How do you become a translator?

Become a translator piece by piece

How to become a translator?

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

What do I need to do to become a translator?

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

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

What does a translator translate?

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

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

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

Do I need a degree to become a translator?

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

Is it possible to become a translator without a degree?

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

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

Should I become a translator?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make it piece by piece, and become a translator

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

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

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

Videogame Translation in China

China: the Largest Videogame Market in the World

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

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

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

An Overpopulated Country

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

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

A Generation Without Computers

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

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

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

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

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

Mobile Phones as the Dominant Platform

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

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

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

Tencent, the Largest Videogame Company in the World

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

Image for the Epic Games Fortnite

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

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

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

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

Videogame Translation in China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Videogame Translation: What Language?

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

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

FAQ About the Videogame Translation Market in China

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

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

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

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

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

How much does a freelance translator charge in China?

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

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

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

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

What About Delivery Time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can I find a videogame translator job in China?

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

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.

The Beginning & Remember Why You Started

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

So let’s start with … the beginning:

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

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

Translation Is Not a Regulated Profession

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

Translator as a Choice or as a Change of Career

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

Many Reasons as to Why You Want to Be a Translator

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

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

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

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

Enjoy it

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

…Not That Kind of Professional Translator

novel translator - professional translator

When I say I am a Professional Translator…

Oh, you’re a professional translator?
You translate books?
Can you translate this song for me?
A friend: Can you translate this email for me? (You answer yes, and get pretty much an entire report from a chemical company to translate…)

A Very Vague Idea of Translation

After I graduated, I became accustomed to always explaining what my profession really is, but I would not judge. When I was in University, I also had a very different and vague idea of what ​​the real world of the translation was and everything it involved. In my imagination, I thought I would graduate and translate books (novels, of course!).

The Hidden Translator

Also, when facing questions from people curious about the profession, in their defence, I also think that the professional translator is always a little hidden, and many people forget that behind the movies, books, manuals, magazines, articles, there is always someone who is shaking their head so that they always receive exactly the message that the author wants to communicate.

Translating to Learn New Things Every Day

The reality, and what I think is fantastic, is that quite contrary to what I used to think, the translation profession allows us to learn new things every day, from the most varied subjects. And that boy who hated technology, today loves the more technical subjects and those manuals that before seemed impossible to be understood.

The Professional Translator Has a Responsibility

The translator has the responsibility to translate not only words, but ideas and thoughts in the most faithful way possible, and for that, dictionaries are not enough. It takes a lot of culture, a lot of sensitivity and a lot of knowledge. He must respect the structure of the source text, always keep in mind the target audience and have patience to search for specific terms and grammatical structures, thus maintaining the fluency of the text.

Any mistake, however small, can completely change the meaning of the original text, so it is very important that the professional translator remains extremely focused during his work.

Keeping the text alive

In addition, the language is alive, so we must always be following its changes. And when I think about machine translation! No, they are not the dream of any translator. In fact, they can even be a nightmare! A text translated by an automatic tool requires much more time for revision, since the choice of words, the grammatical structure and the ideas did not start from a brain, but from a program. A machine does not follow the language evolution and cannot interpret the author’s emotions and intentions. We have to think a lot, so that the same message is passed, regardless of the language in which it is written.

Translation – Not Something to Improvise

Many people, when they come back from a season abroad, begin translating to earn a little ‘buck’. I have just mentioned a few examples that prove how complex our profession is and how it is not enough to know, for example, English and French very well. This applies to any area, really. A person might think that they can run a restaurant because they like cooking. But like any profession, translation requires professionals. Any other way and the text, and the ideas that need to become communicated die with a bad translation. And, we do not want that to happen, right?

Translation Project Manager – a Busy Bee

translation project manager is a busy bee

What a Translation Project Manager does

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

So Many Bits and Bobs Before a Translation Starts

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

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

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

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

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

Translation Agency Owner Has the Final Word

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

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

Translator Reputation – Yet critical – Is Just the Beginning

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

An Organised PM Will Keep All the Good Resumes Handy

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

“Hi, Honey, I’m home!”

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

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

PMs Need to Be Flexible

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

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

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

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

Work Translation between Agencies, LSPs and translators

Prioritising Clients You Are Best Suited With

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

Translation Agencies – What are They?

