Greatest Women in Translation: Diane Grosklaus Whitty

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Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

Please welcome this month’s interviewee, Diane Grosklaus Whitty, nominated by Kim Olson.


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1. How did you get into translation? And what was the importance of co-translating a book by Mário Quintana, a well-known Brazilian author (and also translator), in your early translation years?

I drifted into translation much as I drifted into a 23-year residency in Brazil, cutting short vague plans to pursue an academic career in psycholinguistics. About two years into my ex-pat life, I started committing translations. I say ”committing” because I had no business tackling the task at that point. But it was 1978 and I was a native English speaker in a high-demand market, long before email, the internet, or even personal computers (I used a manual typewriter back then). Today I realize I got very lucky with Mário Quintana’s book: lucky to have been given the assignment and lucky that it didn’t present any major translation challenges, for which I would not have been prepared. Prime rule for a translator: know what you don’t know. I caught on to that over the years, as I took short courses and attended seminars in translation, and as experience hit me aside the head every once in a while. My four-year stint as in-house translator and interpreter for the Australian Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro (1982-86) was a period of intense on-the-job training. By the time the Australian government closed the consulate, I was ready to take the plunge as a full-time free-lancer.

2 The first thing that struck my attention when researching about you to create your questions was the quality of the detailed information one can find on your website, especially your vast portfolio. How important do you think it is for a translator to showcase their portfolio?

I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all formula. If you’re a new translator starting out and don’t have much of a portfolio, spending time and money on a website might not be as important as investing in ATA certification or a new CAT tool. In my case, however, while I don’t have a degree in translation or a master’s in, say, public health, what I do have is vast experience – more years than I actually advertise! So my site serves to showcase my work in a way a resume never would. I actually created it just a year ago. I source over half of my income from direct clients in Brazil and when the real plummeted in late 2015/early 2016, I pulled back from the Brazilian market for a while and devoted my extra time to  designing the site. I’ve gotten little traffic through it (half a dozen certified document translations), but I think it serves its other purpose well. I should point out that only about 10% of my work is for agencies; busy PMs want a neat and tidy resume to tuck away in their virtual file cabinet plus a list of the CAT tools you work with; they won’t take the time to visit a website. But here’s an example of how it works with my direct clients: I was approached last fall by a publisher about a non-fiction book on Zika. In my email reply to her query, I highlighted relevant jobs from my portfolio and pointed the editor to my website, where she could also look at samples of my work in the ”snippets” tab. I can’t confirm that the website made any difference in the fact that I landed the assignment (my current favorite-ever), but having the information neatly laid out somehow made it easier to pitch my skills.

At the same time, whether you want to showcase your portfolio or not, I feel it’s important to maintain one. For years, I used to do this in a simple Word file, plugging the raw data into a table hidden inside a folder on my desktop. The website transformed a dreary act of record-keeping into the chance to see the efforts of my labor on display.

3. You mention your all-time favorite escort interpreting assignment was working for the Australian delegation at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. Could you tell us a bit what it was like and why you enjoyed doing it?

I think translators and interpreters are insatiably curious, and this particular assignment gave me glimpses into slices of the world to which I would otherwise not be privy. I sat in while the shadow minister for the environment – a devout Catholic – engaged in an hour-long private conversation with an elderly priest who had been a militant under the dictatorship; I also interpreted for the then-minister of the environment, whose appointments included meeting with a group of street children who were learning sustainable crafts. I was actually a “girl Friday” for the 40 or so members of the delegation, untangling logistic snarls, giving lessons in local culture, and accompanying groups through exhibits and sometimes just around town. Perhaps what I loved most was never knowing which of my language or cultural competency skills might come into play. And the Earth Summit was history – who doesn’t enjoy watching it unfold?

4. Besides having an amazing portfolio, you also showcase some great testimonials, such as “You are like Romário in Brazil. Nobody can replace you,” by a filmmaker, and “you choose the words as I choose the notes when I write an arrangement, very carefully,” by a jazz saxophonist and flautist. Do you think having testimonials help build trust with our potential clients and make them choose us?

Yes, definitely. In a world where ”e-meeting” has become the norm, and where scams are a constant plague, I think testimonials help legitimize your claims and add a personal touch. I’ve drawn most of the testimonials from email exchanges with clients (with their permission), and I have two criteria in mind when deciding what to post. First, I want the comments to mention the qualities and skills that I feel I bring to the job. Second, since the bulk of my work is for direct clients, I give top billing to recognizable names in a given field. So if a scholar or publisher contacts me about a potential job, I can direct them to my site, where they will often recognize a name or two, by reputation or even personally (Brazilian academia is a small world). It helped that I had horded positive feedback over the years in a special file. I recommend it for those days when a job, or a client, has you tearing your hair out and wondering why you ever decided to be a translator – you can take a stroll down memory lane and re-visit some of the clients who make your job a pleasure.

5. Besides having a thorough website not many freelance translators have, you also have a Facebook page, something else not all freelance translators have either (not to mention a rather active ProZ.com profile). And you do share some interesting articles there. How important do you think it is, for freelance translators, to be online?

I don’t consciously seek to maintain an active online presence. In fact, I’m not really a big fan of social media. I created my professional FB page on a whim, but then I found that it forces me to pull my head out of my work and have a little fun. When I left Brazil and returned to the Midwest, in 1999, I started my own little email newsletter for my clients back in Brazil, called ”News of North and South” (a nod to Elizabeth Bishop). It wasn’t focused on translation but on news that might be of interest to my clients – Caetano Veloso’s show in Chicago, my experience with ”return-to-my-native-culture shock,” a US report about something happening in Brazil. It was my excuse to send clients an email and remind them I existed, without directly nagging them for work. I’ve discovered that my FB page works much the same way. I post about translation, language in general, Brazilian literature in translation… and try to keep it light and entertaining. And since it’s FB, I also use it to advertise my accomplishments and pat myself on the back. I automatically repost to my personal FB page, because many of my FB friends are also longtime clients. I can’t say the rewards are all that tangible, but the investment is minimal. Over the years, I’ve learned that big rewards can come from tiny investments.

7. Now it is your turn. Who do you nominate to be our next interviewee?

I would like to nominate Alison Entrekin, a force in bringing new voices in Brazilian literature to the world stage. Alison has three skills I greatly admire: a matchless talent for reproducing the Brazilian reader’s experience in English (a way of looking at translation that I’ve learned from her), utmost grace in crafting English prose, and an ability to reflect on the translation process itself – reflections that she generously shares with her colleagues, much to our good fortune.


It was a pleasure to e-meet you, Diane, and to get to know a bit more about you. I really appreciate your taking the time to kindly answer my questions. 🙂

Greatest Women in Translation: Kim Olson

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Welcome back to our interview series!

Please welcome this month’s interviewee, Kim Olson, nominated by Doris M. Schraft.


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1. What’s your connection with Brazil and Brazilian Portuguese?

The connection goes back a long way! Where I grew up, public schools began to introduce foreign languages (French or Spanish) to students in the 4th grade. I had a Spanish class a few days a week and was hooked. I had a vivacious teacher who would turn our practice of naming objects and colors into games of catch, and who stealthily prepared us to surprise our regular teacher by teaching us how to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish. In high school, I added German and was blessed to have another marvelous teacher who brought culture and language to life. During that time, I was also involved in activities that brought together a number of foreign students participating in exchange programs such as AFS and Rotary Exchange, Brazilians among them. That was my first exposure to Portuguese and Brazilians.

I knew at that time that I wanted to study languages, but wasn’t quite sure what it would lead me to afterwards (I really could have benefited from ATA’s school outreach program!). My desire to be in a more international setting led me to Georgetown University in Washington, DC where I entered as a Spanish major. A meeting with the assistant dean of the School of Languages and Linguistics the summer before college got me thinking about studying Portuguese “as a way to open up more of South America.” Portuguese had not been a language offered in my school system, but I’d gotten a notion of it from meeting Brazilian students. When it came time to register for classes, I selected both Spanish and Portuguese, making the decision to leave German for a time. By my second semester, I’d officially changed my major to Portuguese and was pursuing a minor in Latin American Area Studies. Language majors were encouraged to study abroad and I was able to do so during my junior year as an International Student Exchange Program participant to PUC/RJ. After completing studies at Georgetown, I was determined to get back to Brazil and decided the best way to do that would be to go back to PUC/RJ and obtain a degree in translation.

2. After holding two undergraduate degrees in Languages/Translation, you moved to International Business for an MBA. Why did you decide to change areas?

I saw this less as a change in area and more as an expanded scope of potential activities. When I returned to the U.S. after PUC, I looked for a job in Washington, DC, seeking a job in which I could use my language skills. I eventually took a support position in the Latin America and Caribbean Investment Department at the International Finance Corporation, the private-sector arm of the World Bank. I was very intrigued by the work performed there, but my non-business background proved to be somewhat of a barrier. That’s when I decided to pursue an MBA at nearby George Washington University. I earned my degree over a four-year period as I continued to work full-time and translate on the side. By the time I finished, the entrepreneurial side of business school had taken firm hold and before long, I set out to run my own business. That of course involved translation.

3. When asked where I could find more information about you, you provided me with your ProZ.com profile, as well as your LinkedIn profile. Do you think having a ProZ.com profile helps getting projects and clients? Have you ever landed any project/client through ProZ.com?

As a freelancer, I have to create as many possible channels as I can for obtaining potential clients. The process of setting up my profile, selecting particular ways to describe my work and sorting through sample translations for posting helped me think through how I want to be perceived. Early on, I was diligent about checking the site daily and got a few projects.  One turned out to be quite interesting – selecting snippets of audio in Portuguese to be used for language teaching purposes. That project lasted almost a year and made for a nice change of pace from straight translation.

4. I could not help but notice that you got your ATA certification in the same year I was born. That makes me feel like a baby and a complete amateur compared to your vast and rich experience in translation. What were your greatest learnings in all those years of experience that you feel are worth sharing with translation babies like myself? 🙂

In the process of learning a foreign language, we all know that you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone and risk sounding slightly ridiculous as you practice vocabulary, string together what you hope will be grammatically-correct sentences and hone your accent. That willingness over time translates(!) into taking chances in the professional realm, often in the form of assignments. I don’t mean straying from your languages or areas of expertise, but rather, keeping an open mind when potential projects present themselves to you. This willingness to take a chance can lead to some fascinating assignments that in turn help you build more confidence as you diversify your abilities and gain experience.

Along with this willingness, I’ve also learned to embrace what appear to be new directions. I’ve learned to follow what sparks my interest, investing in it intellectually and otherwise. It’s only been in the past 10 years that my focus has moved more towards the sciences, for example.

