Don’t Look Like a Fool

I recently received one of those comedy requests: a British translation agency contacted me at 5.15pm for an urgent translation: 700 German words for 11am the next day into English – or was it into French as the email subject said? At any rate, the translation had to be done by a “sworn translator recognised by the French authorities”.

Well…

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Translation is a Tailor-Made Service

When I introduce my services to potential clients, some of them occasionally ask “what are your rates?”. This is a how-long-is-a-piece-of-string kind of question, a sure sign that the person does not understand how translation works and that they could easily fall into the trap of going for the cheapest – but by no means the best – provider as a result.

Translation is not a box-standard product, nor is it a matter of Continue reading

Acknowledge Your Translator

While translators are used to working anonymously in most cases, they are always grateful when their name is mentioned. It’s a rare bonus for professionals whose work is typically invisible. Everyone likes to be acknowledged for their contribution – even if it’s only in the small prints that hardly a soul will bother to read.

So when I noticed that my name was missing from a book that I had recently translated, Continue reading

The Added Value of a Specialist

Although checking the facts in your text is beyond the translator’s remit, hiring a linguist who has a certain level of expertise in your particular field could save you from the embarrassment of oversights.

Of course, a translator will focus on the language first; the content is down to you and, if there are mistakes in the source document, the translator cannot be expected to spot them all, if any. It is your responsibility to ensure that the text is accurate and ready for publication. But we’re all human and, despite your diligence, translators Continue reading

Translating Chinese Whispers

We all know the hackneyed expression “lost in translation”. Yet, some seem to expect translation to work like an exact science.

I was recently working on an exhibition catalogue and one of the texts, written by a German artist, had been translated into English for me to translate into French. Not having been offered to see the German text, and my German being limited anyway, I had to Continue reading

Consolidate Your Files

If your translation project consists of multiple small documents, it may make sense to you to send these small pieces as they are to your translator, but bear in mind that it will take longer and incur a project management fee.

As we all know, switching between tasks increases the time it takes to complete them all. Consequently, Continue reading

The Irony of ISO Certifications

ISO certifications have become a trend amongst translation agencies. Such a certification undoubtedly sounds like a mark of professionalism and commitment to certain standards, and of course it is reassuring to potential clients. Sadly, it is one of those things that “look great on paper but”: the new demands this creates can prove detrimental to the agency-translator relationship.

In the UK, a professional translator is usually at least an Associate, if not a full Member, of either the CIOL and/or the ITI. This means that our qualifications and references have been checked, that we Continue reading

Don’t be a Shark

On a translators’ forum, a colleague recently expressed some doubt about his own rates and the respect we as translators get from clients, after an agency told him that his rates were too high. The response from the group was unanimous: stick to your guns. His rates were fine, if a little low in fact.

In translation as in life, there are bullies and pushovers, and then there are those who Continue reading

Tim-Burtonesque Project

It sometimes takes more than translation for a project to be understood abroad. Understanding your reader’s culture is equally important. A translator may be able to make you aware of cultural issues in your text, but your marketing team needs to do its homework too.

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is an excellent illustration of cultural misunderstanding. Skeleton Jack, from the Halloween world, accidentally discovers the Christmas world and Continue reading

Translation May Not Be What You Need

Just like being able to speak English is not enough to be the next Oscar Wilde, not every job that involves a foreign language can be allocated to a translator. There are times when a translator is the wrong person for the job.

To come up with a snappy slogan or a memorable acronym, you have probably delegated the task to a skilled person within your marketing department or even hired a professional copywriter. Many translators can Continue reading

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

From Dream to Reality

The fact that, after completing an MA in translation, some qualified students decide not to pursue a career in that field after all shows that even aspiring linguists can have misconceptions about translation, and that “speaking another language” is far from enough to be a capable translator.

Some students, believing that their degree in two or more foreign languages already gives them the skills required and that an MA will only Continue reading