Spanish-English Translations: Business Errors to Avoid

Transpanish’s April 1st post focused on things that novices to the craft of English-Spanish translations should avoid.  This weeks post will focus on the business side of freelance translating.  Novice Spanish translators may be eager to please their first few clients, and that makes sense.  But beware of being so eager to please that you end up exhausted with very little return or making mistakes that could potentially turn clients off from being repeat buyers.

To avoid this, keep the following in mind:

1. This is a business!  As a freelance translator, you are first and foremost a business person.  Your translation services are what you sell, but you also need sound business practices to survive and thrive.  Consider taking a course in running a freelance business at your local college or adult education center.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate with your translation buyers.  Don’t stalk them and update them on every miniscule bit of progress you make, but do keep in touch with them.  Ask them clarifying questions and remind them that their answers help you provide them with a superlative end product.  If it’s a large project and the deadline is far off, don’t just disappear.  It’s good relationship building to check in occasionally, even if it’s just to say that you’re making progress.

3. Be realistic about what you can complete.  Don’t jump at the chance to take on a project if the terms seem unrealistic.  If the buyer wants 10,000 words translated in a day, be honest that this is not realistic.  Rather than taking on a project that’s too large and then renegotiating the terms after, only agree to projects you know you can accomplish.  As you start out, you may have a learning curve about your output which could cause some sleepless nights but as you go you should start determining what you can really do.

4. Get the project terms in writing.  How many rewrites and adjustments are you willing to make before tacking on extra fees?  Do both you and the buyer understand the terms of payment?  Sort this out beforehand and set the terms down in writing before starting a Spanish translation project.

These four tips should get you started as you think about how to manage your freelance translation business and apply whether you freelance after a day job or want to translate full time.  Being prepared will have the dual benefit of protecting yourself and keeping translation buyers happy.

Spanish-English Translations: Pitfalls to Avoid

As with any field, newbies at freelance translation will make mistakes. But being aware of possible mistakes and correcting those errors is a part of any freelance translator’s journey from novice to expert. This list of tips will focus on errors of content and the nuts and bolts of translation work, not on the freelance business side of the equation.

  • Know your audience.Or in translator lingo, don’t forget about localization. If you translate from English to Spanish, is your audience Spanish? Mexican? South American? While you may be Argentine, if your main audience is from Central America, the translated message may be misconstrued or garbled because of differences in word usage. If you work from Spanish to English, will the translated document be used in Australia or the U.S.?

  • Translate content, not each word. Truthfully, if you translate each word without regard for the grammatical and syntactical conventions of the target language, you should not be translating. Spanish to English and English translations require a sophisticated knowledge of both languages. Leave word-for-word translations to those beginning the study of a language or online machine translators, not a paid freelance translator.

  • Be consistent throughout your translated document.While both English and Spanish are rich with different vocabulary words that mean similar things, don’t forgo consistency of terminology throughout a document. This is especially true in technical translations, as the language is very specific.If you translate documents with high word counts or different documents with similar content, consider using translation memory software. This will save you time over the course of the project as well as lend consistency throughout.

  • Only translate into your native language.If your native language is Spanish and your second language English, only translate into Spanish.While your English may be impeccable, there is no substitute for a native English speaker’s translation and vice versa.

  • Invite constructive criticism and feedback from your translation mentor. Your mentor can offer you invaluable insight that will allow you to grow as a Spanish to English or English to Spanish translator. Being open to their perspective and advice will enrich your translation work and facilitate your journey from novice to seasoned translator.

Finding Translation Work Close to Home

English to Spanish translators who live in urban areas or even rural areas with many Spanish speakers can find translation work close to home.  It’s just a matter of knowing where to look and knowing how to sell your Spanish translation services.  Mining your local resources to find new clients who need documents translated from English to Spanish can help you land a variety of translation assignments.

Below is a list of ideas and resources for you to get started:

1. Local Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Association:

Reach out to potential clients by attending meetings, networking functions, or putting an advertisement for your services in their newsletter.

2. Local Translation Agencies:

Most cities have a number of translation agencies that work with freelance translators, and in many U.S. cities, there is a high demand for English to Spanish as a language pair.  Some nonprofits also have a for-profit branch in which they employ freelancers to do translation work.

