Boosting your Productivity as a Translator

One of the benefits of working as a freelance translator is that you’re able to set your own schedule, but this can also be a drawback if you tend to procrastinate instead of tackling a job and organizing yourself to get it done by the deadline. In fact, procrastination – far from being the cause of deadline anxiety – is often a response to it. The reason is that challenging tasks (and translation is a challenging task) have both negative (e.g., fear that the project is too challenging) and positive (the sense of reward when you finish the project) psychological aspects. When the negative aspect outweighs the positive, we tend to procrastinate, which increases our anxiety as the deadline draws ever nearer, while we continue to make no progress. Even though no one likes to put a deadline on their creative process, deadlines are not only inevitable, but can actually be a motivating factor.

translator productivity

It’s all a matter of attitude, and that’s where the Pomodoro method comes in. Invented by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s as a personal system to get more studying done, the method came to the attention of business managers in the 1990s. The Pomodoro Technique® is a time management method that helps you transform time into a valuable ally by breaking down a large task or series of tasks into short, timed intervals. You become more productive because you accomplish the tasks that you set for yourself in timed bursts of concentrated effort – which boost productivity – rewarded with short breaks – which prevent burnout and distraction and refresh creativity – while at the same time allowing you to record your increasing productivity over time.

Learning the Pomodoro technique takes only minutes, and using it couldn’t be easier. All you really need is a timer, a pencil and a piece of paper. In fact, the technique’s name of Pomodoro (which means “tomato” in Italian) comes from the fact that the inventor used a tomato-shaped mechanical timer, but any kind of timer will do.

Here’s the method:

  1. Choose a task (or series of tasks) to be accomplished.
  2. Set the Pomodoro (your timer, and the name of the timed work unit) to 25 minutes.
  3. Focus on the task(s) and work without interruption until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your piece of paper.
  4. Take a short – e.g. – five-minute, break.
  5. Every four Pomodoros, take a longer break (e.g., 15 minutes to 25 minutes, or whatever you need to clear your mind and refresh your creativity).

Repeat throughout your workday. It’s important to note that each Pomodoro is an indivisible work unit. This is the key to the system: if you become distracted from your task for whatever reason (a phone call or email and so on), you must either end the Pomodoro then and there or postpone the distraction until the Pomodoro is finished.

It will come as no surprise that, when it comes to the Pomodoro method, “there’s an app for that”. In our next article, we’ll introduce some of the more popular apps that can help any translator to reduce procrastination and burnout, manage distractions, and increase their productivity and sense of accomplishment.

How Well Does Your Country Speak English?

Countries with best English

The EF English Proficiency Index is a yearly report card on the English proficiency level of adults across the globe produced by EF, a private education company. Because it is based on the scores of online tests (during 2014, for this report) taken by 910,000 adult and 70 countries, it does not reflect the entire population of the country.

Though the average level of adult English proficiency has risen, surprisingly, not all countries are improving and some are even getting worse. The research also indicates that higher English language proficiency correlates with higher income and a better quality of life. With just a few exceptions, women have stronger English language skills than men in all countries surveyed.

The results, by region:

Middle East and North Africa

The downward trend in English language proficiency was seen in the Middle East and North Africa. The United Arab Emirates – perhaps because of the large multinational workforce – Yemen and Morocco scored highest in the region, with Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Libya at the bottom of the ranking. Only the UAE earned a “low” score (50.87); the rest earned a “very low”, with Libya trailing with a score of 37.86.


The level of English language proficiency in Asia varies widely from very high proficiency to very low proficiency. Singapore (61.08), Malaysia and India have the region’s highest proficiency scores. Former British colonies, these countries have a long tradition of using English, especially in higher education institutions. Though China’s trend continues to be positive (49.41), it fell 10 places compared to last year partly due to the addition of three countries, but also because seven Latin American countries have shown more improvement than China. Thailand, Mongolia and Cambodia (39.15) scored the lowest.


