Trial and tribulations of a translator – some thoughts

Starting a new business is like Walking on thin ice

I started Extra Speech in 1995 while I was a student in Portsmouth, in the UK.

I had that famous, you know, “aha moment”. I had all the images in my head about what the business would be like and I knew that is what I wanted to do.

For me, the business made sense. I had that idea to start a translation business because I had a passion for languages and cultures. Also, I had an interest in business. Similarly, I wanted to have control over shaping my future and being able to make a difference in the world.

Consequently, within a few months, I did the legal paperwork to officially start my business. And so, in 1995, I was in business as an English to French Freelance translator.

In the early days, I started working for a small translation agency, which was fun and interesting, and challenging too. At the time, I was mostly translating user guides and manuals, marketing and sales literature, and interpreting.

Yet, the vision I had already for my business was not just translating. In addition, I wanted to help companies by improving their image and the perception of their product via translation.

As of today, that vision still remains, and I can safely say that I’m as excited about the business today as I was back then in 1995. Most importantly, I’m still helping clients succeed overseas and here at home.

Translation and work ethics

The code of ethics for translators contains all kinds of values: confidentiality, respect, dignity, privacy, accuracy to name a few.

All the items on the code of ethics are equally important. They really set the foundation for the training that soon to be translators and interpreters need, to be effective. Yet, one of the three that standout is translating accurately.

Knowing that translators, when they are dealing with different cultures, have to still convey the meaning of what is being said and translate everything that is being said.

On top of that, they have to keep everything confidential.

Moreover, they also have to keep an impartial attitude when they are translating and remain neutral.

This applies two interpreters as well.

That is important because sometimes non-English speakers might ask an interpreter for advice such as ‘What would you do? Would you have this procedure done?’ and the interpreters are in a powerful position because they speak multiple languages and they understand both cultures. Yet, they have to remain impartial in that scenario.

Having that code of ethics is really important as a foundation.

There was a study recently that just came out talking about the challenges of working with an untrained interpreter and a trained interpreter.

It was really interesting. They quantified the impact of errors that were made by highly trained interpreters compared to errors that were made by less trained or untrained interpreters. What they found is that for interpreters who had very little or no training – volunteers for example in a hospital – that over 20% of the mistakes that those interpreters made could have had a negative impact on the patient.

On the other hand, on the errors that the highly trained interpreters made, only 2% of those errors were likely to have a negative or harmful impact on the patient.

Furthermore, they found that the highly trained interpreters made many fewer mistakes, so that the total impact of training was very obvious.

Examples of difficult translations

Translation case study 1

I had a case that I had found really difficult, which involved a human resources manager of a local manufacturing company. She requested a price quotation for translating their entire human resources and safety procedures.

After they’ve received a quote about how much that would cost them, the human resources manager said that the price was higher than she had budgeted. And why couldn’t you just translate the last page of the manual? Which was sort of the knowledgement of receipt and understanding, just a sign off page.

Well, this was a challenge because to be asked to translate just the knowledgement and understanding page vs. the entire training and safety manual is a little disturbing. When clients are looking to get something translated, it is really thinking about who the audience is and how it is going to be used. At the end of the day, though, I could help this customer. I advised her to reduce the amount of text to be translated so as to budget for translations while still making sure that employees were safe in the workplace.

The question being, is there anything that I can do to make the document more internationally friendly? If it it is a training manual or an instruction manual, perhaps some of the lengthy text could be replaced by some diagrams or some charts so that makes it less wordy to translate? So it is more cost effective to translate that way. There are different strategies that I can work with clients to make a document easily translatable so that the message is getting across accurately and on budget.

Translation case study 2

Another situation involved a doctor who had a patient.

The patient said he couldn’t speak English. Yet, the doctor said, “Yes, you can speak English. You’re just sort of faking it.”

The client had requested an interpreter for this patient. It was documented in the system that the patient had a French language limitation and needed an interpreter. When the appointment was scheduled, I arrived early for the appointment. Yet, surprisingly, the meeting was already taking place. Everyone had got a little ahead of schedule.

They were already meeting. Therefore when I went into the room and was told that I wasn’t needed. Yet, when I would look at the patient, his body language clearly showed that he didn’t understand what was going on. The purpose of this appointment was – as a matter of fact – a pre-surgery consult – going over what was going to happen with the surgery. How to prepare for surgery, the usual – not to eat anything, not to drink anything within a certain amount of time. Because there would be serious complications that could result if the protocol is not followed.

