Emotions in More than One Language

This post originally appeared on Psychology Today on August 18, 2011, and it is republished with permission.

The language(s) of emotions in bilinguals

There is a myth that bilinguals express their emotions in their first language (when they haven’t acquired both languages simultaneously), usually the language of their parents. Like all myths, there are instances when it is true. Thus, a Portuguese-English bilingual who acquired English at age fourteen wrote to me that if something makes him angry and he allows his anger to come out, there is no doubt that he will use Portuguese to express himself. And it makes sense that bilinguals who have lived in the same place all their lives, who use their first language with family and friends and their other language(s) mainly at work, will express affect in their first language.

However, as Temple University researcher Aneta Pavlenko, herself multilingual, writes, things are much more complex than that. In her book on the topic, she dismantles this myth and shows that the relationship between emotions and bilingualism plays out differently for different individuals and distinct language areas. Basically, it is too simplistic to suggest that late bilinguals have emotional ties only with their first language and no ties with their other language(s).

When a childhood in one language lacked affection or was marked by distressing events, then bilinguals may prefer to express emotion in their second language. For example, an adult English-French bilingual who moved to France in early adulthood once wrote to me that she found it easier to speak of anything connected with emotions in French, her second language, whereas in English she was rather tongue-tied. She then explained that it was in French that she had discovered what love meant. She ended by stating, “Perhaps one day I’ll even manage to say, ‘I love you’ in English”.

The Canadian and French novelist, Nancy Huston, gives a similar testimony. Nine years after having moved to Paris from North America, her daughter Léa was born. She had married a Bulgarian-French bilingual with whom she spoke French. Huston tried to use English baby talk with her daughter but couldn’t continue. She explains that the memories and feelings stirred up were simply too strong (her English-speaking mother had abandoned the family home when she was six).

On a less poignant level, many late bilinguals state that they can swear more easily in their second language. Both the English-French bilingual above and Nancy Huston have said the same thing. The former stated that she has a wider range of vulgar vocabulary in French and Nancy Huston wrote her master’s thesis on linguistic taboo and swear words in French. As she wrote, “The French language in general…. was to me less emotion-fraught, and therefore less dangerous, than my mother tongue. It was cold, and I approached it coldly.” (p. 49).

When bilinguals are angry, excited, tired or stressed, their accent in a language can reappear or increase in strength. In addition, they often revert to the language(s) in which they express their emotions, be it their first or their second language, or both. I was once bitten by a stingray in California and I recall clearly switching back and forth between English and French. I used English to ask the English-speaking friends I was with to take me to see a doctor and I cursed in French to help me ease the pain.

The language used in therapy is also quite informative. Paul Preston who has written a book on the sign language / spoken language bilingualism of the hearing children of Deaf parents, interviewed several of them who said they felt blocked when in a therapy session. They wanted to use sign language but couldn’t do so (the session was taking place in English). And Nancy Huston claims that she could not finish her own psychoanalysis because it was conducted in French, the language in which her neuroses were under control.

In sum, expressing emotions in more than one language follows no set rules; some bilinguals prefer to use one language, some the other, and some both. It is fitting to finish with an extract from Aneta Pavlenko’s book about her own habits:

‘”I love you,” I whisper to my English-speaking partner. “Babulechka, ia tak skuchaiu po tebe [Grandma, I miss you so much],” I tenderly say on the phone to my Russian-speaking grandmother”‘.

As the author states prior to this: “I have no choice but to use both English and Russian when talking about emotions.” (p. 22-23).

References

Pavlenko, A. (2005). Emotions and Multilingualism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Huston, N. (2002). Losing North: Musings on Land, Tongue and Self. Toronto: McArthur.
Grosjean, F. Personality, thinking and dreaming, and emotions in bilinguals. Chapter 11 of Grosjean, F. (2010). Bilingual: Life and Reality. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

“Life as a bilingual” posts by content area: http://www.francoisgrosjean.ch/blog_en.html

François Grosjean’s highly successful blog with more than 2.3 million visitors can now be found as a book, Life as a Bilingual (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Author bio

François Grosjean received his degrees up to the Doctorat d’Etat from the University of Paris, France. He started his academic career at the University of Paris 8 and then left for the United-States in 1974 where he taught and did research in psycholinguistics at Northeastern University, Boston. While at Northeastern he was also a Research Affiliate at the Speech Communication Laboratory at MIT. In 1987, he was appointed professor at Neuchâtel University, Switzerland, where he founded the Language and Speech Processing Laboratory. He has lectured occasionally at the Universities of Basel, Zurich and Oxford. In 1998, he cofounded Bilingualism: Language and Cognition (Cambridge University Press).

