Quality Control in Translation: Must-Dos for Success as a Translator

This post was originally published on Translorial. It is reposted with permission from the author.

If you are considering starting – or have just started – a career in the translation industry, this article may be for you.

Here’s a challenge: if you had to choose a picture to describe the actual process taking place inside your brain when you translate, what would you pick? Personally, I would go for two pictures of one bridge: the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

The old London Bridge spanning the River Thames in England

The old London Bridge spanning the River Thames in England

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The London Bridge today, in Lake Havasu City, Arizona

The London Bridge today, in Lake Havasu City, Arizona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of the Lake Havasu City Convention & Visitors Bureau

This architectural masterpiece has a unique story: it was first built over the River Thames in London, then dismantled, shipped overseas, and later rebuilt in Arizona. Every time we start a translation project, we go through a version of this same process. We dismantle the original text, ship it to its new cultural environment with its own set of stylistic requirements and intended users, and rebuild it in that new environment with the aim of executing a faithful version of the original text.

Whatever the specifications for your bridge, you must never forget the one secret ingredient that will prevent it from falling down: quality. As a beginning translator, always keep in mind your translation will be carefully read and evaluated by the reviewer and the end client. Delivering a high-quality translation will enable the reviewer to:

  • Deliver a high-quality translation to the end client.
  • Give positive feedback to the translator.
  • Improve his/her own translation skills.
  • Meet his/her own deadlines without scrambling to beat the clock.

On the other hand, low-quality translation leads only to frustration. When faced with a translation that is substandard, the reviewer is forced to set aside the task of reviewing for that of re-translation, under much tighter deadlines than the translator had in the first place, to prevent the bridge from falling.

The practical methodology that follows is a 7-step process designed to help beginning translators build a strong and aesthetically pleasing bridge under solid, rigorous quality control. Each step has a series of quiz questions, for a total of 40 questions. If you can complete the quiz answering “yes” to all 40 questions, you will be able to deliver top-quality work. While the methodology may not apply seamlessly to all situations without exception, it should at least give you some ideas for building your own quality control procedure for delivering top-notch translations. If you decide to give it a go, let me know how it worked for you at moniquelongton at msn dot com.

The Detailed Methodology

1. Accepting a Translation Request

Here is your opportunity to determine whether you can comfortably take on the project or not. If you can say “Yes” to the questions below, you can accept the project. If any doubts or concerns arise, don’t be afraid to talk to your project manager about them. This sends a message to the PM that you are geared towards producing quality work.

 

1) Do you have access to the source material? Never accept a request “blind” without first seeing the source text.
2) Do you truly understand the subject matter of the source material? Be brutally honest with yourself. It is impossible to render a correct translation without a complete understanding of the subject matter.
 
3) Do you have the right resources (bilingual dictionaries, terminology lists, papers, books…) to translate the source material, or do you know which client website(s) or forums you can go to in order to find the information you need? Make sure you have the right paper/electronic tools for building your translation and expressing yourself as an expert on the subject would.
 
4) Do you have the style manuals you need in your target language? A mastery of your target language is a must.
5) Do you master the software tools you need to deliver your project? If you feel you are struggling with a software program, e.g., a CAT tool or a word processor, invest a little bit of your time every day toward mastering it.
6) Do you know the country/countries in which the translation will be published? If your client asks you to translate from English into French, is the translation for Belgium? France? Canada? Do you feel confident writing for those countries?
7) Do you know the purpose of the translation? Knowing the purpose of the translation will help you figure out which register you should use. Ask your project manager/direct client for any in-house reference files that can help you better understand your client’s preferences. In addition to industry terminology, plenty of companies in each industry use their proprietary terminology.

2. Your First Draft

Here is where you dig deeper to achieve a thorough understanding of your source text.

