Translating for Pharma

What is a translation?

A translation is, essentially, a new document for a new audience, since it is written to reflect the meaning of the source document as faithfully as possible in a new language. This new language could express things in different ways, which will be evident if a professional translates the material back to the original language without seeing the original document (known as back translation).

Translation as teamwork

Translation is always a partnership between all the participants in the process. As the Technical Contact for the ASTM Standard for Translation published in 2014, Helen prepared this work order and uses it to outline clear parameters for all projects or those who request translations (requesters, in this document).

Preliminary questions
  1. Who is the audience? Spanish monolingual speakers, bilingual native speakers of the target language with limited proficiency in the original language, speakers fluent in both languages? Health care professionals, patients, distributors, or regulators? In what country will the translated text be used? Should country-specific terminology be used?
  2. How will the requester handle questions? How long should it take to get an answer? Is it likely the customer will know the answer, or will they have to find someone else in their organization to provide the information?
  3. Is complete delivery when the translation is finalized acceptable? Understand that document 3 on the same topic may shed light on what was not clear in document 1. Partial deliveries complicate communication between translators, editors, project managers, and the requester. They often slow the process down and undermine quality.
  4. What style guide will be used? Does the requester have a style guide, or would they like to receive the one the translation team used to guide their decisions?
  5. Does the requester have a terminology database or previous translations available for reference that should be used for consistency? If the requester has resources, the translator should work with them. Otherwise, it could be important to find out if there are important terminology preferences ahead of time.
  6. How involved does the requester want to be in the translation? Will the translation be evaluated by the requester? If so, having an ongoing conversation with that person through the project can be useful.
  7. Does the requester want a translation of the translated document back into English (a back translation)? Be sure to set realistic expectations. The back translation will always have different wording from the original text while reflecting the same concepts. This is a required step in some fields.
Suggested steps for translation success
  1. Be watchful for ambiguities in the source document. Any discrepancies and contradictions in the source document need to be flagged and brought to the requester’s attention for clarification. Otherwise, the translator may solve these discrepancies in ways that are inconsistent with the requester’s expectations.
  2. Be careful with the use of translation tools. Small differences between one phrase and a similar one can go unnoticed as we accept repetitions in our rush to meet a deadline, especially dealing with sections that do not appear to have technical content. Requesters will check the material that is easiest for them to check: numbers, addresses, names. Step 5 can help mitigate these issues.
  3. Document terminology research. Keep a checklist of terminology issues to watch out for and follow it. Be very careful with terms that might be false cognates or close cognates.
  4. If the document is ultimately intended for use by patients and doctors who speak Spanish, rather than for the regulators who will be approving it, the terms chosen should be terms with which monolingual Spanish speakers are comfortable and will identify. These might not be the same terms used in US government websites. Translators should be prepared to defend linguistic decisions with research and logic. Sometimes requesters ask questions to verify that translators are applying professional best practices.
  5. Be very careful with additions or omissions, even if they are minor clarifications. The review tab of Word has a Read Aloud feature. It can be used to read the translation while following along on the original document to check for accuracy. Anything that might require clarification for the requester can go in the style guide.
  6. At the end, do a search for the terminology issues flagged and recheck all of them. Delaying delivery a little is better than delivering a text with avoidable problems.
How to ask for clarification

“Where it says xxx, on page 1, as a translator I wonder whether you would like it to say yyy or zzz.”

“This text gives two names for the same illness, in the following contexts (list them). What would you like us to do in the translation to maintain consistency with the different names, since one appears to be scientific and the other appears to be colloquial? Here is one suggestion: ________________. The organization appears to have two addresses. Is this correct? Please confirm.”

Problems when there is no flexibility

Sometimes the translator and reviewer are asked to include a particular preferred term and the back translator is asked to make sure a particular English term is used to match that term in the back translation. In those cases, it is important to verify that the English and Spanish terms truly are accurate translations of each other.

There should be some flexibility in translation. The meaning should be there, but the words in the back translation should be expected to be somewhat different than the words in the original document, though they will convey the same message. Translating the English document into a foreign language so that the back translation yields an exactly identical result will produce a document that is rigid and potentially unreadable for the non-English speaking audience and could defeat the purpose of providing language access.

Translation is not about the words. It is about what the words are about.

A flowchart of the translation process
Step Translator Requester
Together, determine:

  • Audience
  • Style guide
  • Terminology resources
  • How to answer questions
  • Deadline for complete delivery
  • Participation of requester in project
  • Need for back translation
Initial decisions:

·         Terminology analysis

·         Decisions regarding tools to use

·         Ambiguities in the source document

·         How to develop a style guide

·         What goes on the checklist?

·         Always keep the intended audience of the translation in mind.

