Professional subjects from a personal perspective

Why didn’t you say so?

Translation - Client RelationsOne of the most important lessons I have learnt in my experience as a translator, both in-house and freelance, is that communication really is the key when it comes to dealing with clients. (On a side note, that expression always seems so negative, don’t you think? I much prefer interacting with clients!)

One of the most vital steps in the translation process (aren’t they all?) is to check that the client is happy with the quality of your work, and of course your customer service! In my experience, your client may often have queries about terminology choices or wish to tweak the style of their message, but will not express this once they deem the job to be ‘finished’.

The truth is of course, that, being the consumately professional translator that you are, you are not happy until the client is happy. This means checking in with them a little while after each project is returned (and they have confirmed receipt of course) to ask if they have any comments or questions about the translation/transcreation/editing project. If they do, this is your chance to either explain your choices, or discuss alternatives. If they don’t however, it is a perfect time to ask for a testimonial for your website or other marketing materials – after all, they are very happy with your work, why not give them the opportunity to let the world know? 🙂

In more general terms, keeping in touch with clients you haven’t worked with in a while is always a good idea for two reasons:

1) You are showing them that they are valued clients, that you enjoy working with them and that you appreciate the personal relationship that you have built with them (“how are the wedding plans coming along?”, “how was your holiday in xyz?)”

2)You may gently nudge them into getting underway with a project that had been on the back burner. After all, we all have to make a living, don’t we? 😉

Word of the Week #1

It’s Friday! The end of the week (hopefully) signals a slowing of pace as we head towards a few days of rest, or at least non-translation activities.

In a move away from more serious topics, I am planning to make this a series of posts, as I have many, many favourite words in several languages, not just the ones I work with. This week, I have chosen to dip into properties and colour:

Word of the Week - Iridescent Bubbleiridescent – /ˌɪrɪˈdɛs(ə)nt/ (on a side note, I love the phonetic representations in dictionaries. I find myself saying the word out loud, and I think it helps the word stick in my mind).

According to the OED, this beautiful word means “showing luminous colours that seem to change when seen from different angles”.

I don’t think this rigid definition does justice to the fascinating, fluid and free image that the word conjures up, as is arguably the case for a huge number of words, but it is still a candidate for my top 10 favourite words.


Do any of my fellow linguists and word enthusiasts have a favourite? Please share it with me in the comments!

Oh and Happy Friday, everyone!

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?