ATA’s Back to Business Basics – Personal Branding Basics

ATA launched its new Back to Business Basics webinar series in September 2020. These webinars focus on a small, practical piece of business advice for translators and interpreters at different stages of their careers. The series quickly became popular: there are usually a few hundred people attending each live session. Members can access these webinars free of charge, and non-members can purchase each recording for $25.

Branding is a term that we usually associate with sales and marketing. So, what is personal branding? Did you know that your name is your personal brand and the image that you project is influenced by a number of factors that come together to define your personal brand?How can you assure your current and potential customers or employers that you are the right person for the job?

In the webinar “Personal Branding Basics”, Ben Karl, a French> and Mandarin>English translator and copywriter specializing in commercial, financial, and marketing texts, and an ATA-certified (French>English) translator, answers these and other questions and gives us the primer on building effective personal brands.

Ben begins by explaining the importance and power of your name as a personal brand, how personal brands work, and the steps that will help you develop one of your most powerful marketing tools. He offers tips on how to cultivate your brand and how to use it to its fullest.

He goes into detail about the pillars of personal brand components, characteristics, and statements. A personal brand statement is the perfect way to impact your target audience by conveying powerful key information to describe the elements that make you special and unique. During his presentation, Ben kindly shares his personal brand statement as one of the examples.

Ben also highlights the importance of networking and having an active social media presence, as well as having a website and/or professional profile.

Personal branding is much more than a logo or a slogan; it is the process and strategy of building and maintaining a professional reputation. An effective personal brand showcases a key combination of competencies, expertise, and achievements that helps you stand out and provides you with the opportunity to promote your skills and know-how. A personal brand is your business card to the world. Make it work for you.

Check out the recording of this webinar and share it with colleagues who may be interested! Don’t forget to download the handout!

Author bio

Gloria Cabrejos is an English>Spanish translator and copyeditor. Her areas of specialization include community relations, mining, oil & gas, and the environment. She is the current vice president of the Peruvian Association of Professional Translators (ATPP). Gloria served as editor of Intercambios (October 2018-February 2021), the newsletter of ATA’s Spanish Language Division. She currently serves on the ATA Professional Development Committee, is a mentor in the ATA Mentoring Program, and a member of the ATA Translation Company Division Leadership Council. Contact: gloria.cabrejos@gcktraducciones.com

New ATA e-book for Translation Newbies: Your Go-to Guide for Starting Out

So, you’re interested in starting a career in translation… chances are you have a lot of questions! You might be wondering whether you need a website or blog, how to find potential clients and market your services, what kind of hardware and software you’ll use, and how to approach your business structure and finances. These questions can be daunting. We know, because we all started out where you are right now.

Luckily, ATA’s Membership Committee has published the ATA Guide to Starting Out as a Translator, a new resource to help newbies get started by addressing these questions—and more. This free e-book, available to download in PDF format, is jam-packed with guidance and information on a variety of topics of specific interest to newcomers. Over 30 pages of content cover technology, networking, pricing your services, marketing strategies, and more. And, because we’re all word nerds, the book also includes a handy glossary and acronyms list to make sure you know all the appropriate lingo.

The e-book also features testimonials from ATA members who share how the association has helped them throughout various stages of their careers, including being student members, earning their ATA certification credential, and attending the ATA Annual Conference.

Anyone who is new to the translation profession will benefit from reading this e-book. Whether you’re currently studying translation, a recent graduate, or making a career change, this resource will help you start off on the right foot and set you up for success in this dynamic and exciting field. The intention of this e-book is not to teach you how to translate, but to help you build a strong launchpad for your new translation career.

From drafting your resume and building a website to working with agencies versus direct clients and attending professional conferences, this e-book is your guide to set you on the right course as you get started. It’s also chock-full of links to additional resources, including webinar recordings, blog and magazine articles, books, and more.

And, yes, the interpreter e-book is in the works! Stay tuned for updates on its release.

Author bios

Meghan Konkol, MA, CT is an ATA director and an ATA-certified French>English freelance translator specializing in international development, marketing and communications, and human resources. She received her MA in French>English translation from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in 2010. She serves as chair of ATA’s Membership Committee, and also serves as the coordinator of ATA’s School Outreach Program. meghan@fr-en.com

Ben Karl, MBA, CT is a French and Mandarin to English translator and copywriter based in Los Angeles who specializes in commercial, financial, and marketing texts for the US and Canadian markets. Ben is ATA certified for French, serves on the ATA Membership Committee, and chairs the Translatio Standing Committee of the International Federation of Translators (FIT). www.bktranslation.com

The Translator as an Editor

This post originally appeared on The ATA Chronicle and it is republished with permission.

When it comes to reviewing copy, translators are often at what I like to refer to as “the very end of the line.” By the time copy is deemed ready for translation, it has usually been reviewed and edited by a plethora of people, including a professional team of editors and proofreaders. Yet, despite that overabundance of meticulous scrutiny, we translators often find that “final” texts still need editing prior to (and often post) translation.

While some may be tempted to think that the need for editing at this stage of the process highlights other reviewers’ shortcomings, this is seldom the case. More often than not, editors and proofreaders are bright, thorough, and highly proficient professionals. The issue is not so much how errors could have been made or missed, but why it is that “weak spots” in the copy typically surface at the very end of the line, that is, during the translation process. The answer lies not only in a translator’s language skills but in the very nature of translation.

Words Versus Ideas

While translators are skilled linguists with a thorough academic and practical knowledge of both their source and target languages (indeed, many are experts in their subject matter areas), this does not account entirely for them being more likely to identify unobvious copy flaws than many other reviewers.

It has been said many times before, but can never be overstated: translation is not only about words, it is mostly about ideas. In order to interpret the idea/concept/message behind a phrase and convey it in another language, translators must deconstruct and then reconstruct that phrase completely. It is during that “stripping” process that unobvious copy flaws often surface. While the translator does not necessarily need to be familiar with the subject matter of the source copy, in order to provide an accurate translation, he or she must understand the sense of each phrase and how it relates to the text as a whole.

If the copy is in any way ambiguous, a good translator will likely query it. There are many reasons for this. First, because a professional and ethical translator will not translate copy about which he or she is uncertain. Second, because at some point, someone might call the translation into question for not matching the source copy, regardless of the latter’s accuracy. And third, because a translator might actually feel some degree of accountability for the quality (or lack thereof) of the clients’ material.

Translators Are Writers, Too

Besides their ability to deconstruct copy, translators are writers in their own right. Regardless of whether or not a translator specializes in literary translation, writing (i.e., thinking through, drafting, revising, editing) is an essential part of the translation process.

The concept of the translator as a writer is foreign to many clients, but translators literally rewrite their client’s copy from scratch (think entire contracts, websites, instruction manuals, product brochures, articles, books, etc.), from beginning to end. This is why it should not come as a surprise that translators are more likely to point out inconsistencies than most people reading through page after page of copy, even with a critical eye.

If the copy contains discrepancies (e.g., conflicting information within the same piece, or across several pieces of printed material), the translator is more likely than most to notice it and point it out. In addition, translators often have to research the subject matter during a translation. If during that research they come across something that conflicts deeply with the information presented in the source copy, they might also question it.

An Inquisitive Translator Is Good News

Every professional’s brain is trained to look at copy differently. A marketing specialist may review copy to make sure that it contains specific selling points, flows nicely, and is catchy. A legal specialist may check to make sure a document does not open the door to legal challenges. An engineer’s review may focus on providing technical feedback. A proofreader will typically identify spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, and major issues with sentence construction. But few people read copy more carefully than a translator. Typically, it is not until the translator actually starts translating that inconsistencies, technical inaccuracies, and unobvious flaws related to the structure of a given phrase or its meaning surface.

Regardless of the source of uncertainty— a translator’s misinterpretation, ambiguity in the source copy, or an obvious misprint—a good translator will likely ask questions during the translation process. Not always, of course, but often enough that a client may have cause for concern if a translator never does. Although most professional translators are able to look past “weak spots” and return better/clearer copy than the original, never asking questions would suggest that the copy is always clearly and flawlessly written. It would also suggest that the translator always comprehends the text fully, including the client’s technicalities, plays on words, artistic/writing licenses, and other subtleties. The chance of that is rather slim, especially in creative environments.

In fact, most translators will agree that asking questions is often part of the job. As Translation: Getting it Right, ATA’s free client education guide, puts it:

An inquisitive translator is good news:

No one reads your texts more carefully than your translator. Along the way, he or she is likely to identify fuzzy bits—sections where clarification is needed. This is good news for you, since it will allow you to improve your original.

Good translators strip down your sentences entirely before creating new ones in the target language. And they ask questions along the way.1 But not every client may feel that way.

Asset or Nuisance?

Some clients value their translator’s input so much that they will actually wait until their copy comes back from translation before releasing it or going to print. For these clients, a translator’s meticulousness tracking of the subject matter is an asset, and they have learned the value of building extra time into their production/printing schedule to allow for both translation and post-translation editing. But clients who are relatively new to translation or to the international scene may have a difficult time appreciating the fact that an inquisitive translator is a good one (not a nuisance), or that copy can never be reviewed by too many eyes.

In some cases, a translator’s attention to detail may even be met with animosity, resentment, or distrust. A writer may take umbrage at his or her copy being queried. An editor may feel that his or her professional skills are being challenged. A manager may be upset that a production date is not met because of “translation delays.” In extreme cases, a client may choose to ignore a translator’s queries and use preliminary translations, or, worse, opt to work with translators/agencies that never ask questions or point out “fuzzy bits” in the source copy.

To Edit or Not to Edit?

When it comes to ambiguous (or untranslatable) source copy, a translator is confronted with more than the not-so-simple choice between editing and not editing. To begin with, the extent to which a translator should (with the client’s approval) edit source copy is an issue that is somewhat controversial. While most will agree that obvious misprints can safely be corrected and overlooked for translation, many will contend that more intricate changes, such as correcting technical terminology or rewording entire phrases to improve readability or sense, may not necessarily be up to the translator.

When we come across those (fortunately rare) cases where the source copy simply must be rewritten, we may have no choice but to request revised copy from our client. We may even have to take it upon ourselves to “redeem the untranslatable” by rewriting the source copy, rerouting it for approval, and retranslating it. (Whether we should is a matter of personal opinion.) In other (more common) cases, the source copy requires edits that, however small, may bear heavily on both the translation and the quality of the source copy.

In both cases, we should be fully prepared to justify our requests for edits, but at the same time be professional and tactful when presenting such requests to our clients. While some clients will welcome our feedback, others may not be open to editing the source copy. When a client is unwilling to edit the source copy, we may very well find ourselves between a rock and a hard place, having to choose between producing accurate target copy that may not match the source copy, or producing target copy that matches the source copy but may not be accurate.

What We Can Do

While it is not essentially our place to critique our clients’ copy or always our role to correct it, it is within our reach to educate the people with whom we work regarding what we do, what we may find along the way, and how that can benefit them.

At times, it may even fall to us to remind our clients tactfully that editing copy during and post-translation is about one thing only: improving the original and working together toward a greater, better end. Ultimately, if packaging or a website features obvious misprints, if assembly instructions are confusing, if a contract leaves too much room for interpretation, if a product is pulled off the market because of misleading claims, or if someone hurts themselves because of copy written (or translated) incorrectly, those mistakes will reflect badly upon the client.

So, let’s continue being inquisitive, but just as important, let’s strive to step out of our traditional role and keep reminding and proving to the world around us that every contribution matters and that we (writers, editors, proofreaders, translators) are not competing against each other, but complete each other. And if, down the road, it leads to some of our clients learning to build extra time into their production/printing schedule to allow for translation and post-translation editing, the better for us—and them.

Notes

  1. Durban, Chris. Translation: Getting it Right, 18, www.atanet.org/docs/Getting_it _right.pdf.

Author bio

Christelle Maginot has over 25 years of experience as a professional translator. For the past 18 years, she has been working as an in-house translator for a major consumer goods corporation, where she handles and supervises the translation of corporate, technical, sales, and marketing material into multiple languages. She has a master’s degree in International Business/Marketing and English, French, and Spanish translation from the University of Aix-en-Provence, France. Contact: Christelle.maginot@yahoo.com.

Starting at square one as a translator or interpreter: What does it take?

From time to time we at The Savvy Newcomer receive questions from our readers that make for great blog post topics. This is one of them! Here’s a question from one of our readers who’s just starting to pursue an interest in languages and wants to know how to get started.

Q: Is there any advice you could give for someone who is starting out at square one, wanting to learn another language, with the end goal of interpreting? This may be a wild question, but I have always had an interest in other languages, and cultures, so interpreting and translation work are very attractive vocations to me. How would you recommend someone starting to make that career shift?  And do you happen to know what languages are in demand, or the most useful to know?  Are there any language schools you would recommend?

A: Thanks for asking! The Savvy Newcomer has a couple of posts that may be of interest (How to become a translator or interpreter, Translation/interpreting schools, Interview with student interpreters) but it sounds like you need a bit more direction on the front end as you consider learning a language and go about getting started.

One of the key requirements is a very strong language background. Interpreting and translation, based on quite a few testing results I have seen, require skills beyond the minimum requirements of Advanced High on the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) scale.

To reach that level, people usually have to get far beyond what can be accomplished in the institutional setting in the US. It generally involves at least a year in a foreign country, immersed in the language, not spending their time with the other US students who are there doing immersion programs but going to local choirs, doing some kind of local volunteer work, etc. beyond their academic work to get into the community.

However, even a very high ACTFL score is not a guarantee of translational action skills (the ability to convert the message from one language to another, whether orally or in writing). Interpreting and translation both require congruency judgment, which is an extra skill on top of that. It goes beyond being a walking dictionary. Asking any of us translators what a word means would leave us flummoxed. However, when we are given a problem to solve in context, our brains start clicking and we can be helpful.

Language proficiency is an essential prerequisite. Without language proficiency, there is not much basis for cultural understanding, according to the ILR (Interagency Language Roundtable) guidelines, and culture is part of the written code. For example, Americans have a tendency to sign a business letter “Pete”, but that would never fly in Argentina. It would be “Mr. Peter Brown,” and the letter would be in the formal usted (you). Anything else would just not go. So you need to understand the culture it is going to as well.

Interpreting and translating, though they purport to leave the person who does the language transfer invisible and not change the message at all, by necessity have to make these minimal adjustments so the message reaches the audience the way the original speaker or writer intended it to get there. Otherwise, it is disrespectful to the speaker or writer. We understand that and generally are doing what I would call “transcreation very light” invisibly. Clients do not like translations where this does not happen.

For example, if a client were to accidentally write “the ocean is full of fresh water,” they would call me out if I translated it that way. They would say I made a mistake in my translation. So I translate it as “the ocean is full of salt water.” I also send them a note, saying I translated it this way, and if they want it to say “fresh water” I can put it back but I would like them to be aware of the issue in the source text.

Of course, this does not apply to some translations submitted to the court as evidence. But even then, we translate so the courts can understand the writing. We typically do not reproduce grammatical mistakes to make the text illegible. It’s very hard to do, and we run the risk of overdoing it and making it a caricature… and getting sued.

So translation is more complicated than it looks. We have to consider a lot of things when you look under the hood, and we carry a lot of responsibility in the language transfer. We take it seriously. These are the opinions I’ve formed from years of experience and from conversations about these topics with my clients.

Readers, what questions do you have about getting started?

Image source: Pixabay

The Benefits of Mentoring

Photo Credit: Pexels

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

This week, I was informed that I have been selected as one of 30 mentees for the 2017-2018 class of the American Translators Association mentoring program. I am delighted to have been chosen for this opportunity and look forward to the chance to learn from an industry veteran.

The ATA Mentoring Program has been around for nearly 20 years and was completely revamped in 2012. Each class starts at the beginning of April and runs through March 31st of the following year. Mentors assist mentees with topics ranging from business practices, rate negotiation, breaking into a certain area of the industry, and much more. They do not tutor mentees or help them to become better translators, often because they do not work in the same language pairs and are instead paired based on goals and personality. Another benefit of the program is that mentees and mentors all participate in a discussion group for sharing questions, best practices, and other advice across the 30 mentor-mentee pairs.

No matter the field, mentoring offers a unique opportunity for shared learning and growth. I have been running a successful translation business for nearly four years and have been working in the industry for six. That said, there is always more to learn and I am absolutely thrilled to be a mentee this year.

There are many benefits of mentoring for both the mentor and the mentee. Here are merely eight of them that apply across industries:

For the mentee:

1. Self-Reflection

It often takes someone asking you to think critically about what you do and why you do it to prompt you to have this conversation with yourself. Having a mentor encourages mentees to reflect on their practice and their goals and to intimate what it is that they want to accomplish.

2. Advice and Encouragement

Are you even doing this right? Could you be doing it better? Mentors can provide great advice about where improvements can be made and provide encouragement for things you already do well.

3. Support and Networking

It never hurts to expand your network. Having a mentor can give you privileged access to influential people in other networks, thereby increasing learning opportunities and support from others in your profession.

4. Professional Development

Experienced mentors can help mentees build better business practices, learn new skills, and become more effective.

For the mentor:

5. Giving Back

Many people were helped out or lifted up by an influential person sometime during their careers. Becoming a mentor means having the opportunity to do the same for someone else.

6. Increased Confidence

By sharing their expertise, mentors can experience increased confidence about their own work. By reminding mentees of what they are doing well, mentors have the same opportunity to reflect on what they do well, too.

7. Two-Way Learning

The cliché about the master learning from the student is true: collaborating with a mentee can teach mentors about new methods or practices that can re-energize their own work.

8. Fresh Perspective

There may not be a better way to gain fresh perspective about what you do than by helping another person through the challenges that you may have once experienced. Chances are that mentees are also experiencing a few things that mentors never dealt with, and working through them together can provide a fresh and meaningful perspective.

I am eager to share my mentoring experience over the coming year with you. For more information on the ATA mentoring program, click here. A free ATA webinar about the mentoring program may also be downloaded here (you will be prompted to save it to your computer).

Have you benefited from the guidance of a mentor? Please share your experience in the comments section.