The ultimate work-from-home checklist

This post originally appeared on the Freelancers Union blog and it is republished with permission.

Before COVID-19, I had the opportunity to switch my environment every time I needed to boost my creativity. Cozy cafes and beach bars were my go-to place of work.

This helped me set clear boundaries between work time and personal time, which consequently helped me balance my life.

If you liked getting out of the house every day like I did, being forced to work from home might be a nightmare for you. And for many of us, the blurring lines between work life and personal life can cause havoc and stress.

It helps to have work-from-home strategies in place, and the best way to approach this is with checklists.

Work-From-Home 101

Before we get to everyday best practices, we have to look at some prerequisites.

  1. Sort out that internet connection: Having fast and reliable internet at home is now non-negotiable. In the past, you might have put up with crappy internet, but now, it’s a matter of earning your living.
  2. Invest in the right gadgets/software: With the right headphones, mic, and camera, you will see your productivity soar. But you also need some feature-packed remote work software that allows screen sharing and control. Cutting off a call when you hit the time limit because you are using free services is not good for your brand. And being able to see, hear, and be heard clearly is critical.
  3. Set up a workspace: It might be tempting to laze around the house, kick back, and get on with your daily goals, but there are several reasons why you should not work where you relax. Set up a quiet place that is dedicated solely to work. This is the simplest way to create a distinction between your work life and your personal life. Make sure you have a laptop stand, ergonomic chair, etc. to stay comfortable if you are pulling off a full workday, and alternate between sitting and standing while you work.
  4. Set up a communication protocol: Communicating with your clients or team when you are working from home is significantly different from being in a shared office space. You might find that getting in sync with each other is a major issue. There are many tools to improve communication while working from home and create a communication protocol.
  5. Set boundaries with your family/friends: Your family/roommates might not be used to seeing you working from home. They might come to talk to you or ask you to do chores, disturbing your workflow. Set up clear boundaries with the people you live with — like, if you are sitting at your desk or have headphones on, you’re not available to them — so they know not to disturb you when you are working.

Once the above are taken care of, you are ready to maximize your work-from-home mode.

Daily Checklist for Maximum Productivity While Working From Home

#1: Dress as if you are actually going to the office (in a comfy way)

#2: Create and follow a daily schedule (for tomorrow)

#3: Use both text and video communication. Every day!

#4: Keep distractions at bay

#5: Spend time on lead generation/collaboration

#6: Power naps are your best friend

#7: Stay hydrated and keep munchies around

#8: Ensure that your workspace and documents are organized

#9: Physical activity. Yes! It exists.

#10: Engage in team-building activities outside of work

#1: Dress as if you are actually going to the office (in a comfy way)

Your brain has made certain associations with productivity over the years, and the primary association is how your body feels when you wear your work clothes.

To put it simply, work clothes equal productivity in your head. In addition, home clothes equal relaxation and family time.

When you dress up, you tell your brain that it is working time. This also acts as a signal for those at home that you are now in work mode, meaning you are not to be disturbed.

#2: Create and follow a daily schedule (for tomorrow)

When you are working from home, the boundaries between work life and home life can easily blur and you might find yourself overworking.

This is why it is best to stick to your former schedule as much as possible and plan your day accordingly.

This also applies to taking lunch breaks and coffee breaks — don’t skip them. There are break and stretch extensions that you can add to your browser that will remind you when to take a pause. They have helped me tremendously, mentally and physically!

At the end of the day, get up and walk away from your workstation and avoid using the space till the next morning.

#3: Use both text and video communication. Every day!

We communicate a lot through our facial expressions and body language, which is all lost when you only ever speak with clients or colleagues via email/Slack/text.

When you set up a communication protocol, make sure you combine text updates and video conferences, or you can start feel lost or distracted and get out of sync with your team.

#4: Keep distractions at bay

At home, you are on your own and it is up to you to actually be productive. This is where certain apps and systems can come in handy.

Social media is one of the biggest distractions, but there are both Android and iOS apps that help you avoid social media or restrict the amount of time you can spend on social media.

#5: Spend time on lead generation/collaboration

The economy has fallen, but it is not going to be down forever. Make sure you’re ready to take advantage when clients do have cash to spend again. Begin by sending cold emails, and be sure to verify the email address before you start writing your pitch.

