Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Venturefest Bristol 2013

Venturefest Bristol 2013 once again brought together technology entrepreneurs, SMEs, investors, business support providers and anyone else with an interest in the event. It was held at the UWE Bristol Exhibition and Conference Centre last Thursday and provided a stage for showcasing innovative business ideas from within our region. The theme that had been chosen for it this year was collaboration. In the words of Alastair Watson, director of Science Bristol City Limited, we all have a better chance to excel when we work with other people and organisations.

I, too, had decided to attend the event as it offered a welcome opportunity to get away from my desk for half a day. I run a busy translation business from home, which generally suits me well, but even I sometimes feel the urge to venture out into the world of people. I always learn a lot at such events and they provide me with a fresh perspective on the business side of my job. It was great to also see some familiar faces, such as Sally Stevens, a freelance artworker who runs Salamander Creative. And I was pleased to meet Katarzyna E. Slobodzian-Taylor, who runs Mastermind Translations, and Kinga Macalla, director of Bristol Language School, who I’d previously only known via Twitter. Katarzyna and Kinga like me are members of the local association of translators and interpreters, the Western Regional Group.

We have a better chance to excel when we work with others

Working as a translator from home may appear to be a lonely activity, but in fact as translators we’re used to collaborating a lot in on-line environments. This can mean collaborating on projects with other translators who are dotted around the globe. It can involve using cloud translation software or compiling terminology lists using Google Docs where the person you’re doing this with might be several time zones away from you. Translators typically – maybe more than almost anybody else –  are cloud inhabitants. At the same time, they tend to be invisible as their work is quiet and is carried out in the background. I therefore feel it is important for us to go out and tell about our work!

Thank you to all whom I managed to speak to and who explained their products and ideas to me. Find out more about Venturefest Bristol 2013 by following the Twitter discussion @Science_Bristol and using the hashtag #venturefest.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Bugged by misconceptions about translation?

Translation institutions such as the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, ITI, have done a great deal to raise the profile of our profession. Which small steps can we as individuals take to educate the public about what translators do and what translation is actually about? And how can we protect ourselves from wrong assumptions and avoid getting worked up about them? Translators want to be taken seriously, and we need a shift of perception and attitude among members of the public. A few points to consider:

- When you go out to business events, dress appropriately. You're a translator and you're earning, so there is no reason not to afford good-quality business clothing. Translators may not be too keen on drawing attention to themselves, and we don’t need to dress up for work, but looking the part at business events is actually very important. (Oh, and do schedule in visits to such events!)

- Don’t say you charge by the word, even if it’s what you often do. Let’s be honest about it: it reflects badly on the actual activity of translation. Say instead that you charge per 1,000 words, as it reflects much better that as translators we’re used to constantly translating thousands and thousands of words. Or say you charge by the hour, which we often do anyway and which is the way other professionals charge for their services too.

Educating the public about what translators do

- If you’re freelance (and most of us are) and you’re asked what you do for a living, it’s better to say “I run a translation business” rather than “I’m a translator”. It gives a different impression, and it implies you’re the boss. After all, you decide which type of work you accept, when and where you work, and (best of all!) how much money you charge. Remember, in our industry no one dictates what rates you should work for.

- If you’re short of ideas for birthday or Christmas presents, then you could give away books on what translation is really about. “Found in Translation” by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche seems a perfect candidate. I’ve only just bought it, but it’s been on my to-read list ever since I read Judy Jenner’s excellent review of it in the ITI Bulletin.

- Go out and meet other translators. Or link up with them on Twitter or internet fora. It will do you good to talk about any common misconceptions about translation, get them off your chest and have a good laugh about them with others. It certainly always does me good. We’re all in the same boat as members of a widely misunderstood profession!

- Blog your experience. There can never be enough blog posts regarding misconceptions about translation, and they make for good reading. Blogs are great for this, because they are accessible to anyone – outside the seclusion of Yahoo fora. It would be fantastic to read about your experience too. Don’t forget to let us know about them on social media.
- And finally: ignore any teasing or ignorant remarks that may come your way. Don’t be fussed by what others may think about translation. Remember, they may simply be baffled that you're so successful as a translator and that you actually find your job worthwhile and intriguing.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

WRG cycle ride 2013

On 21st July ITI’s Western Regional Group (WRG) again set off on a cycle ride along the Kennet and Avon Canal. 16 adults and (my) 2 children met in Bradford-on-Avon to cycle over to Bathampton. Not only did the day provide a good workout, but there was also plenty of opportunity to take in the stunning and picturesque scenery. We enjoyed observing the colourful and decorated narrowboats, the old stone bridges and people boating, canoeing, fishing, cycling, walking and even swimming in a nearby river. The weather was brilliant, with lots of hot sunshine under a clear blue sky. We were pleased to welcome Kari and Lawrence Koonin, who had come all the way from London with their bikes to join us. They were not our first special guests as last year Nick Rosenthal and his son Max had cycled with us.

