How and Why You Should Diversify Your Freelance Translation Business (COVID-19 Series)

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

More and more translators are seeing the need to diversify their freelance businesses these days.

Entrepreneur defines diversification as “a risk-reduction strategy that involves adding product, services, location, customers and markets to your company’s portfolio.”

For many translators, the idea of diversifying their business may have never been a top priority. You may even be thinking, “I’m a translator. I translate. What else could I offer my clients?”

I get it. But being a professional translator doesn’t mean you have to fit into a box of only offering translation services. Yes, you should take the time to hone your craft as much as you can. But as you become more established, diversification is simply a smart business move.

Diversifying your freelance translation business can help you through those bouts of “famine” that so many freelancers talk about.

In fact, the current economic crisis has taught a lot of businesses the lesson of not putting all their eggs in one basket. Those who are thriving are the ones who either pivoted quickly—ƒor example, the businesses that started offering curbside pick-up or delivery or those that moved their in-person offerings to a virtual setting—or those who recognized the importance of diversification before the pandemic broke out and the economy was turned upside down.

Why you should diversify your freelance translation business

If you have not been affected financially by the economic crisis that resulted from COVID-19, count yourself as one of the lucky ones. Maybe your specializations have allowed you to keep your usual workload mostly the same, or maybe you’ve already diversified your business.

I consider myself to fit squarely in both of these categories. And while I couldn’t have foreseen that my specializations (medicine and life sciences) would still be in high demand during all this—and I feel very much for my colleagues who have lost a large portion of their business as a result of this crisis—I did learn the tough lesson of having to diversify my business long before 2020.

Ready for a story?…

About five years ago, I took a bit of a chance (okay, a big one) by letting go of a client that was absolutely draining. I worked for them all. the. time. For many people, this might not seem like a problem. But the pay was not great, and the hours were long. They also didn’t respect boundaries related to weekends and vacation. I was left with no time to market my business to other clients who paid better and respected my work/life boundaries more.

After thinking about it for far longer that I’d like to admit, I made the decision to say “goodbye” to this client. I had a handful of other anchor clients who sent me steady work, and my husband and I were ready to expand our family. While letting go of this client meant that I was also saying “goodbye” to about $50,000 worth of my annual income (yes, you read that correctly), I was confident because I was making enough money at the time that I felt comfortable taking a financial hit for a several months while I looked for new clients to make up the difference in income.

Well, since life rarely works out the way we expect it to, I’ll cut this story short and tell you that my plan didn’t go as planned.

One of my other anchor clients ended up getting purchased by a larger company, and they completely stopped all of their vendor contracts that weren’t considered essential for close to a year while they reviewed their financial structure. Around the same time, I became pregnant with my daughter and my mother became very sick.

Over the course of the following year, I dealt with the challenges of new parenthood while mourning the loss of my mother.

It was a very rough year.

But it was during this time that I also learned to rebuild my business. I had never struggled financially as a freelancer like this until this point, so I felt some confidence in knowing I could find new clients. It would just take some time. I also promised myself that I would never again count on any one client or income stream to keep my business afloat.

Much like the circumstances I was experiencing (which I could not have foreseen), a global pandemic like COVID-19 and an economic crisis of this magnitude are also not something anyone any of us could have seen coming.

But what we can do is be proactive in preparing ourselves for what’s to come in the future (yes, another financial crisis will happen in our lifetimes… at least one more, depending on how much longer you plan to work).

So, instead of kicking ourselves for not diversifying our businesses sooner—trust me, it doesn’t work to keep this up and it isn’t good for your mental health either—we can turn that energy into something more productive by making a plan, even if we don’t know all the steps to make it work just yet.

The answer to the question, “Why should I diversify my translation business?” is simple.

Because it’s just smart business. Diversification doesn’t mean you’re “selling out” on what you’ve studied for years or the reason you became a translator in the first place.

Instead, you’re taking proactive steps to ensure the long-term stability of your business, both during a financial crisis and for the future.

How do you diversify your freelance translation business?

Consider, first, how you can position yourself now for the long term. You may have never thought about positioning yourself, but if you give it some thought and put some strategy behind this process, you can easily be seen and sought as an expert in your specialization/language pair or a complementary skill that you have.

