The FAQ series: why don’t you translate into French/German?

I’ve been an avid networker since starting my translation business in 2012. When I talk about what I do, there are a few questions that pop up time and time again. This blog post series aims to answer those questions in detail. After all, you don’t always have enough time at these kinds of events (and, being passionate about my profession, I could waffle on about what I do for hours!)
pexels-photo-28764There are two main reasons why translators don’t tend to translate from their native into their non-native language. The first is time: it would take me at least twice as long to produce a text if I translated from my native English into German or French. Why? Because words and sentence formulations don’t come as quickly to me in German or French as they do in English. When I translate into English, I can usually read the sentence in the original French or German and compose the English sentence as fast as my fingers can type (once I’ve done the required research and with a proofreading stage later, of course). This process would be much longer and more laborious the other way around, and would be quite a strain on my brain! As a consequence, my services would also be more expensive as I factor time into the way I price projects. So translating into my native language is faster than translating into my non-native language and thus less expensive for my clients.
letter-761653_960_720The second reason is style: a translation should not stand out as a translation; the reader should not (usually) be aware that this text exists in other languages and is based on another text. It should be easy to read, “blend in with its environment” and act as a stand-alone text. Clients usually need their translator to be a native speaker of the translation’s language to achieve this effect. If I translated into German or French, it is possible that I would make non-native speaker mistakes, be it with sentence structure, words not being used in the correct context or evoking the dreaded we-just-don’t-say-it-that-way reaction that every multilingual person will encounter at some stage. Ultimately, translation clients want a stylish text, so they need their translator to translate into their native language, not out of it.
So there you have it. Are you a translator and have something to add? Are you a (potential) translation client and want to ask a question about the translation process? Leave a post in the comments or send me a message via the contact page!

My insights into the ITB travel show: day 3

Read about day one here.

Read about day two here.

On day three I mainly focused on meeting fellow attendees and networking, but I did attend a few talks:

The first was a fascinating talk on the future of luxury tourism. The panel included a cruise analyst who focused on high-end luxury cruises and shunned “mainstream” cruises and a businessman from South Africa who insisted you could create luxury from nothing by taking people out into nature, keeping things simple and getting back to basics. It was debated whether companies like Secret Escapes are even luxury if they have such low price tags. The panel generally seemed to agree that the word “luxury” is abused in the travel industry.

I then attended a talk on blogging and how DMOs work with bloggers. The general gist was that bloggers do get paid, but the expectation is then that the content is owned by the DMO and they can do with it as they please. The DMOs on the panel stressed that bloggers need a large organic following for this to work as the benefit of collaborating with bloggers over any other marketing expert is that a blogger will create exposure and distribute their content, which isn’t always a given with other marketing professionals.

My last talk of the day was on the sharing economy. Are companies such as Airbnb really dominating the industry? “No” was the response from Wouter Geerts at Euromonitor, who had analysed the market and was presenting his research. He suggested three ways to counter the sharing economy:

  • Hotels have done a great deal of lobbying against Airbnb and even seen success in New York and Barcelona.
  • Marriott have created a lower-end brand called Moxy. These hotels feature tiny bedrooms but their lobbies are designed in such a way that encourages socialising.
  • Hyatt has teamed up with Onefinestay (a company similar to Airbnb offering high-end accommodation) and Wyndham with Love Home Swap (a home-swapping service) in an effort to get in on the sharing-economy action.

He also presented other examples of the sharing economy in travel, such as the company that rents out your car while you go on holiday. You save on airport parking and make a commission on the rental. The company also cleans your car before returning it to you. Personally, I would be a little worried about renting my car out to any old Joe Bloggs, but each to their own!

News update: AITI membership status

Hello readers!

I just wanted to write a short post to inform you that I am now an associate member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI). The process of joining as an associate member involves submitting a number of professional references from my clients with whom I have been working for more than a year plus at least one character reference from a non-relative. The professional references are a testament to the quality of my work and my reliability as a translator.

I am thrilled to be part of the UK’s national association of translators and hope to use my membership to keep track of my continuing professional development (CPD), attend ITI networking events and grow as a translator.

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

… profiled three people working in the translation and interpreting industry

… The BBC explained why English is the language of science

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

Tips on using from my personal experience (part two)

In part one of this article, I wrote about some of the more positive aspects of 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 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 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 Do you have anything to add to this?

Tips on using from my personal experience (part one) is a networking site for translators. It can be used to find new clients, apply for jobs, ask terminology questions, and much more. It can be a great resource for freelance translators and interpreters, especially if you are willing to pay for membership, but there are also some pitfalls to be avoided. This blog post offers some tips from my personal experience of using the site as a paying member.

I joined about four years ago, and started paying for membership about three years ago. The site has been a great resource for me as a number of my clients have come through this channel. Clients, usually agencies, can search for freelance translators in the site’s database once a profile has been set up and the freelancer’s basic information has been entered, e.g. language pair and specialisms. As many representatives will tell you (as I’ve learnt from attending their webinars): most of the jobs offered to freelancers come about by the client/agency searching the translator and interpreter directories and reviewing profiles. So my first tip of this blog post is: keep your profile up to date. features a terminology database: KudoZ. Answering questions on KudoZ also helps to improve your ranking in the directories: the more KudoZ points you have, the higher up in the rankings you will be placed. So if you feel confident that you can suggest an appropriate term, propose an answer. Be prepared to back up your suggestion with references and links as well.

If a term comes up in your translation and you can’t find a target equivalent for it, KudoZ is a Mecca for obscure and/or technical terms. Be sure to use the “Term search” function to look for the term before you ask a terminology question – answerers don’t like it if they find a similar entry in the database already (and who can blame them?). Once this search returns no results and you decide to ask a terminology question on KudoZ, try to provide as much information as you can about the term without breaking confidentiality rules: a couple of sentences of the source text to give context (redacting any client-specific information and personal data), the target audience, and intended use of the text can come in very handy for someone trying to help you.

When starting to collaborate with an agency, the Blue Board is a great source of information. Enter the agency’s name, and a rating between 1 and 5 (1 being “do not waste your time” and 5 being “no qualms”) appears with brief feedback from translators. Always check this rating before taking work from a new source: it may save you time and stress if it turns out your new favourite client is a non-payer. However, these ratings should sometimes be taken with a pinch of salt. Sometimes you see a page full of excellent ratings, but the company turns out to be a low payer, or sometimes you’ll find the odd bad rating that was just a one-off.

The site also has a rating system for freelancers called the Willingness to Work Again (WWA) rating. Here, potential clients can see feedback from some of your clients. It is shown on your freelancer profile, so potential clients will be able to see the number of positive/negative entries. They will also be able to see more detailed feedback if they click on the WWA’s hyperlink. This is a great way to showcase your strengths, and to attract new clients. So request feedback from as many sources as possible.

This blog has presented you with some tips that focus on the more positive aspects of Stay tuned for part two, which offers some advice on the more negative aspects of the site.

Are you a translator who has used Do you have anything to add?


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