Another thing I’ve found that is also related to stepping out of the comfort zone is that I should not be shy or reluctant about engaging with colleagues. They are my greatest resources for ideas and solutions. Sometimes those solutions involve joining together to tackle a large project.

5. What have you learned so far with your experience leading a team of translators in producing the online English version of a monthly magazine published by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)?

This initial point is not new, and is reinforced as each month passes. My colleagues are incredible sources of wisdom, solutions and inspiration. I have become a better translator because of what I have learned from them.

I’ve also realized that

I truly enjoy the process involved in producing a high-quality translation product that allows the client to showcase its work.

I thrive on the attention to detail involved in project management and I love editing the pieces and helping to finesse the articles. I’ve learned, too, that I really enjoy the variety of articles that come across my desk. Many of the subjects have sparked a desire to learn even more.

The main thing I’ve learned, though, is that success can be found in many places.

A challenging request from a client might just set you on a path to something fun and rewarding.

6. ATA 57 was the first time you attended an ATA Conference as a speaker. How was the experience? What are the benefits, in your opinion, of presenting at a conference?

I attended my first ATA Conference in 1989 and remember being amazed at the level of knowledge and expertise people had and were willing to share. After many years of attending conferences, I reached a point where I finally thought I had something to offer as well. By then, I’d been leading the incredibly talented translators on the FAPESP project for nearly four years. It was a measure of success that I felt was worthy of talking about.

I found the experience itself to very rewarding (despite my more-than-anticipated nervousness). Again, the process of preparing my presentation helped me focus on key points. My session was quite well-attended and people seemed genuinely interested in my experience. That interest and eagerness to learn more from me and my experience was extremely gratifying.

7. Now it is your turn. Who do you nominate to be our next interviewee?

I would like to nominate Diane Grosklaus Whitty. I met Diane when she became part of the current project team and we have worked together on other projects as well. I’m allowed to marvel at her beautifully rendered translations and reap the benefit of her painstaking and thorough subject-matter research on a regular basis. She inspires me!


I loved reading your answers, Kim! Thank you so much for kindly accepting Doris’ nomination and my invitation! It was a pleasure e-meeting you and getting to know a bit more about you.

Greatest Women in Translation: Regina Alfarano

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Dear readers, welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

I doubt anybody else enjoys this series as much as I do. I love it! Meeting new people, learning more about them in order to ask the questions, reading their amazing answers…

And today, once again, it’s with a great pleasure that I introduce you to the lovely Regina Alfarano, nominated by Luciana Meinking.

Welcome, Regina!


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1. Let’s start talking about your “firsts”. You were part of the team that founded the second translation university course in Brazil, back in 1971. A few years after that, you also joined the staff starting the translation course at USP. Additionally, you founded the first publishing company specialized in translation publications in São Paulo, Alamo, and the first translation journal in Brazil, Tradução & Comunicação. I can only conclude you had quite an important role in introducing translation studies in Brazil. Could you tell us a bit more about these experiences you had?

Those were very exciting years! And undoubtedly, times of fighting hard battles as well. Translation was not recognized as a specific area. It was seen as a “branch” of Language Courses. So, a university course was considered “unthinkable”. I heard – from active interpreters then – questions like: “Do you really think you can teach students to be translators?” “Do you honestly think Translation can be a course on its own?” Well, I am glad it did not take too many years to see Translation and Interpreting as they were originally thought to be and as they had already been in other countries! The experience was different at Ibero-americana (from 1971-1985) and USP (1979-2000). Ibero-americana held an undergraduate program, while USP held a graduate program in Translation only. Both contributed immensely for the professional development of both areas. The first translation journal – Tradução & Comunicação – was one of my most gratifying achievements. Although aware of the groundbreaking character of such endeavor, I was flabbergasted when right after Volume 1 was launched I received a letter (those were old times [1981], when communication was carried out through letters!!!!!) from the Fedération Internationale des Traducteurs (FIT) with an invitation to present the journal at their International Congress in Vienna, Austria. META was the only translation journal in the Americas (Montréal) at the time, so Tradução & Comunicação was greeted sparklingly and immensely welcomed.

2. According to your own words, one of the most interesting projects you were ever involved in was The translations of William Kennedy in Brazil while being a Fulbright Scholar at the New York State University at Albany. Why was it so interesting?

First of all, being a Fulbright Scholar was, in itself, extremely gratifying. A Fulbright Scholar in the US enjoys high respectability and is recipient of many privileges. Secondly, only in my post-doctorate could I dedicate my research to Translation Studies! USP would not accept translation projects for Master’s Degree or PhD back then. Of course my background in American Literature (Master’s Degree) and British Theater (PhD) were of great help, as was my background in Language and Linguistics. I had visited Albany before, very briefly, after reading William Kennedy’s trilogy – his Albany trilogy. This was 1990. The trilogy was added by a number of books later on. But in 1990 I was absolutely taken by the trilogy – Ironweed, Legs and Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game – and while in the United States, I decided to visit Albany. That visit increased my interest. Back to Brazil I found the translation for the 3 books. Although a trilogy, and practically three books as three chapters of one encompassing work, each was translated by a different translator, and each clearly suggesting to be totally separate. Therefore, the Albany area and its social and cultural scenario – the very core of Kennedy’s trilogy – were lost. Not only that had been lost! I decided to call the publishing house of Ironweed (Vernônia, in the Portuguese version) to try to contact the translator and understand why Kennedy’s language style had been changed (just one example: all swearing names were eliminated). I was informed that the translator could not be contacted. She used a pseudonym and had asked not to be identified! (At a time of such hard struggle for translators’ visibility, rights and copyright.  I was very active both with ABRATES [Associação Brasileira de Tradutores] and SINTRA [Sindicato Nacional de Tradutores], had created ABRATES-SP, and acted as a Director of ABRATES and President of SINTRA ). And worse: she was very religious, and did not approve of swearing, so, she eliminated all the swearing words in Ironweed!!!!!!!!!!!! I was lucky to interview Mr. William Kennedy and was embarrassed to inform him of the unbelievable fact! Mr. William Kennedy had bought the house where Billy Phelan had lived, and not only preserved it but kept it untouched. It was the first and only time I actually visited the physical scenario of a book! The building, the furniture, glasses, lamp fixtures! And William Kennedy sitting in Billy Phelan’s chair and talking about his trilogy! It could not have been more interesting and more of a privilege! I was even more embarrassed, however,  when he said he had never been paid for the copyright of the books published in Brazil!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Not one cent! Not one letter! How horribly embarrassing could that be???? I had the opportunity to meet Mr. William Kennedy one more time (although very briefly) in Paraty, at FLIP 2010. As one of FLIP’s guests he had very busy days and of course was highly requested by participants!

3. You describe your first experience with the translation practice as “a scuba diving initiation”. Could you tell us about your experience and how it shaped your translation career?

I was 18 years old and had just returned to my hometown (Limeira, SP, Brazil) from my one-year AFS exchange program in the US. Someone called from a local hospital. They had just received new equipment imported by a wealthy man who, nearly dying, would have his last chance if the equipment could be put to work. So, they had the “brilliant” idea of calling an 18-year-old whom they thought would translate the manual. As much as I tried to tell them – as I already knew back then, in 1965, that speaking a language did not mean I would be able to translate, let alone a manual – the pressure was so high (‘The man will die if this does not work!’) that I went to the hospital. A piece of equipment, a team of medical professionals and technicians and myself, scared to death. As I translated the instructions I thought ‘I will be the next one to need emergency help here…..’. But slowly but steadily the team started activating the commands – the equipment worked and the man was saved! I felt as if a plow had gone over me! Sweating, hardly breathing, exhausted! But relieved! Would that be the reason why I would never, ever come close to translating manuals? The experience may have shaped my translation career in the sense that I do not, by any means, translate technical material, manuals, and the like. But yet, I do translate medical material, so, it may have been the “scuba diving initiation” to show the challenge, the excitement and the gratification translation can offer.

Translation is not only about languages, knowledge, cultures, and all that comes with it, of course, but about those using it for those purposes: people.

4. Besides this first experience you had, you also say you had total immersion experiences that shaped your areas of specialization (poetry and medical translation). Could you tell us a bit more about them?

When teaching translation I used to say to my students that only poets could translate poetry, which explained why I never included poetry in my Literary Translation Courses. At some point in time, Haroldo de Campos asked me to translate the speech he was going to deliver at a ceremony to honor Octávio Paz. The speech included some poetry. I froze when I received the originals, and immediately talked to Haroldo about it. He said he would give me support if I needed – how would anyone in this world refuse a request by and support from Haroldo de Campos? I decided to take the challenge! Of course I said I would send a first version for Haroldo’s reading, suggestions, etc. etc. To my total astonishment, he did not make any changes at all. And to my double/triple astonishment, sometime later I received a call from Régis Bonvicino, who was organizing a poetry anthology for the Brazil Exhibition in Paris. He invited me to translate Contemporary Brazilian Poets, and before I had any reaction, he added: “Haroldo said you would say you do not translate poetry, but that is not true, you do translate poetry, and he has recommended you”! Again, how could anyone refuse such invitation! And Desencontrários (Unencontraries) was my first delightful experience translating poetry. Others – just as delightful – followed, and I am glad to say I truly enjoyed ‘every word/verse/rhyme’. Working with Haroldo de Campos was most enriching, as expected. Sitting with him, reading poems and translations – invaluable and unforgettable!

As for medical translation, I was caught having to check reference material for one of my projects. Those references showed so many translation problems that they could hardly be useful as references. So, I had to search, re-search and re-search for my research! The project I was involved in included doctors’ research, and again and again, high reading volume. Then, it led me to FDA material research. As the project was of high relevance, I was very involved and of course wanted to do a good, reliable job. Extensive reading and research called the attention of the doctors involved and they recommended me for an even larger project that was medical-related. After detailed information I realized I could face the challenge. That was the beginning of a fast-moving dive into medical translation. One day, my husband, a medical doctor himself, came to my desk, saw the material (we used many dictionaries back then, and many typed copies of translation….. and re-typed pages…..) and asked me: “Are you translating medical texts?” I answered I had been, for some time. He was very surprised! So, it all had to do with my own projects – it all led me quite naturally. The long-lasting AIDS projects both in Brazil and in the US were of profound involvement and partnerships. Thanks to my graduate Translation students at USP who helped me, Brazil was the only country to launch AZT on the same day and at the same time as the US. I was honored to have translated presentations by top Brazilian scientists and researchers on the model AIDS prevention project Brazil developed (and unfortunately interrupted in recent years). The bridge between poetry and medical – as odd as it may seem at first…. – reached its apogee when I translated one of Nelson Ascher’s poem – Mein Herz – from Portuguese into English. As soon as he got my version he called and asked me: “Are you a physician?” “Why do you ask?”, was my reaction. “Because you translated this poem so beautifully, and it sounds ‘medical’”! Coming from a translator of such stature, I could not doubt the ‘bridge’ was viable (and enjoyable!).

