How do you become a translator?

Become a translator piece by piece

How to become a translator?

How to become a translator? There is no simple answer to that question. A career in translation is like a book. It is made of several chapters, many stories. It is not just a question of knowing several languages. Otherwise, many people would become a translator.

What do I need to do to become a translator?

First of all, if I’m being honest, I would make sure that apart from the fact that you should like languages, you should enjoy being in front of a computer, translating all kinds of content.

Particularly at the beginning, when you may have to translate different materials because you don’t have a lot of choice. So If you want to become a translator, you should really be curious about all sorts of things. What you are translating may not be a topic that you are passionate about, but you’ll learn a little from everything”

What does a translator translate?

I started translating very technical documents and later, I would read instruction manuals with more interest or even, after translating a gigantic project on oil prospecting, I would be very excited to visit an oil museum in United States, which contains all kinds of instruments that I would recognise thanks to what I had translated.

As of today, I translate and review video games, marketing and a lot of software, and I love it, but before that, I translated things that were not ideal, but that interested me equally. Even sometimes, there are heavy things that I translate or review on a daily basis, but I like those things equally or at least, I do not dislike them.

Therefore, before saying ‘how do I look for clients or companies to work as a translator’, I would like you to ask yourself if you really see yourself doing that. It’s easy to imagine translating the latest Resident Evil or the latest success series, but you always have to do a bit of everything; Ask other professional translators, to see what they tell you.

Do I need a degree to become a translator?

I say this because you will have to invest a lot of time in training. A degree in Translation or Interpreting or a specialised master’s degree if you come from another career is important today.

Is it possible to become a translator without a degree?

Of course, there are great translators who have not studied Translation. But today, what matters most is, most translation companies and clients already have many translators to choose from – there is a lot of competition – who have that basic training, so you will be at a disadvantage if you don’t own a degree.

As you can see, it is very important that things are clear in your head about what it is to be a translator.

Should I become a translator?

Many people think that being a translator would be an ideal job for them because you stay quietly at home and you make some money. Yet, translation can be laborious and goes well beyond being a simple hobby with a bonus in the end.

If you think that, chances that you throw the towel after a few months is quite high because you can’t find what you’re looking for, because you do not like what you do or because you not making as much money as you think you would.

Having said that, then how do you really start if you already have minimal training?

Well, first of all, start consulting translation company directories for offers. I always like to recommend ProZ.com, not necessarily for the offers themselves (they are not all interesting and/or well-paid and there is a lot of competition), but because you can get a list of agencies, filter them and there you have a list of companies you can contact. I also recommend having a profile in ProZ.

On the other hand, you should be well aware of social networks such as LinkedIn.

Of course, I would recommend that you write down which companies you sent your curriculum to in an Excel spreadsheet, note if they responded. At the same time, try and customise your email, try to be creative. By the way, make sure your resume is well designed and that it really sets you apart from the rest of the candidates.

Make it piece by piece, and become a translator

Warren Buffet said: “Don’t Compare Your Chapter 1 to Someone Else’s Chapter 20!”

Learn from others and from those who have more experience, but try not to compare yourself to them. At 22, I was a kid who did not know half of what I know now, but at least I knew I would do everything possible to devote myself to translation.

In the meantime, best of wishes for your chapter 1 as a translator and do not worry if you write your chapter 2 later than expected, as long as you write those chapters of your translation career little by little until you reach chapter 20.

Videogame Translation in China

China: the Largest Videogame Market in the World

The Asian giant has now become the largest video game market in the world. According to the latest HIS report, the video game market in China represents a $38 billion in revenue in 2018. In addition, the income of the sector of Video games in China accounts for 25% of the world total: one in every four dollars of the video game industry is being billed in China.

In 2017, most of the revenue came from PC titles. However, video games for mobile phones or tablets outperformed the rest of the platforms in 2018. Spending on mobile games grew 55% in 2018, and increases of 24% are announced for 2019.

Meanwhile, consoles still cannot find their place in the Chinese market. The sales figures of the PS4 and Xbox, barely exceeded 500,000 units since they launch.

An Overpopulated Country

All this avalanche of figures is driven by the huge population of China. The Asian giant has a population of about 1400 million people. In addition, taking a closer look at the demographics of China, we see that about 21% of its population is between 15 and 40 years old.

We could discuss what is the average age of a gamer, but surely many of us agree that it is probably in this range. This means almost 300 million potential gamers, with stable jobs and growing purchasing power. Recall that the unemployment rate in China is around 4% according to official figures, and that the country has an increasingly large and stable middle class.

A Generation Without Computers

Unlike what happens in the West, where many of us have our personal computer, in China the situation is very different. It is estimated that around 95% of Internet users in China access the network through their mobile phones.

In France, cybercafes were a revolution for the year 2001, when high-speed connections still did not exist and we couldn’t play StarCraft games every time we would receive a call at home (damn 56 kbps connection!).

Cybercafes in France were a hit in all cities. Neighbourhoods were filled with gamers’ nests. Tournaments, night marathons and birthdays were organised as well as all kinds of events. Cybercafes happened to become social centres for many young people.

However, with the advancement of technology and the arrival of high-speed connections to French homes, cybercafes moved into the background and many of them had to close in 2003 or 2004.

Today, China continues to have thousands of cybercafes throughout the country. In addition, Chinese cybercafes have gone one step further: they offer 35-inch screens, hundreds of games, sofas, home delivery and very low prices, even for Chinese stores. In fact, many Chinese decide to use cybercafes as hotels in some areas of the country: it is much cheaper to spend the night in the cyber than to sleep in a simple room in a hostel.

