Escaping lockdown

Reblogged from SJB Translations’ blog, with permission (incl. the image)

How (and how not) to cope with big projects

A couple of weeks ago I won my freedom, or at least that’s what it felt like. I finally completed a series of big translation and revision projects that had kept me in what amounted to professional lockdown for more that two months. I’m now once again able to take on the projects I want without worrying about where I’m going to find the time to do them. I don’t have the pressure of knowing I still have thousands and thousands of words to translate and revise by a week on Thursday. And it feels great.

It was certainly a very unusual way to start the year. I’m used to January being a bit of a struggle, with things gradually picking up into February and March. 2018, though, has been different. It actually started last November with a phone call. Was I interested in translating a book? Well, as it turned out to be a historical study right up my street, of course I was. So I found myself one morning in Barcelona’s atmospheric Ateneu meeting the author and the publisher of the book.

“This has always been a place for conspiracies,” said the publisher, looking round the lounge where we sat with our coffees. “They still go on in here even today.” My eyes followed his gaze around the leather armchairs and into the dark corners of the room. I could well believe it, especially in the feverish political context of last autumn in Catalonia. But the only conspiracy we were hatching was for me to translate the best part of 100,000 words, one of the biggest jobs I’ve ever tackled. I had plenty of time to do it, and the deadline wasn’t rigid, but it triggered a series of events that led to my becoming “trapped”.

My big mistake was to fill up all the “gap days” I’d negotiated when agreeing the deadline for the history book so that I’d also be able to take on a little other work every week. The problem was that almost immediately along came a client demanding to pay in advance for a job that would fill more or less all this time I’d set aside. I felt I couldn’t say no, and the lockdown began so I was more or less forced to turn everything else away for two months.

Then another client popped up to remind me that I’d promised to revise his book, which was almost as long as the one I was translating. This wasn’t so much a last straw to break the translator’s back as an enormous tree trunk. I resisted. I even went as far as to sound out some colleagues about the possibility of them doing the job for my client and I told him it would be out of the question for me to do the job by the deadline he had given me but that I could arrange for an alternative. But it was no good, he wouldn’t budge: it had to be me. At this point I discovered that his deadline was more flexible than I had thought, so I gave him the earliest possible date I could, more than a month later than the one he had initially told me, and astonishingly he accepted. Now I was saved, but the lockdown had been extended by almost two weeks. It was going to be a long winter, especially as I was rapidly developing symptoms of the flu and somewhere into all this I had to fit in a trip to England to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday.

But I set to work, and really I can’t complain about the progress of the various projects. The work was interesting, I managed to keep my discipline and do it by more or less when I said I would, and the clients behaved exquisitely and paid their invoices almost immediately. There was simply no way I could have turned them down. But I also feel I didn’t always deal with the big projects especially well. So for anyone who is suddenly faced with a 100,000-word project here are some tips I learned, or was forcefully reminded of:

