Translation Commons: A Community for Language Professionals

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

Translation Commons is a nonprofit, volunteer-based online community designed to facilitate collaboration among diverse sectors and stakeholders of the language industry and encourage transparency, trust, and free knowledge sharing. It was established with the idea that translated data and memories truly belong to the translators who create them and that they should be the ones to benefit from their work. By offering free access to open source tools and other resources, Translation Commons facilitates community-driven projects, aims to help empower linguists, and allows the sharing of educational and language assets.

A Brief History

Translation Commons didn’t happen in a vacuum. I first heard the catch phrase “collaborative commons” in 2014, and the concept of collaboration within the language community struck a very deep chord. How could that become a reality and how would everyone benefit? Would the platform for this collaboration offer collective translation memories and data, or perhaps merely serve as a means of talking to each other? Maybe it could serve both functions?

I discussed the idea at many conferences and networking events with language professionals, mostly in Silicon Valley, but I also had many online conversations through various LinkedIn groups. In December 2014, I created a LinkedIn group to determine the interest level for an online community serving all language professionals. I was very surprised by the positive response: just 20 days after starting the LinkedIn group, there were already 1,000 members. I felt that as far as feasibility studies go, this was a runaway success and demonstrated that there was a need for such a community waiting to be fulfilled.

I’ve always been in the language business with my husband, so after just a brief discussion we were both committed to take Translation Commons to the next level. We started a corporation and applied for nonprofit status. A few months later, to our surprise, the IRS not only granted us nonprofit status, but also determined that we could be categorized as a public charity benefiting the larger community, not just our linguistic members.

After many discussions, we managed to pin down and crystalize our objectives. In a nutshell, Translation Commons is concerned with helping all language professionals achieve due recognition for their work. More specifically, Translation Commons’ vision is to help the language industry by building an infrastructure to:

  • Help our language students by bridging the gap between academia and industry.
  • Facilitate collaboration and mentoring.
  • Organize language resources from around the world.
  • Grow the visibility and importance of our community and gain recognition.

Designing the Platform

Our first task was to create an advisory board consisting of high-profile professionals from many diverse sectors who could represent their interests and guide the community. We’ve been able to assemble an amazing group that’s still growing.

The next step was to move on from LinkedIn and start building our own online platform. Thankfully, we teamed up with Prompsit, an amazing engineering company in Spain that understood and shared our vision. We’ve been working with them for nearly two years now and have managed to expand the offerings on the website.

I would like to clarify that building such a platform is a vast undertaking. Although we now have a fully functional website, there’s still a lot to do. So far, the site architecture consists of Linux and Windows servers, 10 language applications (both proprietary and open source), docker containers (allowing applications to run virtually anywhere), MySQL, wikis, application programming interfaces, G Suite apps, and single sign-on integration.

To address all the issues in our mission, we’ve divided the Translation Commons online platform into three modules: Translate, Share, and Learn.

Translate: The Translate module offers translation tools and applications, both open source and proprietary, most of them on our servers with a few cloud applications integrated with our single sign-on integration. The goal is to create a seamless platform with all available applications. This is an extremely important endeavor as it helps students and those beginning their professional careers familiarize themselves with tools that they might not normally be able to access. We’ve found that quite a few of our members who are recent graduates are unfamiliar with the variety of tools available to help them work more effectively. By offering open source tools and free trials to proprietary applications, we hope to increase their skill set and knowledge of technology.

Share: The Share module is the main portal for all community sharing activities, including think tanks, language industry initiatives, group discussions, and working groups. This is also where any member of the community can start a new project or group and ask people to join. Because we know how difficult it is for small project groups to develop an online platform for collaboration, we offer them the tools to do exactly that: a website, mailing list, calendar, task page, and a drive and document uploader to gather their volunteers and work effectively. We also offer members the entire Google G Suite, which was donated to Translation Commons due to its nonprofit status. Currently, there are around 60 apps available to all members.

Learn: The Learn module offers a Learning Center, tutorials, skill development programs, online courses, and group webinars. Links to our free resources (both online and offline) are available in the Translation Hub. These resources include terminology databases and glossaries. Of course, this is a work in progress and we ask for everybody’s help to upload links to any free online resources to which they have access (e.g., tips, insights, and guides). We’re also talking with proprietary automation toolmakers that offer free trials and asking them to add their links in the Translation Hub. Finally, we’ve inherited and are hosting the eCoLo Project (electronic content localization), which provides useful training materials for both students and teachers to help improve skills in different areas of computer-assisted translation (e.g., translation memory, software localization, project management, and terminology). You’ll also find multilingual material, training kits, training scenarios, and full courses on various translation and localization techniques.