You can also focus on pitching your existing clients a bigger package or retainer. Try a ready-to-use proposal format that has been proven to be effective.

I would suggest looking at bulking your efforts with media and email campaigns. If you send a thousand emails, at least one will convert.

#6: Power naps are your best friend

Now that you are working from home, there really is no shame in taking a power nap when you need it.

Don’t feel guilty about it. Remember that a power nap can boost your energy levels and make you more productive. (As long as you fulfill your everyday checklist!)

NASA has conducted research that pointed out that these “power naps” could improve memory and cognitive functions, among other things.

Breathing exercises can help you sleep at times when you have too much going on to focus on sleeping.

#7: Stay hydrated and keep munchies around

The idea is to not have to think about food or water during the day. The moment you feel hungry or thirsty, you can reach out for the bottle of water or snacks, satiate your needs, and get straight back to work. No distractions!

Avoid sugary and greasy foods, as they will make you feel lethargic.

#8: Ensure that your workspace and documents are organized

A tidy workspace will ensure that you have a clear and focused mind. And when you are in need of something, you’ll know where to find it immediately.

Arrange everything neatly at the end of your workday so that when you return to work the next morning, you have a neat and clean workspace ready to greet you.

#9: Physical activity. Yes! It exists.

Get your daily dose of exercises at a time convenient to you. You do not need equipment and a large space to churn those calories into energy.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) has helped me a lot. Especially after sitting on a chair and working long hours, your back and glutes do tend to get sore.

Following a system like the Pomodoro Technique, where you work for 25 minutes using a timer and then take a 5-minute break, can help you boost productivity by ensuring your mind does not get too stressed out.

I make sure to move around and stretch during these breaks.

#10: Engage in team-building activities (outside of work)

Along with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an epidemic of loneliness and depression taking over the world.

As social beings, it is difficult to be confined. How much is social media going to fill the void, anyway?

Take time to connect with your colleagues. Be there for them even for 10 minutes a day instead of getting lost in your own world and you will find your own spirits soaring.

Author bio

Himaan Chatterji is a B2B SaaS content writer and a full-time digital nomad working with SaaS brands around the world to create a web of interconnected long-form actionable resources.

Purchase Orders Revisited

This post originally appeared on the blog My Words for a Change and it is republished with permission.

Way back in 2015, I asked my blog readers whether the purchase order I’d produced was merely a pipe dream or a document I could actually use with my clients. The general consensus was that my overly long PO would prove daunting for direct clients and unnecessary for agencies. After tweaking it a bit based on the many suggestions I received, I instead came up with a purchase order checklist. The idea was to fill it in ourselves using the information we gleaned in negotiations with clients and for it to be a handy reminder of what questions we should be asking.

However, I have to admit this hasn’t always been my approach as I have given it to direct clients for two main reasons. Firstly, it serves as a more formal record of the provision of services than an email exchange, especially as I’ve included a link to my privacy notice and to the ITI terms and conditions. And secondly, clients can also provide me with the details I need to perform that service better.

I always fill in as much of the document as I can before giving it to clients and, before today’s brainwave, I put “N/A” where possible because some of the lines were irrelevant for the requested service. Then it occurred to me that it would be far better to create separate model purchase orders for every service I provide. (It’s only taken me nearly five years to think of this. Better late than never I suppose!)

Consequently, I now have four slightly different versions of the original purchase order. They are for: translation; revision; editing; and localisation into UK English. I’ve differentiated between revision and editing as I do a lot of editing of academic papers that have been written by non-native speakers directly into English (or so the client tells me, which is why I have included a question on whether MT has been used).

As before, I’d be grateful for your comments. You can download the files from the following links:

Purchase Order for Translation

Purchase Order for Revision

Purchase Order for Editing

Purchase Order for Localisation into UK English

If you decide to use the files with your own clients, don’t forget that you can’t link to the ITI (Institute of Translation and Interpreting) terms and conditions unless you’re a member. And you’ll also have to change the link to your own privacy notice (although please feel free to copy any parts of mine you wish).

Author bio:

Nikki Graham is a Spanish-to-English translator and reviser specialising in leisure, tourism, hospitality andacademic articles (social sciences and humanities). She also does editingand localisation work. After passing the ITI exam in the subject of leisure and tourism in 2015, she became a qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (MITI). In 2018 she attained the ‘Qualified’ status for ISO 17100:2015, the internationally recognised standard for translation services. Nikki is also a member of Mediterranean Editors and Translators (MET) and ProCopywriters. You can find her blog, My Words for a Change, at https://nikkigrahamtranix.com/blog.

