Can you answer these questions about your translation project? (FAQ)

This post was originally published on the dba Plan B blog. It is reposted with permission.

When you have a translation project ready to go, here are some of the questions you’ll likely be asked — certainly by me, but also by other translators. In most cases, translators need to see the documents before giving you a quote, but even with the documents, we need your input to provide a translation that meets your needs.

(1) What is the language of the source document and/or what country is it from?

(2) What kind of text is it (for example, personal correspondence, medical record, birth certificate, school transcript)?

(3) What format are the documents in (paper, scan, PDF or other electronic file) and how do you intend to send them (mail, fax, e-mail attachment)?

(4) What is the subject matter?

(5) How will the translation be used? Is it for a specific institution, application, or audience?

(6) What is the approximate volume of the material to be translated (number of words, lines, or total number of pages)?

(7) Is there any handwriting in the document? Latin alphabet or Cyrillic? Can you read it?

(8) Is the document fully legible (or a fax of a fax of a fax)? If it is difficult to decipher, do you have any preferences for handling illegible or partially illegible passages? (Normally these are indicated as “illegible” in brackets.)

(9) Are there any charts or graphics that must be reproduced in the translation? (There’s no need to describe the formatting of birth-marriage-death certificates or school transcripts.)

(10) When will the materials be available?

(11) When would you like to have the completed document(s) in hand?

(12) If these are official documents, do you require a certification of accuracy, notarized originals, or other special handling?

(13) Does the project involve ongoing or recurring assignments?

Common Errors Found in the English>Spanish Certification Exam

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

ATA certification continues to be a sought-after credential. As a way to prepare for this demanding exam, ATA has been offering practice tests for many years, which are real exam passages that have been “retired.” In addition to the practice test, ATA has been offering exam preparation workshops taught by ATA exam graders to help candidates better understand how to prepare for the exam. In the past three years, ATA has offered regional workshops in Boston, Alexandria, Houston, and Mexico City. These workshops are also offered at ATA’s Annual Conference, including this year in Palm Springs.

The three-hour workshop for Spanish<>English includes an analysis of the different error categories and a practice test that registered participants are invited to complete and submit prior to the workshop. The graded practice tests are returned during the workshop and used as the basis for discussion of the passage. Here are some of the most common errors made by candidates in the English>Spanish combination.

Mimicking English Syntax: Many candidates mimic the English syntax without stopping to consider that Spanish sentences often have to be organized differently. English is a more concise language than Spanish, and sometimes it’s necessary to change word order in a translation, or to provide a verb or an article that is not present in English. Common errors include the absence of definite and indefinite articles, the mimicking of the passive voice, and the use of prepositions that don’t reflect Spanish usage.

False Friends: These are English words that resemble Spanish words in their spelling, but have a different, sometimes opposite, meaning. As their name indicates, these words are very untrustworthy. Many candidates tend to choose the word that looks like the English for their translation, and, in so doing, make a transfer error. The more an English word resembles a Spanish one, the more necessary it is to verify that the meaning is the one that we need in the target language. Always confirm this using a monolingual dictionary.

Incorrect Use of Present Continuous Tense and Gerund/Present Participle: This is one aspect of grammar that’s very different in English and Spanish. Most of the time, in Spanish we cannot imitate the use of the present continuous tense or gerund/present participle. In fact, this is an aspect of Spanish grammar that requires study and practice. Just because you see a verb ending in –ing in English doesn’t mean you can replicate it in Spanish. Candidates lose a lot of points because they don’t understand the correct use of the present continuous tense and gerund/present participle in Spanish.

Mechanical Errors: These are what we call “controllable” errors. Mechanical errors are those evident to a Spanish reader without having to compare the text to the English original. Such errors include punctuation, capitalization, spelling, diacritical marks, grammar, and syntax. I say they are “controllable” because ATA’s certification exam is an open-book exam. It is therefore possible, and encouraged, for candidates to consult dictionaries, grammar books, and style manuals during the exam. As graders, we’ve found a number of candidates who fail due to mechanical errors. In other words, the candidate transfers the meaning well from English into Spanish, but makes too many mechanical errors.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you’re planning to take the certification exam in the English>Spanish combination, a practice test is the place to start. Brush up on your Spanish grammar and consult some style manuals to guide you in avoiding mechanical errors. And if you’re able, attend one of the regional workshops that are being offered a few times a year in different parts of the country and at ATA’s Annual Conference in the fall.


Mercedes De la Rosa-Sherman, CT has been a professional translator for over 30 years. An ATA-certified English>Spanish translator and a member of ATA’s Certification Committee, she has been a grader for ATA’s English>Spanish certification exam for over 10 years. She is also a state and federally certified court interpreter. She has a master’s degree in medical translation. Contact: delarosasherman@gmail.com.

Freelance Translator Survey 2020

“Interesting & fun to complete”, “Most comprehensive and interesting survey so far”, “Loved it!”, “Very thorough and thought-provoking” are just a few of the comments left by people who completed this survey for translators https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/freelance-translator-survey-2020, a survey that took two months to put together, a survey designed by translators for translators.