8) Do you follow the client’s instructions? Did the client ask to use a specific formatting style or template? Always follow the client’s instructions. Communicate with them if you have any doubts.
9) If the source file is in .PDF format, did you ask your project manager if you could run it through PDF to Word conversion software? Special care is needed here: scanned files can require a lot of post-processing to produce an editable file you can work with and deliver to the client as a quality end product. It is sometimes advisable to translate from scratch in a word processor.
10) If you use a CAT tool, are you constantly referring to your original source file? Sometimes, the order of the segments in a CAT tool file can be misleading. Always check the original source language file to make sure you properly understand the text structure.
11) Do you read each sentence of the source text before you translate it? Even when you are pressed for time, read each sentence completely before you translate it. The text will sound natural in your native language and will not follow the conventions of the source language. This will save you time during the review process.
12) Are you using common sense? For example, if you are translating “engine specifications” into French, do you know whether the author is referring to one single engine or several of them? Sometimes, you can find out with a bit of research. At other times, you can only know the answer by asking your client.
13) If you encountered any ambiguous items, did you clearly identify them and ask your project manager about them? Research any concept you are unsure about and don’t be afraid to ask your project manager any questions you might still have: e.g., do you understand all the abbreviations in your source text?
14) Are you abiding by all the conventions used in your native language? For example, to indicate a monetary amount, English requires that you write the currency symbol first, followed by the amount. Find out what the experts in your native language do: how do they represent amounts?
15) Did you take extra care to write all proper nouns and numbers correctly? Use your copy/paste functions for proper nouns and numbers if you can. For example, if you translate a document for a major bank like UBS, you could easily misspell it as “USB.” Your spellchecker will not catch that mistake, but chances are UBS will…
16) If the source text contains a quote, did you check if the quote exists in the target language? If you translate a quote from a piece of EU legislation, for example, look for the corresponding official translation of that quote in your target language.

3. Your First Bilingual Review

If the deadline allows, always perform your first review the day after you have finished your draft version.

17) Did you translate everything? We are not robots: always check for missing words, sentences or sections.
18) Can you understand everything you wrote? If you have to read a phrase or sentence twice to understand what you wrote, this may be an indication you need to rework it.
19) Do you have the correct register? Take this opportunity to check your register.
20) Are your headings correct? Headings can be tricky to translate. Now that you have a complete understanding of your source text, always take a critical look at all translated headings in the document to make sure your rendering is relevant in each case.
21) Did you correct any obvious mistakes? Now is your chance to catch any obvious or glaring errors. If you’ve been able to postpone your review for the following day, they should jump out at you.
22) Did you pay attention to false cognates? E.g. “library” (English) and “librairie” (French).
23) Did you follow all standard conventions in your mother tongue? For example, what are the conventions for writing a list in your target language, or for executing quotation marks, or for comma, period, colon and semicolon placement with respect to closing quotation marks?
24) Did you pay attention to the text layout and fonts? Make sure you reproduce the original layout and formatting, including but not limited to fonts, font colors, point size, highlighting, boldface and italics, as closely as possible. Again, if you use a CAT tool, referring to your original text will help you quickly find any special formatting that you need to reproduce.

4. Your Second Bilingual Review

You have really mastered your subject by now. This is your last chance to check for complete accuracy between the source and target texts and make sure you have followed all the client’s instructions. While performing a complete bilingual review, focus on the next items.

25) Did you correct any minor translation errors or omissions? You are now mastering your source text. Here is your chance to focus on the details.
26) Did you check for consistent use of terminology? If you work with a CAT tool, use whichever consistency checker is built into the system. You can use the automatic search function (Ctrl + F keys in Windows or cmd + F in Mac OS) to identify any needed changes.
27) If you are working with a CAT tool, did you use its integrated consistency checker? Always use all of the utilities and checkers in the software that will allow you to spot any mistake you haven’t caught before.
28) Did you run an automatic spell check? Run a spell check in your CAT tool. If its spelling checker is poor, copy/paste your text into another application that can check your spelling and run a spell check in that software.
29) Last but not least, did you check whether your translation contains double spaces? Use your automatic search-and-replace function and replace double spaces with single spaces where they are inappropriate..

5. Your First Monolingual Review

Here is your opportunity to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and read your translation as if it had been written in your target language in the first place. While reading your translation, focus on the next few items.

30) If you used a CAT tool, did you preview your translation in the original file format? Make sure all text of the target file is displayed in a legible form for your end client.
31) Does your translation sound like it was written in your native language in the first place? Here is your chance to check you have written your translation the way a native speaker would have expressed it. If you are “out like a light” after reading your translation, chances are your audience will be too…
32) With respect to pronouns, can the reader clearly identify what they refer to? Always check for consistency and flow from one sentence to the next, and from one paragraph to the next.
33) Is your register appropriate for the type of document you are translating? You may have to either stick to the source text (e.g. legal texts) or brighten your style and play with the way you start your sentences and paragraphs (e.g. marketing content).

