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Stuff Every Good Translator Already Knows
Thread poster: LegalTransform

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:14
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jul 3, 2005

I wrote this in another thread, but I am reposting it here in the hope that other translators will chip in and add to the list.

Stuff every good translator already knows:

1) Do not accept work below a certain minimum rate. When a higher-paying job comes along, you will not be available. Better to do 5000 words at .10 than 12500 at .04.

2) Do not accept jobs that you are not qualified to do. This is sometimes difficult to judge when you are first starting out, but you will get better at this in time. When in doubt - don't accept it. I typically accept only 1 out of every 5 jobs I am offered for this reason.

3) Do not miss deadlines. If you cannot complete the job on time - do not accept it. Circumstances beyond your control will occur on ocassion, but make sure that it is only on ocassion. The company wants to know that when you say they will have the job on Monday, they will have it on Monday.

4) In this regard, do not accept more work than you can handle no matter how desperate your client may be. It is your reputation that will suffer when the work is below standard. Instead, let the company know when you can comfortably complete the job. You may be surprised - sometimes deadlines are flexible.

5) Always try to give a little extra. Turn the job in a little early, do a little extra formatting, provide notes about the translation or errors in the source text when applicable, etc. Agencies will typically start a "new" translator out with a small job. Try to "wow" them with this first project so that they will come back for more.

6) Read everything that is available to you - forums on Proz, translation newsgroups, textbooks on translation, etc. Also, learn how to use internet search engines so that you can find information when you need it. When you ask a question that can easily be answered by doing a quick search on this site or on Google for example, it casts serious doubts on your research abilities.

7) Listen to the needs of your clients and provide them with the corresponding product. Try to determine (if it is not obvious) why they need the translation. If you can provide them with what they need, they will be satisfied and will return to the agency with more work and will request that the same translator (you) do the job.

8) Only translate into your native language.

9) Gain new clients by showing them that you are serious and dedicated to your craft (such as experience, certification, degree in translation or other education, cultural background, your own website, participation in forums, membership in professional organizations, lists of reference materials, samples of previous work, travel). You need something about you that says to the company - I AM a translator rather than I want to be a translator.

If you follow these steps, you will earn repeat business.



[Edited at 2005-07-03 08:13]


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:14
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Agree with almost all of that Jul 3, 2005

But not the first point. Better several small jobs that materialize than hanging around waiting for a big one that doesn't. Doing small jobs creates goodwill and more chance of bigger jobs in the future. If a big job comes along when you have a small one on hand, it should be possible to fit them both in. You might occasionally miss one big job this way, but I think it's worth that risk.

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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:14
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
There is nothing wrong with small jobs Jul 3, 2005

Thanks Jack.

Sorry I was not clearer. There is nothing wrong with small jobs and they often lead to larger ones. In fact, after doing a large job, several small ones can be refreshing. My comment was more concerned with avoiding low rates - no matter how small or large the job may be.


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PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:14
English to Polish
+ ...
Comments and Corollaries Jul 3, 2005

3) Do not miss deadlines. If you cannot complete the job on time - do not accept it.


Never miss deadlines on short (3-5 pages) or express jobs. If you have a large job that takes longer than expected because of difficulties, tell the client you may be late sufficiently in advance (a few days), not 4 hours before the agreed deadline.
This is a question of judgement - sometimes you know a deadline is IT, but in my experience they will not kill you if you inform them in advance. But don't make it a rule! That sort of ties in with

4) You may be surprised - sometimes deadlines are flexible.



5)
rn the job in a little early [...][/quote]

No. This is like with accepting low-paying jobs. If they see you turn in 50 pages in 4 days instead of 7, they will think: "the guy/gal's fast, let's heap it on him."
Turn in your job right on time. This is experience again - I've heard it before: "but you did the other job so quickly!"
The rest of this point absolutely applies, especially concerning the correction of mistakes in the source text. They're always very grateful when I return the source text with highlighted errors, and it only takes a few extra seconds for me to do that.

Learn to defend the quality of your work. Don't let some proofreader bully you around (with apologies to the good proofreaders! ). If you know you're right, defend your position. This is especially important if your name will appear in print. Conversely, accept mistakes you made, learn from them and don't make them again. On the other hand, if someone is stubborn about saying "huge" instead of your "large", let them make the change, if it does not interfere with the meaning of the text. Editors and proofreaders need to show they did some work too.
It is not easy to learn to defend yourself when you are starting out, but work hard on it. It will show you are assertive and certain of the quality of your work. You ARE a translator.

Pawel Skalinski

[Edited at 2005-07-03 08:24]


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
9 Commandments? Jul 3, 2005

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
1)..9)

My philosophy professor taught me, that the 10 commandments were not really laws for adults, because they did not satisfactory answer the question: "And what, if I do it nevertheless?"

I do not insist on receiving laws (I got too many already), but thinking about this completion may reveal other important points.


