Thursday, December 12, 2013

Guest post: a report from Trikonf 2013

We all know that CPD and networking are an essential part of a freelance translator’s professional life – and they can be really enjoyable on a personal level, too.
I am happy to post a Conference report from a colleague who, like me, enjoys keeping in touch with other translators and sees them as team mates instead of competitors.

Nelia Fahloun is a qualified English and Spanish to French translator, specializing in legal and marketing translation. She runs her own business Babeliane Traductions.
At Trikonf13 she was also a speaker, presenting a seminar about the freelance translator’s working environment and network.

Thank you Nelia for your report!

It has been a few weeks since I came back from the Tri-National Translation Conference, or TriKonf, which took place on 18-20 October in Freiburg em Brisgau, Germany. 
Elisa and I connected on social networks a few weeks before the TriKonf and then started chatting on Skype on a regular basis. Elisa then offered me to write a guest post reporting on my experience of the conference, and I am happy to oblige her! I should add (as I did during the conference) that my Skype exchanges with Elisa prior to the conference were a great moral support as I was struggling to find time to actually write my presentation, so kudos to you, Elisa!

My experience at the TriKonf can be summed up with a few words: it was brilliantly organized, the sessions were diverse and inspiring and most of all, the participants were friendly, open and all willing to network. 
The TriKonf was a unique conference in many ways:
- sessions were held in three languages: German, English and French
- the organizers managed to obtain support from major European professional associations of translators and interpreters
- the event attracted around 140 participants from Europe and beyond, which is admirable considering that it was privately organized.

The conference was organized in a single location, the Historisches Kaufhaus, which is worth seeing in itself. 
The actual conference took place on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 October, with masterclasses in English or German organized on the Friday. 
I would have loved to attend the Friday masterclasses, but due the long travel hours, that would have meant leave home on Thursday morning.

The programme catered for all tastes and specializations and I think the luckiest ones were attendees who could understand English, French and German as they were able to choose among all sessions. You cannot imagine how much I now regret not learning German during my school years!

Attending this conference has confirmed what I had previously noted at previous translator events: even if the travel is long and the programme packed with sessions, even if I come home physically tired, I enjoy every minute of it and have the impression to go back to work with a newfound energy. Everyone I met at TriKonf has been very positive, and also eager to learn and happy to connect. Some people see other translators as competitors, but I don't. I may be naive, but all I saw in Freiburg was a great bunch of very intelligent people with a lot of experience, diverse opinions, backgrounds, language combinations and specializations and so much to give to the translation community, be they speakers or participants. 
There was discussion over the term of "translation industry" and I have to admit I have no ready opinion on whether we are part of an "industry" as such. I like the word "community" a lot better.

For photos and archives of TriKonf 2013, feel free to visit The next TriKonf will take place on 9-11 October 2015 and the website will be updated in due course.

By Nelia Fahloun - Babeliane Traductions

Thursday, September 19, 2013

International Translation Day: let's celebrate!

As many of you know, International Translation Day is celebrated every year on September 30, traditionally St. Jerome's day, who is considered the translator of the Bible and is celebrated as the patron saint of translators. In 1991, FIT (International Federation of Translators) promoted the idea of an officially recognized Translation Day, inviting the whole world to acknowledge and show appreciation for the profession. 

As the date is getting close, I am pleased to share a beautiful project by Belgian translator Emeline Jamoul, who kindly contacted me to ask if I am willing to participate. Of course I am!

To support our profession, raise awareness about its importance, and share the love, Emeline is planning to:
- ask as many translators as possible to write down what translation means to them, and publish all the answers on a dedicated blog on Sept. 30;
- create the hashtag #Translationis which we can use to tweet a sentence beginning with “Translation is...”;
- publish an interview with a translator every day from Sept. 20 to 30.

For more details on the project and to contact Emeline, please click here.

Fellow translators, proudly participate and make it a great day!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

E-mails: writing and replying

As freelancers, communication and networking are an essential part of our strategy; getting it right is key to our professional image and success.
Whether you’re contacting potential clients or networking with new colleagues, writing and replying to e-mails (or other messages) is routine in business; I would like to share my top tips and insights about this (only apparently) simple and straightforward task.

- Do your research. Be informed about who you're addressing: this lays the foundations for your communication (and reputation, too: you cannot build trust if you don't care enough). Also, say you appreciate what they do.
- Address people by name. If you’re pitching to a prospect and want to stand out, you certainly shouldn’t treat them as if their name didn’t even matter. Starting a conversation as if the recipient were someone anonymous or random is annoying to who’s actually reading. And looking up a person’s name is a basic sign of respect. It also takes just a few seconds: most “Contact” pages also list staff names and positions in the company.
Be careful with names that may refer to both male and female: take a few minutes to check elsewhere, for ex. social profiles or articles about that person, to find out (I had to do this recently).
- Be concise but relevant. If it's your first message, a few lines are really enough to introduce yourself, state why you're writing, and indicate what they shall do (contact you if interested? Answer a specific question? Collaborate on a project?). Don't put in too much information, its not necessary at this stage and it wouldn't get the attention you're hoping for. You need to be able to select the appropriate relevant info to appeal to your contact, then leave them with the option to reply and find out more.
- Don't sell just quality, sell benefits. You're an oustanding translator/proofreader and that's fine - that's a must actually. But people often remember that we exist only when they actually need something translated (urgently, of course), or they don't even know they need our services, for example they have a badly translated website or other material that needs editing without them being aware. State why and how your services should benefit their company.
- Thank the person for taking time to read your message. This is is not just a formality for me - it is something very important. I believe that acknowledging each other's contribution makes everything nicer and healthier.

