ATA Written and Keyboarded exams: A personal account

by Helen Eby

ATA Written and Keyboarded examsI prepared for the ATA Translation Certification exam with my Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters (OSTI) colleagues. The exam has an overall pass rate of under 20%, which varies by language pair and exam year. We took our preparation seriously.

On the ATA exam, every point counts against you. ATA has published a list of errors they check against and a rubric that explains how they assign points to each error. To pass, you cannot accumulate more than 17 points. If you do, you fail! In our OSTI study program, we spent 25 online sessions plus a couple of in-person meetings working on how to internalize these rubrics. This made us all better translators and interpreters.

Some comments from study group members who took the exam in Bend, Oregon:

“I found the test to be very challenging even with our preparations. You can tell they intentionally set the bar very high! Although I can’t pinpoint seeing any specific tripwire on the test that we tackled in our group, it’s clear that our hard work left me much more prepared than I would have been otherwise.” Emily Safrin

“I feel the same way; I found the exam more difficult than the different practice tests I worked on through the study group. Even though I work on a different language pair, the group discussions about the English source texts helped me regarding terminology or tricky sentences.” Myriam Grandchamp

Personally, I was encouraged. I had good scores on my practice tests. I was taking the exam in both directions (Spanish<>English) and had taken two tests in each of my language pairs. For my Spanish to English practice test, I had a score of 12 on one text and 12 on the second text. For my English to Spanish practice test, I had a score of 13 on one text and 11 on the second one I took. Better yet, I knew that my colleagues were also well prepared. Some had decided to take the exam in 2017 and some were taking it this year. We had a good understanding of what we were facing.

Keyboarded exam, September 11, 2016

Keyboarded exams are a new development for ATA. Test-takers are allowed to bring their own computers to the site, but have to save the translation onto a USB provided by ATA, not onto their hard drives. The guidelines for the computerized exam are listed here. See this link for a list of approved and banned websites.

I took the keyboarded exam from English into Spanish in Philadelphia. I had spent the previous day at the Delaware Valley Translators Association (DVTA) conference, enjoying being at an event where I had no responsibilities, being just one of the crowd. There, Tony Guerra, the DVTA president, reminded us that certified translators earn an average of $10,000 more per year than non-certified translators. The pressure was on! But I was relaxed.

Before the exam, I had done some things that helped me focus on good writing. I had just attended the Editorial Freelancers Association conference in New York, which focused on copy editing. I also spent a lot of time reading good literature on my iPad the week before.

Instead of carrying a load of dictionaries from the West Coast, I used the bookmarks on the OSTI resources page and on the Mosqueteras site, a blog focused on good Spanish writing, as my references. That was why we had been setting them up over the year! I also had a few of my favorite quick reference hard copy books.

What did I do during the keyboarded exam?

  1. I started by reading the text, just like I do with every single translation I work on.
  2. I looked for challenges, both in terms of words and in terms of sentence structure. I made a chart of how I would solve those on a sheet of paper before I got started. I actually spent about 45 minutes doing that research on each text before I started writing.
  3. Then I translated the mandatory text. Of course, I found extra things to research, and I changed my mind about a few of the solutions, but my research helped a lot.
  4. I took a break to clear my head. I moved on to the draft of the second translation and repeated steps 1 to 3 with the next text. I had to choose between texts B and C, which were different specialties.
  5. Then I took another break. I colored with some markers I had taken, so I could somehow separate from the translation task.
  6. Then I reviewed the two texts, in order.
  7. Another break. Then I reviewed both texts again.

What did I find in the review process?

I noticed that my typing was bad. I was fixing typos right up until the end of the three hours! Not having spell check affected my ability to type well.

We had to work in WordPad, which does not have a spell check, but I could check terms in online dictionaries. So I did! In some cases, that led me to a better solution.

I used the online resources available effectively. It was certainly nice to not have to travel with a suitcase full of books! However, having a few hard copy books was very helpful.

I also took creative breaks by coloring and doing pushups against the wall on my way back from the bathroom. This helped clear my head from the translation and look at it with fresh eyes. The proctors who observed me coloring told me they had never seen that before. (For online exams, there is one proctor for every five test-takers, to keep an eye on what is on the computer screens.)

Written exam, September 25, 2016

I took the written exam from Spanish to English in Bend, Oregon. Here, I was taking the exam with my friends. It was fun! I walked in with my suitcase full of dictionaries. Because of my practice test results, I felt confident. Regardless, I spent some time the night before reading good literature, so my brain would be tuned into good English and Spanish.

My translation process was similar to the one I had experimented with in Philadelphia. It was fresh in my mind, since I had taken the exam two weeks before. The breaks helped.

In this exam, I didn’t have to worry about typos. I just had to worry about my handwriting. Honestly, it’s just as bad! And I scratched my paper up so much that I really missed the option of doing a cut and paste so the grader could read a clean document. I have attended some sessions where we have been told to not fret over handing over a clean document. They would rather have us focus on just finishing the job. So I did.

Results

While I waited for the results, it was helpful to remind myself that I am just as good a translator today as I was yesterday. In November I learned that I passed the Spanish to English certification exam and did not pass the English to Spanish certification exam. I also recently passed an exam administered by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, so I am now a Washington State certified English to Spanish Document Translator (see this link for more information).

As my study group focused on cracking the certification code, we were focusing on the details of what makes a translation better. Now that I am certified, as I do my regular work as a translator and reviewer of other people’s work, I feel that we should use the ATA list of errors and the flowchart for error point decisions to help us grow and to provide better peer review. Thank you, ATA, for providing a great framework for professional growth! I plan to keep using it.

Header image credit: tookapic

Capacity management tips for freelance translators

By Oleg Semerikov (@TranslatFamily)
Reblogged from 
LinkedIn with permission from the author (incl. the image)

Capacity management tips for freelance translatorsSo your translation business is going well. You’ve got a reliable set of customers who you like and work well with, and projects are coming in on a regular basis. You’re living the freelancer’s dream of steady self-employment. And then one morning, you look at your to-do list and do a double take. You have to do how much work today?

Finding yourself over capacity is something that happens to every freelancer occasionally. It’s a bit of a mixed blessing, to say the least. On the one hand, you know you have work – and therefore money – coming in. But on the other, it can be difficult to look on the bright side when you’re forced to keep working late into the night, fretting about missing deadlines or making mistakes because you’re in a rush. So, in hopes of helping you deal with the problem next time it comes up, we’re here to offer a few handy tips on how to manage your capacity and maybe even de-stress a little.

Although our very first tip is to clear your current workload before settling down to read this article, we hope those of you with a few minutes to spare will read on and enjoy!

Don’t panic!