  1. Negotiate a generous deadline. Here, I was fortunate that my clients were willing to be flexible, but perhaps I could have pushed things even further and eased my situation by asking for another couple of weeks.
  2. Negotiate a good rate and never give discounts just because a project is big. I was happy with what I was earning from both these jobs and neither author asked for a reduction, but it is very important not to give one. Big projects bring their own particular problems, particularly concerning our ability to maintain consistency in all areas of the translation. That means anyone agreeing to work cheaply on a big project is highly likely to end up producing shoddy work and also liable to lose money on the project, compared with what they might have made on smaller pieces of work.
  3. Negotiate payment in installments. If you’re working on the same job for a period of several weeks or months you won’t want to wait until the end to be paid. In this case, I asked for three equal payments, one in advance (because it was a big job and I’d never worked for the client before), one in the middle of the work and one at the end. This worked well and the client turned out to be one of the prompted payers I’ve ever come across.
  4. Don’t panic. Seeing you’ve got 100,000 words to translate is daunting, no matter what the deadline. It’s easy to panic, but it’s something you need to avoid. Divide it by the number of working days or weeks you have available to do it and it suddenly seems much more manageable. Then all you you need to do is work in the same way as you always do and it WILL get done.
  5. Be disciplined. One of the big dangers on a large project is getting behind. Somehow, because the work is set out in front of you day after day, there’s a tendency to let things slip. If that happens, you not only end up missing the deadline, you lose money, because you probably wouldn’t have let things slide with short jobs and tighter deadlines.
  6. Learn to say no. I definitely should have done more of this. With hindsight, filling the “gap days” I’d managed to negotiated with another big job was a bad mistake, however enticing it might have seemed. Some work also came in that I couldn’t say no to, from regular direct clients and I had to make time to do this too, which meant working some weekends. For me, this is one of the most stressful aspects of being in the lockdown situation. It got to the stage where I hated looking in my inbox for fear of finding a mail from someone asking me to do another job. Not feeling like that any more is a huge relief.
  7. Refer work to colleagues. Some would say outsource, but I don’t like doing that because in those circumstances I would feel responsible for the work delivered. The last thing I need when I’m busy is the stress of having to project manage and revise other people’s work, even if I know them well. On the other hand, referring clients to colleagues who perhaps need the work and allowing them to deal directly with the client is an absolute pleasure and sometimes a necessity.
  8. Put off the unnecessary. While I had these big projects I’m afraid all non-essential e-mails went unanswered and all requests for forms to be filled in were unheeded. I also cancelled all marketing, not so much for reasons as time, as for fear that it might succeed. Despite the fact that one of the principles of marketing is that it should be consistent, even when you’re busy, in this case the last thing I wanted was for a new customer to suddenly appear.
  9. Don’t neglect your health or family. Despite the fact I had all that work to do, I did manage to continue my regular visits to the swimming pool and spend time with my wife and son. When I’d done my quota of work for the day, I forced myself to stop thinking of everything still to be done on the project. I tried to get ahead if possible without working unreasonable hours, but nightshifts weren’t going to solve anything on a project of that size.
  10. Remember there’s life and work after the big project. There comes a point, with a week or so to go, where it becomes possible to start saying “yes” to offers of work again, but sometimes the word “no” becomes so ingrained that you continue to turn projects down when it’s not really necessary. That’s a mistake, because you don’t want to suddenly go from frantically busy to having nothing to do.

Following this advice will help avoid the worst of the stress inevitably associated of accepting a large project. However, it probably won’t prevent the huge sigh of relief when it’s all over.

The Mentor’s Bounty: How Mentoring Enriches both Mentor and Mentee

During the 59th ATA Conference in New Orleans, a colleague asked me, “What was the motivation that drove a group of translators to create an audiovisual division in the ATA?” I sat for a minute, pondering. “Many different factors motivated each of us,” I said. He then asked, “Well, what do you think was the single most important thing?”

I replied without hesitation, “We want to help the next generation of audiovisual translators succeed.” And I think the most effective tool to achieve this goal is through mentoring. In this maiden edition of our newsletter, I wanted to briefly explore the meaning of the term “mentor,” as well as the benefits and responsibilities of being one.

Meaning

In the epic poem The Odyssey, by Homer, Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who stayed in Ithaca in charge of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus. Athena appears to Telemachus disguised as Mentor, and acts as his adviser. The common noun meaning “wise adviser” was first recorded in English in 1750, going back through Latin to the Greek character name¹.

Benefits

The benefits for the mentees are evident: It empowers them with essential information, feedback and support, and helps them build confidence and grow, both personally and professionally.

But are there any benefits for the mentor? Yes. There are benefits beyond “it looks really good in your résumé.” It improves your leadership and communication skills. You gain a renewed sense of pride in your profession. You get to share your experiences with a kindred spirit, somebody hungry to hear them, which is very satisfying. Most gratifying of all is to help a colleague succeed.

It will also teach you a few things. When your mentee says, “We do that differently now,” and shows you a more efficient route to doing the same task, you will be amazed. When you are explaining things to a novice, it makes you stop and take a look at how and why you do things, and helps you see everything through fresh eyes and revitalized interest. You will learn while you teach!

Responsibilities

While the mentee has responsibilities― to be open to constructive criticism, to learn and to do homework, to be willing to correct course, etc.― the mentor has greater responsibilities. Our mentee will adopt our way of doing things, both the good and the bad, so we have to be careful when we teach and never lose sight of ethics and values.

We must set a higher standard for ourselves, because we will be leading by example. We must remember our mentee looks up to us and our opinions and advice will carry a heavier weight than normal.

