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Wrong kind of name?
Thread poster: bf2

bf2
United Kingdom
German to English
May 28, 2014

I have a slightly odd question, bet you don’t hear this too often.

I plan to become a freelancer in German to English financial translation. I recently created a thread on this asking for suggestions on areas of specialisation and received very helpful advices, so thank you all for that.

I have a strong work ethic and I am very good with people. I establish empathy with my customers in my current profession (Information Technology) very quickly. I am very committed when it comes to German, and I strive to provide good customer experience.

So that’s all good.

What worries me slightly is the fact that although I have native-level command of English, I was actually born in India, and therefore I have an Indian name. This has never caused me any problem in my IT career, because people can see me, talk to me and interview me before they make up their mind. But as a German-to-English freelance translator, is my name going to put people off straightaway? I am not suggesting any discrimination of any kind by the way, just to be absolutely clear – but isn’t it natural human tendency to expect a name that confirms the claim of the translator? If I were an agent, I’d probably be doubtful if someone with a Chinese name said they translate from Finnish to Russian.

I really don’t want to use a pseudonym or create a fake persona. Has anyone else dealt with this?

Thanks, as always.

[Edited at 2014-05-28 15:47 GMT]


 

Jenn Mercer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:52
Member (2009)
French to English
It shouldn't... May 28, 2014

I think we all can agree that your experience, qualifications, and eventually, your reputation should count for more. But in the meantime... instead of changing your personal name, you might consider using a business name that will express to potential clients who you are [SuperTranslator in German or some such]. I would also include a bio using your real name and listing your qualifications in such a way as to dismiss any concerns that you are a cut-rate translator before they can even arise.

 

felicij  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:52
German to Slovenian
+ ...
Don't worry May 28, 2014

about the name. Clients are mostly not dumb and know that many people move (or have moved a long time ago) to other countries, some were even born in that country.
For instance, I am Slovenian/German native and never had any problems due to my not so Slovenian (nor German) name. Experience, referrals and many other factors are far more significant than a name, especially if your residence is in the said country (UK in your case).
And I agree, make a business name that sounds more "English"icon_smile.gif


 

TB CommuniCAT  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:52
Member (2014)
English to French
Similar experience May 28, 2014

For sure it is human tendency to associate a person's name with their native language. I have had similar experiences where my official name made clients wonder and doubt my ability to translate into my target language. But, that is my name and there is no way I am going to change it.

Using a business name is indeed a way to attract clients, but you eventually will have to reveal your official name on your resume for example. So, I would suggest that you build a strong resume and portfolio. You can even ask them to give you a test or show them some samples of your work to "prove" your ability if they have any doubts.

Good luck!


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:52
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I agree that it shouldn't matter, but... May 28, 2014

IMHO, it's only human to try to fit things into patterns: he's got a big red nose so maybe he drinks too much; she's a woman so she probably doesn't know a thing about cars. Fortunately, most do at least see the possibility of exceptions rather than being racist, sexist or any other "-ist". But even when they think they've thought it through, when it comes to choosing a translator clients do often plump for someone on the basis of a photo, a name, something else equally unimportant. I've lost count of the number of times I've been asked to deal with Spanish texts: "Oh, you don't speak Spanish? I assumed..."icon_rolleyes.gif

I'd say that although "bf2" probably isn't doing you any favours (bigfoot?icon_wink.gif), I think you might find it a great help to adopt a business-like trading name. I don't believe there's anything against that in the UK; it's just that you must use your real name on contracts, invoices etc (I think) if you're self-employed. In my own case, my clients all know me by the name I use here, but my "real" first name, as shown on all official papers, is "Shelagh" - not much difference for Brits but a world of difference if you're French (I got heartily sick of being addressed as "Monsieur Shellag Wilson"icon_eek.gif), and it's too late to change back now I'm in Spain.

@TB: your CV isn't a contractual document, only a marketing one - you can use whatever name you like.


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Good question May 28, 2014

If I were an outsourcer, I might also be put off by the fact that many people in India (which you're not) use a form of English quite different to that in the rest of the world (which you clearly don't).