5. You say stress and adrenaline are integral parts of translation. Why and/or how?

It has been proven that interpreting is the most stressful profession in the world. The study compared interpreters and surgeons! So, stress and adrenaline are part of the very nature of interpreting, of the fantastic decision-making process and rendition. Interpreting is very often referred to as ‘oral translation’. I would say that is too simplistic! But stress and adrenaline are also integral parts of translation. Clients’ turnaround needs, clients’ reviews of originals – so often – clients’ updates for materials already translated, clients’ requests for additions. And, of course, in no time at all! Clients traveling all over the world – all those requests to be delivered on time and wherever they are. The only way to meet those needs is to draw a map and have color pins to show who is where – Brazilians in Asia, Europeans in the Americas, Americans in Europe. Time zones are absolutely crucial, and projects overlap, since changes were requested after projects had been delivered. ‘The project is over’ – wishful thinking! It does come back….. and back again. When it comes to medical projects, that is potentiated. Huge projects come back for updates two, three, four years later. Many a time, clients’ staff has worked on interim versions (‘minor’, as they say…..). Medical records to be translated for patients who must travel for medical care. Documents required to import medications for all sorts of patients (and many times, children). It is an extremely stressful cycle, fighting against time and having to comply with bureaucracy. Interpreting doctors, nurses, patients and family members about very serious conditions can be the most stressful and the most intense of all experiences. Clients, medical staff in Brazil and all over the world watch the very personal, and many times very sad, testimonials, which must be rendered as any other interpreting session. To be honest – not at all like any other interpreting session. Stress and adrenaline can hardly be measured. And although trembling voice must be avoided, an  interpreter is not always successful when others around are already shedding tears.

[The translation profession] rewards the cumulative years of experience, which is to say, age counts positively; it encourages and demands ongoing learning, which is to say, it is intellectually healthy; it also demands recycling and updating, which is to say, it is continuously evolving; it fits in wonderfully with self-employment, which is to say, one can—or tries to!—manage one’s own working days and hours.

6. You give your students two key pieces of advice: 1. Do not charge less than you deserve for your work; never, ever charge more than you believe you deserve for your work.; and 2. Choose what you really like to do as a profession, and above all, have fun doing it. Why do you think these are the most important pieces of advice to give to translation students?

Dignity is crucial in life – personal life and professional life. Every professional deserves to be compensated for the work done, which goes without saying. But competition may interfere, and ‘professionals’ trying to find jobs unfortunately do charge humiliating fees. So, that is the first part of the first piece of advice: do not charge less than you deserve and the professional field finds to be common sense. And how to find out? Very easily: through professional associations, translation unions, international associations, peers. Competition must never interfere with dignity. On the other end, if a professional is aware of how to charge for the work done, that is what should guide his/her attitude – never, ever charge more. Translators are so often, too often in fact, faced by urgency, by extreme clients’ needs (a few examples above), by the literal plea ‘charge whatever you want’. Of course there are urgency fees, but that is a different issue altogether. There are also pro-bono projects, which are extremely important, gratifying, and no doubt made evident by their own nature. As for regular projects, translators must present their fees very clearly, from the start. Clients should ideally receive a document which shows all services to be rendered, all situations under which they can be rendered, and just as translators expect clients to comply, so must they.

As for liking what we do as a profession, and above all, have fun doing it, I pose a question: how do we feel every time we have to do something that we do not find pleasant, or likeable? It is definitely not a good feeling. When involving others, the result will certainly not be satisfactory. When involving professionals, it can be nearly disastrous! Translation in itself is about making decisions. So, the crucial decision is: I want to be a translator, I like to be a translator, I enjoy what I do, and I have fun doing it (despite all the stress). Then, the decision making process at the core of translating will flow more smoothly. It would never flow otherwise, I am sure.

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate someone you admire and that is a great woman in translation.

I can think of a  number of great women in translation. The one I choose to nominate is Angela Levy. A pioneer in interpreting in Brazil, a prominent translator and outstanding translation/interpreting teacher, Angela has trained and inspired so many translators and interpreters. Angela is to be admired and respected as a professional, as an amazing human being, and as a long-time peer and friend.


Regina, I sincerely appreciate you accepting Luciana’s nomination and my invitation, and taking the time to answer my questions. It was an honor to welcome you on my blog. Thanks a lot! 🙂

Greatest Women in Translation: Melissa Harkin

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Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation series! Since our last “interview” was actually a tribute, it was my turn again to nominate someone and restart the thread. Since my first nomination was a foreign translator (Marta Stelmaszak, from Poland), this time, to be fair, I decided to nominate a Brazilian role model. I must confess I’m curious to see where this thread will take us.

Now please welcome Melissa Harkin.


 

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1. When I created my professional Twitter account, you were the first person I followed. You were my only Brazilian role model. I admired (and still do, of course) your professionalism and your online presence. Could you tell us a bit about your beginning?

Well, I guess my main driver back then was that I was tired of the ‘same old’ pattern in business relationships, regardless of the industry. I was tired of e-mails, machines, lack of customer care, automated replies, etc. I wanted to get personal. However, we are talking about the social media and technology era, so the best way to get personal was to put myself out there using all of that technology, but in a way that seemed I was talking to my clients directly.

That’s when I started adding my picture to all that had my name on it: e-mails, quotes, stationary, social media, etc. I didn’t want to be a logo. I wanted to be me! I wanted people to see a person, an individual, and relate to me.

That was different back then. People in Brazil were not used to business getting so personal. Maybe, that is why a lot of my clients became good friends along the way.

I made sure I replied to everything, even the ‘help me out real quick’ requests from friends that needed to write an e-mail in English and were feeling insecure. I made sure I was replying to everyone’s messages and requests in a timely manner, and I made sure I could add value to their activities on an ongoing basis.

2. You have the most lovely baby boy, Bruno, 1 year old. Although I myself do not have children, I can only imagine how having a baby changes a woman entrepreneur’s life. What advice would you give to a freelance translator who is thinking of having children or is already expecting a baby?

I’m not sure I’m already qualified to give advice in that area. I’m still finding my own new pace and balance. It’s hard, there are a lot of mixed feelings – it’s quite bipolar, actually. One minute you’re dying for some time for yourself, for work and silence, and the next minute you’re feeling kind of guilty about it.

Last year (2015) was a difficult one. I finally realized I coudn’t do all of the things that I did before. I made the decision to focus on getting my job done and decreasing my online presence a bit in order to have more availability to translate. Now that Bruno attends daycare full time, I can go back to adding more activities to my schedule other than just pure translations.

I guess what really helped me out was financially planning my pregnancy ahead of time, so it wouldn’t be a burden when I finally took a break to focus on my son. Two years before getting pregnant I was already buying gender neutral baby items and had two different savings accounts to prepare for the first few months: one for all of the big ticket items and one for 6 months of maternity leave.

There’s not much you can really plan when it comes to having a baby. But the financial part of it is one that you can and I highly suggest you do so. Everything else will probably not go according to plan and you’re either going to have to change your initial plan or just wing it. Whatever happens, don’t lose focus, don’t lose your mind, and ask friends, family and fellow translators for help. I say fellow translators because, family and friends can and will help you on a more personal level, but having good partnerships with fellow translators will literally save your business life when your baby gets sick and you need help with your translations and deadlines.

3. You have recently moved out from Brazil to the USA. Could you share with us the difficulties you faced in the transition and the advantages and disadvantages of working and living in the USA?

I’ve lived here before and my husband is American, so culturally speaking I didn’t really have a hard time moving back. Initially, we were in Florida, and that was hard because we didn’t have any friends there, only my brother-in-law and his family, who lived about an hour away from our home. Having a baby makes the one-hour drive something difficult to take on. We felt quite lonely there, so we decided to move back to Missouri, where my husband is originally from, and to be close to friends and family. That changed everything. We’re happier now, we have people we can count on minutes away from home, we know the place, etc.

When it comes to the translation industry, I can tell you that there are differences in how to do business, such as prices, taxes, ethics, business practices, etc. I’m still learning about all of that here in the US and I do so by networking with fellow translators, attending courses and conferences, reading industry-related publications, etc. It’s been great and business is getting bigger and better on a weekly basis.

4. You work with a pool of translators who usually help you with projects and have already worked as a Translations Manager at a consulting firm. Based on your experience, what are the most common mistakes freelance translators make and, based on that, what advices would you give to translators in general?

Poor reviews and commitment to deadlines. People, please! These are extremely important aspects of being a translator.

How can you deliver a good translation without taking the time to review it? That’s something that drives me nuts. And how can you expect to get more jobs if you keep missing deadlines?

Read the source file before starting your translation so you can get acclimated to the content, take notes on vocabulary, do research, etc. This way, when you start your translation, you’ll not only be more knowledgeable on the content but you will also do a better job translating the material. Take a break after you’re done. Go get some coffee or take a nap and clear your mind. Come back, spell check, read the translation to make sure it ‘sounds’ good and it flows nicely, spell check again, and then deliver your file.

In case of questions throughout the translation that you cannot find the answers to in your research, talk to your client or translation manager. Don’t just send a file with a bunch of comments of what you couldn’t find on your own. Questions need to be asked and answered during the translation process in order to deliver a good product. Skipping this step means you don’t care about that text, the impact it’s going to have on readers, on your client, and on yourself as a translator.

Comply with deadlines! That means you need to plan your day, prioritize, time manage, and make sure your head is clear and focused on the job you’re about to do. Keep track of how much you can translate per day and at what times you feel most productive and use that to your advantage and to plan your work schedule.

5. You are a volunteer translator for Translators Without Borders and also worked for Greenpeace. In your opinion, why is it important to do pro bono work?

It’s important to make this crazy world a better place. It doesn’t matter if it’s pro bono or not. Translators Without Borders is pro bono, Greenpeace wasn’t  ̶ I was an employee there.

Greenpeace taught me a lot, not only about the environment, but about people, community, the future, responsibility and accountability, and all that changed me. There’s nothing more marvelous than helping others, making a difference, and impacting lives. That is why I keep supporting Greenpeace worldwide in any way I can, and that includes having a special discount rate for NGOs that work with causes that are close to my heart, such as slave labor, environmental issues, children, medical procedures for the poor, emergency response, etc.

