Adaptation versus Translation

By Brian Harris
Reblogged from Unprofessional Translation blog with permission from the author (including the image)

Adaptation versus TranslationA book I’ve been delving into (see Sources) and an article I’m composing myself both use the terms translation and adaptation. This obliges me to consider what the differences are between the two terms.

Amongst academics, the old study of translation has now been joined by a new branch, adaptation studies:

“In recent years, adaptation studies has established itself as a discipline in its own right, separate from translation studies. [But though] the bulk of its activity to date has been restricted to literature and film departments… it is, however, much more interdisciplinary.”

At a superficial level, it can be treated as a matter of English collocation. We generally see, for example, stage adaptation (or version, which is a synonym of adaptation) or screen adaptation, often without a change of language, rather than stage translation or screen translation. (I myself once acted in a stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice!) But of course there’s more behind the words.

To start with, adaptation certainly is the appropriate word when there’s a change of medium or genre, irrespective of language. Thus a screen adaptation is

“a cinematographic interpretation of a work from another art form – prose, drama, poetry, song or opera or ballet libretto.”

Whereas translation requires a change of language. So the final product can be both a translation and an adaptation: a tradaptation (yes, the word exists!). There are examples of it my article.

An enduring example of genre adaptation is Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, written in 1807 and still in print in several editions (see Sources).

“The book reduced the archaic English and complicated storyline of Shakespeare to a level that children could read and understand.”

It came to be regarded as a work of literature in itself, but of children’s literature.

However there’s still more that’s important, and the most important of all is that the concept of adaptation allows for changes in the content and style of the original that would be unacceptable in a translation; in other words for a much wider difference between the two that goes beyond the wording, and hence for a far more radical and unchained intervention by the translator/adapters. A glaring example of this is the adaptation of Aladdin for the British Christmas theatre For over two hundred years now, since 1788, Antoine Galland’s original French text (itself a translation from Arabic) has been variously translated and adapted for the stage, modern music and topical jokes added, transgender dressing introduced, etc. The pantomime is a mishmash parody of the original Middle Eastern folk tale.

In any case the boundary between translation and adaptation has shifted over the centuries. Chaucer recognised both of them in his famous 14th-century retraction at the end of The Canterbury Tales, where translacions contrasts with enditynges:

“Wherfore I biseke yow mekely, for the mercy Of God, that ye preye for me that crist have Mercy on me and foryeve me my giltes; and Namely of my translacions and enditynges of Worldly vanitees.”

Yet all his many borrowings from French, Italian, etc. are adaptations in the modern sense. Indeed Chaucer often combined several sources in his re-tellings. Not that the concept of close translation didn’t exist; but in Bible translation or legal documents, not literature. For his sake and for the sake of other adapters, we hope God forgave him.

Translation, Adaptation and Transformation. A collection of papers edited by Laurence Raw of Baskent University, Ankara. 240 pages. New York, etc.: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012. Paperback US$43.
Charles and Mary Lamb. Tales from Shakespeare. London, 1807. Still in print.
Brunilda Reichmann Lemos (Universidade Federal do Paraná). Some differences between Boccaccio’s and Chaucer’s Tales of Griselda. No date.
Aladdin. Wikipedia. 2014.
My own article, Translation and Adaptation for the British Christmas Theatre, will be available shortly on my page.

A stage adaptation from Orwell. Source:

Take the Message and Jump!

By Christiane Nord
Abstract by Jamie Hartz and Cynthia Eby

horse-721136_640A common, but dangerous, tendency in translation is to adhere too closely to the source text and miss the mark in the target culture. In this article, Dr. Christiane Nord explains the concept of “taking the message and jumping” into the target linguaculture—which is a combination of culture and language which determines appropriate ways to communicate. She suggests a process where the translator first leaps the barrier separating the source linguaculture from the target linguaculture and then takes a look back to ensure that no meaning or sense has been lost from the source text.

All too often, Nord states, beginning translators start with a quick and dirty version of a translation and then hope to mold it into an acceptable finished product through successive revisions. This process ignores the cultural differences in language use, however, and makes the larger shifts necessary for true communication in the target culture difficult to make. The final result produced by this method does not communicate the message clearly to the target audience and includes “translationese”—vestiges of the source text which are not appropriate to the target linguaculture.

A better method for creating high-quality translations is to first jump the barrier that separates Linguaculture A from Linguaculture B (target). Like with horses jumping, this cannot be done from standing directly in front of the culture barrier; you must have momentum. Gaining the momentum needed to leap across the barrier requires, among other skills and abilities, complete mastery of the target language, so that as a translator you are keenly aware of constructions that fit in the source but not in the target. It is also important, Nord writes, to relate the translation to other texts in the target culture repertoire so that it can be fully accepted as a text in its own right rather than an inadequate version written in “translationese”.