Mobile Phones as the Dominant Platform

The situation of cybercafes in China is a very important fact to understand the impact of mobile platforms in China. For the vast majority of Chinese people, their mobile phone is their personal computer.

It’s the device they use every day, the one they take to work, to school and the one they still use when they go home. It is with what they use to read the news, follow their social networks, watch movies or series online. In addition, of course, it is becoming the favourite platform for Chinese to play video games.

Honor of Kings, the mobile version of the League of Legends, is currently the most profitable game. According to official announcements, Honor of Kings is expected to report to Tencent, the developer of the videogame, a profit of more than 3 billion dollars. Such is the addiction and reception that the videogame received in China, that Tencent has decided to limit the number of hours of play per day to those under 18 years of age.

Tencent, the Largest Videogame Company in the World

The Chinese company Tencent is the largest technology company in the country and one of the most important in the world (Tencent owns 40% of Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, that says it all). For the last few years, they have been investing very strongly in the videogame industry. As you may know, Tencent today owns large Western companies such as Supercell, Riot Games and is a large shareholder of other major companies in the sector, such as Epic Games or Activision Blizzard.

Image for the Epic Games Fortnite

According to specialists, Tencent’s greatest competitive advantage lies in the enormous social network infrastructure available to it. The two largest instant messaging platforms in China are owned by Tencent: Wechat and QQ. These Chinese social networks have nearly 1,000 million active users per month, of which more than 700 million daily use their services daily.

In addition, Tencent is one of the pioneers in the implementation of applications called hub. This type of application integrate different services or programs within the same application. In this way, you do not have to change application to use maps, view images, read the news or play mobile games. This is a total revolution in China, and Tencent is one of the leaders.

To make matters worse, Tencent announced the re-launch of Wegame in 2018. Wegame is a video game download platform that will compete with Steam in China. Tencent’s game publishing platform now has more than 200 million registered players.

Tencent’s monopoly in China is slightly threatened by its biggest competitor, NetEase, another giant technology group in charge of operating games such as StarCraft II, Overwatch and Diablo III in China, among other titles.

Videogame Translation in China

According to the latest Chinajoy convention, the most important videogame fair in China, the Asian giant develops and publishes more than 30,000 mobile games every year, almost 2500 new games every month.

However, not all of these games go through localisation processes. Some are not even translated into other languages. The Chinese game developer and entrepreneur still does not understand the importance of localisation and translation of video games.

In my opinion, this is mainly due to two reasons. First, that the domestic demand of the country continues to grow year after year. There is still room for growth by exploiting the internal market and many developers prefer to invest their money in national promotion.

Second, the lack of national competence to locate games in other languages. The Chinese developer has today two basic alternatives for the translation of video games: foreign companies or Chinese companies. The first one, the big international translation companies based in China, are very expensive. They suppose an investment too big for a service that for many videogames companies, today, is complementary and optional.

Secondly, specialised translation companies in China are very young and have little resources. Most of these companies are pretty recent, founded 4 or 5 years ago. The services they offer are economically affordable, but their results are far from satisfactory.

The number of foreigners living in China is very low today. If you’re looking for experienced video game translators, you are looking at a tiny professional population.

Videogame translation in China is being carried out mostly by people without training or experience in the sector. The mere fact of being native and proficient in English is usually enough to enter into a selection processes for any Chinese video game translation company.

As China’s domestic demand is satisfied and profit margins within China are shrinking, Chinese videogame companies will begin to attach much more importance to international markets and to the localisation and translation of content. Given the low competition that exists in the sector, today China is a world full of possibilities for video game translators.

Videogame Translation: What Language?

Due to proximity and ease of work, the majority of localisation work from Chinese are done in Asian languages, such as Korean, Japanese or Thai. The adaptation of contents tends to be much more discreet when it comes to marketing products regionally.

However, French is rising as one of the most important languages ​​for the gaming sector in China. The growth of emerging economies such as the French-speaking African countries is raising the demand for French translators in China.

FAQ About the Videogame Translation Market in China

If you have come this far, surely you have many doubts about the videogame sector in China. I will try to answer some of the most frequent questions. If you have any other questions, leave your question in the comments!

Is it necessary to know how to speak Chinese to work in China?

No. It is advisable, though. As a general rule, knowing how to communicate in English is enough to survive in China. The new generations of Chinese learn English from a young age and are always eager to practise it with foreigners.

What are the trends of mobile games this year in China?

In recent months many games about the Second World War are coming out. PVP games with very good graphics. Games where you control ships or warplanes. A good example of this type of game is War Wings, by Tencent Games.

How much does a freelance translator charge in China?

It depends. It is estimated that the average should be around 200 RMB per 1000 words for English to French (about 26 euros per 1000 words) and a little more from Chinese to French.

Nowadays, it seems to be difficult to live on freelance translations in China. Sometimes huge projects arrive, of 100,000 words. Other times, only small projects of 2,000 or 3000 words.

How much does an in-house translator charge in China?

In-house video game translator positions are very much required in China. Conditions are usually quite interesting, although salaries depend on the city and the experience of the translator. To give an indicative figure, a professional hired as “Specialist in localisation of video games” can make between 12,000 and 15,000 RMB per month (about 1600–2000 euros).

What About Delivery Time?

As you can imagine, in China there are hardly any labour regulations, agreements or standardisation in this sense. Much less if we talk about sectors as recent as the translation of video games. The goal of Chinese translation companies is to get the job out as soon as possible and in the best possible way.

When working as a freelancer, you can almost always negotiate your availability with translation companies. However, the faster you complete the work, the more likely you are to collaborate with them again.

