding the other party’s perspective is key.Not only does this allow us to demonstrate empathy and solve our clients’ problems; it also helps us better understand the factors that impact negotiations. If you recognize the importance of a certain text or a critical deadline, there may even be room to negotiate a higher fee commensurate with the value you can offer.

Do I request constructive feedback on my work and services? (Do I accept criticism graciously, and consider it seriously with the intent to learn and improve my skills and services?)

We’re taught from a young age to seek positive feedback, whether in the form of good grades or “gold stars” for following the rules. This can make it uncomfortable to receive critical feedback later in life, since we often understand criticism to mean that we’ve done something wrong.

Yet constructive criticism is key to honing one’s professional skills. What master cellist, ballet dancer, or surgeon perfected their craft without any guidance? Similarly, the craft of translation is no easy feat and can’t be mastered in isolation.

Indeed, many translators are content to translate in the privacy of their own homes and share their work only with the clients who hire them. The best translators, on the other hand, spend painstaking hours teaming up with keen-eyed colleagues who help them refine their craft.

Yet, because translators are generally a kind breed, it can take time to find a colleague who has what it takes—that is, not only the talent, but the willingness—to provide the constructive feedback you need to advance your skills. That said, it’s worth the search.

You’ll find some helpful tips on how to do this and more in this post: “Hone Your Craft Before You Sell—How I Would Have Practiced as a Newbie in Hindsight.”

Do I refrain from casual discussion about an assignment or a client/bureau/colleague, realizing that such casual talk could be problematic and detrimental to everyone – the client and the translation profession as well as my colleagues?

Our job as freelance translators is both thrilling and challenging. There are inevitably times that we want to revel in a positive experience—or vent about a negative one—with colleagues.

Especially when it comes to negative experiences, keep in mind that there’s a difference between sharing factual information—such as a dubious payment record—and badmouthing a client or fellow translator. Before indulging in gossip, consider how your words will come across to others. How would you would react if your comments were to get back to the subject of the conversation (that is, the criticized client or colleague)?

Most importantly, if you have regular complaints about someone you work with, be it a client or a colleague, it’s probably time to find a new customer or collaborator whose praises you’ll want to sing!

Do I acknowledge those who refer clients to me with a thank you note or call, a reciprocal action, an agreed-upon finder’s fee, or some other mutually understood recognition?

Humans are social creatures. We function on reciprocity. A thank-you note or a return favor (for example, a return referral) goes a long way. The lack of reciprocation may go an equally long way—in the opposite direction.

In some professions, it’s customary to reciprocate referrals with a “finder’s fee.” There have been discussions about this on the ATA Business Practices list, and the general consensus has been that translator colleagues prefer a karma-based system (and a sincere thanks) over a cut of the earnings.

There are plenty of simple ways to show gratitude that may not fill anyone’s wallet, but do fill a metaphorical“bank account.” One of these is to let the referrer know you’ll keep her in mind as a resource in the future. If you know she would be a good fit, you could also hire her to collaborate on a project when the opportunity arises.

When you show gratitude for favors or, better yet, have the opportunity to return them in a meaningful way, you find yourself in a mutually beneficial cycle of reciprocity that builds trust, camaraderie, and—yes—more work.

In short, take advantage of the power of word-of-mouth referrals. Do so with grace and the benefits will multiply.

Now that you’ve armed yourself with powerful relationship-building tools and learned how to avoid pitfalls that could make things go sour,you’re ready to explore what it means to become a Promoter of the Profession, the topic of the fifth and final post in this series. Stay tuned!

Image source: Pixabay

Ergonomics for ATA’s Certification Exam: Unspoken Advice with Untold Benefits

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

Shortly after I took the computerized version of ATA’s certification exam in 2017, I received an e-mail from one of the proctors—whom I had thanked for stepping up to proctor at the last minute—in which she commented on the contrast between my “ergonomic” setup and the hunched posture of my fellow test takers. It would make for a great ad, she mused.

I had to laugh. I didn’t go into the exam with ergonomics in mind, but having seen the difference a few ergonomic upgrades to my home office earlier that year had made in my focus and overall well-being, it seemed like a no-brainer to apply the same principles to ensure my comfort and efficiency during the exam.

