Certification Exam Changes

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

There are major changes ahead for ATA’s certification exam in 2017.

Eligibility Requirements: Education and experience requirements needed to take the exam will be discontinued in January 2017. Why? Because they failed to predict the chances of an individual passing the exam. And that was the whole point—to ensure that exam candidates were not taking the exam before they were ready.

Note: An exam candidate still needs to be an ATA member in order to take the exam.

Exam Passages: All three exam passages will be general text in 2017. Why? Because people misunderstood labeling texts as medical, technical, or scientific text and legal, commercial, or financial. The intent of the exam has always been to certify translation competence as a whole, not competence based on a specialty.

Practice Tests: Practice tests will become available for download in the near future. Why? Because it’s crucial for exam candidates to know what they are walking into—not what they think, but what they know. The practice test is the best way to do that. Making it easier to take the practice test may encourage more people to do it.

Candidate Preparation Workshops: The Certification Committee is working to increase the availability of these workshops, as both live sessions and webinars. Why? Because they are another way for candidates to understand the exam and take a good look at whether they are ready for it.

Computerized Exam Option: More testing sites will offer computerized exam sittings next year. Why? Because now that the problem with exam security has been resolved, it makes sense to give exam candidates more of the tools they use in their translation work.

For more information on ATA’s Certification Program, please click here.

Image source: Pixabay

 

Transitioning from Student to Freelance Translator

Reblogged from the SDL Trados blog, incl. the image, with permission from the author

In November this year at ATA’s 57th Annual Conference in San Francisco, Meghan McCallum and Sarah Puchner, both French to English translators, co-presented a session on “Transitioning from Student to Translator: Strategies for Success.” After the conference we reached out to Meghan to discuss this topic with her.

A student has just finished their translation degree. What is the first piece of advice you would give them?

I would tell them it’s never too early to start preparing for their freelance career! Even if you’re not planning on freelancing right away, there are many things you can work on in the meantime to prepare. For example, you can build a professional online presence through Twitter and LinkedIn, create a personal website, and attend educational and networking events such as webinars and conferences. You can also use this time to research potential clients and learn what kinds of requirements they have for freelancers in terms of software, education, experience, testing, etc.

What are the main challenges for a student transitioning into freelance translation?

A hot topic that Sarah and I addressed in our session was the vicious circle of “no work without experience and no experience without work.” I think a lot of new freelancers are concerned with experience requirements; if every agency you want to work with is requesting two years of prior experience, how are you supposed to get those years under your belt?

While there is no single “right answer” to this question, Sarah and I provided a few ideas to help these freelancers get over the hurdle. First, there are some agencies that do not require a certain number of years of experience. Interested translators are vetted based on their work on the agency’s translation tests, regardless of how many years they have under their belt. This is a great way for a new but good translator to get their foot in the door.

Another route is to consider the translator’s experience with translation tasks in graduate school, internships, and volunteer work. Even if these weren’t full-time freelancing gigs, many potential agency clients will consider this work as valid towards the experience requirement.

Should a student looking to become a freelancer join associations such as ATA and purchase Proz.com membership?

I highly recommend joining the ATA and attending the ATA conference as a student—there’s a great discounted rate to encourage students to attend. Of course, hopefully you’ll renew your membership even after you’re no longer a student, too! The ATA conference is a valuable educational and networking opportunity, and it’s a lot of fun as well. Since the majority of our work is online, the ATA conference is also a rare occasion to meet colleagues (and potential clients!) in person.

As for a ProZ.com membership, I certainly recommend starting with a free account and setting up an online profile for potential clients to find you. From there, you can explore the features and decide if a paid membership would be right for you. In any case, I highly recommend taking advantage of any online profile you can have out there—the easier it is for potential clients to find you online, the better!

How important is creating your own website and the role of social media for a freelance newbie?

Again, I strongly believe that freelancers should take advantage of any free online platforms they can. In our ATA session, Sarah and I focused on Twitter in particular. Twitter is an easy way to have “water cooler” talk with colleagues, keep up with the latest industry news, and practice writing skills. After all, narrowing your messages down to 140 characters is a sort of writing exercise. Our bottom line was to keep tweets professional (use a separate account for personal use, if you like); keep in mind that potential clients and colleagues can see everything you put out there!