1 Translator delivers the bilingual text in two-column format in a Microsoft Word document.
2 Reviewer edits the translation with track changes on and makes comments. These comments and changes are recorded and approved by the translator.
3 Back translator translates translation back to source language.
4 Back translation comes back. The translator and reviewer verify that the translation approved by the reviewer matches the source text.
5 Specialists from the pharma legal team review the back translation and make comments regarding nuances they found that might be different from their source text. This could include mistakes, negligible linguistic differences that must be explained to the requester, or wording that needs to be translated in a specific way for legal reasons. It may be helpful to ask your requester to flag or categorize changes based on the severity and nature of the change. Does the requester consider it wrong or do they simply prefer that the word be written out rather than expressed in an acronym? Are they changing this for legal reasons, or because they don’t understand why it isn’t identical between the original and back translation?
6 Update style guide
7 The back translator, translator, and reviewer work together to make the requested changes and ensure they are executed in a unified manner across all translation documentation.
8 The new version is submitted to the requester for approval
9 The new version is submitted in two versions: a clean version and a two-column table comparing the back translation and the original text.
10 The requester agrees on the translation
11 The translator certifies the translation with the ATA seal. Both the translator and the reviewer certify the accuracy of the translated document. This should be done at the end, so the requester understands that it is unacceptable to change the document once it is certified. The certification is only valid for the version approved by the certifying translator.
Qualifications ATA certified translators. The ATA certification exam has a 12% pass rate in Spanish.

Subject matter expertise in medical and science topics.

The reader of the document should have verified language proficiency in the language of the document, to avoid the risk of making suggestions that could corrupt the integrity of the translation if implemented.

Review this document on language proficiency of bilingual employees for further information on language proficiency. There are language proficiency tests in reading available through www.languagetesting.com

Sample certification text

I, [translator name], ATA certified translator, certify that:

I performed the translation into Spanish of the document called [document name]

To the best of my knowledge, that translation is an accurate rendition of the original document written in English.

I am a competent translator and have been certified by the American Translators Association as a Spanish to English in [month] of [year] and as an English to Spanish translator in [month] of [year].

Date (Signature) [seals]

Sample analysis of terminology for gradient of severity of adverse drug reactions
Mild or moderate adverse drug reactions do not necessarily mean that people must stop taking a drug, especially if no suitable alternative is available. However, doctors are likely to reevaluate the dose, frequency of use (number of doses a day), and timing of doses (for example, before or after meals; in the morning or at bedtime). Other drugs may be used to control the adverse drug reaction (for example, a stool softener to relieve constipation). Leve

No es necesario ningún tratamiento.

Moderate adverse reactions include:

·         Rashes (especially if they are extensive and persistent)

·         Visual disturbances (especially in people who wear corrective lenses)

·         Muscle tremor

·         Difficulty with urination (a common effect of many drugs in older men)

·         Any perceptible change in mood or mental function

·         Certain changes in blood components, such as a temporary, reversible decrease in the white blood cell count or in blood levels of some substances, such as glucose

Also, reactions that are usually described as mild are considered moderate if the person experiencing them considers them distinctly annoying, distressing, or intolerable

Moderado

Es precisa una modificación del tratamiento (p. ej., modificación de la dosis, adición de otro fármaco), pero la interrupción de la administración del fármaco no es imprescindible; puede ser necesario prolongar la internación o aplicar un tratamiento específico.

Severe adverse drug reactions

Severe reactions include those that may be life threatening (such as liver failure, abnormal heart rhythms, certain types of allergic reactions), that result in persistent or significant disability or hospitalization, and that cause a birth defect. Severe reactions are relatively rare. Doctors use every possible means to control a severe adverse drug reaction.

Grave

La reacción adversa a fármacos pone en peligro la vida del paciente y exige interrumpir la administración del fármaco e aplicar un tratamiento específico.

Lethal adverse drug reactions

 

Lethal reactions are those in which a drug reaction directly or indirectly caused death. These reactions are typically severe reactions that were not detected in time or did not respond to treatment

Mortal

Una reacción adversa a fármacos puede contribuir directa o indirectamente a la muerte del paciente.

Source for this table: English and Spanish Merck Manuals for Home Health. Note this opening sentence from the English article:

There is no universal scale for describing or measuring the severity of an adverse drug reaction. Assessment is largely subjective.

The column on the right was taken from the professional version of the Spanish Merck manual.

In practice, a requester’s document may not match this list. Therefore, translators must do a terminology analysis of the complete list of reactions listed in the document to put the reactions on the gradient list and develop an appropriate terminology list for that document, to avoid confusion.

