A beginner’s guide to conferences

I recently attended the BP Translation Conference in Zagreb. It was my first conference and initially I had no idea what to expect. I did my research and as it turns out, I came over-prepared. This blog post presents my tips for a successful conference.

**Please note, seasoned conference-goers are likely to know this stuff like the back of their hand**

 

Before the conference
Business cards at the ready!
If you have business cards already, great. If you don’t, get some designed (or design them yourself). They will be handed out to new people you meet so that you can keep in touch, so they are an asset. Good business card websites include VistaPrint and MOO.

Get your profile on the conference’s attendees list
This is something I didn’t do until last minute, so my profile didn’t actually end up on the website. If your conference has an “Attendees” section, submit a professional picture of yourself and say a few words about you and your work. This will attract the attention of anybody who happens to come across the website, not just fellow translators.

Connect on twitter
Visit the conference’s website and look at the attendees list. As you browse through, check whether any of them have linked their twitter accounts and follow them. Have a look on twitter to see who is tweeting about your conference and interact with them by replying, retweeting or following them.

Check out the programme
You will probably have looked at the programme before you paid to attend, but go back and have another look at which talk is on at what time and plan which one you want to go to. There may be more than one talk scheduled at a time, so it pays to be prepared.

What to pack?
This was one of the focuses of my pre-conference research. I suggest: business cards, pens, paper (although this was provided at BP15), a business card wallet for the cards you get from fellow attendees, your tablet (optional, I never ended up using mine) and smart outfits.

What to wear?
This was another one of my pre-conference focuses. Conferences vary, so try to find out about the dress code beforehand. Search for pictures of the previous years’ conferences to give yourself an idea of what to wear. If, like me, your feet suffer in new shoes, get foot plasters or make sure your shoes are well-and-truly broken in before wearing them to a conference.

Where to stay?
I’d recommend staying at the conference hotel. This was a lesson I learned once I got there. I stayed at a hotel down the road and found myself getting jealous when fellow conference attendees decided they needed a break and retreated to their hotel rooms. If you forget anything, you can also just pop upstairs. It also makes getting to the conference a lot easier. I was almost late on the first day as I hadn’t allowed for the fact that 1st May is a Bank Holiday in Croatia, so I was still stood waiting for a tram at 8:50 when the conference started at 9.

Fringe activities
If attending the conference isn’t enough for you, conferences usually have a couple of days on either side where they organise activities: workshops, day trips to popular tourist destinations, dinners, evening entertainment, etc. Have a look through these offerings before you go and sign up to the ones you find interesting.

 

During the conference
Be sociable
Get to know as many people as you can, even if you are shy and quiet like me. This was pretty easy at the BP Translation Conference as many of the talks were interactive. There were also several coffee breaks (and of course lunch) which allowed for plenty of time to get to know your colleagues.

Take good notes
If you hear something noteworthy, write it down. You are more likely to remember it if you put it in writing rather than hearing something and trying to keep it in mind.

Hand out business cards
If you meet interesting people you want to keep in contact with, give them your card and ask for theirs in return.

Enjoy it
Although conferences are a business function, they can also be fun. Relax and enjoy networking with your peers!

 

After the conference
Touch base with the people you met
Have a look through the business cards you were given and find a way to contact those colleagues, be it through Twitter, LinkedIn or by dropping them a line via email.

Ask for presentation slides
If you went to a brilliant talk and you find your notes don’t do it justice, get in touch with the speaker and politely ask them for their presentation slides.

Read this article

 

Do you love going to conferences? What would you add to this list?

Advertisements

What to look for in a freelance translator

Are you looking to have your work translated and have opted for a freelancer, but you’re lost in the jungle of search results? Don’t be put off by the masses of information that search engines throw at you. The translation industry is not regulated, so knowing what to look for can be a bit of a minefield. This blog post contains some specifics to help you in your search.

Qualifications
Qualifications are an important factor – a translator should produce good-quality work if they have a master’s degree in translation from a university or if they hold another equivalent qualification, such as the DipTrans. It should, however, be noted that not all translators have translation-specific qualifications. If your translator doesn’t, check whether they are a member of any professional translator associations, as some of these, such as the ITI, require translators to pass their entrance exam.

Experience
It goes without saying that a translator who has many years of experience should be good at their job. When searching for a translator, look at how long they have been working in translation, whether they have worked in-house or just freelanced, and the types of documents they have translated. These factors will give you a better picture of your translator’s abilities.

Specialisms
A translator’s qualifications and experience in the industry is not where your search should end. What type of text do you need to have translated? Is it a legal, medical, marketing or technical text, for example? A translator’s website should contain information on their specialisms, so when searching for “translator in [insert language pair here]” in a search engine, you should also include the type of text, e.g. “translator German to English business” to make sure your translator has the necessary knowledge to translate your text.