Translators without Borders (TWB) is an independent non-profit association established in 1993, dedicated to helping NGOs extend their humanitarian work by providing free, professional translations. The funds saved through the use of volunteer translations can then be used by the NGOs in the field, enabling them to extend the scope and reach of their humanitarian work. I fell in love with TWB because it’s not only an opportunity to give back to the global community but also a way of being part of something bigger, something greater, set out to make this a better world for our children and our children’s children.

6. You wrote the English Version of Brazil’s Anti-Corruption Law with Stefano Enepi. Well, you have an educational background in Law and also translate this type of material, right? How is the book useful to law translators? Also, could you tell us a bit more about how you came up with the idea of writing it and how was the writing process?

Because of my legal background, I have always translated all kinds of legal documents and, more often than not, they include quotes from different laws. Throughout the years, I felt there was next  to nothing out there when it comes to Brazilian legislation in English, and we’re talking about a BRIC country that is quite complex to do business with in terms of legal framework. Brazil is also going through a period of sociological change, in which people are tired of corruption and are saying ‘enough is enough’, so when the new Anti-Corruption Law came into effect, it was a no-brainer that it needed to be available in English as well.

I partnered with Stefano Enepi for the review because of his legal background and because he was a resident of Brazil, with deep knowledge of the language and culture behind it all.

It was a great project for us. It put our names out there and it shows potential clients what we can do.

I also chose that particular law for ‘protesting reasons’. I too think that enough is enough. It’s time we come together as a society to make our country a great nation. And fighting corruption is a huge part of that process. I hope our English Version of Brazil’s Anti-Corruption Law helps people, government officials, and companies to do business the right way in my country.

I may no longer reside there, but Brazil is my country and I want to see it become a great nation for our people.

7. What are your plans, goals, dreams, wishes, whatever you like to call them, as a freelance translator entrepreneur, for the short and long term?

Oh boy, where do I start?

Professionally speaking, I’m focused on growing my business and presence in the US right now. In the long term, I’d like to translate more Brazilian laws, work with more NGOs, volunteer more often, and educate others on the Translation and Interpreting market, business, and careers. One dream that I have is to develop continuous education courses for our fellow translators, thereby sharing what I know and have learned thus far as a translator and entrepreneur.

My other focus is my family. My husband and my son are my life and I want to see them happy and healthy every day. I want to grow old with them and be there for them every step of the way. They are the main reason for every good thing in my life.

8. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next interviewee. Who is your role model?

I nominate Luciana Meinking – Brazilian translator with a PhD in Portuguese and English Philology from the University of Freiburg, Germany, and a member of the American Translators Association. She is, by far, the best translator I ever worked with.

Luciana does a great job and far exceeds the ability of an average translator. She always brings her keen analytical skills to the table and is an excellent researcher and linguist. Her many years of study and experience, along with ethics and professional attitude, definitely add value to any translation/localization project. She is trustworthy, consistent, and reliable! I always love working with her and, throughout the years, we learned a lot from each other, especially when it comes to glossary management and researching skills.


Thank you so much for accepting my nomination, Melissa! It’s always such a great pleasure to welcome you on my blog. I loved learning a bit more about you.

Now stay tuned for next month’s interview.

 

Greatest Women in Translation: Sabine Lammersdorf

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Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series – the last one of 2015.

As it’s been happening with this series, I didn’t know today’s interviewee. So I’ve been thinking that it has been a sort of networking for me. I get to e-meet the person and to know more about her in order to make up the questions. Fantastic, right?

Now, let’s welcome today’s interviewee, Sabine Lammersdorf, nominated by Giselle Chaumien.


sabine lammersdorf

1. You have two ferrets, Luciano and Mephisto. How is it like to have them around the house being a freelancer?

They are pure joy, fun and distraction. They allow me to escape from my desk and take breaks, although this is not the reason for having them around. I spend many hours at my desk and so Luciano and Mephisto provide the much welcomed mischief, laughter, carefreeness in an otherwise serious work environment. As any other pet would wish for, I take good care of them and attend to their needs; in other words: They enable me to forget work for a little while and help me clear my mind.

2. After your son was born in 1993, you used your long-term maternity leave to attend lectures in mechanical engineering as a guest student and do your Abitur (A levels). How did you manage to study and raise a kid?

Doing my A levels and attending guest lectures in mechanical engineering was part of a long-term plan. After giving birth to my son and at the time I was convinced that he would be content with someone looking after him for several hours, I put a schedule together and started looking for a babysitter. I was very lucky to find a wonderful elderly lady who not only agreed to take care of him whenever I attended night school or lectures, but also became an additional grandmother for my son.

3. What made you decide to attend lectures in mechanical engineering after having worked for 11 years as an in-house translator and interpreter in IT?

My father was a passionate mechanical engineer and I used to spend the better part of my childhood together with my father at his drawing board. I was fascinated to see the sketches on his drawing board come to life, first as small scale models and later as huge and live equipment. He constantly encouraged me to experiment, to play with the most basic laws of physics explaining why they worked – or not (more often than they did).

After completing my studies, I happened to land my first job at a company selling and servicing, including repairing, hard and floppy disk drives. Back then in 1982, hard and floppy disk drives were very expensive, so they actually repaired them. The parent company was Indian, supplying all the then big players in the industry with their hard and floppy disks. My main task was to translate the complete documentation into German and act as an interpreter for the trainer during training sessions and conferences. In order to understand what I was talking and writing about, I spent quite a while in the workshop actually repairing disk drives. Admittedly, I enjoyed this combination of “theoretical” and hands-on work – which is entirely based on physics and mathematics, just as mechanical engineering is.

As disk drives became more affordable and the development focussed more and more on software it was fascinating to learn how strings of electrical impulses made things happen on the screen, offering the possibility to scale down the necessary hardware. I never got round to learn how to programme; at that time, I still worked as a translator and interpreter with a gradually changing focus on software, as I did not feel that my knowledge was sufficient enough at that point to specialise in mechanical engineering. It was really fascinating to learn how computers and large machinery items were combined, especially in the area of high precision machinery.

4. Why have you decided to relocate to Spain after your son was born, after having lived so many years in Germany?

Well, the long-term plan had always been to work as a translator and/or interpreter for a major multi-national company and to relocate to Asia. For many reasons, I found this too difficult with a small child, so I began thinking about European countries which could provide career opportunities for me and a stable, safe environment for my son. As I did not want to learn another language and because I loved the Mediterranean, Spain and France were on the cards. The dice fell on the Spanish Mediterranean Coast which is where we now reside, within a multi-national environment which I actually enjoy. The internet and computer era not only liberated us from typewriters, they also granted us the opportunity to allow us to live and work wherever we wished or to travel the world whilst working, as some colleagues actually did.

5. You and Giselle Chaumien have a blog together, Wissenswinkel, where you both share lots of information for newbies in the translation industry. Why do you feel it is important to welcome and help newcomers in the translation industry?

“Wissenswinkel” is in fact the result of a failure. It all originated from a discussion about mentoring in general on Facebook and as a result of some newbies informing us that they would appreciate guidance and support when starting their own careers. And thus I founded a mentoring group on Facebook, which was in fact far too spontaneous – without any planning in advance. Giselle Chaumien became a member of this group, this is where we actually met and soon discovered that we both felt the same about sharing our knowledge with newcomers. The former Facebook mentoring group failed, and Giselle Chaumien and I decided to find another way of relaying our knowledge and experience free of charge – that is how “Wissenswinkel” was born.

Generally speaking, newcomers leave university or any language institute with plenty of theoretical knowledge; they usually learn everything connected with the translation and /or interpretation process, but are not introduced to real-world practicalities such as company procedures, processes, organisational issues which inevitably arise when being self-employed. This has not changed since I passed my exams, and having had something like “Wissenswinkel” at hand would have saved me a lot of time and would have helped me to avoid many mistakes. 

There are countless workshops, conferences, webinars, etc. subject to attendance fees. However, a newcomer with very little income, if any, might not be able to afford to attend them. The number of limited resources available which are free of charge mostly focus on marketing aspects. Marketing is undoubtedly an important topic, however, there are many more equally important topics which are hardly ever covered and newcomers might find it difficult to obtain further information or answers to their questions. I had the opportunity to learn so much, gather so much information, sharing this is my pleasure and joy.

“Wissenswinkel” continues to grow at a steady pace. We want it to become some sort of knowledge database covering topics from advice and pricing to case studies to explanations of technical terms and terminology. Our aim and hope is that it shall be helpful and that newcomers will not find themselves completely lost at the beginning of their own working careers. Besides that, newcomers are always welcome to contact us via other channels.

6. Giselle describes yourself as “very reliable”. Do you think reliability is an essential quality as a translator? Why (not)?

Well, the translation industry belongs to the service sector and everything related to service in its broadest sense is based on trust and reliability. This is even more important if someone works in a field where they never (or hardly ever) meet their clients. As we all expect our clients to pay our invoices, so they expect us to deliver our product – the translation – as to the specifications agreed beforehand. 

Reliability, trust, and the delivery of mutually objectives are the foundations of any business – and the translation business does not differ from any other business within the service sector.

7. Contracts and other legal documents were always part of your work, so you recently decided to study Business Law. Do you think it has helped doing a major after already working in the area?

I adore legal language and I very much like translating such documents. Legal language is beautiful and sometimes a challenge, as one single sentence may cover an entire page. The more contracts I translated over the years, the more interesting they became and I began researching the possibility to broaden my horizons without having to interrupt my career. Thanks to modern technology and “newish” types of study courses this is now possible, providing me an option to further dig into this very interesting subject, and to explore new fields of business in the long run.

Contract translation work is the somewhat logical consequence of technological product translation work, as whatever the result of a development is going to be sold. I would not say that this helped to take this decision to study, but love of legal language was certainly its root and the beginning of a very interesting open-ended journey 🙂  

8. One can hardly find information about your business online. Your website is still under construction. Do you think that not being visible online hinders your possibility of being found by potential clients?

Actually, I do not think so. A website is nothing but an extended business card or an extended entry in the yellow pages. Just as back in the pre-internet days nobody would actually file through the yellow pages to find a translator, nobody, nowadays looks at the numerous translator websites available. For sure, access to a website certainly makes it easier to showcase one’s work and capabilities, and thus the marketing element becomes easier; however, I personally do not consider it as a major pre-requisite. I do believe in the principle of meeting potential clients where they are visible, for example, at conferences, trade fairs, specialist forums, etc. My approach might be very old-school, however, this approach allows me firstly to establish the client contact and then explore the needs of a potential client somehow more detailed than just being contacted through a website without really knowing anything about the background of such an enquiry. I find it easier to establish long-term business relationships via my old-school approach, many of my clients come through recommendation anyway.