Resources for translation

Resources not to use

  • US Government websites. The US Government has a policy of contracting the lowest cost technically acceptable bidder, which yields unreliable translation results.
  • Wikipedia is a tertiary source, not a primary source. Researchers are not allowed to quote it as a primary source in research papers. It is a great place to get a basic idea and then keep researching.
  • Linguee. This is basically a quick check of how something has been translated in various contexts. It can yield unreliable results.

Resources to use

  • The Merck Manual, which is available online in many languages in two versions: for professionals and for patients. These versions are not direct translations of each other in the different languages. They are carefully written and edited in each language to be used as a direct resource for people in those language cultures. These resources have been discussed with members of the American Medical Writers Association in charge of writing medical documents in Spanish, and one (an Argentine MD who has been a translator and is now in charge of the medical documentation for an organization like this pharma group) says there is no better resource than the Merck.
  • Word Magic, an app available for the iPhone and iPad. Its translations do not just come, as many do, as a bilingual glossary, but also with synonyms, sentences, and other useful information for context. The medical, business, legal, slang, and general versions are constantly updated.
  • The Jablonsky dictionary of acronyms and abbreviations.
  • Vox Médico.
  • Other specialized resources written for medical professionals.
  • Diario Médico, a newsletter for doctors from Spain.

Style guides

Regarding style guides, although the Real Academia Española is highly regarded, Deusto has published a style guide that is an adaptation of the Chicago Manual of Style in Spanish: Manual de estilo Chicago Deusto, edición adaptada al español. This is used by many translators who work in technical fields and is consistent with the 2010 updates of the Real Academia Española.

This is a highly regarded resource, which we use as a primary resource in most translations. It provides helpful references for the editor at all stages of the editing process in one volume, which makes it particularly useful.

One reason for using the Deusto is that there are several RAE publications, making it difficult to follow the thread of what guidelines have been followed in each of the many publications that RAE has published on the same topic in the last few years. However, El buen uso del español is one of the most practical ones and is available on Kindle. On the other hand, it often seems to contradict some of the guidelines in the larger references, such as the Nueva Gramática and the Ortografía. As translators, we make decisions regarding style based on the document and the needs of the requester. Editors develop style guides for each setting, and so do we.

Image source: Pixabay

Author bios

by Helen Eby and Carlie Sitzman

Carlie Sitzman graduated from Weber State University with a BA in German and an AAS in Technical Drafting in 2009, at which time it was clear that best way to make her passion for language and fascination with technology into a career was to become a translator. In 2011 she moved to Germany where she simultaneously freelanced and earned her MA in Intercultural German Studies from the Universität Bayreuth. She now translates from offices in Wilmington, Delaware and will be celebrating her ten-year anniversary in the industry this year. www.sitzmanaetranslations.com

 

What makes a good agency?

This post was originally published in the July-August 2009 edition of the ITI Bulletin. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Herbert Eppel offers advice for ensuring the relationship between freelance translator and client remains harmonious, productive and pleasant for both sides

In the 15 years since I started diversifying into translation I have worked with around 100 different clients and have encountered dozens of others, many of them translation agencies. Based on this experience it is worth reflecting on what distinguishes these agencies in terms of their interaction with the translator.

Initial contact

Let’s start with the initial contact. It is good practice for translation agencies seeking new freelance suppliers to spend some time researching individual translators’ backgrounds – eg from their respective websites or from online directories such as the main ITI Directory, the Scottish Network Directory at http://www.itiscotland.org.uk, or the new ITI German Network Directory at http://www.itigermannetwork. org.uk – and then send out personalised invitations that are relevant to the circumstances. A less desirable approach is to send out impersonal mass mailings.

Application forms

Some agencies adopt a rather informal approach, while others use more or less complex translator information forms as a basis for their supplier databases. Before asking translators to complete lengthy forms, it is a good idea to negotiate a mutually satisfactory rate as a basis for future collaboration.

Free test translations

The issue of free test translations has been discussed at some length in various forums over the years. In my view, while anyone is entitled to request a test translation, professional translators should not be expected to provide these free of charge. In other words, test translations should be treated just like any other job. In this context, anyone who has not seen it yet and can understand German will no doubt find the ‘Gratisschnitzel’ article published by the Austrian translators’ association Universitas quite entertaining. It can be found on page 4 of the document available from http://www.universitas.org/download.html?FILE_ID=112.

Confidentiality agreements

As members of professional institutions such as ITI, professional translators sign up to a code of conduct that includes confidentiality clauses. I am not a legal expert, but lengthy and complex additional confidentiality agreements as requested by some agencies would therefore seem rather unnecessary.

