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

Forget Magic and Telepathy

Some translators are not so keen on working with direct clients (as opposed to agencies) partly because clients are not always familiar with the translation process. I see this as an opportunity to help people better understand, and therefore appreciate, what we do rather than see translation as a mere commodity (a view largely reinforced by most agencies).

Discussing the project is crucial for both parties , or 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

Join the Translators’ Conversation

When two translators meet, you can bet on the questions that they will ask each other; they are always the same. Yet it is never boring. In fact, it is an important conversation and clients can benefit from asking those same questions to any translator they meet.

While these questions make handy ice-breakers, they also enable us to Continue reading

Certified Translation: Who Should You Commission?

Dealing with paperwork and bureaucracy can be a headache. Add translation and foreign authorities to the mix and stress kicks in. But, while it is important to commission the right person for the job, the process is much simpler than you might think.

So who can provide a certified translation? Well, 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

Teaming up for Clients

Here is an article I have written, published this month in The Linguist, the Chartered Institute of Linguists’ magazine. When looking for translators working in other language pairs on behalf of clients, the response to my search for a suitable candidate can be of mixed quality and standards. This article gives fellow linguists tips on how best to respond when contacted by a colleague. 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

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