However, this leap into the target linguaculture may sometimes cause us to leave out important aspects of the source text that should not be forgotten, and so one final and critical step of the Figure 4_editedprocess should be to look back at the source and ensure that no key elements have been neglected that would cause your translation to fail to meet the requirements set forth in your brief. Further revision thereafter will help to refine your text into a translation that is practically useful and of high linguistic quality.

The entire process is well summarized in an image given in Nord’s article and reproduced above. First, the arrows from the source text towards the culture hurdle show an attempt to make a crude translation and then fix it. After that, the arrow arching across the figure shows the translator taking the message and jumping across the culture hurdle with it. Finally, arrows work back towards the hurdle in an attempt to look back and regain what was lost in the jump.

While it may seem risky, jumping the hurdle from the source to target will allow your translation to thrive in the target linguaculture. It will have the chance to relate to the textual models that are already in place in the target linguaculture, rather than getting stuck in the mud, too closely bound to the source when your real goal is to produce a functional and fully adequate target text.

Please scroll down to read the full article by Christiane Nord. Click here to download the full article in PDF format.

About the author: Dr. Christiane Nord trained as a translator for Spanish and English at Heidelberg University (B.A. Honours), obtained a PhD in Romance Studies and a post-doc qualification for a full professorship (“Habilitation”) in Applied Translation Studies and Translation Pedagogy. From 1967 she was involved in translator training at the universities of Heidelberg, Vienna, Hildesheim, Innsbruck and Magdeburg. She has been invited for short-time teaching appointments by universities and translator training institutions in Europe, Middle East, America, Asia and Africa. She has about 200 publications about theoretical, methodological and pedagogical aspects of “functionalism” in translation. Since 2007, she has been a research associate and professor extraordinary of the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. For more details see

About Cynthia Eby: Cynthia Eby is a recent graduate of Seattle Pacific University (Class of 2015) with a major in linguistics and cultural studies and a minor in Spanish. She currently works as Gaucha TI’s assistant and lives in Portland, OR.

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Revision and its Kin

by Jonathan Hine

notebook+mugIf you have been translating professionally for a little while, a project manager (PM) has or will ask you to revise a text that someone has translated. The PM probably will not call it “revision.” This is part of our professional practice which has more misnomers than almost anything we do.

What is revision? Why isn’t it editing, proofreading or something else?

In our industry, “revision” is a technical term, a cognate from the French révision. “Revision” in English implies modification of the text, but révision denotes a series of specific activities, which may or may not require modifying the text.

Specifically, the French have a connotation for révision that refers to a verification against standards, which is absent in the English. When you verify a text against standards, and it meets the standards, there is no need to modify it.

For what it is worth, editing, proofreading, revising, and copyediting are monolingual activities, which may take place downstream from the translation and revision work – or not. They belong to the world of monolingual publishing.

Different Types of Revision

Pragmatic revision is what we do: checking a target text against a source text. The revisor needs both texts, and should be at least as qualified as the translator in both language pair and subject matter. Peer backup.

Didactic revision is what a teacher does when correcting papers. It is also what we do as professionals when teaching or mentoring. For example, if a colleague were to ask me to revise a translation not for client delivery, but because she is trying to learn how to translate something new, I might mark it up more than a client delivery, and I would leave the corrections there, with comments. Then we could discuss it.

Evaluation usually means an up/down judgment, as when a Language Service Provider (LSP) retains a revisor to evaluate a new translator’s work. This is not properly revision, because correcting the text is not the purpose. However, a good evaluation may require a revisor. This is what Certification graders do.

Quality control is why LSP’s hire revisors. It is also why the PM must read the work, and why there are proof-readers and editors.

Monolingual Revision

Basically, revision without the source document. This cannot be done without compromising quality and possibly making things worse. A well-written text can contain mistranslations that appear coherent with the rest of the text. A monolingual reviser could also repair a clumsy sentence, and inadvertently change the meaning.

However, there are forms of monolingual review that translators are sometimes asked to perform. For example, in technical communications, a subject matter expert (SME) works closely with technical writers and translators. If the SME sees something that does not square with their understanding of the subject, they can send it back to find out what was really meant. A bilingual SME would be ideal, and I am often asked to revise translations as much for my technical background as for my language pairs.

We may also be asked to review the writing of non-native writers. Professional translators add value to this task, because we can hear the authors thinking in their native language as they write, and imagine a “source text” behind the strange phrases. This kind of monolingual editing applies only to material originally written by the non-native author, not translations. When asked to repair translations, I always insist on working with the source text.

Tips on Revising

We simply cannot edit own work perfectly. Small errors become part of the page, and we no longer see them. It takes a second set of eyes to catch those mistakes. Nothing personal here: the revisor is actually helping the translator deliver a perfect product. Working as a revisor has the added advantage of improving our own self-revising.

Here are some pointers from revisors with many years of experience.