While the level of English language proficiency in Europe also varies from very high to very low, with only four exceptions – France, Russia (both low), Turkey and Azerbaijan (both very low) – proficiency scores vary from moderate to very high, with the Nordic countries of Sweden (70.94), Netherlands and Denmark at the top of the list, hardly surprising, given their strong investment in education and the similarity between the structures of their languages and that of English. France is the only country in Western Europe to score very low in English language proficiency. Not only is it behind in comparison to its geographical neighbors, it also ranks below the less-developed countries Indonesia, Ukraine and Peru. The report mentioned a possible “cultural version” to English as the cause. Turkey is the only European country to fall in the ranking since the 2012 report.

Latin America

While the overall adult English proficiency level is still low, Latin America has shown slow improvement over the last eight years, chiefly among young people. Argentina (60.26) is the only Latin American country to score in the “high proficiency” range, and it is followed by Dominican Republic and Peru, while Colombia, Venezuela and El Salvador (45.52) are at the bottom of the ranking.

Translation events – November 2015

Translation events. November 2015


OPORTUNIDADES DE PERFECCIONAMIENTO EN EL EXTERIOR, Charla gratuita. Colegio de Traductores Públicos de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Literatura y traducción. Charla gratuita. Colegio de Traductores Públicos de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires, Argentina.


56th ATA Conference. American Translators Association. Miami, Florida USA


Help & Localization Conference. Write2Users Helsingør, Denmark

1st Croatian Translation Forum. Croatian Association of Translation Agencies. Zagreb, Croatia

Introduction of CAT tools based on SDL Trados Studio 2015 (in Polish), webinar.


Adaptación de traducciones para doblaje. Colegio de Traductores Públicos de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires, Argentina.


cworld 2015 – tekom. Stuttgart, Germany


Hellenic Language and Terminology. Hellenic Society for Terminology. Athens, Greece


Northern California Translators Association (NCTA). Workshop: Trados Studio 2015 for beginners. San Francisco, California, USA

Conferenza italiana di a Maranello, Modena. Maranello, Modena, Italy

How social media can enhance your freelance translation business, webinar.


Nordic Translation Industry Forum Anne-Marie Colliander Lind, Cecilia Enbäck. Reykjavik, Iceland


The Global Content Experience. The International Multilingual User Group (IMUG). San Jose, California USA


Congrès 2015 de l’OTTIAQ. Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec. Montreal, Quebec, Canada


InDialog: Community Interpreting In Dialogue With Technology. ICWE GmbH. Berlin, Germany


25th JTF Translation Festival. Japan Translation Federation. Tokyo, Japan


Translating and the Computer 37. AsLing. London, UK



Lunfardo: what do “garpar” and “garpe” mean?

One of the most interesting features of Lunfardo – an Argentine dialect of Spanish that arose in the late 19th century among petty criminals living with immigrants and native Argentines in the sheet metal tenements of lower-class Buenos Aires neighborhoods – is its great capacity for metathesis, the re-arrangement of sounds or syllables in a word. This local form of syllabic metathesis is known as “vesre” which is, in itself, a metathesis of “revés.” This phenomenon occurs not only with nouns – “feca” for “café”, for example – but also with verbs…and the verbs are then conjugated based on the vesre infinitive.


So, “pagar” (“to pay”) becomes “garpa”, from which – because it sounds like a third-person singular present conjugation – speakers intuitively form the infinitive “garpar”, in analogy with other -ar verbs, resulting in the infinitive “garpar”.

But it doesn’t stop there: the verb “garpar” has, in turn, given us “garpe”, a noun used in the expressions “dejar (a alguien) de garpe” or “ser dejado de garpe (por alguien)” meaning “to stand someone up” and that originates in the idea of leaving someone holding the bill after a meal shared among several people.

Here are a few examples:

Decile al quía que tiene que garpar. Tell the guy he has to pay.