Nevertheless, my website will be completed sometime next year, and I will then see what it can do for me and how to use it. 

9. Now it’s your turn to nominate a Great Woman in Translation. 

I would like to nominate Allison Wright, she is a German, French and Portuguese to English translator based in Portugal and an accredited member of SATI/SAVI (South Africa), and more recently became a member of the Association of Portuguese Translators and Interpreters, APTRAD. Besides her translation work, she has her own blog “That elusive pair of Jeans” and I really enjoy her eloquent writing.

I feel a bit like standing on the red carpet and I would like to thank you, Caroline, for this forum and also I would like to thank Giselle Chaumien for nominating me. A special thanks goes to Isabel Wilkins, who took on the task of putting my “Germlish” thoughts into proper English. She is a market researcher, a true professional in her own field and a very dear friend.


Thank you, Sabine, for promptly accepting Giselle’s nomination and my invitation to be interviewed for our series! It was a real pleasure e-meeting you and getting to know you better. 🙂

 

Greatest Women in Translation: Giselle Chaumien

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Welcome back to our interview series Greatest Women in Translation! This month the interview is a bit later than usual because yesterday was a local holiday here, so I took the day off. 😉

Please welcome this month’s Greatest Woman in Translation, Giselle Chaumien, nominated by Nicole Adams.

Welcome, Giselle!


GISELLE CHAUMIEN

1. Your mother is German and your father is French. Was your upbringing bilingual at home? If so, how was the experience?

Yes, we spoke both languages at home – with our dogs as well, who understood the commands in both languages. I believe that bilingual upbringing works well only when both parents speak both languages well and use them with the family. Time and again we hear or read that it’s difficult for children, but I can’t confirm that for me and my siblings. My mother told me that we spoke a mishmash of both languages in our first few years, but then at the age of 3-4 everything straightened out. We lived in Germany, and I attended a private boarding school in France. Today, when I count or do arithmetic, it’s always in French, but I dream in both languages. Oh, and with my office assistant Filou I speak only German. Do you think that’s a mistake? 😉

In my opinion, there’s something that’s much more important than a bilingual upbringing: our parents taught us that random acts of kindness enrich your life. That’s something that’s much more widespread in the United States and the United Kingdom than in Germany. This principle has come to play an increasingly important role in my life – perhaps it has to do with my age. The life that we share with everyone else is like a big pot of soup, with chunks of meat, slivers of vegetables and noodles floating in it. You pick something out of the soup that you like or need, and that makes you happy. And you should put something else back into it, so that others find something good as well. Thus, in my own small way, I try to give back some of what helped me in earlier years and from which I still benefit today. This approach to life is the real legacy of my parents.

2. You studied in Germersheim, at Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Faculty of Translation Studies, Linguistics and Cultural Studies (one of the best universities for translators and interpreters in Germany), where you later became a lecturer. What was it like to switch roles and become a lecturer where you were once a student?

I had already held a teaching position while I was studying there, as one of the instructors who headed the tutorial for German/French legal translation became seriously ill and it was not possible to find a regular substitute so quickly,  so that was not a problem for me. In the early 1980s I then had a half-time position on a two-year contract; my employment contract with Michelin was reduced to 60% during this period – otherwise I would never have managed such a full schedule. I was teaching German/French legal translation and French commercial correspondence to 3rd and 4th semester students on the one hand, and on the other I was in charge of the tutorials in German/French technical translation for those students taking their comprehensive examinations. I also supervised a number of diploma theses. I greatly enjoyed working with the students. Unfortunately there are hardly any permanent positions at German universities. Teaching people, awakening their enthusiasm for a subject, accompanying them through a part of their professional development – that’s very fulfilling.

3. You have been working for Michelin for nearly 30 years! You began as a French and German teacher for managers, but then had the chance of implementing a translation department there. How cool is that? You programmed CBTs (computer-based training courses) for factory workers, organized professional development courses for managers, installed an intranet for Michelin Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and implemented an Internal Communications department in those three countries as well. I clearly see why Nicole nominated you! How does this impressive professional experience help you nowadays as a freelance translator?

I had the privilege of pursuing an unusual path at Michelin. I gained incredibly valuable experience from the implementation of the projects you mentioned as examples, and I still reap the benefits from that on a daily basis. When you manage a project and you’re responsible for a budget of six figures or more, and you have to procure external services and manage and monitor the implementation in multiple plants, you learn what doing business with an entrepreneurial approach really means. Nobody can ever take that away from you. I should add that Michelin is a very special company, in which people are given numerous opportunities regardless of where they come from, their gender, their disabilities, etc. I had the great good luck and the honor to accompany the executive directors at that time on numerous business trips in Germany and to interpret for them: François Michelin and his son Edouard, two unique and impressive human beings. And yet I took the risk of going into business for myself, because I wanted to put myself to the test once more.

4. Giselle, you have your “Rüsterweg” blog, the knowledge database “Wissenswinkel” and the “Tips for Translators” on your website; recently you also began your newsletter “Café Umlaut”. Honestly, that’s an amazing amount of work. What motivates you?

As I just explained, I had the good fortune to learn a lot and gather valuable experience over the course of my career. I’d like to share all this experience with those who are interested, or, to return to the example of the pot of soup, I simply want to put a few good pieces of meat into the broth so that others benefit from it as well.

It all started with the section “Die Welt des Übersetzens” (“The World of Translation”) on my “Rüsterweg” blog. At some point I wrote about a subject specifically for translators – that was the article “Langatmig, aber zielführend” (“Tedious, but Productive”), about customer acquisition, and suddenly I had loads of subscribers. My post entitled “Honorarfreie Übersetzung” (“Pro Bono Translation”) – an article that was translated into English, Italian, Spanish and Russian and which I translated into French – is surely the most popular of my blog posts with 1,660 “likes”. In spring 2015, I launched the “Wissenswinkel” website – a knowledge database for young language professionals – together with my colleague Sabine Lammersdorf. And then in July 2015 I began writing my “Newsletter”. None of this is aimed at customers – it is neither sales-oriented nor is it financed by advertising or similar means.

Since you asked about the time involved – yes, of course it is a lot of work, but it’s worth it, because in the meantime so many interesting contacts to younger and older colleagues in the translation industry have developed that I really enjoy it.

5. You don’t use CAT tools and never have – why not? Don’t you think it could help you be more productive?

Well, many of my texts are simply not suitable for them, and in many cases my translations are adaptations. Quite honestly, I can’t say much about CAT tools. I hear about “segments” and imagine that in the end, the work of the translator consists of inserting the missing pieces of the puzzle – that’s not my style at all. My translation memory is my brain, and yes, a few glossaries I put together myself. I’m an avid user of the voice recognition program “Dragon Naturally Speaking” and with that I am extremely productive. In my specialist fields such as tire technology, financial reporting, plastics technology, etc., I rarely have to do any research any more – I can simply start dictating and wander around my office while doing so – yet it’s not at all boring. Besides, translation is only one of my sources of income. I also work as a freelance author for several companies, e.g. for corporate blogs, customer and online magazines, and so on, and for many years I’ve done intensive writing coaching for top-level managers. I’m currently expanding the two latter activities and reducing my translation work slightly. And I’ll let you and your readers in on a secret: I’m also working on two of my own books. I can’t tell you anything more about that at present.

6. You are an advocate of high(er) rates, premium markets and the like. Could you tell us a bit more about those topics?

Well, I’m firmly convinced that there’s a place for everyone in the global translation market: the big full-service agencies for the so-called bulk market, the smaller SME service providers that operate in defined market segments and/or have their regular customers in niche markets, and of course for the individual translators who provide their services in their (premium) market, in their own particular playground, so to speak. The market has all those elements, no question about it – just like there are premium tires and low-budget tires. And here we’re not debating what’s “better” or “not as good” or “worse”. As a customer, I have to decide what I want, no matter what the product is: a 13-cent roll from a discounter or bread from a baker who still grinds his whole-grain flour himself; a low-priced tire, because I only drive my small car to town, or a premium tire for a powerful car and long drives on the autobahn; an 11-euro haircut by a hairdresser who doesn’t give appointments, where I have to blow-dry my hair myself; and last but not least the translation of an internal working document or of the financial report that’s sent to shareholders, the customer magazine that’s really an adaptation rather than a translation, and so on.

What makes the difference (and I am speaking here exclusively for “non-literary” translators, as I have no experience with literature translations), is, in addition to the talent required for this profession, outstanding qualifications in the relevant field and above all specialization, which however becomes increasingly differentiated and narrowly focused. I don’t work for agencies, but once in a while agencies contact me because they can’t find anyone for certain niche specialties in my language combination (French/German or German/French – I don’t work in any other languages). Then they are willing to pay nearly my direct-customer price.

Of course, the so-called soft skills are just as important. I conducted a small, non-representative survey on this subject in summer, and described the results over the past few weeks in a three-part blog post on “Rüsterweg” (in German). The major German professional associations and even the FIT shared the article in the social media. This series has now been reprinted by the magazine of the German professional association ADÜ Nord.

In general, the following can be said of the market: there are more and more translators willing to work for very low prices. I’m not talking about countries or continents where the prices are low due to the low cost of living. The agencies are under pressure and competing with platforms via which even students are offering their translation services for little money. On the one hand, I believe our colleagues have an obligation to persuade customers to accept reasonable prices using appropriate arguments. That is possible – I am speaking from experience. But there are many agencies as well that need to educate their customers about the complex process of translation. If all of the discounters in Germany priced their rolls at € 0.26, i.e. double the present price, they would still be cheaper than the rolls of “real” bakers, but the producer and his employees, suppliers, etc. would be happy. The key word here is fair working conditions. I always ask myself how it affects us when we see a T-shirt for € 2.99 in a shop. Doesn’t anyone think about that?

7. On this same topic, it seems that your opinions, even though they are similar to Kevin Hendzel’s and Chris Durban’s, for example, are sometimes criticized quite harshly by some people. Do you think people are more influenced by what “famous” translators say as compared to what we, for example, say? If so, why do you think that happens?