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

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

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

Translation Agencies Supply Bigger Fish

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

Big Translation Agencies Rely on Smaller Fish for Local Translators

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

Small Agencies Assist in the Translation Process

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

Working With Freelancers – Easier on the Wallet

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

Working With the Biggest Translation Agencies to Be Better Trained

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

Smaller translation agencies – a Better Understanding of Freelance Translators

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

We Are All in the Same Boat

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

How to Surf a Brexit Tsunami on the Translation Market

After Brixit, what will become of the translation market

Weeks during and after the BreXit might bring a lull (with a momentary lapse – of reason?) in the translation market. Many projects might be on hold until the situation settles down for those of us translators who have several customers in the UK.

But 2019 is promising a lot of work for translators and the expected lull, for those who will be feeling it, could look like that low tide before the tsunami. When the wave comes, it is necessary to be well prepared to be able to surf the crest and not be swallowed by the whirlpool.

So this is an excellent time to upgrade and equip yourself to work harder and better. Here are a few suggestions to be ready for the translation market after Brexit.

— Take the opportunity to read those texts lined up on the shelf and look for new books and blogs on translation and subjects of interest to us. ExtraSpeech blog about translators and translation (:)) and Between Translations, a website about translation by Jayne Fox, German-to-English translator has a large collection of articles. There is also the Translation Journal. For Facebook users, there are topics in the Translators and Interpreters forum that bring together quite a few suggestions for readings for translators. Remember: you are what you read.

— Buy or subscribe to a few more dictionaries on CD or on the Web. Although I still find my dictionary books beautiful, looking at words on paper is not efficient at all and not fun any more. Most of the free Internet dictionaries are also incomplete. Also, it really pays to update your (Multiterm) glossaries and your TMs.

— Make improvements in your workspace. To work well for many hours a day, you need to take care of ergonomics to prevent spine pain, circulation problems and RSI, and have your computer ready to work intensely for at least a year. It is not always necessary to spend a lot of money, but it can make all the difference. For example, treat yourself with a footrest (and I have a padded chair to make my life more comfortable), buy yourself a little more memory or disk space (HDD) for your computer, a new, soft keyboard with many smart shortcuts or an optical mouse. These small improvements greatly accelerate our work, take care of our health and – yes! – make us earn more.

— Use it to test programs that you are not familiar with, such as SDL Trados or, for those of us who like to automate things, applications such as AutoHotkey to create scripts and automation. You never know when there will be an opportunity to use them professionally, and so it’s good to anticipate.

— Renew your membership or join translators’ associations that match your profile, such as the Société Française des Traducteurs here in France. There is also the traditional ATA. And there are many others, more specialised or regional.

Last but not least, do you already have a website? It is now very easy to build one, using WordPress. There are numerous free hosting providers and buying your own domain is very cheap. It is extremely practical to have your updated service offer available to customers on your site, as well as other information they might need, such as pricing, services provided, etc.

Those are just a few suggestions to tackle the After-Brexit translation market. If you have more tips, please add a comment. Good tsunami-surfing for everyone!

Get A job! (subtitling for netflix?)

subtitling video

Translation Markets for Subtitling

In the “subtitling market”, like the field of translation, there is no uniform market, capable of being synthesised under one label. There are many sub-fields, which include different specialisations within subtitling (which in turn is a specialisation within the field of audiovisual translation).

So there is no simple answer to those simple questions I am often asked:

“How does the subtitling market work?” or

“Are there many subtitling jobs?” or

“Do I need to attend a subtitling workshop?”

Subtitling in the old days

As with translation, the various niches of work with subtitling have been developed from necessity. The existence of companies specialising in the translation of audiovisual materials is recent – until very recently, it was the film producers and distributors who were in charge of the translation, as the demand arose. The task was not always performed by properly trained professionals.

Cinema is the oldest medium for movie viewing. As the need for film translation around the world increased, a standardisation was developed, with relatively uniform methods worldwide. It is worth remembering that cinema took decades to spread, establishing its own language, conquering space. The translation of films had time to establish standards of work and quality.

