On Why (Good) Translators Are Important

Someone gave me a handy little diary recently. I was particularly pleased because I’m not always that quick on the draw and in South Africa, diaries are sold out by the 15th of January. This usually means that I have to ‘maak a plan‘* and find a suitable alternative, or depend on kind-hearted friends to pass on freebie corporate diaries to ensure my year unfolds in a neat and orderly fashion.

So when the aforementioned diary arrived out of the blue and had a useful set of extras, I was quite thrilled: maps, country dialling codes, weight and measurement conversions and all the other standard ‘diary’ fare.

Things were looking up.

Until I tried to fill in my contact details in the event of the dreaded misfortune of actually losing said diary:

On Why (Good) Translators Are Important

Suddenly, all the added extras weren’t looking so attractive. So I checked out the size chart, the conversions, the dialling codes and all the other value-added bonuses.

And I no longer felt confident.

Nor was I that thrilled anymore. I’d lost faith in the accuracy of not only the content of the diary, but also in the brand of the company that provided the diary.

And this is why (good) translators are important. Because we offer a certain dependability, and this is passed on to not only our clients, but also to their brands.

That, and also because we all need a good diary.

For other (hilariously funny) marketing mistranslations if you’re not yet entirely convinced, take a look at this article.

*Maak ‘n plan means ‘make a plan’ in Afrikaans for those who couldn’t decipher its cryptic trickery


The Benefits of Going Direct – For Clients and Freelancers

BooksThe translation industry seems to be getting quite a bit of publicity. First there was “The Great Invisible Industry” article on Fox business that I spoke about in my last post. Then Huffington Post’s Nina Sankovitch offered her mea culpa for not having previously acknowledged the work of translators in making it possible for her to enjoy the books of authors from around the world. This was then picked up by Nataly Kelly in yet another Huffington Post article.

The common underlying theme is that translators are a hard-working bunch that toil away thanklessly in the darkness, never quite getting their day in the sun.

Unless, of course, if they go direct.

The majority of my clients are direct and this has been a conscious business decision on my part. It allows me to build personal (and lasting) client relationships and satisfies my need to actively operate as an entrepreneur. As with all ventures, this comes with risks, but that also means that the returns are more attractive. It goes without saying that this approach results in improved earnings, as well as happier clients who benefit from a better rate than if they had to pay the middleman.

What I found especially interesting in Nataly Kelly’s piece, in which she neatly outlines the ‘buying’ process, was that clients themselves are becoming aware of the benefits of having a direct link with translators, and that without it, there’s a noticeable impact on translation quality. I know that this particularly applies to on-going projects when it comes to things like ensuring cohesiveness, because agencies may have several different translators working consecutively (or even simultaneously) on a project.

In a direct situation, this doesn’t happen. My clients know that they have a single point of contact, which means I’m acutely aware of their specific needs and requirements. It also ensures accuracy and consistent terminology over the long-haul.

And then there’s also the fact that there’s a certain extra added commitment from freelancers, precisely because we’re  often one man shows. The success of our businesses is directly related to our professional and financial well-being, so we often give new meaning to the phrase “jumping through hoops”. As in, how high?

That said, I’d be interested to hear your preferences via email or in the comments. So over to you.

Why Translators Can Survive Tough Economic Times

Kevin Hendzel, spokesperson for the American Translators Association, says the translation industry is growing.

In a recent Fox Business article (“The ‘Great Invisible Industry’ That Speaks Your Language“),  Hendzel said: ” This is the only industry that grew through the recession, because globalization continues to accelerate and demand continues to grow.”

As a freelance French to English translator based in South Africa, I couldn’t agree more. With Francophone Africa being seen as a final frontier by many investors, having an ‘in-demand’ language pair and being well placed from a location point of view has meant not only surviving tough economic times, but has in fact helped to expand my business.

South African Rands

That said, location and language pairs are not the only two important factors and Hendzel mentions this in the article. The key is specialisation. Providing a niche service concentrating on legal translations has allowed my business to grow. I’ve been able to set myself apart and obtain new business contracts, and this is only because I offer a complete set of services to potential investors

That said, there are other important points to consider, especially when competition is tough.  Marketing, of course, is one of them. But that’s a subject for an entirely different post.

However, the following points in the article are worth remembering, because they offer positive reminders of the opportunities available to us as translators:

  • According to the ATA, there are 13.5 million translators and interpreters (I would of course assume this is in America alone) and the industry is growing at 13% per year
  • The federal and local US governments collectively spend almost $2 billion per year on translation services
  • Freelance translators earn between $25 000 and $175 000 annually, with UN translators earning up to $200 000.

What I especially like about the article is where he says, “”It’s one of those great invisible industries, and a great enabler of international commerce.” I quite like officially living out Mr. Adam Smith’s idea of la main invisible.

Welcome to Muse Translation News

French to English TranslationWelcome to Muse Translation News, the professional blog of Muse Translation, a niche French to English translation service specialising in legal translations, business and mining agreements, international development reports and environmental studies.

I’m Marie-Louise and in this space I’ll be talking about life as a freelance translator, the translation industry and about learning foreign languages. If you’re interested, you can find out more in my About page.

This is where I share the thrills and spills of my journey and connect with translators on a similar path.

Please feel free to get in touch, I always like to hear your thoughts and ideas. Watch this space for news and developments.