Therefore when I realised that the patient didn’t speak French, I intervened with the provider. He was very insistent that the patient did in fact speak French. There was obviously a cultural competency of cultural awareness that was lacking. Surprisingly, the provider was an immigrant who was from a non-French-speaking country.

Nevertheless, I stepped more in the role, in this case, of an advocate, to be able to make sure that the patient was able to get the care needed. Yet, the provider was still again insisting on just going forward. He said I could leave and go help someone else. Before then, I – as a matter of fact – verified, asking direct questions to the patient, ‘do you understand?’ and the patient said, ‘No, I do not understand.’

I then politely went out of the room and was able to come back in with a supervisor. This in some way resolved the situation. The provider later worked with the supervisor. They got additional training and information about how to be you culturally appropriate and culturally sensitive and the importance of being able to accurately communicate.

That was a very complex situation.

The importance for the translator or the interpreter of maintaining objectivity

It is very important to maintain objectivity, to maintain both parties or all participants in an interpreting session, to trust that the interpreter is going to be impartial.

However, if the outcome is being jeopardised at some point, the interpreter then is allowed to advocate or intervene in a way that can get things back on track. The next case demonstrates that, where confidentiality is still being protected, I was able to intervene indirectly but very effectively to save a situation that was in jeopardy.

A “delicate” interpreting situation

I had interpreted for a number of appointments for a patient who had previously been in a gang.

Yes, you heard me – A gang.

Through the course of some previous appointments I had shared, it was interpreted that he had taken illegal drugs in the past. So during this particular appointment on that day, the provider needed to find out if the patient had taken drugs previously because that would hinder the treatment plan going forward for this other scenarios that he was dealing with.

It could have been dangerous.

And in fact, if he had taken illegal drugs before, then this new treatment plan would be very detrimental to his health.

So when interpreting, the provider said, ‘Have you taken any drugs previously?’ and the patient very quickly said matter-of-factly ’No, I didn’t’.

Of course, I am interpreting everything that is being said. Yet, in my mind, I’m thinking, oh my goodness, I know that is not accurate.

Now, I have the dilemma of knowing this information that is confidential. Yet, if I don’t share it, then what is going to happen to the patient’s health?

So again, I try and act very strategically and carefully, then realised: Okay, in order to not divulge confidentiality, I can as the interpreter, ask the provider to ask the question again and to explain the reasoning behind the question.

So the provider asked the question again, ‘Have you taken any drugs previously?’ and then why that was important and fortunately, the patient said this time, ’Well yes, to be honest, I have.

Yet, in my mind, I’m thinking, oh my goodness, I know that is not accurate. Now, I have the dilemma of knowing this information that is confidential. Yet, if I don’t share it, then what is going to happen to the patient’s health?

So again, I try and act very strategically and carefully, then realised: Okay, in order to not divulge confidentiality, I can as the interpreter, ask the provider to ask the question again and to explain the reasoning behind the question.

So the provider asked the question again, ‘Have you taken any drugs previously?’ and then why that was important and fortunately, the patient said this time, ’Well yes, to be honest, I have.

So they were able to find a new course of treatment for him. And his confidentiality was preserved.

Also, they didn’t report him. Everything went well. It could easily have gone off-track.

To conclude, I would say there is a very ethical tight. What is important for people to realise is that you can be bilingual, you can even be bicultural. Yet, it doesn’t mean that you can be an effective interpreter. So to make an interpreter effective, you have to have a lot of training.

After all, being bilingual and bicultural doesn’t mean that you are a good interpreter.

Translation

The same is true also on the translation side. An interpreter is someone who focuses on the spoken language and verbally and this is done by telephone by video, face-to-face, or in person. On the other side, there is document translation. Translators tend to focus on written words, working in their homes, all over the world.

It is not contextual.

And they also have a bit more time to find the exact words. Translators have to have training in the skills to be able to translate accurately, or the message can be completely missed.

Translation for Businesses

Whenever an organisation has language or cultural obstacles to overcome, they have a choice to make. If they decide to tackle those issues head-on, then they are going to have an opportunity to reduce costs, reduce risk and have better outcomes.