Explosion of Audiovisual Translation

Companies began to focus on translation 20 or 30 years ago

The global explosion of audiovisual translation came with the advent of VHS, when it became necessary to relaunch – and retranslate – all the production already launched in 35 mm. In addition, the costs of production and especially of film distribution were much lower, which increased the production of new materials. It was then, 20 or 30 years ago, that companies began to appear more focused on the tasks of translation. VHS involved other physical materials, other devices for editing, and other medium for its display – the TV screen rather than the movie screen. This forced the translators to adopt methods and techniques, as they were not able to use the translations made to the cinema and not even its methodology. Different producers, in different places, were adapting the working methods. There were a lot more VHS than film producers, the demand for translation increased, and translators for the film industry started to emerge.

Markets in Subtitling

There were already two big markets, each with its producers, their methods and their translators. The cinema continued to grow, but the VHS increased the commercialisation of films and the demand for translation exponentially.

Translation for the DVD Market

Then came the DVD revolution as part of the new digital media movement. Again, the old catalogues needed to be re-released. Many new programs started to be produced directly using digital media. The audience reached became even greater than all of the previous ones. And, this time, each DVD movie could include several translations, in different modalities (subtitling and dubbing, for example) and more than one language. Again, there was a radical change in media, technique, technology, and therefore translation methodology. The universe of producers would shrink because the digital world would require a smaller infrastructure than that of VHS and much smaller than that of cinema – nowadays a producer may consist of a man with a powerful computer.

Audiovisual translation becomes erratic

The enormous demand for translation associated with the fragmentation of the film industry and distributor made the entire translation process – from selecting a translator to quality control, and working methodology – more inconsistent: a serious producer could invest more in the quality of the translations while video editors would be looking for an inexpensive service, regardless of quality.

In addition, sometimes the original distributor of the film would be in charge of the translation. Occasionally, a producer under contract would carry out editing or distribution tasks in the target culture. Sometimes, a company specialised in translation would do so.

More Independent Producers, More Dissociated Translation

And then there was cable TV

And let’s not forget the fact that digital resources had increased the production of non-commercial films, which were invisible to the cinema and TV audience: those made by companies and organisations for institutional, educational and technical purposes, I mean. The market would become “independent”, with a rapid growth and usually offered a very good remuneration for translators.

And then there was cable TV, which again led to the development of specialised producers, which often contracted translators, in addition to outsourced ones. There would come different materials, other audiences and goals for translation. As of today, it is a market that continues to grow.

Distribution of a movie in 5 different markets would lead to it being translated 4 or 5 times

So as you can see, we already have 4 or 5 subtitling markets. If the same movie were to go through all of them, it would probably be translated 4 or 5 times, by different companies and translators. Each of them does not constitute a specialisation itself, nor are they totally independent or detached from each other, but it is common for translators to become more involved with one, sometimes having little contact with others. It all depends on which of these niches opens the first door and how everything unfolds from there. If a translator starts providing services to a Blu-Ray company and works, it is more likely that he will continue in that niche, getting to know and interact with other companies in the industry. In a similar way, a technical translator who already has contact with companies of a certain sector and has mastered subtitling techniques is more likely to be successful translating technical films for companies of that sector, films on netflix, a film about war or film for kids, for example.

In recent years, the Blu-Ray and cable TV markets, which are the most unstable in terms of translation quality, have been investing more and more in selecting the right translators, in training and quality control, particularly in response to complaints from consumers and subscribers.

Pricing in subtitling

Prices depend on the supply-demand relationship

Just as there was no unified market, there is also no standardised pricing in subtitling translation. As with the entire translation market, prices depend on the supply-demand relationship, the degree of expertise and experience of the translator, and how many intermediaries exist between the translator and the end customer.

Bill Gates do not hire translators to translate the next Windows, nor does Dan Brown look for translators around the world for his next bestseller. Nor is Spielberg coming to France to choose a translator for his films. There are a lot of companies and people between them and us – and as translators, we are almost at the end of the production and distribution stages of any material, including the audio-visual ones.

Of course, the less gap between the translator and the people who order the translation service – for example, the distributor of a certain film in France or the company preparing a specific technical video – the more one is able to charge appropriately.