6. Your Second Monolingual Review

Here is your opportunity to catch any last-minute details.

34) Did you print out your translation and read it from the print copy? Nowadays, most people scan texts from a computer monitor, tablet, or smart phone. Reviewing a print copy of your translation is an experiment I recommend to every translator.
35) Did you read every word of your translation? Take your time…pretend you’re a sloth if you need to. Read every single word of your text to make sure you did not forget to write conjunctions such as “and,” or forget to insert a critical comma or delete an unnecessary apostrophe somewhere.
36) Did you pay extra attention to grammar? In my experience, many grammatical mistakes are not detected by automatic spellcheckers. You must read every single character of the translation to find these mistakes.
37) Did you pay extra care to homophones (“sound-alikes”)? Spell checkers don’t catch improper substitutions of “their” for “they’re,” “women” for “woman,” etc.
38) Did you use consistent punctuation and capitalization? Checking these items in a printout of your translation makes all the difference. Your eye will catch these types of mistakes more quickly than on a screen.

7. Delivery of your Translation

Here is your last opportunity to advise your project manager with any special instructions for the reviewer/end client.

39) Did you clearly indicate any unresolved items or translation decisions to your project manager so that the reviewer/direct client is made aware of them? If any concerns remain when it’s time to deliver the project, let the reviewer know about these items so he/she can pay extra attention to them.
40) If your project is very specific, did you indicate your
research work to the reviewer?
Submitting your sources to the reviewer will show you took the time to fully understand the source text and choose the right target terminology.

Author bio

Monique Longton has been translating legal and financial documents from English, Swedish, and Danish into French for over 12 years. Her expertise with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and related privacy and data security matters was honed by translating numerous legal analyses, security policies, privacy notices, and data processing agreements.

As a Certified Information Privacy Professional for Europe and member of the International Association for Privacy Professionals, she stays current on industry trends, attends cybersecurity events, and networks with privacy professionals. She is especially familiar with the unique GDPR challenges faced by U.S.-based freelance linguists working for privacy-minded European clients.

How to Successfully Tackle Translation Tests

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission from the author

If approached with the right mindset, translation tests can be a professionally enriching experience for translators.

It’s safe to say that most translators don’t consider translation tests to be their favorite part of the job. In fact, it might be the most dreaded part of a translator’s day. But it doesn’t have to be that way! As we all know, translation tests are the way most companies judge our work and ultimately hire us, so they’re here to stay. When approached with the right mindset, these tests can actually be a professionally enriching experience (seriously!). And you must be mindful that there’s a lot more being judged than your translation ability.

When I first launched my career as a freelance translator, I had so many questions about what clients really wanted from a translation test. After many years working as a full-time translator, and now with a rather large number of translation tests under my belt, I’ve learned that both failure and success on these tests can be great teachers.

Read the Instructions

This first tip seems obvious, but it cannot be taken for granted (in fact, it’s worth spending two full paragraphs covering it!). Before you work on any translation test you need to know exactly what the client wants you to do. Does the translation test have a deadline? In what format should it be returned? Are there character restrictions? Are there any specific instructions included with the test package? Companies are testing your ability to follow instructions as much as your translation skills. Make sure you review the email exchange and follow any instructions included in the body of the email as well as in the document itself. Sometimes instructions are included in the translation file. WARNING: review Excel files carefully because one of those tabs might include your instructions.

You should also think about the unstated expectations based on your background knowledge of the client. Some clients seek a creative translation, while others might care about the localization for a specific target market. Knowing that information ahead of time will help you meet, and hopefully exceed, the client’s expectations.

When in Doubt, Just Ask!

If anything in the instructions isn’t clear, make sure you ask for clarification—don’t take anything for granted. If the client didn’t provide reference material, a glossary, a style guide, special instructions about the language variant, or the level of formality of the translation test—ask about it! The client might not be able to provide you with any of this information, but it never hurts to ask. By asking for a confirmation or clarification, it shows that you’re being attentive to the instructions and striving to meet their expectations. Additionally, it shows that you realize extra material may be necessary when working on a project.