3. Nonprofits:

While a nonprofit may not have a big budget and many projects for you to work on, this is an extremely close-knit community.  A nonprofit focusing on education may only need you for a one-time English to Spanish translation of a letter to parents, but you can be sure that this agency has close connections to agencies providing other services with similar translation needs.

4. State and city government departments:

State and city agencies have to comply with laws regarding dissemination of information regardless of native language, and approaching these places may yield some English to Spanish translation work.

5.  Networking with Acquaintances, Friends, and Family:

Even at social events, you know full well that the subject often turns to work, and the business card exchange isn’t far behind.  This tactic may not bear immediate fruit, but you never know when the business card you gave to someone at a cocktail party last year will find its way into the hands of a small business owner who wants to market his services to Spanish speakers.

These five resources are only a start, but as an English to Spanish translator, you understand the importance of marketing your services in creative ways.  Keep in mind that some of the translation work you find might be outside of your specialty area. If you have a medical terminology background but not a legal one, you can’t provide the highest quality translation for a law office.  But that lawyer you turned down may appreciate your honesty and refer you to a doctor he knows needs English to Spanish translations.

Online Resources for Spanish-English Translators

Freelance translation work can be a very lonely pursuit, as many Spanish-English translators can attest.  But the Internet is rich with resources for translators that include community and assistance with translations.  This week the Transpanish blog will highlight three forums for translators that offer both help with translations as well as camaraderie and discussions about larger translation issues.’s KudoZ Forum and General Forum

ProZ is an authoritative forum and job search board for translators working in hundreds of different language pairs.  On their KudoZ forum, registered users are able to ask questions about tough translation terms and receive answers from other ProZ users.  The person who asks the question is then able to rate the answers based on how helpful they were.

At the entry page to the KudoZ forum, a user is able to refine the questions posted by language pair, and Spanish-English appears as a “major pair” on the right-hand side of the screen.  The site breaks down the questions into two categories: non-Pro (meaning any bilingual person could answer) and Pro (a question requiring specialized translation knowledge).  For Pro questions, you must log on to post.

ProZ also has an extensive community forum where users can discuss the finer points of linguistics, issues with translation memory software, and the ins and outs of being a freelance translator, along with many more topics.

To resister on, start here.  Members can use many site features, but to have full access to everything they offer, you must upgrade to a paid membership.

Word Reference’s Dictionary and Forums

In addition to an excellent online dictionary, Word Reference also has a forum for questions about Spanish-English translation terms.  In fact, when you search Word Reference for a word or phrase, the search engine also pulls up anything similar that’s been discussed on the forum.

The site is easy to navigate and you don’t need to register to browse the forums.  You will need to register to post.  The Spanish-English forums are at the top of the community page, and the sub-forums include General Vocabulary, Grammar, Specialized Terminology (further broken down into subcategories), and Resources.

The interface between the online dictionary and the translation forums is extremely helpful.  Many knowledgeable bilingual Spanish-English speakers post, though the forums are less geared towards professional translators than ProZ’s.

Translator’s Café Terminology and Discussion Forums

The Translator’s Café site is also geared specifically toward freelance translators, and has many of the same features that ProZ boasts.  You can post questions about difficult terminology at their TCTerms portal. You may search for language pair and further refine your results by specialization.

The Café has an extensive menu of sub-forums for freelance translators to discuss many topics related to the freelancer’s life and career.

To start using many of the free features, click here to register. As a Master Member who can access all features, you will have to pay to upgrade.

Cutting Translation Budget: Good Business Move or Not?

In these tough economic times, many business owners are shaving their budget of unnecessary expenses.  This week, Transpanish’s blog post will talk about the effects of cutting your translation budget.

If your business provides a product or service, cutting your translation budget might actually harm your bottom line in the long run.  This is especially true if you are located in an area with a large number of Latinos.  The Pew Hispanic Center recently released a report about the explosive growth of Latinos in counties where there formerly weren’t many Spanish-speakers.  By checking out the Center’s maps, you can see which areas of the country are expected to see further growth.

Making a commitment to providing quality translations of your marketing materials may foster connections in the Latino community and bolster sales.  If you offer Spanish translations of your documents, you will reach this rapidly growing demographic.  As overall spending decreases, doing outreach to the Spanish-speaking population will spread your sales into new territory.