It may have seemed silly to focus on the details of a workstation I would only use for three hours, but the proctor was right: it ended up making all the difference, not only in terms of comfort, but more importantly, in terms of efficiency and state of mind. If you’re anything like me, sitting up straight and looking directly ahead fosters greater confidence and alertness than does being stooped over a mess of pages and books. Perhaps there’s something to be said after all for social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s widely discussed research on the impact of body position on our confidence and, in turn, our chances of success.1

While ergonomics wasn’t at the forefront of my mind going into the exam, it’s now the first thing I mention when colleagues ask for advice on how to prepare. There’s plenty of guidance out there on the theoretical side of the assessment, but how often do we hear about the importance of a comfortable and efficient workspace?

By sharing some of what worked for me on exam day, I hope to encourage others to discover the difference that straightening up and finding comfort and confidence can make, both during the exam and in our everyday work.

Use a stand to keep your computer screen at eye level and a page holder to prop up the text.

Ergonomics: It’s About More than Comfort

Before we get into the details, let’s consider why ergonomics matters. In short, it goes well beyond physical comfort.

First, what is ergonomics? The authors of an article in the January/February 2017 issue of The ATA Chronicle point out that the concept encompasses more than “office chairs, keyboards, and computer mice.”2 As cited in that article, the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) defines ergonomics as being concerned with the optimization of “human well-being and overall system performance”3—that is, it’s about a lot more than a comfortable office chair.

In fact, one of the three branches defined by IEA is “cognitive ergonomics,” which is concerned with mental workload, human reliability, and the interaction between humans and computers. We’ll come back to this later.

For now, let’s look at recommendations for improving efficiency and performance through one of the more obvious branches: physical ergonomics.

Laptop Height: My number one recommendation is to ensure that your computer screen is at eye level. Most of us set our laptops directly on the desk in front of us, forcing us to angle our necks downward to see the screen—a posture that has been shown to exert a detrimental amount of strain on the neck over time.4

If you work with a laptop on a regular basis, you might consider investing in a laptop stand, which will serve you well not only on exam day, but also in your everyday work. There are many to choose from, but it’s worth procuring one that you can easily carry with you to the exam or when working away from home. I use the Roost Stand,5 a favorite among digital nomads for its transportability: it collapses into a baton that’s just over a foot long and it weighs a feathery 5.5 ounces. It’s also height adjustable. (See photo at left.)

If you’re in a pinch on exam day or you aren’t sold on investing in a new gadget, you could just as well set your laptop on a large book or two—dictionaries work wonderfully.

Do keep in mind that you’ll need an external keyboard and mouse for either of these setups. There are affordable options out there, and I consider it a worthwhile investment, price notwithstanding.

Page Holder: Unlike the source texts in a translator’s daily work, which are almost invariably in digital format, exam passages are on paper and cannot be typed into the computer.

So what to do? Ideally, for the same reasons discussed above, the source text should be positioned at eye level. For this purpose, I used a small, dome-shaped page holder during the exam to prop up the source texts. (See photo above.) I purchased mine on www.etsy.com, but you can find one at just about any major office-supply retailer by searching for a “page-up holder.” Most are priced at under $10. You may need to set the holder on top of a dictionary to match your screen height.

Not only will this relieve neck pressure, it’ll save you time and trouble when glancing from sheet to screen.

Earplugs: Consider bringing earplugs to the exam to block out noise. Chances are you’ll be absorbed in your work, but you never know when the clickety-clack of a keyboard or the hum of a fluorescent light will distract you. Here’s where cognitive ergonomics come in: decreasing distraction lightens cognitive load, allowing you to focus on the task at hand.

Review Techniques: Speaking of cognitive ergonomics, the exam involves the demanding cognitive task of not only translating, but also reviewing, two dense texts in the span of three short hours. This means no opportunity to review with fresh eyes, which is a crucial step in actual practice. And without a computer-assisted translation tool or other application to help break the text into segments, the task becomes even more prone to errors. The accidental omission of a word or an entire line of text can be hugely detrimental. The good news is that these errors can be avoided by employing some simple review techniques.

One of these is to enlarge your font size: try increasing it 300% by using the zoom feature on your word processor (i.e., WordPad or TextEdit, the two applications permitted for use on the exam), or by increasing the font size to 72 points. This will help you catch errors you may otherwise overlook after staring at your translation for so long.

Another tip for getting a fresh perspective: change the typeface itself.

