Songs: from translating lyrics to writing your own

Song lyrics
The last post in this series is about songs – from translating lyrics to moving on and writing your own.
1) SONG TRANSLATION
KNOW ABOUT RHYME, AND RAP!
Song translation can often be required as part of film subtitles, or as a standalone translation for an advert, for example. It’s useful to be familiar with a whole range of song styles (from pop, to country, to children’s cartoon theme tunes) in your mother tongue as you don’t necessarily need to be a specialist in a particular genre, in the way you would for book translation.
If you are asked to translate the words of a song, then there are a few things to bear in mind:
1) Rhyming is often required, if the original song contains rhyming couplets, for example.
2) For many styles (and especially with things like Rap), it is vital that you have some basic feel for music beats and how the syllables in the words of a song match these.
3) The register of the translation must match the register of the language in the original song.
As with film translation, a great, and fun, way to practice can simply be to take a song you like in your source language(s) and translate it, bearing in mind the points above. It can also be helpful to look at existing translations of songs, within films or on adverts (www.youtube.com can be useful for finding these) in your language combination(s).
READ A BIT OF THEORY

There are many interesting texts which can be found online about this topic. It’s worth looking at a few as they can really help to give you a sense of what to look out for and focus on when translating song lyrics. For example: http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:375140/fulltext02 (an academic study of song translation using famous musicals as its reference material).
ADD THE SKILL TO YOUR CV

Song translation can be required in all sorts of different environments (from a few lines in an advert, to a full song in a film or as a TV series theme tune). Recent examples of work I’ve completed include translating a French children’s song within an animation into English – complete with very challenging rhymes! – and translating a Spanish rap for Telefónica into English. It is definitely worth adding that you are interested in/have undertaken song translation to your CV and let clients know as this is not something that everyone offers up as a service. Some translators find it quite daunting and therefore it’s good for agencies and clients to know who they can come to if a song, or part of a song, should need translation. Unlike with book and film translation, there isn’t always so much of a need to prove your prior experience. But it certainly couldn’t hurt to practise with a song or two and then add these to your portfolio to demonstrate your ability.

NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS

There are plenty of songs out there that need translating, so target the places where you think such songs may arise. For example, agencies who specialise in film translation may have need of your skills, or advertising companies who often work with songs for adverts.

ESTABLISH A RATE THAT ALLOWS FOR THE TIME CREATIVITY TAKES


There is much less information out there about how to charge for translating a song. Based on experience, my key piece of advice would be ‘don’t underestimate how long it can take to translate a song’. It is not simply a case of translating some words. So, if you charge by the word, make your rate a healthy one. If you charge by the hour, make sure you allow enough hours in your quote (to give you an idea – I’ve sometimes had to spend 30 minutes or more on a translation for just one or two difficult lines in a song).
2) WRITING YOUR OWN SONG LYRICSI’ll focus here on the skill of being a songwriter, which in and of itself does not mean that you need to be an amazing musician, singer, producer etc. Writing song lyrics in your mother tongue is a skill in its own right and lyric writers often work in collaboration with musicians, producers and so on to produce a great song.

TAKE A COURSE


Songwriting is a skill which can be learned and perfected. Studying with industry professionals is therefore worthwhile as they can help you work out what area of songwriting you may be most suited to (for example, some people are great at coming up with song concepts, or themes, others with a topline melody (or ‘hook’ – those lines in a song chorus that you’re humming for hours after you hear it) and others are brilliant at producing verse lyrics, involving rhyme if necessary. There are songwriting courses available all over the world but if you truly have aspirations to get your songs played commercially/sold one day, then it’s worth finding one that is run by industry professionals. For example, https://thesongwritingacademy.co.uk/offers courses in London, Berlin and New York and is run by writers who have been working in the business for decades.

 

LISTEN TO LOTS OF SONGS AND PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE


To improve your own songwriting, listen to the experts! Simply choose the genres you like and start actively listening to the lyrics. The more you do, the more you will spot patterns in successful songs (everything from the all important ‘hook’ in the chorus, to the use of repetition). Once you’ve taken a course, you’ll spot a lot more of the techniques that are common to all hit songs – irrespective of genre.
BE PART OF A COMMUNITY AND GET FEEDBACK

Some people aren’t aware that successful songwriting often involves lots of collaboration with other writers. There are lots of Facebook forums and so on for songwriters, but nothing beats meeting other songwriters in person, as this can help foster collaboration opportunities. Joining a more ‘professional’ association can also be of benefit. Some, such as the The Guild of International Songwriters and Composers (http://www.songwriters-guild.co.uk/) provide feedback as well as collaboration opportunities. Most will also ensure you are well versed in the importance of copywriting your work.
As times goes on and you write complete songs, whether alone or with other songwriters, you will probably want to become a member of a national or international copyright collective, such as the Performing Rights’ Society (https://www.prsformusic.com/) in the UK. These organisation protect your rights and deal with the very complex issue of royalties for your work (of which there can be many kinds). Just to give you an idea (of how many different ways a song can be used to produce royalties), have a look here:https://www.tunecore.com/guides/thirteen-ways-to-make-money.

 

NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS


Networking is a must in the music industry so head to any events that you can where music industry professionals are present. These can be found with a simple Google search and are often held regularly. This little article explains very succinctly why networking is essential: https://www.horusmusic.global/music-industry-networking/. Meeting publishers and people from record labels enables you to avoid contacting people ‘blind’ when the time comes to pitch one of your songs. You can also find out about commissioned songs (of which there are many). This is where a budget is available to write a song for a specific purpose (for example, a song for an advert or a song for an artist in a specific genre).
GETTING YOUR SONG SOLD

Pitching a song to a publisher, record label or to the proposed artist is the way most songs are taken on. You generally get one chance to do this right, so it pays to know what you should and shouldn’t do, particularly if you are only starting out. I’ve found other songwriters to be an extremely supportive group of people who offer up lots of knowledge, experience and advice (a bit like the translators in SOM really!) Aside from that, there is plenty of advice on the subject online. Here’s just one of the many articles available on this topic that offer some really sound advice: https://songtown.com/dos-donts-pitching-songs/
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
As with the film industry, you need to be careful, as a good song is a good song. If you write one and don’t protect yourself, someone will probably be keen to appropriate at least a part of it ). You should therefore:
– Copyright your songs as soon as possible, even if you don’t plan to do anything with them for a while. This can be done by registering them with your copyright collective.
– Make sure you keep a date-stamped audit trail of any songs you send off on CD or electronically to publishers, record labels or artists.