A wonderful study came out recently that – as a matter of fact – looked at CEOs from global companies. The study asked them, ‘Why do you think you are losing business opportunities overseas?’ or ‘How have you lost these contracts overseas?’ One of the things that they say was a primary reason, 49% of the time, the CEOs said that they lost big international deals because they did not have the language and cultural competence in that organisation. 85% of them said that they would have greater revenues, greater market share and increased profits if they had the translation resources.

In conclusion, it shows the importance of being culturally aware and culturally sensitive in business.

Translation – It’s everywhere you Wanna be

translate your way into international markets

Many businesses would like to expand their business in foreign countries.

No wonder why. There are many benefits to this:

Access to new markets

For example, 96 percent of the world’s customers are outside of the US. For many companies, expanding their business overseas offer them a possibility to conquer new territories and reach more prospects. As such, they can increase their sales.

New Skills for the Business

First of all, when going overseas, companies get to employ people with new skills. These can translate into specific advantages – increased productivity, language skills, etc.

Besides, new talents can help improve innovation. This explains why – often – foreign markets which welcome entrepreneurs and skilled workers benefit from a more successful environment for new companies.

Competitive Advantage 

Likewise, businesses that decide to expand internationally take advantage of a strong competitive advantage over the competition. For example, unlike your competitors, if you decide to develop your services in a market where your competitors do not operate just yet, you benefit from being the first one on that market. As a result, you get the opportunity to build a solid brand awareness with your clients before any of your competitors. On top of that, your expansion in markets overseas can help you gain access to new technologies.

For Your Diversification

Many businesses expand overseas to diversify, so they can protect themselves against unforeseen circumstances. For example, companies that operate internationally may compensate negative growth in one country by being more successful in another country. Moreover, businesses can take advantage of international markets to introduce specific products and services.

New Opportunities for Investment

Last but not least, as an international company, do not overlook the opportunities that operating internationally could bring you in terms of investments. For example, a lot of businesses can build new important connections that they may not have on their national markets, just by operating internationally. For instance, some nations offer interesting incentives to businesses looking to invest in the countries.


Despite all those benefits, their website is not yet translated into any language at all, let alone in French.

Did you know that French is spoken on five continents by more than 200 million people in 43 countries?

With your website into French, you will be more effective. You’ll reach and persuade more people to do business with you. It will facilitate your success with your prospects/partners/customers who speak French, expand your customer base and improve your profits.

Just imagine the number of potential customers you would be able to reach!

Here at Extra Speech, I’m an English into French translator and I am offering you to professionally translate your website into French.

And you know what? I know what I’m doing – I’ve been translating for clients just like you for more than 25 years.

Want to talk about it? Contact me.

Translation – Buy It, Sell It, Love It

become more visible in France

Are you making the most of your business opportunities by getting your company to become more visible to a worldwide audience?

Chances are that your competitors are localizing their technical, marketing, and educational messages so that these documents are more accessible to their clients.

More and more businesses are building websites that include information in other languages in order to reach a wider audience. And it isn’t just international audiences that need these multilingual sites. Canada is an extremely diverse country. Take Vancouver as an example. More than half of the city’s population claim a language other than English as their native language, meaning that businesses that demonstrate a willingness and ability to speak in these languages are far more likely to enjoy growth and success.

Did you know that …

  • More than 70% of all web surfers prefer to speak and read in a language other than English?
  • More than half of all search queries on Google are done in a language other than English?
  • People are three times more likely to buy your product or service if information is available in their native language?

Enlisting the help of a professional translator to localize your print and online messages can be exactly what your company needs in order to grow and tap into an increasingly diverse market.

The choice is yours! Trust the professionals!

French Translation can help you grow your business

Grow your business with translation

French Translation Opens Your Business to Hundreds of millions of new people

270  million French-­speaking people around the  world are eager to buy your products and services.

“French is spoken on five continents by more than 270 million people in 43 countries”


French Visitors have a better chance to find your website/products when it’s in French … and simply won’t if it’s only in English!

When typing keywords in Google, French­s-speaking clients are more likely to find your website if it’s in French.

Even the people who can speak English are still more likely to browse the web in their native language.


French people are 4 times more likely to buy in French

French-­speaking people visit your website and leave it without buying …

“French consumers prefer buying in French”


Visitors Stay longer when you speak their language

Ever found a site where you did not understand the language?

Did you stay long?


Translation makes your products sell MORE
to MORE people

When your documents/website are translated into French, your customers understand your products.

  • They feel like you are close to them.
  • It shows that YOU CARE.
  • You make customers feel special