Ask yourself:

  • What do you want to be known for?

  • What skills do you have that you can offer someone that would help them reach their goals?

Yes, translation can certainly help someone reach their goals, but what else do you have to offer in addition to being a translator?

Perhaps you’re an expert in patent translation. Your clients know it. Your colleagues know it. But you’re not just a translator. You’re an expert in a very complex field. What can you do with this?

Go back to the questions above and consider the challenges that others face with patent translation—both other translators and your clients. What challenges can you help them overcome? What can you offer, in addition to translation or to complement it, that will help them reach their goals?

Others in our professions are already diversifying their service offerings and taking advantage of their complementary knowledge and skills. I know many colleagues who offer editing, post-editing, transcreation, localization, and more. Even if you already offer several translation-related services, perhaps you’re just scratching the surface. Think bigger!

Here are some ideas to help you brainstorm ways to diversify your translation business

These ideas (in no particular order) are in addition to the typical translation/editing/proofreading services so many of us already offer. For all of these services, I suggest getting training and doing quite a bit of research before you begin offering them to clients.

  • Audio editing

  • Consulting for clients and/or colleagues (on a wide range of topics, depending on your expertise)

  • Content/editorial calendar creation and strategy, especially for businesses that need this in your target language

  • Content for language-learning apps (I did for a while, and I recommend training in teaching and—like most items on this list—truly advanced language skills to do this well.)

  • Copywriting and content marketing

  • Ghostwriting

  • Language teaching (I did this for several years at different universities, and it can help improve your language skills while you earn some additional cash. Like most on this list, I recommend training in pedagogy methods before you ever begin teaching, of course.)

  • Linguistic validation

  • Localization

  • Monolingual editing for academics and researchers, graduate students, professors, etc.

  • Multilingual design/DTP

  • Project Management

  • Social media or blog content creation in your target language

  • Subtitling and dubbing (there are loads of resources available through ATA’s Audiovisual Division)

  • Training and teaching (especially virtually right now)

  • Transcription

  • Tutoring and conversation partner services

  • Voice-over work

Almost all of these ideas require you to tap into your language skills in some way, but of course, you could diversify your business with additional services that complement language-related skills, like design, website creation, etc.

In addition to brainstorming additional services that could help you diversify your business, consider additional specializations for your translation offerings.

Research what specializations are experiencing an uptick in volume right now, and ask yourself:

  • Do any of these complement your current specialization(s)?

  • Can you start working in one of these areas right away, or will you need some additional training first?

Check out this tweet (and the comments) from Jost Zetzsche from early April for insights from colleagues.

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 2.16.17 PM.png

As you can see, there are many opportunities to be had.

While I would recommend looking at your current specialization(s) and skill set first, there’s no stopping you from branching out into a completely different area of translation that is unrelated to your normal flow of work.

Get creative!

The point of diversification is to open new doors and to allow your business to still flourish during times when client work may be lacking in any one area.

To figure out how you can best serve your current clients during an economic crisis while diversifying your business, you could ask yourself these additional questions:

  • What are their challenges and goals right now during the COVID-19 pandemic? What will they be in the future, and how can you be ready to help them?

  • Similar to the previous questions, how can you help position your clients for the future? They will be going back to work and will be working at full capacity at some point (hopefully sooner than later). Many will need to communicate differently or more often with customers or put new protocols in place that may require your skills.

  • How can you create additional opportunities to help your clients while diversifying your business? For example, perhaps you translate websites for your clients. Could you possibly learn more about SEO translation to add even more value for your clients? What about multilingual copywriting?

By diversifying your business, you are empowering yourself to handle future challenges. You also get the opportunity to see what else interests you and where you have additional (and marketable) strengths.

How have you diversified your translation business? Or if diversification is new for you, what are you excited to dive into? I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the end of this post.

Author bio

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


Found in translation. The invisible art of translation deserves wider recognition.

This post originally appeared on New Statesman, and it is republished with permission.

