Many people might question the ability of the professional translator to carry out different different assignments and do them well. “For those who are afraid, everything is noise,” said Sophocles. The fear of losing customers or others breaking into the market and taking the piece of cake is a constant among some entrepreneurs.
Power of Technology for the Professional translator
The depth of technology in our day to day has brought, as has been shared hundreds of times on the web, a cultural change that also affects the way we work. Although, obviously, everything has its advantages and disadvantages, in my case I prefer to focus efforts on the most positive aspects.
Internet is a perfect showcase for all types of companies and professionals, in which we can tell others how good we are at doing something, how much we know and how we differ.
Of course, we must be aware that this exhibition implies that there are those who want to copy because of the interest and attraction generated, and that will become real competition.
Yet, we must not forget that, thanks to technology, new positions and activities have been created. Those were previously unthinkable or very complicated, and require, more than ever, certain capacities and not only knowledge.
The Professional translator, a Professional of the Future
The future of work, which is already a reality today, demands professionals with the most varied skills depending on the positions they will occupy. If entrepreneurship has brought me something wonderful, it is meeting different people, who enrich me every day.
I have known many cases of physicists, chemists, historians or computer engineers, among others, who are dedicated to very different subjects than those that would make more sense for their education.
And it is those personal skills and passion that are factors that have become an indispensable part of the equation in the search for new professional opportunities and talent, if we think of recruitment specialists.
By this, I do not mean that someone who has studied philosophy might not be the most suitable person to develop a specific job in this field, but that not everyone who has studied a certain career ends up developing in that field.
Degrees lead to communication, management & marketing
Added to this is the fact that there are university degrees that, by their very conception, are very versatile for the labour market. One of them is the degree in Translation and Interpreting. It offers not only translation practice in different languages or the most current technology applied to this activity, but also very useful training in multicultural communication, change management, entrepreneurship or marketing, to name a few of the options. This type of training allows a person to be incorporated into different positions. Also, the global vision and the relational capacity – to communicate effectively – are basic ingredients in almost any job. If those professional translators who have studied Translation and Interpreting characterize themselves for something, it is precisely because they are tremendously versatile. That is what causes that some may see the professional translator as a threat. However, I wonder:
Questions to ponder
Should a new discipline be prohibited because of the training you had? How many engineers, for example, converted into professional translators? As long as the profession is respected, studying or acquiring the necessary knowledge to be able to develop a good activity can only be seen as fairplay.
Who said that a professional translator can only write in several languages? Indeed, we professional translators pass texts from one language to another, but we also edit content, review it, create it … and this without counting our ability to learn new software and applications in record time. Additionally, we can act as tour guides, occupy a position in a hotel, teach languages, as linguistic mediators or as business managers.
All part of the attitude and passion of each professional translator and not so much of whether the boundaries of the university career are here or beyond.
Are there not great entrepreneurs with a degree in physics, chemistry or philosophy? Why do we insist on being so inflexible? Why can’t an astrophysicist become a director of Human Resources? The fundamental thing, as I see it, is to show respect for the profession and colleagues who strive to provide good service, something that affects us all. With determination and discipline, everything can be learned.
The Chameleonic Character of the Professional Translator
There are many examples of the chameleonic character of the professional translator and how well they can do what they set out to do. Some have their own translation company.
For others, the most logical thing is to be a freelance professional translator, but also a marketing school for professional translators, where they help other colleagues to start their own businesses.
Knowledge and skills that are developed in university or professional training are useful for life and not just for a specific job. They are part of our personal backpack, where we also keep good and bad experiences. It is those skills that set us apart from others.
However, there will always be people who may feel threatened by the ability or success of others. Not everyone knows how to face their fears (and that includes me), so my recommendation is simply… make your own way.
Being a self-employed translator is usually associated with positive concepts such as freedom, independence and self-management. It might seem, at first glance, that those of us who decide to be self-employed can take vacations at any time and do whatever we want. However, reality is different.
You are a self-employed translator and here’s Summer!
Come June, it seems that everything is moving. Light, the sun, happiness and the energy of the environment influence a state of mind in which positivism predominates. On the horizon, the much desired and deserved rest for the self-employed translator. A time when we can forget about work, routines and day-to-day responsibilities, even if only for a week.
