Author Archives: William Lise

Supply-side Tiers: A Different Way of Looking at the Translation Business

Translators often classify clients as agency clients and direct clients. Regarding the supply side of the translation business, Neil Langdon Inglis many years ago posited that there was a de facto caste system among translators. Another approach is to discuss the translation supply side in terms of tiers, employing terminology that is commonly used in fields such as the auto industry, which might be useful in looking at the differences between translation and other businesses. Tier One.  In the translation supply chain, tier one (T1) is populated by translation providers (including agencies and some individuals) selling translations to translation consumers (as opposed to other translation sellers). Tier Two.  Translation providers that sell … Continue reading

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Taking More Money for Your Translations

(Adopted with minor changes from comments I made in a panel discussion at the IJET-9 Conference, held in Yokohama way back in 1998. Nothing much has changed to invalidate these comments.) I would like to present a few ideas on how you can take more money for your translation, focusing on the act of taking. My comments are basically directed at non-Japanese translators trying to make more money translating in Japan, but they should have value to translators in other situations as well. The suggestions given below for making more money include some generalities. Naturally, there are exceptions that can be pointed out. Remember, however, that what we call wisdom … Continue reading

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Some Thoughts on Japanese Reading and Comprehension

Just how well do you need to read Japanese to be a JA-to-EN translator? I have heard this question from beginners, and thought I would make a few comments, which could perhaps be of some interest even to experienced translators. Naturally, I am directing my comments to NES (native English speaker) translators, the group that has the highest potential of achieving professional-level translation ability in JA-to-EN translation. Starting Out Many translators, and particularly the vast majority of translators working in the bulk market, are fortunate in that most translation situations allow them to hide from their clients, translating in the seclusion of their workplace, without the danger of being discovered scampering through … Continue reading

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Pressing Flesh is not Just for Politicians: The Value of Face-to-Face Sales for Translators

As a follow-up to comments directed at translators who have declared or are about to declare defeat to translation market forces or some imagined structural impediments that they think hold them back from advancing from the bottom end of the market into premium translation, here is an example of some chain-reaction encounters that can happen if you hang out in the right places. It goes without saying that what follows is a personal experience, but I think it worthwhile to relate what can happen when you get out from in front of your computer, look up from your small screen, and press the flesh. To start off with some background, … Continue reading

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The Translator Echo Chamber: The Effect of Social Media

As I wrote in a recent article, it appears that translators of a feather flock together in social media groups, and that the grouping is generally in line with their position on the continuum between the bottom of the bulk market and the top of the premium market. Having come together in this manner, it appears that a group mentality is formed, with translators reinforcing each other’s views of what is common and expected in translation and resisting opposing views. If a newcomer to translation wanders into a group populated mostly by translators near the bottom of the continuum, the takeaway is likely to be that normal and expected characteristics of … Continue reading

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Some Modest Predictions for Translation in 2018

As we start a new year, here are a few thoughts I have about how things might go in the translation field. They are subjective thoughts, of course, which is another way of saying that they are supported by my observations over decades in the translation business and, more specifically, over the past year or so. Translator upward mobility. I expect that, for most translators, upward mobility in the translation food chain, which is already difficult, will gradually become even more difficult. Additionally, in at least certain markets (such as my language pair of Japanese-to-English), there is a chance that, depending upon a translator’s current position in the market, involuntary … Continue reading

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The Basics of Qualifying Prospective Translation Clients

Regardless of whether you are out there selling your services or take a more passive approach by preferring to wait for inquiries, you will likely waste a good deal of time (and risk losing both time and money) if you do not quickly judge whether a prospective client is “real,” which is really actually just determining whether working for the client will be rewarding in the way you expect to be rewarded for your work. Because there is a wide spectrum of expectations, depending largely upon a translator’s position in the food chain, a single translator’s view of qualifying a client might not seem reasonable to another translator. Hear me … Continue reading

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Meet Me Under a Bridge for Some Exciting News

Executive summary: Anonymity in cyberspace should be eliminated. There has been lots of talk lately about the responsibility of social media companies for removing content that promotes terrorism. I agree that they should do that. But complaints about terrorist hatred and recruiting people to implement their ideas completely ignore the root problem, which is that social media companies (and the internet in general) virtually assure their customers that they can remain anonymous, even to the social media companies themselves. It becomes easier to be irresponsible or criminal if you are assured of your anonymity. For example, you can establish any number of fake accounts and anonymous pages on Facebook without … Continue reading

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The Dumbing Down of America: Someone Got it Right

In 1996, concerned about Americans losing the ability to understand, think, and question, someone wrote: I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time–when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical facilities in decline, unable to distinguish what … Continue reading

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A Plea for Responsible Engagement in the Lawless Land of Facebook

I wonder whether people stop to think before they knee-jerk share or like.  Think about what? Well, for starters: Most Facebook pages (not user accounts, although tens of millions of those are also faked) are anonymous and therefore not credible. And many Facebook pages list a URL, but that is almost never any help in discovering who is posting their content and operating the Facebook page and website, because they are masked. How in the world can such a masked website purporting to operate a Facebook page have (1) a privacy policy and (2) a terms of service page if they hide the identity of the owner of the website … Continue reading

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