Starting Out as a Freelance Translator – Second Part

Read the first part of this article

Honing Your Skills Through Education

Even the most seasoned translators benefit from continuing their educations, and you should consider studying at the university level either towards your Master’s or even a certificate program for translators.

New York University-SPCE offers a certificate in various language pairs entirely online (you may also attend courses onsite).

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst offers a Master’s in Translation Studies, but does not offer an online option.

In the Getting Established section of ProZ’s forums, you can find ongoing rousing discussions about whether a translator needs an advanced degree or if language skills and specialized knowledge suffice. If you don’t live near a university with a translation studies program or NYU doesn’t offer your language pair, the ProZ forum provides sound suggestions for self-study.

Building Your Network

Often freelance translators acquire work through a combination of using translation agencies and finding jobs on their own. Translation agencies provide a level of convenience and quality control for clients that an independent freelancer cannot, especially once starting out. Translation agencies will ask you for a test translation before placing you on their roster and contacting you for jobs. While contacting agencies is a worthwhile pursuit, working with one will not guarantee steady work until you’ve established yourself as a translator able to produce quality documents.

Although the United States has no universal certification requirement for translators, the largest translation association is the American Translators Association. By joining the ATA, you can increase your networking opportunities through conferences and professional development seminars, work towards a certification in one of 27 language pairs, and join local groups to assist you with marketing and support services.

Concluding Points

To successfully break into the freelance translation world, you will need to utilize various strategies at once. No one particular strategy will be able to guarantee the start of a thriving freelance career. Rather, you can work towards becoming a translator by attempting all of the strategies included here: working pro bono to gain clips, experience, and references; developing your skills either through formal education or self-study; applying to both local and remote translation agencies; and joining professional organizations.

Starting Out as a Freelance Translator – First Part

First Considerations

Many bilingual or multilingual people have considered embarking on a career as a freelance translator. But simply speaking and reading in two or more languages does not mean that you will be able to successfully work as a translator. Freelance translators have near native competency in their source language and native competency in the target language. The field of translation requires that you not only be able to understand and write two languages, but also that you be able to effectively translate the nuances and subtleties of the source language into a target language document of equal tone, meaning, and quality.

Most freelance translators also have from one to several areas of specialized knowledge and translate documents in those areas, often gained as an undergraduate. While translators make work outside their specialized subject areas, most become experts in just one or a couple of fields.

If you have strong language skills and are adept at manipulating text from one language to another, you may be ready to explore the translation field. Below you’ll find practical tips to guide you as you start to work towards becoming a freelance translator.

Gaining Experience

In today’s multicultural world, the competition is strong for translation jobs. It can be difficult to break into the freelance translation world, especially when you have little formal translation experience and you are up against translators who have been in the business for years.

How can you get the experience necessary to start applying for freelance translation jobs? One of the best ways to start freelancing is to donate your time to a nonprofit agency whose work you admire and whose cause you champion. You may already have volunteered for an organization such as this in another capacity or perhaps you have simply donated money to a cause.

Below are a couple of links where you can look for nonprofit translating opportunities:

Translations for Progress

UNV Volunteering

Volunteer Match

Also, look to your community for places that you are already involved with and may benefit from your translation services. If your church has a large bilingual population you could offer to translate its newsletter. Your children’s school may need help translating flyers or letters to parents into your native language. Perhaps a community or neighborhood organization you work with wants to do outreach in other languages, and you could provide no-cost translations for them.

Volunteering your time as a translator will benefit both you and the organization by:

• Giving you clips to provide to future prospective employers
• Providing you with demonstrable translation experience

Read the second part of this article.

Services a Translation Company May Offer – Second Part

In our last week’s post, we discussed some services a translation company may offer:

Certified Translations
Back Translations

In this post, we will review other services such as Proofreading, Interpreting and DTP.

Proofreading – a quality assurance check where the final translation is verified against the source document

• Check for completion, formatting, the integrity of non-translatable text, etc.
• Proofreading should not involve re-translation, if there is a serious problem with quality in the translation the translator and editor should be notified.
• Proofreading can take place multiple times in a project: for instance, pre-DTP and post-DTP.

Typesetting/Desktop Publishing (DTP) – translation is laid out in client’s source layout file to create a formatted translation that matches the source as closely as possible.

• The translation will be typeset in the client supplied application (e.g. Quark, InDesign, FrameMaker, PageMaker, etc.)
• Since translations can contract or expand depending on the language (in general, a Spanish document will be twenty percent longer than its English counterpart), it is important to note that typesetting may need to modify the source file styles – though the goal should always be to match the original format as closely as possible.

Web site localization – translation and localization of Web sites. Localization adapts the material to be culturally appropriate and relevant for the target country/culture. Re-engineering of the site and thorough testing are required. Also, globalization and internationalization

Glossary creation, Translation Memory (TM) – clients may request the creation of glossaries for them, but they may prefer the translation memory from CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools.