The self-employed translator’s mission: to satisfy the need of their clients
For the self-employed translator, it is generally not so. While it is true that we witness these good vibes and let ourselves be impregnated by them, our work does not understand vacations, summer or winter.
If this type of independent activity is characterized by something, it is because of the temporary nature of the professional assignments we receive. When the self-employed translator turns on his/her computer, it is because he/she has a delivery date and there is a company or person who expects us to comply scrupulously.
We work with a very specific objective: to satisfy the needs of our client so that he can call us tomorrow and assign us new projects.
Greater Activity for the Self-employed Translator
As a consequence of this modus operandi, summer can be a time like any other. It is likely that routines do not change much, except for those of us who live in hot areas, where nighttime rest is more difficult.
In fact, I would dare to say that it can even be a time of great activity, because of those companies that close in August and need to either have everything ready by the end of July or launch jobs in July to deliver in September.
Another issue is the much dreaded quarterly statement for the month of July, which every translator must prepare. This, added to the remaining operations necessary to run the business, is one more piece in the puzzle of the self-employed translator.
And I am not referring so much to the difficulty of what the treasury requires, but more to the time that must be spent: issuing and claiming invoices, accounting, gathering expenses, talking to suppliers, etc. Even for those who have the help of a manager, they also have to dedicate a few hours per quarter.
Conciliation, a Constant Concern for the Self-employed Translator
To this is added the family factor. For the self-employed translator who has committed the beautiful folly of having children, summer is a something that, at times, can be a bit distressing. Children spend all the time at home and, although there are summer camps and children’s activities, the school vacation period is very long.
Obviously, this makes conciliation extremely difficult, regardless of whether the professional activity is self-employed or employed. Taking a call, writing an email and let alone working on a commission becomes an almost impossible mission. For this reason, nights become great allies and the self-employed translator becomes more owls than sparrows.
All in all, the question with which I began this article has a relative answer. Summer, on the one hand, can be a good time, due to the professional activity that can be generated and the availability that some clients require, but, on the other, it can become a time of constant concern to reconcile family and work or little jobs.
In the end, the self-employed translator is like everybody else: his way to tackle the situation depends a lot on the person and their circumstances. There are those for whom it is the best option and for others, it is a nest of worries of all kinds.
Lack of activity? Do whatever you’ve been putting off for months.
To cover the range of possibilities as much as possible, I will also make references to those professionals who at this time suffer just the opposite effect, that is, a lack of activity, which can lead them to suffer financial difficulties and the anxiety that this entails. Translators generally have no shortage of work given the versatile nature of their activity: they correct, translate, proofread, write, etc. However, there are many other self-employed translators, more specialized, to whom it can happen.
Yet, we must not despair, but take this time to think about how to take advantage of what we have been putting off for months.
With more or less orders, greater or lesser responsibilities or family responsibilities, what is clear is that it is time to take advantage of the beautiful afternoons that summer gives us, the sea breeze, the smell of the mountains and the sunlight.
Thinking positive always pays off, whether it’s summer or not.
Technical language in a foreign language is always a big challenge, particularly for a legal translator. With the increasing collaboration between countries in the commercial and economic spheres, the exchange of information flows very quickly.
Having good Dictionaries and Reference Material is Essential
Imagine a French doctor who has the opportunity to take a specialization course in an English-speaking country. Studying the technical terms in English is of paramount importance and a great challenge. This professional will have to study how to say “head”, “surgery”, “scalpel” and other expressions in English. Having good dictionaries and reference material is essential. Once the doctor learns these and other key terms in the English language, he is prepared to take classes in a foreign country.
A Legal Translator Challenge: No Equivalence between Legal Terms in French and English
Let us now look at the example of a lawyer who has the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree in law (known as LLM) in the United States. Like the doctor in the paragraph above, he will have to study the technical language in English, in this case, the technical-legal language.
In addition to all the challenges faced by the physician in the search for the acquisition of technical language, the lawyer will face yet another obstacle: the fact that, in the vast majority of times, there is no absolute equivalence between the legal terms in French and English. One of the classic examples given in this situation is the translation, into English, of the term “Dépayser”. While French people describe it as the sensation of being out of place in a foreign country, for a legal translator, it describes the dismissal of a case to be tried in another court.