His domains of interest are the perception, comprehension and production of speech, bilingualism and biculturalism, sign language and the bilingualism of the Deaf, the evaluation of speech comprehension in aphasic patients, as well as the modeling of language processing. François Grosjean’s website: www.francoisgrosjean.ch

The hallmarks of a good translator

This post originally appeared on The minimalist translator blog and it is republished with permission.

What makes a really good translator? Maybe you’ve always wondered what a translator actually does and has to be good at. Maybe you are looking for a good translator. Or maybe you are a translator and perhaps, as you’re reading this post, find yourself nodding in agreement.

A good translator …

… is a good writer

… specialises in one or more subject fields, such as medicine, IT or marketing

… undertakes regular CPD training and stays abreast of current developments in his/her subject field(s)

… enjoys working in his/her chosen subject field(s)

… reproduces the content and meaning of the original text skilfully, without additions or omissions

… doesn’t translate word by word, but with a view to creating a text that is fluent and characterised by idiomatic usage

… translates into his/her mother tongue or language of habitual use only

… generally notices language around him/her in everyday life (and any mistakes in it!)

… has excellent knowledge of spelling, grammar and punctuation in his/her languages

… is reliable and meets agreed-upon deadlines

… creates translations in line with clients’ requirements and style guidelines

… is inquisitive and tends to ask relevant terminology- and context-related questions

… uses a writing style in translations that is perfectly understood by the target readers

… demonstrates patience, tenacity and lateral thinking

 

Author bio

Elisabeth Hippe-Heisler MA MITI translates from English and Italian into German and specialises in patents. She also blogs as The Minimalist Translator at https://hippe-heisler.blogspot.com. You can find her on Twitter @detransferendo (English) and @EHippeHeisler (German). Website: http://www.hippe-heisler.de

Educating the “Uneducated” Client

This post originally appeared on The ATA Chronicle and it is republished with permission.

Because of the nature of our work, we translators are fated to work with clients who may not always understand what we do and often push our skills and resilience to the limit. But while some may think that difficult clients top the list of challenges translators face in the exercise of their work and business-building activities, that title is actually held by someone else: the “uneducated” client.

Appreciation: The Difference that Matters

Working with difficult clients (those with tight deadlines, last-minute changes, multiple-review-round habits, etc.) can be taxing, but as long as those clients know what translation entails, time and hard work will likely lead to a mutually trusting relationship. This is one where the client appreciates (both literally and figuratively) what the translator does, and where the translator may trust the client not to jeopardize the quality of his or her work or reputation. Working with “uneducated” clients (who may also be difficult clients) proves a tougher challenge with deeper ramifications.

By definition, “uneducated” clients lack knowledge and understanding about what translation is, what translators do, and the challenges of intercultural communication. As a result, they are less likely than most to prepare their texts for translation, make reasonable demands, understand the choices made during translation, involve us in their projects, value our work and feedback, or treat us as partners in the quest for the perfect final text. Therefore, if we ever hope to establish a mutually trusting and beneficial relationship with these clients, education is key.

The Challenge

While client education is part of our job description and we should always be prepared and willing to provide as much information as needed, educating “uneducated” clients may take more time, patience, and effort than we have to give. However, armed with the right tools, these clients also present an interesting challenge and an opportunity to change the perception the world has of us and our work. Doing so is not without difficulty.

One cannot fail to acknowledge that not all “uneducated” clients are created equal. There are instances when a translator will need to arm himself or herself not only with patience, but with a great deal of stoicism and humor to deal with the situation. This is even more true if that client has no intention of getting “educated,” thinks he already knows all there is to know, or enters the relationship thinking that translators are nothing more than glorified bilingual typists.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The following discusses the different types of “uneducated” clients and how to deal with each effectively.

The Blank-Canvas Client

The Blank-Canvas Client is new to translation and, in my experience, tends to be monolingual. He has no or little preconceived ideas about language, intercultural communication, or translation in general. This most often stems from a lack of interest in or need for our services. Or his curiosity may have led him to try his hand at a game of “Google Translate back-and-forth,” which is when he realized that things are not as simple as they look. (This is probably what convinced him to hire a professional translator in the first place!)

To a translator, the Blank-Canvas Client is as much a challenge as an opportunity to learn. Indeed, explaining the basics of our trade forces us to take a closer look at things, simplify ideas (perhaps even challenge some), and improve the way we do things when it comes to including our clients in the decision-making process.

As mentioned previously, the Blank-Canvas Client has no preconceived ideas about our work. Educating him gives us an opportunity to promote professional translation and share bona fide knowledge that will benefit not only us but the translation industry as a whole— hence the need to do it right.