• Client’s could request the TMs for their internal use, but more often they will rely on the translator or translation company to update and keep the TM current for use on all their projects.
• Glossary creation, though required less by clients, can still be useful when working on large translation projects that are only available in hardcopy.
• CAT tools require files to be prepared for appropriate use. These services are provided to standardize terminology and style for an on-going client. They can also reduce costs, based on leveraging previously translated material from the TM.

Interpreting – some clients don’t have documents to translate, but they need to someone to translate orally.

• Interpreting may be requested for a corporate meeting, a legal deposition, or for medical purposes when the patient speaks a different language than the doctor, etc.

There are two types of interpreting:

• Simultaneous: interpreters use special equipment and interpret in as close to “real” time as they can, beginning shortly after the speaker starts and staying as close to the speaker time wise, as possible
• Consecutive: the speaker and the interpreter trade off speaking with the speaker pausing every few minutes or after a full idea to allow the interpreter to do his/her work

Services a Translation Company May Offer – First Part

Bilingual Blogging: How Translators Can Help

If your company has a web presence, your marketing strategy most likely includes a blog touting your product or service.  But if your blog is only in English, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to expand your sales by reaching out to the Hispanic Community. What better way to target this demographic with enormous purchasing power than having your blog translated into Spanish?   You may already have your website available in multiple languages and perhaps have employees who can provide customer service in Spanish, but by translating your blog, you can increase Latino buy-in.  This is especially true if your blog includes value-added information such as news about your product or industry, tips, or commentary.   Translating a blog into Spanish isn’t as simple as cutting and pasting the published text into an automatic translation website, as explained in this blog post.  Doing this will most likely alienate and confuse the exact community you would like to target.   Because a blog is always a work in progress, most clients without a bilingual writing staff would be well-served by contracting this work out.  A good blog with a lot of traffic and comments needs to be consistently updated and the translation should be right behind the original English-language postings.   By contracting blog translation out to a translation agency, your company will ensure that the message and content of each post is just as effective as the English-language original.   Keep in mind some questions to consider as you plan to launch a blog in two languages: 

  • Should the English-language blog simply be translated into Spanish and left as is?
  • Should the translator also translate the user-generated comments on the Spanish language blog, and if so, what are the logistics of doing so?
  • Is it best to have two separate communities with separate sets of comments for the ease of translating?
  • If so, will the community created at the English blog lose out on the benefits of the comments at the Spanish blog and vice versa?

 There is no right or wrong answer to these considerations especially in the relatively new world of blogging.  When your company decides to actively reach out to the Hispanic community through dual-language blogging, a translation agency with experience in Spanish Translations will be able to offer guidance on how to navigate the above questions. Transpanish is offering 15% discount on Blog Translations. Offer expires on April 1st, 2008.  

Services a translation company may offer – First Part

The services a translation company may offer vary greatly from client to client and from project to project. Every day, clients are renovating their global identity and hence their needs are constantly evolving. In addition, technical and industry advances generate new standards with which translation clients and translation service providers must strive to stay caught up with.

Assignments differ in size and difficulty: from a single birth certificate of less than 100 words, to legal documents that a law company needs for litigation, to an advertising brochure for a home appliance to be marketed to Spanish speakers in the U.S., to website localization for a multinational firm.

These projects will require tailored project plans and work flows. However, they will all include elements from the following services:

Translation and Editing- a source document is translated and edited into another language.

• Usually one translator and one editor work together as a team, with the translator finalizing the document after reviewing the editor’s tracked changes.
• Most translation agencies offer translation, editing and proofreading when quoting translation rates.

Translation Only – a source document is translated only.

• Clients may request this if they need to translate a document for informational purposes only; other customers may have in-house or in-country resources to edit or proofread the translation.

Project Management in the Translation Industry

Project Management is a fast-growing field and it is tailored differently for specific industries.

A translation Project Manager (PM) is responsible for the overall coordination of translation-related projects for their clients. The objective of a translation Project Manager is to be the bridge that connects the client’s needs with the vendors that are best prepared for the project. Translation Project Managers establish the proper steps and procedures for the translation process, starting with the initial project analysis and developing the project plan, to contracting and overseeing the appropriate team members.

Translation Project Manager

The PM must be focused on the process and on the client’s requirements in order to successfully complete the assignment. It is essential to take into account that the role of a translation Project Manager is not to translate. Language knowledge and translation experience is advantageous as this information helps the PM to better understand the process, and educate and manage the client. Translation Project Managers outsource most of the translation work to qualified freelance linguists/translators.