The WRG cycle ride is now in its second year and has had much positive response from participants. A big thank you is extended to Aletta Stevens for again organising the event, making arrangements for our visit to the Angelfish where we had our lunch, and even accommodating last-minute requests.


Thursday, 6 June 2013

How wide is your web presence?

Nowadays, rule no. 1 for anyone setting themselves up in translation is to establish a strong web presence. This was the piece of advice that experienced translators had for me in the fledgling stages of my translation career. Many years on, I realise this piece of advice has proved to be invaluable.

Which tools do translators predominantly use to build up and widen their web presence?

- Website: Having a website is certainly not the most important tool for generating business for translators because there are simply too many competitors out there. Note that, although I'm constantly busy, the number of enquiries that I have had through my website in the past few years can be counted on the fingers of one hand. This is hardly surprising because a website is essential, but should mainly be viewed as a virtual business card.

Rule no. 1 for setting yourself up in translation: establish a strong web presence!

- Blogging: Translators are often perceived as invisible, and translation is a profession beset with misconceptions (see my post about misconceptions here). A blog, therefore, is an excellent tool for translators for speaking up and sharing a taste of what goes on behind the scenes of translation. If you've considered blogging, but are still not sure about whether it is for you, read this post on Sarah Dillon's blog, which I've found encouraging.

- Xing: Xing is a business network where professionals from all kinds of different industries can network, meet up, find jobs, colleagues, new assignments, cooperation partners, experts and generate business ideas. It's a platform that is widely used in Germany. Visiting the BDÜ forum on Xing is something that I've told myself I should do more often.

- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a networking platform very similar to Xing and very popular here in the UK. You can find an ITI forum on it as well. I think that, time permitting, we should all try and find the time to explore the features of both LinkedIn and Xing more fully.

- ProZ: ProZ is the largest online community for translators and translation companies. It's search engine-optimised, so if you're seeking to establish a web presence, I recommend setting up a ProZ profile, even if you're a non-paying member. ProZ has other pros, but also its cons, on which I won't dwell in this post.

- Facebook: Facebook has become the most frequented place in the world for exchanging small talk and eating up lots of your time. Personally, I have my doubts about its usefulness for translators, who spend far too much time at the computer on a daily basis anyway. It's up to you whether you want to invest time in it. I'm thinking of leaving Facebook.

- Twitter: Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that connects you to the latest ideas, opinions and information that are of interest to you. Tweets are condensed into 140 characters, and each second around 9,000 tweets are posted (source: http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/05/economist-explains-21). At the ITI conference in Birmingham in 2011, I was encouraged to join Twitter, too. Two years on, I'm glad that I did!

On some days I still feel as awkward about being so public on the internet as in my fledgling stages; on other days I'm okay with it. After all, is there anyone who cannot be found on the internet nowadays?

Friday, 8 March 2013

WRG technical authoring workshop

On 2nd March 19 translators gathered at the Bath & County Club in the centre of Bath for a technical authoring workshop organised by ITI’s Western Regional Group (WRG). It was led by Nigel Platts, director of Armada, a company that offers specialist technical training courses. Nigel is a dynamic and engaging presenter and covered a lot of ground with us.
Translators can set themselves apart by outstanding writing skills, so the knowledge imparted by Nigel proved highly relevant. The ability to write well is crucial because people only tend to read what is actually readable. Good writing creates an aura of professionalism about yourself or your company. There are obviously lots of things to bear in mind, but one of the most salient features of good writing is consistency. Once it turns out that a writer has not been entirely consistent in terms of their spelling, punctuation, terminology or capitalisation in a text, they instantly lose credibility with the reader. 

Writing well is crucial as people only read what is readable

It was an excellent workshop and, although I translate into German, I felt I would be able to apply the theory even to my German writing. I generally love delving into books about writing and style anyway. I don’t usually have much leeway for deviating from my source texts as I mostly translate patents and contracts nowadays. Style in my line of work plays a very minor role – which is why I blog! To me the chief benefit of blogging is that I can experiment with writing techniques.

There was plenty of opportunity to socialise with fellow attendees, some of whom had joined us from other ITI networks. A couple of us went on to attend a translation-related event of this year’s Bath Literature Festival at the nearby Guildhall.

Watch out for my write-up of the workshop, which will appear in one of the forthcoming ITI Bulletin issues, probably in July.