The idea started to take shape a couple of months ago, after seeing several discussions in various translation groups I am a member of. There are a number of studies/surveys carried out in our field, some specifically aimed at members of certain associations, others focused on specific areas (e.g.CAT tools) or geographic location, but I wanted to do something a bit more comprehensive, open to freelance translators from anywhere around the world and covering as many aspects of our profession as possible.

Why did it take so long? Well, it involved several stages: after the initial brainstorming and research (to make sure it’s different from other surveys), I consulted a number of colleagues to see what sort of data translators really want to know and tried to include as many of those as possible. Sadly, that was impossible, as it would have made the survey twice as long. However, I am planning to look at some of these areas in more detail later, with additional surveys. To ensure the questions are not biased or leading, we also got a researcher on board to help with the flow and design. The initial draft went through several rounds of amends after being tested by a number of colleagues (who were generous and donated their time to help with this and to whom I am really grateful). The version you can now see live is version 11 🙂

Why should you consider filling this in? There are several reasons:

  • The findings will be published on https://inboxtranslation.com/resources/research/, therefore available to anyone interested
  • You are contributing to important and valuable research that will help you reflect on the way you are working as a translator
  • For each complete response, we will donate £1 (up to £250) to a charity of your choice
  • If you always wanted to know more about your fellow translators, you can suggest questions/topics we will consider for future surveys
  • The more people take part, and the more varied their background, location and experience, the more reliable the data obtained is, so please feel free to share the survey with fellow freelance translators

I, for one, am really excited to see the results! So please take the survey and help me help YOU!

Author bio

In her 15 years as a translation professional, Alina Cincan has been wearing many hats: Chartered Linguist (Language Specialist), translator, project manager, ECD (Expert Coffee Drinker), international conference speaker and author. Her #1 passion? Languages! She speaks six languages with various degrees of fluency. Some of her articles were published in translation journals and magazines, such as Traduire in France, MDÜ Magazine in Germany, La Linterna del Traductor in Spain, the ITI Bulletin in the UK and De Taalkundige/Le Linguiste In Belgium. More about her experience and work can be read here.

Free Training: Getting Started as a Freelance Translator

A four-week online course for beginning translators in any language combination, who want to launch and run a successful freelance business. Also for “experienced beginners” whose primary goal is to find more work.

Because a lot of people have a lot of time on their hands right now, I’m offering a free session of Getting Started as a Freelance Translator. We’ll have two live sessions per week (recordings provided if you can’t attend live) and a Slack group for discussion and questions. Participants in this session will not receive individual feedback on assignments, (you’ll still receive the assignments, but not individual feedback), but hey, it’s free! If you’ve been thinking of launching a freelance translation business, or if you’re a beginning translator looking for more or better work, come join us! Everyone welcome: all language combinations, students, anyone at all.

Instructor: Corinne McKay, CT. An ATA-certified French to English translator and Colorado-certified French court interpreter, Corinne has 16+ years of experience as a full-time freelancer and has taught the Getting Started as a Freelance Translator course since 2006. Corinne holds a Master’s degree in French Literature from Boston College, and specializes in international development, corporate communications, and non-fiction book translation. Her book How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator has sold over 12,000 copies and has become–now in its third edition–a go-to reference for the translation and interpreting professions.

Next session: March 30-April 30, 2020.

Live sessions: Video lectures at 12:30 PM New York time on Mondays (March 30, April 6, April 13, April 20), question and answer sessions on at 12:30 PM on Fridays (April 3, 10, 17, and 24). Recordings provided if you can’t attend live.

Description:This course was exactly what I needed – it offered a structured, bite-sized and realistic approach to topics every potential full-time freelancer needs to consider. Corinne’s honest and unbiased feedback helped me to focus on my goals and plan the next steps in my freelance career .”

“I was surprised and delighted at how practical this course was. Corinne is extremely generous in sharing her insights, suggestions and tips, and this was very important to me as a relatively novice translator. I always got the feeling I could ask any question, no matter what, and Corinne would provide a thoughtful and thorough answer. This course is a must for beginner translators.”

If you’re a beginning translator looking for the nuts and bolts of how to launch and run a successful freelance business, Getting Started as a Freelance Translator will get you there! You’ll create a translation-targeted resume and cover e-mail, a billable hours and rates sheet, and a marketing plan for your translation business. Most importantly, you’ll finish the course with increased confidence in your freelance business skills.

Format: This is a special, free session of this course. Everyone will have access to the weekly video lectures and question and answer sessions (recordings provided), and we’ll have a Slack group for discussion. You’ll receive a weekly homework assignment with sample answers, but you will not receive individual feedback on the assignments.

Here’s the link if you want to sign up, and we’ll go live on March 30.

Why You Should Never Offer a “Free Quote” On Your Website (Or Elsewhere)

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

Whether you’re a seasoned professional translator or a newbie who’s just getting your feet wet, your website should be the place where clients go to find out more about your services and to find out how they can work with you. Not only that, but it should make them want to work with you. There are a lot of ways to convince a client to reach out for an inquiry about your services. But one way that I recommend you never utilize on your website (or anywhere else for that matter) is by mentioning a “free quote”. Some people use mentions of free quotes as a button to click, or a tab at the top of the web page in the navigation bar, or on a form that clients can fill out and submit. Wait a minute. Doesn’t everyone do that these days? Well, not everyone. But a very large number of people do. Want to know a little secret? I did the same thing! Then why in the world am I suggesting you not do this?

