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Attending the right client events

A call out of the blue

Two and a half years ago I received a phone call out of the blue to discuss long-term collaboration translating material for Spindrift racing, a sailing team run by Yann Guichard and Dona Bertarelli. I’ve always been passionate about sport, so this was a dream offer for me.

Exciting projects awaited. A year earlier, the team had bought a record-breaking boat called Maxi Banque Populaire V, and would soon attempt to set a new transatlantic record on her, after rebaptising her Spindrift 2. A year later, having already won the famous Route du Rhum race from Saint-Malo to Guadeloupe, they would embark on an even more exciting challenge: attempting to win the Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest ever circumnavigation of the world.

Spindrift racing contacted me after finding my website while searching for a specialist sports translator. I was over the moon. It felt like all the hard work I’d put into rebranding myself and marketing myself as a sports specialist had finally paid off!

My contact asked me to do a 600-word test translation, which she happily reduced to around 300 words when I said that 600 was more than I was willing to do for free. I know some translators get very upset at requests for translation tests, but I’d have been mad to turn down a dream offer like this based on a request that would take me no more than two hours to fulfil, especially for a potential client interested more in my expertise than in my rates.

I sent off the test, and my client agreed to work with me at my proposed rates.

A steep learning-curve

The translations were quite tough going at first, and at times it felt like I was sailing into a headwind. In the past, I’ve managed to apply my knowledge of the sports that I follow to sports with which I’m not familiar. For instance, while covering the World Handball Championships many years ago, I would use many of the same turns of phrase that I might use if reporting on a football match. I basically just had to learn a few new terms, such as names of positions. Sailing, however, was a whole new kettle of fish, with a language all of its own.

I already knew that boats have a starboard and a port side, rather than left and right. I also knew that a boat is always a she, never an it, though it’s easy to forget this when you’re translating from French, since you’re so accustomed to translating the masculine pronoun il as it when referring to an inanimate object. (I can’t think of any other contexts where il would be translated as she!) Many other terms, however, were new to me, so the learning-curve was steep. I’ll discuss some of the specialist vocabulary in a future post.

Over time I became more familiar with sailing-specific vocabulary and expressions, whether referring to parts of the boat, types of sails, directions on the boat, or manoeuvres, and I no longer spent so long doing research while translating. I therefore decided to start marketing myself not only as a sports specialist, but specifically as a sailing specialist too.

In search of other clients

I also began to attend boat shows, looking for potential clients to whom I could sell my newly acquired expertise. The entry fees for boat shows are pretty cheap, and I could fly from Barcelona to the venues for less than €70 return. For the Geneva show, I flew to Switzerland in the morning and returned to Barcelona in the evening, all for around €50. The biggest investment was therefore the office hours lost.

Unfortunately my efforts did not bear tangible fruit, as I failed to secure any new clients in the sector. The main reason, I believe, was that I was not meeting the people who actually handle translations. Besides, the boat shows had a strong focus on the leisure side of yachting, rather than solely on yacht racing.

The Yacht Racing Forum

It would have been easy to give up at that point and not bother attending any other sailing events. But then I heard about the Yacht Racing Forum, held this year in Malta. Not the cheapest or easiest place to get to, especially from where I was now living, and the delegates’ fee was far more expensive than entry to a boat show. But I couldn’t resist the opportunity to go to an event that would be attended by those involved in yacht racing, from boat owners and sailors to communications managers and magazine editors. More about the content of the Forum will follow in a future post.

My persistence paid off. I’ve not landed any new projects yet (it only ended a few days ago), but I’ve learnt an awful lot about sailing, how the industry works, and which people purchase translation services. I can now adopt a more targeted approach to pitching, and I’m expecting to receive a few phone calls or e-mails from people who asked me for my card as soon as I told them what I did. Delegates I spoke to were particularly impressed by the fact that I specialise in sailing, with one woman from a communications company lamenting some of the awful translations she has received from translators who know nothing about sailing.