I once met a French translator of Shakespeare. My immediate reaction on being introduced to him was odd: I felt a stab of envy. This French translator, I felt, could get really close to Shakespeare; I myself, being neither an actor nor a producer, could only read him.

My reaction was, of course, perverse. Most people would think that, as a native speaker of English, I can understand Shakespeare more intimately than any foreigner. Nevertheless, I had some idea of how deeply this translator might have pondered every word of the plays he was translating. I know, after all, that few Russians have pondered each word of Andrey Platonov’s stories as I have myself. And my collaborator Olga Meerson has often pointed out that a scholar or critic can choose which passages to focus on, whereas a translator has to do justice to every word of the original; he has to think about everything.

So, translating a great writer is nearly always rewarding. And I am especially fortunate in that there are several great Russian writers, especially of the Soviet period, who are still little known in the west, and whom I have had the honour of translating for the first time. Over 25 years ago I spent the best part of four months living almost as a hermit on the north coast of Cornwall in order to complete my translation of Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate. Yesterday Life and Fate was the number one best seller on Amazon. I feel I have achieved something.

And I know that other translators feel the same way. Here, for example, are a few lines from a recent blog by the poet and translator George Szirtes:

Translation has opened the door to new territories, new people, new understandings, new travel: a different field of recognition. It has felt good to offer new life to works in a language as little spoken as Hungarian. […]. I am glad that those I have translated have sometimes found opportunities to extend their readership to England and other English-speaking territories. So territory. I too live here. I live here with them and I like being with them.

In comparison with this sense of achievement, complaints about the invisibility of translators seem trivial. Nevertheless, if translators are, as a matter of course, undervalued, then it is hard for them to earn a living. And if it is hard for them to earn a living, then much good literature will either be translated badly or not translated at all. This matters; it is a loss to all of us.

A few days ago someone sent me an article about Life and Fate from The Economist. There is no mention of my name, but I was not intending to respond. I had, only a few days before, spent a lot of time and energy drawing attention to the BBC’s failure to mention my name in a press release for their dramatisation of the novel – and I was wanting to forget about all that and get on with my work. Then I caught sight of a review, on the preceeding page, of Is that a Fish in your Ear?, a book about translation by David Bellos. I wrote the following letter to The Economist:

Your review of David Bellos’s excellent book about translation refers to “the unrecognised importance of the craft”. Your review – on the following page – of the BBC dramatisation of Life and Fate illustrates this point very well. The review is titled “Vasily Grossman’s epic novel is transformed for the radi”‘. Nowhere, however, does it mention that Grossman’s novel has already undergone transformation from one language to another. From sentences like this you might even think that the novel was originally written in English: “The grittiness of Grossman’s dialogue becomes a little bland in the well-modulated voices of the British actors.” Yours, Robert Chandler (invisible translator of Life and Fate).

I enjoyed writing this; The Economist had presented me with an opportunity and I wanted to make the most of it. Nevertheless, what I wrote does not get to grips with this question of invisibility. Most people, after all, have some idea, if only from seeing a few bilingual restaurant menus, of how badly things can get mangled in translation; most people enjoy my story of a Petersburg restaurant that offered a starter called “beef language” – a dish more commonly known as ox tongue. Why then do so many people want to pretend that translators don’t exist?

One possible answer is that we are still in the grip of the Romantic ideal of individual creativity. We don’t like to think of great, serious works of art as being co-authored. We tend to forget about the librettists but for whom many great operas would never have been written. Scriptwriters probably get still more deeply forgotten. And even a famous writer, if he moonlights as a translator, can slip into the abyss; no less a figure than Christopher Hampton was recently omitted from the credits of a Polanski film based on a play by Yasmina Reza that Hampton had himself translated. Seamus Heaney, admittedly, was praised to the skies for his version of Beowulf – but this only reinforces my point. Beowulf is anonymous, and so there was no other author competing for the public’s attention. Only when a work of art does not demand to be taken too seriously are we willing to accept the idea of co-authorship. Gilbert and Sullivan are allowed to co-exist, and so are Laurel and Hardie. The two most popular satirists of twentieth-century Russia – Ilf and Petrov – also worked closely together, and their names – for Russians – are no less inseparable.