For me, as a mentor, the task is not to carry anyone up the mountain. It’s not even to hold their hand during the climb. For me, it’s preparing them for the climb: letting them know what kind of gear they will need, what kind of terrain lies ahead, if they will find inclement weather, what type of obstacles will be waiting for them, and teaching them how to sort them.

You can be a mentor

But who has time nowadays, with the pressures of work, family and daily life in general, you say? We all do. We all have to. In most cases, this commitment will only require a handful of hours a month from the mentor, but it will have a great impact in the mentee’s life.

All of us could spare that kind of time to give back, right? That’s why mentoring programs are so important. Nevertheless, the need for mentors is great. And the new generation needs you. Yes, you, the translator who is reading this post.

It so happens that the ATA has a mentoring program! You can look at the guidelines in the ATA website and watch the free webinar, here: https://www.atanet.org/careers/mentoring.php

References:

  1. “Etymology of ‘Mentor.’” English 591, Doctoral Colloquium, University of California, Santa Barbara. (October 8, 2004). http://oldsite.english.ucsb.edu/faculty/ayliu/courses/english591/2004-2005/materials/mentor-etymology.html
  2. Hart, E. Wayne. “Seven Ways to Be an Effective Mentor.” Forbes (June 30, 2010). https://www.forbes.com/2010/06/30/mentor-coach-executivetraining-leadership-managing-ccl.html#174fa4603fd3
  3. Smith, Jacquelyn. “How to Become a Great Mentor.” Forbes (May 17, 2013). https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/05/17/how-tobecome-a-great-mentor/#7f4243694f59

Image source: Pexels

Reblogged from the ATA Audiovisual Division newsletter, 1st edition, with permission

Author bio

Deborah Wexler was born and raised in Mexico City and immigrated to the United States in 1999, where she settled in Los Angeles. She is an ATA-certified English-to-Spanish translator and editor with over 20 years of experience, specializing in audiovisual translation and Spanish orthography. She has translated over 6,000 program hours for television, VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, streaming media, and the big screen. She works for a media processing company that provides translation services for Hollywood features and series, and independent and art-house films and documentaries. She is also a freelance audiovisual translator and quality control specialist. She is a frequent speaker at international conferences, and she is an educator that has mentored and trained many translators wanting to get into the subtitling field.

Why provide a forensic transcription translation?

Because of the risks involved, I recommended that instead of this we do a forensic transcription translation (FTT). As an on-site expert witness of the translation or interpreting of an audio or video product, or as an on-site simultaneous or consecutive interpreter of an audio recording or a video, I would not have the tools available for a proper analysis. Interpreting is “the process of first fully understanding, analyzing, and processing a spoken or signed message and then faithfully rendering it into another spoken or signed language. Interpreting is different from translation, which results in the creation of a written target text.”[2]

“The FTT professional must be willing to take the stand…”

According to the Oregon Judicial Department Best Practices for Working with an Interpreter[3], having an interpreter provide interpretation of a recording is not recommended for many reasons. The following is a sample of some of the reasons.

  • From an access to justice perspective, it is necessary to provide a full version that includes both the transcription and the translation to both parties, thus complying with the same rules for evidentiary written materials submitted in a non-English language.
  • The interpreter is required to be a neutral party in the proceedings, but the person providing interpretation on the recordings is an expert witness on the evidence presented. This removes the interpreter’s neutrality in the case.
  • Interpreters are required to interpret without explanation. In a transcription-translation, explanatory notes are provided.
  • The on-site interpreter is able to clear up slang/code terms by asking direct questions. When dealing with a video or sound recording, the FTT professional needs time to research the term.

Resources available

As FTT professionals, we have the following resources available, which are essential for our work:

  • Transcription software, which starts and stops the recording very accurately and allows us to loop a short section. It also allows us to adjust the speed of speech without altering the recording for better accuracy in transcription.
  • Access to a wide variety of dictionaries, including dictionaries of slang and regionalisms used in every Spanish-speaking country in the world.
  • The ability to review our product before turning it in since it will be scrutinized by others. Translation always involves the ability to review our work.

The most updated best practice is clearly explained in Fundamentals in Court Interpreting[4], quoted below.

