Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Questions and answers: how to start out

I received these questions from a colleague who is just starting out in our profession, and with her permission, I’m sharing them here together with my answers (after removing a few identifying details), in the hope they may be of interest for other translators:

I am a Spanish to English translator, just starting out in this field, but I’ve heard that we Spanish to English translators are a dime a dozen. I have received conflicting suggestions about the best way to go about getting into this field:

  1. Subscribe to TranslatorsCafé and forget about sending your resumes to agencies.
  2. Send your résumé to any and every agency. 
  3. Writing a blog that I could use to market myself. I guess if I could do it in two languages that would be even better, but I don't have any ideas. 

And several other different suggestions.  Any advice would be appreciated.

While it is true that there are many Spanish to English translators, good translators are not all that frequent, so if you are a good translator, you’ll eventually break through.

My idea about the advice you have received:

  1. Subscribe to Translator Café (but don’t forget ProZ or other portals). I think you should, but wait to test the waters before paying for the membership. There are many translators that get much work from such translation portals, but the work offered on such sites is normally poorly paid. So, do subscribe to such sites (and perhaps, even pay for a membership), but do not rely on them as your only source of work.
  2. Send your résumé to translation companies. I advise against a scattershot approach in this: much better to take the time necessary to research your prospects, see in which way they prefer to be approached (résumé sent to a particular person or persons, or to a specific address, or filling up a form online). Résumés sent to “Dear Sir or Madam” are normally deleted sight unseen.
  3. Using a blog as a marketing tool. Good idea, but you should think carefully how to achieve your aim: who is your public? To attract customers, your blog should be aimed at direct customers or to translation companies (difficult to do both at the same time). If you do not plan carefully your blog, you might end with a blog that maybe is widely read (if you make it interesting), but by the wrong public (I, for instance, didn’t plan when I started writing About Translation. It  has now attracted a large enough public for such a niche endeavor, but the wrong public if my aim had been to attract more customers: most of my readers are other translators).

Some further ideas you didn’t mention.

  • Contact local translation companies in person, and see if they are interested in your services – you are likely going to find the rates in Mexico, where you live, very low, but you might expand from there to agencies elsewhere once you have gained some experience with them; also, if you return to your hometown in the USA to visit friends or family, take the time to go an introduce yourself to translation companies there (try to set up an appointment in advance: don’t just drop in on them).
  • There are some good resources on the web to help beginning translators – I believe the “beginning translators” posts here in About Translation are one, but better ones are, for example, Corinne McKay’s blog (Thoughts on Translation) and book (How To Succeed as a Freelance Translator – the second edition has just been published), and Judy and Dagmar Jenner’s really useful book The Entrepreneurial Linguist. You can also find much useful advice (amid a sea of useless blather) in the translation fora of such sites as ProZ and TranslatorsCafé  and on social networks such as LinkedIn.
  • Join the ATA and also your local translators association in Mexico, and/or in your hometown in the USA.
  • Try to get ATA certified. This is usually difficult in your language pair, but useful if you manage it.
  • Enroll in a university-level course in translation. There are several excellent ones – including the Denver University’s University College program where I teach.
  • Finally, if you decide to start your own blog. Check out the “Blogging 101” presentation here – you might find it useful.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Time to vote for your favorite Language Professional Blog for 2011

Best Blogs 2011 Poll

If you like this blog, you can now vote for it in the Language Professionals Blogs category of the LexioPhiles "Top 100 Language Lovers 2011" poll.

Just follow the link and vote for your favorite language professional blog. Of course, if you choose to cast your vote for this blog, I would much appreciate it!

Interesting bilingual blog is looking for a French co-blogger

Have you ever checked out Le mot juste en anglais? It’s a blog aimed at French speakers who wish to enhance their understanding of English.

Jonathan Golberg, the blog author, is looking for a native French co-blogger, and asked me to post the following announcement:

Si vous êtes de langue maternelle française et que vous aimez l’anglais ; si, de surcroît, vous voulez prêter main forte à un blog franco-anglais (,
contactez Jonathan Goldberg :
Ce blog linguistique publie des articles soignés, sérieux ou drôles, et invite ses lecteurs à une participation active.

If your mother-tongue is French and you have a keen interest in  English, and if you would like to collaborate in maintaining  a French-language  blog ( aimed at enhancing understanding of written English, please contact Jonathan Goldberg at The blog endeavors to publish high-quality linguistic articles, both serious and humorous, and it invites readers to comment and exchange views.

I’ve checked Le mot just en anglais out (notwithstanding my limited knowledge of French), and found it well done and quite interesting – among the latest posts, for example there is an extended article on the word “birther” (as in those strange people who still cannot believe a black man born in Hawaii is the legitimate president of the USA).

Monday, May 16, 2011

International Legal Translation Conference in Lisbon, October 7 and 8, 2011

If you are a legal translator, the International Legal Translation Conference that will be held in Lisbon on October 7 and 8 could be an interesting even to go to:

The Conference will feature two full days of practical learning sessions -- translation and terminology workshops (in Portuguese, English, Spanish, more languages if possible) -- for the professional translator and interpreter of legal materials.