  1. Know beforehand whether you are expected to revise for style as well as substance. If you don’t get this guidance, ask for it. You can waste a lot of time and your client’s money improving the coherence and style of a document when no one needs it.
  2. Know how closely the client wants you to revise. For example, if the end-user needs to know what the document means for an internal meeting, it does not have to be elegant as long as it is clear. Weird (but correct) spellings, unusual syntax (that is not misleading), even omissions (that have no impact on the meaning) can be accepted. On the other hand, an annual report for big investors is a kind of sales document. It has to be very accurate, and it has to read well, to place the company in a good light. A scientific journal article has to be precise, even at the expense of easy readability in some cases (fewer than you might think. Many scientists are excellent writers.).
  3. Don’t take it personally. Remember always that you are revising a translation, not a translator. It takes special effort to set aside the human tendency to imagine the translator working on the document. Even if we do not know the name of the translator, we should have a special empathy for that individual. Anyone can have a bad day; there could be many reasons why the translation in front of you is a mess.
  4. Stay in touch with the PM. One common reason that the translation is a mess may be that you have the wrong file in front of you. If something is way off or if you see that the revision will take more time than you estimated, contact the PM right away.
  5. Avoid “happy-to-glad” revision. This is the habit of replacing a word with its exact synonym. It is both unnecessary, and insulting to the translator. In a way, it is cheating the client, too, because they should not have to pay for wasted action.
  6. Closely related to “happy-to-glad” revision is “I would not have done it that way.” If the meaning is carried correctly, leave the translation alone. One way of policing ourselves is to be sure that we can use external reference(s) to justify every change we make. These could include client guidelines, reference books, checklists, style guides, or glossaries. Anything we cannot justify may simply be personal preference, and that is not a reason to change someone’s work.

How to charge for revision

Revision should be priced by the hour. Revision is affected, more than any other activity in translation, by the quality of the text we are given to work with. If the revisor is not wasting time (see the six tips above), a good translation will take less time to revise, and a poor one will cost more. It’s that simple.

Do not be shy about turning down revision work if the text may be over your head. However, it is an indication that your client has a high regard for your work. Take it as a compliment.

Our “Mother Tongue”: Keeping it Fresh in a Foreign Land

By Helen Eby

Estemed friends,

Old LettersIt seems to make much time that I don’t write to you.—Ramón, in “Ramón Writes,” an Argentine column published by the Buenos Aires Herald every two weeks, as a humorous take on Argentine Spanglish. Ramón had trouble saying such simple things as “It’s been a long time since I’ve written to you.” Today, we laugh at Google Translate instead.

Keeping our mother tongue fresh is a complex issue. My mother is Argentine and spoke Spanish to me as a child. Then, I moved to Argentina when I was eight. Even in Argentina, when I was graduating from college, my teachers sometimes told me that my English had a subtle effect on my Spanish writing!

Those of us who speak more than one language live in an intertidal zone where languages meet. We live where languages are constantly in contact. Sometimes new terms are created because we can’t find a term for something that is hard to say in the other language. When that happens, how do we avoid becoming “Ramón”?

Everyone grows up with a mother tongue. It is an accident of birth. We love it. We speak it at home. We read it, go to school in it, study it, sing in it, live in it. Some people pick up a second language. Then we move. Sometimes our moves are planned, and sometimes they are for reasons beyond our control.. Regardless, we are uprooted and transplanted into another culture. We move into the land of our second language.

I have two mother tongues, and as a translator and interpreter I use them both constantly. With two languages in constant contact, how do I keep them from “corrupting” each other?


If you are uprooted from the land of your mother tongue, take your books! I have met so many people who miss their books! My favorite? Don Segundo Sombra, by Ricardo Güiraldes. It takes me right back to my uncle’s estancia, where I learned how to ride a horse.

Read the newspaper: The paper talks about all kinds of things: politics, science, life, the comics, letters to the editors. In Argentina, it even includes foul language. But I’m using too much Argentine Spanish for a Mexican audience, so I’d better start reading a Mexican paper! Excelsior is on my list.

Read literature: Novels, short stories, poems. Every time I travel I load a small suitcase with books. I can’t find them in the US, so I buy them wherever I go. Literature talks about life. Reading keeps me using the language well. It spills into my conversation and my writing.

Read about the language: There are articles about language in the newspaper. Read them, think about them. Share and discuss them with colleagues. Argue about the use of certain words. Fight about it! It’s OK, it’s a topic about which you both care! And right now, I’m reading grammar books! Gramática didáctica del español, by Leonardo Gómez Torrego. You can’t find my favorites on Amazon. I shop on


I love interpreting! I get to experience both my languages in action! As a medical interpreter who also translates documents for a local hospital, I interpret for patients who read the same documents I translate! This helps me know exactly who my audience is and what will help them understand the material better. The words they are confused by in an interpreting session will confuse them in a translation. It makes my translations come alive in many ways.

Working with a colleague

I work with a partner and we review each other’s work. Just recently I learned that “reintegro,” which I thought meant “reimbursement”, actually has a different meaning in Mexico: it is a “lottery payment for the exact money you paid for your ticket!” My word for reimbursement is now “reembolso.”