Persevere, and target the right events

As mentioned above, I’ve attended many client events that have borne no fruit in terms of new clients. Perhaps the same is true for you. However, I’d encourage you to persevere, because the types of clients you find at such events often provide regular work at good rates, so when you eventually do acquire a new client, the investment will pay off.

I would, however, recommend trying to target the events you attend carefully. Try to see who will be attending, and aim to go to those where you’re likely to meet purchasers of translation services.

To give an example from my other specialist field, macroeconomics, two years ago I found out about the International Conference on Economic, Business, Financial and Institutional Translation. I wasn’t too keen on going, due to money I felt like I’d wasted on previous events. However, when I saw that people from the translation departments of international financial institutions (IFIs) would be there, I decided to attend. It was an excellent decision. I spoke to the head of an IFI translation department, told her about the extensive work I’d already done for the OECD, and as a result of that conversation I’ve earned a five-figure sum from that client!

So keep attending events, but target the ones where you’ll meet translation purchasers.


Olympic vocabulary in English, French, Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese

Anglo Premier specialises in sports translations. More information at www.anglopremier.com/sport.

There are some excellent online resources for vocabulary related to the Olympic Games in English, French, Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese.

For French and English, the France’s National Institute for Sport, Expertise and Performance produced an excellent glossary for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

The Fundación del Español Urgente has produced an excellent guide for journalists, the main focus being to avoid the unnecessary use of English terms.

Termcat produced a large glossary when Barcelona hosted the 1992 Games, and has continued to develop the glossary ever since. Its Diccionari de l’Esport includes terminology in English, French, Spanish and Catalan for all the Olympic disciplines, as well as for many non-Olympic sports.

Finally, for those who work with Portuguese, the Grupo de Pesquisa em Estudos Olímpicos has produced an English-Portuguese glossary for the Games in Rio de Janeiro, available here.


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Reaching new, expanding markets through translation

Oshikango and El Pertús

When I first visited Oshikango, a Namibian town lying right on the border with Angola, I couldn’t help but be reminded of El Pertús, a small town straddling the French-Spanish border in Catalonia. There are many parallels between the two.

As you approach El Pertús, you see a notable increase in the use of French, rather than Catalan or Spanish, on the signs of local businesses, the economy by the border being very much geared towards those living in France who venture south in search of cheaper goods. In bygone years there would have been no change in language as you headed into the old county of Rosselló, but centuries of language assimilation policies in France have depleted the use of the Catalan language north of the border, where it now has only a small presence, mainly in rural areas and among Perpignan’s gypsy community. The most obvious sign of the region’s Catalan roots is found on the letterboxes of houses, where you’re more likely to see names like Pujol and Ferrer than Dupont, albeit sometimes in a Gallicized form (e.g. Poujol).

The situation is very similar on the Namibian-Angolan border. To the south, the people speak the autochthonous Ovambo language, known as Oshiwambo by the locals, using the Oshikwanyama dialect; like in Catalonia, to the north of the border live a people with the same surnames, separated from their families by an aleatory line drawn on a map by a distant government, who, for the most part, have now abandoned their mother tongue and replaced it with a major international language, in their case Portuguese.

Like in El Pertús, the signs erected by businesses in Oshikango are in what is now the predominant language spoken north of the border, i.e. Portuguese, rather than in English and Ovambo, because so many people cross over from the north to buy cheaper goods.

Border checks

Of course, there are also some striking differences between El Pertús and Oshikango. First, the border in El Pertús is much more porous. The shops and restaurants, though situated in Spain, lie north of the checkpoint, which since the Schengen agreement is rarely manned anyway. The actual border runs along the kerbside of the main road through most of the town centre, which means that although the main road is entirely in France, the pavement and the shops and restaurants on the east side of the road are in Spain.

Namibians and Angolans can cross each other’s borders without obtaining a visa (as a British citizen, I would need a visa to enter Angola), but they must still pass through a border checkpoint and fill in lengthy forms. Once you’ve cleared the checkpoint, as you drive across the border you might notice a car driving straight towards you. That’s because as you drive on the left, approaching traffic from Angola will be driving on the right! You must pick the right moment to switch to the other side. A far cry from the motorway border overlooking El Pertús, where traffic crosses from one country to another while driving at 120 km/h.

