Last May, during my European vacation, I attended two conferences for the first time. Last month I wrote about my experience at the BP19 Conference. In this month’s post, I write about my experience as a newbie at the ITI Conference, which was held in Sheffield, UK, at the amazing Cutlers’ Hall, on May 10-11.
To begin with, Paul Appleyard, ITI’s Chair, welcomed us by beautifully saying we should be concerned with the changes of the world of our work and be prepared. I agree with him. And a great way of leaving our bubble and keeping updated on what is happening and changing in our profession is to attend different conferences and events. As Paul Wilson, ITI’s CEO, later said, networking is one of the most powerful tools we have, so we should make the most out of it.
Here’s a brief overview of the sessions I attended at the conference. The post ended up being longer than usual, but I hope you find my account of the presentations helpful.
Defining and improving quality in specialized multilingual services, by Angela Sigee
Angela, German lawyer and translator, specifically talked about legal translation. She stressed it is important to bear in mind that lawyers work with words just like translators, but in different ways. She said the main issue in legal translation is that legal systems are different, creating conceptual gaps. There are degrees of accuracy, so it is important to hear, and render, the overtones. Therefore, knowing the source language is not enough. Legal translators must have a great command of their target language.
According to Sigee, future-proof legal translators should understand the big picture and be detail-oriented. She said practice is essential (just like in any other translation area, right?). She recommends partnering with a colleague to review your work and finding a mentor.
Professional organizations are also a great place to look for help in improving your knowledge, since they offer training courses, mentoring, policies. You can also learn with language service providers when they offer proofreading practices, for example. I totally agree! I learn a lot with feedback from editors/proofreaders. Being open to feedback and carefully analyzing them help us learn with our mistakes and the client’s preferences and style, avoiding repeat mistakes.
Angela suggests the following book for legal translators: New Approach to Legal Translation, by Susan Sarcevic.
The other side of the mirror: an inside look at a “translator-driven” corporate communications campaign, by David Jemielity
David is Head of Translations at Banque Cantonale Vaudoise (BCV) and talked about how BCV’s in-house translations team managed to position itself at the center of the bank’s communications decision-making.
According to David, we should position ourselves as high value-added service providers. If you can position yourself as someone who can deeply understand and translate the company’s overall brand voice, you’re doing something different and not commonplace.
Jemielity said that, when not properly aware of a company’s brand voice, a translator can change it by unwillingly deverbalizing the message. Quality means effective communication in the target language. Ask yourself: “Is this effective as communication?” rather than “Is this a good translation?” Regardless of how good your translation is, it won’t matter if it doesn’t meet your client’s expectations.
The source text should not be used as an excuse! Difficult in practice, but totally true. If we used this as “excuse,” we wouldn’t translate anything at the best of our abilities, since practically everything is badly written nowadays.
On creating or translating a brand identity, according to David, numbers are abstract. They don’t answer the essential question: What’s in it for me? You should shift perceptions and talk like the people you are talking to. Good copies are factual, simple, impact-oriented, familiar, authentic, specific, and written in a conversational style that speaks to the audience
David sums up his presentation by telling us the lessons learned from BCV’s translation-driven corporate communications campaign:
- Really specialize.
- It’s not about whether it is a good translation. It’s about whether it’s effective communication.
- Don’t forget about (or shy away from) managing perceived quality as well as actual quality.
- Be ambitious and play the long game.
Embracing the flexible future, by Lizzie Penny and Alex Hirst, from The Hoxby Collective
“I was praising my success on the number of hours I worked,” said Alex, who was on fire at his marketing career, but eventually burned out. The catalyst for Lizzie, in turn, was becoming a mom. “You should be judged by your output, rather than by when/where you work,” she said. Together, they created the flexible working community The Hoxby Collective, which promotes the workstyle movement to ensure more people can spend their time in the way that most inspires them.
According to them, work should fit around life, not the opposite! You should work however/whenever/wherever you choose, being free to choose your own workstyle. “For us, passion carries much more importance than experience.”
Translators as communicators: diversifying your career, by Adam Fuss
According to Adam, the increased quality of machine technology is forcing translators to reevaluate the services they offer and how they market themselves.
Fuss mentions the following additional areas of practice for diversification: academic copywriting, copywriting and transcreation, and communication consulting.
You need to know yourself really well in order to know how to diversity. For example, are you an introvert or extrovert? Find your ideal balance when diversifying activities.
How to diversify your services in communications consulting: be prepared to work for free (in marketing yourself); get involved; read, share, repeat; look for opportunities in your current work; focus on data.
The Collaborative Edge: mutual revision as a way to improve translations – and translators, by Victoria Patience, Simon Berrill, and Tim Gutteridge (not present)
The trio decided to try a different approach and set up a mutual revision and critiquing arrangement, the RevClub. They review each other’s translations weekly and give feedback on it. RevClub is comprised of three weeks of revision (one for each member) and one week of translation slam.
According to them, it is refreshing to hear constructive criticism and genuine praise of each other’s work. Collaborative work can also lead to confident referrals, since you know each other’s way of work and translation quality.
Establishing a collaborative peer-review system with trusted colleagues keeps you at the top of your game, offers a fresh perspective on linguistic choices, and fosters positive industry relationships.
Making the leap, by Chris Durban
Chris starts with the following question: Do you want to stop surviving and start thriving? So you should change your mindset from “Yes, but…” to “Yes, and…” I totally agree!
Being a really good translator takes a lot of work. And being worried is a good thing. It makes us not settle and aim for better. The premium market involves higher risks, but higher risks equal higher rewards.