Once again, each project is different and many times delivery depends solely on the deadline set out by the end client. Either way, translation companies expect an output of 2,500 words a day for part-time translators and about 5,000 words a day for in-house or full-time translators.

As a general rule, Chinese companies do not differentiate repetitions from the rest of the text, so you will normally charge 100% of the work done. However, some companies might pay 50% for repetitions or that do not even count them or pay them. In the end, it is up to you to choose whom we want to work with.

The time you devote to each translation is up to you. There will be people who are able to translate more than 1000 words per hour, while other people might need more time.

There are many factors that determine the speed at which you do translation: your level of commitment, concentration, typing speed, how well you master your translation software, the familiarity you have with the type of game you are translating, et cetera.

Personally, and as a reference, I think I can translate about 1000 words per hour from English to French. Of course, it is impossible for me to maintain this level of concentration for a long time. I need to unplug from time to time to avoid mistakes.

What is the worst thing when working with Chinese translation companies?

Working with Chinese companies can sometimes be a very exasperating experience. Rigour, consistency and precision are not usually attributes that are highly valued by Chinese translation companies. As I said before, times are fundamental in an economy that grows to more than 7% each year.

Many times you can find yourself lacking in resources to do a good job. Sometimes, communication with the project manager or with the final client is not very good.

For those who translate video games, software or applications, it is essential to know the context of a word. It is very important to have good communication with the client to know what this loose word refers to, without context. For example, attack or raid are widely used words in RTS games. However, seeing them loose in an Excel box, is it a verb? A noun? Who performs the action?

Another problem that we can find is often confidentiality. When working as a freelancer for a translation company, it is unlikely that you will have any contact whatsoever with the videogame developer.

Many Chinese translation companies have confidentiality agreements. How can you translate a video game if you have not had the opportunity to play it? How can you adjust your writing style if you don’t know what the game looks like? Unfortunately, consistency is sometimes secondary when translating for Chinese companies.

However, there are other companies that much more sensible and determined to deliver a good job. Lately, I received some projects for which I was given some days to familiarise myself with the game before being given the document to translate.

What is the best thing about working with Chinese translation companies?

The lack of rigour and consistency can be unbearable for more experienced translators. In addition, translation rates in China are much lower than those offered in Western countries. However, China offers enormous possibilities for development and growth for any translator.

To give you an idea, in just over two years working for Chinese translation companies, I must have translated more than 50 video games and as many mobile applications. Some of these projects are small card or casino games, but other projects had more than 250,000 words.

Nowadays, China allows you to work whatever you want. There is a huge and growing demand in all sectors and very few professionals to cover it. It is an ideal country to train and get experience. Also, if you are willing to sacrifice part of your free time and become a multi-employer, you can start saving money and start making plans for the future, something that today does not seem so easy in European countries.

How can I find a videogame translator job in China?

Chinese translation companies are always looking for translators. Many translation offers are published on portals such as 51job (Chinese and English). Another way would be to directly contact some Chinese translation companies, such as Gametrans, among others.

Proofreader or proof reader – it’s a dog’s life

Proofreader or proof reader is a strange breed

The Proofreader or Proof Reader is a Sick Puppy

They say that every proofreader or proof reader suffers from OCD. Do they? Jokes aside, being thorough is a fundamental condition for those who long to pursue this profession.

In addition to the high degree of attention to detail, liking reading should also be part of the package. But liking alone is not enough – you must love it. Unconditionally. After all, your days of proofreading texts could alternate between so many topics: vampires, zombies (that’s right, it happened to me. Dealing with the topic, I mean), chemical formulas, maps, cake recipes, sadomasochistic millionaires and there’s no way for you to escape!

The Proofreader or Proof Reader is a Suspicious Dog

It is also recommended that the proofreader or proof reader should have a chip on his/her shoulder: doubting everything and everyone. No data or spelling can be beaten. At the slightest sign of mistrust, one must leave all the supposed certainties behind and search as if there were no tomorrow.

“Seetle down” – Why and When to Seek

And this is leading to a delicate point in the process: how to know when (and to define a real need) to intervene in the text and the time to respect the choices of others?

* dramatic pause *

Proofreaders are a Strange Breed

Reviewers are definitely a breed on their own. Why is that? Because they need to take a critical look at a text and at the same time accept other people’s choices, even if they do not agree with them.

How do they do that? Common sense.

Is that easy? Um … more or less.

“Don’t Touch”

When reviewing, practice does not lead to perfection, but at least it teaches us to make some more conscious and mature decisions, such a bit of detachment. Yes, it is difficult for the proofreader or proof reader to understand/accept that he does not necessarily have to tinker with everything (show that is doing something and that the service is justified, while making sure it is not a dog and pony show). But also if you do not fiddle with anything you should be wary that there is something wrong (there will always be mistakes!). This middle ground is what embeds everything and sometimes ends up leaving authors/translators angry!

Let sleeping dogs lie (or in Doubt, Don’t Do Anything)

But let’s calm down, people! After a few years of experience, I basically learned that: whenever it is optional, leave it as it is; if you want to include some suggestion that you consider relevant, a pencil post (or comment) does not hurt anyone, but when there is ERROR … there you can use the red Stabilo with utter joy!

Proofreader or proof reader – a critical role (pun intended!)

Finally, we need to keep in mind that every professional has his role in the editorial process, which seems obvious, but in practice it is not quite so. The reviewer is the first reader of a text. A more critical reader, a kind of filter for the public. It is he who will choose words, adjust phrases, correct vices of language, finally, leave the fluid text in the native language of the common reader.

A careful review, that’s what’s needed.

“Wait”

In a (very) general way, the proofreader or proof reader’s job is to correct spelling and grammatical errors.