For many years I assumed that companies didn’t send any additional material because they wanted to see how I was able to “fend for myself,” but this assumption has cost me. On one occasion, I didn’t pass a very important translation test because the terminology was not what the client wanted. I went back to the client and explained that I hadn’t been sent a terminology list and that was why I couldn’t use their preferred lexicon. They told me that I should have asked for a glossary, and that they would have given it to me had I asked for it.

Looking back, I now realize that the company was testing whether or not I would be proactive in requesting whatever I needed to render an accurate translation that met their terminology preferences. So, when in doubt, ask for more references and specifics. The worst thing that can happen is that they won’t give you any. However, taking the initiative to be proactive can make all the difference!

Research Smart

If you’re not provided with any reference material, you’ll need to use your ability to do online research following commonly accepted guidelines. It’s important that you refer to official glossaries and that you’re able to cite references to the terminology you use, should this be required. By researching, you might be able to find out where the text has been extracted from online. While this scenario isn’t likely, I have seen it happen more than once! This deep-dive for company intel can give you more information about the client’s background and terminology preferences. In fact, having a curious spirit is one of the most important traits of a successful translator. Translation tests can have specific terminology on an obscure subject matter, and even though you won’t always be an expert on the topic, what matters is your ability to research and find accurate terminology.

Attention to Detail

A translator’s attention to detail is as much on display as anything else. Translation tests are bound to have tricky sentences, segments that cannot be translated directly and might need complete rewording in the target language, etc. It’s your job to identify those areas and resolve them to the best of your knowledge and ability. In an ambiguous situation, it’s sometimes a good idea to leave a comment. I suggest you leave a sentence or two explaining why you chose a certain word or phrase, such as “More context is required here in order to make the best possible translation. Could you please clarify the ambiguity in the part that reads [ . . . ]?” Include the note in the body of the delivery email or use track changes to mark it up within the file you send back.

What are some details to ensure your success? You may need to flag a mistake in the source text, segments that need to be “transcreated” entirely (here, your choice needs to be explained), the use of character restrictions, reference links in need of localization, or even the gender of the target audience. Other details to keep in mind are how acronyms should be treated, measurements, and alphabetical order.

The Two Ps: Proofread and be Punctual!

Your work is not finished after you’re done with the translation. Once you’ve got it all down on paper, you reach the most critical part of the job: proofreading. Proofreading your own work is important in any translation project, but it’s an absolutely critical stage to passing a translation test. Ideally, try to step away from the project and come back to it the next day, allowing you to examine your work with fresh eyes. If there’s no specific deadline, take advantage of the extra time to proofread your work well. The best case scenario allows you to proofread more than once with intervals of time in between each readthrough.

Resist the temptation to have your work proofread by another translator. The test is meant to judge your translation skills alone. Unless you plan to work with a particular proofreader on all of your projects, you need to recreate the real scenario and produce the translation quality that you’ll be able to live up to consistently.

I cannot stress the importance of punctuality enough. If the translation test has a set deadline, you need to meet it. Companies are testing you on your ability to meet deadlines, because deadlines are often as important to the client as the quality of your translation. If the test doesn’t have a set deadline, make sure you take a reasonable amount of time to get it back to the client. In my opinion, a good rule of thumb is to send it back between three to five days after you receive it. This timeline is reasonable for a translation test of 500 words or less, but it depends on your schedule and the client’s schedule.

Always Ask for Feedback

Whatever the outcome of your test, always ask for feedback. Feedback is a great way to learn more about the client’s expectations and, frankly, it’s also a great way to learn from any mistakes you might have made. Some companies will be very open with their feedback. They might even give you a markup of the document and show you the comments their reviewer made on your work. Other companies are more secretive. They might not tell you anything about your results on the test, but it’s always worth it to ask.

If you’ve passed a translation test, it’s an excellent opportunity to learn about what you’re doing right. Did you get any comments back? What aspects of your translation did they like the most? Any phrases or particular terms that they would ask you to change the next time?

Practice and Learn

Translation tests don’t have to be a burden. Approached the right way, they’re just great practice. Consider each one as an opportunity to demonstrate what a great translator you are and to learn about your strengths and weaknesses. Even if you don’t agree with the reviewer’s comments, you can, for example, learn that the client is not a good fit. That’s valuable information! Take each translation test and make it a fun challenge to learn from the experience.

