How to be a VIC (II): Does Your Text Make Sense?

This second post on how to be a VIC (very important client) addresses the quality of your texts. Vague (generic words, clichés, lengthy sentences) or poorly written (incorrect grammar/punctuation, etc.) documents are confusing and hair-pulling sessions slow your translator down. We love our work and we do like a challenge, but we’re not so keen on headaches. Painful translations do not get priority.

If no one Continue reading

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How to be a VIC (I): Be a Good Communicator

This is the first of a series of posts on how to be a VIC (very important client) to your translator(s). There is no shortage of tips out there on how to be the best at what you do. But how about enabling others to give you their best? If you want the best translators to work for you, you should try to be their best client too.

One obvious rule is respect, and this shows most in the way you Continue reading

Commodity Translators vs Service Translators

The translation agencies’ race to the bottom – endlessly undercutting each other’s rates and claiming to provide the best for less – has led many new starters and less confident translators to accept unsustainable rates, creating two increasingly apparent categories: the “commodity translators” (slaves who translate for agencies or clients unwilling to pay decent rates) and the “service translators” (business-aware linguists who work primarily with direct clients for reasonable rates and who do more than just Continue reading

Crowdsourcing: the Secret to a Motley Translation

While crowdsourcing may seem like a conveniently cheap approach to translation, it is symptomatic of a misconception of translation as an exact science and generates a text as variegated as the crowd that produces it. Continue reading

Give the Cream to Those who Want it Most

Out of the blue, a Toronto-based artist contacted me, asking whether my MA dissertation (on J. M. W. Turner and the Industrial Revolution) was available for purchase. Who would have thought! The artist is currently doing some research on Turner and found my details in the Association of Art Historians’ member directory.

While my translation services are irrelevant in this case, this anecdote illustrates that translators are everywhere, even where you might Continue reading

Cutting Corners is Risky Business

Being accredited to provide certified translations, I regularly receive requests to translate birth certificates and similar documents. Occasionally someone will ask whether they could translate it themselves (because they have A-level French) and I could then just correct it and certify it for them. Unfortunately, fixing a DIY translation takes much longer than doing it right first time; so if the idea is to save money, it is unlikely to work. Continue reading

How Much?!

On a translators’ community website, someone has left a poor review on another translator’s page for non-payment of a €3 invoice for subcontracted work, despite much chasing. What is ridiculous isn’t so much the chasing of such a tiny amount; it is the amount itself. It is a sure sign that someone somewhere doesn’t know what they’re doing. Continue reading

The Joker in Disguise

Last month, this mass email landed in my inbox from a translation agency that regularly sends assignment offers that I rarely accept due to their unrealistic deadlines. This one was beyond unrealistic, however; it was surreal. It was sent on a Monday evening, just after 6pm:

“Would you be available to Continue reading

Cheaper, But at What Cost?

Last month I was commissioned by a translation agency to proofread an English-to-French translation for an art centre. I was simply told that the end client wanted to make sure that the text was impeccable. The proofreading task turned into an editing one.

While all translation agencies claim to focus primarily on quality, the reality from a supplier’s experience is often, well… Continue reading

What Translators are Made of

There are millions of multilingual individuals in the world, but only a fraction of them make capable translators – because a translator is not simply “someone who speaks languages”. There’s a little more to us than that…

Writing Skills

A text is slightly more complex than just lines of words randomly put together to (hopefully) say something. For some, the details beyond that may seem like headaches for the pedants to worry about, but when these details are wrong, the message becomes cloudy at best. Being able to Continue reading

Words for Sale?

When providing a quote, a translator often gives a per-1,000-words rate, a rate that confuses clients more that it enlightens them. This has been the norm for decades and, sadly, few individuals question whether this works for them and/or their clients and fewer still dare to challenge the system. But before becoming a translator, who understood what a thousand words was? I certainly didn’t. So how can we expect clients to understand? Charging an hourly rate is clearer and fairer for the client and the translator alike.

Translators, like editors, proofreaders, etc. like to know the word count of the text so as to Continue reading