Only Human Translators

Beyond belief

Beyond belief

Beware bad advice All of us come across awful nonsense written about translation from time to time. I very much doubt, though, that there is as much nonsense gathered in one place as in the LinkedIn writings of a translator called Matt Stanton. Regular readers of this blog will know that I don’t go in for personal attacks. In fact, I have nothing personal against Mr Stanton, a Japanese-English translator, and I’ve never met or interacted with him. Ignoring his unpleasant replies to colleagues who have challenged him, and the rather offensive and sexist nature of some of his posts, all I will take issue with here are ideas that he promotes, which, in my view, would be dangerous and damaging if followed by less experienced colleagues. This is a serious point because Mr Stanton, a Japanese-English translator, has written (and puts in a great deal of effort plugging) a book about translation. He also claims to run training seminars and coaching services for translators. All that takes his misguided ideas out of the sphere where everyone is entitled to their own opinion, because he is not only pushing his opinions at other people, he is persuading them to pay for the privilege. He is, in short, what has become known in the profession as an instaguru. It is on behalf of colleagues, then, and particularly on behalf of anyone easily influenced enough to be tempted to give credence to some of the utter rot I have seen written by Mr Stanton that I discuss it here. So what does he say that is so reprehensible? My attention was...
“We do it ourselves”

“We do it ourselves”

Can clients be weaned away from DIY solutions? This could have been another post about how difficult it is to prospect for direct clients, at least for a rather introverted person like me. I went to a trade fair last week, and it’s true that, as always, I found it tough to approach and connect with possible clients in person. Caught between the eternal dilemma of not wanting to sell in a pushy way but not really knowing what to say if I didn’t, I spent a lot of time feeling like a rather awkward failure. But I think I’ve written that post before, and besides, it wasn’t all failure. After all, it was a wine fair, or rather the wine section of a huge food industry fair in Barcelona, and when there’s wine around it’s difficult to fail completely. However bad you feel, a couple of free samples tends to bring back the good cheer. And, as I know myself, I’d booked myself in for a talk, a tasting, and a lunch of food-wine pairings designed by top chefs. If I wasn’t going to persuade everyone to be my client, I was at least going to learn something and enjoy myself. And I did manage to speak to some potential clients, so that’s what I’ve decided to write this post about: a random sample of potential direct clients from the Spanish wine industry and their their thoughts on translation. Partly to have something to talk about, partly as market research and partly as a lead-in to offering my services, I asked them what they did about translation. Agency...
Escaping lockdown

Escaping lockdown

How (and how not) to cope with big projects A couple of weeks ago I won my freedom, or at least that’s what it felt like. I finally completed a series of big translation and revision projects that had kept me in what amounted to professional lockdown for more that two months. I’m now once again able to take on the projects I want without worrying about where I’m going to find the time to do them. I don’t have the pressure of knowing I still have thousands and thousands of words to translate and revise by a week on Thursday. And it feels great. It was certainly a very unusual way to start the year. I’m used to January being a bit of a struggle, with things gradually picking up into February and March. 2018, though, has been different. It actually started last November with a phone call. Was I interested in translating a book? Well, as it turned out to be a historical study right up my street, of course I was. So I found myself one morning in Barcelona’s atmospheric Ateneu meeting the author and the publisher of the book. “This has always been a place for conspiracies,” said the publisher, looking round the lounge where we sat with our coffees. “They still go on in here even today.” My eyes followed his gaze around the leather armchairs and into the dark corners of the room. I could well believe it, especially in the feverish political context of last autumn in Catalonia. But the only conspiracy we were hatching was for me to translate the best part...
You can’t get there from here

You can’t get there from here

Just how far from the original? I recently worked on the translation of a website for a start-up consultancy firm from the fashion industry. It wasn’t an easy translation and I was glad that I’d managed to negotiate a good enough rate to have my work revised by a colleague. She made quite a few changes, most of them for the better, but afterwards she made some very telling comments. “The problem was the original,” she said. “It didn’t read like a website.” It reminded me of the old joke about a foreign tourist stopping to ask a farmworker for directions in a small village in the middle of Ireland. “Where are you going?” asks the farmworker. The tourist tells him and the man scratches his head. “Oh, in that case I wouldn’t start from here if I were you…” Destination Because as a translator you are in the same position as the unfortunate tourist if the original simply doesn’t say what you think the finished version in your language ought to: you’re starting from somewhere that makes it very difficult to reach your destination.  Now, I’m all for creative translation and for getting away as far as possible from the source text when the circumstances require. But are we really entitled to tell the client: “Give me a new original because your copy doesn’t read like a website.” And what should a website read like anyway? Shortly after this happened, I was able to find out the answer to precisely that question, when attending a free webinar by Sarah Richards on how to write user-focused content for the...
Investment matters

Investment matters

Decisions make a difference January is always a time of new beginnings. Four years ago, I plunged into developing my website, of which this blog forms part. Just in case you haven’t had a look at the site itself, you can see it here. A year ago, I was putting together a new landing page for the site to promote the side of my business related to wine translations. All in all, building these sites has cost me time and money, which, until very recently, I was prepared to account for as an investment in my image. Having a website might not have been bringing me a great deal of work, but it gave me somewhere to refer potential clients. It also provided a platform for me to say exactly what I wanted to about myself, my business and, via this blog, anything at all. That was perhaps not a conventional return on the investment but it was one I was satisfied with. Then, a week or so ago, it began to seem as if the website might bring in a tangible return after al. A potential client who had found me via the website phoned with an offer of onging work which, if everything goes well, could end up recouping me everything I’ve ever spent on my online presence in quite a short time. It provides evidence that if you project the right image you really can attract the right clients. And it also shows that you don’t need many successes to repay even what seems like a sizable investment at the time. As translators, we’re tempted to be minimalist about...
Not the year I expected

Not the year I expected

…but what’s new? Looking at my posts from this time last year, I seem to have been going through a great deal of uncertainty and change. In my head were three basic issues which I think are pivotal for all translators: quality, rates and finding clients. Of course, the three all feed off one another too. The problem was simple to state and difficult to solve. My income had stagnated, even beginning to fall back a little, despite an across-the-board rates increase and I was worried about the quality of my work, which I felt needed improving. But I couldn’t improve quality without taking more time over my work, and if I was to take more time I was going to lose even more money without increasing rates. But it seemed unlikely that my existing customers would pay higher rates. What could I do? I decided on a twin course of action: I would try to improve quality without slowing down, and I would look for new clients who would pay higher rates without dumping the old ones. There are some translators, of course, who have succeeded in putting up their rates much more dramatically than that. The problem is that they have had to deliberately put themselves through months with very little work before they have managed to make it work. That’s fine, if a little nerve-wracking, for someone young and unattached, but anyone with family responsibilities needs to take a different tack. Quality Where I’ve been most successful is undoubtedly in improving quality. Without becoming complacent, I’m now much more satisfied with the quality of the work I do....