Translation tests are only a small window into what it could be like to work for a particular client, and for the client to get a sense of what it could be like to work with you. The real test will be an actual project you undertake, with a set deadline, and specific instructions and guidelines to follow. Only then will you finally know if the relationship will prosper!


Marina Ilari, CT is an ATA-certified English>Spanish translator with over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. She is an expert in translation tools and managing projects in English and Spanish. She has worked as a translator, editor, and quality assurance specialist for many companies around the world with a special focus on creative translations and video game localization. She is the chief executive officer of Terra Translations and co-host of the podcast about translation, En Pantuflas. Contact: marina@terratranslations.com.

More is Not Better When It Comes to Your T&I Client List

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

Everyone wants to grow their client list. After all, who wouldn’t, right? It’s part of being a business owner, no matter if you are a freelancer or if you manage several people who work for you. It’s good to always have more clients coming in the door… but quantity over quality is often not a good idea, and that includes in business. When you have high quality clients (i.e., ideal clients), then you don’t necessarily have to have an ever-growing client list. Once you have consistent work coming in from those ideal clients, you can shift your focus more to maintaining those client relationships by refining the client experience, and then a slower incoming trickle of new clients won’t seem so much of a make-or-break issue.

To read more about finding that sweet spot with quality clients, check out How to Determine and Attract Your Ideal Client.

Just like most things in life, when you focus on quantity (i.e. how many new clients you can gain or how many clients you currently have), losing sight of quality can easily create more issues for you. If you are constantly striving for more, you will find yourself always wishing you had more. And frankly, you cannot possibly focus on sustainable growth or nurture client relationships with your best clients if the focus is always on when that next project will be coming down the pipeline.

By choosing to focus on attracting and maintaining lasting relationships with quality clients, you will find that you have more time to work on the things you want to within your business. You can take a vacation (and leave that laptop at home!), and you can take more time for yourself and the things and people you love outside of your business. With some care and time, you can grow your business into something that sustains the lifestyle you want, rather than working to sustain your business and income until that next payment arrives.

Rather than trying to convert every lead that comes your way, or take on every project that is offered to you, be more selective. Make some non-negotiables when it comes to the work and clients you take on. Do you want to avoid working after a certain hour of the day and on weekends? Quality clients mean that you can achieve this. Do you want to drop projects that you find absolutely tedious and draining? Seeking clients (and maintaining an ongoing, positive relationship with them) whose work you value in terms of content will allow you to do this.

Don’t get stuck in the “But what if next month is slow?” cycle or way of thinking. Decide to make an effort to attract those clients that will make you feel satisfied with your work, because the quality of the client and the quality of the service(s) that you can provide to them match up. After all, if you’re always taking on quantity (volume), then the quality of what you produce will suffer as a result. It is impossible to keep up with quality if you are accepting every project that crosses your desk. It’s okay to say “No.”

When trying to determine whether a client is “high quality” or not, ask yourself these questions:

  • Would you like to hear from them whenever they come knocking, or would their projects feel like tedious tasks that make you less than excited about sitting down at your computer to complete their projects?
  • Do you like to work with them because of the type of work you can do for them (subject matter, their mission lining up with your own values, etc.)? This may even be the case if the client doesn’t have the budget to pay your higher translation or interpreting rate. As long as you feel good about the working relationship and the value you provide (as well as the value the projects provide to you as a professional), you may very well think of them as a high quality client.
  • Does the work you receive from the client allow you to be open to new opportunities later? For example, is the subject matter is something that will help you to pick up new (and high quality!) clients because of the experience you’re gaining by working on their projects?

Be sure to reassess your client list from time to time. If there is a client you’d rather not work with in the long term, put your energy toward gaining more of those you do want to work with, and set a goal to let go of those that are less than ideal.

By focusing on quality over quantity when it comes to your client list, you will see that you are happier with the work you do and the value you provide. This satisfaction will carry over to other areas of your life. You will produce better content and output as a result. You will be able to spend more time on the things that you want to work on after you’ve met the deadlines set by these quality clients. And last, but definitely not least, you will simultaneously be refining your craft with the work you get from these clients. This alone is enough reason to take a hard look at how your clients shape up when it comes to quality vs. quantity.

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 www.madalenazampaulo.com.

10 New Year’s Resolutions in the Field of Privacy for Freelance Translators

This post was originally published on LinkedIn. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Do you collect personal data from your clients and prospects living in the European Economic Area (EEA)? If so, give a fresh start to your privacy practices.