The Legal Translator must know the Structure of Foreign Law – at least
The legal translator, however, will never be able to meddle in shedding the concept he needs to use in order to express himself correctly.
An essential instrument is the use of comparative law to approximate concepts between legal systems in different countries, that is, with prior knowledge, in this specific case, of the French legal system, the legal translator must dedicate himself to know, at least, the structure of foreign law, only then to start the process of shifting concepts from one language to another.
Comparative Law = know a Term in each Legal System and Distinguish the Common Elements
According to Soares “[…] ‘Comparative Law’ has a reality in the universe of law science, since it will always be possible to carry out a comparison of legal systems in different countries, with scientific methodology, to establish common and differentiated principles, including even a general theory of legal comparativism (in the manner of a universal grammar of all existing languages).
In Comparative Law, the aim is to make a comparison and once this is done, go on to a double task: a) know each term, in isolation, in its individuality and specificity, in each face-to-face system and b) of the approximation of both, distinguish the elements that exist in common and, from the discovery of common values, carry out the comparison.
Comparative Law should provide value judgements of the type ‘are equivalent’, ‘produce similar effects, given the same circumstances’, ‘are comparable, provided that such or which factual elements are disregarded’, judgements that should lead to a final decision that, deep down, it would lie in ‘recognizing an unknown institute’ in its effects, in a certain legal system.”
Dictionaries for the Legal Translator
An emphatic suggestion is the use of legal dictionaries recognized in the market. One of the most respected French – English dictionaries on the market is the Dictionnaire juridique Dahl français-anglais; Dahl’s law dictionary french-english.
A question that many translators ask me is the following: “Is it essential to have a law degree to be a good law translator?”
My answer is: it is not essential to be trained in law to be a good legal translator, however, it is essential, yes, to have basic knowledge of comparative law. Besides, this task is really fun!
Meditation for mindfulness: how to keep your head in place
Whenever I heard about the benefits of meditation for mindfulness, I went ahead and said it was not for me. After all, I live in an apartment on a busy avenue in busy South of France. I have no way of sitting daily in the lotus position to watch the sunrise from the top of a mountain. Let alone enjoy absolute silence. In addition, my head is like YouTube: just show me any kind of subject and it already triggers an endless list of related suggestions – or not so related. For this and others, “thinking about nothing” was out of the question.
Meditation for mindfulness in the age of hyperconnectivity
In addition, we live in the age of information, hyperconnectivity, rapid changes, unimaginable volumes of data, news, updates, books, audiobooks, podcasts, magazines, series, films and applications that measure everything in this life, with just one click. .
All this volume of information and possibilities, combined with my naturally restless mind as a translator and a personality that does not believe that there is a useless culture, began to weigh and overwhelm me. It didn’t take long for me to experience the symptoms of anxiety, difficulty sleeping and anguish for feeling that I was always in debt (of information), always struggling with so much content to consume and tasks to accomplish.
Multitasking or what?
To try to “handle everything”, I trained myself to be multitasking. I brush my teeth while opening the windows of my apartment. I always ate listening to podcasts or reading the news, and with that, I swore I was optimizing my time. Was not. And it was then that I realized that almost everything I did in life was on autopilot.
Look, I’m not here to vilify autopilot, no. We would not survive if we had to focus 100% on all of our activities. It’s a matter of survival. But letting that be the pattern that dictates the pace of our lives and deifying the ability to do several things at the same time is also not the way.
Lack of Attention Can Even Be Fatal
To give an idea of my mental state, due to lack of attention at the present moment, I locked my wife inside the house and took mine and her keys – twice. I managed to get back before she found out. I already turned off the kitchen power breaker when we left to travel. It spoiled everything that was in the freezer and refrigerator, and the smell, after 15 days, was one of a crime scene, even after a very good friend gave a cleaned up before I returned home).
And raise your hand here who has already rescued socks from the trash can, which obviously should have been placed in the basket of dirty clothes. Nothing serious, I know, despite the inconvenience. But in extreme cases, lack of attention can even be fatal. It is not for nothing that the need to put the sign “Before entering the lift, be sure there is a carriage at your floor.”