Another major difference is the type of people crossing. In El Pertús, you’ll find families and pensioners popping over for a paella, or perhaps a working-class man coming down from Perpignan for cheaper cigarettes and beer. In Oshikango, you’re more likely to find people running small businesses coming over to buy stock from the wholesalers that abound in the Namibian town. Many come by bicycle, and it’s quite amazing just how much weight they can stack on their pushbikes. I use the word “pushbike”, rather than “bicycle”, to describe the return trip because they are pushbikes in the literal sense: the Angolans carry so much stuff that they must push the bikes back over the border with their hands.

Good translations for a new market

Like in Spanish Catalonia, Namibian businesses have tapped into the market created by those who venture across the border from the north. As mentioned earlier, monolingual Portuguese signs abound in Oshikango. But head further south into larger towns like Ondangwa and Oshakati, and the Portuguese language is still omnipresent, albeit often appearing alongside English or Ovambo. Even 800 km away in Windhoek, the Namibian capital, there are still many signs in Portuguese. Unlike in Oshikango, however, the Angolans who travel to other parts of Namibia are not small business owners stocking up on cheap goods, but wealthier Angolans travelling for business, leisure, shopping, education or medical treatment.

Namibians are aware of the Angolans’ purchasing power, which is why so many businesses translate their content into Portuguese. And unlike in Catalonia, where poor French and English translations abound, Namibian businesses seem to be producing very good Portuguese translations.

Olá Namibia

One noteworthy example of good translation practice is Olá Namibia. Produced by Sandgrouse Publications, this free annual booklet is funded by advertisements placed by Namibian businesses, mainly Windhoek-based. Almost all the adverts are only in Portuguese. The magazine publishers organize the Portuguese translations, sending the English texts supplied by the advertisers to qualified translators in Portugal.

The companies advertising in the booklet have clearly spent a lot of money on graphic design. It would have been a real shame had they compromised on the quality of the translated text, as so many companies in Europe do. If graphic designers produce poor-quality images for adverts, it adversely affects the image that the company seeks to portray.

The exact same thing happens with the text. Advertisers can spend large sums of money on producing good-quality texts, but those efforts are wasted if those texts are poorly translated.

Sandgrouse Publications can be very proud of the excellent quality translations they provide for their clients, who are thus able to portray a professional image to the wealthy, demanding customers who come from Angola. They are an example that many other publications and advertisers would do well to follow.


APTRAD conference in Portugal


In June, I attended the first conference organized by the Portuguese translation association APTRAD. They pulled out all the stops and attracted a line-up that included some of the biggest names in translation circles: Marta Stelmaszak (who eventually couldn’t make it, but provided a video talk), Michael Farrell, Andrew Morris, Tess Whitty, and Chris Durban.

As one might expect from an organization’s first conference, there were a few teething issues, especially technical problems. The organizers would do well to make sure they have a sound technician on site at future conferences, as there were various problems with sound, which were not helped by the venue’s atrocious acoustics. I’d also recommend that each session should have a moderator in charge of timekeeping, as a few speakers overran. Finally, they should have more people on the registration desk or allow people to register the day before, as the registration queue shortly before the opening session was far too long.

A packed social programme

On the whole, the organization on the whole was very good. The social programme was particularly impressive. On the Friday (the day before the conference), there were various visits and walks around Porto during the daytime, a visit to a port wine cellar and a performance of fado in the afternoon, and a pre-conference dinner in the evening. The gala dinner took place on the Saturday. On the Sunday there was a post-conference dinner and farewell party. And even on the Monday, when the main event was over (Chris Durban held a separate masterclass on the Monday morning), there was a lunch, followed by a cruise on the River Douro.

Lunch lasted just an hour and a half on both conference days, but since it was at the hotel venue, it did not feel too rushed.