Finally, try reading the completed text “aloud” in your head, or reading it backwards—two old copy-editor’s tricks.

Miscellaneous: With the big ones out of the way, here are a few final pieces of advice to optimize ergonomics during the exam and help you focus on your work:

  • Keep your feet flat on the floor, if possible. You may be able to choose from different chairs the day of the exam, but don’t count on it.
  • Make sure your elbows are at a right angle when typing. Consider bringing a pillow to sit on for this purpose.
  • Have water on hand (drink it).
  • Take at least one stretch break. Do a forward bend and gently stretch your arms, legs, and neck to get your blood flowing before returning to the task with fresh eyes.

Final Word

As the authors of the aforementioned article in The ATA Chronicle propose, taking ergonomics into account “will allow translators to do what they do best instead of wasting time and energy dealing with non-ergonomic conditions, interfaces, and tools.” What better opportunity to conserve time and energy than during the rigorous three-hour ATA certification exam?

I may have been amused by the proctor’s comment about my setup, but it cost me nothing to implement these simple principles, and the benefits of certification are already evident just one year later.

Notes
  1. Cuddy, Amy. “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.” TEDGlobal Video (June 2012), http://bit.ly/Cuddy-body-language.
  2. O’Brien, Sharon, and Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow. “Why Ergonomics Matters to Professional Translators.” The ATA Chronicle (January/February 2017), 12, http://bit.ly/Chronicle-ergonomics.
  3. “Definition and Domains of Ergonomics” (International Ergonomics Association), www.iea.cc/whats.
  4. Bever, Lindsey. “‘Text Neck’ Is Becoming An ‘Epidemic’ and Could Wreck Your Spine,” The Washington Post (November 20, 2014), http://bit.ly/Bever-text-neck.
  5. Roost, www.therooststand.com.

Header image source: Pixabay

Linguist in the Spotlight: An Interview with Izumi Suzuki

The five interviewees featured so far in our “Linguist in the Spotlight” series possess a collective 100-plus years of experience. This week’s interviewee boasts nearly half that on her own. Izumi Suzuki, who has worked an impressive 40 years as a translator and interpreter, is an ATA-certified translator in Japanese<>English (both directions!), as well as a certified court interpreter.

Of Izumi’s several specializations, at least one may surprise readers: classical ballet. (Read on to learn about her own dance career!) Her other areas of expertise include the perhaps less artistic, but no less formidable, areas of production control, quality assurance, and the automotive industry.

To highlight Izumi’s long-term commitment to the professions (she’s one of about 600 ATA “life members”), and to glean insight from her significant experience, we asked her to share what has kept her going all these years. As someone who has adapted to tremendous change in the professions over the decades, she also offers advice on how newcomers can cope with an evolving landscape in the fields of translation and interpreting.

On what has motivated her long-term ATA membership and commitment to the professions all these years

First of all, I joined ATA to take the certification exam. Then I went to a conference and attended Japanese Language Division sessions. I was blown away by the fact that so many Americans were speaking fluently in Japanese, and the sessions offered me so much to learn. The proverb that came to mind was「井の中の蛙大海を知らず」: “A frog in the well cannot conceive of the ocean.” I met many colleagues, made many friends, and learned so much from them. I have also received many jobs since I became certified.

Then I was asked to be a grader, later the division administrator, and finally, a member of the ATA Board. The more I got involved, the more I learned, and the more friends I made. These volunteer activities benefit not only other members, but the volunteers themselves. Currently, I serve as a member of ATA’s Interpreting Policy Advisory Committee (IPAC) and the Certification Committee. The results we get from these committee activities are rewards to me.

Advice for newcomers on how to adapt to advancing technology: If you can’t beat them, join them

When I started translating, I used a typewriter, then a word processor, then a computer. Now I use memoQ. As new software emerges to make translation more efficient and more accurate, new translators should adapt to whatever technological changes come in. Given the progression of AI translation, proofreaders will be needed more and more in the not-too-far future, and translators must be ready.

In interpreting, technologies are coming in, too, such as remote interpreting. New interpreters should be prepared to use devices that support that type of interpreting. Also, mastering note-taking using iPad, etc. would help, too.

However, the fundamental skills for translation/interpreting will not change, and we should keep striving to improve our skills.

Classical ballet, or the story of how a Japanese translator came to translate French

My favorite project has been translation work for the Royal Academy of Dance in England. I am a former ballet dancer (I still take classes almost every day), so I know the exact meaning of ballet terms, all of which are in French.