There are many variables when pricing subtitling

When dealing with a large producer who has been contracted by the final customer to take care of editing, distribution and translation, the producer will absorb most of the client’s budget and will offer the translator something between half and a quarter of the price ​​suggested by the industry. Yet, there is a lot of variation, since each producer has its own grid, which can take into account either the duration of the films or the number of characters of the subtitling, or the degree of difficulty of the material, the languages ​​involved and even the level of experience of the translator.

There are many variables. It is impossible to know ​​how much a translator earns. For the same feature film, one can earn from $400 to $1500, depending on the conditions. The job can vary from 3 to 10 days. Of course, the higher the productivity, the more earnings the translator gets, so a more specialised and experienced translator usually earns more – his client base is larger and his work more efficient.

Current Situation of the Subtitling Business

The film industry remains active, but the number of titles released does not increase (at least significantly) every year. Therefore, it is a more stabilised market, which does not actively search for new translators very often.

The opposite occurs with newer markets, Blu-Ray, cable TV, and institutional and technical films. They keep growing and searching for more skilled translators. The concern with quality has led to the proliferation of instrumental courses for translators. Today, there is a great offer of subtitling courses, with different objectives. The industry, for its part, has given preference to translators with some experience or at least who have taken some courses in the field.

New subtitling software come up every year

Technology is developing at an increasingly crazy pace. Ten years ago, almost all translators specialised in the field used * a * subtitling software, available in the “free but horrendous” or “professional and expensive” version. Now new programs come up every year, also with different offers. A video producer may employ expensive software for editing, while their translators work with inexpensive or even free (but modern and excellent) applications that generate formatted files that are compatible with customers’ requirements. Therefore, one of the essential tasks of service providers is to keep abreast of new technologies and resources available.

It is worth noting that it is not essential to use specific software for subtitling. Many writers prepare text files so that their translators work using only a text editor, such as Word. The film business also does not work with a particular subtitling software, and translations are also done in Word. However, the translator who is proficient with certain applications has access to a wider range of clients, especially those dealing with newer technologies. Nowadays, a translator who wants to enter the subtitling market, let’s say if they want to do subtitling for netflix, for example, will have much fewer opportunities if he does not master subtitling software.

Subtitling translators can now translate from a distance

Digital technologies have also freed customers and translators of space constraints. There is no longer a need to be around to pick up and carry stacks of VHS tapes and paper scripts. Currently, the most common method of working is from a distance: the producer generates a low-resolution digital copy of the film and transfers it to the translator via the internet. This system also sends the translation when it’s ready (in text format) over the internet to the client. Therefore, the physical location of the translator and the client is no longer relevant, and even the selection process can be carried out at a distance.

Early Career in Subtitling

The major producers of Blu-Ray and cable TV – several of them fully dedicated to audiovisual translation – have for years had an increasing demand for subtitling and are always looking for good translators. Pricing tends to fall, but there is a great deal of demand, so this is a good entry point for professionals who do not have other contacts in some higher paying niche. Subtitling is a good place to learn and gain autonomy.

Personally, from my experience, I gain more or less the same by dedicating myself exclusively to providing services to video producers than to publishers or translation agencies (three types of clients notorious for the great service offering and for “weak” remuneration). Whenever the opportunity arises to provide direct services to final clients – or to smaller and more specialised intermediaries – the pay is better.

Make yourself known in the subtitling market

Does “subtitling pay well?” Can you make good money doing subtitling for netflix? It is not possible to say because as mentioned previously, there is no standardisation. In my opinion, the subtitling market is a true example of what the universe of translation is all about: there are better and worse customers, and better and worse translators. It is up to us to make our way in the market, making contacts, making ourselves known, seeking to improve, and thus finding the best projects and clients. Much comes with time and dedication.

We are always knocking on doors, and not always those that open are the ones we imagined. It takes a good dose of “elbow grease”. The more tools we have at hand and the more techniques we master, the better we are prepared to grab an opportunity when it comes.

FAQ

Is it possible to live well with subtitling?

Yes.

Although what could be considered as “living well” is a personal and non-transferable issue. In addition, most translators are “multitasking” and not restricted to one translation market – it’s my case.

Do you have to be in France or in Paris to work with subtitling?

No need.