The main challenge we face when educating the Blank-Canvas Client is to provide him with enough information, but not to a degree where he becomes confused with too much of it. The good news is that streamlined help is available in the form of ATA’s Translation: Getting it Right (available online as a free PDF), a guide that provides clients who are new to translation with basic, valuable information about the translation process, what to expect, and how to prepare their texts for translation. (An equally valuable resource is ATA’s Interpreting: Getting it Right.)

Educating the Blank-Canvas Client starts with providing him with a copy of Translation: Getting it Right, explaining that it will clarify the translation process and help him get the most out of his translation budget. (That latter point should guarantee that he reads it!) After familiarizing himself with the guide’s contents, the client should have a better understanding of the basics of translation, including the following:

  • Not all translations (or translators) are created equal.
  • Translation takes as much time as writing.
  • Translation is about “exporting” concepts and ideas across cultures, not transposing words.
  • An inquisitive translator is good news.
  • Typography varies from one language to the next.

Naturally, as you work on more projects with your client and questions/ challenges arise, you may need to go into detail about one point or another or address other issues. Provided that your message is clear and consistent, the Blank-Canvas Client will in time become an educated client who understands what you do and trusts you. You’ll also be in a better position to exchange ideas without fear of confusing him or jeopardizing the quality of your work. The same is achievable with our next type of uneducated client, but it will take much more time and effort.

The Biased Client

Just like the Blank-Canvas Client, the Biased Client is often (although not always) monolingual and may be new to translation. But unlike his quick-learning counterpart, he believes strongly in some widely-held translation myths that will take time and effort to dispel. While it is always useful to share Translation: Getting it Right with the Biased Client, you will also need to spend a considerable amount of time disproving moderately-to-deeply ingrained dangerous misconceptions about translation. Dangerous misconceptions are those that have the potential of deeply and negatively affecting your relationship with your clients and the quality of your work, so it’s important to have an answer ready when specific concerns come up.

Most dangerous misconceptions derive from one myth: that translation is about replacing word A in the source language with word B in the target language. Clients who believe that translation is simply about replacing words will generally think that:

  • Translation is a fast and simple process.
  • Anyone who speaks a foreign language or is bilingual can translate and/or review translations.
  • Machine translations are as good as human translations.
  • There’s only one possible translation for every text.
  • Back translation is a good indicator of the quality of a translation.
  • Source and target copy are similar in length and structure.

To the Biased Client, translation is easy, fast, and predictable, and any bilingual person is as valuable and knowledgeable as the next. Hence the importance of quickly, clearly, and consistently disproving the following dangerous misconceptions one at a time:

Translation is a fast and simple process.

Answer: Translation is an elaborate deconstruction-reconstruction process that consists of interpreting words and ideas and “exporting” them into another language and culture. That process is as complex and time consuming as writing (i.e., not typing, but actually writing creative/technical copy). It is also a process that may take longer depending on the level of creativity, complexity, or technicality of the text. My experience has been that professional translators will translate around 250-350 words per hour. Delivery time may be hastened, but not without sacrificing quality, accuracy, or consistency.

Anyone who speaks a foreign language or is bilingual can translate.

Answer: There is more to translating than understanding and being able to speak another language. Just as being able to speak/write English doesn’t make you a writer, being able to speak a language doesn’t make you a translator. Professional translators are skilled writers with the language skills, subject-matter expertise, and the socio-cultural knowledge needed to produce an accurate text that reads well in the target language and with which target readers can relate. Even the skills required to interpret or teach another language are different than the set of skills required to translate (and vice versa).

Anyone who speaks a foreign language or is bilingual can review translations.

Answer: The decisions made by the professional translator during the translation process are based on numerous factors: interpretation, style, lexical choices, research, available space, errors in the source copy, background material and reference copy, etc. Unless the reviewer is also a linguist and is aware of all the factors that the translator had to consider during translation, the edits made to the text may harm it instead of improve it.

Machine translations are as good as human translations.

Answer: While automated translation has come a long way and may be helpful to get the gist of simple texts, raw computer output is unviable as a finished printed product. Machine translation programs typically translate sentences word for word, failing to take context, sense, or style into account. These programs do not distinguish between different meanings of the same word. They cannot analyze technical terminology.

There is only one possible translation for every text.

Answer: Translating is not about transposing words, but about expressing ideas into another language. Any idea can be phrased in many different ways. A translation may vary based on interpretation, lexical choice, style, context, available space, target readers, and many other factors. Ask 10 professional translators to translate the same sentence, and chances are you’ll get 10 different translations—all of which may be correct.