Deadlines

In certain circumstances, urgent deadlines requiring a translator to work outside normal office hours are unavoidable. While many freelance translators tend to work irregular hours and may well be quite happy to adjust their schedule to accommodate urgent assignments, out-of-hours or weekend work should not be taken for granted. A good agency is a freelancer’s ally, and should be prepared to negotiate appropriate surcharges with the end-client where appropriate.

Auxiliary tasks

As the job title suggests, a translator’s main task is translation. Handling of auxiliary tasks such as PDF extraction or layout refinements in complex file formats such as PowerPoint should not be taken for granted. In this respect, a statement published by a well-known translation memory software provider back in 2002 speaks for itself: ‘Pricing is not just set on a per word basis when complex file types are involved. If you are translating in file types other than Word-like web pages, or desktop publishing formats, you will want to charge file maintenance fees to compensate you for the extra skill required to manage and translate within such file types. Typically, a 10%-20% surcharge (depending on project complexity) is customary.’

Discounts

Some clients ask for discounts on the grounds that a job is particularly large. I would suggest that such a priori discounts are inappropriate, because: a) a commitment to undertake a large job within a standard timescale may well prevent a translator from taking on work from other clients in the meantime; and b) it could be argued that translators who can offer the additional project management skills and resources required for handling such projects should in fact be rewarded, rather than penalised.

Similarly, translators are often asked to accept a sliding discount scale that was originally suggested by the aforementioned TM software provider, but is by no means cast in stone. Such a scale takes into account internal repetitions, so-called 100% TM matches and TM matches with varying degrees of fuzziness. In my experience, fuzzy matches may well require more time to adapt to a new text than translating the relevant sentence from scratch, and therefore I do not offer ‘fuzzy discounts’. On the other hand, like probably most colleagues I do give discounts in some cases for repetitions and 100% matches.

At this point, however, I feel it is worth pointing out that the origin and quality of 100% matches is a crucial factor that often seems to get overlooked in the ‘great discount debate’. In other words, the 100% matches for which the client may expect a discount could have been based on poor previous translations undertaken by third parties, in which case any revision can be more time-consuming than a new translation.

An inquisitive translator is good news

The brochure Translation – getting it right, written by Chris Durban of ITI, is aimed at end-clients and is available to download from the ITI website, http://www.iti.org.uk. Part of the text says: ‘No one reads your texts more carefully than your translator. Along the way, he or she is likely to identify fuzzy bits – sections where clarification is needed. This is good news for you, since it will allow you to improve your original. … Ideally, translators strip down your sentences entirely before creating new ones in the target language. Good translators ask questions along the way.’

A good translation agency will try to convey this philosophy to the end-client, for the benefit of all parties involved. Similarly, the agency will automatically enquire about reference material in cases where such material is not provided by the end-client.

Feedback

Feedback on completed translation assignments is important and should be encouraged. In my experience, many agencies seem to adopt a kind of ‘no news is good news’ principle, which is fine in some ways, but even better is the occasional positive feedback.

Any agencies and indeed end-clients who might be lost for words in this respect could take some guidance from the Comments section of my website at http://www.HETranslation. co.uk. Constructive corrective feedback is also to be encouraged, of course. Less helpful are general statements such as ‘the client was not happy’, issued several months after a translation job was delivered. Not only is this detrimental to morale, but I also feel that in many cases, such generic criticism fails to stand up to closer scrutiny.

‘Faffometer’

It is worth introducing the concept of a ‘Faffometer’ for measuring the satisfaction level of the working relationship between agency and freelance translator. Sadly I cannot claim to have invented the term – it appears to have been introduced by Business Productivity Expert Mike Pagan, although he uses it in a slightly different – potentially also very useful – manner. For him it is an Excel spreadsheet divided into equal time periods in the working day, each of which is allocated a productive task, and where the least possible amount of time is spent ‘faffing about’. See his video newsletter at http://video. mikepagan.com/Newsletter/Faffometer (it is less than two minutes long) for more. I am still in the process of refining my own Faffometer.

At the high end of my Faffometer scale are agencies who tend to be reluctant to ask the end-client whether source texts can be made available in a format that can readily be processed with a CAT tool and, faced with IT challenges that may be beyond the capabilities of their project managers, expect translators to deal with auxiliary IT aspects such as extracting text from PDF files and preparing nicely formatted documents or presentations in the target language.

Ideal scenario

At the other end of the Faffometer scale is an agency I have been working for on a very regular basis for around 10 years, with a total job count approaching 2,000. This rather high figure is partly explained by the fact that all jobs, however small, are assigned a separate job number. While this may seem tiresome, it avoids can-you-please-just-translate-these-few-words-for-free scenarios. The agency invariably deals with any and all file format conversion and translation memory aspects and handles any and all pre- and post-processing tasks that may be required.