Yes, we know that’s the last thing a panicking person actually wants to hear. Yes, we know that on-time delivery is a key part of quality customer service – but it’s going to be OK. Trust us. You’re a professional, which means you have the expertise and the skills needed to handle this problem. And even if you do overshoot the deadline slightly, it’s not the end of the world – and we’ll discuss how to handle that situation later in this article.

At the moment when you realise you’ve taken on too much work, it can seem like a disaster, but there’s no sense wasting time by beating yourself up over it. The best thing you can do is make yourself a hot drink, sit down and put those translating skills to work.

Don’t compromise on quality

If the deadline crunch is looming and it’s looking like you can’t get everything done in time, it can be very tempting to rush through a translation, sacrificing quality to get it done quickly. That’s almost never the correct decision. After all, a translation’s life cycle doesn’t end when you deliver it; it still has to be usable by the customer.

A better solution would be to keep the customer in the loop. Apologise, notify them of the delay, and give them a revised estimate of when the document will be ready – and do this as soon as you can, so that they can make a decision about how to handle the situation on their end.

Ideally, of course, you don’t want to let it get to that stage at all. So what can you do to avoid missing deadlines in the first place?

Know your capacity

Observe your own working processes over a period of days and weeks, and keep track of how quickly you’re able to turn a translation around. Measure your results in terms of words per hour or day. Chances are, you’ll start to see a pattern emerging which will allow you to determine how quickly you actually work. Needless to say, this is a much better approach than just guessing, or assuming that a customer’s suggested deadline is feasible without checking it for yourself. Measuring your actual output rate will make it easier for you to provide quotes and estimate how long a given translation will take to complete, which will come in very handy when negotiating rates and deadlines.

Keep an organised calendar

Make a list of everything you’re working on. Write down every job you’ve been given, when it was assigned to you, when it’s due, and how large it is. Then, based on your translation-speed calculations, allocate a block of time in your calendar for working on it. This could be a paper calendar hanging on the wall, but a digital one is even better for updating details, moving projects around, and finding items with a simple search. These days, there are plenty of software products that can help with this. Most modern email software includes calendar functionality, including the reliable old standby Microsoft Outlook, or alternatively you could use a free cloud-based solution like Google Calendar.

However you choose to organise your work, keeping it all together in one place will help you plan ahead and understand how much spare capacity you have for other jobs that come in.

Don’t be afraid to say no

If too much work does come in and you simply don’t have the time to handle it all, don’t be afraid to turn the occasional job down. Most agencies would rather that you be honest with them and tell them when you don’t have time to handle a specific project, instead of accepting it now and having to delay delivery later. Think of it the same way as you would if you were offered a job you couldn’t take because it was outside your field of specialisation: saying no is sometimes a sign of professionalism, and worthy of respect. Besides, if they really want you, specifically, to take the job, then they may be able to offer you an extended deadline. It never hurts to ask!

In the end, it all boils down to a simple rule: think ahead. If you’re aware of your responsibilities and able to plan your work beyond your next few hours and days, you shouldn’t have to deal with these kinds of problems very often – if ever. But tips like these may help even if you’re already the fastest, most organised translator on Planet Earth. After all, one of the great benefits of being a freelancer is your flexibility: if you feel like earning a little extra money, you can always put in a few extra hours here and there. Planning your work ahead of time lets you manage those extra hours, as well, keeping stress levels down and productivity up. And your customers receive the translations they need, exactly when they need them – so everybody wins!

Author bio

Oleg SemerikovOleg Semerikov started as an English to Russian freelance translator ten years ago. Nowadays, he runs his own company, Translators Family, a boutique translation agency specialising in Russian, Ukrainian and Polish, with expertise in English, German, and other European languages. Many long-term customers of Oleg as a freelancer became the permanent customers of his agency. Translators Family on social media: FacebookTwitterGoogle+ 

Beat the January doldrums starting now

Beat the January doldrums starting nowThe holiday season is an interesting time in the freelance business cycle. For many freelancers, some much-wanted/needed time off turns into an unwelcome amount of down time when work is slow in January. Following are some tips on how to beat the January doldrums in your freelance business, starting now:

Tip 1: Work over the holidays if you need or want to. Many established freelancers may look forward to a holiday lull. And if you work with clients in Europe, they may all but shut down until about January 9, the first Monday after New Year’s. But especially if you’re just starting your freelance business (or if you need to bring in some more income before the end of the year), consider working over the holidays. This is an especially good time to land new clients, when all of a translation agency’s go-to translators are out of the office and they have no choice but to branch out.

Tip 2: Assign yourself some work for January. What do most freelancers do when work is slow? Panic. Assume that no client will ever call them again. What’s a better option? “Assign yourself” to those non-paying projects that (if you’re like me…) remain eternally on the back burner because they’re not due tomorrow. Demo some accounting software. Upgrade your website. Take an online course. Start researching a new specialization. Write an e-book. Pre-load your blog with 10 posts. The key here is to plan ahead, so that the “assignments” are in place when you sit down at your desk in the new year, and before panic mode sets in.

Tip 3: Do a marketing push ahead of your slow periods. The time to get on a client’s radar screen is before they need you. For next year, schedule a marketing push in early December, before your clients wind down for the holidays. For now, prepare a marketing push for the next big work slowdown (such as July and August, when a lot of clients and translators go on vacation). For example, write a warm e-mail that you can send to prospective clients; resolve to send at least three e-mails a day, starting two to three weeks before you expect your work volume to drop off. Check in with all of your current clients (anything in the pipeline that you might help with?) and prospect for some new clients.

Tip 4: Evaluate your business expenses. Many freelance translators spend *too little* on their businesses, in a way that can lead to stagnation. But it’s also important to look at what you’re currently spending, and where you could reallocate some money. This is especially critical if you tend to sign up for services that require a monthly fee, but then you don’t end up using as much as you anticipated. It’s also critical if you pay for big-ticket expenses such as health insurance or office rent. Otherwise, think about what expenses might make you happier and more productive in your work (an accountant? a better desk?) and allocate some money for those.

Along those same lines, the end of the year is a good time to rack up tax-deductible business expenses. For example, make sure to renew your ATA membership and any other professional association memberships before December 31, so that you can claim the business expense for this year. If you need office equipment or a new computer, Black Friday and after-Christmas sales are a great time to shop for deals. Software companies may even run end-of-the-year specials. In future years, you may even want to earmark some money to spend in December.

Tip 5: Plan a “think swap” activity with other freelancers. January is a great time for types of activities that seem like a good idea, but for which you never have time. Invite three or four (or more) other freelancers, block out a couple of hours, and pick a topic. Maybe you invite other people in your language pair and everyone translates the same passage before you meet, then you go over your translations together. Maybe you invite freelancers of various flavors and trade marketing ideas. Go over each other’s resumes or LinkedIn profiles. Practice interpreting using YouTube videos. The possibilities are pretty much endless, and in January you may actually have the time for some of them!