Many business owners may look to cut costs for Spanish translations by looking in-house, especially if they have bilingual staff.  Is this a good idea?  Probably not, unless your staff also has a background in translation.  Working with a reputable translation agency will ensure that your Spanish translations are accurate and compelling.  This ultimately brings in more business than a sloppy translation done by an already busy staff person.

But contracting your Spanish translations out doesn’t have to be a pricy affair.  A good Spanish translation agency will have translators who can produce quality translations quickly and carefully.  And the longer you work with the same agency, the more familiar that agency becomes with your business and its documents, ultimately reducing overall cost.

Another excellent way to cut costs while maintaining high-quality translations is to ask your translation agency if they have any special offers or if they give a discount for repeat business.

Keeping your translation budget intact and working with a translation agency that prides itself on accurate and economical document translations might give your business the boost it needs.  If you operate in an area with a growing Latino population or have a web presence, documents translated into Spanish can be the business boon you need to survive the flagging economy.

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

We are right in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15th to October 15th.  These 31 days are meant to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the U.S.’s largest linguistic and ethnic minority.  The month-long homage to the contributions that Hispanics (those who trace their roots to Spanish-speaking countries) appropriately begins on September 15th, which is Independence Day for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.  Mexico’s Independence Day is September 16th and Chile’s September 18th.

President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed the week that includes September 15th and 16th to be National Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and in 1988, the observance was expanded to an entire month.  Each year there is a theme, and the theme of 2008 is Getting Involved: Our Families, Our Communities, Our Nation, which was chosen from the top five suggested themes.

Local and federal governments, private industry, community organizations, and media all contribute to the offerings throughout this month and the Internet is a great resource to learn about the impact Hispanics have made on this country as well as events that are happening across the country.

The U.S. Census Bureau provides a great set of statistics on Hispanics in the U.S. in honor of this month in such categories as Population, Businesses, Families, and Jobs.  To read the stats and find links to the original sources of information, click here.

The Smithsonian Institute’s list of teaching resources gives a broad set of tools to begin exploring the range of ways that Latinos have contributed to our country.

AOL’s Latino Tu Vida channel is a portal to popular Latino culture with quizzes, info about Latino celebrities, and recipes.  To sample these eclectic, entertaining offerings, start here.

These three links are just the beginning to exploring the rich and diverse culture that Hispanics bring to America.  With two weeks left to the month-long celebration, try to attend one of the many celebrations and educational events happening across the country.

More resources:

Hispanic Community in US

Spanish Language

Google Translation Center Announced to Online Community

The online translation community is abuzz with the news that Google has announced the start of a Google Translation Center.  The discussion revolves around two main questions: how exactly the service will work and how having an Internet giant like Google providing a platform for translation services will affect freelance translators’ business.

How Will Google’s Service Work?

Clients will be able to upload the documents they need translated and then choose from the price quotes that individual translators will provide.  Translators will use Google’s web-based tools to create and review translations and the “Translator’s Workbench” will provide translators with tools such as a revision history, a glossary, or a history of previous translations. Google, at least as currently explained, will simply serve as a middleman, coordinating services and providing the platform and tools for clients and translators alike.

Throughout the preliminary discussions, one topic on which everyone still seems unclear is that of Translation Memory (refer to previous Transpanish posts for an intro to TM here and here) and how Google will implement it.  It seems that Google wants to create a meta-TM through which individual translators will have access to all similar translations previously inputted into the system.  This raises the question of ownership (clients usually own the rights to translations input into TM, as they’ve paid for the translations) and quality of what is uploaded into the global TM (Google states that individual translators will be solely responsible for quality control of what they produce).

How Will the Service Affect Freelance Translators?

Since Google has not yet unrolled its Beta version, professional translators can only speculate on the effect that Google Translation Center will have on their business.  On the Proz Forum discussion of this topic, translators are understandably concerned about the quality of the output, especially since creating a solid, accurate TM takes time as texts are translated and fed into the system.

Google Blogoscoped offers a preliminary analysis of the service’s features and included screenshots of the tools that GTC will offer to the translator.  Access to these free tools (questions about the TM aside) could be very good news for freelancers and GTC may very well open up a world of freelance gigs to professional translators.  However, freelancers are concerned about whether potential clients will be willing to pay market rates for translations when looking for a translator on GTC.