Back translation is a good indicator of the quality of a translation.

Answer: A back-translation is intended only to ensure that a translation’s original meaning has been conveyed correctly. Because translation depends on many factors (lexical choices, style, etc.), a back translation will not result in a text that is identical to the source text, and therefore cannot be used as the sole indicator of the quality of a translation.

Source and target copy are similar in length and structure.

Answer: Different languages follow different grammar, semantic, phrase construction, punctuation, and typography rules, which results in many differences between source and target texts, including differences in length and structure/layout. When working with language pairs with a significant difference in length, it is unlikely that same-length translation can be achieved—at least not without sacrificing content, style, or some other element of the original text. Since phrase construction differs from one language to the next, it is also unlikely that the source and target texts can be laid out exactly the same way.

Regardless of how much your client learns to appreciate you as a professional over time, it may take much repetition for the facts above to replace the preconceived ideas that have anchored themselves in his “pre-educated mind.” Though some situations can try your endurance, it is important to be patient and strive to provide clear, consistent answers. In really desperate situations, remember: a good sense of humor goes a long way, and it’s always better to laugh (at situations, never at clients) than pull your hair out.

Even after working with the same Biased Client for many years, you might still get unexpected surprises! Here are a few real-life examples that prove that even the most hopeless-looking situations are not without moments of humor:

Client: We need this in three days, but send it before if you can (concerning a 150,000-word, brand-new-content text).

Client: We noticed that the three-line burst in this ad didn’t follow the same order as the original text, but it must for artistic purposes, so we’ve moved words around (and published it without checking with you first).

Client: There’s a problem with the translation you provided. We double-checked it with Google Translate, and it doesn’t say what we want.

Situations like those might feel discouraging, especially if you’ve been working with (and educating) your client for a while, but provided that your message is consistent and you have nerves of steel, there’s hope that your client will one day understand enough about translation to trust you and allow you to do the same. Unfortunately, the same cannot always be said of our last type of “uneducated” client.

The Recalcitrant Client

The Recalcitrant Client (who could as easily have been called the Know-Better Client) may not be as easily “spottable” as his counterparts because, unlike them, he doesn’t fit the typical profile of the uneducated client. The Recalcitrant Client is not necessarily new to translation, monolingual, badly informed, or ill advised. At first, he may even seem familiar with the target language and/or the translation process. But working with him soon becomes the utmost challenge as you realize that, to him, everything seems “wrong” (although he will seldom provide you with any direction on how to make it right). It may also take all of your skill, patience, and guile to reach a point where you may have a relatively good working relationship with him—if ever.

The truth of the matter is that when it comes to the Recalcitrant Client, you’re not dealing with someone who necessarily lacks information or has preconceived ideas about translation. Actually, what seems to drive the client to doubt your work doesn’t have anything to do with language or translation! Most often, it has to do with mistrust, and perhaps even ego and/or control. Whether the client has any knowledge of the target language or not, he believes that he knows better. He will always doubt, question, and ultimately revise your work, even if he has to resort to machine translation to do so.

Unlike his counterparts, the Recalcitrant Client seldom sees things objectively, and no evidence, explanation, or rework ever seems to satisfy him. That is, unless he feels that he’s had decisive input in the final text or got you to acquiesce to all his demands. Whether that’s something you can do depends on your personality, the value you put on your work and professional reputation, and how much of your livelihood depends on him.

When working as an in-house translator, you might have little choice in the matter. When working as a freelance translator on the other hand, you always have the option to “fire” your Recalcitrant Client (especially if the situation has turned abusive). The following advice about how to deal with overly difficult clients, originally written by Judy Jenner (author of “The Entrepreneurial Linguist” column in The ATA Chronicle), is pertinent:

If your customer makes your stomach turn, you are losing sleep, or can’t talk about anything else, perhaps it’s time to prioritize your mental health over your business’ bottom line […].

A translator’s job is complex enough, and while we should always be prepared and willing to educate our clients (because it’s to our mutual benefit), client education should not occupy most of our time or resources. While we can reasonably anticipate having to explain repeatedly that computer-assisted translation is different from machine translation and that we’re the ones doing the work (and therefore need time), we can’t be expected to consent to unrealistic demands, intentionally damage translations, or spend hours justifying every single word because the dictionary, Google Translate, or our client’s bilingual accountant (or plumber) “says something else.”

Ultimately, It’s All about Trust … and Patience

When working with clients who are familiar enough with translation and/or the target language to be able to provide constructive input, the ensuing relationship feels more like a partnership than a service provider-client relationship. That’s really what all translators strive for: trust, collaboration, and mutual respect. Getting there may take a little longer with “uneducated” clients, but it’s an attainable goal for most.