Among the session abstracts there are several that sound interesting and of practical value for legal translators.

Attendance to the conference counts towards earning ATA's continuing education points.

I won't be able to attend this year (we are going to the ATA conference in Boston in October), but I'm seriously tempted for the future: I have very fond memories of the summer month I spent in Lisbon many years ago, attending a summer course in Portuguese and discovering a truly lovely city.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Trados 2007 v. Studio 2009, warts and all

Yesterday, my partner Margherita De Togni and I gave a presentation at the 2011 Colorado Translators Association Mid-Year Conference: “Trados 2007 and SDL Trados 2009:  Warts and all”. The presentation examined ten defects of Trados 2007 (“classic” Trados) to see if things had been improved in Studio 2009.

The answer, for us, is a qualified pass for Studio 2009 – we find it a better CAT tools than the old version, with some really useful improvements (such as the filter bar and the concordance search on the target text as well as on the source). Some of the most frustrating issue with the MS Word/Trados combo are no longer an issue (messed-up formatting, skipping the text in tables or text boxes), some, unfortunately, are still there (unprotected URLs presented as editable text, poor fuzzy matching algorithms).

For many, of course, the most glaring defect in Studio 2009 is the program’s inability to handle legacy bilingual Trados/MS Word (.doc) files - but there are rumors that this is going to be addressed in the next major release of the tool.

If you would like to see or download a pdf file with the slides from our presentation, please click here (or the presentation title above); for details on the URL problem, see: “Trados: beware of wrong links”; for more on the fuzzy match problems, see the following posts: “One reason I believe the sooner Trados disappears, the better...”, “Proof positive that Trados programmers should change job”, “Shouldn't Trados programmers improve their matching algorithms?”, “Yet again: Trados fuzzy match woes”, and “Yet again: Trados fuzzy match woes (Expanded)”.

Friday, May 13, 2011

2011 Conference | Colorado Translators Association

We'll be in Boulder this weekend for the first ever Colorado Translators Association mid-year conference. Corinne and the organizing committee have done a great job of promoting the conference and selecting interesting presentation (maybe I shouldn't say so, since one of them is our own presentation on Trados 2007 v. 2009).

The conference will be complemented on Sunday by ATA certification exams, and by two Trados training sessions.

After the conference, I'll post the slides from our presentation here in About Translation.

WhiteSmoke: writing tool or malware?

Some time ago I wrote a not very favorable review of WhiteSmoke, a grammar checker program which claims to be the best in its category.
Although what I found in looking at the program for my review didn’t match the inflated claims made for the software by its publisher, I didn’t think much about it, and described it as a not very useful, but legitimate, tool.
When I tried to remove the program from my computer, however, I found the software wouldn’t unintstall cleanly – and that it had peppered registry and hard drive with pieces of itself. I finally managed to uninstall it using a third-party uninstaller tool.
Later still, I found, to no great surprise, that several security programs list WhiteSmoke as malware. Not as bad as a computer virus or full-blown Trojan, perhaps, but definitely not something you want to install on your hard drive.
So the closing line of my review changes from
“The grammar checker is somewhat better than MS Word. If that is important for you, then you might consider paying for the annual license”
“Although this grammar checker might be somewhat better than MS Word, who cares!: you don’t want to risk infecting your hard drive with an uninstallable program that is borderline malware”.


This post had disappeared, together with the two comments it had received. The disappearance had nothing to do with WhiteSmoke: Blogger suffered some problem yesterday, was offline for ours, and apparently lost or misplaced many (or all) blog posts created yesterday.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

You cannot specialize in everything

From an unsolicited “Dear Sir or Madam” application I’ve just received:

The fields of knowledge in which I am specialized are scientific texts in general as well as medical and pharmaceutical amongst others

Advice to beginning translators: do not follow this example – you cannot specialize in everything, and if you claim that you do specialize in everything you make painfully clear to your prospects that you do not, in fact, specialize in anything.

Lexiophiles' Top 100 Language Lovers 2011 competition – Nominate your favorite blog on

It's that time of the year again: LexioPhiles launches its "Top 100" Language Lovers 2011 competition.

From May 3 through May 16 you can nominate your favorite language blog; voting will take place between May 17 and May 29, and the results will be given on June 1.

About Translation (which was chosen among the Top 100 language blogs in 2008) has once again been nominated (Thank you to those of you who nominated this blot!)

And, of course, If you like this blog and don't mind my irregular publishing schedule, I'll be grateful for your vote when the voting will get under way.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

New version of Xbench released

ApSIC has released today a new version (2.9) of Xbench.
As usual with Xbench, the slight increase in the version number does not mean slight improvements to the tool: the new version now directly supports SDL Studio 2009 bilingual files, PO (gettext) files, the use of multiple personal checklists during QA, and several other very useful improvement to a great free tool.
The new features are well documented in the updated help file; you can read a fuller list of the improved or new features in ApSIC’s blog.
Only downside… I’ll now have to update my Xbench presentation Winking smile.