 

Strategy: 5 keys for freelancers

You’re a freelancer. Being good at what you do and being thankful when you actually have work coming in every day is surely what it’s all about, no? Well, if you ever want to earn more, get more of the work you love or even employ other people, then unfortunately not. As with any business, someone really needs to be thinking ‘bigger picture’ (a.k.a. Strategy) and that someone is you!

Strategy isn’t something that comes easy to many freelancers, who often start out with knowledge of a product or a skill as their area of expertise. But whether you like it or not, you need to start formulating and implementing a business strategy as soon as possible if you want to do more than just get by.

Here’s a quick guide to how you can find the time as well as the information required to flex your strategy muscles:

1) Know your long- and short-term objectivesGoals

Why exactly are you working as a freelancer? So you can retire early and pursue your aspiration of becoming a golf pro or world traveller? Because you love your product/industry and want to innovate within it? Because you have issues with authority and working for someone else was never going to be an option?

Once you’ve identified this, a lot of other things will immediately become clear. For example: I need to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible so that I’m freed up to do the other things I want to; I need to spend as much time as possible with other people in my industry, to enable me to be at the cutting edge of what I do; or simply, if I’m going to work with other people, I need to make sure I’m employing them so that I’m the boss!

Once you know your long-term objective, you can start to look at interim goals – anywhere from 1-5 years – to get there. To illustrate this point, my long-term goal has always been to move from being solely a freelance translator and lecturer to having more time to engage in philanthropic, creative and entrepreneurial pursuits. Two of my key objectives over the last couple of years have been participation at an international book fair and the organisation of a worldwide social media event. I needed to free up time and money to dedicate to the preparation and planning of these activities. So my 2-year strategy has involved undertaking more proofreading work because I find it more lucrative. In 2018, when my 2-3 year targets change, so will my strategy.

Talking

2) Let people know you’re strategizing

Talk to anyone and everyone about what you’re doing. People love people with a vision and they will contribute their thoughts to the mix without you even having to ask. Whether friend, family member or employee, the most valuable ideas come from collaboration. Two heads (and preferably three or four) will always be better than one.

If possible, team up with other freelancers who also want to focus on strategy (preferably in a group which also has an overriding strategy itself – for example, Standing Out Mastermind for Translators and Interpreters). Sharing strategies with others is inspiring and motivating and keeps you accountable.

Learn3) Learn how successful strategists operate

Read about the topic. Investigate how other people – from other freelancers to business magnates – strategize. Where do those who do it well find the time to do so? What habits have they developed in this regard? Copy what others do or adapt what you learn to suit your own particular circumstances.

4) Create a strategic plan and regularly monitor itMonitoring

To establish a good strategic plan, it can be helpful to use strategic planning tools. Once you’ve done this, make sure you regularly evaluate how you and your business are performing in relation to this plan. Have you had a couple of months where firefighting immediate issues has taken priority over strategy and targets? No problem. But if it’s been a couple of years then either your strategy wasn’t the right one or you perhaps aren’t making enough of an effort to focus on it.

what are you best at?

5) Know your strengths

As a freelancer, it is extremely difficult to form a strategy which encompasses every single area of your operation simultaneously (sales and marketing, upskilling, networking, outsourcing, automating activities). So, know what you’re good at and start there.

Your strategy can of course change focus over time. However, if you’re not an IT guru then try and hand over any elements in your strategy which involve this area to someone who is! For example, if you’re a translator and want everything relating to your projects and invoices automated, then entrust those tasks to people whose entire business strategy focuses on making this happen – lsp.expert, for example.

As with anything, the more you practise strategizing, the better you get and the faster you’re able to do it. If you’re doing it properly, you should also find you have more time as the years go by to focus on this very area. So, start now, get stuck in and good luck!

We’d love to hear about any tips or tools you have to help with developing a freelance or small business strategy in the comments section below 🙂 

Budget outsourcing for beginners [A fiverr is all you need!]

Have you ever wished you could be like the CEO of a mega-corporation and delegate all those tasks you don’t really enjoy/aren’t really good at to someone else? Do you envisage yourself as a bit of a Zuckerberg, or a Branson-in-waiting, only you seem to spend more of your time on admin than strategising and the stuff that really plays to your key skills? If the answer is ‘Yes’ on both counts, did you know that it’s never too soon to outsource and it need not cost a fortune – as little as $5/£5/€5 is all you need to get started? You didn’t? Then read on…

I run a business which centres around translation (I refer to it as a ‘business’ because whilst I’m a freelance translator, a solopreneur, I have a number of different income streams). When I talk to fellow small- and medium-sized business (SME) owners, they often say that one of the key issues holding them back from their dreams of rapid growth and success is getting bogged down in the nuts and bolts of their business. We’ve all been there. Admin, accounting, marketing and advertising all eat into precious time which could be better spent on specialist tasks – whether a specific ‘artistic’ skill, dealing with potential clients/investors or creating a detailed business plan for subsequent years.

So, where do you start if outsourcing is something you’re keen to do as promptly and in as painless a way as possible? Here are the 3 questions I hear most often from people who haven’t tried outsourcing before, along with responses containing the information I wish I’d had when I first started out.

tasks-to-outsource

1) WHAT WORK SHOULD YOU OUTSOURCE?

Despite knowing they should outsource something, it’s surprising how many SME owners aren’t really sure exactly what that something should be. Do you fall into this camp?

Ask different people and you’ll get different answers as to what you should outsource. To provide a useful starting point, however, www.business.com recommends that you outsource 5 key areas. In my experience, these make a lot of sense. They can act like vampires on your time and often detract from priority work. With just one small variation (number 4), I’d therefore recommend outsourcing the following tasks:

1. Appointments, Scheduling & Answering Phones

2. Graphic/Web Design

3. Bookkeeping

4. Marketing/Advertising

5. Customer or Technical Support

 who-and-what

2) WHO/WHAT SHOULD YOU OUTSOURCE TO?