Here are my top five reasons to never mention requests for a free quote on your website (or elsewhere).

1. When you offer a free quote, you are bringing attention to pricing. Front and center. You are inevitably going to attract price shoppers. Are they your ideal clients? Do you want to be discussing pricing over quality? I’m guessing you don’t. Then remove the “free quote” bit as a way to draw people in. You do not want to devalue anything that you do, so avoid the word “free” all together.

If you choose to remove mentions of free quotes from your website, I am willing to bet that you will start attracting fewer price shoppers and more serious clients. Give it a try! Remember, everything in business is an experiment.

2. You are stating the obvious. Of course the quotes you send clients are probably free. I say this because I don’t know of any translators who charge for to provide quotes to clients. So, they’re likely expected to be free anyway. When you change the verbiage on your site from offering a “free quote” to something like “contact us”, “contact me”, “send John an email”, “request a consultation” or something like that, you remove any thought you might have instilled with the word “free”. Price shoppers will be less likely to contact you, and you will be more likely to receive requests with serious inquiries.

3. By avoiding any mentions of free quotes, you allow site visitors to focus on what’s more important than the price: the value you bring to them and to their business or organization. When you focus on defining your value proposition for your ideal client and making that as clear as possible, people will want to work with you. The quote itself will be merely a formality.

4. You get to choose the direction the conversation goes. When you avoid discussing free quotes on your website, you also attract fewer of those “I need this yesterday!” clients. If your site gives off more of a “let’s have a conversation” vibe, those pesky clients who want something done for nothing, or who have an unreasonable timeline, will look elsewhere. Who wants to work with clients like that anyway?

If you plan to work with direct clients, you should be setting most of the parameters. When do you have an opening to work on a new project? How long will it take? What will it cost the client? You are not an order taker. So, have a real conversation with your client and talk pricing last, after you’ve had a chance to “wow” them.

5. By not leading people to ask for a price right off the bat, you allow yourself to customize your service sales. While you may charge the same price to all of your technical English to German translation clients, you have the opportunity to actually price your work based on the value you bring to the table. This means that you do not have to set prices from price sheets you have on file. Instead, you can factor in the value you bring to each project as part of the background information you need in order to provide the quote in the first place. The “value factor” should be considered just as much as other factors you consider when providing a quote (number of words or hours a project will take, technicality of the language used, delivery time, etc.). If this is a concept that interests you, then check out Blair Enns’ YouTube video on the differences between customized and productized services and how they impact your business approach, pricing and profit margins.

Now, remember that I told you that we found we were sending the wrong message by including the “free quote” verbiage on my business’ website? Well, in the process of pivoting that message, we also came up with some great ways to deal with price shoppers when they do contact us. I’ve turned those ways to deal into a list of tips.

Tips for dealing with price shoppers when you prefer to market your services based on value.

○ When a lead starts off the conversation asking about the cost, say, “Is price the only factor in your decision to hire a professional?” Then pause. Allow the person to respond, and if it seems that price is their deal breaker, you can choose to take them on as a client or direct them somewhere else accordingly.

○ If you direct them somewhere else, warn them that you cannot vouch for the quality of the service they will receive. Sometimes they will see that you were right and will come back to you.

○ Let them know that you’re not the only one promoting high quality over cheap translations. Here is a great article to share with those clients who are clearly making decisions based on price, written by my late dear friend and colleague, Stephanie Tramdack Cash: “The High Cost of Cheap Translation“.

○ Let them know that you already have paying clients who you work with at your current prices who see the value in the quality of your work. This shows them that others are willing to pay for your services and it lets them know you don’t depend on their job or project for your survival. You are a professional. Portray yourself as one. Don’t back down on your prices just because someone says you’re too expensive for their budget. That’s actually a good thing, as it tells you that this person or business is not your ideal client.

○ Lastly, explain to him or her the processes you have in place to produce a professional and valuable translation. Some clients price shop because they are simply unaware of what it takes to be a professional translator and what systems and workflows, training and education are needed to perform a professional job. Take a moment to educate these people and move on with your day.

While educating clients on hiring professionals for their translation and interpreting needs can be frustrating at times, there are ways to attract your ideal clients and avoid those who are less than ideal. Adjusting your messaging on your website, and any other marketing materials or profiles you have, is a great place to start.

Author bio

Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions (ATS), a boutique translation company based in Southern California. She is also a Spanish and Portuguese to English translator, specializing in medicine and life sciences. Madalena’s interest in online marketing and copywriting has led her to write and teach about the benefits of using informational content online to attract and retain clients. After seeing the advantages of intentional and strategic marketing in her own business, Madalena now teaches those same skills to other freelance language professionals. She blogs and teaches courses on topics related to marketing your freelance translation business by deliberately building and shaping your online presence. For more information, visit www.madalenazampaulo.com.