Use a four-column format in which:

  • the first column (on the left) contains the line number;
  • the second column contains the speaker labels;
  • the third column contains the verbatim transcription of all utterances spoken in the source language as well as relevant contextual information, i.e., legend symbols; and
  • the fourth column contains the English translation.

The legend containing all symbols used in the FTT document should be conveniently available in the document to assist any client’s reading. The use of this format promotes readability and allows for efficient comparison of the discourse with other versions, should a challenge arise.

Chapter 40, section 8.2.1.c, “Using a Four-Column Format”

There is a three-column sample on page 7 of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) General Guidelines and Minimum Requirements for Transcript Translation in any Legal Setting[5], showing how to set up the columns, certify the translation, and develop a cover sheet. However, the standards have been updated since its publication and a four-column format is currently recommended.

Ideally, the same person does the transcription and the translation, and that person has interpreting and translation skills. NAJIT and other associations supported a description of transcriptionist/translator[6]. If the work of transcription and translation are separated, it is essential for the translator to have access to a digital copy of the transcription and a digital copy of the audio source to be able to incorporate metalinguistic data[7].

“…be questioned on every single utterance of the document, and attest to the accuracy of the translation in court.”

When the project is significantly large, it is often divided into sections for a team to produce the initial draft. All drafters produce full transcription-translations of their assigned sections and are under the same confidentiality and non-disclosure rules. Additionally, the team leader is responsible for performing a thorough review of the work of all drafters and is solely responsible for providing expert witness testimony in court regarding the final product.

The FTT professional must be willing to take the stand, be questioned on every single utterance of the document, and attest to the accuracy of the translation in court. FTT professionals often document their terminology research so as to be ready for these questions.

Because taking the stand involves having a very deep knowledge of the recording, translators and interpreters run a significant risk of being wrong if they evaluate a recording on the spot during a deposition or in court, instead of doing a full FTT.

According to the Oregon Courts, this would not provide proper access to justice and is not considered best practices for the use of an interpreter. See Appendix E, page 35 of Oregon Judicial Department Best Practices for Working with Interpreters[8].

[1] Salazar, Teresa C. and Segal, Gladys. 2006. Onsite Simultaneous Interpretation of a Sound File is Not Recommended. Accessed 06/23/2018. https://najit.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Onsite-Simultaneous-Interpre.pdf.

[2] ASTM International Designation F-2089-15 Standard Practice for Language Interpreting. West Conshohocken, PA.

[3] Oregon Judicial Department. 2016. Oregon Judicial Department Best Practices For Working with Interpreters. Accessed 06/23/2018. https://www.courts.oregon.gov/programs/interpreters/policies/Documents/OJD%20Best%20Practices%20for%20Working%20With%20Interpreters.pdf.

[4] Dueñas González, Roseann, Victoria F. Vásquez, and Holly Mikkelson. 2012. Fundamentals of Court Interpretation: Theory, Policy and Practice. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.

[5] National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators. 2003, revised 2009. General Guidelines and Minimum Requirements for Transcript Translation in any Legal Setting. Accessed 06 23, 2018. https://najit.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Guidelines-for-Transcript-Translation.pdf.

[6] 2015. T&I Descriptions. NAJIT. Accessed 06/23/2018. https://najit.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/TI-Descriptions.pdf.

[7] Dueñas González, Roseann, Victoria F. Vásquez, and Holly Mikkelson. 2012. Fundamentals of Court Interpretation: Theory, Policy and Practice. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.

[8] Oregon Judicial Department. 2016. Oregon Judicial Department Best Practices For Working with Interpreters. Accessed 06/23/2018. https://www.courts.oregon.gov/programs/interpreters/policies/Documents/OJD%20Best%20Practices%20for%20Working%20With%20Interpreters.pdf.


Teresa Salazar, MA, Translation and Interpretation, contributed to developing the content of this article.

[Helen Eby - 2018]Helen Eby is an ATA-certified translator (Spanish > English) and a certified DSHS Translator (English > Spanish) by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. She is also a Spanish state-certified (Oregon) court interpreter and a medical interpreter certified by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI), the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI) and the Oregon Health Authority. She has held volunteer positions in the ATA Spanish and Interpreting Divisions and in NAJIT, and is currently on the leadership team of the ATA Savvy Newcomer.

