Saturday, 17 April 2010

“Meet the client” ITI training event at Bath University

On 19 March 2010 practising and aspiring translators and interpreters gathered in one of the lecture theatres at the University of Bath for an informative, well-attended and successful CPD event. It was facilitated by Dr Suzanne Kirkbright, ITI’s Education Officer, in the presence of Pamela Mayorcas, ITI Chairman.

The morning sessions featured representatives from the translation industry, who focused on how to find and keep top clients. Clare Suttie from Atlas Translations Ltd. started off on the topic of professionally handling complaints about one of your own translations. Clare suggested that generally a good way of avoiding such awkward situations was to get a good brief from the client beforehand. The brief should contain information regarding the intended audience, and whether there are any websites, reference materials or glossaries with preferred translation terms to refer to. Kirsten Hemingway, MD Hemingway Corporation, explained how to create and maintain efficient networks. Networking is usually aimed at finding work, getting advice and also giving advice yourself. The latter tends to build your credibility and is likely to bring you referrals and of course personal satisfaction as well. Interestingly, networking opportunities often crop up when you least expect it. Anne James focused on the prerequisites of becoming an interpreter for Bristol City Council Interpreting & Translation Services. Jonathan Nater from the award-winning Wessex Translations Ltd. afterwards opened the floor for any burning questions from the attendees, including how to approach potential clients for the first time and become a translation company's regular supplier, as well as the assignment of work projects in general.

After the lunch break, which provided good networking opportunities, we continued to think about “best business practice”. Judy Heminsley, having worked from home both as en employee and running her own businesses, was ideally placed to talk to us about work-life balance. Judy had some valuable suggestions in store for us, such as how to deal with interruptions. Having two separate phone lines for example, one for business and one for private purposes, is something which I certainly find very useful myself. Judy also advised us to set ourselves time boundaries and find out how long our concentration spell is. Consequently, breaks can be planned in advance more easily. I already consider myself an experienced home worker, but I could definitely see some areas for improvement in my case.

The importance of not only selling yourself as a translator, but also as a person was highlighted in the session run by Andrew Mann, employed as a project manager by Syntacta Translation & Interpreting until very recently. You can build your marketing activities on the principle that, despite all the automation in the translation industry nowadays, people still buy from people. In the end, the cornerstone of your business, apart from how you approach customer service, are the relationships that you have made. Andrew's blog for Ways with Words, where he now works, is also very worth a read.

Time was flying, but before we all went away from this informative, inspiring and well-run event, there was room for general questions and answers. Among the issues raised were technological changes. It was noted that the role of the translator in the future would change drastically due to crowdsourcing and machine translation. Machine translation in particular may be expected to necessitate more post-editing rather than actual translation. Although future translations produced by machines may well be usable to some degree, they will still and always have to be looked at by human translators afterwards. Human translators are therefore unlikely to ever run out of work - a reassuring statement, which concluded the day.

I have written a more detailed report on this event, which will be published in the forthcoming issue of ITI Bulletin in May.