The ideal translation PM needs to be comfortable multi-tasking and must be attentive to all the details of a project. They should have the following traits:

– Organized
– Able to multi-task, solve problems and prioritize
– Detail-oriented
– Dedicated and perceptive
– Should be able to work under pressure and meet deadlines
– Good team player with a positive attitude, determination, and strong management skills
– Should be able to lead and make decisions for the team
– Excellent communication skills with good negotiation skills
– Should be able to consult with clients, identify requirements, and inform technical information clearly
– Background in the translation and localization industry

Lowering Translation Costs: What a Translation Memory Can Do for You

Translation memory tools (TM) aid human translators in producing translations through the use of software-based databases. Many translation agencies use Trados, which allows translators to take advantage of repetition throughout the document to make translation quicker and more effective.

Documents and projects which would be good candidates for use of TM tools include those that are:

• Highly repetitive
• Technical in nature
• Large-volume translations
• Newer versions of previously translated materials

TM databases are continually growing entities which work best the more the translator uses them. Because all previous translations are stored in the software, any time a phrase or sentence recurs in a text, the TM tool produces either a 100% match or a “fuzzy” match (one that is close but not exact). The translator can either accept the match or manually translate the phrase or sentence.

Trados, one of the most popular TM tools, is especially effective if a document has many repetitions. Trados is also useful in creating consistency among various translations with similar language and phrasing. If the client has a large volume translation that many different translators will work on, using Trados also allows for consistency among the sections that each is translating.

Terminology for the Translation Industry

There are some terms related to the translation business which every translator should be familiar with. This terminology also helps Translation Buyers to make an educated decision when choosing a Translation Provider.

Below are some terms:

A simplified and standardized form that is used for the purpose of providing a certification of certain public documents relating to adoption, including notarized documents, that is used in countries that are in compliance with the provisions of the Hague Convention. 

Back Translation
Back Translation is the process of translating a document that has already been translated into a foreign language back to the source language – preferably by an independent translator.

Copywriting is the process of writing the words that promote a person, business, opinion, or idea. It may be used as plain text, as a radio or television advertisement, or in a variety of other media. 

Desktop publishing (DTP)
Using computers to lay out text and graphics for printing in magazines, newsletters, brochures and so on. A good DTP system provides precise control over templates, styles, fonts, sizes, color, paragraph formatting, images and fitting text into irregular shapes.

The science or practice of compiling dictionaries, based on a study of the form, meaning, and behavior of the words in a given language.

Machine Translation
A technology that translates text from one human language to another, using terminology glossaries and advanced grammatical, syntactic and semantic analysis techniques.

Mother Tongue
A person’s first language, native language or mother tongue is the language that was learned first by the person. Thus, the person is called a native speaker of the language

Neutral Spanish, Universal Spanish, Standard Spanish
A linguistic variety or that is considered a correct educated standard for the Spanish language. Standard Spanish is not merely Spanish adjusted to fit in prescriptive molds dictated by a linguistic overseeing authority, but also a form of language that respects the literary canon and cultural tradition.

OCR (Optical character recognition)
The translation of optically scanned bitmaps of printed or written text characters into character codes such as ASCII. Most OCR systems use a combination of hardware and software to recognize characters.

Proofreading means the critical revision of a text. In translation, this task mainly consists of checking aspects of spelling, grammar and syntax plus the general coherence and integrity of the target text.

Source Language
The language in which the document that is to be translated was originally written.

Target Language
The language in which the document that is to be translated is converted to (e.g. from English to Spanish).

More Terminology for the Translation Industry

Certified Translations in the U.S. and Abroad

While the words “certified translation” may bring to mind a translation that has gone through a rigorous process to check its validity, in the United States the reality is much simpler. A certified translation is simply a translation accompanied by the source text and a straightforward signed statement in which the translator attests to her ability to translate the material and the accuracy of the document.

Most documents granted by any government body must include a certification of accuracy along with the translation. The following is not an exhaustive list, but will give you an idea of which translations may require a certification from the translator:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Transcripts
  • Identity documents
  • Immigration documents
  • Wills

Some clients may request that the translation be signed by a notary public to add an extra layer of assurance that the translation is correct and complete. In these cases, the notary public simply adds her signature and seal to prove that she has witness the translator sign the certification.

Machine Translation vs. Human Translation: Pay Less, Get Less

In the province of Buenos Aires they exist around 150 helmets of stay with lodging capacity. Of modest to luxurious, all offer varied alternative for all the tastes and budgets. It is possible to be enjoyed an only day of field or one more estadía prolonged.

Babel Fish machine translation of text from

While you might get the gist of this machine-translated excerpt, the resulting text grates on your ears like fingers down a chalkboard. Using online machine translators such as Babel Fish will give you a rough idea of the foreign-language text, but will not render a translation useful for any other purpose.

Google’s translation site renders a slightly more comprehensible excerpt of the same original text:

In the province of Buenos Aires there are about 150 helmets stay with accommodation capacity. From modest to luxurious, all offer alternatives for all tastes and budgets. You can only enjoy a picnic or a longer.