I am an interpreter and a translator. I can’t afford to lose my edge on the spoken or the written front in either of my two languages. Then again, these languages are too close to my soul to be able to bear it.

As interpreters and translators, we are expressing a message. We can be like mechanical musicians, like the ones who get all the notes just right, with the right rhythm, and the right intonation, but somehow are just boring. As my daughter’s viola teacher would sometimes tell her, while she played a scale, “You couldn’t pay me enough to listen to that!”

Our goal, however, is to be “real” musicians, like the orchestras people line up to hear because their ensemble is so amazing that they can play the most difficult pieces in a way that speaks to our souls. These orchestras, as they play, transport you to a place of joy, of rest, of discord, of whatever the music is.

What makes these musicians special? They certainly work on their technique! However, they haven’t lost their love for music. They listen to other people’s performances, they play with friends for fun. We should be this way with languages. We should be very particular about our technique, without losing our love for our languages. So, here are my closing tips:

  • Write letters to your friends in both languages.
  • Call your friends on the phone, and just chat with them in both languages.
  • Join a book club. You don’t all have to read the same book. You can even start one!
  • Join a Toastmasters club in the language you don’t get to speak every day.
  • Start a local “language sharpening group” where you critique each other’s writing in each language.

As Ramón might say, “Until Miami, I salute you, hoping always that the things will go well with you.”

“I look forward to seeing you at the ATA conference in November, and trust that all will be well with you.” Translated from “Ramón” to English by David Eby, whose English is uninfluenced by any other language.

Go National or Stay Local?

by Giovanna Lester
in collaboration with The Savvy Newcomer Team

Full disclosure: I am one of the co-founders and currently the president of the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida (ATIF), an ATA Chapter. I am also a teacher, a mother and a grandmother. I am starting to see a pattern…

office-331738_1280Joining a professional organization is an investment in one’s career and must be properly assessed. Take a look at the benefits package and the group’s reach. If it is a local entity, is it affiliated with a larger entity that will give you national or international exposure? Don’t forget to check what is expected of you as a member and what your rights are. The answers to the latter questions can sometimes be found in the entity’s bylaws, which groups often make available on their websites. When reading the bylaws, make sure to have your questions ready, and search for the specific answers. This will focus and expedite your reading.

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Happy Birthday to The Savvy Newcomer!

birthday-303583_640This Friday, August 15, marks the first anniversary of The Savvy Newcomer blog – still very young, but, boy has its presence been felt!  Now that you have come to know The Savvy Newcomer, we thought it would be nice to hear the experience of all involved in this project, because, in a way, we were all newcomers (again), and this fits perfectly with the spirit of our blog: No matter how seasoned you might be in your area of specialization, as soon as you step out of your comfort zone, you become a newcomer.

So this anniversary post is a celebration to all of you who – like us – have been brave enough to venture into a completely new field. Cheers!

A few words from ATA President, Ms. Caitilin Walsh

Just a year ago, this blog, brainchild of Helen Eby and Dorothee Racette, then-ATA President, and others hoping to create a virtual gathering place for students and newcomers to professional translating and interpreting, was launched. Since then, we’ve had visits from hundreds of students, educators and trainers, as well as the curious. And the numbers are growing exponentially—clearly it’s meeting a need.

Back when I was just starting out, (when the internet was nascent and dinosaurs roamed the planet), it was the efforts of various individuals imparting tidbits of knowledge and encouragement on an individual basis that made the difference for me. But without a central repository or gathering place, my professional formation was scattershot at best. I am thrilled that this platform is here to provide a comprehensive overview for those interested in knowing more; and offering pointers to those wanting to dig deeper and make those individual connections that make all the difference, even in these thoroughly modern times.

After just one year, we have assembled a collection of useful posts on a number of subjects. Not content to rest on our laurels, there’s a new series of posts about various T&I programs in this country (and further afield), with perspectives on the programs from both students and teachers. I’m delighted to be able to offer a post of my own to the collection in a future post —I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with a party attended by newcomers and those who welcome them!

Helen’s perspective: a year of learning.

At first sight, The Savvy Newcomer was “just a blog.” It was just an undeveloped idea, a place where we could provide information for newcomers to the profession. “Sure, we’ll do it!” we said. Then we learned what was involved. Many people provided support, advice, and encouragement. I’ve learned that amazing things can be done with a team where members have total trust in each other, when nobody cares who gets the credit. We’ve filled in for each other at times and had fun at our meetings. We’ve become friends.

As we have done our best to help others, we have learned a lot from the posts others have written! There have been good reminders, new ideas, and fresh perspectives every week.

My dreams for the future? Connecting students from translation and interpreting programs all over the world, so they can talk to each other. Schools would have an ATA/The Savvy Newcomer rep, and the reps would meet by GoTo Meeting to talk, brainstorm, be encouraged, every month or so. We’d learn what they need right away, and be able to offer support that fits the needs of the moment. That would be matched with a team of generous “old-timers” who are happy to write articles to answer the questions that come our way.