It’s not my ambition to become “famous”. And by the way, I don’t count myself among the “greatest women in translation”. Over the course of my career, I’ve been an employee, as a department manager in an executive position as well; I’ve also been an employer and I am an entrepreneur – in my heart I always have been, even when I was working at Michelin. Against the background of this comprehensive experience, I’d like to highlight a few subjects and problem areas, make people aware of options for optimization and provide a bit of support to young colleagues. Some of our colleagues forget that before you can optimize anything, you have to determine where progress can be made and how shortcomings can be rectified. Why do people attack me, even though I don’t do anything differently than Kevin and Chris? Several highly esteemed colleagues have asked me that recently. It’s certainly easier to throw punches at someone who’s within arm’s reach. 😉 I’m “close” to my colleagues, I’m accessible, and therefore attackable. Those who take a public stance have to expect that. I can live with it – my motto is “Strength lies within serenity”. In the end, my professional success shows that my strategy and my way of doing things can’t be wrong – which of course doesn’t mean that it’s the only way. Lots of different roads will take you where you want to go.

Criticism is important when it’s constructive. Discussions that bring together very different opinions and experiences are extremely interesting when they are conducted in a factual, objective manner. But there’s the rub: critical reactions are not always factual or objective – apparently some people (only a few – I’d like to emphasize that) think that in the virtual world of social media they can just chuck all of the basic principles of respectful interaction with one another out the window. That’s not my style.

But to be honest, I receive so much nice feedback, colleagues call me up and ask for advice or tell me about their success in implementing one of my suggestions, ask interesting questions… it’s wonderful! Whenever my work gives colleagues food for thought and helps them professionally, I’m happy. And that’s all that counts.

8. During the time you worked at Michelin, you also worked as a freelance translator and consultant in your spare time (in the evening, on holidays, weekends, etc.). What advice would you give someone who has a full-time job, but wants to become a freelancer? How can they make the most of their spare time to start their freelance work?

When I started working at Michelin as a German and French teacher for managers at the end of the 1980s, I didn’t earn very much, so I went looking for a second job. I taught at language schools and translated. And yes, I worked very long hours, but I must admit I’m a workaholic. To me, the word “work” does not mean an oppressive burden or stress, but rather passion and joy. I’ve no idea where this mindset came from.

During all the years at Michelin, I held other jobs on the side, and thus built up a solid customer base, pursued my specialty fields in-depth, talked to experts, developed a network, long before the term “networking” in its current form became a buzzword. You mustn’t forget that when I started out, there were no computers, no Internet, no e-mail, no mobile phones. Of course I had leisure time, weekends and vacations, but probably not to the extent of most of my colleagues. I don’t regret that at all – on the contrary. Thanks to all that hard work (and solely that hard work) I am now in a position in which I can lean back, to help my colleagues with tips and suggestions, to reduce my customer base (which consists only of direct customers), and to focus on personal projects like a planned foundation and my books, and I don’t have to worry about what comes after my active professional career.

You asked what I would recommend to our colleagues. I’d like to start by saying that there are simply too many people who become freelancers immediately after completing their studies or give up a salaried position without having any financial reserves. They then accept practically “every” job, even at low prices, work under great pressure and end up in a vicious circle because they don’t have the time to acquire better-paying customers. That’s not a good situation for anyone. I think it’s better when you prepare your entry into the world of self-employment from a secure position, i.e. from a salaried position. That doesn’t have to be in translation.

9. Now it’s your turn. Who, in your opinion, is one of the Greatest Women in Translation?

I could name several colleagues who do great work and successfully reconcile their family and professional lives. They have my full respect. I’d like to nominate our dear colleague Sabine Lammersdorf as one of the Greatest Women in Translation. She raised a son, developed her customer base, specialized in her fields and is pursuing a university degree “on the side” as well. Chapeau! Sabine and I share not only the love of our wonderful profession and our mindset in that regard, but a friendship as well and a pet project – the knowledge database “Wissenswinkel”. I could not possibly imagine a better partner for this project!

Now I feel a bit like I’m at the Oscars, but I’d like to thank you, dear Caroline, very warmly, for giving us Women in Translation a forum here, and Nicole Y. Adams for nominating me. I hold her work in high esteem. Thanks also go to my colleague Monique Simmer for putting my Franco-German thoughts into English. Without a doubt, she is also one of the “Greatest Women in Translation”, a genuine professional.


Thank you, Giselle, for kindly accepting Nicole’s nomination and my invitation to answer my questions for our interview! It was a pleasure connecting and getting to know you better.

Greatest Women in Translation: Nicole Y. Adams

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Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

This month’s interviewee is the great Nicole Y. Adams, who was nominated by Sarah.

Welcome, Nicole!


Email: info@nyacommunications.com Website: www.nyacommunications.com

1. Your website describes you as an “award-winning German to English language professional”. Do you think that being granted an award or being a certified professional makes a great difference to the client when choosing a translator?

Being certified – absolutely. Having won an award is merely the icing on the cake. If I’m looking for a service provider, or even just a new restaurant to try out, I tend to feel reassured and be more confident that I’ll have a good experience with a business if it has won awards in the past. Although it’s certainly not the only criteria, I’ll be more likely to choose them. After all, they must be doing something right to have been awarded them!

Most of my business awards were based on votes and/or detailed feedback from my clients. It was very satisfying to learn that they were so delighted with my services, and winning the awards certainly motivated me to keep going and do even better. I’m also very proud of my nomination for the 2013 AUSIT Excellence Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Translation & Interpreting Industry’, although I didn’t win. To be recognised by peers was a truly humbling experience.

Back to certification: Although there are, of course, examples of highly successful colleagues who deliver excellent work without being certified, I believe that a professional should ideally have some accreditation or certification in the service they’re offering. In my case, I’d already translated part-time for a couple of years when I decided to become a certified translator to make it ‘official’ (which meant flying to Germany to take the state exam as an external candidate – I wanted to obtain a German qualification first, as all my clients are based in Germany and Switzerland). I wouldn’t have felt comfortable offering professional translation services without having a piece of paper showing I’m qualified to do so. In an unregulated profession such as ours, I feel that’s the least we can do to reassure clients and demonstrate professionalism.

2. You have quite a wide list of remarkable marketing and business qualifications! How important do you think it is for a translator to take courses in order to specialize in a certain area?

To be honest, I just love learning. The courses and qualifications I’ve listed on my website are only a small fraction of what I’ve completed and obtained. I also have a number of qualifications in subjects unrelated to my areas of specialisation, taken purely out of personal interest and ranging from airport operations to nutrition. ☺ In terms of my areas of specialisation, I like to know what my clients are talking about and stay on top of the latest jargon, which is why I regularly participate in relevant courses. With the range of free and low-cost online courses out there these days (just think MOOC!), there’s no excuse for anyone not to take courses to keep abreast of current developments in their specialist fields, or simply to brush up their general knowledge. A couple of years ago, I completed ‘An Introduction to Marketing’ by the Wharton School of Business via Coursera, and although it was classed as an introduction, I found it very interesting and certainly learned a new thing or two. It’s probably not ideal to complete a degree in a certain subject area and then work as a specialist translator in that area for the next 30 years without ever engaging in any further professional development in that field.

3. You are a member of incredibly 12 associations! Well, I’m guessing you are an advocate of professional associations. Why do you think it is important to be a member of professional associations? And in which grounds should a translator choose the associations they can be a member of?

Is it really that many? I must admit, I’ve never counted them! ☺ Call me crazy, but I’m actually just about to join another one that I’ve been considering for a while.

For me, there are a number of criteria for deciding to join a professional association. First of all,

it’s a given to join the translators’ association in your country of residence to meet and network with local colleagues and stay informed about the state of the industry on your home turf.

In my case, this is purely out of interest, as I don’t work in the Australian market at all.

Next, I like to be a member of translator associations in the countries of both my source and target languages. It is amazing how different these associations are, and what different advantages they offer translators (or not, as it may be). Being a member of the BDÜ, CIOL and ATA, for example, gives me insights into the different approaches to the profession in each country, which is extremely interesting. I also subscribe to the paper versions of all associations’ magazines, and I love reading them to relax at the end of a working day – although, being in Australia, I usually only get them about a month after they’re published! 😉

Thirdly, it’s a must for me to be a member of at least one association in my areas of specialisation, where I can network with (potential) clients and stay informed about what’s going on in my clients’ industries. These associations also usually offer courses or webinars with discounts for members. I particularly enjoy the courses offered by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, where the prices for members and non-members differ hugely.

Finally, there’s being listed in professional member directories. I see being listed in such directories as a pleasant side effect, but by no means the main criteria for joining an association. Yes, I am sometimes contacted by potential clients who found me in an association directory, but the frequency of these enquiries is not the main reason I’d join or leave an association.

4. You have a great deal of positive testimonials on your website, but one quality in particular called my attention: reliability. It is probably the most mentioned one. Why do you think is this such a key skill to have as a translator today?

This is a great question, and I’m glad you are asking it! I’ve always considered it a given that reliability is non-negotiable. Informing the client you’ll deliver late at the last minute or not responding to enquiries promptly are just not an option. To most professional translators, these things are a matter of course – at least that’s what I had always thought until more and more clients told me how pleased they were that I’m ‘so reliable’ as that wasn’t the experience they had had with other translators.

I still couldn’t quite believe it, until a small (two-person) agency I used to work with regularly many years ago asked me to become their preferred translator for a certain end client. I knew that their regular translator always delivered outstanding quality work, so I was more than a little surprised why he wasn’t working for the client any longer. When I enquired, they told me that although he delivered superb quality, they could never be 100% sure whether he’d deliver on time, and often they couldn’t reach him when they needed to follow up on something. So a lack of reliability was his downfall. That was a real wake-up call for me and clearly demonstrated how highly clients value reliability.

We’re not ‘just translating’. We need to offer a full package, and that includes customer service and, of course, reliability.

Clients need to know they will get a text when we say they’ll get it. They have enough on their plate and need to be able to relax without having to worry about the reliability of their translation partner. Reliability is also a sign of respect in a successful business partnership. (By the same token, I expect to be able to rely on timely payments!)

5. One of the questions you ask on your A to Z of Freelance Translation course is “Do you have what it takes right now to be self-employed?” What does it take to be self-employed? Can’t simply anyone work as a freelancer?

Well, certainly anyone can work as a freelancer, but not everyone will be successful. ☺

As most of us know, working as a self-employed freelance translator requires a certain mindset. It’s essential to be versatile, flexible, adaptable and to never stop learning. Freelance life is not predictable and we need a huge amount of self-discipline and, most of all, resourcefulness to deal with unexpected issues (from power cuts to hard disk failures to clients going bankrupt).

I’d also say it’s important to never be afraid to ask questions of peers and more experienced colleagues. Many people shy away from this, which can hold them back.