Solutions to help solve the issue of outsourcing business-related tasks (or delegating them – if you’re lucky enough to have actual employees!) generally come in two forms: those involving

1) people

or

2) software.

I focus purely on 1) here, as 2) would require a listing of so many different industry-specific tools that any sane reader would stop reading right about…now!

But please don’t. The great thing about 1) is that the related solutions apply to all industries, so there will definitely be something here for you.

The advent of websites designed to offer specialist/professional services for a fee sometimes involved dubious service providers. A number of them hadn’t necessarily ever undertaken a given task before you suddenly parted with good money to be their guinea pig. This isn’t the case anymore.

There are now a multitude of more reliable outsourcing options, (www.fiverr.com and www.peopleperhour.com being two of the most renowned) which enable you to pay someone to undertake tasks you feel you can’t, or don’t want to – everything from website design, to SEO optimisation, to data entry. Other great options are referred to here:

www.fiverrstuff.com

A simple Google search also brings up many other websites designed specifically for outsourcing work:

www.elance.com  and   www.mylittlejob.eu to name but two.

Suffice it to say that the new improved versions of these websites include reviews from outsourcers’ previous customers and the option to purchase different combinations of skills for different periods of time. You can even define your own specific requirements, put them out into the e-sphere and then wait and see who wants the job.

budget-and-quality

3) CAN BUDGET = QUALITY?

I’m amazed when talking to fellow entrepreneurs that so many still seem to be unaware of cost-effective means of outsourcing work. When they do know about it, concerns are sometimes raised over ethics or quality. As with all things, business and money make the world go round. With these websites, you are paying someone, and that someones may sometimes live in a different country, who has an area of expertise they want to share and a desire to make a living, just like you or me. Arguably, paying someone to do work that involves them using a computer or technology (which most ‘gigs’ on these sites do) is markedly more ethical than the sweatshop practices in which a number of well-known multinationals still engage.

There’s also the added benefit that you can end up dealing with people who work all over the world. This can heighten your cultural awareness and even increase your own levels of motivation and gratitude. I once worked with a person who lived in the Philippines and his local area was flooded overnight. He was keen to continue collaborating despite access to basic electricity, let alone an internet connection, becoming an issue. I was extremely humbled to learn about the difficulties he was facing and yet inspired to see how resolute he was in the face of adversity. Completing and being paid for the great work he was producing was a priority for him. We even discussed how thankful we both were to be working with a fellow professional who was keen to see our collaboration through, no matter how difficult the circumstances got.

As far as quality is concerned, naturally, expectations are everything. It’s unlikely you’ll be outsourcing to someone with 20 years of experience working for multinationals if you’re paying $20 as a fixed or hourly rate. However, in my experience, there is huge talent out there just waiting to be discovered and everyone has to start somewhere. I’ve often worked with students paying their way through a college course, as well as professionals starting out in an industry and looking to gain experience and good references. I’ve built great, mutually beneficial working relationships with many of them. And the quality of their work has been excellent. [Providing a comprehensive brief or set of instructions is of course vital to ensure this is the case!] I’ve also increased what I pay the people I outsource to, based on the quality of their work. The question, after all, shouldn’t really be how ethical a given outsourcing website is, but rather how ethical you want to be in your own professional practice.

So, if your big vision sees your business expanding in the near future, but currently the only thing growing seems to be your to do list, why not give one of these sites a try? For just a small and very affordable investment, you can start creating a virtual team and get back to focusing on what you do best! Good luck 🙂

Claire Culliford (Owner of TransTeach)

Do you have experience outsourcing on a budget ? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Feel free to share your stories with us in the comments section below 🙂 

 

 

 

 

How to find your professional ‘voice’

Finding your professional voice

A new year provides the opportunity for a new start. What better way than by identifying what it is that makes you professionally unique so you can truly make your mark on the world?

Every industry in the world, translation included, is becoming more and more competitive each day. Whether you work as a freelancer, an employee or run your own show and employ lots of other people, there is always someone or some other company out there vying for the work you’ve currently got. Complacency simply isn’t an option.

In light of this, it’s important to carve yourself out a niche, as early as possible. Delivering work of excellent quality and being someone that your colleagues actually want to work with has become something of a given. You now also need to ensure that you offer something unique; something that sets you apart from the rest. Here’s TransTeach’s practical guide to identifying your professional ‘voice’ and using it to give you the X-Factor.

 

1) Don’t overlook the obvious

First thing’s first, don’t try to re-invent the wheel and don’t overthink things. Ironically, what comes extremely easy to you is often the very thing that sets you apart. If you love playing around with gadgets/IT, then the technology/apps side of things could well be where you shine. Small or large scale, these are vital tools for everyone from sole traders to business magnates, so if you’ve got the know-how, flaunt it!

If you’ve always had a head for figures, whether you’re working in an accountancy firm or for a wildlife charity, make those numbers count! Let people know what you like and what you feel you’re good at, so that you get the opportunity to do more of it.

2) Research, Research, Research!

Find out what niches other people have adopted to rule out or inspire you with ideas. You may be surprised at the way in which your professional ‘voice’ permits you to marry your areas of professional expertise (Russian language and online chess apps, for example; property law and sustainable tourism; adult literacy and fashion design; the permutations and combinations are almost endless!) The more bizarre your combination of skills sounds, the more unique your ‘voice’ is going to be.

To give an illustrative example, when I decided to start the TransTeach blog, and as it has developed, I’ve carried out extensive research on the other translation blogs/writers in the market. This would seem like an opportune moment to thank individuals such as Andrew Morris (creator of Standing Out –https://www.facebook.com/groups/standingoutgroup/ and Standing Out Island – https://www.facebook.com/groups/standingoutisland), Corinne McKay (Thoughts on Translation http://thoughtsontranslation.com/), Claire Cox (Lines from a Linguist https://clairecoxtranslations.wordpress.com/),  Galina Green (http://britbitchberlin.com/), Lloyd Bingham (Capital Translations –http://capital-translations.co.uk/category/translation/) and countless others, for their ‘voice’, which has undoubtedly helped me to identify and carve out my own. I currently like to refer to this as Translation and Diversification [Trans-] meets Education [-Teach] (but more about that in point 4) below). Who knows what it will morph into in the future?