Thanks for reading, and happy translating!

Header image credit: MTT

Author bio

Corinne McKayCorinne McKay, CT, is an ATA-certified French to English translator and the current ATA President-elect. She specializes in international development, corporate communications, and non-fiction book translation. She is also passionate about helping beginning and established translators launch, run, and grow successful freelance businesses. Her book, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, has become a go-to reference for the industry with over 10,000 copies in print, and her blog, Thoughts on Translation, has been a lively gathering place for freelance translators since 2008. You can keep in touch with Corinne on Twitter @corinnemckay, or on LinkedIn.

A Translator’s Grown-Up Christmas List

A Translator’s Grown-Up Christmas ListAh, the age-old question: what do you get the translator or interpreter who has everything?

If your December is anything like mine, throughout the month your family will try to subtly (or not-so-subtly) ask you for gift ideas, and you’ll try to come up with a better response than “extra hours in the day” or “a nap”. This year, we at The Savvy Newcomer are here to help. It’s not too late to get in your last-minute wish list for the holidays, and there is surely something on our list that you’ve been wishing for this year, whether you realized it or not.

One thing to keep in mind as you share gift ideas with your loved ones is that many business-related expenses are tax-deductible. Before you put a big-ticket item on your wish list to be purchased by someone else, consult your accountant and think about whether you will be able to deduct the expense on your taxes or whether you may be better off spending it on the company credit card to earn rewards points. On the other hand, the nice thing about gifts is that they’re free – so maybe it’s worth foregoing the tax deduction anyway!

Without further ado, here are some ideas to help you make the most of holiday gift-giving time and perhaps give you an idea for the translator or interpreter on your shopping list. Readers, we would love to hear your ideas as well; leave us a comment and let us know what you’re looking to give and receive for the holidays!

Technology

Tablet: The Amazon Kindle Fire was on sale on Black Friday for about $35; prices are a little higher now but still pretty reasonable. Tablets can help you keep connected while working at home, allowing you to carry your work throughout the house. Also great for working while traveling.

Echo Dot: The Echo Dot is a surprisingly affordable “smart home” product from Amazon. You can keep one or several in your house and use the voice-activated “Alexa” to connect to your cloud and perform a variety of functions, such as telling you the weather, reading off your calendar events, and so forth. Went on sale for $40 apiece on Black Friday and are around $50 each now.

Power bank: The battery life on my Galaxy S4 is not what it used to be, so I always keep power banks in strategic places so that I’m never left without a way to charge my phone – my desk, my car, and my purse. Power banks are a good gift for anyone who is on-the-go and can’t always connect to an outlet. You can get cheap ones at most electronics stores or even order a few with your logo on them – a great form of advertising that you can give to family, friends, clients, and potential clients to surreptitiously get your brand out there.

Personal power supply: A step up from a power bank, PPS’s such as the one at this link are good to keep in cars (great for interpreters who are traveling to many different locations). This one will charge via USB, has a flashlight, can charge certain types of laptops, and can even jump start a car! I didn’t know this product existed until a few years ago when my father-in-law got us one for Christmas, and it’s wonderful to have peace of mind knowing I’ve always got one in my car.

Scanner/printer/copier: Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a printer that works 100% properly, 100% of the time… anyone? A nice, high-functioning wireless printer can mean the difference between spending four hours of your workday on the phone with tech support or spending four hours of your day doing paid work. Enough said!

Digital Gifts

Invoicing software: A nice way to streamline your accounting procedures; perhaps you’re working with spreadsheets now and haven’t made the upgrade, or you’re using the lower-priced version of some software and know you would enjoy the functionality of the premium version. Examples include Xero and QuickBooks.

Extra storage space: I am chronically short on space for Dropbox and Norton Remote Data Backup. Most cloud storage services offer an upgrade option for a slightly higher price. Or splurge on your own personal cloud with an NAS system. This gives you access to wireless backup and secure storage that doesn’t leave your own home network. A nice touch if you have clients with NDAs containing strict data security provisions. Some contracts even prohibit you from storing the client’s data in the cloud (i.e. Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive etc.).

SDL apps: Did you know that Trados has an App Store? Many of the apps are free but others aren’t; this could be one that you’ve exhausted the free trial for, or one that you’ve always wanted to try. Other CAT tools may have paid apps, but I’m not familiar with them.

Memberships: Many membership dues may be tax-deductible, but sometimes it’s hard to justify spending the money. Some memberships that would be nice holiday gifts include dues to work at a coworking office, ATA membership, your local translation/interpreting association, a local chamber of commerce, or Payment Practices.

Office Supplies

Ergonomic mouse and keyboard: Carpal tunnel is no joke. Ergonomic mice and keyboards can help with or help prevent wrist, hand, and arm pain caused by prolonged amounts of time clicking your mouse and typing at your keyboard. The shape and position of some ergonomic keyboards can even be adjusted to suit the exact position that is most natural and comfortable for your hands. I have my eyes on the Microsoft 4000.

My Savvy teammate David has sworn by the TypeMatrix 2030 with a Colemak skin for years. You can choose skins with different keyboard layouts, including ones localized for different languages. David used the HandShoe Mouse for years before switching to a Contour RollerMouse Red in 2015. Trackball mice such as the Logitech M570 are also an affordable way to relieve the strain on your shoulders and arms a bit, since you can move the cursor on the screen with just one finger.

Office heater/fan: Depending on where you live, it might be counterproductive to heat or cool your whole house all day when you’re the only person there. When the weather isn’t too extreme and I’m not planning on leaving my office for the day, I often turn down the heat in the house, turn on the space heater under my desk, and close the office door so I can stay warm without it costing me a fortune.

Roost: This laptop stand that a colleague recently told me about can help relieve back and neck strain by lifting your laptop to the proper height so you don’t have to slouch. It’s collapsible and very portable; good for frequent travelers.

Slidenjoy: This one is pretty cool. Slidenjoy is a startup company with the brilliant idea to add additional screens to your existing laptop. It isn’t cheap, and involves sending your laptop to the company so they can custom-fit your device to the new screens and ensure that everything is in working order. Then you can use the screens as additional monitors, turn them around to share your screen with others around you, and collapse them for travel and storage.

Spontaneous Pop-Up Display: This could be really cool for translators and interpreters on the go. It isn’t available yet, but can be pre-ordered through Kickstarter for expected delivery in June 2017. The only catch is the poor resolution at 720p…

Handibot: An interpreter’s “office” is often very different from that of a translator – for those of you who have to drive often and navigate with your phone to get places, Handibot is a good hands-free way to view your phone while you navigate, without taking your eyes off the road. Looks like the Walmart link no longer sells these online but there are surely other similar options available.