Oh, if only that… * deep sigh *

Now, reviewing includes much more than that: checking for cohesion and coherence, eliminating lingering traits of the foreign language, ambiguities, repetitions and vices of language, analysing the layout of the elements on the page (if there is no hole or overflow), checking the weights of the titles and pagination, beat the summary with the kernel, hit the font size, etc.

Phew!

See, people? It is not just switching ‘There’ to ‘Their’, no!

“Watch me”: You’d think that’s all there is to it

And it is important to mention that the works cited above, most of the time, are divided into stages: preparation (copydesk), first review, second review, re-reading and quality control. Not all of them are contemplated in the process, either for lack of budget or term, which makes it impossible to divide the auditor’s role exactly in each one.

Every Dog Has his Day (any chance of a job for me?)

The field of activity of the proofreader or proof reader is extensive: publishers (books in general, magazines, newspapers, educational material), advertising agencies, universities, schools, translation agencies, publishing companies, graphics, etc.

Literary publishers (proofreader or proof reader’s dream: 9 out of 10 reviewers) usually do not have internal staff. Usually, the work is outsourced, through the contracting of freelancers. In publishing houses working with textbooks, it is very common to have a contracted team working internally.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Hope this gets this strange breed better understood.

Are there any other proofreaders out there that would like to add something? Please feel free to share your thoughts.

The Beginning & Remember Why You Started

Talking about translation and the beginning of a translation business is the easiest and most difficult thing for me to do. Easier because it is one of my favourite subjects (please don’t judge 😊) and harder, because there are so many things to talk about, still so many things to experience that I barely know where to start.

So let’s start with … the beginning:

Do you need to train in translation to become a translator?

I have been participating in groups, forums, email lists about the translation industry for many years and there have always been people wanting to join the career, but having doubts about how to go about it. The main one being always – ”Do I need to train in translation to become a translator?”. Well, let’s face it, if we are only talking about the practicality of things, you simply don’t.

Translation Is Not a Regulated Profession

Regardless of all the controversies in this regard, translation is not a regulated profession, like so many others in which you need a degree in the field to be a translator. Whoever is in the translation market knows that regulating the translation industry between so many different languages would be somewhat difficult. But that’s another matter, right?

Translator as a Choice or as a Change of Career

For this very reason, starting a career as a translator is very particular. There are translators (yours truly) who knew very soon that they wanted to be a translator. I remember I was about 12 years old and I loved studying English and Spanish. When I was 15, my dad was posted as an expatriate in (English-speaking) Nigeria, so languages were always something very present in my life. And so just a few years later, I decided I would become a translator (obviously, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but here I was).

Many Reasons as to Why You Want to Be a Translator

There are also those who come across translation during their career. Many of these translators already have another profession and, for some reason, decide to translate materials from their area of expertise (or not).

Prepare Yourself for a Smooth Ride and Being Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The possibilities are many and very specific to each translator. It is likely that for every translator to whom you ask the following question: “How did you get started in the profession?” you could well receive a different or a similar answer, but probably none will be exactly the same.

The most important thing is to know that, regardless of how we started in the profession, there are some basic things we should know. We should know about the market, about values, about the differences between freelancer vs. internal translator, technical, literary, sworn translation, about CAT tools, about terminology, about corpora, about a myriad of things. That is, we have to prepare ourselves not only in the matter of professional practice, but also on everything that involves our profession so that the beginning in the profession is both smooth and promising.

Enjoy it

However and whenever you start, and for whatever reason you decided to become a translator, my advice is simple: don’t forget to enjoy it. Just like any other business, there might be many pitfalls, but just like you enjoyed the beginning, you should and enjoy the end and the continuation in between.

Translation work – R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Aretha Franklin-Translation work need some respect

Find out what it means to me

I have a lot of translation work to do.

It’s Easter today and my kids are home, not at school. After hours of playing on their Ipad, they are getting bored and suddenly feel that I should become their personal entertainer.

As a result, it looks like my productivity is going down the drain. Sound familiar? Time to gain some respect for my work and have my job as a translator taken seriously.

A Little Respect (Just a Little Bit)

Many people complain that the work of a translator is not recognised or valued by clients and the labour market, and that we are increasingly underestimated mainly when it comes to values. However, we barely realise that it is equally important to educate those who spend the most time with us i.e our family.

When doing translation work, let’s agree that no one deserves to hear from relatives things like “But you do not work!” Or “You simply stay on your computer all day!”. Not to mention having to deal with gatherings of all sorts, whenever it seems that everyone has decided to meet and share party dips and you have a very tight deadline. And you have to fence the occasional “When will you stop what you’re doing and have some fun for once? This can wait” Or even worse – ”When will you get a real job?”. Well, here are some tips for you to impose your chosen profession and get rid of those unpleasant questions.

Aretha Franklin-Freelancers working from home also need some respect

R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the Concept

Do people know and/or realise what you do when you do translation work? If not, explain it to them. You are a translator, not a language teacher, a walking dictionary or a living grammar book, for crying out loud. You may be a language specialist, but it is important to make people understand what you translate, and while translation – didactic and linguistic – may complement each other, they are different activities that require different skills.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T for your translation work

People who live with you need to understand that your home is your place of work. If you have decided to turn one of the bedrooms of your house into a home-office, please state that there must be silence during a certain period of the day, with as few interruptions as possible. If necessary, customise a beautiful “I’m working” sign and hang it on your now-office door. For the worst case scenarios, go for a “Do not disturb” sign and work happily in your little corner.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the fruit of your work

As a translator and a freelancer, you are a provider for your family. Don’t think otherwise or let people think otherwise. So when your favourite aunty wants to share a nostalgic moment with you, or just chat, show them that your translation work is a money tree in your household. Whenever or wherever you practise, you need to work to pay off your debts. Combine to interact with them at lunchtime, tea at five o’clock, or any other appropriate time, but not during work hours.