3) Try everything and anything

Your professional ‘voice’ changes over time, whether you think you can identify what it is straight away or not. If you can’t, because nothing immediately springs to mind, then get experimenting. Only by trying lots of things do you ever know where you particular talents lie. So, take online courses (there are plenty of free ones covering every topic imaginable these days), expose yourself to social media (both professionally and personally) and if something tickles your fancy, have a go!
I never set out in life to street dance, subtitle foreign films or help run a charity. When the opportunity arose to try these things, however, I was always at the front of the queue 🙂 Over time my professional voice has developed to include all of these unique facets.

4) Develop your social media presence

Nowadays, we’re constantly being told that an online presence is essential right from the off. Indeed it is. Social media provides opportunities that as a self-employed individual, employee or business owner you certainly shouldn’t miss out on. However, think carefully and research even more prudently before ever putting finger to keyboard. Why? Because a lot of people have done it before you and in the social media sphere too, you need to ‘shine’. You need to get known for what you and you alone can offer.

One way of developing your own virtual presence is to contribute to those of others. So, take your time, engage with those whose presence you admire and can relate to. Slowly but surely you’ll find your own ‘voice’ naturally emerges as a result.

As an example, since starting TransTeach I’ve always been recognised by my clients/colleagues for my diversification and my desire to help and educate others on how to do the same. They’ve also commented on the fact that I’m pretty creative. I freelance as well as being the UK and US Director for a large international translation agency. I also provide translator training and linguistic consultancy services. I’m the Development Director for a charity. I love all forms of creative writing and I’ve authored a number of children’s books. I invest in property as well because having multiple streams of income is always a good idea. As a result, I’ve personally followed, commented and retweeted lots of associated Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn content, slowly finding the place that I can call my professional home in the world of social media along the way.

 

5)  Whatever your ‘voice’, make it a positive one

No matter what you decide are your professional USPs, and how those change over time, make sure that what also makes you shine is your positivity. If there’s one thing people value above all else today, given the constant barrage of bad news and the pressure of the 21st Century workplace, it’s someone with a smile who motivates them, inspires them and makes their day seem just that little bit better. Whether it be by sharing your unique skills or using them productively to educate and support others, make sure you do so at every possible opportunity. Those with the loudest and most powerful professional ‘voices’ today are undoubtedly those who use their uniqueness to benefit as many other people as possible. So, find your own ‘voice’, sing loud with it and use your song to helps lots of other people along the way. Good luck!

Claire Culliford (Founder of TransTeach)

If you have any comments about or advice concerning how you found your own professional voice, then feel free to share them here or contact me at info@transteach.com. This is a topic that’s always a work in progress, so the more contributors, the better!

 

 

Translator Training – A Guide to Getting your Foot in the Door

Well before I founded TransTeach, in 2008, I was teaching many different aspects of translation at universities across the UK. Translator training is something I’m truly passionate about and I know many other translators are too. With a background in education, I always had a gut instinct that teaching in the translation domain would be right for me. However, like anyone, I needed that initial ‘break’, to give me a chance to prove myself and to enable more opportunities to arise as a result.

I consider myself extremely fortunate and still adore walking into a classroom or lecture theatre of new students today. I therefore love to do all I can to help other translators who have the same dream I once did. So, if you’re someone who knows they want to teach translation, particularly in a formal, academic environment, then read on. Here’s TransTeach’s advice on how you can do just that…


Know what you want and want it enough

I’m not sure of the exact when or how, early in my own translation training (in 2003-4 on the MSc at Imperial College, London) I determined that I wanted to train other translators. In fact, I was surprised at how strong the desire in me to do this was. I adored my course of study: the timetable, the different modules, the constant learning. All I knew was that it felt ‘right’ to want to be involved in providing the same for future students in my field.

Fast forward 12 years and I’ve been teaching translation for 11 years. I started by teaching on the very masters course I’d completed when an opportunity arose soon after I graduated. I had a teaching qualification, but I had no PhD – often a requirement for such teaching posts. I therefore considered myself to very lucky, and am grateful to this day, for the chance my former tutors gave me. I know I was a capable student, and a good teacher, but I still believe my passion and enthusiasm played a large part in getting me first break. (Along with quite a lot of positive visualisation – which definitely does work!)

The message here? Basically, know what you want, even if you have no idea how you’re going to get it (yet). And want it BAD! That desire, determination and drive will emanate from you and be picked up on somewhere, by somebody. In my case it was my own Spanish to English practical translation tutor, Nicky Harman (thanks Nicky! – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicky_Harman). When she first approached me, rather tentatively, to see if I was interested in teaching part of a practical translation module, I practically bit her hand off. And that has been pretty much the case with every translation teaching opportunity I’ve been offered since.

Let people know what you want

There’s no point knowing what you want (and wanting it an awful lot) if you never share your desire with anyone else. So, make sure you tell anyone and everyone what it is you’re interested in doing. “I’m really interested in getting some experience teaching translation in a university”. “I loved my translation training and want to be able to train other translators. I’m passionate about it”. Put your wishes out there and the universe will able to help. Keep them to yourself and it will be an awful lot harder to achieve your goals.

If you’re interested in working at a specific institution or on a specific course, then approach  a course leader or a head of department directly. Believe it or not, they don’t get people doing this every day. There aren’t as many people out there wanting to get into translation teaching as there are aspiring actors, musicians or writers (strangely enough); the odds of you finding an opening are actually quite high!

Don’t be put off if you don’t have a PhD

Gone are the days when only people with a doctorate could teach at university level. Nowadays, institutions are as likely to employ practising industry professionals to lecture as they are the most respected academics. If a full-time post teaching translation if what you’re ultimately aiming for, then obviously improving your academic credentials will be of benefit. However, if you want to teach and practise your profession at the same time, universities now recognise the advantages of this. They are often keen to bring in visiting lecturers who teach specific modules, with very practical, industry-related content.