The interpreter needs to listen, analyse, produce speech and store information in short-term memory
My work as an interpreter already requires, by nature, that I divide my attention between different and simultaneous efforts. According to Daniel Gile’s Theory of Effort Model, the interpreter needs to listen and analyse, produce speech in the target language and store information in short-term memory. All at the same time and all the time. As my job requires all this concentration, I knew that I needed to strengthen this unnatural capacity and give my brain a break.
I knew that something needed to change in me. And it was with the certainty that it would be a great challenge to relearn how to do everyday tasks with more attention.
It was necessary to learn to slow down, to breathe, to choose to do one thing at a time. In other words, to search for meditation for mindfulness.
“Meditation for mindfulness is a place to breathe in the whirlwind of life,” according to my former Australian yoga instructor. “It is a state of mind in which you breathe, allow your mind to stabilize and provide clarity of thoughts.”
Practising Meditation for Mindfulness Does Not Require a Zen Environment
In a very simple way, to practise meditation for mindfulness you don’t need a privileged view or a Zen environment. You can be present and mindful like that, exactly the way you are now. It doesn’t matter if you have an airplane flying over your house or an ambulance siren going off.
If you decide to lower the dust of your thoughts, sit comfortably (preferably without laying down so you don’t fall into the trap of total relaxation and drowsiness). Keep your feet flat on the ground. Close your eyes and pay attention only to your breathing, the way your chest moves when you inhale and exhale, the temperature of the air, the amount of air entering and leaving the lungs until the timer tells you that you have reached the end of the practice.
Is it easy? No, it’s not. At first, 5 minutes of this practice seems like an eternity. All you think is, “Is there still much left?” Your head begs you to give up, provokes you with thoughts of “I can’t do it”, “I’m tired”, “I’ll stop before, just this once”. But if you persist and let go of those thoughts, practice becomes more comfortable. You can increase the time and reap the benefits of a more peaceful mind.
An exercise alternative is to focus only on perceptions, not breathing. It is a scan of every bit of your body. The sensation of your right foot inside the shoes you are wearing now, the points where your body touches the seat and back of the chair, the texture of your clothes touching the skin, the existence of tension in a specific part of your body. It is crazy to realize that these things were there all the time and we don’t give them the slightest attention.
By having more self-awareness, we start to notice these forgotten parts of the body. And by exercising to be more present, we come to know ourselves better and understand that, many times, what we were feeling was not hunger, but thirst, which is irritated because a piece of clothing is uncomfortable or even learns to appreciate, in a totally new way, the taste of common everyday foods.
Daily exercise strengthens our mind during your meditation for mindfulness. Without realizing it, we remember to breathe better in times of stress. We learn to calm down when faced with difficult decisions, to prioritize our demands clearly.
Today, Many Applications Help, but Don’t Delay
Nowadays, there are many applications, such as Headspace, Lojong that offer guided practices. All of them have free and paid versions, and it is worth downloading at least one and getting started today!
Look, if you thought everything was incredible, but you decided to start on Monday or prefer to wait to have time to practise mindfulness, I already say that this will not happen. You have to create that time. Let it be 4, 5 minutes a day, every day. Needless to say, even when we claim we don’t have any time, we “get lost” for much more than these minutes in the abyss of social networks and the pitfalls of the internet.
Can’t you do the formal practice? Try informal practice. Choose any task of the day to do with mindfulness. This time, you will not focus on breathing or the body, but on performing a specific task. If you are going to brush your teeth, for example, do it as if it were the first time in your life to do this activity. Pay attention to the colour of the paste, the smell, the appearance, the shape of the brush, the material it is made of. See the amount of paste you put, the flavour, the texture, the temperature of it. Pay attention to brushing movements, as the brush touches the teeth, the gums, the amount of foam that forms.
I know it sounds like crazy talk, but I guarantee it will be a rich experience to realize the little pleasures hidden in an ordinary day, like enjoying the feeling of the light morning sun warming your face.
