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

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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

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

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

ProZ and Cons

Clients who are unsure what a reasonable fee for translation is will likely look online and find average rates on translators’ platforms such as ProZ.com or Translators’ Café. Unfortunately, these websites have their limitations despite their best efforts and should be taken with a (generous) pinch of salt.

First, these platforms are open to Continue reading

Working with a Specialist

Depending on your text, there may be times when any good generalist translator can handle it. However, it is worth thinking long term. Is this just a one-off or could you need translation services again? If the latter, you obviously want to go back to the same professional next time if possible, so it may be a better idea to find a language partner who specialises in your field right from the start in case more demanding documents Continue reading

Housewife with a Good Italian Dictionary? You’re Hired!

There are myths and clichés about many professions. Here are some common ones regarding translation.

Anyone who speaks more than one language can be a translator.

Even a bilingual person is not necessarily a skilled translator, let alone someone with an A-level only. If all you need is to get the gist of what the document says, such a person may be able to give you a rough idea of what it is about, but if you need an accurate and reliable translation, I suggest you Continue reading

Talk to the Expert Direct

It is somewhat unsettling to receive panic requests from agencies asking whether I would be available to translate some urgent medical text. I do not touch medical documents and my professional indemnity insurance would not cover me in case of subsequent incident. Do agencies ever go back to the client and admit that they could not source a competent person in time to meet the tight deadline they had promised? Or are there individuals who do take such assignments on despite their lack of Continue reading

Finding Your Secret Helpers

Translators, like fairy folk, are quietly concealed amidst the wilderness of human civilisation. Yet they are everywhere, ready to shake their magic wand at any text you wish, transmogrifying it into the wonderful language of your choice on demand. And if you know where to look and manage to catch one, they have the alluring power to connect you to many rich and beautiful lands… So where do you find these marvellous creatures? 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