It is also worth adding that our Romantic view of creativity leads us to undervalue craft. After the omission of my name from the BBC press release, a colleague wrote that, “Sadly, the BBC display a lordly disdain for craftsmanship of all kinds – but especially the kind of skills which make things possible, and without which their stars and attendant orbiting egos could not shine.” This, of course, is probably equally true of most other branches of the media.

A Russian colleague said to me that translators are like rubbish collectors – only noticed when they don’t do their job. But the situation may actually be slightly worse: people often seem surprisingly eager to imagine that a translator is not doing his or her job. People who would trust a writer often do not trust a translator. Today, for example, I came across a largely enthusiastic customer review of Life and Fate on Amazon. After saying he had not found the novel difficult to read, the reviewer continued, “This is probably due in no small part to the excellent translation (at least my Russian speaking friends tell me so) although certain words or phrases do jar – would a “pike-perch” actually be what we call a sturgeon?” In reply I quoted the OED’s definition of a pike-perch: “pike-perch, a percoid fish of the genus Stizostedion, with jaws like those of a pike, species of which are found in European and N. American river”. What makes a reviewer single out one word in a book of several hundred thousand words? Why did he not first look the word up in a dictionary? The frequency of such criticisms makes many translators nervous about using language that is in the least out of the ordinary. This too is a loss.

I have, almost without exception, been fortunate as regards my publishers. My editors at Harvill, Harvill Secker, NYRB Classics, Penguin and the MacLehose Press have always made me feel that they value my work, and their editorial input has always been both sensitive and enormously helpful. But I have also been extremely fortunate in another respect: my wife – who is also my closest collaborator – has been able to support me through twenty years during which I have not once earned anything approaching an average income. Were it not for this support, I would never have been able to devote so much time to such an exceptionally difficult writer as Andrey Platonov.

In the past, I used not to speak of this; I felt ashamed. I mention it now because I think it is worth calling attention to the difficulties faced by literary translators in this country. I have sometimes joked that by the age of 70 I might at last – as the writers I translate become recognised – be earning a normal income. Most people, however, cannot afford to wait this long.

Author bio

Robert Chandler’s translations from Russian include works by Alexander Pushkin, Nikolay Leskov, Andrey Platonov and Vasily Grossman  (all NYRB Classics).  He is the editor and main translator of Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida and Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov. Together with Boris Dralyuk and Irina Mashinski, he has co-edited The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry. He has also translated selections of Sappho and Apollinaire. As well as running regular translation workshops in London and teaching on an annual literary translation summer school, he has worked as a mentor for the U.K. National Centre for Writing.  His most recent publication is Other Worlds (NYRB Classics and Pushkin Press), a fourth collection of stories and memoirs by Teffi.

How to Make Prospect Conversations Easier (and Land More Clients) with the ‘Selling Staircase’

This post originally appeared on High Income Business Writing, and it is republished with permission.

Many writers dread having discovery calls with new prospects.

Discovery calls are those first conversations you have with prospects where you discuss their need, their specific project … and hopefully, your fee.

Writers dread these conversations for two big reasons:

First, they don’t know what to say, and they worry they’ll say the wrong thing.

Second, they don’t know how to lead the conversation and increase the chances that the prospect will say yes.

In today’s podcast episode, I’m joined by Nikki Rausch. Nikki is a sales coach, author, speaker and founder of Sales Maven.

After 25 years of selling to such prestigious organizations as The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Hewlett-Packard, and NASA, Nikki traded in her road warrior status to help entrepreneurs sell in a way that creates true connections and results in more closed deals.

Nikki’s approach to this discovery call is well aligned with my own, and I learned a lot from her ideas and insights.

Tell us about yourself and your business 

Nikki is founder and CEO of Sales Maven. She teaches people how to get comfortable with the sales conversation. Nikki has over 25 years of sales experience and a background in neuro-linguistic programming.

You say the selling process is often misunderstood. What do people get wrong about it? 

People often think that selling is something you do TO someone. It’s actually something you do WITH someone.

When you sell WITH someone, it doesn’t feel manipulative. It’s to their benefit.