As for a website, some new freelancers might find the task a bit daunting, and in that case I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily required right away. I do think it is something you should have on your radar for the long term, though. It’s another great way for colleagues and potential clients to find you, and it really solidifies your professional online presence.

Before getting started on a website, decide whether or not you’re comfortable building it yourself. I built my own website during nights and weekends when I was still working at an agency, and when I launched my freelance business it was actually really exciting to have the website ready to go right away.

Networking is more important than ever for a translator. What advice would you give to a student who might find it daunting?

If you’re feeling particularly shy about putting yourself out there, I recommend starting small; see if there are any local translator meetup groups or events in your area. The ATA also has many local chapters covering various regions of the US, and these chapters host networking events and conferences as well. This is a great way to meet colleagues without feeling overwhelmed by a huge number of attendees or multi-day travel.

Of course, I can’t stress online networking enough! Meeting colleagues at a conference is actually a lot easier if you’ve had some online contact ahead of time. This is where Twitter can come in handy yet again. Sarah and I encourage following translators with the same language pair and/or similar fields of expertise. When you run into each other at the conference, you’ll be able to easily transition from an online conversation to a face-to-face one.

In your opinion, how important is it for a student moving into freelance translation to learn about computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools?

It really pays to put in the time to learn all necessary technology, from social media to e-mail to CAT tools. These days more and more students are learning and practicing CAT tools in translation programs, which I think is great. Technology should be included in all translation programs; it’s a great way to give the students a feel of what skills they need to succeed beyond translation and writing.

CAT tools aren’t cheap, but they are necessary. Before buying, translators should test out various tools to compare them. Most tools offer free trial periods or demo versions that allow translators to try before they buy. And translators can ask their potential agency clients which tools they use; most agencies do have a preferred tool and require their translators to work with it.

The Greatest Challenge Facing Translators

Reblogged from Academic Language Experts blog, with permission from the author

A friend, wishing to polish his translation skills, recently asked me the following question: “if you had to give one tip to a new translator, what would it be?” Without hesitation I answered “avoid literalisms.” As editor of Academic Language Experts this is the most frequent issue I encounter when reviewing translations: texts which, while comprehensible, are markedly literal.

Let me explain. When I say “literalisms” I do not mean a text that is translated word-for-word. I am actually referring to a more subtle problem: a translation which is technically “correct”—definitely not “Google translate”—but still closely emulates the form, order, and linguistic idiosyncrasies of its source.

There are of course cases when a literal translation may be preferable (legal and medical texts for example) and this is certainly an issue translators and clients should discuss explicitly before a project begins. But generally speaking, clients want their texts translated so their message or research can effectively reach audiences who are only familiar with the target language.  A text fails at this task when it reveals its foreign origins, gives the impression of an imperfect rendering, and challenges readers to clamber over awkward, disjointed formulations.

There is a reason this problem is so widespread. Avoiding literalisms is THE most difficult part of being a translator. It requires employing many different skills simultaneously: reading comprehension, writing proficiency, language knowledge and more. It requires a translator to extract the meaning from the source language, while at the same time escaping its stylistic-linguistic influence. It is the writer’s equivalent of trying to whistle a song while another one plays in the background. The ability to juggle these skills is truly a rare talent.

The first step to cultivating this talent is to develop an explicit awareness of one’s natural tendency to translate literally. Once a translator has identified these pitfalls, they can consciously adopt strategies to overcome them. With practice this can become second-nature, and markedly improve the quality and readability of one’s translations.

This subject requires a more thorough treatment, but for now I will provide a few examples of strategies I personally have adopted to improve my translations. While my examples will be from my area of expertise—Hebrew to English translation—the principles behind them are equally applicable to all language pairs.

1) Liberally switch up verbs, nouns, adjectives, and even different verb forms (passive and active and different tenses).

Whether a noun, verb, or adjective is most appropriate is often language-specific. For example the phrase: “She had fear of the upcoming battle” is technically correct but is probably not how a native speaker would write it. Consider, turning the noun into an adjective  such as: “she was afraid of the upcoming battle.”