A smorgasbord of sessions

Moving on to the actual conference content, it was due to begin with a welcome speech by Marta Stelmaszak. Unfortunately, she was unable to attend, so she recorded her speech in a video. However, due to technical problems, the organizers were unable to show the video in the allotted slot and had to show it later on the same day.

Susana Váldez gave a presentation entitled A freelancer as a team member: the translation project life cycle. She spoke about the importance of communication with the client and gave examples of when changes had been made either to a source text or to translations into other target languages as a result of questions she had posed. Susana also stressed that it is important to point out mistakes to clients, because it is what our client would want us to do and because it helps us to stand out from other translators.

Susana went on to discuss translation-workflow process and made the rather startling revelation that some agencies request a service called “TPE”, i.e. translation, proofread and editing from a single person! Many people in the room, including myself, were shocked to hear this. A translator should always revise and edit their own translations, irrespective of whether the translation will be passed on to another reviewer or editor. If you are looking to purchase translation services and somebody is offering you TPE by a single person, don’t be fooled into paying extra. The whole point of a translation being reviewed is for a second pair of eyes to see the translation, so you’re only getting an additional service if the review is done by a third party.

Arancha Caballero talked about the Elia Together conference held earlier in the year in Barcelona, an event I was unable to attend because it clashed with my wedding day. She spoke very highly of the event, underlining that it was an excellent opportunity for agencies and translators to meet and talk. After her presentation, several freelancers from the floor who had attended Elia Together said that it was the best opportunity they’d had to meet good, serious translation agencies. The next edition will be held in Berlin in February 2017.

Tess Whitty, famous for her podcast on “Marketing Tips for Translators”, gave out a number of tips on Future-proofing your translation business. These included:

  • Checking whether we’ve achieved our income goals at monthly, six-monthly and yearly intervals
  • Attending writing courses in the target language
  • Producing a brochure
  • Focusing on specific targets.

A brochure is still on my to-do list, so this was a helpful reminder to get it done!

She said we should avoid vague goals and set very specific ones, such as “I will join groups X, Y and Z on LinkedIn to reach 50 new people and acquire 5 new clients”. This sounds great, but how do you come up with those figures? Is there not a danger that we could focus too much effort on achieving a certain goal that is actually misguided or unrealistic?

Lloyd Bingham spoke on The path to professionalization. He said that translators do not get the same respect as doctors or lawyers, and he recommended that we present ourselves as a “professional translator” rather than as a “freelance translator” in order to be taken more seriously.

Day 2

The Sunday morning kicked off with a keynote speech by Manuel Sant’Iago Ribeiro. For me, it was disappointing, because he spoke almost exclusively about the different modes of interpreting. New information, perhaps, for a student taking their first interpreting class, but anybody already in the industry, or even at the end of a translation degree, would have learned very little.

It was a shame that Chris Durban was scheduled as a parallel session, rather than as a keynote address, as she was always going to attract a large crowd, such is her reputation among freelance translators. In other circumstances, I’d have attended Nádia Morais’s presentation on The Free Translator: taking the “free” out of freelancer, but I just couldn’t resist going to hear Chris Durban again, as her presentations are always helpful, insightful and motivating. She did not disappoint.

Chris spoke about pricing, and while she insisted that she does not recommend prices, she gave examples of what she had charged for certain, specific jobs in the past. She quoted American author Seth Godin, who wrote that freelancers (of any profession) should charge at least double the hourly rate that they’d want to earn as a salaried worker, and should spend half of their work time on marketing.

One thing Chris emphasized, however, perhaps more so than previous times I’ve heard her speak, was that we need to be good translators if we want to command the kind of fees that she charges. She argued that one of the reasons many translators are unable to earn premium rates is simply because they don’t translate well enough, and that many translators need to raise their quality before they’ll be able to hike their prices.

Chris backed this idea up with examples of translations that, on the face of it, seemed good, but had been done by translators working on auto-pilot, using expressions that a native, monolingual English speaker simply would not have written if they had produced the text in English.

