Promises Don’t Pay the Bills

Occasionally, translators are contacted by new clients who, after getting a quote, ask for a discount simply on the basis that they are a new client and that, so they claim, there will be more work to come. Nice try.

There is no incentive there for a sole trader for the obvious reasons that 1) a discount effectively means a direct reduction of our personal income; and 2) the promise of future work may never materialise – whether it is a genuine promise in the first place or not. Besides, Continue reading

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Trust Me, I’m a Linguist

Each language has its own logic, sets of rules and exquisite weirdnesses. If something looks strange to you in the translation, it may be due to such idiosyncrasies rather than a translator’s mistake.

For example, in French there is a hard space in front of certain items of punctuation such as question and exclamation marks, colons and semicolons, and quotation marks. Also note that the latter Continue reading

Shed a Little Light

I have recently started to work on an ongoing multilingual project (an online art-collection management tool) which is proving a challenge for everyone in the team due, amongst other things, to the end client’s lack of experience with translation projects.

As an online tool, the platform only has occasional sentences in isolation, the bulk of the work consisting of section of field headings, i.e. short stand-alone strings of words, or even Continue reading

How Much is Your Work Worth?

A small art publisher recently asked for my rate, warning me that they didn’t have the budget of a large company. Such a query can be translated as: “we’d love to have our books translated but can’t afford it”.

Although translators may show some flexibility with regards to rates or other terms, it goes without saying that we can Continue reading

Machine Translation Gone Wrong – Again

Happy New Year to all!

As 2016 has started with large projects to work on, I have not had time to think much about a post for this week. Instead, you may wish to read this article, which shows how relying on machine translation is very dangerous indeed. Continue reading

Who are you Writing for?

Who your readers are is a major factor for the form and content of any text. Are you addressing an expert readership on a specialist topic, or designing a marketing campaign for a particular section of the population? Is your audience local or international?

If you are targeting an international audience, Continue reading

Give us a Break

A client recently asked for a job to be done urgently. Since ‘urgent’ means little without a specific date, I asked what the deadline was. There was no deadline. There is a different between need and want. By saying it’s urgent, you are putting the translator under time pressure, and as with any kind of work, any unpleasant condition must Continue reading

No Tricks, Just Treats, Please!

Communication is only effective if it is clear. If your thorough translator identifies any tricky bits in your text, such as ambiguities due to vague words, confused syntax or erroneous punctuation, they will send you a list of sentences and clauses to clarify. And that’s good news: it shows that they are keen to get it right.

It is therefore worth spending time questioning your own text before publishing it or Continue reading

Translators can Count too

While most clients simply ask service providers for a quotation, the occasional client approaches translators with their own rates and terms and expect nothing more than a yes or no reply – not unlike an employment offer but without the interview or a chance for the translator to Continue reading

Mirror, Mirror

If you’ve ever seen a poor-quality translation, did you think: “the translator who did this is rubbish” or “this company can’t even hire a decent translator”?

Memes with the message “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur” have been doing the rounds on social media, and everyone Continue reading

No Blind Quotes, No Surprises

Translation being a customised service by nature, a translator cannot give an estimation – let alone a quotation – before seeing the document. They may give their hourly rate, but how many hours will be necessary still depends on the document.

Clients sometimes assume that the number of pages is enough for a translator to Continue reading

How to be a VIC (IV): Think Ahead

We all like to know what to expect, so well-organised clients with generous deadlines and no surprises stand a better chance of making it to the translator’s list of VICs (very important clients). Last-minute panics, documents arriving in dribs and drabs and sudden changes are a translator’s worst nightmare. Good planning makes good friends.

Think “first arrived, first served”. It may be a good idea to Continue reading