To give some examples from Hebrew to English translation: consider translating zeh lo me’anyen oti not as “this does not interest me” (verb) but as “I do not find it interesting” (adjective). Similarly, consider translating higia lidei maskananot as “he reached a conclusion” but as “he concluded.”

The same goes for positive and negative formulations. If the source reads “not complicated” consider: “simple

Use this strategy to pick words and phrases which sound their best in the target language, while still preserving the meaning of the source text.

2) The unit of translation need not be the sentence.

Sometimes faithfully maintaining the sentence boundaries as dictated by the source will result in unmanageably long and convoluted formulations (a common issue when translating from terse Hebrew to wordy English). Translators should consider splitting up sentences, rearranging their order, or even sprinkling in some semi-colons, em-dashes, and parentheses. Your goal is to convey the text’s meaning; convoluted run-on sentences fail to do this.

3) Play around with syntax.

The order of words in a source text is not always a function of meaning. Often it reflects the idiosyncratic style of a certain language. Translators should liberally move clauses around, moving a verb phrase from the beginning of a sentence to its end or moving the subject of the sentence from the end to the beginning. An almost ubiquitous example in Hebrew to English translation is rendering the Hebrew particle shel as in hahatul shel yehudah. Literally this reads “the cat of Judah” but English, unlike Hebrew, allows a much more elegant formulation: “Judah’s cat.” It is far more important for words to be in an order that sounds natural and clear to the intended reader than to accurately emulate the syntax of the source.

4) Avoid copying idiomatic language.

While I think it goes without saying not to render literally incomprehensible idioms, even less egregious examples can also make a text sound awkward.  Here are two examples from Hebrew:

In Hebrew, the expression be’eynay is a perfectly acceptable way of saying “in my opinion.” But rendering this literally, “in my eyes,” sounds awkward and archaic.

Ner leragli. While “A candle to my feet” clearly sounds like a translation, even a more oblique translation such as “lighting my path” still may be better rendered as “my inspiration.”

5) Think beyond dictionary definitions and try to capture a word’s connotation and not just its meaning.

Dictionaries are very good at helping you understand a language. However, they are not always the perfect tools for translation. For example, the Hebrew pulmus and hitpalmes are translated as “polemic” and “polemicize” respectively. While these translations are accurate, in English they carry a scholastic, medieval connotation which may be inappropriate depending on the context. Think around the concept of pulmus and consider words such as “controversy,” “attack,” or “dispute.” Translators may even consider keeping their own private dictionaries of such oblique definitions to assist them in future translations.

6) Read it over and over again.

This is important for all writing but I believe it is particularly important for translation. It is often hard to appreciate how “foreign” one’s translation sounds while immersed in translating it. Therefore it is important to read a text more than once, even the next day if possible, in order to properly evaluate its problems, as an impartial observer removed from the act of translation.

Image source: Pixabay

Tablets for Interpreters: The Device You Didn’t Know You Wanted

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle with permission by the authors (incl. the images)

Just as increases in laptop storage and processing capacity led to the replacement of desktop computers, advances in tablet technology make it possible for users to streamline even more.

The latest tablets offer a host of streamlined tools for interpreters, even in high-stakes settings like court and conference interpreting. How can interpreters take advantage of these tools for business tasks, assignment preparation, and consecutive and simultaneous settings?

Come along with us for a tour of some of the tools we recommend. After reading this you’ll have a better idea how to incorporate tablet technology into your workflow.

Glossary Management

A glossary is an important part of any interpreter’s toolbox. Building a list of useful and important terms during the preparation phase can really help you get up to speed on the topic at hand. And once you have a glossary for that topic or, say, a specific conference or client, it’s much easier to build it up over time. Obviously, electronic glossaries are much easier to maintain and expand than paper ones. However, this doesn’t preclude you from printing your electronic glossary for an assignment, if you so wish. (But you might as well just use your tablet.)