Other pearls of advice included being aware of the cost of failure for the client when we pitch to them, and simply pausing when a potential client tells us that we’re too expensive. She also recommended that when we go to client events we should say that we’re there because of an upcoming job.

Carla Sousa’s presentation, entitled Geek translator? Yes please!, was, for me, a little disappointing, as many of the tools she presented, such as voice-recognition software, are already very well known. When the Mediterranean Editors and Translators conferences have a session on tools, the session is presented by a panel, and there is always time for recommendations from the floor. APTRAD would do well to do the same at future events to ensure that a wider variety of tools is presented.

Sue Lesche’s presentation, entitled The Translator/Interpreter as Entrepreneur – how to be enterprising, discussed the characteristics of entrepreneurs and the need to take calculated risks. She left me with several take-homes:

After two long days  not to mention the long journey to get to the conference  it was tempting to skip the final session. But I’d have missed out big-time had I done so!

Inga Michaeli’s Rough Guide to Translating Guide Books was both fascinating and insightful. Inga translates Lonely Planet books into Hebrew. She gave countless examples of how she has had to adapt guide books to her target audience, i.e. Hebrew-speaking Israelis.

One guide book, for instance, mentioned a “kosher” shop. An English-speaking person would understand that the shop sells kosher products. However, to a Jew from Israel it could not be described as kosher because it opened on Saturdays. If memory serves me correctly, she said that she changed it to say that the store sold traditional Jewish food.

Another example she gave was that the guide book on Georgia (that’s the country, not the American state) included a section about visiting Iran. Since Israeli nationals are prohibited from entering Iran, she removed the section from the Hebrew version of the guide book.

She gave many more curious examples, which I wish I could remember. But the important thing to take home was that we must adapt our translations to suit the target audience. I would strongly recommend her to any conference organizer, as she is an excellent, stimulating speaker who uses very clear examples to present her message.

To sum up, the conference was well attended, generally well organized, and had an excellent line-up of speakers. They have decided that they will not be holding a conference in 2017, but will instead wait until 2018. The 2016 conference was a great success and I look forward to attending again in two years’ time.


Getting paid in foreign currencies

This is an update of an article originally published on 4 September 2015. The updates refer to the depreciation of sterling following the Brexit referendum and small changes in how the platforms function.

One of the great things about being a freelance translator is that you can work for clients in different countries. Since I started out over a decade ago, I have worked for clients in Spain, France, Switzerland, the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the United States, Canada, Sweden, Austria, China, South Korea, Israel and Guatemala.

All translators can benefit from finding clients in other countries. But the crash in the value of the pound sterling following the Brexit vote makes this a particularly good time for UK-based translators to seek foreign-based clients.

How easy is it to get paid by a client in a country that uses a different currency?

The most obvious solution is an international bank transfer. But anybody who has done one before knows that banks charge hefty commission and fees. Some banks claim that they charge no fees, but in reality, their fee is hidden in the poor exchange rate they give you.

Many translators use Paypal or Skrill, but they too take a huge chunk of the pie and give poor exchange rates. The transaction fees can easily amount to more than 5%, which could cost you many hundreds of euros or pounds over a year, perhaps even thousands.

So, what other options are available?

The free solution

If you have a bank account in your client’s country, you could try to to find somebody you know and trust who wants to transfer money in the other direction and transfer money into each other’s bank account.

Example: Jim lives in the UK but also has a French bank account. He works for a German client who pays €1,000 into Jim’s French account. Jim needs to transfer the money to the UK.

Lee lives in Spain but also has a UK bank account. He works for a British client who transfers £1,000 into Lee’s UK account.

Jim and Lee agree to exchange money. Jim transfers €1,000 from his French account to Lee’s Spanish account. Meanwhile, Lee checks the official exchange rate (€1 = £0.7315 at the time of writing) and transfers £731.50 into Jim’s UK account.

Result: Jim has most of the money he earned in his UK account (the rest he can transfer another time, or use for online purchases or while on holiday), and Lee has all his money in his Spanish account.