Practise, Persist and Accept Yourself With Meditation for Mindfulness
In short, practice, persist and accept yourself. Let the thoughts go. When thoughts arise, instead of clinging and giving too much importance to them, turn your attention to your breathing or where you have decided to anchor your concentration. Don’t judge yourself and be patient with yourself. It is human nature to have thoughts, expectations, impatience, feelings of avoidance. When these thoughts arise, be kind to yourself, acknowledge their existence, turn your attention to your breathing and sustain as much as you can without judgement.
Finally, as a support for always, I suggest you follow the One Mind Meditation Podcast. It is a channel created by a veteran meditator that brings content for you to better understand your mind and emotions and live in peace with yourself.
One of your customers wants you
to translateinto English (or any other language for that matter)
Here are some tips that might
be useful to many translators when accepting a job, whether for a translation
agency or a direct client.
Be truthful. When in doubt, say No
If you are unsure whether you
can meet a deadline or take on the project, be honest and say ‘No’ or ask for
more time before accepting it. Asking for more time after the project starts will cause many
Don’t Start without a Written Confirmation
If you do not have a clear
written confirmation, a project number, and a work order, DO NOT start working.
POs (work orders) include all
project details such as schedule, agreed cost, list of files to translate into
English and instructions. The translator should invoice only the amount included in this
form, so read the PO and confirm all the details given before starting work on
Don’t be afraid to ask
Customers are often happy to
help as best they can, and you should always answer any questions you may have. If the Language Service provider
cannot answer, they will ask the customer.
Follow the instructions, always!
Before you translate into English, always analyse customer requirements in detail. When dealing with a translation agency, the agency should have prepared a list of instructions for you. These instructions are most often included in the confirmation email, along with documentation for the project, to assist the translator during the translation process. It is essential to follow them. Otherwise, the translation agency and/or the client may need to ask you to redo the job.
Always use the Reference material provided
A good translation agency will
always try to get the most reference documentation, definitions and context
information from their customers. It is essential for the translator to read and
understand this material before finishing the translation into English. This also shortens the completion time.
Check before you deliver
Always check your work very carefully before handing it over. A Language Service provider will likely return any work that has problems. This includes running an automatic (as well as manual) spell checker such as Antidote before delivering any work. Misspelled translations are unacceptable.
If you are a proofreader and the
quality of the translation into English you need to review is poor, let the
agency know before you begin.
Always exemplify the problems. The LSP should review them and
decide what to do. Also, remember that you can’t charge the
agency more for the extra work unless they approve the additional cost before
When you Translate into English, improve if you can
Proofreading means more than
correcting purely linguistic errors. It also includes all aspects of a translation. When
you translate into English and proofread your translation, you are expected to check for accuracy, spelling, grammar, style, uniformity,
formatting, terminology, audience readiness, etc. Verifying means not only identifying errors or aspects that can be
improved, but also correcting them directly in the translation to produce a finished
text. If there is something you can translate
better, change it.
Mark your changes and give feedback
It’s always nice to know what the proofreaders have changed in the translations. So, when reviewing a translation in Word, use the Track changesfunction, and when working in Excel, highlight the changed cell with a different background colour (you don’t need to mark each word unless you are required to do so).
If the client needs detailed
comments regarding the changes, they will ask and tell you where to make them.
Always avoid using strikethrough,
as it is laborious to finalize the text (as well as use the feature).
Agencies often encourage proofreaders
to provide feedback on translations. Do not be afraid to give your opinion!
If a change doesn’t improve the translation, don’t
mess it up
Be critical when finalizing a
translation after final customer proofreading. Always verify that the requested changes are
correct or improve the translation before applying them. If not, do not implement the change and explain why.
Don’t be afraid to ask, but think before you do
When you translate into English , clients like it when you ask questions; it shows that you are paying attention to the project, but too silly or too misplaced questions can show that you do not know the subject or know what you are doing, and that can be a shot in the foot.
Try to Be as Professional and Objective as Possible
When giving your feedback, try
to be as professional and objective as possible. Stick to the facts whenever possible with
links or transcriptions of grammars, dictionaries or other references.
Improve the text if you can,
but don’t split hairs to justify your job. Sometimes, the translation is really very
good. In this case, praise the translator.
