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写给中文翻译新人 - For Chinese Starter Translators
Thread poster: Jianjun Zhang

Jianjun Zhang  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:55
English to Chinese
+ ...
Aug 7, 2007

Fifteen years ago, I started translating for my then employer and didn't get any extra pay besides my monthly salary.

Later, I was paid to translate for a professor at Tsing Hua University as a part time job. Everything I translated into English was proofread and revised by him before being delivered to end clients in the USA.

After I became a freelancer in 1997, I translated for companies in my own city but never worked with any domestic translation agencies.

When I started serving the international community in 2004, I provided free translation in the very beginning, which is a sort of taste before you buy strategy. Looking back, I found this proved to be the most convenient approach in getting into the market.

Free translation doesn't mean bad quality. Some of the projects I took actually required a second reviewer. Some charity organizations publish multi-language brochures and websites for better exposure.

Not all of them needed free translations, but I only worked for those projects that didn't pay. This way I knew I wouldn't get too avaricious and compromise my quality because I wouldn't take more than I could afford!

I'm not saying everyone should follow my way. You should have your own approach. What I want to suggest is that if you have no translation experience, better do some free translation at home - not necessarily real assignments, but anything you are interested in, preparing your way to be a junior translator and then a pro.

Remember, nobody likes you to practice on them (if they only know!), although this happens probably every day. But believe me, this is not the way to be a translator.

Of course, there are lots of "translators" who are more aptly called "opportunists", churning out craps at night with bleared eyes and a crunchy (:D) PC.

Those guys never work on translation seriously, satisfied with any payment, but sometimes they could also bluff for a high pay.

They are opportunists because, considering the huge market, they can always find some new clients and they even never dreamed of getting the old ones back. As we Chinese often say 姜太公钓鱼,愿者上钩 - Jiang Taigong (Jiang Ziya)'s fishing strategy - let the one that's willing take the bait (my translation).

However, if you are experienced (already a pro), but only new to ProZ, I think many colleagues (including myself) have already suggested a lot. Just try, adjust and win.

Translation is a profession of talent, work experience, translation experience and diligence.

Personally I am very worried about the Simplified Chinese market. An easy example to get started - have a look at Skype software/website translation and compare for yourself!).

There are simply too many laymen out there. Fresh from school, no way to find a job in the crowded Chinese job market... Translation seems to be their best bet to get some money.

Let me share with you a secret of mine (Ah, I talked this with Zhoudan a long time ago.). When my brother recommended his daughter (my niece of course, English major) to me, I declined...

The reason is simple, I hope she could continue to improve her English and work for some years to get some work experience before being a translator.

I also have some students working for Chinese translation agencies. If they could do a good job and show their love for translation, I would consider collaborating with them in the future .

Best,
Jianjun

[Edited at 2007-08-08 03:17]

[Edited at 2007-08-15 06:16]


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Chun Un  Identity Verified
Macau
Member (2007)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Jianjun Aug 8, 2007

Very good advice indeed! I especially agree with you on the "love for translation" as a prerequisite for someone who's aspiring to become a translator. Translation is a means to make a living - not an easy one by any means - one must have a passion for it (or languages in general) in order to enjoy the trade and become good at it in the process... Perhaps it's true for any profession?

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Jianjun Zhang  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:55
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Chun Aug 8, 2007

Thanks for your positive feedback.

I hope all starters will know that to win in translation is to love it. All of us should understand why clients are willing to pay for our services.

If our translation couldn't bring in any profit for the business, then it would be ludicrous for the business to continue using our service.

In my opinion, new translators should pay more attention to how to translate and provide quality service than how to charge a high price to "get rich quick" and how to get clients quickly.

Without professionalism, clients go away more quickly than they come to us.

Chun Un wrote:

Very good advice indeed! I especially agree with you on the "love for translation" as a prerequisite for someone who's aspiring to become a translator. Translation is a means to make a living - not an easy one by any means - one must have a passion for it (or languages in general) in order to enjoy the trade and become good at it in the process... Perhaps it's true for any profession?


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lawliu
Local time: 22:55
English to Chinese
+ ...
The right to improve yourself in practice! Aug 8, 2007

IMO, translation is a kind of work based on a lot of practices, not only with language skills, but also with some other marketing and on-line searching technologies. Can anyone get useful experience without getting into the market? Do you realy expect all the persons fresh to this industry (but desiring to be a translator) to be experts before they do such a job?

