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).
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
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.
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.
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
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?
Much is said of theTranslation 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
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
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.
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.
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
Agency Owner Has the Final Word
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.
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
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.
Organised PM Will Keep All the Good Resumes Handy
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
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
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 between Agencies, LSPs and translators
Prioritising Clients You
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
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
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.