1.      Clean up your clients and prospects’ personal data

Do you store personal data from your clients and prospects living in the European Economic Area (EEA)? If no legal or contractual obligations require you to keep it, destroy it immediately. Check the legal data retention period that is applicable to you with your local attorney. If you want to keep your translation memories for a long time, anonymize them or clean them up.

2.      Have a privacy policy

Here are two options:

  • Contact your local privacy attorney as they surely have a privacy policy template. Audit your activity first and be ready to explain what you do, what personal data you collect, and why. Don’t forget that we have now entered the new GDPR era: you need a legal basis to process personal data.
  • Craft your own privacy policy. Check your relevant Data Protection Authority’s website. Some of them have templates. Be sure to check the local legal requirements that apply to you on top of the GDPR. Have a privacy lawyer review your policy.

 3.      Post your privacy practices

Post your privacy practices in a conspicuous place on your website (e.g. the footer). Be transparent. At data collection time, advise the user what the data will be used for on your contact form. Don’t have a website? If you have a trade association, ask them if they can add a section to your profile to post it online. Your clients and prospects will be able to see that you care about their privacy.

4.      Make sure the partners you work with adopt appropriate safeguards to protect personal data

Review your translation service agreements: do they incorporate the required data processing addenda?

5.      Check the data you collect through the cookies you place via your website

Make sure you collect anonymized data (e.g. IP addresses). Remember, you need to collect your website users’ approval before placing any non-functional cookies on their devices.

6.      Attend a cybersecurity forum

Contact your local small business administration or equivalent organization if you have one. They may be organizing cybersecurity trainings where you’ll learn the best industry practices to protect your hardware, software, and data. You can also check whether a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on cybersecurity is offered online.

7.      Reduce your chances of a data breach

You don’t need to keep all your data on your computer. Adopt “lean” practices. Think about it this way: the less data on your device, the less data a hacker can get their hands on. Done with a translation project? Encrypt your data, transfer it to an offline device, or choose a reliable cloud service. Under the GDPR, data breaches must be notified within 72 hours.

8.      Follow your client’s instructions exactly when you translate a file containing personal data

Use the best security measures to translate files containing personal data. Don’t use machine translation tools unless your client has explicitly instructed you to do so. Under the GDPR, you must not transfer personal data without your client’s explicit approval.

If your client does not understand the source language and you notice the source file contains EEA individuals’ personal data, let them know about it to ensure personal data is adequately protected all the time.

9.      Stay tuned to the privacy law evolution

Subscribe to your data protection authority’s or your law firm’s newsletter. Under the GDPR (Art. 59), each data protection authority must publish an annual report on its activities. This wealth of information will allow you to better understand how consumers, even your own clients, use the GDPR framework. It will remind you why you need to obtain your client’s valid consent before launching direct advertising campaigns.

Keep an eye on the proposal for the future EU ePrivacy Regulation.

10.   Treat your client’s subject access requests with care

Don’t overlook your replies to the subject access requests you may receive. Establish a routine method to check the identity of the data subjects initiating the requests. Reply within one month. In most cases, you must provide the information free of charge.

Need more resources? Check out my GDPR Useful Resources.

Author bio

Monique Longton has been translating legal and financial documents from English, Swedish, and Danish into French for over 12 years. Her expertise with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and related privacy and data security matters was honed by translating numerous legal analyses, security policies, privacy notices, and data processing agreements.

As a Certified Information Privacy Professional for Europe and member of the International Association for Privacy Professionals, she stays current on industry trends, attends cybersecurity events, and networks with privacy professionals. She is especially familiar with the unique GDPR challenges faced by U.S.-based freelance linguists working for privacy-minded European clients.

5 Truths About Court Interpreting

This post was originally published on the Translation Times blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Both our interpreting students and beginning court interpreters colleagues pursing certification regularly ask us about what it’s really like to be a working court interpreter. As Judy is a federally certified Spanish court interpreter, she is going to (partially, of course) answer this question  with 5 cold, hard truths that you might not have learned at university or during your training. In no particular order, here they are:

1) You will be scared/intimidated at times. It’s fine. Tennis great John McEnroe is not known for his deep insight, but rather for his tantrums on the court (tennis court, not justice court!), but he did once say something along the lines that if you don’t have butterflies in your stomach before a match (or in our case, a court hearing) you simply don’t care enough. Judy still has occasional butterflies, and the situation usually merits it. A lot is at stake in court, and they are somber and serious occasions with real consequences for people who are right next to you. It’s not for the faint of heart. You might have become complacent when you don’t feel any sort of nervous tension at all, ever. Embrace the butterflies. Your work is important and relevant, and sometimes the weight of it will affect you.