Becoming a Legal Translator

This post originally appeared on Capital Translations and it is republished with permission.

Unless you have studied Law, it is rather tricky to know how to specialise in legal translation, let alone find relevant high-calibre training. Fortunately, Roehampton University’s symposium on Friday 9th January 2015 on becoming a legal translator addressed many of the issues concerning the best ways to acquire the wealth of knowledge and skills that are vital for this crucial sector of the industry. Here are some concise ideas from the programme highlights for those seeking to enter the specialism.

 Professionalising legal translation – do or die

The conference took place on a bright and crisp winter day, with the first seminar by Juliette Scott. Although the title of her talk might have been a tad dramatic, Juliette quite rightly highlighted the problem that legal translation is not viewed as a profession compared with an airline pilot or doctor, for example, based on criteria including public recognition, monopoly over work and a regulatory body, all of which are lacking in this case; threats to the occupation were identified, such as machine translation, press coverage and translators themselves.

A quote by Lanna Castellano (1988) nevertheless laid out the reality of a legal translator’s career: “Our profession is based on knowledge and experience. It has the longest apprenticeship of any profession. Not until thirty do you start to be useful as a translator; not until fifty do you start to be in your prime.”

The decisive role of academia was brought up, in particular the fact that academics can contribute to improving practice, developing innovations, transmitting knowledge and providing theoretical and professional training.

Juliette’s seminar was not short of polemic questions: how do we regulate legal translation? Should CPD be mandatory and who would oversee it? But the presentation provided clarity over many aspects, namely that the best legal translators are lawyers who have become linguists or linguists who have gone on to study law. Regardless of one’s exact career path, legal translators are themselves responsible for making their profession a profession, one of Juliette’s recurring point being it is ‘us not them’. Specifically, we need to be outward-looking and be mindful of how we dress, how we position ourselves, how our workplace is arranged and how our websites and marketing materials come across.

Finally, Juliette provided a perfect 12-step plan to professionalising legal translation:

  1. Define our status: in person, online and in print
  2. Assuage our passion for CPD
  3. Make professional bodies work for us
  4. Use Codes of Conduct as support
  5. Acquire prestige and remuneration through our actions and reactions
  6. Turn fragmentation into a strong community
  7. If academia doesn’t address our needs, let’s go into academia
  8. Support regulation
  9. Get our faces out there
  10. Change terminology (from resource/freelancer to practitioner/professional)
  11. Make sure we get the proper brief from our clients
  12. Remember it’s about us not them

The reflective translator: planning and implementing a CPD programme for legal translation

If there was one seminar that delegates could come away from thinking ‘okay, now I know what I need to do to become a legal translator’, Karen Stokes was the one to provide it.

Starting by discussing the CPD cycle (right), Karen highlighted the prime resources for translators to utilise in their quest to specialise in legal translation, the first ports of call comprising the likes of Coursera, Open University OpenLearn and FutureLearn, with examples of more specialised sources being the Law Society Gazette, the Institute of Advance Legal Studies and Lexoligy.

Naturally, professional bodies often run specialised legal courses in association with solicitors or lawyer-linguists and it is always worth remembering to check those professional bodies in the countries of your source languages, such as the BDÜ for German.

A resource raised by a delegate was Counsel, the monthly Journal of the Bar of England and Wales. Largely written by and for barristers, the magazine is to solicitors what the ITI Bulletin is to translators, featuring items of relevance to all those with an interest in the law.

How functional can/should legal translation be? 

Legal translation is the “ultimate linguistic challenge […] combining the inventiveness of literary translation with the terminological precision of technical translation,” stated Łucja Biel of the University of Warsaw, opening with a quote from Harvey (2002), but it is nonetheless an ultimate intellectual reward.

Łucja’s workshop was a rollercoaster ride through the ups and downs, and ins and outs of the field. Firstly the challenges, which can be categorised as legal system-specific (e.g. incongruity of legal terms and difference between legal systems), language-specific (e.g. semantic differences between languages) and translation-specific (e.g. constraints of bilingual processing such as interference, simplification and explicitation). Thus, in the case of translation into or out of English, legal translation is often an operation between two languages as well as two legal systems (the judge-made common law in the England and Wales – which places importance on precedents – versus the code-made civil law on the European continent – which gives more weight to statutes), perhaps somewhat mitigated by the harmonisation of law within the European Union.