I occasionally translate materials for ballet-teacher training. Since I teach ballet from time to time, I thoroughly enjoy the content that I translate. This is my dream job. What would be even dreamier would be to interpret for a famous dance company when they visit Japan. I’m still waiting.

What is your favorite part of your work as a translator-interpreter?

I was trained as an interpreter, so I prefer interpreting. Interpreting will make you meet new people, which I love. It’s not just meeting people—you become that person that you are interpreting for a short time. In other words, you live his/her life, just like an actor does, and you get paid for it. What a luxury it is! I have met people who are the best in their fields, and I can always learn a lot from them.

A useful tip for budding interpreters and translators: Know your limits, but don’t limit your opportunities

Do not take an interpreting job if you don’t think you can handle it. In case you do have to take such a job (like when a client is desperate and says they don’t mind even if it’s not your area), make it clear that your knowledge is limited and that you need materials to study beforehand. If no materials are available, then you’d better reject the job. Once you get materials, study hard, ask someone who knows the subject, and memorize terminology.

This applies to translation, too. You may think that you have time to research and check your translation via the internet, but usually there is a deadline. You may lose time for sleep. Then the job is no longer worth doing, and your product will not be good.

To break into a new area, I recommend teaming up with someone who knows the subject so that you can learn. As you do it over and over, you’ll become good at it sooner or later. The most important thing is to GET INTERESTED in the subject once you take a job. This will motivate you to keep going.

Ms. Suzuki established Suzuki-Myers with her late husband, Steve D. Myers, in 1984. She is certified in Japanese<>English translation by the ATA. Currently, she serves as a member of the ATA Certification Committee and the Interpreting Policy Advisory Committee.

Ms. Suzuki is also a state-certified J<>E court interpreter. She is a founding member and former president and board advisor of the Michigan Translators/Interpreters Network) (MiTIN), an ATA chapter. She is a member of the Interpreting Committee of the Japan Association of Translators (JAT) and the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT). She is also Secretary of the Japan America Society of Michigan and Southwestern Ontario.

Pursuing the Translation Dream: How to Keep the Phone Ringing

Have you been following our five-part series on how to assess your readiness to become a successful translator, inspired by ATA’s Self-Evaluation Questionnaire for Translators? If so, we hope your phone is ringing by now! Today we will discuss tips for how to keep the calls coming, based on section 3 of the aforementioned ATA checklist, titled “Professional Relationships (How to keep the phone ringing).”

But before we dive in: if you are just joining, you may want to have a look at the first two posts in the series:

Part 1: Pursuing the Translation Dream: What to Know Before the Phone Rings

Part 2: Pursuing the Translation Dream: What to Know After the Phone Rings

Now buckle up and get ready for the good stuff.

By now your hook is baited and you’re starting to get some bites. How do you keep the catches coming?

As you may expect, there are some no-brainers when it comes to retaining clients and landing new ones: make sure to offer consistent quality, be trustworthy (think honoring deadlines and confidentiality agreements), and, importantly, when it comes to finding new clients, be sure to regularly evaluate and refine your marketing strategies. (Here are some ideas on how to get your name out there, from Carlos Djomo’s post, “6-Step Strategy to Translators’ Visibility.”)

Beyond these foundations for fostering strong relationships, we selected four more tips ripe for the picking, based on the ATA questionnaire.

Do I return phone calls promptly?

Availability and promptness may strike you as “no-brainers,” but as obvious as they may seem, their importance cannot be emphasized enough—hence this being the first of the four tips.

If you take away only one thing from this post, let it be to respond promptly to clients.

If possible, make a habit of replying to new project requests and other important client emails within 30 minutes to an hour. To avoid distractions from work, you may choose to set a reminder to check email every hour. I do this by checking email when my Pomodoro timer goes off (every 25 or 50 minutes, depending on the day or the task at hand).

If you do check email frequently for client messages, be sure to filter out nonurgent emails and tend only to client messages that merit a response. Otherwise, you may end up unnecessarily digressing from work. If you are unable to respond for 90–120 minutes or more, consider setting an autoresponder to let clients know you will reply as soon as possible.

