Category Archives: Translation

Stat’s Interesting!

By | Latest News, Specialisation, Translation, Translator Talk, Translators | 3 Comments

Apologies for the terrible pun in the title of this blog – I couldn’t resist it, given the subject matter. In case you’re reading this before you’ve had your morning coffee, I’ll clarify the topic of today’s blog – stats, stats and more stats! Over my years as a freelancer and before I started outsourcing any work to other colleagues, I’ve always liked to keep records of how many words I’ve translated. About a year ago, however, I decided to start keeping more detailed information on exactly what I work on, as well as charting the outsourced work as well.

All things special

As freelancers, we’re constantly told that we should specialise. And we should. But when you’re starting out, that can be a really hard task. There are very few freelancers I know who have the income or willpower to turn down paying work because it isn’t their specialism. Many of us have pulled an all-nighter at some point in our career, cursing ourselves (okay and the agency) for taking on this paper on nuclear physics when what we really want to translate is the marketing material for Karl Lagerfeld‘s latest collection. Also, it takes a long time to have the courage to say exactly why we want to specialise in a certain field. For some translators, the choice is easy – they have existing training and interest in the subject. For many others though, the decision to specialise is much harder, and the reasons for it can seem much…lamer. But the bottom line is, if you like a subject, you’re interested in it and want to devote time to researching it, then that is just as valid as the guy who’s a medical translator because he also happens to be a board certified orthopaedic surgeon. Show off.

Get me some stats, stat!

There’s also nothing wrong with having a few specialisms – we can have specialisms that pay the bills and specialisms that really light our fires. Even the most experienced translators occasionally take on jobs which are more general, uncomplicated or just different from their specialisms – often to give them a bit of head space. Sometimes, if your given subject of expertise or type of translation doesn’t pay extraordinarily well, that’s another reason to have something else up your sleeve. For me, my specialism lies in more technical texts and the reason for this is several years of working in the environmental sector – the general umbrella topic of “the environment” encompasses many different fields; ranging from science to construction, hitting sustainability and ecology along the way. I’m also a major history geek and have been since I was a teenager, so it’s an area I’ve actively chosen to specialise in. In the past few years I’ve collaborated with a client on more techy subjects and have (to my surprise) loved learning about software, new apps and IT. In the middle of last year I decided to start recording the subject area of each translation I did, so I could gain a picture of the type of projects I work on. Naturally, I had to put it into a pie chart and I thought I would share it here:


As you can see from the chart – the “Environment, Science & Technical” slice of the pie is by far the largest, and for any number crunchers out there, that equated to 226,393 words in 12 months. By contrast, the legal side of things, which I generally try to keep to a minimum, added up to just 3569 words over the year (which was a single, very simple project.) I also thought it would be interesting (yes, I know how geeky that makes me sound) to track how the year went in terms of words translated, so I took the data on monthly word counts and put it into a simple graph.

Word count stat

Going with the (work) flow

It was fun to see the spread of work over the course of the year and how it corresponded to projects. I remember that October and the Christmas period were quiet, not only because I took holidays, but many clients did too. However, I had thought that April and May had been quiet months (again, I had taken some holiday) but the numbers tell me otherwise. Some of the difference in my recollection of the month compared to the reality could be attributed to the type of projects I was working on. For example, if I have steady work throughout the month the word count can be quite high, but seem very relaxed. On the flip side, a month with lots of small jobs with tight deadlines can seem extremely busy (and lucrative!) but the figures say otherwise. So, the result is that I’m still not sure when the best months are to take time off!

I’ve got some more stats up my sleeve but they’re more related to the outsourcing side of the business, so I’ll leave them for another post. For my last funky graphic though, I wanted to give a feel (without breaching any confidentiality of course!) for the types of projects I’ve been working on as an individual translator. I’ve said it before – I love words, so this type of infographic (if I can call it that) really appealed to me, as it’s a selection of words or subjects I’ve been working on in the past twelve months. Enjoy!

Translated words

Post edit: This has been a really fun post for me to write, not to mention the fun(!) I had when I was looking through my data and analysing it. I’ve had some chats on Twitter since I’ve posted it and it seems other translators find this sort of information interesting too, so I thought I’d ask some questions to hopefully get some opinions in the comments – do you keep records or word counts? What about your specialisms – do you have one or a few? What’s your work flow like throughout the year – even or up and down?

Translator Profile – Jorim De Clercq

By | Business Blog, Language, Latest News, Translation, Translator Talk, Translators | One Comment

Translator of the Day

Today in our Translator Profile series we’ll be talking to Jorim De Clercq – as you know we’ll be asking the same questions that we asked Gabriele yesterday, but getting his very different responses. Like me, Jorim worked in another, non-translation related industry and toiled away as a translator on the side. Many translators work like this at the beginning and it can be a brilliant way of gaining expertise that proves extremely helpful when it comes to deciding on a translation specialism later on in your career.

Q1: How did you get into translation?

