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Poll: In your opinion, which of these is the most valuable for a translator to have?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 00:32
SITE STAFF
Jul 5, 2016

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "In your opinion, which of these is the most valuable for a translator to have?".

This poll was originally submitted by Ana Sofia Saldanha. View the poll results »



 

Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:32
Member (2006)
German to English
How about Jul 5, 2016

"All of the above"?

 

Linda Miranda  Identity Verified
Portugal
Member (2013)
French to Portuguese
+ ...
Other Jul 5, 2016

Formal or non-formal education and training.
I wonder why this option is not there!


 

Sonja Kroll  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:32
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
Proper command of mother tongue Jul 5, 2016

The evergreen of underrated skills.

 

Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 16:32
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Not in list Jul 5, 2016

Experience

 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Customers, duh Jul 5, 2016

You can have all the training, kit and talent in the world, but without customers you're stuffed.

 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:32
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Jul 5, 2016

The problem with absolutist questions/polls like this is that, at least from my point of view, it is very difficult, if not well-nigh imposible, to pinpoint something that is "the most" important. I agree with the comments already posted - "all of the above" - could be an option.
However, having said that, the first thing occurred to me when I saw "lots of clients" as an option, was that although this might be perceived as something very positive by someone who is struggling and doesn't have enough work, this week/month I could be doing with one or two fewer. (One in particular who insists on sending me texts translated by non-natives to revise, although I have repeatedly told him I don't enjoy that type of work. However, he also sends me translations, and he only appears every two months or so, so I put up with it).

So, I'm afraid I'm unable to say which is the "most valuable". Only that "lots of clients" may actually be, like the recent Brexit, a poisoned chalice for some.


 

Katrin Bosse  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:32
Member (2009)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Duh, "Other" - All of the above Jul 5, 2016

I agree with Michael.

Having said that, looking back on my 16 years in the business, I do value my formal education a lot. But it's worth nothing without "proper command of [my] mother tongue" (as Sonja remarked) or "customers" (Chris), although I guess, if you put yourself out there and are able to prove your worth through training and target language skills, the customers will follow.

So yes: all of the above - and more!


 

Helen Hagon  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:32
Member (2011)
Russian to English
+ ...
Other Jul 5, 2016

A freelance translator needs a good helping of enthusiasm and determination in order to keep going. Those of us who work alone need to be well motivated so that we can stand our ground, cope with the bad things that life sends our way, recognise our successes, and build up a sustainable, profitable and enjoyable business.

 

svenfrade  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:32
French to German
+ ...
Other Jul 5, 2016

It can't be repeated often enough and as Sonja stated: excellent command of your native (!) language is very important. I'm well and truly sick of literal translations, poor grammar, complete ignorance of punctuation rules etc.

As far as clients are concerned, I prefer quality over quantity so I only have a few very reliable clients left instead of 'lots' of low paying/late paying ones.


 

Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:32
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Lots of clients Jul 5, 2016

If you're already a translator, then you probably have some skill and experience. The next step is building a roster of clients. You can never have too many.

*You never know what's going to happen next!* I recently lost three of my best direct clients - two of them retired and one moved on to a different business. Agencies lose customers - I had a great gig going but the agency lost the contract. Businesses fail. You never know. The world turns, and stuff happens.

Just sayin': you can never have too many clients!


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 08:32
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Lots of clients! Jul 5, 2016

But it all depends on what stage of your professional life you are in…

P.S A good Internet connection!

[Edited at 2016-07-05 10:04 GMT]


 

telefpro
Local time: 13:02
Portuguese to English
+ ...
combination Jul 5, 2016

It is a combination of expertise, experience and distinctive superiority over other translators. Your expertise should be openly visible. Clients , of course, are needed

 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:32
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Other: Good reputation Jul 5, 2016

A good reputation as a professional translator can't be bought, it must be built. Furthermore, it can't be built overnight, it takes time and effort. And once it has been built or conquered, it must be maintained.

Building materials are consistent reliability in quality and timeliness, integrity & ethics, transparency, and excellent customer service. Of course, to do it one must have acquired the necessary skills and experience.

Let's check how each of the options offered may flop:

Good contacts - Unless a translator can get their act together every time, s/he will take these contacts for a ride while going south. One exception is when these contacts are kickback-driven and simply don't care.

Lots of clients - Really? Today Translation Directory offered me a list of 7,700 translation agencies for EUR 870.00. Wow! However I know that 90% of them are bottom feeders. Meanwhile Proz costs a fraction of that per year, and the Blue Board contains almost three times that number of translation outsourcers, with LWAs from fellow translators.

State of the art software - Good software in trained hands can boost productivity, however it can't do our translation work better than we'd do it with pencil and paper. If it could, we wouldn't be translating anymore.

Formal education - Formal education in WHAT? If formal education covered it all, no internship, residency, or any other kind of hands-on apprenticeship - nor experience - would be required for any profession.

Top computers - This is even less relevant than software, as long as our hardware is above some minimum requirement. Stating it bluntly, driving to the grocery store in a Ferrari won't enable us to serve a better meal.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:32
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Assuming that you have defined a translator... Jul 5, 2016

... as someone who has the innate ear for language, knowledge of at least two languages and awareness of the differences and false friends, experience of their cultures and knowledge of the subject areas they work in...

In other words, if you assume that the word translator is carefully chosen to mean someone with the basics, then I would vote for good contacts, including enough clients to keep you busy.

I don't need a lot of clients - my capacity is limited. Over the years I have dropped some, and others have dropped me. Good clients for me have work in my languages and the subject areas I can take on. With too many clients you simply end up wasting each other's time.

A formal qualification of the right kind can be valuable, but a translator can never stop studying one way or another. Once you know how, there comes a time when formal lectures, exams, certificates and diplomas are superfluous. A well-organised course of training and sharing knowledge is very useful at any time - you can always learn something new. But it is not indispensable.

Computers and software have to be compatible with the systems clients use - not necessarily state of the art... and likewise the computer. If it works with your favourite CAT and can be maintained virus-free and secure, then if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Good contacts get my vote from the selection in the poll, but a lot of other factors play in as well.


 
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