Even if you are unavailable for a job, send a prompt and gracious reply so the client knows they can rely on you next time. You may want to streamline the process by creating an email template (or a “canned response” if you’re using Gmail) that you can reuse and make minor edits to on a case-by-case basis. This limits time spent drafting responses for each individual email, yet allows you to keep clients informed.

Interested in more email hacks? Have a look at this post by Victoria Chavez-Kruse: “Inbox Zero: Forever in pursuit of ‘No new mail!’”

Do I maintain a positive, cooperative attitude? (Are my requests and specific working requirements reasonable?)

You have probably heard the saying, “People work with people they know, like and trust.” In fact, you may have heard it more than a few times. (Clichés are cliché for a reason: they are true!) Successful translators are easy to work with: they have a pleasant, can-do attitude, are willing to cooperate, and have the ability to see things from the client’s perspective. All of these qualities will make you a pleasure to work with.

Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you reflect on what kind of impression you make: When I am asked to edit a text that was poorly translated, do I immediately complain about quality, or do I try to get to the bottom of why this happened and how to avoid it in the future? When a client cancels a project after it has already been approved, is my response firm and professional, yet friendly, and does it invite the client to collaborate with me on ways to avoid the problem in the future? When I correspond with my clients, do I show them they are valued and not just an email address without a face or name? I like to feel valued by them, and surely the same is true for them!

You may just find that your quest for a positive attitude in your work makes you not only a pleasant collaborator, but a more optimistic person in other aspects of your life, too. Talk about a win-win!

Am I flexible? Am I open to change? (Can I readily admit mistakes and offer to correct them?)

Translation projects are often dynamic. There are last-minute changes, unexpected hurdles, and the occasional impossible expectation. You can minimize the impact of these challenges by accounting for them from the start (for example, add in a time buffer when agreeing to deadlines). When difficulties arise, flexibility and a can-do attitude are key in overcoming them.

As for inevitable oversights and mistakes, what matters most is not their occurrence, but how we face them when they are brought to our attention. It is natural to feel defensive about our work (after all, we put an excruciating amount of care into it!), but we must remember that our clients are our greatest allies. In fact, in the case of agencies, we share the self-same goal of producing an impeccable text for the end client, and as any writer or translator knows, four eyes are better than two.

Take time to evaluate the alleged mistake with a cool head before deciding how to proceed. If a correction is in order, be gracious and prompt about delivering the changes. Remember to take note of what went wrong for the future. If you truly feel the client is mistaken in their correction, you may opt to defend your translation, but do so considerately and be sure to acknowledge the client’s point of view.

Can I accept the fact that my client does not know all about my profession or its problems, nor my personal difficulties, and that it is not his or her responsibility to learn about them?

Think of the last time you hired someone. Whether it was a graphic designer, lawyer, general contractor, or taxi or Uber driver, what did you want or expect from this person? Did he or she deliver, or were you subjected to woes about professional or personal problems? Imagine, for example, a taxi driver who complains that he needs a new car battery or waxes on about the cause of his crabby mood. Now think of someone you hired or worked with who was a joy to do business with and whose service delivery was seamless.

Be someone you would enjoy doing business with. This means getting the job done well in a timely fashion and clueing in the client to decisions where they should be involved, while refraining from bringing up personal matters or complaints, as poignant as they may be. We are all human, but your client hired you for one reason and one reason only: to translate (or edit, etc.). Never lose sight of that reason.

Now that you have some new ideas on how to nurture strong relationships with clients, we hope you continue to reel in a steady flow of loyal customers. Even once you are sitting pretty with a solid client base, there is always room to fine-tune your business skills and relationships with clients and colleagues. Indeed, we will take it a step further in the fourth (and penultimate) installment of this series, which will touch on professional demeanor.

Get a sneak peek by checking out section 4 of the ATA questionnaire. Want more from Savvy in the meantime? Check out this post by Tony Guerra on getting and keeping agency clients. We would love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Image source: Pixabay

Linguist in the Spotlight: An Interview with David Rumsey

Following our most recent “Linguist in the Spotlight” interview (with current ATA President Corinne McKay), we could not be happier to have had the opportunity to speak to immediate past president of ATA, David Rumsey. A Swedish-, Danish-, and Norwegian-to-English translator for nearly 30 years, David has a wealth of knowledge about the profession (which, by the way, he fell into by accident!) that he graciously shares with us. Read on to hear his perspective on what it was like to translate pre-Google, why translators should invest in their education, what he has gained from his involvement in professional associations, and the value of venturing out from behind our computer screens. He also reveals some underutilized CAT and Outlook features for organization and productivity.