The cheap solutions

Unfortunately, you can’t always find somebody who wants to transfer a similar amount of money in the opposite direction to you, but that’s where peer-to-peer (P2P) systems help.

P2P systems like CurrencyFair and TransferWise automatically match you with somebody transferring money in the opposite direction, and charge only a very small percentage in commission. TransferWise will take a fee of only 0.5%; CurrencyFair takes just 0.15%.

Of the two, TransferWise tends to be cheaper for smaller payments (less than £7,000), since CurrencyFair charges a £3/€3 withdrawal fee. However, you don’t have to withdraw money from CurrencyFair immediately, so you don’t have to pay £3/€3 on every payment you receive, but only on each withdrawal.

On the face of it, TransferWise sounds better for most freelance translators, but I actually prefer CurrencyFair. Some of the reasons why I prefer CurrencyFair are explained here, but one reason not mentioned is that to get paid with TransferWise, your client must have a TransferWise account; CurrencyFair, on the other hand, accepts payments from anyone.

Using CurrencyFair

Getting paid with CurrencyFair if you have a bank account in the client’s currency:

  • Give your client the bank details of your account in the client’s currency.
  • Once the money has cleared, log in to CurrencyFair, click on “Deposit” and add a pending deposit.
  • When logged in, click on “CurrencyFair Bank Accounts” to find out the details of CurrencyFair‘s account in the currency in which you were paid.
  • Make the payment to CurrencyFair using your online banking service, making sure you include the reference number provided by CurrencyFair for your account.
  • Wait for the e-mail confirming that the funds are uploaded and available in your CurrencyFair account.
  • Log in to your account and make a transfer using either the QuickTrade system (it gives you the best exchange rate currently offered by somebody exchanging money in the other direction) or, to save even more money, the Marketplace, where you can state the exchange rate you want and wait for somebody to accept it.
  • Transfer the funds to your account in your home country.

Getting paid with CurrencyFair if you don’t have a bank account in the client’s currency:

  • Log in to CurrencyFair and click on “Deposit” to add a pending deposit.
  • You probably won’t have your client’s bank details. Simply write “NA” in any boxes for which you have no information. CurrencyFair will still recognise the payment based on the amount and the reference number.
  • Put CurrencyFair’s account details for the client’s currency on your invoice and your customer reference number. Make it clear to the client that they must use this reference number when making the transfer. (NB One of my clients forgot this, but I e-mailed the client’s receipt for the transfer to CurrencyFair and they credited my account within 24 hours, so no need to worry too much if they forget.)
  • Wait for the e-mail confirming that the funds are uploaded and available in your CurrencyFair account.
  • Log in to your account and make a transfer using either the QuickTrade system (it gives you the best exchange rate currently offered by somebody exchanging money in the other direction) or, to save even more money, the Marketplace, where you can state the exchange rate you want and wait for somebody to accept it.
  • Transfer the funds from CurrencyFair to your account in your home country.

Getting paid in USD
Unfortunately CurrencyFair no longer has an account in USD and is not able to accept users based in the United States. For USD I would therefore recommend always using TransferWise. However, please note that your client must open a TransferWise account in order to pay you, so it’s probably not a viable solution if you’re working for a large company. With TransferWise, the client logs in and makes the payment, which is then automatically converted to your currency and transferred straight into your bank account in your home country.

WeSwap is totally different to the other two services. It is not suitable for getting paid, as funds can only be uploaded from one account owned by you in your home country. However, I’ve included it anyway as it’s a great way to make online purchases (Google charges in USD, so I use WeSwap). It also allows you to save money on currency exchange while travelling, while avoiding carrying around lots of cash.

WeSwap is only available to persons resident in the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain or Sweden.

With WeSwap, after you set up an account you will be sent a pre-pay debit card (Mastercard) through the post. You can then load funds on to the card by bank transfer or using an ordinary debit card, and then you can convert those funds into another currency on the website.