Specifically, all their texts (regardless of the format of the original source document) arrive in the form of specially formatted MS Word files, where any pre-processed text (eg 100% translation memory matches or internal repetitions) is clearly identified. Such text can simply be formatted as hidden and automatically ignored on import into TM tools such as Déjà Vu and MemoQ.

The attraction of this approach is that discount negotiations and sliding discount scales are never an issue, while the pre-processed text contained in the original file can be helpful for reference. In addition, the agency tends to make translation memory and glossary extracts from their in-house TM and terminology management systems available, always tries to obtain reference material from the end-client, and happily responds to terminology clarification requests.

Header image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Herbert Eppel is a chartered engineer. Originally from Heidelberg, he has been living and working in the UK since 1988. Herbert diversified into translation in around 1995, and is a member of several ITI networks.

He deals with texts from a wide range of technical and scientific subjects. For more, see http://www.HETranslation.co.uk.

Machine Translation and the Savvy Translator

Using machine translation is easy; using it critically requires some thought.

Tick tock! As translators, we’re all too familiar with the experience of working under pressure to meet tight deadlines. We may have various tools that can help us to work more quickly, such as translation memory systems, terminology management tools, and online concordancers. Sometimes, we may even find it helpful to run a text segment through a machine translation (MT) system.

There was a time when translators would have been embarrassed to admit “resorting” to MT because these tools often produced laughable rather than passable results. But MT has come a long way since its post-World War II roots. Early rule-based approaches, where developers tried to program MT systems to process language similar to the way people do (i.e., using grammar rules and bilingual lexicons) have been largely set aside. Around the turn of the millennium, statistics rather than linguistics came into play, and new statistical machine translation (SMT) approaches allowed computers to do what they’re good at: number crunching and pattern matching. With SMT, translation quality got noticeably better, and companies such as Google and Microsoft, among others, released free online versions of their MT tools.

Neural Machine Translation: A game changer

In late 2016, the underlying approach to MT changed again. Now state-of-the-art MT systems use artificial neural networks coupled with a technique known as machine learning. Developers “train” neural machine translation (NMT) systems by feeding them enormous parallel corpora that contain hundreds of thousands of pages of previously translated texts. In a way, this should make translators feel good! Rather than replacing translators, NMT systems depend on having access to very large volumes of high quality translation in order to function. Without these professionally translated corpora, NMT systems would not be able to “learn” how to translate. Although the precise inner workings of NMT systems remain mysterious, the quality of the output has, for the most part, improved.

It’s not perfect, and no reasonable person would claim that it is better than the work of a professional translator. However, it would be short-sighted of translators to dismiss this technology, which has become more or less ubiquitous.

MT Literacy: Be a savvy MT user

Today, there should be no shame in consulting an MT system. Even if the suggested translation can’t be used “as is,” a translator might be able to fix it up quickly, or might simply be inspired by it on the way to producing a better translation. However, as with any tool, it pays to understand what you are dealing with. It’s always better to be a savvy user than not. Thinking about whether, when, why, and how to use MT is part of what we term “MT literacy.” It basically comes down to being an informed and critical user of this technology, rather than being someone who just copies, pastes and clicks. So what should savvy translators know about using free online MT systems?

— Information entered into a free online MT system doesn’t simply “disappear” once you close the window. Rather, the companies that own the MT system (e.g., Google, Microsoft) might keep the data and use it for other purposes. Don’t enter sensitive or confidential information into an online MT system. For more tips on security and online MT, see Don DePalma’s article in TC World magazine.

— Consider the notion of “fit-for-purpose” when deciding whether an MT system could help. Chris Durban and Alan Melby prepared a guide for the ATA entitled Translation: Buying a non-commodity in which they note that one of the most important criteria to consider is:

The purpose of the translation: Sometimes all you want is to get (or give) the general idea of a document (rough translation); in other cases, a polished text is essential.

The closer you are to needing a rough translation, the more likely it is that MT can help. As you move closer towards needing a polished translation, MT may still prove useful, but it’s likely that you are going to need to invest more time in improving the output. Regardless, it’s always worth keeping the intended purpose of the text in mind. Just as you wouldn’t want to under-deliver by offering a client a text that doesn’t meet their needs, there’s also no point in over-delivering by offering them a text that exceeds their needs. By over-delivering, you run the risk of doing extra work for free instead of using that time to work on another job or to take a well-earned break!