Everything goes through the web. Translators interact with one another and with clients through various resources. Not knowing or making good use of these resources means losing most job opportunities.

Do you need any type of certificate or formal study to work in the market?

Nope.

Customers want performance and quality. When reviewing your service proposal, they want to know if you have any experience (in translating films on netflix or films for kids, for example) . Of course, having studied, attending a subtitling workshop and prepare yourself helps a lot. Taking a subtitling course means you already have some hands-on experience, and that’s usually enough for any potential customer. What really counts, in practice, is your first experience working with that customer. If it is satisfactory, it does not matter if you have four PhDs. So be prepared to meet the demands of the market with quality – which, in the case of subtitling, are mostly practical.

A Translator’s Life: The Edge of Reason

procrastinating with facebook

Motivation vs. Procrastination in the Life of a Translator

In recent months, many things that I have done and seen have made me think on productivity. What motivates and what hinders our work routine, and how all this reflects in our image and our professional success as translators. Today, I will gather some thoughts and information on this.

From translating an inspirational book

Recently, I completed the translation of a booklet about self-help for a customer, which had a great impact on me (Cannot give you its title at this stage as it is waiting for publication).

I loved doing this translation, with which I also learned a lot.

Small, with tiny chapters, written in simple and direct language, permeated with illustrations, it is intended for businessmen or people who wish to start a business, or maybe not even that. Yet, this one is very different from any other kind of self-help business books out there. It demystifies many notions about business we hear. yet, always with a lot of common sense and almost excessive frankness. Virtually all the topics covered in the book can be applied to freelancers as well, especially to translators who have a business. I’ve found myself reflected in many chapters – or saw my past, my background, past jobs, colleagues. Even in typical day-to-day situations in an office, which have nothing to do with me, I saw relatives and friends there.

To Gaining Valuable Insights Into My Translation Business

There are valuable insights on preparing and launching new ventures, outreach, business concepts, use of technology, distance co-operation, competition, and much about productivity and motivation. I do not want to give away too much here, but a lot of things stuck with me. Not everything is new, but said in such an eloquent way, with great real examples. The text ends up reinforcing what people in the background already know, besides giving us some well-deserved slaps in the face. For example:

— Everything you do, say, write, every phone call, every invoice, every email – everything – is marketing.

— Being a workaholic, turning nights and weekends, sleeping little and eating badly, and still being proud of it, ultimately is being incompetent, disorganised, clumsy. Working a lot has nothing to do with working well.

— Having brilliant ideas or making big plans is no merit; What really makes the difference is in actually realising a succession of little good ideas every day.

— Current interaction tools have revalued writing – emails, text messages, websites, blogs. Communication should be efficient, clear, informative. Writing well is the fruit of the clarity and organisation of thoughts; therefore, when recruiting partners, give preference to those who write well.

— Want to be immune to competition? Make your product your own, something that only you can do, your way of being, something inimitable. Not just the result of your work, but the whole experience of working with you. (Another that applies even more to translators, as opposed to entrepreneurs from other areas.)

— To excel and have a differential, share and teach. The more people want to do what you do, the way you do, the more you establish yourself as a leader.

— Our great enemy is interruption. We only surrender when we can work for a while without any kind of interruption, so you have to schedule work periods like this.

— What drive productivity is motivation, and this is the result of many factors, including a favourable environment, attainable goals and small daily successes – more on this issue next.

— And much, much more.

How people procrastinate

More motivation to be a better translator

Also recently, I attended a convention for small entrepreneurs. I confess that at first I did not give it much credit – such a public thing, for free… What do I know, right? But it was exceptional. Great lectures, beginning with one of Google’s directors in Australia, and with many panels on digital media, marketing and business tools, etc. In a hall filled with computers, volunteers helped those who wanted to learn and open accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn and other networking sites. At the end of the day, I left full energy to improve my productivity, choose better customers, and make more productive partnerships.

And I cannot say why, but I have the impression that only this motivation, this desire to be effective, to reinforce the things that I clearly have been doing right and to correct what is not, already generates positive results. I think that just setting certain priorities or having clearer headings already translates into productivity – and effectiveness. And productivity translates into praise, better services, more money, more time to do what we like, and all this produces more motivation, of course.

