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Poll: What is the most important lesson that you have learned as a translator?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 11:57
SITE STAFF
Jul 25, 2016

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "What is the most important lesson that you have learned as a translator?".

This poll was originally submitted by Morano El-Kholy. View the poll results »



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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:57
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Specialization Jul 25, 2016

I feel comfortable now in more than one field, but I think it's very important to learn one's strengths and limitations early on and find a niche where the demand is high.

I would say the second most important lesson I've learned is to build a big client list (I now have 75) and not depend on any one of them for the lion's share of my business. Circumstances are constantly changing. By diversifying, I've grown a lot, had the opportunity to work with all kinds of people, and learned about new fields that I've been able to add to my specialties.

[Edited at 2016-07-25 08:46 GMT]


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 19:57
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Other Jul 25, 2016

1. Never accept more than you can chew...

2. Never put all your eggs in one basket...

[Edited at 2016-07-25 08:55 GMT]


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:57
French to English
All of these Jul 25, 2016

To varying degress and at various times.

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Eckhard Boehle  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:57
English to German
+ ...
To specialize ... Jul 25, 2016

... in technical medicine, MSDS and patents!
Also: Be cautious with unknown outsourcers, had some instances of non-payment (looking into the Blue board is somewhat helpful in these cases);
Do not work for agencies that pay too little and too late, 'cause there were times when I worked all day and still had no money in my account!
I think I was creative and had a good sense of humor before I started translating - otherwise this profession couldn't have worked.

[Bearbeitet am 2016-07-25 09:55 GMT]


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Gianluca Marras  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:57
Member (2008)
English to Italian
Other Jul 25, 2016

You can rely only on yourself.

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 15:57
English to Portuguese
+ ...
People know little (and have lots of misconceptions) about translation Jul 25, 2016

Most people have no idea on how a translator works; all they know is that our input is in one language, and the output is in another. They always wonder why it is a profession, instead of being something that any bilingual person can do.

When things get "kinda nasty" for us, e.g. PDF files, DTP, video subtitling, etc. they lose it completely.

I learned to equate translation to photography, as two mostly deregulated professions that require considerable training, skill, and experience, not to mention equipment, and yet where a complete amateur with basic equipment might get lucky and achieve surprising results. An example would be a sesquilingual poet who managed to capture the spirit, and craft a translated poem which would be a major challenge to most experienced translators.

I also learned to equate translation to taxidermy, a profession I know absolutely nothing about. So I assume that most of my clients approach me knowing as much about translation as I know about taxidermy.

It's my mission to educate them so they can make educated decisions on how to fulfill their translation needs.


Specialization? Definitely!

Of course, I have a few specialty areas where I can deliver amazing quality at neck-breaking speed. However - like any translator - I can work fairly well on other stuff too. It took me four decades to start building a list, currently having five broad areas of human knowledge that I don't translate, period! I also developed a list of reliable colleagues that specialize in four of these areas.

As Socrates said, "We don't know what we don't know." It took me all these years to learn that I don't know squat - in ANY language - about these areas.


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Arjan van den Berg  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:57
Member (2010)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Not to wait for projects that still need the final go of the end client Jul 25, 2016

Never to turn down other projects because of a juicy project that just needs final approval...

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 20:57
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Patient about payment issues - why? Jul 25, 2016

Would your client be patient if you did not deliver on time, as agreed?
Come on, folks, take a professional approach. You deliver your best quality and you expect to get paid. On time in both cases. If the client doesn't see it that way, cut the crap, threaten to take them to court and never work for them again.

In fact I very rarely have payment issues. I enter into realistic contracts with professional clients. I deliver my part of the deal. They pay. We thank each other nicely and sometimes repeat the process. I hope that is how it works for most people.

And probably that is the most important thing I have learnt - take your client and yourself seriously and treat their text, however small, with respect.


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Alexandra Villeminey  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:57
Member (2010)
Spanish to German
+ ...
No more interns Jul 25, 2016

I finally understood why agencies mainly work with freelancers and not with interns. The motivation and performance of a freelancer is simply not comparable with an intern who will get their salary at the end of the month no matter if they translated 300 words a day or 3000 words. An instructive experience but never again, thanks.

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R-i-c-h-a-r-d  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 15:57
Member (2006)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Psychologically speaking... Jul 25, 2016

...the most important thing I've learned as a translator is that status remains in the mind. It's got nothing to do with anyone besides yourself. I don't translate for a living for fame or fortune - I'd work in another profession in another part of the world for that - but in order to do what I want to do, at my own pace and under my own working terms and conditions. Nobody has a problem with the way I dress, of the way I conduct myself or the time I arrive in the office because they don't know me personally or have physical contact with me on a day-to-day basis. So, in essence, translation has taught me that I can live life under my own terms and conditions. Just remember to be good at what you do, meat deadlines, always deliver top quality translation, be firm with your decisions and overall, be a pleasure to work/communicate with.

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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
Other Jul 25, 2016

What's your favorite color?
Blue. No, wait; lapis lazuli. On second thought, burgundy.

What was your favorite subject in high school?
Geometry. Um, no. History…and Biology…and Anatomy!

Even the most boring life is richer than these soundbites. I have learned a great number of lessons, none of which can be neatly packaged in the options given in this unimaginative poll.


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Ana Vozone  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:57
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Always keep an open mind, (and "grow" your sense of humor while you're at it) Jul 25, 2016

The most important lesson I have learnt is to always keep an open mind, because the translation business has got to be one of the most dynamic industries on this planet, with something new every day...

So, and not necessarily in this order...

Always keep an open mind
... towards new software that you are expected to use, own and pay for...
... towards "totally straightforward" translation platforms that your client requires that you use, but that are not so straightforward after all
... towards new (mandatory) terminology that your client requires you to use (making you waste a lot of time)
... new opportunities, new areas, new file types, new "vendor" platforms you need to explore/navigate (for an hour) before you are allowed to create your password and move on to what really matters (i.e., extracting the file you need to translate in the 20 minutes left), new CV formats, new types of payment, new spelling rules, new forms of N'etiquette, changing deadlines, last minute edits, requests for special discounts, NDA's, 3 referees, 1GB worth of reference material you need to "consult" before you translate a 1-page product description, etc..., etc...


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Ana Vozone  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:57
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Always keep an open mind, (and "grow" your sense of humor while you're at it) Jul 25, 2016

The most important lesson I have learnt is to always keep an open mind, because the translation business has got to be one of the most dynamic industries on this planet, with something new every day...

So, and not necessarily in this order...

Always keep an open mind
... towards new software that you are expected to use, own and pay for...
... towards "totally straightforward" translation platforms that your client requires that you use, but that are not so straightforward after all
... towards new (mandatory) terminology that your client requires you to use (making you waste a lot of time)
... new opportunities, new areas, new file types, new "vendor" platforms you need to explore/navigate (for an hour) before you are allowed to create your password and move on to what really matters (i.e., extracting the file you need to translate in the 20 minutes left), new CV formats, new types of payment, new spelling rules, new forms of N'etiquette, changing deadlines, last minute edits, requests for special discounts, NDA's, 3 referees, 1GB worth of reference material you need to "consult" before you translate a 1-page product description, etc..., etc...


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