Working Groups

The working groups have been created from within the community. We call our groups Think Tanks because their mission is to identify areas that need improvement and the gaps that need to be filled.

Mentoring: This was the first Think Tank to emerge from the original LinkedIn group. There are some very good mentoring programs available through associations and other organizations in the U.S. and Europe (including ATA’s program) that have managed to capture the essence of mentoring and have a great group of people managing them. However, our mentoring group conducted a global survey and found that many of the freelance translators who responded were unaware of existing mentoring programs or didn’t have a clear understanding of how to get involved. Respondents also stated that expectations and responsibilities are issues of concern when agreeing on mentoring on a one-on-one basis. After analyzing the survey results, the mentoring group decided to create guidelines for freelance mentors who wish to take on freelance mentees. Under the guidance of Nancy Matis, an experienced project manager and teacher, we now have a thriving group that has written an extensive document, “Mentoring Guidelines for Freelancers,” which is currently available for download from the Translation Commons website. The group is also creating a list of mentoring programs so that graduates have somewhere to start their search for mentors.

Technology: The Technology Think Tank is an integral part of Translation Commons. Our commitment to open source resources allows us to make language and the work of translators a priority. Led by Mikel Forcada, a professor of computer science in Alicante, Spain, and with representatives from other translation platforms that include Apertium, Moses, Omega T, Mojito, Okapi, and Translate5, the goal is to catalogue all language-related open source applications and facilitate their adoption.

Interpreting: The Interpreting Think Tank is led by Barbara Werderitsch and ATA Member Arturo Bobea, who have created a very active LinkedIn group. They conducted a survey on interpreters’ knowledge and use of technology and are currently preparing the results. Their reports on various technology providers and new interpreting delivery platforms are also available on the Translation Commons website.

In addition to the working groups, we also host and facilitate volunteer groups that any member can create. Under the expert guidance of Gabriella Laszlo, who worked on Google’s Localization Operations and who now designs backend workflows for Translation Commons, we’re able to offer collaborative volunteer initiatives related to language.

Volunteers

Our volunteers are the heart and soul of the Translation Commons community. Their passion for language and expertise in technology are the cornerstones of our initiatives. Their commitment and clear vision of the roadmap that our industry needs to follow are a testament to the merit of a united global language community.

We invite everyone to join and register at http://www.translationcommons.org and to participate in the LinkedIn groups. Do you have an idea that would benefit the community? Do you want to become a mentor to the next generation of language professionals? Do you want to share your expertise, links, material, tutorials, or articles? Are you part of a small initiative and need more exposure? Then please share your knowledge with all of us!

Remember, if you have any ideas and/or suggestions regarding helpful resources or tools you would like to see featured, please e-mail Jost Zetzsche at jzetzsche@internationalwriters.com.


Jeannette Stewart is a co-founder of Translation Commons. She has a BS in business administration and her early career was in advertising and marketing. She is the founder and former chief executive officer of CommuniCare, a translation company specializing in life sciences. She created a series of workshops on language specialization and participates in industry associations and at conferences as a speaker and advocate for the language industry. She writes articles on language community initiatives for Multilingual Magazine. Contact: jeannette@translationcommons.org.

Mental Health in Freelance Translation: Imposter Syndrome

Maybe just another run through, just to be safe.

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

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

I hit send. Dread ensued.

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

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

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

Imposter Syndrome in Freelancing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing Imposter Syndrome

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

  1. Acknowledge your feelings

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

  1. Acknowledge your work

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

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

  1. Acknowledge your (and others’!) fallibility

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

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

  1. Ask for help

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

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

There’s plenty of room to grow.

Image source: Pixabay

Author bio

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

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

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

My personal style guide for the ATA translation exam into Spanish

This post was originally published on the Gaucha Translations blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Based on the comments from a failed exam. I am writing this to help others not fail the same way!