— Not all MT systems are the same. Each NMT system is trained using different corpora (e.g., different text types, different language pairs, different number of texts), which means they could be “learning” different things. If one system doesn’t provide helpful information, another one might. Also, these systems are constantly learning. If one doesn’t meet your needs today, try it again next month and the results could be different. Some free online MT systems include:

— Check the MT output carefully before deciding to use it. Whereas older MT systems tended to produce text that was recognizably “translationese,” a study involving professional translators that was carried out by Sheila Castilho and colleagues in 2017 found that newer NMT systems often produce text that is more fluent and contains fewer telltale errors such as incorrect word order. But just because the NMT output reads well doesn’t mean that it’s accurate or right for your needs. As a language professional, it’s up to you to be vigilant and to ensure that any MT output that you use is appropriate for and works well as part of your final target text.

Image credits: Pixabay 1, Pixabay 2, Pixabay 3

Author bio

Lynne Bowker, PhD, is a certified French to English translator with the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario, Canada. She is also a full professor at the School of Translation and Interpretation at the University of Ottawa and 2019 Researcher-in-Residence at Concordia University Library where she is leading a project on Machine Translation Literacy. She has published widely on the subject of translation technologies and is most recently co-author of Machine Translation and Global Research (2019, Emerald).

How To Use Facebook To Promote Translator Services

I believe a freelance translator’s first and easiest step to creating online visibility is to set up a business page on Facebook. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Facebook is free;
  • it gives you a huge opportunity to reach a lot of people;
  • search engines index Facebook pages, therefore people can find your translation services through Google search results;
  • you can build a custom page and implement additional features to stand out from the crowd.

Unfortunately, many freelance translators do not use Facebook pages to their full potential. Worse, some use them poorly and actually hurt their online credibility. In this post, I will tell you how to overcome the obstacles and promote your translation services with Facebook.

Define the Strategy of Your Freelance Translator Business

Strategy is the foundation of a freelance translator’s success. This involves building a brilliant roadmap. Start by defining who your customers are and how you can help them. Let’s say your area of expertise is website translation. In this case, your customers are, of course, website owners and marketing and SEO managers.

To get these professionals to notice your translation business, you will have to tell them how your services can help them solve their problems. For this reason, the design as well as the content of your Facebook page should focus on this.

One resource I’ve found particularly helpful in terms of freelance translator business strategy is Jenae Spry’s blog: Success by Rx.

Choose the Best Name for Your Translation Business

When it comes to translation business success, the right name can make your language services the talk of the town. The wrong name can doom them to obscurity. Ideally, your name should convey expertise, value, and the uniqueness of your translation services.

Some experts believe that the best names are the keywords people use when searching for your services on the web. For example, see my Facebook page, “Best Russian Translator.” Others think that names should contain specific proper nouns, as in the examples of “Foxdocs Translation and Editing” and “lingocode.com – The Translator’s Teacup by Rose Newell.” Some assert that names indicating one’s expertise are more memorable than the translator’s real name: “Video Game Translator,” “Online Legal Translations.” In reality, any name can be effective if it is backed by the appropriate freelance translator marketing strategy.

My lifehack #1: Use the same username across your profiles on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media platforms.

Specify the Colors of Your Online Visibility

Establishing a solid brand identity as a freelance translator is vitally important. By doing so, you build trust, make your clients feel comfortable, and create long-term brand awareness. For this, you need to determine the set of colors you are going to use. At this point it is also necessary to look back at your freelance translator marketing strategy and do some research on color psychology and web color matching. People tend to click, scan, and engage with the content that appeals to them and meets their intent. For example,the color blue is associated with trust, loyalty, and wisdom, while pink represents friendship, affection, and appreciation. If your target audience is looking for legal translation, you might consider blue as the main color.

My lifehack #2: Check the websites of freelance translators and translation companies and note what colors they are using. For example, I have chosen two colors for my brand: red and blue.

Create a Profile Photo and Cover Image

According to Facebook, the size of a profile photo should be 180×180 pixels, and the cover photo should be 820×312 pixels. Both the cover image and your profile photo are the first point of contact you have with potential followers. Therefore, they should give insight into your translation business as much as possible.

Most often, your profile photo will be your translation business logo. If you have a limited budget, you can easily create a professional logo from scratch on your own. For a step-by-step video guide, see my post on how to design a freelance translator logo for free.

Designing a cover image might look like a real challenge. But in reality, thanks to online tools, you can create professional cover images based on templates. Just remember to implement your business strategy and main colors. My favorite tool for this purpose is Canva.

“About” Section

This section of your Facebook business page will help you tell the world who you are and what services you offer. Indicate in “Category” (“General” section) that you are a “Translator.” Make sure your name and username are the same. This is very important for marketing and SEO purposes. This means the link name and the page name will be the same.

In the “Story” section (in the main menu from the left: “About” > “Story”), make sure to add more details. Explain how your services can help your clients and what problems you can solve for them.