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Timothy Barton
Local time: 10:14
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Only into native language Jul 3, 2005

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

8) Only translate into your native language.



You should say "language(s)". But in any case, I believe some exceptions can be made, particularly for "rare" language pairs and provided that the writer is highly competent in the target language. But this should be the exception, rather than the norm.


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:14
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Great discussion Jul 3, 2005

This has the makings of a great discussion.

To PAS:

I agree with you that turning jobs in early may not be a good idea because you will end up with a lot of rush jobs. I meant this only as an ocassional thing such as when a job is due at noon and the PM has told you that the job needs to be reviewed and sent to the end client before 4:00. Sending in the job a very hours early may relieve the PM's stress level a little bit and increase your chances of repeat work.

If a job is due between 9 - 10 am in the morning, I will usually return it the night before (I usually work until 2:00 a.m.) so it is waiting for them when they come to the office in the morning.

I also agree with you about accepting and learning from your mistakes. No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes even though we are expected not to. (see http://www.proz.com/topic/1710 regarding the Paradox of Errors)

To HARRY:

Yes, rules are made to be broken. I prefer to think of these as suggestions open for discussion rather than commandments.

To Timothy:

Of course there are people with more than one native language, bilingual translators, etc. and situations in which no native speaker is available in a rare language pair. I did not elaborate too much on this point because it has already been discussed and debated a lot already. Example: http://www.proz.com/topic/33003?start=0



[Edited at 2005-07-03 09:41]


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PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:14
English to Polish
+ ...
Right Jul 3, 2005

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
I meant this only as an ocassional thing such as when a job is due at noon and the PM has told you that the job needs to be reviewed and sent to the end client before 4:00.


Yes - a few hours are not going to make a difference (except when they do!). If somebody tells me "9 AM", I almost always send it out the night before, like you.

Then again, there are strange cases like a deadline in a Ministry at 4 PM Friday before a long weekend. It was a long, difficult, tedious job, but no way they let me work on it over that weekend. I wonder what the chances of someone actually reading the stuff over the weekend were. Them's the breaks.

Give them some leeway, but don't spoil them too much.

Pawel


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lien
Netherlands
Local time: 09:14
English to French
+ ...
Clear and to the point Jul 3, 2005

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

I wrote this in another thread, but I am reposting it here in the hope that other translators will chip in and add to the list.

Stuff every good translator already knows:



The best thing I ever read on the subject. Much better than the usual "do and don't".


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Pablo Roufogalis
Colombia
Local time: 03:14
English to Spanish
Final revision(s) and the one(s) after that Jul 3, 2005

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
If a job is due between 9 - 10 am in the morning, I will usually return it the night before (I usually work until 2:00 a.m.) so it is waiting for them when they come to the office in the morning.


If I have the time after completion (second revision) I will wait until the deadline is almost due to do a final revision.

Invariably I find several opportunities for optimation, and the odd mistake once in a while. This is more so if the deadline allows for going to sleep and do the revision the next day.

As a rule, I take all the time the deadline allows. And listen to my unconcious mind: if I feel uneasy about a job, I would check it again. And again. An unconcious part of me knows when something is perfectible.


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 05:14
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Useful guidelines Jul 3, 2005

Thank you Jeff, I think that they are very useful guidelines even if we disagree or comment on any point.

I for one would say that point 5, the little extra, seldom pays. I agree that a good client should appreciate the extra you do (for me it's often warning about mistakes in the original, or fighting with a format and not charging for it), but I'm not sure this was the reason for them to comeback (if they came back).

Claudia


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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 08:14
minority languages Jul 3, 2005

Excellent points, I hope you will post them in the Knowledge base (if you have not already done so).

I am "guilty" of translating into a language(Irish Gaelic) that is not my native tongue, which is English. However my skills and technical experience in IT mean that I am very much in demand for translating such jobs into Gaelic. I can do that kind of work, but I get _everything_ checked out by an Irish teacher who lives in a Gaeltacht area before I deliver.

I would NEVER EVER translate a job into Irish if I had any doubts about it. (especially legal Irish *urgh!!*). Chances are I will know someone else who can do it, so I can refer the client to them and everyone is happy.

The demand for Irish translation far exceeds the supply of native Irish Gaelic translators, most of us were raised speaking English.

So I would qualify your point by adding that if you're getting a lot of translation requests into a foreign language, make sure you are 100% capable of doing the task and then build a working relationship with a trustworthy native speaker/bilingual who will review your translations before delivery. The client will appreciate your thoroughness and dedication to quality.

Just because the target audience for a particular language is small, does not mean you should not take the same care as with a "popular" language.

Orla


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Aleksandr Okunev
Local time: 11:14
English to Russian
My 1 kopeck Jul 3, 2005

Probably Jeff's item 9 (rotated view), but nevertheless...