No tenía para garpar la entrada y lo encaró al chancho. He didn´t have any money to pay for the ticket, and he confronted the ticket inspector.

Le garpé 5 mangos. I paid him five bucks.

La dejaron de garpe y se calentó. She was stood up and she got mad.

Happy translation day!

Translation Day

September 30th is the date on which translators across the globe celebrate International Translation Day, and it is also the feast day of St. Jerome. Considered the patron saint of translators, St. Jerome is known for translating the Bible into Latin. Launched officially in 1991 by the International Federation of Translators, International Translation Day an opportunity for translators everywhere to promote their profession, show solidarity with their colleagues worldwide, and display pride in a profession that is increasingly taking center stage in this era of globalization.

It’s also a day to reflect on the many changes in the work of translators and interpreters over the last several decades. From handwritten translations that were typed up on manual typewriters and sent via courier or ordinary mail, to electronic documents created using a word processor with input via electronic keyboard or voice recognition program and emailed in a matter of seconds, the changes in the profession are enough to make a veteran’s head swim…not to mention the virtual dictionaries and other references, online communities, and instant consultation of colleagues across the globe that have made the work of translating both faster and easier.

And that’s good news, because the demand for translation and interpretation is growing faster than ever. Translators and interpreters are key factors in growing businesses globally and are also becoming increasingly important in nonprofit and social aid projects, including providing urgently needed translation and interpretation services during the refugee crisis taking place in the Middle East and Europe.

The work of translators and interpreters often goes unacknowledged by the wider world, and today is a great opportunity to draw attention to the growing importance of this time-honored profession across borders and across industries.

And don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back; after all, YOU know just how hard you work!

Happy Translation Day!


Staying motivated as a Freelance Translator

There are pros and cons to working as a freelance translator, and one of them (both a pro and a con) is organizing the way we use our time.

Distractions in our working environment can include everything from the TV to the cookie jar, and our computer – the very tool we use for our work – all too often offers the most distractions of all: social media, together with our favorite pages, the latest news, sports…name your interest, and there’s probably a way to be distracted by it.

For those who are used to working in a corporate atmosphere, with set working hours, a company dress code and regular performance reviews, the freedom to determine your own working hours, wear pajamas and never have anyone analyze one’s performance may sound like a dream come true. The fact is, though, with these motivators absent, freelancers sometimes find themselves rudderless in a storm, with indulgences becoming habits, habits that are not only detrimental to their productivity (and, thus, their business), but that also become increasingly hard to break. Not only can this negatively impact productivity, it can have the same deleterious effect on quality…and that is the road to professional perdition. By putting off getting started on the translation project we have on our agenda, we are reducing the time we have to cope with and solve unexpected challenges (like the translation of a particularly obscure term or even a computer crash) affecting the project, and we also waste time that could be used for another project, or even marketing our services to win more and better clients. What’s more, the negative impact is not only professional; it’s personal, as well. If we don’t schedule our work time, we haven’t scheduled our leisure time either and just as this lack of definition can mean that we become less effective in our professional lives, it can mean the same in our personal lives.

freelance translator motivation

So, how can we motivate ourselves to get back on the track to professional productivity while ensuring time for personal pursuits?

Here are eight tips for upping your motivation and ensuring both productivity and personal time.