The debate of accuracy versus naturalness was broached, with delegates being introduced to clear references citing the importance of how accuracy should take precedence over style in legal translation, in other words substance over form.

The majority of legal translations are non-authoritative – merely informing about the content of the source text – but it is naturally vital for translators to know when a legal translation is intended to be authoritative, as such target texts are as equally authentic as source texts and vested with the force of law, as is the case in multilingual countries and organisations.

According to Šarčević, the ideal legal translator should have: thorough knowledge of legal terminology and legal reasoning between the source and target legal systems; the ability to solve legal problems, analyse legal texts and foresee text construal; and possess drafting skills and a basic knowledge of comparative law and methods. Alas such a translator does not, or at the very least is unlikely to, exist. Lifelong learning is therefore required.

“An acceptable legal translation is one that contains correctly translated terms, utterances that have been translated correctly according to their pragmatic function, and textual conventions that are familiar to the intended readers of target texts and conform with target-language genre conventions”

(Nielsen 2010: 33)

In terms of qualifications for legal translators, in the absence of a law degree, the IoLET’s Diploma in Translation was cited as an ideal example given that candidates can sit a legal module.

Łucja proceeded to tackle some of the facets within legal translation that we need to consider, such as the wide usage of synonyms (‘par/nominal/face value, for example), the legal vs. semi-legal nature of terms, variation in terminology for civil and criminal procedure, geographical variations (UK vs. US law or even English and Welsh law vs. Scots law), terms and their collates (such as to bring an action and to file a lawsuit). Delegates were introduced to examples of set legal formula (e.g. in witness whereof), a corresponding formula of which most likely exists in the target language and should be sought.

A more curious aspect of legal language in English is repetitions, such as ‘by and between’, ‘terms and conditions’ and ‘any and all’; translators into English should therefore be aware of such phenomena and use them accordingly. Translators out of English, on the other hand, need to recognise these and more than likely simplify them in their target language, as continental systems avoid synonymy and a redundant translation would be confusing to a continental lawyer. Elements of navigation in legal English were also raised and legal translators should understand the importance and correct usage of terms such as ‘hereinafter’ and ‘thereof’.

A further fundamental aspect of style in legal language is dealing with disjunctive syntax and ordering semantic units logically. This primarily concerns matching prepositional phrases with the nouns and verbs to which they refer, such as ‘receipt of the Order by the Contractor’ being more logical than ‘receipt by the Contractor of the Order’, the latter sounding as if the Contractor belongs to the Order of the Phoenix from the Harry Potter books.

The seminar then dealt with strategies and techniques of legal translation, namely the question of equivalence: functional, descriptive or literal?

Functional equivalence is appropriate where two legal concepts are identical or similar between the two legal systems (such as ‘homicide’) and can be resolved with the approximation of a source term by the corresponding legal term. This is regarded as the ideal solution by many scholars owing to its communicative value.

Descriptive equivalence takes a legal term in the target languages and modifies it to clarify the difference, thereby bridging the knowledge gap. An example would be translating the German ‘Prokurist’ as an ‘authorised signatory’ or a ‘registered holder of power of attorney’.

Literal equivalence is, as the name suggests, a word-for-word translation, calque or a loan translation. This technique is deemed acceptable when the meaning is sufficiently transparent, it coincides with a functional equivalent and when it is not a false friend, such as the Polish ‘użytkowanie wieczyste’ being translated as ‘perpetual usufruct’, an English-language term typically used only by Polish lawyers to describe the Polish version of public ground lease.

Finally we looked at trends in legal translation, notably the fact that demand is expected to increase significantly on account of the mobility of EU citizens and the implementation of an EU directive on the right to translation and interpreting in criminal proceedings. This is coupled with the development of memories, such as the DGT Translation Memory and terminology databases, such as IATE and UNTERM. To put any fears to bed, Łucja asserted that legal translators are unlikely to be replaced by machine translation and post-editors soon, not least because of confidentiality issues and the lack of parallel corpora to train software.

Much like the conclusion to Juliette’s talk, Łucja provide some action points for translators to work towards to specialise law: build up knowledge of the source and target legal systems, terminology, phraseology and style.

