Close Encounters of the Third Kind (with different types of translator)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (with different types of translator)

10 most common types of translator(alien)

There are different types of translator. Some are a strange kind of alien. Let’s see if you recognise or can identify any you might have previously encountered.

1. The translator who never accepts the reviewer’s changes

Whenever you receive revisions for you to approve or at least arbitrate, these types of translator tends to have a slightly grown ego and does not accept improvements, because he believes he is always right. Of course, there are times when they are right and the reviewer is wrong…

You have to be humble and know that four eyes see more than two. The final client will appreciate this.

Several eyes see more than two

2. The reviewer who always changes everything

One may find the complete opposite: perhaps out of frustration (for not being the translator in the first place), or simply because he’s having a bad day, these types of translator show no mercy with the text they receives and change it as much as possible so that it is clear who is in charge here and that their version is better. In addition, this justifies their work.

Surely, they think, if there are not so many changes, one should not dispense with reviewers.

If the translation is really bad, you should notify the client first to see how to proceed. If the translation is normal, then hey, things can always be improved one way or another! But if it’s correct, respect the translator’s work by avoiding preferential changes.

3. The translator or reviewer to whom everything seems wrong

It is an evolution from the first two stereotypes. It does not matter if they translate or if they proofread: for this alien, the client has no clue about how to do things, reviewers don’t have a clue about what they do and, should he be the actual reviewer, the translation is a disaster. Of course, all potential criticism find their place on social networks.

Again, you have to be humble. If something’s wrong, better tell the interested parties in the best possible way to try to improve the project. Social networks should be used for other things.

4. The freelance translator who works in his pyjamas

Come on, let’s change the tone to something more positive. This is a classic: raise your hand if, as a freelance translator, you’ve never worked in your pyjamas! Well, or even without a shirt if it’s summer.

You can also use accessories. In winter, nothing like a good blanket or electric shoes to be warm, as well as using mittens so that your hands do not get frozen even if you have to type slower…

I have never done it: I swear!

OK, sometimes but at least not today. The first thing I do when I get up is to go to the gym or for a run, shower and get dressed. This way, I feel in a better mental state to work. And that is the truth.

5. The freelance translator who makes videoconferences with pyjama pants

Although many like to stay in their cave with their pyjamas, sometimes you have to meet with teams of translators or reviewers, or with clients directly. When not showing up on the screen is not an option, it is always acceptable to wear a good shirt or a sweater … and those good comfortable pyjama pants.  

I would swear that I’ve never had to do this, not that I haven’t thought about it but should I have to get up to fetch something, then I would be in trouble. (I do know some who do, but I won’t name names).

6. The translator who spoils discussion groups talking about tariffs

Oh, yes, rates… An eternal debate! Everything was going well in a discussion until someone asks how much is usually charged for a specific task. In the end, things start to degenerate and some translator start saying that there are types of translator who throw the market with ridiculous rates, and that should we setup an organisation of translators to regulate rates…

Debating on this topic is a good thing, but always with respect and by throwing valid arguments.

7. The video game translator who cannot say what is working on

This is no fun, since it happens to a vast majority of video game translators. Here you will find everything: from clients who put all the translators in the same location to translation agencies that make you sign that you should never talk about the games you have translated.

Recognition, I think, is necessary to help make the work of these types of translators more visible in general.

Time has taught me not to obsess about this topic, because after all we have to be aware that we are providing a service for which we are paid, and in reality, we consume many of those products without knowing who is responsible for making them. The same applies to technical translators whose work is also very important but not recognised.

Obviously, I support recognition and I am the first one who likes to be recognised for things like the games I worked on at Nintendo, but as I say, maybe over time, I have learned to cope.

By the way, an argument that is usually given is that the identity of the translators is not revealed because the client can contact them directly instead of going through the agency, but in my experience, the large client will prefer to use an agency to avoid having to deal with each translator individually (especially when there are many languages involved).

8. The interpreter who always has to clarify that he is an interpreter and not a translator

Even nowadays, it is very common for people outside the translation industry to call people dedicated to consecutive or bilateral interpretation, ‘translators’. Yet, translators work with written words, while interpreters work with oral language (I am simplifying a lot, but for us to understand each other).