Work-Life Balance

Books: We’re language professionals; of course books are going to be on our wish lists! Some ideas include books from this list, translated works in your language pair, and target language books related to your specialization.

Massage: Sitting at a computer or working the interpreting circuit can take its toll on you. Working out the knots in a complex source text often creates knots for you as well! A massage can be a great stress reliever for the over-worked translator.

Fitness tracker: My colleague David just bought one of these on Black Friday and is loving it. It’s great for translators because you can set an idle alert: if you haven’t moved for a certain number of minutes, the watch vibrates and reminds you to stand up and stretch.

Pet: This is not a joke! One of the things we miss out on the most by working from home is companionship. I’m not ashamed to admit that I sometimes talk to my cat throughout the day, and often ask her for business advice. She has yet to respond with anything of value. Check with the recipient first to make sure it’s something they want and can afford, but even a guinea pig or bird can bring enrichment to the freelancer’s long and lonely day.

Workout classes: A great way to get out of the house, stretch a bit, and interact with other human beings. Disclaimer: husbands, purchasing this gift for your wives unsolicited may send the wrong message. Tread with caution.

Branded gear: One of my favorite gifts my husband has ever given me was a t-shirt with my company logo on it. He surprised me with it after an ATA conference one year and it was a great reminder that my significant other supported me and was proud of me! I liked it so much that I got one for him, too. Many different online and brick-and-mortar companies offer personalized products: Vistaprint, 4imprint, Promotions Now.

Readers, we’d love to hear your ideas as well, and go ahead and send this link to your family so they don’t have to resort to gifting you socks and gift cards for yet another year!

 Header image credit: Pixabay

Writing for the Web

By Helen Eby

Writing for the WebLast August, I went to New York City for the Editorial Freelancers Association Conference, and one of the topics was editing for the web. That topic is not only important to editors – it is also highly relevant to translators and many other professions. We write content every day, and we have to find ways to make our content stick out among the wealth of other content that appears online all the time. Here are some of the main points that I picked up from Erin Brenner’s presentation, Editing for the Web. I have also included information I learned in other workshops.

Readers are looking for what they need, right away! Therefore, we have to provide text that meets those needs and leads them toward meeting their goals efficiently.

Our goals are the same as always:

  • Give the audience information. They are trying to satisfy a need.
  • Make the audience comfortable. They won’t stay on a site that is not respectful and attractive!

However, writing online also comes with some limitations:

  • We read slower online.
  • 80% of readers’ time is spent before scrolling down on a page.
  • Readers generally spend no more than two minutes on a site.

How can we help our readers use their time advantageously? How can we make our message as clear and effective as possible? Erin focused on looking at our content from the point of view of the reader, not the author.

How should we format our material to engage our audience?

White space helps guide us to what is important. When a page is too cluttered, it becomes difficult to read, and people are likely to gloss over it. What tools can we use to organize our writing more effectively?

  • Specific, clear headings
  • Short paragraphs, and paragraphs of varying lengths
  • Tables
  • Bulleted lists
  • Block quotes
  • Bold and italics

It can often be helpful to take a look at the final online version and see how the text lines up there before an article is published.

Titles and Headings: Keep them clear

We need to make headlines and subheads specific and clear. The key words from the article should be in the title. Keep titles down to 50 characters or less, including spaces. Ask yourself: If I were searching for an article about this topic, what words would I use? Then, put those words together.

This helps in two ways:

  • Readers know what they are getting.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) can be improved.

Paragraphs: Break them up, keep them short

Online, it works better to write in short paragraphs. We need the white space, so find shifts to break up paragraphs. Write the most important information at the start of the paragraph, because people might skip the rest. Focus on uncluttering your text at all cost. When in doubt, just delete it. This is called Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF).

The following are some changes we would make in text for online media.

Print media example Online media version
A decision to buy. A buying decision.
The impact of the content. The content’s impact.
I am able to. I can.
Present progressive (I am coming). Present tense (I come).
Passive voice is OK for science texts. Lean towards the active voice.

Tables

As shown in the table above, we can use tables to highlight comparisons side by side. This can be much more effective than paragraphs or lists, since it puts information not just in a vertical organization (as in lists) or a linear organization (as in paragraphs) but in a two-dimensional format, making some information much clearer.

Bulleted Lists

You can use lists to make information clear and scannable. However, bear in mind the following:

  • Keep each item short.
  • Reserve numbered lists for sequential items. Otherwise, just use bullets.
  • Avoid embedding lists within lists, or items will seem off topic.

Block Quotes

When to use block quotes is determined differently online and in print. In print, we make a quote a block quote if it is more than 3 or 4 sentences long. However, when writing online, important quotes are always made block quotes. Also, examples are always block quotes.

Bold, Italic, and Underlining: How should we use them?

Use bold to emphasize:

  • Key words and key ideas
  • Introductions to the bullet list
  • New terms
  • Short examples

Be consistent about bold type. Do not overdo it. Beware of using color in bold because of people with visual impairments.

Italics are hard to read online. However, they are used instead of underlining. Do not underline! Online, underlining means links. Double underlining is a link to an advertisement.

What are the results?

As we engage our readers with clear, BLUF text, they will trust us to serve them again. That is what we want: to be able to continue a long conversation with our readers. After all, online interaction is a conversation they start and we respond to, serving them first and foremost. As I read in a shoe store bathroom wall this week:

A sale is nothing you pursue: it’s what happens to you while you are immersed in serving your customer.

Enjoy serving your readers!

For further reading:
Wikipedia’s Manual of Style
BuzzFeed Style Guide
Redish, Janice. Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content That Works, 2nd. Ed. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Morgan Kaufmann, 2014. Print.

Header image credit: Picjumbo
Header image edited with Canva

A Newbie’s Experience at #ATA57

ATA 57th Annual ConferenceAttending conferences can be exciting and nerve-racking at the same time, but with the Newbies & Buddies program at the ATA annual conference, I felt at ease and enjoyed every moment to the fullest. Bonding with three smiling faces through the welcome reception—Farah Arjang, a veteran translator and translation service provider, and Yifan Zhan and Lilian Gao, two graduate students studying Translation and Localization Management at Middlebury Institute of International Studies, I was happy as a clam. Our little group had quite the variety: practitioner, student, and scholar of translation and interpreting.

‘Hectic’ is a good word to describe the first day of international conferences for first time attendees. The 57th ATA annual conference was no exception. Luckily, the conference was carefully organized and attended to even the smallest details, such as the suggestion that Newbies have a meal with their Buddies. Compulsory and stiff as it might sound, it did help to take a lot of pressure off the Newbies. Farah briefed us on the basic flow of the conference schedule at the continental breakfast on the first day, so the three of us had a general idea of where to go and what to expect at the sessions to follow. I personally am a big fan of the conference app! I had all my sessions planned out ahead of time and was able to set up alerts. With the guidance of a kind and caring experienced ATA conference attendee and a helpful app, the first day was not all that hectic but instead quite enjoyable.

