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How do I become a "modern" translator?
Thread poster: DanniRM

DanniRM
Israel
Local time: 01:44
Italian to English
+ ...
Dec 7, 2016

Hi Everyone,

I've been translating and editing for years, but really need for language work to become more of a second profession than a fly-by-night type of job. I want to use forums like Pro-Z, but find it all so intimidating and have no idea how to start. What are all the translation programs (Trados, etc) people talk about? How do I learn to use them? Which are the industry standards? How do I price my work? Do I need to go back and get a degree in translation? Do I need to fight tooth and nail for jobs? When I get jobs sent to me, it's easy--but trying to jump into this online world of "modern" translators is scary....Can anyone tell me what I need to do??? I came close to buying a Pro-Z membership just now, and then I remembered that I have no clue what to do with it.

Thanks so much,
Danni


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:44
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You're lacking the number one skill at the moment Dec 7, 2016

DanniRM wrote:
What are all the translation programs (Trados, etc) people talk about? How do I learn to use them? Which are the industry standards? How do I price my work? Do I need to go back and get a degree in translation? Do I need to fight tooth and nail for jobs? When I get jobs sent to me, it's easy--but trying to jump into this online world of "modern" translators is scary....Can anyone tell me what I need to do??? I came close to buying a Pro-Z membership just now, and then I remembered that I have no clue what to do with it.

I'm sorry, but you can't call yourself a translator if you have no idea how to research anything. What do you do when you come across a term you don't understand? Do you immediately say to someone "What does this mean?", or do you go and find out for yourself?

So, rather than giving you all that information on a plate (which would take ages to prepare and probably wouldn't apply to your own special circumstances), I'm going to ask you to go away and come back with some far more specific questions. Sorry .


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Igor Indruch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 00:44
English to Czech
I will not be so harsh… Dec 7, 2016

But Sheila is basically right. It seems that you are well educated, so you should know how to use technology and find information. How do you do your essays and dissertations?

I tell you some things that are hard to find:

1) Your rates are entirely up to you. If you say that you translate for some year you should know what rates are normal for your language pairs. Only one advice: do not set your rates to low in order to get a job. Because once you set your rates with one client, that client would probably not accept when you decide that you need more.

2) Yes, you must search for work. Preferably for reliable clients who accept your rates and have a potential to establish long term relationship with you.

3) In most cases you do not need a degree for specific language pair. Most clients do not require that. Some require some kind of university degree. You have that, so no problem.

4) With your education I would think very carefully about being a full time translator. It has some benefits (of course, otherwise I would not do that). But it is a tough job. Sometimes quite frustrating. But sometimes rewarding. For me there are mainly two benefits: I can work from home. That's very important for me. But for other people it is a drawback because they miss a social contact. Another benefit for me is that almost every day I learn (and I must learn) something new. For some other people, this, again, might be a drawback.

[Edited at 2016-12-07 18:19 GMT]


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James Heppe-Smith  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:44
Member (2010)
German to English

Moderator of this forum
Use the search function on this forum Dec 7, 2016

Dear Danni,

Firstly, welcome to the forums and to Proz.

I have read the response you made to Sheila's post and responded separately with my reasons for not approving it, but for your and perhaps other readers' benefit, I thought I would make a little response here.

There is a search function on this site, please do use it. Most, if not all, of the questions you have are already out there and answered. That said, your individual circumstances may not fit the answer or question elsewhere. So please do ask here if there is something specific which you are still looking for.

I understand Sheila's point about researching abilities being a major part of a translator's work, and can confirm that I spend quite some time finding out about new concepts, words or phrases which, even after a few years of experience, continue to pop up from time to time.

There are also some great resources out there which may be more specific to your actual situation. There may be a translators' association in your home country. For example, here in Germany, the BDÜ publishes several useful books on translation and business in general, good reference books and guides can also be found on Amazon (other booksellers are available!) and on other association websites.

My no. 1 tip would be, spend a few dollars, euros, pounds or whatever on a visit to a good accountant to get some advice on the tax issues where you are based. You may not need to use the services of an accountant to run your business, but when it comes to registering as a freelancer, VAT, income tax and other issues, it is money well spent. I did decide to use the accountant's services to look after my accounting, although expensive it does free up my time to concentrate on what I enjoy doing and what earns me money, i.e. translating.

My second tip would be to consider how much of your working time you wish to dedicate to being a translator. I was lucky when I started in that I had a part-time job (an in-house translation position) which meant that my basic needs in terms of income were covered. You seem to indicate that this may be the case for you too. In which case great, you have that buffer. If you are going to go the whole hog and go for full time self employment, I would recommend having a relatively large savings pot built up to tide you over the first few months (year/s?). Work out what you need every month as a minimum, times by whatever size of buffer you decide to have to establish yourself, and try to have that in the bank before pulling the ejection lever on your current role.

Finally, if you haven't worked fully self-employed before, there are some useful general books out there which cover the "joys of working alone" which may be of some use. Wish I had read a few of them before I embarked on a freelance career!

Good luck.

