Volume 13, No. 3 
July 2009

Fire Ant
Fire Ant

Worker Bee
Worker Bee


Front Page

Select one of the previous 48 issues.


Index 1997-2009

TJ Interactive: Translation Journal Blog

  Translator Profiles
Success through Lifetime Learning
by Gerardo Konig

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
  In Memoriam
In Memoriam—Ben Teague, 1945 - 2009
by Gabe Bokor

  Translation Nuts and Bolts
What's Cooking: Translating Food

by Brett Jocelyn Epstein
  Medical Translation
Physician Extenders—Who are they? Are they measuring up?
by Rafael A. Rivera, M.D., FACP
Translation of Medical Terms
by Katrin Herget, Teresa Alegre

  Cultural Aspects of Translation
Cultural Untranslatability
by Kanji Kitamura

  Translation History
The Issue of Direction of Translation in China: A Historical Overview
by Wang Baorong

  The Translator & the Computer
Automatic Translation in Multilingual Electronic Meetings
by Milam Aiken, Mina Park, Lakisha Simmons, and Tobin Lindblom

  Arts & Entertainment
On the Dubbing of Humor: Tidying Up the Room
Juan José Martínez-Sierra, Ph.D.
Doblaje audiovisual y publicidad—Reflexiones en torno al concepto de manipulación
Isabel Cómitre Narváez

  Literary Translation
Chosen Aspects of the Polish Translation of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by Andrzej Polkowski: Translating Proper Names
by Anna Standowicz
A Key Word in Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Dr. James McCutcheon

  Translator Education
Communication Strategies Do Work! A study on the usage of communication strategies in translation by Iranian students of translation
by Sahar Farrahi Avval
The Applications of Keywords and Collocations to Translation-Studies and Teaching—A Tentative Research on the Parallel Corpus of the 17th NCCPC Report
by Dai Guangrong

  Translators' Tools
The Google Translation Center That Was to Be
by Jost Zetzsche
Thirteen Days in June—Adventures with SDL/Trados
by Danilo Nogueira and Kelli Semolini
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

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
Translation Journal
The Profession

The Bottom Line

by Fire Ant & Worker Bee

Practical tips for practicing translators.


Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

My company is considering a financial services venture in China. What is the best way to find translation services that are reliable? (We don't have any way to confirm work quality). Can these services be obtained on a timely basis? Delays would make our materials obsolete. Also, how do we certify that translated written materials are compliant with the various rules and regulations in each province? How much should we expect to pay for these services?



Dear George,

It's good to see a buyer on these shores. And your query is particularly welcome as a reminder to our translator readers that clients (the good ones) do indeed try to come to grips with the many challenges that await them when they venture into a new language environment.

We assume that you already have a team of business advisers, be they from a chamber of commerce, your embassy, a local development agency or partners already established in China. You'll want to pick their brains for reliable suppliers of language services (and pitfalls). There's no point reinventing the wheel, and they will probably have an idea of current prices.

A local contact in China educated in the your country (or vice-versa: a national from your country educated in China) may well be mission-critical, even if s/he is not necessarily your translator or translation coordinator.

But to get an overview of the risks involved and questions to ask eager service providers, you should also download a free online publication that sets out some of the parameters for buyers seeking serious suppliers: Translation: Standards for Buying a Non-Commodity at www.atanet.org (full disclosure: we contributed to this).

The cost of reliable, expert language services? Probably more than you thought, but—assuming you get the right supplier—worth every yuan.



Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

I have just learned that my main in-house contact at a client company is blaming me, the external translator, for his own errors and delays. He's a nice person but sloppy. I don't want to look bad, because I am interested in developing my business with this particular client (other departments, etc.).

Should I confront him? And if so, how?



Dear Bristling,

Confront him, eh? What exactly did you have in mind: a dressing down in the lobby? A head butt at the water-cooler? A set-to outside the accountant's office?

Not good. In fact, "confrontation" is, in general, an approach to be avoided, since it could well blow up in your face. Get real: as an outside supplier, there is no way you can be present at all the meetings where he might bad-mouth you.

What you must do is broaden your network in the client company. You mention that this fellow is your "main in-house contact". Make a point of networking with other employees (to obtain background documents for a job, or for billing information, or for scheduling issues) and get into the habit of copying them into your correspondence starting now—to get more people into the loop. At the very least this will establish the fact that you meet deadlines.

Just as we see no point in a "confrontation", it's a bad idea to criticize your main contact to his colleagues. After all, what do you know about internal dynamics?

But in similar situations we've had good results with the sandwich method. At the very least this allows you to stake out your ground and identify potential allies.

Here's how it works: start with an admiring comment to his colleagues about how "incredibly dynamic Mr. Jones is" (you can even put this in writing; if he sees it, he'll be flattered).

But you move on immediately to a statement that is open to several interpretations: "What a guy! He's moving at about 200 miles an hour, but—and it must be me—I'm not always sure in what direction." This is the cue for the rest of his team to pile in with their impressions, at which point you may well learn what they really think of him. You keep the tone friendly and earnest, of course. End with another slice of white bread—an admiring statement about their entire company.

What is the point of all this? It will give you a better idea of where the real power lies, and help identify people worth cultivating. Don't be surprised to discover that he also blames them for his slip-ups; character will out. But whatever you do, steer clear of internal conflicts; your priority is to network and in so doing ensure that a reasonable number of people in the company understand your sincere commitment to them, your contribution to their success, and your timely delivery of high-quality translations.



Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

I enjoy your column and will launch a marketing campaign at some point. But that will cost money. And with the recession, my business is very slow so I prefer not to spend anything until I get some orders coming in. Do you have any advice for a translator with zero budget?



Dear Hard Times,

Plant a Victory Garden to reduce your grocery bills? Although even there you'll need some seed money.

Letters like yours are surprising for at least two reasons.

First, you seem to have missed what this column is all about. A full 50% of our tips require no money, just time, energy and initiative. If you have time on your hands, we urge you to use the menu in the sidebar to the left to read past issues. Please note that even the tips are pointless if you lack the requisite skills in writing and translation.

Secondly, we are writing for people who see translation as a business, not a pastime. Business Admin 101 teaches us that when business is booming, you should be investing in it (and yourself) and building up a buffer. When times are difficult and work more sparse, you should put the lull to work: get out and network more aggressively with potential clients, take courses (there are lots of these to choose from) to hone your expertise, and upgrade your IT systems.

All of which costs time and money, you say?

Of course. And we pointed out in one of our very first columns, you can't stick one toe in the water and expect the fish to bite. You've got to invest in bait and tackle. You, sir, appear to have retreated from the waterfront altogether. Perhaps that garden is your best option.