“I don’t care about how good or bad the source text is,” she said. We should aim to create translations that work as communication. This point was also made by David Jemielity earlier on, stressing its importance.
Chris also showed us examples of similarity of input provided by machine translation and poor translators. Machine translation will replace translators, but only those who work like one.
Durban gave us some great tips:
- Be aware of the comfort zone.
- Get granular (technical, financial, legal is not detailed enough).
- Embrace risk.
- Eschew PEMT.
- Limit your time on social media.
- Invest in yourself (10-15% of your income).
- Don’t believe everything you read or people say.
- Find a mentor.
“Get a grip guys!” she said. Technology is good and everything, but it’s the easy part in our job as translators.
Listen to how potential clients and your customers talk. Understand what their issues are. This will make you connect with them and move into their world. Talk about them (clients)! And smoothly and naturally move into the commercial talk.
Crunching the numbers: how to grow your translation business, by Anja Jones
According to Anja, from Anja Jones Translations (AJT), there is always someone who will do it cheaper! We usually compare ourselves with our customers and competitors (other linguists, LSPs, MT, etc.). However, the market is so fragmented that we need to focus on ourselves rather than on what our competitors are doing. “Start with yourself,” she said. “It should be all about yourself.”
Profit/Loss = income – expenses (direct – gross profit/loss; or operating – net profit/loss)
How to calculate your minimum word price? Start with your business expenses and go to your living expenses. Be specific and detailed on your expenses. Add your monthly translation capacity and you will have the minimum you need to charge per word. Don’t forget to consider savings for rainy days and for taxes when calculating your expenses and minimum rate.
Be confident when negotiating prices and communicating your minimum rates to clients. Articulate why you’re worth what you’re worth.
Translation isn’t a commodity! There is no such a thing as bulk discounts. Don’t drop your trousers just because someone asked you to. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” If you give a discount, communicate very clearly why you’re doing so, make sure the client knows it’s a one-off time, and ask for something in return, e.g. a testimonial.
Also think about how you can negotiate. If the client doesn’t have enough budget, suggest important things you can translate, instead of translating the entire content, e.g. in websites.
Increase your earning potential by using technology, specializing, considering proofreading/editing (not everybody is willing to do that), offering services at an hourly rate or on a retainer basis. Think of ways to make your day more efficient. Your time is valuable so spend it wisely! Every little minute saved adds up to maximize your efficiency.
If you want to expand, consider building a team, e.g. translation coordinator, freelance collective, employer, two-people team.
When increasing prices, be honest and explain where the increase in price came from. Inform clients in advance and offer them the chance to order services before prices go up.
Talking all over the world: a look at the perception of translators and interpreters across cultures, by Jeanette Brickner
According to Jeanette, some things about culture are easy to see, but others not so much. They’re not so obvious. There’s a lot we can accidentally overlook or simplify. Approaches to health and medicine, dress codes, family matters, humor, etc. are examples of cultural specifics.
Privilege isn’t just a buzzword, especially in the language industry, e.g. English-speaking people have particular advantages on a global scale, geography plays a huge role (what if you live somewhere distant?). Even though the EU has 24 official languages and approximately 60 minority and/or indigenous languages, English and French are more relied upon.
According to Jeanette, we should foster a community that reinforces a positive outlook on the profession. She recommends, “Share your knowledge.” The market is big enough for everyone. Talk to your friends and family about what you do (positively, not negatively). Be culturally sensitive.
Asterix and linguistix: the science of the translated world, Oliver Kamm
The keynote speaker, Oliver Kamm, is Anthea Bell’s son. Anthea Bell was an English translator of works such as Asterix and passed away last October. Oliver is leader writer and columnist of The Times.
Did you know the first English translation of Asterix was only published in 1969 (the original French was published in 1959)?
“Telling what it says in the book is what you [translators] do. Not every language in the world is English. There’s a whole world out there. Language is a universal human faculty,” said Oliver. Language is a universal human attribute. You learn and follow grammar rules naturally in life.
Sign language is the most recent language (40 years old). It’s a very complex system. It was invented by children in Nicaragua.
In these dark times of ethno-nationalism and xenophobia, the window into other cultures that literature in other languages gives us is absolutely crucial.
Training new literary translators: teaching through practice, by Daniel Hahn
“Translating is like writing someone else’s book, but backwards and on high heels,” beautifully said British literary translator from Portuguese, Spanish, and French, Daniel.
According to him, “learning is in the process. Almost all my workshops are learning by doing. Teaching by doing means I also get to learn it myself. You learn by being forced to articulate choices that come instinctively to you.”
Translation bloopers are dead! Long live abundant new ways of showcasing yourself and our profession, by Karen McMillan Tkaczyk
According to Karen, there are other more positive ideas we can use to promote our profession than bloopers. And I couldn’t agree more with her! Recommending the people you love working with (nor just behind the scenes, e.g. LinkedIn recommendations, when you can’t do the job) is a great way to promote our profession. Credit revisors/editors when you know your translation has been revised/edited. If you don’t know who they are, add a general note. Another way to promote value in what we do is asking for referrals to current clients. You have to add value to your client so that they can feel you’re worth the referral.
Consider writing letters to the editor on magazines/newspapers on your area of specialization.
When creating a portfolio, focus on your “About” page. We like reading translations, but not everybody does, so the “About” page is important.
Karen concludes her talk and the conference by playing on the conference’s theme: “We can all do our bit in promoting (and forging) the future of our profession.”
That’s it! I hope you liked my brief summary of the conference. If I got you into considering attending the next one, the ITI Conference is biennial, so the next one will be held only in 2021.