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Zhiqin_Chen  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:55
English to Chinese
+ ...
I agree with Jianjun Aug 8, 2007

I did free translation just last month, for a Canadian company, which involves in recycling business. I translated an article about disposable absorbent hygiene product recycling for free, which is about 3000 English words.

I also offered my free service to an international standard organization, to help them localize their website.

Last week, when my ex-colleague phoned me for my bank account, to pay me for a news translation, I was surprised, I thought it was free.


I don't say, all our works will be rewarded, and of course, I don't do free work for everybody all the time.

I do that as an investor, or a helper.

I also remembered the other day Jianjun incorporated in a post, that never forget to invest some time in knowledge accumulation before start as freelance.

As translator or intepreter, learning is an on-going, or life-long process.


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OneTa  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 22:55
Member (2006)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Non-English forum(Chinese) Aug 8, 2007

不知道大家为什么非得在Non-English forum (Chinese)里,用英文投稿。

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Jianjun Zhang  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:55
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
很多原因 Aug 8, 2007

本想用中文,但考虑到文章内容可能对不懂中文的同仁有用,因此改为英文写。但写后又无精力译成中文,所以给其他语种翻译造成阅读不便,请原谅。

本文大意是希望翻译新人能认真对待翻译工作,如无经验,可考虑做些免费翻译工作,积累实际经验。由于没人愿意让新手拿自己练手,因此要在此行中立稳脚跟,必须从培养能力做起。

Li Gang wrote:

不知道大家为什么非得在Non-English forum (Chinese)里,用英文投稿。


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LoyalTrans
Local time: 22:55
English to Chinese
+ ...
My 1.5 Jiao Aug 9, 2007

Very objective analysis indeed, although I don't quite agree with the "start from free" approach...

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Jianjun Zhang  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:55
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Aug 10, 2007

Liurenli, Zhiqin and Robert,

Thanks for your feedback. I will come up with more later.

I'd like to say that providing free translation is only one of the methods to get into the market and we should use it shrewdly.

I'll write more about this hopefully when my current project is finished.

Best,
Jianjun


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Jean Xie
Local time: 22:55
English to Chinese
+ ...
strongly agree Aug 10, 2007

I agree with you, but the question is that I havn't received a task from a foreign customer yet. Anyway, I will be patient and continue to improve my translation skills to be task-ready.

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Jianjun Zhang  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:55
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Translation in exchange for... Aug 10, 2007

We do translation in exchange for something - usually for money to support ourselves and our family. But money is not the only thing - especially when we just started the business.

For starters with no experience at all, they do translation in exchange for experience, which is more important than money. As I said, nobody likes to be practiced upon and have their business ruined. In order to become a translator, you have to accumulate enough experience and acquire necessary skills.

Students of translation do huge amount of translation practice under the guidance of their tutor. Starters majoring in other specialties and without this training should do this too before venturing into real assignments.

When I entered the international market in 2004, I didn't have much confidence. I had been translating for local direct clients for years, however, since there was no reviewer for my translation, then the situation was that my clients automatically accepted my translation as "good".

But were they really good? What was the standard of "good"? Actually what I could do was only to revise the translation to the best of my capacity. But does that guarantee that my translation is good?

"I tried my best." is too much heard as a pretext for unsuccessful translations by some translators. But it's a bad one.

Bearing this in mind, I entered the international market with caution and decided to do two things:

1. Investing in quality hardware and software; (my wife joked that I'm Er Zi's father 二子他爸 - from Gao Yinpei 高英培's Xiangsheng 相声钓鱼 Bragging or Fishing [my translation] - 鱼没钓来,糖饼没少吃 - and asked when I could earn back the initial investment (which was quite a lot) - at the time I was still earning money from my local clients, fortunately!)
2. Do free translations to get hands-on experience of the world market.

I did free translations not only for adapting to and getting the feel of the new market, but also for web presence:

a) Internet links to my website;
b) Insertion of my name and website address to the software language file translated for free;

At the same time, I read coursebooks on translation and did some practice at home, further improving my translation skills.