While we won’t go into the details of what you should put in a glossary, we can show the different approaches that exist in terms of glossary management software. The most basic approach would be creating a table within a Word document, but we don’t recommend this as it’s simply too rigid to work with over time. Similar criticism applies to spreadsheets (i.e., Excel files), which seem popular among interpreters. However, they are not very flexible, and there is the potential risk of getting your terms mixed up when something goes wrong during sorting. If you still prefer spreadsheets, some mobile apps1 you can use include Microsoft Excel (available on iOS and Android, free for basic use), Google Sheets (free on both platforms), or Apple Pages (iOS only, free with your device).

Alexander prefers dedicated apps that work more like databases than spreadsheets. They tend to be more robust and provide more options for working with data. One example is Interplex, which has a long tradition on Windows computers and is co-developed by Peter Sand, an interpreter and member of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC). Interplex is also available on mobile devices (iPhone, iPad) and lets you synchronize data through Dropbox.

If you’re looking for a web-based solution, make sure to try Interpreters’ Help. In addition to robust glossary management features, such as reverting back to older versions when something goes wrong, this app is also quite social-savvy when it comes to collaborating with other users and sharing your work on the “Glossary Farm.” Interpreters’ Help has a companion app for iPad, called “Boothmate.” Android users should check out Memento Database, a very user-friendly way to manage not only glossary data, but also all kinds of other information (like client contact information or a to-do list).

On top of standard spreadsheet features like filtering, sorting, or rearranging terms, database-driven apps allow for faster searches and give you more control over importing existing glossaries and exporting your data—not to mention the additional possibilities to go beyond just words by adding images, video, or audio. It may sound strange at first, but think about it: for highly technical topics like medicine or engineering, visualizing terms can make a lot of sense. As does recording the pronunciation of a difficult term in a short audio clip, or making a video glossary for sign language. There are a lot of potential uses. If you want to give it a go, I recommend using an easy-to-use app called Airtable. It brands itself as a mix of a spreadsheet and a database, is available on the web and mobile devices, and 
can be used collaboratively. (See 
Figure 1.)

Figure 1: A screenshot of an Airtable glossary entry with an attached image

Figure 1: A screenshot of an Airtable glossary entry with an attached image

There is one more aspect where electronic beats paper hands-down. You may have already worked on a shared Google Doc with somebody else online, but did you know that Google also has an online spreadsheet tool (aptly named Sheets) that you can use to collaborate on glossaries with remote colleagues? (Leonie Wagener, a Germany-based conference interpreter, has published a tutorial on AIIC’s website about this.2) The benefits of this approach are obvious. You can split up the workload of bigger conferences (e.g., by speaker or by language), you get valuable input from others, and there’s a built-in chat to discuss issues with the team. Everybody contributes, and everybody ends up with a solid glossary.

Even if you work on your glossary solo, it’s a good idea to add terms during the assignment. After all, we often get the best terms from the people for whom we work, and we know the terms are relevant. This also means less work when you get back to the office, as there’s simply no need to go through all the scraps of paper with scribbles on them that you usually bring home.

Freelance Business Tasks

For freelancers, tablets also offer a modern way to take care of administrative functions, even while you are on the move. Prepare estimates, invoice jobs, do bookkeeping, and keep up on marketing tasks—non-billable work that traditionally had to wait until you got back to the office—are now easily taken care of during long lunches or on the ride home.

For example, interpreters can use their mobile phone or tablet to send job invoices before they leave the building while the job details are fresh in the mind of both the freelancer and the client. This encourages prompt payment and cuts down on email exchanges to correct or explain invoices. Applications such as Quickbooks and Expensify allow you to snap a photo of an expense receipt for automatic filing and categorization, thus avoiding lost receipts and menacing piles of receipts awaiting entry.

For your social media marketing, try using Feedly and Alltop to track new content on your favorite websites and blogs, and Buffer to quickly schedule social media posts that share your favorite articles or promote your own content. (See Figure 2.) Mailchimp, a service for email distribution lists, allows you to view and send your email campaigns and monitor their delivery statistics almost in real time.

Figure 2: Buffer offers social media scheduling across multiple platforms in just a few clicks.

Figure 2: Buffer offers social media scheduling across multiple platforms in just a few clicks.

And speaking of email, it can be overwhelming at times, so why not try a few email apps for tablets that bring new ideas to the game, such as snoozing incoming email, read receipts, or sending messages later. If you’re intrigued, take a look at Newton (Android, iOS) or Spark (iOS).