Translation work – Keep on tryin’ (just a little bit)

As translators, we face a daily struggle to win new clients, gain values ​​that match our efforts, stand out in the midst of the job market, be recognised as a serious category (not just as a “complementary” profession) and to impose a set of limits that determine our professional well-being. So my advice is this – If you cannot organise a work-at-home routine, you will not have the necessary structure to process these activities.

Imposing limits is a necessity. Other people might know little of our profession, and it is up to us to establish certain parameters. Just as you had to remind this nice customer of yours who called you two or three times during the night that your time zone is different from theirs, you should teach whoever shares the same roof with you that there are working hours in your business.

All I’m askin’
Is for a little respect when you get home (just a little bit)

So kids, whether you’re home or coming back from school, after I have taken care of your tea, no loud music, no unnecessary interruptions, no sudden intrusions.

I’m working. OK?

After all, Aretha taught us: Respect is needed.

Translation Project Manager – a Busy Bee

translation project manager is a busy bee

What a Translation Project Manager does

Much is said of the Translation Project Manager (the so-called PM) as the person who has control over everything that is happening inside a translation agency. It is believed that he or she is responsible for every aspect of the translation project, ranging from selecting the right translator to the translator’s payment date. The fact of the matter is that – more often than not – the person behind the PM position is not directly involved in all processes until delivery to the end client. As a matter of fact, many other people participate and have an even more determining role than the individual in charge of managing the project. Still, you’ll find out that your PM is a busy bee.

So Many Bits and Bobs Before a Translation Starts

As translators, when we receive a translation request from a PM, we usually do not think of everything that happened back then until our name is chosen for that particular project. We do not think about the negotiations that had to take place between the customer and the agency, all the bits and pieces that were put in place before the actual project went through.

In an ideal world, the PM Would Have His Say Over the Value of a Translation

For that client to have reached the agency, he had to be contacted by the agency’s sales man or had to contact the translation agency. Then, a negotiation of value ​​(with the customer not always thinking that the translation is worth the price mentioned) and terms too (the customer sometimes thinking it can be done in a shorter time) had to take place.

It is only after that that the project reaches the PM. You might think that, at the stage, it is the PM who determines the value of a translation. This is hardly the case. Usually, this is​​ determined by the owner of the agency and, in some cases, with margins negotiated by the sales representative. There are rare cases where the PM has control over the amount to be paid for a translation.

In an ideal agency, the PM would work with the sales department to determine the value of each text according to its linguistic complexity and layout, timing, and other relevant factors. However, most agencies work with closed – non-negotiable – values, with some difference in value for shorter deadlines (the so-called “emergency rate”).

Translation Agency Owner Has the Final Word

In addition, you might think that it is the PM who determines a price per word for the translator. Again, the owner of the agency intervenes. The PM may be able to negotiate an increase in tariffs, but the final word is never his.

Regarding the choice of the translator for a project, it is true that the decision is almost entirely the PM’s. It is the PM who decides which translator to allocate for a given job. However, other factors may influence their decision, such as negotiated discounts with the client (which will consequently change the value of the translator), customer choice, among others.

Translator Reputation – Yet critical – Is Just the Beginning

The translator’s reputation in terms of quality, timely delivery and specialty in the subject are fundamental aspects when making the decision. Even so, a PM may decide to choose another translator for different reasons. Many agencies prefer to work with the same translator for a particular client (using that old maxim that “do not mess with a winning team”). Many translators are experts in the subject, but won’t accept the fee paid by the agency and the PM may not always interfere in this process.

An Organised PM Will Keep All the Good Resumes Handy

Another misconception is about selecting new translators. The difficulty of getting an answer (be it positive or negative) from an agency is not always related to the PM’s lack of interest in hiring new talent for his agency. Often, the PM might receive a CV from another translator that fits the agency’s needs perfectly at that time; or that project did not go through; or the PM is involved in another project with a higher priority. An organised PM will keep the resumes sent so that they can contact the translators when the time comes. When I used to apply to translation agencies, I submitted resumes and sometimes would receive an immediate response, but more often than not, I would receive an answer months after I sent my resume to agencies.

“Hi, Honey, I’m home!”

Are you kidding me? There is still Review, DTP, Comments, possible Crisis to manage

Anyway, let’s get back to that translation project of ours. You think it ends here? Not at all! After delivery by the translator comes the review phase, layout (if applicable) and delivery to the customer. And after all that is done, you still have to wait to see if the customer has any comments, suggestions or criticism about the work delivered. It is up to the PM to receive the client’s feedback and pass it on to the translator and/or reviewer, as the case may be, for future adjustments. Then, it might be necessary for the PM to manage a possible crisis (when the translator does not deliver the translation in time or deliver later than what was agreed, when the client does not approve the translation or when the client does not pay, just to name a few).

PMs Need to Be Flexible

What freelance translators need to understand is that the PM function requires much more than simple language knowledge. The PM needs, first of all, to be flexible, to know how to solve problems quickly and to deal with the various human elements involved in a translation project. Just as we translators might sometimes complain when a client is insistently asking if the contracted project is ready, the PM also finds it inconvenient for translators to ask about their submitted CVs, deadlines for payment, ask for an advance, etc.

The PM is a Busy bee – Take Care of Your PM

So next time you do not receive a response straight away to a resume you’ve submitted, instead of thinking that it has ended up in the bin, think about all the other tasks that the Translation Project Manager has to perform during the day. Write, but use your good judgement to know when and how to write. After all, the PM is a busy bee. If you remember that, you’ll go a long way with your Translation project Manager.