The conversion is done at the mid-market rate, and the commission is just 1.4% if you need an immediate conversion, 1.3% if you are willing to wait up to 3 days, or 1.0% if you can wait a week.

Once your money is converted, you can spend it in the country you are visiting (or for online purchases), either using the card for card payments in stores (always free), or by withdrawing money from a cash machine (free for withdrawals of at least £200, €250 or equivalent).

I like to upload my funds a few weeks before travelling so that I can buy tickets for events and domestic transport in advance, since the 1.0% fee is cheaper than what your bank will charge you for using your credit card (you won’t see commission on your statement, but it will be hidden in the exchange rate they give you).

Currencies supported: CurrencyFair (open drop-down list), TransferWise, WeSwap
Fees: CurrencyFair, TransferWise, WeTransfer

Special offers
If you decide to sign up for these excellent services, please use the links provided below, as by using them both you and I will benefit from a special offer.

CurrencyFair: If you use this link, once you have transferred the equivalent of €400 we will both receive €30.
TransferWise: If you use this link, you will receive a free transfer for up to £500. For every 3 people who sign up, I will receive £50.
WeSwap: If you use this link, you’ll get £5 free credit and I’ll get £10.


Purge the junk from Linguee please!

One extremely useful tool that translators have begun using in recent years is Linguee. In bygone years, to find out how a term had been translated on a bilingual website we would usually have to open the page in one language, then find the same page in our target language (which on some websites was not easy) and try to find the same sentence.

Linguee made this process easier by searching through bilingual websites and displaying sentences containing our term in one column, and the translations of those sentences in another column (see image below).

Understandably, many mediocre translations end up in the database, and we can forgive Linguee for search results that include, for instance, poor translations from a European Union webpage, since Linguee will just add all European Union texts.

However, it would be nice if Linguee could start purging out some of the websites whose translations are consistently poor, if not nonsensical. What is particularly frustrating for translators is that some of these websites seem to be favoured by the search results.

Two such websites are jordipujol.cat (a site launched by now-disgraced former Catalan president Jordi Pujol) and solicitormarbella.com.


The above results were all from a single search for “urbanizable”. Clearly the English texts are machine translations. Not only that, but the result from jordipujol.cat contains a machine translation of a machine translation. Nobody is discussing developing property on the sun! Rather, “sol urbanizable” is a mistranslation of the Catalan “sòl urbanitzable”, probably as a result of the Catalan author writing “sol” (meaning sun, also “sol” in Spanish) instead of “sòl” (meaning land, “suelo” in Spanish).

I have just sent a message to Linguee asking for the two inactive websites to be removed from Linguee. It will be interesting to see whether they are removed.


Translating graph and table labels from Spanish/Catalan to English

It is easy to fall into the trap of using literal translations when labelling graphs and tables, but we should try to look for translations that sound more natural. Here are a few quick thoughts on translating some of the expressions that often come up in Spanish (Catalan) texts:

Illustración/Gráfico (Il·lustració/Gràfic)

Usually followed by a number. These labels usually refer to some kind of graph. I would suggest translating it as Figure.

Evolución de… (Evolució de…)

My current project has the following label for one of the graphs:

Evolució del dèficit d’habitatge a Seül, 1926 – 2009

If the project had been in Spanish it would have read:

Evolución del déficit de vivienda en Seúl, 1926 – 2009

Evolución (Evolució) is always a tricky word to translate. The English cognate, evolution, is not used nearly as frequently as the Spanish (Catalan) word.

In the context of graphs, the Spanish and Catalan words usually refer to the fact that the graph shows information over a period of time. My suggestion here is simply to leave it out in the English, since the date in the label already makes it clear that the data refer to a period of time (if the date range is not in the Spanish or Catalan label or title, we could add it).

So, my translation of the Catalan was as follows:

Housing shortage in Seoul, 1926-2009

Elaboración propia (Elaboració pròpia)

Anyone who translates from Catalan to English will, at some point, have had the headache of having to translate the phrase llengua pròpia. Part of the problem is that in English we can’t normally use the word own next to a noun without an accompanying possessive pronoun such as his or my.