10. Help.

When you have a spare moment and even when you don't have one - help your fellow translators. If you recorded a macro - make it available to others somewhere, if you found a useful glossary or an article - post a link to it on a forum, do not just stand aside. Even sharing your doubts and desperation on a forum and getting feedback may well be very helpful to you and someone else. When you answer a Kudoz question - do it for the sake of helping the asker and not for those points, offer help even if the question is closed and you have no chance of getting the points (BTW I once got them by answering a graded question - the asker and the 'winning' answerer asked the moderator to help). Do not waste your chance to be a guardian angel once in a while.

Those who have got me or have always thought this way may stop reading now and let me elaborate it a bit more for those among the 1000 viewers-and-not-posters. Gals and guys, if you lurk and fish out new cut-throat tricks to get the upper hand over your less experienced and/or less resolute fellow translators you forget 2 important things:

a) in order to be an elite overpaid fat translator on top of the pyramid you need to have and maintain the pyramid: there must be a lot of all sorts of translators and the higher the overall standards are, the taller the pyramid is and you have more chances of climbing even higher in absolute terms. Put a brick or several bricks into it, do not leave the future of your career to someone else! It is better to be an average expert in a booming industry than the elite of an ailing one. Be sincere if you help. The reason is obvious - people around you are not idiots (do you agree?:)). Avoid, as one member of another translators' community put it, "shameless self-promotion on the forums" and stuff like that, the good old law of 'actions speaking louder than words' works on the Internet too. (See my remark above about idiots.)

b) by assuming that fierce competition is what freelancing is all about and any help to any of fellow translators is actually undermining your own chances of staying afloat you attract the same sort of clients - in translation IMVHO opposites repel. If you are tired of elbowing your way to yet another job, stop and look around a bit - maybe there is a better job nearby and you haven't noticed it because you have always paid attention to fighting crowds only... Allow yourself declining a job once in a while, but do not reject the client - do explain your reasons and offer a solution, as Jeff has already said, you will be surprised how flexible the deadline and the budget can be! There are also people who are fascinated by the quality CAT tools ensure but inexorably reject the idea of reducing someone's pay because a sentence has been translated once before.

~
Thanks for your attention
Aleksandr
~=~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~=~>


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Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 00:14
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
My most recent experience Jul 3, 2005

Just a typical Friday-Saturday job... Did I do it right?

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
1) Do not accept work below a certain minimum rate. When a higher-paying job comes along, you will not be available. Better to do 5000 words at .10 than 12500 at .04.


On Friday, I received a three-page document with a diploma and transcripts from a very loyal client. About 650 words... I started working on it after 10am and the client had it by 11am.


Jeff Whittaker wrote:
5) Always try to give a little extra. Turn the job in a little early...,


On Thursday, I had received a 50-page survey to be returned by Tuesday. I had started working on it Friday morning, but since I was waiting for the Project Manager to send me additional instructions from the client (which were originally in German), I only worked on it from 7:30am to 10am, took a break to finish the small aforementioned job (which wasn't a rush, but I always try to get small jobs done as soon as possible so that I can dedicate myself to the bigger ones), and then I went on a meeting from 12pm to 4pm. From 4:30pm to 11:30pm I got most of the big job done (45 pages, to be more precise).

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
...do a little extra formatting, provide notes about the translation or errors in the source text when applicable, etc.


I got the rest done on Saturday morning, having enough time to review it before lunch time. It was kind of tricky, because the client had left notes all over the file, instructions in bold for the programmers who'll put the survey online, comments, and translation tips (such as "office = doctor's practice")...

While I was proofreading it, I basically had to go on copying the segments that I had translated and pasted them in a new document, so that it would be all clean and nice and would provide the real word count (which BTW was set to "target language" by the PM).

By Saturday afternoon, they had the translation back with a separate clean file with all the target segments, plus the invoice and the Trados report for the word count. I gave them a discount on repetitions and told them that I would be available for anything the client may need before the deadline, in case there's any additional file or comment that hadn't been inserted in the original and has be translated too.


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Tsu Dho Nimh
Local time: 01:14
English
About that "little extra" ... resist the temptation! Jul 3, 2005

"Always try to give a little extra. Turn the job in a little early, do a little extra formatting, provide notes about the translation or errors in the source text when applicable, etc. "

I'm a PM for one of the localization/testing groups in a large corporation. I spent ALL of Friday cleaning "a little extra formatting" out of files for 15 languages ... what had been sent out as a clean 22-page document with specific style tags and formatting came back with a motley assortment of fonts, page sizes, paragraph styles, table styles, and other wierdities.

I would normally have sent it back to the translators and asked for the document minus the "little extras", but with a deadline and a national holiday looming at 5PM, I had to fix it myself.

Please be very careful to leave the formatting the way it was, and if you use MSFT Word, shut down Word's "autoformatting" features so they don't wreck your client's documents without telling you.


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