  1. Get up early. Yes, one can work in the afternoon or at night – millions do the world over. But you want to get started with your work, not put it off (remember, we’re talking about motivation here), so don’t listen to that voice in your head that tells you to roll over and catch another 30 winks. While you’re sleeping in, the world is moving forward. Use this time to enjoy an unrushed breakfast (so hunger won’t distract you) and plan your day (a packed agenda means less opportunity to lose focus). If you can manage to get up just a half-hour earlier every day of the year, you’ll gain a full week of time. Just imagine what you can do with that week (and the money you’ll earn)…so get up and get started, already!
  2. Get dressed. Yes, that means changing your pajamas for something you wouldn’t mind wearing to the supermarket (and we hope that’s not your pajamas!). Jeans, a sweatshirt or tee…something comfortable, but actual clothing. It’s pretty much accepted by psychologists that what we wear affects the way we act, so – while “professional work attire” may not be required – put on something that makes you feel like a professional who’s focused on work.
  3. Speaking of sleep…if wearing pajamas undermines your motivation to work, working in bed will KO it entirely. Even working in the same room you sleep in can affect motivation, so if you have the space, find another place to work. If you don’t, try to find some way to keep the bed out of sight while you’re seated at your desk, like orienting your desk in another direction, or placing a screen between the two.
  4. Make a work schedule and stick to it. This means that you set your office hours, and those are the hours that you work. Organize your work for the day – whether a translation project, glossary maintenance, invoicing or promoting your service – in an agenda or diary, get started (now!) and just do it. Again, don’t listen to that voice telling you to take a break…if you don’t get started, you won’t finish, will you?
  5. Reward yourself. All work and no play makes a translator sad and unmotivated professional, so find a reward that motivates you – and indulge yourself with it. Like to watch Game of Thrones? Write it in your agenda for 8 pm and then work towards the goal of finishing up your job-related work so you can sit back and enjoy it guilt- and pressure-free. Whatever a favorite activity might be, use it as a reward and schedule it for the end of your workday.
  6. Restrict social media, both professional and personal. Schedule a few minutes a day in your agenda for taking care of your professional social media accounts, if any, and then spend not one minute more. Relegate your personal accounts to your personal time, where they belong.
  7. Go for a walk. This is the one tip that actually takes you away from your desk. Besides reducing stress, studies show that a walk outside can boost both creativity and concentration…two important factors in getting the job done. So, get yourself a breath of fresh air, and then get right back to work.
  8. Finally, reach out. You are not alone! Suffering from a lack of motivation is something that many freelancers have experienced at one point or another in their careers. There are even apps that will help you conquer distractions, eliminate procrastination, increase productivity and reduce the chance of burn-out: Tomighty, YAPA and ActionAlly are just a few.

Do you have a tip or trick that fires up your motivation?

Share it with us!



What you need to know about certified translations

certified translation

Translators are often asked to translate official documents, including identity documents, immigration documents, birth or death certificates, wedding licenses, wills, diplomas, transcripts and so on.

They are two key issues to consider before beginning a certificate translation: Translating the information on the certificate itself correctly and what certification process (if any) is to be applied.

In terms of the translation itself, it is important for the translation to match the original to the greatest extent possible, not only in terms of content, but also in terms of form. This is especially important for certified translations, as the person doing the certification must check each item of the translation against the same item on the original document, including (but not limited to) the fax information on the bottom of the page, the initials written in the margins of all the pages, stamps, seals and handwritten notes. A client may request that the translator leave out certain information found on the original. Doing so will make it impossible for the certifier to certify the document which will render it invalid for legal or official use.

The “matching” issue doesn’t stop with ensuring that everything on the original also appears on the translation; it is equally important – no matter how persuasive the client may be – to never add anything to a certificate translation, regardless of how obvious an omission may seem.

So, no skipping anything, no adding anything…and no changing anything, either. You are the translator, and you must translate the words as you understand them, regardless of how insistent your client is that the word “técnico” on his diploma really means “engineer”.

The certification process itself – which grants the legal status of the original to the copy – it varies from country to country. In the U.S., a certified translation is simply a translation accompanied by the source text and a straightforward signed statement (Certificate of Accuracy) in which the translator attests to her ability to translate the material and the accuracy of the document. For extra legal protection, clients will sometimes ask the translator to have a notary public sign and seal the document in witness of the translator’s signature in his presence.

Some countries outside the U.S. have stringent requirements about who may certify a translation; check the laws of the destination country to determine what is required in order for the translation to be accepted as certified.