Digital Note-Taking

Alexander: In some ways, using a tablet and stylus (a digital pen that mobile devices recognize on their touchscreens) to take consecutive notes digitally instead of on paper is the holy grail of “tablet interpreting,” although it may not immediately seem superior to the old way of doing things. I think it’s simply a lot of fun to try out!

The perfect hardware combination for this, in my opinion, is an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. But unless you already own those two, don’t go out and buy them just to see if digital note-taking is for you. Instead, work with the tablet you already have. If you don’t own a stylus yet, borrow one or buy an inexpensive option. For example, Wacom’s Bamboo styluses are very affordable and widely available.

Incidentally, Wacom also provides a free note-taking app: Bamboo Paper. As almost all note-taking applications, it works with the familiar notion of notebooks organized on a shelf or in a library. When you open up Bamboo Paper, you’ll see one or more blue notebooks that you can rename to your liking. Tap on a notebook to open it. At the top of the screen, choose your favorite writing utensil (e.g., ball pen or felt pen), stroke width, and writing color. An eraser is also available. Now you’re good to go! I don’t recommend taking interpreting notes straight away. Instead, you might want to start slowly by doodling to get a feel for how the app works. Move on to jotting down a shopping list or short text, and when you feel more comfortable, try taking notes for a short test-style speech from Speechpool or the European Union Speech Repository. If you get hooked, then digital note-taking is probably for you. Great note-taking apps for iPad are Notability and Noteshelf. (See Figure 3.) They both integrate with lots of styluses, including the Apple Pencil, and they support cool stuff like audio recording.

Figure 3: A screenshot of handwritten notes in the Notability app

Figure 3: A screenshot of handwritten notes in the Notability app

Holly: I haven’t tested digital note-taking on recent Apple products, but I’ve had great results on Android tablets and my current sweetheart, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (laptop/tablet hybrid).

Samsung tablets use the Android mobile operating system and come with a free app called S-Note that meets all my note-taking needs. For example, it offers continuous page scrolling (no searching for a button to go to the next page) and automatic deactivation of hand recognition (ensuring your palm doesn’t mark or move the digital paper, allowing for a natural hand position for writing). Samsung discontinued the Note line of tablets that featured a pen-size stylus that nested neatly into the body of the device, but there are many compatible stylus options to suit any preference. Just look for the one that feels natural for you and play with the settings in your note-taking app to get the type of stroke you like.

Another option, if you want to do all your computing and note-taking on one lightweight device, is the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 or a similar laptop/tablet hybrid—many manufacturers are following Microsoft’s lead in this space now. (See Figure 4.) For notes, DrawBoard PDF, intended for viewing and annotating PDFs, has proven to be perfect for consecutive notes, which don’t need to be organized or stored later. Just create a new document (selecting your preferred “paper” color and texture) and start taking notes. When clients require destruction of notes, it’s as simple as deleting the file.

Figure 4: Consecutive notes on the Surface Pro 4 with the Surface Pen, compared to a steno pad and analog pen.

Figure 4: Consecutive notes on the Surface Pro 4 with the Surface Pen, compared to a steno pad and analog pen.

Much More than for Entertainment

Just as increases in laptop storage and processing capacity led to the replacement of desktop computers, advances in tablet technology make it possible for users to streamline even more, replacing their laptops with feather-light tablets. Professional devices are much more than an overpriced entertainment device. For example, Alexander uses his iPad Pro as his main computer for almost everything, from referencing documents in the interpreting booth, taking notes on consecutive assignments, and writing blog posts and editing podcasts. Holly brings her Surface Pro 4 to assignments as a tablet and mobile workstation—even running two full translation programs—and connects it to a dual-screen desk setup when at the office. Prices for basic devices start at just a few hundred dollars, so it’s a great time to try out tablet interpreting.

