Category Archives: Translation

Mostly content for fellow translators.

Harsh Realities for Beginning Translators

I have on numerous occasions had that warm feeling of being thanked by new translators for advice I purported to give. But it is always accompanied by the stark reality, mostly unspoken by me, that the person who is thanking me is very unlikely to be able take away anything from my advice beyond the extreme difficulty of succeeding in a translation market in which there is nowhere to go but down for most translators. Today, however, I will speak of that reality. Unless you: are highly skilled in a number of areas (including, but certainly not limited to, source-language comprehension, target-language writing, and subject-specific expertise) and are willing to … Continue reading

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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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Hoping

Countless times I have heard translators say things like “I hope to get work like that someday.” The reality is that almost none of these translators will ever get “work like that,” and hoping won’t change that reality. The people who have those hopes usually don’t have a clue as to what they would need to do to get what they want. Nor are many of them even aware of how slim their chances are of getting “work like that.” For almost all translators, the outlook is dismal at best. For the sake of this discussion, I will define “work like that” as follows. These characteristics happen to apply to … Continue reading

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