That’s it for now. I
hope you found those tips useful and have a better idea of what customers
really want when they order a translation into English from you, or any other
How to Ruin
everything by lacking Translator Skills
Translator Skills: When running a translation business, it makes sense to have good basic translator skills i.e adopting the right attitude with customers and colleagues. If not, you take the risk of not being able to keep your current translation clients, if you are getting any clients at all.
Here’s the list of mistakes to
avoid ruining everything and improve your relationship with your translation customers.
12 Mistakes You Avoid if You
Have Good Translator Skills
Not having an online presence
(or not knowing how to behave professionally with your online presence)
Complain in social networks
about prices, about customers, about colleagues
Lying (about areas of
expertise, knowledge, skills, etc.)
Your Reputation: your Greatest Asset
What amazes me most about this list is that it reflects a huge lack of attention to one of your greatest assets, which the translator should make part of his/her translator skills: your reputation.
The ‘speak well, speak bad, but
speak of me’ attitude that we see every other week is not compatible with our autonomous
We depend on our good
reputation to get new customers and keep old ones.
And how do we do it? How do we build our reputation?
Participating in congresses,
in-person events, being part of associations (yes, good customers consider this
a sign of professionalism), thinking very carefully about what we post on
Facebook and other social networks.
Protecting Your Image is part
of your Translator Skills
Speaking badly about clients,
disclosing confidential project information, cursing colleagues, all of which
is bad for our image, not to mention the possibility of criminal prosecution
(yes, there is a law for that, and it applies to everyone).
‘But ah,’ one might argue, ‘my
clients will never know! there is no way they can find out…’
What if I tell you that the
other day, I saw a fellow Spanish translator chatting loudly with the owner of
a US agency who is my client.
Translators talk. They even – amazing! – meet occasionally for coffee or lunch, or meet at the many translation
conferences taking place around the world.
Do you really think that, after
learning of the ~ indiscretions ~ that some translators drop on the four winds
on social networks, potential clients will give those translators a chance?
Don’t Disclose Confidential Information
Very serious, too, is
disclosing confidential customer information. Most of us sign confidentiality agreements
(NDAs) that prohibit disclosure of this information.
Some NDAs even forbid
commenting on the fact that you are working on certain projects. But even if you don’t have a
signed contract with a particular client, the ethics of the profession dictate
that you should treat any and all information as confidential.
‘But my client doesn’t care about these things, he doesn’t care if I disclose sensitive information!’
If your client doesn’t care
about the ethics of the profession, I’d be worried about that client. The next victim of your client
unethical attitude might be you!
That is why it is crucial that you fine-tune your Translator
Translating video games is a part of the localization process of the game and implies, in addition to the translation of the text, the cultural adaptation of the texts and materials, its revision, the assembly of the screen texts in the game, the layout of manuals and boxes, audio or dubbing recording and testing.
Game Companies may Outsource
Large video game companies may have internal translation or localization departments or, on the contrary, outsource these services through localization agencies
A Considerable Increase
in the Volume of Video Games to be Translated
In recent years there has been a great
technological advance, which has led to a considerable increase in the volume
of text to be translated, which in some cases can reach one million
words. The consequence is that it has become impossible for a single
translator to carry out the work load, so it is necessary to establish a good
project management strategy and use tools that guarantee the cohesion of the
different product texts.
When Translating Video
Games, dialogues, webpages, marketing materials need to be Translated
For example, Nintendo has a translation and localization department in Frankfurt from where the entire process is centralized. Normally, the translation is covered with internal resources if the project has few words, but for large titles it is necessary to use specialized localization companies that offer not only translation services, but also dubbing. Translating video games implies translating the text that will appear on the screen, but also the text that will end up being dubbed. Also, the text that appears on the screen can be divided in turn into text boxes that appear on the screen (e.g. menus) and graphic text, which implies more work by the developer since they have to be integrated graphically into the video game. In addition to the video game text itself, all associated products such as web pages, marketing brochures, etc. must also be taken into account.
charge of Translating Video Games must be Familiar with the Game itself
In any case, it is very important that the
translator familiarize himself/herself with the game that he/she is going to
translate in the original version, since he/she will be able to understand the game
in its context and translate it better i.e play the video game itself. However,
this is not always possible: if the translation is done internally, there are
usually no problems, but if you send it to an agency, the pitfalls caused by
confidentiality problems can become insurmountable.