The vast majority of “uneducated” clients are “educable” (or at least willing to get educated), and even though they may never thoroughly appreciate the difficulty of our work, they’ll get to understand enough of the translation process to develop a positive, trusting, and mutually beneficial working relationship with us. As for dealing with those few “uneducable” clients who may cross our path from time to time, the choice is ours. We may either choose to get crafty, yield, terminate the relationship, or hope and trust that “a little persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.” Meanwhile, keeping a sense of humor is not a bad idea!

Business and Marketing Tips for Translators: Direct Client Contact Ideas

This post originally appeared on The ATA Chronicle and it is republished with permission.

Companies are looking for someone who is more than just a great translator and writer. They’re looking for someone who can translate, provide cultural and background expertise, and who is in tune with the company’s vision.

Finding and contacting potential direct clients can be perplexing for translators. One of the challenges is performing appropriately within the context of the client relationship. I’m always on the prowl for tips on how to finesse these relationships.

Recently, I listened to a webinar by Ed Gandia entitled “How to Launch a Profitable B2B Writing Business in 10 Weeks or Less.”1 While this audio course focused primarily on writers and copywriters and how they can make money quickly by zeroing in on corporate content writing, a number of strategies and ideas stood out to me as being relevant to translators marketing their services and dealing with direct clients.

Writing for businesses that sell to other businesses can be very profitable. Think potentially doubling whatever you thought would be a healthy freelancing income in our profession and you’ll get an idea about your potential profit margins for corporate content writing. How is this related to direct translation clients and a healthy freelancing career? Well, it has to do with the approach: being focused and strategic. As freelancers, we’re always trying to get on the right radar. We know clients are out there and that they need us, but exactly how to reach them is the issue.

Focus on What Clients Need

The first step toward securing clients is to stop pestering potential ones with details about what we do. Yes, we have to educate clients, but we can’t just overwhelm them with that education from the very beginning. We have to ease them into it, like getting in a hot tub. But before we invite them in, let’s make sure they have a swimsuit on and that they like to soak.

So, how can we get to clients? How can we let them know that we’re here to solve their problems? By offering to help with what they need most and learning about their businesses. Keep in mind that what you can do for clients and what they need can be two different things. In order to get the business we want—the fun projects, the high profile names, the work that makes a difference—before all that, we have to get clients, confidence, and experience. How? Once you’ve listened to what clients need, deliver it to them by going the extra mile.

Look Beyond Your Current Contacts

Find your ideal potential clients by looking for a business that offers services or products that are new, expensive, and complex, and—this is the key for translators—a business that wants to expand into a target market for your native language. This should be a company that has a lot of written material to explain and inform about the services and products it offers. This is a good time to showcase your writing skills as a translator by providing excellent copy in your target language.

The crux of the thing here is that companies are looking for someone who is more than just a great translator and writer. They’re looking for someone who can translate, provide cultural and background expertise, and who is in tune with the company’s vision.

To find these elusive companies, invest in a hyper-focused marketing effort. Hyper-focused? Yes, this is going to require some reflection. But break through those usual barriers where you say to yourself, “I don’t know anyone who needs my services,” or “I’ve already told everyone about what I do.” Instead, look beyond your contacts to the people they know. Investigate their circles online and consider where you could do meaningful work (i.e., the type of work that you enjoy most and excel). Here’s a possible path your thinking could follow:

  • Think about the people you know in professional and personal circles.
  • Think about the people you know and the companies where they work. Are you interested in any of those companies as potential clients?
  • What’s your specialty or favorite type of text? What sector is it?
  • Have you ever done work in that area? Ask a contact from a previous project for a recommendation.

For online research, you can start by looking at your contacts’ contacts on LinkedIn to see if there is an area where you can fill a need. For example, I browsed an investment banker’s contacts recently and not only learned a lot, but also got some great ideas for potential leads, even though I’m not involved in financial translation. (As a courtesy, you might want to mention to your existing contact that you found a potential lead on their profile list.)

Shift Your Focus

When you market your services as a translator, consider shifting your focus away from telling prospects about your business and services. Instead, how about learning about the companies your clients run and how they are organized? What do they want and need, and how can you make that happen for them?

For example, say you want to translate a book describing photography from the state where you live for a client in your source-language country. You know a client who will publish such a translation in your target language. Boom! Sounds great, right? But this client doesn’t know you, and the photography book is one of the most important things they’re doing this year. By finding the areas where they need help, not what you want to do for them, you get your foot in their door. Ask clients what their most urgent communication needs are related to cultural questions, translation, interpreting, or another service at which you excel.