When we started, I remember Dorothee asking, “OK, Helen, are you going to do this for just a year, or are you going to stick with it? We like this, but it really needs someone to have a long term commitment.” I told her I’d stick around. Hey, this team is too much fun to walk away from it!

Jamie’s story

I became involved with The Savvy Newcomer team when I met Helen Eby at the ATA conference in San Diego. After we introduced ourselves and she found out that I was a student, Helen immediately told me about a vision she had. Her dream was of a student involvement effort within the ATA that would start with just a few volunteers and would grow to become an organization-wide effort to support newcomers to the profession and the conference. Since beginning to work with Helen on this initiative in 2012, I have grown personally and professionally from learning to work as part of this team, increasing my knowledge of the ATA as an organization through close contact with so many of its members and leaders, and also simply through reading and implementing the wonderful advice from articles that have been contributed to The Savvy Newcomer.

Along came Daniela

I could have never imagined the incredible experience that awaited me when the President of ATIF, my local chapter, suggested my name to become a part of ATA’s Leadership Council. Much like when one arrives at a meeting not knowing anybody, I was guided by kind colleagues to my final destination: The Student Involvement Committee. I remember receiving a phone call from Helen to talk about my interests, strengths, and sharing her ideas, and her vision. She is so passionate and energetic about what she does that it is contagious and one cannot help but get in the same wave and ride along! I immediately said “Yes! I want to be a part of this.” So I officially took over the practical and technical side of creating the blog. Jamie, Helen and I would meet on a regular basis until all the details of the blog were finalized… and then, before our very eyes, The Savvy Newcomer was alive! This blog has taken a life of its own and it is the result of the sunny disposition of all of those involved with it. We have had so much encouragement from different sources, but especially from Mary David, who believed in us from the beginning, and has continued to support our efforts.

During this year, not only have I learned through the awesome collection of posts, but also about the ATA itself, its structure, and all the effort that goes on behind the scenes to keep it as the vibrant organization we all know.

I feel honored to be a part of this team of great professionals who, although I have never met in person, I now consider my friends and I look forward to many more years to come!

Samantha, our current editor

Though I don’t remember exactly how I first stumbled upon The Savvy Newcomer—I suspect it was through a translation-related rabbit trail—I do remember being very excited when I did find it. I had recently begun a very similar blog directed at students for my local ATA chapter, the Carolina Association of Translators and Interpreters (CATI), and as a student myself at the time I thought that the Newcomer would be a great way to connect with students on a broader national and even international level. I was right. I have learned a great deal about the T&I professions from the articles posted on the Newcomer, but of just as great an impact has been the opportunity to meet and get to know my colleagues. I’ve learned just as much from discussions with them as from the blog posts, and I look forward to continuing to do so in the future.

From our back-up editor, Lisa

It was a year ago when Daniela Guanipa asked if I would be interested in editing posts for a new blog to be called The Savvy Newcomer. Sure! I said. I love editing. I love helping the ATA. And I love learning. Now, I’m no newcomer to the field of translation, but absolutely every article contained information or a perspective I hadn’t necessarily considered before. Each reminded me what talented members ATA has and how, by giving to our professional associations, we often get just as much—or more—in return. This was true, too, of the relationships I’ve formed with the rest of the team. I’ve met almost everyone in person, corresponded with each of them about more than just translation, formed personal and professional connections I know will last. Though I’ve slipped into the role as back-up editor for now, I’m still so pleased to be a part of this team and this project. Happy first anniversary to The Savvy Newcomer! Here’s to many more.

We would like to open the floor to you, dear readers, to tell us about your own experience during the first year of life of The Savvy Newcomer, or just to say “Happy Birthday!”

From ATA’s Divisions: The German Language Division

By Arnold Winter

GLDAs a German-to-English translator, it was a “no brainer” for me to join the ATA’s German Language Division at the start of my career in translation almost ten years ago. While joining the ATA and putting up my profile online resulted in being contacted out of the blue by my first paying client, the GLD is where I started making friends in the business and also found my footing as a translator.

By the time of my first annual ATA conference in 2006 in New Orleans, I had already been working in translation full-time for about two years. My first impression at the conference was that everyone else already seemed to know each other very well. All around, people were greeting each other like old friends, standing around in clusters and getting caught up on each other’s lives. It was certainly a bit intimidating, and I felt like I shouldn’t be intruding on all the lively conversations that were going on.

That all changed very quickly when I attended the GLD’s social event at the conference. Striking up conversations was easy, even for an introvert like me, and I realized that everyone there was interested in the same things as I was and also shared the same experiences in the translation business.

Whether it is the challenge of converting bulky German compound nouns and passive constructions into a natural English style, or the finer points of dealing with specialized subjects and terminology, it was indeed thrilling to find that the linguistic and business challenges that I was running into as a newcomer to translation and had more or less been thinking about instinctively were things that other GLD members were not only encountering as well but could also get just as excited about.