The Certification Toolbox: Get Ready!

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

Late fall and early winter are traditionally a slow time for ATA’s Certification Program, since no exam sittings are scheduled between ATA’s Annual Conference and the beginning of the new exam year in March. Certification graders take advantage of this respite to select new exam passages, fine-tune grading standards, and tend to other housekeeping tasks.

This period is also a good opportunity for prospective certification candidates to get ready to take the exam in 2017 by exploring ATA’s toolbox of exam preparation resources. Here’s an overview.

Practice Test

It can’t be said enough: completing a practice test and studying the results is one of the best ways to prepare for the exam. ATA practice tests are retired exam passages that the candidate translates at home and returns to ATA Headquarters. Practice tests are evaluated by graders in the same way as the actual exams. However, unlike the actual exam, the candidate receives a marked copy, showing each error with a brief explanation as needed. This is a terrific way for prospective candidates to see what sort of text they could encounter, how the grading standards are applied, and what skills they might need to work on to pass the exam. Best of all, practice tests will be available online in 2017.

New Media

ATA is committed to employing new media for preparing candidates for the certification exam. The latest example is a webinar given in September by Michèle Hansen and Holly Mikkelson. If you missed it, you can purchase a recording from ATA’s website: http://www.atanet.org/webinars. Stay tuned for other new media approaches to candidate preparation!

Website

Translators interested in certification often overlook the valuable information readily available on ATA’s website. The Certification Exam Overview and the Frequently Asked Questions are a good place to start. (See links at the end of this column.) If you’re contemplating sitting for the exam, be sure to check out these essential resources.

Prep sessions

This year’s Annual Conference in San Francisco included workshops to prepare candidates for the certification exam in four languages: Spanish, French, Japanese, and Italian. These in-depth sessions, moderated by certification graders, are extremely popular and considered highly useful by prospective candidates. Watch for them at next year’s conference in Washington, DC—but also think about asking your local chapter or affiliate to schedule a session at your local or regional conference in 2017.

Into-English Grading Standards

One overlooked and important resource for candidates is the Into-English Grading Standards (IEGS). This document, downloadable from ATA’s website, sets forth standards applied by all ATA graders of foreign-into-English language pairs when assessing a variety of issues, such as proper punctuation, nonparallel constructions, and split infinitives. It’s a must for exam candidates translating into English, and is especially useful at computerized sittings, since candidates can access the searchable PDF version on their computers.

Independent Practice

If you don’t translate material on general subjects on a regular basis, and/or you have not done timed tests lately, independent practice should be part of your personal exam preparation toolbox. A simple way to hone both skills—working with expository texts and working quickly—is to search the Internet for texts that resemble the practice test in your language pair. Good sources are articles from online publications written for a general (but educated) audience. Download articles that interest you, copy them into Word files, and set aside time to practice translating parts of them into your target language. If you’re very busy (as most of us are!), just start with one paragraph at a time, minimizing your use of reference tools (print and online dictionaries). After a few practice sessions, you’ll likely see your speed and facility improve.

Translation Instructions

The final tool is not something candidates can prepare for in advance, but it’s still an important part of the exam: paying close attention to the translation instructions that accompany each passage, specifying the source of the text, the reason it is being translated, the audience addressed by the translation, and the medium in which it will appear. This opening statement, which precedes each exam text and, in fact, should be considered part of the overall passage, gives the candidate important information about how to approach the translation task, especially with regard to style and register, but even in such basic regards as terminology and usage.

So, grab your toolbox and put it to good use! 

Links to Information about the Certification Exam

ATA Webinars on Demand
“A Guide to ATA Certification”
www.atanet.org/webinars

Certification Exam Overview
www.atanet.org/certification/aboutexams_overview.php

ATA Certification Into-English Grading Standards
www.atanet.org/certification/Into_English_Grading_2013.pdf

ATA Certification Program: Frequently Asked Questions
www.atanet.org/certification/certification_FAQ.php


Image source: Pixabay

David Stephenson serves as chair of ATA’s Certification Committee. Contact: david.translator@gmail.com.

The Seven Virtues of the New Translation Era

Building on the Rubble of the Shattered “Poverty Cult”

This article was first published in 1997 on the NCTA (Northern California Translators Association) website in the earliest days of the web. It’s a window into the translation industry as it existed more than 20 years ago, but the advice is more important than ever in today’s supercharged technology and business environment.