James


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DanniRM
Israel
Local time: 01:44
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Dec 7, 2016

Answer two is respectful and dignified enough to make me feel like a human being. Thanks. Those are the kinds of answers I was hoping for. Because of medical issues that have made nearly every other career impossible for me, I don't have too much choice but to try and get more freelance work.

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DanniRM
Israel
Local time: 01:44
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Awesome. Thanks! Dec 7, 2016

James Heppe-Smith wrote:

Dear Danni,

Firstly, welcome to the forums and to Proz.

I have read the response you made to Sheila's post and responded separately with my reasons for not approving it, but for your and perhaps other readers' benefit, I thought I would make a little response here.

There is a search function on this site, please do use it. Most, if not all, of the questions you have are already out there and answered. That said, your individual circumstances may not fit the answer or question elsewhere. So please do ask here if there is something specific which you are still looking for.

I understand Sheila's point about researching abilities being a major part of a translator's work, and can confirm that I spend quite some time finding out about new concepts, words or phrases which, even after a few years of experience, continue to pop up from time to time.

There are also some great resources out there which may be more specific to your actual situation. There may be a translators' association in your home country. For example, here in Germany, the BDÜ publishes several useful books on translation and business in general, good reference books and guides can also be found on Amazon (other booksellers are available!) and on other association websites.

My no. 1 tip would be, spend a few dollars, euros, pounds or whatever on a visit to a good accountant to get some advice on the tax issues where you are based. You may not need to use the services of an accountant to run your business, but when it comes to registering as a freelancer, VAT, income tax and other issues, it is money well spent. I did decide to use the accountant's services to look after my accounting, although expensive it does free up my time to concentrate on what I enjoy doing and what earns me money, i.e. translating.

My second tip would be to consider how much of your working time you wish to dedicate to being a translator. I was lucky when I started in that I had a part-time job (an in-house translation position) which meant that my basic needs in terms of income were covered. You seem to indicate that this may be the case for you too. In which case great, you have that buffer. If you are going to go the whole hog and go for full time self employment, I would recommend having a relatively large savings pot built up to tide you over the first few months (year/s?). Work out what you need every month as a minimum, times by whatever size of buffer you decide to have to establish yourself, and try to have that in the bank before pulling the ejection lever on your current role.

Finally, if you haven't worked fully self-employed before, there are some useful general books out there which cover the "joys of working alone" which may be of some use.

Wish I had read a few of them before I embarked on a freelance career!

Good luck.

James


Thanks, James!


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:44
English to Spanish
+ ...
Harsh but necessary Dec 7, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

DanniRM wrote:
What are all the translation programs (Trados, etc) people talk about? How do I learn to use them? Which are the industry standards? How do I price my work? Do I need to go back and get a degree in translation? Do I need to fight tooth and nail for jobs? When I get jobs sent to me, it's easy--but trying to jump into this online world of "modern" translators is scary....Can anyone tell me what I need to do??? I came close to buying a Pro-Z membership just now, and then I remembered that I have no clue what to do with it.

I'm sorry, but you can't call yourself a translator if you have no idea how to research anything. What do you do when you come across a term you don't understand? Do you immediately say to someone "What does this mean?", or do you go and find out for yourself?

So, rather than giving you all that information on a plate (which would take ages to prepare and probably wouldn't apply to your own special circumstances), I'm going to ask you to go away and come back with some far more specific questions. Sorry .


Danni, Sheila is right, even though she may sound harsh. This is a forum for professionals, not a therapy group for lifting up spirits or handholding fragile egos. First of all, you can't expect to be treated like a professional if you're not doing your homework. Researching the right information is much more than googling the Internet for answers or clicking on Search on a translators' forum. James Heppe-Smith is also right on his advice overall.

I would add that you need to assess your writing skills: Is your writing excellent, top-of-the-line, publishing-quality? And these skills apply to all of your working languages. Being fluent in a language doesn't make anyone a good writer by default.

No excellent writing, no future as a translator.


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Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 00:44
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Translate always everything in your mind Dec 7, 2016

Make it an integral part of your thinking. Be bilingual (or tri-, quadri-, ...) in your head. Develop a passion for the profession and an unrelenting quest for perfection. Strive to always create masterpieces. Copy or download texts from the Internet and work on them.

That's the essence of it. The rest (software, etc.) are details.

No need to get a degree, in my opinion. The best ones I know are engineers, teachers, mathematicians...


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Álvaro Espantaleón  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:44
Member (2015)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Too many questions Dec 7, 2016

Just offer very low rates here in ProZ or anywhere else. Many outsourcers will hire you on the sole basis of those rates and...that's it: there you are translating, the dream becomes a reality.

[Edited at 2016-12-07 21:26 GMT]


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:44
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
What is a "modern" translator, Dec 7, 2016

though?

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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 18:44
Member (2008)
French to English
Education Dec 8, 2016

DanniRM wrote:

Hi Everyone,

I've been translating and editing for years, but really need for language work to become more of a second profession than a fly-by-night type of job. I want to use forums like Pro-Z, but find it all so intimidating and have no idea how to start. What are all the translation programs (Trados, etc) people talk about? How do I learn to use them? Which are the industry standards? How do I price my work? Do I need to go back and get a degree in translation? Do I need to fight tooth and nail for jobs? When I get jobs sent to me, it's easy--but trying to jump into this online world of "modern" translators is scary....Can anyone tell me what I need to do??? I came close to buying a Pro-Z membership just now, and then I remembered that I have no clue what to do with it.