As a scholar and practitioner of Chinese/English translation and interpreting, I’m always drawn to learning about the Chinese/English language service industry, so I added the session called “Language Services Industry in China: Opportunities and Challenges” to the top of my schedule. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that Dr. Ping Yang, Chief Editor of the Chinese Translators Journal, the most influential academic journal in translation and interpreting studies in China, had been invited to give a talk about the status quo and prospects of translation services and translation studies in China. I’ve met Dr. Yang on many occasions in China, and ATA brought us together once again in the U.S. What a delightful coincidence! The other two speakers, Hui Tao and Yang Yu, introduced translation services in China from the perspective of localization, machine-aided translation technology, and big data analysis. It was definitely eye-opening for me to learn how entrenched technology is becoming in the industry.

The sessions that I looked forward to the most even before I arrived in San Francisco were those related to interpreting ethics, which was the theme of the panel discussion for the Interpreting Division this year. Interpreting ethics is my current research interest. I learned a lot from the panelists, Helen Eby, Milena Calderari-Waldron, Robyn Dean, Christina Helmerichs, and Marina Waters. In Dr. Robyn Dean’s sessions, she deconstructed the notion of the interpreter’s “role” and differentiated the use of the term in sociology and applied ethics. This was very new and insightful, since the interpreter’s role is always the center of discussion regarding the quality of interpreting services, where different metaphors of roles are often used to assess an interpreter’s performance. I had a pleasant short conversation with Dr. Dean afterwards and mentioned to her my questionnaire about interpreters’ decision making processes. She was interested and offer a few words of encouragement. The ATA annual meeting offered a great bridge for young scholars like myself to reach out to established scholars and learn from them.

Time always flies when you’re having fun. In the end, I departed San Francisco feeling extremely grateful. I’m grateful to Farah, whose advice was like a life jacket for newbies to navigate the oceans of opportunities and insight at the conference; to Yifang and Lilian, with whom I braved the air-tight schedule without suffocating as we were bombarded with new information. I’m grateful to all the speakers in the different sessions that painted the picture of a new and promising world of translation and interpreting. Finally, I’m grateful to the conference organizers and volunteers, who produced a successful event, united us for the 57th time, and reminded us that as translators and interpreters, though we are invisible most of the time, we are important, and we do not stand alone.

Author bio

Mia YinMingyue Yin is an assistant professor and Ph.D candidate at Sichuan University in China. She is also a visiting scholar at the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interest is in Translation/Interpreting Studies and Language Communication. She is currently working on her doctoral research project, “Interpreter’s Decision Making and Ethics”. Mingyue is also a certified Chinese/English Interpreter through the Chinese Accreditation Test for Translators and Interpreters (CATTI).

Nouveaux traducteurs : 10 conseils pour bien démarrer

By Gaëlle Gagné (@trematweet)
Reblogged from Le Blog de Trëma with permission from the author (incl. the image)

Nouveaux traducteurs 10 conseils pour bien démarrerIl y a quelques semaines, j’ai répondu avec plaisir à l’invitation d’une de mes professeurs de l’ÉSIT qui m’avait conviée à un de ses cours afin que je partage mon expérience avec les étudiants de la promotion 2016. La plupart envisagent d’exercer en tant que traducteurs et interprètes indépendants dès leur sortie de l’école et étaient avides de conseils pratiques pour bien démarrer.

Voici les 10 recommandations que je leur ai faites :

1. Préparez votre lancement

Avant de vous lancer tête baissée dans la création d’une entreprise, prenez le temps de réfléchir à ce que représente cet important choix de vie. Être indépendant offre une très grande liberté et, en général, une meilleure rémunération que l’emploi de traducteur salarié (sauf si vous êtes recruté par une organisation internationale, mais c’est un cas à part). Vous bénéficierez également d’une expérience plus variée qui vous permettra de choisir véritablement votre domaine de spécialisation. Toutefois, ces avantages ne doivent pas masquer un certain nombre de contraintes : en tant que créateur et gestionnaire d’une entreprise, vous aurez à réaliser de nombreuses tâches qui ne sont pas directement liées à votre domaine d’étude (prospecter, facturer, établir et maintenir une comptabilité, gérer vos relations clients, etc.). Êtes-vous prêt à y consacrer une part importante de votre temps ? Certains d’entre vous pourraient se sentir isolés en travaillant seuls à la maison. Sans compter que vos revenus seront, au moins dans un premier temps, aléatoires, ce qui peut susciter un stress important en période creuse. Bref, regardez la réalité en face, au besoin en demandant à des traducteurs expérimentés de vous décrire leur quotidien sans fard, afin d’éviter toute désillusion.

Une fois convaincu que la vie de freelance est faite pour vous, effectuez une petite étude de marché pour identifier les différents types de clients, les domaines de spécialisation porteurs, les revenus que vous pouvez espérer, etc. Les associations professionnelles sont de précieuses alliées à ce stade pour vous donner l’occasion de rencontrer des collègues en exercice et pour les rapports qu’elles publient régulièrement sur l’état de la profession. En plus du marché, étudiez également l’environnement juridique (formes d’entreprises, obligations légales, aides à la création, etc.) pour être à même de prendre les bonnes décisions au regard de votre situation.

Avant même de commencer à démarcher des clients potentiels, soignez votre présentation : rédigez un CV et créez des profils sur les réseaux sociaux professionnels (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Viadeo…), car vos prospects ne manqueront pas de vous « googliser » pour savoir à qui ils ont affaire. Dans même, si vous ne disposez pas dans un premier temps d’un site web professionnel, assurez-vous au moins d’avoir une adresse e-mail dédiée (nanou94@yahoo.com ou barbaraetlucas@gmail.com nuisent à votre crédibilité professionnelle) et une signature automatique précisant vos langues de travail et redirigeant vos contacts vers des pages leur permettant de se renseigner sur vous. Enfin, faites imprimer des cartes de visite que vous aurez toujours sur vous, car on ne sait jamais quand on pourrait rencontrer une personne à la recherche d’un traducteur !

2. Fixez votre tarif avant de prospecter

Pour éviter d’être prix au dépourvu quand vos efforts de prospection vous placeront enfin en position de négocier avec un client potentiel, réfléchissez dès maintenant au tarif que vous demanderez. L’étude de marché que vous aurez réalisée (voir conseil n° 1) vous aidera dans cette démarche qui doit s’appuyer à la fois sur ce qui se pratique dans la réalité (consultez les tarifs moyens par combinaison de langue présentés dans l’étude tarifaire de la SFT) et vos propres besoins (attention, comme je vous l’ai déjà expliqué votre temps ne sera pas uniquement consacré à la traduction, donc toute heure travaillée n’est pas forcément rémunérée).