Translation for the EU: making the impossible possible

In her overview of legal translation within the context of the European Union, Vilelmini Sosoni presented the either loved or more likely hated phenomenon of Eurospeak in bridging the gap between cultures and expressing new and pan-European concepts through neologisms (newly coined lexical units such as ‘flexicurity’ or existing lexical units that are bestowed a new sense such as ‘cohabitation’) and borrowings (introduction of words from one language to another such as ‘stagiaire’, ‘comitology’ and ‘third country’, all derived from French).

Once again, awareness of principles of concepts in common and civil law was emphasised, but also in this context thorough knowledge of the EU’s Institutions, decision-making and legal framework is required.

Delegates were introduced to the concept of intertextuality, that is the idea that most EU texts are recognised in terms of their dependence on other relevant texts, hence many texts will refer to other decisions, directives, and so on.

One revelation came when Vilelmini explained how EU legislation does not mention the term translation; rather translations are referred to as language versions owing to the principle of linguistic equality, whereby all official EU languages are equal or equally authentic.

Thoughts from the legal translator’s desk

Lawyer-linguist Richard Delaney rounded off the day by delivering some overarching ideas with delightful wit on, above all, client care – namely don’t treat clients like idiots and moan about them on Facebook groups, rather be helpful and go the extra mile – and setting rates – not competing on price in legal translation especially.

Summary

It would not be fair to claim that in 2015 the quantity of CPD courses and training for translators is poor, however we can challenge the quality of it. This full-day symposium on legal translation was one of the highest-quality and best-value-for-money (at £95) professional events that I have ever attended.

Packed full of practical and concrete information, and lacking the theoretical fluff that dominates many CPD events nowadays, I have come away from the conference having satisfied the two objectives that I intended to: understand the primary techniques of tackling legal translations and identify the resources for long-term training to specialise in legal translation, and then some.

If you are thinking of specialising in legal translation and would like to know more about what was learnt from this event, or perhaps you are already a seasoned legal translation and concur with or contest some of the ideas above, please do leave a message below.

Author bio

Lloyd Bingham MITI runs Capital Translations in Cardiff, Wales. He works from Dutch, German, French and Spanish into English, specialising in business, marketing, technology and education.

Lloyd has spoken at various conferences on professional standards in translation and is a tutor on ITI’s Starting Up as a Freelance Translator course.

Readings, tools, and useful links for corpus analysis

This post originally appeared on the blog In My Own Terms and it is republished with permission.

The following list is a result of collaboration by participants of Lancaster’s recent MOOC on Corpus Linguistics. This is a selection of the links that I considered more relevant for those who might want to start exploring this field. If you want to share other links, feel free to add a comment or send me a message and I will add it here. I will keep you posted on the next CL course by Lancaster University. This post complements previous posts on corpora lists, GraphColl, and AntConc.

Readings

An Introduction of Corpus Linguistics – G. Bennet

Corpus Linguistics: What It Is and How It Can Be Applied to Teaching – D. Krieger

Corpus Linguistics 2015. Abstract book – F. Formato and A. Hardie (Lancaster:UCREL)

Corpus annotation – R. Garside, G. Leech, T. McEnery

A critical look at software tools in corpus linguistics – L. Anthony

Corpora and Language Teaching: Just a fling or wedding bells? – C. Gabrielatos

Books

Sociolinguistics and Corpus Linguistics – P. Baker

Using Corpora in Discourse Analysis

Google book: Corpus-based Translation Studies – S. Laviosa

Google book: Corpus-based translation studies: Research and Applications – A. Kruger, K. Wallmach, J. Munday

Tools

Antconc

Concordance Software

Intellitext

Monoconc

SketchEngine

SkELL is a free online, stripped down version of the Sketch Engine corpus query software. It allows very simple searches for words which will produce a word sketch to show the grammatical and collocational behavior of the word. It also produces a list of similar words and the regular concordance lines. One of our tutors in Lancaster’s MOOC, Keith Barrs, wrote an article on how to use this tool (from page 6).

WebCorp. Concordance the web in real-time

Wmatrix is a software tool for corpus analysis and comparison.

Corpora

The SILS Learner Corpus of English is a collection of essays by students at SILS, the School of International Liberal Studies at Waseda University.