Professional translator associations
As with most industries, the translation industry has a set of professional associations, e.g. IAPTI and the ITI. If a translator is a member of one (or more) of these associations, it may reveal information about his or her business. Professional translator associations will have some form of code of conduct that they will expect their members to observe. Some translator associations will also expect their members to take a translation exam to verify that they have the appropriate skills to be a translator. So if your translator is a member of a professional translator association, you should expect professionalism and quality.

Translator portals
If you find your perfect translator via their business website but would like more information, you could search to see if he or she has a profile on a translator portal. Most translators will have a profile on one or more portals, even if it just contains basic information. Some will have spent time on their profile, and it may contain information that you cannot find on their website, e.g. rates and feedback. If you want further information before contacting your chosen translator, it may be worth cross-referencing their website with their profile, for example on ProZ.com or translatorscafe.com. These are just two of a wide range of portals you could search through.

Feedback on your translator
Before you enquire about a translation with your chosen translator, it may also be worth reading feedback and testimonials about the translator written by the translator’s clients. This may be included on the translator’s website, but some portals also have this feature. Feedback may contain information on quality, client satisfaction, and reliability, which will be helpful in your search.

There you have some tips to get you started. Happy hunting!

Feel free to add your comments and questions below.

What to do when work gets quiet: 5 tips to help freelancers to gain productivity

You submit files to your client and a rare thing happens: you have no more projects in the pipeline and you’re at a loose end. What should you do?

The main thing to do is to keep calm; it happens to all of us. The chances are this is just a brief spell and your clients will be back in touch with more work shortly. Here are a few tips on how to use your time productively:

  • Get your admin work sorted. Have you got paperwork piled up that you’ve needed to sort but not found the time? Have you got an invoice to write? If you do your own accounts, is there anything you can update? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then now is a suitable moment to do it. It saves you slotting it in after a long day at work, or worse, doing it at the weekend!
  • Make sure your CV, website, and any professional profiles are up-to-date. If the Internet is the resource you use to promote your business, you need to make sure that the information you put online is always accurate. Having downtime at work is a great opportunity to review your website or any professional profiles you may have.
  • Search for prospective clients. You may be experiencing a quiet period for a number of reasons, one of which is your client not needing the services you provide for the time being. Be proactive and search for new clients who do need you. Alternatively, you could send a quick email to clients you haven’t heard from in a while to make sure you’re still on their radar.
  • Continuing professional development (CPD). It is very important that you keep up with any training you may need. Do you need training to keep your professional skills up-to-date? Do you need tips on how to file your tax return? Having a few days when no work comes in could be put to good use by participating in webinars or training sessions.
  • Last but not least: don’t panic! Sometimes it’s nice to have a little break, recharge your batteries, and be ready and raring to go when the next project lands on your desk.

Do you have any tips when it comes to using your quiet periods productively? Feel free to share them in the comments.

This month in the translation and language-learning world…

… NewStatesman discussed the role of translators in the ebola crisis

The Council on Foreign Relations expanded on John Oliver’s rant about Afghan translators

… The Guardian wrote about the changes in teaching languages in primary schools

… LaPresse.ca profiled three people working in the translation and interpreting industry

… The BBC explained why English is the language of science

MT, CAT, and Skype Translator: clearing a few things up

Last month, an article was posted on the Guardian’s website about translation, machine translation (MT) and computer-assisted translation (CAT). You can read it here. Reading this as a freelance translator, I have to say that some of the information conveyed in the article was either flawed or confusing. I’m writing this blog post to clear a few things up.

First of all, what the article lacked was a clear definition of MT and CAT. The Oxford Dictionary defines MT as “translation carried out by a computer”. There is no human input involved here, and this is the technology ‘threatening’ to make the translation profession extinct.
Cattools.org defines CAT as “a form of translation wherein a human translator translates texts using computer software designed to support and facilitate the translation process”. In other words, CAT is a type of software used by translators in the translation process.

When the article quotes Angelique Petrits, a language officer at the European Commission, it should have been made clearer that her comments referred to CAT tools, not to MT. Her quotes only refer to “technology”, which is ambiguous. Yet her references to technology “automatically replacing strings of texts which have been already translated” and contributing “to the consistency of terminology” make it clear to those familiar with the profession that she’s talking about CAT tools. CAT tools involve importing documents to be translated into the software, storing the translations created in translation memories, and saving repeated terms in term bases to ensure consistent translation.

One last thing to note is that the Microsoft “Star Trek” Skype Translator is not “impressive, making only a handful of mistakes.” The demonstration at the Code Conference was over-simplified, full of errors, and quite frankly, awful. It looked good to anybody who couldn’t speak German, but anybody who can will confirm that it is far from being impressive. Andy Way, associate professor of computing at Dublin City University, was quite right to say “You’re more likely to have everything else in Star Trek before you ever get a universal translator” in the Guardian article.

Did anybody else read the article and have similar reactions to mine? Feel free to post them in the comments below!