  1. Include necessary clarifying information to reduce ambiguity. (register former inmates/registrar para votar a los que habían sido…) (spread the word to thousands… /informarles la decisión a decenas de miles…) Keep it to a minimum. The translation should stand on its own. Sometimes a cultural point needs to be made or an explanation given, but the passages are carefully selected so that does NOT have to be done.
  2. Make sure caps and punctuation follow Spanish rules. Double check RAE resources in case of doubt. (el partido demócrata: capitalize. Es nombre propio. Partido Demócrata)
  3. Get your quote marks in the Spanish order! Dijo, “Esto no me gusta un comino”. (las comillas van antes de las comas y los puntos en castellano, al revés que en inglés.
  4. Words in the RAE dictionary count for sure. Word creation counts, even using Spanish morphology rules, but they have to follow accepted Spanish morphology rules, and words shouldn’t be created when other words already exist in the dictionaries of reference. (former prisoners/excarcelados: corrected to exreclusos, antiguos reos).
  5. Maintain the register.
  6. Use proper Spanish syntax. (reconoce es posible: reconoce que es posible)
  7. Word Reference is a good starting terminology resource. Verify its terms with a second source.
  8. Don’t get more creative than necessary. Often a literal translation is the best. (might soften their image/que posiblemente matice su imagen:corrected to suavice)
  9. Check the monolingual dictionary, but not just for the meaning of a word. Check it for usage: is it transitive? How does it fit in a sentence? (spread the word to thousands… /informarles a miles… : informarles la decisión a decenas de miles…) informar is a transitive verb.
  10. Don’t stutter! (presos en las prisiones)
  11. Spelling! (libertado condicional: libertad condicional)
  12. Faux ami (non violent drug offenses/ofensas no violentas: delitos no violentos) Las ofensas son algo totalmente distinto en castellano.
  13. Printed resources are another reliable choice. Having printed resources also keeps you from going back and forth from your document to another screen, which is hard with the laptop. My favorites:
    • Alcaraz-Varó legal and business (those are two separate dictionaries), but the Merl Bilingual Law Dictionary by Cuauthemoc Gallegos actually had the best answers in all cases and was easier to sort through the answers. The Business Spanish Dictionary, by Peter Collin Publishing is equivalent to the Merl in my opinion. For the general texts, we shouldn’t need anything in greater depth than these dictionaries. Cabanellas is great, but they are unidirectional volumes, so you have to buy both volumes to have both directions.
    • CLAVE (monolingual Spanish), DELE (Diccionario de la Lengua Española – latest version of the RAE dictionary): take them both.
    • Webster’s New World International Spanish Dictionary. I like this dictionary because it includes a lot of technical terminology, so most technical terms we run into are likely to be here.
    • El buen uso del español. This book has a two-page spread on the main issues of Spanish grammar and spelling. It was published by RAE in 2013, after all the new Gramática and Ortografía works of 2010 were completed, with the intention of being a quick reference.
    • Ortografía escolar de la lengua española. Published by RAE for students in 2013 as a quick reference.
    • The American Heritage College Dictionary (English monolingual)
  14. Remember, the general text can have a lot of specialist content in it. Don’t count on general texts not including technical vocabulary. Be ready for basic technical vocabulary. What you won’t have to do is deal with formulaic technical texts.
  15. Good book for learning Spanish writing: Curso de Redacción – Teoría y Practica, by Gonzalo Martín Vivaldi
  16. Now, go and beat it! May this experience help you!

Image source: Pixabay

Are you who you say you are? Being honest about your credentials and skills

You turn on your computer, take a sip of coffee and see a potential project come in. What are the chances, knowing nothing about the project, that you will accept it? If your answer is close to 100%, it might be time to re-think your strategy. You may be providing subpar service to your clients and hurting your potential future in the translation and interpreting (T&I) industry.

Is this assignment a good fit for you?

I regularly turn down work when I don’t have the expertise for it, don’t have the exact qualifications they are needing, or don’t have the time to give the client the quality I expect of myself. Is it that my business is already so solid I can’t take on any more work? Absolutely not. Don’t I have bills to pay? Of course I do! The thing is, I care about what I do and I insist on providing excellent service to my clients. As a result, when I know, for one reason or another, that I can’t do that, I believe the best thing for my long-term business and my clients is to turn down the assignment, even when it hurts. I also take the ATA & NAJIT Codes of Ethics seriously and both require that translators and interpreters accurately represent their credentials.

Some assignments are easy for me to turn down: You need a Spanish into French translator? I translate Spanish and French into English. You need a French court interpreter? I am a Spanish court interpreter, but don’t interpret in French. Some jobs are harder to turn down, though. Take, for example, a French transcription that I received from a favorite client of mine, a few days after doing a similar French transcription for them. I always try to prioritize this client’s assignments; I hate saying no to them and luckily almost never have to. I listened to the file and just wasn’t confident, so I had to turn it down. I felt like I let them down and I hated that feeling. However, they were able to find someone else who was able to provide a better service, and my time was freed up for another assignment that came in just after that.