Translational English Corpus (TEC) is a corpus of contemporary translational English: it consists of written texts translated into English from a variety of source languages, European and non-European

The Collins Corpus is an analytical database of English with over 4.5 billion words. It contains written material from websites, newspapers, magazines and books published around the world, and spoken material from radio, TV and everyday conversations.

CORPUS. The Open Parallel Corpus is a growing collection of translated texts from the web.

Natural Language Toolkit. is a leading platform for building Python programs to work with human language data. It provides easy-to-use interfaces to over 50 corpora and lexical resources such as WordNet, along with a suite of text processing libraries for classification, tokenization, stemming, tagging, parsing, and semantic reasoning, wrappers for industrial-strength NLP libraries, and an active discussion forum.

WordBanks Online is an online corpus service offering you the chance to tap into the unique resources of the Collins Word Web, on which the highly successful range of Collins dictionaries is based.

Lancaster Corpus of Children’s Project Writing is a digitized collection of project work produced by children aged between 9 and 11.

For corpora in other languages visit Corpus Linguitics and Morphology of Humbolt-Universität zu Berlin, and lemmatization lists in several languages at lexiconista.com

Other useful and interesting links

Corpus linguistics community in Google

List of Corpus Software, Tools, Frequency Lists, etc.

Tools and websites by Corpora4Learning

ICAME Journal. This is published once a year (in the spring) with articles, conference reports, reviews and notices related to corpus linguistics. Each issue is about 150 pages and there have been 36 issues published.

The British Sign Language Corpus Project by the Economic & Social Research Council

A (brief) History of Computarized Corpus Tools by Mura Nava using TimeMapper

Articles in Spanish

Lingüística de corpus: una introducción al ámbito – G. Parodi
Lingüística de corpus y lingüística del español – Guillermo Rojo

Introducción al análisis de estructuras lingüísticas en corpus – M. Alcántara Plá
Hacia una definición del concepto de colocación – J. R. Firth, a I.A. Mel’cuk, by M. Alonso Ramos
Diseño de corpus textuales y orales by Torruella y Llisterri

Sobre la construcción de diccionarios basados en corpus – G. Rojo

Compilación de un corpus ad hoc para la enseñanza de la traducción inversa especializada – G. Corpas

El corpus lingüístico en la didáctica del léxico en el aula – E. Alonso

For corpora in Spanish, visit my page TermFinder (Corpora EN+ES section)

Author bio

Patricia Brenes is the owner of the blog http://inmyownterms.com/. Originally from Costa Rica, she moved to Washington in 2000 to work for an international organization. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Specialized Translation at the Universitat de Vic in Barcelona and is a Certified Terminology Manager (ECQA-TermNet). Her blog collects useful information on theory and practice, as well as infographics, biographies, interviews, tools, and much more.

Starting out in translation? Find a mentor!

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

I was reading one of Kevin Lossner’s blog posts from 2010, titled “No Monkeys!”. He gives 12 pieces of advice—a twelve-step program, as he calls it—for those getting started in the translation business. All of it is great advice and I think everyone should follow it, newbie or not; however, there is one point on which I’d like to expand to impress upon any new translator coming across this blog how important it is to follow.

“Find a mentor. This one is not optional. Most twelve-step programs involve a sponsor, usually one who has struggled with the same issues in the past. In our movement we offer more latitude: you don’t have to seek out a recovering monkey as your mentor. You can also work under the watchful eye of someone who got things right the first or second time.”

When I did my traineeship at the European Commission’s Translation Service fourteen years ago I had a mentor. “The Godfather”, they called him (I still laugh at this). All trainees had a godfather. Mine was a walking encyclopedia, a Greek translator from Alexandria, Egypt, who taught me a lot; though it would be fair to say that most Greek translators in the technical/scientific translation unit of the DGT (Directorate-General for Translation) went out of their way to teach me translation methods as applied in the EU. Business practices I learned on my own and from other freelancers later on; it is difficult to learn the tricks of the trade and how to handle your own projects, do your own marketing, and interact with clients from non-freelancers.