Get a teaching qualification

One way of standing out from your competitors is to get qualified to teach (particularly university level teaching). Nowadays many institutions are demanding that their academic staff  hold teaching qualifications. In the UK, for example, the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education is becoming increasingly popular: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postgraduate_Certificate_in_Higher_Education.

A good academic researcher does not necessarily a good teacher make. Training helps to redress the balance. By contacting one or two institutions, you can find out what qualification(s) they like their staff to get and investigate starting one of these. You don’t have to have completed it before you start looking for work but it’s another way of demonstrating your commitment to the field you want to work in.

Be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone

If I had waited until I felt truly ‘ready’ to teach others about translation, I’d probably still be waiting to do so right now. There is never a ‘right’ time. You will always feel under-prepared, lacking in knowledge and just downright daunted at what may greet you in the translation classroom. So, if an opportunity arises, view it as a now or never chance and jump in with both feet!

Since taking on my first technical translation teaching post, I’ve progressed to teaching legal and translation, localization and audiovisual translation. I’ve even developed and delivered my own ‘A Day in the Life of a Translator’ introductory course for undergraduate language students who may be contemplating translation as a career option.

Every time I’ve been offered a new challenge, I’ve seen it as just that. When I was asked if I could teach audiovisual translation, I said yes, of course. When I was asked if I knew how to use the associated software, I said yes, of course (and promptly taught myself how to do so in a week!) Where there’s a will, there’s a way, so never be put off by something that seems slightly outside of your current range of knowledge and experience. If nothing else, it enables you to empathise all the more effectively with the students you teach. Being a teacher or trainer requires you to constantly step outside of your comfort zone, so get used to it. In fact, enjoy it. It’s what makes the work so interesting!

Be humble

Good teachers know that they are not the source of all knowledge on a particular subject. Rather, they are a facilitator and sometimes who know a little (or even a lot) more about a certain topic than some of their students.

When I first walked into a room full of translation students, I was but one year ahead of them in terms of translation education. I therefore made it clear that I felt confident, but humble and was ready to learn as much from them as they would from me. That’s pretty much been my approach ever since. I’ve found that it’s one that works well both with colleagues and students. Nobody likes a know-it-all. So, let everyone know that you’re keen to keep on studying and learning about translation and its different elements and that you see teaching as a great way to do this.

There can be little more stimulating or fulfilling than sharing your knowledge of a subject with those who have opted to study it at an advanced level. It reignites your passion and often tests your abilites to the very limit. I hope this advice goes some way to enabling you to get your first break in translation teaching. I wish you many years of the same enjoyment, challenge and satisfaction that I have been fortunate enough to experience and of course, let TransTeach (and me) know how you get on! 

Putting Your Money Where Your Translation Technology Tool Is

Challenge 3: How to invest wisely in CAT Tools


For anyone not already in the know, CAT tools stands for Computer Assisted Translation tools (without this key piece of information the rest of this post may not have made quite as much sense!) These are essentially the pieces of software that the translation industry now regularly relies upon. There is a wealth of training available to educate us about their functionality and use, whether this be as part of a degree or masters programme or a course dealing specifically with one piece of translation technology.

With constant new additions to the market place, every translation software provider would have you believe that their product is the best. However, this can leave new translators reeling from information overload and unsure as to what CAT tools any prospective clients are really going to be excepting them to use.

Here’s TransTeach’s low-down on what’s hot and what’s not in the CAT tool world and where best to invest your money for long-term benefit.

The Key Players

Like it or not, just as Microsoft and Apple have a monopoly in the personal computer market place, there are three or four CAT tool providers who hold the majority of the market share. Currently, these are SDL Trados Studio (www.sdl.com), MemoQ (www.memoq.com) WordFast (www.wordfast.com) and Atril’s Déjà Vu (www.atril.com). Rather unsurprisingly, these tools also rank amongst the most expensive there are (in decreasing order of market share). At the time of posting, the Freelance version of SDL Trados Studio alone costs £545 (£685 if you want the Freelance Plus version which allows you to use the software on two machines – e.g. your laptop and a desktop PC). That’s around $820 or €765. We’re certainly not talking small change!

It’s fair to say that all of these tools are widely used across the globe and are constantly in development. In addition to the functionality available for the translator him or herself, there are also corporate versions which incorporate project management components and facilitate the consistency of translations and terminology. Each piece of software has its own pros and cons. For a more in-depth comparison of just what these are, check out the tool provided by Proz.com for this purpose:

http://www.proz.com/software-comparison-tool/cat/cat_tools/

For new translators starting out, who have yet to acquire a client base, it can be very hard to determine which of these tools is the best option, which is why at TransTeach we’d suggest taking the following steps to keep both your new clients, and your pocket, happy…

Find out what any prospective agencies/clients use

When applying to agencies or making contact with direct clients (assuming they don’t offer up details of their preferred translation technology tool – which they often will) ask them which CAT tool(s) they use. Start keeping a tally, so that you get an idea of which one tends to be most popular. When the time comes, as least any choice will be based on some scientific fact rather than your own preference or the advice of other people who deal with a different set of agencies and clients.

Enquire about free licences and export file compatibility 

Over the years at TransTeach, we’ve been asked to use lots of different CAT tools. We never have a problem with this but have often had to explain that we can’t possibly invest in, or be expert users of, every single one. When we first begin working with new clients, we’ve been amazed at how many times they’ve offered us a free licence, meaning we can work using a server-based version of their CAT tool. This usually only involves a quick installation of the user front-end interface on our own computer and away we go. PLEASE NOTE: this approach does require some level of IT proficiency and a little confidence, but we find that most new translators have both of these in today’s technology-centred world.