An additional problem with the designation elaboración propia (elaboració pròpia) is that elaboración (elaboració) and elaboration are false cognates. The English word implies adding more detail to something, rather than producing something.

Based on my experience of texts written in English, my suggestion is to translate the phrase as Author’s work, or if the document has more than one author, Authors’ work (NB: make sure you double check whether you need the singular or plural possessive if it comes up as an “exact” match from your translation memory, as your previous project might have had a different number of authors!)

Do you agree with my proposed translations? What other tricky terms do you often see next to tables and graphs?


Don’t overuse connectors when translating into English

One of things that can make an English translation look like an English translation is overuse of connectors, or linking expressions, between sentences. Such expressions are much more common in Romance-language texts than they are in English. Here is an example from a text I was working on this morning, used with the author’s permission.

Hay quien afirma que la traducción automática es simplemente una herramienta más de traducción. Otros, en cambio, defienden que estamos ante un cambio de paradigma en la profesión. En cualquier caso, los defensores de ambas concepciones de la traducción automática la utilizan con reticencias.

I have marked the two connectors in bold. My first draft read as follows:

Some say that machine translation is just another translation tool. Others, meanwhile, argue that it represents a paradigm shift in the profession. However, neither view is expressed without reservations.

When revising my translation, I was uncomfortable with the result, which didn’t seem to flow well. My solution was to remove the adverb “meanwhile”, which is unnecessary in English, since the words “some” and “others” already provide the necessary contrast in English. I also moved the position of “however” away from the beginning of the sentence, which is another useful technique to make English translations sound more authentic.


Macro to replace smart quotes and smart apostrophes with straight quotes and straight apostrophes in Word

Please forgive me for the long title. A shameless attempt at getting more Google hits!

Many users of CAT tools like to convert smart quotes and apostrophes to straight ones before translating their documents, because if the straight versions are always used, it means concordance searches for words including apostrophes will always work.

The problem is that it takes quite a while to do this in MS Word. You can’t just find/replace the apostrophes, because even if you put a straight apostrophe in the replace box, Word will interpret it as a smart apostrophe if you have set Word up to use straight apostrophes and quotes.

Of course, you could change that setting, but then it is more complicated to convert the straight varieties to the smart varieties after exporting from your CAT tool.

The solution is to use a macro that will automatically switch smart quotes and apostrophes off, then perform the search, then switch them back on.

Here’s a macro that will do just that.

Option Explicit
Sub ReplaceQuotes()
' ReplaceQuotes Macro, by Timothy Barton, Anglo Premier Translations
Application.Options.AutoFormatAsYouTypeReplaceQuotes = False

With Selection.find
.Text = ChrW(8220)
.Replacement.Text = """"

.Forward = True
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = False
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = False
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False

End With
Selection.find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll

With Selection.find
.Text = ChrW(8221)
.Replacement.Text = """"

End With
Selection.find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll

With Selection.find
.Text = "´"
.Replacement.Text = "'"

.Forward = True
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = False
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = False
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False

End With
Selection.find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll

With Selection.find
.Text = "‘"
.Replacement.Text = "'"

.Forward = True
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = False
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = False
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False

End With
Selection.find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll

With Selection.find
.Text = "’"
.Replacement.Text = "'"

.Forward = True
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = False
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = False
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
End With
Selection.find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
Application.Options.AutoFormatAsYouTypeReplaceQuotes = True

Dim oShell As Object
Dim iResponse As Integer
Set oShell = CreateObject("Wscript.Shell")

iResponse = MsgBox("Procedure complete. Code provided by Timothy Barton, Anglo Premier Translations. Would you like to visit the website?", _
vbYesNo, "Procedure complete")

If iResponse = vbYes Then
oShell.Run ("http://www.anglopremier.com?utm_campaign=apostrophesmacro&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=blog")
Exit Sub
End If

End Sub