There is a great vibrancy and dynamism in the U.S. translation community today as translators stand up and refuse to surrender to the prevailing undertow of the “Poverty Cult,” a disease diagnosed and declared dead by Neil Inglis at the ATA Regional Conference in Washington, D.C. Inglis characterized what might be termed the Seven Deadly Sins of the Poverty Cult as “envying the success of others, gloating over the failure of others; a pervasive sense that it is better for everybody to fail than for a few to succeed; a sickly squeamishness where the subject of money is concerned; shabby gentility, more shabby than genteel; a widespread conviction that it is better to have a little and be secure than to take a gamble and risk losing everything; and last, and very much least, schadenfreude mixed with sour grapes.” I hereby offer the following Seven Virtues as guidelines for the aspiring translator striving to “cast off the counterproductive mentalities that paralyze translator progress in the United States.”

  1. Master Your Subjects.
    The first principle of commercial translation is to deliver a product of unparalleled quality. All long term success in the translation market is built on this foundation. The increasing complexity of modern technology and international commerce, however, has forced translators, journalists and other writers to develop increasing levels of sophistication and expertise in technology, law, banking, international trade and other fields. Translators with a formal education in the various subject areas have a huge advantage in the commercial market. There is simply nothing in the translator arsenal to substitute for mastery of subject matter. By hook or by crook, master your subjects. This expertise will improve the translation, solidify understanding, protect the client and enhance your authority. This authority is—not coincidentally—critical to the success of our profession. Forget nail biting through interminable “specialization vs. generalization” debates. Choose a few commercially viable specialty areas and learn everything about them. Remember that translators come in two varieties: “Specialists” and “hungry.”
  2. Appreciate Your Limits.
    If you ever come across a podiatrist who insists on surgically removing your spleen, you will soon discover why specialty knowledge is important. If you ever advertise yourself as a translator who can “do any subject,” you will look like the hapless podiatrist. The process of choosing specialty fields necessarily means not choosing many others. All good translators recognize the limits of their knowledge and turn down (or refer to colleagues) assignments that may imperil the quality of their product. The act of referring work to colleagues goes beyond charity: It protects the initial translator’s reputation by deflecting work that could deflate a hard won reputation for quality. It also promotes the notion that what translators do is sufficiently complex and demanding to require specialization. This happens to be true.
  3. Defend Your Product.
    If you work with direct clients (or the less reputable translation agencies) it is imperative to stand up and defend the integrity of your product against the full arsenal of assaults: Impossibly shrinking deadlines; the lost 40 pages that must be completed on the original deadline or the condemnation of your translation by the client’s sister who took a semester of French in college. Reputable translation agencies will fight this battle for you by establishing policies and practices that protect their product as well as their in house and freelance translators. The policies I have established at ASET place translators and editors in the role of decision makers not only on production and quality issues, but also on whether jobs are accepted by the company at all. Direct clients, on the other hand, have hired you the translator ostensibly to deliver expertise and a product that the client is unable to produce on his own. So, forget the mantra that “the client is always right.” In truth, there are good and bad clients, and the bad clients are almost always wrong when they insert themselves into the translation process. The good clients in the translation industry grasp this intuitively and recognize that they have hired a translator (or translation agency) to deliver a service they cannot. These clients will rely on the translator to look out for their interests on a level far in excess of their ability to judge it. They will give latitude sufficient to operate in a manner consistent with the translator’s quality standards, which in the end can only benefit them. Translators run into trouble when good clients start down the road toward bad, and the translator is foolish enough to actually follow the client down this road under the guise of “meeting the client’s needs.” This is idiotic and self destructive. What clients need to be told is that they are about to enter a minefield. No set of actions that places client circumstances above the quality level of the product (“I don’t care about quality, I need those 40 pages overnight!”) is ever acceptable, period. There is no excuse for a translator to act as a co conspirator by bowing to client demands that compromise that translator’s product. In the same way that no sane surgeon would ever agree to do a six hour triple bypass operation in a mere 45 minutes to meet the patient’s needs,” no translator should agree to butcher a translation toward the same end.
  4. Sign Your Work.
    The simple act of claiming authorship shatters the “black box” invisibility of the translation process and reinserts translators into their rightful place as craftsmen of the translation product. A host of respected translators, including John Bukacek in the U.S. and Chris Durban in Europe, have long promoted translators’ signing their work as a means to elevate public recognition and appreciation for the role of translators. The long absence of translators in the public consciousness has had many troubling and costly consequences for the profession, including a near universal lack of appreciation for what translators do—even among clients who should know better—and absurdly optimistic public expectations for machine translation and other automated solutions for leaping the language barrier. Translators who sign their work are also expressing confidence in their product in public while demonstrating the integrity to stand by their work.
  5. Quote Your Rate.
    One of the fastest ways to get rid of a plumber is to tell him what rate you will pay him to come fix your sink. The fact that plumbers slam down the phone at this kind of treatment and some translators do not is astonishing. Freelance translators are well advised to set rates at their own discretion and quote those rates to translation agencies (also referred to as “translation companies,” a preferred rendition, in this article). I can think of nothing that interests me less than what a translation company tells freelance translators it “will pay.” In fact, a reputable translation company can readily be identified by its request that you quote your rate first. There is plenty of room for good faith negotiations between parties that approach a transaction as equals.
  6. Promote Your Profession.
    Public relations and promotion of translation has been so catastrophically poor for so many years that it is a miracle the public knows we exist at all. There is no unified public policy promotion, advocacy or lobbying for translators on the national level, and extremely scant promotion through the popular media. Even in such a lackluster environment, translators are blessed by the fact that we all work in a field that the public finds intrinsically interesting (imagine the challenge of promoting, say, industrial fluids to the media.) Some of the most visible media coverage for translation, including magazine articles in the international trade press, major metropolitan newspapers and in flight magazines, as well as radio interviews and commentary, have been initiated in the last two years by individual working translators, interpreters and translation companies on the national, regional and local levels. Translators in Europe have begun a major client education initiative to reach out to industrial translation users. Translators in FLEFO report on their college campus appearances to promote translation and several of the more active FLEFO translators and interpreters share source information and feedback from client education and public relations efforts.
  7. Perfect Your Craft.
    Good translators do not become great translators by study, research or practice alone. These will get you to “good,” perhaps “very good,” and certainly are necessary steps to solid competence. Great is much, much more painful. Great translators—the ones who really stand out—have had their translations mauled, picked over, dissected, disemboweled, examined, edited, published, revised and amended by their translation colleagues, editors and reviewers, sometimes for years. Each successive translation then draws on the collective experience of the translator as well the entire host of creative input and guidance from those translation colleagues and editors. All translators benefit to the extent that their work is “at risk” for examination, revision or review. Translators are best served in their professional development by establishing and maintaining a close community of cooperative and disciplined colleagues whose talent and expertise help to guide and focus the intensely personal creative act that is translation.

