An informative overview of how to succeed in the interpreting profession. BY DOMENICA NIEDDU

On Saturday, January 29, at the San Francisco State University Downtown Campus, Julie Burns presented a workshop on how to get started as interpreters and discussed the tools and resources necessary to succeed in the profession. She also provided the participants with a general survey of the status of the trade.

Julie is a well-known interpreter trainer, California Worker’s Compensation Certified Spanish interpreter, and ATA-certified translator. She provides professional trainings to prepare bilingual individuals to work as interpreters in hospital and clinic settings, and offers continuing education workshops for linguists’ professional development and stress management.

There were 21 people at this four-hour workshop; among them were two representatives of Accent on Languages, a translating/interpreting agency in Berkeley, interested in recruiting new interpreters for its roster of linguists. → continue reading


Professional translation is a multi-step process. BY DAGMAR DOLATSCHKO

Why do we need editing and proofreading at all? Shouldn’t all translators be perfect to begin with? What’s an editor and why is proofreading different from editing? And why should I pay anything extra for editing and proofreading? Isn’t that part of the translation process?

To illustrate the first point I’d like to start out with a little story about a lawyer in Germany. The law firm wanted to find out more about how we work and how we ensure quality. So I proceeded to explain the usual process:   → continue reading


The commercial world of translation and interpreting can be a harsh taskmaster for the independent contractor. In this two-part series, we ask: Is the government any better? BY NINA BOGDAN

Part I: NCTA member Farah Arjang’s attendance at a U.S. Government/ATA-sponsored conference yields little more than questions.

Those who choose to work as freelancers may revel in a life of no bosses, no mandatory business attire (every day is casual Friday!) and the freedom to work at 2 AM, but they are also at the mercy of demanding agencies that care only about the bottom line and non-paying customers who disappear as soon as a job is delivered. Linguists also frequently find themselves to be convenient targets of misplaced blame (everyone knew that it was really that pesky diplomat who misspoke; not the interpreter), and of comments such as, “If you’re such a good translator, why do you need a dictionary?” or, my all-time personal favorite, “You’re a translator? That’s a pretty easy job, right?” → continue reading

Workshop Reports

By Steven Goldstein and Luis Salvago-Toledo

T&I Marketing
There are many ways to define the term marketing. But perhaps the simplest is the way presenter Jonathan Wells described it at NCTA’s Marketing Workshop for Translators and Interpreters: marketing is connecting buyers and sellers. Some 25 NCTA members attended this well-organized seminar on March 10th in San Francisco in order to find out how to identify those buyers and then sell their services to them. In his presentation, Jonathan, a freelance marketing and technology consultant with Lumera Corporation, covered the basics of marketing principles and their general applicability to T&I businesses.

Marketing 101
In a broader sense, marketing involves many variables in order to make that buyer-seller connection. In addition to the critical elements of price, quality, and timeliness, the discipline also incorporates seemingly peripheral issues such as the way you answer the phone, the look of your stationery, your appearance, and even your demeanor.

Dispelling some common myths about marketing—that it’s advertising (advertising is only one component of marketing), complicated, or the same for everyone—Jonathan explained the differences between product-focused marketing (essentially selling what you have) and market-focused marketing (selling what your customers want). In both cases, you need to identify your target customers, understand their needs and wants—including price, accuracy, turnaround time, project management, and support of subcontractors—and tailor your services to them.

A plan for Getting Work
Jonathan addressed several documents that related to T&I businesses, among them the marketing plan and the resumé. The basics of a traditional marketing plan were discussed, but Jonathan was skeptical of the document’s utility in the T&I realm. He showed great enthusiasm for the resumé, however, whose role is not so much to secure the job, but rather to secure the interview.

In addition to these marketing vehicles, Jonathan also touched on a variety of other means of communication that could support the translator’s or interpreter’s outreach efforts, including websites, email, networking, and contributions to publications, the latter having particular benefit. (Potential contributors to Translorial, take note!).

