Volume 9, No. 3 
July 2005

Fire Ant
Fire Ant

Worker Bee
Worker Bee


Front Page

Select one of the previous 32 issues.


Index 1997-2005

TJ Interactive: Translation Journal Blog

  Translator Profiles
From Tulip Grower to Translator: An Unlikely Profile
by Robert Croese

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee

  TJ Cartoon
Great Moments in Languages: One Man's Dove Is Another Man's Pigeon
by Ted Crump

  Translators Around the World
Intellectual Property and Copyright: The case of translators
by Lenita M. R. Esteves, Ph.D.

  Translation and Politics
On Censorship: A Conversation with Ilan Stavans
by Verónica Albin
Translation and Censorship in European Environments
by Antonia Keratsa

  Book Review
Legal Translation and the Dictionary by Marta Chromá
Reviewed by Michael Trittipo
Guaraní Dictionary
Reviewed by Robert Croese
Revelations of a Case Style in a Vehicular Accident Lawsuit
by Josef F. Buenker and Diane E. Teichman
Emotional and Psychological Effects on Interpreters in Public Services—A Critical Factor to Bear in Mind
by Carmen Valero-Garcés
La interpretación de congresos de medicina: formación y profesión
Lucía Ruiz Rosendo

  Literary Translation
Translation & Rainfall
by Alireza Yazdunpanuh
Übersetzen als Neuschreiben: die Macht des Übersetzers
Dr. Charlotte Frei

  Legal Translation
Traduzione giuridica e «Legal English»
Lorenzo Fiorito

  Translator Education
Parallelism between Language Learning and Translation
by Dr. Kulwindr Kaur a/p Gurdial Singh
On Teaching Forms of Address in Translation
by Agnieszka Szarkowska

  Translators' Tools
Translators’ Emporium
Using a Specialized Corpus to Improve Translation Quality
by Michael Wilkinson
Design and Development of Translator's Workbench for English to Indian Languages
by Akshi Kumar

  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor
Translators’ Best Websites
by Gabe Bokor

Translators’ Events

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
Translation Journal
The Profession

The Bottom Line

by Fire Ant & Worker Bee

Practical tips for practicing translators.


Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

Early this year I began a new career in freelance translation. I've now had sufficient experience with translation agencies and direct clients to know I really want to focus on working for the latter.

Armed with a long list of prospects and some referrals from generous and well-established translators, I'm ready to introduce myself and my services. I've begun sending well-crafted e-mails or nicely-printed snailmails.

Results have varied, naturally; I can't say for sure whether distinctive paper letters prompt more responses than e-mail(and don't reallyexpect you to be able to tell me that, either).

But what I would like to hear are some ideas on how to effectively follow up with prospects who don't respond, without coming off like a stalker: a second note? Another e-mail? Or maybe a—gulp—cold call on the phone?



Dear Flummoxed,

Technology being as glitch-prone as it is, we think you can reasonably send the same message a second time with a neutral cover message, e.g.,"I've had some email problems recently and wanted to make sure this reached you." But careful: no whining, and certainly no hint that your target is somehow out of line for not having answered first time around.

That said, you can improve your chances of a response by avoiding peak periods. These will depend on the sector you are targeting. Aerospace translators are up to their ears in the run-up to the Paris Air Show, sub-titlers bleary-eyed in the countdown to the Cannes Film Festival, automotive translators frazzled as the Detroit Motor Show looms.

An auspicious time to write to your prospects is a week or ten days after such peaks, when these same top-tier translators are catching up on lack of sleep with still-vivid memories of just how hectic it was. This is when they will be particularly attracted by the idea of getting a better system in place for the next rush, and may well look more carefully at your offer.

Vacation periods can also be attractive, especially in countries where many people go on holiday at the same time. Make your first contacts a few months before the vacation begins, and position yourself to step in as back-up.

Finally, if you are feeling particularly energetic, you can always make your closing paragraph "I will take the liberty of phoning you next week to see if my services can be of use to you." Then phone.

Good luck!



Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

I went freelance a year ago and now work from an office in our home. But even without the commute I'm feeling less productive. The reason ? Intrusive neighbors, friends and even family members who drop in any old time to chat. "I was just passing by and thought I'd say hi," is something I hear two or three times a day. I've tried telling them I'm busy, but they don't seem to take it in and I don't want to be unfriendly. Driinggg. There goes the doorbell now. What to say?

Knock Knock


Dear Knock,

We say bite the bullet. Open door, nice smile, "Ah, great to see you—but I've got a client on the line. Can't talk, 'bye!" You then step back, wave, close door. You can always call them back or invite them over for a drink after your work is done.

If you don't think you can manage this, place a telephone next to the front door, pick up the receiver and hold it to your ear automatically as you answer the doorbell. Having a prop may get you through.

The only other option we know of is to chitchat during the day and work at night—but do you really want to do that?



Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

A friend of mine made a mistake in a translation (one mistake in a two-page text) and the agency that commissioned the work didn't notice it either. This agency is ISO-certified and is supposed to have an in-house reviser.

The end client, which is one of the agency's biggest customers (they say) got really upset and the agency waived its fee. It then asked my friend not to invoice the text either, since the original error was hers.

This agency represents a huge chunk of my friend's business, so she accepted just to keep on good terms with it. The bill was for €30.

My question: wouldn't it have been better to bill just half? After all, they were supposed to be revising.



Dear Negotiator,

It would have been better to have billed €30—but with amounts this small, we think it is simply more professional to let the whole thing go, especially if her relationship with the agency has been good so far.

But this is also a reminder that you really don't want to have all your eggs in one basket. Any time a single client accounts for more than 25% of your business, it's time to look for more. And an agency that puts pressure on you (er, your friend) for an error they should have caught may not be the ideal client anyway.