Volume 14, No. 4 
October 2010

Fire Ant
Fire Ant

Worker Bee
Worker Bee


Front Page

Select one of the previous 53 issues.

Index 1997-2010

TJ Interactive: Translation Journal Blog

  Translator Profiles
Chance Favors the Prepared Mind
by Patricia Thickstun
Interview with ATA Board Candidate Ted Wozniak
by Linda Marianiello

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
How to Drive Your Translators Crazy without Really Trying
by Danilo Nogueira and Kelli Semolini

  In Memoriam
In Memoriam: Derry Cook-Radmore
by Nick Rosenthal

  Translation Nuts and Bolts
English Translation of Chinese Dish Names
by Congjun Mu
A Model of Translation Based on Proverbs and Their Metaphors: A Cognitive Descriptive Approach
by Freeda C. Wilson
Un modèle de traduction basé sur les proverbes et leurs métaphores : Une position cognitive descriptive
Freeda C. Wilson

  Science and Technology
Conseils de base pour la gestion de la terminologie industrielle
M.L. Seren-Rosso

  Medical Translations
Comparison of Textual Patterns in German and Portuguese Medical Texts
by Katrin Herget and Teresa Alegre

  Cultural Aspects of Translation
A Study of Euphemisms from the Perspectives of Cultural Translation and Linguistics
by Behnaz Sanaty Pour

  Arts and Entertainment
Tonality in Subtitle Translation
by D. Bannon
English-into-Persian Translation of Colloquial Expressions in Subtitled Films
by Hossein Barzegar

  Translators' Education
Traducción automática y software libre en la formación de traductores
María José Fernández Pintelos

  Book Reviews
Agop Hacikyan's A Summer without Dawn
reviewed by Hasmik Najaryan
Desarrollo de la competencia traductora de Silvia Roiss
Reseñado por Dra María José Varela Salinas
Dictionary of Leisure, Travel and Tourism por Bateman, H., Harris, E. y Mc Adam, K.
Reseñado por Concepción Mira Rueda

  Translators' Tools
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

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,

What do you do if you reply (with a positive attitude) to an offer to quote for a job and then subsequently find out the buyer is a risky credit proposition? Of course, you decline to take the job, but how do you say that "nicely"?


Dear Nice,

Simply say that the window for your offer has closed. So sorry, too late, another grateful client has snapped up your available time. And you can always quote much higher the next time to discourage further queries.

That said, we do wonder why you would want to be particularly nice in this situation. It might even be a useful wake-up call for your contact to hear someone say—pleasantly, if you like—"I've checked your credit rating and I'm sorry, I simply can't take the risk."



Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

A while back I was contacted to translate several chapters of a book on artificial intelligence. The job means using a new software package, which is a drag (I've already spent over a day setting it up and it still isn't operating properly; I'm also supposed to ensure that coded text is compilable). All this at 14 per page, which boils down to 2.6 cents a word.

Why am I doing this? Because I thought having a book under my belt and in my portfolio would raise my profile. But as I get in deeper I can see that there is little groundbreaking science in this tome. To make matters worse, the chapters I've been assigned are particularly boring.

Financially, I'd rather be translating Brazilian radar systems or German legal texts at 0.12-0.14 a word. I'm also behind on an article that I'm supposed to be writing for an academic journal.

Any advice?

Helter Skelter


Dear Skelter,

Yes: take the phone off the hook, disconnect your computer and sit back. Just stop moving for an hour or two. Your freefall has set our heads spinning in the time it took to read your letter, which makes us a bit concerned about yours.

Don't get us wrong: it's good to keep busy and most successful translators are happy to do some multi-tasking, but you do seem to going in too many directions at once. The book gambit? Why not, but this one is off to a bad start.

Let's take it point by point:

  • Book: are you locked in by a contract? If not, cut your losses. Just Say No. Life is too short, and an uninteresting book unlikely to make any kind of splash—that is, moreover, paid very little and requires you to learn an entire new software package—hey, that makes no sense at all.
  • What is your aim: earn money or work in a field you enjoy? Ideally you'll do both, of course, but it might be worth thinking a bit longer and harder about the text types you are really good at and the clients you are targeting.
  • Speaking of which, what fields are you trying to break into or consolidate existing knowledge in? Artificial intelligence, radar systems, legal texts, academic journals... we can't connect up the dots, and wonder if you can either.
  • How old are you? A male person heading into his fifties with this sort of schedule is asking for a heart attack.

But you asked for advice. We suggest sports (daily), early bedtime, lay off the high fructose corn syrup, and sign up for some time management and marketing classes at the first opportunity.



Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

I've decided to upgrade my business form from a DBA to an LLC, which means that my company name will be writ in stone. It has been Saga Language Services http://www.sagalang.com/index.shtml from the beginning, but I sometimes wonder if "Language Services" is too ambitious or misleading a term for a freelancer to use. I chose Saga Language Services over "Saga Translations" for several reasons:

  1. A search on Saga Translations brings up translations of the Norse sagas
  2. There are already two other people using Saga Translations out there
  3. I might want to offer other services such as terminology management or project management in the future.

Do you feel that Language Services is misleading, implying that I am a larger LSP?



Dear Alice,

Thanks for this opportunity to remind all our readers that the term "language service provider" (LSP) applies to everyone from individual freelance translators to giant corporations. We've seen some serious slippage lately, with large translation companies, language researchers and even professional associations referring to "LSPs and freelancers." (Google it yourself.)

People, that is simply wrong—and especially surprising if you tout yourself as a word person/language specialist. (Fruit and apples, anyone? Or perhaps some dairy products and yogurt?)

On to Saga LS: we visited your site and like it. Great graphics, nice, clear, readable and to-the-point text that lets visitors know what you are all about. (Very effective, too, the way you highlight your specializations.)

As premium clients know—many having learned the hard way through swish logos and exalted claims, followed by crash and burn due to layer upon layer of subcontracting—what buyers want in a premium language services supplier is someone who knows what they're doing, is pleasant to work with, and who states clearly that the buck stops here. Who also knows when to say no and does.

So good for you for highlighting Alice and her strengths (although you might also consider saying "I"), and good too, to be considering all the related services you might want to provide. Go for it!



Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

I got my Translation Certificate back in '91.  For a couple of years I did translations and interpretation in the language pair Eng/Spanish.  It was not feeding my family so I had to get a full-time job in an office and stopped translating.  

Now I'm interested in returning to translation.  I have been on the Internet getting up to speed, but it seems somewhat overwhelming with all the new software to help translators and all the agencies that serve an international market.  

I still see some independent translators.  

My questions are: How do I go about starting again? Do I have to learn about a lot of new software? Regarding work, independent vs. agency? Help!

Thank you 

Me, Returning


Dear Return,

The market is overwhelmingly freelance these days, with translators working either for agencies or direct clients—consult back issues of this column for advice on both options.

Here are some points to consider:

  • In part thanks to technology, there are many more opportunities for networking than in the early 90s. At the same time, we see waves of semi-skilled labor dipping in and out of the market; be sure to distinguish yourself from them if you want to do this for real.
  • If you're an excellent translator, it shouldn't take that long to get your language skills back up to speed. Technology for translation proper? By all means look into the benefits it brings, but no need to go whole hog; never forget that it is a lot easier to master technology than the language skills a good translator brings to the job.
  • You can start by signing up for a few webinars—training from the comfort of your home (thanks, technology!)—and move on to passive & active participation in translator forums, plus participation in events sponsored by your local professional association.
  • Networking is the key to it all: get back in touch with translation colleagues from the old days. Pick their brains on prospects in your language combination, and see if they might have some work to put your way.

Actually, the most worrying point in your letter is not your nervousness about technology or globalization, but the fact that you stopped twenty years ago because you were not earning enough. That's a bad sign: to make a go of it, both newcomers and workers returning to the wordface need outstanding translation skills and a very firm grasp of marketing. Not to mention a cash buffer as they find their feet. Somehow we doubt that has changed must in the past two decades.



Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

I graduated with a degree in translation a year ago and have not had any luck finding work since (small jobs at low pay here in France). In fact I'm beginning to think that I'm not really cut out for freelance work. But there are no salaried jobs.

Recently a few translation agencies in India have advertised for "young graduates" interested in project management and revision. The pay is very low and my former classmates (including those who are also drifting) are very critical, but I'm kind of interested. Am I a loser?



Dear Unemployed,

Forget the classmates and their eye-rolling. Nothing against oldies, but we are convinced that the best time to get out and see the world is when you're young. If you have no obligations, and no other job prospects in sight, what is stopping you?

Get your working papers in order first, of course, but take the initiative and experience first-hand, from the inside, how project management really works in one of the world's fastest growing economies. You might be surprised. True, you won't earn much by western standards, but the cost of living isn't that high either. Look at the benefits: you'll have a chance to experience a totally different culture, learn one or more new languages, and gain experience that will look great on a CV (and distinguish you from many of your peers) when you return. In fact, the only downside we see for someone in your situation is that you won't be able to build up a nest egg for your return.