Start Growing Your Community

Once your Facebook page is set up following the steps above, you can start building your community. Here are some highlights based on the strategies that have helped me come a long way on social media:

  • publish different posts on your timeline: links to articles related to your company or industry, inspirational quotes, funny memes, questions, calls to action;
  • always tag people or companies that you mention in your posts;
  • always use hashtags; they will attract a new audience;
  • join groups where yourtarget audience is active;
  • engage with people by leaving comments;
  • publish stories.

And lifehack #3: Keeping up with the right Facebook pages can help you improve your business model, better serve your customers, and boost your online presence. For suggestions on who to follow for more inspiration, see my post about the 12 best freelance translators worth subscribing to on Facebook.

Header image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Hanna Sles is a Russian and Ukrainian translator with a master’s degree in linguistics (English and German). Since 2014, her main area of expertise is website translation and localization. By combining her linguistic knowledge and SEO expertise, she helps companies increase organic traffic, reach their target audience, and increase online sales in the Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking markets.

Mental Health in Freelance Translation: Imposter Syndrome

Maybe just another run through, just to be safe.

I had already checked that .srt file around 16 times in the past couple of hours and it still didn’t feel like enough. It was the first subtitle I had ever made, following a subtitling workshop at an agency, a test that determined whether or not I would enter their base of freelancers. It was to be my first proper translating gig ever.

But instead of being happy about the prospect of kick-starting my career or entering the lovely world of audiovisual translation, I was choking in self-doubt. I’d never done this before, so how was I supposed to know what was right? Would the feedback turn out to be excruciating? What if the file got corrupted when I saved it? What if I’m actually the worst translator ever?

I hit send. Dread ensued.

Thankfully, one of the project managers at the agency got back to me in no time. The feedback was really positive, and it contained this sentence: “It looks like this was done by someone who’s already experienced in translation.

…I was mortified. It couldn’t have been that good. I had never done that before. Sure, I did some translation in college, but no subtitling! What was I getting myself into? What if they actually thought I had let someone else do the test subtitle for me? Did I look like that kind of person during the workshop? Would I be able to put as much effort into the actual work as I did in the test subtitle? What if all of the following subtitles turned out to be trash? What if I just got lucky with this one?

Could the PM smell my panic through the email? And how long before they found out I was a fraud?

Imposter Syndrome in Freelancing

Welp, you guessed it: I have a huge case of imposter syndrome.

Just like burnout, the term “imposter syndrome” has been around since the 1970s. Another similarity between the two is that it’s not considered an official diagnosis, but can lead to health concerns such as anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

According to Medical News Today, people with imposter syndrome may experience some or all of these behavioral symptoms:

  • worrying that we will not live up to expectations, i.e. the fear of being “found out”
  • avoiding extra responsibilities
  • getting stuck in self-doubt cycles, i.e. feelings of self-doubt getting worse despite/because of successes
  • attributing success to external factors, i.e. failing to acknowledge our own competency
  • self-sabotage

What these symptoms boil down to, according to psychological research, is perfectionism.

In their paper on imposter syndrome in high-achieving women, Pauline Rose Clance and Claire Imes suggest that the core of imposter syndrome lies in early childhood development and upbringing: either in excessive praise and lack of guidance or a strict and overly critical approach on the part of the parents. In the first case, individuals grow up with a sense of implied perfection, meaning that they feel it is expected of them to always achieve excellence — which later becomes the front they have to maintain, lest they be exposed. In the second case, they grow up with a sense of enforced perfection, in which achieving parental attachment is only available through constant excellence — the front needs to be maintained in order to maintain the attachment. In both cases, therefore, the person feels the need to operate at high levels of achievement, while simultaneously feeling like what they’re doing is, in fact, a performance.

In order to maintain this image, we self-defined imposters deal with our perfectionism and dread in different ways. As Kirsten Weir puts it in her article on imposter syndrome in graduate students:

“So-called impostors think every task they tackle has to be done perfectly, and they rarely ask for help. That perfectionism can lead to two typical responses[.] An impostor may procrastinate, putting off an assignment out of fear that he or she won’t be able to complete it to the necessary high standards. Or, he or she may overprepare, spending much more time on a task than is necessary.”

I’d like to suggest rejection as a third type of response. The thing with perfectionists is not just that they have to do things perfectly, it’s that they often won’t even try to do a thing unless they know they can do it perfectly. Imposter syndrome can stop you from trying new things, prevent you from achieving new heights, hinder your ambitions and cause you to turn away business opportunities for lack of self-assurance. In translator terms, you may have noticed that, in certain cases, you or the translators you know, especially in the newbie circles, have rejected offers due to their perceived lack of experience and/or skillset in the subject matter at hand.