This month in the translation and language-learning world…

Army officers were told they should learn a language to increase their chances of promotion

…Forbes wrote that language extinction is driven by economic growth

…Le Bien Public wrote about the trouble Google Translate has dealing with Arabic, and about Internet users sabotaging Google Translate (in French)

…Two languages in Papua New Guinea evaded extinction thanks to the Internet

…Huffington Post came up with 7 foreign words that cannot be translated into English

Working in-house vs. working freelance – pros and cons

When working as a translator, you have a few job options available to you. The main ones are: working in-house at a translation agency, freelancing, and working in-house for one particular company. So far in my career I have done the latter two. There are pros and cons to both, some of which I discuss below.

Pay

One of the major advantages of working in-house for a company is that you know exactly what you will be paid at the end of the month, and this payment will be on time. By contrast, the disadvantage for freelance translators is that this sum will vary, as will the payment terms: some clients are happy to pay immediately, but many ask for a 30- or 60-day payment period after receipt of invoice. There is also no guarantee as a freelancer that your client will pay on schedule. As an in-house employee, you will receive benefits including holiday pay, sick pay, and a pension. When working freelance, it is recommended that translators put money aside for these benefits, plus their tax bill!

Hours

In theory, freelance translators can be flexible in picking their hours to suit them – they don’t have to stick to a Monday to Friday 9-to-5 routine (although I try to!). An in-house employee will have set hours. They may have a certain amount of flexibility, e.g. being able to start their working day at any time between 8am and 10:30am, but will still be expected to work a certain amount of hours in a day or week. Having said this, in-house staff are not necessarily expected to work weekends, whereas a freelance translator having a slow week may decide that the project that landed in their inbox at 4pm on Friday, due at 9am on Monday, is perfect to top up their income for that particular month.

Projects

As a freelance translator, you are your own boss. This means that if you’re offered a translation project, you have the option of turning it down. If you work in-house, you have less choice in the matter. This may result in the freelance translator working on a greater variety of texts in their specialism, which, in my opinion, makes work a bit more fun. When it comes to finding a specialism, the in-house employee will become specialised in what the company that he or she works for does. A freelance translator will be able to carefully select and refine their specialism depending on their educational and training background as well as the projects that they choose to accept.

Those are three of the many issues that a translator will face when deciding on their career path. Are you reading and have something to add? Feel free to leave your comments below!

This month in the translation and language-learning world…

…The Japanese government decided to fund the translation of Japanese books into English

Ian Henderson wrote about machine translation and how it can’t work for business use

…The Guardian published an article on learning a language for work

Former Afghan translators were offered homes in Wales according to the BBC

…Jean Findlay from the Guardian wrote about CK Scott Moncrieff’s translation of Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu

 

Tips on using ProZ.com from my personal experience (part two)

In part one of this article, I wrote about some of the more positive aspects of ProZ.com. However, there are also a few factors about the site that you should watch out for. This part of the blog is going to explore these aspects in more detail.

An important feature that should be used carefully on ProZ.com is the job postings part of the website. It has an awful reputation because you often find jobs posted at extremely low rates. The system allows freelance translators and interpreters to place bids on jobs. Although you can see how many bids have been placed in your language pair, you can’t see how much other bidders have quoted. The issue here is that the client may be inclined opt for the cheapest bid, meaning that translators or interpreters wanting the job may attempt to undercut each other, which would in turn force down the price – and ultimately the value – of the translation. So my advice is to stick to your guns: do not lower your rate. Your rate should be the sum that you want to be paid for the job, not the one that you think will win you the job.

Along the same lines as the job postings section, job emails are often sent out via ProZ.com. Some of these are respectable clients, who have taken time to read profiles, who have tailored their email to you, and who are offering acceptable rates, but some of them are not. Indicators to look out for when trying to tell whether or not this is a carefully crafted, personalised email include: the “dear translator” or “hello” salutation, the request for “best rates” (read: “lowest” – I only have one rate for translation, unless it’s urgent, in which case I add a surcharge), and requests that are either in the wrong language combination direction, e.g. EN-DE instead of DE-EN, or the wrong specialism.

I have been writing this post as somebody who has been paying for membership for this site for a few years. If you decide that membership is not for you – and you should take time to think about the purchase as at the time of posting, one year’s membership costs $133 – then you should be aware that free membership on the site is limited. Some of the restrictions include not being able to bid on jobs that are listed as “members only”; only having restricted access to the Blue Board; and not being able to ask as many KudoZ questions as paying members. So some of the tips that I offered up in both this and my previous post may not apply, or may be limited, if you do not have membership.

Those are what I believe to be the negative aspects about ProZ.com. Do you have anything to add to this?

This month in the translation and language-learning world…

The Guardian profiled three interpreters who have worked for famous faces.

Eleanor Muffitt explained why she’s had a go at learning so many languages.

Ian Henderson explained why you need more than just translation when launching your brand on a different market.

The BBC found 20 people who had lost their native language.

The National Law Journal wrote about the translator who revealed information Toyota would rather have kept under wraps.