Volume 12, No. 1 
January 2008

Fire Ant
Fire Ant

Worker Bee
Worker Bee


Front Page

Select one of the previous 42 issues.

Index 1997-2008

TJ Interactive: Translation Journal Blog

  Translator Profiles
Doing a Hard Job Right
by Kirk Anderson

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
Do We Really Need Translation Standards After All? A Comparison of US and European Standards for Translation Services
by Gérard de Angéli
Ethical Implications of Translation Technologies
by Érika Nogueira de Andrade Stupiello

  Translators Around the World
American Translators Association Surpasses 10,000 Members
by Joshua Rosenblum

  In Memoriam
In Memoriam: Rosa Codina
by Verónica Albin
In Memoriam: Dr. William Macfarlane Park
by Andrew Park and Ann Sherwin
In Memoriam: William J. Grimes
by Isabel Leonard
In Memoriam: Leslie Willson

  TJ Cartoon
Great Moments in Languages — The Punctuation War
by Ted Crump

  Translation Theory
Good Translation: Art, Craft, or Science?
by Mahmoud Ordudary
¿Es la traducción una ciencia o una tecnología?
Macarena Molina Gutiérrez

  Translation Nuts and Bolts
Übersetzung elliptischer Strukturen aus dem Französischen und Portugiesischen
Katrin Herget, Holger Proschwitz

  Translation of Advertising
New Zealand in Translation: Presenting a Country's Image in a Government Website
by Zhao Ning

  Arts and Entertainment
The Contact Between Cultures and the Role of Translation and the Mass Media
by Juan José Martínez-Sierra, Ph.D.

  Book Review
Double the Pleasure: The Complete Fables of Jean de La Fontaine Translated by Norman Shapiro
by Robert Paquin, Ph.D.
Review of "The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary" by Robert Alter
by Alexandra Glynn

An Integrated Approach to the Translation of Special Terms with Special Reference to Chinese term lüse shipin (green food)
by Zhu Yubin

  Cultural Aspects of Translation
Hindrances in Arabic-English Intercultural Translation
by Adel Salem Bahameed, Ph.D.
Unique Korean Cultural Concepts in Interpersonal Relations
by D. Bannon

  Literary Translation
Chinese Translation of Literary Black Dialect and Translation Strategy Reconsidered: The Case of Alice Walker's The Color Purple
by Yi-ping Wu and Yu-ching Chang
A Study of Persian Translations of Narrative Style: A case study of Virginia Woolf's The Waves
by Somaye Delzendehrooy

  Translators' Tools
Technology and the Fine Arts
by Jost Zetzsche
Generating a Corpus-Based Metalanguage: The Igbo Language Example
by Enoch Ajunwa
Translators’ Emporium

  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,

A client in Canada who sent me a job at CDN$ 0.14 a word and confirmed I'd be paid quickly (but with no specific date) announced after delivery that the payment would come in stages, starting today. But this morning he said I'd have to wait a week; his client "is in a tight spot." Maybe I should have smelled a rat when I sent the CDN$ 1600 bill two weeks ago and his immediate reaction was "whoa, this is more than I thought!"

What should I do now? Insist that he pay one-quarter of the amount right away? (He must have CDN$ 400 tucked away somewhere).



Dear Squeezed,

You're right: a client who changes terms of payment mid-stream sets warning lights flashing. But so does translator who fails to lock in terms of payment in a way that rules out mid-stream changes. Next time you quote for a job, specify standard terms & conditions right up front, including a specific date by which payment must be made. For sample terms & conditions, check your national translators' association site.

For your current standoff, insist on the one-quarter right now and specify dates for payment of the outstanding amount.



Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

Is it worthwhile to subscribe to expensive trade journals in one's industry as a way of being able to say "I saw in [name of magazine] that you were involved in such and such a deal" to personalize a mailing and show that one has done one's homework?

Eye on Budget


Dear Eye,

Anything that generates personal hooks to get the flow flowing is worth it, but perhaps you could tell us first how expensive "expensive" is (€700?) and how you know your clients actually read the publication(s) in question. Do you see copies lying around their offices? Are these well thumbed? Do clients themselves regularly refer to articles in these titles?

As an alternative, you might try to benefit from the free copies always available at top-level professional conferences —where the registration fee may be €700, but the face time with key senior players can generate higher returns.



Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

I am a native French speaker and I'll be taking entrance exams for translation schools this year.

Some of the courses I'm interested in look very good (e.g., Université Denis Diderot in Paris, l'Université Marc Bloc in Strasbourg, and City University in London) but these schools are not CIUTI members.

Should I focus instead on CIUTI-member schools like ESIT (Paris), ETI (Geneva) or ISTI (Brussels)? I dream of working as a translator for the European Commission or another international organization, and I want to be sure to make the right choice now so as to get a crack at one of those elite jobs.

Career Path


Dear Career,

Let's reword your question: are all the juicy jobs in the international organizations sewn up by an old-boys'/old-girls' network?

Your query gave us a chance to poll experts in our ambit, and the results, while revealing, are hardly surprising.

  • CIUTI (Conférence Internationale des Instituts Universitaires de Traduction et d'Interprétation)-member administrators, teachers, and graduates assured us, with unnervingly wide eyes, that the reason CIUTI graduates are well-represented in international organizations is that the teaching is outstanding.
  • Non-CIUTI folk polled were either reassuringly neutral (choose the school that seems the best match for you and your skills, work like crazy, and you'll do fine when the exam comes) or unnervingly narrow-eyed, hinting and sometimes stating outright that teaching at CIUTI schools is so far behind the times you'd be better off elsewhere.