Of course, the online translation community can only speculate on GTC’s effects on the translation industry until the service is actually rolled out.

To read more commentary on the service, read Brian McConnell’s blog post, “GTC: The World’s Largest Translation Memory.”

Spanglish in the United States

There’s language as it appears in grammar books and there’s language as it’s truly spoken every day. The way that bilingual Spanish and English speakers in the United States combine the two languages is a perfect example of this phenomenon. In every day vernacular, people use the term Spanglish to describe the mixing of the two languages. But from a linguistic perspective, the term Spanglish lumps together several different ways of using the two languages under this umbrella.

Below are brief descriptions of a few terms linguists use to describe the linguistic phenomena many understand to be hallmarks of Spanglish:

1. Code-switching: when bilinguals use elements of both languages in conversation, either between sentences or within a single sentence.
2. Loanword: a word directly taken from another language with little or no translation.
3. Language contact: borrowing vocabulary and other language features from another language.

While Spanglish is not yet considered a separate language as Haitian Creole or Cape Verdean Creole is, scholars are beginning to take its use more seriously as the number of bilingual Latinos in the U.S. grows. Many continue to distrust Spanglish because of its status of not quite English and not quite Spanish.

But Ilan Stevens, author of Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language, speaks to the value of Spanglish:

“Latinos are learning English,” he says. “That doesn’t mean that they should sacrifice their original language or that they should give up this in-betweeness that is Spanglish. Spanglish is a creative way also of saying, ‘I am an American and I have my own style, my own taste, my own tongue.'”
(from: Spanglish, A New American Language : NPR)

For more online resources about Spanglish:

Don Quixote de La Mancha: Spanglish version
NPR interview with Ilan Stevens

Examples of Spanglish

Spanglish Spanish English
breaka frenos brakes
carpeta alfombra carpet
chequear verificar to check
glasso vaso glass
ganga pandilla gang
likear gotear to leak
mailear enviar coreo to mail
marketa mercado market
norsa enfermera nurse
puchar empujar to push
ruffo techo roof
signear firmar to sign

Analyzing files in Trados

If you use Trados to translate your documents, one of the most important steps is to analyze your files. Analyzing files allows you to identify how much text can be leveraged from an existing Translation Memory (TM), or if you do not have an existing TM it allows you to analyze the source files. Example:

  1. You have two files to translate:

a.       DOCUMENT_1

b.      DOCUMENT_2

  1. You want to analyze them against the empty memory to find out the total word count and whether or not there are repetitions.
  2. To analyze a file, select Tools, and then Analyze. Click Add and browse for the two files you want to analyze.
  3. Once the files are located click Open to add them. (You can also drag files from Windows Explorer into the Files to analyze dialogue box.)

a.       Remember if you want to analyze the files against an existing TM, you must have the applicable TM open.

  1. Be sure to save your log file to the correct place so that you can easily access it.
  2. Click Analyze

a.       A summary of the log file appears in the dialogue box. The .txt and .csv log file have also been saved to the folder you selected for the log.


Sample of a log file:

Analyze Total (2 files):

 Match Types  Segments    Words    Percent     Placeables

 Context TM          0            0              0          0

 Repetitions          111         561           2          3

 100%                   35           61            0          0

 95% – 99%           0            0              0          0

 85% – 94%           2            4              0          0

 75% – 84%           3           31             0          0

 50% – 74%          18           68            0          0

 No Match        1,593       31,104      98          1

 Total               1,762       31,829     100          4


 Chars/Word       5.18

 Chars Total   165,170

Opening a Word 2007 files (docx) in an earlier version of Word.

“.docx” is the new file extension that Microsoft Word 2007 uses when it saves documents in the new default format.

To open Microsoft Office Word 2007 .docx or .docm files with Microsoft Office Word 2003, Word 2002, or Word 2000, you need to install the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for 2007 Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint File Formats and any necessary Office updates. By using the Compatibility Pack for the 2007 Office system, you can open, edit some items, and save Office Word 2007 documents in previous versions of Word.

Although you can open Office Word 2007 files in previous versions of Word, you may not be able to change some items that were created by using the new or enhanced features in Office Word 2007. For example, equations will become images that cannot be changed. You will find a list of document elements that are changed when they are opened in a previous version of Word here.