Quoi qu’il en soit, NE BRADEZ PAS VOS SERVICES EN ESPÉRANT TROUVER DES CLIENTS ! Être un peu plus cher est paradoxalement plus vendeur pour des clients en quête de qualité (les meilleurs). Sans compter que si vous pratiquez des tarifs trop bas, vous passerez tout votre temps à traduire pour gagner peu, sans pouvoir consacrer le temps nécessaire à la recherche de contrats plus rémunérateurs.

3. Trouvez des clients

Sachez que si vous avez du mal à trouver des clients, ces derniers ont autant de difficultés à trouver des traducteurs. Acquérir une plus grande visibilité doit donc être votre priorité. Pour cela, ne négligez aucune piste : informez la Terre entière (votre grand-mère, la boulangère, votre banquier, vos copines de yoga, etc.) que vous êtes traducteur. Vous aurez certainement droit aux questions habituelles : « vous traduisez des livres ? Combien de langues parlez-vous ?… » et aux réflexions légèrement apitoyées : « cela doit être dur, non, d’être seul à la maison toute la journée ? », mais en informant patiemment vos auditeurs vous saisirez l’opportunité de vous faire l’ambassadeur de notre beau métier et, surtout, de devenir LE traducteur professionnel du carnet d’adresses de tous ces braves gens prêts à transmettre généreusement (et gratuitement) vos coordonnées dès qu’ils entendront parler d’un besoin de traduction.

Le réseautage est un autre élément essentiel de votre stratégie de prospection : maintenez des liens avec vos anciens collègues et employeurs et tenez-les informés de l’évolution de votre carrière, devenez membre d’une, ou plusieurs, associations professionnelles, notamment de votre association d’anciens élèves, afin de vous appuyer sur leurs réseaux. Contrairement à ce que pensent certains, les autres traducteurs ne sont pas vos concurrents, mais des partenaires potentiels. S’ils vous connaissent, ils pourront éventuellement faire appel à vous pour décrocher un gros contrat ou vous proposer de sous-traiter une partie de leur activité lorsqu’ils seront débordés. Alors, sortez de chez vous et allez à leur rencontre !

Méfiez-vous des plateformes de mise en relation, type Upwork (née de la fusion de oDesk et elance), Freelancer, Trouve-moi un freelance, etc. Ces sites proposent de mettre en relation des entreprises avec des travailleurs indépendants, mais lorsque les offres de projet sont affichées, ils fonctionnent en fait comme des enchères inversées organisant une course aux tarifs les plus bas.

Enfin, quel que soit votre état de famine, n’acceptez JAMAIS un contrat sans vous renseigner préalablement sur votre client potentiel. Entre les déplorables pratiques de certaines agences et les très nombreuses arnaques aux traducteurs sur Internet, les écueils sont nombreux. ne vous réjouissez pas trop vite, prêt à accepter n’importe quoi pour décrocher un contrat : commencez par rechercher une partie du texte à traduire sur Google (les arnaqueurs ne sont pas créatifs et envoient souvent le même texte des milliers de fois dans l’espoir de duper les traducteurs indépendants) et consultez les avis de vos pairs sur Payment Practices, le Blue Board de ProZ, etc. Je reviendrai sur ce vaste sujet dans un prochain billet, promis !

4. donnez-vous du temps

Tous les traducteurs qui sont passés par là avant vous vous le diront : se constituer une clientèle prend environ un an. Patience est donc le maître-mot, mais prévoir une petite somme pour survivre en attendant ne fait pas de mal ! Ne vous découragez pas. Vos efforts finiront par payer, probablement au moment où vous vous y attendrez le moins. Un de mes tout premiers clients directs m’a été adressé par une amie française installée à Londres qui avait été sollicitée à la sortie de l’école par une maman, directrice marketing d’une PME, pour traduire le site web de sa société (avis aux clients potentiels : cette histoire aurait pu mal tourner si mon amie n’avait pas une « vraie » traductrice dans son carnet d’adresses !)

5. Commencez par les agences

Pour décrocher plus rapidement vos premiers contrats, frappez aux portes des agences de traduction. Ces intermédiaires ont le mérite de vous faciliter la recherche de clients, ce qui a un coût bien sûr (vos prestations seront généralement moins bien rémunérées que si vous facturiez directement un client), mais offre une expérience très formatrice. En effet, les agences sont en mesure de vous fournir des missions variées et, à condition de bien les choisir, contribueront à accroître votre rigueur par la révision attentive de votre travail.

Pour identifier les meilleures, fiez-vous une fois encore à vos collègues (certains forums comme ProZ ou le Translator’s Cafe compilent les commentaires de traducteurs) et exercez votre bon sens pour ne pas faire les frais de pratiques douteuses. Par exemple, considérez que vous n’avez pas à subir de pressions pour baisser votre tarif : puisque vous ne l’avez pas fixé au hasard, il doit donc simplement être accepté ou refusé. Méfiez-vous également des fausses promesses de type « facturez moins cher maintenant pour travailler plus à l’avenir » et n’acceptez jamais d’être payé à condition que le client final ait lui-même réglé sa facture (c’est tout simplement illégal). Dans le même esprit, plutôt que d’effectuer à titre gracieux moult tests de traduction, proposez des extraits de votre travail présentant la source en regard de la cible (après tout, on ne demande pas une consultation d’essai à un médecin ou un test de créativité à un graphiste !). Enfin, même si la question peut être débattue, je trouve les rabais pour « fuzzy matches » abusifs, car rien ne garantit la qualité des segments enregistrés dans la mémoire de traduction que vous devrez utiliser et dont vous aurez, de toute façon, à adapter le contenu.

Pour résumer, votre relation avec une agence est une entente commerciale entre deux entreprises, les termes de votre collaboration sont donc librement négociables. Même si certaines abusent de leur position dominante pour faire pression sur des professionnels DONT ELLES ONT BESOIN POUR EXISTER, vous n’êtes pas tenu de tout accepter sous prétexte de décrocher un contrat.

6. Faites preuve de professionnalisme

Il ressort du point précédent que vous devez absolument vous considérer comme un professionnel et vous présenter en tant que tel. Dans cet objectif, rédigez des conditions générales de vente qui serviront de base à vos négociations commerciales et établiront dès le départ les modalités de paiement et les obligations de chacune des parties.