App Roundup

Compatibility:
Apple iOS      Android OS      Windows
* Access using mobile browser

Glossary Management
Interplex: www.fourwillows.com/interplex.html ••
Interpreters’ Help*/Boothmate: https://interpretershelp.com 
Airtable*: https://airtable.com ••
Memento Database: mementodatabase.com 
Microsoft Excel*: https://products.office.com/en-us/excel •••
Google Sheets*: www.google.com/sheets/about •••

Business Tasks
Quickbooks Online: https://quickbooks.intuit.com/online •••
Expensify: www.expensify.com •••
Feedly*: https://feedly.com •••
Alltop*: http://alltop.com •••
Buffer*: https://buffer.com •••
Mailchimp*: https://mailchimp.com •••

Note-Taking
Bamboo Paper: http://bit.ly/Bamboo-Paper •••
Notability: http://bit.ly/Notability-GingerLabs 
Noteshelf: www.noteshelf.net 
Drawboard PDF: www.drawboard.com 
S-Note (Samsung only): www.snotes.com 

Notes
  1. Apps: Ubiquitous shortened form of applications, mobile device programs.
  2. Here’s the link to Leonie Wagener’s article: http://bit.ly/conference-preparation.

Holly Behl is an ATA-certified Spanish>English translator and a Texas Master Licensed Court Interpreter. She has been experimenting with interpreting applications for tablet technology since 2013, with reports available on her blog, The Paperless Interpreter (www.paperlessinterpreter.com). Contact: holly@precisolanguage.com.

Alexander Drechsel is a staff interpreter at the European Commission’s Interpreting Service. His working languages are German (A), English (B), French, and Romanian (C). He is also a bit of a “tablet geek,” and and regularly shares his passion and knowledge with fellow interpreters during training sessions and online at 
www.adrechsel.de. Contact: alex@adrechsel.de.

Unraveling Translation Service Contracts

By Paula Arturo
Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle with permission (incl. the images)

Let’s examine what translation is to the law, what type of contracts translators should have, some of the benefits of having a contract, and resources for drafting one.

A common misconception about freedom of contract is that, when it comes to agreements between willing parties, pretty much anything goes. Although freedom of contract restricts government or other forms of interference or control over freely and mutually convened agreements,1 contracts are still limited by law. Therefore, if the performance, formation, or object of an agreement is against the law, the contract itself is illegal.2

In every area of contract law, what’s legal and what’s not depends on several factors, such as applicable law and jurisdiction. Translation is no exception, and translation contracts are far more complex than they seem. Thus, while one may be inclined to think all that’s at stake are deadlines and rates, the truth is that translation contracts govern sophisticated relationships that may cross over jurisdictions or country borders, often involving third parties and even multiple related contracts.

Contracts are a key element of any business transaction, including translation. To better understand how translators operate, I conducted a brief online survey last year, the results of which were also presented at ATA’s 57th Annual Conference in San Francisco.

As you can see in Figure 1, when asked about whether or not they used contracts, an alarming 48.7% out of 156 freelance translators answered “No,” and an even more astounding 64.1% claimed not to have their own terms of service. (See Figure 2.) The results are surprising, especially when you consider that 82.1% of the surveyed group dealt with direct clients and were not necessarily relying on their clients to provide nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), purchase orders (POs), or any other legally binding document.3

Figure 1: Survey Respondents Operating with Contracts

Figure 1: Survey Respondents Operating
with Contracts

Figure 2: Survey Respondents Operating with their Own Terms of Service

Figure 2: Survey Respondents Operating with their Own Terms of Service

Translation as a Service

ATA members are probably familiar with ATA’s Translation Buying a Non-commodity—How Translation Standards Can Help Buyers and Sellers,4 which clearly explains, from a business point of view, what we mean when we say “translation is not a commodity.” But what does that mean from a legal point of view?

Legally speaking, the contract pie is divided into three parts: contracts for the sale of real estate, contracts for the sale of goods, and contracts for the sale of service. Translation falls into the third category. But translation is not just any kind of service. If you look at the United Nations International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities (ISIC),5 you’ll find translation listed in Section M. This is the section for “specialized professional, scientific, and technical activities [that] require a high degree of training, and make specialized knowledge and skills available to the user [emphasis mine].” Translation is also defined under Class 7490 as “service activities […] for which more advanced professional, scientific, and technical skill levels are required.”

The reason translation is legally viewed as a service is because it makes specialist skills available to the user. Translation doesn’t require the manufacture or production of goods, nor does it rely on raw materials, which are the standard criteria for something to legally classify as a “good” instead of a service.