The fact that I had also already been subscribing to the GLD’s Yahoo! Group ( made things much easier. Some of the names on people’s nametags were already familiar to me, and it was great to meet people in person for the first time whom so far I’d only known by name through their online postings. Both at that first ATA conference as well as at every other conference I’ve attended since then, this has served as a great conversation starter. Even most recently at the 2013 conference in San Antonio, I made new friends by people coming up to me and saying: “Hey, I know you from the list.”

In fact, aside from the camaraderie, collegiality and support I’ve found both online and in person, the most important immediate benefit I get from my GLD membership on a daily basis is its Yahoo! Group. To quote the GLD’s own description about the group: “If you haven’t subscribed yet, you’re missing an opportunity to tap into the wealth of knowledge GLD members are eager to impart.”

I myself have found the GLD’s Yahoo! Group to be the best place for quick answers on terminology issues that might otherwise take hours of research, most likely while facing an imminent deadline. Roughly two-thirds of the postings involve linguistic issues. Other topics include technology questions, doing business with clients based in Germany, and announcements and information of general interest.

As reported at the GLD’s meeting at the ATA’s 2013 conference, the GLD currently has about 1,500 members, but only 425 subscribers to the Yahoo! Group. So where’s everyone else?

Whether you’re a newcomer or a seasoned language professional, if you are not yet subscribing to the group, you should at least give it a try. It’s certainly okay just to “lurk” for a while and get a feel for the kinds of discussions that go on, and you can always unsubscribe if it’s not for you.

Subscribing to the GLD’s Yahoo! Group is easy. Here’s what you do:

1. Send an email to:

2. In the subject line, enter: subscribe gldlist

3. In the body of your email, write your:

– email address

– full name

– ATA membership number

That’s it!

Another benefit provided by the GLD is interaktiv, the division’s biannual newsletter. Both the most recent as well as past issues can be downloaded in PDF from the GLD’s web page (

Included in interaktiv are profiles on fellow GLD members, dictionary reviews, and information about GLD matters. Another recently added regular feature is Karen Leube’s “(Translation) Notes from the Homeland,” which reports on activities by the Bundesverband der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer e.V. (, the professional organization in Germany for translators and interpreters.

In fact, according to GLD Administrator Eva Stabenow, roughly 9% of the GLD’s members live in Germany and surrounding countries. And with Karen Leube, who is based in Aachen, Germany, as the GLD’s “European Coordinator,” the GLD is now reaching out across the Atlantic. Some of those members outside the United States also come to the ATA’s annual conferences, which certainly makes the GLD a great place to network with colleagues and (potential) clients located in Europe.

Overall, based on my own experience, the GLD is both a great educational and informational resource as well as a place for developing relationships within the German translation community that can lead to referrals and other good things in one’s professional life. For a quick first impression about the GLD, just click on this link to its web site:

About the author: Building on fifteen years of professional experience as an attorney in the United States, Arnold Winter provides German-into-English translation services in the fields of law, business, and finance (  ATA certified from German into English, he has been working with translation agencies and direct clients since 2003. In addition to the ATA and both its German Language Division and the ATA’s local chapter for the Greater Philadelphia area, the Delaware Valley Translators Association (, he is also a member of the Delaware Translators and Interpreters Network (


What direct clients want: From a Marketing Director’s perspective

By Daniela Guanipa

association-152746_640A lot has been said about the complexities of setting up shop as freelancers and whether to work with agencies or direct clients. If you have set out to find direct clients, you have probably invested a lot of time and effort specializing in a certain niche and researching your potential clients. Most likely, you have focused on offering a high quality product and developing excellent customer service skills. You attend networking events and have your business cards ready to hand out on every possible occasion.

However, there is one key question we tend to overlook: What do these elusive direct clients look for in a freelancer? What criteria do they use to hire one service professional instead of another?

This is the first of a series of interviews with professionals working in different industries who work with freelancers to meet their language needs.

Meet Fernando Pacheco, Marketing Director for Latin America at Jarden Consumer Solutions, a Fortune 500 Company with over 120 brands and a global presence.

Daniela: Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

Fernando: I grew up in Costa Rica, but I have lived in the United States for 20 years. I studied at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, TN, where I obtained both my undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering and my MBA. A few years after graduating from my master’s I began working as Product and Marketing Manager for Latin America at Thomson Consumer Electronics. I currently work as Director of Marketing at Jarden Consumer Solutions, where I am responsible for overseeing the development and marketing of small domestic appliances for well-known brands in Latin America.

Daniela: Tell us a little bit about your language needs. What types of pieces do you typically send for translation?

Fernando: User Manuals for various appliances – from a gourmet espresso machine to a basic blender – as well as recipe books, quick start guides, etc. Other departments in my company use translation services for websites of a specific brand or line of products, for example, aside from the manuals.

Daniela: Do you usually hire freelancers or translation agencies to meet your language needs?

Fernando: The short answer is that I have hired both. But to better answer your question I need to explain a bit of the internal process of the two companies I have worked for.