My efforts paid off. My first US client posted an advertisement recruiting new translators and I passed the test. Later I passed tests of other translation agencies in the US and Europe. Here is one of their communications to me:


Dear Barry,

Thank you for your patience. I have received your reviewed test back.

I am pleased to inform you that you have passed our test successfully, with a score of 5 out of 5. Congratulations! Based on the translation test review report, only the following mistakes were found: Mistranslation (“on the PRI Information screen for E1...” was translated as “on the E1 of PRI Line Information screen...”), and failure to translate titles “Part 1: Hardware Sample” and “Part 2: Software Sample”. We believe that these few mostly minor mistakes can be avoided in real projects by paying close attention to the original and translation, as well as glossaries and instructions, and therefore we are very much interested in cooperation.


This is how I got my second client in 2004. When I attended the Powwow of May 2005 in Beijing, I was already "on the road."

Of course, I can't say all this was because I did free translations. Years of work experience in industry, a wide range of books read, years of translation experience for the domestic market, necessary investment, free translations as further practice and adaptation to the world market, love and passion for translation and diligence... all contributed to my initial market success.

To be continued...


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Jianjun Zhang  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:55
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Translators living in source language countries Aug 12, 2007

I once wrote in this forum that starters living in source language countries (in this particular case, living in English speaking countries) usually start their business more easily.

The reason is simple. Source language countries usually provide more source to target language translation opportunities (just as in China, more jobs are Chinese to other language translations) and a large majority of clients in source language countries only pick translators within their own nations.

Take a look at the number of companies registered at ProZ and think for yourself. Altogether, there are currently only about 10,000 blueboard company records. Comparing with the companies around the world, this is a tiny figure.

The real huge market is inside those source language countries. Therefore, Chinese starter translators living in those countries don't need to worry too much about their future. Just stick to your goal and try your best to be a pro.

May be continued...


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Liyu Yu
Local time: 22:55
English to Chinese
+ ...
谢谢前辈的指点 Aug 14, 2007

知识的积累确实重要,但是面对这么多的领域,我们作为新手应该从何下手呢?
我并没有某个特定领域的工作经验,但想长久地做翻译,还是得深入地学习某个领域。请问,从哪个领域入手更好呢?
如果方便的话,能否推荐几本好书呢?谢谢!

[Edited at 2007-08-14 01:41]


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xxxchance
French to Chinese
+ ...
首先是 你自己感兴趣的领域 Aug 14, 2007

其次是要尽量选冷门儿。
aileenyly wrote:

知识的积累确实重要,但是面对这么多的领域,我们作为新手应该从何下手呢?
我并没有某个特定领域的工作经验,但想长久地做翻译,还是得深入地学习某个领域。请问,从哪个领域入手更好呢?


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Jianjun Zhang  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:55
English to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
如果没有特殊专长 Aug 14, 2007

从简单的计算机和商务领域的翻译做起应该比较容易。当然,所谓容易,是相对而言。在翻译之初,多阅读此类中英文文章、多做翻译练习、为一些 GPL 软件做些义务汉化工作等等都是起步方法。

需要指出的是,在任何翻译过程中,一定要注意观察、细心琢磨,争取尽善尽美,即便是义务翻译也应如此。基础打好了,出手时,一定会吸引住客户,而不会来一个丢一个。

书本身不能直接提高翻译水平,这就如同口语、写作不能直接通过读语法书提高一样。我在此借 Hanyi 的花献给你:


Mona Baker is indeed another of my favourites, I assume you probably have already come across her "In Other Words: A Coursebook on Translation《换言之:翻译教程》", a great writing, so enlightening. I would suggest everyone who likes translation get that book. (I got it at Dangdang:当代国外语言学与应用语言学文库-外语教学与研究出版社,only RMB27.90; in London, the same book cost GBP29.90).

这本书我读过,确实值得推荐。目前只有英文版,感兴趣的同仁可以看一看。



aileenyly wrote:

知识的积累确实重要,但是面对这么多的领域,我们作为新手应该从何下手呢?
我并没有某个特定领域的工作经验,但想长久地做翻译,还是得深入地学习某个领域。请问,从哪个领域入手更好呢?
如果方便的话,能否推荐几本好书呢?谢谢!

[Edited at 2007-08-14 01:41]


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