Misrepresenting your qualifications to get more work

Just don’t do it! Saying you’re a Certified Translator when you’re not puts you at risk of being called out publicly for an ethics violation and causes people to question those who do have that credential. If you’re serious about the T&I industry, you’re hurting your future self because people may not trust your credentials when you do attain them.

When helping others can hurt you

In Texas, in order to interpret at depositions, county courthouses, and in any court of record, the law states you must be a Master Licensed Court Interpreter (with a few exceptions that are beyond the scope of this article). I have a great relationship with a colleague who does not have this qualification. He recently got a call from a lawyer asking him to interpret at court. My colleague explained that he was not a Master Licensed Court Interpreter and the attorney told him he didn’t care. He told him it was an easy case and it was hard to find people with the right qualifications available for hearings. This colleague is the kind of guy you can count on⁠—he really wants to help people. He hates disappointing clients and he felt like this attorney needed him, so he was contemplating helping him. I pushed back and explained that this was his decision, not the attorney’s, and that he was better positioned to know the risks and consequences. I emphasized that he could get into trouble for taking on this assignment. I was shocked to be having that conversation with this person, whose ethics I normally admire. This just goes to show how “being helpful” can make us lose sight of real issues.

How to turn down work in a way that gets more work later

Remember that transcription assignment I mentioned earlier? Two weeks later, the client offered me the best assignment they’ve ever offered me, and I was ecstatic to take it on. They know that when I say I can do something I can do it!

Half the battle is getting a client to find you and reach out to you. Once you’ve won this part of the battle, use the opportunity to talk about what you can do for them. Rather than ignoring the email, respond back and let them know that while you don’t have the expertise or qualifications needed for this assignment, you can do XYZ.

It’s also a good idea to network with other colleagues in your language pair, and in the opposite language pair, so that you don’t have to leave clients out in the cold. A few weeks ago, I was asked to do 30 pages of handwritten medical reports by a client from whom I was really hoping to get some repeat business. I like electronic medical reports, but I just could not decipher these handwritten ones. I did a search in the ATA directory and found two people I thought were qualified. I took the risk and told a client with whom I really wanted to build a better relationship that I couldn’t decipher the handwritten medical reports and gave them the names of people who I thought could. I wanted them to get the best translation they could get, and I highlighted what I can do for them in the future, as well as my desire to continue working with them. Fingers crossed—hopefully they learned they can trust me.

Conclusion

It’s important to grow your business in ways that bring back more business. That means only advertising on your business card, website, LinkedIn profile, CV, etc. qualifications and certifications you actually have. Take a good look at assignments before accepting them and don’t take jobs you know you aren’t qualified for, hoping you’ll just figure it out, or think that the client won’t know the difference. Remember, if this is the career of your dreams and it gives you the lifestyle and intellectual challenges you want, focus on the long-term: creating a reputation for excellent work and helpful customer service.

Image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Jessica Hartstein is an ATA-Certified Translator (Spanish>English, French>English) and a Texas Master Licensed Court Interpreter (Spanish-English). She holds an MA in Conference Interpreting and Translation Studies from the University of Leeds and graduated Cum Laude with a BA from Rice University.

Prior to working freelance, she held full-time, in-house translation positions at a marketing firm in Luxembourg and an oil and gas engineering company in Houston. Jessica specializes in legal, medical, asylum, and oil and gas translation and interpreting projects. She has been fortunate to have lived abroad in Spain, China, Japan, England, and Luxembourg.

Email: jessica@jessicahartstein.com, Website: http://www.jessicahartstein.com/

3 Myths About Who Should Edit Your Translation

Some translation projects involve a lone translator, while others allow the translator to choose an editor. My own experience comes from working for direct clients, where I almost always choose an editor to work closely on my translation with me, or we switch roles and I’m the one who edits my colleague’s translation. Even if you don’t work for direct clients, it’s useful to be prepared to find the right collaborator when the time comes.

Some agencies will pay you a price that includes both translation and editing so you can hire your own editor. Although not all that common, this is not unheard of, so it’s good to be prepared.

Reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of your colleagues could also come in handy when choosing a practice partner. If you’re a beginner looking to hone your skills, it can be helpful to find a colleague to give you feedback (for more on this, see my past post Hone Your Craft Before You Sell—How I Would Have Practiced as a Newbie in Hindsight).

To really master the art of finding the right editor for each project, you’ll need to keep an open mind and break free from some common misconceptions you may have inherited from the way translators usually work with translation agencies.