At Thomson I was responsible for the development and marketing of consumer electronics for Latin America, so we needed to translate the User Guides/Manuals. We had our own department in charge of writing the manuals in English, but we, as managers, had to outsource the translation and layout of these manuals. This was my first experience working with a freelancer. A colleague from a regional office recommended a translator who was also a graphic designer and she was a good fit for us. She would translate our manuals from English into Spanish, and then she would do the layout.

At Jarden we work with creative agencies which develop our manuals – from the original copy in English, to graphic design, to translation into multiple languages. However, because we are such a large corporation, there are different vendors and the quality also differs. Every project manager can use the resources available through these agencies or find new ones. For example, some managers choose freelancers to translate and then send the translation to the creative agency for desktop publishing. It is a bit more involved, but some managers report better translation quality this way. They really like the ability to talk directly with the translator and come up with the name of an appliance, for example.  Also, some freelancers offer recommendations about how to present ideas in the target language, and this has proven to be a tremendous added value for us. This is something that is lost when the entire translation process is handled by a third party – typically a translation agency subcontracted by the creative agency. Another bonus is that freelancers not only translate, but sometimes even provide feedback about the copy in English.

Daniela: Can you tell us about the criteria you or your company use when selecting translation service providers – freelancers, specifically?

Fernando: Choosing a translation service provider is very important. Some of the criteria used when selecting a translation provider include:

  • Quality/Consistency of the Translation – The quality of the translation is very important and it needs to match the quality of the products that are being developed and launched. A bad translation will communicate a lack of detail that will affect the consumer’s perception of the product or service being offered. It is also very important for the translations of all the materials to be consistent with each other. This is called branding.
  • Customer Service – A proactive professional who provides feedback and even ideas and solutions. A responsive provider who takes deadlines seriously.
  • One-Stop Shop / Added Value – Dealing with several vendors is time consuming, so we may favor a provider who can offer additional services, such as graphic design.  Sometimes a translation agency is the best option if we’re dealing with a large, multiple-language project. When a more tailored translation/service is needed, however, freelancers may be the ideal providers.

Daniela: What advice would you give to a freelancer looking to earn your business, for example?

Fernando: Make sure to have an online profile of some sort so that we, as potential clients, can look at what you have to offer, your experience, etc. Having a professional-looking website is a major plus. Your contact information should be easy to find within your profile. Include references from past or current customers to read what others say about you. An up-to-date LinkedIn profile is another great resource.

ATA Divisions: Providing Homes for all Translators

SLD logoBy Lucy Gunderson, CT
Administrator of the Slavic Languages Division

Getting involved in an organization like the American Translators Association can be an intimidating step to take. I know—I went through this once myself. Trying to find a way to stand out among the other 10,500+ members is at best a daunting task. Fortunately, though, the ATA offers the perfect vehicle for doing just this, namely its eighteen different specialty- and language-specific divisions. The core goal of these divisions is to provide information and networking to assist members in today’s competitive marketplace. Divisions offer a wide variety of benefits and services, all organized by Division volunteers. Most importantly, though, divisions provide a welcoming home to members both new and old. When I joined the ATA in 2001, I was overwhelmed by the wealth of information available and intimidated by my more experienced and knowledgeable colleagues, but I quickly found my home in the Slavic Languages Division (SLD). It was easy to get involved and start making a name for myself. Now, as the current Administrator of the SLD, I am here to tell you about my division’s unique history and current offerings.

The SLD was started in 1990 as an ATA Special Interest Group by Susana Greiss, a long-time translator of Russian origin (who, interestingly enough, did not translate from or into Russian). This group held several meetings a year under the auspices of the New York Circle of Translators and, during this time, discussed becoming a full-fledged division of ATA. At a board meeting on October 10, 1993, the Russian Language (later Slavic Languages) Division was approved. Remarkably, and uniquely, from its inception the division announced its intention to represent translators and interpreters of all the Slavic languages and of the languages of the former Soviet Union. Susana’s dream included the desire to provide a professional home and support network for all those people, many of them in the process of or having recently emigrated from that former nation to the rest of the world.

Today the SLD has over 1,100 members working in most of these languages. We also have members who don’t actively use these languages in their work but are simply interested in Slavic languages and want to be a part of our community. Through our website, we offer our members access to our quarterly newsletter SlavFile, our blog, our LinkedIn group, and our Twitter feed. We use our newsletter and social media outlets to share information about translation and interpretation in general and Slavic languages in particular. Other ATA divisions provide similar services. Click here to learn more about them.

In addition to sharing useful information, divisions also play an important role in planning for the biggest ATA event of the year—the annual conference, which is usually held in late October or early November. We solicit and review conference proposals, prepare for our division’s annual meeting, and plan social events. The SLD’s two big social events include our popular lunch for conference newcomers and our annual banquet, which is usually held at a restaurant within walking distance of the conference hotel.