His “accidental” introduction to a nearly 30-year career

 Like many translators my age, I actually got started by accident. I was a graduate student working in Scandinavian history, and a translation agency contacted the department looking for somebody who could translate a document on a Danish garbage-disposal system. I found the translation projects fun and challenging, and ultimately more financially profitable than pursuing my PhD. Since that point in 1990, I never looked back.

Vodka and heavy-metal music: Some of his most memorable projects over the years

 In the mid-1990s, when single-malt whiskey became a fad in the US, I translated documents from a large alcohol company that had a strategic plan to create a line of premium vodkas, even though they knew that there was actually no difference in terms of the distillation process. Sure enough, a few years later, a whole host of “premium vodkas” arrived on the shelves. Another interesting project was the history of Swedish heavy-metal music. Not that I’m a fan, but it was a very interesting project!

A few of his favorite things about a career in translation

The flexibility cannot be beat. However, the fact that each project is unique and the profession provides ongoing learning opportunities. I love learning about new developments in the field of energy and technology.

A piece of advice for new translators: Never stop learning

Invest in your education and continue to learn about subjects that interest you so that you can write clearly about them as a translator. Being a translator or interpreter is a lifelong learning practice.

What it was like to translate before Google, and a lesson learned

I learned early on, within the first year of my career, not to accept projects that I did not feel comfortable translating. At the time, I felt pressure to accept any and all projects, even in fields that I was not conversant in. There was a lot of “guessing” in terms of the terminology in that case. But this was long before there was even Google. The results were, shall we say, less than satisfying for the customer. I was very grateful that the project manager provided the feedback and was understanding. A lesson learned: if you don’t feel like you have a good understanding of the document, don’t accept it.

Visibility: The value of networking and association databases

At this point, most people either find me through referrals or through various association databases. I still get lots of projects from the ATA database.

Getting out from behind the screen: The benefit of meeting colleagues in person

Being involved with the ATA has helped me to network with people who can provide support and augment my own skills. Even before I became part of the ATA Board of Directors, I attended the ATA Conference and Nordic Division activities regularly. I learn so much from other translators about how they run their business, how they approach translation challenges, and tips for terminology and technology resources. Meeting your colleagues in person is so much more valuable than online, behind the screen. I always come away from the ATA Conference so energized about my profession.

Unexpected lessons learned through membership and participation in professional associations

Obviously I have been involved with the American Translators Association the most. In addition to being a board member and president from 2015 to 2017, I was also involved in the certification program and the Nordic Division, and was a regular conference attendee. Besides the contacts and professional development opportunities in terms of translation, my volunteering at ATA also fostered new skills unrelated to translation that I still use. These can include leadership skills, conflict resolution skills, interpersonal communication skills, time management skills, and even website skills, etc.

I am also a member of the Swedish Association of Professional Translators (SFÖ). I enjoy attending their events because it helps keep me up to date in terms of my Swedish language skills.

Oft-overlooked tools: The power of term management, plus some Outlook hacks

In terms of CAT tools, I think that terminology software is severely underutilized. Although we might not benefit from a high level of repetition between projects from various clients, we might benefit enormously from a detailed terminology program that we can use with regular word-processing programs and not just translation programs.  My MultiTerm database is quite large and I can keep it open separately when working on all kinds of projects. At the very minimum, it’s important for translators to start to collect and manage terminology.

In addition, I really enjoy working with Microsoft Outlook, which allows me to flag messages in different colors to indicate whether they are in the bidding stage, confirmed, or overdue. I can schedule them on a calendar with reminders.  Outlook also allows you to create specific autoreplies and to move messages with specific keywords or from specific people and place them in specific folders or perform specific actions on them. Outlook is an incredibly powerful tool if you work with it as a mail client, and even as an online webmail program.

David Rumsey is the immediate past president of the American Translators Association (2015-2017). Since entering the profession in 1990, David has worked on all sides of the language industry: on the agency side as a project manager at two US-based agencies, on the client side as a project manager in the localization department at a large software firm, and always as a freelance Scandinavian>English translator in the fields of energy, technology and medicine. He works from his home on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada. He can be reached through www.northcountrytranslation.com.