Alternatively, when starting to work with new clients, if we don’t possess the CAT tool they usually use, there have often been file export/import possibilities. This has meant that we can still use our own CAT tool, and simply import in and export out compatible files from or to the client’s own CAT tool. Some new translators may not be aware of just how much compatibility there is nowadays using exchange formats – particularly the TMX format when exchanging files between CAT tools and localisation tools (those used specifically to help with website translation). For an article that explains this topic in more detail, try reading this comprehensive overview: http://www.maxprograms.com/articles/tmx.html

Download a free trial version

Whilst making a decision about investing in a CAT tool it may, of course, be necessary to use something, simply so that you can take on work that is offered to you from clients. In this case, we would advise investigating the trial versions of software that are nearly always available (usually for 30 days). This allows you to meet your agencies’/client’s needs whilst also getting some practice using a particular tool. Obviously, this isn’t a long-term solution, but it can give you some breathing space and make you feel more confident when you do come to invest in the full version of the CAT tool(s) you eventually opt for.

TransTeach’s own experience

Whilst we simply can’t say what your future clients will or won’t want you to use, we are able to provide you with details of our own experience. This can contribute to other input gained from other industry professionals (and we would always recommend speaking to as many translators as possible before making any final decision).

Since starting out in the industry, in 2003, we’ve found that the CAT tool we’ve most often been asked to use has been SDL Trados Studio (a combination of what was previously two tools from separate companies – SDLX and Trados). Over the years, we have used this tool on a weekly basis both in our own work and for the purposes of professional and academic teaching and we continue to use it today. We hesitate to call it an industry ‘standard’, but we certainly don’t believe you can go far wrong with it.

In recent years, we have been asked to use MemoQ more frequently and WordFast every now and again. Fortunately, most of our clients using MemoQ assign us a free licence as and when required – working from an online server version. They also allow us to work in a bilingual file format for WordFast. No extra investment has therefore been necessary in either of these tools.

There is of course no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when it comes to CAT tools. Every translator’s experience will be different and any decision must be made based on personal circumstance. We hope, however, that this post will go some way to appeasing any new translators who feel under pressure to make an immediate expensive investment. In reality, this is often not necessary. Take a bit of time, do your research, and of course, if any of your CAT tools queries haven’t been answered here, feel free to contact us at info@transteach.com.

To Become Accredited or Not To Become Accredited, That is the Question…

The second in our series of posts for new translators…


Challenge 2: Whether to gain professional accreditation or not

At some point in their career, be it earlier or later, every translator becomes aware of the different professional organisations and bodies that carry clout in the industry. These tend to be national, rather than international, for example the Insitute of Translators and Interpreters in the UK (http://www.iti.org.uk/) and the American Translators’ Association in the United States (https://www.atanet.org/). The one notable exception is probably the global Proz forum (www.proz.com/pro-tag/info/), which accredits translators as a ‘Certified Pro’. Being accredited by any of these organisations undoubtedly has benefits. But is it an essential component for success in the industry?

With an increasing number of undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications in translation becoming available across the globe, not to mention the rise in non-formal education (webinars on industry-specific topics, for instance) it can be all too easy to get lost in the translation qualification and certification quagmire. Here’s TransTeach’s advice for translators just starting out and those who’ve reached a juncture in their career where they’re considering accreditation with one of the industry’s professional associations.

Identify your priorities

If it’s practical aspects of the industry that you want to learn more about (anything from actually practising your translation skills to trying out subtitling, interpreting, translation technologies or improving your sales and marketing skills), academic or non-formal education is probably the best way forward. Professional associations aren’t really geared up to provide lots of content-rich training in this respect. That said, they do often provide information about and a another conduit to such training.

Equally, if you’ve recently completed academic or professional studies and want to focus on honing your translation skills and marketing yourself, then getting yourself an online presence and some work experience is probably a better use of your time in the immediate future. The accreditation process for many professional bodies can be lengthy and unless your studies have exempt you from some of the criteria (i.e. a module or an exam) can detract from gaining valuable work experience in the industry.

Professional bodies are, however, a good option if you want to have your existing skills accredited, increase your network of industry contacts and gain the benefits associated with accreditation.

NOTE: ‘Membership’ is not the same as ‘accreditation’. Membership of professional associations can often be obtained without accreditation. The advantages and disadvantage of membership of professional associations (reduced price subscription to industry-related publications, conferences and even professional indemnity insurance, to name but a few) warrants a whole separate post in its own right. This one deals only with accreditation.

Do a cost/benefit analysis

Accreditation costs vary from country to country and there are often different categories available to choose from. The ITI, for example, offers 3 different levels of individual accreditation (Associate, Qualified Member and Fellow) to suit different stages of your career. Only by researching the cost (which is usually annual) and the different benefits offered can you work out whether or not accreditation of a given type is going to be right for you. To illustrate what can be involved in the application procedure, the criteria required and the kind of benefits that are on offer, the following comprehensive overview of the ITI Qualified Member status is worth a look: http://www.iti.org.uk/become-a-member/membership-categories/368-qualified-member-miti.

There may be more advantages to a particular accreditation than you first realise and these can undoubtedly sway any decision. They certainly have for the thousands of translators who are already accredited!

Our own personal experience is that whilst the benefit list may appear long, the benefits that you regularly utilise can be somewhat more limited. So, ask yourself which of them you really believe you will use. There is the argument that only through trial and error can you ever really tell what you will gain from accreditation. Our aim in this post is simply to ensure that you make an informed decision before deciding to commit to gaining it.

Consider the fields you work in or want to work in

For some areas of translation (legal, scientific, medical and technical in particular) accreditation from a particular association can undoubtedly provide evidence of your credibility to other colleagues in the industry as well as clients. Inclusion in professional body directories can add to your credentials. In fields where technical knowledge is essential because the accuracy of a translation really can be the difference between life and death (or at least being sued or not), then accreditation can often be another very beneficial string to your bow. In the fields of law, science and medicine accreditation is often compulsory for practising professionals. It is therefore no surprise that they look for similar attributes in translators within their field.

