Professional subjects from a personal perspective

Perfectionist or Pernickety? Client Relations

As experts of vocabulary, punctuation and phraseology, translators often have to make judgements on whether to point out mistakes. In a translation workshop (part of my MA), we discussed post-editing and particularly the time needed to adjust a translation done by a machine translation (MT) programme according to different working situations. For example, one colleague suggested that ‘only the most serious errors’ should be corrected if the translation was to be used for information only, or internal ‘gist’ purposes. I understand that different clients have different requirements, but is it ever really acceptable to hand over a translation (MT or not) with linguistic errors?

As a self-confessed perfectionist and language geek, as I’m sure many, many of my fellow translators are, I have an almost ever-present urge to correct even the smallest errors in the speech or writing of my friends, family and even books and newspapers. Reading the travel section of the newspaper at the weekend is one of my favourite activities, but if I find a misplaced comma or another grammatical slip-up, out comes my metaphorical red pen!

This linguist’s instinct is common to people who work with language, but are there situations where holding back is the best option? In recent weeks, I have come across a number of spelling mistakes in documents or correspondence from clients. The famous ‘free trial offer’, as advocated by the inspirational Chris Durban (, suggests that something like this should be highlighted in order to demonstrate my credentials as a dedicated and meticulous language expert but, although some of these comments were met with positive reactions, it is fair to say that not all of the authors were so receptive to my input.

What do my translator and linguist colleagues think about this? Is honesty always the best policy?

Why Translation?

When I was younger and people asked which A Levels I was doing or what I was hoping to study at university, the response of “languages” or “French and German” always seemed to provoke the same response: “Ooh, are you going to be a teacher then?” It seems to me that becoming a translator or interpreter is not well-known or at least well-publicised as a career choice.

I have always loved reading, writing and words. This fascination was nurtured over the course of my secondary education and as soon as I had any experience with translation, thanks to my inspirational French teacher, Mr Davies, I was hooked. I started searching the internet for all and any information I could find on translation as a career and I found some amazing sources of information and advice and I am still finding them (see blogroll).

I take great inspiration from Sarah Dillon’s blog in particular, as she highlights what I find so interesting about this industry: the translators themselves. It is fair to say that I was quite nervous when I first started interacting with translators with much more professional experience than me, but I have been quite simply bowled over by the advice and kindness shown to me by my fellow linguists. The truth is, as Sarah says:

We’re a pretty amazing bunch: who we are, what we do, how we came into translation and the choices we make everyday as professionals.

I have had some direct experience with interpreting, but I have always preferred the more considered approach that translation allows. Nevertheless, I found interpreting to be thoroughly stimulating, although mentally exhausting! Another angle is, of course, teaching or tutoring. I have worked as a French and German language tutor in the past, and, although I do enjoy passing on my enthusiasm for these languages to others, translation will always be my main focus.

I love what I do, and I thoroughly enjoy demonstrating and using my passion for translation and languages to benefit others, whether providing volunteer translations or helping businesses access other markets and audiences.

What do you love about being a translator?

Why Speech Marks?

Speech MarksHi there, fellow linguists!

Although I’m not necessarily new to blogging (I have blogged as part of in-house and non-translation work) this is the first post on my own blog, so I thought I would explain the story behind my choice of company name: Speech Marks Translation.

As we translators and language professionals well know, the devil’s in the detail when it comes to our work. One of these seemingly small aspects of language is punctuation, which some people tend to ignore, or at least consider less significant than words or larger elements of language.

It is these small details such as using the correct forms of speech marks (e.g. “word”) in English, guillemets (ex. <<mot>>) in French and Anführungszeichen (z.B. „Wort“) in German, which give a polish to a translation and show that you know your stuff.

However, in my capacity as an editor of translated documents and a proofreader of texts written by non-native speakers, I have noticed that punctuation, quotation marks and decimal figures in particular, are common corrections that I have to make. Not necessarily because the writer or translator is unaware of the differences in conventions, indeed, it is one of the basic stages of foreign language learning, but more likely because these elements are simply overlooked.

My aim is always to provide the highest quality translation, taking great care to tailor my work to the relevant audience and purpose, which involves several working stages. This intensive yet considered philosophy is one that I intend to weave into the fabric of my masterpiece (or chef-d’oeuvre – one of my favourite French words), Speech Marks Translation.

Do any of you have a particular pet peeve when editing or proofreading? I would love to know that I’m not alone!