When you sell WITH someone, instead of TO someone, the process doesn’t feel manipulative.

You don’t need to be pushy, aggressive or push on people’s pain points to make the sale. Trying to shame or convince people to buy is a waste of time and degrades the relationship.

You don’t have to be a charming, quick-witted extrovert to sell. Everyone can find a way to sell that works for them.

Many of my listeners are introverted or shy. How can they get comfortable with selling?

It helps if you have a pre-defined process that you can follow.

Nikki’s five-step framework for sales:

  1. Introduction
  2. Curiosity
  3. Discovery or consultation
  4. Proposal
  5. Close

Let’s look at a typical scenario: You get an inbound lead over email, and they ask for your rate for an ebook.

When a lead comes to you, you’re in the discovery phase of the process. Because they reached to you, you have their permission to get more information.

If all of your inbound leads start with the question, “What is your price…?” then it can help to put some pricing on your website.

Sales conversations should have a balance of power. The person who asks the questions has the power, so neither you nor the prospect should ask all the questions.

At the start of the call, you should pre-frame what is going to happen during that call.

It can go something like this:

“Thanks so much for your interest…. The goal of our call today is to find out what’s going on for you and see if we have a solution…. These calls usually take xx minutes, does that work with your schedule…? Is it okay if I ask you a couple of questions?”

Have your questions prepared so you can see if this would be a good client for you and if you have a solution that would work for them.

If someone asks for your price straight away, you can give a range. To give a more precise price, ask for a phone call.

“Ebooks can range from $xx to $xx. In order to give a custom quote, we’ll need to have a quick conversation. Would you be open to setting a time to chat?”

Nikki recommends giving three possible meeting times.

“If you like this idea, I’ve listed a few possible times below. Please pick one that works best with your schedule.

Monday, anytime between xx and xxx.

Tuesday, anytime between xx and xxx.

Thursday, anytime between xx and xxx.

If you prefer something else, please let me know what works for you and I’ll do my best to be available.”

Nikki prefers this method over having a calendar scheduling link because the language around scheduling links often make it all about you and your availability — and not the prospective client.

Once they select a time, you do the work of sending them a calendar link.

A lot of writers shy away from talking about money during the discovery call. What questions can they ask to get the information they need?

It’s hard to put together a proposal if you don’t have the money conversation.

You can ask in different ways:

“What is your budget?”

“What have you budgeted?”

“Ebooks tend to range between $xx and $xx. Do you already have an idea of what you’re looking to spend?”

You need to have this conversation before you put a lot of time into developing a quote.

Talk money with prospective clients before you put time into developing a proposal.

What can you do to make the close feel more organic?

Once you’ve completed the discovery phase, you can ask permission to move to the proposal step.

“Based on what you’ve shared, I have an idea of a project that would give you what you need. Are you interested in learning more about it?”

If they say yes, you can lay out the offer. You’ve gotten their permission.

When you put together the proposal, you can give them several options. As the expert, you need to recommend what you think they NEED, not what you think they can afford.

Present the most expensive package first, but recommend the one that fits the best.

People don’t want to be upsold to a more expensive option. But at the same time, they need to understand what they’re giving up with less expensive options.

When you get permission to send them a proposal, you HAVE to say:

“Great! I’ll have that proposal to you by xxxx. Let’s schedule a circle-back call to review the proposal and answer any additional questions you may have.”

Attempt to get that call on their calendar before you get off the phone. If you don’t, they may never make a decision.

What do we need to say during that circle back call?

  1. “Have you looked over the proposal?”
  1. “What questions do you have?”
  1. “Are you ready to move forward with this?” or “Should we move forward with this?”

Stop talking once you’ve asked that last question.

Where can listeners learn more about you? 

Nikki’s website:

Nikki’s book and ebook:

Nikki’s book The Selling Staircase teaches the five steps of the sales process. You can find it anywhere books are sold.

Nikki also has an ebook, Closing the Sale, which focuses on the last step of the selling process.

Listeners of this podcast can get a copy of the ebook for free at

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).


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:

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:

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 You can find her on Twitter @detransferendo (English) and @EHippeHeisler (German). Website: