Small Talk Tips for Translators

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

The old industry adage might be spot on: most interpreters are fairly extroverted, while most translators tend to be introverts. That’s an oversimplification and I know that there are always many exceptions, but during my years in the industry, I’ve noticed that translators struggle more with one important thing than interpreters do: small talk.

Do you hate small talk? If yes, read on. I know small talk can be painful, but you can make it easier on yourself by keeping a few things in mind.

Keep it short.

At networking events, no one wants to hear long, complicated stories. Be succinct and interesting, but resist the urge to tell your life story.

Work on your conversation starters.

The easiest way is to introduce yourself and say something simple along the lines of “I’m new to this event” or something similar. Experienced networkers will get the hint and will introduce you to others. Another good way to start a conversation is to ask questions: about the organization, about that particular event, and about the person to whom you’re speaking.

Learn to listen.

The best relationship builders are people who truly listen and who are not obsessing over what they can sell, but rather how they can help the other person. It’s a powerful thing to think long-term and big picture rather than short-term and project-based.

Don’t monopolize people.

Once you get comfortable talking to one person and your nerves settle down a bit, you might want to hang on to that person for dear life because it’s scary to start over with another person. However, remember that everyone is there to mix and mingle and that you are not the only person to whom they want to speak.

Brush up on current events (including sports).

Even if you don’t like baseball, you’d better have something to say if you’re at an event during the World Series. And while local politics might not be all that interesting (mostly), it would still be good to know that a big new company is investing $100 million in your state. You don’t have to know everything, but the bottom line is to be informed so you can participate in conversations.

Avoid certain topics.

It’s usually best to steer clear of politics, religion, and highly personal matters. Sure, there’s always an election around the corner, and it’s perfectly fine to have an opinion, but I prefer to talk about more neutral matters with people I don’t know or barely know.

Get the introductions out of the way.

It can be awkward when another person walks up when you’re already engaged in conversation and you don’t know the names of either the first or the second person. In my experience, it’s usually best to be honest and say “I’m sorry, we just met, would you mind telling me your name again so I can introduce you to ….” It’s horrifying to stand next to people all evening without knowing their names, so it’s good to get the introductions out of the way early. And it’s fine to admit you don’t remember the person’s name. Just ask again. Get a business card and try to remember one particular thing about the person to help you remember (e.g., her purse, his shirt, her cute earrings, his Boston accent).

Small talk is similar to translation in one way: it’s art, not science. And just like translation, it usually gets easier the more you do it. Happy small talking!

Author bio

Judy Jenner is a court-certified Spanish interpreter and a Spanish and German translator in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she runs Twin Translations with her twin sister. She is a past president of the Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association. She hosts the translation blog, Translation Times (www.translationtimes.blogspot.com). You can also find her at http://www.entrepreneuriallinguist.com. Contact: judy.jenner@twintranslations.com or judy.jenner@entrepreneuriallinguist.com.

Six International Language Associations to Join

Language associations are a great way to connect with people of different backgrounds who share a similar appreciation for learning foreign languages. By joining a language association, you have the opportunity to engage with speakers at various levels of proficiency and practice your language skills with native speakers. You’re probably already familiar with the American Translators Association since this blog is run by ATA volunteers, but what about other international associations for languages?

Learning a new language can be very difficult and it’s also a challenge to maintain proficiency. Language associations allow you to stay proficient in the languages you have worked so hard to master while also connecting with new people.

If you’re looking to improve and increase your foreign language skills, take a look at these six international language associations you should join!

  1. The International Language Association (ICC)

The International Certificate Conference (ICC) is a non-government organization that sets the standards for a transnational network of language learners. This international language association offers foreign language teaching and learning with exchange of ideas and culture.

This association provides the following to its learners:

  • Proven expertise in projects
  • Quality assurance
  • Networking
  • Theory and practice
  • Personal development
  • Independent voice

As a platform for ideas, projects, teachers, and courses, the ICC encourages research and development in language teaching by collaboration. In addition, the ICC has a local impact, representing the field of language learning and teaching, and promotes quality in both aspects.

  1. American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)

The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) is committed to the improvement and expansion of the teaching and learning of all languages at varying levels of instruction. Established in 1967, this organization now has over 13,000 members including language educators and administrators ranging from elementary through graduate education, with some holding positions in government and industry.

The ACTFL strives to advance the value of world languages and empower learners to become linguistically and culturally competent through the following strategic priorities:

  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Outreach and advocacy
  • Teacher recruitment and retention
  • Professional development
  • Research

If you’re looking to make your mark on the language education field, become a member of the ACTFL today.

  1. Association of Departments of Foreign Languages (ADFL)

The Association of Departments of Foreign Language (ADFL) supports the language, literature, and cultural studies communities in the United States and Canada. This association has a broad range of members, with representatives of departments and programs in diverse languages at postsecondary institutions.

The ADFL membership base provides a network to review the issues faced by language-related humanities fields and works to develop solutions and fieldwide policies. Through seminars, journals, discussion lists, and their website, the ADFL provides a forum for collegial exchange about important issues and legislation that affects the field of work.

Looking to find out more information about the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages? Check out the ADFL website.

  1. The Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations (AFMLTA)

The Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations (AFMLTA) is a professional body that represents educators of all languages in Australia. This association strives to provide vision, leadership, representation, advocacy, and support for promoting quality foreign language teaching and learning.

The AFMLTA strategic plan outlines actions they intend to complete in order to achieve their goals and support their members in the following key areas:

  • Member services
  • Governance and operations
  • Leadership and representation
  • Research and professional practice

For additional information on the AFMLTA and membership opportunities, contact the AFMLTA team.

  1. Association for Language Learning (ALL)

The Association for Language Learning (ALL) is an independent registered charity and the United Kingdom’s major subject association for individuals involved in the teaching of foreign language at varying levels of proficiency. It is their goal to represent and support language teachers and their ongoing professional development. The ALL supports their members by offering opportunities to access local, regional, and national training or networking events.

Founded in 1990, ALL is run by teachers for teachers and consists of thousands of members across the United Kingdom and further afield. To learn more about how the Association for Language Learning can help to improve your foreign language skills, check out the ALL website.

  1. Association of University Language Centers (AULC)

The Association of University Language Centers (AULC) is an organization for staff working in language departments and centers located in the United Kingdom and Ireland. With approximately 70 universities as current members, the AULC provides opportunities for networking for all staff involved in management, teaching, and resources.

The major goals of the association include:

  • To encourage and foster good practice and innovation in language learning and teaching
  • Effective resource management and administration
  • To conduct regular meetings to facilitate discussion and an exchange of information on the diverse activities hosted by the various language centers
  • To facilitate contacts with university departments internationally
  • To monitor emerging international and national language standards and work to develop quality assurance mechanisms

To learn more about their membership guidelines, check out the AULC site.

About the author

Molly Downey works with the Kent State Master of Arts in Translation program. This department provides a variety of courses in foreign languages, cultures, and literatures.  

Your Networking Mistakes are Turning People Off

This post originally appeared on SBO blog and it is republished with permission.

I’ve been networking regularly for about eight years now, gradually increasing the frequency from once a month to at least once a week, sometimes more. As I eased into the rhythm of networking and kept seeing familiar faces (Singapore is really darn small), things got a little boring. And then I started people watching.

It’s actually an interesting exercise to step out of being a participant and into an observer’s point of view. It dawned on me that I was once (and sometimes still am) that douchebag who unintentionally (and now sometimes intentionally, for good reasons, of course) behaved inappropriately.

It’s forgivable if you’re a newbie, but many people remain oblivious to despite going to countless networking events. Let’s count your sins.

Let’s count your sins.

Going without intention

It’s easy for people to tell when you’re networking without a purpose, and they’re likely to think that you’re a time-waster and probably unreliable.

Networking needs to be intentional, even if the intention is as mundane as going there to see who you can possibly connect with. Or maybe you’re looking for more business and want to qualify some prospects. Whatever it is, find a reason to be there. Your actions and chats will become purposeful. People can see that and might even mistake that as confidence.

But of course, this can swing the other way as well, that is approaching the session very intentionally with the goal of selling.

Going with every intention to sell

This very aggressive approach to networking turns people off almost instantly.

A casual survey that I had conducted on a Facebook group revealed that most people hate hard-sellers.

If you’re pulling out your sales deck or portfolio the first time you meet someone, then you’re doing it wrong. Networkers, especially the seasoned ones, can detect desperation. This very aggressive approach to networking turns people off almost instantly.

Remember that networking requires some time investment. It’s all about sowing seeds. Even if the relationships that you’ve nurtured don’t result in a direct sale, they might end up passing referrals to you, simply because you’ve been a sincere friend.

Be a wallflower

… grab an extroverted friend, explain your fear and willingness to face it, and get said friend to help you open up conversations.

Networking means jumping into the pit with everyone. If you’re going to stay in one corner and just wait for people to approach, you’re better off saving your money and staying home. Furthermore, the impression you’d be leaving would be that creep who’s at a corner, and the longer you stay in that corner, the more people will never approach you.

If you’re afraid of crowds but still wish to push boundaries through networking, that’s great! Try approaching someone that’s away from the crowd (there’s always at least one other person) and strike a conversation. Another way is to grab an extroverted friend, explain your fear and willingness to face it, and get said friend to help you open up conversations.

Go talk to someone!

Be passive

Conversation is a two-way street. When you get into a conversation with someone, don’t just give a one-worded reply or wait for the other party to ask more questions. This comes across as insincere and disinterested.

Take a real interest in what people are doing. Reciprocate with genuine questions. Showing that you are curious will encourage people to share more.

Beating around the bush

If you’re going to get someone as a client, they are going to find out who you really are sooner or later. Can they trust you to be honest and professional with their money when you’re not forthcoming?

The most common trades that are present at any networking sessions are financial planners and property agents. The decent ones will not mince their words and just tell you straight up who they are, then tell you what’s different about them. This is great because it saves everyone time. The interested parties can stay, the rest can move on.

Then there are the annoying ones telling you some variation of their job, such as “finance industry professional”, “wealth manager” or “investment strategist”, and only upon probing further that people realise who they really are.

Now think about it. If you’re going to get someone as a client, they are going to find out who you really are sooner or later. Can they trust you to be honest and professional with their money when you’re not forthcoming?

Pushing name cards

People don’t like to be treated as a number, a game or both.

To some people, networking is but a numbers game. The more people you come into contact, the better. These people seem to be always in a rush, shoving their name cards into people’s hands as if they are flyers. The more creative ones give out other forms of marketing collaterals, including gifts, in place of name cards, but that doesn’t make it less offensive.

People don’t like to be treated as a number, a game or both. They want to be treated as a valued individual. Even if you’re in a rush, linger for a while, ask a few questions and at least try to understand the other party at a superficial level. When you really need to go, apologise and offer to arrange a separate time to catch up.

If you’re still not convinced and insist on doing this, you’re better off standing at the MRT station giving out flyers. You’d capture a lot more people.

Pushing name cards pushes people away.

Dominating the conversation

While it’s true that networking is all about talking, it’s not all about you. People didn’t pony up and gather at a place at their free time to hear you ramble on and on about yourself. Don’t hog the individual. As interesting as that person may be, he or she would like to know more people too.

Be aware of the conversation. It’s obvious that you’re just talking to yourself when nobody’s asking you questions. But if you find someone who really does ask a lot about you, find an opportune time to turn the tables around and say, “I’ve been talking so much about myself, but I hardly know you!”, then follow up with a question.

Another good rule of thumb is to move on after some time. “Some time” is really subjective because it depends on how many people are there and how much time you have. In doubt, keep to 5-10 minutes and move on.

Asking to be added to someone’s personal social media

Unless you’re talking about LinkedIn or if you’re sure the other party feels as if you’re a long lost twin, do not ask to be added on Facebook, Instagram or the likes. It may come across as an invasion of privacy, particularly when you’ve just met. Think of how uncomfortable you’d be when a stranger comes so close to you that you can feel their breath. Yup, it’s that creepy.

Be a friend first before asking to be added to their personal social network. If you can’t wait, LinkedIn is the closest you should get.

Using your phone or talking to someone while someone else is talking

That’s simply rude. You’re sending the message that you’re either not interested or not paying attention.

If you’re keen on the conversation but really have to attend to your phone or someone else, apologise and tell that person that you’ll get back later once you’re done.

If you’re not keen, find an excuse and move along.

Pro tip: Unless you have an image to keep, using your phone is actually a good strategy to turn off those that you don’t want to talk to. I’ll share more in a future article.

Stop checking your mobile phone when someone’s talking to you!

Turn a coffee session into a sales meeting

If you asked for a coffee session, keep it as is. Don’t start whipping out your slide deck and present your product.

A coffee session with someone you’re keen to work with is a good idea as a follow-up to a networking session. But be very clear of what you asked for. If you asked for a coffee session, keep it as is. Don’t start whipping out your slide deck and present your product.

That session is good for you to understand the other party at a deeper level. Find out what they do and the challenges they face. With all that information, you’d be positioning yourself better to offer a solution and, eventually, close the deal. Even if you don’t, you’ve probably forged a stronger relationship with a potential source of referrals.

Even till today, I’m guilty of some of these mistakes (an introvert loves to be a wallflower). Just being a little more mindful helps you to become a better networker, leave good impressions and form stronger relationships.

Have you observed any other annoying behaviour? Comment below.

Author bio

Vinleon Ang is the chief editor of Singapore Business Owners, a small business magazine that talks about businesses in Singapore. He is passionate about content marketing and building magazine titles. He is also available for consulting and partnerships. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.

Connecting with translation and interpreting clients during a pandemic

COVID-19 has changed the way we connect. For public health reasons, networking events are no longer taking place in person. Since February 2020, people around the world have been recasting their connections. What used to be in person is now done remotely if possible.

What are we noticing?

I have been attending meetings with my local Chamber of Commerce, which has done quite a few things:

  • They switched their weekly live event (usually over 50 attendees every Friday) to a Zoom session every week.
  • They set up three trainings a week, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, for Chamber members to learn how to switch their business models to survive the new circumstances.
  • They moved as many networking meetings as possible to Zoom sessions, with the same schedule they had before.
  • They invited the Mayor for a Town Hall in English and another one in Spanish.
  • They are keeping members abreast of all developments, and set up tip jars, resources for starting up, and an amazing support service.

What have I learned through these sessions over the last three months?

  1. Be there. Show up and be involved with your community, no matter how your group meets. Yes, we are anxious to have coffee together, but can have at least this connection with some precautions.
  2. Go through your old, discarded list of contacts. As you look at it, you will remember some of the conversations you didn’t have the time to follow up on. Now is the time. Those people remember you too. Just send a couple of emails a week and see how it goes. Personally, I took all the cards I had collected and dropped them into an Access database. I am contacting a few of the people in that database a week.
  3. Take a few online trainings. Personally, I need at least 30 minutes between one online session and the next because meeting online is more intense than meeting face to face. I take those 30 minutes to take a couple of notes, maybe send a quick email, even stretch or have a cup of coffee. I like to start each session somewhat fresh.

How to participate in online events:

  • Focus on the content.
  • Participate in the chat. Then, select all the text in the chat (control-a), and copy it into a Word document so you can follow up on whatever you want to keep track on.
  • Keep in mind that in the chat you can send private messages. It is like passing secret notes in class and it is a lot of fun!
  • You are on candid camera, so pay attention to how you look. You are now part of the gallery show. You can, of course, turn your camera off or choose speaker view. Keep in mind that if you choose speaker view, the rest of the world can still see you so picking your nose is still a no-no! By the way, artificial backgrounds make your head look strange when you move at all.
  • In the chat, at least in the case of the Chamber of Commerce, the first thing we all do is write our name and email address so folks can get in touch with us later. Every online session is a networking session. That is how we collect cards today. Go for it! Add your phone and a short blurb about yourself. For example: Peter Pan, peterpan@youthful.com, keeping the world happy. Now we know who Peter Pan is, how to reach him, and what he does! Just remember, nobody likes an essay in that section…

There is a dizzying amount of online conferences, online networking sessions… Take advantage of a few of them. However, don’t forget to pick up the phone and call a friend, send a card to a client, call someone to ask how they are doing, write an email to your contacts and tell them how you are coping. Today, being human is expected. All calls start with “How are you doing?” and people actually want to know.

What do I want to keep from this era?

  • The flexibility in extending deadlines when my internet crashed, and everything took longer because of COVID. Nobody broke a sweat.
  • How nice everyone is, since everyone starts phone calls by asking how we are doing. I like being treated as a human being.
  • FaceTime stories with my two-year-old grandson every day! That lightens up my day.
  • The sense that we are in this together. The whole community is acting that way in so many ways. When one person is successful, the whole Chamber rejoices. When one interpreter gets quarantined because they were with someone who got COVID-19, everyone is sad. There is a huge sense of community.
  • The respect for people who are ill. “No, stay home, please.” It used to be, “Well, can’t you go interpret anyway?” (and probably catch whatever bug is floating around with a weakened immune system if you are not well, to add insult to injury.) Now, if only some interpreters didn’t have to pay a penalty for missing appointments… I would be even happier.

So, stay well. Take care of business every day. Remember, taking care of business includes:

  • Taking care of yourself. You are your most important asset. Never skip this.
  • Doing paid work, if that is on your schedule for the day.
  • Contacting sources of work. Always save some time for this!
  • Doing other things that will set you up to be a stronger professional. This should always be on your weekly schedule.

By the way, some say we will be interpreting remotely for the long haul and that remote meetings are the norm for the rest of our lives. As I interact with my neighbors at the Chamber, I am not so sure. We are tired of Zoom. We want to connect in person. We celebrate every meeting that moves from Zoom to in-person!

How we stay in touch might change based on the circumstances. We are still people and work with people we know, like and trust.

Stay connected. Be human.

Public Outreach Presentations: Change Perceptions Outside our Industry

This past fall, Veronika Demichelis and I had the opportunity to speak about translation and interpreting at Rice University. My hope is that in sharing our experience, you will be encouraged to seek out or accept similar opportunities. It’s important to bring greater awareness to the general public about our industry and to educate potential buyers of translation and interpreting services. We each have a role to play in that.

The opportunity

Located in one of the most diverse cities in the country (Houston), Rice University offers a class called Multilingualism. Rice linguistics professor Dr. Michel Achard teaches this course and approached Veronika about presenting to his students because of her volunteer efforts with the Houston Interpreters and Translators Association, where she serves as VP of Professional Development. Since our experience attending the Offshore Technology Conference together last May had gone so well (read about that here), she invited me to join her for this presentation. This was especially exciting for me because not only would we be presenting at my alma mater, but most of these students were majoring in Cognitive Science, which was one of my two majors. What a small world!

This course was focused on the challenges faced by governments and society as a result of multilingualism. Veronika and I were asked to discuss how translators and interpreters solve some of these problems. Additionally, we saw the students as possible future buyers of translation and interpreting services and felt the presentation could have a real impact in whatever fields they will later choose to dedicate themselves to. It’s always good to have allies.

Preparing the presentation

Have you ever attended a lecture/presentation/conference session and left disappointed because the presenter hadn’t spent enough time preparing or didn’t have you in mind while preparing? How about when the presenter shows up with a few points written on a napkin? Ack!

Here are a few tips to consider when preparing your public outreach presentation:

  1. Get to know the audience and think about how our industry can solve some of their headaches.
  2. Spend time both brainstorming and whittling down your list of topics so that you can focus on quality and not quantity. A good presentation takes time to prepare.
  3. Avoid writing your full script on your PowerPoint slides whenever possible.
  4. Consider using information from the ATA’s Client Outreach Kit (read here for more information).
  5. Practice your presentation beforehand.
  6. Ask questions of your audience and be receptive to audience questions.

We wanted to ensure everyone would walk away feeling like their time was well-spent. Before the day of the presentation, we chatted with Dr. Achard for an hour on Zoom and were able to get a deeper understanding of his class, his students, and his goals for our presentation, as well as learn about some topics he was interested in us exploring.

Objectives

Dr. Achard wanted us to introduce the students to the fields of translation and interpreting. Additionally, he hoped that our presentation would give the students some ideas for the research project they were going to carry out later in the semester. Knowing his goals helped us immensely.

We talked with the students about how translation differs from interpreting and we discussed the variety of different environments translators and interpreters work in; the different types of assignments that translators and interpreters are asked to work on; and the skills, education, and tools translators and interpreters use to perform their jobs successfully.

Our hope was that when multilingual issues come up for these students in the future, they will know how to and why they should find professional translators and interpreters to help them.

In line with Dr. Achard’s objectives, we discussed with the students how interpreters and translators can solve some of the challenges found in societies where residents speak many different languages. The two of us were able to give several impactful examples of challenges that hospital administrators, medical professionals, and non-English-speaking patients face every day in Houston. The students also learned about some of the difficulties LEPs face in the legal system and that courts face in dealing with the wide variety of languages found in Houston. I also spoke about some legislation that a local Texas representative had drafted last year that would have reduced the passing score required to become a Licensed Court Interpreter in Texas. ATA, HITA, TAJIT, and others opposed this legislation and worked to successfully defeat it.

Conclusion

Veronika and I enjoyed the chance to educate these college students about our careers. The students asked several great questions and walked away with a new perspective on some important issues. Veronika and I are hoping that we can leverage the hard work we put into preparing this presentation and use it to do more public outreach in Houston. We do not want this to be a “one and done” effort.

I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with Rice students so much that I decided to sign up as a volunteer associate at my former residential college. The Linguistics Department also recently invited me to join an Alumni Panel. What unexpected outcomes!

While we don’t know whether any of the students left our session inspired to become translators or interpreters, the truth is that I was inspired to turn my dream into a reality after attending a similar outreach presentation in Tokyo while I was wrapping up my time working on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme.

You just never know how much you can impact others and I encourage you to get involved in sharing our profession with your community. This brings greater awareness to our industry, helps prospective clients know what to look for when hiring language professionals, and is an interesting way to network and learn.

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.