Volume 11, No. 4 
October 2007

  Alexandra Russell-Bitting

Front Page  
Select one of the previous 41 issues.


Index 1997-2007

TJ Interactive: Translation Journal Blog

  Translator Profiles
On the Importance of Schmoozing
by Alexandra Russsell-Bitting
Standing Tall in the Profession: Interview with Alexandra Russell-Bitting
by Verónica Albin

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee

  Translators Around the World
Maltese Translation in Transition
by Janet Mallia

  TJ Cartoon
Great Moments in Languages — Gift from Heaven
by Ted Crump

  Translation Theory
Synonymy in Translation
by Said M. Shiyab, Ph.D.

  Translation Nuts and Bolts
Romance Gender Benders: Gender of Nouns in the Romance languages
by Carl Stoll

  Legal Translation
El diccionario jurídico español-árabe como herramienta útil para la traducción en el ámbito del Derecho y la mediación intercultural
Aguessim El Ghazouani Abdellatif

  Book Review
Blue Lines on Black Ink: A Look at a New Book on Censorship and Translation
by Verónica Albin
A Non-Native User's Perspective of Corpus-Based Dictionaries of English and French
by Estela Carvalho
Hey, counsel, you've plagiarized my book!
by Danilo Nogueira
Engenheiros do Destino/Engineers of Fate de/by José Lamensdorf
Dayse Batista

  Translator Education
How New Technologies Improve Translation Pedagogy
by María José Varela

  Arts & Entertainment
A to Z of Screenplay Translation
by Alireza Ameri

Eileen Chang's Translation of The Golden Cangue
by Deng Jing

  Translators' Tools
Creating the Ideal Word Processing Environment in Translation Environment Tools
by Jost Zetzsche
Manual MT Post-editing: “if it's not broken, don't fix it!”
by Rafael Guzmán
Linguoc LexTerm: una herramienta de extracción automática de terminología gratuita
Antoni Oliver, Mercè Vázquez, Joaquim Moré
Translators’ Emporium

  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor
Translators’ Best Websites
by Gabe Bokor

Translators' Events

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
  Translation Journal

Translator Profile

On the Importance of Schmoozing

by Alexandra Russell-Bitting

ne evening many lifetimes ago when I was studying translation in graduate school at the University of Paris while working part-time as a bilingual secretary at a law firm, I got invited to a dinner party. The woman sitting next to me happened to be an English-to-French literary translator. A former neighbor of hers, who was a doctor, was trying to place an article in a prestigious American medical journal and had begged her to translate the abstract of his paper into English. "Aren't you studying translation?" she asked me, anxious to pass this assignment on to someone else. "Maybe you can help him."

It was that serendipitous conversation with a friend of a friend that got me my first paid translation, launching my career. I met with the doctor and spent hours working on his one-paragraph summary of a neonatology study. The doctor and I actually made a very good team: I was a student but a native English speaker; he knew all the medical terminology but couldn't have written a grammatically correct sentence in English if his life depended on it.

Once the translation was finished to our mutual satisfaction, I got up all my nerve and asked him if he knew anyone else who might be in need of such services. "I do," he replied, and referred me to a medical library, where I introduced myself to the librarian. "Oh, lots of people ask me for English translators," she said, and offered to give me free access to the library, which was normally reserved for doctors only. Now this was in the Early Paleolithic before PCs and the Internet, which meant you had to actually physically move yourself to the place where reference material was located, if you can imagine such a thing.

The moral of the story is network, network, network. This approach also eventually helped land me the job I've had for close to 20 years now. I was temping as a secretary in a consulting firm and befriended one of the junior professionals there, a doctoral candidate in sociology. She herself was applying to the Inter-American Development Bank and because she knew I knew languages she got information for me on the translation section. "Here's the name of the section chief," she told me, "you should call him."

I did, and as luck would have it they were hiring. The actual hiring process took several months, but my point is if I had never talked to Françoise or Trina about languages and translation, even when I was a just a student or a secretary, I would not have ended up where I am today. Of course, you want to make sure you always come across as a professional rather than a pest, so make your best pitch and then step back and let the person respond... or not.

And networking should extend beyond your friends, neighbors and coworkers: perhaps most importantly, you need to network with your fellow linguists. The ATA is an invaluable resource for building connections with other translators. Such contacts can help you find potential clients. In addition, you never know when you might need to share an urgent assignment, refer a client looking for another language combination, ask a question or find a reviser or editor.

When looking to establish yourself as a translator, just always remind yourself that you have a valuable skill to offer, one that is in demand.

Selected writings by Alex:

On translation:

Octavio Paz translator Eliot Weinberger: http://www.iadb.org/idbamerica/index.cfm?thisid=1265&lanid=1

Don Quixote translator Edith Grossman: http://www.iadb.org/idbamerica/index.cfm?thisid=3453

On ATA events:

On Translation and Terrorism:
"Translation and Terrorism Panel Discussion Draws Unprecedented Media Coverage," ATA Chronicle, January 2003

"ATA in the News: More Media Coverage of the Translation and Terrorism Forum," ATA Chronicle, May 2003

On Medical interpreting:

"California Considers Ban on Medical Interpreting by Children, Other State Legislatures May Follow," ATA Chronicle, May 2006

On Language and Development

Neologisms in International Development:
Translating English Terms into Spanish, French, and Portuguese
Translation Journal, Volume 4, No. 1, January 2000

On culture:

Tango in Washington: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/12/AR2007071200706.html

Brazilian Minister of Culture: http://www.iadb.org/idbamerica/index.cfm?thisid=2465

Latino artists in Washington: http://www.iadb.org/idbamerica/index.cfm?thisid=2377