In sum, the not-so-big secret is that divisions always need volunteers! Taking that difficult first step of introducing yourself to your new division colleagues will bring you more rewards than you ever thought possible. The best way to earn referrals from your colleagues, attract the attention of potential clients, and increase your standing in the translation community is by volunteering for your division. Write an article for your division’s newsletter or blog, offer to organize a division social activity, or volunteer to help maintain your division’s website. Who knows? Someday you might even end up a division administrator!

About the Author: Lucy Gunderson, CT is Administrator of the Slavic Languages Division. She is ATA-certified for translation from Russian into English and specializes in human rights, international relations, legal documents, and journalism. She owes her career to the kind SLD members who first welcomed her to the division and encouraged her to participate.

Céline’s 10 Tricky Situations Translators Might Find Themselves In and How To Get Out of Them

By Céline Graciet

Reblogged from Naked Translations with permission from the author

Being a freelance translator isn’t just about having the ability to take language from one culture and turn it into another. As I allude to elsewhere in this blog, there are aspects of this career which require negotiation skills and business awareness. When you start off, for example, or have a new agency contact you promising a juicy contract, it can be tempting to bend over backwards to get the job. Experience has shown that there are a few important issues to consider before taking on a new job/client and I’ve put them together below. This is shamelessly inspired by Mark W. Lewis’s Top 10 Lies told to Naive Artists and Designers (via lifehacker) and is called Céline’s 10 Tricky Situations Translators Might Find Themselves In and How To Get Out of Them.

1. “We’ve a got a huge project coming in next week. Make sure you don’t take on any work in the meantime.”
If you haven’t received a purchase order specifying timescales, wordcount and price, do take work in the meantime. A lot of projects get delayed and even cancelled, and you might find yourself twiddling your thumbs and regretting turning down other jobs.

2. “You need to take a free test so we can make sure we want to work with you.”
If you’ve got experience and credentials (nevermind references), surely this demonstrates that you are a seasoned professional who can be trusted to do a good job. If you’re a beginner, be careful. What some unscrupulous agencies might mean is “Do a section of this for free, we’ll put it together with all the other “tests” we’ve sent round and voilà! Our project is done for free”. However, don’t dismiss all tests that agencies may ask you to do. I agreed to do a free test this year because the person who wanted to work with me sounded extremely professional, was offering interesting projects and didn’t haggle over rates. This has turned into a mutually beneficial work relationship. Trust your gut feeling on this one.

3. “We’ve got this 2,000 word really easy document to translate, can you deliver tomorrow?”
Before agreeing to deliver a translation at a certain time, even verbally, you must have a look at it. The 2,000 words might magically turn into 20,000 words (it has happened to me) and the “really easy” prose may be full of technical jargon that only 8 years of study in space science could prepare you for.

4. “Hello, we’re agency X calling out of the blue and we’re great, can you do a translation for us?”
Maybe. First of all, ask for their details and carry out a quick Internet check to make sure they actually exist. Next, use translators’ lists on payment practices to ask colleagues whether they’ve worked for that agency and what their feedback is. Lastly, trust your gut feeling: is the tone of the email/phone call professional? Do they mention terms? Do they give details of the project?

5. “Lower your rate for this job and we’ll give you much more work.”
No self-respecting professional would try and get another professional to cheapen themselves. You won’t be respected as a translator by devaluing your own work.

6. “Hi, we’ve got this 5,000 word document, but there are lots of brand names and repetitions in it, so can you not charge us for those words?”
Of course, no problem. I just won’t include those words in my translation, and you can just add them yourself after delivery. Seriously, a text is an entity, and it is not practical or fair to ask a translator to not charge for certain words just because they appear more than once. We still have to type them, and they’re an integral part of sentences. Besides, “can” might well appear lots of times in your document, but just because I translated it a certain way the first time I came across it doesn’t mean that it should be translated in the same way in its subsequent occurrences.

7. “Your rate is too high. We normally pay our French translator xxx.”
One colleague’s rates and business practices are nothing to do with me. I charge a fair rate, which allows me to live decently and stay in business. Lowering my rates might mean having to take on another job, which would impact on the quality of my translations, or stop translating altogether and chose a more lucrative career.

8. “A Purchase order? We don’t do purchase orders. Don’t you trust us?”
Business relationships aren’t personal relationship and have to be regulated so that both parties agree on some basic terms. A purchase order protects the client (you’ve signed a paper specifying when and how you’ll deliver your translation) as well as the translator (you have proof that you got commissioned to do work in case of payment delays or problems).

9. “Our proofreader has been through your translation and has spotted lots of mistakes. You must do the translation again.”
Can you please send me the proofread translation with annotations from the proofreader? I am fairly certain I sent you a decent document and I would like to discuss any problem that arose at the proofreading stage before I accept to redo the translation.

10. “We can’t pay you because the end client hasn’t paid us yet”
This is none of my business. My business relationship is with you, not the end client. If you agree that I delivered a quality translation on time, then stick to the terms of our agreement and pay.

About the author: Reblogged with permission of Céline Graciet, an English to French translator with a translation blog that she started in 2003.