Finding a mentor “is not optional,” says Kevin Lossner. It really shouldn’t be. Having a mentor will make your life so much easier. It will save you time and mistakes. Sure, after hours of looking for good online FR-EN dictionaries you may come across Termium and proudly celebrate your discovery when you realize what a gem it is; or you can skip to celebrating a FR-EN job well done after your mentor saved you those hours by telling you from the start “Make sure to use Termium, it’s an excellent resource, here’s the link.” Or he can save you the embarrassment (and perhaps the legal trouble) of finding out that Google Translate is not reliable and could not care less about the confidentiality of the document you need to translate by explaining to you how it is being developed and how it works. (I am assuming that all seasoned translators know about the dangers of using Google Translate. If not, please read on this topic, e.g. article Confidentiality and Google Translate.)

What should you not expect to learn from a mentor? How to translate! You should already know how to do that. Comparative stylistics and translation techniques should be well engraved on your brain by now. Expect to learn things you’re not exposed to in your translation studies. Use your traineeship to learn how to run your own business.

So what should you learn from a mentor?

Research

How to do research on the topic of the text you’re translating, what resources to use. Resources include paper and/or online dictionaries in your language pair(s) and field(s), online encyclopedias (Wikipedia is the most popular one but please use it with caution—some colleagues and I had a blast with some outrageous errors in several Greek Wikipedia articles, and then didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the Greek entries machine-translated from the English ones.

Your mentor will tell you which resources are reliable, which ones should be used with caution, and which ones should be avoided), journals with articles in your field(s), websites on the subject matter of your texts (could be a section of the Airbus website if you’re translating about airplanes, or the online Health Library of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute if you’re translating the medical records of cancer patients and need to know more about cancer).

Proofreading

I wrote previously that you shouldn’t expect to learn how to translate because you should already know that before starting your traineeship. Proofreading, on the other hand, is a different story. How many of us who formally studied translation were taught how to proofread a text? How many learned how to edit a translation? And how many of us learned in our studies the difference between proofreading and editing?

Sure, we knew how to use the Track Changes feature in Word, but were we shown what to change and what not to touch, what constitutes an error and what is simply a matter of personal preference and style? Were we taught how to charge for proofreading and editing and how to determine our rate? These are all things that your mentor can help you with.

CAT tools

There are several: MemoQ, OmegaT, Wordfast, SDL Trados, among others. Should you use any of these? Which one is more user-friendly? Would the tool of your choice work on your MAC? Are the more expensive ones better? How do you answer to a client that might ask for a discount due to repeated terms as calculated by the CAT tool? These are questions your mentor can help you answer.

See which tool he uses, if any. Watch him use it. Get your hands on it (don’t get nervous if your mentor is standing right over your head while you use it; many of us are very picky about what goes into our translation memories), or perhaps you can just use a trial version. How about voice-recognition software? Perhaps you’ve heard of Dragon Naturally Speaking. Is it available in your language? If your mentor uses it, take a shot at it and see whether it increases your productivity or not.

Project lifecycle

A good mentor will give you exposure to the entire lifecycle of a project, including a translation request, a PO (purchase order), acceptance or rejection of a project in the beginning, and delivery of a project in the end. Look at a request with your mentor: sometimes (quite often, actually) requests are incomplete and make it impossible to judge whether we can take on the project or not.

Sometimes a client will ask me if I can translate a text of X thousand words by such and such date, without telling me the subject field and sometimes without even telling me the language pair! Your mentor will tell you what to look for in a request before you jump into accepting it. He will also tell you when to say no. Look at some POs. What information do they contain? Does the client need the translator to sign an NDA? What is an NDA? Should you always sign it?

E-mails

All projects involve some correspondence between the translator and the client. Sometimes communication takes place over the phone but most often it is done by e-mail. The speed and convenience of e-mail communication does not mean that your e-mails can be sloppy. Shadow your mentor when she replies to a client: watch how she addresses the client, how careful she is with punctuation, what register she uses (which of course may vary from one client to the next, but not by much, a client is a client, and even if you’ve worked with him for a while and are on friendly terms, you wouldn’t use the same register as with your nephew), how she re-reads her e-mail before hitting Send to make sure it is linguistically and semantically correct, knowing the bad impression a message with errors written by a language professional would make. I’m stating the obvious, I know, but unfortunately I’ve seen too many e-mails full of spelling and grammar errors, even some e-mails starting with “Hey there,…”, to omit this point.

Invoices

At the end of a project or at the end of the month you’ll have to send an invoice in order to get paid for your work. It is surprising how many posts we see in online forums by new translators asking how to write an invoice. I don’t know why so many university translation programs don’t dedicate a lesson or two to this. Ask your mentor to show you a couple of old invoices. Make a note of the information they include. Ask her to let you write the next invoice. Ask her also to tell you about different payment methods.

