World Organizations and recruitment of freelance translators
Thread poster: Christine Cramay-Valentini

Christine Cramay-Valentini
Local time: 16:02
Member (2004)
Italian to French
+ ...
Apr 8, 2011

Dear Colleagues,

I called several world organizations these last weeks with the purpose of submitting my application as an external collaborator.
I was convinced that at least 50% of them still accepted to recruit freelance translators in a direct way through various steps, but I had the bad surprise to discover that the ones I contacted resort to tenders only reserved for translation agencies that appeal to us as subcontractors, and none of these organizations seem to resort to the services of independent translators, whereas in the past the situation seemed to be totally different.
Does anyone know some of them that still give a chance to freelance translators?
If so, I would be pleased to know their names and recruiting procedures and invite you to contact me by e-mail.
My language pairs are IT-FR and EN-FR.

Thank you in advance for your comments and eventual help.
Kind regards,


Karen Stokes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:02
Member (2003)
French to English
EU institutions Apr 9, 2011

Hi Christine,

The ITI ran a very useful training course with the DGT in London this week on the tendering process for translation services. The DGT stressed that they welcome tenders from freelance translators, not just translation companies / agencies. Have a look here (or in French) for more information.

Good luck!


[Edited at 2011-04-09 07:44 GMT]


Christine Cramay-Valentini
Local time: 16:02
Member (2004)
Italian to French
+ ...
To Karen Apr 9, 2011

Dear Karen,

I know that, but as one of these organizations told me, these tenders are not very frequent. The deadline for the submission of applications, for example, can be 2012 or 2013, so...
No, personally, I am looking for world organizations that give a chance to freelance translators and do not necessarily demand a diploma in the language that I mostly practice (Italian) at a professional level.
I do get a Master's degree in English, but nothing at all in Italian, and this is rather embarrassing and frustrating when you know that your skills in this language can be even higher than those you can demonstrate in some very specialized fields that you do not practice in English, in my case.
I am living in Italy for more than ten years now and I think that my daily practice of the language is the equivalent of a diploma I could have in this language.
I think that many doors are closed to us and it is ridiculous, and this thing can be seen even on this professional site or elsewhere when outsourcers demand referentials in a particular language pair : a diploma that does not necessarily demonstrate that you are competent. This was a little digression.
Recently, I could enter the circle of one of these world organizations through a spontaneous translation test I performed and submitted (I took the initiative in choosing a text on their public Web site and sent my translation to the competent service and I was then contacted for a first real job). I must confess, though, that I was contacted through this site by a responsible of the world organization in question, but if the quality of my translation had been a disaster I do not think that this person would have contacted me again.
In a nutshell, I am looking for this type of world organizations, still desirous to let a chance to freelance translators in this way.
Is it a dream?
I shall read the French link you gave me, Karen, but I am not very optimistic, and I think that world organizations cannot be limited to European ones.
I thank you very much for your intervention and encouragements.
Have a good week-end.


Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:02
German to English
+ ...
Approaching individuals working at "world organisations" may be a better bet. Apr 9, 2011

Rome houses the HQ of one of the biggest world organisations, and it produces an enormous quantity of English and French literature every week!
Unfortunately, getting your foot in the door may prove difficult, simply because of the huge administrative structure of the organisation. My experience with its Southern African office was similar. It was only after I did a temporary (non translation) job there that I got some English editing work, and French-English translation work. That was due more to personal contacts made than anything else.
If I had not been considered "locally contracted personnel" though, i.e. not a resident of Southern Africa, I would not have got the work.

Similarly, with another German NGO, whose reach is global, I submitted an application via their website some months ago (having worked directly as a translator for their Southern African office for over 8 years!), and have not received a reply from a real person yet. I discovered from my one remaining contact in their Botswana office that my residence in Portugal (as opposed to a developing country, previously) precludes the organisation from assigning me work. This is not an excuse to brush me off - I know that for a fact. It is part of the employment/contract policy of the organisation.

As regards the Rome HQ place, you need to find the right person to speak to via telephone, who is probably an Administration manager, rather than anyone with "publications" or "translation" in their title. Some Internet searching for likely candidates to phone might point you in the right direction. If you manage to speak on the phone, it may be worth requesting a face to face interview, or at least asking them for e-mail addresses of "Technical Officers" (those are the ones who write all the interesting reports!) who may need your services. It is also worth finding out when budgets for various departments which may yield work are done. Big stumbling block is that their budgets are often exhausted for individual projects before the year is up. Then, they simply stop translating "important" papers! (or have to wait for up to a month for the approval of a "supplementary budget".

World organisations, in my experience, seem to move quite slowly compared to commercial ones - but can move incredibly quickly in times of crisis. I once worked a 24 hour translation shift in an extreme drought situation because of that! Be patient. Once you do manage to do a good job on say, a 10,000 - 20,000 word job, and ask the individual concerned to spread the word about you, you might find you have too much work.

Well-worn phrase, but true enough: "It is not what you know, but who you know". Get to know them!

Good luck!

[Edited at 2011-04-09 22:35 GMT]


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