9. The freelance translator who never gets sick

If you do not work, no invoices, no wages, no money, so what is going on if you have a cold, fever, back pain or a tremendous cough? The truth is that being autonomous has an advantage after all: you become resistant to diseases!

Of course I get sick from time to time, especially with colds and a little headache from time to time. But I sincerely believe that, in my more than 25 years as a freelance translator, I have hardly ever stopped working (More because it was windy outside and I had to go kitesurfing).

10. The translator who lives in a mansion and has a private jet

Seriously, that’s a joke.

Translators can live very well. Yes, I do not have to have a mansion in Madrid or a private jet, but I like the freedom that comes with the job.

Of course, there are more stereotypes/aliens. Should you think of more stereotypes, please let me know in your comments.

Freelance interpreter – Kill those “Faux Pas”

Freelance interpreter feeling like Sisyphus

Understanding freelance interpreters: Sisyphus myth or an opportunity for bonding?

Getting people to understand interpreting is something I do often when quoting an event, with both novice and veteran contractors. Yet, for a long time, I admit I felt a bit frustrated. I felt that explaining and defending my practices as a freelance interpreter closely resembled the task of Sisyphus. The myth of Sisyphus, belonging to Greek mythology, results from the posthumous punishment of Sisyphus for treason to the gods. In the land of the dead, he was forced to push a rock to the top of the mountain, from where it would roll back to the starting point. In the past, I used to feel that explaining my best practice would never really end.

A New Approach in Explaining Best Practice in Interpreting

Over the past few years, I decided to change my approach to explaining good practice. I began to think that I would put forward the benefits of real interpreting; defend good practices and negotiate in a favourable way for both parties with a guarantee of good working conditions for the good of the event. This new approach made me see this as an opportunity to strengthen my ties with potential contractors. This is how I did it and the actions I took in each situation detailed below:

1. I do not need a professional, only a person who is fluent in French and English

The right approach: “The event has strategic value for the positioning of its company within its field of activity. Therefore, it is important to ensure the quality of the message to be passed to the audience that needs simultaneous interpretation. Freelance interpreters are essential to mediate communication between people who are not fluent in the same languages. Count on my professional interpreting services to meet the communication needs of the event. ”

Result: Approved budget and scheduled event.

2. I do not need a professional … speaking both languages ​​is enough. The meeting will be informal

The right approach: “The timing of a product presentation to potential customers is unique and deserves careful planning in every detail, from the assembly of the list of guests to the choice of the buffet. So a well-prepared event will be more effective with the work of professional interpreters to serve as bridges of communication between people who do not speak the same language. My company is able to offer the simultaneous interpreting services necessary to the success of your event. ”

Result: Success.

3. The interpretation lasts only 4 hours, an interpreter alone will suffice

The right approach: “According to most European Legal Interpreters and Translators Associations, interpreters should work alone for a limit of 1 hour in a conference and 2 hours in external accompaniments. This recommendation is the result of studies that demonstrate the performance of the interpreters and loss of message quality after the periods mentioned above. That way, to ensure the quality of communication in the event, it is necessary that two interpreters relay each other. ”

Result: approved budget, scheduled event and customer loyalty that contracted services in 2018 and this year.

4. Is there no difference in the rate for hiring 2 or 6 hours of work?

“When booking an event, unfortunately, I am unable to book other events with other customers. It is simply impossible to ‘fit’ two or more customers over a day’s work. Therefore, the daily rate is unchanged if the actual working period is less than a 6-hour indivisible journey, sorry. ”

Result: approved budget, scheduled event and customer loyalty that contracted services in 2019.

In conclusion, when business practices are discussed, it is an opportunity to improve the quality of your communication with your customers. It is particularly helpful in strengthening your professional ties with them.

All of the above customer arguments were helpful in changing my approach. You can do it too. Being able to provide the customer with a better understanding of the work and practices of interpreters will no longer be a Sisyphus task but an opportunity to bond with your customers.

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.