Project-management tools

By this I don’t mean any complex software that a full-time PM might use. But whether you like project management or not, you’ll have to manage your own projects, so you’ll have to find a way to organize your work. There is software you can buy or you may opt for an Excel file or plain old paper and pencil. I use a weekly planner—which is always open in front of me—to write project names and deadlines, and an Excel sheet to write all my project details such as client, project number and/or PO number, project name, number of words, rate, total price, assignment date, and delivery date.

These details come in very handy when it’s time to write invoices, that way I don’t have to look for this information in POs and e-mails. After I send my invoice for a project I write the date on that sheet, as well as the payment due date. After I receive payment, I mark the date of payment and move that project (that Excel line) to another sheet of the Excel file. You may use one or a combination of these and/or other tools. See what your mentor uses and ask for her advice on how to organize your first projects.

Translation portals

You don’t have to ask your mentor which translation portal/site to join (I wouldn’t recommend them, except for Stridonium if you work with German and qualify to join) but do ask her to tell you everything she knows about them (hopefully she will know about them), including which ones to avoid—or at least which sections of them to avoid. You may have heard of ProZ.com, translatorscafe.com, peopleperhour.com (this last one is not just for translators but for freelancers in general, and I would stay away from it unless you want to work for a month to make enough to buy a sandwich).

ProZ.com used to be a great resource for the first few years after it was launched—which happened to coincide with my first years in the business and I cannot deny that it helped me immensely. Unfortunately it has changed focus from serving the interests of translators to serving the interests of big translation companies that seek lower prices and treat translation as a commodity. So this site should be used with caution, if used at all. I would avoid the jobs section like the plague. The forum archives can be very useful, though for any new questions you might want to ask, I would opt for translators’ groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. Ask your mentor to recommend some translators’ groups; they can be general or language-specific or domain-specific.

For example, I am a member of the following groups on LinkedIn: International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters, Applied Linguistics, Polyglot-Multilingual Professionals, Aviation Network, International Aviation Professionals, Aircraft Maintenance and Manufacturing, Boston Interpreters, IMIA – International Medical Interpreters Association, and Translation & Localization Professionals Worldwide, among others; and the following groups/pages on Facebook: International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters, Certified Medical and Healthcare Interpreters UNITE!, The League of Extraordinary Translators, South Florida Business Owners Networking Group, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Interpreting and translation forum, ESA – European Space Agency, Translation Journal, Interpreting the World, etc.

Of course some of these may not apply to you (I have aerospace engineering background and translate for aircraft manufacturers, hence the aviation-related groups); your mentor, who is working in the same language pair(s) and probably also in the same field(s) will be the best person to recommend the most helpful groups for you.

Associations

It is a very good idea to join a professional association. Look into local associations (e.g. NETA if you live in New England in the USA, Société française des traducteurs (SFT) if you live in France, etc.) and domain-specific ones (e.g. IMIA if you are a medical interpreter and/or translator). Ask your mentor which associations she is a member of, what she has gained from her membership, what the mission of those associations is and how they are contributing to the profession.

Where to find a mentor

There are plenty of translators’ groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. I mentioned some above but there are many others. Join some. Actually join many; later on you can unsubscribe from the ones you don’t find interesting or useful. Browse some old discussions, learn from them, start participating, make connections. Introduce yourself, say that you’re a new translator and that you’re looking for a mentor. Try to find a mentor that lives in your area so that you can work at her office (even if it is a home office and even if you do so only once or twice a week) and so that you can practice all the points mentioned above, i.e. shadowing her while she e-mails a client to accept/reject a project, see in person how she uses a CAT tool so you can learn quickly, have her watch you write an invoice, etc. If that is not possible, you can still take advantage of a traineeship by finding a mentor willing to spend some time explaining things to you over the phone, by e-mail, skype, etc., guiding you as you take your first steps as a freelance translator.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Author bio

Maria Karra is an aerospace engineer and technical translator. After years of testing spacecraft instruments, she discovered that translation was more fun, so she established her technical translation business and never looked back. Maria was born in Greece and spent the better part of her life in Boston, Massachusetts. Having lived and worked in France, Belgium, and the USA, she now calls Miami, Florida her home. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.