All in all, the seminar was well presented and well organized. Attendees were mostly favorable. Some, however, felt that the material was not specific enough in addressing the realities of (mostly) freelance translators and interpreters, and that the presenter—although he has connections to the field—did not sufficiently rise above the liability of his not being a translator himself, and thus made general remarks that were only vaguely applicable to member needs. Most attendees, though, communicated an appreciation for the presenter’s obvious competence in his field, and his pleasant demeanor in delivering a thoughtful presentation. SG3


  • Guerilla Marketing for Translation Agencies (and freelancers too!)”
  • Getting Started in Translation
    Timing is everything. Such was the thought that occupied my mind throughout this workshop. That is, I couldn’t help but envy the new NCTA members who attended and got a wealth of information even before learning their way to the restroom. Not that the rest of us didn’t get the same golden package, but the new members were even luckier. Jacki Noh, Michael Schubert, and Karl Kaussen led the session.

    Jacki Noh talked of the different aspects of interpreting: modes (consecutive, simultaneous, and sight translation) and types (community and conference). She stressed that since certification is mandatory for many interpreting assignments, it’s important that interpreters become certified.

    Michael Schubert presented his view of the accomplished translator as the possessor of three skills—language, computer, and business—and suggested that most candidates who fail the ATA certification exam do so because they take it prematurely.

    Karl Kaussen offered his perspective from the hiring side of the equation. Although professionals from abroad accept rates lower than what their U.S. counterparts usually charge, there is a downside to that; namely, their less-than-ideal command of the English language. Therefore, a solid competence in both source and target languages is an advantage that the professional can capitalize on. Alternatively, an able translator charging 10-12 cents a word may consider offering editing services (3 cents a word).

    The workshop closed with an active question-and-answer session. As a final thought, a suggestion for the NCTA board of directors: including a printed copy of the materials developed by the presenters of this workshop in the New NCTA Member Package might be a helpful way for our young translators to kick-start their budding careers! LST3

    October Workshops: From Basics to L10n

    By Raffaella Buschazzio and Peter A. Gergay

    Getting Started in T&I

    On October 15th, NCTA welcomed over 50 people to our workshop, “Getting Started in T&I.” Norma Kaminsky, an M.D. and an ATA-certified English-Spanish translator in medical, pharmaceutical, and other health-related subjects, opened the workshop by sharing basic concepts for beginning translators, presenting the pros and cons of working for agencies, direct clients, and in-house, and the resources translators need, from office space to computers and software, to a well-stocked library.

    Jacki Noh, a Korean translator/interpreter specializing in a variety of fields, continued the workshop by focusing on interpretation. She began her presentation by underlining how essential it is for an interpreter to be truly bilingual and bicultural, and to have intellectual curiosity. Then she explained the distinctions between modes and types of interpretation, going into detail on how to become a court and healthcare interpreter.

    The workshop ended with a presentation by Karl Kaussen, founder and proprietor of Biotext LLC. Dr. Kaussen focused on the translator-agency relationship, providing useful advice on how to be competitive, how to build up a good reputation among agencies, and how to discuss rates – a ticklish question and not only for newbies in the field! R.B.

    Introduction to Software Localization

    Some 40 NCTA members attended an informative “Introduction to Software Localization” seminar on October 29th, led by Angelika Zerfass, a recognized leader in the industry. Ms. Zerfass spoke about the concept and practice of localization (l10n) currently sweeping the translation market. She defined localization as “the process of adapting a product or software to a specific culture or geographical area so that the translation flows naturally to the users in that particular region.”

    Ms. Zerfass emphasized the need to have a valid localization plan, a project structure, and access to current and valid files, to counter the many things that may go wrong in the areas of templates, translation memories, abbreviations, and more, sometimes due simply to plain inattentiveness to seemingly minor but essential details.

    Our shrinking world and an ever-expanding global marketplace clearly point to localization as the wave of the future – something, Ms. Zerfass indicated, that many good translators have been doing in their work already, without being aware of the formal name of the process. P.A.G.