Par ailleurs, mettez un point d’honneur à respecter scrupuleusement les délais et les consignes. Au moindre doute, faites des recherches et si vous ne parvenez pas à trouver vous-même la réponse, posez des questions à votre donneur d’ordre. Personne ne lit un document plus attentivement qu’un traducteur, vous êtes donc un atout précieux pour l’auteur et un filet de sécurité avant la publication de son texte. Signalez respectueusement toute coquille ou maladresse, en étant conscient d’offrir de la valeur ajoutée tout en contribuant à asseoir votre réputation professionnelle. En outre, relisez toujours attentivement votre travail, même s’il doit être révisé par un tiers.

7. faites-vous recommander dès vos premiers clients

Lorsque vous renvoyez votre traduction, ou peu de temps après, sollicitez l’avis de vos clients sur votre prestation. Leurs témoignages constituent un outil précieux pour améliorer la qualité de votre travail et convaincre d’autres agences ou clients directs de vous faire confiance. Même si peu de traducteurs parviennent à s’y astreindre dans les faits, vous devriez prospecter continuellement pour maintenir un niveau d’activité régulier. En effet, un important donneur d’ordre peut à tout moment renoncer à un projet ou faire appel à un autre prestataire, mieux vaut donc répartir le risque de perte financière en maintenant un portefeuille de clients (sans compter que travailler pour un seul donneur d’ordre peut être considéré par l’URSSAF comme une forme de salariat déguisé, lourd de conséquences). Afin d’augmenter vos chances de recueillir ces précieux avis, privilégiez une approche directe en simplifiant au maximum la tâche des personnes sollicitées. Vous pouvez par exemple envoyer une demande de recommandation via LinkedIn ou créer un questionnaire rapide à l’aide d’applications de sondage gratuites comme Survey Monkey.

Les périodes creuses sont propices au développement de votre activité : profitez-en pour vous former dans vos domaines de spécialité, acquérir de nouvelles connaissances ou aller à la rencontre de traducteurs. Si vous avez recours à la formation, sachez qu’il est possible de vous faire rembourser tout ou partie des frais engagés par le Fonds interprofessionnel de la formation des professions libérales (FIFPL) (code NAF : 7430 ZS).

8. Ne vous spécialisez pas immédiatement (mais ne tardez pas trop non plus)

Les traducteurs ne sont pas omnipotents et sont même bien meilleurs lorsqu’ils se concentrent sur un certains types de textes. En réduisant le nombre de sujets que vous accepterez de traiter, vous limiterez certes la taille du marché ciblé, mais aurez accès à des contrats plus rémunérateurs, confiés uniquement à des professionnels expérimentés. Pour être viable, une spécialisation doit rester relativement vaste pour faire face à d’éventuels retournements de situation économique dans un secteur d’activité (traduction juridique, technique, financière, marketing, etc.), mais peut aussi être très étroite pour vous positionner sur un marché de niche (vous devenez alors LE traducteur spécialisé dans la culture d’orchidées ou les techniques de soin bucco-dentaire). Pour guider votre choix, interrogez-vous sur ce qui vous plaît et ce que vous traduisez le mieux. Une fois que vous aurez opté pour un domaine, vous pourrez alors consacrer du temps à parfaire vos connaissances et votre savoir-faire, afin de produire des traductions de qualité qui passeront pour avoir été rédigées par un professionnel du domaine.

9. Une fois spécialisé, adressez-vous directement aux clients

Maintenant que vous avez cerné le marché à développer (le domaine d’activité dans lequel vous vous êtes spécialisé), vous êtes prêt à vous adresser aux entreprises qui pourraient avoir besoin d’un traducteur qualifié. En contournant les agences, vous gagnez un accès direct aux donneurs d’ordre et augmentez généralement vos perspectives de rémunération.

Sachez toutefois que cette approche a aussi son lot d’exigences : les clients directs sont souvent moins informés de la nature du travail des traducteurs et ont besoin d’être « éduqués » en ce sens pour la mise en place d’une collaboration fructueuse. Expliquez succinctement votre démarche en indiquant qu’il vous faudra être au fait des spécificités de leur entreprise et de leur stratégie, précisez les délais à prendre en compte, demandez à ce qu’on vous transmette les coordonnées d’une personne-ressource à qui vous pourrez éventuellement vous adresser pour clarifier certains points et insistez sur la nécessité d’une relecture par un tiers (en interne ou en externe, organisée par vous).

Vous devrez sans doute consacrer plus de temps à la « gestion client », mais cet investissement se révélera vite judicieux pour la mise en place d’une relation de confiance dans la durée. De plus en plus d’entreprises préfèrent avoir affaire à des traducteurs indépendants qui connaissent leurs spécificités et leurs enjeux, plutôt qu’à des agences qui se révèlent souvent incapables de leur fournir des prestations de qualité constante. Pour les fidéliser, soyez prêts à en faire un peu plus (les rencontrer en personne, faire de la veille sur leurs marchés dans votre langue cible, être disponible dans les temps forts de leur activité, etc.) et à gagner en visibilité (identité visuelle, présence sur le web, participation à des salons, etc.) pour mieux vous intégrer dans leurs équipes.

10. ne restez pas seul face à vos interrogations

Au fil de votre parcours d’entrepreneur, vous vous sentirez parfois seul et démuni face à certaines questions. Dans ces moments de doute, n’hésitez pas à vous appuyer sur des réseaux (d’entrepreneurs, d’anciens élèves, de traducteurs, etc.) qui rassemblent des professionnels ayant rencontré les mêmes difficultés avant vous et à même de comprendre votre situation. La vie de freelance, n’est pas un désert solitaire : c’est même une excellente opportunité de partage pour qui sait s’ouvrir aux autres. Alors, n’hésitez pas, rejoignez une ou plusieurs associations professionnelles et, lorsque vous serez à votre tour lancé, rendez aux suivants tout ce dont vous aurez su si bien profiter…

Bon vent !

ATA Conference Recap

By Jamie HartzATA 57th Annual Conference

It’s been just over two weeks since the 57th Annual American Translators Association Conference ended, and we’re excited to report that it was, once again, a blast.

This year’s highlights included Brainstorm Networking, an event where colleagues meet to discuss business practices-related scenarios in a quick but fun setting; the Job Fair, featuring a number of agencies searching for vendors as well as freelancers looking for work; and of course, Buddies Welcome Newbies.

At this year’s session, we focused on topics such as handing out business cards, choosing what sessions to go to, and conference etiquette. At the Wednesday session we also distributed a “passport” and asked Newbies to interact with as many ATA Divisions and local chapters as they could, collecting “stamps” for their passports.

For those of you who missed the Buddies Welcome Newbies introduction session or would like a copy of the presentation, see below:

Our Buddies Welcome Newbies debrief session on Saturday involved an interactive discussion of methods for following up with contacts, with great suggestions from both Newbies and Buddies alike. We’d like to thank Wordfast and Johns Benjamins Publishing Company for their contributions of prizes to the most-filled Newbie passports: a Wordfast Pro license and two translation and interpreting resource books, respectively. We appreciate your support!