That said, let me take the whole issue to the next step: we all write and receive e-mails, but what about replying?

My opinion is that when an e-mail is properly written, i.e. it's kind and respectful, it is a matter of politeness and professionality to reply and to do it accordingly (that is, being equally kind and respectful). No matter your interest or availability – a "Sorry to say no [we don't need your services / it doesn't fit our budget or schedule right now / I don’t have the answer to your inquiry / whatever], but thanks for your time and interest" is perfectly fine and, in my opinion, way better than no reply at all. If someone takes the time to show interest in you/your company, then they equally deserve the time of a couple of lines. How long does it take after all? You don't have to do it immediately; we're all busy and we all need to organize our daily schedule and prioritize. But I am sure we can all squeeze in a few seconds within a reasonable timeframe - some days are still ok if the matter is not urgent.

As for myself, I value very much people who do respond and I am much more willing to work or keep in touch with them, for a simple reason: they prove to be polite, open, and reliable. Three qualities I am daily committed to, and that - in turn - I would really like to see in others too.

In a very interesting SDL webinar called "Conflict and Resolution:unreasonable customers and tricky situations", linguist Judy Jenner pointed out that replying or not replying may also depend on culture; for example, her twin sister and business partner Dagmar finds that not replying as a way to say (or, to avoid saying!) "not interested" is much more common in Europe than in the USA, where – Judy says – it's more likely that the person had actually forgotten about the message and even appreciates a reminder.
I am European and I must say Dagmar has a point here: it often happens. Still, it never fails to surprise (and disappoint) me.

It would be interesting to hear more perspectives on this. Any comments? Share them here!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Coursera: my own experience

Image from the course "Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life" offered by Coursera

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about some great opportunities for free high-quality online education. Because CPD is so important (natural sciences is one of my specialization areas), and out of genuine interest for the subject, I signed up for the 5-week course “Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life” on Coursera, offered by the University of Edinburgh and the UK Centre for Astrobiology and taught by professor Charles Cockell. I successfully completed the course and got a certificate with distinction, having scored 100% in the weekly quizzes.
I would like to share my own experience, which is very positive.
Far from having to do with some science fiction stuff, the course dealt with some concrete issues with scientific rigour: astrobiology is a rapidly developing branch of science that aims at understanding the origin and evolution of life on our planet and investigating the possibilities of life elsewhere, whether it’s microbial or intelligent. Of course there are still a lot of unanswered questions, things we still can’t understand. The lessons were structured so that scientific data and reasonable hypotheses were effectively balanced –  I would say, science with an open mind.
Astrobiology is also a very multidisciplinary subject involving astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, genetics, geology, even philosophy.
The course was designed to be accessible to a wide audience but did not lack detailed insights, so my subject-matter knowledge turned out to be helpful to grasp concepts better and link the dots.
Some of the things I especially appreciated are:
- you can pause and replay the videos as often as you like;
- you can take extensive notes and use them as a reference to carry out further research on the issues that pick your interest, and to compile a glossary (very helpful for translators!);
- scripts and videos of the classes are available in an archive and can also be downloaded, and stay there in your personal course record even after you have completed the course, so you can get back to them anytime;
- the teacher regularly interacted and answered some of the most interesting questions from students in a dedicated forum, and the course staff was very open to feedback;
- for those who take courses in one of their non-native languages, it’s a great chance to keep your ear trained.
As for the quizzes, I think the difficulty level was quite appropriate; what I especially liked was that some questions were not strictly related to this or that sentence or slide from a given lecture – instead, they required further research or, at least, an effort to go beyond a single concept and try to grasp the bigger picture behind it.

Since February, Coursera has some news: 29 new universities joined the platform, which means more courses on different subjects and 4 more languages available: Spanish, Italian, French and Chinese, even if for a very limited number of courses (the vast majority are in English).

Like I said, the classes are offered by different universities and institutes, so the course logistics can vary a lot. I had a very enjoyable experience with the Astronomy course and have already signed up for more courses – I’ll report back!
What about your own experience with MOOCs? I’d like to hear from you.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday fun... and reminder!

Taken from IAPTI Facebook page
A golden rule for freelance translators: network, network, network! Go out and meet people. Soak in your specialisms in person - readings and online resources are great, but you need to be out there, too. Let potential clients know how you can help them. And always have your business cards with you.