Myth 1: Both the translator and the editor must be native speakers of the target language

Many in the translation industry believe that they should only translate into their native language. Others assert that they are competent to translate in both directions. Whatever one’s position on this debate, it seems to be predicated on the paradigm of working alone.

However, it’s only natural that a translator will excel when paired with an editor with complementary strengths and weaknesses. Sure, there are some projects where it makes sense to have two native speakers of the target language. But if you carefully consider each project, I believe you’ll find there are in fact some instances when you’d be better off pairing a native speaker of the source language and a native speaker of the target language.

I’m not saying that any old native speaker of the source language will do. I’m referring to someone who masters their source language (the project’s target language) at a high level. It’s commonly assumed that native speakers of the source language will stick close to the source and produce a translation that is not well adapted to the target language. However, I’ve found that the opposite can be true.

In fact, I’ve found that translations that stick close to the source are more likely to come from translators who are native speakers of the target language who are unable to fully comprehend the source. This sometimes leads them to translate word for word out of fear of getting the meaning wrong. On the other hand, native speakers of the source language tend to be well aware of the deeper meaning behind the source text and of subtleties that are difficult to translate. This allows them to explain the meaning and make pertinent suggestions to their colleague who is a native speaker of the target language.

I’ve also noticed that pairing a translator living in the target-language country with a translator in the source-language country can be of merit. In a certain sense, this bears similarities to the “native of source” and “native of target” pairing, as one colleague is more in tune with the source language and the other is more in tune with the target language. For practical reasons, it can also be helpful to have someone on the ground in the source-language country, where more of the demand tends to be. This person can help handle contact with the client in the source language.

Another factor that speaks in favor of working with a native speaker of the source language is when some specific combination of subject-matter expertise, text-type familiarity, and client-specific terminology is required. Sometimes you simply cannot find two native speakers of the target language with the right combination of skills, but adding a native speaker of the source language can be the missing puzzle piece.

Myth 2: The translator and editor should have similar expertise

Sometimes, translation projects are categorized in very broad terms, such as technical, medical, legal, financial, or marketing. These are five of the most common specializations, when looking at how translation agencies assign projects and how translators tend to position themselves. According to this logic, you just need to find two legal translators to work on a legal project or two marketing translators to work on a project loosely classified as marketing.

However, the reality is that many projects are far more complex if you dig deeper. A website about a technical product may require both someone with strong expertise related to that particular type of product and someone with a knack for web copy. Although clients may be able to find both of these skills in one person, that will not always be the case.

In fact, the search for the right subject-matter expertise is exactly the reason I sometimes hire a native speaker of the source language to edit my translations, and also why I recently tried being the native speaker of the source language for the first time.

One example of the former was a project involving HR materials where I teamed up with a native speaker of the source language who had worked in HR prior to becoming a translator. I didn’t know any native speakers of the target language who had worked in HR, and the greatest challenge of this project was making perfect sense of the rules specific to the source-language country.

In the project where I tried getting my feet wet as a native speaker of the source language, a regular client of mine needed a translation in the opposite direction and I was unable to find a native speaker with expertise in the subject matter. I was able to offer my knowledge of the client’s terminology and preferences along with the required subject-matter expertise and called upon a native speaker of the target language to help ensure everything was well formulated and readable.

Myth 3: The editor must have a background in translation

It’s also relatively standard that a translator is asked to edit another translator’s work. However, on some projects, I’ve found it effective to work with a copyeditor who is not a translator. They are usually especially good at suggesting improvements for flow and style and picking up on any traces of source-language interference in the target language wording.

I’ve worked quite a lot with an editor trained as a copyeditor and native in the target language but who still has a working knowledge of the source language. This person has more of a copyeditor’s approach than a translator’s but would still notice if I accidentally omitted something from the source language.

In other cases, it’s perfectly fine to work with a monolingual copyeditor. In these cases, I serve as the link between the source and target to make sure the editor doesn’t change the meaning. I’ve even experimented successfully with pairing a translator who’s a native speaker of the source language with a monolingual copyeditor who’s a native speaker of the target language to take it to the extreme.

In addition, there are professionals other than copyeditors whom you might want to review your translation. For example, some cases call for a true subject-matter expert, such as a practicing physician or attorney.

I hope these reflections have helped clear up some misconceptions and open your mind to new possibilities. Above all, think carefully about each project and keep in mind that the right combination benefits everyone. You’ll learn more from working with someone who has skills that complement your own than with someone who has similar strengths and weaknesses, and the final translation will be more effective and accurate.

What unorthodox combinations have you found to be successful? Let us know in the comments.

Image source: Pixabay