Readers, did you attend the Buddies Welcome Newbies or any other great sessions this year? We’d love to hear about your experience!

5 lessons from SLAM! on promoting professionalism in the translation industry

5 lessons from SLAM! on promoting professionalism in the translation industryHow do you differentiate yourself and earn a living as a freelance translator or interpreter? Arm yourself with huge doses of entrepreneurship, pride and courage. Keep on reading to get more tips and be ready to rock!

About SLAM!
The Scandinavian Language Associations’ meeting (SLAM!) was held on the 24th of September in Malmö. The theme of the event was promoting professionalism in a changing market.

Some of the speakers were experienced personalities in the translation world such as Chris Durban and Ros Schwartz. I was there to learn, network and enjoy the sense of community that I get among other language professionals. I kept hearing some recurring topics that I am sharing with you here. I hope you find them useful as pieces of advice and enjoy applying them.

  • Find your niche.

Everyone talked about specialization. When I first heard this before the event, I did not understand the importance of it. Since the conference, I have attended two conferences and several courses in my specialization. I have literature on the subject at hand and I feel much better prepared to translate within digital marketing. I simply love the field. I now agree that it gives you more in-depth knowledge and skills. You build a clearer profile that makes it easier for clients to decide if you are the right fit for their project.

  • No price competition.

As opposed to what some might think, we are not at all competing on price but on quality and the added value we provide. Quoting cheaper prices is not a solution but educating our clients can eliminate some price sensitivity. Concentrate on rendering quality services that offer solutions to your clients’ dilemmas. Find ways to add value and enhance your delivery with extra suggestions and service. It will pay off; your clients will understand the advantages of working with a language consultant that knows what he or she is doing and they will keep coming back.

  • Have goals.

Write down your goals on paper for a daily reminder of what you want to achieve. Make them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. They will help you keep on track when the spirit fails. Having them clear in your mind will put you closer to achieving them.

  • Believe in yourself.

Know what you can do and believe in your value and that of your company. With language skills, specialized knowledge, a focus on value for clients and specific goals, you are all set, right? Well, do not forget to be confident in all those things. As a sole proprietor you need the mindset for success and to concentrate on positive things to remain optimistic and proud of what you do. This will in turn help you present your business in a better way. Train building your confidence, practice your elevator pitch and be your best boss. Strive at all times to deliver quality; the best value you can give, and that will make your customer want to come back.

  • Get out of the house.

Challenge the idea that translators are shy creatures hiding behind their screens. Network and meet new clients. You need to be out there so that your prospective clients find you and know you can help them. Attend conferences and trade fairs so that you can stay up to date on topics you specialize in and meet potential clients in need of your services. Become a member of local chambers of commerce where you can expand your network and find recommendations, projects and people to collaborate with in some form. Be a member of an association that supports your work as a translator.

Keep reading, keep listening, keep learning, keep applying, and good luck! Have you got any comments or useful pieces of advice on these subjects? Please share.

Author bio

Noelia GarasievichNoelia Garasievich is an English/Swedish to Spanish translator and content writer specialized in digital marketing and transcreation. She is a member of the Swedish Association of Professional Translators (SFÖ). She has written pedagogical books in Sweden where she has lived for the past 15 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in conference interpretation and translation and a European Master in Conference Interpreting. Connect with her on Twitter @NoeliaLG1 or visit her website.

Always leave the door open for future opportunities

Always leave the door open for future opportunitiesLearning to say no is widely covered in our profession. It is a skill many of us have to work on. It took me a long time to identify my limits and realize that yes can be a huge and attractive trap. There is another aspect of our profession that does not receive as much attention: learning to hear no and respond properly.

Not too long ago I was contacted by a law firm. They seemed to be in a big hurry to replace their previous translator. They invited me to come to their offices for a meeting and I promptly agreed. Error #1.

I should have investigated them before responding to their email. The email identified the type of law the firm was involved in, but did not give me any idea of their size or type of cases they took on (personal, business, both). It would also have been a good idea to tell them my rates beforehand to make sure my services fit within their budget. Error #2.

The interview was conducted in a hallway (bad sign). I was informed that the attorney herself performed the translations into Portuguese (well, her accent was not that of a Portuguese speaker, which already concerned me), and the attorney’s focus was on cost. All she cared about was the fact that her former translators had raised their fees.

Upon seeing the dollar signs swirling around my head, I informed her of my rates. Guess what her response was? She abruptly thanked me, turned around and left the hallway. I was left there dumbfounded staring at her back. After a day of thinking how to properly respond, I sent her office a note that read more or less like this:

Dear Former Prospective Client,

Thank you for making yourself available to speak with me at your offices on [DATE]. I truly wished we had had more time to speak so we could both fully understand what was at stake.

My career in translation and interpreting spans 36 years and I have clients in various countries and industry segments. The reason my clients choose to work with me are quality and reliability. The dollar signs attached to a translation project are to be analyzed against the best interest of the client, always.

In order to project a more polished image and produce a fully culturally and linguistically correct product, language access through translation and interpreting has to be considered beyond dollar signs.

I understand that my rates do not fit your budget but I can offer you guidance on where to look for qualified professionals. The best places to find qualified translators are the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (http://www.najit.org) and the American Translators Association (http://www.atanet.org). These two professional associations offer directory users the opportunity to search by language pair, certifications and location among other options. Their members are bound by codes of ethics pertaining to confidentiality, quality, professionalism, which I believe, would suit your organization.

The ideas behind the note were:

  1. Bring back a level of civility to our exchange
  2. Keep the door open for future projects
  3. Share information that may assist them in the future
  4. Help them realize that their need is shared by many and
  5. There are professionals trained to assist them

As you may have guessed, I have not heard back from them. However, should they choose to do so, rather than the bad impression left by the meeting, we will have the email as a starting point for our renewed relationship.

Lessons learned:

  1. Always follow your procedures for qualifying a client
  2. Rushing things lends itself to bad experiences (not always, but enough times)
  3. An emergency on the client’s part does not constitute an emergency on my end
  4. Keep calm and read the signs!

Image credit: freely

Author bio
Giovanna LesterBrazilian-born Giovanna “Gio” Lester has worked in the translation and interpreting fields since 1980. Gio is very active in her profession and in the associations she is affiliated with: ATANAJITIAPTI, and the new ATA Florida Chapter, ATIF, which she co-founded in 2009, serving as its first elected president (2011-2012).
As an international conference interpreter, Gio has been the voice of government heads and officials, scientists, researchers, doctors, hairdressers, teachers, engineers, investors and more. She loves to teach and share her experience. Connect with her on Twitter @giostake and contact her at gio@giolester.com.