I remember when I was little, I used to spend my time engrossed in the dictionary learning new words. From that moment I knew that I wanted to do something with languages.

Unfortunately, I ended up studying mechanics rather than languages. But later, while I was working as an industrial designer and studying English and Spanish on the side, my boss would ask me to translate industrial texts into Spanish and English. When I moved to Ecuador and married my lovely wife, I was even busier with languages. In the beginning, I taught English, but I soon discovered that I liked translating more. So I decided I wanted to be a translator.

Q2: What languages do you work in?

I translate from Spanish and English into Dutch and Flemish.

Q3: What has been your favourite project ever?

As I like cooking, my favourite project was translating dessert recipes. When I finished the project, I wanted to try out the recipes myself.

Q4: Why do you like translation?

I like to be busy with languages and I like investigating terms and words I don´t know.

Q5: If you could translate anything in the world (past or present), what would it be?

Oh yes, an easy one… I have one particular favourite cookery website. It contains a huge collection of recipes, and as I always use this website when I cook, it would be great to translate all the recipes available on it.

Q6: Do you think translation is an art or a science?

It depends. Sometimes it´s an art, especially when a text requires that you improvise.

Sometimes it´s more science, especially when you have to do a lot of research.

Q7: Do you work with Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tools? If yes, why? If no, why?

Yes, because they are very helpful. I like the quality control capabilities of these tools.

Q8: What makes a good project manager?

First, a good project manager has to love his work. He has to understand the translators’ needs. Secondly, he also has to be a good communicator. Before assigning a translation task, he has to give clear instructions. Translators enjoy working with this kind of project manager.

Q9: Where do you live?

I live in the capital of Ecuador, Quito.

Q10: What do you do when you’re not translating?

In my free time, I like to watch a good movie with my wife. We like to go shopping and we love to travel.

Jorim’s contact details:


ProZ profile


Translator Profile – Gabriele Postberg

By | Business, Business Blog, Language, Latest News, Translation, Translator Talk, Translators | No Comments

Translator of the Day

First up in our series of Translator Profiles is Gabriele Postberg. As I explained in the last blog post, the series will take the form of a short quiz, (just 10 questions) allowing each of our freelance translators the chance to give us their thoughts about translation, the industry in general and some personal info. In the interests of fairness and scientific accuracy(!) the questions are the same for all of the freelancers, but some of the answers have been pretty different! Here’s what Gabriele had to say:

Q1: How did you get into translation?
Well, that’s quite a long story. After school I tried the hotel industry first, but quickly realized that it wasn’t for me. Then I trained as a foreign languages correspondent with a telecommunications company in Frankfurt. It was there that I realized translating isn’t boring at all. So once I’d completed the training, I went on to get a degree in Translation Studies at the Faculty of Translation Studies, Linguistics and Cultural Studies in Germersheim, Germany.
A year with a large German translation agency and three years’ employment with the German stock exchange followed, before I became a freelancer in August 2011.

Q2: What languages do you work in?
English > German
German > English
French > German

Q3: What has been your favourite project ever?
I actually enjoy translating certificates (birth, marriage, death, school, anything). Translation-wise they’re not that exciting, but I enjoy the challenge of making them look as much like the original as possible. Nerdy, I know. But since I’m a sworn translator I get a lot of them, and it would be really tough if they weren’t a little fun too.
Apart from certificates I like texts that are interesting and from which I learn something new, like anything to do with other cultures, traveling or art.

Q4: Why do you like translation?
Because every project is a new challenge. No one would ask me to translate the same document twice. I love that I get to learn something new with every text, and that it never gets boring.

Q5: If you could translate anything in the world (past or present), what would it be?
I think children’s books would be nice to translate. Or travel guides.

Q6: Do you think translation is an art or a science?
Definitely both.

Q7: Do you work with Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tools? If yes, why? If no, why?
Yes, I work with Trados 2011. My memory is okay, but not great. So I found I kept looking up the same terminology over and over again. Trados helps me with consistency.

Q8: What makes a good project manager?
Being organized, patient, friendly, knowing the translation business.

Q9: Where do you live?
In Weinheim, a small town just 15 km from Heidelberg, Germany.

Q10: What do you do when you’re not translating?
I would love to read more. But I have a 18 month old daughter, so when I’m not translating, I spend a lot of time at the playground. And I love to travel!

Gabriele’s contact details:



ProZ profile


Our next Translator Profile in the series will be Jorim De Clercq and will be posted tomorrow. Hope you enjoyed our first very nosy interview!

The Importance of Using Experts

By | Business, Business Blog, Finance, Latest News, Translation | No Comments

I’ve always been a bit of a do-it-yourself type of gal. Use experts? Pah! External help? Not a chance! I was always more likely to have a go, get frustrated, read the first page of the instructions, have another go, get frustrated…you get the idea. But in the past few months I’ve come to realise that there are some many things that I can’t do on my own. For me, this is my list of must-have experts:




When it came to designing the logo and website, I realised that if I wanted something that truly reflected Silver Tongue, I needed somebody to help me. I had some ideas on what I wanted, (the name and the colours) but I had no idea how I could come up with something that captured professionalism and creativity. Equally, I didn’t have the software or the expertise to create an attractive design. So I turned to A Creative Feeling. In the next few weeks there will be a post about the logo and the process behind creating it, written by Al (the brains behind A Creative Feeling). If I’m very nice to him, he might give tips on what to think about when it comes to branding.