The problem is, how exactly do you acquire the necessary experience if not by accepting new projects and acquiring experience in new subject areas?

An additional problem with imposter syndrome in translators is the fact that feedback and recognition are not always a thing in this industry. Most clients, at least on the newbie side of things, won’t take the time to provide proper feedback or acknowledge that they recognize your talent and expertise. As a freelancer, you are also not surrounded by colleagues, bosses or mentors who can provide expert feedback and help guide you to a place where you’re secure in your abilities and realistic in your self-assessment. Somehow succeeding without knowing what you did right can enhance your insecurities, regardless of where they come from.

So how do you, as the lonesome freelance translator you are, go about dealing with those insecurities?

Managing Imposter Syndrome

As with most similar issues, there is more than one answer; there is no quick fix, and self-compassion is key:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings

Acknowledge that you’re human. While societies tend to put a bigger emphasis on positive feelings and attitudes as the preferred mode of living, the reality is, humans experience negative emotions for a reason. Insecurities are not something you are born with, but something that has developed through time and experiences. Admit to yourself that you are insecure about your capabilities, or the prospect of a new endeavor, rather than glossing it over with “oh, I’m just too busy at the moment” or “I’m just not cut out for this.” This tip is not about taking risks and giant strides, however — this tip’s here to tell you to develop an understanding of yourself and the roots of the insecurities you harbor.

  1. Acknowledge your work

I.e., your competence. List out the time, steps and strategies you took to achieve the goal you’re feeling fraudulent about, or the ones that would help you accept that new opportunity you’ve been offered. Let’s say it took you a month to finish translating that super convoluted text, you had to research a bunch of super specific terminology and spent ludicrous hours on getting the equivalence just right. That shows perseverance, determination, mental agility, wit and patience. See how many qualities you can identify in the way you handled that one project alone? However much you may have procrastinated during that process, you still did that and there’s a reason your efforts reaped results. Similarly, there’s a reason you’ve been offered that opportunity, and it’s not “oh, they think I’m really good at this based on a false premise I’ve established.”

For others, your work is proof of your abilities and potential. Don’t underestimate their ability to give a fair judgement.

  1. Acknowledge your (and others’!) fallibility

This one is major for me. For some of us, it’s hard to accept the fact that, realistically, perfection is utterly unachievable. We all understand it when it comes to other people, but our relationships with ourselves are often tainted with high expectations and self-doubt. One of the things we should try to integrate into our thinking is the idea that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as they’re honest. When you strive to do your work to the best of your ability (which, as an “imposter,” you probably already do), any and all mistakes that may happen won’t be due to lack of effort or skill. Think of all the times what you did was good, regardless of that punctuation mark that wasn’t in its right place.

Speaking of enough, I’d also like to address the role of social media in imposter syndrome. The highly polished image of the personal and professional lives of others that we see on social media cannot be good for the “imposter’s” sense of inadequacy. While most of us are aware that our feeds don’t exactly give us full disclosure, we do internalize the messages we receive through them. It is, therefore, important to remember that the edited online extension of somebody’s life doesn’t reflect the entirety of it. It certainly won’t show you, say, that time your kick-ass, award-winning translator friend cried themselves to sleep over an impending deadline. In short, accept that others are faulty as well, and that life is not a race to perfection.

  1. Ask for help

This can take on many forms: opening up to your friends over coffee, discussing your insecurities with a mental health counselor, asking for feedback from more experienced colleagues, your clients or project managers. There is no shame in admitting your insecurities and dealing with them, nor in wanting affirmation from the people you work with. None of us can look at ourselves objectively and we need others to provide us with a mirror when our self-doubt gets the best of us. Ask others for input and advice and trust the people you love or admire when they tell you you’re truly good at what you do.

I’d like to round this off by reminding you that managing your imposter syndrome is a process, and that the causes and strategies for managing it are individual to you. The same goes for your strengths and abilities — they are unique to you, and even though you may not possess the same confidence or go-getter attitude as some of your peers, you do possess other qualities that they probably do not. I guess my main point, then, is self-acceptance, and using that as a basis for growth, both in your career and in your personal life. After all, you’re only just beginning.

There’s plenty of room to grow.

Image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Julija Savić is the Content Kid at Zingword, a freelance translator at home and an overall art buff. Her hobbies include cooking and making people feel good about themselves. Check out her other mental health posts at the ZingBlog!

Zingword helps translators feature themselves online, while also effectively marketing their translation services to prospective clients. We have been developing the platform for 3 years and it’s nearly finished and hopefully beautiful. Sign up for the launch!

If you’d like to discuss imposter syndrome or any other topic related to the overall wellbeing of freelancers, join Zingword’s Wharf of Wellness groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.