Natural Born (Dubbing) Translators

Woody Harrelson from Natural Born Killers to illustrate dubbing

Dubbing for the French Market

Dubbing – Netflix: “I thought a bond developed between us!”*

For many years, dubbing has been part of the lives of many French moviegoers. Today it remains very strong and present in national TV stations sometimes, and in other vehicles such as Netflix, which already has conquered thousands of fans around the world. There is a lot to be said about this segment that involves a large chain of professionals, but first, I believe that a good way to introduce this theme is to give a brief definition of dubbing. There are many definitions, but for more didactic purposes, we can say that it is the process in which the original dialogues of a production are re-recorded with dialogues spoken in the target language.

Dubbing – ”I don’t think I’m gonna make it. I feel so cold.”*

However, this transposition from one language to another does not happen magically, let alone in as a simple way as we can imagine. In fact, in addition to several other professionals working in dubbing studios, there is a once special character responsible for translating/adapting the lines of the most varied audiovisual productions into our language and creating a script for the voice actors to interpret: the translator responsible for dubbing. I like to say that such translator is a kind of storyteller, because it is his duty to try to keep the tone and the essence present in the original version of the audiovisual product is in charge of translating. He should try to capture the language style of the characters and carry out this transposition into French in the best possible way.

Dubbing translator – ”You’re gonna make it, Mal. Get mad.”*

This translation segment, which until now was relatively unknown by the general public – better known now because of DVDs, Blu-rays and YouTube videos containing subtitles – is part of audiovisual translation, which also includes translation for subtitles (subtitling), voiceover and audio description (for the visually impaired). However, the translator is only one of the agents of a long chain. In addition to it, there are dubbing directors and voice actors, professionals who will give life and voice to the text produced by the translator and that will give their personal and artistic touch at the time of the recording. Another important and noteworthy feature is that the translators of this branch are freelancers and no longer act within dubbing studios.

Woody Harrelson lookalike in Natural born killers

A Work File, a Video and a Script –  “You make every day feel like kindergarten.”*

Now, in a little more technical aspects, the text translated by the translator is done in Microsoft Word, and does not require the use of more specific software such as Subtitle Workshop and Horse. In addition to the file in which he will translate, he receives the video he is translating and, in most cases, a script with the transcriptions of the speeches in the source language (English, French, Spanish…). These three elements are what I like to call the translator’s tripod, and with them in hand, the translator is ready to do his work.

Preparation for Dubbing – “The whole world’s comin’ to an end, Mal!’*

The preparation of a good translation for dubbing is very complex and there are countless factors that must be taken into account to perform it with mastery.

Obviously, any specific terms of an area of expertise, such as medicine or law, must be properly researched and translated correctly, and the translator can never lose sight of the fact that the text he is translating/adapting must be natural and fluid in our language, since he will be performed in the studio. In addition, there are several signs that need to be present in the translated script: the buzz of a scene in a restaurant or a stadium, for example, and the reactions performed by the characters, such as a laugh, a sigh or crying. On top of that, the translator must assess the length of the speech, that is, see if the translated lines are too big or too short to adjust to the moves made by the characters’ mouth and try to combine this with correct lip synchronism.

Dubbing Industry – “I realized my true calling in life.”*

Like other translation modalities, it is necessary to prepare to enter this market that lacks trained professionals and understand how the French version works. Our dubbing is considered one of the best in the world and we need more and more translators who are aware of their work and who are looking to excel in this job.

* Quotes from Natural Born Killers, a 1994 film by Oliver Stone

Work Translation with Agencies, Companies, LSPs – neither fish nor fowl

Work Translation between Agencies, LSPs and translators

Prioritising Clients You Are Best Suited With

One of the main questions professional translators ask is: Should I work translation for direct clients or translation agencies? Undoubtedly, working for direct clients is more profitable, but it can often mean having to perform more tasks outside the scope of the translation itself: budget, file preparation, DTP (layout and formatting), final review, and more. Agencies pay less, but they take care of all of the collateral tasks of the project, and the translator can focus on his greatest talent: translating. In both situations, there are pros and cons, and it is up to each professional to prioritise the type of client they are best suited to work with. To do so, we must understand who our customers are, their role in the supply chain within the translation market and where we, as linguistic providers, position ourselves in that chain.

Translation Agencies – What are They?

There are two main types of clients: direct customers and translation agencies. Direct clients are individuals or companies that hire independent professionals or translation agencies for translation projects. Translation agencies can be global companies that operate in multiple languages ​​and have offices in several countries OR small translation agencies that work translation with a limited number of languages ​​and provide services to both direct clients and global agencies.

What on earth? Translation agencies working for other translation agencies?

But how so? Translation agencies working with translation agencies? Sounds complicated? Well, not so much. As a matter-of-fact, small agencies, besides being clients of independent translators, are also linguistic providers for direct clients and global agencies, placing them in two market positions: as agencies and LSPs.

Translation Agencies Supply Bigger Fish

Small translation agencies are structured to suit both direct customers and global translation agencies. Direct clients are supplied with all the items pertaining to the translation project (from a detailed budget to the finished product, be it a website, a subtitled video or a simple document), since they have a diverse portfolio of collaborators taking care of translation, revision, editing, subtitling, among others. For global translation agencies, these companies provide what we call TEP (translation, editing, proofreading), which is nothing more than a revised and verified translation in its final format: three process steps guaranteed by a single supplier, in addition to a customised project management infrastructure.