Translation events – September 2015

calendar- september 15


ATA Continuing Education Webinar. Effective Marketing to Translation Companies


06, 2015 IAPTI 2015 International Conference International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters. Bordeaux, France


Conferencia regional de en Córdoba, Argentina


2015 TAPIT Conference. Enhancing the Professional Skills of Interpreters and Translators in the 21st Century. Tennessee Association of Prof Interpreters & Translators (TAPIT). Nashville, TN, USA.


What Recruiters Want & Applicants Need to Succeed in Localization Careers. The International Multilingual User Group (IMUG). San Jose, California, USA


Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing
EMNLP. Lisbon, Portugal


Localizing Multimedia. The Voice Company. Burbank, California USA


ATC Annual Conference. Association of Translation Companies.
Manchester, UK


Nida Translation Studies Research Symposium
Nida School of Translation Studies, NYU School of Professional Studies. New York, New York USA


DRONGO Language Festival. DRONGO. Utrecht, Netherlands


MATI 12th Annual Conference. Midwest Association of Translators and Interpreters (MATI). Merrillville, IN, USA.


European Day of Languages. Council of Europe, European Union

28-Nov 22

Course: Community Interpreting as a Profession
Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey


International Translation Day conference. Proz.

29-Oct 1

Brand2Global. The Localization Institute. London, UK

Financial Risk Management for Translators

Translators generally work in the field because they enjoy translating and, at the same time, can earn a living at it. Translation – like many other liberal professions – is a purpose-driven activity that demands constant decision making on a daily basis, with the concomitant risk that a wrong decision can have a negative impact on the translator in terms of economics and reputation.

Freelance translators are especially vulnerable to financial risks because they are often one-person businesses in which one slow-paying or non-paying client can cause cash flow problems, wreaking tremendous havoc on their business and personal finances.

While there’s no way (other than asking for full payment in advance) to be 100% sure that a potential client will be a reliable payer or not, there are a number of steps you can take that will minimize your financial risk when considering a project from a client.

Translation Risk Management

1. Know the client. You want all the details you can find: full company name, address, telephone number, email and Tax ID. Emails from sites like Gmail, Yahoo, hotmail and so on are a warning flag: legitimate businesses have their own websites and their own email addresses. You can use Google Maps to get a look at their address, which should appear appropriate for a business. You’ll also want to check this information against the purchase order (more than that below).

2. Explore the client’s payment history. There are several sites that have information about translation agencies’ payment reliability. One of the most popular is ProZ’s Blue Board, which is available at On the Blue Board, ProZ members rate the client from 1-5 and may leave a short comment about their experience with the agency. Another excellent option is Payment Practices at The annual subscription fee is $19.99/€19.99, but you can check out the service with its seven-day free trial. Subscribers can check the PP database of more than 11,000 translation agencies for responses and comments, and use its PP Reliability Score and Translator Approval Scores, along with translator feedback, to decide whether to work for a particular client. Translation Ethics, at publishes a blacklist of agencies, scammers, non-payers and low-payers. For a list of email addresses related to suspected scammers (payment issues are not addressed), see, which lists over 3,800 suspected scammers and warns translators about the latest trends in scamming. Finally, Black Sheep, at, has an active internet community that shares information on agencies with payment issues.

3. Look at the files provided for translation. Examine them thoroughly and identify the steps you will need to take in order to deliver a quality translation to your client on time. These steps include: making an accurate word count (again, to be checked against the PO), estimating any significant research to be done before the translation, format conversions (if required) and any page formatting to be taken care of after the translation itself is finished. If extensive pre- or post-translation work is needed, note this for inclusion in the quote.

4. Agree on a delivery time with your client. Remember, the translator is doing the actual work, and is the best person to estimate how long it will take to do the translation and any formatting to the professional standard required. Experienced translators know what volume they can produce on a given day, and they should not allow clients to push them into making an unrealistic time commitment, no matter how “urgent” the project is. Because translation has become a globalized industry, it is essential to specify the time zone…and to take it into account when calculating the time the translator will need to complete the project.