It's always important to include a sample of your work when marketing yourself, but I think it's particularly important in your case.


 

Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 04:52
Japanese to English
+ ...
... May 28, 2014

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.


 

bf2
United Kingdom
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Company name May 28, 2014

Thanks for all the prompt and very helpful replies.

Good suggestion with regards to using a business name. I have a limited company already for my IT contract work, and I was planning to trade through the same company anyway. So that company name will be on the top of my profile, with my real name further down.

I totally agree 'bf2' is far from an attractive name, but I will change the name and have a proper paid Proz profile before becoming operational. I am currently doing my homework.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 21:52
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Find a good business name May 28, 2014

There are lots on this site, and once clients have begun working with you, they will know who you are and not worry about your name - as long as they can remember it next time they need your services.

I don't know whether looking at other people's 'brand' names wil give you ideas or just block them - you can't use any of the ones you see, of course. icon_wink.gif

Can you play on your initials, or where you live, perhaps? Some English towns are not ideal, but maybe you could use a county? Or some other place that means something to you.

Or hint at finance - though if you sound too much like an agency, people might expect you to take on more languages and offer a wider range of services than you can as a single freelancer.

Best of luck with it!


 

Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:52
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
People usually think I'm Spanish May 28, 2014

My first name is because my mother liked it and my surname is my married name. More often than not, people assume I'm Spanish.

 

Jose Arnoldo Rodriguez-Carrington  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 14:52
English to Spanish
+ ...
Your name does matter May 28, 2014

The same happens to me. In Spanish-speaking countries we use two surnames. The first is paternal and the second is maternal. My surnames are Rodríguez Carrington because my father was Mexican and my mother was English. Although I consider both English and Spanish as my native tongues (English being literally my "mother tongue"), I get job offers into Spanish, but so far I have never received an offer into English from somebody who sees my Proz profile, but perhaps that is also because I live in Mexico.

 

Andrea Diaz
Mexico
Local time: 14:52
English to Spanish
+ ...
Why? May 28, 2014

Doesn't India has strong cultural and historical ties with the UK? And aren't many people of Indian descent born in the UK? Why would your name be a problem? If it helps you to market your services, change your name. But I don't see a problem! Maybe I'm being naive.

I also use a business name. Mexican parents tend to give too many names to their children. Fortunately, the short version of my name sounds very professional, but no one needs to know my other 4 names.


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:52
English to Spanish
+ ...
Name May 28, 2014

I translate EnglishSpanish, both directions. My name is not Spanish (in my case it's Irish), however I do get plenty of work from English to Spanish as well as from Spanish to English. Because of my name I may have some advantage in the latter direction. Then again, many of my clients know me personally or have been referred to me by someone who does, so they know what I can do.

More important than that is establishing in your profile how it is that your English is native; for instance having lived and been educated since childhood in the UK. I am surprised to see so many people here who claim native proficiency in English, yet there is no clue at all that they have ever spent a day in an English-speaking country. It leads me to wonder.


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:52
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
It does sound weired May 28, 2014

bf2 wrote:

I’d probably be doubtful if someone with a Chinese name said they translate from Finnish to Russian.



[Edited at 2014-05-28 15:47 GMT]


I know someone who has a typical Chinese name translates from French to English. In Fact she was born in the USA and her Chinese is very poor. I think a lot of potential clients would turn away without looking at her profile in more detail.

[Edited at 2014-05-28 22:57 GMT]


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:52
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Stereotype May 28, 2014

I receive a lot of job requests from Asian countries with a "budget" of $0.02 per word, I usually immediately delete these e-mails. I gradually became conditioned and the negative impression these so-called LSPs have left on me carried over to most of my interactions with people who are from those countries. I sometimes even ignored the e-mails from PMs of some good clients by mistake just because they have Asian names. I even feel upset with some color combinations typical of some Asian countries. For example, when I see a logo of a company predominantly in green plus yellow, I will not further explore the company.

No discrimination. I'm a Chinese myself, and I'm just elaborating the fact.


 
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