Oh, and don’t forget to mention any certifications. Recently, I told a client that I’m certified as a translator by the Judiciary Council of the State of Jalisco. Although this has little to do with being a literary translator, it turned out that the client needed someone with this certification. After helping the client in this way, I became liked, known, and trusted. This is a great place to start a long-term relationship with a client.

Market Yourself as a Problem Solver, but Be Selective

Every client needs someone to solve his or her communication problems. Translators are in a unique position to do so because of the complexity of their work and the level of skill required. For each step in the translation process, the translator changes roles: from researcher to cultural expert; from writer to editor to word processor; from customer services representative to bookkeeper to innovator; from friend to colleague to mentor. What are we missing? Business, sales, negotiation, and soft skills (e.g., interpersonal skills).2

Clients need you to take the tasks off their hands that they don’t understand completely but realize are important. Unfortunately, working with clients who have no idea what translation involves is not the road to increased income and a comfortable freelancing career. Every freelancer works with clients who aren’t from the word world (i.e. linguists, writers, editors, etc.), and every professional has to explain what he or she does. However, if you work with clients who have even an inkling of what you do and why it’s important, you’ll be able to do business faster, more productively, and ultimately, more successfully.

In his webinar, Ed Gandia alludes to a great parable about a man selling watches. Ed’s advice: if you’re selling watches, don’t try to sell to someone who doesn’t have a watch, since this is very hard. You need to find those clients who already have a watch and know its value. In our case, this means clients who appreciate the value of translation.

Whatever the reason for clients having some knowledge about what you do, it’s very helpful. Maybe it’s because you’re not the first translator they’re dealing with, maybe the text was botched the first time. Maybe it’s a marketing department at a large company where they know that translation is important, but don’t exactly understand everything that’s involved in shifting a text from one culture to another. Whatever it is, the kind of clients you market to makes all the difference.

Stockpiling Documents

I listened to another talk by legendary copywriter Bob Bly, and his marketing strategies are pure genius.3 In terms of positioning—that is, how you communicate with clients and the value you bring to their business—his strategies and suggestions are spot on in relation to freelance translation.

In addition to the types of clients to whom you market, the sheer number is crucial. Bob’s suggestion is to try and get two to five times the leads you can handle. In his words: “Don’t market to get business, market to have choice.”

How can you help ensure that your marketing efforts stand out? Freelance translators looking to attract great direct clients should have a cache of professional documents, samples, and website pages. When clients need information about what you do or your work process, you should have documents ready to send out that describe and highlight your value and explain your approach. For translators, this might mean a document showing how historical miscommunications have led to costly errors, or the traditional example of company names not working in target cultures.4

A great way to get clients’ attention is to show them how your cultural knowledge can help them save time and money. Find a translation blunder in your prospect’s industry and you’ll be sure to impress. This leads to a more satisfying business relationship and in turn generates new insights in your clients about the culture of their customers and suppliers. This document could include examples from their industry or that show how important it is to localize content. There are great examples in the book Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World, by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche. Here’s an excerpt:

When Mistranslations Cost Millions
Banking and financial services giant HSBC had a popular Assume Nothing campaign, but the phrase was mistranslated as “Do Nothing” in several countries. How to repair the damage done to the brand? A $10 million rebranding initiative soon followed.5

As an added value, you can check if the client has localized their products in your target language, or send them a short paragraph on why the brand name would work in country X, which, incidentally, might also be a good place to export. When you have industry-specific examples ready, it’s easy to connect with and educate clients.

Another suggestion is to write a book to market yourself. This could be great for many translators with vast specialty knowledge. A nonfiction book, a handout, or a pamphlet on your specialty knowledge subject area might be just the ticket. Your book could get noticed. As word spreads, you’ll gradually gain a reputation as an expert on the subject, and clients will come to you. This happens when someone buys your book, tells other people about it, or simply keeps it and picks it up again later. When you’ve written a book on a specialized sector you boost your authority and exposure. You can also send copies of your book to potential clients. Bob says it best: “A book is a brochure that will never be thrown away.” Remember, in every business, professionals have to explain what they do.

Take Advantage of ATA’s Client Outreach Kit

For translators working with clients who don’t have a precise idea about what translators or interpreters do, a short, informative, and entertaining document, brochure, case study or short presentation prepared beforehand with clients in mind is an invaluable resource. ATA’s Client Outreach Kit will help with some ideas on how to prepare your material.6 These documents will also showcase your writing skills, but they must be flawless. Get a top-notch translation editor to look over your material so that clients will be drawn in by the meticulous copy.