5. Agree on a rate for the project. Do not assume that the rate proposed by the agency is to be paid for all words; many agencies expect discounts on words or phrases that repeat within a document or set of documents, or are already in a translation memory supplied by the client to the translator. Rates vary widely across languages, times zones and geographical locations. Don’t forget to establish when and how the job is to be paid: upon delivery, or 30, 45 or 60 days after reception of the invoice via check, bank transfer, PayPal, etc. Some agencies will accept invoices only on the last day of the month and calculate payment from that date, so this should be clarified before accepting the project.

6. Get a purchase order BEFORE beginning work. This is highly advisable with all clients, but absolutely essential when working with a new client. A purchase order must include all the information listed in the preceding points – client’s full business name, address, telephone/fax number, tax ID and email, job description (ID number, file number, project name, etc.), documents to be translated, source and destination languages, services to be provided (translation, editing, formatting, transcription, etc.), delivery format and deadline (date and time, with time zone specified), rate agreed on – including any discounts for matches/fuzzies if using a CAT tool) – and exact payment terms.

A legitimate client will have no problem providing you with all of the above; after all, it’s in both the client’s and the translator’s interest to have the project’s responsibilities and obligations spelled out so that everyone knows his job and what is required.

Bad clients, scammers and non-payers will often give you the runaround when you ask for a PO, change the project conditions (rate or deadline) after you’ve begun translating, or offer to issue one after the project is delivered. There is no logical reason for a translator to accept this behavior, as it simply increases risk and reduces guarantees for the translator while doing the exact opposite for the client, who is seeking to protect himself at the translator’s expense.

Freelance translators need to work, but this need must not blind them to another, greater need: to be able to collect, as agreed on, the money earned.

Translating Adult Content

You may have never thought about it, but adult films, websites, magazines, literature, games, comics and packaging for toys and other products don’t translate themselves; someone translates them, and that’s where the adult content translation specialist comes in.


And adult content is a big and potentially profitable niche market to specialize in: according to Forbes, together with internet-related businesses such as websites and pay-per-view movies, traditional porn-related businesses like adult magazines, video sales and rentals and toys and products move billions – some say as much as $14 billion – a year.

Logically, there are translators willing and eager to provide services to such a large potential market; however, those that take that step often run into a problem common to many translators, but that is somewhat more challenging in this field than many others: the lack of terminology resources.

Until just a few years ago, translators had no reliable resource for erotic terminology, a serious issue when you consider that, like slang, erotic terms vary widely from one country to another, and even from one generation to another. What’s more, the lack of information on the correct term can lead to the use of barbarisms, or foreign terms, and the concomitant impoverishment of the source language.

This was the driving force behind the creation of ETEP (Estudios de Traducción en el Erotismo y la Pornografía) in 2011. The collective’s three goals are to get academia to take an interest in sex due to its great importance, broaden studies to include other cultural media (e.g., comics and videogames) and, finally, to get students interested in a market niche of millions of consumers with tremendous financial potential.

And this market is no longer limited to the typical low-budget porn shorts. There is a growing number of adult film directors – both male and female – for whom the plot, and even a message (sometimes ideological), are also important. Erika Lust, for example, casts her actors carefully, imposes high production standards and believes that pornography can be an educational tool as well as pleasurable. Lucie Blush defines herself as a feminist porn director who wants to respect actors, characters and audience, and Antonio Da Silva makes art porn films featuring poetry and narration.

Translating films that are meant to be more than simple eroticism is as demanding as translating literature, and it’s not something usually covered in standard translation studies programs. Translating other adult content has its challenges, too, which is why ETEP has designed a course on translating adult content literature that covers everything from types of adult literature, sex toys, creativity, humor, comics, fetishes, author’s rights, BDSM, the current market and research.

Is translating porn for you?

Would you put it on your résumé, if you did?

Let us know what you think!