So, being able to produce great-sounding translations is wonderful (and should be a given), but by no means all that is needed to be successfully self-employed. At the start of The A to Z of Freelance Translation course, which you mention, participants take a test to ascertain whether or not they’re in the right place to commence self-employment, or whether they should consider another path.

If you don’t have the right resources and mindset, no amount of training will help you succeed – it has to come from within you.

My own freelance journey has certainly been a crazy ride, and I’m pretty sure this career path is not for everyone. When I first started out (or rather, when I happened to stumble upon translation as a professional career by chance ;-)), I was a complete novice and had to learn everything from scratch without any help, from pricing to what a CAT tool was. I needed to be very resourceful and did a lot of research, and I even joined a large London-based language services provider as a project manager for a few months to learn how things work from the other side of the table. Fast forward a few years, things were going well and I had the glorious idea of starting my own agency, with a new company name and website. But I quickly realised that outsourcing and being on the administrative side really wasn’t my thing, so the idea was swiftly shot down again. Today I only ever outsource work to a trusted couple of colleagues when my working hours are limited due to school holidays or my children being sick.

Speaking of children, when my boys were born, my husband turned stay-at-home-dad for almost four years, making me the only breadwinner. In hindsight, this created quite a lot of pressure, which many freelancers may not expect or may not enjoy. You should be prepared for this kind of financial pressure, in case your partner, for example, can’t work for a while, or your children get sick and you have to cut down your own working hours.

Next in my freelance lifecycle came what I call my experimental phase. I’d started mentoring new colleagues a few years before and thought I’d venture into coaching – and even completed a certificate in business coaching and mentoring! However, I only ever coached one client for exactly one session before realising that it’s not my cup of tea and that I wasn’t comfortable charging people for sharing my experiences in one-on-one relationships. I generally prefer to work alone and from the comfort of my home office – one reason why freelance translation suits me down to a T. So I’d say as a freelancer

it’s also key not to get sidetracked but to remain focused on what you enjoy doing.

Today, I still work solely as a freelance translator, and I couldn’t be happier. Putting together Diversification in the Language Industry – a snapshot of how colleagues have chosen to diversify and offer additional services beyond translation proper – in 2013 made me realise that I enjoy translating more than anything else, and that I personally have no desire to diversify into other areas. I’m glad I got all those distractions out of my system and can focus 100% on my clients. My final advice to fellow freelancers is:

do what feels right to you and don’t ever go down a path you’re not comfortable with because others think it’s a good idea or simply because the opportunity arises – just say no! 😉

6. You are one of the few translators who state the prices you charge on your website. Why do you prefer to do so? Do you think that makes a difference to the client?

Interesting question, Caroline. First of all, I should say that I’m quite lucky that most of my clients are either personal contacts I’ve made in-house or through networking, or direct referrals by existing customers, so most of my business comes from word-of-mouth and I don’t primarily rely on my website to attract new clients.

In general, I usually charge a flat rate per project and don’t give clients a per-word price in either quote or invoice. I also state this on my website, but give them a rough guide as to the price range they can expect (which is based on per-word ranges for information only). This is mainly because I hate wasting time, both as a consumer and as a service provider. Clients with price expectations that are wildly different from mine are kept at bay (except for the ones who fail to check the prices before getting in touch!), saving everyone a lot of time wasted on fruitless negotiations and multiple email exchanges. Serious clients obviously still ask for a custom offer, but at least they already have an idea of what to expect.

Putting my consumer hat on for a minute, I can safely say that if I want to hire a professional service provider, say, a web designer or typesetter, I always look for a pricing page on their website. Often, I’ll choose to contact a provider who displays prices (or at least a rough price guideline) over one who doesn’t, simply because it saves me the hassle of having to contact them especially to enquire about prices. Keeping it simple and providing as much information as possible works best for me! On my website, I also refer to the Australian Society of Authors’ (of which I’m a member) price guidelines, which reassures more sceptical clients that I’m not just pulling numbers out of thin air, but that there’s some justification behind them. It also reminds them that they’re hiring a certified professional who is backed by a professional association (which brings us back to your earlier question).

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next interviewee!

First of all, thanks to Sarah for nominating me, and to you Caroline, for hosting this interesting series! ☺ (And I second Sarah’s invitation to come and visit us in sunny Queensland!)

I’d like to nominate our lovely colleague Giselle Chaumien on the other side of the world in Germany. Giselle is always more than happy to share her wealth of experience with peers, both on social media and through her blog (in German), and is a great role model for new and experienced translators alike. And her office companion, Filou, is just too cute ! 😉


Wow! I loved your answers, Nicole! Even though I handed the questions last minute and you were not working as usual the last few weeks, as it seems, you managed to answer my questions in a very thorough and thoughtful manner. I really really appreciate that! 😀

I especially loved some parts so much that I took the liberty to highlight them on the text.

You can reach Nicole via email (info@nyacommunications.com) or her website.

I’ve already reached Giselle, and she has kindly and promptly accepted Nicole’s nomination. Stay tuned, because Giselle’s interview will also be amazing! 😉 I already have interesting and thought-provoking questions coming up my mind.

Greatest Women in Translation: Sarah Dillon

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Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

It’s with a great pleasure that I introduce you to our next interviewee, Sarah Dillon, who was nominated by Lucy.

Let’s hear it from her!

Welcome, Sarah!


Lauryn born 1986 is an accomplished

1. You are a wife and mom of a cute 3-year-old daughter. Some women entrepreneurs may struggle with the ability to balance working at home with their family responsibilities, especially if the children are around. How you keep your family close while also staying productive?

I do what every other working parent does: I get clear on my priorities, I narrow my focus and I do my best to work smart as well as hard, by making full use of whatever support systems I can create around me. Sometimes it works better than others.

2. What encouragement do you have for a woman with children at home who is thinking of starting a business and is feeling guilty, terrified, or completely inadequate?

Starting a business is an emotional rollercoaster, even for those who are relatively certain it’s the path they wish to take. It also involves varying degrees of risk. It’s not the right decision for everyone, nor is it always suited to every stage of life. So I think it pays to be at least reasonably secure in your decision before embarking on that journey.

What strikes me in this scenario is the degree of emotional turmoil this person is feeling around starting a business. Maybe this person is justified in feeling those things – who am I to say otherwise?

One way I test my decisions is by asking plenty of hard questions of myself. For starters, what makes me think doing this scary thing right now is going to bring me closer to achieving my goals? What, exactly, am I feeling bad about? Are there steps I can take to reduce the degree of risk to myself and my family?

Everyone who starts a business feels fear and inadequacy at times, and there’s certainly no perfect set of circumstances to take on such a challenge. But being the boss (like being a parent) means taking responsibility for managing yourself as well as your business. If that’s something that’s not happening very easily at the moment, that’s fine – but maybe that’s what needs addressing, before racing down the rabbit hole of business ownership.

I’m not sure I’m being encouraging in the traditional sense here, but I’d hope my perspective would be more useful than meaningless cheerleading! (That’s what Pinterest is for ;)).

3. On one of your videos on YouTube, you mentioned your career wouldn’t be where it is if it weren’t for blogging. Why do you think so? How do you think blogging can help translators?

I started blogging in 2005 and it was my introduction to the world of content marketing (although I’m pretty sure no-one was calling it that then!). I realise now that content marketing was the cornerstone of how I developed my business as a translator.

I also had an opportunity to build my content marketing muscles at eCPD Webinars in the early days as their marketing director, a role I loved. I’m pretty certain it will also be a mainstay of anything I do in the future 😉

As part of a wider marketing strategy, relevant, useful content published to a blog or indeed any other platform that gets noticed by your target audience makes huge sense for translators. But to give ourselves the best possible chance of success, it’s important to understand where we sit in the wider business ecosystem. We’re service providers, often speaking to other businesses (as opposed to direct consumers), and that means we can’t expect to behave in the same way that someone selling a product to a consumer might, for example. Luckily there’s lots of great examples online of those who have gone before us.

4. On your Instagram, you posted a picture of the book “Fluent in 3 Months: Tips and techniques to help you learn any language”, by Benny Lewis. Did you read it? Would you recommend it? If so, why? Could you also list any other books every small business women should have in their library?

Benny is a friend and a great guy. I’ve followed his journey over many years, and been completely inspired by the way he’s grown his business around his blog which is the most-read language learning blog in the world (Fluent in 3 Months).

I did read his book and picked up lots of great ideas for maintaining my source languages beyond the usual old “watch foreign movies” and “travel to the country” drivel you see everywhere else. Benny has some great methods for busting through excuses to just get things done, and he also addresses lots of language-learning myths that I often hear even translators and interpreters say. If you’re looking for a well-researched but accessible, practical read to give your dusty old translator brain a bit of a shake-up, then this is definitely it!

Other business books I’ve learned a lot from include Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port, Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra and Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson.

5. Still speaking of books, I understood you prefer paperback copies (me too!). Is there any particular reason why? Do you also read e-Books or do you really stick to the traditional print ones?

I like paper, certainly, but don’t necessarily prefer paperbacks. I don’t read a lot of ebooks currently but I do listen to a lot of audiobooks. That way, if it’s non-fiction, I can get through a lot of content very quickly, but if there’s a lot of juiciness in there and if I’m really enjoying it, I’ll order the paperback so I can do things like this:

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I don’t read as much fiction as I’d like these days, but when I do, I still prefer audiobooks. They allow me to really relax, give my eyeballs a break and exercise a different part of my brain.

6. You are Irish and have lived in six different countries (Ireland, of course, France, Germany, Spain, UK and now Australia), but ended up living in Brisbane. Any particular reason related to your career made you choose Australia as your home? In your opinion, is Australia somehow a good place for freelancers and/or translators?

Coming to Brisbane 8 years ago was a decision made entirely for love! To be honest, career-wise, it was probably the worst possible decision for me at the time – the third-largest city in an English-speaking country, on the other side of the world from all my target markets, not known for the quality of its internet access, support of knowledge workers, or even language learning… But I like to keep life interesting, so they were all challenges I was willing to embrace 😉 And I haven’t left yet, so I guess that’s a good sign!

In short, no – Australia is not a great place for translators, and certainly not native English speaking ones. The market is small and tightly controlled, so unless you’re willing to work very, very hard to get and keep clients overseas, it’s an uphill battle to make a living on translation alone. What it means to be a translator here looks very different to what it means to be a translator in Europe, for example. Saying that, no translator anywhere has the perfect set of circumstances, so it’s about getting on with minimising the challenges that face you, and making the most of the opportunities you have going for you.

What I think Australia has lent to my career is a spirit of give-it-a-go entrepreneurship that may have been harder to tap into in a place where translation was a more well-worn option. It has also helped me hone my “outside-in” perspective on the industry, which I’ve found incredibly useful and I think will ultimately be the key to my career longevity.