Speaking of motivation, I discovered today, through a Twitter link, this beautifully illustrated lecture on the results of a research on motivation – what kind of reward yields good results, makes us win challenges. In a TED Talk, Dan Ariely does not say anything that we do not already know, but watching and reading him filled me with enthusiasm.

Professional Satisfaction as a Translator

I have seen dilemmas, debates and experiences about unattractive professional choices with huge monetary compensation versus choices that give more personal and professional satisfaction with little financial return. And increasingly I am an unconditional partisan of the second option. Because in the long run, a job that generates a good dose of motivation, which is a priority, that makes sense, inevitably generates financial return as well – and from a certain point, a higher financial return alone does not increase the motivation, quite the opposite.

There is also a crucial difference in the different positions I see in aspiring translators – for example, in the numerous emails I receive from beginners in translation asking for all kinds of opinions, advice or help.

Benefits of being a translator

There are people who, before even trying to translate something, soon show that they are anxious to know how much they will earn. It has to be a lot. It has to be now. In general, these same people want to know which areas are easy to get into, requires a small amount of customer service and guaranteed high salary. It is not uncommon to hear some well-publicised myths out there, such as those sworn translators who earn abysmal sums of money each month translating some nonsense driver’s licence.

Yes, of course! Gee, that must be why so many of my colleagues and my fellow sworn translators live on yachts, and only I have not realised that yet.

The Real Winners of the Translation Industry

The fact of the matter is that – almost always – those who have this type of concern when planning their career are not the ones who will spend half an hour immersed in dictionaries trying to get the perfect translation for an expression. Nor would they usually “waste time” studying in depth, or begin their translation career willing to translate for very little money in the beginning. It is not by chance that these “translators” are not the ones who tend to achieve the kind of professional success they were hoping to get.

Others want to perfect themselves. They want to study more, read more, do more exercises, want you to recommend other courses. There is a passion behind what they do, as well as the relentless pursuit of technical improvement – which is a lot duller and less exciting than the “passion for languages.” I often keep in touch with these people, and I am happy to see how successful they are in the profession. They are great colleagues. And the interesting thing is that they are often surprised, think they were lucky or do not think they work too much.

After 25 years of experience as a translator, now that I have a different perspective, the difference is very clear. People like that are a minority, yes, and they succeed because they have the motivation driven by the right priorities, which lead them to make no effort to improve. They embark on the profession aiming to be excellent professionals throughout their lives, not aiming for a cash-filled savings and early retirement. The difference between these values ​​is huge.

The Worst Enemy of the Translator

To conclude, let me talk about our worst enemy: procrastination. Who does not suffer from that throws me the first stone. We have to be connected all day, easy to be found by clients and colleagues, attentive. Emails need to be answered quickly. We need to be aware of the latest news and debates. Help someone to solve a problem on Facebook. Watching a photo album of our latest trip or someone laughing at a bad translation in a video on YouTube … 1h45 later, you wonder why you are still watching this new episode of the Game of thrones.

Not to mention that Monday morning, when you take a deep breath and open the directory of the next 35-page review of a text on IT, and suddenly that’s the ideal time to mow the lawn (Or update the blog…)

Sometimes, procrastination is more blatant. Sometimes, it is camouflaged as research or confused with coffee time. Anyway, if we’re honest, we all know that we don’t roll up our sleeves more than we should, that we often lose control over the time of rest. Then the blame hits and we work until 3 o’clock in the morning, we skip meals. And when we see it, we fall into the vicious cycle of inefficient workaholism, which can end up compromising quality.

Applying These Reflections to the World of Translation

It was just when I was thinking about these subjects that I came across this article, about the evolutionary, neurological and behavioural reasons behind procrastination, and why it seems to sabotage us in such effective ways. It brings some clues to cheating our own brains, or at least not letting ourselves be fooled. Another read is worth very much.

This text quotes Dan Ariely, a scholar of human behaviours associated with economics who has given excellent lectures in TED. On his site there are links to podcasts he has done on the various chapters. I still do not know how to relate all this to the universe of translation, but all this discussion has attracted me immensely and I feel it will still bring me something useful – even if it is good reflections and reading recommendations.

Now, to work!