Normally translators work in environments
known as CAT tools, text editors (Word), spreadsheets (Excel) or databases, to
which the texts of the original version are exported.
Translating Video Games
is a Tricky Process
However, this does not mean that the
translation process is exempt of difficulties.
Some of the problems facing the video game translator are the following:
Text length: there is usually a character limitation that should not be exceeded
Platform: this is usually related to the type of console. Some do not allow much text or that it is very small, because if it could not be read, such as the Nintendo Switch
Problems due to lack of context, which are especially acute if the original game is not available to the translator.
Age classification: PEGI is a pan-European code that establishes an age classification of Pan-European Games Information (the marks are +3, +7, +12, +16 and +18). This, on the one hand, gives the translator an idea of the player or target receiver of the translation, and on the other hand, it tells the translator what kinds of expressions he/she can use and which ones he/she cannot (swearing).
Language differences between countries: the translator will have to take into account not only the use of bad words in the country he/she is from, but whether those words are available in other cultures that also speak the same language. For example, the use of the verb ‘catch’ in Spain has no major implication, while using that word in a game for children in Argentina can lead to problems. The use of violence can also be another controversial issue that can also cause a game to be censored.
Gender use (masculine and feminine): while in English we start from a single base with hardly any distinction between one gender and another, in French, this distinction is necessary. Previously, when there was less awareness of the phenomenon of localization, the texts tended to neutralize as much as possible. Nowadays, games adapt more and more, since the number of players has increased, and there may even be different phrases for boys and girls, men and women.
Objects: in the same line, translating objects can also be a problem as they can have different genres. In this case, the translator works directly on the code and must be very careful not to erase or corrupt certain codes, as this could result in the game ceasing to function at a certain point.
Accent by characters: in this case, the translator is free to decide if any of the characters adopt a particular accent or not, depending on the role he/she has in the game
Naming characters: translators usually have enough freedom here to develop their own creativity, unless the client demands to keep the name in English.
Cultural references: the rule is that the text should be kept as timeless as possible so that, if a player wants to download a game 10 years after it was developed, he/she can still play without getting lost into cultural references of the past that are no longer in force.
Cultural adaptation: here, examples are multiple and varied. For example, when translating a Japanese video game which might include events that are typical of Japanese culture, of which a gamer here knows absolutely nothing. In this case, if the client does not wish to invest in the total adaptation of the game (which in this case would imply changing its structure), it will be necessary to keep it as neutral as possible.
Religion: religion is another cultural aspect that must be taken into account. Again, the best thing to do here is to try to neutralize its aspect as much as possible. Unreliable religious references can cause a game to be withdrawn from the market or its launch delayed (Sony had to temporarily withdraw Little Big Planet because of the inclusion of verses from the Koran.
Translating Video Games
Requires a Thorough Review
These are just ‘some’ of the problems that the
translator will face during his/her work. Then there will also be a review
phase in which an expert will be in charge of approving it before it is sent
back to the developers.
Testing Phase of Video
Finally, there will be a testing phase, an
expert quality control in which the final product is reviewed. It involves
playing with an almost definitive version of the game, with the translated text
and the final sound mounted, in order to detect all the errors that may have
remained, the bugs, with the aim of reducing them to zero.
And all this being done against the clock,
with the pressure of a given release date that, if not met due to translation
problems, can cause great losses to the company.
A career in Video Game
As you can see, translating
video games is not an easy task. Translators might take this into account
whether they might consider a future career in video game translation. As for video
game players, you might get a better understanding of all the work involved in video
games; work necessary so that you can enjoy your favourite video game in your
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
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
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
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
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
Make it piece by piece, and become a translator
Warren Buffet said: “Don’t Compare Your Chapter 1 to Someone Else’s
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.
The Asian giant has now become the largest videogame market in the world and as such becoming a big part of the videogame translation market. According to the latest HIS report, the videogame 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.
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.
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 videogame translation.
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 videogame translation: 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 videogame translation 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 videogame translation. 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 videogame 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 videogame 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 videogame 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 videogame 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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).
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).