Obviously, translators’ circumstances in Australia can differ depending on their language combinations and so on, so there may be those who disagree with me (they should feel free to comment, if so!), but that’s my opinion after 8 years of working and talking to lots of translators here.

7. You offer free Weekly Action Emails for those who subscribe on your website. Could you mention a couple of the most important instructions on how to grow our business beyond our own borders?

First of all, a clear overview of your business goals is essential, as is an understanding of your target buyer. This isn’t always easy when you’re deliberately trying to attract an audience in a country other than your own, but there are some simple things you can do to help you along the way.

For example, Google Analytics can provide some very useful information on who is already visiting your website from your target market. You can use that as a basis to determine what you’re doing right, and therefore what you need to do more of. Facebook also has a free feature that allows you to find a “lookalike” audience. This basically allows you to find similar sets of people in different countries, which you can learn a huge amount from and use as a basis for your marketing decisions.

Ultimately, as a service provider especially, growing your business beyond your domestic market is a lot like growing your business into any new segment: you need to set a few goals, try a few things, see what happens, and then adapt based on your results. And keep trying! You just need to be more deliberate in your actions and more conscious of the assumptions you’re making along the way.

8. Last, but not least, which role model do you nominate to be interviewed next as one of the Greatest Women in Translation?

I’m going to stay in Brisbane and nominate Nicole Adams of NYA Communications. The way Nicole manages her business and indeed herself has been a great source of inspiration to me over the past few years. Definitely role model material!

Thanks to Lucy for nominating me, and to you Caroline, for hosting the interview. It’s been fun ☺ Come visit us in Australia some time, we love showing translators how we do things Down Under!


Thank you, Sarah, for accepting Lucy’s nomination and my invitation to be interviewed by our blog. It was a real pleasure to host you here and lovely getting to know more about you.

Nicole Adams has also kindly accepted Sarah’s nomination and my invitation, so she will be our next interviewee in early October.

Now I’m off on vacation. Don’t worry, I’ve already scheduled our guest post for the 10th and I’ll be back in time for our monthly post on the 20th.

Have a great beginning of September! 🙂

You can already access Nicole’s interview here.

Greatest Women in Translation: Marta Stelmaszak

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Hey, I hope you are excited as I am with the launch of this series! 😀

For those who missed it yesterday, I wrote a post telling all about the series. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out in order to understand how it works. 😉

Surprise, surprise! The first interviewee is Marta Stelmaszak. Some of you were indeed right on your guesses, so we probably share the same opinion. The reason I chose Marta is because she is one of my role models since my early days as a freelance translator, when I decided to dedicate part of my time to the internet as well, especially Twitter. I don’t remember how exactly I came across her, but she always inspired me, and still does. Her passion, professionalism and dedication to all her projects motivates and stimulates me to always be better and reach higher.

So let’s hear from her!

Welcome back, Marta!


marta stelmaszak

1. You are an incredibly diverse woman, Marta! You are a translator; you give speeches all around the world; you run a blog, a YouTube channel and your other social media channels; you and Valeria Aliperta run The Freelance Box; you are the Business School for Translators course tutor; you have just written a book — just to name a few! Tell us more about what you do and how you first got started.
I think you covered it quite well! Of course, I spend the most of my time translating and, more occasionally now, interpreting. Indeed, in the past few years I’ve been active on a variety of media, from my own YouTube channel (still out of my comfort zone) to publishing a book. It was all part of a plan to give back and pay forward. I’ve received some excellent advice throughout the years and I know I wouldn’t be where I am now without meeting and speaking to some of the most wonderful colleagues, often not in the limelight at all.
However, diversity and multi-passion approach has its price. It took me time to realize that I have to focus and concentrate and this explains why 2015 is the last year where you’ll see plenty of me. Part of being a responsible business owner is to decide what’s best for you and your business at any given time. I’ve already planned my last conference presentation for a while, and decided to scale down on my blog.
How did I get to this point? Since I first started, some 8 or 9 years ago, I’ve always been working at full pace, giving it 100%. I was a very determined student (I left my whole country behind to study translation in London – lots at stake, you see!), then a very determined business person (working against the odds) and I’ve always been striving to be a resourceful colleague.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Giving it 100% is the only way forward, but it’s important to make sure you give 100% of yourself to the right thing.

2. The impression I personally have is that your day has way more than 24 hours – or that you are a superwoman who can do magic with the time you have. How do you do that?
I’m no Hermione, I wish! I think it’s a mix of a couple of personal characteristics I’ve grown over time with careful business planning. I learned that time is the scarcest of all resources and I’m very disciplined by nature. Add some time-management tricks to this, like time boxing or backwards-planning and there you go, you’ll see that you can fit in more things than before.
To be fair, I do have a virtual assistant and I can’t imagine running my business without her. I think I get some 3-4 extra hours a day thanks to her dedication and hard work. I can definitely recommend having a VA to any freelancer. You’ll see how much time you can save by outsourcing non-core tasks.

3. Break down a typical working day for us.
Don’t judge me, but I do get up quite early. On a typical day in July, I’d get up around 4-4.30 and dedicate the first bit of the day to reading or studying. Then I go to the gym to be back before 8 am. I take about an hour to reply to emails and send proposals, do a bit of business development, prospecting, active marketing and reach out. I work from 9 to 4 or 5, depending on workload, with a lunch break in between. I often have meetings or events in the afternoon, so that requires a trip to central London. I use travel time to catch up with social media. If I don’t go anywhere, I spend this time blogging, writing, or doing other hobby-like bits. By the end of the day, I usually read or study. This year it’s Norwegian that’s keeping me busy at night.
All in all, I do go to bed early. It’s been a going joke at conferences: I’m a very bad conversation partner after 10 pm.

4. What is the biggest challenge you face on a day-to-day basis running your own business?
Finding balance. I think it’s extremely easy to go overboard as a freelancer and just work all the time. All work no play makes Marta… you know how the saying goes. Working 12, 14 or 16 hours a day should never be the norm, but it’s just all too tempting if you’re doing it for your own business. Saying no, saying stop, saying enough – this is the biggest challenge.

5. Besides your computer and the internet, what could you never, ever, in a million years run your business without?Purpose. There’ve been so many occasions where I’ve been that close to thinking that it would just be so much easier to find a job and let all worries and insecurities and problems go. But the feeling of purpose is what keeps me going. I know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it and I can’t imagine running my business without having a clear idea of my mission. Purpose is the thing that keeps you going though the hardships and you need it even more than wifi.

6. You usually like to ask “Why do you translate?” to translators in your presentations. Now I’m the one who ask you,“Why do you do what you do?”
I’ve always liked riddles, quizzes and puzzle. I learned English doing crosswords and reading Agatha Christie. My passion for problem solving in business made me do a whole degree in it (“to learn the causes of things”, that is). Enigma has always inspired me (not only because it was “solved” by a team of Polish mathematicians).
Recently, I read a thought somewhere on Twitter that perfectly captured why I do what I do: translation is a problem-solving exercise. Every word, every phrase, every sentence gives me the chill of a puzzle, of a quiz or a problem that needs solving – here, now and only I can do it. Translation makes me feel a bit like a language detective, investigating all possible solutions, looking up traces in books and dictionaries, checking linguistic fingerprints here and there. And when the case is solved, the next one is right there on my desk.

7. As I have already said, you were and still are my role model in translation. You are a great inspiration! Now who has influenced you the most?
Thank you, it really is an honour! Without the slightest doubt I can say that every colleague I’ve ever interacted with has left a mark. Every person has taught me something. But there are three role models in my life that have influenced me the most and really contributed to career-changing moments. I’ll let you guess based on short descriptions.
First, it’s my lecturer from my BA degree who has taught me the basics of professional translation and also – maybe even more importantly – humbleness when working with language.
Second, it’s someone I’ve been working closely with and who actually came up with the idea of creating the Business School for Translators course. It was – and still is – one of the best things I’ve done in my life and I wouldn’t be here without this person’s contribution.
Third – don’t laugh – is a translation scholar. I’ve been really influenced by her books and research and I wish I can meet her in person one day. She’s a German translator and in 2008, she’s been named Profesora Honoraria da Facultade de Filoloxía e Tradución, Universidade de Vigo.
You have all the tips you need to find out who they are!

8. Lastly, nominate an amazing woman in translation who you think should beinterviewed in our series.
Now, this is a puzzle to solve for you, Caroline! I nominate woman number 2 from my previous answer.


I got two of them wrong and one right. Marta gave the fun idea of letting you guess as well. Do you have any idea who her role models are and who she nominates as the next interviewee (I’ve already talked to the person and s/he accepted it)? Let the guesses begin.

Marta has also written a guest post for us a while ago: Freelance translator as a sole breadwinner: opportunities and challenges.

Here’s the link to the second interview.

Who run the world? Girls!

New month, new editorial calendar, new series… Great times are coming indeed!

The time has come to disclose our new editorial calendar with the special feature of our brand new interview series: Greatest Women in Translation.

So here it is:

Editorial calendar

On the 1st of every month, we’ll have the brand new interview series, starting tomorrow. On the 10th of every month, we’ll keep having guests writing about diverse and interesting topics on translation (our next guest will be Tess Whitty, from the Marketing Tips for Translators podcast). And on the 20th, we’ll keep having our now monthly posts (previously weekly), written by yours truly, Carol. 😉

If any of those days falls on a holiday or on the weekend, I may anticipate for the previous day or postpone it for the next day.

Since the interview series is new, I’ll explain how it will work.

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The idea is to feature women translators who are someone’s role model because they inspire and motivate us to reach higher and be better. Since this is a very personal opinion, my role model may not be yours, I’ll let the interviewees themselves choose the subsequent translator to be featured on the series. At the end of the day, we’ll have a group of professionals who are among the greatest women in translation. And I say “among” because the world is pretty large and it would be impossible to feature all the amazing translators who inspire and who are great role models out there.

That being said, tomorrow, the first interviewee will be someone who inspired me, since the beginning of my career, and who keeps being my inspiration. However, I won’t say another word, because it’s still a surprise.

The questions won’t be the same for every interviewee. I’ll try to make them as personal as possible, so we can have a customized interview. If you have any suggestions of questions or if there’s something you’d like to know about a translator, please let me know. I’m open to suggestions.

Last but not least, the hashtag of the series is #gr8testwomenxl8. So feel free to use it whenever you like.

“See” you tomorrow!

P.S.: June is the blog’s 2-year birthday. Stay tuned because there will be something to celebrate soon. 😉