It’s Time to Determine What Works for You

What marketing methods have worked for you with direct clients? What cultural quandaries have you come into contact with? Consider creating a list with examples to use with future clients!

Notes
  1. “High-Level Business Writing with Ed Gandia,” http://b2blauncher.com.
  2. For a basic definition of soft skills, see http://bit.ly/soft-skills-defined.
  3. Bly, Bob. “Ten Steps to Having a Great Copywriting Career for Life,” http://bit.ly/Bob_Bly-talk.
  4. “13 Unfortunate Translations that Harmed Brand Reputations,” http://bit.ly/unfortunate-translations; also see “11 Brand Names that Sound Hilarious in a Different Language” (Huffington Post, August 11, 2012), http://bit.ly/hilarious-translations.
  5. Kelly, Nataly, and Jost Zetzsche. Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World (Perigee Books, 2012).
  6. ATA Client Outreach Kit, www.atanet.org/client_outreach.

Author bio

Jesse Tomlinson is an interpreter and translator and splits her time between Canada and México. She translates from Spanish into English and interprets in both languages. Her special interests lie in Mexican culture, the tequila industry, and literature. Website: www.tomlinsontranslations.com

 

How to maintain a healthy work/life balance

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

Work plays a significant role in all our lives. We need it to keep the lights on, our stomachs full, money in the pot and a roof over our head.
Whether you work as a freelance translator, as part of an agency, or within an in-house translation team, the working culture within the localization industry has seen a considerable shift in 2020. The amount of time we spend working remotely has increased and the technology on offer to us has continued to grow more sophisticated. As freelance translators have long known, and as many agency and corporate translators have since learned, home working certainly has its benefits; you don’t have to spend large chunks of your day stuck in traffic, sitting in uncomfortable work clothes or choking down the unpleasant way a colleague makes your coffee. And the growing sophistication of the CAT tools we use, whether working from the office or at home, means translating is faster, simpler, and more consistent than ever.And yet… when you work where you simultaneously live, and have the other staples of progressive technology — smartphone, email and social media for example — vying for your attention too, how do you strike a healthy balance between work and life?

Jamie Hartz of Tilde Language Services is an ATA-certified freelance Spanish-to-English translator who provides services to clients in a variety of industries. The juggling act of trying to maintain a healthy balance between the professional and personal facets of life as a translation professional is something Jamie is all too familiar with, so she has kindly shared some of the top tips she uses to combat the common issues that arise when trying to achieve equity between the two.

1. Resist the temptation to be ‘always on’

The value of this tip depends on the individual person, but I know that, particularly at the early stage of my career as a freelancer, I found it very difficult to step away from being available.This is perhaps mainly relevant to freelancers who worry that if they ever aren’t available, then they’re missing out on opportunities. If you miss an email or if you don’t respond within a certain amount of time then you worry that you may disappoint clients, or even lose them. This paranoia isn’t unjustified, because there can be opportunities that present within a very small window of time, but you have to make peace with the fact that there are always going to be opportunities that you miss – most of which you won’t ever know about anyway.

For agency or corporate freelancers it’s different, but there may still be pressures to be ‘on’ after hours or at weekends, and you need to be careful about drawing clear lines if necessary.

So when you step away from your desk, resist the temptation to obsessively check your phone for work emails, and don’t let ‘always on’ notifications become exhausting.

2. Dispel the pervasive guilt

Especially now in 2020, we have translation professionals who would normally work in an office having to adjust to working from home, and those of us who normally work from home offices are having them invaded by people who wouldn’t previously have been there.I know a lot of colleagues who have their children at home and are trying to home-school them and work alongside a spouse or partner who is also having to work from home. While we are fortunate to be able to work from home during this pandemic, having other people around you who are demanding your time and attention can create a sense of guilt.

If you are diligently working on your translation projects, you may feel guilty for not paying attention to your children or spending time with your spouse. Alternatively, you may go off and spend an hour in the middle of the afternoon playing with your children or taking a walk with your spouse and then you feel guilty about not being available for your work.

I think there’s a certain level of guilt which we experience no matter what type of balance we try to strike between work and life — and that isn’t really fair because the guilt is not productive for us. Make sure you set aside allocated time for your family and don’t let guilt paralyze you when it comes to setting those boundaries.

3. Don’t take on more work than you are comfortable with

Everyone has to draw a line if work becomes ‘too much’ (though naturally what constitutes ‘too much’ will differ for different people).For agency and corporate translators, if your volume of work is consistently uncomfortable, you’ll need to have a conversation with your manager. If you are a freelancer, especially a new one getting started, securing a particular client who you know is going to be a good source of work in the future can lead you to take on more work than you would ideally like. Ultimately, though, that line still has to be drawn so that you don’t make a counterproductive decision where you are taking on so much work that it’s negatively impacting other areas of your personal or professional life.