Thanks so much,
Danni


Check out the "Education" area of this site. The answers to all your questions are there. You don't need to buy membership at first.


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 17:44
German to English
+ ...
I think the word "modern" is off, in the question Dec 8, 2016

You want to know how to be a translator. There is no "modern". Translation involves rendering a text from one language into another language without losing or changing meaning, in manner that is readable in the target language, and keeping in mind context, needs, tone etc. It requires excellent command of both languages. The basic twin criteria in checking your work (which is necessary for doing anything professional, and what else is there) are "translation" (the accurate rendering etc.) and "language" (readability and correctness of the target language. This was true 50 years ago and it is true now.
The "modern" bit is probably the ability to use on-line resources, being available and reachable in manners other than by telephone. If by "modern" you mean CAT tools - not everyone uses them. I don't use them because the type of material I translate the most doesn't call for them.
The ability to research is important. Of course this query of yours is in itself research. Narrow down your questions to make them less broad, and then first research sub-categories. That same approach applies to researching actual translation projects.
One tip - Before accepting any project, examine the whole thing and make sure that you are sufficiently knowledgeable in that field that you will be able to understand the text, and render it in an understandable manner in the language of that field. Knowing when to say "no" is also part of professionalism in translation.
Best of luck!


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:44
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Modern Dec 8, 2016

jyuan_us wrote:

though?


I would think a "modern translator" would be one who lives in the country where the official language is their target language, would be constantly reading/hearing spoken every type of text and who is up to speed with how the target language is changing. I'm always coming across non-native speakers who think their English is the latest version and that they are speaking in, like, a really cool way, Man. But they aren't. Here's an American version of the same thing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnUv2fhFy5E

[Edited at 2016-12-08 14:24 GMT]


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
It can't be a "refuge" Dec 8, 2016

DanniRM wrote:

Hi Everyone,

I've been translating and editing for years, but really need for language work to become more of a second profession than a fly-by-night type of job. I want to use forums like Pro-Z, but find it all so intimidating and have no idea how to start. What are all the translation programs (Trados, etc) people talk about? How do I learn to use them? Which are the industry standards? How do I price my work? Do I need to go back and get a degree in translation? Do I need to fight tooth and nail for jobs? When I get jobs sent to me, it's easy--but trying to jump into this online world of "modern" translators is scary....Can anyone tell me what I need to do??? I came close to buying a Pro-Z membership just now, and then I remembered that I have no clue what to do with it.

Thanks so much,
Danni


You need a number of skills and vast amount of experience to become a successful translator, but there is nothing that cannot be achieved. After all, we all started somewhere.

In my opinion, however, ours isn't exactly what you could call an escape profession. You need a special personality, the one that lets you enjoy going to the most insane level of detail, and patience, vast amount of patience.

It's a long journey (it takes from 6 to 24 months to settle in, and that's only a beginning). Therefore, you have to be absolutely sure (even cocksure, to some extent) that this is what you want to do for living.

I did an experiment. I asked my friend who is also Spanish and has very good command of English, to translate a passage from an article, about one page long (300 words). She completed the job in just 18 minutes (it usually takes 1 hour). I went through the text and notices gross errors; two mistranslations, more than 10 spelling mistakes and almost every sentence was an exact replica of the source language syntax. I pointed out some errors and asked her to correct them. She was finished in 8 minutes. Most of the errors remained. I corrected the text with track changes and gave her the text for her review. She was supposed to read the changes and then redo the translation from scratch. She gave up.

There are a lot of things you can learn (how to use CAT tools, grammar rules, spelling rules, where to find dictionaries, corpora, glossaries, forums, etc.) Here are things you can't learn:

- To produce a text in your native language that is pleasant to read
- To be meticulous and detail-oriented
- To never give up
- To accept constructive and didactic criticism and to take maximum out of it
- To read and understand the target text carefully, not just glance it and second-guess
- To work long hours alone, every day, and feel fine

If you have the right sort of personality for the profession, you need little guidance, really. Start reading and absorbing everything right here, on ProZ forums. Try things out, volunteer, start building resources and your confidence, buy a CAT tool, start using it, send letters to potential customers, read carefully corrections you might receive, and you will be making a decent living in one or two years time. More importantly, you will be doing what you love to do, and this will bring you enormous satisfaction.

Good luck and possible welcome!

[Edited at 2016-12-08 20:41 GMT]


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DanniRM
Israel
Local time: 01:44
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Dec 8, 2016

Alvaro Espantaleon wrote:

Just offer very low rates here in ProZ or anywhere else. Many outsourcers will hire you on the sole basis of those rates and...that's it: there you are translating, the dream becomes a reality.

[Edited at 2016-12-07 21:26 GMT]


I'll try that, just to build a resume, at least.


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