Big Translation Agencies Rely on Smaller Fish for Local Translators

What is the advantage for global agencies in working with small translation service providers? While global agencies have many independent translation and proofreading professionals in their workflows, hiring them as translators, proofreaders, quality control specialists, project leaders and many other functions, they also rely on the small translation agencies based in the countries where the contracted target language is spoken.

Small Agencies Assist in the Translation Process

The role of these small businesses as LSPs is not only to provide TEP, but also to provide infrastructure and workflow support, especially in large accounts projects, for which it is difficult to get as many resources with the specific account profile and manage quality control efficiency at the same time. Small translation agencies then act as partners for global agencies, assisting the translation process, supplying revision teams, controlling quality to apply LQAs (language quality assurance), manage glossaries, and act as an intermediary between client and translators, etc., and relying on a team of project managers specifically dedicated to these accounts.

Working With Freelancers – Easier on the Wallet

But for small agencies, is it advantageous to have these customers? If the global agency pays a fair price for such an important and complex partnership, that’s fine. As we know, in France, legal entities are submitted to a large tax and health insurance burden. That makes it very complex for companies to hire employees to perform some of the functions that require a greater commitment to work translation. Working with independent professionals (or freelancers) is a way out, but as these professionals have numerous clients, it becomes complicated to require a quasi-exclusive commitment from them if they have other fish to fry.

Working With the Biggest Translation Agencies to Be Better Trained

Still, it is advantageous to work translation with global agencies, not only for turnover, but also for the opportunity to learn more about the latest tools and trends in the marketplace. Depending on the partnership that translation agencies have with global agencies, their employees are trained, deal with their direct clients on some tasks, and even travel to other countries to test products and perform specific projects. On the other hand, it may be difficult for the small business to handle the volumes of this type of customer, since maintaining a portfolio of available employees can be challenging. And, in general, global agencies specify minimum weekly contract volumes, so you have to prepare well to combine time and quality.

Smaller translation agencies – a Better Understanding of Freelance Translators

For the independent translator, having a small translation agency as a client is a way for them to work translation with professionals who could potentially understand the role of translators and the difficulties they encounter with specific projects. It is the chance to work with those who already went through these difficulties and probably already have solutions for some of them. The ultimate goal being: keep the customer happy.

We Are All in the Same Boat

The truth of the matter is: we are all in the same boat. So we all need – translators, proofreaders, agencies – to leave prejudices aside and try to maintain a healthy relationship, always, communicating as much as we can about the role of each party in this relationship and tariffs, the real taboo between us. Keep in mind that our goals are the same, so if we have a good relationship, we all profit, both in revenue and in knowledge. To reach this point, it is necessary to think about which role each party play in the translation industry and, rather than competing, trying to improve our partnerships.

Translator “à la carte”

Healthy eating with French breakfast

Healthy eating for freelance translators

Translating from home and eating well

You are a freelance translator and you’re working from home? On a long assignment with a tight deadline? Then it’s lunch and you don’t have a lot of time on your hands. That’s when you start taking shorcuts and making bad food choices. Yet, Healthy eating should be part of your routine as translators.

Here’s why:

Well, healthy food can help in:

  • Prevention and treatment of diseases
  • Good performance in sports and physical activity
  • Controlling body weight
  • Preventing allergies and food intolerance
  • Reducing the risk factors for chronic diseases.

Food is also an important part of the treatment of diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemias, heart diseases, kidney diseases, liver diseases, etc. Over the years, the body undergoes transformations. In addition, sedentarism has become a constant in people’s lives, mainly adults and the elderly.

How to maintain a healthy diet these days, especially you spend days translating indoors?

Here are some tips to get a healthy life as a translator:

  • Organise meal times: Start with the first meal as soon as you wake up and try to organise them every 3 hours. By scheduling routines, you will feel hungry at normal hours, thus avoiding possible cravings or fast periods.
  • Get your phone to wake you up at mealtime. When you get involved with work, you often forget about time, and suddenly, the day is over and you’ve just had one meal.
  • Plan the next day’s meals the night before. This minimises the possibility of nibbling for lack of ideas of ​​what to eat or lack of healthy eating options.
  • Always plan all meals for the week, especially if you cook and have lunch and dinner at home. Go to the grocery store with your weekly shopping list and buy only what you need. The more you anticipate your grocery shopping, the less temptation you will have at home. Moreover, you are not running the risk of running out of anything to prepare and end up buying some fast food.
  • Hydrate !!!! Water is critical to the proper functioning of the brain, so we work better when we are hydrated. The recommended water is 0.045 ml x kg (e.g. a person weighing 65 kg should drink 2.9 litres of water per day). This recommendation may include water and teas distributed throughout the day.
  • Beware of carbohydrates! By now, you should be fed up of hearing this. Yet, the ingestion of bread and flour (pasta) is very high in freelancers’ diet plan, because access is easy, and it is a fast and convenient food to prepare.
  • Practice physical activity regularly. Regular exercise helps in maintaining sleep. When sleep occurs on a regular basis, we are more likely to maintain weight.
  • Sleep and wake up always at regular times and at hours that suit a normal work routine at the office. Waking up around 7 am and sleeping around 10 pm creates the right hormone release overnight, so you have a more productive day.
  • Give preference and attention to natural foods. Foods that nature offers us are always healthy and should certainly be prioritised in any healthy eating plan. They are free of preservatives, colourants, flavourings, flavour enhancers, etc., which the food industry uses to produce most of the food.

Your body is your “home”

Use food as your source of nutrition and energy. Remember that your body is your main “home” and that if it is not well cared for and well treated, it will become more difficult to perform routine tasks. Our body is our greatest asset! We are not talking about being thin and beauty standards. We are talking about HEALTH and being more productive as a freelancer because of it. We want healthier bodies to live healthier and happier lives!