So we trundled along to the European Commission, where insiders' off-the-cuff, behind-the-scenes comments include:

Fact No. 1: recruitment to all EU language services is by competition. You don't even have to have had formal training in translating, although it does help. An example quoted by one respondent: a competition is now open for English (only). Candidate must offer either French and German into English, or either French or German plus one other official language into English; some institutions will accept only candidates from the second category. Neither experience nor a translation degree is required this time.  

Fact No. 2: Brussels—and Luxembourg—may be full of French translators, but not many are French. Lots are Belgian (and many are not over-impressed by French university and grande école translation courses, it would appear).

Fact No. 3: Whether or not juries show any preference for graduates of particular schools, the double-blind anonymity of candidates and test markers "ought to rule it out." 

The jury's main aims, once the candidates' identities are known, are to ensure that any additional languages skills claimed on the application forms are genuine, to pick the best of the bunch, and to take care that they don't let any real misfits through. There are quite enough weirdoes in the language world already, says this contact. People who express willingness to be posted to Luxembourg may well get a bonus point.

These experts' specific advice to you: check the terms of the current English competition in the expectation that a future French competition will resemble it. Search archives of the JOCE for previous French competitions. Do your utmost to ensure that your paper qualifications match what is needed. If you have not got a Bac+4 you will need to cross that hurdle first, but unless you have good reason to believe that a translation diploma (from a CIUTI member or any other establishment) will improve your skills, put your time into getting practical experience. This will also be more lucrative: you don't get paid for coursework done, no matter how good it is. If you have contacts with EU freelance contracts, try to get some work from them—even at slave rates—for experience with the genre.

They—and we—wish you the best of luck!



Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

I've been browsing some back numbers of The Bottom Line and came across this piece of advice from the two of you (in April 2006): "Time-wise, calculate at least two full hours per 250-word page."

This was for annual reports, which as you say are at a premium. But even taking that into account, this is the first time I have seen anyone quote a word/hour rate which seems anything like sensible to me.

I like to take the time to find the word or expression that's absolutely right, rather than just good enough—and then double-check it all—so I am uncomfortable with being asked to do more than 1,500 words a day. Yet in discussions about how long it was taking me to achieve the required word count before I could apply to take the ITI exam, "standard" figures of 2,500 to 3,000 words a day came up repeatedly. Reading your advice has reassured me that my working speed is professional rather than inadequate, and I just wanted to say thanks for the moral support!

Word Counter


Dear Word Counter,

Thanks for your thanks. We see a growing trend towards charging per hour rather than per word, which makes awareness of these ratios—indeed, of the very wide range of word-per-hour counts, depending on market segment—all the more important.



Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

I am nearly 29 and live close to London. I started working as a freelance translator full time in June 2007.

Strictly speaking, my mother tongue is English as both parents are English, however I lived in France from age 7 to 25 and went through the French education system, up to university (BA politics, economics and finance, MA international relations), thus making me completely and truly bilingual. I have been living in England since January 2004. I would say my level in both languages is roughly the same now, however as I am living in the UK, my English is likely to "overtake" my French at some stage.

Until now I have tried to market myself as being able to translate both ways (Fr>En and En>Fr), as I thought I would get more work than with only one pair, but several colleagues have questioned that strategy.

In the long run, I believe the logical thing would be to concentrate on Fr>En, however the demand for that pair would be in France whereas I am based in the UK, and my dip. trans. diploma is En>Fr.

Thank you for your advice.

Bilingual Briton


Dear Bilingual,

There are so few people capable of translating both ways that you are indeed damaging your credibility by making that claim in, say, an online directory. A website is different, as it allows you to back up your bilingualism with information like that you've just sent us. As you are no doubt aware, oral fluency in both of your working languages is a plus when pitching to direct clients (a point that native English-speakers often forget).



Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

I have read your previously published comments about sharing glossaries with clients and would like to know your opinion about sharing glossaries with prospects (i.e. potential clients).

After 17 years as a freelancer doing many different types of legal & business documents for (mostly) agencies, I have become specialised in translating certain very specific types of legal documents for a specific area within finance, an area in which France is the European leader. These documents require a very decent level in both legal and finance and a solid knowledge of this sub-specialty within finance.

Until now, I have only translated these documents for one large American law firm in Paris and they are very happy with my work.

I would now like to translate these same types of documents for other Paris law firms specialised in this field, but am not sure what approach would be most effective.

I have developed a highly specific glossary (including both legal & finance terms from this field) tailored to these law firms and am toying with the possibility of sending it to them, together with my business card.

I'd be grateful for your comments/suggestions.

Glossary Guy


Dear Guy,

A regularly updated, highly technical glossary shows you know your stuff and are constantly honing your skills—a very good message for demanding clients. In fact, at least part of its commercial value lies in using it as a pretext for contacting prospects to "help you complete entry A, B or C." (In exchange you can offer the prospect a copy, for example).

Another option: display entries for a few letters of the alphabet on your website, alongside your pitch in this particular field. Those in the know will appreciate your insights and feel all the more secure in turning to you for highly specialized (and highly paid) work.

A glossary is just the starting point for premium translation, but spadework at this level is a good sign of commitment to the field.