Problem Clauses

If translation is such a specialized professional service, where so much is at stake for the end client, why are so many translators operating without the protection of a solid contract? One possible explanation based on the responses of the group I surveyed is that many translators refuse to enter into binding agreements that contain “problem clauses.”

When asked specifically about clauses that have stopped translators from signing with clients,6 the following were cited as being either the most problematic clauses or absolute deal breakers from the point of view of translators:

Spy Clauses: By “spy clauses,” I mean any clause in which clients reserve the right to inspect their translator’s computer. While such clauses may not necessarily be illegal, they should be reasonable and limited to situations that justify the intrusion, such as government contracts involving national security or other high-stakes translation jobs. Before agreeing to such clauses, translators need to make sure that doing so doesn’t conflict with or otherwise breach existing agreements with other clients who could potentially be affected by such inspections. If translators agree and authorize the inspections, they’ll need to take necessary measures to protect all private or confidential information and documents belonging to all their other clients.

Indemnity/Limited Liability: Though not illegal, this is yet another clause that should be limited. When it comes to such clauses, a point that often gets overlooked is that clients, brokers (when applicable), and translators are all equally responsible for ensuring that the translator is actually right for the job. Therefore, placing all the burden on a single party may not pass a fairness test.

Notification of Potential Opportunities: This is the clause by which brokers expect their freelance translators to notify them of potential new leads or market opportunities, as opposed to trying to take advantage of the lead or opportunity themselves. Though not illegal, translators must exercise caution in judgment before agreeing to such a clause and make a thorough cost-benefit analysis of the situation.

Non-compete/Non-solicitation/Non-dealing: These clauses are commonly found in agency contracts. Non-compete clauses are legal in the majority, though not all, U.S. states. (They are also illegal in many countries.) In translation contracts, they are basically clauses designed to stop translators from competing with their agency client. Non-solicitation clauses, on the other hand, stop translators from approaching the agency’s clients or prospective clients. The problem with this clause is, of course, the difficulty of knowing who the agency’s “prospective clients” are. Meanwhile, non-dealing clauses are far more restrictive than non-compete and non-solicitation clauses, and are designed to stop translators from dealing with clients or prospective clients, even if the client approaches the translator and not the other way around. All three clauses are only enforceable in jurisdictions where they are legal and when they are for a set period of time, normally up to one year, though some contracts stipulate up to three.

Payment of Translation Contingent Upon End-client Approval of the Translation/End-client Payment of the Translation: Though also common in agency contracts, such clauses walk a dangerously thin line. A translator’s contract with an agency client is a separate contract from that of the agency with the end client. Unless both contracts are legally interrelated because of the complexity of the business transaction at hand, it’s very likely that the clause is unjustified. Interrelated contracts involve specific types of transactions. Contracts don’t become interrelated by the mere desire of one party to transfer risk to another.

Copyright: If a translation is intended as a work for hire, then the contract should either read “work for hire” or make it otherwise very clear that the translation is intended as a work for hire. Under U.S. law (as well as the law of many other countries), if there is any ambiguity in wording, then the translator owns the copyright, which can then be sold, transferred, or licensed out.

Terms of Service

When asked “Do you have your own terms of service,” an astounding 64.1% of translators surveyed answered “No.” When asked why, reasons varied from expecting clients to be the ones doing the drafting to being afraid of scaring clients away. Some respondents claimed email is enough for proof of contract, which is a claim that is only true in some countries.

While one can understand why some professionals are a bit apprehensive of contracts, the benefits of having a solid contract outweigh the hassle or perceived (though unfounded) risk of sending a client your terms and conditions before working on a translation.These benefits include:

  • Protecting Your Business: Contracts provide a description of responsibilities, establish a timeframe for duties, bind parties to their duties, help secure payment, and provide recourse if the relationship falters in any way. Without a contract, you’re unprotected, and if the relationship goes south, it’s your word against that of the non-compliant party.
  • Covering Attorney’s Fees and Court Costs: When a translation is small, the amount of money the contract is for is usually also small. Therefore, if the translator doesn’t get paid, it may not be worth it for him or her to seek out an attorney and file suit. However, your terms of service can include a provision for reasonable attorney fees whereby the prevailing party in any dispute arising under the translation agreement is awarded his or her reasonable attorney fees and costs. This creates a legal incentive to pay by making it riskier for your clients not to do so.
  • Warding Off Deprofessionalization: “Deprofessionalization, in its simplest form, is the process by which highly educated and skilled professionals are first displaced and then replaced with individuals of inferior training and compensation.”7 Both the legal and medical professions are suffering deprofessionalization through the “substitution of standardized practices and protocols for existing methods of production of professional services.”8 It has been argued that the trend toward deprofessionalization is affecting the translation profession as well.Deprofessionalization often results from the notion that no special qualifications are required to do a certain job. The overall lack of entry barriers to the profession, widespread misconceptions about bilingualism and translation, misrepresentations about advancements in machine translation, and other similar trends contribute to the deprofessionalization of translation. Against that backdrop, I would argue that a well-drafted contract that takes into consideration all the complexities and nuances involved in a translation helps increase the client’s perceived value of what we do, creates awareness about what separates professional translators from amateurs, and helps counter the trend toward deprofessionalization.

Resources for Drafting Contracts

Whether you’re among the 64.1% of translators who don’t have their own terms of service, or you have terms of service and want to update them, some excellent resources include ATA’s Translation Job Model Contract,10 PEN America’s Translation Contract for Literary Translators,11 and PEN America’s Translation Contract Checklist.12 Of course, these models will need to be adapted to your local law, jurisdiction, and particular business setting, so seeking appropriate legal advice from a lawyer in your area is also recommendable. While standard clauses are available online, the way the courts interpret such clauses may vary from one jurisdiction to another. A qualified legal professional in your area can help you adapt them to your particular needs. 

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is provided for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice or as an offer to perform legal services on any subject matter. Readers should not act, or refrain from acting, on the basis of any information included herein without seeking appropriate legal advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from an attorney licensed in their state or country. 

Notes
  1. Freedom of contract is “a judicial concept that contracts are based on mutual agreement and free choice, and thus should not be hampered by undue external control such as government interference.” Black’s Law Dictionary 
(10th edition, 2014), 779.
  2. Atiyah, Patrick S. An Introduction to
the Law of Contract, third edition
 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981).
  3. Here is the link to the Translation Contracts Survey: http://bit.ly/
contracts-survey.
  4. Translation Buying a Non-commodity—How Translation Standards Can Help Buyers and Sellers, www.atanet.org/docs/translation_buying_guide.pdf.
  5. United Nations International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities, http://bit.ly/ISIC-classification.
  6. In this section, I use the term “client” in its broadest possible sense to refer to both direct clients as well as brokers and agencies.
  7. Dionne, Lionel. “Deprofessionalization in the Public Sector” Communications Magazine, issue 1, volume 35
(The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, Winter 2009), 
http://bit.ly/Deprofessionalization.
  8. Epstein, Richard A. “Big Law and Big Med: The Deprofessionalization of Legal and Medical Services,” International Review of Law and Economics, 
Volume 38 (Elsevier, June 2014), 64-76, 
http://bit.ly/law-deprofessionalization.
  9. Pym, Anthony. “The Status of the Translation Profession in the European Union,” 
http://bit.ly/deprofessionalization-translation.
  10. ATA Translation Job Model Contract,
 http://bit.ly/ATA-model-contract.
  11. PEN America’s Translation Contract
for Literary Translators,
 http://bit.ly/literary-translation-contract.
  12. PEN America’s Translation Contract Checklist, http://bit.ly/contract-checklist.

Paula Arturo is a lawyer, translator, and former law professor. She is a co-director of Translating Lawyers, a boutique firm specializing in legal translation by lawyers for lawyers. Throughout her 15-year career, in addition to various legal and financial documents, she has also translated several highly technical law books and publications in major international journals for high-profile authors, including several Nobel Prize Laureates and renowned jurists. She is currently a member of ATA’s Ethics Committee, the ATA Literary Division’s Leadership Council, and the Public Policies Forum of the Supreme Court of Argentina. Contact: paula@translatinglawyers.com.