As you can see, a healthy eating habit coupled with an active life is fundamental for our health, especially for us translators, because we have such a sedentary professional life!

Translator Productivity – Why haven’t you taken care of this yet?

translator's productivity - a man sleeping

What is your Translator Productivity IQ?

Let’s talk a bit about translator productivity, organisation and quality of life.

You have a small translation job that, from your experience, should not take more than 2 hours, with a 5 day deadline. When would you start the project?

I’ll start right away unless….

If your answer is: “Right away. However, I will stop whenever there is a message notification on Facebook or I get a text message. After all, there is still plenty of time OR I know the subject by heart. Anyway, I have no reason to worry.”

If this is your answer. You’re not alone.

Got plenty of time, right?

If your answer was: “On the morning of the deadline, I open the file and start translating. I do not want to deliver the project to the customer too soon in advance. Translation is not like Domino Pizza. The customer will not value my work if I deliver too fast. And they’ll think it was too easy to do.”

Well, you’d be surprised to know that many translators and other freelancers think just like that. Again, you’re not alone. Anyway, keep reading, it’s getting interesting.

I’ll Start Translating Immediately and Deliver ASAP

You answered that you would start the translation immediately and deliver the very same day? Then you are part of a very disciplined minority. Yet, even though you are in that category, keep on reading – I have some tips for you too.

Why do we procrastinate? You know you have something to do. You know you have a deadline. You have a rough idea of ​​how long the translation project will take. Yet, you’ll assume a casual attitude. You’re calm. “It’s all right, I have everything under control”. And the reason for this is simple: you do not have an organised routine and you often lose focus.

Having an Organised Routine Is Crucial

As a matter of fact, having an organised routine is crucial so that you are in control not only of your work, but of your time. I know, I know. You already knew that.

The problem is to put the organisation into practice, to get used to having a calendar (and to use it!). To have a strategy in place so as to set priorities and even to decide what does not need your attention and should be left behind. Because yes, there are things you can stop doing, which will not have a negative impact on your life.

During my 25+ year as a freelance translator, I had to learn how to organise myself in order to respond to my customers’ requests, the inherent needs of our work, how to prospect new clients, keep up to date and, above all, pay attention to friends and family.

Yet, I admit it is not easy to organise and keep my focus, but it is less difficult than you can imagine.

Getting organised is a learning process

Something very important that you need to know: no one gets organised from day one, or by just reading about it or just taking a course. Organisation is learning and building habits. It is a slow process, but always subject to improvement. The definition I like best, taken from some of the many books and articles I have read, is: organisation is a process of reduction and selection. You reduce the number of events that really need your attention and select the ones that should get your attention first. There are many tools to help you with this process. Here are some tips for anyone who wants to start getting organised. Simple but very efficient tips.

Find Out Where Your Time’s Wasting

The first is: find out what you spend your time on. You will certainly be surprised to find that you waste a lot of your time in front of your computer with things that are not part of your work routine. You can do this with paper and pen or install some software that captures which programmes, websites and other activities are performed on the computer and for how long. If you use Mac, my suggestion is timing. For PC, Toggl is a good option. Install one of these tools on your computer and use it for a week. You will probably find that social networks, messengers, and emails are the most time-consuming villains that steal time from professional freelancers. You may be thinking: but I need to “take some time off a little” to be more productive, have an escape valve… The problem is that this valve needs to be well regulated and should only be open at the right times. In my case, the ideal is when this valve is somewhere else, away from my computer. A walk, a conversation with some friends, a series on TV. Anything that makes you get up from your chair and move around can improve not only your translator productivity but also your health.

Set Your Priorities Right

The second tip is about setting priorities. One of the most basic and practical tools for those who want to organise themselves is the Eisenhower Matrix. Credited to the general and former US President Dwight Eisenhower, who needed to make quick decisions during World War II, this tool will help you define where to put your efforts, what to delegate, what to schedule and what not to do next. Click on the previous link to find out how to use this tool or start organising your work day.

Set Up a Workflow

Another way to organise yourself is to develop workflows. Document the sequence of steps you perform to work efficiently in a list. Even for those jobs you’re doing with your eyes closed, writing a workflow can help you realise where you are wasting time and what could improve. In addition, you may also find out an opportunity to automate something in your process. Don’t forget: your computer should work for you, not the other way around.

Get Some Sleep for Crying out loud

A very important tip I ignored for a long time: sleep well. It is almost impossible to stay focused and be organised if you do not give your brain the rest it needs. Develop a routine to relax and recuperate for the next day. Always sleeping at the same time makes your body better prepared and makes it easier to go to sleep. What I did when I started to implement this routine was, I used the alarm clock in reverse: I would set up my phone to trigger an alarm at 10:30 p.m. As soon as the alarm would trigger, I was getting ready to go to sleep. It did not take long for this to become my routine. Of course, as they say out there: there’s an app for that! And you can use them to monitor and better understand your sleep. I currently use Sleep as Android, which offers 14 days of free trial.

To conclude, 3 quick tips for you:

  • Emails are very important, but they can also consume a lot of your time. To stay focused, turn off notifications and set a specific time to deal with them. As for emails that you need to respond to quickly, create notifications using filters.
  • If you Gmail, learn how to use filters.
  • Find what kind of music improves your translator productivity. I use Focus@will, which uses neuroscience and really works for me.

In conclusion, there are many tools and methods that promise to improve your productivity and organisation. There is no one method that works for everyone and you may find that one works well for you while another does not The ideal is to test and find out what works for you.

After all, organisation and productivity are a personal thing.