Image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Translator, linguist, media commentator and business executive Kevin Hendzel draws on over 35 years of experience in the translation and localization industry in a broad range of roles, including translator, language lead, company owner, lexicographer, media commentator, and national event panelist. His blog, Word Prisms, is an award-winning blog on translation, technology and the modern business of language, and has over 6,000 registered viewers from all over the world (http://www.kevinhendzel.com/blog/).

As the official translator of 34 published books in physics and engineering and 10,000 articles for the Russian Academy of Sciences, Kevin Hendzel is also one of the most widely published translators in the English language. Kevin’s professional background includes an extended period working on the US-Russia Direct Communications Link, also known as the Presidential “Hotline,” where he was Senior Linguist of the technical translation staff. Between 1992 and 2008, Kevin worked to advance ASET International Services Corp. to become the leading firm on all nuclear programs in the former Soviet Union before selling the company with his business partner in 2008.

Kevin was the original architect of the ATA national media program launched in 2001. Between 2001 and 2012 he served as National Media Spokesman of the American Translators Association. During that period he appeared on CNN, FoxNews Live, ABC World News Tonight, CBS News, NBC News, MSNBC, National Public Radio, Voice of America, PBS, The New York Times, the Washington Post, the AP wire service, Reuters, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, USA Today, Wired and many more outlets promoting translation and interpretation services as vital to commerce, diplomacy, security, and culture.