2) Stopping proceedings is not really a (good option). It’s true that we are taught that you should interrupt proceedings and ask the court (meaning the judge) for permission to look up a word if you don’t know it, as guessing is never an acceptable alternative in court. While this is, in theory, true, Judy hasn’t seen it done once in 10 years in court. Things move so fast, are so hectic and often so contentious that there usually simply isn’t a good time to say: “The interpreter requests permission to look up a term.” So the best thing you can do is to train your brain to not have that “out” and be prepared. Overprepare. Obsess about terminology. You must know it once you enter a courtroom. Realistically, you won’t have time to look up terminology, so you better know your stuff. If this thought scares you, that’s a good thing. Fear is a good motivator. Go and study some more terminology.

3) Sticking to the code of ethics can be a significant challenge. Codes of ethics are key, but they can also be confusing and too general, and, no pun intended, they are open for interpretation. Being impartial is one of the key aspects of the codes of ethics for court interpreters in all states, and it can be harder than it seems. It’s also about avoiding the appearance of impartiality, which includes not talking to non-English speakers unless you are interpreting. It takes three people for interpreting to take place, and you are not to have side conversations with anyone. This is oftentimes harder than you think, as witnesses and defendants may want to have a friendly chat. Avoid it. If an attorney asks you to explain something to his or her client, say that you will interpret anything they want, but that you will never explain (the lawyers do the explaining, while the interpreters do the interpreting). When in doubt about the code of ethics, go for the strictest interpretation of it possible. You don’t want to have the reputation of not being impartial. Your career very much depends on, in part, sticking to the code of ethics. It’s better to be a stickler for the rules than to be dragged in front of the ethics committee.

4) It will be heartbreaking and difficult. You will see grown men cry, you will see teenagers get sentenced to 10 years in prison, you will see families get ripped apart. You will witness injustice, incompetent lawyers, petty disputes between the prosecution and the defense, needless motions, angry judges, overworked bailiffs, upset family members and much, much more. The American justice system is very much imperfect, but it’s the one we have. As a court interpreter, your job is not to change it or to advocate for anyone, but rather to interpret. You do it if everyone is crying (and you don’t cry). You do it even if it’s hard or if something is happening that you completely disagree with. You solider on and do your job. No one cares about what you think and about how it affects you. This may not be what you want to hear, but it’s the reality of the profession. And yes, you may interpret for child molesters, wife killers, and those who deal meth by the kilos. Be ready.

5) Respect is earned. As a new interpreter, you might find the pace impossible, and  we hate to tell you this, but no one will slow down for you. Attorneys, courtroom administrators, law clerks and all other players in the courtroom are busy people, and their dockets, desks and calendars are full. The last thing they need is a struggling interpreter, and while that seems unfair for beginners, that’s the way it is. Be ready to perform at a high level after getting certified, and don’t rush into interpreting in open court until you really are ready. Being certified is great, but it’s the minimum requirement. All parties usually have high expectations of court interpreters, as they should. Earn their respect by going above and beyond: arrive early and impeccably dressed in business attire, put away your cell phone, be prepared for your case, don’t interrupt, know where to sit, stand and hand in your paperwork, be respectful to everyone, don’t take sides, don’t give advice, introduce yourself to attorneys you don’t know, etc. Court interpreters are an integral part of the American judiciary and of everyday court proceedings, but oftentimes we hear interpreters complain that they don’t get the respect they deserve. The flip side of this coin is that attorneys oftentimes complain that interpreters are late and poorly dressed, which is unacceptable. Who’s right? We don’t know, but we have certainly witnessed plenty of tardiness and (yes, really) completely inappropriate apparel. When in doubt, wear a black suit. It’s quite a thrill to get mistaken for the judge, which happens to Judy on a regular basis.

We hope you have enjoyed these five short truths! We’d be delighted to hear your thoughts.

Image source: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/2794.htm