Finance & Legal

This seems like an obvious one, but having someone to handle company finances and legal issues was really important to me. Silver Tongue Translations is a Limited Company and, as such, is incorporated with Companies House. When it came to setting everything up, I decided to get an accountant on board straight away, to have all i’s dotted and t’s crossed from the start. I wanted to understand my options for set up, the differences between a Limited Company and a sole trader, the requirements for VAT registration and how it works around the world. Experts in the financial or legal sector with whom you feel comfortable asking questions (however basic!) are to be snapped up and kept forever…so if you find one, be nice! This article is pretty handy for what to look for when you’re shopping for accountants, this piece on top legal tips for small businesses and this one on general “What Should I Think About?” stuff. Just to mention, I don’t have any affiliation with anything I’ve linked to, I just found the tips handy!

Sales & marketing

For a long time, my marketing plan consisted of…okay, I didn’t have a marketing plan. I was busy working and translating and living. But then I realised that every time I sent a bid for a job, or an email to an agency registering interest, I was marketing myself. When it came to getting direct clients I realised that I needed to think about it a little more. For the number of marketing emails I currently send in a month, email templates aren’t necessary. And besides, I prefer the personal touch. One of my pet peeves is receiving emails from agencies with “Dear translator”, or worse, “Dear Sir/Madam” – it’s so insulting! I came across a blog post recently “How Not To Write A Marketing Email” and it reinforced my thinking on having email templates! However, it was necessary to seek some advice on how best to market Silver Tongue’s services, so I engaged with some friends who are experts in the industry and did a bit of a skills swap (I baked, they talked). The aggressive approach is still not for me, but I am learning that marketing yourself and being arrogant pushy don’t have to be the same thing. I’ve found some interesting tips on marketing for start-ups/small businesses herehere and here (I feel like a flight attendant).

Marketing material

As with the marketing plan, marketing material didn’t feature on my business expenses list until this year. I decided though, along with the logo and the website, that I would invest in some business cards. Other marketing materials, such as letterheads and postcards go against my eco-ethos, but do bring out the inner stationery addict in me, so I’ve limited the material to business cards for now! I found Moo to be fantastically helpful and the result was superb. They offer so many customisation options, along with loads of paper and finish choices. They have Classic, Green (to assuage eco-guilt) and Luxe. You can use their templates or upload your own complete design (that’s what I did). Obviously you don’t have to use the same company I did, so here’s a review of lots of business card providers!

business cards experts

So that’s my list (so far!) on which experts to use, and what, for me, have been good things to invest in. This list is obviously from a business perspective, rather than being translation specific – that’s for another post!


Fair Pay For All

By | Finance, Latest News, Social Media, Translation, Translator Talk, Translators | No Comments

Creating a website is hard work. It’s one thing to live by principles of hard work, good practice and fair pay when everything is between you and the translators you work with, but formalising these principles and, more importantly, putting them out there for the world to see, makes it something else entirely. I think it’s a good thing though; it’s made me realise that the translators who I’ve been working with are pretty awesome. It’s also emphasised what I’ve always thought, by vocalising a thought you make it real. (My accountant, on the other hand, might argue that it became real a while ago…)

I was thinking about this recently when I was setting up the Twitter handle for Silver Tongue. I’ve been an avid Tweeter for a number of years and I’ve seen plenty of examples of oversharing. When someone tweeted about turning “names into energy” (I’m looking at you, Tom Cruise) we saw that our world of instant gratification (and publication) has its drawbacks, especially for Tom’s followers, n’est-ce pas? So creating the website, or turning my ideas into energy if you will, became something of a minefield. Do I really want to commit to minimum rates for translators?  Do I really believe in fair pay when I’m the one committing to paying fairly? Well, yes I do, on both counts. I think the profession of translation should be treated as such – a profession. Translators use their skills to help people all over the world, just like other professionals do. If my, albeit small, company can do its bit to ensure that the immensely talented professionals who work in my industry get paid accordingly, then yes, I want to nail my colours to the fair pay mast.

The (un)fair pay cross is not one that is born solely by translators or language professionals. The pay divide between men and women is a news item that doesn’t get old. I’m not sure why it’s still okay that a female doctor gets paid 28.5% less than her male counterpart; I pretty sure she wouldn’t have spent 28.5% less time or 28.5% less money on her medical degree. To illustrate the point, here’s a handy graphic from the Think, Act, Report Framework from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport which is designed to get companies thinking about how to banish the gender pay gap. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give advice on punishment or plans for backdating retrospective cases.

fair pay

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