Talk to translation colleagues about their experiences

Everyone will have their own stories to tell. Some may be huge advocates of becoming accredited by professional associations; others may not have found the experience to be very beneficial and may never actually have gained any of their work as a direct result of their accredited status. The more people you speak to, the more balanced a view you will obtain about the realities of accreditation. Forewarned is forearmed and all that…

Do what’s right for you

Never, ever, ever, do anything because you feel you must. Here at TransTeach we’ve always been a bit ‘outside of the box’ in our thinking and only ever opted not to become accredited by Proz.com, rather than a particular national body. Our reasons? Proz.com is internationally recognised and therefore our clients all over the world can identify with it. We were also able to gain accreditation by using samples of our actual work (no exam involved) and this method was, for us, preferable. Ironically, we’ve always loved exams and performed well in them but we’ve never felt this was necessarily the fairest way of achieving accreditation. It looks as though things may well be changing in this respect in the future, something which we would welcome.

At TransTeach, we also believe there are manifold ways of gaining credibility and an industry-specific network. We’ve therefore tended to network organically, with individuals, institutions and companies that we really want to collaborate with in the fields that we are proficient in (subtitling, localisation, creative media, travel, education, economic development) and indeed in those that we want to work more in. There really is no substitute for enthusiasm and initiative.

Through client testimonials, social media and even word of mouth, we’ve found that we’re constantly able to develop and grown our business. The wealth of information on the Internet today has probably made this kind of business model even easier to adopt than when we started out.

For any new translators wishing to take a similar route, we’d thoroughly recommend becoming a part of some of the more social/community-based online forums. One of our favourites is the Standing Out group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/standingoutgroup) and the Standing Out Exchange group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/standingoutexchange/). Whilst still relatively new – they’ve been around for a couple of years – they offer a really positive, supportive environment with a huge amount of advice, and even offers of work, from translators all over the world and with all levels of experience, from the very novice right through to the seasoned pro. They also show that when it comes to accreditation there is a complete mix, with some translators having everything going and some having none. There simply isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ formula and discovering that alone can be reassuring.

To conclude this post then, we would suggest not worrying too much about accreditation until you have regular work and some kind of client base, unless, as mentioned, one of your existing courses of study or qualifications happens to exempt you from some components of the application process. Later on, when money and work flow are less of any issue, you can revisit the topic of accreditation and decide whether you see it as advantageous in moving forward with your translation career.

It’s probably worth noting, as a final point, that we see just as many colleagues not renewing their accreditation each year as we see gaining it. Take from that what you will. Just make sure that any decision you arrive at when it comes to translation accreditation is based on thorough research and made with your own professional objectives in mind.

New Translators: Getting Out of The Starting Blocks

We’re often approached by ambitious young translators just starting out in the industry to ask for guidance and advice. Being able to remember quite clearly what it was like when we were starting out, we’ve therefore decided to write a series of posts addressing some of the challenges/dilemmas they most commonly face. We hope it’s of help and of course, let us know if you have any other questions related to starting out in the industry… 

Challenge no. 1: The ‘No experience, no work’ vicious cycle

One of the most difficult issues to overcome when starting out in any new industry (whether you’re looking to work for someone else or for yourself) is getting a foot in the door. All too often, jobs, or obtaining work from clients, is dependent on experience, and yet only by doing a job or working for a client can you gain experience. Ouch! Where to start?

As with most things in life, tenacity is vital, an element of (good!) luck always helps and thinking outside of the box never hurts. So, here are TransTeach’s tips for trying to get work and experience simultaneously…

1) Volunteer

Whilst of course this doesn’t involve payment, one of the best ways to gain experience in any industry, translation included, is to volunteer your services in the appropriate quarters. In the world of translation, there are a number of entities looking for pro bono translators, and these cn give you valuable experience as well as providing you with something solid to add to your CV.

Examples of such entities include:

www.translatorswithoutborders.orgwww.permondo.eu and www.volunteermatch.org

2) Apply for an internship

Many companies who don’t have the capacity for to pay an extra employee throughout the year will take on students or recent graduates for short-term internships. This helps the intern gain experience and provides the company with valuable extra man power – usually someone who is studying or has completed studies in a related field. Internship positions are often advertised in universities and colleges but can also be found online on common translation portals such as http://www.proz.com and http://www.translatorscafe.com.

In addition, contacting agencies directly (by phone – personal contact can often give you an edge over the competition) can yield surprising results. Some may offer you something for just a few weeks with some travel expenses included, even if full payment is not. This can be a great way of adding industry-specific experience to your CV.

3) Apply for in-house jobs

In-house translator positions are not, contrary to popular believe, generally found at translation agencies. They tend to occur in larger companies which have regular, field-specific translation needs (e. g automotive companies, banks and financial entities, press agencies). These positions are generally advertised on both the company’s own website but also on the larger online employment portals. These include international employment sites such as www.monster.com, translation-specific sites such as http://www.translatorscafe.com and also country specific job sites such as https://jobs.theguardian.com and http://www.nytimes.com/section/jobs.

The two key advantages of working in-house are the experience you gain and the regular salary you receive, but there are many others: professional development opportunities that come as a part of your role; growing your network of industry contacts; the opportunity to try other translation-related work (editing, proofreading, terminology management, desktop publishing); and of course time to decide whether or not a particular field of translation really interests you.

4) Apply for translation agency jobs

A huge quantity of the translation work that takes place around the world is done through agencies. The volumes requested by large companies who don’t have their own in-house translation team can only really be effectively managed by an agency with a team of both project managers and translators. Translation software is of course also imperative for large projects today, to ensure consistency, and generally, it is only agencies that can afford to make the investment in the variety of necessary technologies.

Consequently, working for an agency can be an extremely varied role and one which provides you with a wealth of different translation-related experience. Project manager roles provide an understanding of the overall translation process, from quote to delivery, whilst quality assessment work can give you exposure to translations performed by experienced translators, which are invaluable for honing your own skills. There are now also many industry-specific quality certifications that agencies obtain to increase their credibility (e.g. ISO 9001:2008, UNE EN-15038:2006, TÜV Rheinland). Knowledge of these can be an extremely useful addition to your CV.

A word of warning: translation agency jobs can often be very pressurised and demanding. Whilst interaction with clients and having colleagues around all day are undoubtedly two of the very positive elements of such roles, dealig with customers who want work completed within unrealistic deadlines and long working hours can also be commonplace. Before taking on any role with a translation agency, try to gauge what their corporate culture is like. Some offer a better work-life balance than others and if you are thinking of working for an agency as a long-term prospect, you’d be well advised to do your research beforehand.