During the pandemic, in particular, I’ve noticed that the busy weeks are busier than ever and the slow weeks are slower than ever so there is that temptation, when something comes along, to feel that I have to take it because I don’t know what will come next week. This is part of what makes the 2020 pandemic so problematic.

The key for me is to ask: can I do a good job of everything I’ve committed to? Whether you’re a freelancer like me or not, always ask yourself this before you agree to new projects.

4. No matter how busy you are, take a break —and eat!

Yes, you may have a lot of work on, but take a break anyway. Taking a short break and stepping away is a good way of getting some perspective on your work. Meal breaks are a good excuse for this, as you should never eat at your desk. Use them to give your eyes and mind a rest so that you can come back to your work refreshed.I can’t count the number of times I’ve worked through lunch and it’s gotten to two o’clock in the afternoon (I normally eat at noon) and I’ve realized that I’m nowhere near as productive as I need to be — and it’s simply because I’m hungry! Don’t overlook basic needs. Remember that something as simple as stepping away to eat can make a huge difference.

5. Set realistic expectations for your day-to-day work

Set up a schedule of what you will be working on, at what times and for how long each day. I use Google Calendar to manage my time because I find it extremely useful to be able to look at my day before it has even started and see what chunks of time I am going to be committing to each of my tasks that I have planned to do that day. It helps me to organize my projects and thoughts and generally alleviates my stress levels because I’ve got everything right in front of me.A calendar can also help you define the boundary between work and personal life, in that you can even color-code personal activities versus work activities and see the balance that you’re creating between the two. One way I’ve managed to combat the temptation to work too much is to schedule commitments to friends and family in my calendar that I know will inhibit me from accepting work that I don’t have time for. You can also look back over previous weeks and see how well you’ve done with setting those expectations, and then potentially set up future weeks in the same way.

One of the most important things to note about setting a schedule is that it has to be adaptable. It has to be flexible to change because things can and do suddenly come up – that’s the nature of the business we work in.

6. Use an out-of-office responder

There are certain times when I need to be completely removed from my email and my computer, but there are also times when I want clients to know that while I may not be tethered to my desk, I am still reachable.
Setting up an out-of-office responder is an effective way of giving myself space. I will normally have it set up to state I am ‘away from my desk’ but that I will get back to them as and when I can.
This is a really simple but effective tool you can use to help set clear lines when it comes to your ability to work without completely cutting people off. Clients will know you are still open to work and can expect a response from you, but that urgent requests will not sit within the realms of your availability.
In a sense, your out-of-office responder can act as a cushion between your work and your personal life – use it wisely to give yourself that extra bit of breathing room.

7. Take part in a stress-reducing activity

Personally, I run as a means of exercise and as a way to relieve stress. You don’t have to run, or even necessarily ‘exercise’ per se, but I think everyone should have some sort of stress-reducing activity that they love.
It could be yoga, it could be knitting, it could be taking a walk with your dog. Anything that gets the endorphins going in your brain will reduce stress and help you focus on your work with a better sense of clarity when you need to.

8. Make technology work for you

There are so many brilliant apps out there that can help you manage your work and recreation time, from the Google Calendar I mentioned earlier to the pomodoro timers people use to help them stay focused on one particular task.I use the Digital Wellbeing app which gives you a daily view of your digital habits. It’s got a really useful ‘bedtime’ setting which turns notifications off during your allocated ‘bedtime’ period. This stops me receiving notifications during this time and, in turn, helps me to stop feeling like I have to check my emails outside of my allotted working time.

A colleague also recently mentioned the Timeular app to me. I haven’t used it personally but as I understand it, you buy an eight-sided ‘tracking die’ which links to your phone and you flip the die onto the correct side that is associated with the task you are currently working on. The die tracks the amount of time you spend doing each task and tells you where each minute of your day is spent. It sounds really interesting!

If working from home is a recent adjustment you have had to make this year, or if you are just looking for some further holistic advice, our ‘how to stay productive and healthy when working from home’ blog contains some more pragmatic tips on how to stay as efficient as possible when having to work remotely.Having a healthy mind is just as important for translators as having a healthy body, and the two are more intrinsically linked than you may think. Take a look at our ‘simple tips to help you keep a positive mindset as a busy translation professional’ blog and harness the power of positive thought to help bolster your translation productivity.

Author bio

Rebecca White is a Digital Marketing Executive for Translation Productivity at RWS with a passion for creative content generation, social media engagement and product analysis.