5) Apply for freelance work

Where, how and with whom to find freelance translation work is the subject of another series of blogs in its own right. However, it will suffice here to say that in order to gain experience, any and every opportunity should be taken. Often, this may involve freelance work, whether full-time freelancing is the particular career you are after or not.

As well submitting your CV and a covering letter to agencies or private clients directly, get yourself an online presence as quickly as possible (as website can be created for next to nothing when you first start out these days). That way, people can contact you and it’s surprising what experience can come your way via this means.

If you do nothing else, set up your own profile on the globally renowned translator sites www.proz.comand www.translatorscafe.com.

Where possible, identify more experienced freelance translators as many of them have too much work coming in to complete it on their own and regularly outsource smaller or more generalist pieces. Contact them and explain that you are new to the industry and want to gain experience. Just as agencies often ask for a test translation, they may ask you to translate a few hundred words (do not agree to do more than this!) for free, to demonstrate your ability. If they are satsfied with your work then you could find pieces coming your way almost immediately and working with a more experienced professional will enable you get open and honest advice on rates, certain types of translation work and so on. View it as a translation apprenticeship and you could potentially be looking at a very long and fruitful working relationship. In the freelance translation industry, which is generally an extremely helpful and supportive one, this is exactly what we’re all after!

Sincere thanks to all of the new translators we teach, train and come into contact with, whose thirst for knowlege about the industry continues to inspire us and has us racking our brains to come up with more helpful information and advice.

Thanks in particular to James Hewlett (M.A. – as of today!) whose recent set of extremely articulate and detailed questions helped prompt some of the content in this series. Congratulations on the distinction in your newly acquired translation qualification James! May you have a long and successful career in the industry 🙂

If you found this post helpful or have any more questions about getting out of the translation starting blocks, drop us a line at info@transteach.com.

5 Top Tips For New Translators

Well before I founded TransTeach, I was was training new translators. In fact, I started training new translators just a few months after I stopped being one myself (a new translator that is!) With a background in education, I was approached about a year after I finished my own translation masters to teach on the very same course. And thus, over a decade of translator training was born.
 
I see lots of advice given to new translators these days, most of it extremely beneficial. I certainly wish some of it had been on offer when I started out!
 
Based on my own personal journey, the following are 5 top tips that I believe all new translators can benefit from, to ensure their career goes from strength to strength.

Tip 1 – Don’t undersell yourself!
Someone gave me this very piece of advice when I first started out and I’ve never forgotten it. Translation remains an underrated profession. If you don’t value your time and skills then no-one else will. So, do your research is necessary and then set yourself a baseline. Decide the minimum amount (daily/hourly/per word) you’re prepared to work for and then don’t budge from there. Ever! The minute you do, you make it harder for both you and every other professional translator to raise the bar and have people hold the profession in the esteem it deserves. Obviously, your minimum amounts may vary over time and indeed increase as you become more experienced. However, translating needs to pay you a wage you can live on, and are happy with, otherwise, to be frank, you might as well go and get a job which gives you holiday pay, sick pay and a pension on top!

Tip 2 – Don’t get obsessed with ‘specialising’ too early on.
When I started out, people had me down as a finance, technical and medical specialist (because my studies happened to focus on those areas). Ten years later and I’ve managed to cast off this mantle, as I discovered that I don’t particularly enjoy working in these areas. I’m creative; I like books, films, travel and the arts. Unsurprisingly, these are areas I’ve gravitated towards and the ones I now predominantly work in. I thought I had to know what I was going to want to translate from the off. I was wrong. Experiment, take on different types of work (skills and confidence permitting) and don’t pigeonhole yourself until you’ve developed plenty of experience and know yourself and your interests inside out, through trial and error.

Tip 3 – Keep your options open
I’ve seen translators come and I’ve seen them go. Some stay in the industry a lifetime, some are gone within a year. Translating, whether in-house or freelance, isn’t going to suit everyone for the long term, so keep your options open. If you have experience working in education, marketing, hospitality, the sciences or any other of a multitude of areas, don’t just let it slide. Keep your hand in, if possible, and further your knowledge and skills in that area. Not only will it serve you well if you decide you want to use it as your specialist translation ‘niche’, if you decide translation really isn’t for you at any point, then you won’t find it anywhere near as hard to get back into the job market.

Tip 4 – Develop, develop, develop…
As with any other self-employed professional, no longer will your career development be planned out for you. It’s all down to you from here on in. So, make sure you find time (and save money) to take any courses that appeal to you and keep up with the latest developments in the industry. Investigate opportunities and don’t be afraid to try out new aspects of the profession (proofreading, editing, copywriting, transcreation, localisation, subtitling etc). It’s amazing what comes your way when you have an open-mind and are willing to take on a new challenge. As with any career these days, if you snooze you lose. So, make your own professional development a priority and plan it in to your yearly schedule like your boss would do (if you still had one!)

Tip 5 – Find strategies to deal with the dry times.
Translation, if you’re working as a freelancer, offers no guarantees in terms of workload. Sometimes there’ll be so much on offer you could cry. Others, there’ll be so little available…you could cry (even more!) Very few translators love the uncertainty that comes with the professional territory but there are definitely ways of making it more bearable. Whether you use quiet times to get stuck in to administration and marketing yourself or to catch up on household chores and family time, always have a plan for the next time you’re without a deadline. And if you don’t like being without work (and I can assure you lots of us really don’t!) then find other ways to subsidise your income – teaching, part-time work in another field, writing etc – so that you don’t have all of your eggs in one basket. For any self-employed professional these days, diversity is the name of the game. We no longer live in a ‘job for life’ world, so ensuring you have several strings to your professional bow is a must, not a ‘nice-to-have’.

Claire Culliford – TransTeach founder

If you found this post helpful or have any more questions about starting out in the translation industry, drop me a line and let me know at info@transteach.com. And of course, good luck on your own translation journey. Enjoy the ride!